Clouds covered the moon as Dilmir walked. His feet made little noise on the well-worn path between the roots of the lower district, and already the first of the mists were creeping upon him. Eld’rin was silent, and Dilmir found the calmness to his liking after the day’s events.
After stopping at his aunt’s house to tell her where he would be, Dilmir and Ilrin had gone into the lower district, where Ilrin had introduced him to her parents. Both her father and mother were kind elves, and it was nearly midnight before Dilmir, stuffed full of excellent food and nearly forgetting Ilrin’s duel, had bade them farewell and set off for home. He didn’t know the roots the way Ilrin did, but he was able to find his way well enough. There were several wide paths carved amongst all the roots, and it was on one of these that Dilmir now walked.
Crickets chirped nearby; the sound was quiet and pleasing to Dilmir. Somewhere far above, an owl hooted. He glanced up at the full moon as he walked, glimpsed briefly through the leafy roof of Eld’rin, but no sinister black shape appeared against it; Cyprien wouldn’t try another attack for several nights.
Out of habit, Dilmir turned towards the black shape of one of the four massive trees of Eld’rin. The city was practically empty at this hour, but he did not alter his course: Aimim would have long since gone to bed, and he was in no hurry to get home.
Fields of grain waved at him lazily in the light breeze as he walked. Many of the elves that lived in the lower district were farmers; Most of the fruit, vegetables, and bread that the elves ate were grown inside Eld’rin’s walls.
Dilmir turned into the giant tree, his footsteps echoing in the empty hall that was grown into it. To his left was a stairway, leading to the second level, but Dilmir continued walking. He was almost half way through the tree when he stopped, his eyes drawn to the stairs.
A faint light, more of a glow, had caught his attention. He took a few steps back and looked up the stairway, from which it seemed to come. The stairs curved, their origin hidden by a wall, but the strange green light was definitely coming from their top. Intrigued, Dilmir climbed them.
They curved upwards for a short distance before widening into a landing, which flowed into the trunk of the tree like the stairs themselves. Hanging mysteriously in the air over the landing floated a strangely glowing orb. As Dilmir approached, he could see that it was neither solid nor gas, leaving only one thing left for it to be – magic.
Dilmir had heard of unbound magic before – strange globes of light that just floated around until they found something, or someone, to latch onto. There was nothing to fear from them, but Dilmir had never heard of any so close to Eld’rin, where so many magic-sensitive elves lived. Besides, the magic should have entered the tree itself at this distance.
He approached it cautiously, but even as he did, it flickered, and then went out, plunging him into darkness. He stood there for what was at least a minute, listening. No sound met his ears, so he turned to leave; strange magic that couldn’t be explained was best left alone.
A faint hiss reached his ears, a rasping as of metal on metal. Dilmir didn’t even think – there was only one object that could make that sound: A blade. Summoning the magic within him, he flung it outwards in a powerful wave of force. The tree absorbed the magic easily, but behind him, Dilmir heard a crash as something was flung to the floor.
He turned, but everything was still black. Thinking back on what Elmir had taught him, Dilmir uttered two words: “Veneth lith!”
Soft green light, not unlike the light that had drawn him up the stairs, suddenly poured from a point just in front of him. Momentarily dazzled, it took Dilmir a moment to see the figure struggling up against the far wall. Without pausing to consider, he flung his magic outwards and slammed him back down. He then approached, cautiously.
The figure appeared to be dressed in black, and Dilmir’s first thought was of the Dark Elves. The elf, however, as it turned out was only draped in a black cloak. The rest of his garments were a dark shade of green. Resting a few feet from his hand was a long, evil-looking dagger. His face was hidden in shadow beneath his dark hood.
“Who are you?” asked Dilmir, a little uncertainly.
The figure did not reply, though it shifted its invisible gaze to Dilmir. Then a rough male voice spoke from beneath the hood, sounding intrigued and, inexplicably, calm.
“They said you were powerful,” it mused. “They said you posed a threat and had to be removed. I see now they were right.”
“What do you want?” asked Dilmir, trying to figure out what the elf had meant.
“What do I want?” laughed the elf, “I want nothing, save what has been promised me. Those that sent me, it is what they want that you do not know.”
“Who are they?” pressed Dilmir.
“Who are they?” mimicked the elf. “Look around, you will see them everywhere. Surely you know who they are Dilmir, even if you don’t know they want you dead.”
A short pause followed this statement as Dilmir digested the elf’s words. Who would possibly want him dead? Obviously Alfimir did, though he didn’t know why, but he was somewhere in the Great Forest at the moment.
“I see now that I cannot kill you, however,” continued the elf, “so I offer you an alternative.”
“An alternative to what?” asked Dilmir, seizing on the word.
The elf ignored him. “Walk into the Great Forest, and wait until sunset. They will find you.”
“And why would I do that?” asked Dilmir, thoroughly bewildered, and a little frightened by now.
The elf smiled beneath his hood, teeth gleaming in the green light. “The one that sent me knows who you truly are, Dilmir, and you know that the others will easily believe the same. Go into the forest, or the elves will soon know what you have kept from them all these years.”
Dilmir felt himself blanch, but gripped the elf by the throat. “I can crush you in an instant,” he said, thoroughly believing it. “Tell me what is going on if you value your life.”
The elf merely smiled again. “You won’t kill me, Dilmir,” he said. “The other elves believe you would, but it is for that reason that you won’t.”
The last word escaped him like a whisper and echoed in Dilmir’s head. At the same time, the elf melted into the wood which Dilmir held him against, leaving him with nothing but his own thoughts.
Dilmir sat, his mind reeling. That was two attempts made on his life now; if only he knew why. There’s only one person who both wants me dead and is powerful enough to have others to do it for him, and that’s Alfimir. That must be why the elf wanted me to go into the forest: Alfimir’s waiting for me there.
Dilmir mulled this unpleasant thought over for awhile, but the more he thought on it, the more sense it made. It all came down to why Alfimir had attacked him. If he knew that, perhaps he could figure things out.
Shaking his head to clear it, Dilmir doused his light and went down the stairs. He resumed his journey through the quiet city, keeping an eye open and watching the shadows, but no one else surprised him that night.