By the gods’ grace Rosalia had managed to escape her captors through a reckless gambit. In the flight from her pursuers she luckily chances upon a girl slightly younger than her in age. Her language and mannerisms were far too refined for her to be a daughter of some boorish yokel. Dresses she wore were of exotic make foreign to the region and far too exquisite for the average merchant to splurge on. The design emphasized a restrained elegance that drew attention not to itself but to its bearer. Different from other typical noblewomen’s wear that shone and stung at one’s eyes begging for attention with over designed frippery, as the bearer sure as the devil couldn’t, not through their own merits if they chose it consciously. Ah, how she longed to try it on for a single night. Repressing her covetous desires, she could only gaze filled with yearning. As surely they wouldn’t part with it easily.
In consideration of her prestigious name holding both ancestral heredity and claim to a region. The only possibility meant she was a daughter of an obscure line of aristocracy. Obscure or not the girl who introduced herself as Goldia had saved her. She even had a large, well trained mountain ram as a pet that she introduced as Ramiel. Impressive as the creature was not bound by a collar of subjugation. She seemed very close to it, as despite its massive size she wasn’t intimidated by at all, even speaking to it on occasions. At first she thought the ram was responding and even acknowledging her - rather elaborate for the ram to understand - words. Almost as if they were having a conversation that she just couldn’t hear… It must have been the starvation in confinement playing tricks on her mind… If anything she enjoyed the comfortable ride the ram gave to her.
She was somewhat worried about where she was being led to. Her heart jumped when two elves came out of nowhere and started to soar when she noticed the weapons on their back. But seeing how Goldia wasn't alarmed at the slightest she could maintain some of her composure. One of them with long, straight pale violet hair spoke first:
- “Young mistress, the captain informed us about your arrival.”
‘I knew it… she wasn’t just some parvenu…’
The other one with wavy green hair continued.
- “Naturally. We’ve been instructed to escort you back to the village.”
Their gaze shifted towards her.
- “We’ve also arranged a place to stay for our dear guest.”
- “You have my gratitude…”
- “Let us head out then.”
From the short exchange she figured the two were bodyguards or sentries of sorts.
‘Free elven guards… well disciplined and trained… that’s going to cost a pretty penny whoever you are… I’m in the company of an affluent personage it seems… Hm… Those ears are familiar somehow… Where have I seen it before…?’
She was mistaken, sorely mistaken… she just assumed the village they spoke of was a human one. An elven village was something she didn't even know existed in the current age, until now. A network of suspended rope ladders bridged the gaps between elevated structures built high above the ground and into the trees. Rife with activity, she could see the elves constantly using them to cross over to and from the structures, carrying mostly food from what little she could glean from her angle. Even the ground level wasn't free from traffic. And there the thing she saw made her eyes go wide, almost exclaiming out loud with surprise. Thankfully she didn’t lose face in public with such inappropriateness as the results of her harsh etiquette training. Unfortunately she couldn’t do much about her lack of decent clothing, thankfully the crowds didn’t seem to pay attention to her at all.
What she saw that evinced such an intense response was a male Elf. She didn’t know much about elven history as many of the documentation about them have been either lost or destroyed. What little she did know were from the surviving excerpts and her knowledge of the contemporary circumstances. Elves, at least the ones within human domains, were a virtually female only race that developed to co-exist inside their society. Although the records showed some mention of there being males, in the current period a male elf was as rare as a unicorn. Her best guess for reason was the elven males being phased out was the xeno-compatibility of females.
Elven males had extremely low virility, sometimes being confused as to being sterile. Conversely the females evolutionarily compensated for the issue by being highly fertile. That fertility alone wasn't enough of an explanation for the scholars who debated against it, and in some hundreds of years ago someone put forth an idea that races’ innate magical ability could allow the intermixing of closely related species which came to be widely accepted but highly contentious. Her idea was more or less correct, but it was only half the issue. The other reason which she didn’t know was method of slavery widely employed.
In the early days after the fall of the elven kingdom regardless of race, species or gender all able bodied slaves, mostly males were often put into mining pits and trenches with squalid conditions and makeshift tools - if any at all. Due to the primitive understanding of mining and technology at the time, safety precautions were nonexistent. Being trapped, buried alive and crushed by cave-ins were a common occurrence. With brutal lashes of whip from vicious taskmasters and thin gruel, any slave being sent to the mines had a life expectancy of at most a few years. The mines were such an effective method of dealing with the unwanted, it was the most popular option for the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie to deal with their political enemies, as it technically was not an execution in the public’s eyes.
With a rigid caste system in place, many were borne into the life of slavery. As the survival rate of males plummeted to the ground and with the low natural population growth dragging down the numbers even further, evolution had to intervene and fast to preserve the continued existence of the species. And so it did by heavily biasing the gender ratio towards females who had a living chance. Even as the situation improved throughout generations to a point where it was not strange to see a few smattering of free elves among the common folk, evolution being a blind beast, had no reason to go back. As such, although they share many physical and genetic features, it is difficult to say the Elves out in the world are the same as the Elves in Velauhart. Rosalia at this point had no idea what to make of the situation she found herself in but she simply decided to go along with the flow.
Marvelling at the fantastical sights of a race and culture wholly different than her own and possibly the only one surviving of its kind, Rosalia almost forgot about her reason being here. Before she realized she was brought in front of a residence fairly larger than the rest. Judging by the looks of the building, it seemed to be the dwelling of the village chief, elder or something along those lines. It appeared that they had arrived at their destination as the Ram stopped. After she stepped down from the top of the ram it immediately started trotting somewhere else. She reckoned it was heading to it’s stable or a pen.
Goldia went in headfirst, seemingly familiar with the premises followed by the Elven escorts that had brought them here. One of the escorts beckoned her to follow in.
- “We have prepared a wash basin and a spare set of clothes for you to change into in the room we’ve prepared. Colonel Weard return soon, please make yourself comfortable until then.”
- “I’m grateful for your consideration…”
She truly was appreciative of the offer. Ever since her capture she hasn’t had the opportunity to bathe herself once. And anything else was better than the rags on her body.
‘Colonel Weard… Hum… Goldia… seems like a human so is he her father? She only spoke about Alicia every now and then who sounded like she was Goldia's nursemaid or her ward… And referred someone called Alice as her mother…’
As she followed the elven guard inside she was led into one of the side rooms. The interior of the house had nothing remarkable about it aside from its lower ceiling and thin layer of dust coating every furniture. The room she was led into had a single bed for one placed next to one of the walls, with a chest at the foot of it, a single window the sole light source other than a candle. A table and a stool was placed against the wall underneath the glass pane, half-burnt candle, with its wax oozed down the side was atop it. It was bare and cramped compared to her sizable bedchambers she had at her family residence.
However it was a luxury stay compared to where she had just escaped from. Just as they said, there was a basin filled with water on an end table at the side of the bed along with a bar of scentless soap. Water was warm to the touch, it wasn’t enough to bathe herself nor were there any servants to wash her… As she looked around there was no sight of the clothing they mentioned.
‘Did they forget…? That doesn’t seem right… unless…’
Her attention was brought to the chest at the foot of the bed, opening it she nearly cried out in surprise. Within it lied numerous dresses and what she could presume to be undergarments. She wasn’t quite sure as these clothes were of foreign craft however the thrill of excitement soon filled her body. These clothes shared much of the same handicraft that was present with Goldia’s attire.
Dabbing herself with the rags that used to be her sole raiment soaked in water and soap she cleaned herself and finally changed into one of the dresses she fancied. Scrubbing herself clean of filth and grime on her own for the first time in her life was tiring, especially with her lack of nourishment. Resting on the bed tired but satisfied with her hygiene, she was happy with her new dress as she laid on the bed. She almost fell asleep until gentle knocks roused the sleep creeping on her. From the other side of the door.
- “Rosa-auw, Ash has arrived and he invites you to dinner1Technically it is lunch as we know it but in the medieval times the word ‘Lunch’ did not exist, at all. Instead ‘Lunches’ were called ‘Dinner’ and dinners as we know it were called ‘Supper’. There are differences and reasons behind this weirdness. You can read more about it on your own, Google® is your friend and ‘Medieval Cuisine’ are your keywords..”
‘Ash…? Is that the name of Colonel Weard?’
- “Please inform the sir that I will be joining soon and it’s Rosalia!”
After tidying herself she exited the room and closed the door behind her. Not having an attendant to do these sort of menial chores for her made her realize how much of a comfortable life she had. Falling from the top of the social ladder and hitting the lowest rung made her see the world from a new perspective.
Returning to the main room her nose easily picked up on the enticing fragrance of a meal. She was ravenous, especially since she had starved herself previously to have her hands slip through the cuffs to escape. On a table a feast was prepared and at its end sat an elderly elven man. While he was admittedly plainly dressed, his eyes were sharp as blade’s tip and his presence demanded respect. His clothes barely covered the warriors’ medals etched forever on his skin, the scars of battles past. Instantly she knew this man was a person who had the time served to back up the title he held, unlike some other aristocrats who bought themselves to the position through briberies and favors just to brighten their own glory. Military ranks themselves were considered a minor title themselves.
Opening with a curtsy greeting:
- “Lord Weard, I-”
As she was about to introduce herself, the grizzled man motioned her to stop with a wave of his hand.
- “I’m certain you are famished. Let us spare the pleasantries for another time and dine shall we?”
Surprise and delight was written all over her face.
- “I shall kindly take you up on your offer then.”
- “Please, have a seat.”
As she settled down on the chair from her side the sound of a book closing drew her attention. She was almost startled that Goldia was there. Likely she was there from the beginning.
‘How did… When…?’
She was baffled at how unnoticeable Goldia was, but her attention quickly shifted to the feast laid out in front of her. As the host started to dine she followed through, grabbing a hold of the cutlery provided she quickly started carving into it. With just the first bite her taste buds told her that the meals tasted as magnificent as it smelled. She paid extra care not to break any table manners and maintain primness despite her rapacious pace. Much of the cuisine presented was new to her but without aversion she enjoyed as much of it as she could. As her cup dried and the rate of her consumption slackened Ash broke the silence.
- “Miss Rosalia? If I recall correctly, I believe you have expressed your want to be escorted out and return to human domains…”
‘Goldia told him, I see…’
- “Yes, that is correct, Colonel.”
- “Please, call me Ash. My days of leading a regiment are behind me.”
- “If that is what you wish, sir.”
She was unsure what the implicit meaning behind his wish to be addressed differently however she decided to stay on the safe side.
- “I am unable to assist you… To put it simply, the matter is beyond my authority.”
‘So there is someone above him possibly the lord of this village…’
- “That is unfortunate… Pray, perhaps milord knows to whom should I approach to seek help?”
- “Our guardian spirit may be able to persuade someone who might be able to…”
‘A guardian spirit! City patron gods used to be called either guardian spirits or guardian deities before the reformation. Of course everything makes sense now. No one would be able to survive in a place like this without the help from the spirit of the land… But… wait…’
- “Excuse me, a guardian spirit… Did you say a guardian spirit needed to persuade someone who might be able to help?”
- “Yes, she… Well, they are important benefactresses you could say. And no, she can definitely help… The surest way to reach her is through our Guardian spirit, Llynbel you see.”
‘Forget spirit that’s a patron deity…! Something that powerful needing the affirmation of another? Can such a being even exist?! Just what did I get myself into…’