Under the Light of Two Moons
The snow had slowed to a fitful spattering, which blew back and forth among the trees.
Above, the stars had started to come out and both moons already traveled across the early night sky. With the loss of the sun, the air had grown bitterly cold and both Aedric and Darron hunched down in their cloaks. The tracks left by the Laindan were evident in the fresh layer of snow. Darron started off but Aedric stopped him by grabbing his arm. He pointed down towards their large fur boots. While they kept your feet very warm, they made traveling quietly and unnoticed much more difficult. Darron nodded in agreement and both started to remove their cumbersome outer boots.
The Moredel, like any elf, were quite skilled at moving silently, but the large winter boots would only slow them down. Once free of the boots, the companions took off across the commons, their light footsteps making very slight depressions in the snow as they followed the trail into the woods. In the dim light under the moons they appeared to be only two fluttering shadows passing through the night.
Aedric’s heart was racing and all his muscles seemed tense. The trail they followed did not go towards the Laindan camp, instead heading down the mountain where the trees became more dense. They were actually heading in the direction of Aedric’s home. Questions flooded his mind. Could the Laindan be heading to his home for some reason? Was it a trap? Or were they after his parents? Had Aedric seen them at the feast? It had all happened so fast that Aedric was having a hard time sorting it out. He realized his breath was puffing out erratically, and he turned his focus inward. He must calm down, concentrate on what was happening now and sort things out later. He slowed his breathing, letting his worries and unanswerable questions leave his body with each exhale. He felt his limbs become less tense and he settled into the task of moving quickly and quietly.
Darron could be heard moving softly behind him, and Aedric smiled. Darron was not quite as quiet as Aedric, something which had always given Aedric the upper hand at hunting and games. He felt his feet land softly and with barely a noise lift them again in a quiet rhythm. He glided across the snow intent on the tracks ahead, starting to feel the excitement of the hunt. Aedric felt the rush for only a brief moment, which came to a crashing halt as he caught sight of the Laindan ahead of him. He slid to a stop and held out his hand to warn Darron. They both dodged behind a trunk of a nearby pine and peered around.
The two Laindan were not moving, instead they had stopped in the middle of a clearing within a thick copse of trees. Risking another glance, Aedric leaned forward and Darron followed in suit. The two Laindan faced each other, one holding the others shoulders with pale claw like hands.
Darron leaned back and whispered, “By the gods, what are they doing?”
Aedric leaned further forward to get a better view and observing the full scene, his breath caught in horror. Under the dark tree limbs that crisscrossed over the small clearing the strange eyed Laindan stood arched over the younger elf, who was on his knees, his back arched and contorted in an unnatural way. The older Laindan’s mouth was wide open as if his jaw had somehow unhinged. A strange faintly glowing mist flowed from the younger elf’s face up into the gaping mouth. The older Laindan, his eyes now large and completely black, devoured this energy, his face twisted and viscous like a starving animal at its first meal. The younger elf’s eyes were closed and his face seemed calm despite the contorted position of his body.
Aedric did not know how long he sat and watched, but a gentle touch on his shoulder startled him and he gave a quiet yelp and turned. Darron’s face was pale white as he stood and then motioned Aedric to follow him back towards the meeting hall. Aedric turned back and looking down into the clearing saw the Laindan staring up at him with his black eyes, his large mouth closed now, but turned up at one corner into a cruel grin. Aedric felt the blood leave his face and he turned and took off running as fast as he could. He passed Darron, who following his lead, breaking into a sprint as well. They did not slow down until they reached the doors of the hall, the soft glow of the outer lanterns a welcome sight. They opened the doors and rushed in, Aedric sparing one moment to look back into the night, but all he saw were trees and snow before he slammed the large wooden door shut.
Inside everything was colored a comforting orange from the flickering fires and the members of both clans still talked and mingled as if everything was normal. Aedric looked through the crowd and caught sight of his parents. Sighing with relief, he did not even take the time to remove his cloak as he pushed through the crowds to where they stood. They both looked up with smiles as he approached until they saw the worried look on his face. His mother stepped forward with her hand out, “What’s wrong Aedric?” His father stepped forward too, his eyes showing his concern. Darron, who had followed him, touched his shoulder. Aedric turned to see the door open and the two Laindan walking in and calmly removing their cloaks. His heart was pounding so strongly that felt that it may burst from his chest. Aedric struggled to find the words for his parents, but he did not know how to explain what he saw.
Darron turned back and blurted out. “That Laindan there, the older one who just came in. We saw him… we saw him feeding on the younger one”
Aedric followed the Laindan with a frightened stare as he crossed the room and grabbed a mug full of mead from the table where the kegs were. His younger companion followed him and picked up a mug as well, in a slow deliberate fashion, as if he was following the lead of his master. The strange eyed elf turned and gave Aedric a quick glance, his eyes still seeming unnaturally black, but not as much as before.
Daeden stepped forward following his son’s eyes, “Him?” Aedric and Darron turned, hoping for some sort of explanation.
A’Tina said quietly, “That is Uriaal, the Laindan clan’s shaman. He was the one who had the spirit dream that pointed his clan south.”
Aedric’s father turned to his son and Darron, “What do you mean feeding on him?”
Aedric was relieved. His parents had always shown him respect and had never treated him as a child, and their belief in such a bizarre accusation was comforting. He looked to his fathers concerned face, “He gave me a strange feeling earlier today, when I saw him in the commons and then again during the meeting.” He paused. Aedric knew his parents had seen him at the council meeting earlier, but he still felt awkward in confessing at this moment. Pushing aside those small concerns now, he continued “When we came to the feast we saw him leave with his younger companion. We followed them out into the woods. Then we saw him, he was…” Aedric was at a loss for words.
Darron interjected, “He was sucking out his soul. The younger one was on his knees and the shaman, what was his name? Uriaal? He was leaning over him and we could see him inhaling in the spirit of the younger one.”
All of them were quiet for a few moments. Aedric hoped that his transgression earlier in the day at the meeting would not cast doubt on this story. He looked to each of his parents, and they in turn looked at each other. His heart still raced and he felt his stomach knot up. Whatever it was that Uriaal was doing to the younger elf was so grotesque that Aedric doubted he would ever be able to forget about it.
Finally his mother spoke, “Well some of the other clans have strange rituals and beliefs. I am not sure what you two saw. But I can see it has affected both of you and I do not doubt you. I suggest you just stay close to us for the rest of the celebration tonight and in the morning that clan…” As she spoke Uriaal looked over at the group for a moment, smiled a wide smile as if he could hear their conversation, then turned back to his younger companion. The young elf was sipping from his mug, his eyes seeming vacant, staring past Uriaal. He stared with the blank eyes of a corpse.
Aedric turned back to his parents, who were also looking on to the strange scene with troubled eyes. His mother continued, “That clan will be off on their way south and we will not have to worry about them, or their strange customs, for many months, if ever again.”
Aedric nodded, but he knew he would not feel well until they were many leagues away and hoped he would never see or hear of them again.