I left the tent with the strange elf quickly. The atmosphere in there was way too thick for me. I didn’t want to get pulled into the politics anymore. As I left, I caught Devon out of the corner of my eye. He didn’t look pleased, so I figured that this was something I would have to deal with at some point in the future. For the moment, I’d be with the elf tribe.
“Elmindreda…” The words popped out of my lips as we were walking in silence.
The elf man shut his eyes and muttered silently to himself. I think I heard the words, ‘so it is you’ before he turned to me.
“Elmindreda was an elf in our tribe, you know her?” He spoke gruffly, little pleasure in his voice.
My eyes met his, and I could see he had a tired expression. This was a man who looked like he had been through a lot in life. It seemed he knew Min too. I was even a bit surprised at the quickness of his answer. It was as if he knew her personally.
“I’m sorry… she died…” I said slowly, lowering my eyes.
Baron snorted. “This… I know…”
Did he know? Was this some sort of ability of elves? They had the capacity to know when their kind died? Was that a consequence of their long ages, or the magic infused in their bodies? As I considered the possibilities, Baron shook his head in agitation.
“Look, girl, I don’t want any trouble. Our tribe has stood for a thousand years, and I don’t want some outsider coming in and mucking things up. Whatever Elmindreda may have told you about us, her father…”
“Min’s father?” I blinked. “Her parents are alive?”
Baron grimaced, shooting a look back at the human camp. “Her father is. Her mother… she… it was messy business. Just politics, you understand?”
I said those words, but I didn’t really understand. That was because Min had never told me anything about her life from before. Other than the fact she was an elf, I knew very little about her history. We had spent half a year together, and I knew almost nothing about her life as an elf. Now, she was dead. Deep down, I felt like it was my responsibility to learn a bit more about her. Just who was she?
As we headed out into the forest, I continued to follow the elf, watching him out the corner of my eyes. He had strong shoulders, a good built frame, and a roguish look to his eyes. He was a handsome man and unlike my typical vision of elves. I had seen several elves since I had come to this town. They did function as the arbiters and peacekeepers during this turbulent time. However, while most were skinny with wirey frames, Baron clearly had some muscles on him. He lacked body hair and his skin was abnormally fair, but I wasn’t complaining. His butt was pretty nice as well. Suffice it to say, I was enjoying the view.
When we approached the village, I swallowed my breath. I felt an odd sense of familiarity. There were various tents set up all over the place. It reminded me heavily of the Cambion camp I had spent so long in. Although they lived in the plains, while a lot of the elfish structures were erected using trees. Were the elvish demi-humans or monsters? That question floated through my mind. For not the first time I had to question what exactly was the difference. Did my goblins and wolves have any less right to exist than these elves? Did my Cambions?
The elvish tribe wasn’t exactly like the Cambions. Other than using trees a bit more, they built into nature rather than building from scraps of man-made structures. Like the Cambion’s they depended heavily on furs, but they also had access to various leaves, sticks, and even mud to help erect their structures. They place also seemed lively, with people working out in the shade. The population of elves far exceeded that of the Cambions. There might have been a few thousand elves, although the trees prevented me from seeing how far their camp actually went.
“I’m a bit of an alchemist.” I spoke as I examined the camp, “I won’t live here for free. I’m happy to continue to make…”
“We have alchemists,” Baron responded roughly, causing my teeth to click shut.
I was getting the sense that Baron was extremely wary of me. Was it because I said I knew Min? He had already given me a bit of a threatening talk, and now he was simply trying to avoid meeting my eyes. Even if he had a nice butt, if he wasn’t going to be nice, I wouldn’t be nice either.
“Where are we heading?” I asked, crossing my arms.
Baron looked back at me but otherwise, his expression remained placid. “The elvish tribe has been forced into being the peacekeepers here. We’re stuck between the human realm and the demon realm, and if we can’t placate both of them, our very tribe may cease to be. Thus, I have no choice but to bring you to the tribe. However, all tribe decisions are made by the council. So, before you can stay here, you’ll need their approval.”
“You guys have a council too, huh?”
“What was that?” Baron shot me a look.
“Ah… the Cambions use a council too…” I looked down, not really wanting to bring back such pitiful memories.
Baron frowned. “The Cambions are monsters. They’re a scourge on this land. They mimic other species so they can feed. Make no mistake. They are not good.”
“That’s what I’ve heard,” I responded bitterly. “But you shouldn’t worry. The demons wiped them all out before coming here.”
Baron snorted. “Some survived. Some always survive. They’ll come back. Like locust.”
“You take issue with them?” I asked, mostly to keep the conversation going.
“They’ve kidnapped and consumed many elves over the years. I’m usually the one that has to tell their parents what happened.”
“So, you’re like an elf adventurer?” I suggested.
Baron snorted. “Yeah… something like that.”
I continued to watch him as we walked. Just as I was getting ready to come up with another question to keep the conversation moving, she sighed and shot me another dark look.
“Look, slavegirl. The elvish tribe keeps to themselves. I don’t know what you’ve heard about us, but there used to be five elvish tribes. Two of them have been wiped out and two of them have settled down and are little more than tourist traps for curious humans to point and gawk. We are the last true migrating elf tribe. If these peace talks break down, then our entire race may be destroyed. So, excuse me if I’m disinterested in catering to the fancies of some pretty girl slave. Just shut up, keep your head down, and avoid causing any trouble for my people. Do you understand?”
I stopped myself from opening my mouth, although I was glaring back at him angrily. “Yeah, I get it.”
I knew that the circumstances were stressful. That’s exactly why I was trying to make conversation. However, this Baron may be cute, but he was also a bit of a jerk. Whatever cuteness he had before seemed to leave like steam. Baron lifted his hand and pointed at a large tent we happened to stop in front of.
“The council awaits.”
I sniffed, letting the displeasure show on my face, but he chose to ignore me, heading into the tent he had just indicated. So much for ladies first! I ended up following behind him as we walked in.
“There were five people, but rather than sitting up like on some kind of court jury, they were all sitting around a table. There was a map laid out and they seemed to be discussing things.
“The monster movements along the path to the labyrinth have been strange lately.” One elf, a small man with eyeglasses, was saying. “We should add patrols.
“Why should we risk our own people to protect treasure hunters?” A tall woman snorted. “Let the adventuring guild protect themselves. If they want to send people into the labyrinth, they should be prepared to spend the appropriate coin. Our forces are needed elsewhere.”
“Ahem…” Baron coughed when he walked in, causing the group to turn to him. “The… humans and demons have requested that we watch over someone for the duration of the talks.”
When their eyes fell to me, I fell into my best curtsy, providing the best smile I could. My charm was amplified using my titles and skills, but I didn’t need it to me. As soon as I pulled my hood up and my face was visible, the effect was like a thunderbolt. I could hear several of the men gulping, and even the women’s eyes popped.
“Who… is she?” The man sitting in the largest chair, likely the leader, asked cautiously.
“She’s a slave girl. Neither side wanted her. She was freed earlier today. Evan thought it best not to delay the talks just so they can squabble over the placement of a slave girl.” Baron explained.
“Tsk… Evan… Trusting him to fulfill the role of mediator…” A surprisingly fat elf growled.
“He’s a good negotiator. Plus, after everything he’s lost…” One of the women started, but then shot the guy in the big chair aside look before clicking her teeth closed.
That man didn’t seem to notice the words of anyone else in the room. His eyes were plastered to mine. I was, of course, a girl who could read people easily. It was clear to me this man had a large sexual attraction towards me. It interested me a bit. He was an older man, like Lord Typhon. He was neither as fit or as good looking as Baron. However, he had an air of authority about him which I liked. Plus, he was an elf man, and Min aside, I had never tasted one of those before.
I might have preferred to pressure Baron, but he genuinely didn’t seem interested in me. Since that was the case, the man in charge would be a more interesting man to chase.
“My lord…” I spoke up, giving another one of my best smiles. “I don’t wish to be a burden to the elf tribe.”
I pulled my skills into what I said, drawing on my vast experience as a seductress to subtly lead him on. The movements were subtle, and while I always used them, I wasn’t always aware I was using them. It was in the way I bit my lip after I spoke. The way I tilted my body forward, giving them an innocent glance at my cleavage. It was the way I held my body, like a woman who knew how to use it but was still up for being taught by a man. Men had a complicated relationship with sluttiness. They liked a girl who dressed and acted erotically, all while wanting innocence. In that way, I had perfectly mastered the look of innocent sluttiness and was using it effectively at that moment.
The men’s mouths dropped open, while the few women readjusted their clothing, suddenly feeling slightly jealous as they tried to compare their self to me. The largest effect was on the guy in the big chair, who watched my chest intently, leaning forward in his chair with his hand on his chin. Only Baron seemed unaffected, rolling his eyes and looking away as if he wanted no part in this.
“Don’t speak nonsense.” The man in charge spoke up, “The elves are nothing if not hospitable. You are our guest.”
I fought the temptation to shoot Baron a rude look after he had just gone on about how xenophobic his people were and how she should butt out. The reception between the two men was certainly night and day.
“Thank you, my lord. I will make myself useful to you… in any way I can.” I smiled.
His eyes grew more perverted, and I could instantly tell in what way this man wanted to use me.
“I will find a place for you. You can even stay at my home if you’d like.” He said, licking his lips.
“Thank you, my lord.”
“Please… call me Hector, and this tribe is mine.”