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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 - 10. A Question of Morals

As soon as the trader set eyes on Hope, Elluin knew he was in for a fight.

"Remember the deal. We guard your wagon, and you get an extra gold for it," he said sharply. "There is no risk in it for you, only profit."

"The risk comes from being stabbed in the back by a demon," the trader hissed.

"Oh come on. I don't even have a dagger," Hope scoffed.

"Then how do you plan on guarding my wagon?"

"With my fearsome looks."

Elluin couldn't help the snort that escaped him. Hope wasn't that fearsome. The elf had seen things in his travels that could turn a man's blood to ice. Next to them, Hope was downright adorable...

Weak, no, pathetic. Not adorable. Elluin shook his head. The stupid charm the tiefling had put on him was screwing with his mind still.

"I have a bow. It will be enough," the tiefling said to the trader, ignoring Elluin.

The man scoffed, but waved them into the back of the wagon.

"We ride for Garysel. We do not stop until we are within their gates."

The wagon rumbled out of the city, Hope and Elluin jostling in the back with several crates. The tiefling's eyes were glued on their own crate of gold. They rode for a few hours silently, the sun warming them. Elluin knew the night would be bitterly cold, but he had dealt with that the last few nights. He could do it again.

One thing kept nagging at him. Hope was a mage, but he wasn't at all trained. Yet he escaped a mimic, no mean feat even for a trained fighter.

"How did you escape that mimic?"

"Huh?"

Hope's eyes finally moved from their loot, turning to look at Elluin.

"The mimic? That house outside Cadara? I burned it. Lost my best arrow doing it too..."

"You had a best arrow?" Elluin scoffed.

"Well yeah. I hit my first bull's-eye at the range with that arrow. It had always been my lucky arrow. Go figure, my luck has gone to the Nine Hells now that it's gone. Not that I had a lot of luck to begin with..."

"I don't know, you seemed pretty lucky when I found you."

Hope laughed.

"Oh no, that wasn't luck, that was horrible protection. Besides, it wasn't really lucky for you to catch me. Or for the guild to find me after. If it weren't for you two..."

The tiefling let out a sigh, leaning back against the side of the wagon.

"This probably won't even work. They sent me there to die. It wasn't even my fault the gnome fell into that grave."

"You killed a gnome?!"

"No," Hope growled. "She wasn't watching where she was going and she fell into a grave. It was not my fault."

"Just like this charm you put on me?"

"I didn't mean to... Okay, fine, I meant to talk you into leaving me alone. Obviously it didn't work."

"Obviously," Elluin snorted. "You need some serious training."

"Like I could afford that. But if I charmed you, surely a great and powerful wizard like you could break it, right?"

Elluin scowled at the tiefling.

"I'm surprised a great thief like you can't steal some decent fucking arrows," he retorted.

"I'm not a thief."

"Oh, sure. I guess that crown in your hands belonged to you."

"That was desperation. We hadn't eaten in days and I had to do something."

"So you try to steal the Queen's crown."

"Shouldn't she take responsibility for the plight of her people, instead of hiding in her palace all the time?" Hope demanded.

"That wasn't her taking responsibility, that was you taking matters into your own hands, and it was illegal."

"Shit, you spared me from death just to lecture me? I have a better idea. Why don't you stay silent, let me stare at you until we get to Cadara, and then I'll vanish and you'll never see me again."

"What the fuck is your obsession with me?"

"Me?! You're the one who tracked me halfway across the nation! I think I'm entitled to a little eye candy given the circumstances. Tell me, oh great mage. What exactly goes into casting a charm spell? Why can't you undo it?"

"Intent. You had to want me to follow you like this."

"I wanted you to let me free. That is all I wanted, and that is what I got, for the night at least. I don't think this is a charm. I think you just wanted to see me," Hope smirked.

"You are a fiend, a tiefling. I kill people like you-"

"But you haven't killed me. In fact, you went so far as to presumably carry me to a temple to be healed after someone poisoned me. Why? What is it about me that makes you break what I assume is a life long obsession?"

Elluin scowled at the fiend, refusing to answer. The truth was he had no idea why he hadn't killed Hope. Wouldn't that fix the charm? But the very thought of putting Hope to the blade was horrifying.

Which meant that either this was a more complex charm than he had thought, or Barin had been right, and there was no charm, only a crush.

 

The wagon rumbled into Garysel as the light fled from the sky. Shadows lengthened before them as they travelled through the small town, the trader searching for an inn.

"I want to make sure no one steals the chest," Hope said as they rode slowly through the town.

"I doubt that will be a problem. But I'll stand guard over it," Elluin said. "It's not that I don't trust you, I just... don't trust you."

"Huh. I wonder if you trust me. You sure picked a good one for me," the tiefling said, looking up at the sky.

The elf stared at Hope, then shook his head.

"I don't even want to know what that was..." he said.

Hope shrugged, not in the mood to explain about his writer "friend". Complain, always. But not explain.

"Maybe I wouldn't complain if you actually helped..."

He couldn’t help himself. Tired, still sore from the halfling’s poison, Hope was not in a friendly mood. It wasn’t like he was going to show his weakness to the elf though. Who knew what he would do?

The tiefling ignored that voice that nagged at the back of his head, talking about how Elluin had saved him. He’d only been saved because he had used that charm spell, a spell he doubted was in effect anymore. Or was it? If it wasn’t, that raised a whole new, rather frightening, theory. The elf might actually like him.

That would be a major problem for Hope. The things he did to survive were not necessarily things Elluin seemed to approve of. It wasn’t any of the elf’s concern, but if Elluin made it his concern, getting enough food for the orphanage was sure to become an impossibility.

“Oh fuck…” he groaned as the wagon pulled up to an inn. “That’s it… That has to be it.”

A young boy hurried to unharness the horses, Elluin jumping out of the wagon to help him while Hope remained with their gold. Their driver vanished into the inn, returning a few minutes later to check on the horses.

“I assume the two of you will be comfortable enough guarding my belongings,” he said.

Hope let out a snort.

“That is just like you rich fuckers. You buy yourself a room and leave us poor people out here to freeze,” he said.

“We are supposed to be guarding the wagon though,” Elluin mentioned. “Of course, if you really want to spend the money on a room…”

The tiefling scowled at the elf.

“Fine. But I’m getting something to eat before I freeze my ass off.”

“If I hear anything about missing children-”

“I’m not going to eat a person!” Hope snapped.

Elluin smirked at the tiefling, and Hope’s face burned as he realised Elluin was joking.

“Fuck you,” he muttered, hurrying away from the wagon.

It wasn’t until he was lost in the town that he realised he hadn’t brought any money for food.

 

Elluin unwrapped a package of trail rations, shaking his head as he watched the tiefling walk down the road. The inn sold food, likely for cheap. They would make most of their money back from selling their rooms. He would have offered the information to Hope, but it was much more fun to watch the tiefling get angry at the situation.

A torch was lit by the stable boy, Elluin’s eyes adjusting quickly to the new light source. He noticed the kid seemed skittish around him. Probably didn’t see many elves. Elluin wondered what he’d do if he saw the elf under the full moon.

He leaned back in the wagon, his sheathed sword across his lap. No one was going to try and steal anything from the wagon; not when someone was guarding it. Still, he took a moment to whisper a spell, casting wakefulness upon himself.

The door to the inn opened, several patrons leaving the building for home. Elluin spotted a grey tail among the crowd, nimble fingers tucking a silver away. He shook his head in quiet disgust as the tiefling vanished into the inn, only to return a few minutes later with a steaming bowl of stew.

“He gave it to me,” Hope said at Elluin’s look. “I won it in a game of farkle.”

“Uh huh. And how did you get into the inn? I saw you run off that way,” the elf demanded with a pointed finger.

“The roof. It’s quicker than weaving through alleys.”

Hope began shovelling the stew into his mouth, his fingers dripping messily.

“Okay wise guy. Why did he give the coin outside?”

“Tried to stiff me. Didn’t realise I was watching him leave.”

The tiefling’s tongue licked up a bit of stew that had dribbled from his mouth, his bowl nearly empty. Elluin grimaced at the display, even as he realised just how desperate things must have been for Hope in Cadara. He ate like someone who hadn’t had food in weeks. And if he had only just started learning to create fire…

Still, the tiefling had escaped from a mimic. He was resourceful. Surely there had been a better way to get food than stealing the queen’s crown. He had to know.

“Why did you do it?”

Hope shrugged.

“I’m decent with gambling. Not the best, but-”

“No, the crown. Why did you steal it? Was it only for the orphans?”

The tiefling sighed, setting the bowl aside.

“I thought we had this all figured out. I took the crown because it would have fed the orphanage for at least a year, likely longer. On top of that, I could have gotten the materials to make some repairs on the building. Maybe replaced my arrows. Who knows?”

Licking his fingers, Hope jumped up into the wagon, stretching his legs out over some low boxes. He yawned, leaning back with his eyes closed.

“You didn’t have to steal the crown-”

“I don’t think you understand. I run an orphanage. With orphans in it. Most of whom are barely fourteen years old. They aren’t ready to find their way in the world, and even if they were, they’re orphans. No one would want to deal with them. Hells, they’re lucky I got a silver from the halfling that sent me out here, or they probably would have gone hungry again. Oh, and did I mention they are orphans?”

“You might have, yes. That doesn’t give you the right to steal from the Queen. It was a stupid idea, honestly.”

“Well excuse me. You know what, when you’ve watched someone starve to death knowing that you could have helped her if you were brave enough, when you yourself have gone two weeks without eating, when you have forced yourself to eat a cricket because it’s the only source of food you have, then you can complain about the immorality of me stealing a crown to feed my family,” the tiefling snarled.

He had pushed too far. And for a moment, Elluin felt a pang of remorse. One he let fester and grow.

“I’m sorry,” he said uncomfortably. “I didn’t realise you were so bad off. I should have realised an act like that was out of character for you.”

Hope shook his head.

“It’s not like you know me,” he muttered, reaching for a cloak that wasn’t there. “Oh, right, I left that back in Four Pines…”

“Given the way we met… Perhaps I have been too harsh on you.”

Elluin removed his cloak, tossing it to the tiefling.

“Here, try to keep warm,” he said. “I’m taking the watch tonight.”

“Fine by me,” Hope shrugged, wrapping the cloak around himself as he lay back.

Elluin watched the tiefling, Hope’s lips moving in a quiet lullaby. He could feel the soft power in the words the tiefling sang, tugging at the elf, making him want sleep. But his mind resisted the pull, even as Hope succumbed to the spell. Elluin shook his head in wonder. Certainly, anyone within the inn would have fallen asleep just as easily under Hope’s influence. The tiefling was a powerful being. He just didn’t know how to control his magic.

And that made him dangerous to anyone around him.

I would like to note that I realise a sleep spell is not self targeted. I just liked the idea of Hope singing himself to sleep.
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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