Having succeeded in his defense of Harcourt, Theor Stormcrow withdrew from the city, still in the guise of Berilac Halfelven; his lover and Warden of the East.
The Elf rode his mount through a nearby mountain pass, kicking up explosions of dust with every hoof-beat. Theor clung to his hopes that his journey might grant him some form of reprieve from the death of his lover and the battle against Lord Joiry.
Such hopes were wrung at the neck when he heard a scream from somewhere down the pass. “Ninth Hell,” he cursed, giving the mount his heels. It started forward up a steep, rocky hill.
The scream came again. Once, twice and then thrice more.
The hills went up, the hills went down, and as he descended the final decline and the mountain pass was shrinking behind him, he came upon a wrecked castle.
The edifice was a marvel of construction–at least in part; for in many places the stone was lapsing into ruin. So broken were these places that they seemed scant more than pebbles on the roadside.
The parts of the tower that yet stood reached a height so as to cover the moon so that all in its shadow lay in darkness, save for one faint flicker of light dancing amidst the shadows in the gate that led to the courtyard.
As Theor came upon the castle, he saw with Elf vision that is greater than a Man’s, a figure upon the battlements clad in silks and samite. “Sir!” Theor cried. “Was it you who screamed?”
“Yes,” said he who stood upon the battlements. “Yes, please help me. I am a prisoner in my own castle.
“In there?” Theor echoed, raising an eyebrow beneath his helmet as he inspected what parts of the castle lay in ruin.
“Indeed. I own the castle, yet it remains my prison.”
“How can this be?”
“The man on the battlements laughed. “I know my tower old and close to ruin, but it does still have locks.”
Theor couldn’t help but laugh in turn. “You are captive, and yet you shout down to me,” he observed.
“My captors have left, for a time, but I would not make it far before their return. That aside, I have sworn I will not forfeit this place. Pray, come into the courtyard, that we may discuss this in greater detail.”
Theor did as the other man bid. As he came within he saw but a single torch dancing amidst the yard. All else lay bare. He dismounted and gazed upon the battlements.
He saw the man draw a morph cloak about his shoulders and wrap it about his body. He then sank within the magic’d cloth and sprang forth in the visage of a bat and spiraled down the meet the Elf. As this came to be, the bat’s leathery wings unfolded one last time, and spread into a cloth so dark it sapped the darkness from the night, and the man rose from beneath the cloak.
He had a shock of golden hair and a beard trimmed neatly about his chin, which he held high. Theor’s gaze parted from the stranger’s eyes, down past the morph cloak on his shoulders to where curls of hair peaked out of his unbuttoned shirt. The Elf marveled at him, so great was his form.
With a mental effort, he tore wrenched his gaze off the stranger as it reached his waistband.
The man spoke. “You truly must be a brave soul to risk such hurt for the sake of my freedom. My name is Rorin.”
In truth, bravery was only part of his reasoning. Being an immortal, Theor was Elfbound to abide by the Laws of Order. To ignore such requests would be to court Chaos. Still, looking upon Rorin, Theor had few complaints. “And mine, Theor.”
“Though it ashames me to say it, I cannot go with you. Come, help me retake my castle. My captors left a feast before they departed. It is still warm.”
Theor’s head swam with memories of Berilac. “I–I can’t.”
“I beg you,” said Rorin, starting back to the Elf. “Come inside with me.”
His hand only grazed Theor’s gauntlet before Theor drew back, but still the Elf’s hand tingled. Rorin spoke again, “Your are of Elf-blood, are you not? Your race is bound by the Laws of Order to help those in need.” He turned to enter the castle, and then cast a glance over his shoulder. “Or do you simply prefer playing coy?”
He turned to the entrance and the darkness wreathed him.
Theor followed Rorin into the gloom. He staggered blind behind him, each step carefully chosen. At length he caught up with the other, who had snatched a torch off the wall.
A smile flicked across Rorin’s lips. “This way, Elf,” he said, and they ascended the stairs. The absence of light was such that Rorin himselfwas scarcely illuminated by the wisp of light above him.
Rorin stopped in front of the door. “Are you hungry, Theor?”
“Starving.” The word was half a growl, and even he was unsure in what way he meant it.
Rorin opened the door and Theor followed him into what he perceived to be a dining hall, lit by what filters of moonlight streamed through the window. There was a faint glow from the hearth, embedded so deeply into the wall that it seemed more like a cave.
There were many tapers, unlit until Rorin unfastened his morph-cloak and wrapped it about his torch. Instead of burning, the fire seeped through and traveled toward the tapers, now alight. “Us men are not so strong as Elven-kind.” Rorin said, and his hand traced the ringed mail over Theor’s bicep. “We needs do our own enchanting.”
It was all Theor could do to repress a shudder.
“Come,” Rorin said, gesturing to a dining table beside a long window that overlooked the battlements Rorin had called down from. “Eat.”
The table was littered with platters of honeyed chicken and fried onions dripping with gravy. There were bread trenchers and vegetables steaming beside platters of beef. Decanters of wine sat at the head of the table.
“It’s still warm,” Rorin said, “My captors are recently gone and do not wish me to starve. My food is yours.”
Theor relieved himself of his greathelm. “Will you not join me?”
“I’ve already ate,” he said. And then he reached out and traced Theor’s face. He felt himself turning red. “You are fair to look upon,” Rorin muttered. He bit his lip and looked down. “It is an honor to share my food with you.”
Theor looked away and this time could not suppress his shudder. He unfastened his gauntlets. As he started forward he became aware of the pain in his stomach. The Elf was about to take his seat, Rorin barked out a laugh.
“My friend, will you not set aside your swordbelt?”
“My apologies,” said Theor, and he set Folly aside, leaning the blade against the table as he sat down to eat. He saw Rorin’s gaze follow it from his peripheral.
“That is a wonderful blade,” Rorin marveled.
“It’s named Folly,” Theor said. He snatched up a goblet of wine.
“That seems a strange name for a sword.”
Theor swallowed and set it back down. He tore off a heel of bread. Through a mouthful of it he said, “It was not I who named it.”
There was silence then, and after a span of five heartbeats, Rorin asked, “Will you stay the night? My attackers will return, come the sunrise. Would that there was someone who could protect me.”
“There is only one answer I am capable of giving,” Theor said. He finished his meal and rose to his feet.
“Because of your Elfbind?” Rorin asked, “or are there….other reasons?”
Theor tucked his greathelm under his arm. “Such reasons would never cross my mind.”
Rorin crossed the room toward Theor and stumbled halfway.
With preternatural reflexes the Elf leapt forward to steady him. They locked eyes. Rorin broke their gaze to look at the cavelike hearth. “The fire burns low.” He swallowed audibly. “It will grow cold.” He spoke against the Elf’s lips, his breath tickling his mouth. “My rooms are without.” He gestured to a door across the room.
“I will stand guard,” Theor said, but he felt his limbs moving of their own accord. He did not remember taking off his mail so that he wore only boiled leather, breaches and the smallclothes beneath. Nor did he remember how he came to be sitting on Rorin’s bed.
Rorin presently straddled his lap, talking against his neck and up to his lips. “I will not allow my Elf-guest to catch a chill.
His lips brushed against Theor’s, and their mouths opened under each others. The warmth of Rorin’s throat poured into his. He fell back onto the bed and the two were reaching for the other’s breeches between intermittent kisses.
Rorin was stiff as Theor took him in his hand, and then he grinned and did the same to Theor, and the two cupped each other. He thrummed his hips to the movement of Rorin’s hand and felt his heartbeat against it.
Theor was panting as though he’d run a great distance. They continued until a hoarse cry leapt up in his throat, and he whispered Berilac’s name before he could think better of it. He sank back onto the bed with two pools of warmth running down his chest.
He was not sure how much time, if any, had passed when he managed to prop himself up on his elbows, yet as he did this his head swam and he found he could not bring himself into a sitting position.
He was not sure how much time had passed, if any, when he managed to prop himself up on his elbows. Yet as he did this his head swam and he found that he could not sit any up any further. Rorin was on the other side of the room, his bare backside on display as he donned a new pair of breeches. His skin seemed to be emitting a faint glow.
“My head is pounding,” Theor cursed.
“No it’s not,” he said, “If anything you should be feeling a bit hollow.”
“Then why am I hearing some thumping sound?”
“That,” Rorin said, “Is my wife. She’s in the dining room, trying to get in here with an axe. She feasted well on the occupants of this castle before making me what I am.”
“Incubus…” Theor muttered, and then Rorin was beside him.
“Save me,” he rasped, “Kill her, so that I may go off in search of some cure.”
An axe bit through the door at the same time Theor felt his strength returning. “Rorin!” A woman screamed.
“Coming, Aliantha!” And then he whispered, “Kill her, I beg of you.”
“I find my position somewhat awkward, Rorin,” Theor said. “Having never been the guest to a succubus I’ve cuckolded, I’m not quite sure what one says on these occasions.”
Rorin threw himself on Theor. “You must slay her. You must!” I have drank my fill of your emotions, but I have not turned you. That aside, you are still Elfbound. If you do not intervene she will surely kill me.”
Theor opened his mouth to speak, yet at the last he was cut short as the door came crashing down. The Elf sprang to his feet, reaching for a nearby chair. He seized it and hurled it toward Aliantha.
The succubus stumbled. As she regained her footing, Theor was upon her. He bowled her over and back into the dining room and then lunged to retrieve Folly, unsheathing the wolf-blade.
The first glimmers of sunlight were dancing across the window.
“I apologize for the disturbance, my Lady,” he said, stumbling away from an axe-cut. “If I knew your husband was wedded we’d be having a very different conversation right now.”
A stinging pain sheared down his shoulder to his upper torso. He put Folly in the path of her next strike and gave ground, ready to defend from Aliantha. “I’m afraid I can’t give you my blood, he said. He winced at the warm trickle flowing down his back. “But if it helps, I will repeat the apology.”
The woman hurled herself at him. Both axe and sword were whirling in silver-gray arcs, joining in a metallic clang with every parry.
“You know not what you defend,” Aliantha growled, striking twice with the axe and catching only Folly on both strikes.
Theor danced away from the third strike, and cut the head from her weapon. Aliantha charged, and yet before she could fall in Theor readied Folly, and its point pierced her heart and punched through her back.
“Fool!” Her cry spat blood on the Elf’s face. “Do you know what you’ve wrought?”
Rorin emerged into the dining room, and upon sight of him Aliantha wrenched herself off of Folly and crashed to the floor. She crawled back on all fours, toward the staircase. “Keep him away!” She shouted. Tears came, streaking her face red. She pointed to Rorin, lines of blood slithering down her hand like red worms. “Don’t let him touch me! Please!” The words tumbled out so quickly they could be nothing, save the truth.
A spray of sunlight peaked through the window as Aliantha shuddered out a final breath.
Theor turned to Rorin. “You lied to me,” he growled, “It was you who turned her!”
“Please,” Rorin said, “Stay with me, and there will be no end to your pleasures.”
“I think not,” Theor said.
“You will want for nothing!” Rorin started forward, yet yielded as the point of Folly came between the two of them. “I–I can repay you for your deed. If you’ll allow me another drink of your emotions, you said the name of Berilac Halfelven. I could change my form to be as him–the–Warden of the East.”
“I am Warden of the East!” Theor said, and without another word he caught a glint of sunlight upon Folly and twisted it so that the beam took Rorin through the heart. Flesh flaked to ash, and with a small but difficult magic, the incubus managed to alter his visage into that of Berilac Halfelven. “I could have been yours,” he said, “You could have been mine.”
Theor loosed a wordless cry as he cut his head from his shoulders in an spray of dust. Then he sheathed Folly. He took Rorin’s morph-cloak and beat out the dust, and then fastened it about himself.
He exited the castle garbed in ringed mail and leathers. He left behind his breastplate, surcoat and greathelm.
“It’s time the east learned of Theor Stormcrow.” He came out upon the courtyard, mounted his horse and rode off. Yet to where even he knew not.
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