Turning on his heel, he walked off into the crowds. Yes, he was going to brood, and no one could stop him. The question from that fellow, who looked disarmingly like Fangline, was about all he wanted to take for the day. It was bad enough that he had found himself here, in this human city, where he stuck out like a sore thumb. It smelled horrible, everything appeared to be derelict for some reason, and there was an exorbitant amount of mud. Would it kill someone to plant a tree, he found himself wondering critically and fairly often.
But, as far as cities go, this one suited his purposes well enough. He wanted a city far enough from home to be remote, and he wanted it to be large enough that he could get lost in it. With that accomplished, he wasn’t really sure what to do next. After months in exile he had little left but the clothes on his back and his father’s sword, and he’d die before letting go of either. The idea of finding a job was not only foreign to him, but gave him an unfamiliar sense of anxiety. It would almost feel as if he’d given up hope, but then sometimes he wondered if he already had.
And then there was Hope, who he wondered on, and why she never returned to him. Somehow, even in the canyon after
“Don’t worry, dear,” said a smiling, motherly-looking sort of woman who passed him. “It’ll be fine.”
She continued on in the other direction, and he realized he’d been in a rather deep funk, brows furrowed and anguish plain on his face as he walked. It was rare that he completely forgot himself when out among other people, having been trained for his entire life for appearances, and it came very naturally to him. He chided himself inwardly in lieu of his old instructors and gave a reserved sigh, because it didn’t matter anymore.
It didn’t matter because none of these people knew who he was, or what he stood for. They knew nothing about royalty, as far as he could tell, and very few even knew a thing of worth about elves. He found the level of miseducation in this city appalling but at the same time he had to be begrudgingly grateful for it because it allowed him the benefit of being an enigma. He was not only an elf, but one of the most pure-blooded elves in the world. Not that anyone here would know that. Or care.
Which drove him back to the subject of how to live. Menial labor didn’t interest him in the slightest, and he wasn’t sure why anyone would do it. He supposed if it came to that, he might have to … he pushed the thought away, because it was nearly physically painful to think on. All it did was remind him of his father and aunt and Hope and how his life was once so incredibly comfortable, and how now he had no idea what to do or what would happen tomorrow. Most of all, he was horribly, horribly alone.
He passed a parchment tacked to the wall outside of a seedy-looking establishment. Well, don’t they all look seedy? He considered that thought, then deigned to read it. He read it again. And one more time, frozen in indecision.
Fiters of some expertees
Other weapins subject to aproval
“Well, Bactine dear, it’s time for you to be educated,” said her mother meaningfully.
“Er… what?” asked Bactine. She and Xylic were sitting on her porch, he in the chair on two legs with Snowball coiled in his lap, and she with her feet dangling over the side while leaning against one of the weathered posts. She had to take the long blade of grass out of her mouth in order to speak more directly, and with a little more dignity. “Educated? I thought I already was.”
She could read and write, and wasn’t horrible with arithmetic, but she was best with words. She loved words, and stringing them together. To her, using words was an art form, and the more obscure a word was, the more delighted she was to learn it. She’d spent a lot of her time growing up reading; at least more time than any of her friends ever did, and mostly read the books she could find with stories. They held the stories her father considered useless, and maybe they were, but she was an imaginative girl, and she needed something to occupy her mind. Otherwise she would be restless. Alright, she was restless anyway, but it helped at least a little.
“Of course you are, Bactine,” her mother said, “But I mean using your talents.”
“What?” asked Bactine, happily incredulous. “You mean I get to-.”
Her mother smiled at her, whereas Bactine jumped to her feet and threw her arms around her mother, laughing.
“When do I start, Mum?”
“Yes, well… that’s the thing,” said her mother, cryptically.
“You know how your father and I can’t really afford the training?”
“Well, there is one teacher.”
Bactine watched her mother with anticipation and trepidation, hoping it wasn’t an ogre she would be forced to learn from. Her mother cleared her throat.
“The journey is fairly far, more than a day’s walk, and in a remote place,” said her mother. “But I wrote her and described your natural abilities, and she agreed to teach you… after some, well, begging. For a fee we can pay.”
Bactine thought about that, then asked, “But how will I get there? Father can’t leave, if he missed a day of work he’d lose everything.”
Her mother looked over at Xylic, who returned her glance, looking slightly blindsided.
“Xylic, dear…” She began.
“Of course, Mrs. Gallagher,” he replied.
Mrs. Gallagher smiled warmly at Xylic.
“Dinner will be ready soon,” she said, then lugged a massive butter churn out of the door and deposited it unceremoniously onto the porch with one arm, since the other arm was busy carrying at least twenty ears of unshucked corn. “Get to work on this, would you, Bactine?”
The door slammed. Bactine tossed down a wobbly stool in front of the churn, plopped herself down and began very poignantly churning the butter.
She felt the need to speak quietly, through her excitement.
“I can’t believe it, Xylic,” she said. “I’m going to be a real healer. And learn magic, like… like people.”
“Hm, yes. People,” he replied, sounding what she thought was amused.
“Well, I’m lucky. If I had a different mum I would probably be married off to some peasant boy next month, if not already. I am getting old, you know,” she said, churning.
“Old?” he asked her incredulously. “You’re, what… eighteen?”
She glanced at him. “Nice guess.”
“And yes. Most of my friends are either married, or talking about getting married. Violet’s engaged now, you know.”
“That poor fellow,” said Xylic.
“How could you say that about Violet!” She sent him a dirty look, but actually found it rather funny.
“She… giggles,” he said.
“Doesn’t every girl?”
She thought about that, in a churny sort of way.
“Well, I guess I don’t.”
A long moment passed, where the sound of the wind in the grass was prevalent.
“It was nice of you to offer to take me,” she said, after a while.
“You certainly couldn’t go alone,” he answered.
“And what will you do if we are attacked by a bandit?” she asked him, teasing.
“Fend him off with my remarkable battle prowess,” he replied.
“And if we’re attacked by a wizard?”
“Steal his wand, then poke him in the eye with it until he relents,” he said, and she laughed.
“And if we’re attacked by a dragon?” she asked, challengingly.
“You know all dragons have a weakness,” he said.
“Yes…” she said. “They’re missing a scale in the most tender place.”
“Always,” he said. “And that’s where I would shoot him, using my unparalleled skills with a bow.”
He leaned back a bit further in the chair, and petted Snowball.
“Unparalleled, are they?” she grinned over at him, still churning relentlessly.
“Why, yes,” he said to her.
“You’re very modest,” she replied dryly, and turned her attention back to the wooden churn in front of her. He spoke again.
“I wonder how long you’ll be gone,” he said.
“I don’t know… I would think it would take a while to learn all the things I want to know about,” she said thoughtfully. She smiled. “It’s so exciting, isn’t it, Xylic? I could work for a noble, perhaps, and maybe even be a teacher! Or… maybe I could travel!” She churned the butter dreamily.
He said nothing in reply.
“Dinner!” Mrs. Gallagher emerged, leaning from a window and surprising them both from very separate reveries.