Chapter 1 - Battle Cries
Sitting alone and staring at
my dwindling fire I concentrated at the sound of the
crackling wood in the hope it could drown out the
noise of the battle taking place not more than a few
hundreds yards from my home. My small dilapidated
cottage was miles from the nearest village,
practically buried under the canopy of the forest,
but not far enough from the fighting unfortunately.
The war itself had been going
on for nigh on fifteen years between the evil power
hungry elves and humans who sought nothing more than
peace. Why they couldn't form some kind of compromise
was anyone's guess. We would have been happy to share
the land or even move on to pastures new if the elves
gave us free passage, but they weren't like us, they
didn't have the same faculties as a human being. They
had no demands, no terms for which humans can
surrender to, and were unwilling to negotiate. They
wanted us dead nothing less. They likely didn't even
think of their actions as war, for it was a way of
life for them, they knew no different. They took no
prisoners and fought to the death without mercy. They
were nothing less than savages.
I myself had grown poor in my
old age due to the elves stealing farmland from the
neighbouring village, taking away their livelihoods
and leaving them in a near starved state. I couldn't
even beg for food when others had none to share.
My own grown up children and
grandchildren had died during the constant skirmishes,
and I knew the war would never end until each and
every evil pointy-eared elf was decimated. However,
they bred like rabbits in a orgy of lust fed by evil,
giving them a constant supply of never ending troops.
I shuddered with cold and the
sense of foreboding as I continued to stare at the
dwindling flames in the fireplace of my cottage as
the sky outside gradually began to darken. I hugged
myself in my rocking chair hoping the screams and
cries of human soldiers would soon cease. It was a
sound I had grown accustomed to, not because I was
cold and callous, but due to an emotional veil that
formed over the many years of suffering. I knew full
well each scream meant a human being was in pain or
dying at that precise moment, but me worrying about
it wasn't going to change the situation. I could do
nothing to help after all.
The fierce battle taking
place outside would only tip the balance of power for
a few short weeks before the losing side would
restock their troops and continue raging war. I was
growing weary with old age, too old to care who wins,
knowing the war would unlikely end during my lifetime.
The sound of a distant
explosion startled me causing me to wobble within my
seat. With the fire dwindling anyway I decided to
heave myself up and slowly make my way upstairs to
bed. At least my bed was warm and offered come
comfort to my doleful soul.
Chapter 2 - Body Search
My humble little cottage was
pitch black as I awoke in the midst of the night. I
was pleased to be awake because the total silence
indicated that the battle had ended, and as I had
done a number of times in the past it was time for a
scavenger hunt. This time however my task was far
easier with the remnants of battle practically
outside my door. In fact my heart felt a little
lighter at the thought and I smiled to myself.
Carefully slipping myself out
of bed I slowly made my way across the bedroom
holding my hands out in front of me daring not to
fall within the darkness. There was also a biting
chill within the air that ate through my threadbare
clothing gnawing to the bone. While fighting my urge
to hug myself I continued to keep my arms
outstretched ahead of me, waving them within the
darkness, trying to make contact with the wall.
Eventually I found it then made my way out through
the bedroom chamber door and descended the rickety
stairs with extreme caution for there would be no one
to help if I fell and it would likely be the end of
The hard stone floor felt as
cold as ice as I descended the final step into the
sitting room causing my many corns to twinge. My worn
leather footwear had been resting in front of the
fire, I just needed to take care fetching them in the
darkness. Glancing my eyes toward the fireplace I
could see the fire was already dead. Not even glowing
embers remained to create some light for the cottage.
Just the slight glow from the night's sky was all
that was visible through the small window.
I made my way around the
rocking chair fetching my shoes which slipped on with
little effort due to being in such a worn loose state,
then headed closer to the window and the sideboard in
front of it, feeling for my small purse, before
picking it up and attaching it to my waistband.
As I heaved open the front
door an even sharper chill from the night's air went
straight up my shabby dress, but alas I had nothing
else to wear and had to ignore the cold. No matter
how often I felt the cold over the years, and how
thick skinned I became, I was never fully prepared
for its bite. It was just a case of accepting its
presence rather than fighting it with shivers, then
recover later within the warmth of bed.
Heading straight for the
battlefield, keeping my ears poised for survivors, I
crept slowly trying to make out anything within the
dim light. The bright moon was shaded by cloud and it
was only the glow above a distant hill that gave me
any sense of direction. I was slow on my feet, for
any faster would cause my hip to ache, but I had all
night so long as I didn't submit to the cold.
Technically speaking I was
committing a crime, stealing from the dead, and
anyone would likely be hanged for what I was doing,
but with me being so poor, old and feeble I would
likely be spared from such a fate. I just hoped I
didn't bump into any elves who would likely kill me
on the spot just for being human. They didn't make
any concessions for age.
There was a hump on the
ground so I made my way over to it and slowly knelt
down, letting out an exhausted breath, before
rummaging through his pockets. I did find a number of
small coins which I placed straight into the small
purse than hung around my waist.
Leaning against my own knee I
heaved myself back to my feet and continued to gaze
across the field. There was another body nearby so I
slowly made my way over to it and did the same as I
did previously only to find his pockets empty.
Letting out a frustrated sigh I heaved myself back to
my feet once more.
Chapter 3 - A Lost Child
I was growing increasingly
exhausted, due to bending down over and over again,
and the cold weather wasn't helping matters either.
My knees ached and creaked every time I crouched.
After searching just a few more bodies, gaining
nothing more than small change and a posy ring, I
decided to call it a night and return home.
Upon my return journey
however I noticed movement so instantly stopped in my
tracks. The silhouette within the dim light was of
someone fairly small in stature, similar to my height
in fact, with long hair, hobbling from side to side
on their wobbly legs as though injured. I decided to
wait for them to pass by before continuing my journey
home, yet within mere moments I was spotted. I cursed
myself for not ducking out of sight, simply laying
down would have been enough to camouflage myself
among the bodies strewn across the field. We stared
at one another each waiting for the other to speak
"Is someone there?!"
Called out a squeaky and very childish voice.
It sounded like a girl but I
wasn't fully certain. I wasn't sure whether to
respond or not but if it was a young child I couldn't
simply leave her in the middle of a freezing cold
night in the remains of a battlefield. I couldn't
help but wonder how she got there.
"Who are you?" I
Within an instant she raised
a sword up high silhouetting it against the night's
sky then very slowly approached on her wobbly legs
pointing it directly at me. I lurched back having no
way to defend myself.
"I am not your enemy!"
I called out as clearly and as loudly as I could,
"My name is Freya. I am not a soldier. I am not
part of this war. I'm just making my way home to my
cottage. I am..."
With that the girl threw down
her sword, causing it to impale into the earth, and
collapsed to her knees before bursting into tears. I
hesitated wondering what to do then very cautiously
"Now stop that grizzling,"
I told her, "There's no need for all that, you're
I winced as my joints
throbbed with pain while I slowly knelt down in front
of the girl hoping to stop her crying, but it had the
reverse effect when she lurched forward holding me
tightly and sobbing uncontrollably. Her grip around
my shoulders was strong and I was sure her
fingernails drew blood.
"Seriously stop that,"
I said firmly yet quietly, "You'll attract
attention and we don't want any of those evil buggers
discovering us. Stop your whimpering now."
The girl instantly stopped
crying and tried her best to hold it in only to let
out the occasional snort through her shiny wet nose
that was already strewn with snot. Her breathing was
erratic as she tried to speak.
"They killed my... mum
and... dad," she said in a broken voice, "They
even killed... my dog. They laughed when they did it...
I ran away... I have nowhere to go."
I squeezed her shoulders.
"They're evil incarnate!"
I yelled letting out my anger before forcing myself
to remain calm.
I tried to think what I could
do to help the child, something to reassure and
comfort her. I was far too old to look after someone
so young, besides the fact that I could barely
provide for myself. I was going to have to take her
in for the night and travel into town the following
morning, there were plenty of children in the
orphanage so she would make lots of friends.
"Let's get you into the
warm my dear," I said calmly as I heaved myself
up to my feet, "You can spend the night with me,
it's cold and dark but it's shelter at least."
The girl looked up at me from
her kneeling position. She wiped her nose on her
sleeve then sniffed while still repressing her tears.
My hatred for the savages that killed her family
still flamed the anger within my heart but I needed
to keep composure for her sake. I tried to smile but
it came out contorted.
Chapter 4 - Huddled For
Upon entering the cottage, as
quickly as I could muster on my aching legs I made my
way over the fireplace and prodded it with a poker in
the hope I could somehow spark it back into life. But
alas nothing happened. The child already sat herself
down crossed legged ready to receive the fire's
warmth only to realise it was fully out.
"Never mind," I
said softly while heaving myself down to a kneeling
position beside her, "Things will turn out for
the best, they always do."
I didn't believe my own words
but was trying my best to keep the girl calm. She had
already ceased crying but her cheeks and nose still
glistened with dried tears reflecting within the dim
light. I knew just saying one wrong word could cause
them to flow again. I let out a deep breath followed
by a comforting yet false smile which was difficult
to see within the dim light.
"So, what's your name?"
I asked her.
She hesitated before speaking.
"Um, it's Erlina,"
"Erlina?" I said
with surprise, "That certainly is an unusual
name, I've never heard that name before. I'm Freya by
The girl nodded as if
confirming that she already knew due to me having
told her earlier. We then remained silent for a while
staring into the fireplace that was filled with
nothing more than cold ashes. While I couldn't see
clearly I sensed her shivering in the darkness of the
cottage. Even the shabby mat we sat upon felt cold
and I was sure she was used to much more splendour. I
couldn't even offer her some food or a cup of water.
I was clearly not the most suitable person to be
Erlina started to sniff and I
knew it wouldn't be too long before she would start
grizzling again. Wiggling myself closer to her I gave
her a hug rubbing my arms up and down her back hoping
to transfer at least a little warmth. Her head rested
itself upon my shoulder while her arms wrapped
themselves around my back. She craved emotional as
well as physical warmth however and I wasn't sure I
could provide either. I was too old for that sort of
thing and emotionally drained from so many years of
"I know you've been
through something ghastly," I said softly while
still hugging her, "I understand all too well
how you feel for I also have had my family decimated
by this war, but we will get through this, I promise,
just as long as our kind stick together. There will
Her grip was tight around my
back not wanting to let go of me. It was then that I
noticed something odd about her odour. I had noticed
it earlier but within the confines of the cottage it
was all the more clear. I chose not to mention it for
it wasn't an appropriate thing to say under the
circumstances and besides I surely stank a whole lot
worse. We continued to hold each other in silence
exchanging warmth and an understanding that we had
experienced similar emotional turmoil. It was no more
than ten minutes or so before she fell fast asleep in
my arms totally exhausted, poor thing.
Chapter 5 - Time For Bed
Kneeling all night on the
floor was in no way suitable for someone in my feeble
condition to attempt. Erlina needed a warm bed so
very gently I broke our embrace and attempted to
stand up. Luckily she woke in the process, albeit
still very groggy, so I was able to stand her up with
little effort on my part.
"Let's get you upstairs,"
I said softly, "I've got a nice warm cosy bed,
you need a good night's sleep."
My bed with its threadbare
blankets was certainly not as warm as I claimed, but
it was still far warmer than sleeping on the floor in
front of the dead fire.
Partially leaning on one
another I helped Erlina up the narrow rickety wooden
staircase into the bedroom above where she collapsed
with exhaustion on top of the bed the moment we
entered the room. I had to pull out the blankets from
beneath her in order to cover her body. Within the
dim light I noticed her plain white robe was
encrusted with dirt causing me to wonder if she too
came from an impoverished family or whether the dirt
was more recent.
She twitched her arm then
rested her hand beside her face. For a moment I
thought she was about to suck her thumb and start
crying again but luckily she didn't. Her breathing
was gentle. For a fleeting moment she reminded me of
my granddaughter who had passed away a fair number of
years earlier. I shook the thought from my mind not
wishing to experience pleasant thoughts of nostalgia.
I was a realist and knew thinking about the past was
pointless and I had no desire to upset myself.
I turned and left the bedroom
making my way back down the rickety stairs then over
to the rocking chair. As I sat down I stared at the
small window of the cottage whilst deep in thought. I
hoped the orphanage in the village wasn't full as I
was sure the long running war must have caused a vast
increase in children who had lost parents. Erlina
required someone much younger and far more suited to
take care of her.
Chapter 6 - The Morning
As the sun rose I wiped the
condensation from the window and stared out at the
fields in the distance which were still strewn with
bodies. No doubt they were to be collected later that
day so I'd have no opportunity for another search. I
sighed. Part of me felt angry with myself for acting
so callous with respect for the dead. My thoughts
then focused upon my past and my own family. Erlina
reminded me of my own children and grandchildren who
were gradually fading into nothing more than distant
memory. I knew I wasn't long for this world and I
regretted the state it had become for the next
generation. I was going to have to accompany Erlina
to the village and leave her with the orphanage
whether they had room or not for I was in no way
suited to take care of her despite any temptation I
had to let her stay.
Footsteps could be heard as
Erlina had risen and started making her way down the
rickety wooden staircase. I wished I had more logs
for the fire because even during the day the cottage
was terribly cold.
"Did you have a nice
sleep?" I called out to her.
"I did, thank you,"
Erlina replied in a pleasing tone whilst still
descending the stairs.
I made my way over to greet
her. With the cottage now illuminated by the morning
sunshine I got a good look at her as she reached the
bottom step. There was a moment's hesitation as the
realisation of my ghastly mistake took time to sink
"Oh, my God!" I
Erlina stared back at me, her
face totally agasp, as shocked at my appearance as I
was with hers. She was an elf.
"What is this?!" I
moaned as I hobbled closer, "Is this some kind
of treachery? If your intent was murder I'm not long
for this world anyway!"
Erlina covered her mouth with
both hands biting down hard then let out a high
pitched sound before screaming out her tears.
"I knew you didn't smell
right!" I shouted whilst shaking my head.
Her fingers bled due to her
biting down so hard while she stared at me, shaking
her head from side to side, holding back her screams.
"I demand an explanation!"
I yelled with fury.
Erlina lowered her hands
revealing the tears that coated her face. Her puffy
eyes were already bloodshot, repeatedly blinking, and
looking as though they stung painfully.
"I thought... I thought
you were elven like me," she said trying to
catch her breath between sobs.
I made my way over to the
front door opening it wide intent on throwing her out
which I would have literally done if I had been a few
years younger. The crisp outside air poured into the
"You evil monster!"
I screeched, "This war was caused by your people
and it's because of you that I lost my own family. I
cannot believe I was tempted to let you stay. Get out
of here now. You vile beast!"
Upon saying that I remembered
what she had told me about her own parents. She
continued sobbing collapsing into a heap at the base
of the stairs. I closed my eyes and let out an
internal sigh before closing the front door.
Chapter 7 - Ten Years
Placing more fresh logs into
the fireplace I was looking forward to getting the
cottage nice and cosy for the evening. Winters were
long and harsh but luckily there was a constant
supply of firewood. As for food however that was
another thing, food prices were high and my purse
always empty, but I did have some help when it came
to foraging for morsels to eat.
called out as she entered the back door of the
She carried two small sacks
packed full of items she found within the forest.
responded as I approached, "I see you've been
Her smile was wide which soon
turned into a grin revealing her bright white teeth.
"We'll have a feast of a
meal tonight," she said.
She removed her bonnet
revealing her pointed ears then emptied the contents
of the two sacks onto the kitchen table. There were
plump apples, as well as turnips and truffles. Elves
were good at foraging and I doubted I would have
survived the winter without her.