Flash Friday 12/08/2016: Un-elfy Habits
Nobody ever truly forgot their voyage to the elven tree city of Elegrad. Henry knew he wouldn’t. Even now, as he stood at the entrance to the forest grove, ready to leave after his week’s stay, he still wasn’t used to the sights and sounds. The wind rustled against the grand elven trees, and a group of elvish bards were playing soothing melodies and singing about past wars won and evils vanquished. The last thing Henry would ever forget were the Elven King Halkar and the Elven Queen Shy’la, who stood before him with warm smiles.
“We hope you enjoyed your time here,” Halkar said, soft like a summer wind.
“I have done,” Henry said. “Thank you very much for your charity. I feel refreshed and ready to continue my quest against the Sorcerer Nelfan.”
“We are pleased to hear that,” Shy’la said. “Before you go, please take this as a gift from us to you.”
Shy’la gestured to an elf to approach. The elf did so, holding something small in his hands. Shy’la took it from him and held it out to Henry. “Take it,” she said. “We call it Kingsbread, but your peoples know it as ‘Elven Bread’. A single bite will restore your stamina.”
Henry took the Kingsbread. It was a complete loaf of bread in a cylindrical shape, yet fitted in the palm of his hand. “Thank you,” he said. “But I must be off, for even now Nelfan’s dark grasp stretches across the land. Again, thank you.”
Henry bowed. The elves smiled in return. Henry walked the path out of the city, leading him behind the grand city walls.
Nearly immediately after Henry walked out of view, Shy’la sighed a breath of relief. “Thank bloody hell that’s over,” she said. “I thought the daft sod would be staying for years.”
Halkar exhaled as if he had been underwater the entire time. His gut fell into its true form, his slender physique now sporting a beer belly. “I hate visitors.”
“You should try exercise, you know. The next mortal that calls for an audience with you, you might end up passing out. Did you hear?” Shy’la called over a shoulder to the bards. “The mortal’s gone now.”
The bards stopped mid-song, looks of relief on their faces. They tossed their instruments aside, took a boombox out from behind a tree, and sat around listening to Slayer.
“Honestly,” Halkar said, “I can’t believe you just pulled off that ‘Kingsbread’ thing right in front of that poor bastard. You can honestly say anything you like to mortals and they’ll lap it up.”
“Too true. Can I have some ‘Kingsbread’ myself, actually? Haven’t eaten in yonks.”
The servant that brought the bread to her earlier nodded, opened up the pack of hot dog buns, and handed one over.
“I honestly don’t know how you do it,” Halkar said. “I tried to pass off a fork as a powerful wand and the party rejected it.”
“You have to be subtle,” Shy’la said between mouthfuls. “Just say it’s stronger or magically enchanted in some way. The guy before Henry, I gave a single strand of my hair and said it gave good luck. A single strand! Still held it like it was his newborn child, said he’d achieve great things with it. He’s probably dead by now.”
“This one didn’t want to see into the scrying pool, though, did he?”
“Oh, he did! He definitely did! He wanted to see where the Sorcerer Nelephant-whoever guy was. Then he wanted to see his family. Then his future. Then his past. Why his past? The daft sod lived it already, he’d probably know it better than the sodding pool. When he asked to scry into where the cheapest inns were, I had to make up some baloney about the spirits being restless before I slapped the idiot senseless.”
“Tell me about it. Three hours he asked me about the ‘proud and noble’ history of the Elves. Like, yes, we live forever, we do awesome stuff, we won a lot of wars, get over it. Go read a bloody book about our history, don’t pester me about it.”
“I know, right? And the worst bit is that they–”
“Ah!” came a familiar voice from down the path. Henry had come back the way he came, slightly out of breath from his jogging. “I forgot something!”
The elven king and queen slipped back into character like two schoolkids caught smoking behind the bicycle shed. The bards practically threw the boombox back into its hiding place, rapidly got to their feet, and resumed their tales of the victory in The Three Wars.
“We are humbled that you returned,” Shy’la said, her airy voice making a comeback. “What is it that you forgot, fair knight?”
Henry stopped in front of Shy’la, taking a few breaths before speaking. “Payment.”
“For your stay here? You should know better than any that an elven’s charity comes not with a price tag.”
Henry said nothing for a while; he simply took hold of Shy’la’s hand and kissed the back of it. “Back home, we’re told to always treat women with respect.”
Then he turned and left again.
“Ugh,” Shy’la said, her face dropping the moment Henry was out of sight. She wiped the back of her hand against Halkar. “Think I got some mortal on me. This has been a long and annoying week, so I’m going down the pub and getting hammered. If Henry comes back, tell him I’m off to commune with my ancestor’s spirits or something.”
Halkar gave a casual wave as Shy’la left. He would join her, but anyone turning up while he was gone would probably walk headlong into the bards who were now jamming to Metallica. Perhaps some guards wouldn’t go amiss.