The rooftops of Anglachel are one of the few places in the city I can feel at home. The buildings here are clearly of elven design, and standing on top of the roofs reminds me of the late nights I would look out the window of my bedroom tower and imagine a life away from all the royal nonsense that became my day-to-day. It was not unusual for me to climb over my balcony and jump to the other buildings in the castle. I didn’t care much about what my family members were talking about, but I enjoyed the thrill of knowing things I wasn’t supposed to. This childhood pastime was one of the few skills from my old life that carried over to this new life as an adventurer. Chasing after marks on rooftops wasn’t a common practice, but it did seem to happen often enough.
The cloaked figure that had shot at Canterly was about three buildings away from me. The figure was short and, while nimble, seemed to have trouble reaching the speeds my longer elf legs could. The figure was throwing a grappling hook across the way so they could swing over to the next building. I knew this was my chance. I pulled a dagger from under my cloak and threw it at the rope. It didn’t crave straight through the rope. Apparently, that kind of thing is really hard to do, but it did knick it on one side. It frayed the rope enough that it would at least make it a precarious leap for the figure. I raced across the rooftops between us to close the gap between us.
The figure looked back apprehensively as I moved closer. They appeared to be a masculine-looking halfling. He considered his options and decided to take the risk of the rope. He leaped off the rooftop, and I cringed a bit as I saw the rope unravel a bit at the cut. It didn’t snap, but it did stretch it too long to alter his course. Instead of landing on the adjacent building, he dangled over the edge. I saw him quickly scurrying up the rope, but I was faster. I leaped across the gap and landed on the rooftop, my feet on either side of the rope. I drew my sword and waited for the halfling to make his way up.
I saw one set of fingertips grasp the edge of the rooftop, but the other streaked over the edge and threw a dagger in my general direction. Admittedly, I should have seen it coming. What can I say? This adventurer life is new for me. I managed to slide away from most of it, but it did carve a neat slit across my bicep. The dagger clambered to the roof after hitting the back of my cloak. I knew it had to of punctured a hole in it.
“You asshole! This cloak is new!” I screamed at the halfling.
He sprang around the wall and landed, facing me, on the rooftop. He had another dagger drawn by the time he landed. This guy was pretty good.
“Yeah, and my plan wasn’t, but you ruined it. So I guess we’re even,” he spat out. He gritted his teeth, ready for a fight.
I really didn’t want to have to fight this guy, but I also was excited for my first real fight as an adventurer. I took a defensive stance. He charged toward me, and I caught his dagger with my sword. I used his momentum to spin him onto the other side of me.
“Why are you after Canterly? You know his policies would help the halflings of this city, right?” I asked him as he readied another attack. I leap-frogged over him as he attempted to plunge his dagger into me.
“He’s short-sighted,” the halfling growled. “His plans help the people of the city, but what about the people outside of it?”
I was confused. “He is running to join the parliament for the city. How would his plans have anything to do with the people outside of it?” I asked. I ducked down and swept my leg to try to trip him. He saw it coming and jumped over it. He came down hard with his dagger and almost stabbed my leg, but I managed to get it away in time.
“Typical human,” he said with a level of malice I had only ever heard my grandmother use to talk about the other seasonal monarchs. “He plans to build more housing in the slums. Where is that going to go? It will have to extend into the Jungle. When Anglachel was founded, it promised the indigenous people that it would never expand into the jungle anymore.”
He leapt back and chucked his dagger at my abdomen. I easily swatted it away with my sword. Either I was better than I thought, or he was losing his will to harm me.
“My dude,” I began, “We live in a world of magic! Surely there must be some solution to build housing that doesn’t encroach into the Jungle. I’m sure if you talked to him. . “
“Why would Canterly listen to me? I’m beneath him, literally and figuratively. He doesn’t care what I would have to say, especially not about indigenious Anglachelians. No one seems to care about them. They always get left out of the conversation!”
The tension eased out of him a little bit. He was ready to have a conversation instead of a fight. I took advantage of it and tackled him. He fell and I placed my foot on his chest. Now that he wasn’t a threat, the tension in my shoulders could ease a bit.
“Why do you even care about the indigenous Anglachelians? Aren’t they orcs, goblins, and humans? You are a halfling, right?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m a halfling. It may surprise you that people can care about people that aren’t themselves,” he said. He meant it to be sarcastic, but it stung more than it should. I couldn’t help but think about all the responsibility I ran away from in the fey realm. My little sister would probably have to marry that guy. Was she ready for that kind of commitment when I knew I couldn’t handle it?
“Yeah, I get that,” I managed to get out.
“I grew up in the slums,” he explained. “I used to sneak across the border and play in the jungle. I’m not indigenous, but I grew up with them.”
“Then I’ll help you. I work for Canterly; we can talk to him together,” I offered. “My name is Asha. What’s yours?”
“I’m The Scourge,” he said in a falsely deep voice.
“You can’t be serious,” I laughed.
“Yes, I go by The Scourge,” he repeated.
“That can’t be your name. Make up a normal-sounding fake name. That’s better than ‘The Scourge,’” I said.
“Come on, you’ve got me pinned to the ground. Can you at least let me have this?” He asked. He sounded more like a young halfling this time. I appreciated him dropping his mask around me.
“O.K.,” I relented. “I’ll call you ‘The Scourge.’”
I searched his cloak and pockets for any additional weapons and walked back to Canterly. It felt strange to complete a mission by befriending the killer instead of offing him. Was I a bad adventurer? I decided not to think about it.
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released on August 15th, 2023. You can pre-order it now!