That day would be a day she would never forget. The woman with long black tresses, dark eyes, porcelain skin and blood red painted lips with the coldest expression on her face she had ever seen. The army of men that rivalled their village of elves that swept upon them without warning or remorse. Evil exuded the porcelain lady who lead them, demanding they get to the tree that gave eternal youth, beauty and immortality. The tree that her village protected, not for the rumours the woman had revealed, but because the tree protected their part of the forest, keeping the balance for the elves, wildlife and plantation.
Eletha would never forget that expressionless face that looked upon them as her people screamed, letting out their final breaths as their bodies fell. Their homes burning to the ground. The elven woman was fifteen and had been sat in the branches of the Great Tree before she had heard the screaming and bloodshed. After running to her village and finding out what the woman had wanted only to watch her twin older brothers die, she had returned to the tree to defend it, tearstained and raging. When the woman and her army had reached her and attacked her, her father had defended her and died at her feet. Then came the blade, the one that struck her through the stomach, its metal covered in a poison that seeped through her skin. Without hesitation she was impaled into the ground, and all she could remember was the deep agony. The tearing, searing pain through her stomach and the warm blood seeping from her wounds. She was going to die. She was…
The scream that ripped from her throat shook the inn Eletha had awoken in. Sweat lined her skin, her eyes wide like a rabbit in headlights, her heart pounding so hard and fast she could feel it in her head and ears. As she calmed down, taking deep heaving breaths, tears prickled her eyes. As the ceiling blurred, her hands covered her face and she curled up into the foetal position, and she began to sob. Everyone she knew, her whole peaceful life, had been torn away from her, and now she was in a strange inn in a strange place.
An inn. That’s right. The memory was hazy in her despair and brush with death, but she could recall it. As she had been laying there dying the woman had taken what she had needed and left, and soon after the tree began to die, and along with it all the plantlife. Each tree, grass and flowered withered into what looked like twisted and burned skeletons. She didn’t know how long she had been laying there but a man had come. He was someone who traded with them now and again, often for medicinal herbs her village made. He always wore armour so they never saw his face. She had seen him in passing many times and from what she could make out by his voice he wasn’t that old. He had looked around before spotting her, then knelt beside her and touched her forehead. After speaking consolingly to her, he had healed what he could of her before carrying her off to the Inn. The whole way she had been going in and out of consciousness so she didn’t remember much of the journey but remembered at the inn he had finished healing her because the wound and poison had been so severe.
A knock on the door brought her out of her reminiscing so she quickly sat up, wiped her eyes and called, “Yes?” Her voice was unexpectedly hoarse so she coughed into her hand quickly. A woman opened the door, and Eletha saw she was an employee.
“Is everything okay, ma’am?” the woman asked politely.
“Uh…yes…” Eletha trailed off, not knowing what to say. She felt so confused and lost. What was she to do now? What happened to the man?
“I’ve brought you lunch,” the woman said, “Would you like some? It’ll be good to get something in you after what happened to you.” Before Eletha could reply, the woman stepped out before pulling a trolley into the room with a range of foods and beverages. Eletha scanned the food with her eyes before looking up at the woman, “What happened? Where is…the person who brought me here?” As she spoke, she felt emotions well up within her so she desperately fought them back. The woman smiled sadly at her, “You were severely injured. The gentleman paid for your stay here for a week. He left medicine for you to take as well as he said the poison is still in you and you need to keep fighting it.”
“And the man?” Eletha asked again, feeling anguished that she didn’t know where he was. Despite him saving her she never got to thank him.
“He left,” the woman said, “In the early hours. As soon as you were no longer near death, he left you in our care.” Eletha felt her heart sink and she bowed her head, her hands together in her lap. A deep, dark atmosphere began to swarm over her and weigh upon her. As she sat there, the reality of everything began to overwhelm her and whilst staring into thin air tears escaped her once more. As they began pouring down her cheek, the woman bit her lip before seating herself beside the elven girl and putting her arm around her shoulders. She didn’t know what to say. What could you say? It only took a few seconds before Eletha leaned against the woman and the staff member could feel the girl shaking.
After about fifteen minutes, the woman left Eletha to eat her lunch. However, Eletha could barely eat anything. Each mouthful was tasteless but somehow made her vomit. She forced some down and managed to keep it down once she had swallowed some water. Knowing she couldn’t have any more she pushed the trolley aside before walking up to the full length mirror. Being in such a daze she hadn’t realised she was no longer in her original clothing and this time was wearing a pair of dark trousers and a black button up shirt. She unbuttoned her top and saw underneath she was wearing bandages over her stomach, her wound completely covered up. As she began buttoning her shirt back up she began sniffing, trying her best not to cry.
‘Why couldn’t I have died back then? Why do I have to be alive without anyone? Alone. I’m so alone,’ she thought to herself. She raised her eyes to her own eyes reflected in the mirror. Her skin was pallid, her hair lank with blood stains on the ends and her eyes dead, just like those of her brothers and father. Her mother was dead as well. She hadn’t witnessed her death but her brothers had told her she was before they had been killed. As she stared at herself, she could see her family members within herself, and in her agony and despair she saw them instead. Her shaky hands reached out towards the reflection and her palms pressed against the frame.
“Don’t….don’t leave me. Don’t…” her voice broke and trembled. The next thing she knew her knees gave way and she sank to the floor, one hand clinging to the mirror while the other covered her eyes and she screeched and wailed before curling up onto the floor, overwhelmed by misery.
It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that she got outside for some fresh air. Rather than walking, she dragged herself along, her gaze focused on the ground. Feeling lost with no direction at all, she couldn’t even think.
However, something caught her attention. A man in armour. She looked up quickly, her heart skipping a beat, wondering if it was the man who had saved her. Only it wasn’t. Feeling her heart sink, she stopped in the middle of the street. Within her she began to eagerly want to see the man who saved her. She had to say thank you. She had to repay him somehow. Anything. Determination filled up her heart and so she began to search the town. He traded. She doubted it was his job and now she wished she had paid more attention to him previously. She had assumed he was a warrior but he may not even be a warrior. After all, there was armour for all sorts of roles and looking back she couldn’t really remember what he wore. Just that his face was covered by a mask or helmet.
As she focused more on his appearance, a throbbing headache overtook her and she held her head. Maybe the trauma of the event was having an effect on her memories. Still, she tried to remember what she could.
Soon she came across some warriors that were chatting amongst themselves. As she passed them she heard one say, “Did you see that man go to the Phoenix Down Inn on the High Street? Never seen anyone like him before. He went as quickly as he came.”
Eletha stopped in her tracks and looked over at the men. Oblivious to her they continued their discussion, all with curious faces. Another of the warriors replied to the first, “Yeah I saw him. Looked like a warrior but something tells me he wasn’t. I reckon he’s not from Burwell, that’s for sure. Had some girl with him as well. Injured.”
Eletha felt her heart stop for a moment. That was him. It had to be! Before she could even think, her feet found their way over to the warriors in a hurry and she was tugging on the sleeve of the second warrior. Despite being fifteen she was still very tall being an elf. She reached the man’s shoulder. In haste she asked, “Excuse me. Where did the man go? Do you know where he was heading?”
“Sorry, Miss,” the man said before he furrowed his brow as he intently studied her, “Hey,” Realisation hit him, “You’re that girl he brought in.”
“Yes! I must find him,” Eletha begged, “Any clues. Any hint. Anything that can help me find him. Please tell me.” The warriors looked amongst themselves, exchanging expressions before the first said, “He was heading out East. That’s all I know.”
“Thank you!” Eletha cried, ecstatic, “Thank you so much!” However she became too elated, and black spots filled her vision as she was hit with a wave of dizziness and nausea. She swayed on her feet, clinging to the second warrior who grabbed her arms, saying, “Hey, hey. Your injury was pretty serious. You shouldn’t even be walking about.”
“But…I must…” Eletha trailed off as she felt her knees completely give way and she sank into the warrior’s arms, falling unconscious.