Tuesday, April 15, 2014

THE ELF LORD'S REVENGE by Arabella Thorne

He lost everyone he loved to an assassin.

Will Emma be next?

It is 1843. Immortal elf Allydan sath Nulan has returned from his travels to his estate in Alta California only to find his home and family destroyed. Related to the ruling family in the elvish homeland of Aelynghyst, Allydan, as the last of his line, must discover the killer before he too is murdered.

Into his life falls Emma Treadburn, a human woman at the end of her rope. Tired of being forced to pay off her father’s debts by working for the local haberdasher who thinks he’s entitled to enjoy Emma’s charms, she decides to strike out on her own.

A terrible wagon accident brings the two of them together. But can the scholarly healer allow himself to fall in love with a human while trying to find a murderer?

And can Emma reconcile her heart to love an otherworldly elf?

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The wind whipped Allydan sath Nulan’s hair furiously around his head as he guided his stallion Rhean down the mountain road. My home…my family destroyed! All gone! Who would do this and why?

His ribs ached from his fall in the ruins, where he had searched frantically through the broken stones for any sign of his family. Nothing had been left. Allydan, clenching the reins so tightly they cut into his hands, wanted to push his stallion in a dead run down the road but kept the animal to a walk. He briefly thought about making the weather worse, but he didn’t want to destroy the orchards.

 Rhean moved steadily, hooves sloshing through the runoff spreading across their path. A bolt of lightning blazed overhead followed by a crack of thunder.  The lightning illuminated the road before him and the sodden fields that stretched at the foot of the mountain a hundred feet below. The purple light of the late afternoon made the landscape unreal. Allydan wiped his eyes. Lightning zigzagged across his view once more and thunder rumbled so loudly he could feel it in his bones.

The constant lightning illuminated a wagon bouncing and swaying across the mud toward Altadena. Allydan watched as the panicked horse took the bit in its teeth and ran full out, heedless of the driver’s pull on the reins. Allydan spurred his stallion into a gallop. The fool! They were headed straight for the wide irrigation canal along the west side of the road.

As he cleared the hacienda lands, he saw someone else in the road; a lone woman appeared from under the shadow of the large cottonwood bent over the canal. She slowly came out into the road but the wagon didn’t pause in its head long rush.  Allydan leaned over the stallion’s neck and gave him leave to run as fast as he could. Lightning struck nearby. The cart horse ahead of him screamed in terror and ran straight for the canal. The woman stood in the downpour fists clenched before her. She raised a hand but the horse, driver and wagon swept past her and careened into the canal.

Allydan pulled up Rhean and leapt off his horse, gritting his teeth at the sharp pain in his ribs. He ran towards the accident, following the sound of the thrashing horse and snapping wood. A woman screamed just as Allydan reached the edge of the rushing water. The cart horse had gotten loose from its traces and now laboriously climbed up the bank, dragging bits of broken wood and leather. The woman from the road struggled in the wreckage of the wagon, pulling things out of the bed and tossing them aside.   Allydan began to slide down the bank to reach her.

“There’s a baby in here!” She clutched a basket to her chest.

Just then, a sharp crack ripped through the air: The wagon began to break up and the vicious current dragged it from the canal bank.

*    *    *

Lightning hissed above her and lit the dark sky. Emma blinked to clear her vision. The water rose about her legs as she struggled to keep the basket from the surge of the current in the canal.

She threw herself to the closest bank and pushed the basket as high as she could reach.  Suddenly the weight in her hands disappeared.

“I’ve dropped it!” Her wet hair in her face made it hard for her to see as she patted the ground beneath her hands and pushed against the piece of wagon beneath her feet. She slipped and a searing pain burned through her lower left leg caused by what felt like a jagged piece of broken wood. Where did the man go?

The pain took her breath away. Emma gasped and struggled to climb up the dirt bank her hands scraping on the rocks. The baby!

She shoved hard once more and felt her skirt catch on the splintered wood dragging her back. She closed her eyes and pushed once more as hard as she could. Out of nowhere she felt herself lifted and pulled from the water.

She fell to the mud just in time to hear the high squeal of wood pushed beyond its limits. She turned to the canal. A sharp crack and the last part of the wagon tumbled out into the current. Emma watched through the flares of constant lightning as the pieces bobbed down the canal and out of view.

Emma sagged back to the ground. Her injured leg made her dizzy.  A thin wail cut through the sound of the storm and Emma instantly became alert: the baby!  She sat up and a flash of lightning illuminated the tall form of a man whose cloak and very long hair whipped about him. He stood a few feet from her.

Emma almost fell back into the canal. “Who-who..Wait: The baby! Do you have the baby?” She reached out and tried to push herself to her feet.

“I have the child.” The man’s deep voice answered. “The basket is securely tied to my saddle at the moment.” The man dipped towards her and Emma flinched. Before she could say anything, she was lifted from the mud and carried to a large horse. Emma saw the basket was indeed tied to the saddle.

The horse bowed to the ground and somehow, the man mounted his horse with his arms wrapped around her.

She squirmed in his grip. “Sir, wait! The driver of the wagon?  We have to see if she is out there! I saw her terrified face just as the wagon rushed past.”

Emma heard nothing but the branches of a nearby cottonwood lashed by the wind. “I will look once more,” the voice finally said. “But I saw no one else in the water besides you.”

“Well, it’s getting dark. Please, you’ve got to look!” Emma started to sob.

The man slid off the horse and Emma brushed her hair out her face, but the downpour made it hard for her to see details even with the flashes of lightning.  She leaned forward trying to focus but pain and exhaustion made her suddenly weak. She fumbled with numb hands trying to hold onto the saddle, but the wet leather proved slippery. Emma closed her eyes and fell forward.

Allydan saw the woman start to slide off the saddle out of the corner of his eye and rushed back to catch her before she hit the ground.

He held her tightly with one arm as he checked the baby. With a tap on Rhean’s left leg, the stallion bowed forward and Allydan leaped into the saddle.

Rhean stood slowly. Allydan braced the unconscious woman against his chest. He turned slightly in the saddle, released the rope around the basket and brought it forward. He set the basket before the woman. Wrapping his arms around everyone, he lifted the reins. Rhean took off in a long ground-eating walk.

Allydan shook his head as they rode through the storm towards the rancho. There had been no sign of the driver.

He glanced down at the two he held. The woman was small and her form fitted against him easily. He took a peek into the basket. When he lifted the edge of the soggy blanket, the baby blinked at him as the rain hit its face, but it remained quiet. “Poor little mitchkin!”

The events of the night made him want to destroy things. The horror up on the mountain, and now this! He kicked Rhean into a gallop.  He clattered into the hacienda courtyard and two figures detached themselves from the shadow of the front door, now opened and glowing with candle light.

“Mi senor! What has happened?” The young boy who grabbed Rhean’s reins looked at him in shock.

“An accident on the Altadena road, Esteban.”

The other shadow revealed Alberto, the hacienda owner. “Mi senor, let me help you with this.” Alberto took the basket and called out over his shoulder. “Matilda! Alicia! Come! Senor Allydan needs help!”

The two women came out, shawls pulled over their heads. Alberto handed the basket to Matilda.  “Be careful: There’s a baby inside.” Allydan said.

Matilda gasped and rushed for the house. “Alicia, find Consuelo! She can help Senor Allydan with the senora. I need you to feed this little one.”

Alberto gathered the unconscious woman and placed her carefully over his shoulder. “I will take her to the empty bedroom upstairs.”

“Excellent. I will go get my supplies.” Allydan said.

As Allydan slipped off Rhean, he paused to pat the stallion. “Good work, my friend.” The horse tossed his head and nickered.

He looked at Esteban. “Wipe him down good, m’hijo. And give him some grain for his fine work tonight.”

“I will senor; I will.” Esteban pulled on the reins and went off to the stables.

Allydan ran into the house and closed the door behind him. He pulled off his wet cloak and hung it with the others on an empty hook on the wall. Brushing his hair back, he hurried off to his stillroom for his medical supplies.

He stepped in the small room off the kitchen and paused to lay a finger on two candles to set them alight. Allydan stared into the flames his thoughts still circling. “Out of chaos comes undoubted change.” said some old elvish general.

He grabbed his satchel and began to go through his medicines.


About the Author

Arabella Thorne started writing at the age of twelve because she wanted to be in the adventures of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Of course she loved horses, but once she'd seen Ilya Kuryakin it was all over but the typing! Luckily, her friends enjoyed her adventures, too.

She knows she should have majored in English or Journalism, but received a BA in Fine Art instead (which was a great deal of fun to acquire). Almost nineteen years were spent at the Los Angeles Times in many positions, the last one being the Film Dept. desk assistant. While there, Ms. Thorne freelanced for them: book reviews, dance photography and features on science fiction in film and TV. (OMG! she even got to interview George Lucas!) A wonderful time was had by all.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Arabella lived in the suburbs there for 43 years.. But the Northridge earthquake happened and that was the end of that!
Now in Glendale, AZ she has a house, a 22-year old daughter, two grandsons, with a granddaughter on the way.

Arabella still writes because of the adventure. (And thanks Peter Jackson for his visual interpretation of Tolkien's elves!)