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    Yeoldebard
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Elf's Hunt - 1. The Heist

The dying light of day cascaded down upon the world. The skies glowed with colour, casting a rainbow across the clouds. In the dim twilight, a crescent moon appeared, hanging over the quiet world. The river Garys flowed gently through the land, winding westward through the Do'Kalen Woods until it met the Silver Ocean. Sitting at the junction of the two bodies of water was a magnificent city; Cadara, a jewel across the lands.

Cobblestone roads wound through the city, passing decadent buildings. One road was designed with more care than the others, leading up a gentle slope to the gates of a palace, full of minarets and arches.

Footsteps disturbed the calm of the night, a shadow passing over the gate to land on a roof.

Hope ran along a tile rooftop, ignoring the angry shouts following him. He knew the guards were on his back. But if he could just escape into the city proper, the tiefling knew he could make a clean getaway.

"Really? This is where you start my latest story?" he panted, leaping to a different roof.

The circlet on his arm dangled dangerously as he landed, threatening to fall off. The rogue let it slip into his hand, sliding the jewelled crown up on his other arm.

"Completely ignore my slog through the sewers to end the rat plague, and that time I saved that halfling from a runaway wagon..."

The bitch heard him, he knew. In fact, she was probably writing all of this down. Whatever. It wasn't like he needed her help. Hope just wished she'd stay out of his way.

An arrow skipped off the tiles beside the tiefling and Hope jumped over the top of the roof. His feet scrabbled for purchase, several tiles slipping off to shatter on the cobblestone twenty feet below. Cat-like tail whipping around wildly as the tiefling crouched, he regained his balance and took off again, sprinting for the edge of the roof.

The next building was across a wide street, but Hope knew he could make the jump. He had practiced this constantly over the past week, and he knew there was a chimney on the next roof, just out of sight, where he could drop down into the house below. Provided they didn't have a fire blazing.

Sprinting, Hope jumped again, contorting his body into a spin. He extended his legs when he hit the halfway point, judging by the street below. Using the force from his legs to whip himself further forward, the rogue landed precariously on the edge of the roof, tumbling forward with his momentum. Rolling back to his feet, he ducked over the top of the roof, finding the chimney right where he knew it would be. Even better, there were no tell-tale signs of smoke.

"Giving me an easy out for once. I like it," he muttered, sliding his feet into the chimney.

Dropping down, the tiefling caught himself midway to the floor, pausing his descent before dropping the remaining ten feet. He rolled out of the fireplace, looking around himself at the dark, deserted house.

"Perfect," the rogue grinned, pulling the crown off his arm.

A prize like this would bring him plenty of gold to donate to the orphanage. Minus his twenty percent fee of course. A tiefling's got to eat.

Cold steel touched the tiefling's back, and Hope sighed, raising his hands.

"Damn it," he muttered.

"The crown. Hand it over, tiefling," a masculine voice said.

This wasn't the worst position he had ever been in. And Hope had a feeling he could get out of it the way he often seemed to escape many similar situations. With a silver tongue granted by his parent.

"I suppose it doesn't matter that I need this crown?" Hope asked, trying to imbue his voice with that delicate touch of charm.

His captor hesitated slightly, the rustle of chain-links giving the signal that Hope's attempt at subterfuge had failed

"No, it does not."

The tiefling felt the tip of the blade press against his neck, not hard enough to break his demonic skin, but hard enough to get the point across.

Grunting quietly, the tiefling tossed the crown onto a nearby chair. If he was lucky, his captor would head for the crown immediately and he could break free. At this point, Hope valued his freedom more than the fifty gold he might gain from the crown.

He heard a quiet scoff from behind him.

"I believe my words were to hand it over, not toss it on the chair. I suppose you chose to ignore that, likely in some sort of hope that I would go to retrieve it."

Wise guy... Hope needed a new plan. Fast. His strange magic didn't work on his captor, nor did plain guile. What would work...?

A hand ran over the tiefling's body, removing the dagger at his waist. His captor searched his person quickly for hidden weapons, before lowering his blade.

"You know, if those touches were made under different circumstances, I might reciprocate," Hope said conversationally.

A grunt was all the other person said.

"Aw come on. Cat got your tongue?"

He was shoved roughly to the ground, an unexpected move. Before the tiefling could react, a rope was being tied around his feet, his hands pinned under a knee. But finally he got a good look at the man holding him prisoner.

No, elf. Tall and lithe, in a mail shirt and deerskin pants. A blade hung against his back, runes decorating its length. A spellcaster? His blue eyes stared intently at his work, pupil-less like most elves, and his ebony hair hung down to his shoulder in the elven fashion. Hope found himself instantly struck by the otherworldly beauty of his captor.

"Huh, you're hot," he said, cheek pressed into the dusty floor.

Hope saw the tips of the elf's ears flush red, the elf moving to his hands. The tiefling tensed his arms as much as he could before the elf began tying him again. This rope he bound tighter, nearly cutting off Hope's circulation.

"I'm not apologizing," Hope said, the pain of the rope igniting a flame within him.

"I don't consort with demons," the elf growled.

"I don't know, are rakshasa demons? I mean, they're evil, and thank the Goddess I never knew my parents, but really, I don't think I'm a demon."

"I should kill you for the evil that rests in your soul," the elf snarled.

"Now, is that fair? If you want to blame someone for the way I was made, blame the Bitch of Words. She made me this way."

As he held the conversation, such as it was, Hope continued thinking of ways to get free. There was one thing he could try, but given how easily the elf had shrugged off his words earlier, Hope doubted it would work. Still, he had to try if he wanted to be free.

Rolling onto his back, Hope looked up at the elf, meeting his eyes.

"You are my friend," he said, putting as much emotional confusion and force into the words as he could.

Energy flowed from him, the elf's eyes crossing slightly.

"I am... But you've stolen from the Queen, and you know I was hired to keep her palace safe."

Holding back a smile, Hope nodded. The magic had taken. He didn't know how, or why he had been given this power, but for sure it showed that he was special.

"Oh, I know that. And you did beautifully. You should be commended for your success in regaining the crown," he said. "But do you really need me to return the crown? Surely you could do that on your own."

The elf nodded slowly, the idea making sense to him.

"So, perhaps you could let me go, just this once. I promise I won't try to steal the Queen's crown ever again."

"You swear it?"

"I swear it."

Like Hope would dare to try the same heist twice. He wasn't suicidal.

The elf knelt beside him, hands nimbly undoing the knots he had tied not minutes before.

"Thanks..."

"Elluin," the elf offered with a smile."

"You are a good friend," Hope smiled back.

The tiefling stood up, stretching. Gathering his dagger, Hope hung the weapon on his waist. There was no need to attack the elf. Elluin viewed him as a friend. That would be enough to set the tiefling free.

Picking up the crown from the chair, Hope handed it to the elf with a smile.

"I think you should get this back to Her Majesty," he said.

Elluin nodded.

"You take care on the streets. The nights have been dangerous of late," he said earnestly.

"Oh, you don't need to worry about me my friend. I can take care of myself."

With that, Hope stepped out of the abandoned house and was soon lost from sight.

 

Elluin walked quickly toward the palace, the crown in hand. He had won the crown back, so why was there a nagging voice in the back of his mind telling him he had messed up? The tiefling had promised not to take the crown again, and he trusted the cat-like tiefling. They were... friends...

"Fuck!" Elluin snapped, startling a guard.

He'd been charmed, the tiefling escaping with his help. The fiend could be anywhere in the city by now. Elluin would never find him. How in the Nine Hells had he been charmed so easily?

Storming past the guard, Elluin carried the crown to a building off the side of the palace. He pounded on the wooden door, a wicket sliding back after a few moments.

"Who the fuck are you?" a man demanded from the other side of the door.

"Adventurer. I got the Queen's crown back."

The wicket thumped back into place and the door opened, revealing a grizzly man, a dark beard covering his chin and worry lines covering his forehead. He held out his hand, Elluin placing the crown in it. Retreating into the building, the man returned quickly, dropping five silver in the elf's hand.

"The Queen thanks you for your service," he said gruffly.

Nodding curtly, Elluin turned away, slipping the coins into his purse. His feet beat a hasty retreat from the palace grounds, the elf wanting to get to an inn and rest from the evening's struggles. He still fought with the question of how the tiefling had gotten away with charming him. Elluin had studied magic extensively; he was a mage himself, though his magic had many ties to swordplay. Still, after training his mind to harness the powers of magic, he should not have fallen to the tiefling's charm so easily. Unless the tiefling was a mage himself...

Which gave Elluin a starting point. Cadara had a Mages' Hall, where those capable of magic were taught to harness their abilities. He had never been there himself, being trained by his tribe in the Do'Kalen Woods, but there was a chance his mystery tiefling had been there at some point. Of course, there was also the chance he had never stepped foot anywhere near the hall, but Elluin would slay that gnoll when he got to it.

For now, there was an inn near the north gate of Cadara that was calling to him.

 

"Well done with the crown."

Hope paused in his walk, looking around. He had thought he was alone, but it seemed someone was watching him.

A halfing stepped out from under a flight of stairs, a hood covering their face.

"Unfortunately, my associates do not look kindly upon competition."

"Is that so? And who might your... associates... be?"

"Oh, we don't really have a name. You see, our profession works best when no one knows about us. And when someone steals the Queen's crown... well, people start to take notice. Certain words get tossed around, and that makes life harder for us. And in turn, we make life harder for others. Others like yourself."

A hand darted forward, Hope moving instantly. The tiefling tripped, his boot pinned down by a dagger.

"Oh, I see. Give me a taste of success, then fuck me over?" he scowled. "Look, I don't know who the fuck you are. I'm just a simple tiefling trying to get by in the world."

The halfling chuckled drily, placing a silver dagger under Hope's chin. The tiefling gulped, his skin burning under the silver's touch.

"Trying to get by is best done in silence. It is too late for you to 'get by'. Now you have a choice, Hope."

The dagger pinning him to the ground vanished, the halfling stepping back.

"We will be in contact. Until then, try to keep your nose out of trouble."

Hope blinked, the halfling fading back into the shadows.

"Fucking great," he muttered. "Did you have to send the guilds after me?"

It was obvious. He had heard whispers of a guild of thieves in Cadara. It seemed he had just met a representative of sorts. And been recruited. One thing was for sure, if he didn't do what the halfling said, he was a dead tiefling walking. There wasn't much he could do about that though. So with a sigh, Hope continued his walk, approaching the orphanage where he had spent the first sixteen years of his life.

Walking into the building, the tiefling frowned at the sight of an elf and a woman playing cards.

"Jeanne, Arran, why are you two still up?"

"We were waiting for you," the elf shrugged.

Their clothes were threadbare, much like his own, the cards they played with cheap imitations created by Hope himself. Faces gaunt with hunger, the two made for a sorry sight, as did the other three orphans who lived in the building. Hope couldn't feed them all; most days he could barely scrape together enough copper to feed himself. The crown was supposed to change that. If that damned elf hadn't gotten in the way, they would have been enjoying a feast right now.

"You at least got the others in bed, right?" he sighed.

"Of course. We aren't that irresponsible," Jeanne scoffed.

"And dinner?"

"For the little ones. Luckily they don't need much," Arran nodded.

Hope tossed a couple coppers on the table.

"Use that for tomorrow. Try to get a third. If you can't..."

"Nagiri," Jeanne said. "You know she's the one."

"Yeah... I'm going to check the boards tomorrow. Get them down to the ocean. Maybe we can find some stones to sell as sling ammo or something."

Hope turned toward the sleeping room, feeling drained. The day had gone so well, everything according to plan, until that guard had spotted him. Even then he would have escaped, should have escaped.

"But no, you didn't want me to get away," he muttered. "Well you better have a good fucking reason for letting these kids starve."

"Hope?"

A young half orc sat up on a mat, a thin blanket falling into her lap. Nagiri, the latest addition to the orphanage. Hope had found her wandering the streets after her mother had kicked her out. He placed her age at eleven, old enough that people would start looking at her, if they were into exotic lays. He was determined that wouldn't happen. No one would lay a hand on his charges as long as he was able to provide for them.

"Go to sleep Nagiri," the tiefling said quietly, sitting next to her.

"I can't," the half-orc replied, rubbing at her eyes. "My stomach hurts."

"I know."

A copper coin fell into the tiefling's lap.

"I was going to save this until I had six, like you told me. But I can't save it."

Hope smiled gently.

"It's okay. You just got breakfast for you, Aidan, and Jace," he said.

Tucking the coin into a pocket, Hope placed a hand on Nagiri's head, gently pushing her back onto the mat.

"Sleep," he said quietly.

The half-orc's eyes blinked tiredly, Hope's voice working with another strange power of his, lulling her to sleep. Soon she was snoring gently, oblivious to the troubles of the world. The tiefling set the blanket over her body, kissing her lightly on the forehead. Standing, he returned to the other room, Jeanne and Arran finishing their game.

"Alright you two. Bed time."

He shooed the two into the sleeping room, before kneeling in front of a small chest partially hidden by another blanket. Setting the copper inside, Hope closed the lid, the sight of the three coins inside more upsetting than he let on. Tomorrow he would head to the Adventurer's Guild and see if he could find a job. The jobs they offered were always risky, but at least they paid decently. With luck, they would all be able to eat tomorrow.

Copyright © 2020 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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7 minutes ago, Will Hawkins said:

Pardon my ignorance, but what is a tiefling?

Basically they are descendants that come from a human making a bargain with devils. They aren't always human though. There is a possibility Hope might come from an Elven parent given his appearance. A google search can bring up an image of a typical tiefling, though Hope has noticeable differences, giving his connection to rakshasas.

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Hmmm, an interesting first chapter; more than enough to keep me interested.  Well written; but the pacing seemed off somehow.  

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