Arnol could see the city in the distance. He had emerged from the forest and was drawing close now to his goal. It was getting dark, and he could hear howling in the distance. He was afraid the beasts may have caught his scent again. The elves could not have been able to hold them off for long. His goal in sight, Arnol put all of his strength into a final spurt over the last stretch of land.

The beasts were coming. They had gotten away from the annoying creatures showering them with pine cones and had picked up their prey’s scent. He would pay for bringing death to so much of their family. In return, they would bring death to his family.

Arnol threw himself against the gate, pounding on it as he caught his breath. He looked back over his shoulder fearfully and called out as loudly as he could manage with his parched throat. There was no response. He continued pounding as he wondered if, even after finally reaching his goal, his quest for help had been in vain.

Inside the city two of the Immortals were having a disagreement. “He has come all the way back to our city by himself,” one was saying. “He calls for our help. The mortals must be in terrible danger. Should we not help them?”

The other, who was Andomath, the eldest and king of all the Immortals, shook his head. “We cannot let any of them into our city, my son. He has been exiled, and the law has been set so that he must not enter the gate. They have brought this punishment on themselves, and there is nothing we can do to help them. You must learn to give your attention to our people, and forget about those in the outside world.”

“Even if they cannot be allowed into the city, can we not go outside and help them? Why must we not help our own family?”

Andomath looked at him sadly. “They are not our family anymore.”

His son straightened up as if stung by the statement. “They are still my family. And I will not leave them to suffer alone. If they must not come into the city, them I will leave it and go where I can help them.”

“Angel, I implore you not to take their fate upon your shoulders. This city is your home.”

Angel turned away from his father. “Not anymore.”

Arnol could see the shapes of the beasts charging at him across the field like black shadows under the dark moonlit sky. There was nowhere for him to run or hide. He banged helplessly on the gate in desperation, thinking that this must at last be the end.

Suddenly the gate moved. It swung slowly outward as a figure stepped out into the grass. The beasts were almost upon them. The figure stepped fearlessly toward them and they suddenly skidded to a halt, as if they were confronting some larger and more fearsome beast that they knew they had no chance against.

Arnol stared at the figure in surprise. The Immortal was taller and more majestic than he remembered, and the moonlight seemed to make his skin and clothes glow. It was as if Arnol could see deeper than surface level, and could tell that he had an unknowable power deep within him: the power to command and rule over all other living things. The simple mortal was awed and humbled at the same time. The Immortals had changed much since the time that he was last among them. Or maybe, he was the one who had changed.


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