Writing a story isn’t just about the main book and whatever happens there is all that ever happens. If you want real depth and complexity, there must be untold stories. Stories apart from the main narrative with little bearing on its course complicate your characters. Gives them histories. Gives them legends. Makes them beings of lore.
With my Stones of Caron series, I have the mighty elves. Old enough to be the stuff of legends. While it would be daunting to scribble down each individual’s entire 400 year history, parts of their history help to bring about legends and every piece I write on the individuals makes me love them even more, (hopefully you love them too, but they’re my childr–I mean, WHAT???)
This is a prequel to my books, The Stones of Caron. Melsa is the king of the elves at this time and has been raising a human in his house after the boy’s family was murdered.
“I see you and your sister are speaking to one another,” Melsa said as he sat at the side of Eren’s bed. Eren was still sick, but it was not as severe. The doctors still didn’t have any idea what had happened to him or what could be done for him. Melsa did; rest was the only possible medicine if he could indeed be cured.
“Better than that,” Eren smiled weakly. His golden hair was dark in contrast to his pallid cheeks. “We are enjoying one another’s company, as we never have.” Melsa started to say something but Eren raised a weak finger. The effort was slow and bespoke of Eren’s truly frail condition. “Don’t say I should have done as you instructed, Father. I know, and so does Earia.”
The room was dark and only a crack in the curtains lit up the white bed sheets. As the room of a prince, it was well kept by servants, but Eren liked having things a bit cluttered to give it a feeling of being lived in. The servants, out of respect for Eren’s weak condition, left his things where they were on desks, and shelves around the room to make the lad feel at home, (something they never would have done if he were himself and on his feet.)
“Do you understand why I have to go?” Melsa asked, changing the subject.
“Yes. You gave Earia a tuition she could not control. Now you feel yourself honor bound to repair the wounds between the boy and her, and he and you.”
“It has nothing to do with honor, Eren. I was blind to Niren’s vice and now I must pay.” Melsa stood up and leaned over the bed, his fine elfin face was creased by deep thought and sorrow. There had been much to grieve over in his recent life. The White Stones of Caron were his to give to his eldest son, and now Eren had no magic in his blood. Melsa’s brother-in-law had died and left the Grey Stones in Melsa’s care. And the one human boy he had allowed to be raised by elves, namely by his daughter Earia, had turned out to be a black hearted power seeker. “I thought she would grow if someone depended on her as he did at first. But now I fear she will forever blame herself for his imprudent actions.”
“Threatening to kill you, Father, is not imprudent. Declaring war on elves and everyone who stands with them, is not imprudent.” Eren began struggling with his words, a clear indicator he was exhausted. “It is treasonous. You kept him back when his uncle screamed for his blood, when his people were lost at sea with the outlaws and murderers they were trying to punish. He chose Earia as his new mother, because he thought she would ease his ache and she believed she could guide his troubled way. I fear his pain was far too dulled.”
“It was,” Melsa confirmed. “Moreover, he believed himself a rightful heir to the elfin inheritance,” Melsa sighed. Laying the burden of his own mind on the sickened Eren seemed far easier than it should have been. But even so, the elf king’s troubled mind was soothed, knowing his son would help how he could. “Rest well my son, do not fear for me, I am well able to care for myself and Niren is a mere boy by my standard.”
“And I not much older, Father. Travel well, the lands are as treacherous as the man who hides in them.”
Earion held his father’s horse steady in the dark morning. Earia stood, with head bowed, on the broad stone steps of the tower. Ergen leaned against his elder sister and looked longingly toward the open front doors of the Castle of Eagles. The tower loomed out over groves of fruit trees, its alabaster sides shone in the morning light and graced its darkly filigreed windows in elegant contrast. High doors opened at the front and steps spread out from them, until they were wide enough for thirty men to stand abreast. The stunning white structure was a house of mixed feelings on this day. Niren had been refused the Grey Stones of Caron and had stormed out in a blazing rage. He had returned two weeks later and tried to kill Earia, Melsa, or anyone in his path, and had partially succeeded.
“Father, please…” Earia started.
“No, my daughter,” he interrupted. “I sorely neglected him and you. This is my mess to clean up.”
“Father, he will kill you,” she pleaded. “I made him this monster.”
Melsa took the sword from his belt, sheath and all. It was a pretty piece with metal vines wrapping around the green hilt and the diamond shaped pommel carved and cross-guard carved similarly. It was light for a broadsword, but too long for a thrusting sword and therefore unique among all its fellows. “Take this, Earia. It will serve as a reminder that I am no weakling with a blade. My hope is to have Niren by my side when I return. He has apologies to make and you are the first. You must study on how you will answer.”
Earia shut her eyes to hold back the tears and fell into her father’s hug.
Melsa continued. “I spoke with Eren. While I am gone, you will be in charge of the white gems. You know all you need to about them. He is too sick to be a strong leader with them.” He held her tightly and smoothed her long, golden, hair over his arm.
“Father, I should be the one to make this right,” Earia choked through a sob. “It is my work which must be undone.”
Melsa, recognizing these labored words as heroic, sighed as he pushed her back and made her look into his eyes. “We may take a joint blame for this disaster. He fooled me as surely as he fooled you. Such a ploy I have never seen since the wars among the men of this land ended. Like his uncle, he has a knack for deception and we were both blinded by our love for him.”
Earia calmed her shaking breath and stepped back.
Melsa crouched down to where he was eye level with young Ergen. “You should try to improve your sword work. Try to get another set mastered before I return.” He wrapped his arms around his youngest son and then paced down the last few steps to where Earion held his horse.
“How are his hooves?” Melsa asked.
“Trimmed like Your Majesty’s hair.” Earion said with a broad smile and unwavering relaxation. He was by far the least like his father of any of Melsa’s children. He was carefree and had a ready wit. It often sparked rebukes or fights depending on whom he chose to use it on.
Melsa slapped him on the shoulder. “Take care of the house, son. And it wouldn’t cause you too much agony to learn another set yourself.”
Melsa was a fool; he wondered if knowing it improved his situation. He had thought of Niren as a son, and treated him accordingly. But Niren was a man, not an elf and men were notoriously devious. Melsa had known Niren’s uncle, Airla, a man wicked at his very core. Niren’s father, Ashesh, was a good man but upon Ashesh’s death, Niren had become like his uncle. Melsa blamed himself heartily for his foolishness and how blinded he had become to the soured heart of the lad.
Dark, unyielding thoughts pounded in his mind as he rode out of the gates of the courtyard and through the pass. Niren had been the least of Ashesh’s children and carefully watched a growing menace by the wizards. The leeil to the south had sensed his rotten seed from the very first, and Melsa had ignored their pleas. To Melsa, Niren was a child who had lost his parents, siblings and people; to Niren, Melsa was a means to an end – power.
Only Melsa had been blind to his arrogance and lust, and the hungry gleam that came into his eyes whenever a stone of power was near. Melsa was blind and his only daughter had been the veil covering his eyes.
Now it was time to pay for the mistake.
Crossing the wild lands to the northern oceans would not be easy, but that was where rumors of Niren’s growing power stemmed. Wayfarers and criminals either hated the sound of his name or blessed it. He had been amassing young men who were as hungry as he, be they of status or a lowly farmer. To them, he was a hero and a king.
The trip would certainly have other dangers: outlaws, bears, hunger, false trails; any of these could lead to certain death if one was not careful. Melsa had little intent to be careful. The first few days he encountered only rumors of bears, but on the fourth day he met one and it spoke badly before it died with five arrows clustered in its heart. The next day, Melsa scared up a nest of dragons and the mother was not far off. He had to run his horse nearly to death before he was in a defensible spot. The dragon’s brood followed him as far as they could, but infant dragons cannot run very fast, nor can they fly, and he lost them before the horse gave out.
A week and a half after he left Caron, Melsa was accosted on a scrap of road by six men. Their faces were purple with berry juice and their weapons were varied. One weapon was unmistakably Arvadian, another had the look of an eed blade and was a worthy prize whether the man had killed the mighty eed or been given it as a gift. Their clothing was thick and roughly cut of old homespun and leather.
“Hold there, Friend,” said the tallest of them and he gripped Melsa’s nervous bay at the halter. One firm right foreleg of the prancing mare crushed the big man’s toe. Not flinching, the bandit guided her gently off of his toes.
“How have you fared this fine day, gentlemen?” Melsa didn’t demand to be recognized as a king, he knew better than to claim his regal status before such as these. They were outlaws, or at the very least, outcasts and they cared little for hierarchy. Perhaps even a king would be less welcome among them than a pauper.
“Aye, lads, we’ve got a fine man here, a real gentleman himself.” The man spoke far louder than was necessary. “Just fine, your lordship, and a good day it is to happen upon you.”
Melsa caught sight of almost good natured gleams in the men’s eyes. Their purple faces couldn’t hide the creases of smiles and friendly gestures. “What goes on in this wood to bring such a gathering up and out? It looks like the makings of a New Year feast.”
“You, naturally.” The leader’s grin showed chipped yellow teeth. “We haven’t had a guest for supper in ages.”
“I’m flattered.” Melsa pulled off his broad brimmed hat and plopped it on the high-rising saddle horn. “What is the fare?” He let them see his large, pointed, elfin ears; trying to hide them would be futile if he were forced to dine with the vagabonds and at the moment dining was the best possible outcome.
“Venison, traveler’s bread, and a bushel of wild berries.” The man at the bay’s halter noticed the king’s ears and grinned more broadly.
“I accept your kind invitation.” Melsa offered an honest smile of his own. Despite its humble name, traveler’s bread was a rare treat and Melsa was shocked the men had managed to lay hold of the precious cake so far into the heart of the wilderness.
The leader held up his hand, forestalling Melsa. “Ah, one rule we have – you must contribute.” He might have added, “whether you eat with us or not,” but he didn’t, he continued with the ploy of being an obliging host.
“What of these?” Melsa reached under his cloak, draped over the front of the saddle, and raised up a pair of turkeys. “What do you think?”
“Fine, fine!” the leader laughed and another man stepped up to grasp the fowl reverently.