tagSci-Fi & FantasyUnforgettable Ch. 01

Unforgettable Ch. 01

byDireLilith©

Wherever one finds elves, wherever one finds humans, one is bound to find half elves. They are neither man nor elven-kind. They are a people stuck between two worlds, depending on what kind of elf dared to mate and procreate with a human.

Such a one is Vittoria. Child of a forest elf mother and human father, she outlived the man who should have told her of the wickedness of all men by the time she was a decade old. Her mother, in despair, left the girl to wander the forests and find her own way. There in the woods of the fae, Vittoria took up with the few relatives and friends she could ever know, other half elves like herself. Beneath the tree homes of the elves of the wilds, the forgotten outcast ones eked out a meager living. They picked pockets, ran errands for money when they could, sang for entertainment in taverns where no other child would be allowed to enter. And whenever the chance arose, they departed the land of the fae for the land of the humans, far across the ocean, in hopes that those of lesser blood and culture would be more accepting of them.

Vittoria could not steal. She tried, once, but such a feeling of guilt overwhelmed her that she threw away the few coins she had pocketed. They would have bought her an evening meal and a blanket for her small cubby of a home. But she could not keep the money; it burned her hand like fire, and she dropped it and watched as another half elf raced to pick it up and scurry off.

Vittoria could not do errands for others. She shuddered at taking orders from another person, especially someone half her height like the elves of the forests. They mocked her haughtiness, but she simply put up her chin. And so, she chose to go hungry more often than not. Servitude was not her way.

The one thing Vittoria could always do well was sing. When far-traveling bards came home from distant lands, she and the others like her would sit and listen to all of their tales. A bard's duties involved sharing news from kingdom to kingdom. Vittoria never tired of listening to the same tales over and over again. Soon, she found she was able to hear a story once and improve upon it with her own talents. The words flowed eloquently from her lips, more so than most of the trained bards that first taught her how to sing. Vittoria was a bard in the making, though she lacked the opportunity of true training.

Singing was her calling, there was no doubt. Her pride kept her from frequenting the taverns her comrades would. And she would sigh in envy as they gathered their courage and steeled their hearts to the heckling of the drunken crowds. She would pull her blanket up over her pointed ears and tuck herself away in slumber, pretending it didn't matter to her that her belly growled dangerously. It would take only a step down in pride for her to be a simple tavern singer. But it was a step she could not take.

So it was that Vittoria took to singing on the ramparts that lead into the treed city of the forest elves. She would lean against the ropes of their walkways, testing the rope railing's strength with her spine as she sang to the distant treetops. She would add little dance steps to her songs and sing on the lifts that went up and down from the great city's higher levels. Often, she was given food and coin to continue, and asked to follow some group or other to the tavern or merchants or hostels they were visiting. But she would always refuse, choosing to stay out in the open and sing. It didn't matter to Vittoria if anyone ever paid her a dime for her songs. She only wanted to sing, and she would do it for free if it came down to it. Singing was her life.

Though a half elf has the lifespan of almost three quarters of a full elf, they have always been prone to mature faster than other elves. Where it takes an elf several centuries to become mature, half elves are adult-minded long before their elven cousins. Their childhoods are terribly short, which is likely to the good, given the nature of most of the lives of those who are neither elf nor human. Children alone never fare well; half elves always do.

Vittoria grew quickly, though she was often said to be scrawny. She ought to have more meat on her bones, most would say in passing as they shook their heads. She ignored them and closed her eyes, and pictured herself somewhere else far away from the forest floor beneath the city. Sometimes, she imagined she was living in a high-rise home far above the other city levels, and was revered as someone more than common. She imagined then that she was unforgettable.

On a day such as that, Vittoria stood leaning against the ramp that lead up to the city's first level. That level belonged to the more common and approachable merchants, the ones that would cater to foreigners if they had paid their dues to enter the woods of the fae, fair and square. Vittoria brushed a lock of short white hair from her eyes and picked some of the dirt from beneath her nails. No matter how much she wiped her hands on the grasses, her fingernails were almost always dirty. There were no lakes that she knew of near the elven city; the only water that came was that of the rains that were ever so rare here. She thought maybe it rained often enough above the trees. But the trees of this forest were ancient, old beyond reckoning. Their dense canopy kept out not only the sun, but any rain as well. Rainwater was collected in barrels high above the city and brought down every day. She had to assume it was plentiful up there, somehow. But she only had limited access to it, having to pay several copper coins in order to wash every few days. Vittoria sighed and picked at another nail.

Behind her, a new party was coming up the ramp. She jumped up to watch them, scanning their faces for evidence of their travels. They were just forest elves, though, rangers. With their hungry eyes, they looked over Vittoria, giving her glances that gave her chills. She ducked back down beside the ramp and they snorted. Satisfaction was what they wanted; it was not what they would get from Vittoria.

The ramp lifted slowly upwards, creaking as it slid up on its pulley-ropes and made its long, slow progress to the first city level. Then it came down, quicker and emptier than when it went up. Vittoria turned around as it landed with a soft thud near her head.

Someone new was getting on the lift now. She scrambled up the ramp, smelling money. There was a priest on the lift now, a wealthy one, too. And he had with him a servant of sorts. Vittoria could smell the soft musky scent of incense wafting from the cleric's armor. He was a priest of battle, obviously, and coming home after a very long journey. His servant, a forest elf with a strong back and tanned face, was busying himself with putting parcel after parcel onto the lift until there was barely enough room to stand. But as soon as it began to rise, Vittoria jumped aboard.

She smiled at the cleric. He narrowed his eyes at her and did not return her pleasant grin. Vittoria smiled brighter, taking in the look of the man staring at her now very solemnly. He was no forest elf; he was high born, all the way. His hair was snow white, his skin like buttered ivory. His features were perfect, flawless, pristine. Vittoria was almost aghast at his perfection. His lips, so thin in their likely permanent grimace, were etched and detailed perfectly into his angular face. His brows were dark, arched and studious, furrowed where they almost met in the middle of his forehead. And his eyes; Vittoria had never seen eyes so pale, like ice they were to her.

The half elf bard gulped and forced herself to close her eyes and open her mouth. She had seen a few high elves before; it would be considered rude to stare. She had just set herself on a very long journey. The lift would rise slowly with such heavy packages on board. She needed to use her time wisely, and she needed to sing.

Carefully, she began to keen a low note, long and drawn out. Then, she carefully lifted her voice as her chin tilted back, mouth parting wider and wider. Though the sound became louder and more voluminous, it was not overwhelming and overly strong. It remained a soft, well-contained sound. Vittoria had practiced this song so often, having heard it from a girl with skin as dark as dirt or the earth beneath the grass. The girl had learned it as part of her training in pleasing her masters; when given a chance one night, Vittoria had snuck up to the girl's bedchamber and begged to hear more of the lovely song. And she had learned it off by heart that very night.

With her eyes closed, the shorthaired half elf let the song pour forth from her lips, her body relaxing as she sang.

"Mine eyes have seen the shadows

Mine eyes have seen the sun,

But never have they seen justice,

And never have they seen the one,

Until the moment I met you,

These eyes knew not how to shine,

But once they saw you and knew you,

Divine inner light was mine,

Mine eyes have known the darkness,

Mine eyes have known the tears,

But never have they known true love,

Not in all my years,

Until the day I met you,

These eyes were but so poor,

Now that I have known you,

These eyes will cry no more..."

By this time, the lift was almost near the top of the first level. Vittoria opened her eyes, even though her mouth was still busy crooning the last few notes of the song. She looked up at the cleric, and was surprised at how stunned he seemed. His gaze was confused, and his lips were tightly pursed. Unsure of whether or not that was a good thing, Vittoria thought it would be best if she jumped off the lift before the cleric and his servant could reach out and detain her. If he called the guards on her, she'd be hauled off down below and likely chased away a good distance. She hated that, and it was a horrible way to end a beautiful song.

Leaping to the merchant's level of the city, Vittoria landed gently on the wide wooden planks that made up a circle around the base of one of the more ancient and sturdy of trees. She turned as she stepped back away from the lift.

To her dismay, the lift was continuing on its way, going upwards to the next level or perhaps even higher. The cleric was looking down at her, his grimace returned now and almost looking malicious as he glared down at her. Vittoria gulped, and hoped quickly that he would forget her face. She would not forget his any time soon.

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