An Elf Among Men

An Elf Among Men

 If you're reading this, I assume that you are my instructors or the Council. In that case, let me just say, "You utter and complete bastards." If you aren't one of my instructors or the Council, then I want to say, "I apologize for my outburst. However, I assure you it was warranted."

I wanted out of the Enclave. But elves don't just get to go out into the world. We have to take all these classes on how to be a proper elf. Seven years I studied and bit my tongue, just so I could go out and see what's beyond the border of the Great Freaking Forest. And when I get there, I was astounded by the unimaginable stupidity of every single being I came across. I mean, I've more intelligent conversations with fungi than with most of the humans and other races.

Let me be clear though, elves all think we're so much better than everyone else. Not so. It's just that we don't let the morons out of the cage. I am not a moron, but I'm not… shall we say… diplomatic. I learned to not roll my eyes at stupidity. I learned to bite my tongue when someone else is the "leader" and does something that a cabbage would know not to do. Seven years of training. That all lasted for about 30 seconds once I got out of the enclave.

"Help the humans save the world from evil." Alright! I can do that. A little adventuring, a little fun, get in a few fights, get some treasure. No problem, right? Nope, it's insane out there.

During class, the instructors said that the other races don't like us telling them what to do. You have to guide them. We have knowledge and skills they don't. Teach them to be more noble. Expect great things from them and they will respond.

Two days later, I barely expect them not to pick their nose on a date.

OK, that's off my chest. Let me try again. Calmly, Kia, calmly. My name is Kia. Well, in the common tongue, that's close enough. True elvish contains sounds that most other races can't even hear, but their dogs can. So, we just pick a random name and go with that on the outside.

I was desperate to get outside. I don't fit in the enclave. I'm a pure elf. Tall, slender, uncommonly attractive to all. But that's not it. I don't get why we're stuck in here and everyone else gets the rest of the world. We could take over, not by beating them in a fight (which we probably could), but just by hanging out with the people who are kings or whatever they call them and convincing the idiots to do what is best.

My family is from the West Lake region.I guess in Common that makes me Kia Westlake or something. There are so few of us that we don't need to worry about names that much. Pap is a wizard and a really good one. Several hundred years ago, he discovered a new way to channel magical energy making it easier to cast certain basic spells. It's pretty cool I guess.

Mum is an ecologist. She does a bit of magic. In the outside world, they would call her a druid. She's mainly responsible for keeping the enclave safe from invasive species, mainly plants and clams. Invasive clams are really hard to get rid of. I spent  years apprenticed to her chiseling clams off of rocks at the bottom of the lake.

I was apprenticed to Pap longer. I'm a pretty decent magic user. But my true love is the sword. I know, Elves are supposed to use bows. I hate bows. First time I used one, I ripped all the skin off my arm. Haven't touched one since. I'm a bit shorter and stronger than most elves, enough that I can use a sword well.

A lot of elves, OK, every single elf in existence except me, keeps their hair long to emphasize their height. I cut my hair short, really short. It's white, just like almost everyone else's, but spikey on top rather than soft and luxurious.

A lot of elves were loose flowing clothes to show off the majesty of their height and wisdom. I wear heavy pants and a leather jacket. You get wacked with a practice sword a few times and you learn to dodge or you get heavier clothes (or both).

The rest is typical elf. We live a few thousand years. Hopefully long enough for other races to develop intelligence. We commune with the forests. I hate the forest. There's always something in there that wants to bite me, eat me, inject poison in me, or lay its eggs in my face. I don't commune with the forest. The forest and I have an understanding. I don't go in and it doesn't try to kill me.

I really don't fit in with the rest of the elves. I think that they were as happy to get me out as I was happy to go. But I still had to take the classes. So I learned and I did the studies and I practiced the lessons and I got really good at magic and weapons and diplomacy. I was ready to go.

Mum and Pap were sad to see me go. I know Pap had hopes that I would be a researcher with him. But that might actually be boring enough to kill me. Still, they understood that we need to send representatives into the outside and they were proud that I was selected (after a significant amount of begging).

I had a my sword, my clothes, and some money. I strode, with my head held high as I walked from the Enclave.

And that's when it all went to shit.

Chapter 1

I walked on the path towards the wall of the Enclave. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, small woodland creatures were taking a poop on the path. It was really, really early in the morning. The council had given me a map and with some effort (perhaps more than I anticipated or wanted to make) I could get to the closest settlement by nightfall.

Once I crossed the border, everything changed. We elves (well, some of them) worked hard to make our land peaceful and bright. The place where lounging on a hillside might be worthwhile, if you liked that sort of thing. Crossing into the land beyond was like biting into an amazing looking pie and finding it full of cow hooves.

The path went from hard packed dirt to mud in a single step. The forest went from bright and happy to dark and menacing. The songbirds had apparently all been eaten, because the only bird noise was the raucous call of crows. And the smell… I'm not a huge fan of flowers. The things make me sneeze, and yes, elves sneeze. No, we don't sneeze where anyone else might see us. But this forest smelled like a latrine (yes, elves have latrines). It was a cesspit… a cessforest.

I walked this path for a few hours, becoming increasingly disgusted by this reality. Finally, I came to a muddy, wide spot between some trees. This was the main road between two fairly large towns. Turning right would take me to the coast, which I was told elves avoided because of the constant smell of dead fish. Considering no one bothered to mention the smell of the cessforest, dead fish must be a truly impressive odor. Turning left would take me deeper into the forest, then on to a small settlement, and finally to the Treginstead, the capital of the Kingdom of Lutenvia. I wondered if the Council paid taxes on our land.

At this point, I want to mention that the Council doesn't just send us off and let us do whatever we want. Each elf heading out needs a mission. Some will talk to kings and end wars. Some will join epic quests to save the world from demons.

Me? I'm tasked to purchase a manor with some land. Of course, I have to find one for sale first and then get it fixed up to elvish standards.

I sighed in despair. This adventure was not what I had in mind. My feet already hurt, my back ached. My traveling rations, barely edible, were almost all gone already. Yet I had another half days walk to go.

As the old saying goes, the journey of thousand miles begins with a single step… straight into a pile of horse shit.

I remembered my training. I was an elf, tall and majestic, with decades of skill in looking down on everyone else. I took a deep breathe and calmed right down. A quick cleaning spell cleaned my boot and I was off, straight into another horse pile. "FUCK!" I screamed into the woods. That shut the crows up.

The town was ridiculous. The farms I passed on the way into town looked like they might make enough food for a single family… for one meal. The cows looked like they might feed a small hawk. The town itself consisted of exactly five buildings. The second largest of which was The Tavern.

It didn't take any time to investigate the huge number of buildings in town and determine that the smelly one was a butcher and market. The other smelly one was a smithy. The smallest one was the constabulary office and the office of the local lord's representative. The largest was the stables (also, by the way, not a pleasant smelling facility).

Thus, by powers of deduction, the one remaining building was The Tavern. The words "The Tavern" painted onto the side of the building also offered a clue. This building did not smell particularly inviting.

I had been  told that I could get a meal and a room for the night before continuing my travels to the capital.

An elf entering The Tavern seemed to have roughly the same effect as a greater dragon entering The Tavern. Everyone stopped talking and stopped moving to stare. I was moderately concerned that a few of the more stupid looking humans might not remember to breathe. But only moderately.

After several minutes of the locals looking slack jawed (I swear one was drooling), the conversations began again, much quieter than before and with regular glances in my direction. I wove through the crowd to a small but empty table. I set my pack down. The floor, at least, was wood. It was overly warm in the room and, yes, very smelly. Stale beer and human sweat is an unpleasant combination.

The chair was too low for me, but I think I managed to lower myself in a dignified manner. The day had been long. I was tired and hungry and I was sure I had blisters on my feet. But, I resolved to be a proper elf.

Finally, one of the serving girls was shoved in my direction by the presumed owner of The Tavern. She approached timidly and smiled slightly. She was not unattractive, for a human. But without the tipped ears and the too heavy chest, she was definitely not my type. I decided to stick with haughty indifference. I wouldn't want to offend these morons on my first night.

"My Lord," She began. A good start I thought. "Welcome to The Tavern." You could hear the capital letters. "How may we serve you?"

"Greetings My Lady," I replied slowly. "My travels have been long and I am in need of a meal and place to sleep tonight." Internally, I rolled my eyes at myself.

"Of course, My Lord. I'll bring you a meal right away. The cost of a room is 20 coppers, but we'll provide dinner and breakfast."

My training had included a suggestion to haggle for every price. But I didn't think it dignified and, besides I was really too tired to care.

"I accept."

While she went to get a meal, I checked the contents of my pack. For my personal use, I had 100 gold coins, another 100 silver coins, and a few handfuls of copper coins. My pack had about two kilos of metal in the form of coins, mostly the silver, the gold coins were tiny. I tried to remember the exchange rate. It varied a lot. Twenty coppers was less than half my stash, but was a silver too much. Gah, this whole money thing is stupid too.

For the manor, I had another ten kilos of gold bars. I had no idea if that was sufficient. All the other elves made it seem like this was trivial stuff. Maybe they didn't sleep or eat anything but pine needles while they were in this world.

Me, I wanted food. I'm not sure that's what I got. The serving girl returned with a heavy wooden bowl filled with… something. The way she acted, I assume she thought it was food. She also had a metal bottle of some kind, it actually felt cold to the touch. A wooden spoon completed the materials she provided me. She looked inordinately pleased, like a wolf pup who destroyed your favorite boots, but appeared very proud of the fact that she was victorious.

I poked the material in the bowl with the spoon. It quivered.

"Umm… what is this?" I asked, calmly and politely.

"I am sorry my Lord?, but that is all we have."

Calm. "That's not what I asked. What is it? "

"Stew." I poked at the stuff again.

Less calm. "I think it mooed at me."

"Oh sir, I assure you, it didn't moo. Bark maybe, but not a moo."

After several deep breaths, I continued, "And what is this?"

"Excellent sir, this is a new invention by the owner. It's a special can made of metal that is used to keep beer cold and frothy. When you are ready to drink it, you pop the top right off. Here, let me show you."

She did something and the can was open and finally, in all my entire day of travels I found something that smelled good. I tentatively took a sip. It was like drinking bread. It was rich and full and definitely alcoholic.

"King Rat's left testicle, this is good. I'll need several of these."

She smiled brightly, "Of course my Lord. Right away."