Lords of Chaos
Thingul is young and tall for an elf, with a slender build. His features are unremarkable beneath unfashionably long hair that can appear almost silver.
Sylvenian Confederacy, Year of the Goddess 1329.
Two young men and one women sat on the sward. Their simple black robes marked them as initiates in the Song of the Forest. The impossibly narrow towers of the Singer’s Precinct could be seen between the trees, the setting sun shining off the jade roofs and witchwood spires. The initiates’ attention was not on the transient backdrop. Instead, they were deep in conversation. The topic was sensitive and from time to time, each would look around nervously to see if they were being overheard.
It was a time of tension and strife in the Confederacy. Mortals invaded the woods and fields of Sylvenia like waves of the long forgotten sea—Innumerable and implacable. And the Everqueen, matriarch of the Ithell clan, beloved of the Goddess, was dying. She who had seen a thousand turnings of the leaves, had been struck down by poison iron in the hand of a mad mortal who had walked the earth for less than 20 summers. He had yelled “forest witch” as he swung his blade.
Some began to speak of old magic. Terrible songs of wild rage. The Wild Hunt. This was the topic the three were discussing. Or more exactly, they were discussing the plot they were involved in to wake the Hunt.
The three were Believers. The Hunt could be woken. They had each suffered tragedy from the mortal scourge. Amroth’s sister, Nanthleene’s parents and Thingul’s great aunt—the Everqueen. So when they were approached by a man of the household of Nanthleene’s uncle, the First Counselor, with a plan to steal a book from the Singer’s Precinct, they took little convincing.
Nanthleene was the group leader. She was a senior Initiate while both Amroth and Thingul were novices. Nanthleene, was beautiful, smart and mercurial. Her laughter like quicksilver, her anger like lightening. Tall, smart, but plain, Thingul both loved her and feared her. He suspected Amroth felt the same. Thingul’s role in the theft was to find the hidden tome of the rite using basic tools of espionage (observation, stealth, picking locks, etc.) and create a diversion if needed. He had always had quick hands and quick ears. The more senior conspirators would deal with the magic.
But Nanthleene was Cerwyn and her uncle the First Counselor to the Forest King. The great houses of Cerwyn and Ithell had never been in the same faction at the Woodland Court. Thingul had become increasingly suspicious that his role in the First Counselor’s plan was more nuanced than had been communicated. Thingul’s thoughts went back over the events of the past few months. It had taken patience, of which Thingul had some, and quick ears, with which he had been blessed, to discover where the near mythical tome was secreted. More patience along with fast, skillful fingers provided him with a mold of the keys to both the room and the chest of old Lore Maester Rumil. The difficulty was the Maester’s chambers, as befitted his rank, were at the top of one of the precinct’s slender towers. A single way in and way out, unless you could fly. Traps and alarms when the maester was out were expected. Students were always up to some mischief and Rumil preferred his privacy.
Nanthleene’s proposed approach to the challenge of stealing the tome was elegantly simple. Tonight was Midsummer Eve. Nearly everybody in the precinct would be out at the Summer Gate for the celebrations and the Lore Maester would play a part in the night’s theater. They would tell their friends they were studying for the alchemist test and would join them after their experiment had finished. From the alchemy, they could observe the door to Maester Rumil’s tower. After he left, they would slink into the tower. Thingul would stay below and loiter nearby. He was to create diversion if someone came. Nathleene and Amroth would get the tome and return downstairs to collect their younger compatriot. Nathleene’s uncle had provided three horses and they would flee to Cerwyn lands.
Thingul had a number of reservations about the plan. Foremost among them was the awkward fact that he could not ride a horse (did it take skill to do so?) and Nathleene, usually meticulous, had not asked him if he could nor seemed interested in what type of diversion he would make if required. The passion in her voice and fire in her eyes as she went over the plan quelled any desire on his part to bring up these niggling issues.
At first, everything went smoothly. Maester Rumil left his tower at dusk, singing merrily, a flask of summer wine over his shoulder. The key to his door worked easily and Nanthleene and Amroth proceeded up the stairs quickly and quietly, breaking the two enchantments they found, no alarms raised. The minutes crept by. Thingul pulled out the packet of papers he had assembled to provide some explanation as to what he was doing at the Maester’s door (they were research he had been doing for the Lore Maester he would say) and developed a mental vision of the illusion of fire he would create from the alchemy studio if needed. More time went by. Sweat trickled down his back. Then he heard the door creak open and saw Amroth beckoning him hurriedly, an angry look on his face. He followed the other man up, taking the stairs two at a time. They reached the top suite. Nanthleene stood with her hands on her hips, clearly perturbed, the maester’s chest by her right foot.
“The blasted key does not work, you brainless idiot” she hissed.
Thingul was quiet for a moment, then knelt in front of the chest, conscious of Nanthleene’s booted foot by his head. He knew the key worked. He had tried it last week, though he had not told them of this. “The lock is new” he stated in what he hoped was a calm voice.
She responded back less harshly, “It is gold. Innately resistant to my power. Can you pick it? Amroth has not the skill.”
“I will try” Thingul said with more confidence than he felt. But gold, even when alloyed, is a poor material for a lock and he quickly had it open. Nathleene bent to open the lid but Thingul squeaked “stop”. Too late. There was a clap of thunder and they all fell back stunned. Nathleene recovered first. “Just an alarm. Quick, get the book. There is still time.” But time had run out. Nathleene swore and from the stairwell door came a deep voice, “What madness is this?”
Thingul turned to look, and found himself staring into the golden eyes of Nathleene’s uncle. Then he looked back at the chest as Nathleene continued to swear. It was empty. Who had the book?
The First Counselor took in the scene in a glance. He said in a firm voice, “It is time to go sister-daughter.” Thingul did not even see the lightning blow Nathleene dealt that knocked him unconscious.
He came to as the sound of voices echoed in the stairwell. Thingul stood a bit unsteadily and peered out the window. His heart sank. The Sylvenian River ran darkly past the base of the tower, 100 feet below. Even if he could survive the fall, he was a poor swimmer. Only a few seconds now he thought, and I am caught.
Maester Rumil entered his own room to see his chest open and a young initiate standing nearby. He knew the youth. A relative of the Everqueen, who had been acting oddly since her fatal wounding. Rumil also knew madness when he saw it. Before he could speak, the young man leapt from the window into the river far below. With splash, he sank out of sight and did not resurface. For a moment, the old Lore Master stared. Then he glanced at the space where that terrible book should have been. With a sad shake of his head, for he had seen much foolishness in his long life, he left to go tell the family that their son was dead and to warn the King that the Wild Hunt may once again fill the glens and vales with its terrible cry of rage if the book was found.
Thingul let himself breathe again. It was a simple illusion and sleight of hand; often the simplest trick is most effective. The impression of rapid movement bolstered by the physical shape of his backpack thrown dexterously through the narrow window, while he remained unmoving behind the illusion of a blank wall. He crept from the tower and left the city heading upriver.
Months later, mortal children raced down a narrow street of a small town in Gareaeth to be entertained by tricks and illusions performed by tall elf with silver hair.