The Distant War

Chapter 1: A present for the King

Menthila had flourished in the sun for many ages. Scholars, schools, libraries, sewer systems, we had it all. But our gates were barred to the outside. The race of men had isolated themselves in a region called The Valley of Knowledge. In this lush, forested area we prospered. The capital city of Menthila called Gorgon was raided by a band of exiled rangers and dark elves. I however do not live in Gorgon. West of Gorgon lie the Ice Wolf Mountains, in the province of Gile. This is where I live, and here we mine precious metals for the empire. Those who live outside our realm call us lucky, only the people with smart ancestors are lucky. We are the nobodies. But on the Kings birthday I broke my oath to the Emperor of Menthila and to the King of Gile. I would work no more.

The Echoes of faded memories of the past still burned through my mind. The men in the yellow cloaks, my parents imprisoned. And for what? I still did not know.

I came out of the cold, dark cave with my torch in hand. The snow was falling hard atop the mountain. I smiled and a bit and finished my shave with my knife. Today I would assist the raiders in an all out war against the King of Gile, then, Gods willing, Gorgon. I walked toward the mouth of the cave and let the snow hit my face.

I scanned the area and uttered the signal " The bats are in the cave."

That is when they emerged from under a large stone. I was surprised to see there were so few of them.

" Only three of you, I thought there would be more, seeing as we are going on our first mission!"

The dark elf opened his red eyes and glared at me with his skinny face and pointed ears. He was decked out in light armor made from bones, and at his side hung a katana with a crimson hilt and a silver blade that was 3 feet long.

" Shssssh! Not another word, do you want them to hear!" The dark elf rasped, " Come we must make hast into the caves."

With that the two other men (I presumed they were rangers) with green cloaks covering their faces seized me by my arm and dragged me into the cave.

"Where to next in this cave of yours?" the dark elf asked.

I replied " Well get your goons off me and I will show you the way."

With that the two hooded men let go of my arms and I led the way.

" First off, this is a mine, and second, no one is to be hurt. I have family and friends who work in here. Kill anyone and I will see to it that you die an awful death."

The dark elf chuckled, " I see we got ourselves a keeper, this one has fire in him!"

At that the two men chuckled. We continued through the columns and stalagmite formations of rock until we got to a ledge. Down bellow was a wide expanse filled with men working their hearts out for an Emperor they never knew. The only way to get down there was one rope ladder, for I had worked many years in the mine and knew the place well. I had even gone to places that were only for guards eyes and noblemen touring and inspecting the place. I put out the torch and began crawling down the ladder. I then felt the adrenaline surg, for everyone could see me in the dim torch light that covered the area below. I heard he silent swoosh of arrows as they arched down towards the two torches each on either side of the ladder. The arrows did the trick and the torches went out as I hurried down the ladder.

Breathing heavily I hid behind a pillar in the mining hall. It no longer looked like a cave, for on this floor was the mining hall, a grand marble hall with 3 large wooden doors on each wall. The dark elf and his two companions did not even climb down the ladder. They slid down with their leather gloves on sliding down the ladder as if it was as slippery and smooth as

ice. The Elf and the two rangers hid behind a statue of Lord Gile who founded Gile province. Two muscular men in chainmail armor and pointed helmets came in while holding spears. In the other their other hands they carried torches that lit the halls as the walked by. Their boots echoed off the floor as they noticed the torches.

One of the guards uttered " Wicked times these are, people are starting to learn, we will not be able to hold them here forever. They will want more, these torches are just the start!"

The other guard responded " Get yourself together, they probably just ran out of oil, come on, lets go have some ale, that will cheer you up!" They opened the large wooden door and slammed it behind them.

" This way, hurry, once it is dinner time these halls will be filled with people, come on!" I hurriedly opened the door and waited for my companions and shut the door behind them.

One of the rangers finally spoke " Is it just me or is it getting hotter?"

I replied, " Actually it is getting hotter, we are getting close, the King's present should be down here, where the special metals are forged."

We turned left down the narrow hallway which led to some stairs. The stairs went down onto a raised path above pools of lava. Solid, rock stairs led down on either side of the raised walkway to islands of red rock that changed to orange then to blue every so often. This was the finest metal in all of Menthila and in the next room the King's present was bound to be their.

" This way!" I whispered.

I was careful not to look down, for the lava was frightening, it was like hell, accept it would be a short amount of intense pain. I did not want to think about what would happen if I fell in. I walked slowly down the raised walk way until we got to a door. I slammed the my dagger into the key hole and broke the lock. Inside was filled with gold. This was the mint for Menthila, all money was made here. The room was huge. Gold coins just piled everywhere. And in the ceiling in the center of the room was an opening and a pulley. Up above this room was the garrison filled with guards. They extracted the money and bring it to Gorgon.

" Watch the pulley." I whispered.

The dark elf smiled " Way ahead of you."

He pulled out his katana and swiftly darted over to the pulley and cut the ropes then dashed back. Now the guards could not get down there to stop them.

" Here it is gentlemen!" I said. I was amazed out how loud I was, I was to excited.

The chest was made out of gold and covered in rubies. I just knew it was for the king, but I did not know what it was.

The dark elf started barking orders " You two! Grab that chest! You and me we will keep their path clear!"

We walked back through the raised walkway over the lava and into the mining hall.

" Curses!" The dark elf gasped, " It is filled with men!"

We quickly backtracked into the short hall way.

" You three, stay here and guard the chest, I will be right back." He dashed off into the shadows of the mining hall.

The two rangers began talking,

" He is nuts, he will stick out like an orc in a gnome village!"

" Ah but my dear friend, he has his helmet on!"

5 minutes later the dark elf was back.

"Here, put these on." He handed me a guards uniform and a shield and spear.

I took off my tattered robes and dawned the new armor. " You will pose as a guard and my friends here will carry the chest while I sneak to the ladder. You three have the chest so you will be seen, so act natural."

With that he vanished.

We walked through the mining hall. I held my breath. Everyone was watching. In a cackly voice I yelled,

" Make way, make way for the King's present, make way!"

Then suddenly a guard captain pushed me back into the two rangers.

" What are you doing?" He put his long sword to my throat, " The king is coming for his present!"

" Imposter!" I yelled, " Servants of the king, seize this man!"

The common folk jumped at this opportunity to get revenge and they took it. He was bashed in the back with a clay bowl as they swarmed him. We continued until we reached the ladder. I climbed up the ladder then the other ranger followed suite. The other one hefted the chest on his back and strapped it down to him with his iron belt. Me and the ranger than pulled him and the ladder up as we made our escape. I had to go back for a moment though, all those people would be trapped without the ladder. I dropped the ladder back down and turned around. The dark elf was waiting outside with a horse drawn sleigh. The chest was hoisted in back an covered in blankets as we rode off towards the down the mountain.