“We still have some time before we should get some sleep, how about a few games and then some food?” Rohl asked, he didn’t want to sleep on an empty stomach after all.
“I'm always happy to school you in a few games of chess.”
“Nah, how about conkers?” Rohl asked, he always blundered in chess and Ell always made sure he didn’t forget his losses against her.
“No, sacred leaf?” Ell replied in a questioning tone.
“Alright sure.” Rohl was relatively new to this elven game but he had found that he quite enjoyed it, the idea of choosing different species to defend a home base was quite appealing to him.
“Good, do you have the sacred tree set I bought you?” Ell asked as she fetched a small leather bag out from her belongings.
“The one where the elf character looks like you but apparently that’s just coincidence,” at Ell’s nod Rohl added, “then yes.”
With the game chosen, Rohl collected his own set of sacred leaf pieces. He had stored them in his own little leather bag as to prevent the delicate figures from becoming damaged during his travels.
The scared leaf pieces were small beautifully carved wooden figures that depicted the pieces of the game, there were miniatures of everything from little goblins to proud elves. Before Rohl even touched those pieces, his hand first reached for the most important piece in the game. A figurine of a large oak tree.
Once it was placed across from Ell’s version of the piece, both trees grew to about 15cm in height and small roots shout out from their bases and stretched over to join with the roots of the opposing tree. Once the roots had finished stretching, small roots grew at equal intervals along the roots, until eventually, they had created a beautiful 9x9 squared board. Along with the board, three paths grew from the third, sixth and ninth square on each side that connected the board to the centre of the tree. This left each tree with three paths of four squares that needed to be defended to protect the tree itself.
“Do you remember how to play?” Ell asked.
“Still, knowing you, it's best I go over the basics.”
“Fine,” Rohl replied as he began to arrange his pieces into a neat little line.
“You must defend your tree at all costs, if it's reached you lose. Three paths lead from the board to the tree, but you can only have one of your pieces move and defend on the three paths. A piece on a path can attack pieces on the one next to it. If a piece moves from past the fourth square, then it's game over.”
“Yep,” Rohl replied, doing his best to not give away that he had actually forgotten about only allowing one of your own pieces on your three paths.
“Now your allowed fifteen points worth of pieces to defend your board. Each piece has a cost value. Every piece can move one square in any direction and attack any piece next to it. Elves as the best arches can attack pieces up to two squares away.
“Of course, why wouldn’t elves be the best pieces in this game created by elves?”
Ell just gave him an unamused look before replying “Shush, on your turn you are allowed to move five points worth of pieces, now tell me the possible pieces and their moves.”
“Fine,” Rohl said with a pause as he remembered what Ell had previously lectured him on.
“Wolves cost two points and can move two squares. Goblins cost one. Sprites cost one and can move two but not attack if they do. Dryads cost two and can attack two squares on the tree path squares. Elves cost two, you’ve said the rest. Woodsmen cost one but can move two squares on the paths. Trolls cost two but can’t be killed by goblins or sprites unless on path squares. Fae cost one. Bees cost one, can move three but can only kill goblins”.
“There are more pieces but our sets lack the expansions, now pick your pieces and lose the game,” Ell urged.
The set Rohl had been given only had a few set pieces making his choice of pieces rather simple.
“I choose two elves, one woodsman, one dryad, one troll, one bee, one fae and four goblins.”
“Of course, what pieces are you choosing then?”
“Three elves, one troll, one wolf, two bees and three goblins.”
With their pieces chosen the pair lad out the small wooden figurines onto the board, upon touching the board, the pieces came alive. The little wooden figurines now acted and moved just like their species would. Magic truly was incredible. Despite the pieces acting like one of their species would, they still remained on their given squares and waited patiently for the game to begin.
A game which Rohl lost, the same went for the next three. In the final and fifth game, he did do somewhat better and managed to kill all but two of ell’s pieces. Apart from that, he did terribly, but n his defence Ell had a lot more experience at this game than him.
“Just as I anticipated I won” Ell bragged as she watched one of her elf pieces move up Rohl’s path whilst the other repeatedly stabbed Rohl’s last remaining unit, that poor goblin.
“Yeah, yeah, I just let you win so you would get upset,” Rohl countered.
At Ell’s almost glaring look Rohl caved “No, how about food then?”
“Fine, let's head to the main hall and eat there.”
With that the pair left, making sure their possession were hidden away and the room securely locked with the key Ell had received from the lieutenant earlier before they did so.
A small walk down the hallway later and they were in the main hall, its atmosphere was just as bright and vibrant as it had been when they left. After taking a seat on one of the small benches off to the side they were quickly presented with a wide range of dishes from chicken and vegetables to fried fish. Rohl found the food to be quite decent, not great but not bad and since it was free, he saw no reason to complain. Ell looked a little reluctant and off-put but still ate the food anyway.
Apart from the captain, lieutenant, and his men they were not alone in the hall. Disko, Calco and Falene had taken a table near the back. Rohl gave a quick nod in greeting before he continued his sweep around the room. Tay and Rose were also here, sat on a table across the room from them. Rose gave him a ‘what are you looking at’ glare and Tay gave a wave which he returned. She seemed a lot nicer than Rose who even now was pushing the dishes away in disgust.
“Ughh,” Ell groaned annoyed at the sight.
“What have I done?” Rohl asked incredulously.
“If your dumbass hasn’t figured it out, I’m not going to tell you.” Was Ell’s short reply.
“So should tonight’s be a bust, what should we do tomorrow?” Rohl asked in an attempt to get the conversation away from where it seemed to be heading.
“I have a plan.”
“Can you please enlighten me?” he asked.
“Fine, if tonight’s a bust then well train our sword skills in the morning, then work contingency plans on the minute chance that the news of us being traitors spreads here. With the general out working and the governor that’s incredibly unlikely but still,” Ell began.
“Sounds good, what else?”
“Then you can figure out a reward, for all the work I’m doing. After that, we’ll search the forest for any nests or monsters tracks”
“Parts of that seem agreeable,” Rohl replied, to be fair he did owe the elf a lot, she had helped with the dungeon, the Elmon siege and even stuck with him once he’d officially become a traitor. She’d done so much for him and for that he was incredibly grateful, grateful for her loyalty and friendship.
“What can I do to pay you back for everything you’ve done for me?” Rohl asked after mulling over his thoughts.
“In two weeks, do you know what day it is?” Ell asked.
“Is it Apaturia, no is it Turan’s da-“ Rohl began before being cut off as Tay sat down on the seat next to Rohl, her long brown hair hitting Rohl in the face as she sat down with speed.
After pulling a stray strand out his mouth, Rohl finally asked “Hello?”
“Hi.” Was all Tay said.
Rohl had expected an explanation about why she was here but Tay didn’t seem particularly forthcoming, all she did was look around the table smiling at its occupants as she did so.
Ell snapped first, annoyed at the sudden intrusion “What do you want?”
“Oh, I was wondering if any of you were a mage?” Tay said rather unfocused.
“Nope, well if that’s all you can lea-“ Ell almost got out before Tay started speaking.
“Aww, that’s a shame, such a pain finding more mages, stupid that it takes years to learn,” Tay replied as Rohl spoke next.
“Why do you need a mage?”
“Oh, both me and my sister are light mages, you know manipulate light, eyesight, mirages, visions basic emotions kind of stuff. With a third light mage then we could have made a light barrier around the village, might have kept the monster out.”
“Quite clever,” Rohl spoke, a light barrier may have indeed helped protect the village, mages were quite uncommon however and the chances of finding a third mage of the exact same type would have been slim anyhow.
“So you and Rose are both sisters and light mages, that’s quite impressive,” Rohl asked as Ell remained silent and annoyed. Rohl knew magic was powerful and cool but very hard to achieve, very few could afford to spend years devoting themselves to one element.
“Thank you, Rose is still off sulking on that table, you’d think she was a necromancer with how sulky and miserable she is."
“Uh-uh, so why did you both go for light magic? Wouldn’t having the extra versatility of two magic paths be better.”
“Maybe but our magic becomes stronger when we work together, something about family magics being similar or whatever,” Tay added as she began helping herself to the assorted foods.
“Oh, that’s cool.”
“Yep, so what about you two, what’s your deal?” Tay asked the pair.
Ell gave Rohl a warning look and after remembering their earlier talk, he made sure not to give anything away. “Were a new adventurer team that happened to be nearby when we heard about the contract, I’m a swordsman and Ell is a mixture of ranged and close-quarters combat.”
Ell gave him a look of congratulations for not messing it up.
“Neat, an Elf and a human as well, quite an uncommon team, usually you’d have a few more members. I do like your pointy ears though, I'm quite jealous.”
“Uhh thank you,” Ell said with a small bit of smugness in her tone. Rohl just gave her a bemused look, Ell’s weakness was her pride.
“Hey, why not all team up, Rose will be all complainy about it, but four is better than two right,” Tay asked.
“Maybe another time, best to see how tonight goes and if we work well as a team-first,” Rohl said as he politely declined Tay’s suggestion. Ell gave him another look of congratulations.
“Sure, another time, I better return to Rose before she gets even more moody, I don’t think she likes you. I don’t see why, you’re perfectly fine if you ask me” Tay said as she gave Rohl a quick pat on the cheek before rushing off to her table.
“I don’t like her.” Was Ell’s next comment.
“What a shock, come on we best get back to our room, it’s almost time.”
“Right, go have a bath first though, I don’t want you to start smelling up the room.”
After a quick sniff of his clothes, Rohl left to use the barracks washing area, after a quick bathe in the pre-drawn bath, he returned to his room, now changed into his nightclothes. He’d collected them from the bed, he’d claimed as his own, the one at the opposite end of the room to the door.
It was only a quick walk from the bathing area to their room, barely a few minutes. Ell was already waiting in their shared team room. The elf was laid across the far bed, now dressed in her own nightclothes. Her body was faced towards the now open door.
Oh, she must have claimed that bed first, was Rohl’s first thought. After a quick string of apologies for leaving his belongings on her bed, he let his exhausted body collapse on the closest free bed.
It was just as comfy and warm under the covers of this bed and despite the almost overwhelming smell of what must have been fellowberries. He still found himself falling asleep quite quickly, he could just about make out a few parting words from Ell as he drifted into unconsciousness.