The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph
“This really sucks,” Salem muttered.
No one responded.
The rock she kicked down the road continued until it landed along the slope leading into the tree line. It was the broken route and greenery for the foreseeable distance as it curved toward the northeast. Enne found a different impression on everyone when she assessed them. Alejandro seemed indifferent, Extendo seemed anxious, and Salem was outright annoyed. But beneath her annoyance was curiosity. The seer never spoke of the winged beast.
“Hopefully, nothing else jumps out at us,” Extendo commented. He shivered at Enne’s side glance. “W—what?”
“I was trying to escape,” Enne said. “I didn’t expect to be hit by a truck.”
“And we weren’t expecting you to bust the engine on impact,” Salem interjected. “What the hell are you made of?”
“Sometimes I wish I knew,” she shrugged. “But—There’s something more pressing, Salem. You didn’t seem too surprised by the Snallygaster showing up.”
Salem stopped, with everyone else following suit. She slowly looked over her shoulder with a scowl.
“Those old stories we read,” she replied. “There’s more to it.”
“It’s not your typical raptor,” Enne said. “It’s more like a strange-looking dragon. It looks exactly as portrayed in those old illustrations.”
“When did you see those?” Alejandro questioned. Enne could feel his prying eyes as he awaited her response.
“The morning after we came back from Brunswick. There was something strange about it, so I wanted to know if it was recorded.”
“Yeah, well,” Extendo interrupted. “As long as we don’t have to see it again, I’m fine. No more funny stuff! How am I gonna explain to the rebels what happened? Everything I’ve seen so far is too out there!”
“Eh, about that….” Enne said hesitantly. Alejandro furrowed his eyebrows. “That would’ve been the third time I’ve seen it?”
“Oh, hell no!”
“Context, Enne?” Alejandro questioned. Salem observed them silently as Enne doted on her response.
“I mean, it saved me every time, or at least got me out of a bad situation.”
“Sounds like plot armor, am I right?” Salem shrugged. “Too convenient, if you ask me.”
“To be frank, I didn’t need it. But it seems like Janus and his goons were better armed than I imagined.”
“What makes you say that?”
Enne revealed the scab-covered bullet wound. Alejandro took a closer look, also reminded of the massive cut along her waist. He took a step away to assess her body’s condition. His eyes gave away his silent concern, looking between her abdomen and arm. Enne shied away, something that Salem found uncharacteristic. The only thing he knew that could break the surface of her skin was hard to get.
“Draco-glass?” he said. Their eyes met; Enne nodded slightly. “But that gash?”
“The bear,” she answered. Alejandro’s gasp rattled. “But, it’s okay….”
“Okay? It can be infected!”
“But it isn’t! Take a closer look.”
Enne tore the fabric, reaching around the top of her hip. She grabbed his right hand when he leaned in closer, gently placing it against the black, scaley surface. Alejandro couldn’t hide his confusion, but he silently acknowledged her finding.
“What—The hell am I watching right now?” Salem asked.
“It’s—the same texture as the patches on your body,” Alejandro said. “But…How?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” Enne admitted. She looked to Salem. “It’s been an interesting development, nonetheless. Maybe there’s something more to this Snallygaster.”
“Fine,” Salem walked ahead of them. “Those old stories only scratched the surface. The last story about the Snallygaster was during the 1920s when it fell into a vat of moonshine. It didn’t reemerge until centuries after—”
“Yes, but there’s not much difference between the old one and this. Matter of fact, it’s always been locked into this region.”
“Does it have to do with the supernatural aspects?”
“Ya think the big bird is going to come after us, Miss—” Extendo asked.
“Enne, but Miss Silver Elf is a cute name, too,” Enne smiled. “I wish Allie would give me a nice nickname.”
“Your name is pretty enough,” Alejandro sighed. He stopped when he saw something move in the distance. Enne’s ears perked. “How often do they patrol here?”
“To the trees!”
Everyone dashed down the slope as a patrol came into view. The hover bikes were unlike the ones Janus had. They were far sleeker but better armored than what they’d seen earlier. The minimalistic design was out of place, though the city had similar hover bikes. Enne watched from behind cover, glimpsing what she could as they slowed down. Everyone held their breath. Within seconds, they sped off without incident.
“Do you think they detected us?” Salem asked.
“I—Don’t know,” Enne replied. “But we should be going.”
“What are they doing here?” Extendo broke a cold sweat. Everyone looked at him. “This isn’t part of their territory.”
“Who are they?” Alejandro asked.
“Those models aren’t anything I’ve read about,” Enne said. “I think with everything I’ve done so far, I’m sure I’ve warranted everyone’s attention.”
“Wait a sec. You aren’t from the Republic?”
“No. I was born in the city of Gardenia, south of the land.”
Extendo exchanged a confused glance with Alejandro.
“This is who you were talking about, yeah?” he asked. Alejandro nodded as Extendo shifted to Enne. “A half-elf? Why… Do you want to meet with the rebels?”
“Because I believe in the sovereignty of a people to reign over themselves,” she responded.
“You realize what you’re up against, then?”
“I have an idea.”
“And you don’t look like them.”
“That much, I’ve realized. Janus knows something no one else does. I want to get to the truth.”
“Who I am. And where I’ve come from.”
Extendo nodded without utterance. He led the way through the wooded area, and everyone followed. Enne couldn’t help but feel that his response was strange. The crunching leaves beneath their feet gave sparks of life in the quiet woods. The lush greenery reminded Enne of the woods by Gardenia. They reached a clearing where a shallow stream flowed. A layer of small rocks layered the bedrock’s smooth surface. The gentle splashes brought calm to her as she kneeled to scoop some water. Enne looked at her reflection as the broken surface quickly returned to its uniform current. Her hair was a mess, and her clothes were tattered. She saw the fatigue in her eyes. It was the first time she looked hard at herself in some time. Gentle footsteps shifted the graveled floor, but she didn’t look over.
“En,” Alejandro said as he came into the reflection’s view. “You all right?”
“I’m sorry for getting you dragged into all of this,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking when I broke Silesta out.”
“The young elven girl. We met a small group the morning after. A wanderer named Raquel took her last night when we evaded Janus’ goons.”
“Wait. Raq—quel? You met her.”
“You know her?”
“A long, long time ago.”
The glint behind his eyes signified much more than his calm tone eluded. She was tempted to ask, but a swelling feeling kept her from doing so. Enne turned to him and found a faint smile. He kneeled next to her, taking a scoop of water. His haggard expression was easy to see upon the water. A deep breath left his once-parched lips before looking along the stream’s rocky shores.
“I’m just glad you’re okay,” he said.
“Were you worried about me?” she asked. He looked through the side of his eye.
“I know I do such a shit job at showing it.”
“But you have your ways, Allie. I never asked for a Prince Charming.”
Alejandro’s chuckle came and went as he fixated on the stream’s surface. His hair had thinned and grayed. His eyes were baggier than he could remember.
“You’re a very capable woman,” he continued. “You’ve always pulled through when the going gets tough. But me—I’ve always held you back.”
Enne shook her head as she gently clenched his arm. She leaned against him and looked at him through his reflection.
“No. No, you haven’t,” she whispered. “You were always there to balance things out. Without your priceless advice, I could’ve done more harm to myself.”
“Yet, you’ll do what you need to despite it?” he asked. “There is no place for people like me who still fear the consequences. Who am I to say what should be rather than what could be?”
“Enne. It’ll come to an end at some point for me, and you’ll move on.”
“Not unless we can get you help. I’m not going to let that happen. If there’s anything, I’d save… I’d save you because I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“We’re over 300 years old. We’ve had our fair share of solitude. You’ll figure out something.”
“But I don’t think you get it. It doesn’t matter who I meet tomorrow or where I’ll be. You’ll be the only Alejandro Gaitan I’ll know… And the only one that’s ever mattered. If you knew the influence you’ve had on me, you’d understand.”
Alejandro’s gaze was lost upon his reflection.
“I love you… No matter where in life I am.”
The wanderer cracked a meager smile upon seeing her warm smile.
“All right, you two,” Extendo approached. Enne and Alejandro looked over. “We gotta get going. Their encampment is a few miles in.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Salem said.
“Miss Cleo, everything should be fine. The trees provide decent cover.”
“It’s a little too close to the action, don’t you think?”
“You haven’t been out here enough.”
“Maybe… But you seemed pretty surprised when you saw those hoverbikes. Something isn’t right.”
“I mean, it can’t get worse than it already has.”
“That’s some fatal speaking right there,” Enne commented as she helped Alejandro up. They began walking across the shallow stream. “Now, come on before some gunship catches us.”
When they entered the brush, an unusual aircraft approached. Like the hover bikes, its design was minimalistic. It had enough space to hold over a dozen soldiers. It hovered around the stream before descending. The back hatch lowered, and soldiers flooded onto the wet grounds. Their gray, monotonous uniforms were adorned with a foreign symbol. Their helmets hid their faces, and their compact assault rifles didn’t hold magazines. Their callout confirmed who they were as they shouted beneath the hovering gunship. Enne wanted to step forward, but Alejandro held her back.
“What the hell are you doing?” he whispered.
“I’m not afraid of a bunch of boy scouts,” she replied. The look in her eyes made it clear she wouldn’t back down. “Run. I’ll buy us time.”
“No. Not without you.”
“Yeah,” Salem interrupted. “Extendo and I are out.”
Enne nodded before returning her gaze at the wanderer.
“I’m not going to run,” she reiterated. Alejandro sighed.
“Well,” he replied. “Can’t let you have all the fun.”
The Ethoxian soldiers lingered by the stream, slowly spreading out. They watched, waiting for the right time to strike. She knew the gunship would be the problem until she noticed their reluctance to move further.
“They aren’t moving,” Enne noted. “There’s no way they haven’t picked up our presence.”
“Let’s use that to our advantage,” Alejandro said. Enne’s eyes shifted toward him reluctantly. “I’ll be the decoy—”
“Why do you think I stayed with you?”
“To be supportive, of course.”
“And this is the best possible way to do that. You can take them down easier than I can.”
Enne sighed before hesitantly shaking her head. She watched as Alejandro slowly stood with his hands up. Enne quickly veered to her left, tracking his movement. The soldiers noticed him; Their shouting and frenzied gun-waving seemed unusual for a seemingly organized ground force. All of them were fixated on the old man who exited the clearing. Enne quietly wrapped around the other end, picking her targets before pouncing.
“P—please don’t shoot!” Alejandro said, hoping they understood him. The squad leader walked over.
“Where is the jammer located?” they asked in a modulated voice. The wanderer winced.
He was met with the butt of his assault rifle, knocking him onto his back.
“What jammer?” he asked while wiping away his blood. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You have a device that’s interfering with our operation. A patrol detected it recently.”
Enne dashed through the bedrock, throwing herself into a dropkick that slammed the first soldier’s back. They hurdled into the one in front of him, alerting those nearby. She swept through the slick terrain, dodging their gunfire. Their weapons didn’t use conventional weaponry but a type of solar energy. Enne’s heart raced as she slipped through the blurred lights. She swept one off-balance before elbowing their helmet. Disoriented from the cracked vision, Enne grabbed them by the arm and threw them to the ground. An erected shield was raised when she had her back turned. It burst when she moved out in time, glimpsing Alejandro as he tried to escape. The captain was taken down.
Allie, Enne thought.
Alejandro continued to raise shields from the brush while they focused on Enne. Her graceful movements kept the remaining soldiers on their toes, though it became harder to keep up. She’d glimpse Allie after each takedown, making sure he was okay. A soldier noticed the wanderer’s tactics and shot him. The wanderer clutched his shoulder when he dropped to his side. He crawled in the brush, glimpsing the gunship move away.
Her heart quivered, and her eyes emitted a haunting lilac glow. Her movements were faster, and each strike became a death blow. She ignored their pleas and their cries as she shredded them apart. Her grip ripped off their arm with the last person she took down.
The gunship came in position as Enne moved away. The arm slowly transformed into her signature bow faster, and more energy was stored. Enne raised her bow when she was a safe distance away from Alejandro and aimed as an onslaught of energy beams came down. It shredded the stream’s surroundings and tore down the trees upstream. Alejandro watched as dust and water sprayed throughout. But his fear subsided when he saw her distinctive silhouette. Her bow’s green glow pierced the thicket as it absorbed more mana.
The arrow flew at the gunship, tearing through it as it faded into the distance. The gunship imploded, collapsing into pieces with bloodied remains following. Enne staggered, immediately searching for Alejandro. He leaned against the tree, failing to hide his pain. The soldier who questioned him lay in pain as he tried to reach for his gun. Enne delivered a swift kick against his ribs. The impact punctured his organs as they shrieked in pain. However, the half-elf was indifferent as she kneeled next to them. Alejandro watched quietly.
“So—You’re the jammer?” they asked. Enne processed what they said.
“Jammer?” she repeated. The soldier took his last breath.
“En—” Alejandro called.
Alejandro grunted in pain when he tried to step forward. Enne caught him when he stumbled against her. Their eyes met, but within moments he passed out in her arms. She felt his pulse and checked the burns on his shoulder. Enne cradled him into her arms, left to wonder what the soldier meant. The stream gently corrected course as she disappeared into the woods.
We've reached the hallways point of the story! (I think...)
It's been a few chapters since Enne and Alejandro interacted like this. I couldn't help but listen to Billy Idol while revising it.
Also, due to the demands of my job, I'll be posting twice a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Admittedly, I've been losing sleep. I hope you enjoyed the chapters thus far! I appreciate the support. Leave a like. Comments/feedback are always welcomed~