This is the first instalment of chapter 2 of Grogg Hammerfist’s Adventures through the Multiverse. You can read chapter one here – or check the category to read the story from the beginning. Enjoy! – Ed.
Chapter Two: Shadows
It had been about a day’s walk since I left the cozy inn on my way to Orythia. The sun was setting on the horizon and my stomach rumbled. The rabbit I caught and killed earlier in the day would make a fine meal. I left the cobbled road, making to a clearing I had spotted earlier – a great spot to make camp and start a fire for the rabbit. Trying to find wood dry enough to make a fire was proving difficult, but the rumbling from my stomach spurred me on. After what seemed like an age, I had finally gathered enough wood for a decent fire. The sun was now a mere luminous fleck on the horizon and the first of the evening stars began glimmering in the sky.
I fumbled through my satchel for my tinderbox and knife. I put down a few smaller bits of wood and light it. Puckering my lips, I blew slowly and steadily at the tiny embers to help the fire along. Success!
I made short work of skinning the rabbit and mounted it on a stick, which served as a makeshift spit. Digging around in my satchel once more I found three small bags – one for herbs, one for spices and the other for salt. Just because I hunt and forage for my food when I’m on the road, does not mean I cannot enjoy the finer culinary arts. Well-chosen herbs and spices are sure to bring out the full flavour of the meat. My mouth started to water as the aroma of the now-roasting rabbit filled my nostrils. Once done, I picked off a piece of the succulent roast and put it in my mouth, savouring the taste. As I ate, I looked up at the starry sky, marvelling at its beauty. I traced the constellations and tried to name as many of them as I could. I stopped at the constellation of Felnor, the great stag, with Aluras – the brightest star in the night sky – resting at the tip of one of his horns. In ancient times, Felnor was worshipped as a god and was said to have taught humans to hunt. As I ate the morsels of rabbit, I felt an affinity for this constellation.
I got about halfway through my dinner when I spotted a shadow that behaved differently from the ones caused by the setting sun. This one changed direction, appearing and then vanishing, but what seemed consistent in its behaviour was that it was getting bigger, and moving towards me, and taking on a humanoid form. The shadowy figure raised its hands above its head and then said, “I mean you no harm, friend. I’d just like to enjoy the warmth of your fire if you will let me and also to cook a rabbit I caught earlier.”
I was startled not by the figure’s words, but by the handsome face smiling back at me. Once he came close enough for the fire to dissipate the shadows around him, I saw the face of a male dark elf. His silvery white hair gleamed in the light and he approached with arms raised. The words, “Uh … no problem, friend … join me,” fumbled out of my mouth. I was totally struck by how utterly handsome he was. I caught myself breathing out the words, “wow” and “gorgeous”.
He looked what would be the human equivalent of his early twenties, but it is hard to say with dark elves. For all I knew, he could have been two hundred years old – and a damn fine two hundred years it would be.
He promptly took a seat opposite me. Stretching out his hand in greeting, he introduced himself as Valkyrion. I repeated his name and smiled at him. “And yours?” he asked.
It took me a while to register his question and then I replied, “Grogg. Uh, they call me Grogg … Grogg Hammerfist … from Forest Peak … yes.” He smiled. I swear there was a glint in his eye.
He sat quietly and started to prepare the rabbit for the fire, focused intently on the task at hand.
He was startled when out of nowhere, my hand jutted towards him while holding the bags containing the salt, herbs and spices. It made it even more disconcerting as I did this without uttering a word, my face registering an eager smile. “For the rabbit.” He looked at me both confused and intrigued. He was probably thinking that I’d lost my mind. “For the rabbit,” I repeated.
For a brief moment I felt the tips of his fingers against the palm of my hand as he took the bags. He slowly opened each and examined their contents. “Thanks; this is lovely,” he said, nodding at me as he did so.
“I’m good at seasoning meat. I can season yours if you’d like.” I cringed when I realised how eager I sounded. Valkyrion accepted my offer, patted me on the back and laughed to ease the tension. He has such a wonderful laugh.
“You mentioned Forest Peak; I passed through the village once on my travels. Quite a picturesque setting.”
To be continued.