There is a song, so play it when you get to it.
Jare laughed joyfully as the three brothers slowly moved up the line. “Little brothers, you should look forward to this event! I only been to one elvish tree growing ceremony before, and it was the one time I ever saw those emotion-less stumps party like a true warrior.”
“They likely acted like that because you have too much emotion.” Anhel pointed out.
William nodded, “True.”
Jare sighed and shrugged, “Why do you make it sound like such a bad thing? When you are happy, be happy! When you are sad, be sad! When you are scared, remember everyone who has your back and won’t let you fall!” He roared out these words, and everyone who heard him raised their voices in a cheer.
Anhel smacked his face, “We’re not even inside yet and it feels like a party.” He removed his hand, but his mouth was still trying to twitch into a smile.
Jare wrapped his brothers in a hug as they made it to the front of the line. The elf waiting there looked them over briefly.
“Do you have a pass or permission?” He asked, his voice like a soft wind.
Jare nodded and handed over three passes. The passes were thing wooden sheets inscribed in magic runes of the elf language.
The elf looked over the passes and handed them back with a soft smile, “Honored guests, we hope you enjoy your time here in the elvish enclosure.” He bowed his head, and the three beast-men bowed back.
“See, that was easy.” Jare chuckled as they walked past the gate into the quarter.
“Where did you get those passes anyway?” Anhel pressed.
“Just an old gift from a long-time friend.” Jare said mysteriously, “He’s visiting in town and dropped theses passes off for us. Not that we couldn’t get in without them, the guild master had obtained permission for us. These passes just add some perks like free first meals.”
The quarter was an amazing place as they beheld its sights. In the middle of the small town, a huge tree stretched up and covered most of the land in its shade. Its branches glittered in small lights, and the trunk glowed from the torched in its windows.
“That, mother tree?” William asked.
Anhel nodded, his eyes sparkling, “That is the mother tree, the special tree where all elves live. It lives for thousands of years and grow’s its own rooms when needed. Any plant living near it will be boosted in vitality and growing speed, and the fruit will be even more delicious.”
They followed their noses to the first food stand, which was outside a tree grown in the shape of a large restaurant.
“Greetings.” The female elf behind the counter said to them, “We are serving samples of what our restaurant can provide. We will be open once the festival of life ends.”
Jare handed over their passes, and the lady returned them alongside three fruit shish-ka-babes and three small bones of meat.
“I thought elves only ate plants?” Anhel pipped up as they finished off their meals.
“Most are like that, but some elves devote themselves to appreciating all forms of nature, which includes making delicious meals out of everything.” Jare explained as he took a bite, “There are even a few that go so far as to become animals themselves, or so they say.”
The three brothers found a bench and sat down as they consumed their fruit happily. To bear-beastmen, fruit was the best delicacy to be found.
“Come on Nat, I smell some good meat over here.” Fiora was dragging Nat along the path as they made their way down the roads lined with small shrubberies. Nat accidently kicked one of them as she was dragged helplously.
“Oy, you shall not be kicking our shrubberies!” A small person pipped up as he appeared out of the shrubbery.
“I’m sorry.” Nat apologized.
“Then I forgive you, in the name of Ni!” The strange little man disappeared back into the shrubbery.
Nat gave Fiora a confused look.
“Garden gnomes,” Fiora rolled her eyes, “Always obsessing over their plants. Come on then, we need to try more food.”
“Um, Fiora.” Nat spoke up with a slight blush, “Are you sure we are in the right kind of clothes? I haven’t worn these in a long time. Nat was currently wearing a long, dark yellow dress with black patterns and her hair was smoothed down her back.
“I know, it’s been awhile for me too, but this is a special occasion.” Fiora herself was in a shorter red dress designed for female adventurers. It was a dark red with emerald vines growing up from the bottom. Naturally, this kind of dress would never be worn in a civilized city as it showed more leg than proper, and was outfitted with many hiding places for weapons. “Just be happy I let you wear the attachments to your dress, otherwise you would look like me.”
Nat blushed more deeply this time, at which Fiora gave off a chuckle. “Oh look, they have elvish wine!”
The two walked over to a handsome looking elf serving wine out of a wooden bottle. He grinned at the two ladies. “Care to try some oak-aged wine from the elvish gardens? It’s been seasoned for 100 years and the first glass is free.”
“Sounds great!” But, as Fiora reached for a glass, a hand moved past her and snatched the glass out of her grasp. Fior turned with a raised eyebrow to find Gran standing next to her with a frown.
“Fiora, you cannot have any alcohol.” He reprimanded.
Fiora nodded sheepishly and toed the ground, “You’re right Gran, I forgot myself there.”
Gran snorted, “Actually, elvish wine gives off a smell that makes one forget himself naturally. Also, it is known to have quite the interesting aphoristic effect on other races.” He said this last line to the male elf, who had the decency to blush and nod.
Gran returned the glass to the other elf, “I won’t stop you, but these two are my friends, and I would prefer they didn’t lose their mind in pleasure tonight.”
The elf bowed deeply, “As you say ambassador, forgive my impertinence.”
“Ambassador?” Nat asked Gran as he led the two away.
“A mere formality due of my efforts in making a home for us here.” Gran explained with a smile, “Now, I have brought someone here who you both should meet.”
He led them past a few more stalls and to a bench, where a man was snoring away under a mage hat. Gran walked over and shook him for a moment.
“Up now Jonas, our friends are here.”
Nat froze up as Jonas raised his hat and unveiled his face. He yawned and stretched his arms out, “Geez Gran, the least you could let me do is sleep after that ride. That . . .”
Jonas and Nat stared at each other for a long moment.
“Hey.” Jonas said as he waved his hand stiffly.
Nat frowned and crossed her arms, “Why are you here?”
“Gran invited me here.” Jonas looked awkward as he explained.
Nat’s frown grew, “Oh, is that all? Well, it was nice to see you again.” She turned and began walking away.
“Nat, wait!” Fiora cried out as she chased her friend around a corner.
Gran rubbed his forehead, “You humans are really sad sometimes. Is that the best greeting you could give her?”
Jonas sighed and slumped backwards, “I froze up Gran; what was I supposed to do there? My mind just went blank after seeing her in that dress, as if she was carved from gold.”
“Then tell her that you stupid human,” Gran dead-paned, “Why must you say such simple things, and without any emotion? No wonder she ran off.”
“Should I chase here?” Jonas asked.
Gran slapped the back of his head, “Don’t ask me you idiot; elves take years to properly court a mate. We have the time, you don’t”
Jonas nodded with a resolute face and got up quickly. He ran over to the corner, only to run into a large furry mass.
“Oh sorry about that.” A loud voice boomed from above him. Jonas backed up and looked. A large beast-man stood in his way, grinning.
“You seem to be in a hurry, so she went down a block and turned left.” The beast-man explained.
“Thank-you.” Jonas said sincerely as he ran in the directed direction.
Gran watched the beast-men join with two others, and kept an eye on them as they left.
“So those are the bear trio.” He murmured to himself, “They seem quite capable.” The large one, already moving away, waved a hand in his direction, almost as if he had heard him.
Before Gran could ponder about that, a red-faced Nat ran up to him.
“Use your elf magic to hide me.” She demanded.
Gran raised an eyebrow, but put his finger on Nat’s forehead and chanted. She shimmered and changed into a elvish female, who sat down next to him.
(This part made me cry, so listen to this and feel my tears too)
Fiora hurried over and looked around, “Gran did you see where Nat went?”
Gran pointed over his shoulder, and Fiora disappeared in a flurry of red.
“Thank-you.” Nat said to Gran when Fiora was out of earshot.
“No problem; and it’s good to see you again Natalie.” Gran patted her on the shoulder.
Nat smiled softly, “It has been awhile hasn’t it; it is good to see you.”
Gran leaned forward onto his knees as he tilted his head toward her, “So, why the running?”
Nat shook her head, “Jonas is a fool. He looks and acts the same as he did before he left. He’s an incompetent fool who only knows how to act from the backlines and never from the front. I expected him to at least be a little more assertive, but it looks like he failed his training. I can’t even sense his magic anymore, which must mean he got worse. How stupid; instead of losing his powers he should have stayed here. He should have stayed with us . . . . .”
“He should have stayed with me.” She whispered this last sentence, her eyes red from her ranting. She sniffed and rubbed them with the back of her hands.
Gran sighed and put his arm around her, “Nat, he left to get stronger like you. I heard from Fiora, you haven’t been treating yourself right. Forget Jonas, I can see you are a lot weaker now than when you last entered the dungeon.”
She sniffed again, “I know; but training was the only thing I could do. No one was there for me, and I needed something, ANYTHING to do. I just had to . . .had (sniff) to . . .get . . .stronger.” She began to bawl now, and Gran embraced her in a hug.
“It’s okay Nat, you did what you could.” Gran whispered to her, “No one blames you for anything, nothing was your fault.”
“But . . .”
“No.” Gran said simply, “I already dealt with this when I confronted Fiora you know? At least you aren’t trying to kill me with a spear for spilling you booze.”
In spite of her tears, Nat couldn’t help but giggle at the thought, “Fiora hates spears.”
“I know; that’s why I had to stop her then. That’s why I had to bring Jonas back, and that’s why I’m helping you now. I was gone myself, and as the oldest it should have fallen to me to help you all recover. I failed as a teammate and let all three of you fall into sadness.”
Nat looked up in surprise to see Gran’s face twitching. For elves, showing sadness was a very rare thing, even rare than expressing joy or annoyance. Yet, at this moment, Gran had a tear appearing in his eye.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry and left you three in pain for so long.” He managed to get out in short gasps, “I was able to save Fiora, I was able to stop you with her, but I was too late for Jonas.”
Nat’s eyes widened as she grasped Gran’s shoulders, “What do you mean Gran? Gran, what did he do?”
Gran shook his head and removed Nat’s arms, “I’m sorry, that’s not my place to say. I’ll let him tell you that.”
Nat turned around to meet the gaze of Jonas, who was slightly out of breath as he watched the two of them. She got up slowly and walked over to him.
“I missed you.” He said simply.
She nodded as she searched his face, “I missed you too, more than I thought I would.”
They stared at each other for a moment longer.
“You left me.” She said accusingly.
He nodded, “I felt so weak and worthless, I just wanted to get stronger, no matter the cost.”
“I know that feeling.” She whispered, taking his hand and looking at it, “Did you?”
“Yes.” He nodded.
She looked back up into his eyes, “Was it worth it?”
He shook his head, “I should have stayed with you.”
She nodded, and pulled him into a hug, “Yes, you should have you stupid fool. Promise me, you won’t leave me again.”
Jonas, his face hidden from Nat’s gaze, smiled sadly as he gazed over at Gran, who also smiled sadly. This was a promise he couldn’t keep.
“I promise.” He whispered to her.
“Welcome home Jonas.” Nat embraced him harder and began to cry softly over his shoulder.
“Hey Gran, she . . .” Fiora shut her mouth as she watched the scene in front of her, “Oh, well I guess it worked out then.”
She plopped down next to Gran began chewing on a skewer in her hand, “Those idiots seem to have finally gotten their things in order huh. Here want one?” She handed over a second skewer, which Gran took gracefully.
“All’s well that ends well.” Gran whispered as his team was finally back together. Elves were intunned to the natural world, but few could commune with those who had passed. Now, his work done, it was time to say good-bye to his last friend.
He turned to look at the invisible specter next to him.
Nic grinned at him and held a thumbs up as he disappeared in small shower of lights, heading into the sky.
“Rest well my friend, I will take care of them from here on out.” Gran whispered. Nic, who appeared in his dreams, prompting him to return to help. Nic, who calmed the anger in Fiora’s mind. Nic, who kept Natalie’s spirits up even when she was alone. Nic, who helped Jonas find his inner peace.