The Book of Fawla
Nobody was around when Kate finally emerged from the bath. She dressed and hurried back to Romion’s home before she could chicken out.
She knocked on the door but there was no response. Gwelweil had said that he never left, so she banged again and shouted, “Romion, it’s me, Kate.”
“Go away, girl. I won’t be so gentle next time,” came the response through the door.
“I know.” Kate looked down at her feet. “I came to apologize. I was out of line before,” she mumbled.
“What was that? Speak up. There’s a door blocking your voice.” Kate stifled a laugh. The voice came from right behind the door. He heard her. He just wanted the entire town to hear her.
She felt self-conscious enough talking through the barrier as it was. Kate looked around and saw the path deserted. “I’m sorry,” she shouted. “I was out of line. I should have never said that you couldn’t defeat me.”
The door opened a crack. Two milky eyes stared into her soul “Apology accepted.”
“Does that mean you will train me?” She straightened her back.
“No.” Romion started to close the door but Kate stuck her foot out and blocked it.
“What do you mean, no?” She sucked in her breath. “I apologized.”
Romion yanked at the door, eliciting a yelp from her but not moving her foot. “Yes, you did. But you smell like a human. They are barely better than the humans in my opinion.”
Kate saw a potted fern on a windowsill some feet behind him. The pot shattered. Romion turned his head at the sound as the fronds grabbed him and lifted him off the floor. Kate pulled the door open and stepped inside.
Darkness pervaded the room, with only light from the door behind her and filtered sunlight through a dirty window for illumination. Kate said nothing as her eyes adjusted to the dim light.
“What are you?” He struggled against the plant’s bonds. “Humans don’t have elven magic.”
“Welcome to the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Kreelan and Regkor say I’m some reincarnation of an ancient princess.” She released him. His legs gave out and she used the fern to support him until he could make the transition back to standing on his own.
“Oh, yes. The children’s stories. I know them but never believed. I never trust anything I didn’t see with my own two eyes.”
“You don’t trust much, then. Do you.” Kate bit her lip. She’d just blown her chances for sure. She waited for his outburst.
Instead, he laughed. “No, I don’t trust much these days at all.”
Kate allowed herself to smile and then chuckled. “So, will you help me, since I’m not just a human but also an undead elf?”
Romion’s smiled faded. “I don’t know what you think I can do. Learning the art of fighting, sword or otherwise, takes years. I couldn’t teach you anything useful in a few weeks.”
“Please? I can use my magic for offense. I’m still learning how to use that stuff as well. But in the last battle, the only thing that saved me was this armor that the goblins couldn’t penetrate. I need to learn how to defend myself.”
Instead of answering, he placed his hand on the wall and guided himself to the kitchen. “Would you like tea?”
Kate thought of several answers to that, none of which would help her cause. “Sure. So can you help me?”
He busied himself with the tea and ignored her question. He came back into the room with a tray. Kate watched as he placed it in the center of the table without any help. “Trying to learn defense without offense is like trying to drink tea without water. One is meaningless without the other.” He poured a cup to the brim and handed it to her.
“How did you do that?”
“Vision and sight are two different things, Kate. I may have lost one, but I still possess the other. I am aware of my surroundings better than most who can see. It is a skill I learned from a hundred years of practicing with the sword. If you wanted to devote a lifetime to the art, you could do it. But you want a quick solution. There is good and there is fast, but there is no good and fast.”
“Look, I understand.” Kate clapped her hands on her knees. “I really do. But I need to start somewhere. You started somewhere.”
Romion slipped his hand into his tunic pocket and pulled out a small knife. A flick of the wrist sent it flying in her direction. Kate didn’t flinch. The fern stopped the blade’s momentum and dropped it in her hands.
“You have a rare talent, Kate. I guess I should do what I can to help you keep it. Come back tomorrow at sun up. And bring a real sword this time.” He stood and left the room. This time, he passed the kitchen and to the small door at the back. He opened it revealing an even darker room. He shut the door behind him, leaving her alone in the small living room.
She looked waited but he made no noise or sign of coming back. She sighed and left. “Kate, where have you been?” She jumped as she closed the door. She turned to see Kreelan with Gwelweil still holding his hand. Kate barely remembered what his hand looked like without the other elf’s finders covering it.
“I got him to change his mind. I start tomorrow.” She smiled.
Gwelweil smiled as well, which caused Kate’s face to darken. “Oh good, you won’t be leaving for a while.”
“No, but we can still be called back to Zanor at any time if the goblins get too close.” Kate shook her head. “So, where’s Regkor?”
Kreelan looked around as if noticing for the first time that their other companion was no longer with them. “I thought he was with you.”