And then I woke up.
And Alice was leaning over me, that eternal grin on her face. The majority of her dark green hair was held under a headband, but two plaits hung on either side of her head. Her purple eyes shone with the intense energy that she was known for. While her face was childlike, her brow was wrinkled as one would expect of an elder who has learned all life has to offer. The whiskers and her cat-like ears twitched as she watched me.
She realised just then that I was awake, and averted her eyes quickly, blushing slightly. Coughing quietly, she turned back and yelled in my face.
"Good morning sleepy head~! Time to get up!"
I groaned quietly and closed my eyes. "Its Saturday, Al. Why can't I just sleep?"
She shook me. "Because Saturday is adventure day~! I wanna go have some fun~!" Opening my eyes I watched her dance around the room and couldn't help myself from smiling.
"Okay, okay. Calm down... Give me ten minutes."
She stopped dancing around and turned to me, squealing quietly. "Ooh yay~!"
I coughed. She tilted her head to the side and let out a small 'huh?'. I coughed again and glanced at the bed sheets. Following my gaze, she looked at me again, blushed, and ran out of the room. Sighing quietly, I smiled and got out of bed.
"Really five hundred years old my arse" I muttered quietly, while choosing what to wear. "Hmm.. If we go hunting... Yes, a basic tunic will do" I thought aloud, rummaging through my wardrobe. Picking a basic brown tunic and pants, my gaze fell over the red set Alice bought me. Next to it laid a shield and a shortsword. I laughed quietly. "Silly girl..."
Moving back over to the bed, I crawled under it and felt around. My hand eventually gripped the familiar leather handle of my quiver and after a few more seconds found my bow. I pulled at the string a few times before throwing both on my shoulder and moving to the door. I put on my basic boots, and stepped out.
The tavern was relatively empty today. A few regulars were gathered at a table, drinking and arguing over which one of them had the largest codpiece. Alice was talking to the bartender, Tress. They laughed together, which couldn't stop bringing a slight smile to my face. Descending the stairs I went to join them. As I neared Tress noticed me and waved. "A'right there Cale?"
I waved back. "I'm alright. How's business?"
She chuckled slightly and gestured towards the bar in general. "Slow as always on a Saturday. Although..." She looked at one of the further off tables. Seated alone was a hooded figure. His flagon was half full, and he rarely took sips. Tress continued, "that fella came in early this mornin', just a'er I opened. Bin scarin' away tha normal fellas. Even unnerved them-" she gestured to the table of guys, who were now engaging in a game of cards "-until I got the drink flowing."
Alice stared intently at the figure before running over to him. I shared a glance with Tress before calmly following her. By the time I'd reached the table she was talking with him, then nodded and ran back over to Tress. I stared after her confused, when a voice caught my attention.
"You alright there?"
The deep, calm tones took me by surprise. I looked down at the face that stared back. Peaceful blue eyes examined me curiously. His skin was pale and his hair white with a hint of sky blue. The delicate features of his face gave the image of a sculptor’s masterpiece, finely crafted, with hours of sleepless work put into it. I shook my head slightly and focused on him. I spoke carefully, noting the strange shape that appeared to be moving around behind his ear.
“Yeah… just… what was that all about?” I gestured at Alice, who was now energetically bouncing around and chatting to Tress. They both laughed and, after Tress looked at the man, she nodded slightly.
“Oh… just curious.” The man quickly responded. “Do you know that girl?”
“Who? Alice? With the ears?”
“Well… yeah… we’ve been friends a while.”
“Ah” he quietly continued “I feel as though there’s something special about her… she’s very eager isn’t she?”
I couldn’t resist a slight chuckle, and turned back to the man. “Yes… yes she is. It’s a nightmare keeping her out of trouble, especially now she thinks she can take on anything.”
The man smiled slightly. “I see…”
Deciding to change the conversation, I brought up a chair and sat down, peering inquisitively at the man. “So what brings you to these parts? Not many people go here for their holidays, and not much trade here.”
The man looked thoughtful for a moment, “…I feel that there’s something to be gained here… something of value just waiting to be found.”
I smiled slightly and nodded at him. “Well good luck out there.”
He nodded back. “And you too.”
A movement in the back of his hood drew my attention again, but then all was still, so I thought I must’ve imagined it.
“You’re not from these parts are you?” I asked quietly, focusing on the space behind his head.
Slowly, the man responded “… You could say that…”
Without thinking, I continued “I mean, I’ve never seen anyone with features so… perfect… unnerving even.”
He smiled slightly and looked around cautiously. Upon deciding no one was looking, he pulled the side of his hood out slightly. A long ear was partially uncovered. My eyes grew wide and I spoke in a near silent whisper.
“You’re an elf?”
“Yes” the man replied bluntly, letting the hood fall into place. “It would seem so.”
“But… I heard your… ah… last of your kind?”
The man chuckled slightly. “As far as I know, that’s the case.”
He stopped for a moment, glanced at Alice and pointed at her slightly. “You realise she’s different, right?”
I raised an eyebrow at him and tried to resist the urge to laugh. “Oh, no, I hadn’t noticed the ears or anything.”
The man smiled slightly. “No… no I meant… that she’s different in relation to her own kind.”
I stared blankly at him. “There are others like her?”
For a moment I had this strange mental image of fifty copies of Alice leaping around and hugging everything cute in sight. Shaking my head I brought myself back into the real world, catching the elf halfway through his next sentence.
“… she is different in several ways to her kind. Firstly, she isn’t dead…” I rolled my eyes skyward and he smiled slightly. “…obviously, and secondly she has a latent magical field.”
I stared at him for a moment. “Magic? You mean she can use it?”
He shook his head. “No. I mean she can control it. She herself cannot use spells, but has a natural ability to manipulate spells to her will.”
I continued staring in disbelief. Then the obvious struck me. “Wait… why are you telling me this?”
“A darkness threatens our land… and she will be needed to defeat the evil that will soon land on our shores.”
I sat for a moment, and then began to laugh. “You’re not serious are you?”
“I am totally serious. And like it or not, your friend over there will have to save us.”
Glancing at Alice, I noted she was in her maid’s uniform, prancing around and handing drinks out to the other tables. I was about to wave her over when the elf put his hand out.
“No! You mustn’t tell her bluntly. If you tell her she’ll likely be corrupted by the power.” He handed over a small square of folded parchment. “Go to this forest hut. I’ll meet you there.” He made to leave, before I grabbed his sleeve and pulled him back.
“How do you expect I can trust you?”
He smiled back at me and pulled away. Striding purposefully out of the room, I felt helpless to follow him. I sighed quietly and looked down at the note. On it was scrawled vague directions that hinted towards a location in the forest. Glancing at Alice, I gripped my bow and strode towards her.
A new day dawns.