We first meet Darkhorse in Book 5 of my Crow series. We also meet Lo’rel in Books 2, 4, and 5 of my Crow series. They both have extensive backstories that warrant their own series. I’m not sure where this scene will pop up. Darkhorse had just left an encounter with Steven Crow in Book 5 of my Crow series, but this scene does not fit into the overall plot of that story. It deserves its own plot. It could be in a series dedicated to Darkhorse and her vengeful journey. Or it could end up in Lo’rel’s series. Time and more experimental writing will tell…
Lo’rel and Darkhorse
“What is an Elf?”
Darkhorse looked up as she fiddled with her robes. She could tell Jason was distraught. But she didn’t have an immediate answer for him.
“He is like you. That Steven Crow fella. Fur and everything.”
“Yes. But, no. He is something…” Darkhorse hesitated. “…very different. What I saw in his mind.” She shuddered. “Worlds dying.”
“But he said you are an Elf.”
Darkhorse nodded. “Apparently that is what I am.”
Becky giggled. “Where are the cookies?”
Darkhorse grinned. “My dear, I do not even have a tree within which to prepare them.”
“Darkhorse, he said you are not from here,” Jason persisted.
“I am from here,” Darkhorse stated resolutely. “My grandparents came here three thousand years ago…” She trailed off. She didn’t know them. She only knew of her mother from the memory of the medicine-woman who witnessed her death and rescued the unborn child from within her.
“But, you are not alone anymore,” Jason said carefully.
Darkhorse looked at him sharply. “If you have a question, ask it.”
Jason fidgeted and looked down. “You are going to leave us. You’re going to your home.”
Softening, Darkhorse lifted his chin. “I am home. You are my children. My family. Why would I ever leave this?” She waved at the forest village around them and the thousands of people who lived there.
Becky leaned against her and caressed the fur on her leg. “We don’t want you to go either. You’re our family too. The only Mommy that I know.”
Darkhorse grinned and put an arm around her. “You’re just trying to get out of cleanup detail, aren’t you?”
Becky elbowed her. “No. Yes. No…” She giggled, then wiped her face. “Please don’t go. We need you.”
“And I need you too.” Darkhorse kissed her forehead. “Syagria will just have to make do without me…” She stopped, frozen, her eyes widening. “You.”
Jason and Becky looked at what had captured Darkhorse’s attention. A dark figure stood in the clearing, like a living shadow. Both of them stood up and took defensive postures.
“You cannot be here!” Darkhorse jumped to her feet. Roots erupted from the ground, entangling the figure. However, unlike all the times before, the intruder simply vanished, and re-appeared, standing right in front of her.
Darkhorse jumped back then kicked the intruder. Pain shot up her leg and she cried out, falling back.
Jason and Becky descended on the intruder as one, explosions of fire and lightning blending as they unleashed their abilities upon their adversary. However, both simultaneously vanished, reappearing on the far side of the clearing.
The figure reached out with inhuman speed and grabbed Darkhorse around the waist, pulling her to him and trapping her. She tried in vain to escape the bronze-like grip. More roots shot from the ground and wrapped around him, trying to extricate her.
Without warning, she was blinded by a sudden explosion of light. They were no longer in the forest. Darkhorse’s eyes teared up as she squinted in the brilliant sun and looked around. She only saw sand dunes. In a panic, she began thrashing, hitting and kicking him with everything she had. Then abruptly, all resistance mysteriously left her and she drooped.
“No more of that silliness, young lady,” The figure said sternly. He released her, letting her fall to the sand.
“Please. Please don’t kill me,” Darkhorse begged groggily. “My children. Please. My children need me.” She wiped her face, crying furiously. The angry god had finally found her, and she was powerless before him.
He knelt down in front of her, lifting her chin as he glared at her sternly. “My children. Not yours.”
She gasped when she saw his face under his dark cloak. He was brilliantly white. Even his hair was like strands of the finest glass fibers. “You’re… you’re… “ She stopped, unwilling to say it.
“Not a vampire. You have been on Terra far too long.” He grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her close, sniffing her hair. “You smell like her.” He sighed. “Your grandmother.”
Darkhorse tried to pull away, but his grip was like steel. “Please, you’re hurting me.”
“Not even a hint of curiosity?” He cocked his head. “Look past your fear, Elf.”
She stopped trying to pull away and squinted. The stranger smiled. “That’s it. The answers are there.”
“That’s a start,” Lo’rel said patiently.
Darkhorse put a hand on his as he continued to grip the back of her neck. “You knew my grandmother? Before she came…here?”
Lo’rel smiled sadly. “She was a fine commander. Many golems fell thanks to her leadership.”
“Yes,” Lo’rel said.
“You were injured. They saved you.” Darkhorse covered her mouth. “Children.”
“Slave children found me at my weakest. They did not fear me. They tended my injuries,” Lo’rel said quietly. “It has been three thousand years, and I have cared for their descendants ever since.”
Darkhorse sat back hard when Lo’rel released her. “My children….”
“Their descendants,” Lo’rel finished her thought. He glared at her. “Who you have turned into your private army.”
“I did.” Darkhorse looked down. “But it was all for nothing. The enemy is not Earth.”
Lo’rel looked at her thoughtfully. “You saw your mother killed by a woman. Through the memory of the one who delivered you from her corpse.”
Darkhorse nodded slightly.
“That was no woman. A golem killed your mother. Rachel is its current name. I trust Steven clarified that for you? Rachel is a living machine.”
Darkhorse blinked away tears. “Mother was different. I am different. I thought she was killed because of it and, we were… and my children, we are all different. Earth is intolerant of different. I wanted to fix it.”
“You wanted revenge, and would have waged war against an innocent bystander.”
Darkhorse looked down at the sand. Lo’rel lifted her chin and glared at her. “You taught my children to hate Terrans.”
“Earth helped,” Darkhorse whispered, daring to argue. “They were all outcasts because of their eccentricities. Because of their gifts.”
“Their gifts were to benefit Terra. Not harm it.” Lo’rel snarled. “For three thousand years they served humanity. Until you intervened and taught them to fear.”
Darkhorse turned away from his accusing look. She had no response. “They should be kings. Not servants.”
“What they are humanity was long ago. I only woke up what was already there,” Lo’rel said, calming down. “Your anger should be directed to the one who failed to eradicate the golems here. Not those who were powerless against them.”
“You?” Darkhorse looked back at Lo’rel.
“My children were to help Terra resist, should I fail. And fail it appears I did.” Lo’rel said sadly. “I destroyed all the golems I could locate. But some eluded my search. Including Rachel.” He looked down, lost for a moment in ancient memories. “You’re mother’s death is my responsibility. Not Terra.”
“Your enemy killed my mother.” Darkhorse squinted at Lo’rel, leaving the implied question hanging.
“Our enemy. We have been at war with them for a very long time.” Lo’rel said. “Terra only got a small taste of that war.” He looked up at the newly coalescing ring of battle debris and asteroids forming in space from the recent conflict. Terra would never be the same again.
Darkhorse followed his gaze. “Small taste? Many of Earth’s cities have been…” She caught her breath. They both looked at a distant alien behemoth of a ship hovering over the desert dozens of miles away. The occupiers. There were countless hundreds of them globally. “You worried about what I would do to Earth. What of your own people?”
“We have a dead world back home. What has happened here does not remotely compare. It is from that end that we have saved this planet.” Lo’rel said solemnly.
“My greatest failure, the reason I no longer live with my brethren…” He reached out and touched Darkhorse’s arm, then gripped it gently.
Her eyes opened wide as she saw his memory. A world laid to waste in an explosive instant, millions dead with no warning. No life. Just an endless black landscape and black oceans.
“It was my report that got your grandmother re-assigned to the golem cleanup on Endard.” He waved at the alien ship in the distance. “She commanded a large fleet that could have finished the job on Rholling.”
“You knew they were still there,” Darkhorse said, dumbstruck. “The…golems. You knew.”
Lo’rel nodded. “There was no other way to save the Nistar. If I gated them from Rholling, the Sadari would have known. I snuck them onto your grandmother’s ships. I hoped… I…” He sighed. “I had hoped Lohet and Orin would have found the remaining golems. After I relocated the Nistar to Terra.” He let go of her arm. “I was supposed to have been a Sadari sympathizer. It was the only way to open a gate to the Forbidden World from Endard, and ensure they closed it behind me forever.”
He stopped briefly, lost for a moment in his memory. “It was supposed to have been enough to create doubt of my report. To inspire a continued search for the golems on Rholling.” He pulled his hood back. “It was not.”
“They are here? These… Nistar?” Darkhorse asked quietly.
“All of them,” Lo’rel said. “You cannot see them unless they will it. But the Sadari…the Sadari could not know of them. The Malakim was insistent.”
Darkhorse looked at him blankly.
“A god who gave me no choice,” Lo’rel said flippantly. “We were to be safe here. But the Sadari found Terra anyway. I have protected the Nistar since then.” Lo’rel paused for a long moment, then frowned at Darkhorse. “I have protected my children for a very long time as well. Until you decided you were better at it.”
“What are you going to do to me? My children?” Darkhorse asked hesitantly. She withered under his sharp look. “I have cared for them like they were my own for over two centuries.”
Lo’rel pursed his lips, gazing at her for a long, uncomfortable moment. “You are correct that Terra is intolerant to different. But that does not make them the enemy.” He sat down next to her. “My children need to be involved in the Reconstruction. They above all others are uniquely capable to restore Terra from the ravages of the conflict.”
Darkhorse looked down. “What of me?”
Lo’rel raised a brow. “You appear to have inserted yourself into their lives. You will continue as my surrogate.” He grinned at her crestfallen expression. “That is not the demotion that you may think.”
“I have cared for them by myself for so long,” Darkhorse said carefully.
“And you shall continue to do so,” Lo’rel said. “I expect you to cooperate with Nate.”
“He was one of mine.” Darkhorse started, stopping at his glare.
“He continued your mission on a more benevolent path.” Lo’rel took a breath and looked up at the sky. “Your children and his are one and the same. They will, therefore, be reunited and share in a common goal.”
“My time here is coming to an end.” Lo’rel looked at her. “In time, they will indeed be your children after all.”