The Half Elf, Volume I

Chapter IV

Talos lay on his bed, wide awake. looking at the rotting tavern ceiling, he thought about what had happened. The rush of adrenaline had kept his mind focused on what was happening, but now, left to his own thoughts after a long night’s sleep, he was thinking over everything. How had he and the others got there in the first place? How did they manage to lose the mask? What did Shava do to that wretched Durgear?

Two loud knocks interrupted his train of thought, and he looked over to the door. The only one who would be knocking at his door would be Rathron, as the tavern owner had said he could stay till around midday. He didn’t really know whether he could face the cynical, narcissistic, racist elf right at the moment, but another two loud knocks changed his mind. He knew full well that he wouldn’t give up, and would probably burn the door down with some of his magic if he had to. Talos let out a tired sigh and opened the door.

“Ah! Just the half-elf I was looking for. I was just letting you know that I’m going now, and to thank you for paying for my room and bill, from last night.”

Talos couldn’t remember telling Rathron about paying for anything, and he knew for a fact that he hadn’t got drunk enough for that to be the case. In any event, he knew to argue with this wizard was a waste of time and energy, so he just replied, sounding bored and tired.

“Alright then, safe travels.”

Rathron, without responding again, turned around and headed for the exit to the tavern. Talos watched the elf walk down the stairs, before returning to his room, this time to check his gear. He noticed that his bow had some damage to his string, so he sat on the ground and began to work on it. After a good hour or so of rethreading, polishing and checking the rest of his gear, he was yet again interrupted by a knock on the door.

‘Who can it be this time? It’s probably just Rathron remembering an insult he was going to tell me.’ He trudged to his door yet again and opened the door. To his astonishment, he spotted Rathron at the other end of the hallway, leaning on a wall and looking impatient, before realising another, much taller figure and slightly plump, probably human, in a magic user’s garb, was standing by the door frame.

“Good morning, Mr Talos. I am Sepo-Sak, from the Back Line Alliance. I have come here to ask for your assistance in a rather delicate matter.”

“Um, I’m sorry, are you sure you weren’t looking for a different Mr Talos? You see I’m not really from around here, nor do I have any idea what you are talking about.”

Sepo-Sak promptly let himself into Talos’s room, observed the squalid tavern room and sat on the only chair, with rotting legs and a back that looked about as sturdy as the frame of a burning house. He then began to talk.

“You see, to prevent any one person from gaining too much power in our reverend institution, nine leaders sit on the high council, each as powerful as the next, with no power to remove each other – that is the job of us middle council members.”

“Sorry to break it to you, I don’t particularly care about your ‘institution’ and its politics. An explanation for why you’ve walked into my room and need my help? Now that would be welcome.” Talos said

“Please Mr Talos, I am simply giving you the relevant context. Had you not interrupted me I would have gotten to explaining your place in all of this. One of our high council members, a dwarf by the name of Kelto, has recently been using our funds to hire an absurd number of troll mercenaries. He has however given no reason for doing so, and his new army has been pillaging and destroying half of Comas, on the basis that they have been stealing alliance assets. ”

“Sorry, you said that the middle council could remove him? Why don’t they then if this kind of scandal is going on?”

“Mr Talos, I don’t think you quite understand. The only way someone makes it onto the high council is by a vote from their peers. He has far too much support from our members to ever get voted out. In fact, that power has not been exercised in the last 250 years. The only way is a private mercenary team to investigate what these trolls are doing.”

“Have you not considered the Mercenary Federation?”

Rathron poked his head through the doorframe. Talos had forgotten the elf was still there.

“It would surely cause too much of an uproar if we hired such an organization as the federation to investigate one of our own members. No, you were the only logical option.”

“But why come to us? Surely there are mercenaries better suited to this job than us two.”

“Mr Rathron here is an honorary fellow of the Back Line Alliance. I was coming to Gorack with the view to hiring a professional band of mercenaries, but when I spotted this famous elf I couldn’t help myself but start conversing. After some idle chatter, we eventually moved onto your most recent excursion to some godforsaken mine shaft. And then it hit me: if you two can handle a rogue half-elf with a primordial mask, I’m sure a few brainless trolls won’t be too hard. Oh, and you would be paid well of course.”

Talos looked at the human, then at Rathron, then at the human again. He really should be getting back to Hemo Valley, his home in Squoma. That being said, he almost certainly did not have enough money, for the home journey, and the Alliance might be shed some light on how exactly he was transported halfway across the continent in the blink of an eye.

“Fine, I’ll take the job, assuming our high elf here is.”

“Brilliant! You have made my day, Mr Talos. I already took the liberty of hiring two mounts for you, currently waiting for you in the stables down the road.”

“Wait, horses? We travelling far?”

“Oh no, not far, only as far as Comas City.”

Not far? Comas City was the capital of the Kingdom of Comas, the northernmost of the 8 great kingdoms of Malenia, at least 4 days journey on horseback. And not in any way in the direction of Squoma.

“Oh good, you had me worried there for a second. Right then, we’d better get going.” came the voice of a high elf from behind Sepo-Sak.

Talos gritted his teeth – there wasn’t much point in arguing at this point. After all, it’s only a few trolls – it should be solvable quickly, then he can finally be on his way home.

“Sure, let’s go.”

***

“I told you we should have gone through Maj! Look at us now, stuck in the middle of a bloody civil uprising with two horse corpses, with at least 8 more hours of riding!”

Talos had just about had it with this damned journey. He had mistakenly let Rathron do the navigating, which had led them from thick and thin, ignoring practically every single map and sign, seemingly deliberately. And now, 5 days in, their mounts were both shot and killed in the crossfire of a civil war, breaking out in the region of Eppipo.

“Now listen here! If you’d taken my advice and left the horses in Semto, and we’d hired a cart from there, we’d have arrived in Comas yesterday!”

“Did you see how much they were? We’d be in Comas, sure, but also starving and dying from dehydration!”

Talos had been attempting to negotiate with some of the uprising’s forces, who wanted to overthrow the prince in the area and declare a republic, but the vast majority of them spoke dwarvish or ‘Maleatish’, some blend of dwarvish and halfling, and complete gibberish to anyone who hasn’t grown up with it.

“Look here, a BLA flag, down that street there. Hello there!” Rathron shouted, walking down a narrow alley, completely ignoring the barricade and multiple armoured dwarves he was barging through.

Talos sighed to himself. He was never, ever listening to this elf again.

“Hey, Mr Halfer! I seemed to have found someone in this wasteland who speaks elvish!”

Halfer? His nicknames were also getting more irritating every day.

After following Rathron into the building, and speaking with the elf that was there, they managed to arrange alternative transport for them into Comas City, paid for by the BLA. The elf there, however, seemed to almost faint when Rathron said his name, and the two of them seemed to be talking about magic and the like for nearly 4 hours.

Finally, a week after they had left the inn in Gorack, they arrived into the massive, bustling Comas City. One of the biggest markets Talos had ever seen stretched throughout the city, making smells and sounds that Talos had never dreamed of before. Far off in the distance was the towering Royal Palace, home to Queen Mary III of Comas. Her palace made everything seem irrelevant in comparison, even the many temples and other monuments were tiny compared to it. However, he remembered he wasn’t here to take in the sights, and thought to himself that he should stay for a bit longer just to see what the city has to offer.

“RARRRRRRRHHHHHHHH!” Came the terrifying cry from down the road. Rathron sprinted towards it, and Talos followed behind him.

They found a massive troll, swinging the lifeless body of a halfling by their foot with one hand, and holding a club in the other, terrorizing the market.

“Well now, it seems we have found our trouble maker trolls. My friend, it is time we take action. Let us send this monstrosity back to the plane of the dead where it belongs!”

Next Chapter: A new ally