An Espresso Tale
Accipiter G. Goshawk
She groaned, and shook her head as she came to her senses.
Thankfully, there was a jug of water in the corner, and once she’d managed to carefully navigate towards it, she drank greedily. A pang of nausea overcame her, and she stopped to take a breath.
“Oh gods…the grandmother of all hangovers this…,” she groaned as she staggered back to her bed and gingerly cradled her head.
As her hands came down to rest in her lap, her eyes focused and she swore. She moved as quickly as she could to stand in front of the dirty mirror hanging in what passed for the lavatory.
“By the Green!”
She was Hala. The memory of her Trial came flooding back and she leaned against the wall to prevent herself from toppling over.
“I’m…I’m in the Game…,” she murmured, taking a moment to look at her clothing and the leather breastplate she was wearing. It shone eerily; she assumed that this was because of the spell of protection woven into its fabric.
“Magic!” she exclaimed wonderingly. She immediately remembered her chosen class, and found the knowledge concerning spells and their casting.
Hesitantly, she stretched out her hand and cleared her throat.
“Jileriae ul na ri sho…,” she sang softly. Small lights sputtered into being and swirled around her head in a multitude of colours. She giggled happily, and did a little dance for joy.
She was in the Game!
She jumped as someone knocked loudly at her door, causing the lights to blink out.
“You up yet, sis? Kol wants to get an early start; that dragon isn’t going to slay itself.”
The voice sent a shudder through her, and she took a step backwards. Her hand was already on the window latch when she remembered where she was and what she was supposed to be doing. Taking a deep breath, she stood up straight, shouldered her pack, buckled on her rapier and opened the door.
“There you are,” said the dark-haired paladin, a note of disproval colouring his voice. “Spent another night cradling a bottle? Think you’re up for it?”
She scowled, as years of training melted away in the face of those annoying condescending words.
“I am perfectly fit, brother. But I thank you for your concern.”
The dark-haired man looked at her doubtfully for a moment, then he shouldered his impressive mace and trudged towards the stairwell.
“Just make sure to stay well behind us. Remember Hala: you aren’t a hero. You’re only here to help. Leave the real work to the professionals.”
She scowled again, but this time didn’t answer. Mutely, she followed, hunching her shoulders a little.
“He’s right of course,” she thought to herself as they emerged into the deserted village square. “I’m not a warrior, or a magician…I honestly shouldn’t even be here; what was I thinking?”
Her dark musings ground to a halt as they caught up with the rest of the party.
“Sleep well, lass?” said Kol. The large half-giant beamed down at her, and the bard immediately felt a little warmth return to her.
“An inquiry that is, without a doubt, senseless, dear leader. Can’t you see that the girl has been drinking? I can certainly smell her from here.”
The cold aristocratic voice pierced Hala like a knife, and a second wave of nausea threatened to send her running for the bushes. She endured it, and instead glared angrily at Fiasha, the half-elven sorceress. The blond-haired magic user was peering at her contemptuously from behind her thin glasses.
“Well, I suppose your presence can’t be helped. Shall we proceed? I would like to be done by supper.”
She turned and began to glide away, leaving Hala behind to stare at the ground.-