The witch’s voice resonated in my ears. It was soft, full, and gently spoken; yet it said “Hey, tall, pale, and pointy, move your arse.”
I turned over and groaned. I felt as if I had only slept a minute. The sun light up my face and I felt its warmth concentrate at the tips of my ears.
“Come on, up up. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
I opened my eyes and held out my arm to block the sun’s menacing rays. Sitting up in the sand I looked up at Abeline who hovered above me, and she smiled.
“Morning” I said.
“Morning, now don’t be a stickler, go introduce yourself.” She pointed over towards several large rocks on the beach-side. On them sat an armored soldier, clad in plated steel so gleaming, he could have been a second sun.
I stood and stretched, arching my back. “So who’s that then?”
“Our smuggled goods.”
I gave her a raised eyebrow. “That explains the weight of it…”
I made my way across the sand, enjoying the sensation of walking on solid ground. The witch must have plucked off my boots to dry. With each step I treasured the feeling of finely ground sand between my toes. The soldier didn’t turn to look at me; he was fixed on the ocean with a most contemplative look in his eye.
I stopped beside him for a moment and greeted him curiously. “Um. Hello there.”
His response was instantaneous and direct, like a well trained soldier reporting for duty. “Ah, so you’ve woken up then. Good, it’s about time. We really should get marching off to Draumerheim about now.”
He still stared out into the vast blue.
His hair was tied back into a little stub of a chestnut colored pony-tail. The bits that didn’t quite reach dangled messily about the side of his tanned grizzly face. He was young, but his face spoke of battle. He had seen his share prematurely.
“My name is Leafe.”
“No surprise there, you’re pointed like one. Is that where you got your name?” His eyes fixed on my ears. I quickly pulled up my hood. Oh, gods, how could I be so stupid? I get comfortable for one second and-
He laughed genuinely “Calm yourself elf. I’m not going to turn you in, or put you to the torch.”
Is that what people did to elves?
“Besides, we have thick, old forests to traverse. We’ll need your natural prowess.”
Natural prowess? I had none. I had spent my entire life in cities, this had been my most immersive encounter with nature thus far, and we haven’t even entered the woods. But they didn’t know that, and I need him to want me alive. The only people that know about my ears need to remain my friends.
I gathered my confidence. “I’ll be sure to help in any way I can.”
“It’s my fault they’re dead.” He interjected, his eyes still fixed on the ocean. “Dead men, enslaved women and children. Once the boys come of fighting age, they’ll be killed too.”
I sat myself beside him. I could see, we weren’t heading anywhere until our new friend had a chance to expunge the burden built inside his chest. Abeline had wandered the opposite direction collecting the more shimmering shells.
“…What do they call you?”
He took a moment to himself, and released his name, almost shamefully to me. “They call me Ashe.”
“You’re Ashe and I’m Leafe.” I smirked and spoke light of heart. “What was that about not setting me to the torch?”
He broke his gaze with the ocean for the first time and shared a smile with me. Then he stood up towering over me, but only for a brief moment. When I stood I was nearly a full head above him.
“Funny, you looked taller sitting.”
“Ha. Well, enough of that, and enough contemplation. I’m sure you have questions; we’ll discuss more whilst we walk. Continued discussion here would result in dead time.” His voice quickened in pace, and his tone became more commanding.
“Aye sir!” I replied in a joking manner, yet he seemed to take it as a sincere response.
Abeline made her way back to us cupping some prized shells in both hands. “There are peasants who have never even seen the ocean.” She tucked them into a pouch on her belt. “Jewelling has been a family gift for several generations now; we’ll see if I carry that trait.”
I located my boots, drying on a nearby rock, booted up, and headed into what seemed to be something of a trail under Ashe’s guidance. We marched into the quickly thickening forest.