Ashera: Chapter 15
A story by Writerial.
The group arrived at Cambridge in the late evening, after a long day of walking. They booked a room at the Eagle’s Nest Inn and settled in for the night.
“I forgot how much I missed sleeping on a real bed,” Ryan said, stretching out on the mattress. “I mean, camping is nice and all but…”
“I hear you,” Fox said, sitting in a comfy leather chair in the corner of the room. She sighed contently. “So, what’s our game plan for tomorrow?”
“Well, Cambridge has a huge library in the center of town,” Ryan said. “I think we could probably find out a few things there.”
“Will they even have any information on the Alpha?” Ashera asked.
“Definitely. You elves aren’t exposed to human culture enough. The Alpha is sort of like a fable for our kids,” Ryan said. “Like, ‘eat your vegetables or The Alpha will get you’ or ‘you better go to bed on time or else The Alpha and his wolves will come and eat you.’”
“Bear probably found out about The Alpha on his mission to Harle if that’s the case,” Fox said.
“Probably. I doubt you guys would have too much information on it,” Ryan said. “Why do you guys isolate yourselves so much, anyways? I mean, humans only see you guys every once in a while when you’re on a mission or something. Some of us don’t even know you exist.”
Ashera sighed. “Many, many years ago there was a huge war between the elves and the humans over the land here.”
“Right. The War of the Forest.”
“Yes, well, we call it the Human Invasion,” Ashera said. “You see, the Great Tree Tribe had set up camps long before the humans even knew this land existed, and they kept it quiet because they knew that the humans would try to take it from them. But there was an elf named Mouth Like River-you can see why. He had friends that were human and he believed that they weren’t all as bad as the elves made them out to be. So, he told them the key into getting to Golivun.
“They came through and took everything from us, leaving the Great Tree Tribe to exile themselves into one measly part of the forest while the humans set up colonies everywhere. Mouth Like River was shamed, and the elves were forced into hiding.”
“Wow,” Ryan said. “I had no idea you guys were taught all that. All we were taught was that we got this land…”
“It’s okay,” Fox said. “I can see now our Elders are foolish for keeping us in hiding for so long.”
“Yeah, not all humans are that bad.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of them are,” Ryan said. “Not all of them, of course, but humans seem to have something built into them where they’re more selfish and violent than other races. I wish that weren’t the case.”
“Well, the humans we have here are exceptions to that,” Fox said.
“You think so?”
“I know so,” Fox said, smiling at the two of them. “Now get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow.”
The group headed for the library early the next morning. Ashera stared around, wide-eyed as they walked down the cobblestone path. Harle and Willansoc were cool, sure, but they were nothing like this.
Stone and wooden buildings towered over them as they walked. The street was freshly cleaned and-despite the fact that the sun had hardly risen-was alive. People crossed along, chatting or carrying boxes or leading children down the street. Smells of freshly baked bread and flowers wafted Ashera’s way. Smoke billowed out from chimneys-easily visible in the dim morning light.
“It’s so cool here!” Ashera told Ryan.
“You think so?” he asked. She nodded enthusiastically and he laughed. “This is what most human cities look like. Harle is kind of dumpy and Willansoc is riddled with crime, so they look different.”
“What’s that?” Ashera asked, jumping out of the way as a lean, four-legged animal sprinted across the street.
“That??” Ryan asked.
“That thing. The small one.”
Ryan chuckled, “That’s a cat. They’re sometimes kept as pets. They like big cities like this because there’s plenty of mice for them to eat.”
“Oh,” Ashera said. “Is it dangerous?”
“Not at all,” Ryan said. Something lit up his eyes and he turned away from Ashera, looking around. “Ah, there we go,” he said, striding over to a booth where a man was selling fish. He bought one with some of the little money he carried in a pouch at his side and carried it back over to Ashera. “Here,” he said, handing it to her.
“What’s that for?”
“Give it to the cat.”
Confused, Ashera turned and slowly approached the small animal. Now that she was closer, she could get a proper look at it. It was light brown with much darker brown stripes running down its sides. It looked kind of like a panther, but much less stocky. It turned its big yellow eyes on her, staring at her curiously.
“Here you go,” Ashera said, tossing it a large chunk of the fish. It walked over to it, sniffed, and took a bite. Ashera turned back to Ryan. “It ate it!” she exclaimed.
“Yeah it did,” he said, smiling softly. “Now look.”
The cat had turned and walked to Ashera. It mewed and rubbed its head against her leg, begging for more fish. Ashera tore off a piece and handed it to the cat, who took it and started eating. Ashera scratched its chin and watched it eat until she was out of fish.
“Can we keep it?” she asked Ryan as she walked back to him.
He laughed. “We’d better not. Those Calidi would eat him up like he was a rabbit.”
“Have I ever told you how cute you are?”
“Once or twice,” Ashera said, reaching up to kiss him sweetly.
“C’mon, we’d better get going. Fox will be wondering where we are.”
“Okay,” Ashera said, grabbing Ryan’s hand. “To the library we go.”
“There you are!” Fox exclaimed when the couple arrived. “Where did you guys go?”
“Ashera saw a cat.”
“A cat. It’s one of those pets with the-nevermind. Have you found anything useful so far?”
“Yeah, look here,” Fox said, pointing to a book.
“‘Once you have sworn an oath to the pack, there is no way to be removed from your position as Alpha unless you are killed or you have used an item such as the Orb of Reality to wish it away,’” Ashera read outloud. “What the heck is the Orb of Reality?”
“I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Fox said.
“It looks like the same author wrote a book on that too,” Ryan said, walking over with a large book. “See? The Orb of Reality.”
“What does it say?”
Ryan read, “‘The Orb of Reality is a magical artifact created by the Sorcerer Cashic. It is widely regarded as one of the most powerful magical items in all of existence. As he was dying, Cashic put all of his power into an orb. When someone holds this orb, they can use all of the power in it to change an event that happened at any point in time. It can do things that no other artifact can-such as remove a spell from someone or bring a dead person back to life. However, the Orb was last left in the possession of Cashic’s son, Ludic. After that, the Orb has not been seen. However, it has stayed in the possession of Cashic’s family, so now it would belong to Malic-his only living relative.’”
“Woah,” Ashera said. “That’s one powerful orb.”
“He was this super dark sorcerer that killed a bunch of people trying to find the orb. He got caught and driven to insanity a few years ago,” Ryan said. “I think he’s at a jail here in Cambridge.”
“We have to go talk to him,” Ashera said.
“This orb may be the only way to help Bear. We need to find out everything we can about it, and this Malic guy seems like the right place to go to.”
“Did you not hear the insane part?!” Fox asked. “He’s crazy! Deranged! He probably couldn’t tell us anything even if we wanted him to.”
“We have to take a shot, Fox.”
“Do you know how dangerous this’ll be? Trying to get information out of an insane murderer is not how I’d like to spend my afternoon!”
“I’m with Ashera on this one Fox,” Ryan said.
“Fox, look at me,” Ashera said, grabbing her shoulders. “Yes, this’ll be dangerous, but not more dangerous than anything else we’ve done. This could be our one chance to save Bear. Please, if you can’t do this for me than at least do it for him.”
“I-I-” Fox said helplessly, looking back and forth at Ashera and Ryan. After a moment of this, she sighed in defeat. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll go. For Bear. Now, let’s go find this Malic guy.”
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