The crowd groaned, cheered and screamed like a hungry animal as she stood on, flashes of sword light played across the faces and Maryn held her breath. The slices, the cuts and the blood sickened her and as her queasiness grew the crowd’s approval seemed to soar. Thumping, rhythmic thuds pounded in ears and as if in slow motion, the blade of the sword raised and sliced deep into the younger fighter's left arm.
They cheered. Some swore, coins clinked in exchange of bets and a dazed elf was left between the hordes of dissipating men.
"Ammi is always improving, didn't I tell you? That sword’s new, must’ve given him an edge over Ides." A grizzled bear of a man spat at his fox-like companion and still she did not move, despite a man with a voice like a foghorn screaming at the spectators to go away.
As the dust seemed to settle, finally Maryn gained a clear view on the victor and the victim. The winner's face was lined with sweat, dust and flecks of blood; he was sitting on an old wooden crate with his body lined by the shadow of a tree. Dark blue hair curled around his crown and as she watched, intelligent black eyes flickered across the empty arena. He eventually caught the lone elf in his view and immediately his eyes widened in astonishment.
She didn’t know what to expect when he strode over, and when he reached her, he didn’t have much to say either. This opportunity gave her time to examine him in even more detail though, his features seemed fine and too perfectly sculptured to be a human’s but the ears. They were rounded and as human as her own.
They both stood in silence, the awkwardness crackled in the air between them and when Maryn mustered up a hello, he grinned self consciously at her and told her to shove off before his supervisor found him loitering.
She chose to ignore this and instead spoke, "I’m supposed to know you, right?”
“Well, I’m Ammi, fighter extraordinaire. You probably should.” He grinned at her, a healthy grin so much similar to her own her doubts vanished and she was stuck with nothing to say. Because how was a child supposed to deal with knowledge that should have been hers from the beginning? She glanced over the posters announcing the ‘Barbarians’ and the cities they would travel to, to the dingy white tents and the donkeys tied to trees and understood why her mother had never told her.
After she met his joke with a blank face, he sobered quickly and admitted, “I don’t know what to say.”
Fortunately for the pair, they were joined by the revived victim who promptly introduced himself as Palidor. His wounds seemed miraculously healed and when he caught Maryn gazing in wonder at his left arm, he chuckled good-naturedly. He was a fair few years younger than Ammi and bright blue eyes twinkled at the elf who then self consciously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
Too late, she realised she had revealed what had confused her for seventeen years of her life and she could only pray that the other fighter would not be sharp eyed, but it was not to be.
Palindor’s eyes narrowed, and in puzzlement he looked from the adult to the girl and when comprehension dawned on his dirty face, unwanted pity quirked the corners of his lips.
Maryn lowered her eyes, and instinctively unclasped her moon necklace. She gazed into the weary face of the older man and with a timid smile, pressed her treasure into his hand. The strangers of the marketplace could no longer scare her as her thoughts were grasped by something much more confusing. She blindly weaved her way in front of stores and by dumb luck, heard the elder’s voice.
Creeping closer to the store to discern words, she heard;
"Your Halfling will be fine, and her life has been long enough by any standard. She hasn’t suffered from the pain noted in the books and you have to admit, the Moon has been kind to her.”
She could barely hear her mother’s voice when Uwe spoke again, “Your daughter was cursed from the start and it has been her salvation to be raised away from that beast of a man. She never told you about tortured nights suffered by others of her ilk, did she? We elves are beings loved by the Moon, and to bestow our beauty upon one with part human blood is reason enough to be loathed by Her.”
Maryn hesistated, fighting an urge to run back to her father. But when she gazed into her mother's grief stricken face, she finally stepped into her vision, yet all thoughts of telling her about meeting her father vanished for fear of crying wolf.