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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 - 4. On the Road

He was on the run from the city guard.

It was the only thing that made sense to Elluin. If Hope had been running an orphanage for ten years, he wouldn't leave for a little vacation. No, he must have been chased out of the city. But which way? Elluin studied the map of western Atharia, plotting the distance to nearby villages. Kalen, Garysel, Four Pines... He could be heading to any one of those. Or he could have left the city by ship.

The elf folded up the map he had purchased from the Mages' Guild. He was almost out of the money he had earned from the crown. Once that was gone... This tiefling was expensive. But he had to know what it was about Hope that was driving him to such lengths. It was like a gods damned geas spell.

Wait, was that even possible? Could a geas be placed to follow someone? He felt like it could, but why would someone flee if they wanted him to follow them?

Elluin puzzled over the question as he neared the South Gate. The light was fading, the gate closing when he arrived. He stopped a guard, the armoured woman looking rather unhappy with the interruption.

"Did a tiefling come through here today?"

"Fuck if I know. Did you see a tiefling today George?"

Her partner rubbed his chin, thinking.

"Maybe. I saw a tail at least. But they were wearing a cloak. Had a bow with some sad looking arrows in the quiver."

"The tail, was it a cat tail? Grey with dark stripes?"

The guard shrugged, motioning for a gnome to hurry through the gate. Growling quietly, Elluin turned away. He wasn't going to get anymore help from these two. Not that he really needed it. He doubted Hope would travel too far from Cadara. The nearest port was the city of Balren ten days east. Besides, it was unlikely the tiefling had the money for passage on the sea. He'd have to stowaway, which was a risky proposition in and of itself. Walking was a much safer option.

It was too late to go anywhere now. Elluin would spend one more night at the inn, and in the morning, he would buy some food before heading out. He would head south, at least until Kalen, on the outskirts of the woods. The village was small, and if the tiefling had gone that way, they would certainly notice him. If not...

If not, he would have to admit defeat. He had no money for a ship to Balren, and it would take far too long to earn passage on a ship. Assuming there was one to take him. The season was changing, and winter was almost upon them. Not many ships would brave the waters around this time. More reason to believe his quarry had gone south. Either way, in two days' time he would know.

 

Hope shivered in the cold night air, his breath sending clouds of steam across his face. As he sat on the side of the road hugging himself for warmth, he reflected that saying something and doing something were often very different.

"I don't suppose my very friendly god could send a fire down to warm me," he joked, gazing up into the starry sky. "No? Well, it was worth a shot..."

A wolf howled, joined by its pack, and Hope laid back in the dirt. No blanket to warm him, no fire. He wasn't sure he would make it through the night if he fell asleep.

"Okay, I can take a hint," Hope sighed, standing up. "I'll just walk through the night and take a nap tomorrow."

It was for the best he supposed. He was on a time constraint after all. Hope wasn't sure how they would know if he got the purse to Four Pines on time, but he assumed the Thieves' Guild had their way of finding things out.

His feet scuffed quietly through the dirt, wind softly singing through the tall grass on either side of the road. It was a beautiful night, he reflected. If he wasn't so damned cold, he would even enjoy the nighttime walk. If only there was a place he could sit for a moment and warm up...

And suddenly, like the answer to an unsaid prayer, a light appeared in the distance.

Hope paused in his walk, rubbing at his eyes. He had to be seeing things. The tiefling was at least five hours out of Cadara, and it was the middle of the night. Why would someone be burning oil out at night this far from town? If it was a campfire, the person was a moron. The grass around them would go up in an instant if that fire touched it.

He wouldn't get any answers just standing here though. Picking up his pace, Hope hurried down the road. If nothing else, light meant warmth. Maybe they'd be willing to share a bit with him. Hope was cautiously optimistic about the idea.

As he neared the light, he realised it was in fact coming from a small building, a shack of some sort, in the middle of nowhere. Strange, but he wasn't going to question it too much. At the moment, he just wanted to get warm.

"I just know this is going to bite me in the ass..." he muttered, approaching the shack.

It was surprisingly sturdy, white daub offering a warm feel to the place. A torch hung in a sconce beside the door, ash and embers floating lazily onto a small pile on the ground. Aside from the obvious questions of who lived here and why they were living here, the place seemed innocent enough.

Raising his hand, Hope rapped on the door, stamping his feet as the cold pierced through them. A few moments passed and the door opened, an elf showing his face.

"Lynestra have mercy, you look absolutely frozen!" he exclaimed.

"I feel it too," Hope chuckled wryly. "I hate to ask, but do you mind if I sit by your fire tonight? I promise I won't be a bother, and I'll be gone by morning."

"Of course!" the elf said, opening the door widely. "I have some stew left over, if you don't mind hare."

"Oh, thanks," Hope replied in surprise.

"It's no problem at all," the elf smiled, turning toward a fireplace that crackled merrily.

The pop of wood burning tugged at Hope's mind. His host was gorgeous, a youthful body with a sharp face, hair like the night sky flowing over his tapered ears. This whole place seemed strange, but he couldn't really put a finger on what was wrong. Accepting a bowl of steaming stew, Hope sat on the dirt floor and began eating.

"So, what brings you out this far on a chilly night like tonight?" his host asked.

"Travel. I got a bit of a late start; I was hoping to make it to Kalen before nightfall."

The elf tutted softly, a dark cloak in his hand.

"Here, this should help warm you up," he said, wrapping the garment around the tiefling. "Kalen is still a good distance away. I'd say you had more than a late start, my friend."

Hope's eyes blinked tiredly, but he forced himself to stay awake. It was the least he could do.

"You live out here all alone?" he questioned.

"Yes I do. I enjoy the variety of company I get out here, and it's a lot quieter than in the city."

The elf sat beside Hope, a hand gently touching the tiefling's leg. Not enough for Hope to call him out, but not exactly an innocent touch either. Hope merely finished his stew, ignoring the touch. If the elf wanted to feel him up in exchange for him being warm, the tiefling was not going to complain.

"I'm sure you're tired after walking all night. Perhaps you would care to take a nap in my bed before you continue your journey," the elf suggested with a warm smile.

"I do not make a habit of falling in bed with strangers," Hope frowned.

"I promise I will keep my hands to myself," the elf said.

"It's not exactly your hands I'm worried about..."

The elf laughed, a musical sound full of mirth.

"Forgive me, you seem to think I am interested in you sexually," he chuckled. "I can assure you my interest is strictly non-sexual."

He motioned toward the bed. Against his better judgement, Hope took the invitation, setting his quiver aside before getting into the bed. Curling up in the cloak, the tiefling closed his eyes, and was soon asleep.

 

Elluin traced over a rune in the shape of a horse, letting the spell enter his mind. He was tired, but he wanted to get an early start on the day. The shops would be opening soon, and he needed to get some rations for his journey. This was going to finish off what was left of his money, but he would be on the road by tonight.

The elf scanned the other three first level runes, trying to decide what would work best A shield? He wasn't planning on fighting, but then, who really planned on being in battle except a soldier? He settled on an eye rune, a spell that would allow him to walk through the night without feeling the effects of an extended wakefulness, as long as he walked slowly.

His chain shirt jingled as the elf set a bag over his shoulder. Crossing the first strap with the stap of his custom scabbard, Elluin sheathed his blade. His purse followed, feeling light with the lack of coins. The inn had taken most of what he had left. He only hoped he would have enough for some trail rations.

Leaving the inn, the elf began walking, his feet beating a path to the market. Already he could hear the city coming to life, carts rumbling through streets as the South Gate opened. The sun peeked over the eastern horizon, the sky taking on a colourful glow to herald the new day.

He stopped in front of a general store, the gnome proprieter just opening the door.

"Welcome to the Jaded Gnome," the gnome said with a smile. "My father's name, not mine."

"I'm stocking up for a trip. Got any suggestions?"

"Oh, certainly. Let's see.... You have your bag, your weapon, your armour... Are you interested in any magic spells? I think I have a scroll that can summon a horse so you don't need to walk the entire way."

"My blade has me covered there," Elluin said.

Pausing for a moment to look at him, the gnome shrugged. He often got that reaction, but it never failed to make Elluin chuckle. Everyone expected him to be magically bereft because he carried his blade like a warrior. Appearances were everything for some people.

"Well, how about a waterskin? And food?"

"I have a skin in my bag that I can fill at the river once I leave the city. I could use some food though."

"Forgive me for assuming, but wood elf? I have some smoked venison and journeybread, prewrapped."

"That sounds good to me," Elluin smiled. "I'll take two days' worth."

He handed over his last silver, the gnome gathering his purchase.

"Thank you for your patronage," the gnome smiled.

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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What world is this being based off of?  Seems to be a large variety of beings that you would not normally find together.

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