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Prince of the Elves

by Paul M. Carhart

Sak could remember the day with perfect clarity. It had been the day that his father, King Samic, had received the beautiful jeweled dagger from his friend, Mikaal who was the king of the humans that lived on the other side of the lake.

Sak's first glimpse of the knife had been at the breakfast table when the king had showed it to his wife, Queen Seitra, just after the meal.

"Now close your mouth, lad," the king had said to Sak, who had lost himself in the reflection of his own gray eyes upon the blade.

Quickly, Sak returned to reality. "Can I hold it, father?" Sak asked.

Samic, who was the most serious elf there had ever been, according to Sak's tutor, gave his son a stern look, his cold eyes locking onto his son's. "You are too young an elf to be running about brandishing weapons."

Sak did not agree. He wished that he were bigger. Maybe even bigger than his father.

Later that day, while they were playing in the deserted palace courtyard, Sak approached his friend, Dant, who was the son of one of his father's servants.

Dant was a large elf, perhaps two or three years older than Sak. In fact, Sak didn't really like Dant that much, but there was no one else for him to play with so he tolerated the larger elf. Sak usually found himself playing games by Dant's rules and usually not having very much fun at it.

"Have you seen my father's new dagger?" Sak asked his friend, who merely shook his head. "The handle looks like it's made out of gold and the blade looks like platinum!"

Dant, who was obviously engrossed with the weapon's magnificence, allowed his mouth to be transformed into a tiny "o."

"Wow. Sounds cool. Did you get to hold it? Dant asked.

Sak pressed his lips together. "No. He said I wasn't big enough."

"If you want to use it," Dant advised, "just go and borrow it."

"Oh, I could never do that," Sak said. "My father would never approve."

"Take it anyway. It's not like you're stealing it. I thought you were the prince of the elves," Dant chided.

"I am," Sak replied, twisting his long golden hair around his finger.

"Then I dare you to take it," Dant challenged. "You can put it back when you're done. What harm could it do?"

Dant had a point. Sak could sneak into his father's throne room, take the dagger, show it to Dant to prove that he was not the prince in name only, and then put it back. What harm COULD it do?

Sak crept past the two palace guards as silently as he could and had been pleased to see that neither of them had spotted him. Without a sound, Sak's leather-booted feet tiptoed into the magnificent throne room.

As was expected, no one was present in the throne room. Sak had known that the king did not have any audiences scheduled that day and had watched King Samic hang his new gift over the back of his throne after breakfast. At the time, he hadn't thought he would see the dagger again quite so soon.

Sak peered down the long, marble-tiled corridor that led to the two towering elven thrones, one for his mother and, the larger one for his father the king. Each of the throne room's walls were lined with breathtaking carvings of ancient elven battles and historic tales, exquisitely rendered in the finest stained glass, which cast a rainbow of color into the throne room, regardless of what time of day it was. Sak had always been entranced by the seemingly magical qualities of the throne room and looked forward to the day when he might rule from there himself.

"But you are not ready to rule, Sak," his tutor always told him when he voiced such excited dreams out loud, "perhaps one day."

Perhaps today, Sak thought as he approached the dais, still silently creeping along. At least today I'll finally show that Dant.

The prince climbed the steps to his father's throne slowly, still held in awe by the prismatic view the walls afforded him and was not surprised to see that the dagger was still residing where his father had left it.

He reached up to take a hold of the weapon... but hesitated for a moment. He knew he really should not take the dagger, so why was he doing it?

"I thought you were the prince of the elves," Dant's voice echoed through his mind. "It's not like you're stealing it."

But it seemed a lot like it to Sak.

"You can put it back when you're done," Dant's voice continued. "What harm could it do?"

With one swift motion, Sak reached up and lifted the entire dagger, sheath and all, off of the throne. He tucked it under his arm and sprinted as fast as he could down the slippery marble corridor and out of the throne room.

Sak met Dant in the courtyard later that day, the dagger in its sheath and wrapped in a small nondescript blanket beneath his right arm.

"Well, let me see it!" Dant exclaimed.

"Not yet." Sak replied. "We've got to get out of sight."

Dant frowned but conceded. "Alright. Lead the way."

Sak led his companion along the parameter of the courtyard until they reached the copse of bushes against the castle wall that he used to hide from his tutor.

Sak squeezed easily through the interwoven bushes but the larger Dant had a hard time getting inside.

"Okay, now break it out." Dant said with a grin of uneven teeth.

Sak, who was not as happy about his successful thievery, unfolded the blanket and drew the dagger out from the sheath.

Dant's mouth gaped as he saw the brilliant colors of the gem-set hilt reflecting in the shiny blade before him. Sak was similarly entranced. Watching the light reflect from the blade and play through the bushes reminded the prince of a fairy dance.

"See. I am the prince." Sak remarked proudly. "I can do as I like in the castle." The look of awe on Dant's face pleased Sak to no end, but he knew that enough was enough. He began to slide the dagger back into its sheath.

"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Dant asked. "I'm not done looking."

"I'm going to put it back in my father's throne room. I've proved my point."

Dant's eyebrows narrowed. Then, the larger elf abruptly swiped for the knife, knocking it out of Sak's hands and into the surrounding bushes. It landed on the grass in the courtyard only a few feet from the copse they were in.

"Now look what you've done!" Sak cried. "I've got to put it back before someone notices it's missing."

"No you don't," Dant said. "It's mine now."

Sak scrambled desperately through the tight branches but Dant just stood up and broke right through the thicket, spraying pieces of brittle twigs out into the courtyard. Despite the barrier, Dant got to the dagger first and hefted it over his head.

Feeling a sense of urgency take him over, Sak charged the larger elf and pounded him hard on the belly.

Dant, his wind knocked from him, dropped the knife and clasped his hands onto his stomach. Sak pounced on the dagger, lifted it up and pointed it at Dant.

The larger elf glared at the prince. "What are you going to do, stab me?" he breathed hoarsely.

"No, but I'm taking this back to my father's throne room." Sak backed around towards the bushes to pick up the sheath, which he had to turn around in order to spot. As soon as Sak's eyes left his captive, he could hear Dant coming for him.

Sak turned quickly, holding the weapon in front of him in self-defense, hoping that Dant wasn't so stupid as to impale himself on the blade. Instead, Dant reached for the knife, trying to grab it by the blade. Sak pulled it away, unwittingly cutting a thin red slice down the center of Dant's hand. Both elves watched as crimson blood welled up slowly; reflecting off the blade just above Dant's injured hand.

Sak's eyes met Dant's. "You owe me now, prince," Dant said, "and you'll pay when I tell my father that you stole the king's dagger."

Sak took a deep breath. "No. Don't tell. My father will never trust me again!"

Dant showed the prince a sinister grin. "Is that my problem? You cut me and I will carry this scar with me for the rest of my life. You deserve to be punished."

Sak was overwhelmed. Would Dant actually tell and thus be admitting his own part in the deed? Or would Dant consider it a small sacrifice to be implicated in order to get the prince in trouble with the king? Certainly, Dant's punishment for goading Sak, if the adults even believed it, would not be as severe as Sak's punishment for taking the knife and then subsequently cutting Dant with it. Sak knew that he could not allow his father to find out. The most serious elf in the land would certainly hand out the most serious punishment.

He realized that he should have never taken the dagger. He should have never allowed Dant to pressure him and he should have never scrapped with the larger elf, weapon or not. If he had not done any one of those foolish things, he might not have found himself in this situation now. The fact that Dant's cut was hardly any deeper than his own cuts and scrapes were beside the point. He realized that Dant now had the upper hand and Sak would have to give in.

"What would it take for you to keep your mouth shut?" Sak asked in his most serious manner.

"I want the dagger." Dant replied.

Sak could not sleep that night. The crime that he had committed reached far beyond simple thievery. His father, the king, had refused to eat at dinner and had instituted a search for a dagger that Sak knew he would not find because it had been given to Dant.

"If the king were to die, the empire would crumble," his tutor had told him. "At least until the empire could repair most of the damage from the last goblin war, especially since there is currently no suitable heir to the throne. That is why you must take your studies seriously."

Sak had this vivid picture of his father wasting away, refusing to eat until he found the dagger that his dear human friend had given him. Who would take his place then? What would happen to the kingdom? Sak then found that he had lost his own appetite as well and had gone directly to bed.

What harm could it do, indeed? How could he ever forgive himself?

Sak knew the answer to that, however. He would have to rectify the situation and the only way he knew to do that would be to get the dagger back. There was no time to lose. After all, the empire was in danger!

Sak had scaled the palace walls many times, for it was a skill common to most elves. The window to Dant's room was easily accessible; therefore, gaining entrance to Dant's room was not difficult. The fact that he had the help of a full moon to see by hadn't hurt either.

Once inside, Sak scanned the room with his eyes, pinpointing the glistening hilt of the dagger near the head of Dant's bed, hanging off of one of the short bedposts. It only took a few moments for Sak to make his way through the untidy piles of clothing on the floor before his hand once again grasped the pommel of his father's sparkling blade, the moonlight glinting from the gems.

Dant rolled over in his sleep, sending a shiver down Sak's spine. He realized that he would have to get out quickly before he got caught.

Rather than go back out the way he had come in, Sak opted for a short cut. Silently, he stalked to the door that he knew lead to the upper hallway and slowly clicked the latch open. He could sense Dant turning over again. Quickly, the prince slid through the gap of the opened door, allowing the light of the hallway to peek through for only a second before letting the door glide shut.

He was free! He sprinted down the hall, the sheathed dagger under his left arm, and slid to a halt just outside his father's magnificent throne room. His hand darted into a pocket and brought out his father's key. The door opened immediately.

In he rushed, frantic to finish the deed. He hung the sheath on the back of the throne, just as it was when he had taken it, and turned to exit the room only to find himself locked eye to eye with his father, the king.

"What are you doing, son?" the elf king asked calmly.

Sak focussed his eyes squarely on his feet. "I'm putting your dagger..." he mumbled.

King Samic took a step forward. "I couldn't hear you very well, Sak."

The prince sighed. "Putting your dagger back, sir," he repeated a little louder.

"You realize you will be severely punished for your misdeed," the king stated.

"Yes, sir." Sak replied.

"Then come with me, boy." The king motioned for his son to join him. "We'd better stop by the kitchen. You are going to be confined to your room for some time."

"I understand," Sak said as he joined his father, a thin smile beginning to trace its way across his face.

It was true, he knew; he would get his punishment and probably then some. However, in Sak's mind, he had saved his father's life and the empire. Add to that the fact that he had taken away Dant's hold on him and Sak realized that he had perhaps come a little closer to being capable of ruling the elf kingdom one day.

What was a little punishment compared to that?



This story was based on characters from a series of fantasy novels Paul wrote in his youth. The novels may never see the light of day. This story is all that remains of that world.


  © 1992, 1999 Paul M. Carhart, all rights reserved, all media.