Friday, July 29, 2016


Here it is, the second chapter! I hope you all enjoy!

Frostfall Inn
First Snow

It's like white candy out there, the snow. At my back, the door creaks open and god blows his wintry breath into the inn before it shuts—slam—so hard it rattles the bones of this old place. From the deep grumbles of the inn's new patrons, I assume they're men as they sit heavily upon a rickety bench. Weapons cry out with a hard clang as they find their seats and rest in them. Probably sitting close to the center for the warmth of the fire. There's more movement as the stairs to my right creak with a woody sound. I hear the voices of last night's patrons, a family of four, the young ones giddy for tonight's dinner as their parents usher them down the stairs.

The low murmur of the men stops short.

“Welcome!” Vena says, I turn to watch as I tuck an old rag into the belt of my apron. “Welcome to Frostfall — are your horses stabled for the night?”

Are they toys? They look like toy soldiers—the men—stuffed into their fancy cotehardies and high frocks. Vena approaches them with that tender way of her's as she clasps her hands before her and smiles expectantly. A single pair of eyes flash to me before the one with chestnut hair opens his thin lips.

“They're alright.” It's a short reply—curt. Vena stumbles a bit, but catches herself.

“Something to warm ya'll up?” She offers, and the family takes their seats slowly. The childrens' high voices echo round the small hearth and their parent's cringe. “Spiced ale?”

The man nods his reply before turning back to his companions. They size Vena up before turning to look at the family of four. Their gazes are dirty, and it's disdain I smell as I give my back to the scene and my full attention to the dishes behind the bar.

“Did you see that?” Vena comes close and whispers before bending down to take four mugs into her arms.

“I felt it.” I murmur, peeking over my shoulder. “Cold's got to 'em.”

“Well let's see them warmed up!”

Can't help but smile when her lips turn up—Vena's toothy grin is worse than a cold the way it infects people. But not tonight. The girl gives them spiced ale warmed so it steams, and they simply nod at her approach and go silent until she droops and slithers back to the bar defeated, but ready to try again with that winning smile of her's. The family of four—a young couple with two bright children—take to her almost as if they were related. Making jokes and speaking some shared foreign language before Vena decides she simply must rush back to the cupboard to get something those cute little kids would adore. It's almost like magic when she leaves—as if the magic has left the room as weight presses down on the air all around. The tension's heavy and it's black and it smells like the red color of anger. I take my place at the bar with a smile that's so large it hurts, and I realize I'm being stared at.

He's got a small face, slender and long. He crooks a finger longer than a lock of my hair and I scuttle over.

“You in charge 'ere?” He trills out. “Or is she runnin' the place?”

Why? “We're together.” I tell them. “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah.” This guy's a rock, with huge hands and a body like a mountain. “We don't like their kind here.”

I'm following the jut of his chin and I realize—there's only a family here. What could they have done wrong? Had too many kids?My smile becomes cracked and anxious. I know the grin's only going to half of my face cause the other half is a storm of confusion.

“The family over there?” I point.

“The elves.” Hard eyes on a thin face and I see a scar cutting through his forehead that furrows. “You allow their ilk here?”

I shrug.

“Is there a problem?” Vena's appeared and she's confused bordering on frightened. Maybe she's been watching this conversation from the bar—I can't be sure. But if she's on edge, so am I. So I let her speak. “Food will be ready momentarily—I just seasoned it with something a little special—”

This guy has the glare of a frustrated snake, as his companions cross their arms or bring fists to the table. “We were talkin' to the human, girl. So be on your way.” The words are like venom and my mouth drops open.

Vena's smile meets the twitch of her right eye. “R-right, then.” She says, backing away. “Supper will be ready soon...”

I see her flee to the bar and the slender faced man watches her with those hard eyes of his. “You know what they've done?” He asks. “To Nouis? To Vrosa?” The mountain man grunts at this, shaking his head as the slender faced man finishes. “Don't you know?”

Dumbly, I shake my head. “No, sir.” But his long eyes begin to widen. “No, I do not.”

This does not help. My words never do and the guy turns his back to me. Ignoring me.

“...can I get you anything...?”

“Same thing the elf got us.” Snaps the mountain man. “Be quick.”

And I fly. I meet Vena's hurt eyes before I bring them the warm mugs and retreat back to the bar.

“They'll be gone soon.” I whisper. “This is no place for them, and they'll realize it and they'll be gone.”

“Post haste.”

I nod. “Post haste.”

The days have been good for us. The hearth has been full of happiness—but tonight drags on and on. The family is somber and quiet, as if they can feel the pressure in the room as the men opposite them continue to drink as their voices become louder and louder. It's disgusting—it makes me want to stomp over there and tell them that there are children here, but they continue on about what they've killed and what they've gutted. They go on about a woman they've raped or a beast they've killed for their stupid dinner.

“I should go free their horses.”

Vena rounds on me. “You will not.”

“They need to leave.”

“They'll stay as long as they like!”

Dinner is served—some sort of roasted meat—and as Vena serves a tray to the family and finally the men, peace falls light as snow when Vena returns to the bar.

“Maybe it was their hunger?” Vena tries. “Maybe it was that that made them so disrespectful.”

But they ruin it when a tray slams to the cold stones of the hearth and the hard faced man stands to slide his sword from his scabbard. The children freeze in their bench as their father slowly realizes that he has to stand—for his family, he must. Vena and I are like children—freezing as a man decides that tonight may be the night he takes revenge for whatever the elves have done.

“This is no place for yer kind—not here.” The man hisses. “This was a respectable place once!” He spits at Vena and I as we cower behind the bar, the tips of our fingers lightly touching the wood as we keep our eyes up.

The elven man stays quiet — oh, he is beautiful. Probably thirty times my age, but he looks like he could be in his twenties. His wife is a mirror image—almost—and his children are little sprites if tiny angels ever felt fear. They're afraid of this man—of this human that's like a long and slender shadow that threatens to destroy their peace. The elf has no weapon on him—he relinquished them to us, as all patrons are supposed to—but these men were allowed to slip by the wayside.

I can only blame myself as the slender man raises his sword and slurs, “You killed more than ninety uh us. Saw my brother splayed on the street—deep pockets where his eyes should've been. You know what that feels likeThe elf moves away from his family and the slender soldier follows, keeping his curved sword level with the other man's blue eyes. “—to stare death in the face. There were no eyes to close—his lids were gone, his eyes missing.” His arm shakes a bit and the blade trembles. “—what d'ya'll do with them eyes, hm?”

“I've done nothing—”

“Being what you are is sin enough.” At this his friends stand. One tall enough to take the ceiling off this place, the other with enough bruises to boast that he's been in every battle. “You—your ilk. You all deserve to die for what you've done to us—and why not start now? Why not?”

The first punch thrown is a blow that could have shaken the stars from the sky and it comes down hard. The children are crying—screaming—as their father pleads with them...don't come closer, stay over there! It'll be okay, we'll leave from here and—all three dive onto him like heavy water that's trying to drown him and Vena holds me close as we stay behind the bar like cowards attempting to avoid their anger. The world's wrong and we've felt the first lash of it as the elf attempts to lay silent and the men continue beating him senseless. He's a doll, I think, he's not a breathing thing but a doll to punch and they are ripping into him senselessly. It's not fair—and oak breaks with a shrieking crack over bone and I feel it. I feel it and flinch as Vena buries her face into my chest and cries like a child. We can't let this continue. We can't.

“Vena.” I take her chin and my hands move to her shoulders. “Vena—they need to leave.” Her nose is red and I realize she can't do this—but she can't say it. She can't admit that she is scared—not with words.

A hard breeze hits the bar and they've opened the door. A body hits the ground with a thump and pairs of feet rush like wild animals out into the night.


And she stands. Red nose and all—sniffling like a large child. She clinches her fist as I kneel, and push myself to standing. I cross my arms as I watch her stomp over to the three men—their knuckles bloody. Chairs are broken and a bench lays to it's side. The wood splintered.

“Gentlemen—” But she isn't given a choice as to where their knuckles land when a hand reaches for her. A sharp crack ripples through the night and her chin flies up before her body falls down.

I rush to her side—no care, no fear. I drop to the floor and cradle her head in my hands before I look up to the towering men—fiends—creatures. Whatever you call a man who takes in peace and breathes out evil.

“This was a good place!” I choke out and tears run down my cheeks. “A good one!”

“Well, we ain't leavin' till we're good and ready.” Knuckles crack as the slender man leans over me, his hands firmly pressed into cotton pockets. “And it'll be on the house.”

They retreat and I'm holding my friend—my best friend—until I see her huge eyes open up and her red lipped grin. She's bleeding and I use my apron to stop it. I'm hiccuping and wishing that everything was alright. We will never live this down. Those elves will tell the world and more people like those men will come wandering in — thinking this is a brawl house, thinking this isn't a reputable place. Vena licks her swollen lip as I whimper.

“Go.” she whispers. “I'm going to clean up—this.” her large eyes flit towards the hearth—as her face bleeds. “I'll be alright.”

I wait till she stands and smooths her skirts out, and when she smiles I rush out into the cold. I hike my skirts up a bit and pull the arms of my chemise down as I look into the firelight and the darkness. Snow's howling and the wind hurts, but I see the family hobbling through the snow and I go after them. Wishing I could do more. Wishing those men could've done less.

“I'm sorry.” I breathe. “I am truly sorry—I apologize for what's happened—”

Emerald eyes are vipers as the elven woman shoots me a look. “Tinny, get four silvers from my purse.” She sings. “Pay the nice lady.”

Chubby hands grasp my fingers and I look down at the little sprite. She holds that exact amount in the center of her little palm and hands it to me. Her eyes turn to the snow as if she's afraid to look at me. As if she's disappointed.

“I'm sorry.” I repeat, and the woman finds my eyes again.

The wind is biting and the snow freezes my bones. They keep going, though, into the darkness—into the cold. There is no mention of anger. No mention of frustration or pity. Emerald eyes glue me to this spot until I no longer see them and they become a beacon of lime melting away into the wintry night.

“I'm sorry.” I repeat to no one other than myself, because I am disappointed. Because I am scared.


Vena comes to my bed that night, her face swollen, her body shaking. There's nothing I can say as she climbs in and hugs me. We fall into a dreamless sleep, and are woken in the tiny hours of the morning by a screaming wind and harshly laughing men as they slam doors and throw glasses to the floor with a hard crash. Together, we cower. Together, we pray that they take nothing of value—that they leave and never come back. Together, we realize how useless we are. How useless compassion and hospitality is in a world where evil makes it's home and sits—waiting for a hope that it can squash.

When the noise stops, we wait before venturing down into the hearth and into the storeroom.

“What's left?” Vena calls from below.

“The ales gone.”

“So's the bread.”

“They took your collection—”

“Of what?”


“But not the cards?”

Standing tiptoe, I open a cupboard. “Not the cards.”

“Couldn't take the frozen meat.”

“Thank the gods.”

“But everything else—it''s gone.”

She couldn't go—not now. Not while the Inn was in this state.

“I'm going to Nouis.” Vena repeats, her hand comes to my shoulder and my eyes—well I can't look at her as my vision blurs with tears. “I'll be back within the week.”

“But you—”

“We need supplies, Sora.” Vena persists. “Or we'll starve out here.”

“Let me come with you.”
At that she throws back her head and laughs. “And leave the inn without a keeper? Are you crazy?”

“No—I'm scared.”

Both of her hands are on my shoulders now and she's smiling. “Everything will be fine. I'll buy back what was stolen and everything will go back to the way it used to be.”

But she lies. She lies through the skin of her teeth and her eyes know it. When she walks out that front door and makes the turn towards the garden city of Nouis, I know things will change because there are bullies pressing us to. And now there won't be an us — but a me. And I'm scared those men will come back—or their friends or men like them and they'll beat up another poor elf with his family watching—frightened that they'll be drawn into the fight too. Frightened that instead of that mountain of a man pressing his boot to the face of the father, he'll be bashing in the skulls of his children as well. I just can't have that—the shame, the fear. I can't. Not without her to back me up.

Back at the inn, my head's bowed and I'm so sad. My heart flutters and skips a beat when there's a sharp rap at the door and I shout that I'm coming. Quickly, I throw open the door—but this time, there's no smile on my face. There's no welcome in my arms or my attitude. My eyes flash with fear. My heart raps like this patron's knock and I'm frightened.

“Any spare rooms?” Pipes a creature with horns upon his head.

“Can we yoke a donkey 'ere?” Asks his companions.

“No.” I whisper and I say it again, “No.”

They are shocked. “But the stable's empty—”

“There's—there's no room.”

Before they can question again—before they can peer around and realize what they already know, I gently bring the door to a close.

“Please leave.” I whisper. “Please.”

That little girl's disappointment is on my mind again, her little green eyes stuck to the snow at her feet.

They sigh heavily before stomping away and I imagine that small sprite of a child stalking into the darkness of a wintry night.

In my head, she's an icicle — cold and blue. In my head, it's my fault and her father has passed. The chill got to him and god took him away. A broken heart got to her mother, and she stood still as he passed. As her children passed. And as her daughter froze to death, wondering, “When will the world be alright?”

“There are no beds.”

They have the high ears of high elves. Snow melds with the salt of their sandy beards and their eyes are glassy and wet.

“Please.” One mumbles.

There are no beds.”

Humans. No horns. Or maybe silver bloods—it doesn't matter.

“Stables are back there.” I tell them. They nod and I peek around the corner for more. Afraid of who could slip in with them.

It's all snow and footprints from here.

The wind howls like a dog of night. Snow falls and swirls as a twister of white. It is dark when the door is slammed.

I rush from the bar. Horns jut from these new patrons' heads. No—you can't be here.

Brrrrr!” One shivers as he sits down heavily.

I rush to their table, head bowed, arms limp.

“How much for a room?” One asks.

“We're full.”

“Huh?” replies his companion, looking around. “You don't look full.”

“We're full.”

The other horn head's gaze hardens and he jumps to standing. “With that badge on your door, you'd think you allowed our type.”

The other scoffs.

I see them out and pray—dear gods—no more. No more. It's cold and wintry out when the horn heads stalk out into the night. A hard gaze lowers on me when one decides he'll have a word. Of course he'll have a damned word.

“It's not right.” he says. “It's not right, and I can see it in your eyes that you know it. But you're a coward—and the worst kind too. The kind that can't fess up to her fear, so runs away from it instead. You're hurting a lot of people doing this, you know. Not all of us were involved with what happened out there—in Nouis and Vrosa. Not all of us are evil.”

I take his words with a trembling lip and those hard red-gold eyes look back at me with scorn that's a punch to my gut. When his companion drags him along, forcing him to turn around and get going, I turn and take the door. I breathe—I've gotta—and slam it hard behind me. The door's to my back when I slide down it—tears trailing down my hot face—as I bring my head to my hands and wonder how I became this way. Turning them away for their own safety—what kind of liar am I? What kind of person am I? To make those men go out into the dark of night simply because they have horns on their heads. Simply because they are not like me. Simply because they aren't human.

What kind of person am I?

I am the worst kind of person.

I am a coward.

I see her before she sees the inn—Vena is a little speck on the horizon riding a brown horse pulling a carriage. Opening the door, I watch her arrival with an open mouthed grin. She waves with both hands, eventually jumping from her horse and rushing into a squeezing hug. Our breath comes out in steamy puffs as she pulls away and looks me right in the eye.

“It'll be okay now.” she says, blue eyes glistening. “I've got food!”

She is quick and relentless in getting the inn restocked. She asks if there have been anymore fights—anymore humans quarreling with non-humans and if there have been any patrons at all. I can't bring myself to tell her the truth of what I've gone and done here, so I tell her that there hasn't been much action at all. Nope. People have just cruised on by here.

“It's awful up there in Nouis.” she says as we take a bench. Hot bread occupies our table and I take a poker and revive the fire to our left.

“How bad?”

Horrifying.” she shakes her head and brings her hand to her white hair. “I had to bind my ears to my head just to get past the city gate without a badge.”

“A badge?”

Vena nods. “There were chain gangs, sis. The minute I walked through those glass doors and felt that weird heat from Nouis magic, I saw a chain gang of elves marching on through. People were throwin' things at them. Just booing them and wishing them the worst, and I thought—what could they have done, you know? They're all chained up!”

“So?” My chin rests on my hands. “What happened?”

“A public hanging!”

“A what?”

Her eyes widen as she bobbles her head. “Yeah. Not of the elves — but women, shetani.”


“She-witches—the demigoddesses, you'd know if you knew your history. But anyway

It's like the Drasurri never freed that—blighted city—from a she-tyrant in the first place. Yeah, she was shetani, but that doesn't make 'em all evil, you know? There were more gangs than that—at least three—all chained up and bruised. One older man tripped and some men-at-arms rushed to beat the living daylights out of the poor guy! I guess it meant something that he was elven, but still!”

“Well I don't understand.” I say, shaking my head and lowering it. “What have the elves done?”

“You mean,” She leans in closer. “what have we done.”

Sometimes I forget. I nod.

“Everyone is scared, Sora. Everyone. And no one is more frightened than the people who are free. The rock throwers. The ones throwing old fruit and calling for the deaths of these people already chained, already dead inside while they walked those damned steps to those gallows—they accept it, the ones sentenced to hang. But everyone else—everyone else is afraid.”


She shrugs, grabbing a piece of bread. “I don't know and—better yet—it doesn't matter.” she takes a nibble. “But, d'you know what this means for us?”

I shrug, mirroring her and stealing a piece of the loaf.

She swallows and suddenly, she's standing. Her hands are planted on her hips and she's smiling that smile of fierce determination. “We help them! We make sure everyone knows our doors are open! We welcome the travel weary—but why stop there? We have beds! We'll open to the homeless as well! To the refugees of this, and those fleeing whatever is going on up there! We open our home.”
Motivation is a cold and I grin up at her—I've caught it—oh no. I've caught the sickness and I can't help but to want to live up in her ideas—in her dreams and in her world. There's no fear—or maybe she looks past it. Maybe she sees the fear and she thinks that she'd rather walk through that crowding cloud instead of fearing it and staring at it until it gets bigger and bigger and swallows your world whole. Maybe we'll have more fights here. Maybe we'll see more bloody fathers and disappointed children, but we'll also see people gracious to be brought off the road to winter. We'll see people with gratitude in their eyes and warmth in their hearts with the thought that at least everything hasn't gone to shit. At least some people stand strong in their holds and welcome those that truly need a warm hearth and a comfy bed.

And we will be that. I will put my fear aside and we will be that.

“Let's get to work, then.” I tell her, standing as well. “We're going to have a full house if we start offering free beds, too.”

Her gaze is fierce and fiery, her grin sharp. “Lets!”

Check back next Friday for the third chapter of this novella! In the meantime, why not check out my already completed work?

And here - Afterlife: Opus 1

Till next time!


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