Black Water Well

The Dark Arrow Trilogy #3

by Mathias G. B. Colwell

With his family free of enslavement, Elliyar and his companions chart their course back home. However, there is more to be done before they can return to Andalaya. Rihya is captured by the brother of Half-Mask; the three-way conflict is coming to a head between both elven races and the humans; and Elliyar is waging a war inside himself as well as without. Elliyar decides to strike a decisive blow at the heart of the southern kingdom, in the hopes of ending this struggle once and for all, and to save himself in the process. Dark and light, hope and despair, battle inside and out as Elliyar Wintermoon fights to save his people and rid the world of the Unsired.



The inky-black water beckoned Half-Mask’s ship as he sailed into the protected waters of the Midnight Cove. This was as close to home as he ever felt. Half-Mask wasn’t quite sure he understood what others meant when they spoke of home, didn’t quite understand the warmth in their tones or the joy on their faces. But maybe this feeling of rightness he felt as the prow of the ship cut through the dark waters was something like what they were speaking of when they thought of home.

Black water met light in a familiar way where the cove and the surrounding sea collided. Clear blue and green waters had been left behind as they entered the Midnight Cove, named for the dark water that contrasted so sharply with the rest of the seas around the Enclaves. This particular Enclave and the fortress on the shore called to him. Half-Mask smiled to himself, tongue idly touching the points of his needle-sharp teeth. The King of the South would be pleased he had arrived. His father was impatient and not one to be kept waiting for overly long.

The warship dropped anchor near to shore and Half-Mask disembarked onto a skiff rowed by slaves. A few trusted nobles accompanied him but, in anticipation of the meeting with his father, it was difficult to even remember their names.

“Row faster!” The Prince of Darkness grimaced as he watched the shore inch nearer. Half-Mask cursed and cuffed the slave nearest to him. “I said row, damn you!” A few of the nobles looked at the prince nervously, sensing his changing mood.

The closer he came to the fortress and the King of the South the more anxious he became. He would have to tell him—his father—what he had done. He would not be pleased.

The next few minutes were a nervous blur, and Half-Mask hated it. He should not be nervous. He was the Prince of Darkness, after all! Was he not as powerful as his father? But, then again, had his father ever made a mistake like this before? He angrily shook away that thought. It made no difference: what was done was done. The boy was what he was now, and there was no changing the past. Not even Half-Mask or his father could do that. Even a Spectralist had limits to his power.

Before he knew it, Half-Mask was striding through the small throne room, or as close to a throne room as existed here at the Midnight Cove. This wasn’t exactly a royal palace. The fortress was a refuge, a haven, a special place for Half-Mask and the king. It was where his father had first discovered the darkness so many years ago. It was a place to create, to replenish, to retreat, and to reemerge stronger and better and more powerful. It was not a place from which to rule—that was the purpose of Dark Harbor. The grand southern port was the hub of all life in the south. Merchants came and went; slaves arrived, worked, and died; and the nobles competed in their petty politics. But here at the Midnight Cove was where the true power lay. The well was here.

Half-Mask crossed the throne room and went to open the oak door on the far side. It was a strong slab of wood bound with iron. He glanced around as he pulled it open. At some point, everyone had left him. He was now alone. Good, he thought, for if they’d had the temerity to follow him to his private quarters they would have been chastised. It was a small pleasure that his slaves and attendants knew him well enough to anticipate his desires. Yet it was not a big enough pleasure to squelch the growing anxiety he felt as he climbed the stairs. The feeling made the Prince of Darkness angry, angrier than just about anything since Silverfist had died. At the top of the stairs, he pulled open another oaken, ironbound door and stepped into his chambers. His father waited within.

“It took you long enough to arrive,” the King of the South said in his dead voice, disinterest in all activity around him seeming to overwhelm nearly every other attribute he possessed. But one did not make the mistake of believing the façade. He might seem disinterested, but Half-Mask knew his father was keenly invested in the events that had been transpiring these past decades. He would not appreciate the wrinkle Half-Mask had created, but maybe he wouldn’t know it was Half-Mask’s fault. Just maybe.

“I had matters to attend to in the capital,” Half-Mask responded.

The king ignored his comment except for a scornful glance. “Did you feel it?”

“What?” Half-Mask asked warily, testing the waters to see what his father really knew.

“Don’t play games with me!” The disinterest was gone and even under the darkened cowl of his father’s cloak Half-Mask could see his anger flashing. “I am speaking of the only occurrence worthy of notice these past weeks. Did you feel the Becoming?”

The Prince of Darkness couldn’t help but grimace. “Yes, of course I felt it.”

“Yes, of course you did,” the king said slyly.

He knew. Half-Mask wasn’t sure how he knew, but there was no doubt his father knew. He didn’t respond, just stared at the king.

“Well, boy, answer me!” he barked.

Half-Mask hissed convulsively. His father hadn’t dared call him ‘boy’ in more time than he cared to remember. “Call me that one more time,” he warned with quiet anger. Nerves were gone now; he would not stand to be disrespected, not even by the king. Perhaps the time had finally come.

The King of the South was across the room in a flash, faster than Half-Mask had expected, clothed as he was in a heavy black cloak. The king’s hands closed around his son’s throat, constricting like a snake, powerful and furious. His father’s black eyes burned into his.

But Half-Mask was not to be underestimated, either. A knife was already in his hand and held to the king’s groin near a major artery. “Do you really want to do this?” the prince gasped out angrily.

His father’s hands did not lessen their grip. “Tell me. Admit what you have done.”

“What do you mean?” Half-Mask wasn’t quite ready to give up the act yet. Perhaps he could yet shift the blame.

The king shook his head scornfully. “I know you must have done it. Only you or I could have, and I did not.”

Fine, so the game was up. Half-Mask had to concede at some point. He might as well answer. “It was not intentional,” he muttered stiffly as his father finally loosened his grasp on his throat.

The King of the South shoved his son away in disgust. “Another one of your games?”

Half-Mask sucked in air greedily as he ignored the jibe. “Relax Father, it will be fine.”

“Will it? Do you really think so? Another Spectralist exists. Perhaps something more than a Spectralist, as his presence feels slightly different. I would not doubt it if he has the powers that the rumors claim in addition to what you gave him. It was the boy from the north, was it not? I can only assume that it was.”

“It was. It was only supposed to make him an Unsired, nothing more,” Half-Mask explained sullenly. He immediately loathed the tone his voice had assumed. He hadn’t sounded like that since he was a child.

The king shook his head. “This must be fixed. We cannot allow it to just ‘sort itself out’.”

“What do you propose?”

Again the king assumed a sly expression. “There was once one who was quite useful. One who could be counted upon to carry out dangerous and difficult tasks. Even you counted on him at times. And you hardly ever rely on anyone, my son.”

Half-Mask thought he saw where this was going. What was his father thinking? The amount of effort would be colossal.

“He couldn’t be trusted then, and that won’t be any different now. I wouldn’t pay two rakkas for him,” he argued.

His father stared at him with those piercing, black eyes, dark hair shaved on the sides of his head in warrior fashion just as Half-Mask’s own locks were shorn. “But still…he was useful.”

“He was weak,” the Prince of Darkness exclaimed. “He allowed himself to be killed!”

“Utility outweighs all,” the king replied. “Besides, he will be more trustworthy in his future state. They are never quite the same after rising.”

Half-Mask sighed angrily. He could tell there was no arguing with his father in this case. The king took his silence for acquiescence, which perhaps it was, grabbed a bell-pull, and yanked. A few moments later, a slave could be heard laboring quickly up the stairs. He knocked and entered upon command.

“Fetch him,” the king said tersely. The slave bowed and exited.

“Who?” Half-Masked asked.

“You will see. When we raise him, he will need a companion, someone who is not so…odd in appearance.”

The slave returned accompanied by an extra set of footsteps. The knock sounded again.

“Come,” Half-Mask commanded angrily. He didn’t enjoy the fact that his father had clearly made plans without consulting him, taking his agreement for granted.

The door opened, and the slave entered with a traitor in tow. Blond, with the red Traitor’s Tears tattooed upon his cheeks, Half-Mask could see what had once been anger faded to bitterness finally to be replaced simply with fear. Fear always ended up replacing whatever emotion preceded it, at least when one associated with the Prince of Darkness and his father.

Half-Mask’s eyes narrowed. He knew this one. He had been present when this mess began. “Borian, right?”

The traitor nodded and then answered, “Yes, Prince.” When he spoke, Half-Mask could see that his teeth had been filed to points like those of the south often did. Similarly, the sides of his head were shaved. Half-Mask was almost surprised he’d remembered the name. But then, it had been an eventful night. He remembered with joy the feeling of pinning Wintermoon to the wall with his sword.

The king spoke. “Borian, we have a task for you. We will be attending to a matter of dire importance. Directly after, you will be given orders to meet with and then accompany a subject of ours. Would you like the chance to kill a Wintermoon?”

Borian’s fearful eyes lit up for a moment with old hatred. So, the traitor wasn’t completely cowed yet. Half-Mask thought it boded well that the boy could be counted upon to hate his foe.

Borian bowed. “Yes, my king.”

“Leave us,” the King of the South said haughtily as soon as his command had been heard by the traitor. The boy bowed again and then exited the room alongside the slave.

“You hardly needed to bring him in. You could have simply told me the plan,” Half-Mask said in annoyance.

“I suppose that is true. But these days I worry that I need to spell things out for you, especially after the mess you have made.”

Half-Mask gritted his teeth—the unfiled molars, not the sharpened front row—in frustration but declined to respond. Instead, he walked to the door and grabbed the handle before looking back at his father. “Well, we may as well get on with it.”

Finally, the king smiled at him. “The first sensible thing you have said yet.”

They walked down the stairs, back through the throne room, and into the bowels of the fortress. They walked past torches in sconces which lit dingy tunnels as they reached the heart of the fortress. Half-Mask and the King of the South entered the cavernous room where the well lay. The black well; the well for which this fortress had been named. Black Water Well. Its name was spoken with fear by all those who had heard of it. Even the most seasoned Departed grew nervous at its mention. As Half-Mask approached, he stared into the pure contents, the core, the contained essence of the substance that seeped through the ground, through the rocks, to reach the waters of the cove and leak out to the sea, giving it the name the Midnight Cove.

“It is the one truly beautiful thing in this world. Is it not? They have their Source…and we have ours.” The king sighed almost lustily as he dipped his hand into the inky depths, cupping some of the water to his mouth and drinking. Half-Mask did the same.

The drink burned and cooled, invigorating and sapping all at once. It was the energy of death in liquid form. The prince could not help but agree with his father. Still, he contained his pleasure and returned to business. “You know how much energy this will expend?” He leveled a steady gaze at the king.

“Who taught you? Of course I know. But it will be worth it. If he accomplishes his task, of course.”

Half-Mask nodded. “Then we must drink. We must drink as much as our bodies can hold in order to accomplish it.”

They dipped their hands into the well in unison, cupping the dark liquid to their lips, greedily at first and then with less urgency as their bellies filled. Then, at the last, they drank only what little bit they could force themselves to consume, so bloated with liquid were they. They were bloated with power, as well. Half-Mask could feel it in his veins. He could feel it pulsing through his body, radiating with all the power of lightning and thunder in a winter storm. He could feel the swell of energy, the flood rising in him like high tide—like a tide that could never be stopped.

He knew his father must feel it, too, because the king reached out and clasped his hand. They joined their powers and reached out. They stretched out their wills. They called. And called. They called beyond the tainted veil, beyond the wall between the living and the dead. Exhaustion filled Half-Mask’s limbs almost immediately. It was difficult. Much easier to simply create an Unsired from a living elf. All the power Half-Mask had felt after guzzling the black water from the well began to drain from him almost immediately, but he pushed through. Once committed there would be no stopping. Even with the ebb in their strength, with the magnitude of the task, Half-Mask and the king working together were strong enough. They sought their target in unison. They called his name and knit him back together. Bones joined and muscles regrew. Skin reformed—at least partially, as nothing could ever be completely made as it was. There were holes, of course, gaps in his body that would look hideous upon completion, but they wouldn’t slow him down. Enough had been restored. Half-Mask and his father willed purpose, imbued his new consciousness with it. It was enough. It was time for him to rise.


"Black Water Well" by Mathias G.B. Colwell


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