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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 - 13. Night Riding

Wagon wheels creaked in the night, the tiefling in the back of the cart scanning through the tall grass that waved on either side of the road. The rain that had been plaguing them all day and night was finally starting to let up, but it was too late, as far as the tiefling was concerned. Seven hours out of Kalen, Hope was cold, wet, and miserable.

The moon was hidden behind thick clouds, and even Hope’s low-light vision had difficulty seeing more than a dozen metres away. The occasional flash of lightning did little to help the situation. They moved slowly along the road, the wheels sinking slightly in the fresh mud. Hope felt bad for their horses, the poor creatures struggling to pull them along.

“The next time you want to fuck me over, do you think you could leave others out of it?” the tiefling muttered.

He squinted suspiciously at the grass, spying a line of plants that was bending against the wind. Kicking Elluin awake, the tiefling strung his bow, certain some calamity was about to befall them.

“What?” Elluin grumbled.

“Something is moving in the grass.”

Muttering quietly, Elluin sat up, his sword sliding out of its scabbard with a hiss. The elf looked out at the grass, scowling.

“Okay, let’s see. Monsters in the plains… hyena, gnoll, goblin, wolf, tiger, ankheg…” he listed.

“Great, just summon them all here,” Hope sighed, pulling out an arrow.

The wagon wobbled suddenly, Hope falling into Elluin. The elf shoved the tiefling back as the cart straightened out, a large hole in the road behind them.

“That settles it,” Elluin muttered. “It’s either a giant ant, in which case we’re fucked, or an ankheg, in which case we’re extra fucked.”

“I doubt I’m going to enjoy this particular fucking. What are we going to do? You clearly know more about this than I do,” Hope said.

A head rose from the hole as the cart moved away, Horton whipping the horses to make them move faster. The mud was still slowing them down, and Hope just knew there was no escaping from the creature that was climbing out of the ground.

Antennae felt through the air, almost as though they were sniffing the wagon out. The giant insect’s head turned toward the wagon, large mandibles clacking loudly as the beast zeroed in on its prey.

“Stop the wagon,” Hope said.

“Are you fucking insane?!” Horton screamed.

“He’s right,” Elluin replied. “We’re not escaping without a fight. You’re just going to injure the horses. Either we kill this thing, or we die.”

“Then you kill it! I’m not sticking around waiting for death!”

Scoffing in disgust, the elf jumped off the back of the wagon, Hope following him. The two stared at the giant ant as it scurried toward them with surprising speed.

“What do we do?” Hope asked again, an arrow on the string of his bow.

“I’m thinking!” Elluin snapped.

He whispered a short arcane phrase, his sword taking on a slight gleam as the mage slid a hand down the blade.

“Try to aim for the joints, if you can.”

“You don’t suppose a giant foot will drop from the sky to save us, do you?” Hope joked weakly.

The tiefling looked up at the sky, shaking his head.

“Of course not. It would be way too easy…”

Each step the ant took made a sucking sound, the mud under its feet slowing it slightly. Hope shivered slightly, nerves flooding him. He was dead. He was so dead.

He couldn’t take it anymore. The tiefling drew his arrow back, loosing it quickly. The missile flew at the creature, bouncing off the thick exoskeleton that formed its armour.

“Fuck!”

Elluin stepped between Hope and the ant as the creature’s mandibles moved toward them. Plunging his blade between the ant’s jaws, the elf screamed as his arm was caught, a loud crunch following.

Hope darted to the elf, grabbing the ant’s mouth. He fought with the creature, trying to free Elluin from its grasp. The elf stumbled back, his arm stained with his blood. Tears in his eyes, the mage gripped his sword in his free hand and struck again.

The ant’s head fell off as Elluin’s sword cut through the thorax. The elf dropped, Hope falling beside him.

“Elluin!” the tielfing gasped, grabbing the elf.

Blood dripped from a cut in Hope’s hand, leaving a smear on Elluin’s body. A strange glow took over Elluin’s crushed arm, the elf crying out as his arm was healed.

“Gods…” he said hoarsely. “How did you-”

“I have no idea…” Hope replied, staring at the arm.

It was still bruised, and the elf continued to wince as he moved it, but the arm was whole once more. Hope still held onto Elluin, the elf frowning slightly as he sat up.

“You can let go of me now,” he said.

Hope’s hands fell away as if he had been scalded.

“We… uh, we better go catch our gold,” he said, face burning.

 

Horton hadn’t gotten far. It was child’s play for Elluin and Hope to run after him.

“You can slow down now!” Hope called, jogging beside the wagon.

Elluin shook his head, watching Hope from the back of the wagon. He’d already pulled himself into the vehicle. Why the tiefling hadn’t done the same was beyond him.

Not to mention how the tiefling had cast a healing spell. Elluin had heard the blood of a good outsider could cure wounds when infused with magic, but to have someone use the effect on him…

He couldn’t deny he was a little creeped out. And his arm kept spasming in phantom pains, his body remembering the fiery agony of the ant’s bite. That had been a stupid move, sticking his sword in the creature’s mouth. It had been the closest weak spot though.

Hope leapt into the wagon as Horton finally slowed. The tiefling grabbed his cloak, wincing slightly as he wrapped it around himself.

“Are you hurt?” Elluin asked.

Of course he was hurt. The blood of an outsider had to come from him. Elluin shook his head in disgust at his own question.

“Where are you hurt?” he amended.

“Why do you care?”

The words stopped him cold. Why did he care? There was the logical; if the tiefling were injured, he’d be less effective if they had to fight again.

Elluin decided to go with that. It certainly wasn’t because he was worried about Hope. He’d stepped between the tiefling and certain death because he was better equipped to handle a charging monster.

“You’re no use to me injured.”

“It’s just a scratch,” Hope waved off, his cloak rolled up around his hand.

“Good. Get some sleep. I’ll take watch. That way we’ll have more than a minute’s warning next time.”

“Fuck you. I gave us at least two minutes,” Hope scoffed, looking into the sky. “You didn’t strike him with some kind of mental issue, did you?”

“What?”

“Forget it,” the tiefling said, laying against a box.

Elluin couldn’t forget it though. The way Hope spoke to the air… as though he was talking to a deity or something.

“Are you a cleric?”

Hope burst out laughing.

“Fuck no! I want nothing to do with the gods!” he exclaimed. “I have plenty of issues without taking their problems upon myself.”

“Surely you have a cause though.”

“Sure I do. I’m very passionate about staying alive.”

“And the elf at the orphanage?”

“Who, Arran?” Hope asked. “He’s lived there longer than I have. Has the hots for Jeanne. I don’t see it happening though.”

That told Elluin all he needed to know. Not that he didn’t know Hope loved the orphanage, but this cemented it in his mind. The tiefling was just being deliberately obtuse now.

“And if you could leave it all behind?”

Hope scowled at the elf.

“What are you implying?”

“Oh, come on, you’re a mage. The Guild would teach you all you need to know-”

“All I need to know is how to put food on the table. And until you showed up, I was doing decent enough with that.”

“Gods!” Horton snapped suddenly. “Can’t you two ever have a conversation without it turning into a fight?!”

“No,” Elluin and Hope said at the same time.

“Honestly, do you really think I could afford to join the guilds?” the tiefling demanded.

“You can now,” Elluin replied, motioning to the chest. “Ten gold pays for entrance.”

Hope grunted.

“Look, I just fought a giant fucking ant. Do you think I could relax for, oh, I don’t know, ten minutes?”

“I told you to sleep.”

“And now you keep talking to me. So, how am I supposed to sleep?”

“How about I club you in the head?” Horton called back.

“That would probably do it.”

Elluin shook his head.

“By the way, I fought the giant ant. At best, the ant fought you,” he said.

“Well, I healed your arm.”

“Heal it better next time. I’m still bruised.”

Elluin pulled out his sword, eyes studying the blade in the low light of the night. The weapon was only slightly stained with ant guts, and the elf sighed, pulling out a cloth. He began wiping the blade down, cleaning it as much as he could. When the runes were visible once more, Elluin set his cloth back in his bag.

Hands running over the blade, the elf tried to settle into a meditative mindset. The magic in the runes was complicated, compacted as it was, and it could be difficult to comprehend the spells occasionally.

“Oh, now you’re going to pray to your sword?” Hope scoffed.

“No, I’m studying my spells. We can’t all be freaks of nature like you. Now shut the fuck up and go to sleep,” Elluin growled.

“Promise me you aren’t going to gut me in my sleep.”

“I’ll make no such promise.”

“Well, at least make it painless.”

The elf grunted, trying to focus on his runes. A moment later, Hope let out a sigh, rolling onto his side. His tail flicked, gently running across Elluin’s trousers. Elluin grabbed the tail between his fingers, moving it away from his leg roughly. The tiefling chuckled.

“Look, if we have to fight more of those fucking ants, I’m sure you’d appreciate a few spells on our side,” Elluin snapped, glaring at him. “Leave me alone.”

“Fine,” Hope sighed, reaching for his spellbook.

His cloak slipped from his hand, a large gash appearing in his palm. Elluin looked at the injury, Hope challenging him to say something with a glare. Just a scratch, his ass. If the tiefling didn’t get that healed, he might lose the hand.

The elf grunted, shaking his head. He turned back to his blade; there was nothing he could do for Hope. Maybe when they got back to Cadara he could drag the tiefling to a temple. Until then, Hope would just have to deal with the injury.

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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An awesome chapter thank you for sharing I am enjoying this story and I hope you keep it going.

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