Fires burned in the village beyond the battlefield, making the air hot and heavy with smoke, embers floating like fireflies over the heads of the clashing armies. To the west the smoke from the burning village created dark black clouds, but above the battlefield blazed a bright sun in a jewel blue summer sky.
It would have been a beautiful day, thought Freidha, except for this. She clutched the war drum tight in her hands as she watched the battle rage below. To either side of her stood her fellow young dwarves. They were the reserves, the last hope, should the battle turn. She glanced to her left, down at a young boy barely larger than the sword he held. Too young, she though sadly.
Her eyes scanned the battlefield until they found the pennant of her father. He stood amidst a circle of silver-plated elves, his large maul gripped tightly in his hands. The pole rising from his back held his clan’s standard, a golden ring with a ruby gem on a sea of emerald green, but splattered with blood and mud from the battle.
Freidha’s heart caught on her throat as she saw her father surrounded. The elves towered over her kin, their armor the finest crafted silver plate with intricate etchings she couldn’t see from where she stood, but small gemstones sparkled and reflected the light of the sun. Such opulence, such arrogance.
Time seemed to slow as Friedha watched her father’s futile attempts to valiantly hold out against the elves surrounding him. But their thin, serpentine blades slid through the plates of his steel armor. She watched in horror as he stumbled and fell, and the drum in her hands hit the grass at her feet at the same time her father’s head hit the bloody ground.
The elves paid her father no more attention as they stepped over his body and moved onto their next targets, staying together in a tight unit of skill and deadly precision. Others to either side of Freidha noticed what she did not, and she was only snapped from her shock at the sounds of their movement: armor clanking, weapons unsheathing, boots tromping. Her eyes focused, scanning the battlefield. Finally she saw what they had already noticed: the tide of battle had shifted, her people were loosing.
“Reserve Battalion! Forward!” cried a woman’s voice to Freidha’s right. Elgida Stoneheart, wife of the High Chief, pointed her sword at the battlefield as she shouted a war cry. Freidha hastily hefted up her drum and begin beating a strong rhythm upon it as her own boots carried her forward. She took up the war chant of her people, and heard voices to either side join in as the reserve force of young dwarves marched down the hill to their death.
Freidha marched through the fray and frenzy of battle. Like most in the reserves she wasn’t combat trained, at least not beyond the introductory course all young dwarves must take when they come of age. Her time had been spent with her father, learning the trade of clan (clan name); jewelcrafting and gem cutting. As she let her drum fall and pulled out her warhammer it felt heavy and strange in her hand. She pulled the small shield that hung at her side, fitting it to her other hand. Fear gripped her stomach as the first wave of elves descended upon her and her unit.
The young boy to her left fell after the first thrust of a wickedly curved elfish blade. Freidha looked upon their faces behind their helms with horror. Their faces showed no malice, no hatred… but what she saw shocked her to her core. Tears streamed down the face of the elf who had just thrust their sword through the dwarf to Freidha’s right. The one who bore down upon her also cried, his or her eyes red and watery (Freihda could not tell the genders of the elves, so ambiguous were their saddened faces).
Is’herra un tel voro, inden hein,” said the elf in a sad and sorrowful voice as it aimed it’s sword for Freidha’s chest. She brought up her shield, barely managing to turn the blade away and she fell to the right, landing in the mud with a splash. The elf turned toward her, thrusting it’s sword down. She felt it slide past her shield, and dig into her armored side. It sliced through the thick hide armor, and she felt the edge slice along her rib, the point digging deep into the earth beneath her. She screamed in pain, but in the back of her mind she realized the wound was not fatal. She slumped, playing dead as the elf slid it’s blade out of her armor and moved on.
You are a coward, Freidha, she told herself as she lay there, her head lolled to the side, mud caking her face. She let her body go limp, she tried to breathe as shallowly as possible, hoping the thudding of her heart would not give her away. You should get up and fight, not lay here in the filth like a human. But Freidha did not move.
It was an eternity, and yet no time at all. Sounds of battle melted away. She opened her eyes a slit enough to see around her. Only elves stood, they moved through the battlefield finding the bodies of those fallen but alive and giving them a swift death. Freidha slithered across the muck to the nearest dwarven body and managed to heave it above herself. She took handfuls of bloody mud and smeared it over herself. Then she waited.
Time moved slowly as the elves did their gruesome chore. At one point Freidha felt an elf walk past. It’s boot kicked her side, and she and the dwarf on top of her moved with the kick, but Freidha held her tongue and her breath. The elf moved on.
Night fell, and Freidha remained. Silent, terrified to move. She heard shouts in elven and dared to open her eyes enough to see the elf army forming up into ranks beyond the battlefield. Their voices were solemn, they did not cheer their victory, they did not sing songs of war, they marched in silence.
Freidha waited until the last shining suit of silver armor crested the far hill. She waited until the sun set and the moon rose high. Only then did she push the dead body off and sit up. She tried to spit the mud from her mouth but her lips and tongue were too dry. She stumbled across the battlefield, seeing only dead dwarves. Either the elves took their dead with them, or none had died this day. Under the light of the moon she searched the battlefield for her father’s pennant, and finally found it fluttering in tatters among a pile of dead kin.
She knelt by her father, touching a hand to his armored chest.
I decided to stop here. While I like this scene, I realize that I have written myself into a corner, and also written a pretty big trope. Firstly, being the very last and only survivor of this battle is unlikely and very mary-sue-ish. Secondly, as the only survivor there is no one to tell Freidha to do something, starting what would be her quest, or her life goal.
Also, while the reserve force was young dwarves, there would still be babies and very young children, as well as pregnant or nursing mothers, and sick and elderly, somewhere. Would the elves have gone to their hiding place and dispatched them? Or would they be allowed to live?
My plan is for the elves to be the enemy of this story, but a well-meaning enemy, hence the tears. They, like most elves in most fantasy fiction, have a very advanced society with magic and technology and crafting skills beyond all others. Their long lives have made them wise—or so they think. They look upon the other “lesser” races as uncivilized children. And so they take it upon themselves to take command of the world and all the people in it, to civilize them and tend to them. They believe that the shorter lived races cannot hope to ever achieve the wisdom and perfection of the elves, and so they must be ruled and tended as one would rule and tend children or animals. The lives of children and animals are still sacred, and so killing them pains the elves, but they feel in this case it must be done, as the stubborn dwarves refuse to heed elvish law, and are their main resistance.
I thought perhaps a story about what may be the last dwarf, keeping the stories of her people alive. Traveling in secret from village to town, telling her stories and keeping the resistance alive. But I do not want her to be the last. Perhaps she finds a settlement of dwarves hidden. Perhaps she knows a tale of a clan of dwarves who separated from the rest and made their home in some remote location, and her quest is to go find them and convince them to fight against the elves. Perhaps these dwarves are different somehow, something sets them apart. Perhaps they even have elvish blood, or have unlocked the same secrets the elves did long ago and so have also attained the ability to live to great old ages.
Either way, some things of this little intro or prologue need to change. I don’t think Freidha should be the last of her people, I think some should survive. But some catalyst needs to cause Freidha to venture out on this quest. Perhaps the army is merely defeated, and her father bends knee to the elves, and the story picks up several years later when Freidha is older and the dwarven kingdom is now subservient.
I do like where this is going, and now that I have a general idea I can begin to tweak the details.