Chapter One Departure from Daggerfall
Long, long ago, when the world was in its springtime, before the Redguards came and the glorious Septim Empire was formed, but after the goblins had driven the dwarves out of Hammerfell, a son, Edward, was born to King Corcyr I of Daggerfall and his Queen, Aliera of Wayrest.
The young boy lay drowsing in the palace orchard, high on a breezy hill overlooking the deep blue bay of Daggerfall. The constant autumn fog of Daggerfall had blown away for the nonce and the sky was a deep endless blue. Moments like this were rare for young Prince Edward; this afternoon was the result of days of scheming, for he craved solitude as the other nobles he knew craved companionship. Now his tutor believed him engaged in extra arms practice, the master of arms believed him to be chasing deer with the huntmaster, who thought he was studying Elvish. His father had no idea where he was and didn't care, being occupied with his young wife and their sons and other pleasures of noble life.
At the plop of an apple barely missing his head, he opened his pale grey eyes; there was a sweet rotten smell in his nostrils. He sighed and stared up into the blue. Why should things fall down instead of up? If you stared at the sky long enough you could feel as if you were falling into it his eyes glazed and the pupils grew huge as the dark-ringed irises dilated. He was weightless, drifting another apple fell, grazing his ear, and he thudded to earth, crying out as first his rump struck and then his head. A silvery laugh sounded. Edward sat up abruptly and stared around, jaw hanging slack.
Two mounted men stood ten feet away, still as if they were carved from stone, regarding him intently. Princes are not easily intimidated, not even the gentle souled kind, but Edward had never seen or imagined anything like this pair. One had golden skin and eyes, was clad in white cloth trimmed with gold and rode a (Edward blinked. It is was still there) a unicorn! Beside the unicorn was a golden dragon, wings neatly folded. And on his back was a man clad in dark chain mail, a long sword at his side. He was bareheaded; his eyes glowed red in his dark face and his pointed ears "You're elves! What!"
"He's a clever child." The dark elf's voice was sardonic. He spoke perfect Bretic, Edward noticed, his mind still working, although something seemed to have gone wrong with the rest of him.
"So it would seem. He did that mostly of himself. Remarkable for an untrained child. I merely helped him to concentrate." The high elf also spoke Bretic, but hesitantly and with a slight singing accent. Edward's tutor said that elves were incapable of human speech.
Edward's gaze shifted rapidly over the four beings in front of him, unable to find a comfortable resting place. He hoped briefly, fervently, that he was dreaming. His mind seethed with questions and demands, then quite suddenly his tongue came unstuck. "But I wasn't concentrating at all! My masters all say I'm incapable." Edward clamped his jaw down hard, suddenly realizing that it might be unwise to argue with beings such as these.
But the golden elf smiled broadly, showing perfect white teeth, "Exactly." He radiated such warm approval, that Edward felt his skin tingle pleasantly. It was a feeling that he'd only known with his long-gone mother. But the other elf's face was expressionless; the red eyes bored into Edward as if they would pierce his soul.
"Moraelyn! You're Moraelyn! The witch-king!" He jumped to his feet and faced the dark elf. "You stole my mother! My father will kill you."
"I am. I did. Will he? Shall we call him and find out?" The dark elf straightened and his eyes glowed deeper. A tiny puff of steam escaped the dragon's nostrils. A glowing aura appeared around his companion. Edward knew he wasn't going to call the guard. Why should they be slaughtered? These two looked capable of anything. Quite suddenly he was no longer afraid. If they were here to hurt him, they'd have done it by now. But a feeling of impotent rage remained. They'd taken his mother. And now.
"Why are you here?" he demanded.
"Edward, will you come with us?" The high elf spoke. Hearing him was like hearing a harp, cool as a breeze, warm as a fireside.
The boy stood very still. He wanted very much to say yes, to his own amazement. He wanted to ask if he would see his mother, but instead: "My father..." he croaked.
"Will miss you no doubt." The irony was back in Moraelyn's voice, a voice that make Edward think of icicles sparkling and dripping in winter sun. But there was a sort of hunger in his glowing eyes, a longing?
His father wouldn't miss him and he knew it. Shame ran through the boy, but he looked up at the broad-shouldered elf defiantly. "Are you my father?" Edward had meant the question to match the elf's sarcasm, but his hand crept to his ear as if of itself. He wasn't anything like his short-tempered, hearty, red-haired father and Roane often said he had an elfin look.
There was a heavy silence and Edward sensed that Moraelyn was taking the question at face value but that truth had nothing to do with what Moraelyn would say next. He would give the expedient answer. Still.
"No." It came reluctantly. He might be lying, of course, but Edward felt a deep wave of relief.
"Does my mother have other sons?" Suddenly Edward knew she did not and that the question would hurt the dark elf. And was glad.
"Your mother might be dead, for all you know. Or care, it seems." The dark elf's narrow nostrils twitched as if Edward stank, and the lines around his mouth deepened. She was not dead. Edward would have known. The bitter injustice of Moraelyn's contempt stung. "Did she send you to me?"
"Do you take me for an errand boy!" he snapped, and spoke to his companion: "Let us take him now and be gone; we may discuss it at leisure."
The golden elf held up his hand, "Patience, my cousin." and, to Edward, "Well, youngling, will you come?"
Dark tales were told of human children kidnapped by elves, who hungered for young humans
"I don't know your name," Edward temporized.
"Do you love your life here so much?"
Edward looked at the palace in the distance, the banners floating lazily above the town below, the sparkling bay, the distant mountains. "I love Daggerfall."
"Ah. And you shall return to hold it, Prince Edward. I, I'ric Harad Egun the Archmagister, swear it to you." Moraelyn swung about, protesting sharply in Elvish. The dragon spat a bit of flame, but the unicorn did not move; its golden eyes regarded Edward steadily. "Unicorns do not abide any sort of falsity." The words floated through his mind in his mother's voice.
"I'ric Harad Egun the Archmagister, I will come with you."
"You must ride with Moraelyn. The Lord Akatosh has consented to this--necessity. The elf made a sweeping gesture toward the dragon."
He wasn't fit to touch a unicorn, of course. "Very well, then. I...I don't suppose I could bring my dog?" Where was he? Shag was always with him. Asleep in the grass! Shag, the ever-alert? Edward knelt to touch him. A heated discussion in Elvish ensued, during which the dragon scorched the grass. Moraelyn swung down and picked Shag up with distaste. "Very well, then, but I warn you that Akatosh is at the limit of his patience. Mount, then."
"Lord Akatosh, I am most deeply obliged by your indulgence. If ever I may repay it."
"You will," Moraelyn interrupted; he seized Edward by the belt and tossed him up onto the dragon. Edward settled himself between the dragon's neck and wings and the sleeping Shag was draped limply in front of him. "There isn't room for..." Edward began, and jerked in astonishment as the dragon shifted beneath him and grew larger. Much, much, much larger. Moraelyn vaulted up behind with a prodigious leap for one in armor. The unicorn jumped the nine foot wall, clearing it neatly. The dragon's great wings stretched; he crouched, then leapt into the air. His riders swayed wildly. The dark elf muttered something Edward couldn't understand in elvish and they steadied. The wings beat strongly and the dragon circled low over the Keep, gaining altitude slowly. People were running about now, shouting and pointing. Edward saw his old nurse and waved and shouted, "Goodbye! Goodbye! I'll be back sometime..." Arrows flew through the air as bowmen shot, while the nurse screamed and clutched at the arms of those nearest. King Corcyr ran naked onto the battlements, screaming and waving his fists. "Child of a demon, come back and I'll thrash you within an inch of your worthless life. Moraelyn, come down and fight, like the man you aren't."
Moraelyn's loud laughter rang clear as temple bells, cascading over the Keep. He shouted, "Be glad I don't, little King of the Small Cock!" The dragon circled almost lazily and let out a huge gout of flame. Arrows clinked harmlessly off his golden scales. "I'm off to see my mother!" Edward screamed down, noting the upturned faces of his stepmother and her red-haired sons. Roane had a fur-trimmed robe clutched round her, but her long hair floated wildly. Four pairs of eyes fastened on him, not Moraelyn, glittering with fury and hatred. Edward stopped waving and clutched Shag tightly with both hands. Moraelyn's mail clad arm was securely about his waist. Edward slumped against him, feeling quite safe for the first time in a very long while. The bowmen had stopped shooting; most of them were looking at the royal family. The king danced with rage. The great dragon's wings beat harder now and they headed due south out over the water.
"Aren't we going to Ebonheart?" the boy twisted round and looked up at Moraelyn. "Your mother awaits you at Firsthold in Sumurset, little Prince."
"Why did you wait so long to fetch me?"
"Querulous child, do you think dragons and unicorns do the bidding of elves or men? Your mother came to me full willing, but she could not bring you; you were too closely guarded by your father's men. Would you have had us lay waste your land to take you by force? She thought you would be safe and cared for and she was desperate. No, this was the dragon's plan."
Of all the astonishing events of the afternoon, this was the most surprising: the notion that a dragon should take an interest in him, when not even his own family did. But, willing, the elf said, full willing!
"You are the focus of large events, youngling. Your task is to prepare yourself to be a king; a king such as your people have never known. Our task is to aid you. Sleep now."
Waves of sleep assaulted Edward's mind, one after another. "But..." he meant to ask Moraelyn about his mother, but the last wave was too big; it crashed right over him and he slipped into dark fireshot dreams.