The West Marches
A Nimble Skirmisher
Standing just over 5’ tall, 17 year old Velouria Blue has bright orange hair and ice blue eyes. Her dedication to swordplay has toned her muscles, and calloused her palms. The pretty young noble is often found around others. Chances are, if she doesn’t have sword in hand, she is holding a cup of thistle tea instead.
Velouria is nimble. Her speed, agility, and stealth are what keeps her alive. She doesn’t wear very heavy armour, but she carries a sword and a shield that she has mastered to defeat her enemies.
The trouble with large estates bustling with servants is that it makes it much more difficult to keep track of the tiny humans that seem to grow impossibly quickly.
Verris Wrenhold had lived for hundreds of years. Watched over thousands of children in his time, but he could not remember a single child who was as difficult as Velouria Blue. She was never where she was supposed to be, wearing what she was supposed to wear, or doing what she was supposed to be doing.
A servant bumped into him from behind and the elf gritted his teeth together and narrowed his grey eyes as the man stopped and apologized, avoiding eye contact.
“Don’t just stand there. Get on with it!” Verris snapped.
The human jumped back into action, hurrying away. Well, at least someone would listen to him.
The elf adjusted his tunic. Yesterday the tiny human girl had excused herself from her embroidery lessons with Madame Terrace to relieve herself and when he finally tracked her down hours later she had appropriated some stable boy’s trousers and had engaged in an appalling twig skirmish with some of the local boys.
Verris continued his search. He did not find her in any of her usual hiding places- not in the training yard, by the stables, or asking unseemly questions to the guards within the estate. Verris had been her tutor since she was born, and so he knew to look outside of the estate. Even at age seven, Velouria Blue always seemed to find a way to sneak passed the guards.
The guards at the front gate hadn’t seen her. Of course, they hadn’t. Verris scoffed at them as he stepped out of the gates. He took a moment to consider the city; Thornwood was large, she could be anywhere.
The busy market wasn’t far, he could hear a merchant hollering about his wares. The forest was nearby as well, and Velouria had always seemed fond of nature. A cat mewled, and Verris stilled until he heard the sound again. Of course. The elf followed the sound, it wasn’t coming from far away.
Sure enough, as he rounded the corner he winced at the sight of his charge: the human child sat back on her haunches. Her knees were spread wide enough to display her knickers beneath the now ruined skirts of her bright yellow sundress. Her red orange hair looked muted with dirt and dust, and she was surrounded by half a dozen stray cats who were all pushing to get closer to her. She held a couple of crab cakes in her left hand while feeding the mongrels with her right.
“Velouria Alexandraline Blue, close your knees like a proper lady and get back inside! The feast is in two hours and your parents could mistake you for a pauper if they saw you.”
The girl jumped at Verris’ booming voice and the cats scattered as she accidentally dropped the food. Immediately looking down sorrowfully to where the crab cakes lay abandoned on the ground, Velouria mumbled, “Everyone will eat lots tonight. The kitties had to eat too.”
Verris pinched the bridge of his nose, Lumaria give him patience. Maybe he would retire after yule and leave this little nightmare to be a different scholar’s problem.
“Come. We must get you cleaned up and then try to teach you at least a little biology before the servants whisk you away to be dressed for tonight. We have important guests. The Aeron family will be joining us. They have a boy some years older than you, Velouria.”
“What. Is. That.” Verris wasn’t even surprised by his charge anymore. Velouria Blue looked up at him and quickly tried to cover her workbook with a hand.
“I don’t know what’s worse,” he said, “the blatant disregard that you hold for your morning lessons with Madame Terrace, or how often you ignore my etiquette lessons in favour of drawing weapons and feral animals!”
The young teenager opened her mouth, no doubt to protest, but Verris continued, “You need to let go of your obsession with these things. Swordplay and the anatomy of mongrels will do nothing for you. That is not the future you were born into.”
The young noblewoman’s jaw clenched, but for once she didn’t bite back a retort. Perhaps, Verris prayed, she would finally behave as a noble child should and obey.
Today everything had gone well. Verris had managed to make sure that Percival and Maribelle Blue’s only child was cleaned up and ready for the rumored announcement today. Despite Madame Terrace being far too lenient with the teenager, as usual, Velouria was beautiful. Her face had been lightly painted, her long orange hair braided to curl around her head like a crown, and she was even wearing a proper dress without a spot of dirt or fur clinging to it.
If there was ever a day to succeed in this task, it was today. Velouria’s fighting spirit never seemed to dim, but she had spent much of the night outrunning the guards after she was caught out playing with swords in the training grounds after curfew, so Velouria yawned energy less as Verris nodded his appraisal. For the first time he could remember Velouria Blue looked like the noble born young human that she was.
Rumours are currency amongst the closed doors of estates, and while Verris Wrenhold held no interest in spreading rumours, he did fancy hearing them. Lumaria, did he enjoy hearing this particular tidbit. He had prayed for this for fourteen years now.
Verris hovered obviously close to the dining room door, peering and listening carefully through the crack.
Maribelle Blue nodded to Velouria who stood and carefully poured the Lord, Lady, and son of the Aeron family each a cup of tea before she poured a cup for her own father, her mother, and herself. Velouria sat obediently, and Verris only winced a little at her posture as she sat.
Percival Blue began the conversations, loudly making small talk, and after a couple of minutes, Lord Aeron took a turn holding the conversation.
“You know, Rhys here is excelling in his studies.” Lord Aeron clapped his boy on the back, “He has proven to be quite the hunter in his spare time as well. No fox is too fast or too cunning to escape him.”
Lord Aeron was turned towards Percival Blue as he said it, but Verris could see the father’s eyes gauging Velouria ’s reaction.
Her eyebrows pinched together a bit, and she looked towards Rhys Aeron whose ego inflated his chest and his sharp jaw was held high. He was several years older than Velouria, while the young Blue was still growing into her body, Rhys was a young man. Seventeen to Velouria’s fourteen.
Conversation split up then. The Lords of the houses spoke of their estates and local business, the Ladies of noble houses talked about recent gossip, their families, and the economy of the kingdom.
Velouria was always quite talkative with children her own age, and she was always seeking out stable boys, kitchen girls, or any other child her age to spend time with. Unfortunately, an only child, she always had seemed a bit lonely to Verris. Yet, she was never as friendly with other noble children as she was with peasants.
“Do you hunt?” Rhys began, and Velouria took a long sip of tea before she bothered to answer. “I can.”
The Aeron boy’s eyes never faltered from Velouria, despite her unwavering stare into the depths of her teacup.
“I have never come home from a hunt without enough food for a feast.” Rhys bragged.
The young Blue shrugged a shoulder, “Rabbit and deer are hardly difficult catches.”
“I can catch any creature I hunt.”
Velouria scoffed, and finally looked up from her tea. Her ice blue eyes met his dark green ones, “That is just arrogant.”
“One day soon,” Rhys promised, “I will prove it to you.”
On that midsummer afternoon, the Aeron and Blue families announced the arranged engagement between the two only children of their noble families: Rhys Aeron and Velouria Blue.
Verris was up late celebrating with the finest wine he could afford. For the first time since his first century, Verris was late to work because of a hangover.
“Velouria Blue, get back in here, how many times have I told you that your lessons are vital?!”
The insolent teenage human scrambled higher into her tree of choice and called back, “Verris Wrenhold, how many times have I told you that I am not marrying that arrogant twat, and therefore, your lessons are pointless?”
Verris took a deep breath, but before he could begin his tirade, she continued.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate your teaching- I do. That’s just not what I want to do with my life.”
“You are a noble, Lady Blue. You will be a noble woman. Born into a position that others have killed for.”
“Mmm, no, I don’t think so.” A branch made a loud crack and for a moment Velouria was frozen. Verris Wrenhold held his breath, but after a moment of stillness the noble girl kept climbing up.
“There is a price for birth into wealth and power. You will have to pay it just as every Blue before you; I recommend you get used to the idea of Rhys Aeron. He seems nice enough, and I have seen his tutor’s reports- I must say, he is well ahead of you in your studies.”
Verris couldn’t see her, but he could tell that the blasted child rolled her eyes at him.
The estate was beautiful. It was autumn and the leaves had changed to rich red and bright orange hues. The inside of the estate was more well decorated than Verris had ever seen it, and tomorrow Velouria Blue was to officially become an Aeron.
Verris hoped that she had learned enough from him to do well in her new family. This time next year she may be swollen with a babe due any moment. It was difficult to imagine the bratty noble girl as a mother or wife. She had always done well adapting to situations, surely his charge would be fine.
Night fell, and Verris dreamt of new students who were actually interested in his teachings.
When Verris Wrenhold awoke it was to an estate full of panic- Velouria Blue, noble daughter and bride, had vanished some time during the night. She was gone.
The Lords and Ladies of Aeron and Blue were shocked that the bride had been kidnapped the day before her wedding. Verris knew better, and judging from the way that Rhys lingered by the edge of the nearby forest, Verris expected that Rhys knew as well.
Velouria held her breath and urged her body to still. She could see Rhys from her perch in a large cedar. He had tracked her until she took to the trees, and yet despite losing her path, he didn’t appear to be concerned at all.
Rhys Aeron tucked his hands into his pockets and his smirk was as arrogant as ever.
“I can catch any creature that I hunt. One day soon I will prove it to you.”