Dusk Runner

The Dark Arrow Trilogy #1

by Mathias G. B. Colwell

In the midst of chaos and darkness, Elliyar and his companions fight a losing battle to defend their homeland, the fallen elven kingdom of Andalaya. They fight against a dangerous alliance of dark elves and human invaders. Arrows loosed from the shadows and violent ambushes characterize his people’s existence. Yet the young elf, Elliyar, can’t help but wonder if this meager resistance is really all that is left for them or if there is something more in store for his people.

It is in this war-torn land that an ancient power, a power that was thought lost for centuries, is rediscovered, and a primal evil begins to arise once more. Will Elliyar have the strength and ability within him to protect the ones he loves, especially the beautiful Miri, and shift the course of the war?

Dusk Runner is the story of battles and last stands, a tale of love and betrayal. It is the telling of one young elf who comes of age during the dusk of his people’s existence and of his desperate fight for their survival. It is a story of the power of love to inspire and give hope even in the darkest times.



Djumair Silverfist had been a traitor for nineteen long years and a coward for most of his life. He was the most dangerous type of coward there was, a bold one. He reflected idly on his life as he awaited the final orders for his next mission. Djumair let his thoughts drift even further from the next task and more upon his own being. He was not someone to question the decisions of the past. They were gone and could not be remade, so why bother with them? However, he was not above succumbing, every now and again, to the self-reflective melancholy, one reserved for time spent sifting through memories over a goblet of wine and a good view. Djumair looked off the edge of the platform, not five feet from where he sat, at the plains interspersed sparsely with copses of trees beneath him. Even though he was alone, and had nobody with which to share his thoughts, he allowed his mind to continue its backward journey. He was a solitary person after all. In many ways, he preferred to be alone and it seemed fitting to reminisce by himself.

Permission granted, he continued to remember. Not for the first time, nor for the last, his mind pondered the curious tandem of cowardice and courage that was Djumair Silverfist. He knew exactly what was required of a person to be on the winning side of conflicts in life, and he did whatever was necessary to ensure that he never lost. That fact, in and of itself, was his craven fault. Yet it simultaneously lent credence to his arrogant understanding of his own dangerous competency when it came to vanquishing a foe. He feared the price of losing so greatly that he knew he was a coward to the very core of his being. However, he was bold enough to know which decision or action, in the right circumstances, would be enough to ensure that he avoided failure, pain, and any other unpleasant consequences of defeat. Sometimes those decisions were difficult, but he made them all the same. Therein lay his courage, the ability to make challenging decisions. 

His mind flashed back to that fateful day nineteen years ago, when he unleashed the flood of water that burst open Verdantihya’s fabled gates—ripped them open from within. Bleeding and broken, he had sacrificed everything to avoid death, to avoid losing. He had joined the winning side—that much was clear. While he now sat and sipped wine freely on a slaver’s deck, his former kinsmen fought, died, bled, and were captured. He thought of them as ‘former’ because one couldn’t really claim to belong to the very people who they had betrayed. This sense of un-belonging defined Djumair, but it was a fair price for his own freedom, though not without pain.

Djumair had spent the better portion of the last two decades fighting a war for a king who he did not love and a Grand Marshal who he did not respect, and it had all been by his own choice. Many long years ago, when he had first felt the icy fingers of fear twisting in his belly, he had chosen this path. The first invasion had been sudden and swift, and the humans had established such a strong foothold on the continent that he had known his people had no hope of triumph. He had done the only thing possible, he had defected to what he knew would be the winning side. It had been a decision motivated by fear, but the choice in and of itself had not been one that was without the need for courage. It was a strange internal parallel in which he lived; fearful enough to betray his people and avoid defeat, and brave enough to make the hard choices in life, the choices that cut ties to one’s heritage.

He broke from his reverie as he watched a servant approach from across the open-aired room. The wind swirled gently, high up on the eastern most Pillar in the land. Djumair reclined in a lounging seat with a view. It was a seat reserved for the slave captains who frequented this last outpost before heading north to begin a raid, or heading east to deliver the latest batch of captives to the humans. The wind was a dry breeze billowing up from the southeast. It carried the scent of smoke from the Camps and the dust from the land further beyond them as it curled up over the edge of the platform, leaving the ground far below it, hundreds of feet down. It was still strange to Djumair, even after his long years in this southern land, that the air could be so dry. This wind had a strangely familiar smell to it, a scent for which he felt the inklings of recognition. However, just when it felt he was about to lay hold of the memory of that particular scent’s origin, it slipped away from his mind’s grasp. He didn’t like that. Djumair couldn’t shake the odd feeling of importance for whatever it was he could not remember. It never paid to forget important information.

He took another swill of the white wine that sat chilled in his goblet, the contents creating tiny droplets of condensation on the exterior. It was not the most popular of beverages among his southern compatriots, but it was light and tangy. It soothed his dry throat and reminded him of the pleasures of this land, pleasures he was not likely to forget seeing as they were, in large part, the reason he had chosen this course in life. Wine of this vintage had been impossible to find in the north even before the invasion, let alone now, with the northern people of Andalaya scattered to the four winds across their mountain lands.

The servant finally reached the small, stand table to Djumair’s right. He carried a silver pitcher polished to perfection, full of wine no doubt, should Djumair require more. It was the joy, and the nuisance, of being important. People to do his bidding, and at the same time, those same people were the ones who often interrupted the few quiet moments he had to himself. The swallow of wine tasted sour as Djumair grimaced slightly at the bothersome servant. The boy should be able to see that his wine glass was still half full and in no need of refilling.

The servant was young and dark haired like all of his people, and as he drew closer, he must have seen the dangerous glint in Djumair’s eyes. The boy hesitated as if considering retreat, but then continued once he realized that he had come too far to leave without offering more wine. Fear shone in the boy’s eyes as he approached. Djumair knew the fright that his name inspired in others. Just because he knew he was a coward, didn’t mean that others did. In truth, most people were cowards at their core; he was just one of the few who admitted it to themselves. He embraced it and let it become a strength rather than a weakness. He let his fear push and prod him until it became a source of ingenuity and boldness rather than a reason to run from a fight. But this boy didn’t know he was a coward. Instead, this servant saw one of the most feared warriors in the land, someone known for chopping off his own hand in order to win a battle. It was good the boy feared him. He liked it that way.

Djumair Silverfist watched the boy’s eyes glance down at the immaculately forged silver fist attached to the end of his left arm. It was sculpted to perfection to resemble the very likeness of a living hand closed into a fist. It lay, along with his left arm, on the armrest and it glimmered in the setting sun.

“Would you care for some more wine?” the servant stuttered, his black hair hanging down the back of his tan, brown neck. All of the boy’s kinsmen were tanned and brown, courtesy of this southern sun. For a brief instant Djumair felt bad for the boy. He was a servant, not a slave, but in this society of warriors and conquerors, once you accepted the role of servant, it was yours to fulfill for the rest of your life. The boy would never escape it. The pity was fleeting as Djumair remembered the boy’s interruption of one of the few moments of solitary respite he had to simply enjoy the little things in life, like a sunset and a glass of wine.

He shook his head curtly. “Would you have me become drunk and susceptible to any sellsword who wishes to come my way?” He barked in response. “One glass of wine is enough for anyone who calls himself a warrior. Once you have had more than one, you cease the right to claim that title. You then become a drunkard and just another body for your captain to throw at the enemy.” His words might have been a little harsh, but the boy had annoyed him.

“Yes, Silverfist, I mean, Sir,” the boy spluttered quickly to repent, “what do I know of battle and fighting? Of course, you are right.” He spun too quickly as he turned to walk away, and the pitcher flew from the tray, spilling its contents all over the ground.

The servant spun back to face Djumair, clearly expecting a tongue scathing remark at the very least, if not a command to the whipping post or worse. Djumair sneered slightly as he sat on the lounge chair, still reclining through the entire interaction, and watched the boy as he clutched the tray to his chest in fear, awaiting the consequences for spilling the wine.

His own image as reflected in the tray caught Djumair’s eye, and he gazed upon his reflection as he pondered how he should punish the servant. From the polished, gleaming surface of the tray, light blue eyes stared back at him. Pale features, unlike the servant’s, looked at him, and blond hair adorned the top of his head. The sides of his head were shaved in the manner of the warriors of the south, and his long, flowing locks of blond hair flowed off the back of his head just past his shoulders like a white-gold mane. It was not held in a braid, but it was gathered at intervals by loose, rawhide ties to keep it from getting in his way as he moved or fought. The hairstyle left the sides of his head clean, revealing ears that were pointed at the top, protruding in the manner of both his northern heritage and the servant’s people. Dark or light of skin, the pointed ears were a common feature between the two races.

Djumair had a small, silver ring in his right nostril, but the most distinctive marks upon his face were the three blood red tears tattooed on both of his cheeks as if falling from the corners of his eyes. Traitor’s Tears. They marked a person who had betrayed Andalaya in order to serve the King of the South. A decision Djumair Silverfist had made long, long ago. The tattoos were on his cheeks by choice. He had been the first to betray and had been the first to be tattooed. What was now required of the northerners who chose to give their lives to serve their new masters, he had pioneered as a twisted memorial to whom he had once been. In a strange way, everything about him was defined by choice, from the biggest decision to the smallest decoration on his body. Nothing had been forced upon him, and nothing would be.

He stood up slowly, faced down the servant with a penetrating gaze, and then backhanded him across the face as hard as he could. The boy dropped in a heap, and by the time he managed to pull himself together, Djumair had long since sat back down on his chair. He could hear the boy’s sniffles, and feel the sting on the back of his good, right hand from the impact. It set his pulse racing and his blood buzzing. Even the slightest hint of combat made his whole body feel as if it were on fire. He was a warrior through and through. He feared death, but it did not keep him from the challenge of the fray. This however, was a simple disciplinary action and he calmed his fighting instincts.

“Go. Now. Get a rag, or better yet, remove your shirt and wipe up that mess,” Djumair said flatly, as he gazed at the view before him. Maybe he could recapture some of the serenity that had preceded this unfortunate encounter—unfortunate for him, since it had interrupted his quiet. Djumair cared not a whit for the pain the boy was suffering. And suffering from the blow he was. Djumair could hear the pain in his voice as he responded that he would clean it up and intended do so immediately.

Djumair nodded at the boy’s response but did not break his observance of the sunset painting the sky in front of him. He expected nothing less than immediate action when his commands were issued. This far from Dark Harbor and the Camps, he had the most power and authority of anybody on this Pillar.

Thoughts of Dark Harbor, the heart of his masters’ domain, clouded his mind and he knew the peaceful moment from earlier had passed. He sighed to himself and let the worry, that he knew his thoughts of Dark Harbor would bring, come. What was Half-Mask planning? Something was in the works, some plan was being hatched, and Silverfist was not privy to the details. He hated not knowing. How was he to ensure the best possible outcome for himself if he did not know what was going to happen? True, his job was to follow orders. He gave them, as often as not, especially in a mid-point location such as this slave post—this Pillar was nearly halfway between Dark Harbor and the human forces, which were known as the Camps. However, when orders were issued by Half-Mask himself, even Djumair obeyed without question. Nobody frightened him like the Prince.

Footsteps, quick and quiet, approached and Djumair steeled himself for action, tensing his body in preparation to explode into action should the person behind him prove to be an assassin. It was not unheard of for people in positions such as his to fall at the hands of a sellsword ordered to kill them on behalf of a competing slave captain. Competition for honors in the land was fierce, and the higher your reputation among the slavers, then the higher prices you could charge at the auction block. A man such as Silverfist was always on guard.

As the person approaching him flickered into his peripheral vision, he relaxed. If it had been an assassin sent to kill him, the person would have attacked without allowing himself to be seen. Or at least he would have tried. If it had been an attacker, he would have been dead right now. Silverfist slipped the dagger that he carried tucked up the right sleeve of his silk coat, back into place before the person beside him could see that he’d had it out. It had slid into his hand freely, and the weapon returned to its place of concealment just as smoothly, with a quick flick of his wrist.

“So,” Djumair drawled in a relaxed voice, “message from the capital, I take it?”

The soldier nodded his head and bared his teeth in a grimace of affirmation. Most people in these parts preferred fighting to running messages, and he, no doubt, had little reason to appreciate his duties as a courier. He was muscled and lean, with tan, brown skin and black hair. His head was shaved on the sides in the same manner, as was Djumair’s, and his hair fell back from the top of his head in a tightly woven braid. His bared teeth were not a smile; it was more like what appeared to be a constant snarl, an expression with which he probably lived. The upper row of teeth in his mouth was filed to points that were sharp enough to rend flesh. It looked ridiculous to Djumair, and was one of the few affectations of this southern culture that he absolutely refused to adopt. He supposed that to some it might appear ferocious, especially when facing them in the heat of battle. The soldier’s uniform was made of tight-fitting, forest-green pants and a sleeveless, black leather shirt. He was dressed for running, as a courier should be, and was only carrying a short axe at his hip and a long dagger tucked in one boot.


"Dusk Runner" by Mathias G.B. Colwell


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