Editor's Introduction: Every Sunday, we're publishing "Neverdie", a serialized fantasy novel. This is an original work of fantasy fiction and is not set in an MMORPG world. Today, we bring you chapter two. If you're just getting started, please go back and catch up:
"Neverdie" (Chapter 3), an original fantasy story by Jon Wood
The day had been a long one for Rowan Tallfelter. She had pressed on steadily since leaving Mylund and the Green Mage’s tower behind her. She had been so eager to get on the road that the thought had never once crossed her mind to stop and get herself a horse for the journey. After a very long day of travel, her feet and legs ached from the effort.
The scenery on her travels, on the other hand, was absolutely beautiful. Early spring’s trees were already in mid spring’s bloom. The young elf couldn’t bring herself to admire the beauty as she might have, her mind was too focused on her goal, her imagination too full of the possibilities that her arrival back in the Forests of Oberon could bring.
The days passed uneventfully, each day taking her farther and farther away from the life that she had come to know and the people that she had come to love. Early on the third day, she had chosen to forego the road entirely and make her way through the forest. While the trees were nowhere near as grand as those that she had grown up with, walking among the trees gave her a secure feeling of belonging. She also found that the soft ground was easier on her tired legs than the packed dirt of the road, which she could still see from her chosen path. She was just contemplating the third wagon that had passed her in as many hours, when the trees began to become more and more sparse and eventually disappeared all together to reveal a small town. The first that she had come across since setting out.
“Well,” she said to no one in particular, “I suppose this is as good a place as any to get more supplies and a little rest.”
“You’re sure you haven’t seen her?” Ashley Guildarm asked the bartender of The Dragon’s Blood Tavern. The bar itself was the kind of place that you wouldn’t normally want to spend much time there. The air reeked of stale beer and still carried the faint odor of vomit from the night before. Ash had ridden his horse as hard as safety for the animal would allow, but hadn’t passed his elven charge along the way. He had been sure that she must have beaten him here.
“Sorry fella,” replied the bartender, who did not fare much better in Ash’s opinion than the bar did. “Can’t help ya.. Wish I could though, I’ll tell ya. We ain’t seen an elf ‘round here in years. Always a spectacle when one comes callin’ though. We ain’t used them gallows in some time.” In that moment, the man became more reprehensible in Ash’s estimation than his bar. Following the man’s chubby pointing finger, Ash could see a crude gallows through the window. The device looked to be in ill repair, so much so that the Knight had rode past it on his way into town.
Ash sighed and turned away from the bartender, wearily looking around the room. The bar was populated only by the bartender, two or three townspeople, and two bored-looking barmaids. The young knight knew that prejudices ran deep in these part, particularly when it came to elves, but never before had he seen it so perfectly personified as he did in this little town. He held no doubts that, at one time, many an elf had been hanged for sport on those gallows. The thought sickened him to his core. It went against everything that he stood for. Walking without further hesitation out the door and into the bright sunlight, he decided that it was better that he hadn’t found the girl here. He could not imagine returning to Mylund carrying the woman’s corpse.
“I know you’re tired,” Ash said to his horse, whom he had left tethered to a post in front of The Dragon’s Blood. “We won’t go far.” He promised, electing not to ride, but rather to walk beside his mount. The trip had taken more out of her than it had of him, and the signs were beginning to show. He would have liked to have stayed in town for the night, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. Camping in the out of doors did not come easily to him. Years of relatively comfortable sleeping in the church’s barracks had seen to that. Fortunately for the horse, Ash planned to make his camp on just outside of town. Tired as he was, he simply couldn’t travel any farther.
Her eyes were now aching almost in tune with her limbs. The unseasonably bright sun seemed to be taking its toll on her keen elven eyes. It didn’t take her long to catch a glimpse of The Dragon’s Blood, and she didn’t waste any time in getting there. She wanted nothing more than to sit quietly, out of the sun. Opening the door, she quickly located a table in the corner most shielded from the sun’s rays.
“Can I get you somethin’?” a female voice asked.
“Ale,” Rowan replied wearily, not even bothering to look up from where she sat, her head cradled in her crossed arms on top of the table.
Eventually, the drink came, and went relatively unnoticed by the young elven woman. Neither did she particularly notice when, nearly an hour later, the sun began to sink into the horizon, casting deeper shadows into the bar as the place began to fill with its regular evening patrons.