Nicolai turned to the others. “Keep your weapons sheathed. From the little I’ve heard of elfs in these parts, an Elf in armour means there is trouble about. And I’m not keen on getting involved on the wrong side of that.
“Saeth, is this one of your clan’s villages ahead, or is it another clan? And if it is another clan, do you think they will help or hinder us?”
“Nay, that armor is not Callari,” she answered. “Probably one of the minor clans living in Radlebb.”
Miklos wondered why Nicolai had waved them to a halt. He tethered his Horse to a tree and turned round to see Maruc rush swiftly when to his side to check to see if he, or she, was alive.
The elf was dead. It was a young male elf, quite young. His elven armor didn’t seem to fit him very well and it was damaged and old, hardly up to the standards of elven craftsmanship. The sword wounds on the body indicated he had met with a violet death. Hiss body was free of weapons. He had a small moneypouch that contained a small amount of coins. Even in death, he clung to a piece of parchment. It bore a message written in both the Common Tongue and Elvish.
To Thee of Valor and Honor ~
I am an Elven maiden called Rahasia. In the Hantu Valley at the foot of Gray Mountain, our village thrived in peace for many years. Our elders tended the forest. Our youth studied and worshiped in the temple on the mountain. We made our homes in peace—but our peace is no more.
It was two weeks ago when the stranger came. He was a handsome man with deepset eyes and a soft, persuasive voice. Anyone hearing him speak was almost certainly lulled into agreement. But my Father did not trust this man, who called himself The Rahib. When he made unwanted advances toward me, my Father drove him from our village and cast him forth. It was then, as this man retreated to the forest, that The Rahib uttered such a curse that the sky darkened. In a deep, rich voice, he intoned an evil chant we could not understand.
He then vanished into the forest. The next day, the elves who study at the temple and their teachers did not return to their homes. Their families became worried and went to the temple, but were driven away by the students, known as the Siswa. My Father and Hasan, my Betrothed, went to investigate, but they have not returned.
Two days ago, we recieved a message for The Rahib. He boasted that all the devoted Siswa were under a spell that will not be broken until the village gives the Rahib three maidens, including myself. We refused. That night, the Siswa attacked and kidnapped two of my friends, Sylva and Merisa. They tried to take me as well, but I escaped. They took all our weapons and armor, leaving us even more defenseless than we already were.
All of the villagers are in misery. With the Rahib controlling the sons and fathers of our clan, there is nothing we can do. Some have begged me to give myself over to the wicked Rahib, but I dare not, lest I find that he has lied, and will not break his curse. I fear that unless we are helped I shall never again see Hasan or my Father and my friends. I have sent this message in hopes that it reaches those who would rescue them and force the Rahib to remove his curse upon the Siswa. A great reward will given anyone who can succeed in this mission. Without help, I have no choice but to give myself to the Rahib and pray that he keeps his word and releases the others.