Another chapter! And by my standards quite a long one... enjoy
Shortly after that Xander was bound, blindfolded, gagged and dragged up onto the back of a horse by another member of his ambush. Despite his sightlessness he felt the convey begin to canter off into the woods and after only moments he had entirely lost his bearings as they winded at high speed through the trees.
As the horse jolted him up and down he wondered whether Yassen was somewhere in this convoy, bound and gagged like him. Part of him wished she had gotten away but part of him didn't want to be imprisoned alone. The horse jerked again and with his hands tied behind his back and unable to balance he was almost thrown of the horse, his stomach doing a back-flip in the process.
Just as Xander thought he was about to throw up the convoy came to a sudden halt and a voice called from the front.
"We walk from here," the voice that threatened him, shouted.
After being man-handled of the horse Xander felt himself being pushed along what seems to be a manmade path… manmade, that didn't quite seem accurate. He was prodded in the back again and felt the path begin to slope upwards.
Despite being blind he could tell that as they walked on darkness was beginning to fall over the valley and the pace was still fierce even as the path they were following inclined further.
"Halt! Who goes there?!" the shouted echoed through the trees.
"It is I, Rancorn! My guards and I have discovered trespassers on our land and have brought them in for judgement" said the man who originally ambushed Xander.
Trespassers thought Xander Plural meant that Yassen is here He was confused as to whether that was a good or bad thing. Suddenly the blindfold was ripped off and Xander was faced with a very unexpected site; ahead of him was a huge plateau surrounded by trees, from the look of it, it was around half way up the side of the valley and had been deliberately carved out of the rock.
Lots of wooden huts took their places on the plateau ranging from large houses that could have been home to a large family down to a small hut on the outskirts of the village that seemed to host some kind of sentry. The plateau buzzed with life as families were enjoying their evening meals in the still night.
A magnificent fire was burning tall in the centre of the village, in front of some kind main building, it would have been the mayor office in a human town but the village that Xander saw was home to an Elven tribe. Elves were similar to humans in some ways but different in many others, most were generally at least the height of a tall human as adults with slight builds and mildly pointed ears. The main different between the two races was the Elven gift of natural magic, a skilled human magician could tempt the wind whereas an apprentice Elven warlock could bring mighty gales or fearsome storms. However the Elves were a peaceful race... that is apart from the Elf, Rancorn who currently had an arrow gently touching the back of Xander's neck. He was an exception.
As Xander was taking all of this in he failed to notice Yassen being dragged off a horse behind him, at the same time the messenger that had run ahead earlier was returning to the group looking downcast.
"Tribe Leader Micah is not pleased, Rancorn", before the messenger could explain further or Xander and Yassen could ask about this Tribe Leader, they found out.
A mightily tall Elf with long pale hair, tied back with a piece of string and wearing a long cloak stormed (albeit gracefully) out of the main building flanked by a calm and beautiful young woman with waist-length platimun hair. The Elf stopped in front of Rancorn and fixed him with a glare yet relaxed, confident posture.
"Do I hear correctly, Rancorn? You have taken two humans as prisoners from the valley track?" Rancorn went to reply but Micah carried on regardless, "Is it also true that I told you that no-one taking that path would be a threat to us? And did I not forbid you to use excessive force after the incident where you tied and gagged the Flechann ambassador?" A hushed laugh rang around the group of gathered villagers and Rancorn flushed visibly. For the first time Xander looked across at Yassen and she flashed him a smile that seemed out of place for when one is bound by the wrists. Rancorn collected himself quickly and attempted his explaination.
"Tribe Leader Micah, I do not believe any kind of force is excessive when safety of the tribe is involved. These humans", he spat the word out, "were advancing towards our land with their weapons drawn." Tribe Leader Micah looked at Xander and Yassen for the first time and laughed deeply.
"Rancorn, do you really feel that two exhausted teenagers are going to be any kind of threat to us? I feel that if anyone were faced with the thought that they were feeling followed that they would draw weapons." His tone grew harsh and his eyes met Rancorn's, "Rancorn, this was you final chance. I am appointing Eldrich leader of our band of fighters as of now." He turned on his heal, ignoring Rancorn's despair and Eldrich, a young man at Rancorn's right's pride and sweepedof back towards the main building.
"You two follow me."
The Elves holding Xander and Yassen realised them and then two teenagers looked at each other and hurried after the Tribe Leader.
The interior of the meeting hut, as that was what the large building was, was a comfortable room with a fireplace in the middle, the smoke escaped through a tin pipe leading to the roof. There were wooden benches on the edges of the room but immediately surrounding the fire were around a dozen wooden chairs and one grand high-backed chair which the Tribe Leader sat down in. The young woman with the platinum hair took the chair to his right, she noddedand gestured for them to take a seat.
"So," she began, "What brings you near our village? I doubt you wished to meet with us, few even know of this place so I presume you have been travelling through the valley towards Algermere on the other side of the pass or perhaps you are travelling away from somewhere...?"
Tribe Leader Micah was relaxed in his chair, Xander looked at him nervously and gestured for him to speak but Yassen went ahead and took the stand.
"We come from the village of Dodge, I left in order to travel the lands however soon after I left my friend Xander", she gestured to him and confidently carried on, "he was framed for a crime he didn't commit. We met again in Foull and it was there that a man in a black cloak shot a crossbow bolt at us. He was skilled at his work and we calculated him to be an assassin, we were forced to run for our lives into the mountain pass." Xander nodded, confirming what Yassen said.
"You know the rest. We hope that we could shelter in you village for an hour or so before moving on down the valley." Xander's regular confidence had returned albeit being a little more well spoken that usually.
Micah smiled. "Expect more of your hosts, lad! You may stay for as long as you need"
"No offence, Tribe Leader Micah but I feel the word captors is more appropriate", said Yassen, her sharpe tongue snapping back, uncontrolled as she waved her rope-bound wrists. This only made Micah laugh heartily as he unsheathed a blade and made short work of Rancorn's men's knots. He gave them a warm smile, his previous anger at Rancorn, a distant memory.
"This is my daughter, Gwynehh, she is to be the next leader of this tribe and a fine one at that." He turned to her and smiled, "Gwynehh, fetch Mrs Oakersby. She will be happy to house our two guests."
Xander and Yassen looked at each other in shock at the sudden change in events and at the fact that this tribe held women in such high esteem, in all the places they had ever visited outside of Dodge women were downtrodden and a strong woman was thought of as strange (Dodge was unusual in it's history of a woman, Emilia Cortex fighting the authoritysin the 3rd century witch trials).
As they followed Gwynehh out of the room Xander looked at Yassen, his usual cheekiness returned. "I knew it wasn't a bad thing being ambushed!"
Yassen thumped him playfully on the arm, "Says you! That Rancorn guy knocked me out before tying me up. Feel lucky that you only got threatened!" She said rubbing the back of her head yet still smiling.