Ophelia tightened her satchel to her body. She had just reached the outskirts of Brunhild. She took one last look at the town and inhaled. “GOODBYE!” she screeched before heading off with a pep in her step. She was old enough to become an apprentice, and she wanted to become a blacksmith more than anything. So her sights were set on Eldar City, in search of one Master Delmon.
By midday, Ophelia had run out of the snacks her father had packed for her. She sat by the road in quiet despair. She thought they would last much longer and she contemplated heading home. Instead, she pressed onward, looking for forest snacks. She climbed up a tree for an apple. She plucked berries off a bush. She could do this.
Two days of rest from the food poisoning made her think otherwise.
She reached a small town within a week and rented a small room. She rested for most of the day. She did not care for sleeping in the cold. By suppertime she was famished and she took her meal in the inn’s tavern.
“What have ya, lil lady,” the barkeep asked her. He was human but not scrawny like Ophelia was used to seeing.
“I’m hungry, what d’you got?” she asked.
“We got pig stew, roasted hen, and a meat pie,” he said
“I’ll take the hen, thanks,” she said and looked for a seat. The tables in Brunhild were much lower. Here a dwarf would feel like a child. Even though Ophelia was young, she did not want people to think she was any younger. She found a low enough table for herself and waited for her hen.
There was a crash as the door swung open. A satyr female walked in, accompanied by a human, a fairy and a shifter.
“Sebastian! You’re finest ale for me and my companions!” the satyr yelled and she strode across the tavern, he hooves clicking against the floor. Ophelia watched with quiet interest.
“Oi Shelly, if ya don’t stop ya yappin, you’ll get a tall glass of me boot,” Sebastian said. Shelly and her companions laughed and sat at the bar. Sebastian brought them all their ale. Ophelia watched them converse and laugh and she had still yet to get her hen. After what was beyond appropriate timing, Ophelia found herself heading towards the counter.
“S’cuse me sir,” she said. Though she was too short to see over the counter, she tapped the bar top with her hand.
“Far from home, aren’t you dwarf?” the human said.
“Never ya mind,” Ophelia said, with a scowl. She had a name. She turned back to the bar and stood on her tip toes. “S’cuse me sir. Beggin ya pardon. But my hen please?” she said. He blinked a couple of times.
“My apologies little missy,” he said shuffling off to the back. “See Shelly, ya come in me place o’ business, and ya make me forget what I was even doin,” he huffed.
“I didn’t do anything Sebastian, that is all you,” she said. “You there, girl,” she called to Ophelia.
“Can I be doing something for ya miss?” Ophelia asked. She was growing rather bothered by the brashness.
“Join my company,” Shelly said. The bar grew quiet and it was as if the two of them were the only ones there. Shelly’s eyes narrowed and Ophelia fought the urge to walk closer.
“No...no thank you,” she said after a moment and went back to her seat.
Shelly smiled but said nothing further. She looked amused.
Ophelia ate her hen with vigor. It was much better than the fish and fowl she’d been eating the last couple of days. Shelly stood across from her table as she was working on one of the legs of the bird. Satyrs were also quite small so the low table was fine.
“You’re a curious thing, Ophelia,” she said with a smile. She leaned her head in her hand. Something felt off.
“I don’t recall givin ya my name,” she said, narrowing her eyes and placing a hand over her pocket.
“You didn’t. But I know. There are lots of things I know. About people. About places. About things,” she said, her eyes locking with Ophelia’s.
“A seer satyr, ain’t that a laugh,”Ophelia laughed but kept her hand on her pocket. To her surprise Shelly laughed too.
“Shelviria the Seer Satyr, yes, it’s quite a laugh,” she said before her stare grew serious. “I’ll cut to the chase. There’s something about you Ophelia. I don’t know what it is just yet, but I need you on my crew,” she said.
“Well, I can’t be doing that miss seer, I have business of me own to attend ta,” she said, finishing her meal.
“Business in Eldar City?” she said, making Ophelia look up.
“Yea…” she said, feeling a rising feeling in her chest “And...and me joining ya party doesn’t help me, now does it?” she said, trying to sound more annoyed than scared.
“As it stands, we also need to go to Eldar. So we can help each other out. You’ve never been on your own before, I bet you’re having a hard time. I could teach you a few things along the way,” Shelly said. Ophelia had been having a hard time. She wanted to do things by herself though.
“Plus, it’s dangerous to go alone, even for creatures twice your size. I might even get us a ship. Save a few weeks time. Wouldn’t that sound nice?” she asked.
Ophelia was quiet for a few moments.
“And what is it, ya get out of this? Sounds great for me, but what do you benefit from this bargain?” she said. She knew everything came at a price. Shelly chuckled.
“It is so boring to see everything that comes your way Ophelia. To see the outcome of everything around you. So, every once in awhile, I like to toss a new ingredient in the pot. Mix things up a little. A human, a fae, and a shifter. All changing the trajectory of things. You, my dear, will give the recipe a whole new flavor. I want to see that,” she said with an intense stare. “You get to Eldar, I get an adventure. We both win.”
Ophelia stared for a few moments. She may not have been the best judge of plants, but she was a good judge of character. She could tell Shelly was telling the truth, there seemed to be something else behind her smile. Not sinister but something.
“I’ll have ta sleep on it,” she said finally. Shelly clapped her hands.
“Fair enough, you sleep, and if you agree. Meet me back here in the morning. I’ll buy you breakfast, as a celebration for joining my party,” she said with a small stomp of her hoof. Ophelia nodded and headed to her room to think things over.
Breakfast tasted of a huge risk and hearty meats.