Chapter 4

The wheels of Davian’s wagon creaked and groaned as he pulled his burden into the town square. A hush fell across the crowd, which gathered around him. Many eyes filled with both admiration and fear met his gaze and then turned to the disgusting wagon he’d dragged into town.

Davian opened his mouth as if to speak and then chose not to. Abutting the town square, Selusis came bounding down the stair to congratulate him on the task well-done. A young elf joined him, hanging on his arm. Davian recognized her as the tailor’s daughter, now grown up; she wore finery that indicated social position.

Selusis made reintroductions. “Bellara has become quite the advocate for peace and safety these last several years.” Selusis looked at her affectionately. “And soon she will be my wife.”

Davian bobbed his head towards the hideous cart. “Peace? How then does this sight strike you? Does it offend?”

Bellara shook her head. “Quite the contrary. In order for peace to come, and if it is to last, those that worship Death must be eradicated entirely. If only more selumari had grit such as yours, Davian Whisperwynd.”

Davian stared at Selusis a moment. He looked much softer than when they’d last seen each other, seven years prior.

“Come,” Selusis insisted. “You must dine with us and tell me all about your time in the wilderness.”

Davian tried to protest, but Bellara linked her arm in his and escorted him up the steps. The famed warrior relented, “Just so long as I may take a bath, first.”

“I shall make it so,” Selusis said as they entered the home. He clapped his hands, and a morehl came running like a dog. He held his chains in his hands to keep them from jangling too loudly against the smoothed coral tiles. “Fetch my friend a hot bath,” he insisted. “And make it quick or you’ll feel my switch again.”

The slave ran off silently and got to work.

Davian’s lips tightened to a thin slit as he watched him go. The warrior accepted a goblet of wine and stood at a large bay window that overlooked Maris-ta-Sehlim; he watched while he waited for supper and the bath to be readied.

Elves went about their daily business in the court below. Despite the stench, they looked aside admirably at the mounded pile of goblin heads parked in their midst. An occasional morehl, in chains and sent on some errand by his or her master, glanced sidelong at the cart with revulsion.

“How many?” Selusis asked. He stood by his friends side, sipping his own wine. “There must be at least five hundred of them.”

Davian took a slow sip. “Eight hundred and twenty eight.”

Selusis’s eyebrows arched, but Davian spotted something. He hissed, “Hold, now. What is that?”

He pointed to an elven child who was dressed like a pauper. The child walked with his eyes downcast; they refused to meet anyone else’s gaze. He looked like any other young elf except that his skin was gray. Members of the crowd shoved him as he meandered through, keeping his head down.

Selusis chuckled. “He is a degenerate, a mudblood. Nothing worthy of mentioning.”

“Mudblood, is that what they are calling the humans?”

Selusis nearly spat out his drink. “I’m sorry. I forgot that you have been away so long. No. We’ve not yet received any human visitors to our city. That one is frehlasuhl, a gray elf. They are a bastard breed, Davian, products of selumari and morehl unions.” He said it with such disdain that Davian knew such a thing had been forbidden. “There are a handful within the city.”

“And Jarroch?”

Selusis shrugged. “Still wealthy and successful. And as foppish as you think me to be, no doubt.”

“But his child. Does he feel the same way?” Davian asked.

Selusis quirked his mouth and sipped his wine. “Jarroch has no children. Not any legitimate ones he’d lay claim to, anyway.”

Davian set his jaw and turned back to the window. He found the crowd still shoving and harassing the mudblood boy, preventing him from leaving the main square. A red-skinned woman wearing chains shrieked and ran to his aid. Davian recognized her as Jarroch’s concubine slave.

“He’s just a little boy—my child has no say in what he is!” she screamed, trying to defend him, thrashing at nearby selumari, using her doubled length of chains like a whip. She struck several coral elves before they realized she was there.

Davian flew from the house with Selusis on his heels. “It’s no use,” he called after the warrior.

The crowd immediately turned savage and began beating her, enraged that a morehl slave would dare strike a selumari. She collapsed before Davian could reach her. The crowd dispersed before the renowned warrior. Smiling, the selumari assumed he had come to deal the final blow. Instead, he scooped her up, though she was already fading fast from her severe wounds.

A light of recognition lit in her eyes and she recognized Davian from their meeting years prior. And then she died in his arms. Davian looked at her face, certain that this was Jarroch’s slave girl.

“I told you,” Selusis said. “These are not people. They are animals—and one must not keep a feral animal as a pet—and pets that turn feral must be put down. This is the law. It’s how we prevent another Daur-Bor-Nin.”

Davian growled wordlessly. He turned his eyes up to the rotting collection of heads. If a trog mother, who is little more than an animal, feels sorrow, pain, and happiness, then don’t the morehl as well? They are elves, too, aren’t they?

He laid the woman against the cart and stood, locking eyes on the grey skinned boy. Barely eight years of age and throughly thrashed, he panicked when the massive selumari advance towards him.

The child hesitated, taking one final look at his mother who lay propped against the wagon filled with kill-trophies, and then fled before Davian.

With Selusis still following him, Davian hurried through the crowd, pursuing the boy at a brisk pace without sprinting after him. He knew where the whelp was headed, and he did not desire the crowd to snatch up the boy on his behalf and potentially hurt him.

A few moments later, they arrived at Jarroch’s home and hot on the boy’s heels. The child blasted through the doors and out of sight. Jarroch was at the door before Davian and Selusis reached it.

“My friends, I am glad for your arrival—I just learned the good news. Davian! I heard about your achievement… but come, have you dined yet? You must take some wine, surely…”

“The boy,” Davian snapped, spotting the child cowering behind Jarroch. “The people killed his mother,” he said sadly.

Jarroch shrugged. “A pity. She was good help. Now I shall have to find another.”

Davian stared incredulous at his friend. “But… but she was your… the child? What of your son?”

Jarroch glared at the gray-skinned boy from the corner of his eyes. “That abomination is no son of mine.”

The child recoiled, and hid from the elves gathered near the door.

What has hatred done to my people? Davian wondered. He refused to look his long-time friend in the face, afraid for what he might do in his anger and for the way his fingers had tightened around the grip of his sheathed blade. He hissed a curse of disgust below his breath, turned, and left.