As the two elves examined the outcome of the struggle, a violent coughing could be heard. The two of them turned and saw the outstretched Stygian with his hand over his mouth, that same remorse still evident in his dark eyes. At this, Alceren removed his sword from its sheath and approached him, while Alyxandra knelt by him, holding out her palms to Alceren, and asked him to wait a moment. She cautiously turned the man onto his back, before bringing him up into a seating position. At this merciful treatment, the man smiled, and tried to speak, coughing and wheezing in the process. Alyxandra handed him the flask of water that she kept at her belt, and he drank deeply from it. A few gasps later, the man attempted to speak again, repeating two words over and over again, as if it they were the only words he knew,
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” the man said, his smile widening, until eventually, he seemed to stabilise, rising to his feet. Alyxandra mimicked this as the man continued to speak. “They captured me and took me to their camp, and told me that they would kill me and my family if I ‘tried anything funny’.” Alyxandra smiled, glad that her observation, and the hesitation it had caused, had not been foolish. “Now, I shall return to my wife and son, and tell them of your mercy.”
“Are you sure that you do not wish to rest a moment longer? You took quite a fall.” Alceren now seemed convinced too of the man’s innocence, an change in opinion that caused Alyxandra to smile. Presently, two figures appeared on the road, approaching the three of them, with one of them calling. The sound was skewed by the wind at first, until it calmed and the words became clear.
“Daddy! Daddy!” the voice called, before the figures approached at a greater pace. Soon, they themselves became clear, a woman clutching a little boy’s hand brought the man to her in a warm embrace, lowering the hoods the enemy had placed upon him to unveil his dark, matted hair. The woman, a slim brunette, turned to the elves and said,
“Thank you for rescuing my husband from the Stygians, you have blessed my family in a way that we can never repay.” Alyxandra’s smile broadened, her eyes lit up, when Alceren spoke.
“How were you able to find him so soon?” The woman smiled.
“I have trained in simple spell craft, and as such, I was able to find him here. However, I am no great sorceress, and thus, the spell only works when the benefactor is safe. I have been attempting to cast it for a day now, neither eating nor sleeping. The moment it worked, I felt such a joy within me, that I took our dear son Thomas by the hand and hurried here, following the directions my enchanted heart gave me. And now my Christopher is here, safe, and it is thanks to you.” At this, tears fell down the woman’s face, which Christopher, as he had been identified, wiped them away dutifully. The three, as naturally loving as any close-knit family are, convinced the elves with their sincerity, and thus made their way back to the centre of Thornhurst, homeward. Fully satisfied that justice had been granted to the people of Thornhurst, and with the town guards now approaching to dispose of the bodies, Alyxandra and Alceren made their way back into The Overfilled Flagon, at which point they were greeted with merry cheering and praise of their bravery. The landlord announced that drinks were free for the rest of the evening, which received an even louder cheer from the revelers, at which point the two elves took a goblet of wine each, and found a pair of stools beside the roaring log fire. Alceren motioned for Alyxandra to sit, which she did so. Alceren took a sip of his wine, a smile on his face, and his mind calm. However, as he looked to his right, the smile faded from his lips as a realisation struck him.
Alyxandra was crying.