Excerpt from The Elf and the Princess, book one of the Silent Warrior Trilogy
Paletinâ€™s curiosity had gotten the best of him. Now many years later, here he was. Around one more bend lay this city so far from his. He longed for the sight. He was anxious to know what kind of welcome heâ€™d receive there. They would know where he came from. It was their custom to state their origin when introduced to anyone.
â€œWill they be hostile to a descendant of Renil? Whatever will happen, I will find out very soon,â€ the prince sighed deeply, with a mix of excitement and preoccupation.
What he expected didnâ€™t matter. It was nothing compared to what he saw! At that very moment, the proud city of Menarm sprang to his view. Immediately, he knew something was wrong. The first thing he noticed was that the sunny, spring morning was hidden by the smoke blackened sky that had settled over the city. Coming closer, he could see where the smell of burning was coming from. The gruesome sight made him sick.
â€œMy fathers! What happened yonder?â€
There were mutilated bodies all over the roads, the houses, everywhere. The foul smell of death was in the air. He covered his nose with a rag from his saddlebags, before he ventured any farther in the city.
Keeping attentive, he proceeded to look for someone who could explain what had happened here.
â€œHow did all these people die?â€ he asked in a murmur.
After looking around as he rode forward, he growled, â€œFrom what I can gather, they must have been attacked by orks at least four days ago. â€¦ Did no one survive? How can that be?â€
Paletin bowed his head, lamenting the fate of more than sixty thousand people, his own kin.
â€œEven the women and children are dead. â€¦ If there is any sign of defense against this foe, I cannot see it. â€¦ They must have been asleep when the attack started and never known what happened to them,â€ he murmured again.
The smell penetrated his lungs even through the rag that covered his nose. The breeze changed and the smell of burned buildings mixed with burned flesh was more pungent now, closer to the castle than when he entered the city gates. The devastation was complete, as always when orks were involved in any battle.
In the midst of all this destruction, Paletin felt, more than saw, a movement to his right.
â€œWait, what was that?! Did something move, or was it my imagination?â€
Cautiously he turned his horse, towards the movement. About ten steps away, he found a woman. She was trying to walk and having great difficulty.
â€œMy Fathers!â€ he exclaimed. â€œAre you hurt?â€
Getting off his mount, in a hurry, he ran to help her. She half fell to the ground just as Paletin caught her.
â€œEasy now! Do not move! Here is some water!â€ He offered her his waterskin. â€œThere â€¦ not too much now or it will make you sick.â€
How heartless his words sounded in the middle of a massacre.
â€œTake your time. The orks have left the city. I will look after your injuries! I am considered somewhat of an herbal healer,â€ he said for her sake, as he noticed the blood stained clothes she wore. â€œMaybe, I will be able to assist you in some way.â€
It only took one look to tell Paletin that it was no use. She should not be alive, yet there she was in his arms.
She helped herself to another draught of water, took a breath and started her tale.
â€œMy name â€¦ is Saria,â€ came the sound of her voice soft but clear. â€œI am the â€¦ Queen of Menarm.â€ After a small pause she continued. â€œOrks attacked and destroyed â€¦ my people during the night. My king found me hurt â€¦ and hid me in a recess in â€¦ the wall by the princessâ€™s suiteâ€¦ For four days â€¦ I hid there. When I could hear no one, I â€¦ came out and saw â€¦ no one alive. I did not call for anyone â€¦ I knew not if the orks â€¦ were still here. You are the only living â€¦ creature I have seen, or heard, â€¦ since then. Please help me,â€ she pled.
â€˜Her face shows the pain she is in; but her beauty still comes through,â€™ Paletin noted.
Her complexion was white as the snowy peaks of the mountains in wintertime. The red in her hair was as the deep fire in the black lands of Soline. The green tones in her eyes compared only to the waters in Lake Dorn on a summer morning.
â€œI will do what I can,â€ said he, holding her on his arm to help soothe her. â€œYour wounds are deep,â€ he said quietly, â€œand I do not have the herbs I will need to…â€
â€œI know there is no â€¦ hope for me,â€ she interjected in a whisper, â€œit is my daughter, Adren! â€¦ She is with Donian â€¦ at Mount Serra.â€
â€œThe warrior?â€ asked Paletin, curiously.
â€œYes â€¦ She has been studying with him for two years. Tell her what happened to me â€¦ us.â€ With much effort she continued, â€œI beg you! â€¦ Take her to Lothia, to the house of Tadren.â€
â€œTo Lothia! Why there?â€ he interrupted, without thinking.
After another draught of water and a long, deep breath, she continued. â€œPlease promise me,â€ she repeated.
Paletin felt somber as he replied to her. â€œI will do my best, I promise.â€ What he didnâ€™t know was the impact that promise would have on him in the future.
â€œGive â€¦ give Tadren this parchment,â€ she panted as she tried to reach it on the ground, where it had rolled from her hand when she fell down. â€œIt will explain everything to him â€¦ seal it â€¦ with the crest of this ring.â€
She opened her other hand to reveal a ring, attached to a chain and spattered with her own blood.
â€œGive the ring to Adâ€¦ Adren. Tell her â€¦ tell her to wear it always. As she does â€¦ she will be with her father.â€