War of the Wildlands
Tales from Nōl’Deron
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: AxeLord Publications
Date of Publication: November 2013
Number of pages: 437
Word Count: 76,451
Cover Artist: Michael Gauss
Unrelenting war between humans and elves threatens to destroy the forest forever.
A tyrant king has declared war on the elves and will stop at nothing to see them annihilated. Despite fighting savagely to defend their homes, the elves are outmatched by vicious attacks from highly skilled battle mages. The elven clans must join forces to have any chance of survival against the ruthless king’s army.
Meanwhile, a young half-elf is forced from the human world he has always known and travels into the Wildlands to seek out his elven kin. Along the way, he learns to draw on the magic within himself to craft weapons of tremendous power. When war arrives on his doorstep, he must choose whether to stand with the family he has always known or the elves who share his blood.
As he did every morning, Yori woke before dawn to begin his work at the smithy. He rose from his small cot and pulled back the curtain that separated his tiny living space from the rest of the shop. He splashed water over his face and around his neck and ran his fingers through his sandy blond hair. Carefully, he positioned a worn red headband at the precise level to cover the pointed tips of his ears. Life was easier in the village of Enald if its citizens could forget for a moment that his father had been an elf.
The shop was open-air with a low wall surrounding it, forcing customers to enter through the area farthest from the furnace. This design helped to avoid accidents from careless citizens, children, and animals. For the last few years, the shop had doubled as Yori’s home. His aunt and uncle’s cottage was too small to fit everyone comfortably, and the shop was safer having someone present all night. The cool fall weather made for pleasant nights, despite being out of doors. In the winter, he would move his cot closer to the furnace to stay warm.
Grabbing a leather apron from a hook near the anvil, he quickly tied it around himself to cover his tattered gray shirt. He began adding charcoal to the furnace and squeezed the bellows to fan the flames. His Uncle Ren always treated him well, but if the furnace was not hot enough to begin work at dawn, Yori could expect to receive an open-handed smack to the side of his head. To avoid the embarrassment, he always tended the fire first and made its maintenance his top priority throughout the day.
As dawn broke, Yori was still laying out tools for his uncle’s use in the day’s work. Out of nowhere, he heard a young girl screaming. Startled by the sound, he dropped the pliers in his hand, which fell to the ground with a thud. Realizing the cry had come from his young cousin, he immediately rushed toward the sound. As he stepped out of the shop, he saw arrows whizzing in every direction, and panicked villagers were running away. One lone little girl stood frozen in fear near the well.
Without a thought for his own safety, Yori rushed to the child and grabbed her in his arms. Just as he lifted her to run back to the smithy, his left calf was struck by an arrow. He dropped to his knees, barely setting the girl back on her feet. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her tear-stained face in his shoulder. Again he lifted her, ignoring the searing pain in his leg. Turning his back to the oncoming arrows in an effort to protect the girl, he limped as quickly as possible back to the safety of the shop.
Placing the girl behind the anvil, he grabbed the axe near the wood pile and readied himself for a fight. He had never been trained in fighting, but he had learned to defend himself as a child. As an outcast, his world had been full of bullies, and he had realized that fighting back felt much better than just accepting a beating. They may have beaten him worse for his efforts, but at least he had earned his lumps. He did not know exactly what he was facing or why his village was being attacked, but he was ready to defend his young cousin against whoever was approaching.
As quickly as the attack had begun, it ended. Villagers once again came out of their homes and began filling the streets. Yori set down the axe and knelt before the sobbing girl.
“Are you hurt, Meladee?” he asked.
The little girl shook her head. She raised an arm and pointed to the arrow sticking out of Yori’s leg.
“It looks worse than it feels,” he said, attempting to ease the girl’s fear. In truth, his leg was throbbing and still bleeding a considerable amount.
Ren rushed out of his small cottage and ran to the smithy. “Yori!” he called. “Have you seen Meladee?”
“She’s here,” Yori replied.
The girl remained seated until her mother, who had run out of the cottage in her nightdress, rushed to her side. Meladee threw her arms around her mother and continued to weep.
“Yori’s hurt,” she managed to say through her sobs.
Ren knelt down to have a closer look at the arrow sticking out of Yori’s leg. “This is going to hurt,” he said, his dark eyes sympathetic. “You might want to bite down on the corner of your apron.”
Yori, confused by the comment, looked down at his uncle just in time to see him grab hold of the arrow. In an instant, he yanked the shaft and pulled the arrow free. Yori screamed in pain and fell to his knees, grabbing at his injured calf.
“I told you to bite down on the leather, didn’t I?” Ren said with a smile. “You’ll be alright. Let’s clean it and get a bandage on it.”
As he watched his uncle retrieve an iron rod and place it in the fire, Yori realized what his uncle had meant by “clean it”. He was going to cauterize it to stop the bleeding and seal the wound from infection. Yori’s head swam as his Aunt Trella brought over a bowl of water and some cloth.
“It will only hurt for a second, and then you will feel much better,” she said. Gently, she began wiping the wound with a wet cloth.
Ren approached, a red-hot iron rod in his hand. “Don’t scream too much or you’ll scare Meladee,” he said. “Oh, and don’t move around too much or I’ll have to sit on you.” He offered Yori a small stick of wood to bite down on, which the young man graciously accepted.
As the hot metal touched the wound, Yori moaned and grunted in agony. After a few seconds, the procedure was over. The pain had dulled but persisted. All the bleeding had stopped, and Ren offered Yori a hand getting back to his feet. Placing weight on the leg was agony, but he had very little choice. There was work to be done, and he could not spend the day sitting.
“They were Wild Elves,” Meladee said quietly, her brown eyes still full of tears.
“You shouldn’t be leaving the house alone,” her mother chided. “You could have been killed.”
“Did you see them, Meladee?” Yori asked, bending to her level.
The little girl nodded.
From the design of the arrow, Yori was forced to accept that the little girl must be correct. The speckled feathers and runed tip of the arrows left no doubt in his mind that Wild Elves had just attacked their village. This could only bring trouble for him and his family. The villagers already disliked him for being a half-breed, but now they might think he was a traitor.
Yori had never known any Wild Elves except his father, but he was killed when Yori was very young. His mother always spoke fondly of him, even though loving him made her an outcast among human society. According to her, the elves were not happy about it either. They refused to allow a human to live among their clan. Therefore, the couple chose to live independently at the edge of the woods. When she died, her brother took Yori in and put him to work in the smithy. He was not treated as a son but as an apprentice. Still, he was grateful to have someone looking after him in any way.
“This wasn’t the Sycamore Clan,” Ren said, looking at Yori. “Your father’s clan is too far from here. I would wager anything it was the Oak Leaf Clan. They’re nothing but trouble.”
Members of the Oak Leaf Clan had been banned from trading in Enald’s marketplace. On several occasions they had been accused of stealing and causing disturbances. They had gotten the reputation as troublemakers, but none of them were ever given a trial. If a human accused a Wild Elf of wrongdoing, then the elf was presumed guilty. King Domren had no use for elves in his kingdom, and he sanctioned all punishments against them.
“We may as well get to work,” Ren suggested. “If we carry on like everything is normal, maybe we’ll be left in peace.” His voice contained very little hope. Since most people in town were aware of Yori’s parentage, trouble was likely to find them.
Meladee squeezed Yori tightly before her mother led her back to their cottage. The poor child was covered in black soot from being held tightly against Yori’s dusty apron. She would protest having a bath and would dislike having to wear clean clothes. She much preferred her tattered play clothes, which she only wore while she was in the smithy. She loved her cousin dearly and would rather spend the day in the hot, dirty shop than anywhere else as long as Yori was there.
Yori retrieved the pliers he had dropped earlier and continued to prepare his uncle’s workbench for the day ahead. He checked on the furnace and decided it was hot enough for now. “Where should I begin?” he asked.
“Fetch that sword we’ve been working on. We need to finish up the hilt and get the whole thing together.” He scratched at his beard as he spoke.
Yori did as he was told. For several weeks, they had worked together on a sword for one of King Domren’s lieutenants at the palace. His father was originally from Enald and had purchased swords made by Ren’s father. The quality of those swords was superior to the ones being crafted by the palace’s smith, and the man had insisted Ren craft one for him in the tradition of his father. Yori himself had done half the work and was quite pleased with the outcome so far.
The sword’s hilt was inlaid with ebony stones which Yori had shaped and polished meticulously. He offered the hilt to his uncle, who inspected it closely.
“This is well crafted,” he said. “You’re ready to fit it to the blade.”
Yori carried the sword to his workbench at the back of the shop. As soon as he turned his back, one of Enald’s wealthier citizens appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in a fine burgundy tunic and wore a large feather in his hat.
“What does that one know about the attack this morning?” the man said, pointing at Yori.
Yori turned to face the man, his eyes darting nervously to his uncle.
“He knows he got an arrow in the leg for rescuing my daughter,” Ren replied, his tone suggesting he was well prepared for an argument.
“If he’s been sneaking around with those savages, I’m going to inform the mayor,” the man threatened. “His kind are not welcome here. You should have done away with him when he was a baby.”
Ren grabbed a hammer from his workbench and walked toward the man. “I suggest you get out of my shop and leave the boy alone.”
“Boy?” the man scoffed. “I know for a fact he’s at least seventeen. He’s a man and should be fighting his own battles by now. A war is coming, and he will betray this town if he gets the chance.”
“My family is here,” Yori said. “I don’t even know any elves other than the ones who trade goods here. They weren’t the ones who attacked us.”
“So you know which clan it was?” the man asked. “Apparently you do know a thing or two. Perhaps you should come and speak to the mayor yourself and save him the trouble of sending the guards.”
“Get out of here before I bury this hammer in your skull!” Ren’s tone meant business, and his face was serious. He tightened his grip on the hammer.
Seeing that he had truly angered the smith, the man decided to back down. He turned and strode briskly from the shop.
“I should have kept my mouth shut,” Yori said, his pale green eyes focusing on the floor. “I always say the wrong thing.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ren replied. “It wouldn’t have mattered what you said. That asshole came here looking for a fight, and he nearly got one.”
Yori turned back to his workbench and tried to occupy his mind with his work. He was worried that others in the village would also come to accuse him, and he hated the thought of causing trouble for his uncle. For now, he would simply focus on his work and avoid visiting other areas of the village.
“You’ll have to sleep at the house tonight,” Ren said. “I don’t know how safe you’ll be out here. We’ll just have to make some room.”
Yori nodded and tried to hide the relief he felt. The last thing he wanted was to be alone at night with a town full of angry citizens. If the attacks continued, his life could very well be in danger.
About the Author:
Lana Axe lives in Missouri near the edge of the woods. She is inspired by her love of nature to write about elves, magic, and adventure. Growing up in Mark Twain's backyard inspired her love of fiction from an early age. She grew up an avid reader and went on to study literature in college.
After eight years of jotting notes and building a fantasy world, she has finally begun releasing novels in her Tales from Nōl'Deron series. They will feature many of the same characters, but each novel will stand alone.
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/117096416413847091417/
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