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~o0o~ Chapter ~o0o~
The trio had been walking most of the day. Quaraun, having walked more or less around the entire globe and back several times now, was used to endless walking, but he new companions, never having taken up life on the road before, were finding it difficult to keep up with the High Elf's steady pace. The first few weeks of travel, he had slowed down so they could keep up, but now he was lost in his head, thinking his usual dark and morbid thoughts of death, dying, and suicide and was no more paying attention to his companions, thus Quaraun once again had picked up his usually brisk pace and BeaLuna and Bullgaar found themselves falling behind.
"Quaraun!" BeaLuna called ot. "Wait up! Quaraun!"
"He's not listening," Bullgaar said.
"I can see that," the Gnome said. "QUARAUN!" She yelled even louder.
Quaraun stop walking, pricked up his foot long ears and listened to the air.
"Finally!" BeaLuna said as she ran to catch up with the Moon Elf. "I've been trying to get your attention for the last half hour. Do you have any idea..."
"Shut up," Quaraun snapped. "I'm trying to listen."
"Listen? To what? You certainly ain't been listening to me, that's for sure. I've never seen any one so damned self-absorbed..."
"I'm an Elf. I don't have time for your emotional pitter patter...."
"Emotional pitter patter? Quaraun, you are the most arrogant, self-righteous, unemotional..."
"I'm an Elf. Get used to it. Now shut up!"
"I most certainly will not shut up! Just because you're an Elf doesn't give you the right..."
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
BeaLuna immediately stopped talking. She and Quaraun had grown up together, but it had been many years since they had last seen each other. As a child, he had been a shy, quiet, timid little boy who never raised his voice to any one. Even as a young adult he had been that way. But that was 300 years ago. Quaraun was a much older, middle aged Elf now, no longer the little Elfling she had been used to. He'd never yelled at her before. She had never heard him yell at any one before. She had not imagined he even could yell. So she was quite taken by by it now that he had yelled at her.
"You've changed," she said quietly.
"The whole world has changed, BeaLuna, or haven't you noticed?"
"You've become bitter. Angry. You didn't used to be like this."
"I used to have a family."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"It's getting late. We need to find a place to set up camp."
Quaraun began walking again. BeaLuna and Bullgaar followed, but remained silent now.
"Quaraun?" BeaLuna asked timidly.
"Have you been alone this whole time?"
"But it's been 300 years."
"That's a long time to be alone."
"It's not like any one cared."
"I did. I still do. I would have gone with you. But I didn't know where you went. You just ran off after... after... your wife, and your children, and your father, and the king, and the whole village. Everyone was dead and you... you ran off into the woods and... I couldn't find you."
"Did you try to?"
"Yeah. I did."
"From what I saw last week, it looked like you never left the village. You were still there when I came back after all. And you're a Gnome. How did you stay alive for 300 years?"
"I don't know."
"You haven't aged a day since I last saw you. Can you explain that."
"BeaLuna, you were standing in the exact same place, you were standing, the day everyone died."
Quaraun stared down at the tiny Flower Gnome.
"So? I'm prone to hallucinations, and I haven't seen anything to indicate to me that you are anything other than a figment of my imagination."
"So people have called you insane so often now that you've started to believe it?"
"I'm an outcast Elf. Do you even know what that means?"
"You've been cut out the hive mind. You can't mentally communicate with other Elves any more."
"I'm alone inside my body, the same way a Human is now and I hate it. I've been cut out of Elf society and no one cares."
"You've yet to convince me you're real."
"And you've yet to convince me you're evil."
"I'm a Necromancer."
"Who's dressed like a pink prostitute."
"Will you stop complaining about my clothes."
"The only thing I've ever seen you resurrect are roses."
"I like roses."
"Yeah. You always did."
"Well you stop following me."
"I haven't seen you in 300 years. We used to be best friends. You used to tak to me."
"I'm talking to right now aren't I?"
"This is not the same, Quaraun, and you know it. You used to tell me everything."
"And you used to tell my father everything I said."
BeaLuna stepped back. Quaraun's anger was flaring, and grew worse at the mention of his father.
Quaraun stomped off angrily, but once again stopped abruptly, twitching his ears and listening.
"What do you keep hearing?"
"I don't know."
Quaraun looked back behind them, staring down the road. Then looked ahead of them.
"I feel like someone is following us."
BeaLuna also looked up and down the road, but the road of fairly straight and quite a long distance of absolutly no one on the road, could be seen in either direction.
"I don't see anyone."
"Niether do I. But I heard someone."
"Well, you got ears like a rabbit. You can hear stuff from a few miles away, can't you?"
"Yes. But I can also tell distance and... it was close. Very close."
Quaraun looked out into the forest. Blueberry fields, scattered with young pines and oaks, lay to the West. To the East was a cliff that tumbled down into a ravine, before ambling off into the ocean not far away.
"Could be a bear," BeaLuna said. "Right time of year for it. Bear like blueberries."
"Yes. Could be a bear," Quaraun agreed.
The Elf started walking again and his two companions followed him. Quaraun once again pulled his map out of his bag and began reading it while he walked.
"Does that thing really change to tell us where we are?" BeaLuna asked.
"It's supposed to, but it's not working right now."
"What's it doing?"
He stopped and showed it to her. The enchanted map was an ancient brown scrap of crumbling paper. The map itself was drawn out in what looked to be crayons, and was very childish, as though drawn by a toddler. A long road spanned ahead and behind, exactly as was the road on which they stood. Cerulean blue crayon waves scribbled their way back and forth across the East side of the map, water splashing up out of the paper, as each wave drew itself anew. To the West big cartoon blueberry stick men ran back and forth, while yelling: "Eat me!"
"Uhm... the blueberries are talking," BeaLuna said.
"Yes, whenever food shows up, it starts yelling 'Eat me!' to let us know we are near food. The Elf Eater liked food and he designed the map to show him whenever food was nearby. He almost starved to death one winter, as a child, and he became obsessed with food as a result. He's quite a good chef actually."
"You, sound like you know him."
"I did know him. I like him. Quite a lot actually. I rather wish he was here."
"Quaraun, don't go making wishes, again."
"Did I wish for something?"
"Yes you did."
"Oh dear. Why do I keep doing that."
"I don't know. Anybody else says 'I wish' and nothing happened. You say it and all hell breaks loose."
"I'm a DiJinn. It comes with the job. It's not just my wishes. It happens whenever I hear any one wish for something too."
"Can't you control it?"
"No. I don't even know how it is I do it. It just happens."
"It wouldn't be so bad if you got the wishes right for once."
"It's not like I try to make bad things happen. You don't know what it's like being a wish granting wizard and never knowing what's gonna happen when you grant someone's wish. Why do you think I avoid living around people. 'I wish' comes out of people's mouths all day long. Force of habit. And they never mean it."
"Well, why do you do it then."
"You keep saying 'I wish' at the beginning of all your sentences and YOU of all people should know better then to do it!"
"I don't know. What did I wish for this time?"
"You wished for The Elf Eater of pepper Valley to be here."
"Did I? Oh dear."
"I mean, what is wrong with you? Why the Elf Eater of Pepper Valley of all people? He's a mass murdering bastard! Serial killing war lord. Serial rapist pervert. He kills people for the fun of it."
"Well, I guess it's a good thing he's dead," Bullgaar said.
"Bullgaar," BeaLuna chidded. "You don't understand. He's a Necromancer. If he wishes for a dead person to be here, they're gonna rise up from the grave and be here."
"That true?" Bullgaar asked Quaraun.
Quaraun recalled that he had earlier wished the talk to BeaLuna, and she had suddenly showed up, exactly where it was he had last seen her, not looking a day older then the day... the day he had killed every one in his village. He tried to remember if she had been ome that day. She had lived next door. He couldn't remember. Hadn't BeaLuna died with everyone else?
And what about Bullgaar? Quaraun thought sure he had killed Bullgaar that night in the tavern, yet, here he was. Silent as a grave most of the time, but following Quaraun every where anyways.
Where they both dead? Had he somehow wished them back to life?
Quaraun didn't know what to think.
BeaLuna went back to examining the map while Quaraun ran these thoughts through his head.
"So," BeaLuna finally said. "What's wrong with it? I mean, it looks like it is showing us exactly where it is we are."
"Look closer," Quaraun said, pointing to the place on the road that marked their position on the map.
BeaLuna looked at the enchanted map for a moment, at first not seeing what Quaraun meant, but then she saw it...
She looked up the road ahead of them. Then looked back behind them. Then looked back down at the map again.
"It shows 4 people standing in the road."
"But there's only 3 of us."
"Bullgaar look at this."
BeaLuna handed the map to the half-Dwarf-half-Hill Giant.
After a bit of explaining, because because Bullgaar had not been listening, BeaLuna quickly got the Hill Giant Dwarf back up to speed.
"So, you're saying the map says someone is following us, but we can't see them?" Bullgaar asked.
"Yes," Quaraun answered. "That's exactly what the map is telling us."
"So, why can't we see them?"
BeaLuna didn't give Quaraun a chance to answer.
"Faeries," BeaLuna said, fear dripping from her voice. "Quaraun, are we in a Fae Forest?"
Quaraun looked around at the not very tall trees. "Though it doesn't look like it. Fae like big trees. Old growth pines. Hundreds of feet tall. There's nothing like that around here. Can't be a tree over 30 feet tall for as far as I can see."
As Quaraun said this, a giant pine tree drew itself onto the map, but as no one was looking at the map just then, no one noticed.
"There's one," Bullgaar said, pointing to the road ahead.
Quaraun turned and looked to see what Bullgaar was pointing to. There not 20 yards ahead of them, stood a massive ancient pine tree, well over a hundred feet tall.
"That wasn't there a minute ago," Quaraun said.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. I'm an Elf. I would have noticed a tree like that. How curious."
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