A Tale of Two Treasures

by

Michael Dolson


~Prologue~

The Palace of Winter, in the tundras north of Wirina, many years ago:

It was the first day of winter, and the annual winter celebration banquet was at it's height. The Winter Empress had taken the kingdom's most valuable possession and gift to her from the Ice Nymphs, the Ice Stone, out of the treasury for everyone to see, as she did every year.

Suddenly, goblins armed to the teeth and bundled in furs burst in, yelling and shouting, and ran toward the Ice Stone, where it was surrounded by a few guards. The goblins killed the guards, grabbed the Ice Stone, and ran out, pursued by even more guards. The goblins easily outdistanced the them, and escaped off into the distance. After the goblins had run a few miles, the sky became cloudy. The clouds each morphed into the shape of a giant wolf and descended until they stood on the ground. They were enormous, about a quarter of a mile tall.

"So, now you have both of them? Give them to me," one of the cloud-spirits said.

"Yes, but you remember our deal. I only give one to you, and then every year we trade," said the leader of the band of goblins.

"Ha! Take turns? Never!" The spirit threw back it's head and howled. A mighty gust of wind blew the bundle that contained the Ice Stone and another strangely heavy object out of the goblin's hands up into the cloud, while the spirits changed back into shapeless clouds, rose up into the sky, and the wind blew them away.

~Chapter 1~

A forest clearing, somewhere close to the center of Wirina:

Birchwood the squirrel was gathering nuts. He would have liked to be exploring, but there wasn't much left to explore in the small wood he lived in, and he needed to get food. So here he was, gathering nuts.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps. Someone was coming. And whistling, too, Birchwood heard as the footsteps came closer.

"If I don't move, it won't notice me," he thought, and froze, just as the person came into the clearing.

It was a boy, about twelve or thirteen years old, wearing a long, hooded cloak that seemed to blend in with the trees. He had blond hair and blue eyes, and...what was that under his cloak? A sword, probably, from the shape.

Birchwood forgot that he was being a statue and started following the boy with the sword from a distance, jumping from branch to branch.

Apparently, the boy heard him, because suddenly he stopped whistling and looked right at Birchwood where he was running along a tree limb, and started talking to him. Not in human language, but in squirrel language. Birchwood froze in shock.

"Do you want to come with me? I'm not going anywhere in particular, just looking for excitment, but you can stay with me if you like. The name's Tinian," the boy said.

"Mine is Birchwood. And it was getting dull around here, so I think I'll go with you," Birchwood replied. He jumped onto Tinian's shoulder, and Tinian kept walking through the forest, chatting with his new friend.


~Chapter 2~

A different forest, about a month later:

The sun was setting over the horizon.

"Sigh. Another night out in the wild. At least it doesn't look like it's going to rain," Tinian said. Birchwood jumped off his shoulder and scampered up a nearby tree. Tinian took his pack off his back, leaned against the tree, and fell asleep...

Suddenly he was falling, down, down, down, and then he saw a girl, with black hair and blue eyes, dueling with boy in a castle courtyard. She turned to Tinian and said, "Heed my instructions. Go first to Ilvar, where you shall meet Gawera. Go with her to the village of Southwood. Mention my name to the first hobbit you meet, and he will tell you something of great value. My name is Seraphina Klein." Then he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The next morning, he told the dream to Birchwood.

"What are you waiting for? There's no reason not to. And who's Gawera?" said Birchwood.

"Gawera is a friend of mine. And you're right, we might as well go see her, even if the dream didn't really mean anything," Tinian mused. "Come on, let's get going. It should take us about a week at least." Birchwood jumped onto Tinian's shoulder, and they set off toward Ilvar, the great forest of the elves, in the northeastern corner of Wirina.

~Chapter 3~

A week and a half later, at the edge of the forest:

"Well, here we are," sighed Tinian as he leaned against a tree. Why don't you stay here while I go get Gawera."

"Why can't I come?" protested Birchwood.

"There's a family of owls who live near their dwelling and have a blood feud against every rodent in the universe. Too dangerous."

"Yeah, right."

"No, really."

"I think you're lying. You just want me out of the way for a while."

"No, I don't."

As they were arguing, a young female elf with long black hair and brown eyes, and carrying a bow, stepped out of the forest behind them. "Ingor Weaponson! Where have your travels taken you? It's been such a long time since you last visited! I had a dream about you last night!"

Tinian turned around and said, "Gawera! Where did you come from?"

"I was practicing at the archery range when I heard a human arguing in squirrel. Was that you?"

"Er, yes."

"Why did she call you Ingor?" Birchwood asked Tinian.

"It's my elven name."

"Wow, you have an elven name? How'd you get it?"

"Long story." Tinian turned back to Gawera. "You said you had a dream about me?" he said.

"Not really about you, but mentioning you. In it, a girl told me to go to a village called Southwood with you, and mention her name to a hobbit. She said her name was Seraphina Klein."

"I had that same dream!" exclaimed Tinian.

"Then let's go to my dwelling to get provisions."

Gawera's family, like all the other elves, lived in one of the tall trees that grew in the forest. There was a rope ladder going up to a large platform in the branches. From that platform, you could go to many other levels, one of which even had a small house on it. Gawera entered this, and came out laden with two packs full of food. Then they looked at an old map of Wirina to plot their course, and found that the village of Southwood was about a quarter of the length of Wirina away, and due south of the forest, hence its name. Then they left the forest, and started on their journey.

~Chapter 4~

The market of Southwood, some days later:

"Now we need to meet a hobbit who will tell us something of great value. So how exactly do you meet a hobbit?" Tinian said, as a man wearing a black cloak and a hood that concealed his face walked past. They were standing in the busy marketplace of Southwood, and had no idea of what to do next. "I mean, do we wait for one to acknowledge us, or do we go up to one and say hello? What if we meet the wrong one or something? There are lots of hobbits here!"

Just as he finished talking, an old hobbit ran up to them and said, "Would you come with me, please? I'd like to talk with you a bit." Gawera looked at Tinian, who shrugged and followed the hobbit.

Later, in the hobbit's cozy underground house, the hobbit said, " Well, I'll start by tellin' you my name. It's Taglo Hornfoot, and you would be Tinian, Gawera, and Birchwood, though I can't imagine why she would include the squirrel."

Gawera was the first one able to speak. "How do you know our names, and who is She?"

"Well, I know you probably won't believe me, but last night I had a dream where a girl told me to look for a boy, an elf, and a squirrel named Tinian, Gawera, and Birchwood, and tell 'em about the treasures.

Y'see, I'm a storyteller, but I'm probably the only one that knows the story of the Two Treasures. The Two Treasures are the All-Rock of the Red Dwarves, and the Ice Stone. The

All-Rock is very valuable, made of every kind o' rock in the world, so anyone would

pay more'n a fortune to get their hands on it. The Ice Stone is really powerful,

places you in command of ice while it's in your possesion. They were stolen from the

Winter Empress and the High Chieftan of the Red Dwarves by a band of orcs who were

hired by the Cloud Spirits. The spirits took the treasures from the orcs without

payin' 'em, and hid them in the northwestern corner o' Wirina, a very sparsely

populated area. It was all part of their plan to, whoops, I think the door's open.

Now how did that happen, I wonder?" He got up, went into the hall, and shut it. When he

came back ,he continued, "Well, as I was sayin', it was all part of their plan to

gain complete control of Wirina.

Now don't breathe a sigh of relief because the plan failed, they just haven't

started their conquest yet. They're just buildin' up their forces. So if you can

steal the treasures, you can hinder their plan a lot and postpone their dominance.

As for the orcs, they've built a castle not far from here, and are determined to get

the treasures. So their leader, an unpleasant fellow called Sciodrac, has sent out

spies to all corners of Wirina to find out where they're hidden. That's why you're

the first in a few decades to hear about them, as I don't want them knockin' on my

door an' bringin' me up to that big black castle.

So, let me get my map and I'll show you where they are..."

~Chapter 5~

Horold was going through the market place when he walked past a boy who was talking

about meeting a hobbit and finding something of great value to a girl. This

interested him, especially the part about something of great value, so he hid behind

a stall. When an elderly hobbit ran up to them and they walked away, he followed

them at a distance to the hobbits house. He snuck in and hid where he could hear

them talking in the parlor. Talking about two treasures. THE two treasures. The

treasures he was employed to find out about. He listened, but could not find out

where the treasures where located. When they stopped talking and the hobbit invited

the boy and the girl to stay for the night, he crept out the window and walked

toward the castle. He entered by a small door and told the orcs everything he had

heard.

~Chapter 6~

The next morning, outside Taglo's house:

"Goodbye, goodbye, and remember, be careful a'going through the desert. Some rather

mean tribes live there. Goodbye! Come again if you survive!" Said Taglo Hornfoot to

the three friends as they walked out his door into the gray light of dawn and went

down the road leading west.

They would have started northwest, but Taglo had said that an evil clan of giants

lived in that direction, along with many other dangerous creatures, so they should

go around them through the Kraanstind desert, a blisteringly hot expanse of large

dunes and little life, only populated by nomad tribes who sometimes trafficked in

the slave trade. It, too, was dangerous, but not as much as the realm of the giants,

as long as you brought enough water.

"Thank you for your hospitality! Farewell!" called Gawera back over her shoulder.

As they walked down the road and out of sight over the crest of the hill, Taglo went

back inside to make a cup of tea.

"I do hope they succeed. It'd be a bother if we were all slaves of the

cloud-spirits, though most likely there's someone else behind it all. I do wonder

who it is."

At midnight, a day after Tinian and his friends had left, a squad of orcs smashed

down Taglo's door and took him prisoner, destroying much of his belongings in the

process. They took him to the castle and detained him, but he would tell them

nothing, so they tortured him in the most cruel ways until he died. Once he died, Sciodrac and fifty hand-picked orcs set out to capture Tinian and Gawera.

~Chapter 7~

A small village not far from the desert, two weeks later:

Tinian, Gawera, and Birchwood walked into the small village. "We're almost to the desert; we should stock up on some more water," Tinian said. "There's a well. Let's fill our canteens up."

"Tinian, ther's something about this village, it's almost like it's deserted,"

observed Gawera.

"But look, there's smoke coming out of the chimneys. The people here are probably hiding from something." Birchwood told them.

"Well then, I wonder what? Anyway, let's go to that inn over there to get something to eat," Tinian announced, pointing to an old inn with a sign that said The Red Phoenix, "I'm starving." They started walking toward the inn. Suddenly, several men charged out and ran toward them, wielding an array of pitchforks, axes, and the occasional sword. Immediatly, Gawera and Tinian whipped their swords out of their scabbards and crouched in defensive positions.

Their swords, both of Elven make, were similar, gently curved, and only sharp on one side. That one side was razor sharp. Tinian had a poignard, a long dagger, in his other hand, also, making him a formidable enemy.

The men hesitated a little, seeing that their foes were so dangerously armed. One man, who seemed to be their leader, pushed through them, yelling, " Come on, you cowards, get them! Would you rather face an army of orcs? Drive them from our

village, Now!"

"Wait," called Tinian, "why are you attacking us? And what was that about the orcs?"

"What about the orcs, you say?" the man sneered. "Why, the orcs that are chasing you, of course! A messenger came yesterday and told us that an army of a hundered orcs was chasin' an elf an' a boy, and you fit the descriptions. We didn't want that bunch of orcs traipsin' around our village, destroying things to find out where ya' were hidden, no sir! So if we drive ye' away, They'll pass by us, doin' no harm. To us, at least. So go away!" He punctuated this last statement with a swing of his sword.

"Alright, we're leaving, we're leaving. But how far behind us are the orcs?" Asked Gawera.

"One day's march." Gawera looked at Tinian as if to say, I can't believe you talked me into this.

"Well, let's get movin'. We have got to get through that desert," Replied Tinian.

Then they left, knowing that there were far greater dangers yet to come.

~Chapter 8~

Three days march into the the desert:

Tinian and his friends had been walking for three days, and were parched, dehydrated, and thirsty, not to mention how hot, sweltering, and burning up they were. They desert isn't the most comfortable environment in the world.

"Just think, when we're up in the mountains Taglo said the treasures are in, and freezing our ears off, you'll WANT to be down here again!" Birchwood said in an attempt to bolster his friend's spirits.

"Could we stop talking about how uncomfortable we are and will be, please? It's depressing," replied Tinian.

"From what Taglo also said, it only takes five days to go through the desert, so we only have to go on like this for two more days." said Gawera.

"Two more days is agony." complained Tinian.

"Well, just don't drink all of your water, and don't get caught by the orcs or the nomads, and we'll survive."

"Maybe. And what if we do get caught? What then?"

"If we get captured by the tribes, they'll either end your suffering and kill you, or give you water and food so you live and then sell you, and you could find some way to escape.

"So let's go get caught by a tribe."

"What if we get captured by the orcs?" inquired Birchwood.

Tinian replied, "Then they torture us until we tell them all the information they need, then make us die a slow, painful death, such as roasting us over a fire, skinning us alive, cutting off our..."

"Let's stop talking about that," interrupted Gawera, "Partly because we don't want to hear about that, partly because there's some tribesmen over the next dune, and they might hear us talking. I can hear their camels. Noisy brutes, camels."

The three friends crawled into a convenient cave in the dune they were next to, and just in time, because right then the mounted tribesmen came over the dune and right where they had been. They waited until the drumming hoofbeats had faded away before crawling out of the cave and continuing their journey through the never-ending desert.

Two days later, the friends were out of the desert. They were ecstatic, until Gawera looked behind them and spotted a bunch of little black dots on the horizon of the desert behind them, and gaining distance, too. She told the others, and they lost no time in breaking camp and going on with their journey, quicker, this time.


~Chapter 9~

"Faster! We gotta go faster!" panted Tinian. They were running, pursued by orcs, and orcs would totally be on a list of Creatures That Can Run All Day at Fifty Miles Per Hour Minimum.

"Are you talking to me? I'm an elf! Of course I can go faster than this! The only reason I'm going this slow is because you're a human and can only go so fast for so long. And you have a sword and at least three other blades to lug around!" You need to go faster!" retorted Gawera in between breaths.

They were running through wooded foothills, with the orcs about ten miles behind. That distance would gradually be shortened. But the mountains didn't seem to be getting any closer, and now the sky was clouding up.

"Oh, great. Now it's raining," complained Birchwood, as he rode on Tinian's shoulder.

"Correction: it's pouring," said Tinian.

Just then, a bolt of lightning struck a tree directly in front of them, which promptly burst into flames. More lightning struck trees, making an impenetrable ring of fire around them. They were trapped, and the ring was closing in.

"Quick! Make a fire! It'll burn to ashes, and we'll stand on that. Ashes aren't flammable!" commanded Gawera. Unfortunately, it was pouring so hard they couldn't get one going, no matter how they tried.

"It's impossible!" yelled Birchwood.

"No, wait. I'm thinking," Tinian said calmly. "Wait, I've got it..." He paused, as if trying to remember something, and then his face lit up. He stretched his hand towards the ground at the edge of the flames and said, "Deloi sharjalvi!" The earth at the edge of the fire turned over, covering all the vegetation as if by some invisible hand, and continued along the edge until the friends were standing in the middle of a circle of overturned earth, with the fire blazing around them unable to get into the circle, until the rain slowly put it out.

Birchwood stared at Tinian, who just stood there with a satisfied smile on his face. Birchwood was the first to break the silence. "What that magic? There are so many things I don't know about you! First I find you have an Elvin name, than I find you know magic! Sheesh!"

Gawera, who knew about Tinian's ability, wasn't very surprised. "You know, that storm was probably caused by the cloud spirits. No, wait, that storm probably WAS the spirits, since Taglo said that the spirits are usually clouds."

They had no way of knowing it, but Sciodrac's orcs were facing the same hostility as the trio. They were caught in the same forest fire, but almost all of them survived, thanks to the toughness of their skin. Only those who had some heavy body armor were baked to a crisp inside their breastplates.

~Chapter 10~

Dawn, two days later, near the mountain pass, the only way to the treasures:

A long screeching growl, followed by a loud hiss, broke the silence of the foothills and woke up Tinian, Gawera, and Birchwood with a start.

"W-w-what was THAT?" Birchwood stammered fearfully.

"I don't know, but it sounded close. So we might see it before long, and I have a feeling that we won't want to." said Tinian. "Let's break camp. We'll worry about it later. Right now we have a pack of orcs on our heels."

They had just started off at brisk pace towards the pass when Gawera stopped, looked up, and started running.

"Come on, boys, we have to find a hiding place! And fast!"

Tinian, with Birchwood clinging tightly to his cloak, ran to catch up with their friend.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Talk later. You're slow enough as it is, without having to talk and run at the same time. Follow me!" She crawled into a small cave opening and Tinian followed.

Just then they heard the same growl and hiss that had woken them up, only this time right outside the opening.

"It's a wyvern, and a big on too!" she whispered. "I saw it flying overhead, but apparently you didn't. Sh!"

A wyvern is a winged creature similar to a dragon, but with only two legs instead of four, a barbed tail, and claws at the end of each wing. It is not able to breath fire, but its breath is nearly as bad, so bad that it's arguable that it's poisonous. This certain specimen was a dark green, horned, behemoth, twice as tall as Tinian.

The wyvern landed with a thump and folded its wings. It stomped around, looking for its prey; it was certain they had been here a second ago.

Then it stopped, sniffed, looked toward the cave, sniffed again, and came toward the cave, head stretched out on its long neck, wings spread out on either side. It opened its mouth and hissed, filling the cave with its very bad breath. Tinian and Gawera had no choice but to run out of the suffocating cave.

The wyvern immediately attacked, turning halfway around and swinging its lethal tail at them, which, somehow, they dodged. The huge swing spun the wyvern so it was facing away from them. Before the beast could swing again, Gawera jumped on its back and swung her sword at its neck; though not a mortal blow, it made the animal angry. This prey was proving more than it was worth. It swung its tail again, but Tinian jumped over it, delivering a stinging cut with his sword in the process.

Birchwood, realizing he could be of no help, had scampered away to the safety of a nearby tree to watch the battle.

The wyvern roared and again swung its tail, this time at Gawera, who was still on its back, hacking at its neck. She jumped off, did a backflip, and sliced her sword through one of the beast's wing flaps. The wyvern's tail kept going, though, and the barbs punctured its own back, just as Tinian ran under the monster and stabbed it through the heart. He jumped out from under it as it fell to the ground, dead.

Once they had made sure it was dead, they set off again on their mission.

Meanwhile, seven miles back, Sciodrac was facing similar troubles, namely, a clan of griffins. Nine orcs were killed before the griffins were beaten off, shortening the number of orcs to thirty-seven.

~Chapter 11~

The next day, within a mile of where the wyvern was killed:

"Tramp, tramp, tramp. How much longer do we have to DO it?" snarled Brizkuul to the orc next to him. "Sciodrac said we'd have the human and the cursed elf by now."

"Shut your @#$% mouth! No jawin' in the ranks, now!" barked Sciodrac's second in command, a massive, ugly brute named Narthkuan who brandished a huge whip. "Or fifteen lashins' tonight! Ah, here come the advance party."

Five orcs came into sight and ran up to Sciodrac, who was leading the pack at the front.

"Strange beings sighted three miles away blocking the pass. Looked like giants with dragon's heads," reported one of the orcs. "I reccomend we..."

"Who asked for your opinion, fool! How big were these "giants with dragon's heads"?" growled Sciodrac, who towered over everyone else, including Narthkuan.

"They looked like they were sixty feet tall, from where we were," stammered the scout.

"Ahk, just get into your places." Sciodrac was secretly worried, but he wanted the treasures and would stop at nothing to get them.

A few hours later, the giants came into sight of the orcs. There were three of them, all of them bearing spiked clubs or hammers. And they were directly in between the orcs and the pass.

At the sight of them, most of the orcs refused to go on. Brizkuul and an orc named Gyurghavn tried to break out of formation and run away, but Narthkuan ran after them with his whip, caught up with them, and, with one swing of his heavy whip, killed Gyurghavn. Brizkuul immediately ran back to his place. All the orcs saw it, and reluctantly moved toward the giants.

One of the giants caught sight of them, and stomped towards them swinging his club.

"WHO ARE YOU, WHO DARES TO ATTEMPT TO GO THROUGH THE PASS!!" it thundered, and then opened its mouth, revealing rows of serrated teeth, and roared, as smoke poured out of his nostrils. "I AM MARLL, LEADER OF THE GUARDIANS, AND YOU SHALL NOT PASS, AS ONLY TWO OTHER TRAVELERS DID!!! WE HAVE LEARNED FROM THEM!"

"Who were those travelers?" bellowed Sciodrac.

"I KNOW NOT THEIR NAMES, BUT THAT THEY WERE A HUMAN AND AN ELF! THEY WERE TOO NIMBLE FOR US TO KILL, BUT THEY WILL BE SLAUGHTERED BY OTHER CREATURES, ONCE THROUGH THE PASS! NOW RETREAT, OR BE KILLED!"

Sciodrac had no intention of retreating, so he ordered his orcs to spread out, and charge for the pass. SLAM! THUD! BOOM! The Guardians swung their weapons, killing many and shaking the ground. But some orcs dodged the blows, and made it to the pass. The three Guardians ran after them, and swung their weapons again, killing even more and punching pits in the ground with missed blows. But the few remaining orcs, Sciodrac and Narthkuan among them, made it safely through the pass. The Guardians stopped pursuing them, confident they would be killed the the savage creatures inside.

~Chapter 12~

Tinian, Gawera, and Birchwood had managed to get past the Guardians five hours earlier. Being so small compared to the Guardians, they had little difficulty in dodging the blows. Now they were closer than ever to their goal. They just needed to find the two treasures in the long, umbrageous valley they found themselves in.

It proved to be relatively easy, because Taglo had said the All-rock glowed slightly, as did the Ice Stone, and Birchwood almost immediately spotted a dot of light in the darkness before them, and Gawera confirmed it with her Elvin ability to sense the presence of magic. The problem was, she said, how to get there, as the only way to access the cave the treasures were in was to go through a cave full of giant snakes.

"Are they venomous?" asked Tinian.

"Yes," answered Gawera. "The only other way that I can think of is that we could carve a tunnel through the rock. But I can't think of how we could do that without waking the serpents up..."

"Wait, they're asleep?"

"Yes."

"Good; now I have a plan. Show me the entrance to the cave."

Gawera led him to it; it was not far away.

"Do we have to go in there?" said Birchwood.

"Of course. Only way," responded Gawera.

They stepped in. Nothing happened. They kept going forward until it grew pitch black.

"Brisingr raudhr, iet tauthr," said Tinian. A sphere of dim red light appeared, just light enough for them to see where they were going, and followed Tinian.

All of a sudden, there weren't any walls next to them. They were in the serpent's lair. Birchwood screamed without thinking, and while a squirrel scream isn't very loud, it was enough to wake up one of the serpents.

"Sbayj slythun," Tinian whispered. Immediately, the gigantic snake slid to the floor. "C'mon, let's keep going. Now they can't wake up, but there might be booby traps or more creatures, so watch out."

They continued through the cavern and into the passageway on the other side. At last, they came into the cave of the treasures. There they were, the Two Treasures, The All-Rock of the Red Dwarves and the Ice Stone, on a short round pillar about a yard high. The pillar was on an "island" surrounded by...The friends groaned. Lava.

"Now would be when the Ice Stone would come in handy," sighed Gawera.

Tinian appeared to be considering something. "Thrysta." One of the tiles on the floor in front of them promptly exploded. "As I thought. Booby traps. I pushed it down with magic; the pressure set it off," he explained to the questioning looks of his friends. He then did the same to another tile. This time a crackling sound filled the air, and blue bolts of electricity coursed through it.

"You know what, I bet all of them set off booby traps," Gawera said, as she also compressed another one. This time an arrow zinged past, shot from a hidden, pre-aimed crossbow. "That's strange, that tile over there isn't affected by the pressure I'm putting on it."

"I think it's because it isn't there." Tinian took a lump of hard, stale bread out of his pack and threw it at the tile. It went through the tile. "Probably an illusion produced by magic, with spikes under it. Now, how do we get the treasures?

And we shouldn't forget about the orcs. Some of them might have gotten past the Guardians."

"Getting the treasures is easy enough," Gawera responded. "Kuasta." The All-rock flew off the pillar and into her hand. Following her example, Tinain did the same thing.

Just as they turned around, though, the river of lava overflowed and rushed towards them.

"Taking the treasures off the pillar must have set it off!" Tinian shouted as they ran back down the tunnel with the treasures in their hands.

"Just keep running, Tinian!" yelled Gawera. They ran into the serpent's cave. All the serpents were roiling about. They smelled the friends' scent, and were angry.

"The spell must have worn off by now!" Tinian said as he and Gawera put the chunks of ice and stone into their packs. Gawera drew her sword, while Tinian unsheathed a dirk (a large one-sided knife) and his poignard, and they both rushed toward the snakes.

"How many weapons do you have, anyway?" inquired Birchwood from Tinian's shoulder.

"Four," answered Tinain as he dodged a giant snake that resembled a cobra and severed one of its fangs. "A little busy right now; why don't you concentrate on getting out of here yourself?"

Jump, slice, dodge, cut, dodge, the human and the elf worked their way to the tunnel, where Birchwood was waiting. He jumped on Tinian's shoulder and they ran out of the cave and into the pass. There was a thick fog, but they made their way through it. Only then did Tinian

remember that the ball of fire was still following them.

"Darn, it could've given us away. Acontix." The ball of fire disappeared, but it was too late; the remaining orcs, numbering about fifteen or so, were only fifty yards away and caught their scent and ran towards them. They had just made it through the pass.

Tinian and Gawera sneaked past the Guardians, running from behind boulder to boulder, the orcs hot on their heels. One of the Gaurdians caught sight of the orcs (but not Tinian and Gawera), and killed five orcs with one blow of his hammer. One of those was Narthkuan, Sciodrac's second in command.

The three friends ran off, with ten furious orcs behind them.


~Chapter 13~

A few hours later, in a dense forest a couple of miles away:

"I think we've lost them!" Birchwood whispered as he climbed down from a tree and jumped onto Tinian's shoulder. "I couldn't see any trace of them!"

"Don't count on it," warned Gawera. "They're probably lying in wait for us

somewhere, or going 'round us to cut us off ahead, or, most likely, they are still hot on our trail."

"Pessimist," Tinian teased. Then he stopped walking suddenly. "I wonder what those are," he said, pointing to four small figures circling in the sky ahead of them.

"Hmm, they look too big to be eagles, so they might be..."

"Griffins! They're griffins! They hate orcs! They must have caught a glimpse of them and are trying to find them again!"

"Does that concern us at all? Will we be mistaken for orcs or anything?" asked Birchwood.

"Uh, now it does. I think they saw us. Their eyesight is really good." Sure enough, the griffins came flying toward them at incredible speed. But they flewright over the friends, shrieking, and dove into the trees a ways behind them.

"That was a close one." said Tinian, and resumed walking.

About a minute later Gawera looked back. "Oh great," she murmured. "They saw us. I don't know if they're an evil clan or not." Tinian and Birchwood turned around. Two of the griffins they had seen landed and ran towards them. They were almost as tall as a horse, with the hindquarters, back legs, and tail of a tawny lion, the foreparts, wings, front legs, talons, and head of a white eagle, and two feathery ears that pointed strait up.

They came up to Tinian and Gawera, screeched and growled, and crouched down next to them. The friends were astonished.

"They want to make friends?" Birchwood asked skeptically.

"Not exactly, they're saying that some orcs are near us, and they will carry us to safety," Gawera said. "Tinian and I know Griffincall, their language. Now get on!" Tinian and Gawera mounted the griffins, and Birchwood sat on Tinian's griffin's

head, and the griffins took off, flying over the trees.

"Wow, this is awesome!" Birchwood yelled as they went higher and higher.

Tinian growled into the griffin's ear, and the griffin screeched back. They

conversed this way for some time. Tinian learned that his griffin's name was Hkyar, and told him that they were going to Ilvar.

"I can only take you partway there. The other two grykavnv I was with can hold the orcs off for a little time, but they are outnumbered." He was silent then, and refused to talk anymore. (Note: grykavnv is Griffincall for griffins in the plural, singular is grykan.)

The two griffins flew on, then landed softly in a forest clearing. Gawera's griffin spoke, "We can only take you this far, or else we would intrude on another clan's hunting ground. Beware of those grykavnv, for they will kill intruders. This clan has red feathers instead of white, so it is fairly easy to tell the difference. But be on your guard all the same."

The friends dismounted and thanked them. The griffins flew back in the direction of their clan's cave. Tinian and Gawera walked on.

A while later, Tinian asked Gawera what her griffin's name was. "Tyren," she replied. "Yours?"

"Hkyar."

Gawera gasped. "He's the son of the clan chieftain, Tinian! What an honor to ride him!"

"Since when did you know all about Griffin clans?"

"I went with an Elvin ambassadorial party to their clan one time. Tyren doesn't recognize me as she wasn't born, but Hkyar was a baby. Baby griffins are so cute."

They melted into the trees, chatting.

~Chapter 14~

A hilly moor, not far from Ilvar:

"We're close to Ilvar, Tinian, I can just feel it! Oh, and I recognize the

landmarks, like that old twisted tree. I love this place," exclaimed Gawera as they walked through the moor.

"Huh, I don't like it, not enough trees," grumbled Birchwood.

"Well, of course, I like the forest better, almost all elves do."

"I like the forest a lot, too: more cover and hiding places; you can move around without being detected," Tinian said. "Open places, like this moor, or the ocean, there's nowhere to hide if you get attacked, no place to go except underground, and sometimes not even then."

"Scaredy-cat," teased Gawera. "There are other things in the world besides fighting and killing."

"He does have a point," said Birchwood. "If you don't have speed or aren't able too fight well, big open places are not for you. And, um, it looks like we'll be needing those things right now. Look, guys." He pointed behind them.

"Oh, no. Please, no," Tinian said as he looked at what Birchwood had pointed out.

The orcs had tapped into their reserve energy, set an unofficial long distance speed record for Wirina, and were just over the next hill, hunting for the trio.

"What should we do?" asked a very frightened Birchwood.

"Hide," said Gawera, just barely able to keep calm.

"Where? That proves my point!" whispered Tinian.

"Whatever we do, don't let them get the treasures. It could mean the end of Wirina. Just run, and when they catch up, we'll let 'em have it."

And they ran. As they topped a hill, the orcs saw them. They gave a great shout, and ran after them, cursing, yelling battle cries, and explaining in very horrid detail what they would would do to them once they got their hands on them.

They made a racket. A very big, loud, noisy racket. And that is why one of the soldiers on guard duty in an Elvin outpost not far away heard them. He identified the shouts as being made by orcs, and, elves being mortal enemies of orcs and furious with them being on their territory, just like griffins, (apparently, nobody really likes orcs,) he reported it to the commander of the fort. The commander sent half of the garrison (about fifteen elves; it wasn't a big outpost,) to fight and kill them.

Well, eventually the orcs caught up with Tinian and Gawera and surrounded them.

"Hmm, nine of them, there were ten of them when we got back past the Guardians. The griffins must have killed one," said Gawera calmly as she and Tinian drew their swords and stood back to back.

"That's four for each of us and one for Birchwood. Think you can handle one, Birchwood?" Tinian said, just as calmly.

"I d-don't st-stand a ch-ch-chance," stammered Birchwood, his eyes round with fear.

"Find help," Tinian said softly in the language of the snakes, which he had been teaching Birchwood during their journey. Birchwood immediately slipped between the legs of one of the orcs and ran off.

"Well, your a big fellow," Gawera said to Sciodrac. "And ugly, too. Are you...umm...Skipper Jack? Slice of Cat? What IS your name, anyway?" Gawera taunted as the orcs closed in.

Just then, and orc fell down, dead, an arrow in his back. With a great shout, a squad of elves charged over the next hill. Two more orcs fell dead. The orcs, taken unawares, turned toward the elves. Tinian noticed that Birchwood was sitting on the captain of the squad's shoulder.

He and Gawera, taking advantage of the orcs surprise, attacked.

Tinian swung his sword, and an orc's head fell at his feet. An orc ran at him from behind, battleaxe raised, but Tinian turned around when the orc was only two feet away, unsheathed his poignard, lunged, and stabbed the orc through the heart. He glanced over at Gawera. She was trying to fight off two orcs at once. Tinian ran over and cut one in half, just as Gawera did the same to the other. By then some of the elves had reached the hill. One of the Elvin soldiers stabbed an orc the gut with a spear. One of the two remaining orcs tried to run away, but Tinian, noticing him, pulled out a stiletto, a slender weapon with a needle-like point and a minimal cutting edge, and threw it. The deadly blade whistled through the air and pierced the orc's

back, killing it. Tinain ran over to retrieve his weapon, but was blocked by the remaining orc: Sciodrac.

"So, you think you could escape me with the treasures that are rightfully mine? Now we will see who gets them in the end," bellowed Sciodrac. He drew his weapons, two massive, heavy broadswords, each about a yard long. Tinian crouched down, ready to spring in any direction.

Sciodrac moved first. He swung both his huge blades down. Tinian jumped away to the right and cut Sciodrac's left arm to the bone. Sciodrac roared with pain, turned halfway around, and swung with his good left arm. Tinian was just barely able to duck under; then he slashed across Sciodrac's chest. Sciodrac didn't wear much armor, his skin was so tough, but the razor sharp sword cut a huge gash. Tinian ran to the dead body of the other orc and tugged his stiletto out of the corpse. He ran back to Sciodrac, jumped on his back, and stabbed him in the neck. The needle-sharp tip easily pierced the leathery orc-skin, and sunk deep into Sciodrac's neck, killing him.

Tinian pulled his stiletto out and jumped off Sciodrac's back. The huge orc fell down, dead.

~Chapter 15~

In the small Elvin outpost, in the commander's quarters one day later:

"I thank you for your hospitality, but we must go now," said Tinian. "But before I leave, I want to entrust the treasures to the Elves." He brought the two treasures out of his pack and handed them to the commander.

"We are deeply grateful, Ingor Weaponson, but let me ask you, where are you going to, that you must leave us so soon?" asked the commander.

"Oh, nowhere in particular. I was thinking of going south."

"Then let me restock you with provisions. You are always welcome with the elves."

And so Tinian, with Birchwood on his shoulder and Gawera by his side, went off into the wilderness, seeking (more) adventure, after saving the Ice Stone and the All-Rock from the cloud spirits.


LPH Writing Class stories 2013-2014