Chapter 2

Davian and his companions met little trouble on the road back to Maris-ta-Sehlim. Several of the selumari survivors and a few misplaced vagha and eldurim accompanied the warriors as they headed north across the plans and through the muddy trail as it winded through the marsh.

The spongy road through the troglands was plagued by only a little resistance. Several well placed arrows from Davian’s company ensured they traveled unmolested and kept any curious goblin onlookers at bay as they traveled.

After arriving to much fanfare in Maris-ta-Sehlim, Davian and company found it much unchanged, except that whatever local morehl had been in the city had been enslaved. Selumari soldiers had uncovered their coup against the city leaders and put it down before any harm could befall them.

Months followed and Davian led raids against the trogs of the Brackishomme swamp, alleviating immediate concerns to their safety.

Shortly after, those warriors who had followed Davian into battle at Daur-Bor-Nin served alongside him when they answered the call to war against their enemies. They mustered for countless skirmishes as war broke out across Esfah. Fewer of them returned home each time, hardening Davian’s resolve.

After two years of battle, Davian tired and returned home to hear stories of his great fame. The stories, primarily embellishments from tales told by survivors of Daur-Bor-Nin who had relocated to Maris-ta-Sehlim, had spread readily. He shrugged off the people’s praise, despite Jarroch’s insistence that he revel in it.

“Use it for your advantage,” Jarroch insisted one night over wine.

Davian practically pouted into his cup. The doors opened to Jarroch’s fine, new home, which he’d purchased through smart business moves. Selusis entered, catching up on the conversation.

“He’s right, you know,” Selusis insisted, pouring a glass for himself. “I’ve been elected to the city’s high council. Only the high minister is a higher position—and one I intend to find myself in. I couldn’t have achieved my election without the fame purchased by adventuring alongside you.” He winked at Jarroch, “And this one… he was a simple warrior but now a successful entrepreneur—we both owe our success to defeating the morehl at the first free city.”

Davian said little. He’d withdrawn further with each meeting of his friends.

Another door opened at the rear and Jarroch’s serving woman entered, a young morehl woman dressed in selumari finery, except for the chains on her hands and feet. As with most females, her eyes twinkled when they set upon Davian, who nodded politely, but made an effort not to lead her on.

Davian’s eyes, however, did catch Jarroch’s. They lingered on the serving wench as she plated their food. A sound like an infant’s cry sounded somewhere within Jarroch’s house, and the woman hastily rushed off to attend.

“Is that a baby’s cry?” Davian asked. “Jarroch, have you fathered a child?”

Jarroch and Selusis traded knowing looks. Finally, Jarroch said, “I’m sure that, whatever that sound is, that was no son of mine.”

Davian wanted to know more, but Jarroch evaded his questions.

“You really must be my running mate,” Selusis insisted. “You have earned great fame with your sword—think of how much good you could do for Maris-ta-Sehlim from a place of real power: from a political chair? My oldest friend… do I have your support? Will you be my co-chair when I run for minister?”

Davian looked aside and watched the young mother nurse her babe down the hallway. With chained ankles and wrists, she held the babe to the red skin of her breast and fed him.

Ka-Clang! Ka-Clang! A warning bell rang in the distance, startling them all. Selusis spilled his wine, and Jarroch’s bastard babe shuddered and cried. The mother did her best to quiet the child as the three selumari snatched their swords and ran in the direction of the danger.

A horde of goblins had emerged from the southern swamps. The outlier homes at Maris-ta-Sehlim were in flames, and the snapping of wardog teeth tore apart the flesh of dead elves.

Trogs swung their crude axes and flung stones from their slings. They snarled and overwhelmed whatever citizens they could.

Davian raised his blade and roared his battle-cry. “For the selumari!”

Selusis and Jarroch raised their weapons to match and shouted the response, “Into the abyss!” and then the three charged into the fray, rallying the elves behind them.

Though it had been a year at least since they’d all three fought together, they worked as a unit and beat back the trog invaders. The surrounding elves harnessed their energy and inspiration, putting down goblins more easily now that the fear of meeting selumari heroes distracted them.

Davian and his friends reached the thickest of the fighting. A hulking beast of a trog with mottled skin like lichen on bog stumps looked up from the abuse he doled out upon a well known coral elf tailor; splatters of greenish blood marred his face and the tailor’s daughter screamed as the brute lorded over them with his great axe made of jagged metals.

“Face me, you fiend!” Davian shouted.

The goblin abandoned the tailor and whirled to roar his challenge. They clashed in the square: Davian the hero and the trog champion. This beast was larger than even Davian, who was well known for his size, but after trading a number of blows, the selumari warrior was clearly the superior fighter. He ducked an axe blow that might have taken his head off and then flashed his blade, separating the creatures hands from his body. The great axe flew off into the distance.

Falling to his knees, the trog roared with painful defiance; the goblin army’s resolve broke, and they fled for the safety of the swamp. The wounded creature laughed as his yellow blood pulsed from his wounds. His eyes met the tailor’s daughter as she screamed, terrified and holding her father’s limp and lifeless body.

“Why? Why do you attack the city?” Selusis interrogated him.

Sneering through his pain, and ignoring the selumari’s demands for information, he merely hissed, “We will not stop coming. We will never stop. The god of Death demands we wipe out all children of the other gods. Our totem spirit, Noxigant, offspring of the dark lord, will make it so!”

The blue skinned child wailed the entire time. Davian swung his blade and severed the fiend’s head from his body, finally quelling the young girl’s cries.

A crowd had begun to form as Davian scooped up the child. She sobbed on his shoulder as the selumari crowds gathered.

Selusis seized on the opportunity and addressed them all. “My friends, my kin! If we were more adequately prepared, this might have never happened. Our losses could have been so much fewer. You have all heard tales of Davian Whisperwynd and know that he and I have fought alongside each other. Davian knows battle… I know battle. And I have a plan to prosper Maris-ta-Sehlim. Know what I stand for and that I require your vote to build a stronger community when I run for our highest office.”

His announcement brought a few cheers. One voice called out, “And what of Davian? Captain of the army?”

“Put him in charge of defense strategy!” another shouted.

Selusis looked hopefully to his friend.

Stoic, Davian shook his head and set the child down. He looked at her. All of twelve years old. She dried her eyes and Davian thrust his sword into the ground where it stood like a battle standard. “No. I am a warrior, not a leader. I would be a terrible figurehead.”

Davian grabbed the bulbous head of the goblin commander and threw it into a nearby wagon. “But I make a pledge to my people,” he said, looking again at the girl, “I will not set foot again in Maris-ta-Sehlim, my home, until this cart is filled with the heads of our enemies.”

He scooped up his sword, untethered the wagon from the pony that had died in the middle of its transport, and pulled the cart beyond town where the citizens watched his departure.