Stewart Pompilio sat in the wooden chair on the porch where he could see out over his villa. It was located along the outskirts of the city and overlooking the bay. In the courtyard was a partially completed statue to Janus. The artisan, a dwarf slave that he recently purchased specifically for his skillset, was building the statue in the center of the courtyard as the centerpiece for the new fountain that was being put in. Stewart owned many slaves now, most were humans, but others were dwarves and elves. He sat there rocking, the creak of the wood instills a sense of nostalgia as he remembers back to a time in his past. He wasn’t much older than 24 years old at the time; the city of Arcadia was nothing more than a small port town then. The smell of the salty sea water permeated his senses, along with the creaks of wagon wheels and the shouts from the local bars. The Rose Petal has seen its fair share of Stewart, and vise versa. The brothel was located near the docks and was busy most nights. The brothel held fond memories and a special place in his heart. Steward worked on the docks, mending fishing nets and traps during the day, and would visit the brothel at night to spend away his wages. By the end of the night, he would stumble out of the bar and be found the next morning passed out somewhere. This night seemed to be no different, though this night will change his life forever.
The other dockworkers, mostly slaves owned by local families, headed back to their master’s villas with the day’s catch. Some headed to the bars and brothels. While the rest went to other shops before they closed up. He would greet the other dockworkers that he knew or stop and chat with them about the day: “Today can suck Poseidon’s limp cock!“, was the phrase of the day. The fishing boats came back with mostly torn nets that were caught up in the rocks offshore, but not much fish was caught. The ships have been reporting this alot lately. Even though the fishing was slow, Stewart’s job was steady due to the damaged nets and traps.
When Stewart finished his work for the day, the young man made his way to his favorite brothel with denarius in his pocket. The clothes he wore were mostly tattered hand me downs or cheap bargains; they were soaked in saltwater and covered in the fish guts that were left in the nets which he mended. He wore a black bandana on his head to keep his hair back, cheap leather gloves hung out of his back pocket and rubber boots to keep his feet dry. He pulled out a coin and started flipping it as he whistled a tune.
As Stewart walked into the brothel, the smell of cheap ale wafted up from the floorboards. The madame, Mistress Leticia Caressa, was also a priestess of Aphrodite. The older heavy set human woman, dressed in fine clothing, scoffed at the young man as he walked in. She covered her face with a cloth to block out the smell, but it was useless. Stewart just simply smiled as he walked by her. He loved the way she would crinkle her nose just at the sight, and smell, of him. Most of the dockworkers that came in here smelled the same, which permeated the whole place. Stewart, however, was a steady customer and he didn’t mistreat the girls at all, so this raised her tolerance level for him. Walking over to the bar, he called out the girls by name as he passed. Then there was Samantha. She was a petite young woman, just out of her teens and slightly younger than Stewart, dressed in next to nothing but lace lingerie and carrying a peacock feathered fan. Stewart swooned and melted at the sight of her. When she smiled back he swore that she was the only girl for him. Sadly though, she was not one that he could afford. But, this time, he saved up enough of his wages to be able to spend some time with her. He plopped down on a bar stool and ordered a mug of ale. He tossed the denarius on the bar and started in on the drink.
After a few hours of drinking, he built up enough courage to finally be with Samantha. His walk had turned into a slight stumble as he made his way, over to the Mistress and proclaimed his love for Samantha and that he wanted her. He reached into his pocket to pull out the fee, but there were no coins. All of the money he had earned was gone. Dumbfounded, he just looked at his empty pockets, No way, he thought to himself, I couldn’t of spent it all at the bar. The Madame just looked at him with pity in her green eyes. She knew how much he liked the girl and it seemed every time he had the chance to finally be with her, something went awry.
She leaned in close to him and whispered, “You know you need to pay, right?”
“Of course I do,” he whispered back, “I have the money for her right …”
“Did you spend it all at the bar?”
“Hell no!” he exclaimed, possibly a little too loudly. The bouncer, a burly bearded dwarf that seemed to take perhaps too much pleasure in his job, glanced over their way. He was waived off by the Madame’s hand and resumed his post. Stewart glanced back at the dwarf with a drunken gaze.
“I think it’s time for you to go home, Stewart.” She told him quietly while slowly moving him towards the door, “Maybe after you sober up, you will remember what you did with your money.” By the time the sentence was completed, the pair were already out the door and Stewart was being ushered on his way.
“Yes … Yeah …” He stammered as he stumbled out onto the street and off into the night. The moon was full tonight and the streets were bathed in its light. There was almost no need for torches, not that Stewart had any.
“Do Not Leave Me,” he heard spoken in an unfamiliar voice. He stopped and looked around, but didn’t see anybody. The moonlight was bright enough to see the street, but it was still very dark near the buildings and in the alleyways.
“Hello?” he shouted out, getting no response. He squinted his eyes to look in the shadows, but there was nothing there. He continued on down the street.
“Do Not Leave Me” he heard again. This time it was as if it was right next to him. He spun around, nearly toppling over, but only heard faint giggles.
“Who … who goes there?” He said, again with no response. Getting a little scared, he regained his footing and ran, right into the side of the fish market. He hit the wall with a smack and he dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Before he passed out, he heard “Do Not Leave Me” again. This time he saw a face. The face of a middle aged elven man with piercing ice cold, light blue eyes was looking down on him as the world turned to black.
Certainly this wasn’t the first time he had passed out drunk before. Usually, he ended up caught in some netting on the dock, or on the deck of a boat. He had even fallen straight into the water and washed up under the docks. This time was different though. Stewart woke up in a bed with a splitting headache. He stirred for a few minutes before realizing that this was a fancy bed, not like any he has even slept in before. The bed seemed to cater to his body in a comfort like he had never known. It was almost too hard for him to get up. He cleared his mind trying to remember what had happened the night before, but it was no use. He remembered going to the bar to spend some time with Samantha and that he had lost his money, so how did he end up here?
He mustered up the willpower to sit up on the side of the bed. The room was well lit from the wall sconces. A large, furry, animal skin rug was on the floor. The oak four post bed was as sturdy as they come. The posts had very ornately carved details that were expertly done. The covers on the bedding were layers of soft animal furs. Stewart noticed some of the furs as wolf, mink and bear. The nightstands, dresser and cabinets were all made from solid wood, also had ornately carved details. Along the walls were tapestries depicting historical figures and moments. One in particular caught Stewart’s attention. This particular tapestry was above the dresser and has candlelight sconces on both sides of it. The scene depicted was that of a naval battle. The ships were triremes that were positioning themselves for ramming attacks. Stewart was entranced with the image that he did not notice the figure enter the room and stand behind him.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” A voice from behind him said. Stewart nearly jumped out of his trousers and fell into the dresser at the sudden intrusion. He turned to see an elf standing there. He had a slender build and was dressed in fine clothes. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail that revealed his elven ears and his eyes … There was something familiar about the piercing, light blue eyes.
“uh … yeah … yes it is” he responded back as he looked back at the image. “Who are you and where am I?”
“Relax friend, my name is Ailduin and this is Carcus Villa.” The elf said in a soft voice. “I found you unconscious and injured, so I brought you here to recover.”
Stewart brought his hand up to his head and noticed that it was bandaged and sore to the touch, “Well that would explain the massive headache I have.” He replied. He was still a little shaken at the sudden appearance of the elf, but he started to relax a bit, “What battle is this?” He asked the elf and nodded to the image on the tapestry.
“Ahh yes. It was the Battle of Deep Point during the Titan Wars, nearly a thousand years ago.” Ailduin stated as he moved closer to the tapestry, “These ships here were commanded by the Titan general Olander. Olander was instructed by Oceanus to take his ships and destroy Poseidon’s fleet that were docked at Deep Point. Olander’s ships attacked the fleet as they were positioned in the harbor, but Poseidon had been tipped off and had a surprise in store for Olander.” The elf noticed that the young man seemed captivated by the story and was staring at the image. Ailduin continued, “You see these ships here with the markings of Poseidon and these ones here with the markings of the Titan?” He asked. Stewart could only nod while he looked at them.
“What is the difference that you see in them?” The elf asked, pausing for a response
Stewart stared at the tapestry, looking from ship to ship for a good long time, the elf merely waiting. A sudden look of surprise and understanding flashed across Stewart’s face, “These ships here,” he said as he pointed to the ships for Poseidon. “They seem to be flatter than the other ships,” he paused, “The Titan ships here, the tapestry is detailed enough to show that they had depth, they and shadowing, they look like ships. But Poseidon’s ships look flat. They don’t have the depth that the other ships have.” He looked to the elf, “Why did the artist do that to Poseidon’s ships?”
The elf chuckled for a moment, “No, no, the artist had it correct.” Noticing the puzzled look on the other man’s face, he continued with the explanation, “You see, Poseidon was tipped off that the attack was coming. He ordered his ships away from the harbor and had craftsmen build him fake ships. He didn’t have enough time to build actual ships, nor did he want to waste the resources if he did. Instead, the craftsmen used sheets of wood, had them cut and painted to look like ships. They were anchored to buoys so they would float like real ships. He knew the attack would come at dawn, when the light could play tricks on the mind. He planned on drawing the enemies fleet into the harbor with the fake ships. The harbor was narrow and once the Olander’s fleet was in the harbor, they would be more or less trapped in there. Poseidon’s gambit worked. He watched as Olander’s fleet sailed into the harbor and rammed the fake ships, destroying them. Once the whole attacking fleet was in the harbor, Poseidon ordered his fleet to sail in and join the battle. Archers and mages launched volley after volley on the fleet from the shores as his ships blocked the harbor from escape. Poseidon’s forces destroyed every ship in Olander’s fleet that day.” He paused for a moment and looked like he was in deep reflection. Stewart just looked at him in awe as he described the battle.
“I remember hearing the screams from the sailors as the boats caught fire from the arrows and Magic.” The elf paused again, “We killed every soul that attacked us that day. They would jump ship and swim away and we would pick them off as they reached the shore.” He looked up from his his reflective look. “Well then. Now that the history lesson is completed, you should rest a bit longer before you head down for dinner. Go ahead and lay down and you will be summoned once the meal is ready.” Steward nodded absently as he soaked in the story of the image on the tapestry. He turned around and the elf was gone, just as quickly and quietly as he appeared. He rubbed the bandage on his head and winced at the pain. Laying down in the soft, comfortable bed, he tried to recount the moments of the night before, but could not remember what had happened. He drifted off to sleep.
“Do Not Leave Me” He heard again in his sleep. He woke up, again sliding over to the side of the bed and sitting up. He slowly stirred, rubbing his head. The pain wasn’t near as bad anymore, but his head was still slightly sore to the touch.
“What the hell happened last night?” he mumbled as he got off the bed. He hadn’t realized that his boots were off until he felt the fur from the animal skin poke between his toes. When he looked down, he noticed that his clothes were changed as well. Instead of the rags he was wearing, he was now dressed in a green tunic and brown leather trousers. The clothes were slightly bigger than his size, but they fit pretty good. Then he saw a set of leather sandals next to the bed. He slipped them on and looked around the room again. The door next to the dresser looked like a solid wooden door. There were iron adornments around the door, hinges and the handle. Stewart walked up to the door and reached for he handle, but paused just before touching it, Why am I so relaxed in a place that is unfamiliar to me? Why am I not freaking out? He asked himself silently. He looked around the door and felt a panic start to rise up in him.
“Where in the hell am I?” This time he said it out loud. The young man grabbed the door handle and swung open the door. He immediately bolted down the hallway. The room he was staying in is at the end of the hallway. Along the walls were more paintings and tapestries detailing historical events. The lit candles in the sconces swayed as he ran past them. The thud thud thud of his footsteps on the wooden floor as they echoed down the corridor. Then he stopped.
Stewart turned and looked back down the hallway. The walls were painted a light green that was a close match to his tunic, the baseboards and floor were a dark stained wood. His eyes traced the path he ran, not that it could have varied since there were no other doors, but the path was only about 20 feet. How could he be out of breath after that? He turned to see what stopped him and he was at the end of a spiral staircase that led down into a great hall. There was a large table with chairs set up in front of the fireplace. He could smell the fire going and something cooking. His mouth started to water and his stomach growled as he realized just how hungry he was. The elf from earlier stepped out of the kitchen with a platter of food.
“Ahh you’re awake!” The elf said at the sight of him standing at the top of the stairs, “Please, come down and have a seat. Dinner is ready to be served.”
Stewart moved slower this time as he walked down the staircase. At the landing, there was a young woman waiting for him. She was a human, like he was, and roughly the same age. She was dressed in a dark blue tunic and a white toga draped over it. Her blonde hair was styled, curled and seem to perfectly frame her face, no matter which direction you looked at it. She had the same piercing, light blue eyes as the elf did. The young woman held out her arm to escort him over to the table. When the pair got to the table, he sat in the chair. The chair was wooden and solid. As he ran his hand on the table, the craftwork became apparent in the subtle details that were carved along the edge. There was a green table runner, the same green as his tunic, that ran the length of the table, which must have been about 30 feet. More people came out and started serving dinner. The platter was filled with a whole roasted pig that sat on a bed of root vegetables. The food smelled of the smoke from the flames, mixed with the various seasonings. Then came the rest of the food. There was mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, beans, salads and mugs of ale. His stomach rumbled at the thought of a hearty meal. It was a meal fit for the high and mighty and he was about to enjoy it.
The woman that escorted him to the table began to serve him. His plate quickly filled with pork, potatoes, veggies and all the fixings. His mug was constantly kept full as he ate. About halfway through the meal, he noticed that he was the only one eating. The staff, who were also dressed in the same dark blue tunic and white toga, stood along the wall. The host, the elf that gave him the history lesson, was silently sitting at the head of the table with no food in front of him. He stopped eating, took another gulp of ale and looked about some more.
“Why is nobody else eating?” He asked with a pause.
The elf stood and looked at the young man, his eyes showing a quick, fading glint of sharpness, “Because, young man, the food is here to feed you. I am sure that you are still weak from your injury, so I had this meal prepared just for you.” Pausing for a moment, he continued. “Is it not to your liking?”
Stewart looked around at the spread, unsure of what to say next. The food was delicious and he had never had a meal like this before. “Yes .. Yes, it is to my liking. But all of this food, just for me, is too much.”
“Ahhh, now I see.” The elf said,. “Yes, this is a lot of food, but anything left over is handed out to others that need it. There’s no need to worry about any wastes. Please, please, sit and eat.”
Still not sure if he is doing or saying the right thing, he simply responded that he was full. It seemed the last thing he wanted to do was to offend his host. This elf brought him into his home while he was injured and gave him a place to rest and heal. Then a thought crossed his mind, “How long has it been?” he asked. “Since you brought me here?”
“It’s been 3 days.” The elf kept his gaze on him.
Dumbfounded and panicked, Steward started to scramble, “Shit, my job, my friends … do I still have my job … SHIT!” He yelled.
“Now calm down, there’s nothing to worry about. If you are finished with your meal, then there is business that I would like to discuss with you in the other room.” The words were calm as he said them and his arms motioned to the other room. As they walked over into the sitting room, there were a pair of leather chairs that were overstuffed and covered in animal furs. Lined along the walls were numerous books. There was another fireplace here that was burning and he could see another large fur rug that covered the floor. Stewart started to get a feeling that something was off about this place. The room, the foyer, the great room, this library: none of them had windows open. All of them were closed with heavy wooden shutters. Still, he sat down and sank into the comfortable chair.
Then he heard it again as the elf sat in the chair across from him, “Do Not Leave Me.” The soft, barely audible, whisper was in a female’s voice, just as before. Now nervous, Stewart looked around the room, but it was just the two of them. The elf was already seated, but never took his gaze off Stewart. Once the young man had sat down, the man asked him simply, “If you could have anything in the world, or if you had all the time in the world, what would you want or do?”
Unsure of what the elf was asking, Steward held his gaze and thought for a few minutes. He snapped out of his thoughts and answered in the same simple voice, “Well … money, of course. If I could have anything in the world, then it would be cold hard denarius. With that, I would be able to get everything I wanted.” He paused a few more moments before continuing, “Now with all the time in the world, well then I would learn more, maybe even take up some lessons in practicing magic.” Pausing once again to look around at the books on the walls. Bringing his gaze back to the elf, Stewart noticed that he was looking at them as well. He also noticed that the beautiful woman that met him at the bottom of the stairs was standing next to him with her hand on the back of the chair, “Maybe even read all these books?”
“I have read them. All of them,” the elf stated in a flat voice, “What if,” now it was the elf that paused. He eyed the young man up and down before continuing, “What if I could give that to you but the gift would come with a price. Would that be interesting for you?”
“Yes!” he said without hesitation, “It will likely take time to pay any debt that I would owe you, but I would welcome such tutelage.” His eyes were now big with excitement as he looked between the elf and the woman. Then it struck him. The woman’s visage changed to that of one that was almost demon like. The same with the elf. He also noticed that their hands were clawed. His eyes darted between the two. Their eyes were squinted in an evil glare. Their mouths opened to reveal a pair of sharp pointed teeth. Before he could react, with the exception of a scream, the pair sprung on him.
Stewart was back in the creaky rocking chair on the porch overlooking the villa again. There was a slight wind blowing that night and the black sky was just starting to show the hints of the approaching dawn. The young man stood and surveyed the villa and nearby buildings. Arcadia has changed in recent years. The harbor has grown bigger, more shops and residences have been built. There is even a gladiator arena that is nearly completed.
“Do Not Leave Me” he heard in the soft whisper. The same voice that has touted him for decades. Stewart shook his head and with one final look as the burning sun crested the horizon, Stewart closed the door to the villa.