The Half Elf, Volume I
Talos woke with a shock after hearing the scream. He jumped from the floor and snatched at his shortsword. He looked around, assuming one of the other two had been attacked and was calling for help. He kept quiet as he moved around on the ground, staying crouched to avoid further noise.
He kept his eyes winced and focused, trying to discern anything in the pitch black. He circled the tree they were sleeping under, and found nothing. It suddenly struck him that one of the other two might have been captured, and so he quickly moved to check their sleeping mats.
‘There!’ He noticed a bundle on the ground. He quietly approached it, thinking it would contain an unconscious body of one of his comrades. Upon closer inspection though, he only saw Red, asleep. He decided he shouldn’t disturb her, and his thoughts suddenly turned to Rathron.
He turned around, and moved towards the other end of the tree, praying that Rathron was unharmed, but fearing the worst. As his eyes further adjusted to the light, he started to see the outline of a figure, sitting on the ground. He readied his bow.
The figure made a sudden movement, and Talos immediately flinched, worried it would strike him.
“Talos? Is that you?”
The half-elf hesitated for a second, before recognising the voice of his elf comrade. He put down his bow and approached his companion.
“Rathron? Are you okay? Did you make that scream?”
“There’s no point denying it. Yes, it was me.”
“Well, were you attacked? Have you been possessed?”
“I obviously wasn’t attacked now, was I?”
The knife-like comment hung in the air for a few seconds, Talos unsure of how to respond.
“Look here. You’re young, naive, inexperienced. You think you’re life is going to go fine, you’ll get home, reunite with you friends, find a lover and settle down with a whole family. But this is real life, that doesn’t happen. Take my advice, Talos. Die young, before you live to my age and have regrets.”
Talos was stunned to silence. He had never heard Rathron talk to him this straight before, nor get through this many words without at least one racist remark. He can’t even remember the last time he addressed him by name.
“Look, Rathron, if you’ve got a problem, there’s no good holding it in.”
“I mean, that’s what I was always told. If you keep problems and worries inside you, all they’ll do is eat you up, turn you inside out. The thing is, I probably won’t understand half the things you say, as you always tell me. So there’s no harm in telling me.”
Rathron looked up at the half-elf, and for the first time Talos noticed the tears running down his face. What could have happened to make this seemingly emotionless high elf look so distraught, he thought to himself. Rathron’s eyes turned to his bag, as he thought about its contents and what Talos would think if he told them to him.
“No, I’m sure you would understand. That’s what scares me the most. I, no, I can’t. This, this can’t work. This wouldn’t work. We, we are, we’re just working companions.”
As more nonsense started to spurt from Rathron’s mouth, Talos suddenly shouted at the top of his voice, filling the air with a ring.
Rathron stopped talking for a second, again turning to the half-elf.
“Rathron, you’re my friend. There’s something wrong, you need help. You cannot go on like this.”
“No, you’re right. I cannot go on.”
The elf stood up and brushed off his clothes, before starting to stuff his sleeping mat and blanket into his bag.
“Hang on, where are you going?” Talos demanded
Rathron ignored him, continuing to pack his things before standing up and slinging his bag over his shoulder. He turned and looked at the half-elf.
“Never in all my life have I met someone like you. Talos, you bastard, half-elf, bow-wielding, magic-denying, stupid…”
The elf stopped his face now turned from sorrow to anger, seemingly at the sight of Talos in front of him.
“And yet…” He said, his face once again reverting to one of despair. “You, you…” The words seemingly unable to come from his mouth, the elf continued to look disheartened. Finally, words formed, and his speech returned to him, this time with no energy or emotion.
“You still tried to help me.”
Rathron took one more sorrowful look at Talos, before spinning on his heels and leaving, returning in the direction of Comas City. The half-elf tried to call back to him, but he wouldn’t respond, no matter how loud he shouted.
Talos and Red walked in silence the next day towards the village. Red had slept through the entire event, but it didn’t take much explanation from Talos to catch her up. Even he couldn’t quite comprehend what had happened, it was all so fast and dramatic. In any event, they still had a job to do.
After a few hours on the road, they approached a sign, pointing an arrow towards a side road labelled ‘Cato’.
“We must be getting close, then.” Red commented.
Talos stopped for a second, looking at the sign and the road ahead. He was still feeling emotional after last night, and still held a burning question in his heart. He had, however, neither the energy nor the willpower to tell Red about it.
“Hey, Talos? You feeling alright?”
Talos turned around and looked at the human.
“Listen, I think I’ve worked out that I was a little bit of an idiot beforehand. I mean, I didn’t even know your name till I heard Rathron shout it last night. I’ve been ignoring you ever since we’ve met. So I’m sorry.”
Talos was genuinely touched at this. He had been considering giving up on the journey entirely and hitchhiking back to Squoma, but now, realising that Red did care about him, he changed his mind.
“Look, where I come from, he’s a big deal. I grew up in Meko, a small island of the west coast of Masportana. There, people basically revered him as a God. Apparently the “Greatest Mind of the Century”. He’d come up with the basis of modern magic as we know it. There’s a reason they named the capital after him. So when I saw him, in the middle of the market, fighting and losing to a troll, I had to step in and help him, hoping I’d get to spend some time with him afterwards. I hadn’t even noticed his half-elf companion.”
Talos smiled at this, realising that she hadn’t meant anything maliciously. He’d done similar things in his youth – when the local Duke or Duchess had come round to his town, he’d jumped up and down all day trying to find his best clothes, stand up as straight as possible and stand out as much as possible, and didn’t bother to think of anyone else that day.
“And when I finally got to talk to him,” Red continued “He was everything I hoped for. Clever, witty, insightful. And yet, behind this facade of a genius elf, I couldn’t help but sense something darker on the inside. He was hiding something, hiding himself, from the world. He talked about himself as if referring to a character, something he had made up. I never felt like I was getting any closer to him, just realising how far away he really was.”
Talos was shocked at this – he had never thought of Rathron being closed-off. Then again, he never really concentrated on the way Rathron spoke or acted. The fact that, with the exception of last night, he had managed to slam a half-elf insult into every other sentence. The fact he never referred to Talos by name. His constant demeanour of arrogance, self-righteousness. Maybe there was more to him, Talos thought.
“In any event, we don’t have time to stand here talking, do we?” Red asked.
“No, I suppose we don’t. Onward!”
Red laughed out loud at this.
“Talos, You sound so much like him when you speak like that!”
“Really, I sound like that old man?”
They continued to joke like this as they proceeded down the path, finding a new pleasure in each other’s company. Soon, they noticed the still smouldering shell of a building. Red ran up to have a look at it.
“Hey, Red? Watch out, we don’t now what’s around here.”
Red, however, ignoring him, continued to search through the building. As she squatted and turned round the edge of the building, Talos’s sight of her was momentarily obscured. He started to walk towards her.
Out of nowhere, Talos heard a whistling sound of an arrow fly towards him. He instinctively ducked, however the arrow still struck, digging into his left shoulder. The half-elf let out a cry of pain and fell to the ground, starting to feel his eyes go heavy. He looked over to his shoulder, trying to find the arrow. He reached over to it with one hand, and grabbed it. He tried to tug it out, but he was so weak at this point he could do not more than lightly tug at the arrow before everything went black.
Next Chapter: A friend’s deceit