Kardan and Gya
Sitting in a wayside inn are four elves, perched on their stools in a corner of the room, pushing aside the meat on their plates. One of the elves walked across the room to fetch more water. As she moved, past a patron he slapped her on the buttock. She turned to him and said:
“I would not touch me again, if I were you.”
The man disregarded her warning and grabbed her wrist. As quick as lightning, a knife was in the elf’s hand. She brought it down into his wrist, penetrating between the bones of the forearm with a sickening thud.
“I did warn you,” said the elf as she retracted the knife from the man’s wrist.
The man clutched at his wounded arm with horror, then he began to scream.
The elf began to clean her blade, her commander rose from his seat and headed her way.
A giant of a man on a table nearby attempted to ignore the screaming man for a moment, beginning to scowl at the excessive noise. Standing up,he grabbed another patron’s bottle, walked towards the man and then smashed it over the smaller man's head. The wounded man dropped to the floor with a thump and lay there silently.
“I cannot abide a man who suffers so loudly” the man said to the elf as he stood over the body.
The elf goes to reply but is interrupted by her commander.
“Gya, why is there always trouble when you are around? You are a disgrace to the elven guard.” He turned to the man and said, “Be calm little human. How about you scamper back to your bottle?”
“I would watch your mouth elf, you do not look so big from where I’m standing.” the large man replied.
“I can’t see why your people didn't leave you out in the snow to die, like the rest of the runts.” the Elven Commander replied with a snide grin.
The large man gave a bark of laughter, disguising his intent, and suddenly launched his fist towards the commander’s face. A moment before his fist struck, he was surprised to find it held in place by the slender yet strong female elf. She had grabbed his wrist mid-strike and was managing to hold it in place. She was strong, stronger than he had expected. He was grudgingly impressed.
He was also happy to see the shocked and shaken look on the Commander’s face.
“Another day.” she spoke, directing it at the large man.
“Aye, then. For you my friend, another day. Watch what company you keep elf, this is no elven hero, he’s a dog.” And with that the large man walked carelessly back to his table and resumed his tankard.
Kardan Deerstalker rode atop his horse the next morning heading through the countryside. The air was calm and the sky, clear. His head throbbed slightly from his over-indulgence the night before. Maybe that's why it took him so long to notice the eery silence that had descended upon the road.
Up ahead, a glint caught his eye. Feigning a casualness he didn’t feel, Kardan continued up the road upon his mount, expecting an attack. Instead, he saw an elven shield, discarded by the road. As he dismounted to look at it, he heard the first unmistakable sounds of swords against swords coming from the forest, to his left. Intrigued by a potential opportunity for violence, Kardan decided to investigate.
He moved into the forest, releasing his bastard sword from its back-sheath. Creeping into the gloom, he moved toward the sounds of fighting. Ahead was a clearing, within it, the she-elf that he met in the inn. She was being assailed by three men, at once, while ten more stood back and watched. The men fought with poorly made swords and wore shabby layers of material as armour.
"Real warriors do not need armour," Kardan thought, "This should be interesting."
Kardan moved into the clearing to watch, not really caring about being noticed by either party.
“Very interesting,” he thought as he leaned forward onto the hilt of his lowered sword.
The elf, bedecked in shining plate mail, a pair of scimitars at the ready. The men launched forward, she deftly deflected their blades as she whirls hers around her. The confusion of the swordplay put them on the defensive. There was a brief hole in her defences that Kardan saw. One of the men saw it as well. He lunged forward at her. Her sword turns in her hand and as he moves forward, and he is impaled upon her scimitar. A feint, a good one, too. Kardan felt more impressed by this elf as time passed. The second and third men stood back and looked at each other. He could almost hear their thoughts:
“Move together quick and we can take her”
Their first mistake, and their last. One quickly received a slash across his abdomen, the other, a deep line across his neck. The men fell to the ground. The elf glanced over at Kardan.
“Do you plan on using that sword today, or are you more into watching?” she smiled, almost mockingly.
“I thought you’d never ask,” he replied. “I did not wish to be rude.”
The ten men standing around raised up their weapons and charged into battle. The elf and the barbarian contrasting styles worked seamlessly together. The elf’s disciplined strokes and precise strikes surgically removed her foes from the battle. The barbarian’s brutal and wild rage tore the enemy ranks apart. They stood alone in the clearing. A body on the floor groans, the barbarian crushed his skull with his boot.
The elf looked up, saw the barbarian covered in blood and said “Is any of that yours?”
“It matters not,” he replied.
She walked over and gently rested one hand on his shoulder. A flush of radiance flowed through him and he feelt invigorated.
“For your service,” she said to him. He inclined his head, in thanks, to her.
“Did you want any of this?” he motioned to the corpses on the floor. She looked at him, confused for a moment. He bent and began scrounging through the men’s belongings. She hesitated, unsure of how to answer.
“No.” she said, shaking her head.
“How about that elven shield by the road? That must be worth a pretty penny.” he replied.
“An elf shield by the road? Was there anyone there? Is there anyone there? Tell me now!” she exclaimed.
“Seems important to ya. No, there was no one there, just the shield.” he said. The next moment, she wiped her blades and put them away. Kardan pulled a bundle of coins from a corpse on the ground.
“How far to the next town?” she asked him.
“Thirty miles as the crow flies.” he replied.
“I have no gold to pay you for your services, barbarian. You have done a great deed today, and great deeds should be rewarded. You may have the shield. You have helped the light. That will not be forgotten.” She bowed her head in respect to the barbarian warrior whose name she did not know. With that she departed.
Kardan watched her leave, then continued to talk to the corpses on the ground, while going through their belongings, looting what he could.
“These elves, eh, dead man? They are a mystery, surrounded by an enigma, if you ask me. Is that a gold tooth you have there? I’ll take that”.