This story takes place just before Irowasa's great magic war, whose story I wrote in full for National Novel Writing Month 2010. To find out more about the Silver Sword, refer to the post Fairy Vault which has back links to the rest of the Silver Sword Saga.
Riddle of the Stones
Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7
Sunlight streamed through Fairy Wood’s eastern trees making the new fallen snow glitter like diamonds as Elmonrona, the fairy queen’s half-elvin monster hunter stepped out of a hut of tightly woven branches and into the icy morning. She squinted eyes as grey as the winter sky against the snow glare and pulled the hood of her forest green cloak over her ears, of which the right was pointed while the left was rounded giving her a lop-sided appearance. Walking with a sure step, she passed huts similar to her own as well as smaller fairy homes staggered up and down the larger trees, nestled in hollow spaces and holes made by woodpeckers.
After a few minutes she came to a place where the silvery trees opened to an expanse of flat ground covered in a sheet of snow broken here and there by blades of dead yellow grass. In the center of this meadow a group of fairies dressed in silver and white garments sat at a long table. Elmonrona glanced up and down the length of the table without seeing the person she sought. At one end of the table a tall fairy girl with locks of black hair held by a silvery net turned her intense blue eyes on Elmonrona. Smiling in recognition, she beckoned. Elmonrona stepped forward, stopped at her side and bowed.
“Light shine on you, Princess Vale,” Elmonrona greeted her.
“And on you, monster hunter,” replied Vale. Then she asked, “What brings you to the meadow so early in the day?”
“I am looking for the queen. I wish to report the details of the mission she sent me on yesterday.”
“The queen is attending to other business at the moment. I will tell her you were here when she returns.”
Elmonrona glanced at the other members of the fairy court watching her in silence from their seats at the table then asked, “May I speak with you privately?”
“Excuse me for just a minute,” said Vale, addressing the court.
She pushed back her chair and stood. Unfurling a pair of large gauzy wings she glided to the edge of the meadow and stopped below the first row of trees. Elmonrona followed on foot.
Once they were both shielded from view by the trees Vale whispered, “Did you find the thing that entered the forest?”
“I did,” Elmonrona replied. “I think the matter is far more complicated than we first realized.”
Vale narrowed her eyes then said, “Speak plainly.”
“Do you remember those notes I found when I was hunting the sorcerer Drazil?”
When Vale nodded she continued.
“I believe what entered the forest were two of his experiments, a shape-shifter and a human airwalker though how Drazil accomplished the later we may never know. It seems that the magic was fueling their abilities though it came from an external source and was not something they produced themselves.”
“Well that does sound like what we read in the notes but it in no way proves that Drazil was behind it,” said Vale. “How do you know it was him and not another magician using the same ideas?”
“I saw Drazil’s dragon flying over the forest just before I found the intruders. Also there was a group of mercenaries I questioned who confirmed they had been hired by Drazil. All these years after we thought the trail went cold, we have another chance at bringing Drazil to justice. When your mother returns would you please ask her to reassign me to that mission?”
“In my mind that mission will always be yours,” said Vale. Her eyes shone as she caught some of Elmonrona’s excitement. “Drazil never feared anyone like he feared you. I will carry your news to the queen. She will decide what must be done.”
“As is her right,” agreed Elmonrona bowing her head.
A couple hours later Elmonrona heard the smooth beat of large wings and sensed a powerful presence behind her. She turned as an elegant fairy with intense blue eyes wearing a silver gown tucked in her wings. Elmonrona stepped closer to her and bowed low. A tiara made of ice glinted atop the fairy’s silvery head as she turned her old yet unlined face toward Elmonrona.
“Vale told me of your discoveries and your request,” said the queen. “Though I think we should send someone after Drazil, unlike Vale I am not sure you would be my first choice for the job. You already failed me once.”
“I’m only asking that you give me a chance to redeem myself,” said Elmonrona. “The fact that I was once again the one to discover what he was after can’t be a coincident.”
“Vale has great faith in you and I trust her judgment. Plus you have been faithful in your duty of protecting the forest from monster attacks for several years. For those reasons I will give you one chance to prove yourself worthy.”
She produced a small pouch of red velvet and handed it to Elmonrona who opened it to reveal four small round colored stones.
“Take these to the source of the Farawad River,” said the queen. “If you can decipher the riddle of these stones and so unlock the secret of that place then you will be the one to go after Drazil. If you cannot, you must defer to another.”
Elmonrona pulled the drawstring closed and wrapped her fingers around the soft fabric.
With an excited tingle lending her strength, Elmonrona bowed and set off in the direction of the river cutting through the center of the forest.
The water of the Farawad was covered by a thin layer of ice. The air beside the river was biting cold and even her constant movement couldn’t keep Elmonrona from feeling its chill. She pulled her cloak tighter around her body and pressed on, following the icy water upstream past bare branches and the dry darker patches beneath a few evergreens. By midday the ground grew steeper as it rose into the first row of foothills guarding the Emerald Mountains. During the afternoon she found herself climbing the slopes of the first mountain where the river was little more than a narrow stream. At last she reached the place where the spring feeding the mighty river flowed out of the side of the mountain.
Facing the stream, she poured the stones onto her right palm and examined them closer. The stones were smooth and unmarked. Each was a different color; one red, one blue, one green and one white. There was nothing very remarkable about them save that they were all solid colors without any streaks or patterns running through them. She rolled them around on her hand as she tried to understand their significance. Four stones each a different color. What did she know of with four parts each represented by a different color? An idea came to her and she smiled at the simplicity of it as she spoke the thought aloud.
“The stones represent the four major elements. Red is fire, blue is water, green is earth and white is air.”
She waited for some confirmation that she had found the answer but nothing happened. Frowning, she realized there must be more to the riddle. After all, why would she have to come all the way to the source of the Farawad just to find out the stones represented the elements?
Closing the stones in her fist she moved to look at the stream and the area surrounding it hoping it would reveal some clue. As she stepped onto a rise behind the spring, she slipped on a patch of ice. As she reached out to catch herself, her left hand landed on some long rocks whose shape felt like a cross. Kneeling beside the spot, she brushed away the snow, revealing a circle of tiny stones surrounding four longer rocks which formed a four pointed star. At the tip of each star point was a hollow about the size of the stones in her hand. The shape instantly reminded Elmonrona of a compass rose and she realized it was her job to figure out which color stood for which direction.
She opened her hand and hesitated for just a moment before taking a deep breath and reaching for the first stone. The color she lifted first was white. This she placed at the in the direction of north. White must stand for snow, she reasoned, and the ice lands of Imla lay in the far north. She place red in the position of south to represent the Sardi Desert which lay on the southern end of the main continent. Green she guessed was west because the Emerald Mountains lay west of all the human lands save a half-wild country called Algamar. That left blue to fill the eastern slot, which made sense since the ocean lay to the east past a kingdom called Caramyth.
As soon as she placed the last stone the rocks shifted apart and a long thin hole no more than a foot wide opened in the frozen ground. Sunlight glinted off a metallic object which lay hidden in that spot. Carefully Elmonrona pulled her newfound treasure out of the hole and looked it over. The object was a long broadsword which gleamed of polished silver in the sunlight. On the hilt and hand guard the metal twisted around itself forming a simple pattern. The sword was otherwise unadorned.
Elmonrona gasped as she realized that this was the Silver Sword she had heard about in legends. It was said to be the most magical weapon on the world of Irowasa, forged by dwarves out of silver blessed the Lord of Light Himself and given to the fairies for safe keeping. Elmonrona knew that being given the opportunity to wield it was the highest honor she would ever receive from the fairy queen. Getting to her feet she gave the sword an experimental swing and felt its energy sing through her body, renewing her strength and returning warmth to her numb fingers. With a smile on her face she headed back into the forest. She knew that the sword itself proved her to be the right person for the job for it was a weapon of justice and it had chosen to help her fight Drazil.
Silver Sword Saga continued in The Great Magic War.