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Rober ran from the bedroom he shared with Stefan and ran upon his mother, whining about his younger brother. "Stefan won't let me play with his friend," tattled Rober to his mother. "He is strange. I'm going outside to play."
His mother went to the bedroom and was going to scold Stefan. As she was nearing the bedroom door, Stefan was inside, laughing and talking in a muffled voice. She opened the door, and sitting on the floor was Stefan and nobody else. "I see you've been up to that again. You need to grow up. You're seven years old now, and there is no fantasy friend. It is high time that you stop this nonsense. Go out and play with your brother."
"But Traikon is real. I swear it. He told me today that I would be famous when I grow up," responded Stefan with a childish voice.
"Get out there and find your brother and help him to feed the chickens. I think your father needs to create more chores for you boys to do, and stop with this nonsense with make-up friends. Scat now. Do something useful," reprimanded his mother.
Stefan leaped to his feet and ran to the door of the cottage, boasting, "I'm gonna be famous, I'm gonna be famous," almost singing as he spoke.
Ten years later ...
Runar was sitting at the table in his abode with his wife, Björglin, reading an astounding letter from the housing authorities from HearthGlen. He was shaking his head in disbelief as the bureaucrat wanted him to report in person with the deed for Blesugrof. Runar knew what the problem was: the housing authorities were trying to take Blesugrof from their family. Runar was looking old, tired, and dejected. He looked toward Stefan, his youngest son, and then back toward Björglin. She was trying hard not to show her discomfort; as a human married to an elf, she didn't want to pick sides. His elven heritage was behind the political squabble, for it was only elves, dwarves, and gnomes who were required to submit deeds to their properties. The race of man wasn't required to submit anything; it was trying to run the other races off their properties so men could use the land for their personal gain. Blesugrof has been in the family ever since the Rendering Wars ended as the land was bequeathed to his great-grandfather, Agnar, for his service during the war. Björglin was quivering as she heard Runar read the letter aloud.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Thou art commanded to report to the housing authorities with deeds and other papers to prove ownership of the land called Blesugrof. If ye do not report within the next fortnight, Blesugrof will be sold.
Shamuric, Overlord Housing Authority of the Realm
Björglin, with tears in her eyes, asked, "What about our sons? What is to happen to our family? We have only known Blesugrof, not a coven within the elven clan in Woodbranch."
Runar shrugged his shoulders in dismay. "One hundred hectares gone. Greedy. All for what? I knew that it would come to this. Look at the numbers of elves, dwarves, and gnomes which have been bought out, burned out, or swindled in this area."
Björglin put an arm over her son Stefan's shoulder and said, "Can't anyone do anything about this? Strompur and his dwarven family returned back to castle Vokva. They gave up, and now humans live there. And what about the gnome family two farms down, the Lofturs? They had a suspicious fire not so long ago, and they gave up. Humans are now living there too."
Stefan interceded and said, "What about my imaginary friend when I was a young boy? You know, the one who drew pictures for me and always said that he would save us when the time comes? I mean, that was about ten years ago, but I still hear from him. I know it sounds crazy, but what if Traikon is real?"
"What we need is a miracle, not fairy tales my lad," Runar scolded Stefan. "Even your brother never has seen your friend, this Drarkon character or whatever his name is. I don't want to hear another word about this."
"Runar, your son is old enough to take part in this. It is his Stefan's life too." intervened Björglin. "Stefan and Rober are your sons. At least let Stefan have his say."
"Mom is right, you know. Take a look at mom. She can go to the village stores because she is human, and you and I and my brother can't go in just because we are elves! Just look at the sneering and bantering and disgusted way the villagers look upon us! How come Rober can join the realm services? I mean, if we are an enemy of the realm, why do they let us join the service? And what if the service decides to attack elves? Would they order Rober to kill them? Nay, I say. I say nay unto thee. Rober should never kill anyone just because of being elven, a dwarf, or a gnome," exclaimed Stefan.
"This is treasonous talk. We have always lived by the law. This is talking about revolution. There must be a way within the law," snapped Runar.
Björlin, with tears in her eyes, choked out, "If Rober is ordered to slay elves, dwarves, or gnomes, I ... I will hide him and help in any way I can to assist him to escape the authorities."
Stefan pointed a finger toward Runar and said, "How many more elves have to be thrown into the debtors' prison? How many have to be arrested for walking on the wrong side of the road? How many unjust laws have to be enacted just to appease the Althing bureaucrats just to oppress the elves, dwarves, or gnomes?"
Helgi the Grey
There was a knock on the door, and everyone was visibly afraid of who was waiting on the other side of the door. Another knock—Runar snapped his fingers and signaled toward Björglin and Stefan to hide in the other room. Runar cracked open the door to see who was there. "Ah, Helgi, my old friend," he exclaimed as he opened the door to let him in. Helgi the Grey was standing outside, an old human with a flowing long white beard, and attired in his wizard's robes. "Come in, come in, you are most welcome at such times of peril." Runar shouted toward the other room and said, "It's only Helgi. Come out and greet our guest."
Helgi hugged Björglin and shook the hand of Stefan, which was extended outward to him. Helgi, with his staff resting against the table, said, "Björglin, I haven't seen you since what, Þorrablot?" with a twinkle his blue eyes.
"I wish these were happier times for visitors. I'm afraid that Blesugrof is under peril as we speak," said Björglin. She pointed to the letter lying on the table and added, "We don't know what to do. The world as we know of is going mad."
Helgi was perusing the letter, and after he finished it, he said, "This is sad news. I remember when Agnar was given Blesugrof by King Biggy of the gnomes. It was promised to never leave the family, the rightful heirs of Agnar."
Turning toward Stefan, Helgi asked, "And as for you, young Stefan, where is your brother? I haven't seen you for four years now."
"Oh, Rober—he is getting ready to graduate from the rogue guild in HearthGlen. He is really upset about the restlessness in the elven community, and I hope he deserts the service if he is ordered to kill our own kind," said Stefan. He thought for a moment and added, "Say, how old you are anyway?"
Helgi chuckled and winked an eye. "I'm older than the hills, my child. Yes, yes, I knew your great-grandfather as a mere young lad. Tut now we need not talk about me." He bent toward Runar and Björglin and asked, "What do you want me to do? I'll help in any way I can to save Blesugrof. But I must warn you, I have been following closely the troubles in the realm about the dwarves and gnomes. There are powerful forces within the realm which have been working under the darkness for many years. I suspect Svaramin and Mortikon are behind a lot of it. Mortikon so dislikes the dwarves and elves for the alliance during the Rendering Wars. It is easier to fight politically these days without shedding a drop of blood."
Runar was visibly relieved that Helgi was offering his help. "Aye, I thank ye so very much. I have no knowledge of the laws which have been passed, and I know they will cheat me. Men have been trespassing of late, and now some of my sheep are missing. I think they intend to scare us out," offered Runar.
Björglin piped in and said to Stefan, "Tell us about this Traikon person. See Helgi if he knows anyone of the name."
Helgi immediately snapped up and shouted, "Traikon—where have you met him? Speak up. If this is the same Traikon that I knew, you will have a great ally. Speak up now."
Runar interceded with "Björglin, don't give anyone false hope. He was an imaginary childhood memory—"
Helgi held his hand up to silence Runar. "There are forces within this world that you know nothing of. Anything that is of help will be greatly appreciated." Turning to Stefan, he commanded the story be heard. Then Stefan recounted of how his friend, Traikon, was going to save the elves. Traikon never told Stefan exactly how he was going to save the elves, but he did say when the time was right, he would be there. Stefan had never met or seen Traikon, but for years, he had been in contact with him, and Traikon used to spend hours alone with Stefan as a playmate. Traikon always came when Stefan was alone, mostly at night. Stefan then produced a drawing that Traikon insisted is made:
"By the gods, this is an amulet. Powerfully inscribed—it is an Arkaain amulet! I haven't seen one for several hundred years now. And as for Traikon, Runar, he is as real as I am. He has been trying to contact you for years now. The Arkaain is the amulet which contains knowledge of the cosmos. He senses turmoil in the future. Perhaps he wants to save the elves from the encroachment of men. But why does he not appear himself?" exclaimed Helgi the Grey.
Runar was dejected and offered an apology to his son Stefan. "I ... I ... I am so sorry that I had doubted you. Perhaps ... perhaps if I had listened to you ..."
Helgi consoled Runar and said, "What is done is done and not to be undone. Stefan was right to bring his tale out in the open. Don't let this interfere with what is ahead of us. I will meet you in HearthGlen in three days. Do not discuss with anyone unless I am in your presence. I still have powerful allies in HearthGlen. Perhaps we can postpone the inevitable." Turning to Stefan, he instructed, "We must go to Woodbranch posthaste and talk to the Gjaldakona, try to find out where Traikon is." He added, "Do not speak of this with anyone. We may still have time for a plan. Remember, Runar—HearthGlen in three days."
Helgi and Stefan were mounted on their horses—Helgi on his white stallion and Stefan on his palomino mare—and they were getting ready for the trek to Woodbranch. It was now late, almost sunset. It had been a beautiful day, but it took a gloomy turn for the worse, turning into a dreary day. Stefan was looking about the farm—mostly dirt and stone-constructed abodes with thatched roofs. He was wondering if he will ever see Blesugrof again. He obviously had a pained look on his face, and he was filled with fear. Runar was standing in the doorway and shouted, "May the gods be upon you! Take care of yourself, Stefan! And, Helgi, I'll be in HearthGlen in three days!"
Stefan and Helgi were traveling at night—a cloudless, starlit night—and they had been riding for over an hour. Stefan asked Helgi, "So you knew my great-grandfather? Was he real war hero, or were those stories just fables?"
Helgi didn't respond immediately as if to ponder the question. "Some of the stories I have heard are partly fable, partly true. I know that he had re-united the dark elves and wood elves after the great sword Mjolnir was re-forged. And yes, your great-grandfather did strike the mortal blow that slew Kaldhjarta—Mortikon—that's his name now. Like me, Svaramin and Mortikon have assumed numerous names at different times in their lives. Mortikon is a leiche now after having been a victim of Mjolnir."
"Are you immortal or a god?" asked Stefan in amazement.
"Nay, Stefan, my lad, I am as mortal as you are." Helgi chuckled. "You asked me how old I am. Let me just say that I have a different station in life from other people. I have been called Snjofell, Merlin, and Helgi the Grey, among other names."
Stefan stopped his horse to don his cloak as it was starting to get cold at night. Then he asked Helgi if he had ever met Traikon. "Sire, what do you know of Traikon? Have you ever met him? How can he help us?"
"Nay, Stefan, I have never met Traikon. I only know of him, but I do know that the Gjaldakona knows of him intimately as I have heard. He has some magical powers that are beyond your imagination. I am riding at your side because of the distrust between your elven and human side. The elves and I go back for centuries, and they totally trust me. Let me do the talking. Some of the elves don't want to speak your great-grandfather's name, Agnar. After you have introduced yourself and explained about Traikon, I will excuse myself as I need to go to your father in HearthGlen," said Helgi.
"What about Mortikon and Svaramin? Have you met in battle as foes?" asked Stefan.
"Ah, the question of the ages—yes, I have tested my steel against them many times in the past. But they are not an enemy as you know the term. They are acquaintances, if I may use it loosely. We are combatants but not enemies. Believe it or not, they are men of honor and chivalry," replied Helgi.
Stefan had a confused look on his face and said, "I suppose I will never understand that. I mean, being combatant but not enemies."
Soon the duo was nearing Ft. Hermana and the village. It must have been near dawn as the horizon was brightening. They could hear the town crier going down the street and heard dogs barking. The famous Boars Inn was just waking up from its sleep, and Helgi pointed toward the field off to the right, where Agnar and Helgi drew swords with Orcs. "Gagns—I remember as if it was yesterday. Ah, he was the gnome which was the original owner of Boars Inn," Helgi said. "Mighty fine gnome chap, I must say. We shared many meals in there."
As they got closer, Stefan could read the sign on the front door, "No Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, or Dogs Allowed." "What has this world come to?" asked Helgi. "If it weren't for the little people, the realm would not have survived. Greed and lust for power created this atmosphere, always looking for more power, but they haven't learned how to control it." Helgi spurred his stallion on and said, "Come, my lad. We have about three more hours of riding until we reach Sko Forest."
Soon Helgi and Stefan were entering the Sko Forest. Stefan told Helgi that they were being watched, that his elven senses have alerted him. The elves were being extremely elusive and dared not to contact the intruders in their forest. They rode some distance more, and at midday, Helgi announced that they had arrived at their destination. There were not any homes or campsites as the elves lived in the trees. There was nothing but trees around them. It seemed like an empty forest, and soon Helgi hailed, "I wish an audience with the Gjaldakona." He received no response, so Helgi shouted, "I know that you are here, and you know who I am. I need to speak with the Gjaldakona!" They were met with silence. Again, Helgi addressed the invisible inhabitants, "It is imperative that Gjaldakona show herself. It is about Traikon."
Suddenly, a group of male elves appeared from behind the trees and addressed Helgi. "Why are you here, especially with a half human as company? What do you need with Gjaldakona?" The leader of the group had obvious elven traits with his long pointed ears and eyes slanted upward toward his temple, and he sported silver-colored hair. He spoke with a tone of whispery distrust and disrespect.
Helgi dismounted his stallion and hailed the leader, "Hallo, Laugalfur. We have not met for many years. You know of me, know that I would never bring harm to the elven clans. Was it not me who stood beside your father and his father's father against the horde forces outside Fort Herman? I tell you that your clans are under dire peril, and I will have an audience with Gjaldakona! My companion and I are on a quest to save the elves from encroachment by the humans, and we will not be denied."
Laugalfur scoffed. "And what if it is true, this quest of yours? Yes, we were once allied with the humans, but what have they done for us? They lie, cheat, and steal from us. They only bring destruction wherever they tread."
"You are a fool, Laugalfur! You and your people hide in the trees while your own people languish in prisons. Their homes are burned down, they are assaulted, and all you can do is cower in your trees. I and my companion, Stefan, are at least doing something for the elven people, not hiding away and hoping that the humans leave," retorted Helgi.
"And you, Helgi, are—" Laugalfur was interrupted by a shout from behind a tree.
"Laugalfur, calm down. I will speak with Helgi and his companion. I already know of what your quest is, and you are right. Traikon senses that if you and your companion do not accomplish the deed, then it will be the end of all elves," espoused the wrinkled old woman known as Gjaldakona.
She is a real hag, thought Stefan. She was a hunchbacked old woman, was squinty eyed, had gray-silver hair, and was leaning on her staff. She cackled, as she snorted through her nose and said, "Laugalfur, just calm down."
Excerpted from FORGEMASTERS OF THE REALM by Snæbjörn. Copyright © 2013 Snæbjörn. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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(1) Blesugrof Homestead.................... 1
(2) The Northern Assignment.................... 40
(3) Political Bickering's.................... 77
(4) Fleeing to the North.................... 99
(5) Traikon Delivered.................... 134
(6) EXODUS.................... 164