Lial went through the potion shipment he’d just received, checking those that didn’t need to stay sealed. He missed having Thailyn make the potions. The dragon never messed one up. Lial had tried to get his own license years ago, but ran into trouble with the elves at the college and dropped out. Now, the head of the healing department was an elf. That would never work for him. Even if Caltan had been there for years and was the biggest round-ears in the four kingdoms, there would be problems.
Round-ears may follow outsider traditions, but they still held on to some elven ones. Lial didn’t know any elven traditions, nor did he care to, unless they were from his mother’s people. Unfortunately, she’d never taught him.
The bell above the door rang indicating someone was there. He went to see who it was and stopped short.
“Leave,” he insisted.
“Excuse me?” The elf woman frowned.
“I said leave. I don’t serve elves. You’re conscious and I don’t see any blood so it’s not an emergency. Go to one of the other healers.”
The woman seemed confused. He didn’t speak Erulian. He’d been ridiculed for trying to learn it. He grabbed the sign he’d had made. “Read the sign. No elves.”
“I can’t read that. I don’t understand. Why won’t you help elves? You’re part elf yourself. I only need some liquid shade.”
Lial frowned. All elves could read, unlike most humans. And why was she acting like it was perfectly normal to be a half-elf?
“I don’t generally sell liquid shade. It’s dangerous. What do you need it for?”
“This.” She pushed up her sleeve as far as she could. On her upper arm was a scar.
“An old burn scar? You need liquid shade for that?” Was she addicted to the stuff and trying to get high?
“Read it, you bark biter.” She thrust her hand at him.
“Bark biter?” Lial growled. The only person he’d ever heard use that expression was his mother. Her accent reminded him of his mother too. “Are you Norian?”
“My mother was from Noria. I’ve never met another Norian.” He reached for her outstretched hand.
“What is that?” It looked like an old burn scar, but the flesh was like that of a dead person. He doubted he could heal it. Maybe Shunati could. Thailyn would be strong enough, but he had a bad heart. It might kill him.
“Green root doesn’t help,” the woman said.
“Did I say that wrong?”
“It’s green bough root or just green bough. I can see why. What did that?” He brought out a bottle of Liquid shade.
The woman pulled out a jar of lotion and mixed in about a quarter of the potion. She rubbed some on her arm and sighed. “Thank you.”
“It doesn’t take all the pain away, but it’s bearable. I have no desire to spend the next several months stoned while this heals. As for what this is, the healers back home call it living death. The Tamerians use pain wands to do this.”
“From Tameria. We don’t know much about them. They look human and they don’t seem to have magic, not even potential. But the charms they have are like nothing anyone has seen, like the pain wands.
“This is the third time in the last century they’ve come to Noria. They take a handful of children each time. One child was found two years after the first attack. The poor thing had no mind left. I won’t tell you about his physical condition. I’ll just say that the sensitives among the healers couldn’t go within throwing distance of him. He didn’t last long. We had to burn his body. Even dead, the healers would read him.
“The second time they came, I was one of the children they took, along with a friend. They took us to carriages like I’ve never seen. It had no wheels but floated above the ground. They bound us but did nothing to block our magic. We were kids. We shouldn’t have been able to cast. But my friend’s magic started early. She cast a hole in the wall as the carriage started to move and shoved me out. She tried to follow but they grabbed her. Through the hole, I saw them beating her over and over with a wand. The carriage was too high for me to help her so I ran. I could hear her screaming halfway back to Noria. In my nightmares, I could hear it for months. There was no way I could have gotten back onto the carriage, but it doesn’t stop the guilt.
“When they came back this time, we were able to defend ourselves. They were only able to take two kids of all those they went after. But they couldn’t get away. We destroyed the carriages. They fought us and escaped. We don’t know where they went.”
“So you came here looking for them?” Lial guessed.
“No. I came to hide. One of them recognized me and I remember him too. He hadn’t aged in fifty years.”
“No. They had no magic. He tried to take me too but I fought back, despite this.” She gestured to her arm. “I escaped again and we decided I should come here to hide.”
“The hidden lands are protected from Tamerians.” The way she said it, she thought he should already know that.
“Who told you that?”
She shrugged. “It’s been known for a long time.”
“Not around here. I’ve never heard of the Tamerians.”
“It’s partly because the whole area is protected by a giant spell covering the mountains and everything between them.”
“How’s the arm?”
“I can’t fully heal it, but I should be able to help some.”
“You could try.”
Lial did what he could. It was a slight improvement, but he had another idea.
“How long are you staying?”
“Until my family sends for me. It may be a while. They want to hunt down the Tamerians first, or at least be sure they’re gone.”
“I’d like to try something if you’re willing. A partner I used to have and I were working on a potion that would imitate emergency healing. We tested it enough to know it was safe, but we never checked to see how effective it was on anything more than a minor cut. His mate was killed, and he needed a change of scenery. I don’t get many needs for emergency healing. This is a small, quiet, out-of-the-way city. If you’re willing, I can try it with you, but I’ll need you to stay here for observation. This isn’t exactly an approved potion.”
“I don’t even know you and you want to experiment on me?”
“I just want to help. If you don’t want it, I can write you a referral so you can go to the palace in Sen-gan. They have the best healers in the four kingdoms working there.”
“The palace? No, I can’t go there.”
“Sure you can. Any healer can write a referral.”
“I’m not even from here.”
“So? They won’t care. Tell them we’re shepol and they probably won’t even ask for the referral.”
“It’s Baj-tisk for family. There’s a bunch of dragons and dragon wannabes there. They’ll do anything for shepol.”
“But you aren’t family. We’ve never met.”
“I’ve never been to Noria. My mom came here over six hundred years ago. If we were related, it’s distant. But dragons don’t care how distant the relationship is. If it exists, we’re family.”
“I don’t think so. As for your experiment on me, let me think about it. I’ll be here a while.”
“It’s your choice. The inn near the north gate caters to elves.”
“Is it a decent place?”
Lial shrugged. “I avoid it. It caters to elves.”
“Do you have a problem with your own people?”
“They aren’t my people. They say I’m an abomination. They want me dead.”
“Because I’m the only half-elf. The last king didn’t want elven blood polluted by other races. He sent out assassins to kill all of us. I’m a quarter Ertonian, so they failed to kill me. I’m the only one to survive the culling unless some made it to Noria.”
The woman shook her head. “We haven’t seen outside elves since before the delegation came here. I’m assuming your mom was part of that.”
“Did he have your mother killed too?”
“No, she was already gone. Otherwise, I would’ve killed him instead of threatening to.”
“The only way I can get him to stop sending assassins was to threaten to kill him otherwise. I’m a strong enough mage that I could get past his protection. I sneaked into his room and threatened to kill him if another assassin came after me.
“It’s not something I’m proud of, but I couldn’t keep dodging assassins. One came after me while I was in surgery. Another posed as a patient.”
“Is that why you don’t treat elves?”
“No. They stop trying to kill me, but I don’t need their scorn. If it’s life or death, I’ll help until they’re stable, but then they go to someone else.”
“That seems a harsh reaction from the actions of one man.”
“It’s not just one man. Many elves agree with him. I’ve been shunned, picked on, threatened, and beaten. I leave them alone. I only ask the same.”
“Why do you stay?”
“Where else would I go? This is my home.”
“What about Noria?”
Lial shook his head. “I know nothing of the kingdom or its people. My mother left it behind and felt I should too. Would I even be welcome? I’m only half elf and a quarter Ertonian. I know nothing of your people’s way of life, not even the language.”
“What about Ertonia?”
“Mortals aren’t well-liked there. And I don’t know much about it either. My dad never talked about his past. I don’t even know where he was a citizen.”
“Is he gone too?”
“He’s not here. I don’t know if he’s alive or not. I haven’t seen him since I was in my thirties.”
“Your mom gave up her people to be with someone and he left her?”
“Now you know why I don’t try to find him.”
She nodded. “How much do I owe you?”
“Do you have Menthanlan coin?”
“I’m afraid not.” She showed him her money.
“Come, I’ll figure it out. I recommend going to a bank and having them convert it.”
“I will. If I hadn’t needed the liquid shade so bad, I would’ve gone there first. My name’s Seerta.”
She paused. “Lial? It looks like your mother didn’t completely give up on Noria.”
“What do you mean?”
“Lial’s a Norian name.”
“It is? I thought it was Ertonian.”
“Nope. I’ll be around for a while. And I’ll be back for more liquid shade. This will only last about a week. If you want, I can tell you a little about Noria, and then you can decide if we’re so bad.”
“I never said you were bad. I just don’t know anything.”
“Well, it’s time you learned. I’ll see you soon.” And with that, she left.
Lial shook his head at the encounter and went back to the potions. When she met the other elves in the inn, she wouldn’t be back.
MeInOhio 8:10AM | Sun, 08 January 2023
Nice scene! Nice light and shadows. Good story!