Portal to Arandor Ch. 12bymistress_diana©
I had been working at Samuel's shop for about a month when the depression set in. One day I rose early as I usually did for work. The sun was just rising but the sky was a steel grey color and I knew we were in for more snow. It has been snowing constantly for the better part of the week and it was piled up in the streets. Samuel told me that it was normal for this time of year and most of the native inhabitants took it in stride. Living in Colorado most of my life prepared me for it, but we still had brilliantly sunny days after storms. In Wrexridge, I hadn't seen the sun in over a week.
I suppose the lack of sunshine contributed to my feelings, but as I trudged up the hill to Samuel's shop in the falling snow I was aware of a growing sense of despair. The novelty of being in this new world rubbed off and as I looked around at the people and the way of life, I knew I could not stay here. I missed so many comforts of home: showers, getting my nails done, driving, watching a movie, surfing the Internet. Besides work, there wasn't much to do in this world, especially in the winter. People didn't ski or have snowmobiles like they did back in Colorado. They just worked long hours, huddled in their homes or drank themselves into a stupor in a tavern.
Working at Samuel's shop had been interesting and even fun. I was able to read many books and learned the rich, and complicated, history of the realm. Soon I was helping him run the store by waiting on customers, arranging books and even reading manuscripts. My work at the publisher's house in my old life had come in handy and Samuel was amazed at the increase in sales at my simple suggestions. But that was all my life had become – work. We worked long hours then I would go home, eat, read a bit and fall asleep. I had no friends outside the shop as I rarely ventured into taverns by myself. I was lonely, depressed and homesick beyond belief.
And I had not seen Drahden since I stormed out of the inn a month ago. The day after our argument a boy brought my stuff to a new inn that was very cozy and clean. He also handed me a pouch of gold but it wasn't enough to last the winter. I had to work to pay my board and meals.
That was another thing that had got me down. Money. What I made at the shop was enough for my day to day expenses including new clothes when needed, but there wasn't much left over. I could not possibly save enough to hire someone in the spring to take me to Fairfax. My other options were to beg Drahden (which I knew he wouldn't) or go myself (which would be suicide). So with these heavy thoughts, I entered the shop and began to prepare for another day.
"Good day to you, Rebecca," said Samuel as he made preparations to open.
"I suppose it is going to snow all day," I said glumly.
He smiled his usual smile and began taking books down from the upper shelves. Samuel was so cheerful and helpful; he was the only thing that kept me going. I learned many things and working together, we had settled down in a nice easy friendship.
"Have you ever been to Maludara?" I asked as I helped him set up.
He looked at me suspiciously and I was a little surprised. "I have...why do you want to know?"
"Well, what is it like?" I asked, avoiding his question.
"I suppose it is not much different than here, but wizards have much control of the way things are done. It can be a dangerous place."
"Do men live there?"
"Of course, but so do elves, drow, dragons and other mysterious creatures." We finished stacking the books and he turned to me. "It would be best if you did not ask more questions about that place. Magic is forbidden in Arandor, as you know."
Many conversations went this way. Samuel was very forthcoming when it came to customs and history of Arandor, but as soon I as I brought up the Borderlands or the magical lands, he got quiet about it. It wasn't worth pursuing, I thought, and dropped it.
That evening I decided to go down to the tavern for my dinner instead of eating in my room as I often did. I needed to get out of my funk so I figured one night around other people might help that. Working in the bookstore and waiting on customers had helped me become more accustomed to speaking correctly to the people here and my confidence grew.
I had sold all of my whore dresses for much more conservative clothes for everyday wear. I allowed myself one nice dress for going out and it was the one I dressed myself in that evening. It was a deep blue with gold trim and although it wasn't overly low cut, it did show some cleavage. I smiled and did my hair and used a little makeup that I learned about. I was determined to have a good time and the shop was not open the next day.
The tavern downstairs was fairly busy. I took a table near the fire and drank a bit of wine and watched the other patrons. I ate dinner and watched the other patrons. There was a group of men in the corner that were getting louder each time the barmaid brought more mead over. They were probably a bit younger than me and all good looking. I listened to their conversation and found that there had been some sort of archery contest earlier and they had done very well.
Archery had been something I had dabbled with in high school and college. I hadn't shot for a while, but I thought it might be interesting to start again. I was too timid to approach the group of men; there were five, so I waited to see what happened. Eventually they got up to leave but one stayed behind to settle the bill. He was definitely the best looking of the bunch. He was tall with a lean build and had blond hair which flowed down to his shoulders. I stood up and approached him.
"Excuse me sir, if you will," I said softly.
The man spun around to face me. When he saw me, his eyes lit up and I could see they were a deep green. "Good evening my lady. What do I owe this pleasure?" When he spoke there was a hint of a smile that played over his lips. Then he brushed his hair back and I saw that his ears were pointy.
"Oh!" I said, startled and forgetting my reason to speak to him. "You are an elf!"
He laughed. "Aye, I am part elf. My mother was elvish and my father human."
I blushed. "I am sorry, I did not mean to stare like that. I merely wished to ask you a question." I was off to a shaky start, I thought dejectedly.
He raised an eyebrow. "And that would be...?"
"Um, I, you practice archery?" I stammered.
"Of course! My friends and I are some of the best rangers in the north!" he boasted.
"Oh, well I was wondering...do women practice too?"
"Yes, but not many." He looked at me curiously. "Do you wish to practice, my lady?"
I nodded. "Aye. It has been a while, but..."
"Do not worry, consider yourself to be talking to one of the best teachers," he said, again with that laugh.
"Please, my name is Rebecca. Would you join me for a bit of wine?" I asked, feeling a little bolder.
"It is my pleasure to meet you Rebecca. My name is Eärendur." He gestured to my table. "But my friends call me Jack. You should call me Jack too."
We sat down and I started feeling very pleased with myself.
"Tell my, Rebecca," he said as he sipped the wine. "Where are you from? By the way you speak you are not from the north."
"Oh, well I am from far away in the south," I said vaguely.
"Ah, so what brings you to our fair city?"
"I have been journeying these past months. I decided to spend the winter here until the snows melt."
He looked at me curiously. "I hope you did not journey alone."
I knew what he was hinting at. "I hired an escort but he has left the city now." I left it at that and he did not ask more. "So tell me about being a ranger."
"Ah, well, rangers are adept with both sword and bow, but favor the bow greatly. We are sworn to protect the lands of the north from whatever evil lurks amongst the borders."
"And is there evil about?" I asked.
"Not presently. Since the truce things are calm."
I took a long sip of wine and felt the blood rising on my cheeks. It was going to my head but I didn't care. I was in the company of a good looking man. We chatted some more and I flirted with him. He definitely showed the signs of being interested. I noticed his eyes occasionally stray to my breasts which were straining against my bodice. When the wine was gone I mentioned that I should go as it was getting late.
"I will walk you home, my lady," Jack said. "I cannot have you walking by yourself."
I laughed. "You will not need to go far, Jack. My 'home' is upstairs."
He colored slightly but escorted me across the tavern floor and out the door. I pointed to the stairs. "I am home now," I said with a smile.
Jack drew me into the shadows. "Tomorrow I will take you to the archery range."
"Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you."
He looked at me for a long moment and I held my breath. But then he did a surprising thing. Jack knelt down on one knee, took my hand and gently kissed it.
"I will be here ere midday. Good night my lady."
Jack stood up, gave me a half smile and disappeared into the night. All I could do was laugh.
The next day found me nervously fixing my hair then pulling it out and fixing it again. I donned my traveling clothes and fussed with those as well. This was probably as close to a date as I was going to get. I also realized it had been months since I had last had sex and I was craving it. The last time had been with Robert on the road and I remembered it with a pang.
Jack arrived in the gloom of another winter's day. Two bows were slung over his back and he toted a quiver of arrows. His smile was so contagious, I couldn't help but smile back and we set off for the archery range.
We walked for some time and found ourselves near the city limits. The range was near the garrisons where the king's men were stationed.
"Do you live here?" I asked as we entered a walled in area that housed the range.
"Not exactly," he said.
"Then where do you live, exactly?"
He smiled and glanced at the forest that started just beyond the garrison.
"You live in the forest?" I asked, aghast.
"Aye, when the weather warms, I make my home there. After all, I am part elf." He winked at me and we proceeded to the targets.
The last bow I shot was a compound bow so when Jack handed me the longbow, I was a little unsure of myself. He sensed it and patiently explained the stance and how to nock the arrow. I positioned the first arrow, let it fly and heard the sound of it hitting wood. Unfortunately it was the fence, not the target.
"Damn," I muttered.
"Do not worry, Rebecca. Tis your first time. Try again."
He handed me another arrow and I got into position. A few more points were made and I let the next arrow fly. This time it hit the target. But just barely.
"Better!" he said, cheerfully. "Try another."
And so it began. I shot each arrow in the quiver and with each shot the old feeling came back. By the time the quiver was empty, I had three bulls eyes. It was the best feeling I had in a long time.
"Not bad for a lady," Jack said as he walked to retrieve all the arrows.
I laughed and admired his lean body and broad shoulders as he nimbly retrieved the arrows. I wondered vaguely how he would be in bed.
"May I do a round?" he asked. He was ever the polite one.
"Yes, of course."
Jack planted the arrows in the ground in an array around him so that he could reach. He shot each arrow precisely with a minimum of movement. And each arrow hit the bulls eye or very well near it. My mouth gaped open.
"Good shot," I said. It was an understatement of course.
He shrugged it off. "It is your turn now. The more you practice, the better you become."
I shot all the arrows presented to me. Each shot I took felt more comfortable and familiar. When I was done he was genuinely impressed.
"You have shot before," he said.
I nodded. "But like I said, it has been a while."
"You will be an expert very soon if you practice."
"Yes, I plan to."
We spent another few hours at the range until my arms were too tired to move. Jack accompanied me home but when I asked him if he wanted to dine with me, he apologized and said that he had another engagement. I let him go, feeling a bit down, and figured he probably had a girl somewhere. But at least I proved to myself that I could shoot and I vowed to get better. Maybe if I could defend myself, I could go it alone back to Fairfax then finally home.