The world was still, the sharp sounds of silence harshly cold on the young man's ears. He carefully rolled off his thin blanket and crawled on all fours out of the tent.
Yesterday's rain was still fresh in the once hard-packed dirt. The boy couldn't see the ground as he crawled over it, but his keen sense of smell easily detected the sharp, soothing smells of the earth. Listening warily to make sure he had not woken any of the guards or worse, Ralorn, he stopped next to a large puddle of dark gray mud and plunged his fingers into the drying surface.
For a while he sat there working deeper into the soft mud, probing and breaking any large clumps until the mud flowed over his hands like thick butter. Once he felt the mud was ready, he began to shape it with his experienced hands.
Several minutes later as a rosy dawn touched the tips of the mountains; he set his creation down in front of a nearby tree and sat back blankly. The rising sun brought the young man no detail to his world. Real life for years had never entered his eyes, yet misery would enter his heart every time he heard anyone speak of the world in detail, jealous that others could see things he could not. He wished he could actually see the small figure he had made. A sigh of despair escaped passed his lips as he reached down and touched the figure's head.
Again he let his fingers flow over the creature's form. The line of the head, the curve of the neck, the angle of the back and sides, the points of the legs, and the unbalanced wave of both mane and tail. Nothing, no detail escaped the eyes of his touch. He smiled slightly at his work. His father would have been proud. His hands stopped. His father...
No, he told himself fiercely. I'm not going to go through that again. He's gone, and I'm alone. That's all there is to it. Stop dwelling on the past. It's been too long. Shaking his head, he lectured himself. It's been nine years. Nine years!
Feeling drained of energy; he turned to reenter the tent.
"What are you doing, boy!" A harsh, loud voice suddenly exploded somewhere to the left of him. It was ironic how such a clear voice could bite so. The boy froze, terrified. Mayroniel, Ralorn's second-in-command had found him. He could hear the elf's footsteps behind him as Mayroniel stomped to him. He tried to crawl away, but suddenly he was being lifted up by his long tangled hair, failing to stifle a small cry.
"You know you aren't allowed out here!" Mayroniel's hand roughly shook him. "You can't leave the tent without a guard. And for that, boy, leaving and trying to escape, you will again be bound outside Lord Ralorn's tent." Mayroniel dropped his head in disgust. The boy waited for Mayroniel to tell him to go back to his tent, but instead the elf seemed to pause, then walk over to where the puddle of mud and the small figure lay in waiting. A muttered curse and a loud stomp of a leather boot touched the boy's ears, as did the sound of the mud hissing its displeasure. The young man dropped his head in defeat. Mayroniel had destroyed it.
Lying on the ground, he mourned for the creation that he had so painstakingly put together, now destroyed because of the feelings the figure inflicted. The talent his father had taught him was all he had left, and it was that gift that drove Ralorn to destroy all he had ever loved. The boy hated Ralorn. He hated the elf's men.
"Hey, what have you got there?" Mayroniel's voice suddenly tore at him once again. The young man looked blankly in his direction. What was he talking about this time? He listened as Mayroniel walked closer, and suddenly he knew. His hands were quickly at his own throat, working fast to hide the thong of leather that held his most treasured possession. Mayroniel's rough hands suddenly knocked his own away, and he could feel the elf's hands as he lifted the leather thong and the pendant that hung from it away from the protection of his worn tunic.
The boy couldn't believe he had been so careless. The pendant had been a creation of his father's, long before Ralorn came - a small hollow walnut shell, beautifully carved with designs and studded with silver. To the untrained eye it was exactly what it looked like - merely a walnut shell, but to the boy it was so much more – even more than he knew himself. He could hear Mayroniel laugh happily, and flinched slightly at the unpleasant sound.
"Your father made this, didn't he? I recognize the design." The boy did not respond. He never spoke to anyone, ever. "And now it belongs to Lord Ralorn." With a swift jerk of his hand, Mayroniel snapped the leather thong. The prick of pain on the back of his neck was nothing compared to the stab in his heart. The boy's blank eyes stared up wildly at Mayroniel as he listened to the flick of a coat, his treasure stowed away in the depths of a pocket. Mayroniel's hands were suddenly on his shoulders, and he was roughly lifted from the ground and directed back to the tents, stumbling and falling the whole way because of Mayroniel's haste.
As he again struggled against the bonds that bound him to a pole outside one tent, the boy sighed deeply and mournfully. After years of carefully hiding that shell from sight to keep it from being taken, it had all come to nothing. Mayroniel had found it in the end. The last memory of his father's work was now gone into the hands of a greedy treasure hunter. He had promised his father he would protect it. The boy cursed his weakness – he cursed his blind eyes. He was never going to touch the gift again, the last and most prized of his father's creations that he had managed to keep safe... until now.
A few hours later the camp was in motion, and Ralorn kept the handful of his men calm with assurance. Walking with a sure pride around the small camp toward his mount, the full sun caught the true reflection of his features.
He was a tall, proud elf with dark blue eyes and streaked brown-black hair that was usually woven in braids and pulled back away from his face. His eyes were hard and defiant, cold and merciless as they watched the world around them with dislike. He is known to be as silent as an owl and as clever as a fox, clad in black and dark grey, wandering like a shadow through the trees. One moment he was here, the next over there, constantly moving in the world he understood well from years upon years of exploring it.
Yet of all his defining features there is one that sets him apart. On the left side of his face a large burn mark mars his skin. It crosses diagonally over his forehead, in between his eyes, over the bridge of his nose, down to the side of his mouth, vanishing around his chin and filling the left side of his face. The edge-line is jagged, though it changes smoothly from the deep reddish-brown to the normal tanned complexion that Ralorn claims as his own. One might think that it would make him look horribly deformed, but rather, it seemed to complement his looks to those who know him. And he himself did not revel in the age-old scar. He did not believe in hiding something that was a part of him.
He approached his mount and stroked the stallion's great neck. If Ralorn bore any love for anything, it was for his horses. At one time, he was renowned for his skill with the magnificent animals, but he was now losing himself in the wilds and its creatures. Now, he was on his way to avenge what he had lost - a plan that had been forming for years was finally falling through, the soul-eating want for revenge that attacked him daily as the very cause of his life long pain and anger.
Mayroniel walked up next to him quietly. "My lord, we are ready to move out."
"Good Mayroniel. Very good." His voice was deep and rich, yet carried a strange tone that made it sound hard and deadly. "Let them mount up, and make one carry the boy. He is not to be left behind." He rubbed his stallion's forehead, and then looked at Mayroniel closely. "I heard you earlier. What did you take from him?"
Mayroniel froze at the request for a mere instant before responding, hesitantly putting one hand inside his pocket, fingering the walnut shell. "Yes...yes, my lord, I discovered something the boy was hiding from us all this time. I was saving it for you." He withdrew the leather thong and let the silver bound walnut sparkle in the sun, at the same time cursing himself for not being more careful and hiding the pendant sooner.
"Why, thank you Mayroniel." Ralorn extended his hand and took the shell, relieving Mayroniel of his hesitant grip on the thong it was strung to. "Now come, if we wish to reach Rivendell by tonight and be well hid without notice, we must leave now."
"Yes, my master." Mayroniel turned and walked brusquely to the other five riders, barking orders to mount up. On his way, he untied the blind boy from his post and dragged him to one rider, throwing him over one horse's back like a sack of barley. The elf that had to bear him grimaced at the extra weight of a mortal, but one look from Mayroniel kept his tongue silent.
Ralorn mounted smoothly onto his stallion's back, and with a firm squeeze of his legs urged the horse forward. All his men rode bareback, as did he. He never saw the use of the bits of harness men and elves sometimes favor. He saw it as limiting the animal's movement. When all were ready, Ralorn gave his mount a swift kick in the ribs, and they bolted forward.
I'm coming for him, my friends, he thought happily as he directed the stallion into the safety of the thick woods. I wonder if you even remember me...remember what you did to me. I'm coming now. We shall see how your new brother enjoys my company. No more than you did once, I'm sure. No more...