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The Tavern Girl (Chapter Preview)

The full moon rose high over the forests of Eastern Transylvania, clouds fogging over the frosted grass like a hazy mist. The old evergreen trees, laced with ice and snow from the past night’s storm, waved to the skies drunkenly with the strong wind that blew, causing snow to descend like loose blossoms in the spring. The creek was frozen, a crystallized delight shining like a sheet of diamond in the moon’s mesmerizing light. It was strange for the forest to be frozen like this, it being early March, but at the same time the scene was breathtakingly beautiful. The Sirens danced about, taking in the gay air of the lover’s season as the Wolf tribes howled to the sky. Their cries resounded throughout the land and even to the deepest depths of the forest, which housed a small village that offered refuge to those of mixed races. The men that lived there slept late and woke in the evenings, heading off to the small military camp in the northern part of the forest that was close to the little tavern that was owned by Kallisto Guifi and Ronaldo Figueiredo. They were lucky to have been allowed to live there. Long ago, a war had raged across the land, destroying the lives of all those inhuman. The small village was the only place that these creatures could escape to, no matter what their race. That war had ended, and peace was now reigning. With the war’s end had come prosperity, in both hunting and planting seasons, and many a family would now have meat and bread upon their tables, Kallisto and her daughter included.
They had been extremely poor in those times of war, since the tavern had hardly been busy. However, once she taught the young woman to how play violin, business began to boom. Plus, with the improved quality of the food served there, many would come regularly to eat. Even now the tavern was full, the sound of shrill, lively notes permeating the still air as the patrons clapped, keeping tempo. There she danced, the tavern girl. She wasn’t blood kin; they knew this because of their differing races. Kallisto was Pure-Race Tiger. The girl…well, no one was sure what she was. She appeared human, but was incredibly beautiful. She danced in front of the fireplace, arm wild with movement as she drew the bow back and forth across the strings, her long black hair swirling behind her as her silver eyes gleamed with excitement. She sang a ballad in Elvish, taught to her by a friend named Ranthel, an Elven Light Guardian and a regular in the tavern. The words resounded across the room, melodic and as bright as the violin.

“A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-díriel
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon.”*

“O Elbereth Starkindler,
white-glittering, sparkling like jewels,
the glory of the starry host slants down.
Having gazed far away
from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth,
to thee, Everwhite, I will sing,
on this side of the ocean, here on this side of the great ocean.”

It was the only song he taught her, well known by their kind, before he headed off to appear before the Elven Council of Guardians. She always sang it to various tunes that she played on her violin. She loved the way the words slipped off her tongue like a velvet caress. The language was her gift, and she cherished it. Many praised her for the ability to learn so quickly. The patrons, a few soldiers along with some of Kallisto’s regulars, including Syphon, Pai, Azul, and Skela, sat among the tables and chatted as Kallisto heated some broth on the stove, while Ronaldo was quite at work in his study, practicing Alchemy and potion making.
“She’s getting better every day now, eh?” Skela remarked with a wild grin. The others hailed and raised their cups, continuing their faithful clapping as Kallisto came out of the kitchen with a steaming bowl in each paw.
“Supper’s ready, dear!” She told the girl as she passed out the broth to the patrons. The woman nodded and set the violin aside, bowing briefly to the claps as she sat down. The soldiers, now having finished their ale, paid their dues and waved goodbye to the others as they shut the door behind them. Syphon stood and placed a blanket against the crack underneath it after they left with a shiver.
“It’s too damn cold outside… I wonder why the forest is practically frozen. Isn’t it springtime?” he mumbled as he ruffled the girl’s hair and sat down. When they’d all finished their meal, she took their bowls and headed back to the kitchen to wash them. The door swept open as she returned, and the visitor that stepped inside made the girl rush and embrace him tightly. Clad in Elven armor, it was a man. As he sat down, she took a place beside him.
“I’ve missed you, Ranthel!” she said just before she sat.
“Well I’ve missed you too, bein dúlin (beautiful maiden),” He replied softly as he took her hand, placing on it a gentle kiss. “Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo. (A star shines on the hour of our meeting.) So how have things been here? Is Ronaldo still performing Alchemy?”
She nodded, and her face lit up as she started to giggle. “Once, he came out of his study hairless!”
He raised an eyebrow and his lips curled into a humored smirk. “Hairless?”
She nodded again. “He said he was trying to create an explosive for the armies to use in battle. I guess it was a little too potent.”
They both laughed until tears filled their eyes. A moment later, she straightened up and asked what he was to eat. He ordered some ale and gave her two golden coins. She looked at them, then back at him with a curious smile. “You know we don’t take payment, Ranthel. You can keep it,” she laughed.
He shook his head. “Those are tips for my old friends. Give one to Kallisto and save them for a rainy day.”
She grinned and thanked him, pausing to embrace him again before running off to the kitchen. He got up and sat beside Syphon and the others, lowering his head. His tone turned from loving and gentle to serious, like that of a soldier.
“So…does she remember yet?” He asked them, leaning back in his chair. “Has she learned her name?”





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