[editor's note: the following story was told in Zook's encampment on the evening of October 3o. It was told shortly after Isa had finished relating her tale.]
“As you know, I come from the Forest of Nan, but there is more to me than that. I hope I do not seem presumptuous, but I thought that, as long as we are sharing tales, you may be interested in mine. Though I am ashamed to admit it, I am tainted by the blood of the fiends who rule this kingdom.”
She sits by the fire with her knees drawn up under chin. She wears a shabby cloak of green worsted wool, moth eaten and frayed. Not much protection against the chilly late autumn air, but it’s all she can afford given the meager wages Zook pays her for washing pots and gathering ox dung for the fire.
How well do you know her, Tranna the Elf? She has accompanied you for almost two months since you rescued her from the seraglio of Baron Malsvir and agreed to return her to her home in the Forest of Nan. She has helped you by providing useful information on more than a few occasions, but until now, she has been reticent about sharing information of a personal nature. You watch her, waiting for her to continue, her eyes hidden behind long honey colored bangs.
“One fine autumn day, some one hundred and five years ago, my mother was set upon and captured by a Blixtian raiding party while gathering mushrooms with her friends in the forest. Such raiding parties are, of course, a common danger in our woodland home as the Blixtian nobles like to hunt my people for sport and profit. As you know, Elven females are highly prized in Blixt as sexual consorts and fetch high prices in the slave markets of the largest towns. On this particular day, the young half dragon scion who led the hunting party was so overcome by my mother’s beauty that, instead of immediately chaining her with the rest of the prisoners, he led her off into the brush, flung her to the ground, and ravished her. But his bestial lust proved providential for my mother. While he was momentarily disoriented after spilling his seed, my mother seized a rock, dashed his brains all over the forest floor and fled.
I am the child of that unfortunate union.
For some reason, I have never shown any outward physical signs of my mixed parentage. In my case, the Elven stock seems to have completely predominated over the draconic. This, I am told, is rare but not unheard of when our two species mingle. But the circumstances of my conception proved to be a hated curse for me from which I spent my entire childhood struggling to escape. You see, among the Elves of the Forest of Nan, it is forbidden for one to knowingly consort sexually with anyone of draconic blood. So feared and hated are the horrid lords and ladies of that kingdom by my people. The elders of my tribe know all too well that, in Blixt, elf dragon hybrids are accepted and sometimes allowed to rise to positions of power. It is a tragic irony that, while being generally despised by the Blixtian aristocracy, elves are also valued in that Kingdom as breeding stock. More than a few of the offspring of these abductees have returned to Blixt. While these prodigal elves are welcomed and allowed to assimilate into our tribes, it is greatly feared that they will reproduce and bear more half dragon offspring into our midst. Can such potential traitors be trusted? In theory, yes, but no one wants too many of them around. My people have come to fear the taint of dragon blood almost as much as they fear the swords and arrows of the Blixtian raiding parties.
I was thus raised and treated with love by my community, accepted as almost any other. But I always understood that physical intimacy between me and any other member of my tribe was strictly prohibited. This ban became excruciatingly painful when I entered my late adolescence, a time when young Elven lads and maidens are encouraged to spend much time exploring their world. It is often said that these are some of the best years of an elf’s life, a time when one can freely indulge in explorations of the geographical, intellectual, and physical kind. But the latter were not for me. I recall with great bitterness the many mornings when I, with forced smile on my lips, would nod and listen to my female friends recount with painful exactitude the details of their many nightly trysts and forest assignations with their ever rotating round tables of lovers. Indeed, on some summer nights in the Forest of Nan, cries of passion are more commonly heard than the hooting of owls and croaking of bullfrogs. Many were the nights that I lay in my tree top home, listening to such cries while my bitterness crushed me like a hot stone buried within my chest.
Then I met Fenwick. Fenwick Sage. He was a Forest Gnome and a great craftsman renowned for his elaborate skill at metalworking. There is little interaction between our races, though we share the same forest demesne. Occasionally we will come together for mutual defense or trade as was the case on the day that I met him. He had come to my village to trade jewelry, mostly silver, for the cunning fabrics that we weave so well, highly prized by the gnomes. When I admired the quality of his handiwork, he looked at me for a long moment without speaking. He then reached into his worn leather kit and produced a finely wrought silver chain from which depended an almost perfect fire opal. He held it out to me and said that it would perfectly match the quartz sequins on my linen gown. I blushed and told him that I could not possibly accept such a gift, especially from someone I had just met. He replied that he was not in fact offering it is a gift, the pendant’s value being far too great for that. Would I be willing to trade? I cringed in embarrassment, but he shrugged the moment off and invited me for a walk.
That afternoon we walked and talked for hours beneath the forest canopy, our conversation ranging far and wide between the general and intimate. Fenwick had such passion for all things in the natural world and he expressed himself with a wit and eloquence that I had not believed existed outside of fey kind. His eyes sparkled with mirth when he looked up at me, his head barely rising to my waist. So engrossed were we in our conversation that we did not realize that dusk, and then night, had spread their soft and purplish wings over the forest.
We found ourselves in a rare forest clearing, the stars spread out like spilled sugar against the night, the air smelling sweetly of fern and pine. We looked at each other, not speaking, for a long moment. Then, he reached and plucked a sequin from my gown, holding it before me. The sequin flashed into bright light and transformed into a beautiful fire opal that blazed with an internal glow so great that the entire clearing swelled with its radiance. He then took the blazing opal, stretched his arm as high as he could reach, and, standing on tip toe, carefully placed the gem among the stars overhead. When he removed his hand, the new star remained, held fast in the firmament, burning among the wheeling constellations above. So great was his skill at his gnomish illusion magic that my star burned all night, spilling its radiance upon us as we made love on the mossy carpet below.”
Tranna pauses and looks at the sky above your heads.
“In him I found someone who could be my friend and more than a friend, someone who was not bound by the taboo restrictions of my people. Someone who I slowly grew to love as improbable as it may sound. Soon, I was slipping away for days at a time and making the long journey to visit him in his workshop hidden below the forest floor. He took me below the earth, into the cool, dark, stone refuge of his home where he fashioned his wondrous creations. And there I had my desires fulfilled for the first time.
His skill as a craftsman extended well beyond the field of metal and into the world of physical pleasure. Oh yes, in his workshop, I learned a craft of a different sort. His smaller size and weight provided me with advantages that I would not have enjoyed with an Elven lover. I delighted in holding him at arm’s length before me or sitting him upon my knee and thoroughly exploring his small, nude body. He was hard, strong, and earthy, the muscles of his chest brawny, yet somehow delicate. I held his hands and guided them over my body for hours, his small dexterous hands, so skilled at shaping and molding precious things, so adept at gently probing and coaxing the secret places of the earth. I investigated the cleft of his buttocks, round and firm like stones polished by a forest brook. I gently cupped his testicles, smooth and brown like two hazelnuts, in my hand. It is true that, owing to the diminutive stature of his race, his manhood was scarcely larger than an Elven child’s. But he made up for this with a virility that could shame a centaur and by pleasuring me in other, more imaginative ways as well. He worshiped my body, in his gnomish manner, as if I were a treasured handicraft produced by some great master. To him, my loins were an exquisitely crafted chalice to which he would lovingly press his lips and drink deeply. I can vividly remember the long and delicious afternoons that we spent together in his underground smithy, his tongue clamped between my thighs like a fiery ingot held in the tongs of a greedy metallurgist. He satisfied me for hours in this manner, hammering and sintering my sex until I flowed like molten copper.
Our love was a craft upon which we lavished all of our skill, but it was a secret affair. If the other elves of my village knew of it, I would have been the object of jokes and stories for years to come. I had never heard of any romantic liaisons between our two races. Thus no one knew where I had gone when I did not return to my village on the morning of my one hundredth birthday. A party had been planned, but I would not be in attendance. I did not return because, on my journey home from Fenwick’s workshop, I was set upon by Blixtian raiders. Fenwick was with me, having planned to accompany me to just beyond the outskirts of our village’s patrol border. He could have run and hid, gnomes being so adept at such things, but he chose to stay to try and help me. A decision that I’m sure he regretted.
We were captured, taken from the forest in chains, and sold to the household of Baron Besumo of the Fiefdom of Ux. The Baron, after tiring of me, eventually sold me to another slaver who, in turn, sold me to Baron Malsvir, the sadistic beast from whom you rescued me. The last I ever saw of my beloved Fenwick was” she pauses again her voice cracking, “on a plate as he was served for dinner at Baron Besumo’s mid winter table.” Tranna’s face shines wetly in the fire light and she seems to struggle as if uncertain about continuing. “I was made to serve at the feast, wearing the humiliating silks of his pleasure girl. He made cruel jokes in front of me to his guests, obviously reveling in my misery and his dominion over me. After eating of my former lover’s manliness, he exclaimed that,” sobbing now, “that it was delicious having, been so thoroughly steeped in elf juice.”
Tranna wipes her face with the back of her sooty hand.
“It may seem odd to you that I would wish to return to my people after all this, but the Forest is the only home that I have ever known. Though little awaits me there but a life of unfulfilled longing, I must tell my family what happened to me. I owe them that. Fenwick’s clan should be told as well. Also, unlike some of you,” she looks at Zook and Isa in particular, “I just cannot see myself living forever among these Blixtian devils, trying to blend in, and hoping be tolerated among those also shunted to the margins of their society. No. I must return. I leave the timetable open your convenience, but I humbly ask that you fulfill your promise to me and return me to my home.”
She sighs and regains control of her emotions. Her face is turned upward. Her eyes still moist in the starlight.
[editor's note: Tranna referrences sugar in her story. While sugar is not known among the elves of the Nan forest, this exotic delicacy is known in Blixt where the locals import it from lands far to the south. It only graces the tables of the most wealthy. Tranna must have learned of sugar during her tenure as a pleasure girl for Barons Belsomo and Malsvir.]