It’s not always easy being an elf in a human world. They never use enough seasoning on their food. It feels like all of their cultural traditions revolve around money. They keep saying things like “life is short” when it just isn’t for me. They just grow old too fast. When someone says they’ll love you for the rest of their life, you like to think that they’ll be around for the rest of yours. For an elf in a human world, that is just not how things work.
Traci and I have lived what many in Galevyn would consider a full life. We’ve made so many friends and lost about half as many. We made a lot of money and bought a house. We raised two teenage magic users into successful adult adventurers. We even saved the world a couple of times. We were two very accomplished individuals, but Traci was nearing the end of her life, and I still have several centuries left in me. I loved this place because it moved so fast; now I understand why.
Traci is lying in our bed right now, and the doctors say she could go at any minute. It is so bizarre. She doesn’t even seem that sick. She is just old. It is so confusing that this woman, one of the most powerful women on the planet, can leave it the same way as everyone else. Didn’t we do enough to earn her more time? Was there something else we could have done?
The door to our bedroom opens, and Quincy walks out. He’s become a lot closer to us ever since his sister died. His face looks like he’s come to terms with what is happening. He is still sad, but there is some sense of acceptance there.
“You should go see her,” he tells me.
“I know,” I respond.
“She’s getting worse. You should be by her side,” he says, telling me things I already know.
I slowly stand up and make my way to the door. He puts his hand on my shoulder and pulls me in for a hug.
“I know this is hard, mom. We’ll get through this together,” he reassures me.
I return the hug and consider what he said. He expects me to stick around. He wants me to watch him grow old and leave me too. I rest my head on his shoulder and consider this. How much do I owe him? I lift my head and nod, trying to conceal my indecisiveness. I walk into the room, and I see her.
It is so strange how, thinking back, she looks nothing like to girl I met on the campus of Arcana University. Even so, every time I look at her, all I see is my Traci. The woman that stood by me even when I made the wrong choice. The woman who made me better by calling me out when I needed it. The woman I love more than any other person I’ve ever met. My Traci.
“Hi, Ash,” she groans when she sees me approach.
“You look great, babe,” I say. I mean it. As I said, I see her for who she is, and she’ll always be beautiful to me.
“Yeah, but I don’t hold a candle to you. What did I do to deserve to grow old with someone as incredible as you?” She asks.
This is too much. I can feel tears forming at the bottom of my eyes.
“I could ask you the same thing,” I say, sitting in the chair next to her bed and grasping her hand.
“Can you sit with me?” she asks.
“For the rest of your life,” I agree, knowing it won’t be much longer.
“I love you, Ash,” she says with one of her final breaths.
“I love you too, Trace,” I reply. I lean in and kiss her. Really kiss her. Her head lifts to meet mine, even though she doesn’t really have the strength. I want to hold onto this moment for as long as I can.
I don’t know how long we held hands. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours, hell, it could have been days. All I know is that I eventually fell asleep, and when I woke up, she was gone. Her body was still there, obviously, but Traci was gone.
I walked to our closet and grabbed a pre-packed bag I keep in there. It has several days worth of clothing, adventuring supplies, and enough gold to last me for a few months. I walk to the corner of our room and fasten my sword harness to my belt. I flashback to the moment I strapped the sword around my ridiculous ball gown before leaving the fey realm. I guess this is the start of a new chapter for me.
I walk out of our room, and I see Quincy sitting there. I dig the house keys out of my pocket.
“The house is yours, Quinc,” I tell him, handing him the keys.
“You can’t leave, mom. You have to process this. You need to help me make arrangements for her funeral together,” He says.
“You know that I don’t work like that. I appreciate you so much. You and your sister reminded me that connections are worth making, but I can’t stay here. I can’t see her in every wood grain on the floor, every room, every person,” I say, touching his cheek. “I can’t lose you, Quincy. I want to live believing you’re still out there, somewhere. I want to be able to pretend that in 50 years, there’s still someone I love living a fulfilling life.”
“I can’t understand. I don’t think I could ever understand, but I believe you,” he says. “Find happiness, mom. Don’t give up on people. Make friends, fall in love again.”
“I will,” I say, knowing that I’ll never let myself fall in love again.
I hug him one last time and walk out the door. I risk one final look back. I see myself carrying Traci across the threshold. I see Quinn and Quincy seeing the house for the first time and confiding in us that this will be the first time either of them will have their own bedroom. I see all 25 adventuring companions that walked through our door at some point in the last 40 some years. Then I turn around and face the road before me. I won’t forget these memories, but I can’t dwell on them. There’s a lot of life ahead of me.
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!