Submitted by Tashara
"Should we send a spy in, do you think?" the light-haired sylvan whispered to his partner as they perched in the trees, overlooking the narrow path to Yrenelania. The second sylvan, of a bit darker complexion, quietly shook her head and pointed to where the orc patrols always seemed to hover.
"They gather there, Caylan. If we tried to sneak past them now we would simply be caught, and alert them to our intentions. It is better to be only slightly informed than to have one of ours leaking information to an orcish torturer," the darker sylvan spoke quietly, spitting at the end of the sentence. Below them in the undergrowth, the forest was quiet. There was no indication of the hundred elves from Deltherian lurking in the shadows, waiting for the word from their leaders to strike quick and hard into orcish territory. Their assault would be expensive, and each of the five score elves below knew that to enter Yrenelania was to take a chance at death. But the prize was more precious to them than their own lives. The crown prince - the Lord's son - was being held captive just beyond their borders. All of the elves desperately hoped the lad wasn't being subjected to their torture.
Surely they know that such a small boy can be of no use to them? Alaynia wondered to herself, shifting slightly in the branches to observe the orcs better. Why, he is a babe of but twenty summers. What could he know of our planning, and of what use could he be to anyone dead or tortured mad?
As if reading her thoughts, Alaynia's partner set light fingers on her forearm and whispered, "Orcs are not the smartest beasts. The sooner we get him out, the better. Second star rise?"
Alaynia nodded and whispered back, "Second star rise, pass the word."
Creeping through the long grass on the road to Yrenelania, the light from the stars guiding them, the sylvans of Deltharian were caught entirely by surprise as the light from thousands of torches suddenly lit up the sky. With a howl, the ambush of several hundred orcs fell on the small elvish band. The sylvans had never expected it. They often underestimated the intelligence of the orcs, who had been setting a trap for bigger bait all along. In such close quarters the famous elven longbows were all but useless against the waves of orcs surrounding the lightly-armored elves. To taunt the trapped beings the orcs brought their bait out in the open - a pitifully shrieking elf son, in tattered condition after even one day spent with the orcs. The child was hardly larger than a five year old human, but three orcs had to hold him as he kicked, bit, and cursed his racial enemies of old. Setting the spear he was tied to in the ground, the orcish general called for the attack. The trapped elves were not helpless, and they all knew the orcs would give no quarter. Each sylvan would fight to the death, and knowing this of their fellows made them all stronger. But five hundred orcs, even if disorganized, is to much for a band of sylvans outnumbered five to one.
Seeing the weeping child and knowing that he was lost if they failed, Caylan leaped from the elven lines into the mass of orcs, nimbly making his way through the spaces between their bodies. Aylania followed close on his heels, with no less than ten other elves behind them. They speared their way within yards of the boy, whose back was against one of the low cliffs making up the sides of the narrow passage into Yrenelania. But there were three ranks of orcs between them and the prince, and most of the hundred elves were dead or dying behind them. The twelve managed to hold the orcs off for a few seconds - long enough for Caylan and Aylania to meet eyes. Caylan nodded, and as much as Aylania wished it were otherwise she knew she was the more nimble of the two of them.
As the other ten elves formed a last-ditch defensive circle, Aylania climbed onto Caylan's shoulders. Judging the elf and three orcs between her and the forgotten elf prince, Aylania launched herself up and over the first two ranks. She was forced to use the helmet of the last orc in the way as a stepping stone, and recieved a nasty wound on the back of her leg for her troubles. Then Aylania was scrambling up the low cliff, directely above the prince. The broken end of the spear he was tied to stuck up just above the bank, and as Aylania made her way over the top she pulled the boy up with her. He had passed out by now, and was so quiet and limp that Aylania was profoundly worried. Having only the time to glance back, the last thing she witnessed of the battle was her lover being cut down before she was sprinting off through the low brush with the trussed prince and his spear balanced across her shoulders.
It was a long run back to Deltharien, skirting the orcs as she had to, and the bitter Aylania had plenty of time to think about her purpose on the way back. Was ninety-nine lives, her lover's amoung them, an acceptable sacrafice for a single elven prince? How could the elves think so lowly of the orcs, to not expect such an ambush? How would the Lord of Deltharien react, knowing that near a hundred of his loyal subjects were slain at the hands of the orcs? Would he be remoreseful.. or simply glad to have his own son back? How could she live now, knowing Caylan was dead?
Yet Caylan was simply another casualty in the neverending war between Deltharien and Yrenelania, never to be in a tome of history. It was then that Aylania realized the futility of war, and never again would she return to a battlefield.