Aria sat on top of the bar in the tavern watching Cleo sing a lullaby and play her guitar. Aria was an elf, as recognized by her long pointy ears, and at just barely under one hundred years old, Cleo always told her that if she was a human child she would be three, she was small for her age. She had her father’s hair, black and curly with tiny braids cascading down her back but her face was like her mother’s, her eyes a dark brown that lit up whenever she laughed. She yawned, the night long and dark, and smiled sleepily, clapping as the song ended, “Sing another one Cleo!”
Cleo laughed, “I think it’s about time we get you to bed don’t you think?” Cleo was a bubbly woman in her twenties and a dear friend to Aria’s mother, the leader of the elves, Vaella. She had short and curly strawberry red hair that fell onto her shoulders, the curls bouncing gently when she laughed, which was often. Her eyes were a soft brown that twinkled whenever she sang, and she always wore beautiful dresses with soft colors of blues, browns, and greens. She worked at the tavern, although she hadn’t “worked” for years; the only customer the tavern saw now was the young elf. The town was overrun with darkbloods, the Fae King’s army of infected Evermorians that were unfortunate enough to be touched by the darkness that surrounded the town. The tavern now served as a shelter for those caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and were lucky enough to make it to the doors of the tavern without the darkbloods following, or a drop off zone for Vaella to leave her daughter whenever she felt their home was unsafe. It was here that the young elf would be trusted by Cleo, who would spend hours and more often days caring for the child until her parents returned.
Aria shook her head, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, “No, please, please, one more! I promise I’ll go to sleep after just one more song.”
Cleo laughed as she picked up her guitar once more, her fingers strumming a melody, “Now where have I heard that before and how many last songs have turned into ten?”
She winked at a giggling Aria, her face lit up with a smile at the child’s laughter, and began to sing another song that was cut short, just before the chorus, by shriek screams outside the door. She stared at the heavy wooden door for a moment, gripping her guitar tightly, then stood up quickly as something large banged against the door and dropped with a thud. Aria screamed, now frightened, and Cleo ran over putting her hand over the child’s mouth shushing her. It was too late, however, and in a moment the door burst open, breaking off of its hinges with a bang. Cleo immediately grabbed Aria off the table and dropped behind the bar, now hidden from view, and held Aria close, her hand over her mouth once more. She peeked around the bar, silent, keeping watch over the darkblood’s movements, ready to flee if found.
Two darkbloods stood there, a man and a woman, their victim lying unconscious at their feet, and they both took a step into the tavern, surveying the warmly lit room and growling. Darkbloods used to be Evermorians, and perhaps deep inside they still were, however, darkbloods seemed to lose all sense of who they were as the darkness overtook their bodies. They answered only to the Fae King, the feared ruler over Evermore, and his wish was simple; for his army to infect all with the darkness, leading to the destruction of Evermore.
Darkbloods still looked like normal citizens, however, the forest seemed to grow on them as mushrooms and branches were seen sticking out of their bodies in places and their faces turned dirty and dark. They never spoke, but swayed back and forth at odd angles growling and hissing at whatever moved. Although the two darkbloods had not yet found Cleo and Aria as of yet, darkbloods were extremely fast and agile creatures, and Cleo knew they did not have much time if they were seen. All it took to be infected with the darkness was for a darkblood to touch the skin of those they wished infected and Cleo knew they were both in danger.
The darkbloods walked into the tavern, their bodies swaying left and right as they looked for the source of the sound they had heard inside. Their victim now twitched, then stood up, the woman’s face dark and growling as she followed the two darkbloods that had infected her. Cleo shifted behind the counter more, leaning against the wall of the bar, her body now shaking with fear for herself and the child she held. She looked at the child then, putting her finger to her lips to signal Aria to be quiet, then pointed to the barrel that stood a few feet away. She set Aria on the ground and the child swiftly padded over to the barrel and crouched down, her tiny body curling up against it as she wrapped her brown elven dress around her legs tightly. Aria’s face was wet with tears and her eyes were wide as she stared at Cleo, motioning with her hand frantically for Cleo to join her. Cleo smiled softly, shaking her head, and tears filled her eyes as she put up her hand mouthing `stay’, her eyes pleading with Aria to remain calm, and without thinking twice she stood up and ran towards the darkbloods. She dodged them as they reached out, expecting Cleo to keep her straight path toward them, and instead ran out the open doors, luring them away from the child, the three darkbloods charging after her.
For what seemed like forever Aria curled up with her hands over her ears trying to block out the screaming she heard outside, her mind imagining it was Cleo she could hear, and wanting Cleo to return. She didn’t understand all of the magic Kyrah, Evermore’s most powerful magic user, did to help, but she was told many times by both her mother and Kyrah herself that there were special enchantments and spells surrounding all of the buildings in Evermore, protecting the citizens, so the darkbloods could not get inside. Hearing the screams, and seeing the darkbloods inside of the tavern, Aria knew the magic did not work any longer. She shut her eyes tightly, afraid that instead of Cleo, the darkbloods would come back for her, or worse an infected Cleo would come back, and buried her head in her knees, crying, until someone picked her up and she screamed again.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s me, shhh,” Vaella scooped up her daughter and ran from the tavern, effortlessly dodging the darkbloods that lingered nearby. The night was heavy and dark, however, Vaella was an experienced Elven Ranger, and the leader of the army that fought back against the darkbloods; she didn’t need light to know where she was going. She wore her light brown hair in a side braid as to stay out of her way while fighting, and her brown eyes glared at the darkbloods surrounding the area as she passed them. She wore many weapons including her legendary bow that now was strapped to her back, however, holding her daughter, she used none of these and instead used her swift agility to run and jump past the darkbloods as they tried in vain to pull her down, her elven cape sparkling golden brown behind her as she went. Aria clung to her mother tightly, her warm hands covering her child’s eyes from the terror surrounding the streets, then felt her mother pulling her off and setting her down; they were now in town square, near one of Aria’s favorite restaurants. Aria gazed at the dark building wishing she could eat some more of the fries her parents always got her but the restaurant had not been open in years and Aria knew it probably would never open again.
Vaella crouched down at her daughter’s level, putting her hands on Aria’s face as she tried to get her attention once more, “Aria, listen to me. I need you to wait right here, don’t move. I have to get the darkbloods away from the portal again so we can go through safely. Do you understand? Don’t go anywhere.”
Aria looked over at the large portal, white light shining from it, and saw Kyrah working hard to keep the portal open as Evermorians hid waiting for the darkbloods to leave. She was thin and short but stood her ground, her brown eyes turned nearly black with the amount of magic and effort she was using to keep the portal open. Her short blonde hair and dark blue dress blew back in the wind emitted from the open portal and she held both hands out, white light shooting from her hands and into the blinding light. The darkbloods hissed at Kyrah and circled her slow and calculated, trying to figure out a way past the protection barrier she had hastily put around herself, symbols Aria couldn’t read or understand etched in white on the ground in an arc. Aria gasped, seeing the amount of darkbloods hissing and surrounding Kyrah, and stepped closer to her mother, wrapping her arms around her neck. Vaella hugged her tightly, knowing she had little time, then stood up, grabbing her small hand and pulling her into the shadows.
Vaella leaned down and kissed her daughter on the forehead, hesitating as she took a step away from her child, then ran away, her bow and arrow pointing at the darkbloods. Aria stepped forward, her arms outstretched, screaming, “Mommy no! Come back!”
Vaella dropped to the ground and rolled, shooting an arrow at the closest darkblood, then unsheathed her knife, stabbing the one next to it, but the darkbloods were too many and began to surround her. Knowing she had little time, she looked towards her daughter and gasped seeing a darkblood running down the street, Aria right in his path. “Aria, no! Run!” She lifted her bow to protect her but the darkbloods closed in and knocked the bow from her hand, more arriving every second.
Aria started towards her mother but was picked up by Violet, the Mayor of Evermore. Violet was tall and stood as if nothing could harm her as she glared at the darkblood, now stopped and hissing, stopping his chase on the child. Being the mayor of Evermore, she had seen many things, and wasn’t afraid of any of the darkbloods that stood before her. She usually wore her deep red hair in a bun, every hair neatly in place save for two curls that framed her fair face and her red dress seemed to match her hair. She bunched the dress up with her free fist, ready to run at a moment’s notice, her dark brown eyes piercing the night as she angrily looked at the darkbloods who continued to hiss and growl at her. Violet held the tiny elf tightly and looked back at her dearest and closest friend, tears forming in her eyes. Violet had been close friends with Vaella for years, long before Aria had been born, and it pained her to see Vaella’s life in danger.
“Vaella!” Violet wanted to run after and help her, knowing her friend was at risk of being infected or killed, but clung tightly to Aria, knowing she couldn’t endanger her only child either.
Vaella pushed the nearest darkbloods away from her angrily, looking at her daughter then Violet, “Take her Violet! Both of you get out of here now!”
Violet hesitated, a darkblood appearing in front of her hissing, and Aria screamed in her arms. Violet kicked the darkblood, knocking him off his feet, turned away from Vaella and her home, and ran through the portal, leaving Evermore behind.Recommended1 recommendation Published in