Short Fantasy Story: The River Rises – Chapter 1 (FREE)

Eons ago, when human beings first developed in them a thirst for power, there was a Great War. First, they conquered the land — made weapons out of the earth. Then, they conquered the beasts and trained them to do their bidding. Finally, they conquered each other. Just as it appeared as though there was nothing left to conquer on dry land, they took to the waters. 

Their earliest expeditions were touted as endeavors of scientific inquiry. But pretenses were quickly forgone when they discovered that, beneath the depths of the River Prudence, lurked an entire civilization. A civilization of aquatic elves known as the Qa’Varim whose technology was so advanced — their customs so rich — that humankind could not help but claim it for their own. And, so, they’d found themselves yet another creature to conquer. The Qa’Varim, however, once a peaceful race, had no interest in being conquered. 

The Great War began — a war that would last for centuries. The elves could fare better on land than the humans could in water, but humans wielded such instruments of brutality, a barbarism of which the Qa’Varim were far from capable. Through many years of battle, however, the  Qa’Varim learned to think like humans. Organize like humans. They invented weapons of their own, and trained themselves in the way of combat. They fought underwater to become faster and stronger on land. 

By the end of it all, the Qa’Varim had evolved into a race of warriors. The tides of war had turned in their favor. In the war’s final days, The Counsel of Elves weighed their options: exterminate the humans or enslave them. For, even if they could trust the humans not to violate any terms of surrender they might offer, which they certainly could not, why should they? After everything that’d happened? After what they’d been forced to become? If the Counsel agreed on one thing, it was this.

But Kerithlan was not of the Counsel. He was a young general who led the most skilled unit of warrior elves to ever emerge from the River Prudence. Many would argue that he was the single greatest thing to ever happen to the Qa’Varim war effort. But, despite his facility for it, Kerithlan didn’t care much for war. And, unlike the Counsel, he struggled to muster the constitution to hate the humans. For, just as the elves had learned to fight from their enemy, the humans had slowly but surely learned to love — to care — from the elves. 

Unbeknownst to the Counsel of Elves, Kerithlan had followed in the footsteps of a decades-old faction of elves who secretly established and maintained “safe-zones” to protect human civilians from the throes of war. It was in one of these camps that he met Elsidore, a human girl who put herself in harm’s way time and time again to tend to wounded soldiers on both sides of the war. When he asked her why she would help the elves, she simply replied, “Because they needed my help.”

Kerithlan and Elsidore began to meet in secret. The young general would find any excuse he could to “collect intel” or “scour for supplies.” Anything to justify his absence. He’d trained himself a nearly unstoppable unit, after all. 

He’d fallen in love. And so had she. So, when rumors began to circulate that the Counsel of Elves saw no viability in a peaceful resolution, Kerithlan begged to differ. He requested an audience before not only the Counsel, but his soldiers, as well as civilian elves — as many as they could gather round. He spoke of the Old Ways. He pleaded passionately for peace and harmony among the two races. He even told them of his beloved Elsidore. 

When they objected, “Humans and elves could never live together in harmony,” he said, “If we cannot live as a family, we must live as neighbors.” He’d awakened something among the elves — especially among his fellow soldiers, who, like him, had only encountered a gentler humankind that had long lost its taste for dominion, and had oft looked into the tired, dying eyes of a generation that wondered why it carried on the war of its fathers —  a generation much different than the one their elders had faced. 

Even when the Counsel found itself split down the middle, the warrior elves rallied behind their general and swore to lay down their weapons. There was but one more siege before the war could end. The Qa’Varim, fortunate to be removed from a war that occured mostly on land, were happy to keep its hands clean — to be done with such senseless violence. Little by little, Kerithlan had sold his people on the promise of a peaceful end to the war. Those who refused these terms cast themselves out and took up life on the other side of the river. The truth was, they themselves had developed a taste for war. But, separated from their homes and marred by pride, this small faction of elves died out over the course of the next hundred years.

And so it was that, on the last day of war, the humans surrendered. Kerithlan laid out the terms of peace. The elves would return to the river, and the humans would never again invade the Qa’Varim. To be sure of it, Kerithlan would remain landlocked to spend the rest of his days with his betrothed, helping the humans to rebuild what the war had taken from them and teaching them the peaceful ways of the Qa’Varim. It was his duty, he felt. After all, it wouldn’t be long before he brought into the world a child, whose heart pumped the blood of a human. So began an era of harmony between humans and the world around them. But, such is nature, when their conqueror’s spirit was laid to rest, they slowly but surely made way for the emergence of a new race of conquerors.

Slaven Vujic
Slaven Vujic
Award-winning author writing non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance.

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