Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ End of the road ( Chapter 6 )
“Well well well, what do we have here?” The Quel’Dorei in black asks aloud.
He is flanked by four or five other elves dressed in similar black leather clothes. They tower over her. One - a female with straight, sharp white hair - smiles blankly.
Phoenix’s heart races. Is it really him? From years ago? Does he recognise her?
“I’m… I’m... just on my way back to Silvermoon,” she manages to stutter between breaths, lying. “I’m late.”
“Well, you’re going the wrong way for one,” he smirks, and the others laugh. “You’ve reached a toll bridge.”
The elf in black looks at Phoenix as if judging her; she can feel his cold blue-grey eyes trying to figure her out. She is petrified at the thought of him recognising her from all those years ago. She glances back at him and his hardened, pockmarked face, his long silver hair and trim beard, and looks away again. A scar runs from his nose to his left ear. He must be a few hundred years old for an elf, who can live for many centuries.
Phoenix looks back down to the floor, terrified.
“For you…” the man in black says, after a few moments. “100 gold.”
A few of his accomplices shuffle almost awkwardly, the white-haired female makes a devilish grin and Phoenix balks inside at the obscenely high price.
“Norros,” one of the other elves addresses the man in black.
“I’m just joking!” Norros smiles, gesturing with his palms facing outwards like a mime. “10 gold,” he adds, with certainty.
“Oh father, why not more?” the white-haired elf protests.
“I’m afraid I lost my money,” Phoenix quickly interjects, nervously. “I only have a few gold to my name, it’s back home.”
“Aw, don’t worry my dear, it’s perfectly fine, we can make a deal,” Norros says, grabbing the bag around Phoenix, who reluctantly allows him to take it.
“I don’t have anything,” she starts, her heart in her throat, but the bag has been thrown to the young white-haired female, who is already emptying its contents to the floor. A humble blanket, a few flasks of water and some plain clothes fall to the floor, followed by all of Phoenix’s food: enough apples and bread to last a few days.
Norros looks disappointed. He slowly looks back up at Phoenix.
“Where exactly is home?” he asks her.
She hesitates. She doesn’t know how to answer, as home is nowhere now. Inside she prays not to blackout again, for it would surely mean her death.
Norros’ daughter steps forward with one of the flasks of water, holding it over Phoenix’s head as she starts to say: “He said… Where...”
She pours the water over Phoenix, slowly emphasising each word: “Is...? Home...?”
The water runs down the face and hair of Phoenix, seeping slightly into her clothes.
‘I don’t have one,’ Phoenix thinks to herself. She tenses up and her mouth wobbles with nervousness; she starts to cry without showing it, making a sound or screwing her face up, the first few tears mixing with the water.
She glances up at the white-haired elf, who smiles a slow, wicked smile back. Her stare is like poison to Phoenix, there is hatred behind her eyes.
Her face is clear like a crystal, her big grey-blue eyes a mirror image of her father’s. Her nose and mouth are small like a mouse, her skin pale, contrasting with her black jacket, cloak and trousers. A narrow sword is in her holster.
“Now now, Alexandra,” Norros says, stepping forward. “That’s no way to treat a guest. She must stay somewhere.”
Frightened and wet, like a cat that’s been thrown into a bath, Phoenix takes a breath to try and mask her crying - and lies again.
“A small shack with my foster family, I’m an orphan, we’re poor we don’t have anything,” she blurts out.
“Then how do you have some gold to your name, as you said?” Norros asks.
“I saved up a stash while working,” Phoenix’s voice cracks despite speaking the truth.
“Okay. Where do you work?” Norros replies.
Phoenix tries to think. She doesn’t want to put the inn in trouble or give away her identity, and her second delay costs her.
“The bank -” Phoenix’s response sounds more like a question than an answer.
“She’s lying,” Alexandra interrupts with a snarl, standing right in front of Phoenix.
The two elves are the same height, so their eyes meet easily. But Phoenix doesn’t want to look straight at her. Instead, her gaze wavers nervously. She notices that Alexandra has a small tattoo of a feather on the side of her neck. Could it be? The same feather from the note?
Alexandra appears to be slightly older than Phoenix, her long streaks of white hair fall over her back into slight curls, contrasting with her dark black leather. She stares at Phoenix, who stands opposite her in her light grey outfit, slumped and looking back at the neck tattoo, her wet ginger hair stuck to her face and tunic.
“May I, father?” Alexandra asks Norros, without taking her eyes off Phoenix, who is now staring at the floor, any mild anger for her mother’s potential kidnappers overshadowed by fear. Alexandra tenses her hands into fists, her black, grimy fingerless gloves tightening and loosening.
He nods, uninterested, turning away with the rest of the group before saying: “Do not be long.”
Before Phoenix has a chance to realise what is happening, the leader’s daughter has grabbed her with both hands.
“What are you doing?” Phoenix shrieks quietly, with panic.
There is no verbal answer. Alexandra releases her, swinging her arms and landing a short but vicious flurry of punches to Phoenix’s chest and kidneys.
Before she can react to the pain, a fist flies towards Phoenix’s face, smashing into her nose. Blood seeps as she is sent reeling from the blow, crashing to the floor and covering her face, before attempting to stand again and flee in panic.
Alexandra kicks Phoenix’s chin and the force knocks her backwards. She tumbles over the edge of the small bridge and into the shallow stream below, the water turning a light shade of pink from her bleeding nose.
Phoenix coughs and scampers out of the stream. She lies in sharp pain, dazed and muddy and wet. She hears a voice through her ringing ear and winces.
“You have 24 hours to pay the fee,” the voice says, deadpan, getting louder. “Meet here, this time tomorrow, alone. Do not tell anyone. If you don’t have enough, bring what you have. If you don’t show, we’ll find you. And the payment will be increased.”
Phoenix curls up defensively with her eyes tight shut, praying the ordeal to be over.
Alexandra responds by drawing her sword.
“Please don’t!” Phoenix cries.
Using her narrow rapier like a whip, Alexandra slashes at the edge of Phoenix’s clothes with poise and control, leaving them slightly torn. She laughs fiendishly, steps back and kicks Phoenix in her stomach one more time, who curls up again, shaken with fright, and soon feels her boots being pulled off.
Phoenix writhes in pain as she hears more laughter and footsteps gradually echoing away from her. She slowly crawls to the ditch beside the stream, shaking with shock. She coughs uncontrollably, the blood from her nose splattering onto the ground. Phoenix opens her eyes and sees the group walking away from her, towards Silvermoon.
Phoenix cries silent tears, lying still and trying to absorb what just happened. She turns onto her back, moves her shaking hands away from her face and looks down at them. They are smudged with mud, blood and tears.
A couple of minutes pass before Phoenix opens her eyes to see the stars above shining back. Her body is aching all over while her nose and chin hurt to touch. Her face and hands are covered in dried, cracked blood. Phoenix tries to stand and staggers to gain her balance.
She limps to the stream barefoot and cups a few handfuls of water to her face. Crickets rustle in the bushes around her. The bleeding from her nose is slowing.
She drinks desperately before cleaning her face and hair with the shallow stream water. Phoenix removes her cloak and lifts her shirt at the sides to reveal some newly formed bruises, painful to touch. She grits her teeth and rests her hand on her chin. It feels fractured.
After taking the time to clean herself up and try to calm down, Phoenix heads back to the bridge to look for her belongings. She finds her empty satchel and takes it just in case, but feels defeated with nothing to her name.
She thinks about her next steps, a pang of hunger waving through her. Eventually she decides she has no alternative but to escape and head as far away from Silvermoon and Fairbreeze Village as possible. Her life here is over. She will never get the kind of money demanded on time and fears what may happen if the group in black - or royal guards - find her. Though part of her thinks that if she runs, if she never sees that gang again, then the chance of finding her mother again may fade with them.
She begins walking west, towards thick woods. She knows not where she is going, has never been in this part of the forest before, and walks slowly, silently and painfully. Light rain begins to fall; an owl hoots overhead.
After an hour or so, passing the West Sanctum, she sees the light of a village up ahead. Feeling exhausted from the pain and walking, she decides to turn in for the night. Better to seek help in the day when everyone is awake.
A little way from the road, Phoenix finds a small cave nearby at the base of a hill, speckled with moss. It’s about the same size as her old box room, making her feel a little at home, and provides shelter from the rain. Near the cave mouth, some stones have been gathered and laid in the shape of a triangle.
Phoenix enters the alcove, lays down on the grassy, mossy gravel and thinks about what has happened in the past 24 hours. Her mother is gone, she has no money or food, and the safety of the inn is lost forever. It seems she has brutally murdered her previous employer, escaped from Silvermoon City and its royal guards by the skin of her teeth, and has been robbed and beaten by the gang in black from her childhood. If Alexandra’s feather tattoo is the same as the one from the kidnapper’s note, they could have her mother too.
Phoenix Dreamfoil is broken. Her hunger is overshadowed by fear; her will is shattered; her spirit sapped. She feels like she has nothing to live for, more so than when she was at the inn.
But this time she doesn’t cry. Tears have lost their meaning. Fear is becoming normal. She is finding herself in a place beyond sadness now, beyond purpose or feeling. She feels… nothing. Like she is nothing from nowhere, no one at all.
Phoenix closes her eyes.
She is with her mother now, arm in arm, walking towards the Sunwell. They are laughing and smiling together, the sun shining and the warmth of the well’s magic radiating over them.
Phoenix looks around and notices they are completely alone. The sky suddenly cracks and turns black overhead, thunder and lightning and rain shooting down at them. She hears footsteps quickening behind them and turns around to see a figure in black closing in on them fast. She tries to make out the face but it’s masked.
Phoenix, startled with fright, pulls on her mum’s arm to encourage her to run, but the arm falls limp. Her mother is staring in a trance, frozen, and Phoenix tries to scream but no sound comes out. Time slows almost to a standstill. Phoenix turns around in slow motion just in time to see the black figure, through the pouring rain, leap towards them both.
Phoenix startles awake with a gasp, sitting upright. Her sides and jaw ache with intense pain, beckoning her to lay back again. The actual rain and thunder outside exacerbate her nightmare, one she has not experienced for years.
She struggles to relax and fall asleep again, dozing on and off uneasily until sunrise.
Starving and aching more than the night before, she forces herself to leave the cave and find help in the village nearby.
It is grey and foggy outside, the grass soaked from the storm, which has now passed. Phoenix stretches, yawns and looks down to find one silver coin glinting up at her from inside a small triangle of stones. What luck. How hadn’t she noticed it earlier? Phoenix picks the coin up and examines it, puzzled, before heading to the village.
An old elf tending to plants scowls at her as she passes. Phoenix walks between buildings, looking for some kind of help, and settles on a nearby bakery, the silver coin gripped tightly in her hand. The occasional face peers at her from the windows, while others in the street avoid making eye contact, as if she’s an outlaw or strange hermit. Phoenix realises she must look like a tramp, a troublemaker or just an absolute mess.
She buys a couple of sweetrolls from the baker, who proves to be untalkative, and tries to seek a helping hand or advice from other shopkeepers, to no avail. She gets one-word answers or grunts in response to her questions.
Phoenix avoids the local inn, as it looks like home, and the guardpost, for obvious reasons. She wishes she could report the group of thugs, remembering Alexandra’s threats. No, she will leave here, and get as far away as possible.
After swiftly devouring one of the rolls, she decides to go back to the small cave to savour the other and think about her plan of action in more detail.
She walks to the cave mouth, looks down and stops abruptly. Another silver coin is lying in the middle of the triangle of stones.
Is Phoenix still dreaming? She’s barely been gone 20 minutes - who’s putting the coins there? Is it magic? If so, she thinks to herself, she could keep gathering them until her debt to the gang in black is paid.
She lays down near the stone triangle at the cave mouth, closes her eyes tight and for a moment wishes she is some kind of special mage with the ability to conjure coins and money from thin air.
She gradually peeks through her left eye, her right still shut tight, and feels more stupid than disappointed to see the same single silver piece on the ground in front of her. She opens and shuts her eyes a few more times for good measure.
“You are a strange creature,” a shrill voice pierces the foggy air as if from nowhere.
Phoenix looks around, crumbs stuck to her chin and left cheek, blending in with her freckles. She sees nothing.
“Who said that?” she asks, startled and scared.
There is no response. Phoenix stands and looks around, at the village, into the cave and at the trees nearby.
“I must be going mad,” Phoenix starts. “I’m hearing things. Or talking to myself.”
“No,” the squeaky voice responds. “You’re just being lazy. You are looking and listening. But ya do not see.”
Before she can react, she hears the sound of metal shimmering through the air. A coin is flicked directly onto the top of Phoenix’s head, where it lies perfectly still and balanced. She hears a short giggle nearby.
Phoenix quickly grabs the coin in frustration and looks up.
A female goblin is lying down on the cave’s roof, tilted to one side and looking back at Phoenix, her head supported by one of her hands. The other waves a silly wave at the young elf.
Phoenix scowls in frustration. “I don’t have time for this.”
“You don’t even know what ‘this’ is.”
“A stupid goblin playing stupid games, with a stupid girl whose life is falling apart, that’s what,” she says, angrily, her heated emotions giving way to false confidence.
“That’s not fair,” the goblin squeaks, casually flipping down from atop the cave to land feet-first on the ground beside Phoenix, smiling up at her and standing proudly.
She is dressed in simple boiled leather, yet somehow makes it look almost elegant, with her basic-looking shin guards and arm guards perfectly scaled to her short size. She wears a scarlet red cloak with fine gold stitching, a patch over her right eye and thick jet black hair rests just above her shoulders. A narrow rapier is in her holster. A small golden inverted triangle brooch is adorned to her leather breastplate. The mix of both poor quality and expensive-looking clothing is jarring.
“The name’s Trixie,” the little green-skinned goblin says, holding out a gloved hand towards Phoenix.
“I just wanted to help a local beggar.”
“I’m not a beggar!” Phoenix retorts, ignoring the short outstretched hand and putting her hands on her hips.
“You took my silver, did ya not?”
Trixie’s voice is piercing and high-pitched, with a wild twang. Phoenix’s is prim and well-spoken in contrast.
“I didn’t ask for it,” the elf says to the goblin.
“But ya took it anyway and knew it wasn’t yours. So you’re a thief, then?”
“Ah, by the Sunwell!” Phoenix cries in aggravation as her heart thuds hard in her chest and tiny spikes of rage jut into her mind. She throws the two silver coins onto the ground by Trixie’s feet like a toddler having a tantrum. “Take your money back, I don’t want it anyway!” Phoenix spits. “Who are you?”
Trixie smiles, saying: “I already told you my name. You spent the first silver rather quickly, which suggests otherwise. So you’re a beggar, a thief AND a liar.”
“Shut up!” Phoenix moves towards Trixie and tries to grab her as her rage rises, having to lean down to reach the goblin’s head.
Trixie grins as she avoids a grapple: “A beggar, thief, liar and a thug.”
Phoenix kicks towards the goblin, uncontrollably; she doesn’t care if she loses control anymore. Time seems to slow slightly and Phoenix feels groggy, like she’s underwater. She makes weak contact with the goblin a couple of times, but Trixie easily evades and parries Phoenix’s poor instinctive attacks.
In an instant, Phoenix’s boiling anger fizzes away and is replaced by sadness. She stops flailing, uncurls her fists, turns away and frowns. She feels a little drowsy.
“What do you want?” Phoenix whimpers. “Can’t you see I have nothing? I am nothing…”
“Relax, kiddo,” Trixie says soothingly as her smile fades, her voice easing over Phoenix like a calm wave. “My, you have a short temper for someone so small who cannot fight...”
Trixie notices the bruises and blood stains on Phoenix, as well as her cut-up clothes. “But it seems you have guts.”
Phoenix mulls over the ‘small’ remark, turning back around and looking down at the goblin half her size in slight confusion.
“I don’t have guts,” she sniffs. “I am pathetic. I am a danger to myself.”
Trixie pauses in thought.
“Tell me….” she says, reaching up to pat Phoenix gently on the back. “One gold for your thoughts. No begging. Just money for information - think of it as a fair trade.”
“Why? What’s it to you?” Phoenix mutters, her curiosity piqued.
Trixie places a gold coin into Phoenix’s hand and folds her fingers around it, ignoring her question.
“No questions from you yet. How did you get here? Who are you? What’s your story? Maybe I can help.”
“I’m a trader, from Stranglethorn.”
“Why are you here giving money to beg… big elves?”
“H-hey, I said no questions! Your story first, then I’ll share mine.”
Phoenix looks at the goblin for a moment through puffy eyes and considers. She sighs and comes to the conclusion she has nothing to lose.
They sit quietly on the grass and Phoenix eats her other sweetroll as she begins to tell her story to Trixie.
“My name is Phoenix. Phoenix Dreamfoil,” she starts, offering her hand to the small goblin, this time the handshake succeeding. Trixie is taken aback by the elf’s sudden change in tone and looks a little perplexed upon hearing her name.
Phoenix tells the little green goblin almost everything, from the relationship with her mother to her capture, her sheltered life at the inn and leaving it behind, but avoids mentioning the murder or the manner of her escape from Silvermoon. Every now and then, Trixie passes her hip flask to Phoenix, who has a few sips of something strong. And with her sharp witty comments and charm, she even manages to make the young elf laugh once or twice, and think light of her situation.
Finally, Phoenix speaks worriedly about the ultimatum given to her by the bandits in black, and the threats they made. She uses this as an excuse for not returning to the inn, saying it could endanger the staff there.
“I know this group you speak of,” Trixie says, her eyes narrowing, her bright voice bringing light to a dark situation. “Firstly, I will give you the coin to pay them, so don’tcha worry about them…”
Phoenix is humbled by this act of kindness, and lost for words, though her eyes light up a little in appreciation.
“Why would you do such a thing? Who are you?” Phoenix asks again. “Like, who you really are, not just your name. You promised you would tell me your story.”
Trixie smiles at the elf’s inquisitiveness and innocence.
“I did,” she responds, nodding. “Come. There are some others I would like you to meet.”