The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph
A motorcycle’s engine roared on a silent road leading out of the Frederick. The further Enne traveled, the more checkpoints she encountered. They were all under orders to let her through to the right of each passage. Janus’s ground forces seemed much more prominent than she imagined. Drones dominated the skies, watching from a great height as she sped through. They were ready for her arrival. The road ended at an old abandoned military base. The hangars and barracks were in a weathered state. At its center was a large building that served as its headquarters. Once she parked, she sat up. She took a deep breath while she searched the building’s dim lighting. Her ears perked to the approaching footsteps.
“You drive pretty fast,” Crescendo said. He examined the bike and the half-elf. Enne ignored his prying eyes, maintaining a cordial façade.
“Crescendo, was it?” Enne asked. He nodded.
“This bird girl is a classic. The boss would love this.”
“It’s a Norton 500… It belonged to a good friend of mine.”
“What’s it thing running on?”
Crescendo assessed the bike with a nod of approval.
“You elves sure are crafty,” he said. Enne smiled fondly.
“Actually, a human made this possible,” she replied.
He didn’t have a response. From her initial impression, Enne could easily sense the tension amongst his henchmen. They guided her toward the central building. Much of its windows were blocked or padded. The muffled screams made her shiver. Everyone was on edge, but she knew their bullets couldn’t harm her. The doors cracked, sliding over like a rush of cold air met her face. The eerie lighting defined what she felt about the place. Moans and screams echoed in the distance. Crescendo noted her discomfort.
“Welcome to the House of Pain,” he gestured nonchalantly toward the hallway.
“What exactly is this place?” she asked.
“A place of no return for many folks.” His delivery was cold. “The girl is in good hands, though. She just hasn’t been very compliant.”
“What becomes of her after this is over?”
He shrugged without a clue and said: “She’s an elf without a home. It’s up to the boss. And that ain’t your concern, sweetheart.”
Crescendo guided her in silence. Enne absorbed the horrid atmosphere. The doors and halls were poorly kept beyond the security entrance. A rotting stench filled her senses with inexplicable dread. How many had died in captivity? It reminded her of the pictures she saw of old dictators who imprisoned their political opponents. The withered decay of a crumbling infrastructure reflected the state of affairs, and Janus was the rot that kept the region from thriving.
At the furthest recesses of the basement level, Crescendo opened the door to the last room. The strange sensation she felt with her pursuers earlier was present. All of them had some sort of implant. The dim light cast against the feminine silhouette at the corner. The room was devoid of artifacts other than the flimsy table at the center. The captive’s food sat on it, mold freshly grown upon its mushy contents.
“She’s been here this entire time?” Enne asked. She glanced at the wanderer. “Where does she sleep?”
“This ain’t a bed-and-breakfast.” Crescendo shrugged before closing the door.
Her ears shifted slightly before glancing at the young woman. Enne felt her gaze hiding under her veil of white hair. She cautiously walked toward her, reaching the table first. The mold had given off its wretched scent while covered with insects. A faint stomach growl brought her back to the young woman.
“Hey…” Enne said. “My name is Enne. I’m here to help.”
Silence ensued before a shrieking scream echoed through the halls.
“I know it’s scary, but I won’t let them do anything to you.”
Again, the young woman’s silence prevailed. Enne noticed her trembling body. Enne looked around the room, still sensing the disturbance. They were still listening to them from a distance. With a snap of her finger, the disruption fell silent. The young woman lifted her head.
“Is this why you stayed quiet?” Enne asked. She shook her head.
“They aren’t normal,” she replied. Her voice was gentle and timid. Their eyes met, and Enne smiled.
“That’s an understatement. It’s a good thing you weren’t hurt.”
The girl didn’t react to her statement. Enne tried to stay positive as the young woman’s eyes shifted away. Enne kneeled when she got close. The captive’s face had dried tears and dirt. Her dress was dirtied from the haphazard treatment they gave her. Enne’s heart swelled, finding misery entrenched within her.
“What’s your—name?” Enne asked. The girl withheld a response but sensed Enne wasn’t with them.
“Silesta,” she replied. Enne looked over her shoulder but didn’t hear movement.
“Silesta? That’s a beautiful name. Where are you from?:
Enne redacted her follow-up, finding her confused gaze.
“And your name is all you remember? Is that why you haven’t been answering their questions?”
“They… scare me.”
“Then,” Enne continued while maintaining a sympathetic tone. “Do you remember how you ended up on the train?”
“I just remember fog and the scent of coal.”
The girl shook her head.
Her quick response dredged a sense of uncertainty in Enne. She leaned away slightly when Silesta crossed her legs to sit up straight. Her eyes were devoid of a particular shine one would find in one who lived a decent life. Though she appeared like any ordinary Elven girl, she gave off strange energy. It was inexplicable to Enne at the moment, unsure how to process her cryptic tone. Silesta had come from nowhere. Enne gathered her thoughts, struggling to speak.
“What’s going to happen to me?” Silesta asked. Enne felt her chest tighten. . Enne knew she needed to work with suspense laced within her eyes, despite Alejandro’s protest.
“Silesta,” she said. “I’m going to break you out of here. You shouldn’t be here.”
“Where am I going?”
“Far away from here.
Enne walked toward the door. With a slight twist, the knob snapped off. She knew once she exited the room, there was no turning back. As Silesta looked on, her skin began to crawl. An invasive sensation enveloped her, taking her breath away. Though Enne saw nothing out of the ordinary when she looked over, Silesta’s pupils dilated, changing color.
The whisper had returned.
“Are you all right?” Enne asked. Before the bandits on the other side could breach the door, an unseen force sent the door flying into the hallway. The sound of bludgeoned bone startled Enne. The other bandits kept their distance with weapons drawn. Enne turned to the incapacitated young woman, noticing the slightest spasms. “Silesta?”
The lights flickered under a crumbling ceiling. Something was spreading throughout fast, bursting through the ventilation in the walls. Enne listened to the commotion outside. She didn’t dare look after hearing the blood-curdling screams and the distinct gushing of blood. Blood pooled past the entrance at a crawling pace. Enne took a few steps back until she pressed against the cold table. Her head began to hurt as the disturbance from earlier went haywire. She clutched her head, slowly collapsing onto the ground. Enne’s consciousness slowly slipped as the unrest continued.
“The hell?” Crescendo shouted. “Fall back! Fall back!
“It’s in the walls!” someone screamed. Aaaaahhhhkkkr—”
“What’s—happening?” Enne spoke weakly. With the bit of energy she had, Silesta sat quietly, her eyes glowing a familiar lilac color. “Silesta?”
Janus realized the predicament he was in. His fears were confirmed after Enne left. The electronic disturbance had everything to do with her, but she had yet to catch its whim. He understood the wheel was finally in motion from the scouts he sent to tail her, the wanderer, and the abrupt shooting within the hour. His eyes were fixated on the small handheld he held. Its glossy screen showed a pending message he had sent.
“Is she asleep, still?” he uttered impatiently. “Eh…”
A tiny lilac ember floated beside him. He watched it as it danced gracefully through the rain. After a few seconds, it burst into a large portal against the railing’s edge. He stumbled away, dropping the handheld. He looked into its center with worry few had seen.
“Here goes nothing.”
Janus walked through the portal. His skin radiated from its dull heat; his body felt distorted, but he knew he’d be fine. This wasn’t the only time he’d sift into other dimensions through this message. When he arrived on the other side, he found himself in a penthouse with a beautiful view of the capital. Advanced drones whizzed by while the latest mining machinery towered in the distance. Spread throughout the simplistic aesthetic were small trinkets; Dinosaur collectibles sat on a beautiful marble table, and books were scattered behind the kitchen counter. It was clear where he was.
“So, you’re here?” A soothing voice startled him. “I guess you couldn’t wait a few more days.”
“It’s been quite some time,” he slowly glanced over.
A woman sat on a couch, facing the scenery. The long black-tipped ear had given away who spoke. Her wavy, snow-white hair shone against the mixture of neon below and the red sun ahead. A lone ahoge swayed against a still environment. It was the third time he was summoned by the most powerful woman in the Ethoxian Republic.
“Madam Bouvire, I—” he cleared his throat.
“The formalities aren’t necessary. It doesn’t matter how you choose to address me. We both know who has the ball in this court.”
“I’m sorry to—eh, intrude.”
“Care for a bit of coffee?”
Janus shook his head, but she didn’t look back.
“I might descend from dragons, but I won’t bite,” she added, noticing his shuffled footsteps.
When he came into view, their eyes met. Her unmistakable snake eyes gazed back under her mesmerizing lilac irises. Though she brandished a humble smile, her tired eyes betrayed with a spine-shivering coldness. Her white bangs framed above a slender face. She bared markings similar to Enne, having them on both sides. Her purple kimono loosely fit against her thin frame from a leisurely day. It was easy to catch glimpses of her dark, scaley skin. In her hands was a transparent scroll she slowly set down to give him her undivided attention.
“How’s that book coming along?” Janus feigned a strange smile.
“If you must know, it’s going.” The dark elf’s smile faded as she spoke. “The Red Sun, the memoirs of a fallen Elphynian Queen… It’s got a ring to it.”
“But you aren’t here for a book club meeting. You have a problem you can’t handle.”
“We have a small problem.”
“A small problem? I’ve heard quite a bit from your residing region. Your detractors speak of the death of a tyrant.”
Janus winced, keeping a tight lip as her eyes pried beneath his frail ego. He spoke calmly: “I beg your pardon?”
“I’m not mincing words here, Janus. Your rule has been on shaky grounds for decades. And your city’s refounding bicentennial celebration is just a week away.”
“I’ve got things on lock. Those rebels—"
“Let a half-elf run around for a day or two, and you’re scrambling. And that’s despite all the weapons we’ve given you.”
Janus struggled to speak as she glanced away momentarily. She allowed him to gather his thoughts while doting on the warm setting.
“I’m trying to avoid that,” he finally said. Cire gave a weak shrug after sitting up.
“Avoid… What exactly?” she asked. “Please explain to me how a clear and present threat, confirmed for that matter, just destroyed your little gulag?”
“Huh? Wait. When?”
“You think we gave you the surveillance for charity? Do you think I was saying all this as a mere reminder of what’s going on? We know everything. Anytime, anywhere.”
“We underestimated her.”
The woman’s gaze remained expressionless.
“The thing isn’t what am I going to do about it,” she said. “What are you going to do about it? I’ve provided everything, including the tech for those dolls in your basement. Do you get a kick from evoking the dead for your twisted pleasures?”
Janus backed down from raising his voice over her. She maintained a gentle façade that hid her disgust throughout the entire time. She added: “You’re part of the problem, Janus. I can no longer back your little regime. The winds of order are shifting to a much different sentiment. No one cares about absolute power, not in a more conscious society.”
“Do you have any idea what happens if I get the boot?”
“Of course I do, but you’re old news. Look. I’ll still attend your little celebration, say my flowery speech, and get back to writing. It’s not like I’m advocating your overthrow, either.”
“Your indifference suggests otherwise.”
“Does it? I think it’s high time we let the people choose. It was different than when the human world was trying to pull from the brink. And from what I’ve heard, the disparities have gotten worse. The thing is, you can still make amends with your populace. YOU have the power to change your destiny.”
“Cire is fine. Eh, coffee? It’s still hot.”
“No, that’s fine. I just want to know if you can do anything for me.”
Cire withheld her chuckle as she shook her head.
“Were you not listening?”
Janus froze, watching as she poured another cup of coffee from a weathered kettle from the wireless heating device. Unlike other people in her position and status, she came from a much different background. Cire kept things that brought comfort to her. She leaned over, grabbing her cup from its partly broken handle, taking a sip before focusing on him. Steam wafted into the air with an earthy aroma scent.
“Are you sure you don’t want a cup?” she asked. His annoyance was hard to hide, but she redirected her attention toward the scenery.
“You know what’s beautiful about a view like this?” She took another sip. He waited for her response. “You don’t see all the horrible stuff from this angle. The associations we apply with each piece of imagery can conjure something that paints quite a different reality. Either it evokes some nostalgia or a distant tragedy. The contrasting neon glow and the reddening suns of the evening might mean nothing to you but means everything to another.”
Janus winced in utter confusion.
“And how about the mining equipment?” he asked.
Their eyes met once more. Then Cire winked. Her lips finally pursed before taking another sip and replied:
“Well, they dig, of course.”
Here I introduce a character who's close to my heart. Cire has her own story in the works, but plays a pretty important part of the underlying narrative here. Leave a comment/feedback. A like is always appreciated!