Caelynn spent the next week preoccupied on this perfect stranger’s words and promise. Was she a fool to hope his words carried weight? She hated to admit it, but the rush of adrenaline consumed her when she stole for the very first time. Since then, she frequented the market place more and more often. Ducking in and out if the crowd with her wandering hands disappearing inside pockets and in between stalls. No one was any the wiser and the rush filled her energy like a drug, a drug she was quickly depending on. The prospect of this both frightened and enthralled her. It was only thoughts of disappointing her family which halted her from finding the intriguing thief, Dalen, and taking him up on his offer.
Her life in the woods was mundane. She considered this long before she ever met Dalen. But now that his group of outcasts promised, at the very least, a more exciting influence on her life, her mind thought of little else. She knew, as the week drew to a close, this was a limited time offer and her choices were clear. Either forget about Dalen, give up thieving and continue down her preordained path of the wood elves, up-keeping her prominent family’s culture and tradition. Or, she could throw all that away, risk the respect and prosprcts of her family name, and that of her family itself assuredly, and run off and join a life of crime, where uncertainty and danger ruled.
Caelynn always knew which life she wanted more. Only, she was afraid to admit it to herself.
As she entered the following week, undecided, she arrived home to find a sealed letter resting atop her dresser, made of tangled wood. Her fingers brushed against the surface as she hesitantly reached out to take the letter. Her name was written on the front in an unfamiliar script, and a blue wax seal. Although never seen before, it didn’t take a genius to figure out where it came from, albeit surprising.
She took haste in peeling open the letter and pulling out the note. A few words written in neat script detailed a time and a place:
At dawn of the red moon, the Milestone Inn. – D
Caelynn took a moment to reread the note a few more times. The Milestone Inn. A fable of the wood elves but not one thought to really exist. A hideout for thieves, perhaps. And now this message with a meaning understood. She had until the night of the red moon to make her kind up or forget the offer. She supposed she had much thinking to do.
She found herself wandering the town square alone, in the cool evening breeze. She inhaled deeply. Her hands stuffed firmly in her own pockets this time, her eyes searching the thinning crowd. Mundane. Typical. Nothing exciting in the slightest. But yet, undeserving, surely? With her fellow elves bustling by, their gazes drawing past her, disappearing into the woodscape. Unsuspecting.
And of course, as life tended, it decided to kick her while she was down and at the opposite end of the market, as she slowly made her way through, there he stood: Nikolai Minola, in all 5ft 10 stubbornness and privilege. Someone who took his upbringing for granted and would gamble it on a game of Sticks if he thought he might get something even better from it.
Nikolai beckoned her. And, since she was already in a crappy mood, she decided to follow him. Not knowing exactly what possessed her to do so. Maybe she wanted someone to vent out her frustrations on without feeling bad about it afterwards.
Nikolai took her to the edge of the woods, distant from the town and between and gentle stream and the edge of the adjoining woodlands.
Of course she should have predicted the trick that followed.
Six of Nikolai’s cronies emerged from seemingly nowhere and Caelynn wondered did he give them some sort of cloaking spell. Either way the number of people he brought to fight Caelynn was definitely an over compensation. Didn’t matter. Only those who gathered would know of his cowardice, and since they shared in his fear, none of them would talk. No one would listen to Caelynn afterwards.
“You laugh at where you come from. Well, those who matter in that world care little for you,” Nikolai said in what she supposed was his most threatening taunt.
“What am I supposed to care about that?” Caelynn retorted
Nikolai looked at her as if she’d slapped him in the face – which disappointed her somewhat, because if she was going to make him look like that, she would have liked to actually punch him in the face.
“You should care because, by not caring, it doesn’t make you any better than us. Yet you’ve been roaming through life with false notions about yourself. And its about time you realised what that means in the real world.”
Before she could stop what she knew was coming, a hand grabbed her from behind with a force so strong, she sensed magic was involved. She felt her knees buckle, despite her protests, and her arms were pulled out on either side, making it impossible for her to escape unless she wanted to broken arms, and it prevented her from using any sort of magic against her attackers. She felt herself be dragged forwards by the three they needed to take her down, and they didn’t stop until she was at the very edge of the stream.
“Now,” Nikolai said in his pompous voice. “Say your sorry.”
Caelynn remained silent. She glared at him. “I’ll have you sanctioned for this.”
“By who? The Officials? I have them in my back pocket.” He grinned before giving his cronies a nod and they ducked her head down underneath the water of the stream. They left her down there just long enough for it to be uncomfortable and once her lips tasted fresh air again, she coughed and spluttered.
“Now, lets try this again.” Nikolai said with a sadistic smile.
Caelynn growled, the sound of his cronies laughing around her made her blood boil.
“You’re right, Nic, i am sorry. Sorry that you think you have bested me.”
Nikolai swooped down planting his smug face at level to hers. “Believe me, Caelynn, when I’ve truly bested you, you’ll know all about.”
Caelynn couldn’t decide if this was an oddly self-deprecating comment, or a threat. She decided to take it as the latter, but thought little more on it as the rest of Nikolai’s cronies spent the next few minutes beating her senseless.
By the time they left her, face down in the stream, her decision suddenly seemed stupidly clear.
Red moon came. The day rolled onto midnight. A dark, dusty inn, hidden underneath the woods, concealed within the caverns underneath the earth, a feisty wood elf with a bruised face, cut lip and bandaged ribs, and stumbling over the slow effects of the health potions she took, burst into the inn. The chatter hardly stopped.
A few interested parties turned their heads, but the most interested was the barkeep behind the bar. She was completely bald, tall and thin. Caelynn couldn’t decide what manner of creature she was, and she quickly decided, in a place like this, she probably daren’t wear her real form.
But the only face that mattered was the one that stuck out the most.
The male wood elf sat at the bar, drinking a tankard brimming with ale. He didn’t budge an inch since she entered, but she somehow know that he knew she was there. She made her way across the bar and leaned across at him. Dalen took a long chug of ale before setting his tankard down, wiping his lips on his sleeve and turning to her.
“I want in,” she demanded, her voice determined, tough and tinged with a seething something.
It took him a moment to respond.
“Alright,” he said with a pleasantly surprised smirk plastered on his face. He glanced at the barkeep, who watched Caelynn like a hawk.
Dalen held his hand out to her. Caelynn took it.
“Welcome to the family.”