Storm & Stone
Copyright© 2017 by Lord Winter
Fantasy Sex Story: Chapter 1 - After falling through the floor of a cave he discovered near his home, a man finds himself rescued from a prison caravan on a world of pure fantasy. Story Codes will be added as necessary to avoid plot spoilage.
He was not on Earth anymore, and he knew it five days ago. Five long, hot, humid, oppressive days. That was how long he had been carted through what he could only describe as a primeval sylvan landscape, in a fucking cage! Carted by humans, of course, down a road on the outskirts of a dense forest of oak and other majestic hardwoods so massive that they would challenge the great redwoods of Earth for supremacy, but that wasn’t what made this so surreal. No, it was his companions in this medieval cluster-fuck that made him wonder why he ever took up spelunking in the first place. Two humans, three coal-skinned elves, a bald and tattooed dwarf with the most intricately braided waist-length beard he had ever seen, what he guessed was a gnome who wore goggles that magnified his eyes to comic proportions, and half a dozen orcs ... yes, orcs! ... the tusks and olive green skin were impossible to miss. The orcs were in irons so constrictive they could not fully stand upright if they tried. Even that did nothing to hide their massive, muscled frame. I’ll bet they’re gruesome in a fight, he mused. They were not the only ones in chains, however. The three elves were bound in rather strange cuffs that completely immobilized their hands. Everyone wore rags except for him. For some reason, he had been left in his t-shirt, jeans, and hiking shoes. Behind him in the caravan were at least two additional cages full of yet more captives. Further surprise at his situation was quashed by the fact it was a prison caravan.
Why did that damn cave have to be so close to his house, anyway? It teased and nagged his mind until he finally grabbed his gear five days ago and headed out to investigate. Everything went just fine. Until it wasn’t. He was walking down a tunnel with his feet on solid ground, then they weren’t. None of it made any sense. He just tumbled into an endless and empty void, his screams of terror the only sound. Then the light came back and he continued to fall. The light grew in size until he could just barely make out green grass as he tumbled. The last thing he remembered was wondering whether he had reached terminal velocity. Then he woke up ... in a goddamn cage! He just could not get over those bars. He had never gotten so much as a speeding ticket at home, but somehow it was illegal to fall through a cave floor to wherever the godawful fuck this place was and land here unconscious.
He hoped that they would lock him up somewhere he could talk. His only attempt at conversation since he first woke up here had earned him a thump with the butt of a sword by one of the mounted guards along with the warning that he would be gagged if he spoke again. He failed to miss the strange looks he got from the rest of the captives after the blow. He almost asked what was wrong with them, but thought better of it ... the knot on the back of his head smarted enough. At least the two of the elves were female, and they were every bit as beautiful as the fiction from his home described. His eyes widened as he finally realized why they were all in those strange hand-shackles ... they were mages!
The man was shaken from his thoughts as a rapid thump began to radiate through his backside from the floor of the cage, followed by a commotion in the forest at his back that sent panicked birds in every conceivable direction. His fellow captives sat up, alert, and began to cast their eyes around in search of the source. They didn’t have to wait for long. A lone deer darted out of the forest and down the road to the rear of the caravan as a bone-chilling roar resonated from the trembling woods and a hulking gray beast that made the orc captives look like dwarves in comparison broke through the treeline in a dead run with its earth-shaking footfalls. It barely paused long enough to tear a half-grown oak from the ground by its roots and hurl it at the leading squad in the caravan, then charged into the fancy carriage that rode right behind them. That was when he heard the cheers from the chained orcs. They began to chant a single word ... Kord. They recognized this thing. This was a rescue! An ORC rescue! Oh shit. That thing must be an ogre! The man groaned and fell back against the bars of his cage as chaos erupted around him. The ogre had the entire caravan in utter disarray within moments, and now a great gout of orcs in jet black heavy-plate armor erupted from the woods to take advantage of the chaos.
All the prisoners cheered now as the ogre started to smash the cages one at a time while the orcs engaged the guards. When he saw this, the man dared hope that things were not so dire as they had first seemed. That was until the ogre ripped his own cage apart and an orc thrust a black shortsword into his right hand and roared a warcry in a language he could not understand. He looked down at the blade in his hands and considered his time as a Renn Fair fighter, it was lighter than the rattan weapons he was used to, but appeared to be made of steel. Hmm, he thought, this just might work.
“Fuck it!” the stranger said, and bellowed his own warcry before he charged into the fray.
The orc who armed him chuckled at the small human’s enthusiasm, but that chuckle died in his throat when he saw the man’s first opponent die much faster than he should have. These were skilled warriors of the Vaszul Empire, not some puffed up jailer from the average city-guard, but the man had an unorthodox style that took them all by surprise. The soldier opened with a thrust at the stranger’s gut, but the blade found only empty space; the man had evaded to the soldier’s right. The stranger’s sword-arm was already raised, and he rewarded the soldier for his effort with a high-outside parry across the visor of the soldier’s helm. The unusual attack surprised him long enough for the stranger to use the momentum from the bounce to carry the blade into an overhand strike against the back of the soldier’s right leg that practically ignored the plate greaves he had on and nearly sheared his leg off at mid-thigh with the follow through. It didn’t end there, however and the human brought his arm up into a counter-clockwise circle as he stepped left and struck out to the right with the sword; the blade took the soldier’s head from behind before he could finish the fall from his maimed leg.
“Holy shit, I did it!” the man shouted.
That got the attention of a few other troops and the stranger quickly found himself surrounded by heavily armored men. The fight was on.
“Fuckin’ figures.” he muttered as they went on the attack.
As Captain Grokan tag-Gurog nug-Trazzak surveyed the chaos, all was well. His forces had dispatched or captured most of the soldiers. A handful still resisted, however, and his eyes were drawn to a strangely dressed human who fought without armor. And he fought like a demon. What started as three-on-one, had escalated to six-on-one, and the stranger fought as though they stood still. He was a blur of odd movements and strikes that came from unexpected directions, and the soldiers just could not cope with his attacks as he dispatched them one by one until only two remained. The orc’s eyes widened as the human dropped his sword and offered the final two a feral grin, then started to ... take off his pants?
The stranger had noticed that his remaining opponents wore no headgear. He had long ago realized that they were too slow to keep up. With just the two left, it was time to have some fun. He grinned at the asshole he now recognized as the one who bashed him in the head his first day. The stranger threw his sword to the ground and ripped the buckle from his belt. It separated into a pair of brass knuckles that he slipped onto each hand with feral glee.
“Let’s see how you feel about bashing innocent strangers now, fuckstick...” the stranger growled.
He launched himself into the first soldier and wrapped him up at the waist. Before the bewildered fighter could comprehend why he was being hugged, he was hoisted onto the stranger’s shoulder and slammed to the ground with such force that his vision was overtaken by a flash of white light and sparks and left him unable to breathe. Then the punches came. The stranger sat astride the soldier’s waist and began to hammer his face with punches. Every swing of his torso brought two blows, a backhand followed by a haymaker. The soldier thought that his attacker had ran out of breath when the stranger paused in the assault on his face, but quickly realized it was only so he could shift his attacks lower. He helpless soldier could only grunt in pain as every blow left huge dents in his armor and cracked or broke still more bones.
The soldier’s partner raised his weapon to stop the onslaught by this insane human, but thought better of it when he found the eyes of every idle orc in the chaos suddenly locked on him. The Captain shook his head slowly and patted the crossbow that hung from his hip. The soldier sighed and tossed his sword to the ground, then tackled the human off his battle-brother, who could only watch in broken horror as the stranger gave his compatriot a one handed shove from atop him that sent the soldier sprawling. The savage human delivered a bone-crushing punch to the man’s cheekbone and dragged him to his feet as blood poured from the wicked cut left by the brass knuckles on his now-ruined cheek.
The orc captain was stunned. The stranger had pulled a pair of cleverly hidden cestus from his belt and proceeded to brutalize the first man. Captain Grokan had never seen such speed and power exhibited by a human before. This stranger tossed heavy-armored opponents around like toys. The great orc could not hide his surprise when he watched the stranger hoist the remaining guard into the air for what he thought was going to be a backbreaker, but instead brought him upside down and hopped. When the man dropped into a one-legged kneel, all became clear. The the stranger dropped the soldier straight down onto his extended knee, and the man screamed in agony as his left collarbone was annihilated. The stranger dumped his prey onto the ground with all the consideration one would give a stone in the road and turned away to rise to a knee and catch his breath.
“Bash a man for talking again, motherfucker. This ain’t elementary school, bitch” the stranger muttered as he rose up and kicked the screaming man again for good measure. He screamed louder.
The man looked up from the fight and drew a deep breath, then exhaled as he took a quick look around. It was over. Whatever the purpose was here today, the attackers had succeeded, and he had managed to help. He hoped that would count for something, as he had no intentions of going back to a cage, especially now that he was aware he could fight back. A big orc with a long black beard and wild hair down his shoulders to match, in lightly gilded full-plate armor now strode toward him from the fringes of the battlefield. As the massive creature reached him, he offered up a gauntleted hand to the stranger and a big smile split the toothy maw. The man hoped it was a smile, anyway. The stranger looked at the offered hand for a brief moment, then tucked the knuckles into his pockets and returned the greeting.
The orc spoke first.
“Thanks for your help against the Vaszul, stranger. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human so fierce, nor one who fought so strangely. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen one so uniquely clothed, either. I’m Captain Grokan tag-Gurog nug-Trazzak. From where do you hail?”
The stranger chuckled. Orcs from Earth fantasy were not very bright and quite savage as a rule, so the civility and intelligence on display by these creatures was refreshing. He offered the captain a nervous smile.
“Arawn Stonebrook. Uh, yeah, about that fight, I ... didn’t ... really expect that little bit with the sword to work. I use that style in pseudo-re-enactment contests with wooden weapons ... real medieval armor, though. I just didn’t want to die, so I gave it a shot. As for my home ... judging by the beautiful stars you have in the night sky here, I’d say it is somewhere very, very far away. Earth and the Sol system might not even be in the same galaxy as ... uh...”
“Terrock...” the orc offered, Arawn smiled and nodded.
“Terrock, thanks. Nice name. Hell, for all I know Terrock could be in a completely different universe.”
“I did not understand a word of that ... and if you are not from this world, how in the hells can you speak common?”
Arawn felt the adrenaline surge from the combat begin to fade and guided the orc to a crate and took a seat.
“Sorry, that was my first live battle, the rush is leaving me. Guess I’m blooded, now, huh?” Arawn gave a nervous chuckle.
The orc smiled and waved it off. He pulled up a crate for himself and that began an hour long conversation as Arawn explained the fundamentals of the decimal system, distance measurements, planets, stars, planetary movements, galaxies, what he knew about how he got to Terrock, and the SCA. By the time Arawn got halfway through explaining about the mock-wars, the festivals, how it was all based on historical practices and customs, and the trial by combat for kingship of the various fantasy kingdoms across his homeworld ... he had acquired an audience. When Arawn paused to take a breath and gather his thoughts, an orc that shared his cage took the opportunity to speak up with a question.
“My name’s Nudjik. I saw the soldier hit you through the bars of our cage for talking, he meant to draw blood but none flowed. If you only trained for mock-fighting as you say, how can you be so tough and formidable?” the orc inquired.
“That’s a good question...”
Arawn thought for a moment, then pointed at one of the human captives that had been rescued.
“He’s about my size and build. Pick him up, then pick me up. That might give us an answer, I’ll explain afterward, either way.”
The orc gave him an odd look, but the human did seem to be confident about this. The other human protested, but the captain smoothed it over and the orc did as the strange human had requested. Then he lifted Arawn and placed him back on the ground and shrugged.
“About the same.” he told Arawn.
“Well shit. There goes my theory.”
Captain Grokan lifted a brow at the man.
“Oh, sorry...” Arawn chuckled, “I thought the gravity on Earth might be heavier, but apparently that is not the case. I would have been at least half again as heavy as the other gentleman because my muscles and bones would have been much more dense due to the gravitational difference. I would have been harder to hurt for the same reason.”
“So where do you think it comes from?” the captain inquired.
“I ... don’t know. My bet was on gravity. Magic, maybe? We have no magic on Earth, at least not to any appreciable degree.” he confessed.
“I see,” the captain grunted. “A mystery for another time, then. I need to get these louts moving or we’ll be sleeping under the stars tonight. We can discuss this more over tonight’s meal. I see that your clothes did not fare as well as yourself in the battle. See the healer for any wounds large or small, we cannot have them getting infected out here. She’ll have the possessions the Vaszul took from you, as well.”
Arawn nodded. The captain stood and stretched his back, then drew a deep breath and began to bellow orders.
“Alright, you lot! Hop to it and get those hands to work! We’re camping here tonight and I want to eat before the moon comes out to dance! Get this mess cleaned up and get the cooking fire started.”
Camp had finally been pitched and the smell of food wafted through the air. Cleanup was complete and the bodies had been disposed of in a magical flame that barely left any ash. All that remained was a pile of armor that had been removed from the bodies before cremation. Everyone finally assembled around the central fire for the evening meal after the prisoners had retrieved their possessions from the caravan’s storage wagons. Arawn noted that the rest of the captives seemed to have gotten what he guessed was their original belongings back as well, in the interim. The dwarf was in a rather impressive suit of spiked armor, the gnome was dressed in leather clothes that would have looked at home in a steampunk setting, and the elven ladies were garbed in fine red gowns trimmed in gold and adorned with beautiful dragon themed embroidery all about. The lone male elf was suited in ornate leather armor and a bow was strapped across his back. The healer, an elf, patched up the handful of minor cuts he received in the fight with some bandages and healing herbs, pronounced him fit, and surprised him when she returned not just his hiking pack but his phone as well. He seated himself near the fire with the pack between his feet, Captain Grokan joined at his right and Kord, the ogre berserker, sat at his left. Supper was a pleasant experience. He was presented with a bowl of stew that proved quite tasty, he saw a lot of Earth vegetables in with a meat he could not identify, and he considered how so many things seemed to be the same as his home. The orcs here were far from the savage brutes he had read about back home on Earth, though. As he worked his way through the bowl of venison stew, yes ... he asked, he found himself amazed at the innocence he found in this world after only five days in a cage. Sure, he had fought a savage battle today, but Terrock was uncorrupted by the chaos that dominated Earth The achievements both wonderful and terrible, they all took something from the soul of his home that he wondered if it would ever get back. Not here, though, this world was pristine and he found that he dared to hope he was stuck here. Beside him, Captain Grokan finished his bowl of stew and placed it between his feet. The orc stared into the fire for a moment then spoke.
“Arawn, you said earlier that your fighting style was not based on true swordsmanship. Do you not use swords to fight your wars?”
Arawn gave the orc a rueful grin and shook his head.
“Keep that up and I’m gonna start to think you’re psychic, I was just thinking of home. No, we haven’t used blades to fight for hundreds of years.”
“Then what do you use?”
Arawn sighed... “Guns, bombs, airplanes, helicopters, tanks and other armored vehicles, ships, submarines, missiles, chemicals ... even diseases” he spat the last word, he abhorred biological warfare.
The elves were sat to the right of Captain Grokan, and one of the females took an opportunity to join the conversation. Her voice was rich and womanly, and caught his attention immediately.
“I am Amevina Avrile’autur, my brother Vorsah, his wife Ke’line, and I shared your cage.” Arawn nodded his acknowledgement and she continued. “While I find guns and bombs distasteful, they, and disease are known to us. I share your sentiment on diseases as weapons, however. What do they do on your world, spread plague detritus through enemy streets?” she asked.
He found himself attracted to this she-elf, her elegance and poise, combined with that voice drew him in like the proverbial moth.
“It’s a lot worse than that, unfortunately. The humans of my world have discovered ways to create diseases of their own. We’ve become so advanced that some of us think we are gods, but if our ancient legends are to be believed then we are like children to some who have come before us. By your standards, and I don’t mean this as an insult, we actually are. I’d wager that you lose a fair bit of women to childbirth alone whenever healers like Kem’erra are not around to keep things from going awry, and that’s not even counting bacterial infections and viruses. We eradicated the most lethal form of the pox completely on my world. Now we turn diseases into invisible weapons, and make bombs that can kill millions of people with nothing more than a cloud of gas.”
Arawn’s audience was stunned silent, and he pulled his smartphone out of his pack that Kem’erra so kindly returned to him, before he continued.
“Please hold your questions until I’m finished. I think that, by the end, you will find that I have answered most of them already and I will be happy to answer any that remain.”
Arawn walked them through the use of his phone and explained how it worked in connection with satellites and signal towers. Then he explained television and cinema, the music and other art of his world, recordings, agriculture, automobiles, planes, aquatic vessels, he told of how man had reached the moon and he shared all of humanity’s greatest triumphs, but he also shared its darkest moments. If any had doubts of his claims before seeing his strange device, not a one doubted his words after watching that thing called video. It was beyond their imagining to consider the vast library he held within the thing he called a smartphone even after he showed them several of his e-books. Even the orcs, however, were horrified to hear of the atrocities man perpetrated on man, especially outside of war.
“ ... so, yeah. We can put a man on the moon, but to my people ... our crowning achievement, somehow, is being able to build weapons that can kill everything on the planet in one fight. It just seems that no matter how much good we accomplish, we only become more savage and arrogant.”
The mood had grown sombre, everyone was reluctant to ask more questions for fear they would not like the answers. The entire camp was quite unsettled. Arawn decided it was time for something a little more pleasant.
“So, tell me a little about Terrock, what’s it like here? I noticed that the days here are pretty much the same length as an Earth day. How long are the years?”
“Four seasons of about three hundred days each.” Ke’line supplied.
Arawn had been slumped on his crate, but sat up so fast at this news that he fell backwards onto the ground. His antics earned him a round of chuckles and he picked himself up and dusted off. He made no attempt to hide his continued surprise as he returned to his seat.
“Fuck me! That’s almost four Earth years. How long do people live, here?”
Ke’line gave him a warm smile.
“Elves live about a thousand. Orcs, dwarves and gnomes all live between four and six hundred, and humans, halflings, ogres, and the lizard-folk sometimes live to nearly three hundred. Goblins and trolls live about a hundred at most.” she supplied.
“Years.” she corrected.
“That’s ridiculous,” he whispered. “That is over a hundred of our lifetimes. Only a handful out of billions on my world ever live to see a hundred of our years. Excuse me, I ... I need to take a walk.”
Arawn left his pack and a group of stunned people behind, and took a stroll around the perimeter of the camp. He offered a friendly nod to the guards as he passed them on his circuit and continued on his way. Arawn just could not comprehend what he had just been told. Elves lived four millennia? The oldest estimates of known human civilization on Earth only extended back about ten thousand years. That was only two and a half elven generations. It struck him that there were elves here who might have been alive during the time of Ancient Greece and Rome, even Ancient Egypt. He felt the weight of his own mortality as he considered the lifespan of a Terrock human ... twelve hundred Earth years. Then he thought, what if this place makes me age differently, too? That meant he could live another hundred and fifty of their years. The notion threatened to overwhelm his senses and he looked into the sky. As he gazed up at the stars, lost in his amazement with this new world he found himself in, he felt a delicate touch upon his shoulder and turned to find Amevina standing behind him with a warm smile on her features. It never ceased to astound him, on Earth, what you could see in the night when you were far away from the light pollution of the cities and towns. Here, there was no light pollution and the stars were absolutely spectacular. She was slightly shorter than his 5’8, but it was such a close thing that she had no need to look up. Her skin was matte obsidian and reflected no light, but against the starlight and the frame of her long white hair with its sharp widow’s peak, her features stood quite clear. Wide, dark-orange, almond-shaped eyes punctuated her narrow cheeks and short forehead. The gentle and supple contours of her face that marked her youth also bestowed a deceptive innocence. The inverted-teardrop shape of her face was completed by a narrow, almost triangular jaw with a rounded chin. Then came that voice again ... he almost could not stand it, her voice was so soothing.
“You should not let it upset you so, Master Arawn. I understand how shocking it must be, but consider the news I just received. I’m not sure if I should be insulted that we are mere fantasy or a game to someone else out there, or flattered that the universe finds beings like all of us important enough to make our way into the imaginations of people on worlds we will never know without events like what happened to you.”
She traced a finger slowly over his jawline from ear to chin as she continued.
“You speak of the worst of your world, and with every word you utter I hear your contempt, that alone speaks to the quality of your heart. You may fight like a madman, but your heart is good. Personally, I find it impossible to believe that only one such as yourself can exist in a world of the billions you say reside on your Earth. Perhaps things are not so dire as you believe? All that aside, I believe you may live much longer than you think. Never before has a human walked this world who possessed the power and resilience of an orc, and speed that not even an elf could hope to match on their best day.”
Amevina took Arawn’s hand and kissed his cheek.
“Come now. Enough of this maudlin nonsense. Let us rejoin everyone before they break to rest.”
“Kissed by a beautiful elf maiden, that’s one off my bucket list” Arawn joked.
While Amevina was filled with pride that he found her beautiful, she still gave him a strange look. “What is a bucket list, Master Arawn?”
Arawn laughed. “While I know you don’t mean that in the slave sense of the term, please, call me Arawn or Rawn, my friends do. And a bucket list, well, it comes from a frivolous Earth term for dying called ... kicking the bucket. A Bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die.”
Everything came together in her mind and at that moment, she graced his ears with the most beautiful laughter he had ever heard.
“I think that might be the oddest compliment that I have ever been given. I have something for you. Now just relax, do not move a muscle, and this will be over in a moment. This won’t harm you in any way, we just need to do something about these clothes.”
Amevina released Arawn’s hand and stepped back a few paces. The elf’s eyes began to glow as she raised her arms and waved them with practiced ease in a pattern she knew by heart. She chanted in a tongue unlike any that Arawn had ever heard, then the light show began. Lines of sigils and arcane symbols streamed from her hands and lips and then coiled around him without making contact. His clothes glowed brighter and brighter until he was forced to look away, and when the light was finally gone, he found himself dressed quite differently. Gone was the sliced up denim jeans and tee shirt, replaced by a breathtaking tooled suit of matte black, hooded leather armor complete with a matching hooded cloak. The shoulders were adorned with images of dragons crouched and ready to strike, teeth bared in a vicious warning. The chest was similarly adorned, though only with the head of a roaring dragon in the center. Arawn admired the intricate labyrinth patterns that adorned the rest of the armor. A pair of elven longswords hung from his hip. Arawn reached up and pulled the hood back from his head.
“There we go, all done. Now you look like the warrior that you are.”
“Amevina ... this is amazing! You can’t even find anything this intricate at the festivals! Thank you so mu ... hey, what did you do to my eyes? It’s like daylight out here again.”
There was that heartbreakingly beautiful laughter again.
“It is one of several enchantments on the armor. So long as you wear that armor, you will always see everything in the light of day.”
“Ooooh, nice. I like that a lot.”
Arawn decided to take a chance and gave her a big hug. Another laugh ... a man could get used to this.
“This is crazy, that makes three items off my bucket list in one day...” Arawn mused.
A bemused smile crossed her features, “Three? What just happened?”
“Well, I’m wearing what has to be the most beautiful set of leather armor I’ve ever seen, and not only do the blades match it, but it’s all enchanted. I’m actually wearing magical armor! Best of all, it was given to me by the very elf that kissed me. That’s one...” he told her with a wry grin. “And two? I finally got to see real magic. I had no idea you could see all those arcane symbols and magic circles streaming from your hands and mouth as you worked the spell.”
Amevina’s confusion deepened as she wondered if life on her world had begun to affect his mind in an unexpected fashion. Nothing left her hands when she cast a spell, people could not see magic. Though, she had to admit, the crux of what he had said was true. Her understanding of the spell was that the energy left her and surrounded the subject before exchanging the garments between the two locations; the garments in this case being armor on a rack at her home, and the clothes that Arawn wore a moment ago.
“What do you mean, see magic? One cannot see magic. If that were possible, countering spells in combat would be a simple matter of reading the symbols you claim to have seen and choosing the right response. It does not work like that, I’m afraid. The only thing close to what you speak of is a magic detection spell, and that only reveals the presence of magic on the target of the spell. I believe that you saw something, I am just not sure what.”
“Huh. Well ... let’s try an experiment. Cast a spell for something like, say ... a torch flame, and hold it until I tell you to dismiss it. Oh, and work the spell slowly, please.”
Amevina complied and lifted her left hand, palm up, while her right began to weave an intricate pattern over the upturned palm. Once again, the symbols streamed from her fingertips, only this time, they wove themselves into a three dimensional pattern that rotated about six inches above her palm. Arawn was awestruck, and his amazement at nothing almost broke Amevina’s concentration when she looked up to check with him. He was so enraptured by the sight that he never noticed. When she spoke the trigger word, the pattern coalesced into an inverted pyramid, a stream of tiny glyphs began to rise up from her palm and the pyramid was engulfed in the flame of a torch. The stream of glyphs continued and Arawn guessed that this was the connection to her will which held the spell in place.
“This is so unreal. I can see you feeding the flame from your upturned palm. The flame was a strange weave of ... glyphs and I guess ... sigils, until you said that word. Then it turned into a pyramid and bam! It burst into flame.”
Then something about one of the glyphs caught his eye and he reached out with a finger.
“I wonder what this does...”
He reached out to the glyph with a finger and it passed right through, but he could feel the energy pass through flesh and bone to ascend into the flame above.
“Huh, I can’t affect it, but I can feel the energy of the spell pass from you into the fire through my hand” he told her as he waved his hand back and forth in the space between for effect.
“Maybe if I could find a library, I could tell you what I’m seeing. Oh! I know!” His eyes lit up and he took her by the hand and half-dragged her back to the campfire.
Everyone still relaxed around the fire, trading stories and boasts until the pair returned. Arawn was oblivious to the stares he received as he sat down in his new attire and pulled his sketch pad and a pencil and drew from memory. Amevina gave her brother, Vorsah, a knowing smile as he glanced from her to Arawn in confusion. Vorsah frowned for a moment, then chuckled. He could always count on his dear sister for surprises. At least it will be entertaining when she introduces him to father, he thought to himself.
Arawn had been at his pad for a while, and the elf maiden noticed that he kept licking his lips, so she retrieved a flagon of mead and was about to place a hand on his shoulder when she saw what he was drawing and she lifted the hand to her mouth instead. It was her. More specifically, it was her as she stood and held the torch spell for him to examine. He captured every detail of her features. Did she really look that delicate to him? She seemed so frail in appearance, her frame was so slender, yet ... even in his drawing there was an unspoken power that shone through in her poise. She found herself taken aback by his skill, but her eyes bulged when they fell upon the glyphs and she could not stop the gasp that escaped her lips through the fingers that covered them.
“Vorsah, you must look at this. Arawn sees the elder tongue!” she called.
Arawn was glad he was finished by the time she came with the mead, her exclamation had brought everyone to their feet and they crowded around him to see the drawing. He removed the sheet from the sketchpad and held it up to Amevina to pass among the onlookers. In the flurry of movement, Arawn found himself separated from Amevina and was unable to ask just exactly what this elder tongue was. Meanwhile, Amevina’s brother took one look at the sketch and stepped back away from the group and called out.
“Arawn Stonebrook, human of Earth, I would know the man who comes from another world and steals the heart of my only sister. By right of the armor you wear I challenge you to a proving. Since you are unaware of the customs here I shall inform you that this is not a fight to the death, it is a duel to first blood only. Serious injury during this contest is both disallowed and criminal among my people, so you can trust that I mean you no harm beyond the shallow cut that will end this fight.”
Arawn found his feet and nudged his way through the shocked and confused crowd. Only the captain and the other elves understood what was going on. He stopped in front of the elf male and scratched his head.
“Well, for one ... what do you mean steals her heart? And another thing, aside from being an absolute masterpiece of leathercraft, what’s so special about it? Finally, what in the flying blue fuck makes you think I’m going to let you win?”
Arawn accentuated the final question with a cocky grin and opened the clasp that held the cloak. Amevina arrived at that moment and closed it and placed her hands over his while her brother laughed in the background at Arawn’s cluelessness.
“Another of the enchantments on your gear is that it repairs itself overnight so long as the set is not completely destroyed.” Amevina told him. “So, do not worry about my gift to you. Now, before you fight my brother, I need to confess the reason for this.”
“Well that just doesn’t sound ominous at all...” he joked.
That earned him a giggle. “Do not be silly, it is nothing so severe. I had the armor crafted especially for my husband.”
Arawn stepped back and his jaw dropped in shock.
“Oh shit! He’s not going to wanna kill me when he hears some strange human has been wearing his clothes, is he?”
“No, no, I don’t have a husband...” she answered as she giggled again, joined in laughter by her brother. She was about to add something when he cut her off.
“So ... you’re a widow and I’m wearing a dead guy’s armor?” Arawn gasped in shock.
The crowd worked to conceal their amusement at his antics, they wanted to see how this ended.
Amevina was now completely confused. “What? No, I’m not a ... And for that matter, why wouldn’t the armor of...”
Arawn winked and a grin overtook his cheeks. Her eyes widened with surprise, then she growled and slapped his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to kiss her forehead while Vorsah and the crowd lost the fight to keep their laughter contained.
“I get it, and I’m flattered. Since your brother doesn’t actually want to kill me, let me get this duel-proving-thing out of the way and we’ll discuss this in more detail before lights-out, okay?”
Amevina had no idea what lights-out meant, but she nodded. “Very well, but be on your guard. My brother is among our finest fighters.” She decided to up the ante and gripped the back of his head to plant a toe-curling kiss on the unsuspecting human. When the kiss ended, she spoke only one word ... win.
Vorsah had collected himself by the time the pair had ended their exhange, and awaited Arawn with a smile.
“I have never seen my sister set so firmly on her heels before. I do not believe I shall forget that any time soon ... I thank you for that. Now, as you so charmingly put it ... shall we get this duel-proving-thing out of the way?”
Arawn laughed and held up an index finger, “Eh, just one moment...” then he turned to the crowd. “I’m ashamed to admit this, but I could really use a good buckler. Does someone have one that I can borrow ... pretty please with some sugar on top?”
He continued to draw chuckles, and Captain Grokan placed a hand on his shoulder soon after. When Arawn turned, the orc placed a large black metal disk shield into his hands.
“This is made of Orcish Blacksteel. It’s larger, yes, but it is as light as a human buckler made from their steel and twice as durable. I carried this for my first fifty years as a soldier, from there I took up the great-axe. It served me well in the past, may it do the same for you in the future”
Arawn was surprised, and as he looked at the quality of the craftsmanship, he realized he couldn’t accept the shield. Such a piece of craftsmanship belonged in the hands of the orc’s son when he joined the ranks, and he humbly told the captain so. The big orc grinned and patted the great-axe strapped across his back, and even though his posture screamed that he was no threat, there is just very little about an orcish grin that looks friendly ... something about the tusks.
“Ah, don’t concern yourself over that, friend. I have no children yet. I took up the great-axe to honor my grandsire after his passing and it is his that I carry. That will be my gift to him. I want you to have that shield, consider it a gift to a friend. I have a feeling that you are going to need it after today.”
The human slipped the shield onto his forearm and played with the straps a little to get a good fit, then he drew one of his new longswords and stepped up to Vorsah.
The elf, who had acquired his own buckler in the time between, nodded his assent and called out once more.
“Who will adjudicate?”
Without hesitation, the captain stepped forward and declared that he would oversee the match. Vorsah was surprised when Arawn saluted the captain, and quickly followed suit. When they saluted each other and squared off, the camp fell silent.
Captain Grokan called a start to the match and the pair erupted into a blur. The sound of wood and steel rang out into the night as they traded blocks and parries almost faster than the onlookers could follow. Then something changed.
Vorsah quickly found himself driven back by a flurry of blows. First he had to parry an outside cut to his left thigh, then the man’s blade had flipped completely around and slapped against his shield. No sooner than his eyes were drawn to the sound than he felt a slap against his right bicep. Where had that come from? When his eyes darted back, they caught the flash of steel as Arawn’s blade flipped back around once more and lightly tapped Vorsah on his left cheek. Arawn quickly withdrew a few steps and smiled. The elf reached up to touch the spot and looked at his hand to find no blood at all, then back up to Arawn, his confusion evident.
“Why? Twice, you could have ended it...” he asked.
Arawn’s smile widened slightly.
“It’s simple, Vorsah. You said you would know me. I may not be a trained swordsman, but I’m no stranger to the concept of the warrior spirit and martial honor. It would be poor form indeed to acquiesce to such a request and end the fight so soon. We’ve barely started the conversation. Besides, there is nobody back home as fast as you so this is fun.”
Vorsah should not have been surprised, but he was. The human was perceptive and sought to give him exactly what he requested. He resolved that he would give this human his due in return. The elf straightened his back and saluted the human, then squared off once more. Arawn returned the gesture and again they engaged in battle.
Once again, the sounds of combat rang into the night and Arawn danced around the elf as he dodged, blocked, and parried the male’s furious strikes. Vorsah had steadily tightened his game, however, and he gave no ground and offered no openings. At one point, Arawn barely managed to dive away and roll to his feet to avoid an overhand slice that would have ended the match had it connected with his shoulder. After what felt like hours, but in reality had only been about five minutes, Arawn found himself on the defensive. Vorsah had finally adapted to his style and began to drive him back with a series of rapid thrusts that Arawn barely managed to block and parry while losing ground. The elf closed the noose when he began a circular disarm maneuver against the human and left him hands-up at swordpoint. The crowd had been silent as they watched, enthralled by the action.
“Well fought, Arawn, but the day is mine. Do you yield?”
The human shook his head slowly as a sly smile overtook his features. He pointed to the hilt of the elf’s sword.
“Check your hand.”
Vorsah’s eyes drifted down to his hand and what he saw made his jaw go slack. A very small trickle of blood dripped down his glove from a cut in the leather glove at the crook of his thumb. Vorsah pulled the glove free and sure enough, there was a small cut in the fleshy web that ran between the thumb and index finger. A stunned Captain Grokan declared Arawn the winner and the entire camp erupted in astonished celebration. The human had bested the elf!
“How?” was all the stunned elf could manage.
“I got lucky right when you started that spiral thing and angled my blade so that the spin carried the tip of my sword into your hand before you could throw my sword away” Arawn explained.
“You are a dangerous man, Arawn Stonebrook of Earth.” Vorsah muttered.
It was a furious and hard-fought win, and both sides were congratulated thoroughly before the crowd started to return and prepare to bed down for the night. Arawn thought he might have a dislocated shoulder from Kord. The enthusiastic ogre clapped him on the back so hard he almost saw stars. “Rawn sneaky!” he told the human with childlike glee. When everything had finally settled, Captain Grokan congratulated him and affirmed that he had made the right decision with the gift of that shield. Arawn thanked him and watched him walk back into the center of camp. That left Arawn standing with Amevina’s arms around him, and Vorsah opposite her. Arawn peered around Amevina to look at Vorsah.
“Well brother-in-law, do I pass muster?”
Vorsah briefly wondered if his face might become stuck in this position if the human kept using such strange terms, then laughed off his confusion.
Arawn had to explain the concept of a brother-in-law to the elves while he retrieved his sword and fixed his new shield across the back of his cuirass, and Vorsah confirmed what he already knew: that his form was sloppy and he telegraphed his intent with every move. The elf gave him hope, when Vorsah told Arawn that he would be terrifying with the proper training and even suggested that he might be willing to do so. After her brother excused himself, Arawn found himself once again alone with Amevina.
“People are gonna get tired of me fast if I keep surprising them like this, Amevina. What is this, elder tongue, anyway?”
“Well...” she answered, “that might actually be more shocking than your physical abilities, my dear. The elder tongue is estimated to be at least a half-million years old. All we know is that we’ve deciphered it, and that the surviving writings are a guide to a type of magic that no one here on our world can access no matter how closely we follow the texts. You, however, seem to have an inborn ability to see our magic through their eyes, so to speak.”
“What else do you know about them? Do you know what they looked like?”
“Unfortunately, we do not. No surviving depictions of them have been discovered. The only other thing that the writings indicate is that all life currently on our world seems to have originated with them instead of only the races with speech as we had previously believed” she explained.
“And now it makes sense: I show up freakishly strong and fast from the moment I actually try to fight, then I start seeing the language of your creators whenever someone uses magic. Yeah, that would weird me out if I were in your shoes.”
Arawn needed to get out of the armor, the sweat from the fight had left the leather sticky inside and he had begun to itch as well. He enlisted Amevina’s help and soon found himself out of the cuirass. She gasped and covered her mouth with her fingers to hide her giggle as her eyes were finally treated to the sight of her chosen’s bare chest. It was well-proportioned to her preferences, slim but wrapped in well defined muscles that spoke volumes about the power they contained without appearing corded or chiseled. Amevina expressed her surprise at his lack of bulk, given his apparent strength and conditioning. He was not a product of free-weights that overflowed with bulging, unwieldy muscles, Arawn explained ... which then led to a brief description of free-weights. Instead, he told her, he preferred advanced calisthenics, bicycling, and parkour ... which gave him a leaner, more compact physique.
Arawn picked up his things and took her hand. “Let’s go back to my tent, I can show you a few parkour videos that I saved on my phone, and there’s some pictures of a bicycle, too.”
On the way back, Arawn finally had the opportunity to ask about her claim to him.
“We are quite free-spirited, as a people” she said. “Our emotions run deep, and we are unique on this world in that when we see the person we are meant to spend our life with, they call to us and our heart sings back in return. When they first put you in the cage with us, I tried to ignore you but something kept drawing my eyes back to you. Then you fought for us. It was then that I knew what had happening, my heart sang out in answer to your call. I am yours, Arawn Stonebrook, you need only claim me.” Arawn smiled and gave her hand a gentle squeeze, but otherwise let her continue.
She told him of their way of life, and shared the tragic history of the Dragon Elf race. Amevina described the Elders and explained how there had originally only been one race of elves, all with skin like hers. Until the corruption came. The Elders had taught love, but something changed within them and caused a schism. The Elders split into two factions; one espoused goodness and honor, the other espoused cruelty and coveted malice and hatred like a precious gem. Great and terrible magics were unleashed, as they warred, that scarred and withered the land wherever it went. All of great races, save the humans and elves, saw it coming and had withdrawn from their creators. Humans and elves, unfortunately, were favored of their masters and they were easily swayed by the pleas from both sides and both human and elf saw their races split down the middle.
In the brutal war that followed, the uncorrupted elves were driven from their ancestral home and found refuge in the Northern Oaks where they still reside to this day. The Elders were slain by the tremendous explosion caused by the magical energies that sealed away the Dark Ones and opened the The Chasm ... the great rend in the earth which swallowed up the central kingdom of the Elders completely. When the dust settled, those who had been corrupted by the Dark Ones held the homelands of both humans and elves. The humans called themselves the Vaszul, and the traitorous elves became horrid caricatures of their former selves. Their hair had fallen out, their skin bleached white, and their fingernails had thickened into wicked talons. They were no longer elves, they were The Pale. The remaining populations were forced out, and the humans set up smaller kingdoms all over the western third of the continent, while the remaining elves fled to the Northern Oaks. Now only a few ruined structures remain scattered across the continent and very few remained undisturbed by looters in search of treasure, knowledge or power. Those who actually possessed artifacts from those ruins protected them carefully from those who covet the knowledge of the Elders.
Arawn had been given a large tent next to the captain’s, and they arrived as she finished her tale. Her nervous eyes met his.
“I know you said the weapons and wars of your world are terrible, but you should know that there are those here who can be just as cruel and destructive.”
Arawn shrugged and explained World War II and the concepts of ethnic cleansing, the American Civil War, and the ongoing fight for civil rights. “The higher you fly, the farther you fall”, he offered.
Arawn led her into the tent so he could get into his spare clothes from his hiking pack. They had went past the fire on their way back and Arawn had retrieved his pack. He placed it on the ground and took stock of what he had been provided. A chamber pot had been provided, as was a washbasin for his hands and a plain steel tub full of clean water for bathing. It was cold, but Arawn guessed that Amevina could remedy that and save him the trouble of fetching hot water. The spartan arrangements were completed by a weapons rack near the door and an orc-sized bedroll in the center of the tent that made the sleeping bag attached to the base of his pack look downright cheap. Arawn had no idea what they stuffed it with, but when he pressed his hand into the material it was soft on the surface but surprisingly firm underneath. He made a mental note to ask about that when he saw Captain Grokan again, and laid out a change of clothes. He had a pair of bike shorts and a black tank top, a spare pair of hiking shoes and socks, and a headwrap to keep the hair from his eyes.
Amevina took stock of everything he pulled from his pack in order to get to his clothes and could not resist her inquisitive nature, “What is all that, Arawn?”
“Well,” he told her as he started to point to the items he had piled up, “Those silver packs there are emergency rations. Each little bar in the pack has enough nutrition to equal a full meal. Every three bars is a day’s food. In a pinch, you can survive on two bars a day, but you won’t like it. They’re not very filling as it is.” Then he picked up a strange white box with rounded corners. When he opened it, she could see all manner of small items she did not recognize.
“This is a first-aid kit. It has emergency sterile bandages and some suture kits and other stuff that I added myself, scalpels and hemostats mostly, I did throw in some ointments and emergency medicines in there too, though. The box can be bought anywhere on Earth, and the custom supplies are easy enough to find if you know what to look for.”
Amevina was curious, so Arawn expanded on what he had told her earlier with the group, and explained sterile procedure and why cleanliness was so important with wound care. The elf knew cleanliness was important, but Amevina was shocked by the reality of the Germ Theory. She resolved to make certain that this knowledge was shared among the gentle races. She was fascinated as he walked her through the MRE’s and trail rations, and his climbing and spelunking gear left her spellbound as he explained what everything did. His people had accomplished amazing things with their ingenuity. Amevina found that she agreed with her mate-to-be, it was a grievous shame that they were so corrupted by their own greed, conceit, and hate that they were unable to truly celebrate what they had achieved.
The object of her newfound affections finished his instruction and returned to his original task ... changing his clothes. Arawn finally got out of the leather armor and took a deep breath and sighed happily as he felt the fresh night air caress his bare skin. He walked over to the washbasin and cleaned up his hands, then used the cloth to wipe himself down at the bathtub. Amevina was as struck by the rest of him as she had been his chest. The elf blushed, though one would never notice thanks to her ebon skin, to have his body bared to her like this was almost more than she could take, especially when her eyes drifted to other parts. The human grossly understated his own conditioning. It suddenly struck her as strange that he should be so sour on his own people, he almost seemed happy to be here. She supposed that could be the reason he seemed so accepting of her claim to him. She had to know for sure.
“Arawn, we may not have spoken until today, but I have been with you since your unconscious body was plucked from the road. I witnessed your reaction to waking up in our cage, the anger, the surprise at seeing all of us. You were a prisoner without cause for four days, Arawn, and today ... according to you, you were blooded in combat. No one handles their first kill as well as you have, and you slew at least five men today. We must also not forget your abilities and my sudden claim to you as well ... even the tools we use are relics of your history. All of this on a man as foreign to this world as your phone, as you call it, is to ours. Why do you seem so unaffected?”
Arawn took a moment to consider her question as he slipped into his clothes. He pointed to the armor, “I need some undergarments for that or I’ll stink to high heaven.” The man lay back onto the bedroll and sighed as though he finally felt the stress of the day’s events.
“I’m not completely sure. If I’m being honest with myself, I was very unhappy with my world, Amevina. We produce enough food to feed the entire world several times over, yet our greed keeps millions in starvation while perfectly good food spoils on the shelves. We have the means to cultivate bodily health like no civilization on our world before us, but poor countries watch people die of diseases that half the world thinks have been eradicated. All because of money. At the social level, we have gotten so obsessed with having what we think we deserve that we sacrifice the sense of community for narcissism.” Arawn sat up and crossed his legs. “I’m no hermit, but I don’t keep a lot of friends because most people don’t understand that. It is extremely difficult for me to relate to people who don’t understand that.”
“As for historical relics, you have no idea how exciting I find living on a world like this. I’m able to fight with what little skill I have because of that re-enactment community. Sure, people knew how things were done thanks to history books, but those groups keep a living example of some real skills. I’m a blacksmith because of them. To me, this way of living is harsh, yes, but it is pure and honest. Hell, if someone had told me before I came here that I could imagine any world I wanted, and escape my old life forever ... it would be something very much like this if not identical.”
Arawn told her about the dating practices of Earth, and of how he had dated a healthy assortment, some almost as beautiful as she, but even then it all came down to money or simple incompatibility. Arawn was quite financially secure, but he chose to live by the strength of his own hands instead of by the luxury his money could provide. In the end, he was never enough because they either wanted the luxury that he was unwilling to even give himself, got upset because they could not convert him (This launched him into a brief interjection about the major monotheistic religions of his planet, the followers of which seemed to believe that it was their divine duty to convert by almost any means necessary), or he was just too intense. Arawn stood and started to arrange his armor neatly next to the weapon rack. He was silent for a moment as he paused to regard her in the dim light of the tent’s lantern. So beautiful.
“Here, I have nothing but my honor, the equipment you and the captain have given me, and what came with me through what I guess was a portal to this world. You want to know why I don’t take issue with your claim on me? You, my dear elf ... you want me despite it all. I have nothing to promise but the strength of my back and of my heart, and that is all you want. Any man who cannot live with that is either an idiot or a fool. Doesn’t hurt that you’re achingly beautiful, either.”
Arawn walked over to her and took her hands in his, “I accept your claim, Amevina. More than that, I embrace it, and you with it.” Arawn was done speaking for the moment, and chose to repay the kiss she gave him before his duel in kind. She was all smiles by the time he stepped back. He was about to guide her to the bedroll when he realized that he had not put his things away. He hurried his swords to the weapon rack and returned to clear off the bedding.
He had just finished putting everything back in his pack when she asked again about why he was taking his first combat so well. Arawn sighed and sat down hard, thankful that the bedroll was so well made. He reached into a pocket on his pack and pulled out a small tin, from it, Arawn extracted a lighter and a joint. Amevina regarded the tiny, translucent green device with curiosity as he placed the light brown stick between his lips. She wondered what the green material was that peeked from the end of it. Then he did something with the green device and she could not stifle a gasp of surprise when a tiny flame sprang from the top and ignited the end of the stick. When she saw him pull on the end of the stick with his lips as one would a pipe, it came to her ... he was smoking something. Whatever it was had been wrapped in the brown material, her best guess was some form of paper. She found it an interesting concept. Amevina was about to ask if he was okay because he had been holding his breath, then the smoke from the joint wafted into her nose and sent her into a sneezing fit. Arawn choked when he started to laugh. When he recovered from coughing enough to speak, he could barely resist a chuckle at the scowl aimed his way.
“By the heavens, that stinks!” she almost shouted.
Arawn suppressed another laugh, “Yeah, my apologies. Cannabis is a bit pungent, but it grows on you. Still, I can admit that it tastes better than it smells. I should have stepped outside for this, though, the tent is going to be smelly in a minute.” Then he turned somber, “I figured if I was going to go down those particular memory lanes again, I could use the help.”
That confused her. “The help?”
“Yeah, cannabis is a plant that has a lot of helpful and medicinal properties which, on my world, cause a lot of controversy. Money, control, power, all that shit again. For me, it helps me relax. Most of the time I think way too much, way too fast and this stuff slows me down. That’s important for what I’m about to tell you.”
“That I can understand, but why is it important, Arawn?”
Arawn surprised himself with the size of the next hit he took from the joint and his shoulders started to jerk as he fought to hold in the coughs. He lost the battle, of course, and the coughing fit made Amevina frown in concern. She leaned over his back and rubbed his shoulders while he fought to regain his composure. When it finally subsided, Arawn wiped the tears from his eyes and dashed over to the handbasin to wash his face before she could see him all snotty from the coughs. He hurried back and sat down.
“Ohhh fuck, that hurt!”
He leaned over and grabbed the waterskin he overlooked when he first came into the tent, and took a few quick sips.
“Okay. It’s important that I be relaxed when I talk about this because ... alright, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but it’s relevant. Humans on my world mature by age eighteen.”
That stunned her to the core, the very thought of a childhood so painfully short was unimaginable.
“I know your lives are short on your world, but heavens! Eighteen of our seasons? You barely have time to learn anything!”
“You make a fair point, Amevina, but we manage. Remember what we have achieved,” Arawn reminded her. “My species has a habit of writing things down. We’ve done it since we lived in caves and threw rocks at each other and it gives us a longer memory than you would expect. It’s strange, really, for a species that knows so well where it has been, most sure as hell can’t see where we are going.” He took another long draw from the joint, then offered it to her. She reached out tentatively, then finally took it and placed it between her lips like she had seen him do.
“This is your first time, take only a couple small sips from it. It can be harsh. Then hold it in like you’ve seen me doing. When your lungs start to push back, let it go.”
Arawn was impressed, she never coughed once. He motioned for her to go again, and she handed it back to him when she was done.
“The way you reacted, I expected it to be worse. That is actually mild when compared to a few of the items required for some of the more obscure magical rites.”
Arawn tapped the joint out on the heel of his sneakers and put it back into the tin, then he took her hand and sighed.
“I killed my father, Amevina.”
The elf released a choked gasp and covered her mouth with her hands in shock. Why and What happened where the only questions she could manage.
“I didn’t have a loving family, Amevina. My father liked to get drunk and beat me and my mother. I tried talking to a teacher at school once when I was about eight years old and after the child services agent left, well ... let’s just say I never tried that again. I thought it would be the end of it after I turned fourteen and kicked his ass for hitting me one too many times. I was wrong.”
Amevina clung to Arawn’s side now, fearful of what more she would hear. Arawn wrapped an arm around her and couldn’t suppress a bitter chuckle as he remembered his father’s hobbies.
“Nobody knew, of course. He hid it well, so did my mother. Always used makeup to cover the bruises, and the asshole never hit me anywhere that clothing didn’t cover it ... which usually meant his leather belt across my back. His hobby was his undoing. He collected antique railroad items. He might have been a drunk, but he had a good job and was paid very well. His favorite pieces were railroad spikes, the ones that had markings from the glory days of the American Railroad.”
“Like I was saying, two weeks after I kicked his ass, he came home on a hardcore bender and sat down in his recliner and started screaming for a drink. Mom didn’t get him a beer fast enough, so he thought he would mop the kitchen floor with her face.”
Amevina had finally released Arawn and sat up when he paused, but she made sure to keep his hands in hers as he continued. The hollow, dead voice she heard now stood in stark contrast to the vibrant, happy man she had seen earlier today. Her heart wept for the man who sat before her. For an elf ... or even an orc for that matter, what he described was unthinkable. Any male who treated his family so poorly would find himself flogged or even executed here. The children were protected at all costs.
“It was bad enough that he bounced her head off every tile on the kitchen floor, but when I heard him go for the drawers, I knew he was getting a knife. He was going to kill her. I couldn’t let that happen, she was my mother. So, I grabbed one of his precious railroad spikes from a display case and drove the point through the back of his head while he stalked her. It came out the other side in his mouth.”
Arawn grabbed took the half-smoked joint out of the tin and re-lit it. He let his free hand trail through Amevina’s silken hair and they sat in silence as he finished his smoke. It had been a long time since he had thought about that night, and for good reason.
“A wise man on my world once said ... All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Well, I did something, and it didn’t help in the end. Two weeks later, she died in the hospital. I was visiting her when it happened. My bastard father reached out from the grave and took her from me despite it all. With that behind me, what happened today was a cakewalk. Those men had no care for any of us in those cages, and I’ll never mourn their loss.”
His voice had become a harsh whisper and tears streaked his face. Amevina was aghast at the pain on his face. She could see that this pain still rent his soul. She pulled him close and clutched his face to her breast. His shoulders began to shake, and he wept into her bosom. He sat back up after a few moments and placed a soft kiss on her lips. After another trip to the washbasin, he was back at her side with an arm around her shoulder.
“Who took care of you after that?”
“An uncle. He did right by me, helped me through a lot and managed my inheritance and all that. He’s the reason I have what I do back home. Turned a couple hundred grand of insurance money into a hefty sum. I made damn sure he was taken care of, too. It was the least I could do, I wouldn’t have survived my teens without him. After all, I was the kid who killed his dad. I went to college after that and got degrees in botany, biology, and horticulture. I really like plants and animals.”
Arawn had long since lost track of time, so he excused himself for a moment and peeked out of the tent to check Terrock’s moon. What he saw chilled his blood. Everyone had retired to darkened tents except for the sentries on the outskirts of the camp, and a trio of cloaked figures hunkered down near the captain’s tent. Arawn ducked back into the tent, made sure she was okay from the smoke earlier, and whispered instructions to Amevina. She used her magic to dress him quickly and Arawn strapped on his shield, then put both pairs of brass knuckles on his right hand. He kissed her hard before the pair slipped out the back of his tent.
They split up the moment they stepped onto the grass and Arawn called up all the skill he had and stalked the trio as they awaited something. He had almost gotten within range when one of the figures rose up and looked around. Arawn ducked behind a crate and watched carefully from the shadows. When the man did not hunker back down and turned his back instead, Arawn peered out and found his avenue of attack, then disappeared into the shadows without a sound.
Arawn leapt out from the darkness only a few feet away from the intruders and bashed the standing man in the back of his head with a horizontal strike from the leading edge of his shield. The man dropped like a stone and the other two leapt to their feet. Arawn disabled one of the men easily enough with a right hook from his brass knuckles, but the other man had already broken into a dead run away from camp. Arawn turned and shouted.
Just as the man reached the edge of the tent lines, Amevina stepped out behind him and the runner was engulfed in the biggest lightning bolt Arawn had ever seen while a violent thunderclap shook the night sky. It was breathtaking to behold, with the mystical symbols spiralled around the gigantic arc of electricity in the split second that it struck. Then they were gone as fast as they had appeared. When the spots finally cleared from his vision he could find no trace of the man. Arawn’s mouth moved but words eluded him. When he finally found Amevina amongst the stampede of orcs trying to figure out why the sky just exploded, a more delighted grin had never crossed his features. He dashed to her and scooped her into his arms as he giggled like a madman.
“Ohhhh baby, you have GOT to teach me that spell!” he gushed as he tried to kiss her repeatedly and talk at the same time...
“ ... just so...”
“ ... fucking...”
If the earth-shaking thunder failed to wake the camp, Arawn’s shout most certainly did, and now the camp was alive with half-dressed orcs in search of a fight. Amevina laughed as he continued to kiss her and tell her how great her spell was and how awesome she had done. She spied the captain headed their way and tapped Arawn on the shoulder.
“Dear, I think we have company.”
Arawn pouted and turned around to flash Captain Grokan an innocent smile. Arawn kept an arm around Amevina’s waist and pointed over to the two fallen men who were now being bound as they lay unconscious.
“Look Cap’n, I found you some new toys to play with!”
That drew a deep, barking belly-laugh from the captain.
“Looks like we owe you two our thanks. Just what in the hells happened out here?” the captain asked through his laughter.
“Well, I had just gotten finished talking to Amevina and introducing her to a plant from my world in my tent, and peeked outside to see what time it was. I saw those two fuckheads and one more trying to sneak into your tent, so I got Amevina and we took care of the problem. She, uh, got carried away with the other guy.” Arawn told him.
Amevina spoke up, “That reminds me, we need to have a discussion about your plant. I meant to incapacitate him, not reduce him to ash. It seems that your medicine has properties here that you were not aware of. That lightning spell was not lethal, I have used it hundreds of times to incapacitate and it has never once killed.”
“Holy shit,” Arawn muttered to himself, “I turned her taser into a supernova!”
“Taser?” Captain Grokan asked.
“Supernova?” Aravine inquired further.
Arawn laughed and explained that a taser was a handheld device that was designed to serve the same purpose as her spell, and that a supernova was a star that exploded when it died. Then he had to explain that not all stars exploded, the rest just burned out and suffered a more quiet death. The orc and the elf were shocked again by the extent of Earth knowledge. Captain Grokan brought things back when he asked about the medicine. Arawn smiled.
“That, well ... it’s a plant from my world that is smoked in pipes and rolled up in thin paper, like tobacco. It has powerful medicinal properties on my world, apparently it amplifies magic here. I use it to curb anxiety and keep a level head, but with what happened to her spell ... we need to keep a tight lid on this until we understand more. If that got out ... well, I don’t want to imagine the kind of problems it could cause.”
“Indeed” Captain Grokan agreed. “How much of it do you have?”
“Unless you have someone who can cultivate a live plant from fully dried material, it’s the seeds I have that are going to be an issue. My supply will run out soon enough, but I always carry a healthy sample of seed stock from my best lines to trade for new breeding stock if I run into someone ... I grow my own.” Arawn explained.
“Druids” Amevina told them. “They will know best how to safeguard the seeds, and can assist you with cultivation here.”
It was decided that they would break camp at first light and head to the Northern Oaks. When it was announced that the trip to the elves’ capital city of Lakehome would take ten days, Arawn spoke up.
“I’m going to make an assumption here, hoping it doesn’t bite me in the ass, that my new fiance can cast a teleportation spell ... and ask why we don’t just let her have a tiny bit more from my supply and let her try and take the whole camp there in one go.”
The captain had reservations, “Do you believe that to be wise? What would happen if something went wrong?”
“I think that is what he is hoping for, Captain Grokan” Amevina informed. “The effects were quite straightforward, the spell was not altered ... it was amplified. The magical currents of the spell let me feel my targets, and I can teleport at least a dozen targets together on my own. It just might work. At most, it may take a second trip. Either option is preferable to ten days on the road, would you not agree?”
The captain did indeed agree, and it was decided. They would teleport to Lakehome at sunrise. The camp had already started to settle, though extra guards were posted, and the trio decided to call it a night. Before the captain could get out of earshot, Arawn called him back for a moment.
“Captain, I have a request,”
“Go on, and you may call me Grok if you like. My friends do” the orc said.
“Thanks, my friends call me Rawn. I know you probably have plans for the guys I busted up today, but I’d like to be the one to interrogate them. Hell, your people can even ask the questions. I just want to be the one who makes them talk” Arawn requested.
The orc’s eyes narrowed in consideration and he expelled a slow sigh as he thought.
“I see no problem with that, so long as you do not kill them. We may need them later” he told the human.
“Awesome. Thanks Grok.”
The orc laughed, “My pleasure, Rawn. Now, I think it is time that I got some sleep. Goodnight to you both.”
With that, the captain headed into his tent, and Amevina retired with Arawn to his own.
Afterword: Thank you for reading, hope you enjoy the ride. I’ll be seeking an editor in the near future so I can get a proper spit & polish put on this and future chapters.