The arrow was placed perfectly, the bowstring was taut, the wind had ceased blowing, and the crowd of spectators was silent. His previous shot had hit the target dead center, a feat unheard of before, as the center target was barely two inches wide. The archer, garbed in the forest green hooded cloak most commoners wore, let his second arrow fly. Gasps could be heard from the stands that surrounded the archery field, but this archer was focused. His second arrow had split the first, and pierced the other side of the wooden target. He heard prayers to the goddess of the forest from the stands now, but the archer paid them no mind. He had little time for such nonsense. A third arrow flew from his skillfully handmade longbow, and split his second arrow, causing it to hit the post the target was hung upon with a thump that echoed loud enough to be heard for miles, since the arena was silent. Satisfied, the hooded archer slung his longbow, retrieved his quiver from where it lay on the ground, and bowed to the astonished crowd. Cries of disbelief and claims that he had to have cheated rang throughout the arena, yet the archer did not move once he completed his bow, he simply turned and stared at his prize. The judges investigated the third arrow, and what remained of the first two. No magic had been used to guide them to their mark; the only thing that drove them had been the archer’s skill, and masterfully crafted bow. The judges informed the crowd of this, and a few began to clap, appreciative of the skill they had been privileged to witness.
The few who clapped stopped immediately however, once their king rose from his throne. His eyes blazed green, and his hair was as dark as midnight on a moonless night. He was garbed in fine clothing, as every king who had come before him had been. He wore his family’s sword upon his hip, Starcleaver it was called. It was the sword of the king, the symbol of the wood elve’s empire. The sun glinted off of his bejeweled golden crown as he strode from underneath the shaded balcony the royal family sat upon during such events. As he approached the balcony’s railing, he gestured to his best magician, the Arch Mage Seborhil. The mage pointed first at the king, and then at the hooded archer below, who was staring up at the royal family’s balcony. The king admired the finely carved wood railing his manicured hands now rested upon as he thought of how he would address the winner of this year’s archery tournament. Archery was the game of kings for wood elves; they regarded it as a noble sport and a superior way of waging war. Though when they did go to war, they had sword-wielders but archers made up their most skilled battalions. Because they were so skilled, most archery tournaments ended in a draw. A winner had not been declared in almost fifty years, and back then that winner had not won by a margin as great as this archer had. The king addressed the hooded archer before him, noticing with a grimace that the stranger had not kneeled before his king. Despite this, the king went on, “Congratulations are due unto you stranger. You have managed a feat I would have thought impossible this morning. You are clearly the winner of this noble tournament.” The stranger spoke now, immediately after the king finished his sentence. He came dangerously close to interrupting him. As he dropped into a kneeling position, he said, “I humbly accept the congratulations of my king, for I know well that I have earned them. Yet I did not strive to win this tournament for simple congratulations my king, I have striven to win this tournament for the prize that was promised to the victor.” A frown creased the brow of the raven haired king, and he responded harshly, “The prize has been revoked, by royal order. You will receive a monetary substitute that will sustain you for the rest of your time in this world instead.” The king reached for the pouch of gold he always carried with him. It would be more than enough to satisfy this commoner, he thought, and it was certainly a generous amount, but the hooded archer continued to speak despite the fact that the king had clearly ended the conversation, thus ending the spell that had enhanced their voices. The archer shouted now, “No monetary prize is equal to that of the prize that was promised for the victor of this tournament! I demand the hand of your daughter King Syril, I will have the prize I was promised!” The king’s hand flew to the hilt of Starcleaver, but a soft touch upon his shoulder halted it. His daughter, the fair haired Eiliandis, who greatly resembled the now passed Queen Melbes, spoke to the archer below. The Arch Mage Seborhil quickly pointed at the princess and the archer so all could hear them. “Who are you to demand anything from my father stranger?” The princess queried, “Especially when you hide your face from both him and our people. Who are you Master Archer? Show your face and be recognized.” The king smiled at his daughter, proud that she sounded so much like her mother, and acted like her too. His smile faltered however, as he realized his daughter would never act like her mother. The faintest hint of a smile upon her lovely face was the only sign the king needed. He knew now who this archer was, and he knew with a sinking feeling that there was nothing he could do now to stop the pair from being wed. The entire city, and many who had traveled far to see the tournament, had borne witness to this archer’s victory. No claim the king made could deny the winner the promised prize. Tears flowed from his glowing green eyes, and he covered his face with his right hand, silently sobbing at the fate his kingdom was now doomed to suffer. Below, the victor of the tournament spoke once more saying, “I am one who has loved you since I met you Princess Eiliandis, when we were parted I swore to you I would find a way to win your hand fairly in the eyes of our people.” The archer paused to pull back his hood, and to add a bit of dramatic affect the storytellers would no doubt appreciate in the future. His features were princely and noble, his hair was a deep golden color, but what gave away his lineage most was his eyes. They glowed yellow and burned with a passion only spoken of in legends. He continued to speak, “I am Sadron Locien; I am the one who would have your hand.” The stands around the arena exploded in a mixture of cries of outrage, and cheers of congratulations.
Many knew of the house of Locien, but everyone had thought they had been wiped out completely. The house of Locien had once ruled the kingdom, but they had been overthrown by the Order of Valadhiel, those who worshiped the spirit of the forest they called Cyri’alar. Since the house of Locien had been overthrown, three centuries had passed. The wood elves were long-lived, but they usually only lived to be around two hundred and fifty years old. The oldest of them, those who were revered as blessed by the goddess with long life, were closer to three hundred and fifty, but they were few and far between. The people had, at first, suffered under the regime the Order of Valadhiel imposed. One hundred and fifty years passed before a great warrior called Beriadan Thorontur forcibly removed the order from power, and established his house, the current royal family, as the rulers of the kingdom. Many wood elves had fallen when the old kingdom had fallen as well however, and the one hundred and fifty years the order was in power had given them the time to more than brainwash the newest generation with their dogma. The house of Thorontur had allowed the order to continue to exist, but had stripped it of all political and military power, and forbade it from trying to gather such things again. The order had recovered however, and had seeped into the political system of the wood elves over the course of the past one hundred and fifty years. There were just as many believers as non-believers within the elven kingdom, and a clear split could be seen between the two sides. This split became more evident as the crowd began to argue, a few fights broke out, but eventually the believers, those who supported the Order, started to leave the stands and head towards Sadron. The Order of Valadhiel had emphasized that the house of Locien had been murderers and thieves; they insisted that the old kings had not only abused the forest by chopping down large parts of it, but insulted the goddess of the forest by not paying homage to her, despite the fact there was no proof supporting these claims. Because of this, the Order had declared that in the unlikely event an heir to the old line was found, he or she would be killed on sight, so as to prevent their rise again. Many of the deluded followers of the Order now saw this happening before their eyes, an heir of the Locien line right before them. They charged, determined to dispatch this threat to their beliefs as quickly as possible. Sadron looked upon the enraged mob of people rushing towards him with his glowing yellow eyes, and sighed. He had hoped that by revealing his presence, the brainwashing of the Order might be overridden by the citizen’s obligation to uphold the laws of the kingdom, the first of which was not to murder. Instead of reaching for his remaining arrows in his quiver, he turned and sprinted towards the balcony the king and his future bride were standing on. At a full sprint, Sadron ran up one of the supporting pillars as far as he could until he felt gravity begin to weigh him down. He thrust his hand upwards as far as he could, and grabbed the ledge of the balcony. He quickly swung his other hand up beside it, and adjusted his grip. “You have a choice Syril Thorontur!” Sadron shouted, “Either pull me up, or leave me to die!” He locked his gaze with the king, and began to feel his grip slipping. A pair of soft, but firm hands grabbed onto his right arm. He looked up into the princesses’ eyes, so much like her fathers, and grinned. Sadron grabbed the top banister with her help, and pulled himself up onto the balcony. Eiliandis’ face was there, and she kissed him then, in front of her father and a brawling crowd of their kinsmen, who were fighting below. Once their lips parted, Sadron vaulted his lithe figure over the railing, and stood beside his future bride. He turned to face King Syril Thorontur, and was shocked to find the king on his hands and knees, begging for Sadron’s forgiveness. “King Syril Thorontur,” Sadron began, in the princeliest tone he could muster, “Your hesitation today has cost you your daughter’s hand, and your family’s name. By saving my life, you could have refuted my claim to her hand, yet you sat there, ready to let me fall to my doom. Know that I shall have my family’s throne on the day your daughter and I are joined. For now though, I believe you have an angry mob to deal with. I will be taking my bride to my own secret refuge that will remain secret from all but those loyal to the Locien line. I bid you a good day your highness may you live long, and prosper beneath the forest goddesses’ rule.” He finished his declaration to the king with a tone of intense sarcasm, and left the king where he was on the floor, shocked and powerless to stop his only daughter from leaving. Eiliandis gave her father a weak smile, before running after her future husband. With help from Arch Mage Seborhil, the two managed to escape the arena that hosted the archery tournament, and flee into the enormous city of Lor’drassil, the capital of the wood elve’s empire.