Chapter One: Departure from Daggerfall
Long, long ago, when the world was in its
springtime, before the Redguards came and the glorious Septim
Empire was formed, but after the goblins had driven the dwarves
out of Hammerfell, a son, Edward, was born to King Corcyr
I of Daggerfall and his Queen, Aliera of Wayrest.
The young boy lay drowsing in the palace orchard,
high on a breezy hill overlooking the deep blue bay of Daggerfall.
The constant autumn fog of Daggerfall had blown away for the
nonce and the sky was a deep endless blue. Moments like this
were rare for young Prince Edward; this afternoon was the
result of days of scheming, for he craved solitude as the
other nobles he knew craved companionship. Now his tutor believed
him engaged in extra arms practice, the master of arms believed
him to be chasing deer with the huntmaster, who thought he
was studying Elvish. His father had no idea where he was and
didn't care, being occupied with his young wife and their
sons and other pleasures of noble life.
At the plop of an apple barely missing his
head, he opened his pale grey eyes; there was a sweet rotten
smell in his nostrils. He sighed and stared up into the blue.
Why should things fall down instead of up? If you stared at
the sky long enough you could feel as if you were falling
into it his eyes glazed and the pupils grew huge as the dark-ringed
irises dilated. He was weightless, drifting another apple
fell, grazing his ear, and he thudded to earth, crying out
as first his rump struck and then his head. A silvery laugh
sounded. Edward sat up abruptly and stared around, jaw hanging
Two mounted men stood ten feet away, still
as if they were carved from stone, regarding him intently.
Princes are not easily intimidated, not even the gentle souled
kind, but Edward had never seen or imagined anything like
this pair. One had golden skin and eyes, was clad in white
cloth trimmed with gold and rode a (Edward blinked. It is
was still there) a unicorn! Beside the unicorn was a golden
dragon, wings neatly folded. And on his back was a man clad
in dark chain mail, a long sword at his side. He was bareheaded;
his eyes glowed red in his dark face and his pointed ears
"You're elves! What!"
"He's a clever child." The dark
elf's voice was sardonic. He spoke perfect Bretic, Edward
noticed, his mind still working, although something seemed
to have gone wrong with the rest of him.
"So it would seem. He did that mostly
of himself. Remarkable for an untrained child. I merely helped
him to concentrate." The high elf also spoke Bretic,
but hesitantly and with a slight singing accent. Edward's
tutor said that elves were incapable of human speech.
Edward's gaze shifted rapidly over the four
beings in front of him, unable to find a comfortable resting
place. He hoped briefly, fervently, that he was dreaming.
His mind seethed with questions and demands, then quite suddenly
his tongue came unstuck. "But I wasn't concentrating
at all! My masters all say I'm incapable." Edward clamped
his jaw down hard, suddenly realizing that it might be unwise
to argue with beings such as these.
But the golden elf smiled broadly, showing
perfect white teeth, "Exactly." He radiated such
warm approval, that Edward felt his skin tingle pleasantly.
It was a feeling that he'd only known with his long-gone mother.
But the other elf's face was expressionless; the red eyes
bored into Edward as if they would pierce his soul.
"Moraelyn! You're Moraelyn! The witch-king!"
He jumped to his feet and faced the dark elf. "You stole
my mother! My father will kill you."
"I am. I did. Will he? Shall we call
him and find out?" The dark elf straightened and his
eyes glowed deeper. A tiny puff of steam escaped the dragon's
nostrils. A glowing aura appeared around his companion. Edward
knew he wasn't going to call the guard. Why should they be
slaughtered? These two looked capable of anything. Quite suddenly
he was no longer afraid. If they were here to hurt him, they'd
have done it by now. But a feeling of impotent rage remained.
They'd taken his mother. And now.
"Why are you here?" he demanded.
"Edward, will you come with us?"
The high elf spoke. Hearing him was like hearing a harp, cool
as a breeze, warm as a fireside.
The boy stood very still. He wanted very much
to say yes, to his own amazement. He wanted to ask if he would
see his mother, but instead: "My father..." he croaked.
"Will miss you no doubt." The irony
was back in Moraelyn's voice, a voice that make Edward think
of icicles sparkling and dripping in winter sun. But there
was a sort of hunger in his glowing eyes, a longing?
His father wouldn't miss him and he knew it.
Shame ran through the boy, but he looked up at the broad-shouldered
elf defiantly. "Are you my father?" Edward had meant
the question to match the elf's sarcasm, but his hand crept
to his ear as if of itself. He wasn't anything like his short-tempered,
hearty, red-haired father and Roane often said he had an elfin
There was a heavy silence and Edward sensed
that Moraelyn was taking the question at face value but that
truth had nothing to do with what Moraelyn would say next.
He would give the expedient answer. Still.
"No." It came reluctantly. He might
be lying, of course, but Edward felt a deep wave of relief.
"Does my mother have other sons?"
Suddenly Edward knew she did not and that the question would
hurt the dark elf. And was glad.
"Your mother might be dead, for all you
know. Or care, it seems." The dark elf's narrow nostrils
twitched as if Edward stank, and the lines around his mouth
deepened. She was not dead. Edward would have known. The bitter
injustice of Moraelyn's contempt stung. "Did she send
you to me?"
"Do you take me for an errand boy!"
he snapped, and spoke to his companion: "Let us take
him now and be gone; we may discuss it at leisure."
The golden elf held up his hand, "Patience,
my cousin." and, to Edward, "Well, youngling, will
Dark tales were told of human children kidnapped
by elves, who hungered for young humans
"I don't know your name," Edward
"Do you love your life here so much?"
Edward looked at the palace in the distance,
the banners floating lazily above the town below, the sparkling
bay, the distant mountains. "I love Daggerfall."
"Ah. And you shall return to hold it,
Prince Edward. I, I'ric Harad Egun the ArchMagister, swear
it to you." Moraelyn swung about, protesting sharply
in Elvish. The dragon spat a bit of flame, but the unicorn
did not move; its golden eyes regarded Edward steadily. "Unicorns
do not abide any sort of falsity." The words floated
through his mind in his mother's voice.
"I'ric Harad Egun the ArchMagister, I
will come with you."
"You must ride with Moraelyn. The Lord
Akatosh has consented to this--necessity. The elf made a sweeping
gesture toward the dragon."
He wasn't fit to touch a unicorn, of course.
"Very well, then. I...I don't suppose I could bring my
dog?" Where was he? Shag was always with him. Asleep
in the grass! Shag, the ever-alert? Edward knelt to touch
him. A heated discussion in Elvish ensued, during which the
dragon scorched the grass. Moraelyn swung down and picked
Shag up with distaste. "Very well, then, but I warn you
that Akatosh is at the limit of his patience. Mount, then."
"Lord Akatosh, I am most deeply obliged
by your indulgence. If ever I may repay it."
"You will," Moraelyn interrupted;
he seized Edward by the belt and tossed him up onto the dragon.
Edward settled himself between the dragon's neck and wings
and the sleeping Shag was draped limply in front of him. "There
isn't room for..." Edward began, and jerked in astonishment
as the dragon shifted beneath him and grew larger. Much, much,
much larger. Moraelyn vaulted up behind with a prodigious
leap for one in armor. The unicorn jumped the nine foot wall,
clearing it neatly. The dragon's great wings stretched; he
crouched, then leapt into the air. His riders swayed wildly.
The dark elf muttered something Edward couldn't understand
in elvish and they steadied. The wings beat strongly and the
dragon circled low over the Keep, gaining altitude slowly.
People were running about now, shouting and pointing. Edward
saw his old nurse and waved and shouted, "Goodbye! Goodbye!
I'll be back sometime..." Arrows flew through the air
as bowmen shot, while the nurse screamed and clutched at the
arms of those nearest. King Corcyr ran naked onto the battlements,
screaming and waving his fists. "Child of a demon, come
back and I'll thrash you within an inch of your worthless
life. Moraelyn, come down and fight, like the man you aren't."
Moraelyn's loud laughter rang clear as temple
bells, cascading over the Keep. He shouted, "Be glad
I don't, little King of the Small Cock!" The dragon circled
almost lazily and let out a huge gout of flame. Arrows clinked
harmlessly off his golden scales. "I'm off to see my
mother!" Edward screamed down, noting the upturned faces
of his stepmother and her red-haired sons. Roane had a fur-trimmed
robe clutched round her, but her long hair floated wildly.
Four pairs of eyes fastened on him, not Moraelyn, glittering
with fury and hatred. Edward stopped waving and clutched Shag
tightly with both hands. Moraelyn's mail clad arm was securely
about his waist. Edward slumped against him, feeling quite
safe for the first time in a very long while. The bowmen had
stopped shooting; most of them were looking at the royal family.
The king danced with rage. The great dragon's wings beat harder
now and they headed due south out over the water.
"Aren't we going to Ebonheart?"
the boy twisted round and looked up at Moraelyn. "Your
mother awaits you at Firsthold in Sumurset, little Prince."
"Why did you wait so long to fetch me?"
"Querulous child, do you think dragons
and unicorns do the bidding of elves or men? Your mother came
to me full willing, but she could not bring you; you were
too closely guarded by your father's men. Would you have had
us lay waste your land to take you by force? She thought you
would be safe and cared for and she was desperate. No, this
was the dragon's plan."
Of all the astonishing events of the afternoon,
this was the most surprising: the notion that a dragon should
take an interest in him, when not even his own family did.
But, willing, the elf said, full willing!
"You are the focus of large events, youngling.
Your task is to prepare yourself to be a king; a king such
as your people have never known. Our task is to aid you. Sleep
Waves of sleep assaulted Edward's mind, one
after another. "But..." he meant to ask Moraelyn
about his mother, but the last wave was too big; it crashed
right over him and he slipped into dark fireshot dreams.
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