The Book of Fawla
They left at first light. Kate wasn’t sure how fast Trippy could actually go, but if Kreelan’s figures for the distance were correct, it would take the better part of a day. And if they had to camp overnight, she wasn’t sure she could convince Kreelan not to turn them back around. Despite stopping for lunch, they still pulled into Wanco as the sky was getting dim.
They were spotted long before they reached the town and it seemed like the entire town was there to greet their strange carriage. Children ran up to them but backed away when Trippy turned his head towards them. The adults admonished them but made no attempt to stop them. Kreelan halted the wagon near the stream that ran past the town and approached an officious looking elf with a pot belly and graying hair. Kate pulled the harness off of her cat and let him drink in the stream. She gave him a pat and headed towards Kreelan.
“You’re just going to let that animal wander free?” The fat elf crossed his arms and glared at her.
“I trust him more than I trust you.” She mirrored his pose.
“Kate, this is Wirte, the mayor of Wanco.” He rolled his eyes. “Wirte, this is Princess Kate of Fawla.”
“Princess? That’s preposterous. Fawla hasn’t had a princess in an age.”
“Eight thousand sixty-three years, to be precise.” Regkor came up to him with his arms filled with satchels of the scrolls he felt he might need on the trip. “Since Fawla was annexed by Darneta.”
“So this woman can’t possibly the princess.”
“I didn’t believe it either. But I watch this.” Kate pointed to the grass on the riverbank and grew it waist-high. She made it wave in the still air for good measure.”
The chatter of the townspeople – towns-elves? – died down. A couple bowed. She smiled and waved at them. Best not to take being royalty out of a forgotten legend too seriously.
Wirte stood open-mouthed. Kate imagined a fly entering and becoming his next meal. She giggled. Kreelan shot her a look and she closed her mouth, looking down slightly.
“We heard you have a warrior who fought in the Darnetan army. We want him to train Kate so she is more effective against the goblins,” Kreelan said.
Wirte closed his mouth and frowned. “Well, you’ve wasted your time. Romion doesn’t see anybody.”
“We have to try.”
“Suit yourself.” He crossed his arms again. Kate figured his stomach made a nice ledge for them to rest on. “My daughter, Gwelweil, will guide you to his home.”
A blonde haired girl about Kate’s age stepped forward from the crowd. She took Kreelan’s hand. Kate frowned when he didn’t object. “Come, let me show you to the traveler’s house. I can try to talk Romion into seeing you in the morning.”
She chatted as she led them to an unoccupied hut on the opposite side of town. Apparently, most visitors came from the other direction. “Don’t worry about my father. He’s cautious about new people. Good thing he didn’t notice your ears. You would have never let you in town then.”
Kate scowled and pulled her hair over her ears. “I’ve never been self-conscious about my ears before I came here.”
Gwelweil laughed. “Covering them with that hair doesn’t draw less attention to you. How did you ever get it that color? It looks real.”
“Magic,” Kate said. “That’s all you need to know.”
“Okay.” Gwelweil frowned. Then she turned to Kreelan and perked up again. “What is Zanor like?” Gwelweil asked. “I’ve never been outside of Wanco.”
“Smaller,” Kreelan said, smiling. “Quieter. We didn’t get much action until I discovered Kate and helped her to become the hero she is now. I suggested that we come here.”
Kate pushed passed him. She couldn’t believe he was flirting with Gwelweil. Didn’t their hug yesterday mean anything? Wait, did their hug yesterday mean anything? Was she reading too much into it? Kate could see how maybe he would want to be with somebody of his own species.
The others followed her into hut. She looked around. “Looks like there’s only one bedroom. I guess you boys get to sleep on the floor out here. She gripped the shoulder strap of her bag tighter and took the three steps needed to cross the room. She crossed the threshold and slammed the rickety door behind her.
She set her bag down and sighed. Another straw mat for a bed. She guessed that a real bed just wasn’t going to be in her future until she had defeated the goblins and could go home.
There was a knock on the door. “Go away, Kreelan,” she shouted.
“It’s me,” Regkor responded in a quiet voice. He pushed the door open an inch. “Can I come in?”
She sighed. “Okay.”
He entered and closed the door behind him. “I don’t know what got into him. He’s not usually like that.”
She sat on the bed and crossed her arms. “It’s obvious. She’s very pretty.” A scowl crossed her face.
She sat down next to her. “There are plenty of pretty girls. Kreelan has never been interested in them. To be honest, some of thought he might be…” Regkor paused. “Well, you know.” He looked down at the space between him. “But that changed when you arrived. You are all he’s talked about for weeks now.”
Her face brightened. “Really?”
“I shouldn’t be telling you this. Elf before not elf, and all, right?”
Kate laughed. “Not elf? That’s the best you’ve got?” He laughed along with her. “Thanks, Regkor. I need that. Now, it’s late and we should be getting some rest. You aren’t going to tell Kreelan about this conversation, will you?”
He stood up and headed towards the door. “Don’t worry. Telling him about this ranks up there with facing another goblin on the list of things I never want to do.” He smiled. “Goodnight, Kate.”