Tim is a freelance writer, poet, artist and storyteller. He always tries to find and include lessons for everyone in his writing.
Rolim and Madj exited the trail into a small clearing. Rolim looked around. In the center of the clearing hung a small pot supported over a blazing fire. Around the pot was placed three rocks to sit.
Eli looked at them. “I hope you like some squirrel and beans. I haven’t had a chance to get into town recently.“
Madj looked at Eli. She hadn't seen a sentient cat in years. Still here standing before her was one, He was taller and lankier than he appeared in the forest path. He had short cropped tan patchy fur on his face with darker stripes.
Eli looked over at Madj. “Can I help you with something?”
“No, sorry, it’s just the last time I saw you, well not you specifically but one like you was when my grandfather was visited by...you. Again not you. If my memory serves me correctly you have a mediocre amount of magic...so you could conjure a meal better than squirrel and veggies.”
“Right,” Eli said.”I did not know one of my kind ventured out the Quarreling Means...no matter. Yes I do have magic. I choose not to use my magic because it attracts too much attention. So how do you two happen to have found your way here?
Madj shrugged her shoulders.”I don’t know. We were on our way to Eghzy when the riders attacked and forced us into the mountains. Once we cleared the mountains the dragon decided to dive into the lake.”
“Can we eat first?”
“Rolim, “Madge chided.
Rolim shrugged his shoulders,held out his hands, palms up. “Sorry, but I’m hungry.”
Eli looked at him with a smile on his face, “Of course eat,when you are done then we can talk.”
Rolim ran over and grabbed a bowl then sat down on a log a few feet from the fire. He looked into the stew skeptically. It smelled better then it looked.
“No squirrel hair in this is there?”
Madj shook her head. “Sorry for my friend’s lack of manners,he can be such an oaf sometimes.” She looked over at Rolim. “You know sometimes I wonder about you. I mean for a half elf you sure have an extreme lack of couth”
Rolim glanced sideways at Madj, a little of the stew dribbled down his chin. He reached and wiped it off with his sleeve. “Sorry, riding a dragon, almost drowning and walking through a dark forest made me hungry.
Where are we?
Eli sat across the fire from Rolim and Madj.”
Madj looked from Rolim eating back over to Eli. “Speaking of forests,just what forest might this be, by the way?”
Eli puzzled over Madj’s question.
“You do not know the forest Arbron in the Quarreling Means...have you not been here before? I mean I know this forest is a way off the beaten path, but surely in your travels you would have had to have passed by here at least once. Of course you’re here now and this might be your first time…but still it really doesn’t explain why you have not heard of these woods before…”
Rolim looked at Madge.
“Excuse me…I don’t mean to interrupt your tirade but this Quarreling Means you speak of…what manner of country is that...I’ve never heard of it.” Snipped Madj
Eli turned his head.
“Neither of you have ever heard of The Quarreling Means? Madj your grandfather seems like a learned elf and he never told you of this place? Doesn’t surprise me since most races set up wards to keep you away from these places. Regardless,it is on every map…at least I think it is,maybe…no.”
Eli reached inside his tunic and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. He unfolded the paper and started to read it.
“See right here it is The Quarreling Means, neighbor of Mae to the north, Peni to the west and the Great Sea to the east.”
He handed the map to Rolim and Madj. They scanned the map.
Rolim stuck out his bottom lip and let out a resounding “Huh.”
“So,” Madj said looking at Rolim then back to Eli. “Assuming this map is real…”
Eli looked at both of them, “I am most certain of it, maybe the map is a little outdated, but it is real... I am almost certain. After all The map was given to me by grandma she used to come here when she was a kitten..”
Rolim bent forward to look at the map more closely. When he did the amulet around his neck fell out. It flashed a second time.
“No magic.” Eli chided Rolim right before he disappeared.
Rolim looked down. He lifted the pendant up. “I didn’t do it...the thing has a mind of its own...” He looked around.
Rolim glanced at Madj. She had the same look on her face he was sure had on his. “Where did he go?.”
“I don’t know.” Madj stirred uneasily. “When the pendant flashed he disappeared.”
“The pendant made him disappear?” Rolim looked around.
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”
“Rolim calm down...we have more pressing matters.”
“What could be more pressing…”
“Shhhh…” Madj held a finger to her lips.
The fire crackled. Off in the distance they heard a rustling in the bushes as something large approached.
“Douse the fire.” Madj instructed Rolim.”I fear something is coming for us and it is not friendly.”
Traveling A New Land
They hurried and doused the flames then left the clearing, as silently as possible. They strolled along the forest road in the opposite direction from the beach. They walked for miles along the darkened road as it meandered its way through the forest, ever weary of the perils, which waited in the darkness.
Occasionally they stumbled upon an open expanse of flattened trees, broken off about five feet above the ground. They both shuddered to think about what kind of beast could wreak such damage, and then quickly moved on. Every now and again, the road would break out of the forest onto a rolling flatland.
Rolim and Madj always arrived at these locations with much trepidation, because crossing them meant exposing themselves to the open night sky and the possible appearance of a dragon or some other as yet unnamed creature.
After crossing one, certain aforementioned flatland they came to a small patch of forest where the road split into a fork with one road heading into the darkness to the left,the other road heading into the darkness to the right.
Fork in The Road
Since by experience they knew forks in the road usually came accompanied by road signs they searched the immediate area for some such sign and found one lying in the center of the road. It read “Don’t Go This Way this way. Madj looked up both sides of the fork—to the left stood more dark forests, to the right he saw even darker forests if it were possible,
“So which do you think is the right road?”
Madj looked from the left road to the right road.
“Look,” She said. “About a hundred feet down the road on the right”
“What?” said Rolim. “All I see is more darkness.”
“No, set back in the little grove of trees…don’t you see it…some sort of inn.”
Rolim adjusted her vision. He spied the empty shell of what was once a small tavern. “So, it’s just some old building.”
“No don’t you see?” She pointed at the building. “Whoever built it, built it over there on the right fork in the road not on the left fork.”
Rolim looked from road to road. “So what,”
Madj rolled her eyes. “Well it goes to reason more travelers would want to stay away from the bad road so they must have built it on the right to take care of those customers.”
“It’s just as likely they built it there because they just happened to own that land…” Rolim smiled at her.
Madj looked down the road in the direction of the building. She noticed the crumbling stone of the building's walls,the partially collapsed roof and movement near one corner of the building. She turned back in the direction of the movement.
“Hey what the…” Madj called out as she set off running in the direction of the movement.
After a few paces, she made it to the nearest corner of the crumbling building. She plastered himself up against the wall just as Rolim shoved her from behind causing her to smack into the side of the building. To say she was a little upset would be an understatement.
“What’s going on…”
She lifted a finger to her mouth. “Shhh,”
“You go that way around the building and I’ll go this way…maybe just maybe they wouldn’t have heard us…”
Rolim went around the back of the building and Madj went around the front of the building. Little did they know someone else watched them from the front walk.
After a few moments, they crossed paths on the other side of the building.
“Well?” said Madj low enough so only Rolim could hear her.
“Me either…maybe you only thought...”
Madj looked at him…”No when I say i've seen something, I’ve seen something.”
“Are you two sure you are not a couple?”
Rolim and Madj turned to find Eli standing by the building.”
Madj looked at him annoyingly. “For the last time we’re not a couple. If it weren’t for my grandfather I would be on this trip alone.”
Rolim glanced her way. “I should be hurt by your words but I'm not. I don’t really want to be here either.”
Eli cleared his throat. “It doesn’t matter if you want to be here or not, you’re here. Now since you’re here you may be able to help me with a little problem I have.”
Madj looked at Eli. “First how did you get here from where you were?”
“Your not boyfriend sent me here with his magical amulet. Which is good because I’m running late for an appointment and this put me back on track to get there from here.”
“Now what's the problem you think we can help you with?”
“Wait,” Rolim interrupted.”The amulet is magical?”
“Oh bother,” Said Eli.”Yes the amulet is magical and my problem is I need you two to help me kill the evil Red Queen.”
Here ends Part 1 of the novel, The Quarreling Means. The Next Section will be called Hunt for the Red Queen.
© 2020 Timothy Whitt