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Archives: Trials of the Half-Elven

Chapter 10: Crossroads at the Tiger Lily Inn

    Olula woke the next morning beside Krisatris. When Kris crawled back in bed the night before, Olula was happy, but she still worried about what was troubling her friend. Maybe it was just a dream, but since she was so unwilling to discuss it, Olula was worried.

    The half-dark elf slipped out of bed and gave a stretch. As she began to think about what she meant to do, a ball of anxiety formed in her chest. Trying to speak to the king, or any of the nobles, would be a hard task. She almost wanted to give up and just keep moving, but this wasn’t just her battle, it was the battle of all those like her. Half-dark elves should not have to suffer for the crimes of their parents.

    Without voicing her anxiety, Olula went about her morning business; changing into her traveling clothes, brushing her hair, and putting it back up into a ponytail. Another thought added to the tightly wound anxiety in her chest. Would Kiran be there this morning?

    Flora slowly woke up as she heard Olula moving around. Rubbing her eyes, she looked to Olula. “Morning,” she said in a soft voice as she slowly got out of bed. Getting her clothes and hairbrush out of her pack again, Flora began to dress. “I hope Krisatris is feeling good today?” she said as she began brushing her hair. She looked at Olula once more and smiled. “How are you doing so far?”

    Olula replied in nearly a whisper, “Kris is probably catching up on the sleep she missed.” Olula finished dressing and went for the door. “Let’s get some breakfast,” she said to Flora as she opened the door as quietly as possibly and stepped into the hall.

    Flora looked at Krisatris, then put her brush away and followed Olula out. “It would be nice to get something to eat,” she said softly. “Should we bring Krisatris something to eat?”

* * *

    The half-elf Nat woke up tangled in his sheets after a long sleep. Sunlight was shining through his room’s curtains and left him feeling disoriented. The last time he woke up, it was night. He didn’t feel like he had slept all night long, but what time was it now?

    He crawled out of bed and threw his clothes back on, then pulled his bed-tossed hair back into a ponytail. Nat grabbed his guitar, then stepped out the door. And right across the hall were a pair of pretty girls leaving their room. One looked like a half-elf, probably half-dark because of her complexion, and the other was human.

    “Hey there,” he said with a grin, then continued on downstairs. He dropped the bait, and hopefully they’d take it.

    As the half-elven man stepped out of his room, Olula was struck breathless for a moment. He was very handsome, much like the elf she had seen downstairs the night before. His ears weren’t as long as an elf’s either, they were medium-sized, like hers. As far as she knew, elves didn’t have brown hair either. If she could find a handsome half-elf husband like that, then her life would be perfect.

    Kris awoke with a start. Sitting up, she yawned the sleep out of her and blinked when she smelled breakfast cooking downstairs. She looked at Olula and Flora in the doorway, rubbing her left eye. “Morning,” she said to them.

    Olula glanced back to see Krisatris getting out of bed. “Oh, good morning!” she said, a blush still lingering on her cheeks. She looked back out into the hall, after the half-elf man, then back at Kris again. “We’ll see you downstairs when you’re ready.”

    Flora watched the man and blushed a bit. “Hi,” she said softly as the man left. She looked back at Olula and watch her expression for a while. Wow, he is a bit handsome. Did he catch Olula’s eyes? she thought, then giggled, then looked at Krisatris and waved at her. “Morning,” she said then walked downstairs.

* * *

    Bella had awoken in good spirits, despite the fact that most other people in the inn had been upset by the presence of the dark elf Kiran the night before. Not many people had gathered in the common room yet, and she saw none of the new faces from the night before yet. The grassrunner had ordered herself breakfast and was currently enjoying it.

    She wasn’t sure if they would see the Forest of No Return. The elf Mia had wanted to go, but her companion didn’t. Midau was willing to take her, but after all he’d been through, it seemed that the trip might be postponed until she could go on her own. She didn’t want to put Midau in danger, after all.

    Although the previous night was anything but relaxing, Midau found himself in a good mood in the morning. The dark elf dressed and moved to Bella’s room to knock on her door. After waiting a minute to see whether or not she’d answer, he realized that she must have gotten up before him. He gave out a small chuckle and went to check whether she had come down to the common room yet. It didn’t take him long to see Bella amongst the near empty common room of the inn. He smiled and took up a seat near Bella. “Good morning Bella, my dear. How did you sleep?” he asked with a broad grin on his face.

    “Oh, quite well,” Bella said with a smile. “You seem to be in better spirits yourself. Did you sleep well too?”

    “I dreamed I was floating in a lake upside down. It was very relaxing. Much better than my usual dreams of failure and depravity,” Midau joked. “Actually I slept rather well. The bed was rather comfortable, and I feel refreshed and otherwise, happy. Now all I have to do is see my daughter in Moss and I’m ready to pop off to the Forest of No Return, or rather, the Forest of Seldom Return, just maybe not the kind of return you wish for.” He laughed. Calling over a barmaid, he ordered some breakfast and something to wash it down with.

    Mia came downstairs, looking to be in a much better mood, but it was only because she managed to lock all those horrible memories away. She hoped Kiran was gone; if not, she’d kick his ass this time.

    Midau and Bella were already downstairs, and Mia decided to join them again. “Hey there you two,” she said as she walked up to the table. “Mind if we join you again?”

    Yawning lightly, Azala followed Mia downstairs. He hadn’t spent last night alone, but it wasn’t the usual way. He cursed that a bit, but in the end he supposed it was fairly comforting. “Eh, glad to see you’re both still here.” He yawned again. Since his clothes were still fairly rumpled, and his hair a mess, he was clearly not fully awake.

    Midau greeted the pair with a broad smile. “Yeah, it’s alright to sit with us,” Midau cited, giving a small sweep of his hand to any surrounding chairs.

    A handsome half-elf came downstairs carrying a guitar, looking as if he had just rolled out of bed. His clothing was wrinkled, and his brown hair messy, but even that didn’t make him less attractive.

    “Where were ye last night?” the innkeeper said, leaving his bar to scold Nat. “I gave yer set to another bard!”

    “Sorry, I wasn’t feeling good,” Nat replied, lying. It was more a matter of just not wanting to get up. “I’ll play now, for a little breakfast?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get it for ye,” the innkeeper replied, then left Nat to play.

    The bard sat down on a stool near the front of the dinning room and began to strum his guitar. He sang a familiar song about the travels of Parn and Deedlit, mediocre at best.

    Mia sat down with Midau and Bella, then ordered breakfast for herself and Azala from a passing barmaid. A new bard had taken up performing. He was a good looking half-elf, but he didn’t seem to put much effort into his performance. Maybe it was just a warm up. There was something in his looks that reminded her of Azala. Knowing Azala, the bard could be his son, but he could just as easily not be. Azala was exceptionally handsome, even for an elf, but there were other elves who had similar features.

    “Well, Azala and I decided to go to Raiden instead,” Mia informed them with a sigh. “Sorry to disappoint, but he has his reasons to not go to the Forest of No Return.”

    Midau grinned. “Knocked someone up eh?” He joked towards Azala. “Well, it’s okay, I guess. Bella and I can make it there ourselves. Any messages you want us to give anyone there?”

    “Something like that,” Azala said in another yawn. “And that place is kinda boring besides. I mean, other than the trees and high level spirits, theres not much going on around there.” Looking up at the performer, he frowned lightly. “Eh, that guy’s not too good... Wonder what happened to the one from last night? She was pretty and good at her arts.”

    “She may have been better than this man, but her flute playing left little to desire,” Midau grunted. “I’d rather have my ears removed by ravenous thieving wood sprites than listen to her flute again.” He shuddered. Returning to the comment about the Forest of No Return, Midau smiled. “Yeah, there wasn’t much there, but the hospitality was ever so endearing.”

    Mia snorted after Midau suggested that Azala had knocked someone up. It was a pretty good guess. “Yeah, something was off about that flute, wasn’t there?” Mia replied to Midau. Something was tugging at her to calm down when she had attacked Kiran, but she was too angry to listen. The thought reminded her of Kiran. She leaned into the table, speaking quietly. “Do you know if Kiran is still here?” she asked.

    “Twenty Raiden to a copper says that he snuck off with that bard last night upon hearing about Mica,” Midau said. It was more than just mere speculation. Over the song he heard the half-elf Kiran had come in with ask for a refund on one of the rooms, it being ‘not used’. Midau thumbed towards Olula then pointed to his ear.

    Mia overheard the half-elf after she asked Midau. She was relieved to hear it. “Then today is looking like a good day,” Mia replied and sat back. She listened to the bard’s song, studying his face. “He kind of looks like you, Azala,” she teased. “How much you wanna bet he’s yours?”

    “Thats not funny Mia...” Azala groaned, resting his head in one of his hands, his eyes half closed. Looking up at the bard, he looked at him closely... Yeah, he wasn’t about to take that bet. Nothing good could come from it. “If I were fully awake I’d probably bonk you on the head.”

    “It’s funny to me,” Mia chuckled.

    Bella realized that they could still travel together. The two elves were seasoned and far more experienced than na´ve little Bella, but she was intrigued by this pair. “You know, we’ve decided to go to Moss first, then the Forest of No Return. We can still travel together,” Bella said.

    “Yes, let’s go together,” Midau echoed. “You guys could meet my kid...and her kid.”

    “Of course it’s funny to you, you don’t have to worry about the possibility that it might be true,” the common elf said, making a slight balled fist gesture at Mia. When Bella spoke up, he cocked his head lightly to the side. “Well, no skin off my ears. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea go get some more to the party—less likely to get hit by highwaymen.”

    “Great!” Bella said and clapped her hands together. “I can always use more friends in Lodoss. This place can be so frustrating to grassrunners.” The shaman suddenly giggled at a thought. “At least you two look more likely to be my parents than Midau!”

    “Eh, you probably shouldn’t say that to Mia...the first person who asks how old you are, and if Mia is a proud mother, will likely receive a black eye at the very least...” Azala chuckled, and it did have some mirth to it. “Or then again, possibly a full bottle of booze to their head.”

    “Damn straight,” Mia said. “But, well, that might fix your problems too, my little friend. I’ll make sure they know you’re an adult,” she finished with a wink to Bella.

    Midau chuckled. “Grassrunners have it hard because no one sees you for the adults you are. I place some of the blame on the grassrunners that proceeded you, however. Perhaps some of them actually wanted to pass as children. It’s almost easier to pass as a child than as an adult, at least, as far as the law is concerned.” Midau grinned. “...Most of the time.”

    “Hmph,” Bella frowned. “Well, I’m not that kind of grassrunner.” She looked up at Mia and smiled. “Well, thank you, but I don’t approve much of violence.”

    “Well, I sure as hell do,” Mia replied with a smirk and a chuckle.

* * *

    Flora walked down the stairs and looked at all the people. Her face burned bright red as she walked over to a table. She sat down on a chair and waited for Olula to come down.

    Olula and Flora came downstairs as Nat began to play. Olula was intrigued by the half-elf man, and she sat down at the table closest to him.

    A barmaid hurried over to take their breakfast orders. “Good morning girls,” the woman said brightly. “We’ve got eggs and bacon and bread on the griddle, or some fresh fruit if you’d prefer something without meat.”

    “Umm...I’ll go with the eggs and bacon,” Olula replied, distracted by Nat.

    “And you?” the barmaid asked Flora.

    Flora frowned as she watched Olula. She sighed a bit and looked at the barmaid. “I would like some fresh fruit and bread please,” she said to the woman and looked around the room. She stopped as she noticed Olula staring at the man that was playing the guitar. She smiled a bit and started playing with her fingers.

    “Sure thing,” the barmaid replied.

    “Wait,” Olula said. “Can we get a refund for one of our rooms? It wasn’t used.”

    “Umm...I’ll ask the innkeeper,” the barmaid replied, then went off to her duties.

    Kris joined Olula and Flora downstairs and sighed. She wasn’t sure if she was that hungry, but she was thirsty. “I’d just like some water,” she said to the innkeeper. She noticed the half-dark elf was staring at the young man, which made her raise a eyebrow, but she made no comment.

    Olula heard Kris join them, and glanced at the other half-elf. “Good morning,” she said. “Are you feeling better?”

    “I’m fine,” Kris replied with a smile as she was given her water. “Are you alright? Your face is a little red...” She also noticed Flora’s face too was red, and she had a feeling that she knew what it was. “Did you see a handsome man?” she asked Olula as she looked around for this man they had seen. She saw the bard playing and blinked. Is that him? she thought, looking over at the two.

    Olula glanced away from Kris when her friend noticed her blush. “Oh, well, him,” she said, tossing a look at Nat. “He is beautiful, isn’t he?”

    Nat was pleased to see that the girls were watching him. He finished the tale and set his guitar aside. He tossed his head, throwing the loose locks of brown hair out of his face. His breakfast should be ready by now, so he thought he’d see if he could eat with the girls.

    The half-elf stood up and walked over to Olula and the girls. “Hey there, mind if I share your table? You seemed pretty interested in my song,” he said to the girls, putting on an innocent act. He knew he was attractive, but he didn’t want them to know that he knew.

    Kris did agree on the beautiful part, but she didn’t blush about it. When the other half-elf asked if he could share their table, Kris didn’t see a problem with that. “If Olula is okay with that,” she replied to him. She was listening to the song and was interested yes, but the main reason she looked over was because Olula did. However, the half-elf kept that to herself and drank some more of the water that she held in her hand.

    “Yes, yes, of course!” Olula said, a bit too eagerly. She blushed when she realized it.

    Flora looked away and sighed. I guess I don’t have a say in this, but he looks very attractive, she thought as she played with her fingers. Life is weird sometimes.

    “Thanks,” Nat said with a smile and sat down. The inn staff brought his breakfast as soon as he sat down, since it had been waiting while he played. “I’m Nataniel, but you can call me Nat,” he introduced himself with a wink, then started to eat.

    Flora smiled at him. “I am Flora. It is very nice to meet you Na... Umm... Nataniel,” she said, blushing as she forget his name for a few seconds.

    “I’m Olula,” she introduced herself in one breath.

    “Lovely names, ladies,” Nat smiled to both of them. “And you?” he asked, looking to Krisatris, who hadn’t spoken yet.

* * *

    Mica brought the trio of dark elves to the Tiger Lily Inn. “There’s really no need to survey the outside, I’m pretty sure that there’s no other possible escape routes, save for maybe the windows on the second floor,” he pointed out. “However, if he was staying here, under an auspicious star, he’d be sitting down to dine for breakfast about now. So it’d be best to flood the common room, with our presence, that is.”

    Adriel nodded. “Very well,” he replied, then stepped into the inn. He scanned the room for a dark elf fitting Kiran’s description, but he was immediately shocked at the diversity of the patrons. Light elves, dark elves, half-elves (both light and dark), humans...this place certainly would have welcomed his father. However, none of the elves looked like Kiran. There was a dark elven man, but he didn’t fit the description at all.

    Mica strolled in after his brother and gazed about the room. His eyes locked onto Midau and his jaw set. His old teacher happened to be here. His fingers tensed but he restrained his urge to go over and murder the man who taught him so much. Kiran was the big prize, Midau would be merely a consolation for not finding his father. Removing Midau from his sight, he turned his attention to the innkeeper. “Tell me, good sir,” Mica stated loudly, so that the other patrons could hear him as well. “Have you seen a dark elven man by the name of Kiran?”

* * *

    Midau looked over to whom the inquiry was made by and blanched. “...If I knew my luck was going to be this bad, I might as well have stayed in Raiden,” he grumbled.

    Mia’s ears perked at the mention of Kiran’s name. Turning around, she saw a man who appeared to be human, but he was quite similar in appearance to Kiran. “Aw shit,” she muttered and turned back again, rubbing her forehead. “Here we go. That’s Mica, isn’t it?”

    Midau nodded. “That’s Mica alright, but I’ve never known him to mix company with other dark elves,” he sighed.

* * *

    Olula gave a start as she heard someone ask about Kiran, then she sank down in her seat. After the fiasco with Kiran yesterday, she didn’t want anything to do with what these new visitors could bring.

    “She’s Krisatris,” Olula introduced her friend to Nat, but she had lost her flirtatious mood. She wanted to just ignore the newcomers and pray that they left soon.

    Flora looked back at the newcomers and watched them for a while, then turned back to Nat, Olula and Krisatris. “Hmm... so...” she started, then paused. She really didn’t have anything to talk about.

* * *

    The innkeeper tensed at the mention of the name Kiran. He set down the glass he was cleaning and a heavy frown formed on his brow. That dark elf’s mere presence had caused too much excitement the day before, and he didn’t want to experience that again. “He’s not here. Please leave,” he replied to Mica, pointing to the door.

    Mica’s face contorted with anger for a moment, but the half-elf sighed and brushed his long golden hair behind his ears and out of his face. “Listen, I didn’t ask if he was here, I asked if you saw him.” He pulled out a gold piece and lay it on the bar. “I’ll be diplomatic only this once and offer you coin for any information on whether or not he ‘was’ here at one time, and when.”

* * *

    Midau’s shoulders slumped. Mica was close to losing his temper, already. Time had not been able to dull it, obviously. He surveyed his companions to find who would be the least likely to get hit by Mica were they to give him the news that he had been there the night before but probably left. “...So, Mia, you have a bunch in common with Mica, why don’t you tell him when that man came in,” Midau joked.

    “You know, I just might,” Mia said and stood from her seat. She didn’t want the poor innkeeper to be assaulted by Mica, knowing what Midau had said about him being aggressive.

    “Fine, he was here last night, but he left some point between then and morning,” the innkeeper replied, but he didn’t care much for the coin. “I can’t tell you where or when he went.”

    The elf walked over to Mica and his group, then casually leaned against the bar. “You’re a day late,” Mia said with a shrug. “I can’t say where the bastard has gone, but if he was worth the fight I would have taken all your pleasure by killing him first. I’m Mia,” she finished with an introduction and offered her hand to Mica to shake.

    Mica looked at the woman with a skeptical eye. “‘Mia’, eh? What exactly did you mean by ‘if he was worth the fight’?” He turned his attention completely to the elven maiden, if the innkeeper had no further interest in talking he’d talk to this one. “Regardless, I’m his son, Mica Lorelai, and that,” he said with a jerk of his thumb to Adriel, “is his son Adriel. The other two are his bodyguards, somethin’-or-other and what’s-her-name.”

    Mia gave the three dark elves a glance and cursory nod of recognition, then turned her attention back to Mica. “He didn’t even put up a fight. He saw my fist coming from a mile away and took it full on the face, then moped about how he deserved everything he had coming for him. He already kicked his own ass, so I couldn’t find any joy in kicking it further,” she explained.

    “Pity,” Mica stated blandly. “Did someone warn him of our possible arrival, a stupid dark elven female bard with a big dumb mutt, or perhaps sans-mutt?”

    “Yeah, I bet she did. She came in just before him, and he said he’d talk to her later. I didn’t stick around for very long,” Mia said and took a moment to push back the repressed depression that Kiran had brought out. If this kid wanted to hunt down Kiran and butcher him, Mia couldn’t say she cared. Hell, she’d even give him a little help. There may have been no fun in hurting him herself, but if Mica got a kick out of it...well, it didn’t mean much to her. It was clear Kiran had accepted his fate.

    Mica bit his lip. She interfered. What was it that she wanted out of Kiran again? “Thanks,” Mica said earnestly to Mia. He turned to Adriel and the others. “So, do we go visiting gates to see which way he went, or what?”

    “By the way,” she added. “I’m not sure how up to date your description of him is, but he’s got a few scars on his face courtesy of me. There’s a nasty one on his chin that’ll stand out. He’s got a long one on his forehead, and a little chunk of ear missing. Good luck.” Mia gave Mica’s arm a pat, then went back to her table.

* * *

    “Well, that went pretty smoothly,” Mia said, relieved. She was expecting another brawl. Too bad, she thought. I could stand to blow off some steam.

    Midau sighed in relief. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mica so calm after hearing bad news. That’s a turn for the good for today,” he said in a low tone to Mia and the others around their table. Please don’t incite a fight Mica, just go after your dad. You found a clue that brings you closer to hunting him down, so take your prize and leave the second place at the door, Midau wished inwardly.

* * *

    “Yes, that would be be best, I think,” Adriel said. He was eager to be on his way, now that they finally had a lead. He was surprised to find that Kiran had actually been there not a day earlier. “Innkeeper, where are the gates of the city?”

    Yrsanne watched Mia and the others with her own skeptical eye, but it was all business. Mica pretty well downplayed her importance, but she was not about to pick a fight with the bull about it. She just wanted to get out of there.

    The innkeeper, who was still none too pleased to be dealing with these dark elves, replied dryly, “There’s only two gates and the port. The gates are on the north and south sides.” He seemed to have relaxed a bit since they were about to leave.

    “Perhaps we should split in two to check the gates then. I will go to the north, and you can go to the south. If we find any news, we can send a message via the spirits, or we will meet in the city center if we find nothing,” Adriel suggested. “However, since he met Thiana, he may have tried to escape under the cover of invisibility spirits so he would leave no trail.”

    Olula breathed a sigh of relief as the dark elves got the information they wanted and were about to leave. However, her heart sank as she realized what they meant to do. They’re going to kill him! Olula thought. Without thinking, Olula stood.

    “Wait!” she shouted to the dark elves. What am I doing? Well, there’s no turning back now. “I know Kiran has done some horrible things in his past, but I don’t believe he’s that man anymore!”

    Flora watched Olula and smiled a bit. Tears came to her eyes as she listened to Olula, and she stood up as well. “She is right! He has changed, I know he has. Even though I have known him for a short period of time, he was nice and kind to us!” she said as loud as she could. “Ki... Kiran just don’t seem like the type of person that you guys think he is. He has surely changed,” she looked at Olula. She is so right, she thought to herself.

    Mica’s eyes narrowed at the double mention of Kiran’s name, and then people defending him. Defending the same man who defiled his mother, who in turn, defiled him. His blood boiled at the casual mention of his name, and the very thought of other people defending the beast of a man who sired him made the hairs on his neck stand on end. “...You would both do well to shut your mouths and never again utter his name in my presence,” Mica growled. “A man who commits acts so heinous, regardless of his so-called penance, is still guilty. A half-elf like you should know, there is no limit to human cruelty when it comes to our kind.”

    Mica’s malicious glare softened and he even smiled. “Of course...” he laughed. “He was kind to you, and very sweet and even protective.” He nodded emphatically. “That must mean that he’s changed, because I have never seen a con where they pretend to be nice, buttering you up by protecting you and making you feel safe and then take you somewhere dark and rape you till you have nothing left but a tattered body and a shattered mind. How simply na´ve of me,” Mica retorted sarcastically. The two na´ve little bitches were hardly worth his time or effort to bother spending any nuance of reason on. If they continued to persist, however, he’d be forced to shut their mouths for them.

    Nat cursed to himself as the two girls stood up to defend this Kiran fellow, who sounded like no one worth the defense. These girls were incredibly na´ve if what everything said about Kiran was true. No matter what his convictions, Nat would never stand up to someone as imposing as the six-foot-six son of Kiran. However, he couldn’t leave these girls to the wolves, no matter how foolish they were. So, the half-elf bard hopped to his feet and placed himself behind the two girls, cupping his hands over their mouths.

    “Don’t worry yourself over these poor ladies,” Nat told Mica, putting on his most amicable smile. “They obviously know not of what they speak.” Nat then whispered to Olula and Flora; “Let’s not tempt fate now. I have no doubt this fellow will tear you limb from limb, regardless of whether you be men or women. You will be no good to your friend dead.”

    Olula didn’t fight Nat, because she knew he was right. She wanted to stand up for Kiran though. She heard him admit to those crimes yesterday when the other dark elf accused him. He didn’t seem like the man that everyone else seemed to know. However, what Mica said last did stop her righteousness in it’s path. What if Kiran had been using her? It had been on her mind since the night before, but she was in a constant state of second-guessing herself. Olula’s ears dropped and she lowered her eyes as Nat stood to her defense.

* * *

    As the two girls stood up to defend Kiran, Mia dropped her head into her palms. “Crap,” she groaned.

    “Not sure you’re relieved, or kinda disappointed you didn’t get to vent your frustrations from last night.” Azala chuckled to Mia, which turned into a light groan as the two girls spoke up. At least their third companion seemed to be semi-protective of them. Still, he was going to end this right now.

    “Well, aren’t you just all knowing of elven and human relationships,” he said in a flat tone, and got up. While Azala didn’t look nearly as imposing as Mica or his companions, there was an air of confidence that could not be denied. There was no fear. “Kid, I got it, you have had a hard life. Wouldn’t even wish it on Falaris or Kardis. But you ever hear of something called ‘the living dead’? Yeah, Kiran is alive... In the sense that he breaths and talks... but honestly? Killing him would do him a favor. And as for the rape part? He can’t even get his spirits up, let alone get that particular part of his body. But, I digress...” He shrugged at the last part. “You obviously want to kill him. Fine, whatever. Anything I say isn’t going to change your mind, but you and your companions have wore out your welcome here, I’d say. While I pride myself as a person who generally isn’t violent, you’ve pretty much come across as an unwelcome and violent presence, and I’m not fully awake enough to tolerate it. So, get out, have a nice life, and leave in peace and with my sincerest hope that you find your dear old dad in the sorry state he has become... or, leave in pieces, ’cause your giving me a fricken’ headache with your threats and bellyaching. And the gods hath no fury like an elf deprived of sleep.”

    Midau couldn’t believe Azala. Sure he didn’t seem that intelligent on first meeting, but to actually start speaking after the other boy who looked like him diffused the situation, that was almost beyond the realm of stupidity. He wanted to avoid confrontation, but Azala went and shot his fool mouth off to make sure there would be a confrontation. Didn’t he see that defending Kiran in any way made Mica become violently angry? “Shut up Azala...” Midau growled. “Don’t say anymore before you egg the boy into wanting your face to match my eyes.”

    Adriel sighed as some of the patrons of the inn began to provoke Mica. He in no way approved of his brother beating up defenseless looking women, or strangers at all. “Mica, we must hurry if we want to catch up to our father,” Adriel said, hoping that the desire to chase Kiran would keep Mica from fighting. “Leave them to their ignorance.”

    Mica shrugged. He would have let it go if the common elf hadn’t piped up and started mouthing off. However, the diligent keeper of peace, Midau, seemed to want the common elf to shut up with a valid warning. Azala. Mica would remember that name, and when it came time to deal with the other people in his life he despised, Azala’s head would be one of the many he would dash into a red puddle of pulp.

    “Yes, let’s leave,” Mica said coolly. There was really little time to waste when hunting the bastard that was their father, and he couldn’t bother to waste any more time with the pathetic fools that seemed to want him tardy to their reunion with the foul spawn that created him.

    Paying no attention to Midau, the common elf’s eyes watched Mica and his companions, tapping his fingers lightly against the table. It was emphasis that he wanted them out right then and there. Of course, if he lingered to long, he would probably chime in with something else. When Mica seemed to be leaving, he sat down. “Kids these days... Well, he is the offspring of that bastard, so apparently the apple doesn’t fall to far from the rotten orchard tree,” Azala grumbled, resuming to a half-asleep look. “Only saving grace about his type is that he’ll pick a fight that he can’t win before he’s a hundred and fifty and die cursing his own dumb luck.”

    Midau shook his head. “He’d kill you before you got a spell off Azala,” the dark elf admitted. “Regardless of how strong a shaman you might be, you still have to speak to conjure a spirit. He’d crush your throat first, then take his time dismembering you.” I know that because I was his teacher once. Unfortunately he learned all too well how to fight, Midau sighed. Azala wasn’t going to listen, and Midau didn’t have the patience to warn Azala of picking a fight with a man who killed for a living.

    “Wow, we’ve met for less than a day and you’ve already gauged all my abilities, and what I’m capable of. You’re just that good, eh? I suppose I should be totally impressed, and go outside and beg for my life from the psycho brat. After all, apparently I stand no chance whatsoever,” the common elf said in a very monotone voice, and was obviously not caring about what Midau said, or of the dark elf’s judgment. “See, first off, if he had rushed me, I wouldn’t have to worry to much about drawing a blade to defend myself. I would imagine Mia would have drawn her blade to defend me; just like when she walked over to him, I was fully prepared to draw my own to defend her. Next time you gauge a situation, always remember... neither one of us are knights, and I would imagine we’re just close enough to put our lives on the line for each other.” Judging by the tone, he wasn’t making any boast, but was a rather of matter of fact statement. “Now, enough about psycho brats and who has a larger penis because they use a sword better than someone else; we’ll have more things to worry about when we start on the road... like, not sleeping on a bed if we can’t make the distance we want to in a day.”

    Midau sighed and removed himself from his seat. “Sorry, but as his former teacher I’m a little more sure of the kid who’d stop at nothing to crush the very life from your bones than a man I just met. I’ll remember that any further acts as a person concerned for another’s life will just be unwarranted.” First that idiot mage Jereidon, now Azala. Midau gave a soft scoff and flipped his hand through his hair. “Since ‘common elves’ are the masters of assassination, I’ll naturally bow to your natural ability to size up an opponent.” Midau walked away after his sarcastic comment. The urge to act out of character and pound in the common elf’s face was almost overwhelming, so it was best to vacate the area before he acted rashly and killed Azala to prove a point. The speed of a fist beats the speed of a sword, idiot, he growled inwardly as he went to cool off in the stables.

    “Gods you’re annoying,” Azala said flatly. What could occur and what would were two different things. Unlike Midau, who was very obviously upset, Azala seemed to be indifferent to the whole situation. And, in fact, was indifferent. Turning to Mia, he once again changed the subject, “Well, barring any further interruptions from homicidal individuals, we should really figure out what paths we’re going to take, at least for today.”

    Mia was starting to get a headache of her own. Last night had been stressful enough for her, and now the events of the morning so far were only making the situation worse. “You have a problem with tact,” she groaned at Azala. His bold speech to the half-elf Mica had only exacerbated the situation, but luckily nothing came of it. “I say we get our bags and just get the hell out of here,” Mia said, her voice heavy with the emotional toll of the verbal conflicts that had just gone on around her.

    The little grassrunner sank down in her seat as low as she could through the fighting. The conflict surrounding Kiran, a dark elf she hadn’t even spoken a word to, was suffocating her. Midau, she adored him, but he had a short temper. First, he had been so easily infuriated by Jereidon, and now Azala. Bella just wanted to hide, so she did. While Azala and Mia talked about what they were going to do, Bella quietly slipped out of her seat and darted up the stairs to her room.

    “Eh, never was much with tact,” Azala chuckled, then noted something; out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Bella darting away. Grassrunners seemed to live up to their name; they ran fairly fast. “Yeah, I suppose so. Looks like we might be traveling lighter than expected.” In all honesty, he was more worried about Mia. At this rate, they would run into Kiran again, and he would be like he was, and the pathetic act he had shown here would have been a game. “When it rains, it pours...” he mumbled under his breath, starting for the stairs to retrieve their belongings. Although he was ever watchful for the door, and use of dark spirits. Just because the homicidal offspring of Kiran left didn’t mean he or his friends wouldn’t come back in to try to get a stab or two in.

* * *

    Nat caught the mention of the name Azala and was struck speechless for a moment. He recognized that name from somewhere....his father! What a strange twist of fate this was, running into his father in the middle of Shinning Hill. The half-elf stood by silently and rested his arms on Flora and Olula’s shoulders.

    Flora watched Nat and then Olula, listened to what was going on, and sighed softly. She looked at Nat and tilted her head. “You do look kind of hot,” she said to him and looked at Olula. “Right Olula?” she smiled. She tried to ignore what had just happened.

    Olula looked away from Nat and Flora with a strong blush. Kiran was still on her mind though. He was attractive, but she wasn’t the sort to blatantly flirt, unlike Flora. She didn’t really even know how, having restrained herself her entire life.

    Flora’s compliment snapped him out of his thoughts and he grinned at the lavender haired girl. “Well, thank you,” Nat replied. “You’re ‘kind of hot’ yourself.” Flora was pretty, but Olula was a little better looking. Besides, he found her innocence more attractive, and he’d never slept with a half-dark elf. He’d settle for either, or both, but he wanted to try to crack Olula first.

    “Thanks,” Flora said softly and frowned, then sat down and started to think. “Hmm... that didn’t work,” she said softly as she looked at Olula and sighed. She closed her eyes and started fixing her hair slowly as she thought to herself.

    Olula couldn’t be bothered by Nat’s flirting at the moment. She had a horrible weight in the pit of her stomach. Whether or not Kiran was playing her for a fool, Olula didn’t know. However, she had made a connection with him and gave in to trusting him in the couple days they had known each other. Now, she was sick with worry over his safety. If Mica found him and killed him, she’d never live down the guilt—but what could she do? She was just a barmaid.

    Olula shrugged Nat’s arm off her shoulder. “Where the hell are Thangroth and Trent?” she grumbled, then stormed off toward the stairs to wake the men of her party. She couldn’t believe they had slept that long.

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