Those of you who know me know I generally tend to stick with epic fantasy. There is something about the quest that gives meaning and purpose. While I try to shy away from elves and dwarves and the other done to death races (face it, sometimes we just can’t get away from it) and I absolutely love to incorporate mythological creatures in my tales, I decided to take a whim at writing modern, urban fantasy. I took all of the traditional races and threw them into here and now. Disguised of course, and unbeknownst to us all. Readers seem to like the idea thus far and, well…let’s see what you think. Enjoy the opening scene of a little tale I like to call Where Have All the Elves Gone?
The thirteenth floor was dedicated to the Wastrel Literary Agency. Thankfully, it was emptied out. Halloween weekend had arrived, and no one with sense wanted to stay trapped in their offices and cubicles any longer than necessary. There were too many scantily clad women dressed in inappropriate costumes and men dressed as gladiators, or worse as far as he was concerned, about to roam the streets and bars in search of a good party and possible company later.
A single light from the back of the floor beckoned him. Ariel’s office. He straightened his shirt beneath the jacket and barreled towards the light. Daniel wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard muffled voices followed ominously by a wet smack and a stifled groan. His mind had to be playing tricks on him. First the brutes attacking him in his own driveway, and now this. It was time to get into his comfort clothes and pour a nice stiff glass of Woodford Reserve. A little bourbon would do him some good right about now.
A cut-off scream was followed closely by glass breaking. Old, repressed instincts suddenly took over as his mind decided it was real. Daniel ducked and searched for an attacker. A slender shadow spilled across the beam of yellow light angling down the corridor between cubicles. He briefly considered chasing but knew he was in no condition to. He lacked intel and, more importantly, anything that could be used as a weapon.
Daniel decided his best course of action was to wait until he was sure the way was open and then investigate. He only prayed he would be in time to rescue whoever had screamed. Anxiety got the better of him much sooner than he wanted, and he started to creep forward, using the faded blue cubicle walls for cover. Every sound was amplified — his heartbeat, his footsteps across the spackled tiles. He winced with each new sound, certain the assailant was lurking just around the next corner to silence any witnesses.
Old courage suddenly emerged, from where he could only guess. He circled around in order to get a better angle on the office door. There might be another attacker still inside waiting to spring a trap. Taking chances was pointless, and he wasn’t willing to needlessly risk his life. He wasn’t a hero, despite the latent desire to live out his novels, but that was just fantasy. Anything foolish now might only serve to get him killed. Truth be told, a quiet life stuck in the midst of anonymity held the most draw. That had been reduced to a fragile dream.
Daniel finally got into a position where he could see directly into Ariel’s office. What he saw confirmed his worst fears. The outstretched body lying in a spreading pool of cooling blood could only be Ariel’s. His anger died, replaced by immeasurable sadness and confusion. Why? A pointless question but one he couldn’t help ask. Daniel scanned her body for injuries. The rise and fall of her chest was shallow, but it was still there. She was still alive!
“Ariel?” he whispered.
Agony crippling her, she slowly turned her head his way. The pain in her eyes was so intense it made his stomach roil. Dark blood leaked from her nose and mouth. She struggled to speak, but the words came out a strangled hiss. He was no medic, but all of the signs suggested she didn’t have long to live. Cursing himself, Daniel dashed the final few meters across the open area and entered her office. Using his right foot to shut the door, he positioned his body to block any intruders.
What he remembered from the various combat lifesaver courses during his career gave him a rudimentary understanding of what to do. He took a deep breath and recited the fundamentals over and over. ABC. Airway, breathing, circulation. She was breathing. A good sign but not one guaranteed to keep her alive long enough for EMS to arrive. He absently reached for his cell phone before remembering the brutes had turned it into tiny specks of trash drifting across his yard. Shit!
“Daniel….you must leave!” she finally managed to gasp after he placed her on her back and elevated her head above a stack of books.
The truth being too dark, he decided to lie. “Shhh, save your strength, Ariel. It’s going to be all right.”
Her right hand weakly grasped for him. “Listen to me…not much time….is coming back. You must flee!”
His eyes narrowed with concern. She must be delirious. “Ariel, stop. Whoever did this is gone. You’re going to be fine, but I need to call 911.”
“No time,” she protested. Her eyes glazed over before returning to normal. “Go to the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. There is a small black case. Take it. Keep it safe. You will be contacted with instructions on what to do. Please, Daniel. Do this for me.”
“Who did this to you? What’s going on here?” he asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“The princess must be kept safe!”
He froze. Princess? What the hell was she talking about? There was no royalty in central North Carolina, at least none he was familiar with. She must have read too many fantasy novels and was now imagining things. He glanced down. The blood had stopped spreading, mostly.
“Ariel, what princess? Stop talking! You’re wasting your strength and I need you to be strong for me,” he tried to console.
She offered a haunting smile. “I’m so sorry, Daniel. Your books…wonderful. And…true.”