Elder Gods Overture is a prequel to the Void Waker series. The remainder of this story can be found on Patreon. For only $1 a month you can read this story, and others, while supporting a single mom of five.
Daylor Tinuren lay on his back, running his hand through the white air that emanated from his mouth. Snow drifted down around him and his cousin, Berhalis, turning to liquid wherever the flakes found warmth. The day was peaceful. It had been years since the Moon Elves of the twin island Ghela had attacked them on Vheria. While the reason behind their attack remained unknown, the Tinuren family had fought well against them. Leaders of the eastern shore guard, they had led their village for many generations.
Daylor sighed against the snow, his furs protecting him from the cold. He and his cousin had been much too young to remember the events of the attack, merely five-year-old babes who had just begun their training. Now they were close to their coming of age, to sealing their natural magical gifts and beginning families of their own if they so chose.
He smiled at the idea.
“We should return soon.” Daylor placed his hands against the snow and sat up. White-blue eyes met Berhalis’s identical pair. “We leave for the temple tomorrow, and we will need to prepare for our ceremony at the end of the month of Eola.” Daylor yawned. Truly he wanted to go home and relax before they returned to the Temple of Kothes where they would be handed even more tasks than that of guarding the village. Berhalis, however, had said before they’d taken a break that he wanted to continue scouting the outskirts of the island.
“We should walk the shore on our way back,” Berhalis said, dusting snow from his trousers while he stood. His tinted hair, matching the shades of the summer sun, glistened and contrasted against the backdrop of snow.
“They’re not going to attack in the dead of winter,” Daylor scoffed, pointing at the still shoreline. Tiny waves dotted the water, calm and lulling, nothing like it had been in the month of Edatherin.
“You never know.” Berhalis looked into the falling snow and fog, towards the island of Ghela.
Daylor frowned. His cousin was always cautious, always working hard to accomplish tasks he had not been asked to do. In contrast, Daylor paved his own way and left most things to luck, praying to Nysa, Goddess of Thieves, on his behalf. So far, the goddess had seen him through many harrowing self-made adventures.
“We’ll miss dinner.” Daylor craned his head. “Unless we take the shortcut through the woods.”
“No,” Berhalis replied, his tone stern and unrelenting.
Daylor chuckled. “You’ll not get to see Lysian. Since she has already passed her coming of age, she will not be returning with us. Surely you want to see her before we return.”
Inwardly Daylor grinned, seeing those words catch Berhalis off guard.
After hesitating, Berhalis shook his head. “It’s not a good idea. I sense something. Besides, she will stay with our family as soon as we return.”
“You always say you sense something.”
“I do not,” Berhalis grumbled as he began walking home.
“You do,” Daylor snapped, trudging along beside him through the snow and sand of the shoreline. “I say, ‘Berhalis, let us go to the other side of the island,’ and you say, ‘Daylor, no, I sense something.’ I say, ‘Berhalis, let us go to see the dryads, and you say, ‘Daylor, no, I sense something.’ And more times than not your sense is telling you that you need to relieve yourself.”
“You mock me.”
Daylor laughed. “I mock you because it is ridiculous.”
Berhalis grimaced down at him. “More times than not I sense that something is wrong and we’ve broken apart fights or helped someone in need. You cannot deny that, cousin.”
Daylor scoffed, waving Berhalis off with a grin. He was right. It was easier for Daylor to remember the times he had been wrong than the times he had not been. His cousin had the ability to sense danger. It came from his earthen magic along with the ability to grow things at will and feel the world speak to him.
As a healer, one would have thought Daylor to be steady and fluid, ready to follow suit and be available whenever needed. Instead, he felt the need to adventure, to climb trees, to test his limits even at the disappointment of his family and temple Elders. Many times, however, he found those in need when running off the beaten path, often wounded animals, but, once, a Moon Elf.
The wind beat against him, the thick of it biting at his lips. Gazing across Kalana’s vast ocean towards the other island, which was normally visible for most of the year, Daylor peered into a haze of snow and fog.. Ice formed in thin patches across the water. Midwinter had just passed and had left thick mounds of snow in its wake. He prayed that they would ebb soon.
Pulling his gloves on, he grumbled, “We have to walk the shoreline.”
“Look!” Berhalis gasped.
“‘Look’, he says.” Daylor laughed, kicking a heap of snow. “You have to be correct about your sense, hmm? Perhaps then…” His words trailed off when he looked northward. Several large vessels drifted across the water like mist in the distance, breaking through sheets of ice. He had never seen anything like them before. Fear, which he would not be able to shake until he discovered what they were, set in.
“It cannot be the Moon Elves.” Daylor licked his lips, seeing how large the vessels were. White above and dark beneath, they floated on the water with little effort. Had the ice been thicker, he doubted they would have seen them at all.
“They are coming to us.” The tension was thick in Berhalis’s voice. In another moment, he sprinted forward, racing towards their village with Daylor fast behind. Keeping his eyes on the seafaring vessels, Daylor jumped over rocks and twigs, worried about from where they had come.
If they were from Nudomri or the Northern Wastes, then something amiss was coming to their island.
Daylor and Berhalis were close to their village now. Lights of shimmering mana spheres set amongst torches lit the way through the haze. The lights grew in number the closer they came to the village that overlooked the sea.
Heart pounding like a thousand drums, he darted past Berhalis who had slowed to a stop. Daylor paused and looked back between his cousin and the unknown vessels that steadily approached. Berhalis removed his boots so he could feel the earth, tossed them aside, and nodded at Daylor before he bolted ahead again.
“Outsiders off the coast!” Daylor yelled when they passed the first mana sphere. Its wielder, Avores, another of Daylor’s cousins, turned to where Daylor pointed. Five spheres spun around one another before jumping into the sky, flashing bright enough that any from the village to the Temple of Kothes would see
“Outsiders!” he shouted again, running closer to homes made of stone and wood. Breathless, he stopped and saw his father standing close to the village’s tower a couple hundred feet away. Those who now saw what was coming went to arms, grabbing their bows and swords. Over two hundred elves were prepared to protect Vheria.
While the others prepared, Daylor stood beside Berhalis and watched. The vessels had stopped far from the shore, and beings were lowering smaller boats onto the water. Daylor’s long ears, bent slightly inward, twitched at what he thought to be the sound of a crying babe.
The winds had intensified, making it difficult for these unknown peoples to row across the water, but they still managed. Soon after the first moved ashore, three other boats followed, and he knew then that their numbers would be great.
Snatching his arm, Berhalis dragged Daylor away from the edge of the beach.
“You need to go with the other healers,” Berhalis said, holding his large sword loose at his side.
Daylor shook his head.“I do not think—”
“I will do what I want, thank you very much. Listen for just a moment to those who are approaching.”
Berhalis sighed but obliged his cousin no matter how hard he rolled his eyes. Daylor listened intently while the beings drew nearer. He heard it again, louder this time, the sound of a crying babe, its voice cracking under the weight of the wind. Berhalis’s eyes shifted from concentration to wide surprise. When the boats came within walking distance, Berhalis and Daylor stared into emaciated faces. One maiden clutched a bundle to her chest that would not be quiet while other children huddled close around her as though she alone could protect them.
However, that was not an elf maiden of any kind, Daylor knew. Her skin was neither the night sky, like that of the Moon Elves, nor the constant sun-touched shade of the Sun Elves. Neither did any of them have the long, sloped-back ears of the elven race.
“Humans,” Berhalis whispered. Dread and the unknown were heavy in that one word alone.
“This far from Nudomri?” Daylor questioned, a lump forming in his throat with his previous fears recognized.
Men climbed from their boats, standing in the freezing water and staring uncertainly across the short distance.
Just as Daylor moved towards them to help, sensing their need, another hand grabbed him. His father, Thallan, stared down at him with hardened and aged white-blue eyes.
“Get to the village,” Thallan snapped, “both of you. The children will need protection.”
“Protection from what?” Daylor exclaimed.
“Humans. The prophet spoke of this. I have no time to argue with you, Daylor.”
“Humans from Nudomri, there must be something wrong. A human has never stepped foot on the islands nor have we on Nudomri. And if there is something wrong, we—”
“They have come to attack.”
“I do not think they mean to attack, Father.” Daylor pulled out of his father’s grip. “Who comes to battle with babes at their breast?”
Anger flared in his father’s eyes. “Hold your tongue for once—”
“I am a healer, and these people are in clear need.”
Ignoring his father’s cries, Daylor rushed into the breath stealing water to help the men pull the boats to shore. His eyes met with the woman who held her child. She was unflinching though pitiful looking. Her eyes were wide and dry, showing they had traveled far and been through much. He sensed the weakness in her, the need for food, and the possible wounds within. Such was the same in the children who sat around her.
When they had the boat on shore, Daylor held his arms out to the woman, meaning to take her baby. She clutched the creature that continued to cry despite how weak he sounded. When the other elves rushed forward with weapons drawn, her eyes snapped to them, and she held the baby tighter.
Removing his gloves, he reached out a steady hand, calling to his blood crystals to pull the mana of the world into him and send it out in a healing touch. The white light that surrounded his hand enveloped the side of her face when he touched her, stroking his long fingers through her hair. He sent its pulse through her to help calm her, at the same time healing scratches on her cheeks. The lines of her forehead smoothed, and she gave a slight smile.
She shivered now, but not from fear.
He took the baby from her with the greatest of care. The baby’s lips were dry and cracked, something he had never seen of any child on Vheria.
In silence, he ran his hand over them with his healing touch. The wounds vanished in that instant, and the child quieted, now smiling up at Daylor who returned it in kindness. With care, he passed the child back into the mother’s arms and saw the light in her eyes return as she looked down upon the quiet babe. As he trudged back through the water to the shore, she followed despite her dress becoming soaked at the hem.
“How many are there?” Thallan asked, looking across the water. “You may be correct, my son. This boat was full of children.” The children remained huddled in the boat surrounded by the men, safe from the touch of the water for now.
Berhalis shook his head. “Looks to be at least a hundred so far.” Several people unloaded onto the shore before men in the rowboats returned to the vessels and retrieved more.
“Who is in charge here?” a man shouted, the common tongue different from the native elvish. While the gods had taught them the language that the rest of the world used, none had ever used it until now. All stared on in silence. The words were harsh, not as fluid as their native tongue, and even Daylor had not used it outside his lessons in the temple.
The men looked from one to another. At least fifty children huddled around them and the women that accompanied them.
“Father,” Daylor said in their native tongue, glancing between his father and the men. “They need help. I’ve already seen that. And regardless of—”
“I need the others,” Thallan muttered before waving his hand in the air. The elder elves of their village came to his side, though no elf lowered their weapons. Daylor swept his eyes over each of them while more arrived on shore. There were fewer children arriving now and more men and women who looked on with wasted faces and tired postures. Their numbers were great, yet none attacked.
Daylor wondered if they had the strength to do so. Their numbers might have been greater than the elves now, but he doubted they could have won if that had been their intent.
His father and the others spoke with hushed voices, looking every so often at the men on the beach who waited patiently. They were the guardians of the northern shore, meant to be the first defense for the island. Before the gods ascended, both islands used to be one and rose high above the water. Now the eastern shoreline remained a weakness.
“Where do you think they came from?” Daylor asked Berhalis who stood at the ready. “And why do you think they’ve come?”
Berhalis shook his head. “Cannot be anything good, that much I know.”
“Where you come from?” Thallan stumbled over words of a language rarely spoken.
A man raised his head, long dark hair falling away from a sullen, curly-bearded face. “Nudomri, Kingdom of Ilanis. Our kingdom has fallen, and we’ve sought to find refuge in what we thought to be a myth.” The man looked about, green eyes like leaves in the shadows passing over the long, decorated swords pointed at his people. “I see our venture has proven fruitful.”
Thallan tilted his head. “You ventured onto the seas for a myth?”
“We had little left for us,” the man said, his appearance strong and unwavering despite his condition. “We would rather have died on the sea than succumb to the Shadow Kingdom of Thaos, and no other would help us. There were no other options available.”
Voices rose high across the beach, murmurs of evil and corruption. The elves’s prophet had told them some time back that the tides of great change were coming to the world. He had said that Vheria, before any other land, would be swept under with that change. Daylor had never known what to think of this, what to do with the change that would come, or what form it would arrive in. The island that belonged to the goddess Vhedril stood divided on the issue. Some thought the gods who had promised to return to the mortal realm would accept the change. Others thought it was something to be avoided at all costs. After all, they were meant to keep the world in balance, to guide the beings of the world back to their place and help others in need. The gods had told all that the elves would help them.
What need did these humans have, Daylor wondered.
“Who are you?” Thallan asked, striking silence through the gathered crowd.
“Once Crown Prince Elrick Loinsigh.” The man bowed his head, a flicker of youth marred by the harshness of war and leadership still shining at the corner of his eyes. “Our god, Ilanis, came to me and told me of a land to seek. She helped show us the way.”
“The elder gods have ascended to the Celestial Realm.”
The man nodded. “Ours is not an elder god as you should know.”
Thallan looked over the multitude several times, and Daylor saw the worry etching on his face. It was winter, and they had little to offer unless the gods somehow yielded them more. Even those that could use magic to force edible plants to grow would not be able to help such a large amount of people. However, he knew that there might be more help for them at the temple.
“How many of you are there?” Thallan implored, white-blue eyes like lightning looking to his only son. Daylor stood tall in his attire, a thin frown line forming across proud features. His father’s sight on him became clear when he spoke again. “How many are in need of aid?”
“There were four thousand.” Elrick looked over his shoulder at those who followed him. “Perhaps now just under two thousand remain. Our food stores ran out not long ago, fresh water just a day ago. We were led here, and arrived just in time.”
“I believe you,” Thallan stated quietly, exchanging a look with Calowen, his brother and Berhalis’s father. “Daylor.”
“Yes, Father?” Daylor stood taller. The defiance he’d had before left him, but he knew that his father had seen the truth to his words.
“You and the others tend to those you can before sending them to the village,” Thallan said, stern features having yet to soften. “Make certain they are fed and taken care of afterwards while we speak to this prince.”
“Of course, Father.” Daylor bowed his head.
Thallan grunted, turning before adding, “Stay out of trouble.”
Daylor chuckled. “I’ll do my best, Father.”
“Adalem,” Elrick called, looking over his shoulder at the people behind him. A girl stepped forward from the crowd, hair sliding across her shoulders to frame her long face when she bowed. Thick red lips were parched and splotchy while eyes that matched the green color of the prince’s glanced from him to the elves. “This is my sister, Adalem,” Elrick stated briefly to Thallan before looking back to Adalem. “Stay here and help the others while the men and I see where we stand.”
Adalem bowed her head to him, offering a smile to the elves.
The men and elves walked shoulder to shoulder past the multitude of refugees and the crowd that had gathered to watch the interaction.
“I need to check on Lysian,” Berhalis murmured, clasping his hand on Daylor’s shoulder. “She will be worried.”
“You two will be bound by next month.” Daylor smirked. “Let her wonder. Help me, cousin. This is something that never happens.”
“You are correct. This is something that never happens, and I must be there to reassure her. Besides, I do not have the touch as you do. She, as well as our mothers, will need to know what has happened.” Berhalis stated before removing himself from the area, shoulder length hair waving goodbye to Daylor while he ran.
Shaking his head, Daylor went to Adalem first. She had scratches across her chin, dryness in her eyes, and weathered hands. Her appearance was very youthful. However, beneath furs and a gown he could see the deep curves of her body.
“Princess,” he murmured with a smile. He called to his blood crystals, the gifts the gods bestowed on the elves to work magic to heal and aid the world. A white glow surrounding his hand, and he gently cupped her chin. Her stare was unnerving, questioning and alluring. He attempted to avoid it, looking into the distance, but he could not do so when she suddenly grabbed his hand.
Soft skin against his, she whispered, “You elves were a myth.”
Daylor shook his head. “As the gods are, we are very real.”
She blinked, her thumb passing over the back of his hand. He nearly drew away, a mixture of emotion thrumming hard in his chest. However, he pressed on, hydrating her, even without touching water, and returning her lips from bloody and dry to soft and moist.
“Thank you,” she whispered, eyes alight with awe as she touched her lips.
Smiling timidly, he rushed out of her presence to assist the rest of her people. The world was about to change, he knew, and it was no doubt god-driven. Daylor still did not know what to think, but he was ready for whatever would come his way.