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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 - 14. Returning Home

The South Gate of Cadara was a welcome sight in the predawn twilight. Standing as a tall, silent guardian, its portcullis barred entrance to the city, none permitted within during the night hours. A large stone wall ran the perimeter of the city, strong and tall. No monsters could breach the barrier, not that many had tried.

Hope stared at the gate as the wagon pulled to a stop in front of it. They had ten minutes to wait before bells would ring, calling for the city to wake up. Pulling his cloak away from his hand, the tiefling grimaced at the sight of his bone. That damned ant had cut deep. The wound had finally stopped bleeding, but that was no comfort. Not when every bump, every motion made his hand scream in agony. It was all Hope could do not to let Elluin see his pain. He was not about to give the elf that satisfaction.

“How do you propose to deliver your gold?” Elluin asked suddenly.

“Honestly? I have no idea,” Hope replied. “There’s a halfling that has been stalking me. I assume she’ll find me.”

“Well, before you give up all your money, perhaps it is best we collect a bit of gold for the Guild.”

“Do you still expect me to join a Guild?”

The tiefling turned on Elluin, a scowl on his face.

“All I want to do is pay these bastards off and go back to life the way it was before I met you.”

“Well then, perhaps you should keep some gold for the orphanage,” Elluin pressed, opening the chest.

The elf scooped twenty gold into a pocket within his cloak.

“Oh, and did I mention that as a member of the Guild, you’d be protected?”

“And what is in it for you?” Hope demanded. “Why are you pushing me to the Guild?”

“That fact that you are a danger to any and all around you while you remain untrained.”

“If I am such a danger, why did you give me a book and a new spell to use?”

Elluin scowled, Hope chuckling quietly. He finally had the elf stumped. The tiefling was worried though. Just once, he’d like to get through the day without someone trying to kill him. Today wasn’t likely to be his first day.

“Hey, as long as I can laugh, I’m alive,” he shrugged, Elluin looking at him strangely.

“Okay, let me get this straight. You were sent to Four Pines to pay for your own assassination, and you’re laughing?”

“That sounds about right,” Hope said, listening as the city gate began grinding open.

The wagon lurched forward, Hope swaying slightly. They were the first through the gates, Horton taking them through the city to the marketplace. Hope looked around the wagon nervously, half expecting the halfling to appear like a silent ghost.

“I doubt this halfling even knows you are still alive.”

The tiefling jumped, not expecting Elluin’s words. The mage laughed, shaking his head.

“Well, what do you know, it is nice to start the day with a laugh,” he said.

“I’m surprised you can laugh. I thought it was impossible for you,” Hope shot at him.

Pulling up to the market, Horton jumped out of the wagon to start setting up for the day.

“There. Our deal is done. Take your chest and get out of here,” he grunted.

Hope gritted his teeth as he got out of the wagon, his hand burning in agony. Still, he refused to let Elluin see him hurt.

“I got the trunk,” the elf said, lifting it over his shoulder. “Just show me where you want it.”

“Up my arse would be nice. Wait, you mean the chest…”

Hope grinned through the pain as Elluin rolled his eyes. The elf stopped in front of a stand, tossing a couple of gold at the vendor before grabbing a vial of something that looked like wine.

“Drink,” he said, tossing the vial at Hope as the gnome in the potions stall scowled.

Hope caught the vial in his uninjured hand, nearly crying as he flicked off the cap. Downing the potion in one swallow, the tiefling gagged, wincing as his hand began burning. A second later, he held up his hand again, the injury now no worse than a rather severe scrape. He could live with that.

“Why?” he demanded of the elf.

“As I said, you’re no use to me injured,” Elluin shrugged.

“Thank you-”

Elluin waved it off.

“Now show me where you want this chest to go.”

 

They wandered through the alleys of Cadara, Elluin feeling like there was a target on his back. Hope didn’t seem like he knew where he was going, and the elf swore the people they were passing knew exactly what he was carrying. Fuck, he should have taken extra gold as a hazard pay or something.

The alleys were dark, dank, water dripping loudly from the roofs. The smell of refuse filled Elluin’s nose, Elluin grimacing as he nearly stepped in a fetid puddle.

“Okay, I’m starting to realise why you might dislike the queen,” he muttered.

“This isn’t even the worst part of the city,” Hope shrugged, scanning the area.

Suddenly, the tiefling darted across the narrow alley they were in, leaping up onto a narrow window sill. He reached down as Elluin followed, hoisting the chest up until it was sitting on the roof of the building.

“Where the fuck are you taking it?” Elluin panted as he pulled himself up the wall.

“My quiet place. Well, one of them,” Hope said.

“Ah yes, the place where you practice the art of charming random strangers.”

“I’m not apologising again.”

“Did you ever apologise?” Elluin snorted.

Hope shrugged, moving across the wooden roof carefully. A board creaked under Elluin’s foot, the elf wincing again.

“Step lightly,” Hope advised, stepping across a large hole in the roof.

Elluin took a step around the hole, and the roof broke, his leg falling through.

“What did I say?” Hope sighed, setting the chest down.

He moved back to the elf, grabbing Elluin under the armpits so he could pull him out.

“Fuck!” the elf snapped, his pants torn by a nail.

It wasn’t a big deal. He was just a little upset about needing help from the tiefling. Elluin was so far out of his depth here it wasn’t even funny. Well, maybe it was funny to Hope. Somehow that thought only made the situation worse.

“Okay, let’s try this again,” Hope said, lifting the chest. “Now, watch my feet, and step only where I step.”

“I’m not a baby, I know how to walk,” Elluin growled.

“Yes, and you’re doing a wonderful job of it so far,” Hope sighed. “Just follow me. We’re almost there.”

The tiefling climbed up on another roof, the chest following quickly. Elluin shook his head in frustration, and not a little amazement. How Hope could be so at home this high above the ground was beyond him. The elf hoped the tiefling was right. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take.

Climbing up the next building, Elluin nearly ran into Hope’s back. The tiefling was stringing his bow, the chest next to him.

“What are you doing?”

“Shh!”

Hope scowled at the elf.

“There are people in these buildings. If you talk too loudly, they will find out we are up here, and I will never be able to use this route again. And I’m stringing my bow. What does it look like I’m doing?” he hissed.

“Why now?”

“Because if that halfling comes looking for me, I want to be ready. And knowing the bitch writing all of this down, the halfling will most likely be waiting for us. Who the fuck knows how though.”

“Fine. I’m taking the chest back,” Elluin sighed.

He bent down to grab the gold, letting out a yelp as a crossbow bolt slammed into the chest inches from his hand. Standing, the elf unsheathed his sword, trying to find a steady stance on the slightly sloped roof.

A halfling was walking toward them, reloading the crossbow in her hands. She ignored Elluin, her eyes glued to Hope.

“You’re supposed to be dead.”

“For the last time, I did not kill that gnome. Look, I have a chest of gold here. Can’t we come to an arrangement?” Hope asked, an arrow twitching nervously in his hand.

“Sure. As long as it ends with me killing you slowly.”

Elluin stepped forward, freezing as the halfling aimed at him.

“Hey, come on, you don’t have to kill him,” the elf said soothingly.

The halfling laughed.

“Oh, so you have a friend of your own?” she sneered.

The crossbow clicked, and Elluin fell backwards with a gasp, feeling like an orc had just punched him in the sternum. He heard a thump and felt a body roll into the chest.

“Fuck… fuck fuck fuck… Elluin?”

Hope was standing over him suddenly, the tiefling staring down at him in fright. Elluin grunted, reaching for his gut. His hands closed around a quarrel, and he wrenched it out of the chainmail, thanking Tyrma he had bought new gambeson a month ago. The missile had gotten caught in the padded armour, its tip barely scratching him. It still hurt like the ninth hell though. He wasn’t sure, but Elluin thought he might have a cracked rib.

“I’m dead… I fucking killed her. The Guild is going to hunt me down…” Hope sobbed, falling back. “Fuck… I fucking killed someone…”

Elluin winced as he sat up, The halfling was laying against the chest of gold, an arrow lodged in her throat. Her eyes stared blindly at Elluin, and the mage let out a disgusted grunt.

“I’m fine,” he coughed, standing up. “Come on, let’s get out of here. No need to make the hunt easy.”

He opened the trunk, taking the spellbook from within. That wasn’t part of whatever deal Hope had made. Grabbing Hope’s arm, the elf hoisted the teifling’s arm over his shoulder. Supporting the distraught fiend, the elf began trying to find a way off of the roof.

 

It was strange, the things a person notices after a trauma. Hope’s eyes were glued to Elluin, to the way his back flexed as he moved the tiefling, the elf’s ass like a magnet for his eyes. His mind felt dead, unable to think of anything else. It made him feel vulnerable, and he hated it.

He fell blindly against a rough wall, a gentle arm holding him up. Hope took a shuddering breath. When would it happen? Who would they send to do the job? He… no, Elluin, had killed the Guild’s poisoner, but there was no way Hope could deny killing the halfling. No amount of gold was going to fix this.

“The gold, where’s the chest?” he demanded, pushing away from Elluin.

Looking around, his heart sank. They were standing outside the orphanage, Elluin leaning against the wall with a frown.

“What the fuck are we doing here? Why did you bring me here?” the tiefling snapped.

“This is your home, isn’t it?”

The words carried a bit of a bite to them, a hint of disgust at the elf being made to walk through the slums. Hope wanted to strangle Elluin. Couldn’t he see what he had done?

“Yes, it is my home! I just killed a member of the Thieves’ Guild. If they track me here, do you know what they might do to my family?!”

“Fine. I know where you’ll be safe,” Elluin said, straightening once more.

The elf began walking away, stepping gingerly around piles of garbage. Sliding his bow into the quiver on his hip, Hope followed him. He already knew where this was going, but it wasn’t like the tiefling had much choice. If there was any chance the Mage Guild would help him, he had to take it.

He was too worn out to even complain about what led him here, the being that had put the halfling in his way, who made him loose that arrow.

It took nearly an hour for Elluin to find his way out of the slums, Hope remaining silent. The act made the tiefling feel like he had the tiniest bit of control, and he needed that now more than ever.

As they left the darkness of Cadara’s shame, Hope took a nervous breath, looking around them. People paid no attention to them, busy with their own lives. Still, the tiefling made sure he kept the hood of his cloak over his head.

“What in the Nine Hells did you do to piss off these people?” Elluin asked as they walked east toward the marketplace.

“You remember the day we met? They took offence to my actions. Said they were too loud,” Hope muttered. “Then I made the mistake of trying to recover a ring-”

“And a gnome died. The halfling’s friend?”

“Apparently,” Hope sighed. “Look, can we… can we not talk about how many people I’ve watched die this week?”

“I’m just trying to figure this out,” Elluin shrugged. “Honestly, you have a lot of fortitude, to still be kicking.”

The tiefling felt a strange tinge of pride at Elluin’s words. It made no sense. Why the fuck did he care what the elf thought of him?

“Ugh…”

It was a fucking crush. Why him? Why couldn’t Hope just have a crush on a normal person, not an elf with a chip on his shoulder.

“Hey! Tiefling!”

Hope flinched, spotting a halfling with a crossbow on his back. This was it then. They were going to die here.

He looked at Elluin, the elf watching the halfling with steely eyes.

“Oh fuck all kinds of kobold,” the tiefling grunted.

His hands grabbed the elf, turning Elluin to face him. Their lips met in a ferocious kiss, Elluin ripping himself away a moment later.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” the elf snapped, reaching for his sword.

Hope shrugged, pulling out his bow.

“One last kiss before I die?” he said.

“Peace!” the halfling said. “I bring a message for you.”

He tossed a bag at Hope, the tiefling dropping his bow to catch it. Looking at the sack in his hands, Hope found a piece of parchment stuck to the bag.

“Our debt is paid…” he read out loud. “I don’t… I don’t get it. Was she not in the guild then?”

The halfling was gone when he looked up, though Elluin still looked pissed.

“You fucking kissed me?! What is your problem?!”

“I thought I was about to die. Give me a break,” Hope said, opening the sack. “Nine Hells…”

The sack was full of gold. He was holding a sack of gold. That had been given to him.

Elluin smacked the tiefling’s back, rather hard.

“You’re buying the drinks then,” he said.

“What…?”

Hope stared after the elf, Elluin walking toward a tavern. Fuck it, he could use a drink.

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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