Eliana couldn’t remember the last time she had to take the time to pick a safe place to meet someone. Coming from a community where children ran around without a care of what could happen to them as long as they came back relatively clean in time for dinner, the need for self defense and warnings never meant anything until she came to New York. Those pieces of dropped advice and precautions only stood out to her now, after everything. Always make sure the door is locked, both when you leave the house and when you enter it. Never walk home alone at night, always call a friend or a cab and leave one hand on the door if it’s a cab. When meeting someone for the first time, always choose some place safe and between borders. Close to people and in a neighborhood you are familiar with, so that if you need to run or escape, there is always a safe route out.
She chose the study room on the second floor of the campus library. Safe, secure, and capable of giving enough privacy to go over the more delicate matters of the meeting. The request came out of the blue, sometime on a Tuesday evening after her shift at the music shop. But who was she to deny a chance to use her magic and make money out of it? The elf prince, so desperate to bring someone dead back that he would call her rather than move on. He must have something to prove.
The study room was as empty as she expected it to be. Eliana cleared the contents of the table, placing things back to their rightful shelves before flipping the reserved sign on the door. She had come to the meeting place early to prepare herself. Check every crevice of the room and set up what she needed. Notebook, pens, thermos of tea. One was never too prepared.
Life in The City was inherently different for Tolthe. Even with his elven ears pointing out of his braided white-blonde hair, and being an absurdly tall young man, adorned with all the finery an elven prince should be used to, no one fucked with him on the streets of New York. Most passersby glanced down when they saw him, or parted when they met him on the street. He was probably one of the lucky few who could take the subway and stop the moment he reached the top of the stairs to the street and not be hollered at for being a jerk-tourist-idiotwhoneedstolearnhowpedestriantrafficworks. Normally, Tolthe would spare a moment or two to revel in the disturbance he caused among humans, but today his hands were slightly trembling, and he was ignoring phone calls from his mourning family.
He shrouded himself with invisibility, a mages talents were needed for the most asinine rules these days. Ever since the 9/11 attack, fat rent-a-cop’s stood at every entrance to nearly every building in The City, and most certainly every university. If you didn’t have a photo student ID, you were staying on the street through all your most important classes. Tolthe had taught himself a perfect shrouding trick for this very reason. Universities were decent playgrounds for pompous princes.
He got lost in the building. With all it’s steel beams and winding staircases, he was nursing a budding migraine when he finally found the library.
Eliana checked her watch when she finished preparing the study room. Five minutes until they were due to meet. Belatedly, she realized that the elf might not know where to meet her, despite her instructions to find the back study room. Sighing, she pushed herself out of the room, waving a simple protections charm around the room as she left. She had a vague idea of what he looked like, drawing some pompous image of an elf with pale blonde hair and long limbs. It wouldn’t be too difficult to find the lone elf in the midst of grumpy college students. Elves had a tendency to dress a mostly like regular human beings, but at least one traditional elven garment, mostly leather. Lots of it. It would be amusing if it didn’t cause people to constantly separate like the red sea whenever they see them.
The library was relatively empty for after school hours, with the customary group of obnoxious sophomores who alternated between screaming about the tv shows and movies they watch and crying over their imminent grades and the lone wolf book worms who always had more caffeine in their veins that actual blood.
She walked past the stacks, finding her way to the top of the staircase, flicking a reveal spell towards the general direction of the steps that revealed one particular elf wandering around. He looked as pompous as she thought he would, with a dark hoodie and an honest to God pair of leather pants. She didn’t think those existed out of gay clubs and bad romantic comedies. She leaned against the steel post, crossing her arms with a small quirk of the lips.
Tolthe startled into a scowl.
“Found, now. I suppose.” By this time Tolthe’s head was spinning. He ruled out iron poisoning despite his dizziness because he was newly tattooed and thus protected. “Shall we talk business?” Tolthe stomped down where he hoped the witch had just come from because he wasn’t going to turn around and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be corrected. Unless he really was as exhausted as his body was trying to say he was, in which case he might be swayed.
Eliana pushed herself off the post, her heels clicking quietly against the floor. She walked by Tolthe, reaching a hand out to grab his elbow and pull him towards the study room. He looked close to going mad and Eliana didn’t think he would take kindly to walking in on the obnoxious sophomores bemoaning their Chemistry courses. She let go of his elbow after a moment, relatively sure that he wouldn’t wander off like some lost puppy with tattoos and leather.
“You look like a lost freshman, Legolas. Something spit in your hair gel today?”
She tilted her head back with a grin, her blonde hair bouncing with every step she took. She pushed open the door to the study room, taking down the defense spell at the door before letting him in. She poured herself a cup of tea, sitting down on top of the table, crossing her legs without a thought.
“So. Talk to me. Who did you fuck up?”
Tolthe pinched the bridge of his nose and cast a glance at Eliana.
“You’re confident I’m the one who’s done the fucking?” He fingered the zipper to his hoodie, pulling it up and down until the urge to turn off all his nervous ticks took over.
Eliana raised an unimpressed eyebrow, setting her cup down at her side. “No one requests a meeting with a necromancer lightly. Bringing someone back, it isn’t a decision made quickly or without a long thought process of weighing pros and cons. And people like you, elves and royalties and those with silver spoons fitted into their mouths, you people don’t try at necromancy because you are bored or missing someone. You fucked up. Badly. And now someone is dead and you need them back.”
She leaned forward, tilting her head to the left, watching the elf quietly. He really did look like he was half way down the road to madness. A taint to what must be a usually elegant image, all straight lines and sharp edges, eye catching and handsome in his own right, even with the tattoos and nose and disgruntled rich kid expression on his face. He was shaking minutely, a tense hold to himself that screamed for help.
“So, I’ll ask again. Who did you fuck up.”
Tolthe’s chest tightened like a strained guitar string. He instead let out an exasperated sigh before he snapped.
“My lady,” He started, thinking better than to use Necromancer or Witch, as if he had little respect for her talents. “–I would imagine a woman as yourself has work pulling at the hem of her dress for attention, enough for her to swat at minor details, so I will graciously remind you with a hint of annoyance that I am Tolthe, son of Baltser, King of the Skaftafellen Elves.” Tolthe dropped his hands to the false wooden table and the performance along with it. Talking to this witch and forcing an equally annoyed crinkle to her lightly freckled nose wasn’t his ultimate goal– and hissing at her through his clenched jaw was giving him a throbbing ache on either side of his face.
“So when I tell you my father is dead, please understand, my desperation comes from our falling kingdom and the ruins of my family, and our people.” He chopped at the table with his hand. He was a few steps from begging and in his near madness he had nearly forgotten that he once cared about such appearances. “Let me rephrase: I request your help. If you would be so kind as to give it, my father is dead, and I’d like it very much if he weren’t.”
Eliana watched him carefully, her dark blue eyes following his performance with slight amusement. She could have felt pity for him, for the slipping mask that was quickly falling to reveal someone very, very out of their depth. She might have, if she let herself. But talking to enough grieving people who were only holding themselves together for the sake of being able to sacrifice themselves for a loved one, she didn’t let herself cry over anything.
But the Elf king dead. She wasn’t surprised that she hadn’t heard about it before, not with how secretive elves usually are about weaknesses.
“Do you have someone to pay for the execution? No matter how much you would like for something to happen, it can’t without someone paying out the price of it.”
“Name your price, whatever the price, name it, it shall be met.” Tolthe raked his hands through his hair. His long fingers pulled at one of his braids. The cornsilk strands tangled around a single ring — a family crest of pure silver. Tolthe’s patience unraveled. He ripped the knot from his head raked his hands through his hair once more. “What’s the price?”
“It’s more than just money, you know that, yes? Money is to get someone to do the job. You need more for it to work.” Eliana liked to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they did some kind of research as to what was necessary to bring someone back from the dead. Even if said person was a quickly falling apart Elven prince with a tendency to only take yes for an answer.
She leaned towards him, leaving a small breath of space between them. “Someone needs to die. Do you have a life to give away in exchange for your father’s?”
“Guð fjandinn það” He cursed under his breath. “Really?” Tolthe suppressed a laugh. Well that idea was certainly shot to hell. He smoothed his hair and let his brows unstitch and his mouth fall into its natural pout. “You’re no necromancer. You’re just displacing energies. You’re trading.” He leaned back in his chair, amused by his failure. Who would he kill for this? Vander? His mother? No. Better let his father stay dead and live with the consequences.
“I thought you were the best.”
And there it goes. Any shot of pity just falling through the air. “What do you think necromancy is, princeling?” She reached out to grab his chin in her hand, squeezing the pout out of his expression. “There is a delicate balance between those who live and those who have passed. That scale is not something for spoiled boys to play with because they regret. You don’t steal from death. You trade and barter. And sometime death cheats and takes both. Sometimes not.”
She leveled a look towards him, raising one manicured eyebrow. “I am considered the least moral of the necromancers in New York. Which means I am the best, always. No one wins a game by playing fair.”
Tolthe brushed his lightly stubbled chin, precisely where Eliana’s fingers had gone and rearranged his face. He knew what she was doing, stamping out the downward curve of his lips which he couldn’t do anything about.
“You’re labeling yourself least moral or is that something others say about you when they think your pretty little head is turned?”
“People whisper very loudly when they gossip. But you tell me. What do people say about the pretty little girl who stabbed a man to death and spends her time bringing the dead back in exchange for the life of the grieving?”
She already had some idea, but the topic of discussion when people gossiped always knew less than anyone else about what was said, no matter how quickly the information flowed. Murderer. Sinner. Heartless. Bitch. People were very petty.
“Nothing I’ve paid mind to. It’s easy to run your mouth when ignorance focuses on only the shittiest bits of the truth.” Tolthe folded his arms on the table in front of him. “What do you want them to be saying?”
Eliana leaned back, crossing her arms. “They don’t know anything about me. That pretty girl. Poor girl. Mad girl. I want them to respect me and damn him.” I want them to be in awe at my abilities, rather than to fear them. I want them not to say a thing at all.
“Well then. Damn him! That horrid kúkalabbi. Damn him to hell!” He cared not if he sounded patronizing. He was utterly serious, so that was all that mattered. “You know, people say unsavory things about me as well. Normally I get that I’m a spoiled brat prancing around like Legolas.” His words tugged a smile to his lips as they left his mouth.
“Nice of you to say, but you have little idea of who ‘he’ is, don’t you?” At least he tried, which was enough to make her want to smile. Just a bit. She felt her lips quirk up, laughter slipping through her mouth. “That’s because you are. You’re wearing leather pants.”
“Ah but I make far better faces in the background than he did.” Tolthe stared off, wide eyed in mock confusion for a second more than he would have if he had thought about it properly.
“As for the damned man, gossip is gossip. Is it not? Does anyone else besides he and you know what happened? It stops none from whispering loudly about you. I can damn him if I please.” He looked down under the table and admired the buttery leather trousers that fit him like a glove. “Now you’re not just offending my trousers, but the trousers of my people. The sweeping generalizations are pounding like waves.” He cast a side glance at the blonde, hoping she realized he was joking. Most people were exhausting and too daft to tell when he was joking.
“No, but he’s dead. So I’m the only living soul who knows what happened, but his hunting team and everyone else in the world seem to think they do. You do as you do. His soul is suffering already.” She followed his eyes down to the damning pair of pants. Really. It was offending that he could walk around wearing leather pants and look good. They fit him too well. She laughed at his joke, shaking her head. “I have no apologies. Leather pants belong in gay strip clubs and bachelorette parties. Although,” she turned deadpan, staring at him with a very serious expression, “I will take payment in sex and strippers.”
“Mmm. Let me set the scene for you: You’re sitting across from a flower of a girl. She’s sweet looking, innocent even, with wild, curling blonde hair which seems to catch light even under horrendous buzzing fluorescents– Do you see her?” He reached his hand to his face and patted down the pout he knew was there. “ Right, so, she sits there, her legs wrapped up in her skirts and she tries with fervor to convince you she is an amoral hussy, the most amoral hussy pretending to be a necromancer. Laughable really. Because all the while she’s looking up at you with the most delectable freckles splattered over her nose. She’s far too cute to be a fearsome, amoral necromancer, don’t you think?” Tolthe leaned back on his chair and threw his long arm over the next plastic chair. “Then she says. Just wait for this. It’s the punchline, it’s a good one as well. I can’t make this up. She says, she takes payment in sex and strippers! You might see where I have trouble believing you. Unless you don’t own a mirror, or are blind.”
Eliana threw her head back and laughed. He made her sound adorable, more like a faerie than a person. Sweet and beautiful and completely innocent of any chance of wrong-doing. How utterly wrong. “Don’t you know better than to judge someone by their looks?”
She slipped her pocket knife out of the slip in her skirt, flicking it open to cut a long line across the back of her hand. She let the blood drip down onto the floor, murmuring under her breath. “Egredimini ad me.” The blood disappeared as soon as it arrived, wisping off the floor and into smoke as she felt a familiar pull that always came with blood magic. Taking her in and flowing easily from herself.
She smirked, reaching over and grabbing the collar of the elf prince’s hoodie to pull him forward into a slow kiss. She licked into his mouth, cupping his cheek with her free hand. The kiss turned softer, ending with a final press of lips before she bit his lip.
Feeling used without objection, Tolthe snatched her hand and crashed a rough kiss into Eliana’s lips once more anyway. He breathed into her lips, “For good measure of course. To be sure I’ve offered enough of my body for your – voodoo.”
-Written Collaboratively by Aubrey ‘Meeks’ Brown and Cara….. All characters belong solely to the author who wrote them ie: Cara owns Eliana and the world to which she belongs to, and Aubrey owns Tolthe and the world to which he belongs to. All items are copy-written accordingly.
Illustration by Aegisdea