Saturday, June 30, 2012

Chapter Six, Continued

A week after the *** Elefdar word *** spring equinox celebration, Balfrith awoke one morning to find that he was summoned to meet with lord Felaranthir. He quickly cleaned himself up and got dressed, then as he was about to say he was ready to go, the servant said, “Lord Felaranthir requests that you also bring your inheritance.”

My inheritance? thought Balfrith. I wonder what this is about? Nevertheless, he retrieved the sword Branulf from beneath his bed, still sheathed and wrapped in a blanket. Unwrapping it from the blanket, he drew out the sword in its scabbard, and slung it by the baldric over his shoulder.

The servant nodded, and led him silently through the halls and down the stairs to Felaranthir’s private study. Once there, he bowed and left Balfrith standing at the door.

Balfrith looked into the room, where the Elefdar lord sat at a large ornately carved table, quietly reading a book. “Come in, Balfrith,” he said, looking up as Balfrith waited at the door.

He entered. Three walls were lined with shelves, filled with hundreds of books and scrolls, and a few small odd items that seemed to act as book-ends. “You wanted to see me, my lord?”

Felaranthir nodded. “The time is soon coming for the completion of your studies among us, and I wanted to congratulate you here, now, before the ceremony of your *** Elefdar word *** initiation.”

“Initiation, my lord?”

Felaranthir nodded. “Into adulthood. You are, what, twenty years old this year?”

“Aye, lord.”

“And you shall be initiated into adulthood as a Man. We Elefdar hold an initiation ceremony every spring for our own young men and women. You will join them.”

Balfrith’s face flushed in a combination of embarrassment and excitement, but he nodded and said, “Yes, lord - and thank you.”

“You deserve it. I have watched you these few years, and I have seen a young Man - indeed, you were but a stripling of youth when you came to us - grow into adulthood and maturity. Of course this is only your first step into adulthood, but I think you will do well. And now, I have a request to make of you.”

Yet another surprise. “You need something from me?

Felaranthir smiled now, something he didn’t do very often, and said, “Don’t look so surprised, Balfrith. You will be leaving us soon, and re-entering the world of Men. I have a few acquaintances among your people, and I would ask you to bring some messages to them for me. In all, I have three messages, but these friends of mine are scattered across the West so it will require much travel of you. I can give you maps of course, and their names and how to find them. Also I will provide letters of recommendation to these friends of mine, and to my people in Ildallïe, and a small amount of traveling coin. But it will be up to you to arrange the travel. Is this something you would be willing to do for me?”

Without hesitation, Balfrith said, “Of course, my lord. I’ll be happy to deliver these messages for you.” He had actually been wondering what he would do when he left the Elefdar. He did not wish to go home, but he could think of no other options, so this opportunity gave him the chance to put off making any decisions for a while. And perhaps he would find something to do, or a place to settle in, while he was on this errand.

As if he’d read his mind, Felaranthir said, “Have you given any thought to what you would do upon your departure from us?”

“Aye, lord Felaranthir, I have - but so far haven’t made any decisions. I keep thinking of home - I would like to see my sister again. And I have some unfinished business with my father.”

“Indeed. Well, I may have some more advice for you, if you will take it. But first, I see you brought your sword - good. Please set it here, on the table.”

Balfrith nodded, removing the baldric from his shoulder and laying the sword on the table between them. Felaranthir reached out and lifted it, drawing the sword from its scabbard and setting the sheath back down. Then he inspected the blade, holding it up in two hands toward the sunlight filtering in through a window, looking closely up and down the blade as if he were checking it for evidence of abuse or disrepair.

Balfrith knew he wouldn’t find anything, but still he leaned forward, nervous. He had kept the blade clean and well oiled these past few years, inspecting it regularly for any evidence of corrosion, and of course he hadn’t used the sword even once, so there would be no nicks or anything like that.

Felaranthir seemed to study the runes etched into the base of the blade at the ricasso. Balfrith couldn’t read those runes, but he knew what they said: “I am Branulf, forged by Sørkell”. He knew that Branulf meant “battle-wolf”, and of course he knew of the master smith Sørkell and how the blade came into his family’s possession. All of these things he had learned from Leofred, years ago. Ages ago, it seemed now.

But Felaranthir asked him nothing of these things. Instead, he continued to inspect the sword, from pommel to blade-tip - “end to end and head to foot” as they say. And finally he sat down, laying the sword back on the table as he did so, apparently satisfied with the results of his inspection. Balfrith waited on the edge of his seat to see if Felaranthir would say anything, but the Elefdar lord remained silent for minutes longer. It seemed as if he was pondering something, though Balfrith was at a loss to guess what it might be.

Finally, he spoke. “Balfrith, this sword Branulf. You know that it was forged by Sørkell, over seven hundred fifty years ago, and given as a gift to your ancestor Aethelred. You know its history in your family, and the ill name that was given to it by a later generation, a name that I will not speak, for I will not give that curse any more power than it already has gained. Is there aught else you know about it?”

Balfrith shook his head. “No, my lord.”

Lord Felaranthir nodded his head, and said, “Then this may come as a surprise. Sørkell did not forge this blade.”

For a moment, Balfrith thought that Felaranthir was having fun at his expense, but immediately knew that was absurd. He also knew that Felaranthir would not have spoken thus, if he'd not been certain of his conclusion. “My lord,” he said, “how can such a thing be? Why would someone etch Sørkell’s name into this blade, if it wasn’t actually of his making? The sword is clearly a master work - I would think the actual creator would have wanted credit for it, rather than to assign it to someone else, even one as great as Sørkell. And that would also call into question its history in my family - did my ancestor not receive a blade called Branulf from Sørkell?”

Felaranthir shook his head and replied, “Nay Balfrith, I do not claim that this blade is a forgery, or that Sørkell had no hand in its making – it truly is the same Branulf that was gifted to your ancestor Aethelred. But the blade was not originally Branulf – that is to say, Sørkell did not forge this blade from a raw chunk of ore, or steel ingot. He did forge it, but its history goes back much further than Sørkell's forge. And it was not always called Branulf.”

Balfrith, confused, said, “My lord? I don’t understand this riddle.”

Felaranthir leaned forward then, speaking low as if to conceal his voice from hidden listeners outside, and said, “The sword Branulf has a long history going back aeons into the past, for it was originally a different blade. In the first age of our wars with goblin-kind, in the beginning of Long War, many great swords were forged with the purpose of defeating not merely goblins and trolls, but the Power that led them to battle against my people.

“Among those swords, of which only a few remain to this day, was one called Cammethor, the Hand of War. Long and straight was that blade, and of the finest steel we could forge. Cammethor, and its siblings, were given to the Elefdar lords, my own father among them. In fact, he wielded Cammethor when I was yet a young man and served as his squire.”

Felaranthir paused there, as if lost in thought, or perhaps remembering something. A look of sadness passed briefly over his face, but then he looked up at Balfrith again and continued, “The Long War, of course, never did come to an end. At best, we have reached a sort of stalemate in which my people are unable to completely drive out the goblins and trolls, but they are equally unable to invade our lands in any real force of strength. And it continues to this day, as you know well.

“Sørkell was a student of the Elefdar, much as you are now, and as many Men before you have been. He studied under our greatest smiths for many years, learning the secrets of iron and steel, of purity and alloy, of *** Elefdar word *** damascene, and of many other things. At the end of that time, and because he had distinguished himself above all other Men in the arts of the smith, he was given a great gift: the blade which had once been Cammethor, but which was, in those days, broken in two pieces and without the furnishings of a complete sword.”

Balfrith sat enraptured by the story, as Felaranthir continued, “At first, Sørkell was insulted. But his masters and teachers explained the history of the blade, the great esteem in which it was held by my people, and the reason we had kept it for so long in its broken condition. And having received this one last lesson, Sørkell took the blade with much humility, vowing to reforge it with all the skill he had learned from us, and create a sword that would remain as a lasting gift from the Elefdar to Men.

“And so it has been, though Men quickly forgot whence the blade had come. Sørkell went on to become a legendary smith among your people, but to us, and to himself, he remained always a student, always ready to learn and grow. This sword, Branulf, he finally reforged after many years, and at the height of his powers – in this, he was wise enough to wait until he had truly mastered the arts needed, rather than attempting it immediately and without forethought. I was there, Balfrith, when he presented the reforged Cammethor, now named Branulf, to your ancestor. And it was I that told the story of its history to Aethelred, from its forging in the First Aeon, through all the wars of our people against the goblins and trolls that once invaded the West, and finally unto its breaking in the hands of my father, when he fought the daemon Sharrapu, the Burner.”

Felaranthir spoke no further for a time, clearly grieving the loss of his father. Balfrith was stunned, thinking that it must have been three or four thousand years since the event, and not only did Felaranthir remember it, but he still grieved for his father, and missed him! Though he had once calculated Felaranthir’s age, this one story told in a few words brought it all home, so that he understood, if only in a small part, what it must have been like for the Elefdar, and for all of those who had lived and walked in this middle-earth for so long.

Felaranthir finally continued, telling the rest of the tale. “Aethelred vowed at the time that he received Branulf, to keep its history alive in his family, and to pass it along to his sons. And he was true to his word, for he taught the story to his children as each became old enough to understand. But then Aethelred was murdered by his wife and her lover, and he placed the curse on the blade. Aethelred's eldest son inherited the sword, and he, too, told the story of the sword, and its curse, to his son. But after a few generations, the story was forgotten - everything except the curse.

“And over the years that followed, the old alliance between the Men of Nûmidëa and Elefdar was forgotten, and Men no longer presented themselves before us for training, nor did we send our own sons away to live among Men. Many ill events befell your house, Balfrith, and the sword gained an evil reputation. Its noble history was forgotten, and knowledge of the blade was lost to us.

“We had given up the sword as lost,” Felaranthir concluded. “The lords of Nûmidëa, including your family, no longer wanted anything to do with the Elefdar, and we respected their wishes, though it pained us to know that Cammethor – Branulf – though reforged, sat gathering dust in a store room. And then, some years later, you appeared at our very door-step as it were, carrying the lost sword. I recognized it almost immediately, though my mind first doubted what my eyes saw.”

They were both silent for a moment, and then Balfrith said, “And now, here we are. And you are asking me for the sword back, to remain among your people.”

Lord Felaranthir's eyes opened wide, and he shook his head, “No, my student, not at all! This blade was reforged by a Man, and gifted to another Man – and among Men it shall remain, if I have any say in the matter. No, it is yours, as much now as it was on the day you appeared among our people.”

“Then what would you have of me, my lord? For I am not a man, or a warrior, worthy of such a blade, not by half. Even when I only knew of its history in my family, I felt humbled to be carrying it.”

Felaranthir paused, and said, “It has come to you for a reason, of that much I am certain. For the weapons forged in the Elder Days were created with a purpose, each one, and given names to reflect that. And our people – aye, even our smiths – were known to pour some small part of our selves into everything we created in those days. Even if its purpose was foiled, and it laid hidden for some years through the folly of Men, still it has found its way back into the light. And I must believe that it has returned to us at this time, not by random chance, but by Providence. But the question remains: to what purpose?”

Balfrith was at a loss for words, having no idea where Felaranthir was going with this line of reasoning and not wanting to interrupt him. But after a time of silence, Balfrith finally spoke up and asked, “What about the curse? Could that have something to do with it?”

Felaranthir nodded, a shadow crossing his face. “Though I hesitate to admit it, I am afraid that you may be right, Balfrith. It might not have been Providence, but some darker will, with a purpose of its own. And still, it falls to us - or rather, to you - to find out the truth of the matter.”

Me?” Balfrith exclaimed, standing up suddenly and stepping back from the table. “What did I do?”

Felaranthir raised his eyes, looking into Balfrith’s, saying nothing, his gaze piercing. “You know,” was all he said.

Balfrith stood frozen, in shock. He’d not told anyone what he’d done. The closest he’d come to a confession was at the gates of Fanyamar, on the day they arrived and he wanted so badly to enter this city and remain with the Elefdar. But even then, he’d spoken only in general terms.

He was tempted for a moment to put on a false bravado, to claim he didn’t know what the Elefdar lord was talking about. But one glace at Felaranthir’s penetrating look, and his pride crumbled. Balfrith’s shoulders dropped, and his countenance fell, and he whispered, “Aye, my lord. I stole the sword from my father’s house. I have dishonored him, and I have dishonored you by bringing this thing into your great city. And I have dishonored myself - if I ever had any honor to begin with.”

Felaranthir leaned back in his chair, while Balfrith stood before him, awaiting judgment. Finally he said, “Though you once abandoned honor, master Balfrith, I believe I can offer you a chance to regain it. If you will accept my advice one last time.”

Balfrith looked up now, making sure that his lord was serious. But how could he not be?

“My lord, I will do as you ask, whatever the cost, if it will restore honor.”

“Then take my advice, master Balfrith, and my well-wishes go with you on this errand. I lay this geas upon you, and no other Man: redeem the cursed blade and restore to it the good name that is its inheritance. And after that is done, return it to your father’s house, and into his hands. In doing so, you may redeem yourself and reclaim your own honor. As you leave Fanyamar, and our forests of Illithëon, I bid you go out into the world of Men and seek the truth of this curse, and how it may be lifted. The ways of Men are child-like to us, the First-born, and I know not how you shall redeem the blade. But I do know that if any Man can do it – and I deem it must be a Man, for by Man was the curse given – then it should be you. I suggest you try your University of Thaumaturgical Arts, near Hightower, as a first step.

“I would further advise you to leave your father’s house alone at this time, and return not until after your quest is complete. Visit the university, and then depart this island of Nûmidëa, and venture across the sea to the western mainland. For though I know not how this tale shall end, I think the blade’s redemption will require more than a simple visit to the library. And while you are on this quest, you can also deliver the messages of which we spoke.”

And that was all he said. Balfrith waited a moment to see if there were further instructions or advice forthcoming, but finally replied, “Of course, my lord. Was there anything else you required?”

“No, Balfrith, that is all. Enjoy your few remaining days among us. I shall arrange for your participation in the ceremony of initiation, and after that, you shall depart from among us. I think we will not see one another until that day, and probably not again after, so I wish you fare well, and the gods speed your way.”

Balfrith reached out and took Branulf from the table, re-sheathing it and slinging the baldric over his shoulder. He bowed once, deeply, turned and left his lord’s study.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another Sample, With Comments

As I'm writing, I often need to breeze past important bits just so that I can keep my train of thought moving forward. Case in point, if there are Elefdar words that I want to use in the story, I usually just mark them in the text alongside the English word, and keep on writing. Later on, I will come back and figure out what those words need to be. Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

* * *

A week after the *** Elefdar word *** spring equinox celebration, Balfrith awoke one morning to find that he was summoned to meet with lord Felaranthir. He quickly cleaned himself up and got dressed, then as he was about to say he was ready to go, the servant said, “Lord Felaranthir requests that you also bring your inheritance.”

My inheritance? thought Balfrith. I wonder what this is about? Nevertheless, he retrieved the sword Branulf from beneath his bed, still sheathed and wrapped in a blanket. Unwrapping it from the blanket, he drew out the sword in its scabbard, and slung it by the baldric over his shoulder.

The servant nodded, and led him silently through the halls and down the stairs to Felaranthir’s private study. Once there, he bowed and left Balfrith standing at the door.

Balfrith looked into the room, where the Elefdar lord sat at a large ornately carved table, quietly reading a book. “Come in, Balfrith,” he said, looking up as Balfrith waited at the door.

He entered. Three walls were lined with shelves, filled with hundreds of books and scrolls, and a few small odd items that seemed to act as book-ends. “You wanted to see me, my lord?”

Felaranthir nodded. “The time is soon coming for the completion of your studies among us, and I wanted to congratulate you here, now, before the ceremony of your *** Elefdar word *** initiation.”

“Initiation, my lord?”

Felaranthir nodded. “Into adulthood. You are, what, twenty years old this year?”

“Aye, lord.”

“And you shall be initiated into adulthood as a Man. We Elefdar hold an initiation ceremony every spring for our own young men and women. You will join them.”

Balfrith’s face flushed in a combination of embarrassment and excitement, but he nodded and said, “Yes, lord - and thank you.”

* * *
Now that I've written this snippet, at some point in the next couple of days I'll look over my existing lexicon and see if I've got any words that are the same or similar to what I need here. If I do, I'll use the existing word or a close variant. If not, I'll make up a new word, add it to the lexicon with any additional notes if needed, and move on.

The strategy here is quite simple: when I'm writing, I get into a groove and don't want to lose it by getting side-tracked with linguistics or other issues. I just want to write the story. Later, I can go back and add those little details which are important to the story, but not so important that they can't wait for me to write the story itself first. I wouldn't want to write the entire novel first before going back to add those details, so I do tend to write a chapter at a time and then go back to add these things. In the case of the Elefdar song, I actually wrote two more chapters before going back to work on it. But that was a more complex item, not just a single word or phrase, and I knew it was going to take a while. And even while I was working on the song, I was also bouncing back and forth between it and the story, so I actually had two parallel pieces of work in progress at that time. But eventually I decided the song was done, pasted it into chapter three, and moved on.

And that's how I keep making progress on the story even when I am tempted to get hung up on details.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chapter Six - Finally, Some Action!

The Guardians crouched low behind a dense heath at the edge of the forest, looking west towards the Red Mountains. Though the trees extended some miles further west of where they stood, the foothills also began to rise from this area, marking the end of the forest proper according to their maps, and the beginning of the mountain range. The goblins often used this narrow north-south line, where the trees grew thinner and the Elefdar rarely ventured, to make their forays south. The ground here was smoother and easier to travel than higher up in the foothills, and the tree cover thin enough that the Elefdar had fewer places to hide in ambush. The shallow valley where they now waited was one exception.

They were on the fifteenth day of a one-month circle, Balfrith’s first venture outside Fanyamar since his arrival four years previously. It had been a busy time of training and study, and those years went by very quickly, so much so that he’d hardly had a chance to get home-sick except on a very few occasions such as his sister’s birthday. And in all that time, he’d never been outside Fanyamar and its outlying regions. There was plenty to see and explore around the city of course, and up the mountain and out in the fields and nearby forests - all areas which were still considered part of Fanyamar. And he and Eldamir had explored many of those places, but he was allowed to go no further than the outer borders of the Elefdar city.

Now, he was happy to glad be able to leave those confines, even if only to walk around in the surrounding forest of Illithëon. He was also happy to be with Guardians, still only as a student of course, but trusted enough to have been given his own weapons and other gear: he carried a lighter version of the Guardian longbow, suited to his strength and stature, as well as an Elefdar longsword and the light leather armor of the Guardians.

Their task was to roam a specific stretch of the outer forest, following its edge as it paralleled the Red Mountains. Goblins were known to travel there, and occasionally make raids deeper into the forest. It was the Guardians’ duty to remind them that trespassing into Elefdar territory was a death sentence if they were discovered - and they often were. The Guardians took a grim joy in fulfilling this mandate.

Balfrith crouched now, following the example of their leader. Eldamir glanced in his direction, nodded, and then back to their leader, who turned from facing northward, back toward the group to address them.

“The goblins come this way, moving at speed. This will be the place where we surprise them, and destroy them. Balfrith, Sambir, and Lofdar, cross the valley here and take up positions on the opposite side. Wait for my signal to loose your arrows, and remember: the first few scouts must be allowed to pass through - we want to strike the main body first, then we can track down stragglers later. Eldamir, Belanor, and I will remain on this side. The company is not large, though we are still outnumbered three to one. Make every arrow count, and close with swords only if absolutely necessary. Go now, we have less than an hour before they arrive.”

The four Guardians, and Balfrith, all nodded at their captain’s instructions and moved to take their positions. Balfrith struggled to quell the flutter-bys in his stomach. He knew this was a typical ambush, one of several types which he had studied under the Elefdar war-master. And these Guardians, even Eldamir, were all veterans of many such attacks, so the likelihood of any mistakes being made, on their part, was quite low. Mistakes on his part, on the other hand, were quite possible: he knew that he was the weakest member of their party, being merely a student and not yet blooded in combat.

Balfrith glanced at Eldamir as they separated to cross the valley, and his friend grinned and winked. Though the display of confidence was probably meant to be reassuring, it only reminded Balfrith that the Elefdar were practically immortal, while he himself had no such gift.

He walked between Sambir and Lofdar, as they moved quietly down and across the shallow valley, passing over the smooth game trail at its base and then climbing the far slope again. The tall grasses hid their movement, except when they crossed the path, but no goblins were to be seen yet and so they had little concern for being seen. Up on the far ridge, they positioned themselves about ten yards apart, crouched in the scraggly undergrowth.

Balfrith looked north whence the goblins would approach, but still could see nothing. He saw Sambir, in the northern position, look back at him and nod. The flutter-bys in his stomach continued their chaotic dance. Birds in the trees to the north took flight en masse, their first hint that the goblins approached. Balfrith grasped his bow firmly, drawing out his first arrow and nocking it to the string. He wouldn’t draw until the main body came within sight, to minimize the fatigue of holding the heavy bow.

The chattering of small animals ceased a few minutes later, more evidence that something approached, something which they saw as a threat. Balfrith glanced back at Lofdar, but the Elefdar had his own eyes locked on the valley toward the north. He can probably see them approaching, thought Balfrith. Oh, to have their eyes!

Just then, the crack of a small branch behind him caught Balfrith’s attention, and he turned his head back to the north. Where had it come from? Not the valley, he thought. He kept his head and body still, using only his eyes to scan back and forth, looking for any sign of movement, and finally he saw it: a goblin - no, three goblins! - moving quietly through the trees on the very ridge where he and his companions waited.

Oh no - do they know we’re here? Or is their commander just experienced enough to know that this is a prime place for an ambush? Balfrith shivered, keeping his head down and getting breathing under control, waiting to see what his companions, and his leader, would do.

He could barely see Sambir now, crouched down in his own area of minimal cover. They had placed themselves to be hidden from eyes below in the valley, not taking any thought to someone approaching from within the trees. Though the undergrowth provided some cover, Balfrith was afraid that he would be seen any second. He waited, a drop of sweat running down the back of his neck and tickling him as it went. It was all he could do to not move, to not reach back and scratch the maddening itch, as three foes approached them from less than a hundred paces away.

He heard noises from down in the valley, and moved only his eyes to look down: there was the main body of goblins, moving without a care, talking to one another in their guttural tongue, laughing, sharing some joke. These goblins up here must be their flanking scouts, thought Balfrith. At least there were only three: one for each of them, he realized.

Balfrith drew and aimed at the middle goblin, hoping against hope that Sambir and Lofdar would have the same thought, and take targets based on their own positions in the line. He held his draw, waiting for the signal that would indicate their attack. Though the risk was now higher for all of them, he was confident they would attack rather than retreat, and he wanted to be ready.

Finally, the scream of a diving hawk signaled their attack. Balfrith exhaled slowly and loosed his arrow, smoothly drawing another one out and nocking it by feel, keeping his eyes on his target to ensure the arrow struck true. And strike it did, thought not perfectly. The goblin suddenly lurched, grabbing at his abdomen, and Balfrith loosed his next arrow at the same target, then turned back to the valley to begin loosing arrows as quickly as he could. He had already forgotten about the other two goblins up on the ridge - the main body needed to be wiped out, and quickly, or the shock of their ambush would be wasted.

In the valley, a dozen goblins had already formed into lines facing each direction, loosing their own arrows up at the valley ridge where he and his companions remained hidden from view. One arrow sped past Balfrith, only a pace away. He didn’t spare any thought about whether it was luck or skill - he quickly aimed at the nearest goblin and released. But the arrow arced too high, and he cursed himself, realizing that shooting down into a valley required him to aim lower than normal. He drew, nocked, and aimed, but now his target had moved, and was lost to immediate sight. Balfrith saw what appeared to be a goblin giving commands, and he took careful aim, then released his missile. This time it struck true, but glanced off the goblin’s reinforcing black iron spaulder.

Balfrith drew another arrow and nocked it by feel, keeping his head down and looking for a chink in the leader’s armor. But by the time he was ready to aim, the goblin leader was charging up the opposite slope with some under his command, while the remaining goblins charged up the shallow slope on his side of the valley. He had just enough time to quickly aim and release his last arrow into an approaching goblin, taking it square in the chest. The goblin fell face-forward, and Balfrith dropped his bow and drew his Elefdar sword, waiting for the foes to approach.

Just then, across the valley, he saw Eldamir charge down and into the fray! The Elefdar crashed into the nearest goblin, knocking aside its shield with a reckless swing of his sword, then quickly recovering and thrusting his blade into the creature’s throat, just above its mail armor. It fell, choking on blood as Eldamir withdrew his sword and ran toward the next goblin. Balfrith drew back his attention to the attackers on his side of the valley, noting that Lofdar and Sambir held their positions and each loosed one last arrow before dropping their bows.

There were four goblins left standing, and the one nearest him was clearly the biggest. It approached warily, and held its shield up well, its weapon hidden from view - but presumably ready to attack. Balfrith still felt naked with a sword and no shield, just as he had during his many practices with the Elefdar long blade. The light leather that they wore would protect from glancing blows, but wouldn’t stop a solid slashing or thrusting attack, which made it all the more imperative that he use his blade to block or parry any incoming attack.

He waited a second longer, sizing up his opponent, who appeared to be doing the same. The noise of others fighting faded into the background, and all he heard was the sound of his own breathing, and his pulse pounding in his ears. His vision retreated to the narrow view of his opponent - all else was forgotten. The goblin advanced, and dropped his shield just enough so that his right arm could swing a great black mace out and over, attacking at Balfrith’s head. Balfrith ducked, not bothering to parry the heavy-headed weapon, and as the goblin recovered from the over-swing, Balfrith kicked forward against his opponent’s shield, knocking him off-balance. As the goblin flailed his arms back to regain his balance, he opened himself to attack, and Balfrith struck, thrusting forward with both hands. The sharp tip of his blade pierced his foe’s mail, striking deeply just under the ribs and into its gut. The goblin fell to his knees, stunned. Balfrith withdrew his blade violently, and struck downward at his opponent’s head, crunching through its leather and iron-strapped helmet, delivering the killing blow.

Balfrith staggered backwards as he recovered his blade, looking about for the next target, and saw that Lofdar was just finishing off his own foe. Sambir, too, had defeated his second opponent, but Balfrith saw that he swayed where he stood, and ran over to his companion to see if he was injured. Sambir,” he called as he approached, “Are you hurt?”

“’Tis merely a scratch, Balfrith,” he said, bravely. But Balfrith could see blood spreading down his arm, from a rent in his sleeve just below the shoulder. Sambir breathed shallowly, catching it in little gasps, as he struggled to stand, and Balfrith shook his head.

“That looks like much more than a scratch, my friend. Come, sit here. I think the battle is almost over, and Lofdar can go help the others if needed.”

Sambir shook his head, pushing Balfrith away as he sat himself down on the ground. “Nay Balfrith, worry not over me. Go and join the fight - if we lose, it won’t matter what happens to me anyway. See to our victory, and I shall tend to myself.”

Balfrith spared him a last glance, but he knew Sambir was right. Nodding, he rose and turned back to the fight, and saw that their captain, Glendir, was the only Elefdar standing across the valley. Two goblins assailed him, and Balfrith saw that he was likely to fall soon. Taking no more thought, Balfrith charged down the valley, across the path where several goblins lay dead, and back up the far slope, running full out. One of Glendir’s foes fell to Lofdar’s arrow from across the valley, but the other fought on, and Balfrith could see that his captain faltered. Charging ahead, he cried out to draw the goblin’s attention. It worked: the foe turned his head, distracted, and both Glendir and Balfrith struck at the same time, Balfrith low at his legs and Glendir high, over his shield. The goblin fell, overwhelmed at the last. And that was the end of the battle.

Glendir slumped down, breathing hard. Balfrith looked back and saw that Lofdar already attended to Sambir. Taking a cue from that, he asked their captain, “Are you injured, Glendir?”

“Aye, though not mortally, Balfrith. I took an arrow in my leg when the flanking scouts surprised us. See to Eldamir and Belanor, first.”

Balfrith nodded, and scanned the eastern ridge where they stood, trying to see if his companions had fallen, but he could not see them anywhere. He called back, “Captain, do you know where they went? I cannot see them anywhere nearby.”

Glendir said, “Belanor was between Eldamir and I, and I saw him holding his position when Eldamir charged down the slope. I think Eldamir meant to delay their assault and let Belanor and I finish them with arrows - which we might have done, if I hadn’t been surprised by one last scout and his arrow. Look to the slopes for Eldamir. As for Belanor, I know not what might have happened.”

Balfrith nodded and began scanning along the valley ridge, jogging ahead to where he thought Belanor might have been positioned. He saw some trampled undergrowth, and turned in that direction, thinking that if fighting had occurred there, he might also find evidence of Belanor’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, he found more than just evidence: the Elefdar Guardian lay face up on the ground, eyes open, pierced with several goblin arrows. A goblin attacker lay nearby, slain, with Belanor’s sword thrust through its chest.

Calling out, “I found Belanor - he is fallen!” Balfrith continued the search for Eldamir, moving down the slope and southward toward where he thought the Elefdar had met the goblin attackers.

It didn’t take long to locate his friend, for a line of fallen enemies led straight to him. Eldamir sat with his back against a thin sapling, and four goblins, arrows pierced through their armor at the heart, or throat, and in one case an eye, pointed to his resting place. The last goblin was run through with Eldamir’s broken blade - Eldamir still held the hilt in his grasp.

The Guardian’s head nodded, eyes closed, breathing shallowly - but he breathed. Balfrith called out, elated, “I have found Eldamir, and he lives!”

Eldamir roused himself, and muttered, “Not so loud, my friend, I’m trying to sleep,” and he smiled weakly.

Balfrith knelt at his side, and asked, “Are you hurt, or just playing? Glendir and Sambir are both injured.”

Eldamir nodded, “I am hurt, though I think I will live to fight again.” He winced, and groaned. “Then again… Balfrith, look at my side and tell me what you see.”

Balfrith looked down, and saw a tear in his friend’s leather armor. Blood dripped freely from it, and spread across his garment as well. “That doesn’t look good,” he said, frowning. “Let me lift your arm and get a better look.”

He raised Eldamir’s left arm, and his friend gasped in pain. “Not too high, my friend - that hurts.”

Balfrith saw the wound now, and it was even worse that he’d feared. “Looks like that last goblin got you with his own sword. Don’t you know you’re supposed to parry or block those attacks?”

“So I’ve been told,” Eldamir said, grinning weakly.

Balfrith tried to get his friend’s mind off the wound, and the pain, as he probed the edges of the deep gash. “Those goblins didn’t play fair, with their flanking scouts walking out along the top of the valley.”

Eldamir laughed, smiling. “Aye, my friend, not fair at all - Ahh! Careful down there, Balfrith - Someone should tell them they’re supposed to line up and walk all together down in the valley, like most other goblin companies. If they want to send out some forward scouts, that would be acceptable. But the flanking scouts must… stop…” Eldamir’s head slumped forward and his eyes closed again.

Balfrith froze, waiting to see if he still breathed, but there was no motion, no rise and fall of the chest. He heard Eldamir slowly exhale, but that was all.

“Somebody help!” Balfrith cried out. “Eldamir is fallen, and I think he’s still alive but he’s hurt badly!” Lofdar came running down the slope from Glendir’s position. Their captain stood now, looking down on them from above. Sambir climbed slowly across the valley to where Glendir stood.

Lofdar approached, and said, “Where is he injured? Did you see the wound?”

“Yes, it’s in his side here, by me. Looks pretty bad. But Eldamir was talking up until a moment ago, then he fell asleep. Is he alive?”

Lofdar exchanged positions with Balfrith, who got out of the way. Kneeling and leaning forward toward Eldamir’s face, he nodded. “Aye, he yet breathes, though it is shallow and I hear a rattle. I’m sorry Balfrith, but I must concentrate now.”

And he got to work, inspecting Eldamir’s deep wound in his side, then quickly searching for evidence of other injury. Thankfully he found nothing else, and was able to focus on the one gash.

Balfrith watched as Lofdar first poured what looked and smelled like a strong, clear liquor into the wound, then took a steel needle and thread, and began sewing up his friend.

Lofdar said, “This will prevent the wound from suppurating, and slow the bleeding. But he will need more attention and aid than I can give him here. Go, Balfrith, and inform Glendir that we must return to Fanyamar if he is to survive.”

Balfrith nodded, and ran off to where Glendir and Sambir stood, watching from above. “Captain Glendir,” he said as he approached, “Eldamir’s wound is bad. Lofdar says we must return to Fanyamar if he is to be saved.”

Glendir paused, looked at Balfrith, then at Sambir, considering their options. Finally he said, “Aye, you shall return immediately. Balfrith, you will accompany Lofdar and carry Eldamir back to the city. But, our borders will be unprotected. Sambir, you and I will bury Belanor, and leave a cairn in his memory. Then, we will separate - I will head north, and you go south. Find the nearest Guardian company, and inform their captain of what has transpired. They will need to close and protect the gap. After you and I deliver our messages, we will return to the city as well.”

Balfrith nodded, and returned to where Lofdar tended his patient. “Glendir says we should return immediately to Fanyamar. He and Sambir will remain here, bury Belanor, and then warn the nearest Guardian companies that we are leaving an open gap, before returning to the city.”

Lofdar looked up at him and said, “Very well, then I need you to begin making a litter to carry Eldamir. We can use his own cloak, we just need something to tie it to. Two staves, each about two yards long, should do.”

“Aye,” Balfrith said, and got to work.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Completed Elefdar Song, First Draft

Keep in mind this is still a first draft of the song. Quite a few words have already changed since I first started working on it, and I would not be at all surprised if I make several more changes before I call it "done". But with that said, this is still the completed first draft. Enjoy!

My lady is fairer than any queen
Imi therdan cele sur den admer

But far from her beauty my feet must roam
Del marcon nei selen im’ boder nus dan

She shelters me now in her train of green
Ne missen cep ima nei sum abell der

And beckons her traveler homeward.
Hai fella nei banyad melarro.

The blooms at her feet are of brilliant hue
Da gonyar nei boder shipella felorn

Adorning the hem of her verdant robe
Samoro da mia nei gerri anomi

They glimmer like stars in the morning dew
Fer celeb lo anyar sum gale menori

Alluring her traveler homeward.
Bedorro nei banya melarro.

She gazes on jewels in the sky above
Ne sudre son felern sum ate yamera

A city of lights on the earth below
Toras aniani son da goron adro

Her pilgrims are grateful and offer love
Nei gorodi belanern porro aldamri

Because she has guided them homeward.
Lofad ne ben thumel melarro.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More on the Elefdar Tongue: Verbs

In a previous post, I described the simple conjugation of Elefdar verbs. Today we'll talk a little bit about verbs and the way that they are transformed into nouns and participles.

Nominal Form of the Verb
The nominal form of the verb is when a verb is transformed to a simple noun expressing someone or something acting out the verb. For example, “walk” becomes “walker” and “teach” becomes “teacher”. In the Elefdar tongue, the verb takes a suffix -ad to indicate this transformation. In the above examples, abet (“walk”) becomes abatad (“walker”) and ceina (“teach”) becomes ceinad (“teacher”). Note that with a verb such as ceina where it already ends in -a, Elefdar simply adds a -d to make the nominal form.

Participial Form of the Verb
The participial form of the verb is when a verb is transformed to an adjective expressing action. For example, “I walk” becomes “I am walking”. The verb in the preceding sentence is am, and walking is an adjective describing I. In the Elefdar language, a verb becomes a participle by the addition of the suffix -a to its simple present tense form. Thus, abet (“walk”) becomes abeta (“walking”).

If the verb naturally ends with -a in its simple present tense, the final vowel is transformed to -o. Thus, ceina (“teach”) becomes ceino (“teaching”).

Common WordElefdar VerbNounParticiple
roam, wanderdandanad
teach, instructceinaceinad