The daft elf stood, stark and pompous, like a tree barely bending to the wind. The wood of his bow curved tightly around slender hands that could barely grip a sword let alone a proper weapon. I imagined smashing the bow but not the hands - I’m not that much of a monster. “We should go north, the trail leads that way.” In some all-knowing voice, as usual. Thinks he knows everything just because his precious ears curl upwards like fancy head ornaments. “Are you sure?” I always ask, not because he’s not - he always is - but because I enjoy the irritation in his expression from being questioned. “Of course.” He denies me my pleasure. Asshole. I grunt in my usual form of communication and pick up my axe - the only true partner I’ll ever have - and heft it over one shoulder. Sure, I’m posturing - but this idiot does that every second he breathes. “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” “What, afraid of a big bad wolf?” He smirks and I really, really reconsider smashing some bits of him. “No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” I grin with all my teeth - especially the pointed ones I get from my father - and his expression falls a bit. Ha. Take that, toothpick. ----- I can feel her gaze on my back and I know she’s already judging me. I’m too scrawny, too pale, too adorable. She’s written me off probably a thousand ways in a thousand imaginary death scenes. Gods I hate her. “We should go north, the trail leads that way.” I never let her ruffle my feathers. I was raised as a ranger, a noble profession, and without my expert guidance her elephantine ass would be lost in these woods. “Are you sure?” She always questions me. I hate it. It’s like she doesn’t even listen to me the first time I speak. Or else she’s just trying to goad me into anger - a purely infantile emotional response. I’ve fallen for it before, in moments of weakness. But not now. “Of course.” I keep my face calm and serene, always calm and serene. Don’t let her get to you, I remind myself for probably the hundredth time. She makes a sound indicative of her upbringing before adding, “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” Always on the move, that one. Probably outrunning some inner demons from her past. She looks like the brooding type. I should have listened to my father and not gotten invovled with people who carry so much emotional baggage. “What, afraid of a big bad wolf?” I don’t just smile - I smirk. She can tell the difference. She judges me enough she’s probably catalogued all my expressions. Stupid half-orc. “No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” She flashes those teeth - those awful, pointy teeth, the stuff of nightmares - and for a small second I feel a tingle down my spine as I remember exactly what her people are capable of. The people my people helped create, I admit to myself a half-second later, lest I fall victim again to my own bigotry. Her existence is as much my father’s fault as her own. I still hate her though. ----- “We should go north, the trail leads that way.” The noble ranger declares, his bow cocked and ready for a fight. His long hair whips in the wind and he strikes a truly noble pose, indicative of his good genes and upbringing. He is the last of the Willowbenders, defenders of the Halls of Eyria. To travel with him is an honor and a delight. “Are you sure?” Our fearless leader questions. She was born to lead. Her thick armor hides a noble heart, born out of a forbidden love that brought together the humblest salt of the Earth and the harshest of its so-called defenders. Even the Willowbenders are not without sin, after all. “Of course.” His keen sense of direction can never be wrong. The daughter of the abhorred makes a deep noise that rumbles in her heavyset frame, her natural strength on display as she shifts her axe over one shoulder with ease. The power in such a motion cannot be understated. “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” “What, afraid of a big bad wolf?” The verbal volley is expertly thrown, the companionship between these two respected warriors palpable. I hold my breath, waiting for magic to happen. “No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” And there it is! She’s obviously flirting with that expression - such sexual dominance, a Willowbender should be so lucky. I swear I can see a small flush crawl up his ears as they both turn towards the path ahead, the chemistry between them lost to our quest. One day, perhaps, when the world allows them to lay down their weapons, this thing between them might rekindle into the fire that longs to consume them both. “Hey - bard. Are you coming?” Oh dear - they’ve spoken to me. I clear my throat nervously, “Oh, right! Just jotting down some inspiration, maybe some ideas for an edda or two. Coming!” I quickly finish my scrawl and leap to my feet. There is no rest for the stalwart witnesses to history. Someone must chronicle these moments, these hidden thoughts and emotions, lest future generations forget or worse disregard the bonds that draw us all together.