Had some fun with this image. Lots of characters. Hope you enjoy.
“We’re not sure what’s going on, they just keep disappearing.”
Rory frowned. Living with the elves in the town Fairhaven for the last year had been a welcome respite. It was good to be out in the sun again vs living underground. The elves were…different but not so different. A warrior band that loved music and supported art of all kinds. It was a cross of human stereotypes that was occasionally surprising. Like if the Hell Angels were patrons if the symphony and the Guggenheim. Colin, being Colin, loved it. He was a bit of an odd duck in the human world because of his varied interests but he fit right in here. Rory had to admit that it had it’s advantages. They had their own house and she had plenty of time to study the use of life energy, advancing in her own abilities to channel it. From her perspective, the only drawback were the ‘required’ orgies.
Well, required was a bit of a strong term. The elves were dedicated communalists. Everything was shared by the band. You had your own house, sure, and you had your things but you also knew that if someone was in need, you would help them, they would get what they required. The orgies were a symbol of this sharing. For that matter, Rory didn’t really DISLIKE them, it was sex. She had always liked sex and since coming to Otherwhere had gotten over the idea that monogamy was the way things were supposed to be. Possibly it was because as the leader of the human population (she more-or-less quickly assumed that mantle, basically through acclamation) she had to start things off with Lugh each time and there were so many symbolic things she had to keep in mind when doing it, it made the sex, well not unenjoyable, let’s say ‘less’ enjoyable. She couldn’t be seen as subordinate to Lugh, and, frankly, she LIKED being subordinate during sex. She liked being taken. She was certainly not subordinate anywhere outside of sex, but in bed, she liked her partner to take charge.
“Face it girl,” Rory said to herself with a sign. “You fucking love it here you slut. You just hate HAVING to do something.” She repressed a giggle.
“Something wrong?” Astra asked.
“No, sorry, mind wandering,” Rory said, shaking it off and focusing. “Please go on.”
Astra had become Rory’s strong right hand. If Rory was the ‘mayor’ of the human population, Astra was her chief of staff. In addition to ensuring people actually did what they were supposed to be doing, Astra had started her own studies into the use of life-energy and was rapidly progressing to the point of earning her own staff. She already used a bracelet to channel and cast energy.
“We haven’t had any visitors from Reach in well over a month and a human trader who set out with a bundle a week and a half ago has gone missing. He should have returned days ago.”
“What does Lugh say?”
“He’s looking into things on the elven side, and will get back to us,” Astra said.
The changes wrought by the last year had affected Astra in more way than just positive. She was still very close with Dee, but Dee had become very much involved with Lugh and Lir, becoming the equivalent of ‘junior wife’ in their household. There was no human equivalent to the relationship. Dee had embraced the elven lifestyle, it calling to some deep part of her. She learned woodcraft and perfected her archery under Lir's tutelage and embraced the warrior-poet ethos the elves espoused. She was still close to Astra, but both young women were growing into themselves and only time would show if they were growing apart or just growing. It left Astra unsettled.
She had gotten close to Forrest through their shared interest in achieving a greater understanding the world around them but after spending the better part of a year living among the humans and the elves, Forrest and Rock were recalled to their nest. Rory, of course, had Colin. She knew it was silly, but it felt as if everyone had ‘someone’ but her.
“Let’s give him another day or two, I’d hate for us to go looking for him only to find he just decided to enjoy himself at Reach for a few days. If I forget, can you remind me?” Rory said.
“Of course,” Astra said, making a note in her planner. “That’s it for issues today. No, wait, sorry, The Davis family are missing some sheep. Out of their north pasture. They blame the elves, but elves don’t eat mutton or lamb so there’s no reason for it to be them.”
“Odd. Well, I’ll talk to Lugh and see if they’ve heard of anything. Stupid prejudice like this can get out of hand, fast.”
“Sheep? What the fuk would we want with those smelly things,” Lugh said, dismissively, when Rory brought it up with him later.
“You wear wool, where do you think it comes from?” Rory countered, smiling in spite of herself.
“Stores. No, none of my people would steal sheep. BUT, funny you mention that. One of The Band’s lost some herd beasts while they were grazing north of the village.”
Rory scrunched her face up. “Astra told me about a trader who was overdue from a trip to Reach. That’s north of here…I was going to wait a few more days before suggesting we do anything but…”
“But indeed,” Lugh nodded. “Shit. Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, three times is enemy action.
In a startling display of synchronicity usually only seen in fiction, there was a commotion outside. A draco, Forrest, landed with Leela riding him. Surprisingly, he didn’t stay long, dropping her off, saying an all too brief hello to Astra and the others and then leaving again, leaving Leela behind. She met with Lugh, Rory and Astra along with another elven woman named Era who served much the same function for Lugh that Astra did for Rory.
“We’ve a problem,” Leela began. “Something is happening. Distorting the flows of life energy across, well, everyplace we’ve checked. The draco are concerned. It’s nothing they can sense., which is concerning of itself as they’re innately tied to the flows of life energy. They’re… cut off.”
“Cut off? In what way?” Rory asked. “Are they unable to access life energy? It’s what they live on! Are they dying?”
“No,” Leela said, “Nothing so serious. Yet. But they can’t sense the world through it and while they’re not ‘starving’, they’re not as, well, strong as they were. They’re keeping close to the nest where they can get the maximum benefit from it and one another.”
“I don’t know if this has anything to do with what you’re talking about, but we’ve had some mysterious disappearances to the north of here,” Rory said. “Livestock and possibly a person.”
“We sen’ out a team looking for th’ trader,” Era said. “The’s no sign of him. We din’ go all the way to Reach but th’ rangers said it was strangely quiet in that direction.”
“I think we need to look into this,” Lugh said. “There are too many inconsistencies.”
They put together a small group, enough to protect themselves but not so many as to leave the town defenseless and set off to Reach. Reach was a stone castle to the north at the base of some craggy hills. As they got closer, they saw what Era had been speaking of, the road was strangely deserted. Eventually they reached the castle. The walls were empty, the flocks were missing. Completely gone. They held a quick council outside the walls of the keep. There seemed to be no other choice but to go in.