Damien's horse slogged through the mud. Rain was pouring down from the sky in heavy sheets. His guards looked miserable as the rain pattered on their armor. Much the same as he felt.
Power had its benefits, but it also brought responsibilities. In these hard times Damien was forced, as Chancellor of Thecia to trudge around the countryside and see what damages had been done to the outlying villages in the north. To lend support and hope where he could. To let the common men and women know that their King is looking out for them.
The King's army was several leagues ahead of them, on their way to battle the Orcs. There was little hope in them being able to do much against an organized and bloodthirsty band of those monsters, but they should have their superior numbers to count on. The main reason to send the army was to gain more time for the new battalion to be trained and to stop those beasts from harassing their borders.
The little light they had on this cloudy day was starting to fade. Soon the guardian of his entourage would call them to a stop and they would make camp. Damien's thighs were chaffed and his buttocks was aching. He couldn't wait to get off this damn horse and relax in front of a fire in his tent.
"Halt!" The guardian brought his horse to a stop. Finally! Damien couldn't take it anymore. "Chancellor Damien, Sir. Some riders are coming."
"What!" Was there no end to his misery. "General Tarrik must have sent some of his scouts to inform us of their progress. Or the lack thereof in this damnable weather."
"I can't see the King's standard, Sir. I'm not so sure their the general's men. Best be safe and stay behind us, Sir." The guardian drew his sword. "Line up beside me and protect the Chancellor at all costs."
Damien drew in his reins watching as his guards formed up before him. Although they didn't know who was coming and if they were even in danger, Damien couldn't keep himself from shaking. The cold rain and the uncertainty of the situation made him uneasy as he drew in a rattling breath.
"Who goes there?" The guardian shouted to the oncoming riders. They slowed and trotted up to Damien's protectors. There was tension in the air. Damien's mouth was so dry he could barely swallow. Funny, considering the massive amounts of rain pouring down on him.
The figures could not be distinguished as friend or foe until they were only a few paces away. Their hoods covered them from the rain and made their features unrecognizable. They were carrying weapons, but they did not draw them when being challenged with his guards' cold steel.
"No need to fear us, humans. We come in peace." The leader of the riders reached up to remove the hood from his head. It was an Elf. "The Druids have been discussing how to deal with the situation between you and the Orcs. I believe Chancellor Damien is with you?"
"I am here." Damien nudged his horse forward. He was still shaking, but he contributed that to the cold and being soaked from head to toe. "Guardian, sheathe your blade. All of you, get to work and set up my tent. We make camp for tonight. The Elves and I must talk."
The leader donned his hood again and waited patiently upon his horse for Damien's men to prepare everything. Damien lowered his own hood to not let them see the grimace on his face. Elves changed everything. This was not according to plan.
Sooner or later they were bound to get involved, but he had hoped it wouldn't be so soon. The great battles that were to come hadn't even started yet. If they offered their support too early all his carefully laid out plans could be ruined.
His tent was standing within a couple of minutes. He entered and was glad to get out of the rain, but he wouldn't have time to change before the Elves came in. It would be too rude to let them wait outside. His guards brought in four folding chairs and the Elves followed them inside.
"Make sure to get a fire started. We don't want our guests to get a chill, now do we?" And he didn't want to get one either for that matter.
"I'm sorry Sir, but with this heavy rain I don't know if we'll find enough dry wood, if any." Damien glared at the guardian and felt the wet clothes sticking to his body more than ever. How could the man expect him to be in this cold dark tent all night without a fire.
One of the three Elves stepped forward. "Let me be of help in making the fire. The wood need not be dry, I will make it burn just fine."
The guardian and his men exited the tent, leaving Damien alone with the Elves. "Please, be seated." Damien found his own chair with the help of a sliver of light coming through the air vent at the top of the tent. The chair wasn't very comfortable. There was no back rest, only a sheet of cloth bound over four wooden legs. Comforts were a rare commodity when traveling.
"Nyf, some light, if you please." The leader of the Elves spoke to the one who had offered to help with the fire. The Elf pulled out a small bottle with tiny dots of light inside. He shook it, making the dots become bright little suns, illuminating the tent.
It was like magic. Damien had never seen anything like it, but he wouldn't give them the satisfaction of knowing that. He just smiled gracefully and nodded toward their seats.
With the new light the Elves easily found their chairs and sat down. The leader was directly across from Damien and the other two were slightly behind him to either side. They all removed their hoods and only now did Damien notice that the third Elf was a woman.
"Chancellor Damien, this is Conjurer Nyf of the third degree." He indicated the Elf holding up the light.
"And this is Ranger Veala." The female Elf nodded with a cool glare in her eyes.
"I, myself, am Lorian the Whisperer. We've come to inform you and your King of what the Druids have decided."
"I didn't expect the Elves to be so well informed about the goings on of Thecia. I am of course glad that you have come to offer help and will let the King know immediately."
"We did not come to offer help." Lorian's face was solemn.
Before Damien could respond, the guardian came back inside the tent with a handful of firewood. "Excuse me, Sir. Here is the wood. It's pretty damp, so I don't know how easy it'll be to get a fire started."
Nyf got up from his seat and unburdened the guardian. He placed the wood in the center of the tent and Damien thought he saw him add some powder on the logs. With a flick of Nyf's wrist fire burst forth and the wood burned greedily.
The guardian's eyes opened wide at the sight. Some conjurer's trick, Damien was sure. It seemed like magic and it looked impressive, just like the light from the bottle, but he shouldn't let himself be distracted. "You can leave us now, Guardian."
"Yes, Sir." He bowed and left the tent.
"Excuse me for not responding quicker, but I did not want to discuss this in front of my men. What do you mean by not coming to offer help? Why did you come?" Damien said this with as much shock as he could muster, while grinning mischievously in the back of his mind. No help from the Elves, meant that his plans were still in tact.
"The Druids have talked it over for some time. We were all concerned when we heard of the conflict between you and the Orcs. Most of us still remember the Great War and we still feel the pain and loss from over a century ago. We do not want a new war to evolve, but it seems like you are on the brink of one. If worst comes to worst, we don't want to be fighting the Orcs again. That and the fact the humans seem to have been the cause of this, are the reasons why the Druids have decided that we will not help you in this war."
Damien gave his best impression of being hurt and surprised. "I don't understand. We're allies. The Orcs used to be your enemies too." A thoughtful pause. "The King will be very disappointed when he hears this."
"I'm sorry, but our kind is just not willing to risk lives in a war that has nothing to do with us. You will have to accept that and so will your king." Lorian rose from his seat and his companions followed his example.
"I will inform the King at once." Damien jumped up from his seat, following the Elves to the flap of the tent. "We were hoping to have your support in this conflict, but we'll fight bravely without you."
"I hope you do, Chancellor. Fighting the Orcs is not an easy thing. I, for one, would have gladly stood by you, but the Druids have spoken." Lorian clasped his hand on Damien's shoulder, turned and left the tent with the other two right behind him.
Damien smiled. The Elves were out of the picture. At least, for now. There surely must also be others like Lorian that are willing to fight. They just need a little bit of an incentive and Damien already had something in mind. He would just have to wait until the time was ripe.