Prologue, Telling Tales

A young man steps off a train into a realm where elven cities cluster about rail yards, racial rebellion stirs in the back alleys, philosophies clash in the highest of towers, and a Red King rules over all with a bloody hand.

“So, just who is this Red King?” Jason asks.

“He calls himself the king of all lands, but he's as much a monarch as any of his kind. They've all got the same blood, they're inbred bastards for the sake of purity, the lot of them,” Ronsher spits.

“I'm sorry?”

Ronsher looks at the young man and the confused look on his face, then sighs. “No, I'm sorry. Racial tensions and all that. Not that I'm exaggerating, though. Married to his niece, that one.”

The look of confusion remains on Jason's face.

“Ah, right. Red King. He's the latest addition to a long line of high kings, all golden elves. In the depths of history there were multiple kingdoms and many clans, rival kings and the whole bit. Then the golden elves decided that ruling their own land wasn't enough, and they soon conquered all of Domain. The glade elves didn't put up a fight, really. They're pacifists, and similar to trees in more than name.”

The elf pauses, gathering his thoughts: the coming portion of history is always a difficult one to relate.

“Us iron elves,” he starts, but almost immediately stops, leaving the dark room silent. A single candle glows in the corner, a pinprick of brightness casting a pale but effervescent light. Its small light casts long shadows that melt into the greater darkness of the far sides of the room.

Jason knows not to press the elf, but is desperate to learn more of his situation. The Red King, somehow, had brought him here. Now there is a chasm of questions separating him from a return home.

“The golden elves were particularly ruthless in their conquest of our lands. To this day they keep us as slaves – you saw that in your brief time in the capital.”

Jason nods at the memory, suppressing a shudder.

“Despite conquering us, they show little interest in our lands. On the imperial maps this part of Domain is labelled The Badlands, and few beside us free elves live here,” Ronsher continues. His face is stoic, his gaze fixed on the flickering candle. The play of shadows across his face ages his young features, carving deep grooves into the lines of his forehead and strong cheekbones.

“And the rest of your kind are... in the capital?”

“If only their fates were as such,” the elf whispers. “No, the Red King keeps them in mines, or working at crafting the buildings for the new cities. Many are also driven near death building and maintaining the railways.”

A thought blossoms in Jason's mind, a faint remembering of an event that seems long past.

“I arrived here on a train, Ron,” he says quietly. “I don't know how, or why, but a train brought me here.”

The elf nods sagely before speaking. “I am not surprised. The rails follow powerful lay lines, and there are many waypoints connected by the tracks.”

“Lay lines?” Jason asks.

“Yes. Do you not study them in your world, Jason? They are very important lines, holding great power and linking auspicious places.”

“No,” Jason shakes his head. “This is the first I've heard of them. Waypoints, though... I remember Kesh arguing about those with Yuli.”

“Then my brother and I share the same thoughts.” The elf's lips twitch in a slight smile, but return to a look of seriousness in a flash, “I think you should tell me exactly how you came into this world. The details may be useful, or then again not, but it has been a while since I've done any listening.”

A sighing laugh escapes from Jason's lungs. “Hah. Alright, then.” And so he tells his tale to Ronsher, starting with his last night in the world he calls home. 

The End

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