This story is by Karissa Haskin and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Tatiana stood there, staring at the unconscious Elvan lying on the bedroll with her knuckles turning white around the dagger on her hip, ready for him to make a wrong move. The cabin door squeaked behind her. She turned her head to see her brother entering with a basket in his arms full of food from the nearby town.
“Sorin, why is there an elf in our house?” she said.
“Don’t worry, he’s not like the others,” Sorin said as he put the basket of food down on the table.
“What do you mean? You know what they are like, they might as well be from a completely different world,” she said as she pointed behind her at the elf. “We try so hard to stay out of this war, yet you bring it into our house.”
“We are not so different as you may believe,” a low voice behind her said.
Tatiana’s eyes widened and she spun around to face the elf. Her hand going once more to her dagger. Holding the bandages on his side with one hand, the elf winced as he slowly sat up, crossing his long legs and calmly looked her in the eyes.
“My name is Eistinien, pleasure to meet you,” the elf said.
Tatiana’s eyes narrowed, “why are you here? I thought elves didn’t like to leave their lofty land and immaculate castles. Or have you come to look down on us lowly creatures,” she said.
Sorin walked up and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Do not mind my sister. Just lay back down or you will reopen your wound.”
A small smile spread across the elf’s lips, “if I did, would your sister put that dagger in me?”
“Like I said, do not give her any mind. She is just being extra cautious. Our parents were killed while we were still young by a scouting group of elves and our experiences with them since have not been much better.”
The elf’s brow furrowed as he casts his eyes down. The fire in the hearth popped in the silence, and she could smell the tree resin that Sorin used to stop the elf’s wound from bleeding. “I am truly sorry,” Eistinien said. “I fear you have seen the worst of my people. We are not all like that. It is mostly just our king and his guards. Yet I know that does not help to soften the pain you both must have gone through at the expense of the Elvan.” He looked back up at Sorin. “I see the anger in both of you towards the elves, so it begs the question, why did you save me?”
Sorin let out a sigh, “first you were being chased by the Elvan guard, something that I can relate to. Also, when you saw me, you had a different look in your eye’s than the elves I have seen in the past. I had a gut feeling that I needed to help you.”
Tatiana did not take her hand from her dagger. He is an elf. She has always trusted her brother’s instincts and his ability to read people, but what if he was wrong? How could they trust an elf? Is he just waiting for them to let their guard down before he strikes? She bit down of the inside of her cheek. As far back as she could remember the elves have been trying to enslave the humans and take over their land. She had never seen a friendly elf, nor has this one given any reason for her to trust him. What was Sorin thinking?
Her troubled thoughts came to an abrupt stop as she heard muffled voices from outside the cabin. Sorin ran to the window and peaked out the shutter. “It’s two of the Elvan guard. They are coming this way.”
Tatiana pulled out her dagger and pointed it at the elf, “this was you’re doing.”
“I am afraid it might be, but it was unintentional.” Eistinien stood up, she was amazed at how with his injuries he could still move so fluidly. “They must have tracked me here.”
The muffled voices were coming closer, “he must be in there.”
“Both of you hide. It is me they are after,” Eistinien said as he glided toward the door.
Sorin grabbed his arm to stop him, “I did not save you so you can just hand yourself over.”
“And I am grateful for that, and as a token of my appreciation, I will leave you and your sister out of harm’s way. They are here for me.”
Tatiana could not stop the trembling of her hand around the dagger. It felt like her whole life had been spent hiding from the elves. All she wanted was to be left alone to live her life. “Why? Why are they after you?”
“Because I spoke out against the king. I believe there can be peace between the races, but all he sees is an opportunity for more power and control.”
A loud bang came from the door as it shook. Tatiana’s grip tightened harder on the dagger as a bead of sweat trickled down the side of her face. Standing erect, Eistinien lifted his right hand and a ball of flame began to float above his palm. Another crash came from the door as it flew open and two guards in their royal silver and gold armor came rushing in with shields and swords drawn.
Eistinien threw a fire ball at them, but with all the royal guards having armor that was dipped in an elemental resistant resin, the flame dissolved as soon as it touched them. Tatiana stood frozen in fear as Sorin dove from the side and tackled one of the guards to the ground. The second guard brought his sword up to slash down onto Sorin’s back, but before the blade could make contact, Eistinien deflected the swing with his arm, and landed an elbow to his face.
The guard on the ground threw Sorin off him and a loud thunk sounded as he hit his head against the wall and he crumpled to the floor unconscious. Tatiana gritted her teeth and willed herself to move but her body did not respond. Recovering quickly from the elbow, the other guard bashed Eistinien with his shield and he dropped to one knee. Eistinien grabbed his side as blood began to soak through his bandages. The guard put his sword to his neck, “don’t move.”
Tatiana did not know what to do. If she just stood there, would they look past her and Sorin? But elf or not, Eistinien did try to save them, and her brother did seem to trust him. She could not believe she was contemplating trying to help an elf, but maybe he was right. Maybe there were elves out there that wanted to live in harmony with the humans. Maybe she should take a chance.
Without another thought, she dashed silently behind the guard getting up off the floor. But he saw her coming at the last second and turned and shoved his armored forearm against her neck and pined her to the wall. Fear griped her as the air was cut off from her lungs.
“Leave them out of this,” Eistinien said.
The guards laughed as the forearm pressed harder into her throat and her lungs began to burn. As her vision started to fade she faintly noticed Eistinien put both his hands to the floor of the cabin and close his eyes. She thought he must have given up, but then the floor boards began to creak and snap.
The pressure on her throat eased up as the guards started shouting, “what is this?” Then what appeared to be tree roots sprung up from the floor and snaked their way around the guards like rope. They tried to cut themselves free, but the vines were too quick. Within mere moments they were fully pined, and losing their footing they fell to the floor.
“What happened?” Tatiana said. “Did you do this Eistinien?” She looked up from the guard lying at her feet just as Eistinien collapsed to the floor. She ran over to him. Blood was beginning to drip from his bandages. His breathing was shallow.
“You two must get out of here. Others will be coming shortly,” he said.
“Sorin, are you okay?” Tatiana said.
He groaned as he pushed himself up into a sitting position, “when am I ever not?”
“Will you be able to help me with Eistinien? It doesn’t look like he will be able to walk on his own.”
Sorin gave a slight nod as he placed a hand on the wall and stood up.
Eistinien’s arms shook while he tried to push himself up off the floor. “Now you want to help me? I thought you hated elves.”
“I don’t know what to think, but for now I’ve decided to take a chance,” she said.