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Archives: Trials of the Half-Elven

Chapter 18: Interviews with Joline: Thangroth and Trent

    After leaving Flora, Joline knocked on the door of the quarters shared by the two men. Shortly, the dwarf answered, and he was just the one Joline wanted to speak to first. According to Olula’s story, he’d been with her for the entire ordeal. “Ah, master Thangroth, will you please join me?” she asked the dwarf.

    “Certainly, milady,” Thangroth replied and bowed to her, then stepped out and shut the door behind him. Joline led the dwarf to her room for yet another interview.

    Joline brought the dwarf back to her rooms, and set him up the same as she had set up the two girls. The scribe started over with a fresh set of parchment for the dwarf as well; the transcription of Flora’s interview was set aside into a folder.

    “I have a few questions about you personally, first,” Joline started. “What is your name?”

    “Thangroth Broadarm, milady,” he replied politely. The scribe scratched down his response.

    “And where are you from, Thangroth?” she asked.

    “The Broadarm line has a long history in the Kingdom of Stone, but I, personally, am from the Steel Kingdom,” Thangroth replied with a measure of pride. The scribe only seemed to write down “Steel Kingdom”, however.

    “Very well then,” Joline replied. “What brings you out of the Steel Kingdom?”

    “Adventure, pure and simple, milady,” Thangroth said with a smile. “I’m seeking me way in the world is all, helpin’ folks where I can and seeing the sights that Lodoss has to offer.” Again, the scribe seemed to write down a paraphrased version of Thangroth’s statement.

    Joline gave a slight smile at the dwarf’s optimism. She got a good feeling from him. “I see,” she replied. “Will you please describe how you met Olula and your journey with her? Do try to speak rather slowly, and please feel free to take a break for the scribe.”

    “Alright then,” Thangroth began and cleared his throat. “’twas four days ago. I was on the road when the rain hit, so I made my way to the nearest town to wait out the storm. That ended up to be Vedun, and they had only one inn, which was where Olula happened to be working. There were two other half-elves, one girl named Reem, who for some reason, parted ways with us in Vedun, and Krisatris, the poor lass who is apparently in jail as we speak. Aside from them, there was a long winded young lad named Derrick who joined me. Some of the folk in the inn said he was the hero of River-Wind. Apparently he slew an ogre there and saved the village. Methinks he talked it to death,” Thangroth chuckled, though it was bittersweet. Here, he paused for a moment, letting the scribe catch up.

    “Well, we were all sittin’ down for supper when this lord Darvis comes barging into the inn, nose up in the air, actin’ high and mighty,” Thangroth paused, realizing his company. “No offense, milady, but the fellow seemed to take himself a bit too seriously for my tastes.”

    “Believe me, I understand,” she assured him. “Do go on.”

    “Well, he sees Olula and turns white as a ghost. We didn’t think anything of the girl, she was just an innocent little barmaid, but he saw nothing but a dark elf and ordered her to be arrested by his guards. The inn’s cook ran out to try and talk them out of arresting her, but Darvis wouldn’t hear any of it, he wanted to kill her on the spot! She damn near fainted from fear. At that point, the rest of us had to do something. I stepped into try and talk some sense into the lord, but Krisatris started to draw her sword, and Derrick started threatening him. All the talkin’ couldn’t spare Olula from Darvis’s form of justice, but I at least talked him down from killing her. Kris and Derrick’s actions won them a flogging though, and they were taken away by the guards to be held until their judgment was decided. Darvis had the town prepare for it all by settin’ up a stage in the square.” Thangroth paused here again, letting the scribe catch up. Once he finished, the dwarf continued his testimony.

    “Reem was considerin’ breakin’ them out of jail, but I suppose she got caught or got cold feet. Honestly, we didn’t see her after we parted ways. I was allowed to accompany Olula, so I took her home so she could pack her things. The townsfolk weren’t too happy about this, I reckon a lot of them are missin’ her right about now. The girl’s mother was in a bad way too, but she had no choice but to leave her. I took her back to the town square where we had to watch Krisatris and Derrick flogged...”

    “How many lashes did each get?” Joline asked.

    “Lets see now... for drawing her weapon, Kris got thirty, and Derrick was given twenty for his words. The fool boy demanded more, but Darvis restrained himself and left it at twenty. Krisatris passed out after around twenty, so they stopped,” Thangroth’s tone became softer, recalling that horrible experience. Olula had fallen to her knees and cried on his shoulder at that point. “Darvis charged me with escorting them out of town. On our way out, one of the villagers gave Olula a horse, and we met Trent, another traveler passing through who had witnessed the entire thing. After that, Olula decided to come here, so we could tell the king about this injustice.” Thangroth paused, still wrapped up in the memories of that day. Once the scribe finished writing, he continued again.

    “We made camp along the road that night, Trent and Olula took care of Derrick and Krisatris’s wounds. While they did, a dark elf came into our camp. He said his name was Kiran, and he seemed to have an interest in Olula. I don’t think any of us trusted him much at first, but after a bit, we realized he seemed like a nice fellow. He stayed the night with us and traveled with us the next morning.”

    Thangroth paused again, allowing the scribe to catch up. While he waited, the dwarf downed the full glass of water sitting on the table. He would have preferred a mug of ale, but he didn’t think it polite to ask in this situation. “Not long after we left camp, we spotted some soldiers comin’ up behind us in a hurry. Olula suggested we act innocent, and I agreed. There was no reason to assume they were after us, right? We obeyed the lord after all. I was suspicious though...” The dwarf shook his head. “I’m sorry to say I was right. When we saw the soldiers in the distance, Kiran disappeared usin’ some sorta elfin magic. The soldiers caught up with us and demanded to know about the dark elf with us, since apparently they found out about Kiran. We denied his presence at first, but the captain called our bluff and had his men fire at us. Kiran was all ready with another spell, usin’ the wind to shield us.”

    Thangroth bit his tongue to pause again for the scribe’s sake. Once the scribe finished his last statement, the dwarf continued. “A battle ensued, and we were forced to defend ourselves. Derrick and I defended the others, while Kiran was castin’ another spell. Trent was off in the woods, he had run off to scout ahead sometime earlier. Derrick was felled in the battle, Myrii bless his soul. Kiran couldn’t get off his spell soon enough to spare the boy. I don’t know what he did, but Kiran knocked out all the men. After the battle finished, Trent came outta the woods, along with the lass, Flora, who happened across us while we fought.”

    Another pause, and Thangroth waited for the scribe. “Kiran suggested we get rid of their horses so they couldn’t catch up to us when they woke, so out of respect for the animals, we unsaddled them and let ’em loose, but we kept a few to hasten our escape.”

    “Did you take anything from the men or the saddles?” Joline asked.

    “I didn’t, personally, but some of the others may have,” he replied.

    “Go on, then.”

    “We didn’t have the time to bury Derrick where he fell, and we sure as hell weren’t gonna leave the lad, so we put his body on a horse and carried him until nightfall. As we neared a village, we found a place to bury Derrick and laid him to rest. After we buried him, we spent the night in the village of Meale, though Kiran didn’t stay with us, the village didn’t take kindly to his kind. The next morn’ he met us outside the village and we headed to Shinning Hill.

    “Once we reached the city, we had Krisatris taken to the Falis temple for healing, then we headed to an inn. Kiran was invisible most of the time, he said he didn’t want to stir up trouble with the townsfolk, but being invisible all the time never really sat well with me. After takin’ care of Kris, we headed over to a scribe so we could send a letter to Derrick’s kin. The courier we visited first had a problem with Olula. First he over charged her, but we tried to meet his price anyway. As we were gatherin’ up the items to be sent with the letter, the clerk accused us of stealin’ the jewelry—Derrick’s ring and a pendant. We took it all back and had a few words with the courier before we decided not to do business with him.”

    This perked Joline’s interest, she had to see about this courier. “Do you recall the name of the business?” Joline asked.

    Thangroth thought for a moment, but the dwarf seemed at a loss. “I’m afraid I can’t recall. I could show ye to it,” he said.

    Joline nodded. “Perhaps tomorrow then. Please, continue.”

    Thangroth poured himself another glass of water to wet his throat, then dwarf continued again; “Without mailin’ our letter, we headed to the Tiger Lilly Inn, which had a good reputation for elfin folk. Now, Kiran was still invisible when we got to the inn. There were some other elves there, and apparently they sensed that. Suddenly, he was visible again, and this elf woman comes running up to him. I tried to stop her, but she leapt right over me and nailed Kiran in the jaw.” Thangroth shook his head. “Turns out, Kiran had a lot of history with some of the folks in the inn. The woman who punched him accused him of raping her, a dark elf fellow said he was the father of some boy who was out for his blood, and the dark elf bard who was playing there claimed to have a child by him. I didn’t quite know what to make of it all, Kiran seemed like a good man, but perhaps he wasn’t what he seemed... Well, he decided he would be leaving with the bard to see their child an avoid gettin’ killed by this other son of his. We tried to make him stay, sayin’ we agreed to travel together and we’d face our troubles together, but he wouldn’t have none of it. He left us last night.”

    Another pause, and the dwarf took a drink while the scribe scratched on. “This morn’, Trent and I slept in quite awhile, and apparently missed some action. We found out that Kiran’s son had come along lookin’ for him, but he was sent on his way. Olula met that new half-elf fellow while we were sleeping, and he helped us out a good bit today. After I got out of bed and ate, Olula and I headed out to a new courier who finally mailed our letter with no complaints. As we were leavin’ the shop, Nat, the half-elf, and Flora come out to meet us and tell us Krisatris was arrested by some soldiers who came into the inn. They were looking for Olula and the rest of us, so we made it a priority to come here as soon as possible. And that’s where ye met us, right after we booked out of the inn and came to the castle.”

    Joline nodded. “Very well then,” she replied, thinking for a moment if there was anything else she could ask. These interviews were getting tiresome though, and she still had more to go. Thangroth revealed some things that Olula hadn’t talked about, perhaps the young man, Trent, would be able to verify more of the dwarf’s tale. “I’ll take you back to your rooms now,” Joline said and stood from her seat.

    “I hope my words are of a great help to ye, milady,” Thangroth said as he climbed out of his chair.

* * *

    Joline brought Thangroth back to his rooms, intending to get Trent next. The dwarf entered the room, announcing his return, while Joline waited at the door. “Trent lad, I’m back. The lady wants to speak with ye now.”

    Trent was laying on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling when Thangroth came in. “Alright...” Trent said stoically as he got up and headed towards the door.

    “I’m ready,” he said to Joline.

    “Come along then,” Joline said and turned down the hall and stifled a yawn. The interviews were getting tiresome, but after this one, there was only one left—one that promised to be much shorter.

    Trent was led back to Joline’s rooms, about ten doors down from the ones he and his companions were in. They were under escort from a palace guard, and upon arriving in Joline’s quarters, the guard stopped at the door. Joline brought Trent into the sitting room to the table Olula, Flora, and Thangroth had already sat at. The scribe was ready with a fresh parchment to take his testimony. A pitcher and goblet for water waited, in case Trent needed to wet his throat. The lady took a seat at the far end of the table, leaving Trent to sit at the other end.

    “Will you please state your name?” she asked, eager to be on with the interview.

    Trent took his seat and crossed his arms as an emotionless expression rested on his face, his posture indicating indifference if not defensiveness, except for his right foot which was silently yet rapidly tapping. Inside the young man was a storm of impatience, they shouldn’t have gone there, the bureaucratic process was a waste of time and while they were bathing and sleeping in soft beds Kris was down in some dark forsaken place and Falis only knows what was happening to her. Trent had only a vague understanding of crime and punishment, instead he preferred a more primal sense of justice which would apply to their situation as such: They took Kris away, and it was well within their right to take her back.

    Then Joline asked him his full name, which he hadn’t heard or spoken in so long he had almost forgotten it. “Trent DeLumbra,” he replied.

    The scribe wrote down his response and Joline posed her next question. “Where are you from, Trent?”

    “A small settlement just outside the northeast of Mirror Forest. I don’t live there anymore though, I’ve been nomadic for almost half a year,” said Trent.

    “And what brings you to Kanon?” Joline asked as the scribe wrote down Trent’s last answer.

    “Chance mostly,” Trent said. “My mother died late last year. Since she was my only family there wasn’t much reason to stay.” The young man then paused a moment to take a drink and also to think of Sky, the beautiful elven woman he grew up with who rejected his love. “No reason at all actually,” he continued. “So I simply wandered, rather aimlessly I might add, until I came across Olula’s village just as Kris and Derrick were...”

    He then sighed. “Hell, let’s just call it what it was; a man was making other people pay the price for his own vanity. I wanted to help so I offered to care for their wounded as best I could. I’ve been tagging along with them ever since, I’m sure you know the rest.”

    “Yes, I’ve heard the rest from the others’ points of view, but I’d like to hear it from you,” Joline replied with a slight smile. “Can you tell me about how you became involved and your journey up until now? Please, feel free to take breaks so the scribe can catch up.” The noblewoman leaned forward on her seat, propping her elbows on the table and resting her chin on the backs of her hands.

    Trent raised an eyebrow, surprised that Joline was insisting to hear the same story for what was probably the fifth time. “As you wish,” he replied. “Before meeting Olula there really isn’t much to tell. I spent most of the last six months living as a hermit in one forest or another. I wanted to join them because what little knowledge of medicine I had told me that Krisatris and Derrick would need their wounds tended before infection could set in. They were hesitant of course, but I guess they were desperate for some help. I cleaned the wounds as best I could but Olula had to sew them since she had the most delicate touch. That was when Kiran showed up, naturally I was suspicious, I heard the stories of blood thirsty dark elves just like everyone else. I didn’t object to his staying, mostly to see if the stories were true, fortunately in Kiran’s case they weren’t. Also, Olula knew nothing of her dark elven heritage, who better to teach her?”

    Trent stopped to give the scribe a chance to catch up, wondering how thorough he was expected to be. “The next morning we set off, I proposed to scout ahead of the group and alert them if there was any trouble... I have an arrow that can make a shrill whistle as it flies. I guess it never occurred to any of us that a threat could come up from behind, when I stopped to make sure I wouldn’t get too far ahead I heard shouting from behind me.”

    Trent paused for a drink of water and then continued, “It should be obvious by now that I am a ranger, I’ve been instructed since the age of five how to not only survive the wilderness, but to turn it into home and let it fight for me when necessary. That’s how was able to get in arrow range undetected, from my hiding spot I saw that Darvis had sent some cronies after Olula and Kiran, probably to murder her without having to answer to an angry mob in her home village. The solders were getting restless and tired of spitting out orders to surrender, that’s when a skirmish began. Everything happened very fast after that, I can’t recall entirely myself since more than once they were able to trajectorize my shooting position, I had to disappear and pop up somewhere else. But just in case it wasn’t clear from the others, I made the first kill. I spilled blood before they did, before they could. They however took the first shot, they sent a volley of arrows towards the group, who were only saved by a barrier of magic from Kiran. That’s when I took my shot and killed the solder that was nearest them.”

    Trent stopped to drink some more water, he was starting to get hoarse since he put a little more passion into his words. He wanted to make it clear that he took responsibility for being the first to kill, but he also wanted Joline to understand that he had no choice.

    Trent’s testimony was proving to be a little more vague than the others. Knowing that he had killed one of the soldiers was important, but there was more at the beginning that she wanted to know about. Olula and Thangroth said they met him as they were leaving town, and since he hadn’t been involved in the initial arrest, she wanted to know what he, as an outsider, thought of Darvis’ punishment. “Let’s go back to the beginning,” Joline said. “When did you arrive in Vedun, and what did you see of the judgment Lord Darvis set out?”

    “I didn’t arrive until just before the lashings, in retrospect I suppose I could have been witnessing justice being carried out for all I knew. But there was something about Darvis... You have to understand that I grew up near one of the largest forests in Lodoss, a place overflowing with life and growth. It’s hard not to be humbled and it’s much clearer there than anywhere else in my travels that no one, not even the oldest shaman has reign over nature, just as no lord can reign over a people.”

    Trent paused to take another drink. “And yet Darvis had a grandiose to him that I had never seen before, he commanded respect over many yet he was no elder, and there was certainly no vast wisdom in his words as he listed the charges. Kris and Derrick had apparently threatened Darvis, and perhaps they did deserve punishment, I can’t be sure. But Olula was different, if I heard the charges correctly her only crime was having dark elf blood. Despite every protest of the villagers, people she grew up with, Darvis arrived a stranger and banished her with no more regard, with no more concern than tossing away an apple core! And the worse part is that his flunkies obey him! A man that would starve in my world yet revered in this one simply for being born into it.” By now Trent was speaking with fiery passion with his voice on the cusp of full shouting, leaving the scribe furiously scribbling to keep up with him.

    “And why?! Because half a millennium ago someone decided that he and anyone down his line would be special. Because of the way Darvis was born he was allowed to destroy and innocent girl’s life, and then call himself merciful for not having her hanged! Because of the way he was born his men inflict pain without question on those who have done them no wrong, all in the name of a civilized world. I left my home to see Lodoss and there it was right in front of me, a monkey that climbed a tree and somehow convinced everyone that he was tall. THAT’S why I wanted to help Olula and the others and THAT’S why I don’t mourn for Darvis’ men.” Trent no longer made the effort to compose himself as tears streaked across a bright red face, he no longer cared about stoicism and certainly made no effort to hide his impatience as he slammed white knuckles on the table to emphasis his point. “And as we speak, they have her. The same men that answer to that bloated son of a whore have Kris, they strolled into that inn and they took her...”

    Trent then looked down on the floor, all the fire that was bellowing in his gut in the past few days had spewed out before Joline, there was nothing left. His next words had no rage in them, it was something else. “And I let them. They took her away....and I just let them because I didn’t want them to take me too.”

    Joline listened to the young man’s impassioned speech, and found her heart racing not only in surprise at some of his fierce actions, but with the emotion with which he spoke. Her heart went out to him, and she understood his anger. She shared the same disgust at this injustice, which was why she was holding these inquiries herself. As Trent calmed down, Joline rose from her seat silently and moved to his side, feeling compelled to give him some comfort. The young noble woman gently placed her hand on his shoulder. “This injustice will not stand so long as I have breath to fight it with,” she said softly. She wanted to appear impartial to those she interviewed, to hide her own drive, but she couldn’t hold back the concern with this one. “I have already sent someone to have Krisatris released into my custody,” she whispered. “You don’t need to worry about her.”

    Hearing the scribe’s quill scratching behind her, Joline’s head shot back. “Strike that from the record,” she ordered. With a start, the scribe obeyed and quickly scratched over the last recorded comment until it was illegible.

    “We need to continue with your testimony,” she said blandly, then turned back toward her end of the table. She didn’t want to push the boy for more information, she wanted to leave this at what he had said, but she was forced to go on to get his full testimony. “Let’s move on to the fight on the road with the soldiers...” she said, and stepped over to glance at the scribe’s writing to remind herself of where Trent had left off before. “You shot one of the soldiers after they fired upon your friends. What happened after that?”

    Trent felt comforted by Joline’s words, as well as relieved that Kris would be under her custody, still in confinement, but at least Trent could rest assure that she wouldn’t be tortured or abused. He wasn’t surprised that Joline insisted on continuing his testimony, there was still more to say including the fact that Trent had hurt the leader of the solders after they were neutralized. He wanted to be able to tell his side of that part lest she find out later anyway.

    The young man wiped his face and drained the water in his cup before starting again. He was calmer now yet no longer wearing a mask of indifference, truly he was more himself than he had been in days. “After my first arrow struck the rest of the soldiers paused for a moment to divide their attention, it gave our people a chance to get in a fighting stance. That’s when the fight broke out. Kiran was working on a spell, Kris was guarding Olula, and Derrick and Thangroth engaged in close combat. Keep in mind I was focused on shooting, and after my third arrow their archers traced my location and started sending volleys my way, I had to abandon my shooting spot crawl through cover to a new area. So my imagination may be filling in some gaps, but I remember Thangroth tearing through the soldiers like paper dolls. And Derrick, wounded and outnumbered, fought well beyond the limits of the human body with a tenacity I’ve only seen in wild boars. I didn’t see him die, I was diving for cover at the time, all I heard was Thangroth shouting Derrick’s name and the unmistakable sound of a broad head impacting flesh. I saw his body from my new spot but it didn’t register in my mind that he was dead, like I said I was focused on shooting. At that point I noticed that some of the arrows hitting the soldiers weren’t mine. I would later find out that they were from Flora.”

    Trent stopped to give the scribe a chance to catch up before starting again. “That’s when Kiran’s spell was complete with the final incantation, ‘Dark sisters, destroy my foes’,” he said, translating Kiran’s elvish.

    “Sounds grim but it only put them all to sleep. The battle was instantly over with less casualties than there could have been but far more than any of us wanted. Flora stepped out from her hiding spot but she didn’t know that I was hiding as well, that’s how I was able to stay behind and keep an arrow trained on her just to be safe. She stated her case and convinced us she wasn’t a threat. The others took some supplies from the soldiers, no more than they needed. Before we left I took the captain’s ear as a warning to not to pursue us any farther, I’m not proud of it, I had never done anything like that before. But I was angry, angry that they fired unprovoked, angry about what they did to Derrick, and angry about what they wanted to do to us. Kiran tried to tell me that it would only make him hunt us farther, but several of his own were dead, that was already a given. He started a fight to the death, I can only hope that what I did serves as an ever lasting reminder of the life he could have lost.”

    Joline listened and the scribe recorded on. As Trent finished this segment of the story, she had no questions, as he had covered everything she would have asked. Once the scribe had finished catching up, he paused and gave his wrist a shake. He was used to writing at length, but this was pushing his limits. She would have requested someone else, but she expected Nat’s testimony to be short. “Please, continue,” she said to Trent.

    The rest of the young man’s testimony covered what she already knew. He had missed most of of the excitement with Kiran leaving, first having been relegated to the duty of stabling the horses while Kiran had been attacked at the inn, and then by sleeping in the morning that Mica had appeared. With his testimony complete, Joline took him back to his room and then went to fetch the final interviewee; Nat.

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