Prisoner of War
By: Nisovin (Written Apr 25, 2015)
Some people have a knack for finding strange things; strange things always seem to find Zane Legends. And being in the middle of a grand celebration such as the one Zane was attending now, it is not surprising in the least that some strange things would find him.
Unfortunately for Zane, the grand celebration was not for him, or for anybody he was close to. However, the reason there was a celebration was because of him and people he was close to. His kingdom had been at war with the elvish kingdom for over a decade, and after hundreds of battles, his kingdom had lost miserably. Much of what remained of the army had retreated far to the south, but many of the soldiers had been left behind as prisoners. Zane was one of those soldiers.
He and his fellow soldiers had been lined up in the main square of the capital city as a display of dominance and power over the enemies of the elves. The prisoners were all chained together, and the chains were staked to the ground. Fully uniformed elvish soldiers stood guard, keeping a close watch, but not preventing the citizens from abusing the prisoners.
Elves regularly approached them to spit on them, slap them, kick them, throw stuff at them, and make rude comments such as, “Take that, human scum!” Morin, the man three people down the chain from them, had retaliated. He could not do much, all chained up, but he had lashed out and insulted the elf. He was still moaning on the ground from the beating the guards gave him. Needless to say, nobody attempted to retaliate again.
One elf approached Zane and asked, “Human, where did you get that scar on your face? Looks like you might have cut yourself shaving judging by the shape of it.”
“Well, when I-.” Zane chose not to finish his story. Or rather, the elf punched him hard in the stomach and said, “If I’d have wanted your stories, I’d have asked for them, scum.”
That left Zane without any breath to respond, though he wouldn’t have anyway. The elf walked off to rejoin the festivities.
If Zane hadn’t have been a prisoner, he would have been enjoying himself immensely. Everywhere he looked there were people playing games, laughing, telling jokes and stories, and worst of all, eating. There was food everywhere, of every type imaginable. Fruits had been brought from distant places, and hundreds of animals must have been slaughtered to provide all the meat. It was a feast at every corner.
The food was reserved for the elves though. Zane and the other prisoners were given stale bread, old cheese, and murky water, nothing more. Zane’s stomach rumbled at the sight of all that food just feet away from him. It might as well have been miles away.
Night eventually descended upon the celebration, but the activities did not cease. When it became fully dark, the firework show began. Zane was finally able to kind of forget his plight and enjoy the moment. His view of the show was mostly blocked, since there was a roof above him (probably there for the very purpose of preventing them from enjoying the display), but the elves were watching the fireworks and had temporarily forgotten about the prisoners. The fireworks truly were spectacular. Only elves could make fireworks such as this, and because of the wars most humans had never seen an elvish firework show. It was beyond Zane’s wildest imaginations. The fireworks would actually show images, though it seemed most of the ones the prisoners were able to see depicted dying humans, or elves killing humans, or elven banners, and a number of other similar and insulting things. Zane enjoyed them anyway.
After the fireworks show, the elves started a huge bonfire in the square, and an old elf with long white hair began to tell the most incredible stories. Sometimes he just told the stories, sometimes he chanted them, and sometimes he sang them, with a rich baritone voice. The elf had a captivating voice, and Zane could almost see the ferociousness of the ancient battles, the romance between the elf-lad and the elf-princess, the rise of the elven kingdom, and many other great things. Soon Zane got lost in these stories, and he fell asleep and continued to live the stories in his dreams.
Zane woke up not more than an hour later. He was not in a very comfortable position, and his back was killing him. The old elf had stopped telling stories, but the fire was still bright and the celebration was still going strong. There was now a small band and the elves were having a dance. Several of the guards had even gone to join in the merry making.
Most of the other prisoners around Zane were sleeping; most of them looked rather uncomfortable. As Zane watched the festivities, he noticed an elf walking toward the line of prisoners. When it got nearer, Zane saw it was the old storyteller.
The elf walked straight up to Zane, sat down on the ground in front of him. “Good evening,” he greeted with a smile. He seemed friendly; he was certainly not rude like the other elves.
“Good evening,” Zane replied, not knowing what else to say.
“I would ask if you are enjoying the festivities, but I feel I already know the answer,” the old elf said with a knowing smile.
“Indeed you do,” Zane agreed.
“What might your name be?” asked the elf.
“I am Zane Legends.”
“Zane Legends,” the elf repeated. “A heroic name. Yes, very heroic.”
The storyteller seemed to get lost in his thoughts, and Zane did not interrupt. After a few moments, the elf said, “You are an adventurous person, aren’t you? I can see hundreds of stories surrounding you, stories that need to be told. Stories that cannot be told with you chained up like this.”
He seems to see rather a lot, Zane thought to himself, but still said nothing.
The elf continued, “Yes, I see great things in store for you. I believe it is time for you to go.”
The old elf reached out to touch Zane’s shackles, and they immediately fell from his wrists and ankles. Zane’s eyes widened and he asked, “How did you do that? Who are you?”
“I? I am just a storyteller,” the elf replied, then turned and began to walk away.
“Wait!” Zane exclaimed. “How will I get out of here?” He turned to look at the guards behind him, but saw that they were no longer there. When he turned back, the storyteller had vanished. He thought he heard an echo of the storyteller’s voice in his mind. It’s your adventure. You’ll find a way.
Zane got up. He felt bad leaving behind his fellow countrymen, but they were still chained up, and he didn’t think he’d be able to do anything to help them. So, he left them behind and began to sneak away. Unfortunately, he didn’t get very far before hearing a melodious voice call after him, “Hey, leaving so soon? The celebration has barely begun!”
He looked over his shoulder and saw the most beautiful elf-maiden he had ever seen in his life. She giggled and beckoned to him. “Come dance with me!” she said.
Wondering if he could pass for an elf, and not knowing what else to do, he accepted her invitation and walked over to her. She did not seem to notice his human qualities, but simply said, “I can’t believe you would leave so early! Come!” She tugged at his arm, and he allowed himself to be drug to where the other dancers were.
Zane lost track of time after that, but he thought he must have danced with her for hours. He never seemed to get tired, and neither did she, so they kept going. They stopped once when he mentioned how hungry he was, and she let him fill himself with wonderful elvish food. Then they continued to dance.
Zane wondered if he had been caught by the elvish spell that some of the soldiers would talk about. He thought he saw the old storyteller out of the corner of his eye several times, but whenever he turned to get a better look the elf wasn’t there.
They danced until it was nearly dawn. It was then that Zane realized they had left the rest of the dancers and were now near the city gate. They stopped, and the elf-maiden said, “Father tells me you must leave before dawn. It has been a wonderful night, I wish you well on your journey.” With that, she gave him a little shove toward the gate.
Zane bowed and said, “It has been a wonderful night. Perhaps we can do this again.”
“Perhaps,” she giggled. “Now go!”
Zane walked through the gate. He stopped to look back, and thought he saw the old elf standing with the elf-maiden. He waived, and walked away.