Prepare to die Elf
Ranzik, no! Please, I love him!
Get out of my way Sorena! Gaaahh!
Brindon, why did you, by the Raven Queen, what have you done Brindon!
I’m sorry, Sorena, I’m so sorry
Brindon d’Medani woke as the sun’s rays cut into his window, assaulting his eyes. It was a familiar dream, one he’d had so many times since the day it had happened. He still vividly remembered the day he killed Ranzik, the day he murdered his love’s brother. He rose out of his bed in the barracks at Inquisitive Central. He got his own room due to his rank, but he still had to share a washroom with the rest of the floor. As he made his way to that room, there were other Elven members of House Medani outside their rooms. They gave him approving looks as he passed by; it’d been a long time since his investigation into the Shadow Covenant had yielded anything. He thought back over the events of the recent days. They had lost Cutter, who’d been a great asset to this investigation, but they finally had Sorena. She was closer to the master than any other Shadar-kai they’d captured. He knew he owed much to the six adventurers who had helped him with this, without them he may never have caught Sorena again. He washed up and went to the mess where he had a simple breakfast of dried fruit and hard bread. They had yet to receive the next year’s provisions at Inquisitive Central. During his meal he received many congratulations from members of the House. He went down two flights of stairs to where they were keeping Sorena. He looked at her from behind a magical pane of glass that showed nothing on its other side. She was so different now from how she’d once been. She didn’t have the piercing or the tattoos back then. It had been years ago, before the House Wars, when he’d first met Sorena Darkfeather. It was mid afternoon, and he was wandering the Lower Spires of the district that would eventually become the Making District after a long day of hard labor. Before the Mark of Detection had appeared on him, Brindon had been a poor orphan, selling his labor so he could live day to day. It had been at the height of the Season of Rifts and everyone needed hands to help move goods around the city. He only had a few hours before the import house would need him again and if he wasn’t there on time, he’d lose his job. But he had to leave for a bit, he needed air and food. So he wandered, looking for a tavern or pour house or food stand, anywhere he could get a bite to eat and a few minutes to rest his exhausted body. Most of the places he passed by were packed tight with workers on break from the import houses. It had been several minutes before he spotted a stand that had few customers. The proprietress was busy with her small grill when he approached.
“What do you serve here?” he’d asked.
She looked up at him, surprised to see a customer. Her eyes struck him immediately, they were the deep lustrous black of a ravens. This was how he’d met Sorena. She held up a stick of spiced meat to him. “Try it.” she had said.
Brindon had torn into the meat. He ate the whole stick quickly. It had an unfamiliar texture, but it was juicy and the flavor was richer than anything he could afford.
“What is this?”
“It’s kruthik, they burrow here in Gotheer so they’re easy to find, but most people don’t like the idea of eating giant bugs.”
“How much do I owe you?” Brindon asked, reaching for his pouch of coins.
She looked down, not meeting his eyes, but smiling. “Nothing, just having someone here is payment enough.” She had said.
“Well at least let me buy another stick. I’m starved.”
She handed him another and he handed her some coins. The two stayed there, speaking for most of the afternoon. She told him about how her father hunted the kruthik, how her mother served at the temple of the Raven Queen, how her family had been stranded in Gotheer during a minor transposition, and how they had once lived in the Shadowfell.
“You lived in the Shadowfell? What was it like?” Brindon had asked his eyes wide.
“I was too young to remember, but my brother always said it was better than here,” she had answered. It was then that she met his eyes again. “What about you, are you a natural or a Xulaati?”
“I’m Gotheer born. But I’m an orphan. I’ve been forced to make my own way since they kicked me out of the orphanage. It seems no one wants to adopt a young elf.”
“That’s so sad, where do you live?”
“I stay at the Raging Devil.”
She gasped. “The Raging Devil?! That’s the most dangerous inn in the district. How can you stay in a place like that?”
He tried to give her what he thought was a reassuring smile. “I’m pretty handy with a dagger.”
She had grabbed his wrist at that point. He remembered how it felt to have her touch him. His heart had done a back flip inside his chest.
“Nonsense, you can’t stay somewhere like that, come stay with me tonight. My family has an extra room.”
“I couldn’t intrude on you like that.” He didn’t meet her eyes as he said it.
“My father always loves having guests. And if you’re really worried about inconveniencing us, you can help hunt the kruthik.”
“All right, you’ve convinced me.” He had helped her pack up her stand that day, he’d lost the job, but it didn’t matter to him.
The five men he was expecting entered the room. Adiah, the deva, entered first, followed by the large rusting warforged they’d found underground they called Relic. Behind those two came Jet, the earthsoul genasi who’d joined up with them when his sister had been kidnapped and the two humans, Garruk, wearing the greens of the Brokenbriar Elves and who had that odd look about him that Brindon couldn’t quite place, and Zane, the black haired sorcerer. Cutter wasn’t with them. They’d lost the warforged artificer to the Paelions several days ago. He was placed in their ‘forgetting cells’ deep in the Below. They’d never see Cutter again. No one escaped the forgetting cells and no one was released from the forgetting cells. Anyone who went into those cells would eventually die alone and crazy in the darkness, forgotten by his jailers. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like for Cutter, being a warforged, age meant nothing to him. He may well live forever, insane in the darkness. Adiah stroked his purple chin as those unnerving white eyes of his looked at Sorena.
“I’m going in.” He said.
Garruk stood. “I’m going too.”
Zane stroked his white facial hair. “Me too.”
The deva gave them what might pass for a glare with his pupil less eyes. “We can’t all go in.” He said.
Relic moved pass the others and moved into the interrogation room. Jett followed silently and the rest fell in line. Brindon watched as they conferred among themselves in front of Sorena. They were terrible at this, but they had their uses. After a long time of them talking amongst themselves, Adiah looked at Sorena for a long time and took a deep breath. Brindon activated the enchantment in the speaking stone below the viewing window. Adiah didn’t get to ask the question that he planned on asking. Garruk interrupted him and blurted out the question “What’s the nature of your relationship with Brindon?”
Sorena blinked in shock. She looked at the viewing window. Brindon stormed into the room and kicked the others out. Jett lingered until Brindon glared at him. When Brindon was sure that they were all gone and out of their way out of the building, Brindon sat across from Sorena.
“I knew you were there Brindon. I knew you’d get me eventually.” She said, not looking at him.
“I’m only trying to help you Sorena.” Brindon said.
Sorena didn’t say anything. She looked off into space, as if Brindon wasn’t there. “Can you protect me here?”
“Of course we can.”
“I’ve still got plenty of dragonshards.”
She looked at him. The ghost of a smile passed over her face before she drifted from him again. “Good.” She said.
“If you’d tell me where to find him, I can stop him before he even gets here.”
“You know I can’t. I don’t know where he stays. And even if I did, you couldn’t stop him.”
Brindon didn’t say another word. He left the interrogation room, reminded of what he’d once had with Sorena. It’d been two years after their meeting. They were young and in love. Her parents had returned to the Shadowfell to serve their tribe and the Raven Queen but Sorena had chosen to stay and be with Brindon. Together they continued to run the food stand. They didn’t need to though; Brindon had become adept at finding deposits of dragonshards. He remembered the first deposit he’d found, when he still hunted with Sorena’s father. He’d chased a massive kruthik into a tunnel and lost it. He saw a strong glow to his right and was transfixed by. Stuck in the wall was a patch of yellow crystals. Sorena’s father caught up with him and his eyes went wide.
“What a find you have there my boy,” he said. “Well go on, take them.”
“What are they?” Brindon asked.
“Siberys dragonshards. Some say they’re the hardened blood of extinct dragons left over from their ancient war. It doesn’t matter what they are, but they’re worth a lot of money.”
Brindon had smiled as he broke the crystals from the wall.
After that, life got easier. Brindon and Sorena moved into an apartment in the Middle Spires. Brindon found more dragonshards with every trip. They used the money they were making from the shards to get Sorena’s parents to the Shadowfell. Brindon and Sorena built a comfortable life together. But during those two years, they never saw her brother once. Sorena would never talk about him. If her mother was asked, she’d get depressed and if her father was asked he’d get angry. But neither would answer were Ranzik was. Brindon assumed the worst until he showed up one day. Brindon only saw the other man briefly when he returned home with another catch of dragonshards, but he knew from that brief meeting that Ranzik was trouble. Sorena had been crying and Ranzik had given him a look that would curdle milk. Brindon went to Sorena and held her.
“What’s wrong love?”
“It’s Ranzik, he says the worst things.”
“What did it say?”
Sorena wiped away the tears and wouldn’t meet Brindon’s gaze. “It’s nothing. Just words, Brindon, just words.”
Brindon saw much more of Ranzik after that. The shadar-kai was always around the house, at Brindon’s favorite tavern, the Red Horn, and sometimes Brindon even caught glimpse of him while at the entrances to the Below. It was as if Ranzik was stalking him. Brindon asked Sorena about this but she just waved the question away so Brindon decided to look into it on his own. He spent days asking around the seedier districts in which he still had friends. He didn’t like what he found out. Ranzik was a member of a shadar-kai terrorist network known as the Shadow Covenant. Their goal was to push shadar-kai superiority on the other races of Gotheer. He knew this man had to be kept away from the woman he loved. When he returned home after finding this out, Ranzik was there. Brindon walked to him and put his face inches from Ranzik’s nose.
“I don’t want you around anymore Ranzik. I know who you are and I won’t let you endanger the woman I love.” He said.
Ranzik laughed in his face. “I’ll leave elf,” he made the word elf sound disgusting. “But I’ll be back for my sister, and no lesser race scum will stand in my way.”
Ranzik left and Brindon and Sorena’s life together returned to normal. A few weeks later, Brindon returned home and Sorena had decorated the whole house. She’d brought home a very expensive meal and was waiting at the table for Brindon.
“What’s all this for?” he asked.
“We’re celebrating.” She said as she stood and put her arms around him.
The next day Brindon returned to the interrogation room as Medani guards brought in Sorena. A few minutes later, the others showed up. Adiah seemed to be mad at the rest of them and was giving them some sort of lecture on what they should do when they question her today. Most of them seemed to be ignoring him. Brindon let them in the room and watched. Adiah was asking the question this time. He didn’t turn on the speaking stone. He already knew everything that Adiah would be told. The Shadow Covenant is meant to protect the interests of shadar-kai everywhere. A non-shardar-kai would never understand. The secrets of the group are even kept from its members. Those things. He’d heard them all before. Than Garruk got up and started talking again. He say Garruk mouth the word ‘son’. He stormed into the room and told them to leave. Jett moved to Sorena and whispered something to her before he left. He didn’t wait until he knew they were gone this time.
“That’s what this is about Sorena, isn’t it? Our son.”
Sorena wouldn’t answer him at first. She broke down and sobbed the words “I’m sorry Brindon.”
Brindon went to reach for her, but stopped.
“I just wanted to get our boy back Brindon. This was the only way. I had too.”
Brindon inched toward her, she looked up at him. Brindon bit his lip as he reached toward her, but stopped. He turned away. He left the room. Adiah and Relic were waiting by the door, Jett was watching Sorena through the window, Garruk was sharpened his scimitar in the corner, and Zane was in the other corner looking at vial full of something Brindon didn’t want to think about.
“You’re still here…” Brindon said, more for himself than for them.
“We needed to speak to you,” Adiah said, folding his arms. “I fear the Master will take her life.”
“Don’t worry,” Brindon answered. “She’s protected here.”
“Do you think she’s hiding something?”
“I don’t think she knows as much as she led us to believe. And she doesn’t know that the prize she seeks isn’t there any more.”
Zane looked up and said “Is Sorena trying to revive her dead son?”
“She doesn’t know our son is dead.” Brindon said without thinking. The other men were looking at him now. He’d said too much. “Come back tomorrow and we’ll see what we can get out of her before we send her to a more secure location.”
He walked back to the mess thinking of the day his son died. Whenever he looked back, he considered it the worst day of his life. It had been shortly after the first Mark of Nobility had appeared. There was rioting and chaos all around him. He did everything he could to protect his family. It was during this chaos that Ranzik finally decided to return. He was waiting when Brindon came home that day, outside the entrance. There was a storm rumbling above them. Sorena was there, begging Ranzik to stop, but Ranzik would have none of it. He yelled at Sorena “No sister of mine will have a baby with a filthy elf!”
Brindon pulled out his dagger and pointed it at Ranzik. “Get out of here Ranzik! I don’t want to hurt you!”
Ranzik laughed and drew his spiked chain. He started to swing it in wide arcs. Ranzik charged and attacked low, high, it seemed like everywhere all at once. Brindon couldn’t keep up. He was quickly covered in cuts and gashes from Ranzik’s deadly chain. Brindon fell and his legs would answer.
“Prepare to die elf.” Ranzik said as he took a grip on the bladed end of his weapon.
Then Sorena was there, trying to hold Ranzik back. “Ranzik, no! Please, I love him!” She grappled at his chain.
“Get out of my way, Sorena!” He was distracted with her, this was Brindon’s chance.
Brindon plunged his dagger deep into Ranzik’s chest.
“Brindon, why did you, by the Raven Queen, what have you done?” Sorena said.
Brindon looked down as Ranzik’s life left his body and his blood filled the rainy street. “I’m sorry Sorena,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
She stared down at her brother, tears in her eyes. “Well we need to clean him up and give him a proper funeral. Let’s get what we need upstairs.”
They went up the stairs in silence. When they opened the door, there was a man standing in the middle of their apartment holding their son. This man was another shadar-kai, but he had a sickly purple mark on his left arm and a large horn. Brindon would later come to know this man as the Master.
“Miss Darkfeather, I’d like you to come with me. Now. If you do, no harm will come to the child.” He said.
Sorena froze in terror. There was distortion behind him, he was going to take her and their son into that portal! Brindon grabbed his dagger and charged screaming. No one was going to take his family away.
The Master caught the dagger and broke it. He threw Brindon across the room.
“Fine then Sorena. I’ll give you some time to think. Until then, the child comes with me.” The Master turned around and walked toward the portal. Brindon grabbed around him for a weapon. He found one. It was one of the Siberys dragonshards. He ran and plunged the crystal into the Master’s back and they both went tumbling into the portal. In the strange place beyond the portal, the Master let loose a monstrous roar. The crystal seemed to burn his flesh, almost crippling him with pain. Brindon grabbed his son, he wasn’t moving.
“Your son couldn’t handle my touch.” The Master said with a cruel laugh.
“No, no…NO!” Brindon fell to his knees, dropping the corpse of his boy.
The Master stood and pulled the dragonshard out of him. He kicked Brindon into some sort of portal and as Brindon lost consciousness, falling through darkness, he heard the Master say “I’ll have my vengeance Brindon, mark my words. When we meet again, I will not spare you.”
The alarm woke Brindon the next morning. There were elves running and yelling all over central. He left his room, half dressed, and grabbed a passerby.
“What’s happening?” he asked.
“There’s an intruder inside Central!”
Brindon’s stomach went cold. He went back into his room and grabbed his dagger. He ran toward where Sorena was being kept. Garruk was there with the others behind him.
“What’s going on here?” Adiah yelled.
“Intruder in the building.”
“Is Sorena okay?” Jett asked.
“I haven’t been there yet.”
“Then we should hurry.” Relic said, hefting his axe.
They six men ran to where Sorena was being kept. The guards outside the door were dead. Brindon recognized the wound patterns, a shadar-kai spiked chain. They rushed into the interrogation room on the other side of the magic viewing window; Brindon could see Sorena being held against the wall by her throat. He recognized the shadar-kai holding her, but that wasn’t possible. Brindon tried to open the door in the room where Sorena was, the door was sealed. Brindon slammed his hands against the glass. Relic began to slam his axe into the glass.
“Ranzik! How is this possible!” Brindon screamed. “I killed you!”
Ranzik turned to look at them. There was no way he should have been able to hear or see Brindon, yet he looked directly at him. He was different. His skin was the wrong color and his eyes were a milky shade of off white.
“That’s right, you did.” He said. Then he turned around and stabbed Sorena viciously until they were both covered in her gore. Brindon screamed pounding his hands against the window. Ranzik dropped her and disappeared in a cloud of shadows. Relic finally broke through the window and Jett leaped through.
“I can’t stop the bleeding,” he yelled. “The wounds are too deep.”
Brindon climbed into the room and cradled Sorena in his arms. She reached up and stroked his face, smearing her blood over his Mark of Detection.
“Who was that?” Adiah yelled.
Sorena looked at him and said “My brother, but, he’s dead.”
Brindon clenched her to him. “Don’t die, please don’t die!”
“I love you Brindon, and I’m sorry, sorry for everything.” Sorena said before going limp in his arms.
Brindon howled as the other men looked around trying to find some clue to where Ranzik had gone and Medani flooded into the room.
Three days later Brindon slowly walked onto the office of Enna d’Medani. She was his direct superior and she did not have a pleasant look on her face. She had never supported Brindon’s investigation into the Shadow Covenant. When Deneith pulled their backing, she had used it as an excuse to try to put Brindon on another case. She believed his talents were wasted on this ‘wild drake chase.’ The older elf usually yelled when he entered her office, she wasn’t yelling now.
“Sit down Brindon.” Her voice was tired. There was something there that unsettled Brindon. “We have to talk about the Shadow Covenant case.”
“I know. I’m aware of the loses, and I’m aware of the lack of results, but I’m so close! I can feel it! I have a location, and I’ve seen their leader. I have a suspect now!” Brindon struggled to stay in his seat as he said, doing his best to keep his voice down.
Enna didn’t react. Normally she’d be yelling at this point, normally she’d be glaring at him, telling him the futility of this case. She wasn’t meeting his gaze. She only looked at the papers in front of her. “I know Brindon, and I believe you.”
“It’s not any of those things Brindon. It has to do with Cutter, the warforged you lost during your investigation.”
Brindon’s heart sank as icy claws grasped his stomach. “What about him?”
“Blain recently declared him a noble, he’s Cutter d’Belderan now and they’re upset about his loss.”
“I had nothing to do with what happened to Cutter! It was the Paelions that locked him up! This is more human aggression!” Brindon was standing now.
“Please Brindon, try to stay calm. Belderan is blaming us for what happened. He was on an investigation ran and sanctioned by House Medani, which makes us liable for what happened to him. The Belderans want someone to blame and the higher ups gave them you.”
“What?” Something was choking Brindon.
“If you had had more results this might not have happened. Or if you’d been more careful, damn it Brindon, why did you have to be so obsessed?” Enna was crying.
“What are you saying Enna?”
Enna closed her eyes and wiped the few tears from her face. She bit her lip while looking out the window, and then she sighed and looked at Brindon. “You’ve been excoriated from House Medani Brindon. Collect your things and leave Central. You are no longer welcome in Medani holdings, Medani affairs, or to the name Medani. I’m…I’m sorry.”
Brindon was stunned. He did as he was told in a daze. He was outside Inquisitive Central before he realized it. He had nothing now. Sorena was dead; he’d lost his position in his House. He had no job, no home, no purpose. He was an excoriate now. If he used his mark to make money, Medani was sure to come after him, now that anyone would take him. Excoriates were almost as reviled as the aberrant marked Tarkanans. He had nothing left, except his case. He still had a lead after all and he still had allies. He now knew another know agent of the Shadow Covenant and he’d seen the Master. He didn’t need the resources of the House and they wouldn’t stop him from investigating a case they never supported to begin with. He walked away from the Basalisk District with a renewed purpose. He’d find the Master and when he did, he’d kill him for all the suffering he’d caused. That was the only justice the Master deserved.