Heritage – Part 3

This will be the last entry for two weeks, since I will be on vacation. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Noshli kept walking, ignoring the voice. She didn’t know why anyone would want to speak to her in the first place. If she was lucky, whoever it was would go away. It had started raining again, a light, misting rain that soaked through Noshli’s clothes within minutes. Stopping was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Hey!” the voice said again. “Elf . . . lady! Wait a moment!”

Noshli stopped in her tracks and closed her eyes in weariness. She didn’t want to deal with people right now. Maybe if she gave in, they could do whatever they wanted and then leave her in peace. She turned around and gasped.

Standing in the middle of the road was a very tall, very thin woman. Noshli would have almost taken her for an elf, except for the bright red hair that spiraled around her head. She had never seen an elf with hair like that, riotous curls going every which way. The girl, whoever she was, seemed surprised that Noshli had stopped. Her eyes were wide, a bright grass green, and she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear with a sheepish grin.

Normal human ears. Definitely not an elf.

“What do you want?” Noshli said. She couldn’t help being angry. That tavern was one of the first places she had been warm since setting out and now she had been driven from it as though she had done something dreadful instead of saving several of their lives. And now one of the neighborhood kids wanted to come have a look at the freak, did they? Her eyes narrowed as she looked at the girl, who seemed to be all arms and legs, a gangly thing.

“You are the elf girl, right?” the human girl said. “The one who helped the people at the Fox?”

“That’s not how they saw it,” Noshli said, her anger giving way to confusion. This girl believed that Noshli was helping? “They thought I caused the mess.”

“Of course they did,” the girl scoffed. “Closed minded, the lot of them. It’s part of why I wanted to leave in the first place.”

“Leave?”

“Sure!” the girl said. She seemed to have gotten over her nerves, her smile wide and friendly. “I grew up in this sorry town. My parents wanted me to settle down with some nice village boy, cook his meals, pump out a dozen babies or so. It . . .” her voice trailed off for a moment. “It’s not the right life for me.”

“I can understand that,” Noshli said. “What does that have to do with me though?”

“Well, you’re obviously not from town. And no one in their right mind comes here to stay. So that tells me that you’re a traveller. I’ve been looking for someone who I could travel with, just for a little while, so that leaving might be a bit easier. It’s one thing to want to leave, it’s another thing . . .”

“To actually do it,” Noshli said, nodding. She understood that feeling.

“Anyway,” the girl said. “I know how to set traps and to catch and clean fish. I won’t use up any of your resources, and might even bring in a few of my own. Just let me travel with you a ways. I won’t be any trouble, I promise!”

Noshli was overwhelmed. She had never had anyone, other than her mother, seek out her company with such purpose. There was something about this girl, her open honest face, that made Noshli trust her immediately. “What’s your name?” she asked.

The girl smiled even wider. “Althea,” she said, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet. “I have my things stowed in that pile of logs over there,” she said. “I’ll go grab them and then we can be on our way!” She took off at a jog towards the wood pile.

“You don’t even know where I’m going!” Noshli said. “I don’t even know that!”

“It’s all right,” Althea said, hefting a bulky burlap knapsack over her shoulder. “Anywhere is better than here.”

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