Fantasy Urban Fantasy Fiction

The day has finally come! The day when tradition passes on new responsibilities, an opportunity to stand among the ranks of all the great heroes that came before…

“Hey! Are you listening to me? I’m not going to repeat myself half-stack!”

The moment the rake was thrust forward into his unprepared hands, Emery was wretched from his daydreams. Clumsily he managed to catch the wooden handle, his fingerless gloves offering protection from the ancient tool’s bite. 

“I am listening, but if you want me to be able to repeat it back word for word, you’ll have to give it to me one more time.”

Emery found himself suddenly pushed back against the wall, the broom now held like a bar between himself and his brother. It took approximately two more seconds for Emery to realize that he was also hovering four feet off the ground. Compared to his brother, Vesper looked like a cat toying with a mouse. 

“Just because you want to be a bard doesn’t give you an excuse to be clever. Don’t blame me if you screw this up.”

Before Emery could land himself in any more trouble, Vesper dropped him unceremoniously and turned to walk back up the stairs. The older of the half-elf brothers wore a smirk that Emery couldn’t see.

“Ashtree Lane, hurry up, or you’ll be late.”

The look of indignation on Emery’s face was gone in an instant as he picked himself up and rushed toward the door, but not before stopping to admire himself in the mirror. He inspected himself like he was off to war. He wanted to be prepared!

Dressed in hand-me-downs that were still a size and a half too large for his lithe frame, Emery looked as though a strong wind might send him tumbling down the street like a collection of leaves. He had short chestnut hair that collected in waves around his face. Half-elf ears poked out from under the winter cap. Standing just a few inches below five feet tall, Emery was hardly intimidating, but his earnest spirit often saw him taking on every challenge with almost undeserving bravery. 

The autumn season was in full swing all over the town of Marybrooke. The charming, storybook suburbs were no different. The many denizens of the city were dressed in festive layers, colors of marigold, pumpkin, rich browns, and crimson, all on proud display. Emery looked right at home among the smiling faces he passed on the street, every now and then casting quick gazes up at the street signs. 

By the time he reached Ashtree Lane, Emery’s cheeks were kissed crimson by the cold wind. The culdesac was lined with towering oak, aspen, and maple trees. Their tops were still crowned with a brilliant display of reds and gold; however, fallen leaves still created a fine carpet of leaves that needed clearing. The air smelled sweet with decay, but the tickling notes of chimney smoke started to flood Emery’s nostrils, making him sneeze. 

Vesper had given Emery a little rundown on the neighborhood and the families that lived there. Five houses needed the walks in front of their homes raked and piled at the head of the driveway. The sun was already high in the sky, probably a little past midday. If Emery wanted to complete the job on time and get home in time for dinner, he needed to get to work. 

Over the span of two hours, Emery managed to get all but one house’s leaves raked up. He’d been greeted by a rather sweet older halfling woman. Standing on a small ladder so she could see clearly over the fence, she chatted with Emery, even making him a cup of hot cider as clouds seemed to roll in, taking away whatever warmth the sun offered. Emery learned that the woman was called Avice, a retired cleric of the forge. It wasn’t long before they were joined by her dwarvish husband, Fergus. He’s a well-known figure in the community for his work with local Unions. The couple was an odd match, but Emery was sure in their 30 years of marriage, they’d clearly earned the loving look in their eyes when they looked at one another. 

Eventually, Avice urged Emery to continue on his way and finished the job. There had been a steady fog slowly rolling in, and with the sun starting to go down, there was a quickly closing window to finish the job. Picking up his rake and handing over the now-empty cup of cider, the half-elf hurried off to the last house. 

It was the largest of the properties thus far; the fog consumed the yard and outer facade. There was a faint glow through the windows in the front room, but Emery kept his eyes turned down to his work. Each scraping of the rake released that same sweet perfume into the air. Petrichor and the delicate decay of fallen leaves. 

Following along the property line, Emery began to reveal more and more of the path. The swell of pride was evident in his chest as an audible hum rose from his upturned lips. Everything was going according to plan, that was, of course, until Emery heard the abrupt sound of fabric tearing as if caught on something. There was something primal about the way it made a shiver run up Emery’s spine. 

Lifting up the rake’s teeth from the mass of leaves, what Emery saw surprised him. Hanging there from one of the teeth was a children’s knitted cap. It looked like it hadn’t been there very long, but with the damage from the rake, there was little to be done to save it. With a huff, Emery shoved the hat into his back pocket. It was at that moment that he looked around.

The street lamps were lit, and the sun was falling behind the tall trees. The creeping darkness made the hairs on the back of Emery’s neck stand on end. He hadn’t even noticed just how tightly he was holding the rake's handle. White knuckles stood on full display from cold-stained hands, glowing a faintly red hue. Before him lay the last ten feet of carpeted leaves. He was so close that he could taste victory on his tongue. Reminiscent of the hot cider from before. 

It wasn’t apparent what caused Emery to look back at that moment. His gaze fell to where he found the glove, and then it drifted up toward the home. His eyes began to strain, looking for any sign that he wasn’t being watched. That uneasy feeling settled deep within his bones. And that is when Emery saw it. Prowling there in the fog, the gnarled image of a creeping wolf! It had to be a wolf! The sheer size of it was alone to make Emery toss the rake at the ground after swinging it wildly in an attempt to defend himself. 

The half-elf made running from the neighborhood look like a deific feat. Not one second was spared before Emery turned tail and ran as if the lord of the nine hells was on his heels. The echoes of his screams and cries of a wolf long announced his arrival to all within earshot. Thankfully to the young man’s pride, there was only one true witness to the whole affair, for sitting on the porch of her tidy cottage-like home was Avice.

An amused smile played upon her features, a cup of steaming tea held firmly in her hands. The sound of a door opening and closing would announce that Fergus had decided to join her, chortling as he did so. 

“Did he finish?”

“So close.”

The dwarf banged his fist lightly upon his chair as he sank deep, letting out a deep sigh as he settled beside his wife, a flagon of mead waiting for him. They both looked down the lane as the fog slowly began to drift higher, revealing what Emery had been startled by. It was indeed a wolf, but it was little more than clever gardening and a bit of magic. Druids made for the best neighbors.

December 03, 2022 03:16

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Wendy Kaminski
14:55 Dec 10, 2022

Loved this!


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Rabab Zaidi
14:49 Dec 10, 2022



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