tagSci-Fi & FantasyHave You Slept with a HalfDelf?

Have You Slept with a HalfDelf?

byJoe456©

We were camped near the river, a day's journey from the town when it all had begun, maybe six weeks before, or maybe in another life.

We had followed the river on the way up, up to the point where it turned and flowed back toward north. Somebody said that even the river feared to go further to the south. If it was so, now that we had gone further to the south, it had our deepest understanding...

We had gone further to the south, because they had framed us. Snagged us. Yes, my friend had slimed his way over to a girl who served in the biggest tavern in that town, on the buttocks of that girl, indeed (I was just ogling her, I swear to the Gods...), but, come on, it's something you do to all the buttocks of all the girls serving in all the taverns of all the continents of this world!

Right?

Well, there, it was wrong. It was not the case. To slime your way over to a girl's buttocks, tavern or not a tavern, it was a privilege of the locals. I say, write it on the wall! Make a picture! Let the innkeeper advise the foreigners! It's unfair, but at least, people know about that! Forewarned, forearmed!

Well, there was no writing on the wall, and the innkeeper was as silent as a tomb. So we thought there was no special local rule, especially my friend. You know, the Roomsooms do not respect the rules they know (do you want to get a Roomsooms to do something? Tell him that it's forbidden!). Figure it out what they do when they DON'T know them...

Or maybe, when they don't know them, paradoxically, they should RESPECT them... Well, never mind...

So we have inadvertently broken that local rule, and people with sticks and swords came in to enforce it... Well, it's hard to "enforce" something on a Roomsooms (they are something like a downsized Ogre, you know), but they really packed him in, and me too. I tried to play the peacemaker, bad idea. Alas, things did not go by without casualties (among them, of course), so they were very badly intentioned about us. Half of the local guys wanted to hang us, while the other half preferred to cut away our heads... If they asked me to choose my way, I would have had some problems...

And then an older, but very imposing person, clearly respected enough to get the guys to cut the debate about our execution, came into the tavern. He listened to the report of the guys, valued the damages and the casualties we had caused, but he did not get mad so much. Apparently, not at all. He said something to the innkeeper, and he smiled and filled two mugs with something I did not recognize. I know the rules: never drink something you don't recognize. Never!

In that case, we were not choosers, anyway. The elder man said "Drink," and all the guys told us the same, with a higher and more threatening tone. "Drink or else...".

And so we drank.

"Well," the elder man said. "Now let's talk business. You have disrespected a girl of ours, damaged a tavern of ours and killed a guy of ours. It's enough to kill you at our will, not necessarily fast and clean, I'm sure you get the picture. Don't you?"

We got. Killing, maybe torture, castration, dismemberment, or the like. No escape, no mercy, no defence. What was the other choice?

"Well. We have an outstanding deal to solve... " he said.

Shortly, they wanted to send us to get something somewhere in the damn South. Very damn, and very South. Kind of a sword, but not the usual sword, they had plenty of them already, as we had seen. A sword with seven blades. You think it is the top in a battle, right? You're wrong: one blade cuts enough, and seven blades are heavy as Hell. So it had some other purpose. Maybe magic?

Well, I don't know about you, but I had always avoided with care the magic. Witchcraft, sorcery, spells and similar tricks. You have to be born for that, or to have a hell of a teacher since you are a kid, and listen to him and serve him for years. If not, the farther, the better. It's a force bigger than you, bigger than all of us, stronger than the fire. To start a fire, it's quite easy, but to control it can be very different, carelessness costs lives. Imagine magic: you overlook a nothing, get distracted a moment, say "A" instead of "E", and then, disasters. REAL disasters... Worse than a fire in the wood on Summer... VERY worse...

But that time, once again, no choice: go, take and come back. Even because that damn elder and that very damn innkeeper had gotten us to drink... yes, a poison. A time-delayed poison. We had the time they thought was enough to deliver what they wanted from us or die in the attempt. If we deliver, there was the antidote. Since that drink was already stored and no one had had to prepare it on the spot, it was easy to infer that other people had gotten the same mission with the same "incentive". And no one delivered it...

Well, yes, it could be all a hoax. But, you never know, better safe than sorry. We went, we took that damn magic sword, and we were coming back to the town. Within the time limit, of course. Quite within.

I do declare: we were coming back richer than when we went south. And not only rich of experiences... We had, say, recovered some useful things from people who did not need them anymore... Oh, no, we did not rob anyone, by my oath. Indeed, someone tried to rob us. Yes, you can have bad meetings, especially in the country roads, away from the towns. And at a certain point, the question is just one: it's a bad meeting for WHO?

However, even that was behind our backs. We met as two people in the same trouble, and now we were two friends, two REAL friends. We had saved our skin one another, and now we had lost track of who owed his own life to whom... Maybe just because of that, out of the blue, with no reason why, without even looking at me, the Roomsoom (the Ogre, if you like) mumbled those words.

"Have you ever slept with a HalfDelf?"

At the moment I did not answer: I thought he was musing on his own, I was not sure he was talking in the lingua franca we were using to talk to each other, or in another one. You know, some words have a meaning in a language and a totally different one in another. Say "Sog Nomsing" to a Taxwus and he will cheerfully thank you. Say it to a Roomsoom, and then you'll tell me what. If you survive, of course...

"Hey! I'm talking to you!" he said loud and clear, peeved already. "Have you ever slept with a HalfDelf? Have you ever done it with a HalfDelf?"

"Uh, no!" I answered. I did it with many females of many races, even with a Roomsoom female, once (that is, SHE did it to ME, but I did not mind, oh, not at all...). You know, females like music, romantic ballads, love songs, and even some "special" chords which go straight to their... never mind...

But a HalfDelf... Not in my life. I thought it was hard, for them, with a human... let alone with a Roomsooms... The roomsoom sighed.

"Did you do it?" I asked, quite stupidly, at that point.

"Yes," she said, gloomily, always without looking at me. "That's why I'm here..."

"Have you been sentenced for that? Did you have to run away?"

"In a sense... But no sentences. Let's say I sentenced myself... "

"But... did you... raped... "

"NO!" he shouted, turning his head to me and looking in my eyes as in the eyes of an enemy, for a damn long second. Then he expired heavily and turned his face away.

Well, when a Roomsoom says "NO", you better look at it as if it was "NO". Even if maybe it could be "yes"...

"And then... what has the fact you are here to do, with what you have done to her?"

"It's complicated," he sighed.

"But you want to talk about it, right?" I inferred. He snorted and nodded, always looking the other way. "Come on!", I said.

"Well... It all started when I was just born... You know, we Roomsooms live on a wide part of this continent, and I come from the other side of it, on the Eastern Ocean. A year to walk from here... And our kingdom had just lost a war with a kingdom of you humans... "

"But... we humans are not strong like you... "

"Not one to one... But we had undervalued your skills. We had won a field battle, we could negotiate a peace, cut a wide region of good arable land, and bring our warriors back home as winners. But our king, be his memory be damned, followed the advices of foolish counsellors who dreamed a total victory, the conquer of the whole enemy kingdom. So we besieged her capital. It could even be done, if we would have pillaged the countryside and the other towns, to prevent any reaction. But no, we just sat there and waited for them to surrender. But they did not."

"They did not surrender."

"All the other way, they collected all their forces and attacked us. With war machines we had never seen. Fast, powerful. They were throwing projectiles which were set on fire. It was Summer, all around everything was dry, and in a moment, there was fire everywhere. We had to withdraw, with heavy casualties. But the worst casualty was our morale. The warriors who went to war were warriors, but those who went back were not. They were shocked, frightened, they just wanted to get home, to their females, as if they were their mothers. And my father was one of them.

"So you lost the land you had taken, right?"

"Of course, and we were lucky they did not ask for more. The new king was able to negotiate the peace. But it was the end of our expansion towards the west of the continent. If we wanted new spaces, they were not so many. To the North, there was kind of a no man's land, with small tribes and villages, the remnants of a great kingdom which had collapsed decades before. And to the east, there was only the sea. And the new king decided that we had to become seafarers... Not just fishermen or coastal shippers. Real seafarer..."

"Roomsooms seafarer? Never heard..."

"Sure! Yes, we Roomsooms have not the reputation of geniuses. But it takes not so much brain to see that a log can float, that some logs linked together can carry something or someone, and there are systems for to go wherever you want on the sea on those logs, right? We just had to learn new systems to go further, away from the coasts. And discover new lands for us."

"Well... " I mumbled. I thought to all the rules of the winds and the waves that anyone who wanted to put his feet on something floating had to learn, in the town where I was born, before to THINK to sail away... Well, it took some brain, indeed... " And you did it?"

"Not so soon... We keep going by sea only with big rowing rafts with some small sails, for a while. But do you see these arms?"

"Yes..." I nodded. They were really strong arms, wide as my waist, or thereabouts. "So.. you could go quite far, even by rows..."

"Quite far. Not across the Ocean, of course. But far."

"And then?"

"And then, when I was no more a kid, we started to explore the no man's land north of our kingdom, to colonize it. And I enlisted in the exploring parties. I was quite turbulent, as all the boys, and I wanted to use this turbulence in something positive. The explorers had not to fight, if not for self defense. If we had met some strong communities, we had to act as ambassadors: meet the chiefs, make a deal, settle the boundaries between us and them... and then keep going north, bypassing them. A peaceful expedition. But not always... "

"Did you have to fight?" I asked. He leaned on his back, slowly, before to answer.

"Just once. And just to defend myself. Where there's no strong central power, the marauders thrive. And once my chief sent me and another young boy back home, to report what we had seen and done. And on the way home, we met two of those marauders. Maybe they undervalued us, because we were young, two boys, yet. But it was a mistake. Their last mistakes... "

"Did you kill them?"

"I killed one, my companion killed the other. And we understood why the older soldiers kept training us every given morning. A sword is not a stick. You have to know how to hold it and wage it. How to defend yourself with it. And how to hit with it..."

"And did you remember all they had taught you?"

"The head does not remember: the body remembers. The arms, the legs. You have little or not time to think. You just move, as you have learned to do. The less you think, the better. To think is to have fear, or compassion. No place for that. No time for that."

"Did you have no fear?"

"Before, yes. Hell yes. But when I fought, I just thought to stop the blows of the enemy and to hit him, slash him, spear him, as soon as possible, before he could do it to me. No time for fear," he said. And then he shrugged. "But I was waiting for something different."

""What?"

"You know... My first fight. Something heroic, as in the legends. Chivalry. Face to face, nothing personal, respect..." and he shook his head no. "Silly boyish fancies. Someone attacks you, either you kill him, or he kills you. That's the fight. That's the war."

"But the HalfDelf"?

"We will get there. Our king had organized even a seagoing expedition, along the coast of the continent. It was an exploration and training expedition at the same time, close to the coast but far away from our ports. Our sailors had to make a map of the coast: bays, gulfs and other places where a vessel can moor or just anchor safely, mouths of rivers, shoals, winds, sea currents, everything. A fine day, quite north of our boundary, they saw a distant shore, far from the coast. It was unclear if it was just a rock, a big island, or even the point of another continent. But the order was clear: to map and fathom the coast, no distractions."

"So?"

"So our vessels kept going north, and that coast was just signed on the maps. Some days later, our explorers overland reached the southern boundary of the Northern kingdom... "

"What was the Northern Kingdom?"

"We called it that way", the Ogre shrugged. "Because it was the first real, big Kingdom we had found: it run from the coast to the mountains, far inland. And it was to the North. Then we knew that it had another name, and we became allied with them, but that's another story. We had to find up to what point we could send our settlers, without having to fight with a too strong people, and we had found that point. Mission accomplished.

"Have you said... SETTLERS?"

"Of course. Do you think we had gone to explore those lands for the sake of it? We needed new lands, our people were growing, though the old war had costed us many males... So, as our explorers find good and uncontested lands, our king sent some settlers. Farmers, carpenters... Normal people..."

"Normal..."

"Normal!" he said. He wanted to make it clear that Ogres too, Roomsooms too were "normal people". But I was worried about the fate of those who would have argued about it. Argued with him, I mean...

"And so, what about the island?"

"Right, the island. We had some bad years, after the expedition, floods, drought, but our king wanted to know more about that rough triangle on the map. It seemed it was just within the range of our rowing rafts, so it was possible to explore it, sailing from our new coasts on the north. So we organized a new expedition, some dozen of mounted warriors and some rafts to put them across the sea. And I enlisted again. Warrior's life was good for me, after all., Or at least, plowing, seeding and cropping, year after year, seemed to me a bit too boring... " he snorted.

"So you sailed... "

"Yes, across the sea. We marched with the horses to the point where the coast was closer to the island, a low cape with a sandy beach, very ample when the tide was low, and when our rafts reached that point by sea, we embarked. It took some journeys back and forth, but at the end of the day we were all landed on the island. And for all that time, nobody came to bothered us."

"Nobody?"

"Nobody, Not a living soul," he shrugged. "We all thought it was strange. Of course. it could well be a deserted island, but it was unlikely. There were a lot of trees, not so different from the ones we knew. Good for fruits, for birds and for lumbers. We knew the sea was good for fishing. It was a nice place, not worse than our kingdom. But with no one living in, it seemed."

"And then?

"And then we explored the surroundings of the place where we had landed, leaving some warriors for manning the beach, and sending back some rafts to take some more warriors in the next days. We went further and further, but nobody was in sight. It's not that they were hiding from ourselves. There was nobody at all. Animals of every kind, but nothing more. And the island became wider and wider, as we were leaving the point we had landed on behind. It really seemed a small continent. We decided to part: the most experienced warriors would have explored the hills and the mountains, and the younger ones would have followed the rivers, roaming the valleys and the plains. But even so, we were hardly enough for scanning all that land..."

"What were you doing? I mean YOU, personally."

"I had the command of a dozen of rookies," he smiled. "They just can hold their swords in their hands, and they thought they could kill anyone they could meet... But, they followed me blindly: I had fought, I had killed, I was a real hero!" he snorted. "So I trained them as hard as I could, remember the lessons of my old chiefs. And I banged in those young hot heads the fact that we were NOT there to kill people with no reason. The orders were the same as in my first expedition: contact and negotiate. We were too few to fight. Especially if the enemy could be as smart as those who had beaten us in that damn old war."

"And did they learn the lessons?"

"Oh, yes. One fine day we found the first fields of crops. The first signs of a civilization. Not just land and trees: furrows, irrigation channels, well reared livestocks... And there were people too. Even young females. We were hidden in the wood, and I heard my rookies joking about what they would have liked to do to those females, normal young males' desire, you know... But I gave them a short talk, menacing to damage their you-know-what if they misbehaved... And they got the picture, all right. They knew I was not kidding... "

"And then?"

"And then we let our weapons and horses in the wood and went toward the fields of crops and the people. I wanted to show that we were unarmed and with no bad intentions, but of course they were quite upset, especially the females, when they saw us, out of the blue... You know, we were Ogres, and they were..."

"HalfDelves!"

"You're smart... I shouted something reassuring, in all the languages I knew, included some "lingua franca" I have learned when I was preparing for the first expedition, in the North... And someone knew that language too. who knows why, He was quite old, maybe he had travelled or traded a bit in his younger days... However, he came to me, we exchanged some words, and he cried to his people not to be scared: we were coming in peace. I told him we wanted to speak to their chief, and he accompanied us to the chief of the village, even to translate what we had to say."

"Did you ever see HalfDelves before?"

"Really no. I had heard some descriptions by merchants and other travellers. They said Halfdelves were living mostly faraway overseas in the southeast, and they were quite a peaceful people, although very clever with bows and arrows and other long range weapons. And their females were nice, slender and delicate, with long black hair and clear, luminous skin...like the one we had seen... However, I had decided to play fair, and when the chief asked if we were the only Ogres around, I said no. I had a makeshift map of the island, where I had signed even the approximated position of the other dozens of explorers we had on the island. They got worried where I showed them the northernmost one. I thought that their capital was in that direction, and that they were afraid our explorers could cause incidents, but they said their capital was on the other corner of the island, in the south."

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