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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 - 9. Four Pines

The spell ended just before they reached the gates of Four Pines. Their horse let out a soft warning and Elluin stopped them, dismounting. Hope nearly fell off after him, his entire body sore.

"Let that be the last horse I ever ride," he groaned, stretching painfully.

"I doubt that will be a choice you have."

The tiefling grunted as the horse vanished, back to... wherever unsummoned beasts went. He still couldn't figure his companion out. So she was a member of the Thieves' Guild. If she was even a she. He had only heard a voice speaking from the hood, and hadn't been able to see into the hood. Which seemed strange. Why would someone declare themself openly for the Thieves' Guild but be afraid to be seen? He felt the question was stupid; there were many reasons for her to remain anomynous.

They approached the gates of the city, Hope stopping to speak with a guard.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for Greta. She's likely a halfling-"

"Trust me, you want nothing to do with her," the guard interrupted.

"I know that. I just need to deliver a purse and then I'm gone," Hope said.

Grunting, the guard pointed toward a large house nearby.

"Thanks."

Hope moved through the gates, pausing to turn to his companion.

"So, how's this going to work?" he asked, staring into the cloud of smoke that swirled withing the hood. "Are you going to follow me or watch from afar?"

"I'll be across the street," the figure said, walking off.

"Why do you always stick me with the weird ones?" Hope muttered, before making his way toward the house.

He was surprised at the size. Just how wealthy was this halfling? If she was also part of the Guild, he supposed she could be really rich, but then why was the Guild giving her gold? None of this made sense to him.

Knocking on the door, the tiefling was startled when it opened almost immediately. A halfling stood in the doorway, glaring at Hope.

"What is it?" she snapped.

"I have a delivery from your sister," Hope replied, holding out the heavy purse.

The halfling snatched it from him, hefting it appreciatively.

"Hmm, my sister must like you," she said, opening the purse.

Lifting out a gold coin, she bit it, and tossed it back inside.

"Shall we see if her trust was well placed?"

"I can promise I did not open the purse at all," Hope said. "But if you must check, then go for it."

"I must. Why don't you come with me?"

Not waiting for an answer, Greta walked through the room, Hope following uncertainly. Entering a small room, the halfling dumped the purse on a table, gold spilling out into a small mound. She began counting the coins, Hope dumbfounded at the amount of gold. Each of those coins could feed the orphanage for a fortnight. And he had been carrying forty... fifty... sixty... seventy... As Greta continued counting, Hope began to feel faint.

"Oh yes, my sister really likes you," Greta smiled when she reached the hundredth, and final, coin. "Everything seems to be in order. Shall we celebrate a successful delivery?"

The tone of her voice made it clear this wasn't a suggestion. Shrugging weakly, Hope let the halfling lead him into a large cellar, bottles lining the walls. Greta approached a wall, selecting a small bottle that sloshed quietly as she pulled it out. Procuring a pair of glasses from seemingly out of nowhere, the hafling began pouring a dark wine into the cups. She handed one to Hope, raising her own with a smile. The tiefling copied the motion, before drinking.

It was a bitter taste in his mouth, but he swallowed anyway, watching the halfling out of the corner of his eye. She matched him drink for drink, until the glasses were empty.

Hope's arm twitched slightly, the tiefling frowning at the motion.

"You poisoned me?" he croaked out, his throat suddenly feeling tight.

"Yep. It hasn't quite hit yet, but soon your entire body will feel like it's on fire as poison courses through your blood. You're a smart guy," the halfling smiled.

Grunting, Hope walked over to a wall, sliding down against it.

"So your sister sent me here to pay for my own execution," he said.

"And you aren't fighting back. I think I like you," Greta said. "Tell you what, when you feel like you can't handle the poison anymore, let me know. At that point, I've completed my part of the job, and I'll finish it quickly."

Hope's body felt like a heavy weight, his arms held down by some invisible force. Still, as long as he was talking he was alive.

"Why would I fight it? I'm sure you know your stuff. My body's already paralyzed; I won't be able to get help," he said with difficulty, his face starting to tighten. "Besides, I have no money for a cure. But why the pain?"

Greta shrugged.

"Your guess is as good as mine," she said, sitting beside him. "Oh, and in case you were wondering, the poison was in the wine. I'm just immune. Believe me when I say I know what you're going to feel."

Already he could feel the start of burning pain in the tip of his fingers and toes. Whatever this poison was, it moved fast. He wasn't going to start screaming yet. Hope's eyes blinked heavily.

"All of this over some stupid crown..." he slurred.

"Oh no, no simple theft is worth this. For your death, you had to kill someone," Greta explained.

"The gnome... You know a lot..."

"An assassin has to know things," the halfling shrugged.

He felt tired, his head falling onto his shoulder. A motion near the wall caught his attention, but he couldn't focus on it. Or on the rasp of a weapon unsheathing. Fire crept up his arns and legs, burning with a fever even his fiendish blood couldn't dampen. His mouth fell open, the tiefling letting out a grating yell.

A gasp beside him was followed with a thump, a pair of arms wrapping around him a moment later. A face came into view, tan and narrow, pupil-less blue orbs shining in concern, framed by long ebony hair. He knew this face... a hunter's face...

"Heh, you caught me..." he gasped out before his eyes closed.

 

Elluin sheathed his blade after wiping the halfling's blood off. Turning, he hurried out of the cellar, entering the small room where she had been counting the gold. He pushed it back into the purse, tying it to his waist before he ran back to the cellar.

Hope was breathing shallowly, his throat closing from whatever the halfling had given him. The elf needed to get him to a cleric immediately. Lifting the tiefling, Elluin grunted as he slung Hope's body over his shoulder. He prayed to Tyrma that the gold he had taken from the assassin was enough to pay for a cleric.

The tiefling was heavy, but the elf was strong from his years of training with the blade. While he generally fought with precise strikes that would prove lethal if they hit, it still took strength to fight. Hope's body was no real struggle for him.

The hard part was trying to find a temple. The clerics of Lynestra often maintained temples in the larger cities. If he remembered correctly, the one in Four Pines was near the marketplace.

He took off at a jog, hurrying toward the centre of town. Hope bounced against his back, forcing the elf to adjust his balance constantly, and it wasn't long before he had to slow to a quick walk, breathing hard. People stared as he rushed past them, but he paid them no mind. Hope needed to survive. For the orphans.

And finally he saw it, a small unassuming building with the symbol of a sun emblazoned upon the side. The temple of Lynestra. Hurrying inside, he made his way frantically to the sun mosaic in the centre of the temple.

A priest hurried his way, the human taking a look at the tiefling.

"Do you know what happened?" he asked without introduction.

"Poison. Mixed with a wine I think."

Muttering quietly, the priest moved toward a closet, digging through a chest.

"Do you have the payment?" he called over his shoulder.

"I only have a hundred gold."

"It will suffice."

The priest returned with a scroll and a stick of charcoal. Removing the tiefling's clothes, he began drawing thick lines down Hope's arms and legs. Elluin stared at the tiefling's body, his trousers becoming uncomfortably tight. Pale, nearly hairless save for the tail that was tucked under him, with a striped torso that showed modest muscles from years of acrobatics. The tiefling called to him, made him want things...

The elf shook his head sharply, trying to clear it as the priest began reciting a chant from the scroll. As he read, the scroll shone with a bright light, divine energy passing from the priest and into the tiefling. Hope gasped suddenly, his body arching as a scream escaped his lips. Falling limp, the tiefling's lips moved soundlessly, tears leaking from his body.

"It's done. He'll have some effects as the last of the poison fades, but he'll live," the priest said.

"Thank you," Elluin said, handing the purse to the man.

Blood money, paid to an assassin for a murder. He was glad to be rid of it. Kneeling beside Hope, the elf frowned.

"Are you sure he's okay?"

"Yeah, just give him a couple minutes."

Hope's eyes opened, violet orbs looking up at the elf.

"Please kill me," he groaned. "Make it fast."

"The thought had crossed my mind," Elluin shrugged. "You and I need to have a talk."

The tiefling shuddered, curling into a ball on the floor. His body trembled, his eyes rolling back into his head as he sobbed.

"You are a mage," Elluin said, watching him. "You cast a charm spell on me."

Hope nodded, shaking.

"I want you to remove it."

"I... I don't know how..."

"You have to know how to. You can't have cast it without knowing the spell," the elf snapped.

"I don't know how I cast it. I just wanted you to let me go."

Hope grimaced as he forced himself to sit up. Elluin could see the pain it caused him, but at the moment, the elf didn't care.

"I don't know how I became a mage. I know I can make people listen to me, or even fall asleep, but until I met you, I thought it was just because of my parents. Whoever the fuck they were."

"You learned to make fire."

Hope nodded hesitantly.

"I just focus, and my hands can make small things burn. That never happened before... before that beast outside Cadara..."

"The mimic. It's dead," Elluin said.

"You followed me here," Hope realized. "You followed me through the woods."

"My old home," Elluin nodded.

"So what now, are you going to drag me back to the Cadara guard?"

"And deprive the orphans of their provider? Why would I do that?"

The tiefling let out a shaky sigh of relief.

"I promise I'll find a way to undo the charm," he said, standing up. "How did you know about the orphans?"

"A mage at the Guild told me," Elluin shrugged.

"You are a member of the Guild?"

"Depends on what guild you mean. I have yet to pay my dues to the Smiths' Guild, but I am a journeyman of the Mages' Guild."

"So you aren't from the Thieves' Guild..."

"There's a Thieves' Guild?"

"Why do you think I'm here? Apparently they hate me."

Hope frowned at the elf.

"Wait, did you save me?"

"Well, yeah. I couldn't really talk to you if you were dead," Elluin scoffed.

"How did you know... You were the person with the horses!"

"What of it?"

"You've been shadowing me this whole time. Why didn't you stop me from going in that tomb? Or help me with that damned house?"

"If I showed up, would you have stayed?" Elluin challenged.

The tiefling started talking, then paused. Growling, he glared at the elf, pulling his clothes back on.

"I need to return to Cadara. What did you do to the halfling?"

"Dead."

"Oh, perfect. Now I'll have the Thieves' Guild out for blood," Hope snapped. "Maybe I can pay them off... She was rich, she has to have money hidden away in there somewhere..."

He moved toward the temple door, Elluin following him.

"And what do you think you're doing?" he called.

"I think I'm owed a little gold after nearly being murdered. She's not going to need it any more."

 

Hope stepped into the house cautiously, almost expecting another halfling to appear. He had killed an assassin, a member of the Thieves' Guild. No, he hadn't, Elluin had killed her. But it would be blamed on him nonetheless. He had to pay off the Guild, and hope they left him alone. Pulling out one of his few remaining arrows, the tiefling moved slowly through the house.

He heard Elluin follow him into the house, felt the glare of the elf on his back as the tiefling snuck through the house. Hope ignored the elf as he entered the small room Greta had used to count the money for his death.

"There was gold in here. Where did it go?" he asked, searching the room.

"To the Temple of Lynestra."

"Shit," he sighed, finding a safe hidden in a dark corner of the room.

Spying an unlit candle on a sill, the tiefling moved his hand to it, calling up the warmth of his flame spell. The candle ignited, and the tiefling smiled.

"You know, this mage thing could be kinda fun," he said.

"You're not a mage, you're an untrained hazard," Elluin grumbled. "It took me two years to learn how to do that and I still need to check the spell. daily or I'll forget it."

"Sounds like you're just jealous," Hope said, kneeling beside the safe.

He found a line of soot around the lock, shaking his head. Fire trap. A small nozzle hidden near the hinges of the safe confirmed the theory.

"You want to learn how to pick a lock?" he asked offhand.

"Leave me out of your thievery," Elluin muttered.

Shrugging, the tiefling reached into his boot, pulling out a set of picks. Poking one of the rods into the lock, he closed his eyes as a flame shot out of the nozzle, licking over his hand.

"What the fuck?" Elluin yelped.

"Relax. Just one of the benefits of having fiend blood," Hope said, as the safe clicked open and the flames stopped.

He held up his hand, unharmed by the flames. The safe sat wide open, filled with stacks of gold coins.

"Tyrma preserve me..."

"Somehow I feel the gods don't really care about us, skinwalker."

Hope was suddenly spun around and shoved against the wall.

"Don't you ever call me that again," Elluin snarled murderously.

"Fine. Don't get your ears twisted in a knot."

Slipping away from the elf, the tiefling searched for a bag, finding a small case that he began filling with gold from the safe.

"You know, you don't have to stick around. I'm sure I can track you down-"

"Not happening. You're stuck with me," Elluin growled.

Hope shrugged, hefting the bag. There was at least six hundred gold. It should suffice. A small green glint caught his eye, and he peered into the safe again, finding a pair of tiny emerald rings. Pulling them out, he tossed one to Elluin, the elf barely catching it.

"There. That should help pay for your troubles," Hope said, slipping the other ring on his hand.

The tiefling hoisted his bag over his shoulder, grunting at the weight.

"That's not going to work. Wait here," Elluin sighed.

Hope heard the elf move through the house. Eventually the front door closed, and the tiefling shivered. There was a dead halfling in this house somewhere. With him. Alone.

Sitting at the desk, he twirled the arrow in his hand nervously. Who knew what the elf was doing? He could be getting the guards, or a guildmember. He might actually be a part of the Thieves' Guild, regardless of what he said.

The front door opened, the sound of chainmail clinking through the house. Elluin came into the room, dropping a small trunk on the table.

"There, put it in the box," he said, tossing a couple of gold on the table beside it. "And those are for the orphanage."

"You care a lot about them," Hope noticed, hefting the bag into the trunk.

"Maybe because I know what it's like to be unwanted," the elf said, shutting the chest. "Come on, I got us a ride to Cadara."

Hope blinked in surprise, standing up. He followed Elluin out of the house, a wagon sitting out front.

"Huh, the gods are actually kind for once..." he muttered.

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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Agreed. You’re playing your role well, bard. Very entertaining!

Elluin to the rescue again. He’s making a habit of it at this point and it isn’t because of a charm spell. You don’t need True Sight to see the kinship he’s beginning to feel for Hope, among other, baser desires.

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Well really, a priest charging a100 gold pieces to save someone?  How rude.  Elluin was just in the nick of time.  Elluin is right about one thing; Hope does need to learn to control his power or he will get someone killed that he doesn't want to.

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