Chapter 5. Elves and Goblins die.
The Elf lancers came swiftly and silently on long lithe Faerie ponies. There were but six lancers, no more than a hunting party, but they were clad in armor and helm rather than the leathers and skins of more genteel pursuits.
The few scattered Goblins who turned and stood, exhausted, to gather the rocks and dirt at their feet and throw these in desperation at the Elves were quickly surrounded and dispatched without mercy. The Elf horsemen spoke no word nor shouted any command, yet operated with the precision and purpose of a well-trained militia.
Due to the speed and ruthlessness of these Elves, there was little chance to escape. The safety of the village seemed much too distant, and the immediate landscape offered no tactical advantage against their spears and mounts.
I took up the sword and placed the boy to my rear.
The child had no fear.
“To the right,” commanded my sword, and I moved to my right. The Elf lancer closest spun his pony and wheeled to face my blade.
“William of the Family of Oak,” said the sword. “A third son of father Erich. Two sons and three daughters. Heir to a minor fiefdom currently held by his dowager aunt.”
Perhaps sensing the magic in the sword, the Elf’s pony reared and snorted, flashing its mirrored hooves in the morning sun. The Elf shifted his lance from his shoulder to his palm and, in a single motion, spurred his mount forward and cast the tip of his weapon towards my chest.
I flinched in anticipation of the pain and involuntarily, helplessly, raised my hands in defense. Somehow, the tip of the lance clanged against the blade of my sword, shoving its flat surface against my left shoulder and turning my body in that direction. I stumbled and fell, safely removed from the thrust of the pony’s charge. As I fell, the edge of the sword clattered and slid across the right hind leg of the Elvish pony and sliced off one of its silvery hooves.
The pony collapsed and writhed on the sand. The Elven rider tumbled and rolled to his feet, long hooked daggers coiled in both hands.
“A little more faith,” said the sword as I regained it.
I held the sword forward, and the Elf launched his attack. In this attack, I felt more evenly matched and held my position. At my first parry, one of the Elf’s blades was hewn to its hilt.
My Elf opponent stood up from his crouch, backed away, and removed his helm. He squinted in my direction. “That sword cannot be yours, Goblin. It deserves a proper Family. I will take it from you.”
“William of Oak,” I said. “You have insight into matters of value to us both. Let us share information.”
The Elf replaced his helm and glanced briefly in the direction of the other five riders, who now, without further prey, had dismounted and walked slowly towards us, lances held low at hips and thighs.
The Elf before me removed a black pouch from his jerkin and spread the white powder inside it along his remaining blade.
“Ground snake scales, sandstone, and boar’s blood,” said the sword. “Given to William of Oak by his younger daughter Saya as protection against shamans and treacheries.”
The Elf tightened and replaced the pouch at his neck. He twirled his remaining blade, dulled and reddened by the potion, from his left hand to his right.
“Do you mean to kill him?” I asked my sword.
The Elf rushed me. The sword parried and thrust itself into the neck of William of Oak.
I pulled the sword forth, and William’s blood gushed and bubbled onto stone and weed.
“Not just him,” said the sword.
Seeing their companion fall, the remaining five riders remounted and charged me as one, lances low and forward. The sword killed two of the Faerie ponies in their initial charge, and then quickly murdered three of the Elves in the brief battle that ensued. The remaining two Elves, along with a single, riderless pony, fled to the east, into the sun.
“Throw me at them while they are yet within range!” pleaded the sword.
The child stood where I had earlier positioned him, unharmed and unconcerned.
I inspected the bodies. Each was similarly armored and marked with the generic heraldry of Elvish cavalry. “This is no Family vendetta nor paid expedition,” I said. “An Elvish army campaigns against Goblins.”
“I would conclude likewise,” said the sword.
“Why did they not acknowledge and seize the child?”
“I don’t know,” said the sword.
“Yet you know the lineage of those you kill? You know their Family names and the number of their children?”
“Perhaps I do and perhaps I don’t. You may consider my knowledge a form of battle madness. At present, outside of combat, I am quite ignorant of Elves and their families.”
I held the sword close to its first victim.
“Is this is not the blood of William of the Family of Oak, whose youngest daughter sought to protect him from harm?”
“Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn’t,” said the sword. “Battle knowledge is uncertain and fleeting. And, even in battle, trust in deed alone.”
“Are you a liar, dear sword?”
“I am a practiced storyteller,” said the sword. “Once something is dead and defeated, what is the difference between its story and its truth?”
“We should go to the village now,” said the child.
Goblins previously in hiding, partially buried and flattened in the sand, rose around us and were now intent, it seemed, to reach the nearby village as soon as possible.
“Would you like to hear a story as you walk?” said the sword. “I am a practiced storyteller.”
“No,” I said.
A Goblin village in isolation and a Goblin camp at war were two different circumstances. I believed now the sword would be welcomed according to its usefulness. I replaced the sword at my belt, took the child’s arm and, with the other Goblins in retreat, fled in the direction of the village.