[Copyright Michael Llenos 2005-2008]

It was a dark and early morning for the elf, Kuwer Troddleblog. He plodded past the neighboring salt flats with a heavy breath and tired out body. Kuwer believed the incline he was traversing would be coming to an end soon. He believed he would be able to make it to the town of Tyrinia up ahead. Kuwer contemplated. There must be another place in Ruundra, besides my hometown, where I could relax and be free of all cares and pains... He felt there was always hope, but this rocky, twisted path didn't give him much hope in the present.
Gravel covered twigs pushed against Kuwer’s boots as he struggled past the few remaining shrubs and grasses that made up Grynhall Forest’s outer, eastern periphery: The Western Woods. Kuwer knew he shouldn’t allow the loneliness and solitude of his trek to get the better of him. "Appreciate everything," someone once told him, "and you, my young elf, will never be lonely in the woods."
The outside world led him away from that hometown that he most admired and enjoyed. At the moment, he wanted nothing more than to be home at Zanzabar: the large coastal town he grew up in. Its romantic setting sparked a greater joy between elves and men. From his home town he could look out to sea and witness white glistening archipelagos, azure waters foaming in gale blown breezes, and on land: the tropical combination of friends and neighbors laid back in Zanzabarian bliss.
Now and then Kuwer would almost forget about home whenever he looked up at the sky patterns above and at the foreign landscapes beneath heaven's awesome dome. More red clouds shrieked above stark mountainous valley groves the farther he trekked away from his home town that was to the southwest. Although he had an immense fondness for home, Kuwer also knew when opportunity was knocking at his door, and that opportunity was leading him straight to Tyrinia.
He believed that the men of that particular walled town had a hidden secret. It all started with the writings of Zanzabar's village elders back home; it was those same village elders who taught Kuwer how to read and write in the human language of Ruundra. One of the written passages went something like this:

A great host shall come from the east…
It shall travel far…
It shall dwell in the branches where the coastlines meet…
It shall be stopped by a knight of Zanzabar!
---From the Historical Records of Zanzabar

Kuwer thought that there was a chance that he could be that heroic knight of Zanzabar. The knight that would save all of Ruundra. But just how he would do so, especially in specifics, was beyond his reckoning for now.

* * * * * * * *

Kuwer Troddleblog looked up, his eyes opened wide before the intimidating site just ahead of him. The western Tyrinian gate house stood tall, looming in fact. But its structure was not as foreboding as the large, fiery torch carrying guardsman who stood way up high on the gate’s upper support structure.
“Hold there!” said the big guardsman, whose booming voice came from above the town gate. “Do you have a name traveler?”
Surprisingly the elf felt somewhat puzzled by the question, so he decided to be cautious. “Sir, I’m an elf who has no bearings in this land of yours. I’m from Grynhall Forest.”
The heavy, elderly guardsmen couldn’t stop from laughing out loud when he heard the elf’s nervous voice. “No bearings you say! Like gravel! You’re a friend, I say! There is much trouble for the town's population at present, and its streets and market stalls speak of news that should serve as a warning to all.” The big man paused a bit before continuing. “Traveler, you must enter this gate and head east to the old Milk-And-Cow: for a little proposition of a man named Todds, who is ready for you. Don’t see this as a risky deal, lad. Here’s a silver half moon coin for your trek!” The guardsman reached into his satin hip pocket and flung down a half moon coin to the young elf.
The elf skillfully caught the coin. “Thank you,” said the elf, a little surprised at the weight of the coin in his right hand. “This is a very heavy coin, sir.”
The elderly man looked at him curiously and then shrugged. “You’re stronger and wiser than me, my lad…” Soon after the guardsman spoke, he disappeared back into the protected gate's medieval like structure.

* * * * * * * *

After the big guardsman opened the gate portcullis, Kuwer headed east, leaving the western gate house behind him. The streets of the Tyrinian town were paved with blue and black cobble stones, and its blue rectangular bricked buildings were lit up by torches placed haphazardly along the way. Not a nice place for travelers, thought Kuwer. Hmmm… the elf reminisced. The salt flats back in Zanzabar are in season this time of year. If only I was back home! Kuwer was thinking that maybe his quest was too dreary for him to bear just about right now.
He kept walking until he saw the torch lit sign of the Milk-And-Cow. It was not what he thought it to be when he first heard the words Milk-And-Cow from the big man up on the town gate. He first thought that maybe the sign placard above the tavern door would have a painted picture, like innkeepers (and other tavern barkeepers) liked to place outside their establishments. All he saw in the flapping sign board nestled above him were the lazily painted words: “Milk-And-Cow”.
As Kuwer looked around he thought it odd that no one was up this time in the morning. The town was a little too forlorn for his tastes. But there was still hope of civilization that came out of the tavern’s bright, glowing luminescent doors.
Kuwer then opened the twin wooden doors to the Milk-And-Cow establishment. Overpowering golden light partially blinded the elf; the bright light came from several hanging chandeliers that were spaced between wooden posts inside the tavern. The chandeliers were dangling from iron chains, and the posts allowed a few of the guests of the inn to remain unseen. Most of the tavern denizens, including the barkeep, glared directly at Kuwer as he stepped through the tavern entrance. As his vision completely adjusted to the brightness inside, Kuwer glanced around the room in hopes of finding his so called contact named Todds.
Cowls and scowls were everywhere to be seen. The men inside the tavern looked more like cloaked mystery men than your typical town denizens. Then a man who was reading a large green cloth covered book nodded in Kuwer’s direction. “Over here traveler,” he called out, waving his right hand in a friendly gesture.
Kuwer walked up to the man in an akward way. He took out the silver, half moon coin from his pocket and showed it to the man. “Do you need this coin, sir?”
The man shifted his eyes from Kuwer, towards the entrance of the inn, then towards the bar and finally back to Kuwer before saying: “Keep it. That’s just to inform me that you’re my contact.”
Kuwer couldn’t decide if the man at the table or the inn itself was more odd. He sat down at the contact’s table. “What information would you have for an elf like me?” he asked.
The contact looked a bit frustrated. “I can tell that you don’t like the fact that we have a curfew in the morning. These are dangerous times. You should not take our isolation from the rest of the world as a sign of hopelessness in your journeys, I hope. Be free to ask my name.”
“What’s your name?” asked Kuwer.
“Todd’s my name.”
“Not Toddz. It’s really Todd.”
Kuwer drew a blank stare. “I don’t like some of the things about this town of yours,” he remarked. “But I like the fact that there is no rubbish in your streets.”
Todd smiled at that. “We hate untidiness. We like cleanliness in our town. Back in this town’s early days we were legends in the making. Men of steel they called us. We raked and gutted out all of the weeds under every blue and black cobble of this town. We all worked in unison. We also worked in and around the periphery of this town at times. But now we feel we go too swiftly into harms way with our technology. Machinists and mechanics now dot the landscape. The age of the winter that never ended has come and gone a long time from now.” He looked at Kuwer quizzically then spoke: “We need a hero in this town of ours. Are you up for the challenge?”
Kuwer felt a bit spooked at Todd’s tone of voice. However, it was somewhat reassuring to Kuwer that perhaps Todd thought he was the hero spoken of through the historical records. Kuwer asked in a sly way, “Are you that desperate for a hero that you have to ask for it from every traveler you see that passes this town of yours? I have read some Tyrinian history but why do you have an interest in some stranger from Zanzabar?”
Todd hit his green clothed book with his right hand making a thump. “Why do you think it? You don’t know do you? There’s an army marching over here to wipe us out! They’re going to take this town and all of its cobble stones and use them for evil purposes. They need the cobble stones for their new cavalry squadrons, squadrons of cavalry that the enemy of our land hasn’t levied yet. With such cavalry they can finally take the town inside Grynhall Forest by storm.” Todd looked down towards his hands then looked up straight into Kuwer’s eyes. “What do you think about that?”
Kuwer didn’t understand why it was so important to ask such a nonsensical question. He hesitated then said: “Raising cavalry squadrons by tearing up your streets? I think that’s just silly talk! How under funded is this enemy of yours after all?” Kuwer looked at Todd in disgust. “Just tell me where the head politician is and maybe I’ll be able to help you.”
Todd looked at Kuwer with a smile. “So, you think you are the one stated hero in the historical records? That said knight and hero of Zanzabar?”
“Where is the head politician located please?” asked Kuwer, who was getting more and more impatient.
“He's at Eighth Street and Maine and the place is called: The Governors.”
At that Kuwer got up from his chair and headed for the door.
With a wave of his hand, Todd paused then said: “I bid you traveler a happy morning...”

* * * * * * * *

Kuwer saw the lamp lit sign with the words 'The Governors' hanging above the door to the house in front of him, and he knew that this building had to be the residence of the head politician of Tyrinia. He knocked three times against the door and soon after the picture window slid open. A man’s face wearing glasses was seen through the tiny window.
Kuwer asked: “Is the governor home?”
“Who are you?” asked the man.
Kuwer hesitated then replied. “My name is Kuwer. I’m the hero of Zanzabar.”
“Wait!” said the man a little more humanely this time. The rest of the door flew open and Kuwer saw that the man was wearing a dress suit and tie.
“You’re the governor?” Kuwer asked, while his eyes adjusted to the greater indoor light.
The elderly man adjusted his glasses and then pointed at himself. “Yes. I’m the governor.”
"That's a relief," Kuwer commented cheerfully. “By the way, governor, my full name is Kuwer Troddleblog.”
The governor waved his hand in a friendly gesture to Kuwer. “Governor Dundlebraak is my full title. I am not what you may consider to be your everyday average politician. I deal in maps and an assortment of other things that I sell. Like globes and such. Do you like reading the philosopher Dudlen?”
“Never heard of him,” Kuwer said curtly.
“Oh well. That’s a pity,” said the governor. “Dudlen knew how to figure out the stars and time tables of the outer moons or something like that. But there still is more an assortment of books for you to peruse if you wish. Like Troddleclock the Scientific Historian or Beezlewuurflex the Worm of all Bookworms or Muurso the Common Math Scribe. Stuff like that.”
Kuwer didn’t know what to say, but he remembered the coin he held in his pocket and so he took it and held it up. “I think this may clear things up between the two of us.”
The governor took the coin from Kuwer’s hand and tried to bend it with his two thumbs and his index fingers.
Kuwer felt he couldn’t be patient any longer. “Don’t you have any important information to tell me or something?”
Governor Dundlebraak gave back the half moon coin, shifted to the back side of the wooden door, and gestured Kuwer Troddleblog into his dwelling. “Please come inside lad; we have work to do!”

* * * * * * * *

As Kuwer Troddleblog walked into the governor’s quarters, he thought that Dundlebraak was the messiest book seller in all of Ruundra. He seemed to have a strong tendency of placing his ink bottles and pens in an unorderly manner amongst the papers and traveling notes that were scattered over his tables and boxed containers.
“Do you live here governor?” asked Kuwer, who felt somewhat amiss in asking a question with such an obvious answer.
Governor Dundlebraak, however, was pleased that Kuwer asked that question. “This place is both my home and a military planning station,” he voiced sincerely, as he pointed to a map on the wall. “We’re ready for a war against all of Grundaar. They are amassing towards our eastern border, and they want to destroy us with a large army of infantry for the sake of capturing Grynhall Town. I believe they have evil designs on the treasury deposit in the center of that town. I use these charts to help stop the Grundaarians from destroying my friends.”
The governor looked Kuwer over again and raised his voice: “So now, lad, you are in charge of the town’s defenses.”
The young elf didn’t know exactly what to say, and he couldn’t believe how surprised he felt that the Tyrinians had become so trusting of their wealth and resources that they placed their responsibility on an elf from Zanzabar. “I want to ask you something, Governor Dundlebraak. I want to ask you who you think the hero from Zanzabar really is?”
The governor seemed a bit used to the question that was asked him. “Anyone, my young fellow, anyone who looks suited for the purpose.”
Kuwer didn’t know what to make of the governor’s response. However, he thought this adventure so desperate that he had to stop asking questions that got him nowhere and to start asking the governor about the status of Tyrinia as soon as possible. “How much cavalry do we have?” he asked the governor.
“Around forty horses fully shod and fully fitted.” Governor Dundlebraak was growing a little suspicious. “Do you know how to use a lance, hero of the realm?”
“In the civilian military back home I learned to use lances, halberds and cornel spears. How many lances do we have?”
"Twenty lances, forty spears, and about a half dozen halberds. Is that satisfactory enough?”
“Not quite,” Kuwer countered. “How many infantry do we and our enemies have?”
Dundlebraak’s eyes grew more concentrated. “Just forty horsemen on our side I believe. And the enemy has about 5,000 infantry.”
Kuwer looked at him aghast. “You’ve got to be kidding me? Our army is just forty horsemen strong!” Kuwer was shocked. He paused for a second then sighed. “Look Governor Dundlebraak, you’ve got only forty horsemen against a horde of probably at least 5,000 enemy troops. How do you suppose we take them on?”
The governor looked at him curiously. “I suppose with courage my young friend, with a great deal of courage!”
Kuwer Troddleblog caressed the hair on his head over and over again until he cleared his mind of all feelings of defeat. “Where are the horsemen camped out?”
“Why outside the eastern gate of course,” said the governor, as he pointed to the eastern section of the town map.
This answer shocked Kuwer beyond his imagination. “How far away is the army of Grundaar?!”
“Why last I heard was that they were a fortnight away. Does something vex you?”
Kuwer grabbed Dundlebraak by the shoulder before he had time to spill out his next few words. “We’ve got to go and we’ve got to go now!”
“Where should we go?” asked Dundlebraak startled.
Kuwer shouted back with alacrity. “Why, to the east gate as soon as possible!”

* * * * * * * *

When Kuwer and the governor reached the drawbridge of the eastern gate, dawn manifested itself over the eastern wall. The pages on duty turned the gate winches until the oak slab of a door stopped its downward movement with a thud. Both governor and elf walked over the wooden platform and onto the eastern plain. The page that first turned to meet them on the other side of the drawbridge hailed Governor Dundlebraak with an up raised salute. “May our governor be honored with all honors of the list!” he said. The Tyrinian cavalry traveled in formation towards both elf and governor from the southeast area of the outer grounds. As this was happening, the eatern gate's drawbridge was raised up again closing off the town from the outside world.
“May the cavalry halt!” shouted Governor Dundlebraak. The cavalry responded by halting in its tracks. He quickly turned to the elf and said out loud for all to hear: “Now it’s your turn to take charge of the cavalry, Commander Troddleblog!”
Kuwer Troddleblog stood in the middle of the crescent shaped formation that the cavalry had made. He exclaimed blaringly into the ranks of mounted troopers: "Allies and comrades! It is most important to know and understand that when the time comes to show our spirit of gallantry that we will not fail even in the face of overwhelming odds. So let us stop the Grundaar army at all costs and all of the destruction that they want to do to the inhabitants of Tyrinia and Grynhall Town and Zanzabar!”
Suddenly a Tyrinian scout came riding in at top speed from the east. A dusty atmosphere was increasingly expanding and rising in the distance. The dusty laden cloud was caused by the approaching Grundaar army. A frown on the scout horse rider told Kuwer that the situation wasn't well. “We are both out numbered and out classed here,” reported the scout to the governor.
Kuwer nodded in agreement when he heard this and then turned to the governor. “I also believe it to be so. From the looks of it there are possibly 5,000 of the enemy heading in our direction at marching speed. Even though their ranks are too far away to count their true number, there are way too many of the enemy for us to successfully engage. Why don’t we just turn southward towards the salt flats and head westward afterwards, so that the army following us may end up bogged down in the sandy terrain?”
While saying this Kuwer Troddleblog looked at the Tyrinian forces in their helmeted ranks. Their static stares looked like they had no need of any kind of tactical suggestion. They rather looked irritated at the new commander in their midst.
The page that first heralded the approach of the governor spoke up. “New commander, you should know that most of the population of our town has already escaped last night and have sought shelter and protection in the Western Woods. Our pigeon service has already been sent to Grynhall Town to warn them of the enemy’s advance, so I believe you’re correct in that we must all make haste to the southern salt flats that we may not be destroyed by the approaching force which is headed in our direction.”
Kuwer turned to one of the mounted cavalry soldiers and asked the question: “Do you have any extra horses to be ridden on?”
“Who said you need to ride a horse?!” shouted the unmistakable voice of a woman, who sat up on top of one of the larger spotted palfreys. She waved a salute to the rest of the cavalry then added: “When I say run elf, you run! So run, unless you want to meet the enemy head on: Hero of the realm!” Then the mysterious rider dug her heels into the flanks of her spotted palfrey and she and the rest of the cavalry headed as fast as they could down the path to the south.
The elf turned to the governor in surprise and disgust. “Governor, may I be so bold as to ask what in the arid wastes is that civilian doing on horseback and here in your army?”
“I don’t like the tone of your voice commander,” balked the governor. “That, my friend, is an Amazon warrior...”
“Amazon warriors here!” exclaimed Kuwer, who was a little too frustrated to think straight.
“And more to come!” muttered the governor.
Kuwer couldn’t believe the facts before him as he saw them with his very own eyes. As he examined the rank and file of the advancing military host he realized that they were a sundry of some of the meanest looking infantry that he ever saw marching on foot. How frightening had the world become just now! There seemed to be Amazon warriors everywhere! Not only with his Tyrinian allies but also now with Grundaar! Although he knew that Grundaar had once hired mercenaries before in its past, he didn’t know that they had advanced such wealth to be able to go to such extremes in hiring Amazon warriors from the far east of Ruundra. Now he knew that outside the realm of Zanzabar it was a woman’s world indeed...
Kuwer Troddleblog looked back at the governor and asked him a question. “Please tell me governor, what should we do now?”
The governor retorted angrily as he began to run south towards the salt flats. “Why, what most people do when they have no true hero to carry the day... they run!”
And so Kuwer Troddleblog decided to do what most people and elves do in such a predicament. He decided to flee. And he fled as fast as his feet could carry him...

The End.


[Copyright Michael Llenos 2005-2017]