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Round Robin 1.3: The Saga Continues Again

Even though it was muffled by the soft wool fabric of the tunic, the telltale rattle of his chain-mail armor alerted the two thugs. Turning around, the two caught Daniel with his sword drawn. Seeing the elfling in armor, armor too large for him, gave them a moment of pause.

A moment was all he needed.

The slender blade made light work of the first as Daniel twisted around and slashed through his neck. Spinning around from the momentum, Daniel came to bear on the second guard. Before he could raise his sword, the guard found Daniel's sword piercing through his breastplate. The half-elf slid through the armor and into the guard's heart, killing him instantly.

Looking down upon his fallen victims, Daniel felt a dazed sense of awe. Taking a step back, he surveyed the immediate surroundings. Two dead, and he survived. Looking at his hands, he saw the thin rapier sword as it glinted with the setting sun. There wasn't even the slightest stain of red on his blade.
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His hands began to shake with the realization of what he'd done. He wanted to fall to his knees as shock seized his mind. He'd killed two men! He hadn't even given them a chance to defend themselves! Before guilt could conquer him, he reminded himself that these people had come to his home to destroy it. If someone didn't stand up to them, they may very well succeed.

Even now, he could hear screams of terror and anguish in the distance. A child's voice was abruptly silenced, and that could have been his sister, if he hadn't known that she was already safe. Or Robin, his, he could afford no guilt at what he'd done.

He quickly unburdened the horses with the weapons, leaving them where they stood. Daniel figured that the best course in fighting a large group would be stealth. Try to take them out a few at a time, rather than carelessly. To rush right into the fray would be suicide. He couldn't prevent the deaths that would occur in the meantime, but he had to keep calm. If the village wasn't destroyed, then there would be hope for those who remained.

As he headed back for Robin's house, he saw a group of men dragging a tearful girl with matted dark hair. His heart sank when he recognized her face. Gloria! The blacksmith's daughter, and a cousin of Robin's. He and Robin used to play with her to keep her out of visiting the forge while her father was working. At least, that was how it had started out. When she grew a little older, she was much more fun to play with. She had always been so full of energy and laughter. But now, there was a haunted look about her, as if she'd given up.

Daniel didn't like that look. Those men had done that to her! Without conscious movement, his hand slid to the hilt of his sword. There were five men guarding her, but that didn't matter. He clenched his jaw in determination. He wasn't going to allow them to take that child!
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As quietly as he could, he set the gear down out of sight behind one of the homes. He drew the silvery blade, and with grim strides he moved towards them and tried not to think about what he'd have to do.

The men didn't see him, but Gloria did. Her eyes went wide, frightened, pleading. One of the men must have noticed this, for he turned just as Daniel struck.

The blade bit deep into his midsection, freezing a look of shock and horror across the man's face that Daniel was not likely to forget anytime soon. Through a haze, the half-elf thought he head Gloria scream and saw the other three men start to charge. He clumsily brought the blade up to block a sword blow and felt the numbing shock of impact jolt through his arm. He tried to counter but couldn't even swing close.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the man he hit crumpled on the ground, a red stain spreading from the wound.

Don't think about it! They want to kill me! It's me or them!

They were trying to surround him, keep him busy until others came. Daniel couldn't let that happen. He'd lost track of Gloria, he hoped she was okay, but right now he had himself to worry about. Quickly, he darted towards the widest opening in their formation only to stagger as something hard and heavy hit him square in the back nearly driving him to his knees. He swung blindly and felt his sword hit something solid, but only for a moment as the blade cleaved clean through the thick club that had hit him. He swung again and drew blood across the man's face which only seemed to make him angrier.

A second blow, this one from a longsword, barely missed Daniel's head. The men were closing in. The armor was getting in the way again, keeping him from moving at the speed he was used to. He barely blocked another attack with his sword which left him off balance so his next attack wasn't even close.

Daniel hadn't realize how much he'd lost track of his surroundings until he backed into the side of a house. The three men were almost on top of him and he had no place to go. He tried to parry one sword as a second club caught him across the face and he reeled.

The one with the longsword raised his weapon to strike when he suddenly froze, the point of a crossbow bolt suddenly protruding from his chest.

Behind him, Marcus deftly passed the empty crossbow to Robin and charged into the fray.
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Before the men had time to react, one was felled after being struck by Marcus's heavy staff. Startled as they were, another backed away only to find his chest impaled upon Daniel's silvery blade. The third stumbled and ran as his comrades slumped to the ground.

Robin didn't have time to react as the panicked thug grabbed her and swung his sword towards her neck, stopping mere inches from her pale flesh. "My lord!" he shouted, alerting every man in his company. "Over here!"

She felt helpless. Unable to do anything. The bastard held her from behind so she didn't even have eye contact with her attacker. Damn him.

Daniel pushed himself away from the house. "Damn you!" he cursed. Marcus's outstretched arm blocked the impatient youth from moving any closer.

"Let the girl go," Marcus commanded, only to get a chuckle as a response.

"Let her go?" The thug responded. Holding her jaw in his other hand, he pulled her face around towards his. "This sweet, pretty thing?" Shaking his head, he bore a wide grin. "I think not."


The sword slipped from the man's hand and dropped to the ground. Wide-eyed and full of fright, the man shrieked as an unseen terror had him gripped. Robin knocked his hands away and clutched at the sides of his head, never once blinking. Her would-be captor started convulsing as if wracked in pain and his breathing came in rasps.

As she finally let him go, five other men approached with their swords drawn. Aric watched as Robin's victim dropped to the earth, crying in agony as whatever demons too hold of him. Then, the disowned baron noticed someone. Someone he was vaguely familiar with. "Birchland?"

"Yes, Douleurs," the guardian replied. "It's me." Drawing his staff up and taking an aggressive posture, Marcus taunted his rival. Daniel slid towards his left as Robin moved to his right, her sword now at ready.

He was stunned. A trusted member of Olan's order wearing the armor and vestments of his enemy. And on top of that, he traveled with a young maiden and an elf. An elf wearing the armor of a land that hates their kind.

Is that...

"Yes, you bastard!" Robin shouted back, even before he could finish his train of thought. "I'm the one you want!"

The three were ready for a fight, and he had already lost half his men. Aric snarled and started to back away as he noticed more men with rakes, brooms and other makeshift weapons coming from all sides. Pathetically weak riff-raff like them, he could take at anytime. But the way his men were dispatched by these three...

"Move," he grunted as he steadily backed away, never averting his gaze from the flame haired girl with the sword. A few of the townsfolk tried to stop them, but either found a blade striking a limb or a club knocking them aside. Unable to be stopped, they reached their horses and made their escape.
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Daniel stared after them, stunned. He couldn't believe it! They had run away? For some odd reason, he felt disappointed. Before, when he had fought with the elven blade, it had seemed to sing in his hands. Now, it was quiet with the threat having retreated.

He barely felt the men clapping him on the back in thanks and relief. None of them seemed to care or notice his revealed pointed ears. They were all just grateful to be alive. He wished he could have saved more of them, but at least those who were left still had homes and family.

Robin touched his arm gently. "Are you all right?" She asked worriedly. "Your face has gone really pale."

"I'm just--" Before he could complete his sentence, he collapsed upon the ground with the sword still clutched within his hand.

Robin kneeled, caressing his cheek. Then looked up at Marcus, who was staring down at Daniel in concern. "He's fine." Robin told him. "Just asleep. But I don't understand."

Marcus nodded. "I think I do. Come on, let's return to your house. There's nothing for it but to let him rest." He turned to two of the huge, burly men that had helped to drive Aric off. "Can you help us get him back? I'm too old to carry someone, even though he looks pretty light."

Robin watched, clutching Daniel's sword to her breast, as the two big men lifted Daniel, and started heading for her house. As she went to follow them, Marcus grabbed her arm. "The sword is elven in nature." He told her softly. "It only makes sense that there would be a price for him to use it's power. Let's just hope that it doesn't get any worse than this."

"You mean it's cursed?" She asked, her eyes wide.

"I don't think so." He told her. "He's only half elf, but it may be trying to awaken that side of him. I can't know for sure at this time. We'll just have to keep an eye on him for now."

They headed back for the house, but Robin's thoughts were in turmoil. If the sword was trying to make Daniel a full elf, would he become someone else if it succeeded? She shuddered. Suddenly, she was afraid that she was going to end up losing him.
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Hours later, as the sun began to dip below the horizon, Aric and his men has invaded a small tavern a few miles from the village. They'd already driven out most of the regular customers, and two of them had bodily thrown the owner out just because the could.

Aric Douleurs was well into his cups and still in a foul mood. His followers knew to give him plenty of room when he was like this, and instead they had their fun at a safe distance from him.

His mug was nearly empty when he noticed the lantern flame on the table begin to change color, shifting from the warm yellow to a strange cold violet.

Abruptly he stood, immediately regretting it, and snarled an order to his men.

"Out! All of you, GET OUT! NOW!!"

Aric's men know of his rages. In moments, the tavern was empty save Aric and a strange glowing purple sphere that hovered over the table lantern.

A voice emanated from the ball of light. "I trust all went-"

"What are you necro-bastards trying to pull?!" Aric demanded, alcohol slurring his speech slightly.

"...Explain, Douleurs."

"Birchland was there!"

"He was, was he?" the voice murmured thoughtfully.

"Tell me what the bloody HELL was HE doing there? And in Tomas' bloody colors too! He's one of you!!"

"Were the others with him?"

"You mean the girl and a blasted half-breed who killed some of my men?! What the hell is going on here, Necrordinator!"

"Quiet Douleurs. I take it then you failed to raze the town."

"BLOODY HELL!! You start telling me what the f-"

Aric never saw the force that hit him, but suddenly, he found himself slammed into the far wall. He fell to the floor gasping to recover the wind that had been knocked out of him.

"Aric Douleurs, I see Olan has vastly overestimated your talents. You and your men should have had no trouble dealing with a weak village or those three."

"Wait..." Aric began as he clamored to his feet. "Birchland-"

"-Is a traitor to the Order, Douleurs."

"... you could've told me," Aric muttered under his breath.

"Speak up Douleurs."

"I said I can do this. Me and my men."

"You obviously failed-"

"No again, not this time. Now that I know Birchland's not one of you, there will be no more surprises. Price changes though, I want the girl."

"The girl dies."

"She will. Eventually. But I want her first," Aric licked his lips at the thought.

The voice of the orb seemed to consider this.

"Agreed. But only after her companions are dead."

"Of course. This time-"

"This time you will not fail the Order, Douleurs. Otherwise those favors you have gain from us will be gone, and there are many who would jump at the price that would be on your head."

Aric seethed, but said nothing.

"Goodbye Douleurs. When next we speak, I expect to hear better news."

With that, the sphere went dark and vanished.
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Daniel awoke in his bed. Looking around, he saw his familiar, old surroundings. The same desk with his slightly rocky chair. The same bookshelf with his books and various trinkets he collected. Everything was the same.

A dream?

He sat up in his bed, grunting in unexpected pain. Reflexively, he grabs his side and finds his ribs bandaged. Throwing his covers off, his bare skin displayed bruises along his legs and arms. As he examined the bandages around his ribs, he detected voices coming from the other room. Swinging around his legs he grabbed the clothes he had lying folded on his dresser and quickly donned them.

* * *

Robin was seated at a small table sipping some herbal tea with Daniel's mother. As Daniel appeared through the doorway, he got a sinking feeling as if he had been ambushed. As he walked into the room, he saw Marcus through the kitchen doorway talking to someone, and both Aline and Nicole were on the floor drawing.

Seeing her son enter the room, Daniel's mom raised her head. "Oh, Danny," she called out. "You're awake."

"Um, yeah," he started. Robin stood up abruptly, beaming a smile at the young man. He nervously returned the smile as he felt like he was left out of something big. Taking him by the hand, she pulled him to the table and sat down.

Uh oh.

Daniel knew he was in trouble when he saw Marcus glance at him and then slip further out of sight. Seeing the old guardian refusing to venture out of the kitchen, made him even more nervous than before.

As he sat at the table, he noted the mischievous expression on his mother's face. He then glanced at Robin who bore the same impish grin. What were the two of them talking about? he pondered. As reclusive as his mother can be at times, there were times she never left the house. Even years of living in Takuro, at times she felt like a stranger among the humans. But her and Robin? He never really saw the two of them sitting together for very long, and yet the two of them were as cozy as can be.

So, Daniel, his mother finally spoke. "I never dreamed this would happen. An Azurist Guardian," she cheered. "I didn't know it was still around."

Confused, Daniel began to ask."What do you..." But before he went any further, a loud cough emanated from the kitchen. "I mean... yeah." he quickly added. "I was surprised too."

"He was even introduced to Lord Tomas," Robin added with a giggle.

Rising from the table, Daniel's mother paused upon hearing Robin's admission. "Oh, my," she said. "Then what I have kept for you comes at the right time."

Right time? Daniel thought. Glancing at Robin, he saw that she was as bemused as he.

His mother walked over towards the window and knelt down to unlock her hope chest. Daniel didn't know what next to expect.
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"This has been in my family for generations." His mother told him quietly. "I'm not really surprised that you've become strong, Daniel. Your ancestors were great warriors that protected their people from marauders. Come here, I think it's time that I passed this on to you."

Daniel walked over to her, peering over her shoulder. Robin started to follow him, but her mother seized her arm suddenly, pulling her into the kitchen. "This is between them, Robin. Stay put. You can listen, but don't interfere."

"But mom--" Robin protested, but she decided to give Daniel and his mother their moment.

Tarnished silver armor lay inside the chest. It didn't look very special, as far as Daniel could see. But his mother was smiling with love and pride, so he didn't want to disappoint her. He reached inside the chest to smooth the dust away from chest plate of the armor. As soon as he touched it, he felt a strange warmth radiating from the metal, spreading up from his fingers into his arm.

He glanced at his mother in surprise. "What--" He began.

"Elven." She nodded. "Like your sword. I inherited that armor when I was about your age, but I never actually wore it. It's a shame that it's been so long since it had a master, but I believe that it will accept you. You may be part human, but I think it should answer to your elven blood."

Robin was feeling that discomfort again. Something else of Elven nature? The sword was bad enough. If Marcus was right, Daniel might become a full elf, and it's possible she'd lose him. Terror filled her heart. "Let me go, mom." She whispered. "I can't stand this."

"No." Her mother said firmly. "You're worried, I can see that. However, you must understand that before all else, Daniel must honor his heritage. Whatever happens, is meant to be."


She watched from the doorway with foreboding as Daniel pulled the armor out of the chest with reverence. The dull metal began to glow with a faint light, illuminating Daniel's face. Now, more than ever, Daniel looked very much like an elf. The armor, it appeared, would accept him as master, as his mother had hoped.

"The armor will protect you, my son." His mother said. "It also has healing properties, so any wounds you receive while wearing it, will heal faster. It's made out of a material called mythril, and is very light and flexible. That armor you were wearing is far too heavy for you."

"Thank you, mother. I don't know what else to say." His eyes filled with tears, and he set the armor back inside the chest to hug her. "I'll come home safe, I promise." He told her.

She smiled at him through her own tears. "I know."
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She paused a moment to blot her eyes. "I wish your father was here to see this."

"I know."

"Are you sure you can't stay a few more days?"

Daniel shook his head. "I wish I could mother, but... this can't wait."

"I understand."

"Tell father I..."

She smiled and hugged her boy again. "Of course, Daniel. When the wagons come back, I'll tell him everything. He'll be so proud of you."

Then why does this scare me so much, Daniel wondered.

He glanced over his mother's shoulder and saw Robin in the doorway, a worried expression on her face. When their eyes met, she silently turned away and ducked back into the kitchen.

Daniel gently pulled from his mother's embrace. "Mom?"


"What are elves like?"

His mother's mouth gaped as she was momentarily caught speechless.

Daniel pressed on. "I kind of remember you telling me stories when I was little, but after that night, you stopped."

He still remembered it. He was ten years old and his mother came in the middle of the night, gathering him up and told him they were going on an adventure.

He should have been excited but something about his parents made him feel scared.

They all spent the night in the woods near town, his father keeping watch while his mother told him all about the stars and the stories their patterns told until he was so tired he couldn't keep his eyes open anymore.

He remembered next morning when they returned, he saw their house had been torn apart. Everything was smashed or broken, and there were even signs of a fire that never really caught.

He remembered that for the next year or so they moved around a lot.

It wasn't until much later he learned about the gangs roaming that night. Defenders of the Crown they called themselves, but they were little more than lynch mobs. It was sheer luck one of his father's friends had warned them about what was coming; that on that first night of the month, all over the kingdom, the Defenders were sending a message.

From what he heard, his family were some of the few lucky ones.

Afterwards, the lords made a few arrests, but it was only a token gesture; the damage had been done.

Daniel grew to hate that night.

"Please," he asked again. "What are elves like?"

His mother hesitated, trying to find the words. Before she could speak, there was a gentle knock on the doorframe.

"Forgive the intrusion, milady," said Marcus, bobbing his head respectfully, "But we'll be leaving around sunrise, and these two will need plenty of rest. I believe it's best we three turned in."

"Of course. Daniel, you have had a very long day-"

You have no idea, Daniel added to himself.

"- and I'll answer your question later when there's more time."

"But Mom-"

"Please Daniel, another time."

Reluctantly, Daniel relented. Despite his rest, he still felt weak. More sleep couldn't hurt.
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Over the blue skies of Javon, light, billowy clouds drifted by. As bright and gentle as the countryfolk they covered. Soft and radiant, they ushered forth another day of merriment. The winter solstice was at hand and preparations for the Festival of Dance were being made.

The grand stage in the oak grove was nearing completion as dozens of men worked on the pillars, joists and the various effects built upon its surface. Oiled and waxed was the floor. A perfectly mirrored surface for coming celebration.

A young, curly blonde maiden balanced a couple of glass pitchers on the wooden platter she carried to the grove. Rather than move straight to the center of the workforce, she angled towards the worker at the east stair railing. Without turning to face the child, he sat the hammer down and reached out with a small wooden cup.

"Down please," the young girl said. Turning around, the sixteen year old looked down at the little girl with the pitcher.

"Thanks, Sammie" he said as she poured the lemonade. Giggling a little girl giggle, she ran off to the next worker as she splashed the drink with each skip.

Early as it was, the light outside waned. Heavy clouds started rolling in, overshadowing the gentle silver-lined ones before them. An odd ruby haze fell upon everything. Setting the cup down, Alston glanced around at his fellow workers, all as puzzled as he.

A low rumble.

As he glanced up, the dark clouds covered the sky. As he watched, the thunderous sound grew louder. There was no flash or burst.

It came from the East... from Viman and Sarrs.

Another cloud approached... a cloud of dust and dirt. Within, men on horseback. Their dark green armor emblazoned with a silver sickle.
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