Song of Winter(10)By: May Sage
Vale didn’t doubt that.
“How different was it, then?” Vale asked. “The First War.”
“I will not talk of it,” the elf stated resolutely. “Know only that wrongs that can never be undone were committed. Wrongs such as burning cities, threatening, torturing, and raping innocent. You only need to hear of one of these horrors. I’ve not talked of it in the last five thousand years, and I will not mention it again after today.”
Elden took a deep breath before saying, “One of the enlightened was ordered to take a young girl savagely to make her father talk. I watched in horror as all of our enemies were slaughtered after we’d gotten what we had come for.”
He’d watched? Vale took that in with awe and some apprehension. The male was at least five thousand years old. Most mages Vale knew only grew stronger with time. How terrifying did that make Elden Star?
“Rape and carnage.” It sounded like just about any other war. “What of it?”
“I saw it with my own eyes when your father spared the girl he’d taken; out of pity or guilt, I know not. His blade struck her face to make her bleed and pass out, so that none would suspect he’d spared her, but the blow was not lethal. And so the girl lived to birth a son.”
Ah. Well that had certainly gotten his attention.
His father had another son? One born of hatred over five thousand years ago?
“I have another brother.”
Elden inclined his head. “He has plotted in the shadows since the dawn of this era, and his time has come.”
THE KING’S DEALS
After a long bath to soothe her tired limbs and wash away thoughts of Valerius Blackthorn, if only for a moment, Devi returned to her room, got dressed, and walked up the path to her father’s gardens. She had only lived in this court for a year, but if she recalled anything, it was that Elden could be found in his frozen paradise more often than not. She wasn’t surprised to feel Valerius’s presence along with her father’s as she approached.
On her way up, she encountered a handful of elves that were part of Elden’s council.
She greeted them, rather surprised that he’d sent them away. What did the king of elves have to tell Vale that he wouldn’t share with his most trusted advisors? Devi certainly didn’t wish to miss that conversation, although the words might not be meant for her ears. She approached slowly, tiptoeing and masking her presence.
Close to the winter garden, she heard their voices. Devi halted and listened to the tale her father was sharing with Vale. The first words confirmed their talk was related to their affair, and she needed information as much as Valerius.
She listened as Elden talked of a war, gods, enlightened, monsters, and brothers, her mind storing each detail, until her spying session was rudely interrupted.
“I see you have not yet learned what is said of eavesdroppers, daughter.”
Devi sighed and stepped into view. “I can’t say I have, no. Don’t expect an apology. I’d very much like to know what’s happening.” Elden had never talked to her of anything of importance in the past, and she doubted he planned on starting now. “So, you’re saying the evil five-thousand-year-old son of Orin is yet another contender for that blasted throne up north.”
“Evil is a matter of perception, daughter. The son of an abused female, raised in poverty, often starving and without a home, may grow into a person a child such as yourself—born and raised in palaces—cannot understand.”
While it had been delivered with as much condescension as possible, she had to concede his point.
“Fair enough. To me, burning a city to the ground, entirely unprovoked, definitely counts as an evil deed, but each to their own.”
“Inconsequential. The boy has long plotted, patiently waiting for the right moment. That time is now. He has considered every possibility, every scenario. He’s prepared. You may expect to lose this war.”
She had to note that her father didn’t seem troubled by that perspective. Devi didn’t have to think too hard to imagine why. “You’ve made a deal with him, haven’t you?”
Her tone held no small degree of contempt and accusation.