In the Time of Blood and Ice

{strong language; bloody violence; language of a sexual nature}

In the Time of Blood and Ice

A sound out of place, a jingle, then a creaking like leather bending, woke them.

They jerked awake, heads snapped toward one another sitting up in the wide bed, then Kaitee and Meann swung their feet out of bed. They stood on the cold stone floor. Kaitee looked down at her bare breasts and at the blood smeared there from their rune songs, sung the night before. Their new bows, their Arc’oevena, still hung by the forge fires down in the lowest depths of the Palace. They must get to their weapons.

Across the bed, Meann licked her fingers and wiped blood from her smear beneath her small breast. She turned and showed Kaitee her chest. Kaitee put her finger to her lips for quiet. Meann whispered.

“Look, under the blood, the rune is there.” Mist puffed from her mouth in the unheated room.

Meann was right, Kaitee discovered as she copied Meann. Burned deep into her skin over her heart was the small rune of her bloodline. Meann wiped at the blood on her forehead. She turned to Kaitee and raised her eyebrows in question.

“The Ancient shield on the wall!” she whispered, and they ran to it, naked. They got close and they saw the matching runes. They wiped away excess blood and smiled at one another. They grabbed one another by the back of their heads, pressed foreheads together, then kissed. Kaitee’s rune was under her left eye, her lazy eye. Meann had to look away from her at times because she could not tell where her gaze fell. Meann was prettier, but not by much. Her teeth protruded in a terrible overbite. She rarely smiled or talked. They broke their kiss. Their hair, chin length and straight brown looked tousled from the bed. Their long Elven ears stuck straight above their heads.

“We must make our way down to our bows,” Meann said.

“From the sound of things, we’ll either fight our way to them, or we’ll sneak our way there. Grab your things, hurry.”

Kaitee and Meann were army scouts. They were the best, with many accolades. Their skill earned them a place in the upper Palace. They donned their officer armor of the Craf’ter’fech, the Citizen Army, and took up their spears. Kaitee put her back to the wall at the door, nodded to Meann and she opened the door just a peek. The light from the sconce in the hall shined on her eye and nose. Mist trailed out her nose as she breathed. Kaitee readied her spear. She frowned at Meann. “We fight,” she whispered.

Kaitee nodded to her and Meann jerked open the door.

A human soldier in hardened leather pivoted on her and drew sword. Kaitee rammed her spear in his side and through his ribcage. He fell flat flipping her spear straight upward. She stepped over him and pulled out the spear. More humans rushed them.

She racked her enchanted spear on her back, it disappeared, then she was on them. She dropped to the floor, saw Meann beside her out the corner of her eye. They fought at one another’s side, as always. Kaitee rolled on the floor, came up in a leap, and sliced the man’s throat with her black obsidian knife, an enchanted one that gets sharper with every cut. Meann bent back, letting a human’s sword pass over her head, then she came up with her obsidian knife and gutted him from his privates to his breastplate. He fell trying to gather his guts.

Kaitee blocked a low swinging sword with her knife, then leaped and kicked the human man in his jaw so hard his head snapped back, breaking his neck. There were two remaining before the stairs leading down to the forges. Kaitee reached for Meann’s fingertips. They must touch or kiss to disappear, preferably both. They touched fingertips.

Poof!

They disappeared. “Azaa!” they both shouted and leaped. The human soldiers crouched and searched for the two Elves. They reappeared in mid-air behind the two men and sliced off their heads with a single stroke. This maneuver was well practiced. They smiled, cleaned their blades on the dead men’s shirts, turned and ran for the stairwell.

The base of the stairwell opened into the craf’ambe, a very large craft room. There were racks of weapons in neat rows, hundreds of bows, spears, and sets of various armors. At the left wall were three massive forges with enchanted bellows that slowly filled and expelled air unaided.

“If we are under attack, these racks should be empty,” Kaitee said. “Unless…”

“They had no time to get here,” Meann finished for her. “But how did they get past our wards, our guards?”

“I can only guess. This invasion smells of magic. I am willing to bet there were witches involved,” Kaitee said.

They stepped in front of the rack that held their bows. The runes on Kaitee and Meann’s chest, Meann’s forehead and Kaitee’s cheek, glowed bright red as they neared. Concurrently, the runes on the two Arc’oevena, Bow of the Heart’s Desire, glowed bright gold against the red wood, the Coemak, or Heartwood. The two Elves sat on the floor in front of their bows and clasped hands.

“Let us finish the magic and give the bows their strength, our desire, as only we know how. Others do this magic in their own way, we do it ours.”

“We sing,” Meann said.

“Yes, we sing,” Kaitee said. “Now we will sing our song, and we fill them with our desire and we will take our bows, our mighty Arc’oevena, and we will leap, and fight, with a madness that Elvendom has never known,” Kaitee said clenching her fist.

“What’s left of it,” Meann said with a sigh.

They hugged, kissed, and then held hands. Kaitee closed her eyes and started the song and Meann joined her. They swayed and sang. The bows glowed.

They awoke with hands on their shoulders. Kaitee jumped quickly into a fighting stance and Meann scrambled low beside her, her blade in her hand, surprising the intruders who jumped back.

“You were right Ronda, these two have skills,” Queen Gina said as she stepped from behind Ronda. Her slave, Mak’el’in, the last winged Elve in existence, was on the end of her leash behind Gina.

“You live!” Kaitee exclaimed.

Ronda’s long red hair shined bright, as did her armor, in the light of the forge fires. Her long pink ears parted her hair on the sides and were translucent. Kaitee and Meann sheathed their weapons and bowed low in unison with respect for Gina. “Rise,” Gina said. “We need both of you for a mission. We will get straight to the point, Captain?”

Ronda spoke, “Those humans you killed were teleported inside, past our wards. They’re purpose, we believe, was to spy, then return to the witches. You did well killing them. You saved lives.”

“How did they get in here?”

“The witches, allies with the human army, have in their possession two of four Elven’elcraf Stones, our stones. We have the other two. We have recently learned that the stones communicate with one another. We have also recently learned that this is how they chased us halfway over the world. We must have the other stones. We know the whereabouts of one, and we are sending you both to retrieve it.”

“As you command, Ancient One,” Kaitee said. “But we are so young. We have only now completed the bow rite and have yet to test our great weapons.”

“Test them on human flesh,” Gina said. This earned her a scowl from Ronda.

“You make one blunder after another,” Maki said and fluttered her wings pulling at the leash. That was her short name. Her voice was surprisingly deep for one so thin.

“Shut it!” Gina commanded and jerked the leash.

Ronda turned to Kaitee. “Were they prepared with all your heart’s desires?”

“Yes, Ancient One,” they said.

“Did they bleed?”

“See for yourself!” Meann said. She turned and gestured toward the two bows made from the last few shards of Heartwood. There were pools of blood underneath each. The runes inscribed on the wood and the runes on the chest of the two Elves glowed underneath their halters at the mention of the blood.

Gina raised her hand, they bowed. “The earth will tremble when you draw their strings. These are very powerful bows, the finest I’ve seen. These are true Arc’oevena. Your singing magic is strong! We name you Songmasters! There have not been two Songmasters in the Queen’s Court in hundreds of years.”

Queen Gina always spoke as “we” or “us.” All Elves can link telepathically, but the Elders and the Queen stay linked continually. She has the final say and does not usually differ with them on these matters. They decided on Kaitee and Meann at once, and it was unanimous. They welcomed them warmly into the Queen’s Court. Kaitee and Meann bowed low.

“I laugh that you try to keep traditions in these times,” Maki said. That bought her another yank on the leash. “Use some sense, woman. I have enough magic to save us all.”

“And enough to kill us all!” Gina said. That was the lie she used to justify Maki’s enslavement to the Elders. She convinced them that Maki carried criminal intent in her heart. If the truth be known, the Queen wanted Maki’s rejuvenation power for herself. Maki’s aura made all in her immediate vicinity young and beautiful, strong and virile. She could do the same to nature given her full power, melting ice and making things green.

The Queen and the Elder, Ronda, left the two scouts to prepare for their mission. Kaitee and Meann left the Black Palace shortly after in search of the stone.
The Elven race had known about the great ice sheet that covered the top half of the world for a thousand years. It was a towering wall of ice, certainly, but also a living thing, moving creaking, breathing. It pushed everything before it, rolling great boulders down valleys, slowly swallowing hills and rivers with the ease of a blanket covering a sleeping babe. Their ancestral home had been far to the south in the rich equatorial jungles.

The Black Palace with its obsidian glass spires glimmering in the cloudless, freezing sunny skies, was at the front edge this ice sheet, directly in its path. Within the Palace were the last of them, the remnant of the Elven Queendom. They fled north amid great protest. They could run no further. The wall trapped them. They could not escape west or south as the great human and dwarven armies cornered them here. An Elder Elve had magically unpacked the Palace where it now sits and gave her life in the process.

Time passed, while Kaitee and Meann completed their task. A few days turned into a week. The guards in one of the black towers watched a gray square looking glass. It had no substance. Elves could walk through it and the view would not change. Its ephemeral nature was its genius. The enemy could not destroy it. Spears passed through it. Spells had no effect. And it allowed the Elves to see the entire battlefield as they could raise it very high and it would send the picture to another glass at ground level. They communicated face to face with these glasses over vast distances. The human army and the witches wanted this magic more than anything else. In their language, this was their si’da’sa’da, simply “see you, say you.” On this day, the guard spotted two darkly robed Elves through the blizzard trudging in the snow a mile from the great iron door of the Palace.

Later, they sat at the hearth fire.

“Where did you find our Looking Glassmaster?” Gina asked glibly.

“She was in the King’s Palace dungeon. We used the oil of invisibility to slip past the guards. They smelled us, though. They had training for Elven smell. We did not consider smell, so we quickly made a poop spell in the foyer like we did when we were children.”

“Hush! They haven’t learned that one yet!” Ronda whispered looking around for the children. They all laughed. Ronda, with her red hair, a rarity with Elves, and fair skin was quick to redden. Her long ears glowed red.

“One guard blamed the other for pooping himself. That was all we needed to get to the stairs and down. It was so odd being close to human men without killing them.” They nodded.

“And what did you find downstairs,” Gina asked.

“There was a hallway with many doors lining both sides. We had no idea how to proceed so we sat and sang softly,” Kaitee said.

“What did your song reveal to you?” Gina asked.

A tear swelled in Kaitee’s eye. Meann grasped her hand. “We were too late. Sasha was dead. That little White Witch with her long black frizzy hair bent over her in a room down the hall as she cut open her belly. There was a child! It cried…for a moment.”

Kaitee sobbed. She composed herself and continued, “The witch broke the child’s neck and rammed her hand into Sasha’s belly and that is when we acted. The oils were still working so we touched fingers, kissed, and transported into their torture chamber.”

Ronda spoke, “you knew the danger, yet you moved in.” Ronda looked at the Elders and they nodded.

Kaitee batted another tear and sniffed. She grinned red-faced. “Meann, who has the most deliciously steady tongue in all Elvendom, pushed her face between the human men, snaked out her very long tongue, and quickly snatched the stone from the witch’s bloody fingertips. We backed away, kissed, teleported outside, and then ran like the wind!”

They all smiled. They looked at one another and started laughing.

Queen Gina spoke after laughing so hard she held her side. “Meann! You tongued the stone away! How did you curl your tongue around…wait! I don’t want to know!”

The women howled.

Meann smiled and nodded. “I had to do something!”

Ronda said, “You two are heroes!”

“We learned something else,” Kaitee said. The White Witch has a spear wound. She is weak. However, the most important thing is this. She has the fourth stone inside her. She spoke of it!”

The Elders went silent. Ronda spoke, “Bless the Elve that gutted her! We knew the stone was somewhere dark and damp but we were unable to view where. Now you say it is inside the witch.”

“That is how they have known our movements. The witch swallowed the stone to form a mental link to all the other stones,” Kaitee said.

Ronda spoke next explaining that Sasha had told her that the Elven’elcraf Stones could enhance the looking glass, the si’da’sa’da, if they had all four of them. Four stones would enable the glass to become von’ha’gi’ha, an instrument of travel.

From here, go there. The name is so simple, yet so powerful. This portal will save us all, Ronda said.

“Then we must kill the witch and retrieve the fourth stone,” Nana said, saying the obvious.

“There is more. Sasha also told us that the stones hold more than a way to correct the glass. She said that written on the tablets she read, in a language that predated our language, which she believed to be the first language of the world, were symbols showing that the four stones could hold souls. The symbols showed that a powerful magician could jump through time inside the stones,” Gina said.

Sasha had told Gina that they must set the four stones into a crown, the Queen’s Crown. Gina sent them all a mental image of the crown and the song to create it. Kaitee and Meann paid attention and memorized the song. She sent them an image of two souls going into each stone.

BOOM!

The explosion shook them out of their meditation.

“TREBUCHET!” Ronda shouted, her voice magically enhanced so all could hear.

BOOM!

The walls of the Palace shook and dust jumped from the floor.

“How did they reach us so quickly?” Kaitee asked.

“They teleported to the edge of the blight then followed you two!” Nina shouted.

“The White Witch’s stone must have brought them here!”

“To the parapets!” Ronda commanded. She faced Kaitee and Meann.

“I need you two in Elven cloak and dagger. Go kill that witch, and bring back that stone she carries!” Ronda searched their eyes and put her command into their minds. Kaitee and Meann ran back to their chambers and emerged seconds later in their camouflaged robes, boots, and parka. They rubbed each other down with invisibility oil, tossed the empty bottle, and faded to clear as they ran down the hall to the stairs.

BOOM!

The building shook and the stained-glass windows shattered.

Outside in the freezing darkness, the enemy soldiers ran up slope in the deep snow around the two Elves. They did not see them, but the oil wore off quickly out in the blight. Kaitee and Meann crouched as they ran making themselves smaller.

“She’ll be somewhere she can see the armies,” Kaitee said. She stopped running and looked through the heads and faces of dwarves and human men. She saw a wagon down the slope with a team of six horses. In the bed of the wagon were crates stacked, and atop the crates was the witch. Her white robe was red with blood on her side. Kaitee grabbed Meann’s sleeve and pointed. Meann nodded.

Kaitee took off at a dead run toward the witch.

Slow down, Meann pushed to Kaitee’s mind. Tell me what you plan!

My plan is this. Kill the witch. Get the stone, Kaitee pushed back.

Meann shook her head and pushed to Kaitee, I love you. Don’t get dead.

Kaitee picked up her pace. She was not afraid. Without magic, inside the blight, the witch was just a woman. She pumped her arms and ran as hard as she could in the trampled snow. Meann ran hard to keep up. Kaitee got closer to the wagon, dodging soldier and dwarf, and anything in her way. She sprinted up to the wagon and leaped high into the air. She floated above the frizzy-haired woman, reached the apex of her leap, then came down on the witch. She drove her left hand deep into the wound in the witch’s side. They both tumbled off the wagon on the far side and out of Meann’s view.

Meann leaped.

Kaitee moved so fast that it seemed like slow motion. She searched for the stone in the witch’s abdomen with her left hand and slit her throat upward along the big vein with her right hand. She ripped out half the witch’s guts bringing out the stone. Kaitee stood, blood dripping from her fist, then leaped toward Meann, landing, and grasping her hand. Meann and Kaitee ran up the slope toward the palace. They squeezed inside.

“Ronda!” Kaitee shouted as she ran up the stairs from the foyer.

“She is on the parapet!” Gina shouted from the hallway ahead.

“Gina, we did it! The witch is dead and we have the fourth stone!” Kaitee shouted.

“Come quickly then! We must circle and make the crown now!”

Gina retrieved the other three stones. With Kaitee and Meann’s powerful singing along with the Elders, it only took seconds to create the crown. Queen Gina stepped into the center of them and spoke, “I wish to store the essence of eight of you in the stones, two per stone. It must be eight of the best of us. If these eight awake and the Elves are no more, they must begin again, start anew.”

She turned to Kaitee and Meann. She grasped them by the shoulders, “Because your songs are the most powerful magic we have ever witnessed, we hereby proclaim these two Songmasters as Ancestors for their bravery and skill with your songs.” She paused and leaned back searching their eyes. They all knew this was a joint decision. “We want the essence of Kaitee and Meann to be inside the blue stone, the first stone.”

Kaitee shook her head. “Our Queen, we have the looking glass healed! We can sing the glass big enough to march an army through!”

“There are thousands of them, Kaitee, and more Dwarves come with those hammers. We number how many now, eighty-nine?” Queen Gina spoke with despair in her voice.

Kaitee turned to Meann. “Remember the battlefield outside?”

“Of course,” Meann said.

“I love you, too,” Kaitee said.

Gina and the Elders led Kaitee and Meann with their minds to the blue stone. Kaitee and Meann saw a golden tinkling shower of stardust, then peaceful sleep. Their clothing lay in a heap on the floor.

No matter how much an Elve resists, they cannot refuse a Queen’s summon. Gina mentally summoned the other five Elves she picked to come to the circle. Gina then turned and dragged Maki away, up the stairs toward her royal hallway, to her quarters. Her plan was almost complete. First, Sana’in the Coinmaster, Ana’ryl, the Spymaster went into the stones, then Supreme Commander Jo’bel and General Ma’ater, the Witch Hunter. The next one to go into the stone was Admiral Co’cra’el.

She was the last general officer on the battlefield. She entered the great room from the opposite hall. Admiral Co’cra’el had commanded the Elven Navies, back when they had navies. Gina ordered all the ships abandoned and now the Admiral commanded the rear guard at the Palace.

She was tall for an Elve, five feet tall, and had long chestnut hair. She was rugged in the face, not very pretty, with a long scar from her nose to her right ear. Her uniform coat was Elven blue with golden epaulettes on her shoulders, and two rows of golden buttons down the front. She wore calf-high black boots and tan trousers tucked inside them and a two-pointed hat with a feather plume.

She was a pirate of great notoriety, a drunk, and a womanizer, and her crews loved her. Gina chose her for something other than her prowess at sinking ships and bedding women. She had a talent that was indispensable. She could design and build anything. They called her, The Builder. She an expert designing and building tall ships that sailed, and anything else.

Gina’s plan was to pair herself with the Builder and go into the stone – and to drag Maki, on her leash kicking and screaming. She did not share that little tidbit with the Elders. The Admiral paused and watched the two Generals go into the stone. She heard the mental conversations. She knew why they summoned her. As the Elders were guiding them, she trotted quietly across the room and up the stairs to the Queen’s chambers.

She knew that Gina would be there using Maki’s magic to make herself as young and strong as possible for the journey into the stones. Damn, she was vain! The Admiral stood at her wooden chamber door and heard shouting within.

“Let me go, prima donna! I can destroy that army and save us!”

Admiral Co’cra’el lifted her leg and kicked open the wooden door. Gina gripped Maki by the jaw forcing her mouth open. Gina tried to push her long, snake-like Elven tongue between Maki’s clenched teeth. The Admiral could not believe what she saw. In the last moments of Elven existence on earth, this Queen was trying to force sex upon her slave.

Gina jerked her head toward the door and raised her hand to blast Co’cra’el with magic, when the Admiral calmly raised her left hand and announced, “Shields.”

She bent the very air!

Admiral Co’cra’el pushed the air in the room, blowing everything outward in an arc sending Gina, Maki, her silk bed linen, dust, and everything else not tied down to the far side of the room in a pile.

She leaped across the Queen’s bed, landed straddle of Gina, grabbed her by the hair, and then slicker than wet ice, slit her throat from one ear to the other. The Admiral jerked the Queen up by the front of her blood-soaked gown.

“You should have taken to my ships as I demanded, stupid woman!” she shouted into the dying Queen’s face. “I could have defeated them all at sea! Now we are all dead!”

Maki back-peddled and stood, mouth agape watching the blood gush and the life drain from Queen Gina. The enchanted lasso vanished from her neck and the rush of her power returned, filling her, swelling in her until she thought she would burst. It had been so long since she felt her full power.

“We should have never left our jungle strongholds in the first place!” Maki said.

“AYE!” the Admiral shouted over her shoulder, still panting. “Jo’bel tried to tell her! We had the firepower!”

The Builder did not know, but when Queen Gina died, the Queen’s Crown vanished, leaving the four Elven’elcraf stones lying loose on the tapestry among the Elders. They knew Gina was dead. The little ornate box that carried them appeared beside an Elder woman.

The Admiral wiped the blood from her black knife on Gina’s gown, sheathed it, looked at Maki and shrugged. She grinned. “What is done is done. How can we survive this?” she asked. This pleased Maki so much she leaped into the Admiral’s arms, wings fluttering, and kissed her face all over.

“You saved me! You saved me! You were the only Elve in the Queendom with the courage to do the right thing! Right now, I am so much in love with you I could scream!”

“You are the sweetest thing, Maki. How could anyone ever chain you so?” Admiral Co’cra’el kissed her gently and long.

“You came here to kill her.”

“Aye. I could not let a human have that pleasure.”

“Can I call you Coco? I hear that is what your crew calls you.”

“That would please me,” she said.

“Come, Coco” Maki said patting Coco’s big breasts, “we haven’t much time.”

“Can you really go out there and destroy that army?”

“Huh? Oh, sadly, no. There isn’t near enough time. The enemy is already inside the Palace walls. I’d say anything to get out of that lasso,” she said and smiled.

Coco laughed, “I think you and I will get along just fine, if we live through this. Got any ideas?”

“We go for the stones,” Maki said. She stepped over Gina’s dead body, onto the bed, and they started to the door. “Gina’s plan was to stay in the stones just long enough for the enemy to mop up here then leave. Then she was going to use me to get us out of the stones and then sneak back south to the jungles, to our homeland.”

“She lied to them.”

“Of course, she lied. She lied about saving everyone. She has lied to everyone many times. That talk about using the looking glass to escape was Fairy chatter! She was out to save her own ass!”

“She was going to let the humans kill everyone off, then take eight of us and start over.”

“Nine counting her slave, namely me. I tried to tell her there was no jungle home to go back to. Once we gave it up, it was lost forever.”

“There was no place to go back to, unless she made a deal!” Coco said squinting. “That’s probably what I would have done.”

Maki laughed. “At least you’re honest about it. Come, there is no time for discussions. The Elders have surely felt her passing. We must run toward the stones. Coco, I need you to keep moving no matter what you hear them say. They will blame you for the Queen, but keep moving forward. I will put us inside the stones,” she said as the trotted out into the hallway.

“You have enough power?”

“That and more, much more.”

Maki flew and Coco ran behind her holding her feather-plumed hat with one hand. They hit the stairs at a dead run. Down they ran and flew, and then into the great room.

“What did you do to her?” an Elder cried.

“She is dead!” another cried.

“You have disrupted the rite of the stones. Destroyed the Crown! How will you enter?”

“I do not need that crown,” Maki said and smiled slyly.

Maki turned and flew backwards facing Coco. Time slowed down. Maki, the most powerful magical being in the world, held her arms out wide then slapped her hands together. The Black Palace shook. Both her and Coco turned into bits of golden dust. Maki pointed her golden finger and swirled the dust that was Admiral Coco in a circle, then pointed it perfectly straight and slid it into the remaining stone. Then Maki made her own dust swirl and she followed Coco into the same stone. Eight Elves were in four stones.

The mighty iron doors in the foyer below burst open with Trolls running in alongside the battering ram. Dwarves poured through. The first wave stopped and slammed their mighty hammers onto the foyer floor sending massive shockwaves through the entire Palace. It knocked most of the Elves unconscious.

An Elder woman gathered the stones as she lay prone on the floor from the shock, wrapped them into their individual cloths, and with a shaking hand, placed then into the small ornate wooden box. The next shockwave turned all the Elves’ bowels to mush, and broke their teeth. They were dead.

Over twenty thousand sleepy years passed. Civilizations formed and died away. Some kept the stones on mantles, mounted them in rings, lost them, and found them again countless times, until two of them, one blue stone and one green stone, found their way onto an artifact kept by the Catholic Church. This artifact lay in a wooden crate in the cellar of St. Bernadette’s Church in a city in southern Indiana where two young lovers pledged their love to one another. After ions of time, a simple pledge of love set spirits inside the stones free.

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