This is The Tale of Kelly Alexander. The author of this work is Artalis, please email him with any queries.The material contained here is the property of Artalis and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Candlekeep claim no rights of ownership to this work and associated material.
woke up his head was throbbing and all he could see was shadows. His skin felt
oddly sensitive cool and damp and he was laying on his back on something soft.
For some reason, despite the pain he felt charged with energy; like he could leap to his feet with next to no effort…It was an odd feeling indeed.
He sat up with a groan only the groan didn’t sound quite right; it was too…high…and soft. The shadow lifted from his eyes with a slight tickling sensation as his hair fell away but it was…black…and softer than he remembered and finer too…
“What the hell…”Alex murmured to himself but the voice that met his ears was not his own. It was delicate and high definitely in the soprano range.
“That’s odd” he thought to himself. It was then he realized he was sitting on the ground in the midst of a forest glade.
He glanced down to get his feet under him and what he saw made his world spin. Extending out from beneath him was a pair of shapely, slender legs covered by a snow white silken gown or robe or something. The bare feet that protruded from under the shimmering white cloth were positively dainty. Tiny compared to what he expected to see.
For a full minute at least he stared, uncomprehending.
Gradually a sort of hysteria began to rise within him. This was just so wrong… He literally could not process it right away and when he finally he began to understand his world began to swim again. As the hysteria began to raise so did his voice. A shrill keening wail issued from his mouth and it literally hurt his own ears causing him to clamp his mouth shut.
He was breathing heavily now confused and terrified and completely unable to handle what his rational mind was telling him. So, of course, it shut down.
The camp set
up took a minimal amount of time again and Kelly was amazed at how efficient the
whole enterprise was. Everyone had a job, knew what it was and did it without
delay. Kelly helped with the fire again contributing at least to some degree
feeling a bit better about her contribution. This evening however she was
feeling a little better about everything in general and decided to stay with the
group, closer to the fire.
Just as they were settling down for dinner Krell looked up and quickly
turned around, standing in one smooth motion. “Somethin’s out there” he said in
his low rumbling voice.
word the three guards who heard him were on their feet with crossbows in hand
cocking them with practiced smoothness.
the perimeter of the little clearing carefully trying to lend her sharp eyes to
the search when a voice came out of the brush.
“Hello the camp!” the man’s voice called. For a moment Kelly didn’t even realize that it was in English. In that split second her whole world changed again as she tried to still her pounding heart.
Krell growled back “Common, Dammit! Come out with hands up, open and
empty or ye’ll be a pincushion.”
There was a
brief hesitation and the man called something back in common as he walked into
the firelight. Kelly didn’t know what he said because she was utterly numb from
the realization that someone else from Earth was there. She watched him step
forward and stared without realizing it.
He was very
tall, with short, dark, wavy brown hair under a fedora and green eyes. Kelly
noted that he walked with a strange sort of precision, every step placed
carefully by habit apparently. He was thin but not overly so and looked somewhat
tired. His clothing however was what truly grabbed her notice.
He had boots
and a cloak of slightly different shades of gray from each other but his blue
jeans and t-shirt were what caught her attention. “He brought his own body with
him…” she thought incredulously as she stared intently frowning slightly in
concentration. She noted a very nice rapier at his right hip and a black sheath
was strapped to his right leg below a rather large dagger.
“If this is a
dream…it’s a complicated one” she mused to herself silently.
Kelly kept her cool, outwardly at least as the tall man entered the camp.
She watched him carefully, her gold-flecked eyes picking out details in his
expression and manner that she never would have noticed before yesterday. She
noted that he too was assessing everyone, she could tell in the way his eyes
traveled systematically from one person to the next, hesitating for only a
second on any one person, except her.
glances met Kelly’s first impulse was to look away like she had been caught at
something. Instead though, something kept her still and she met his glance with
a cool, uninterested-seeming expression that was utterly natural-looking. Inside
she was afraid, wondering what the hell was going on if this guy was some
Dimensional Police agent sent to drag her back to the ridiculously mundane,
boring, mana-bereft world of her birth. Or perhaps something to do with the dead
body back in the glade that she had been in such a hurry to put distance in
between her and it. Either way she wasn’t giving anything away. Not yet anyway.
So instead she met his gaze with cold elven arrogance that somehow came
naturally. Again there was that silent partner working within her. Kelly
wondered if it was the poor Nenyalitha lady who had written her name in the
book. But if she was inside Kelly’s head why didn’t she speak up? All she ever
got were vague feelings and instincts; on the whole it was a little scary to say
All night she
watched him carefully, sometimes pretending to not be but other times she just
stared trying to figure out what his game was. She kept just inside the range of
her hearing which was pretty impressively sharp and listened to him. She smiled
gently as he gave his name which was Jack Archer, normal enough for either world
Kelly noted with ironic amusement.
The rest of
the night passed easily enough but Kelly stayed closer to Krell this time hoping
that her proximity to the huge warrior would stave any attempts by this unknown
neighbor of hers from back home to bring her back. She propped herself back up
against the wheel of one of the wagons and softly plucked out a tune trying to
put something to music sheerly out of instinct. Part of her was kicking herself
but she just couldn’t resist the temptation as she played around with Tolkein’s
poem a bit and checked to see what kind of Terran she was dealing with.
Gil-galad was an elven king
Of him the harpers sadly sing
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the mountains and the sea
His sword was long, his lance was keen
His shining helm afar was seen
But long ago he sailed away
And where now he dwelleth none can say
For into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are
To his credit
Jack didn’t start or stare or anything of the sort instead seeming to take it in
stride, but Kelly began to get a rather uneasy feeling that fun and games would
get her into trouble with this one. Those eyes missed nothing; there was an
almost disturbing amount of clockwork going on back there behind them she
thought. She’d best quit playing and mind her business lest she sell herself out
Kelly relaxed and allowed herself the luxury of that sweet meditative state that
brought her a nice refreshed feeling. It was kinda weird not
laying down to sleep but she really liked the images and impressions that
she relived through her hostess’ past. They came and went like falling leaves
before a window in autumn. There were so many years and so much to remember, it
was a wonder that these elves didn’t lose themselves under the weight of them
Kelly awoke to find herself among the first stirring and she looked around to see if their guest was still with them. He was.
She eyed him with something that must have looked
like disdain as she wondered what would happen next. She found herself resenting
his presence, wishing he weren’t here it wasn’t like there weren’t enough men here
anyway, she thought. Why couldn’t it have been a nice girl from
Kelly was kind of taken aback; this kind of thinking
was very unlike her. For as long as she could remember she had been completely
self-reliant. Even in the worst of situations she hadn’t looked for help from
anyone in years and years. It seemed that her new body or her roomie upstairs
was affecting her. That was scary…very scary indeed. Kelly put her arms around
herself feeling the sudden chill of fear. She rocked back and forth a little
without realizing it, trying to keep herself together.
Absorbed in her thoughts Kelly didn’t sense Jack’s approach until he was next to her.
He cleared his throat and looked at her as
if checking something before speaking in a soft baritone that sent a soothing
sensation over Kelly’s frazzled nerves “Ah, are you cold or something..Milady?”
He leaned in solicitously as he asked, obviously concerned.
Kelly’s heart hammered away at her insides. He was decent enough…of
course it could be a ploy. “A ploy for what?” she asked herself. It doesn’t
matter dumbass.” Inside her mind a battle waged, here was a person from home…or
something like it. Part of her wanted to tell him everything, to find out how
he got here why he was here to beg him not to take her back and be done with the
f course she couldn’t do that though. Instead she
merely said in a cool quiet voice, “I am fine, thank you” She was careful to
keep her eyes averted lest he see how upset she was, her voice was under
control…her eyes not so.
Jack straightened a bit stiffly and answered cooly
“Ah, well then, my apologies, I mistook” He then turned smoothly and walked back
to the fire where breakfast was being prepared.
Jack straightened a bit stiffly and answered cooly “Ah, well then, my apologies, I mistook” He then turned smoothly and walked back to the fire where breakfast was being prepared.
Kelly just wanted to cry. She didn’t but it was a close
thing. She skipped the whole breakfast thing; her stomach was far too upset to
deal with food.
A while later after breakfast had been taken care of and
the caravan was preparing to move out she saw Jack standing alone and heard the
hiss of steel being drawn. Her sharp eyes picked out the glint of metal and she
made her way over to see what was happening.
Jack Archer was standing in the middle of a rough circle drawn in the dirt with his gleaming rapier drawn. The tall man stood stock straight at attention, with the blade held in front of him as if in salute to an invisible opponent. Slowly at first he began to move through a series of movements marked by precise steps much like a dance. Kelly found that she recognized certain movements and stances though she couldn’t place or name them.
Gradually though he moved into an amazingly complex series of maneuvers that made Kelly smile in delight. She just couldn’t help it. He was simply amazing with that blade; every movement was pure precision poetry. It was a breathtaking display of science and art blended beautifully through discipline, she felt. She absolutely loved it.
It reminded her of that scene in The Mask of Zorro when
Sir Anthony Hopkins’ character teaches Banderas how to fight. At the end of
his training it was like this only Jack was faster and more fluid. After all
Antonio was just an actor playing a fencer. Jack appeared to be the genuine
Kelly found that she didn’t even care that she was smiling;
she really was sort of awe-inspired. “How the hell does someone from my Earth
get that good with a sword?” she wondered. “Maybe it’s not MY Earth” she
A crowd began to gather as he worked thru his exercises and
Jack continued on with the demonstration or performance or whatever oblivious to
his audience. Kelly finally tore her eyes from the eerily graceful man to look
at the others. It was Krell that she was most surprised at though. The massive
man had a wide, fang-revealing grin on his face and looked truly pleased indeed.
Finally a few minutes later he came to rest in the center of the circle
exactly where he started from.
Krell laughed “Aye, ye ken ride wit us then Jack, and
welcome ye are, truly. Not too many are those with skill like that.” He nodded
to the tall human and looked down at Kelly with a chuckle. “Even M’lady Kelly
was impressed Saer Jack. Tis truly a feat of legend fer certain!” Krell gave
her shoulder an affectionate pat and grinned down at her.
Kelly didn’t particularly enjoy Krell announcing her
appreciation for the other terran’s skills but he was a good person and meant
well and Kelly had no desire to generate negative feelings. So she smiled
up sweetly at the mountain of a half-orc and merely nodded to Jack respectfully.
Jack had sheathed his blade and was making his way
towards her now and he was smiling as well. He pointed to the rapier hanging
from her hip and asked “So
do you have some skill with the blade Milady?”
Kelly had to stop herself. She loved to run lines from movies and she
had enjoyed the Mask of Zorro quite a bit. The natural response would be “The pointy
end goes into the other fellow?” but instead she smiled gently and answered
“Some” in a non-committal fashion.
Jack stood there for a moment either expecting an explanation or something but none was forthcoming. Kelly looked into his eyes and she knew he wasn’t taking anything at face value here. There was a whole world of calculation going on behind those bright green eyes and it scared her. For a moment they stood there taking each other’s measure, neither speaking nor moving until finally Jack blushed and broke the stand off. “Ah well perhaps some time we could… practice together or something?”
“Perhaps” Kelly replied smoothly with a soft sly smile. Internally she was alarmed at her ability to quell her unease and put him on the defensive with a mere look. The man literally towered over her and he was incredibly capable with a blade, yet something about her gave him pause. Kelly was very glad for it. She was short on advantages and he seemed to have the winning hand in every aspect. Until just now.
They set out soon afterwards back on the bumpy miserable trail. Glim made a bit of idle banter but Kelly just couldn’t bring herself to chitchat. She was preoccupied in a major way. They were only two days away from Waterdeep apparently and Kelly had a lot to figure out.
Around midday they came upon a figure in the middle of the road crouched down and wrapped in a dark green cloak. The caravan was forced to come to a halt and Krell rode up looking quite irritated.
As the massive warrior passed by Kelly watched him loosen his hand axe on his belt. Krell apparently took no chances. His voice was even harsher than usual as he called out “Ho there! Outta th’ way” he rumbled.
The cloaked figure stood slowly with its back towards Krell and the caravan. Krell yelled again “You there! Move!” and slipped from the saddle with a clank of arms and armor.
Kelly’s ears picked up something, she dimly was aware of some sense of danger. How she knew that was beyond her but it was there clear as a bell, something was awry.
Before she knew it she was casting a spell again, her hands itched to make the movements required to cast it but she suppressed it and somehow did them from a spiritual perspective, maybe it was her astral self? She wasn’t sure how it was happening but it required a great deal of concentration. She began to speak the words quietly; words that she knew would protect her from bolts and arrows.
How she knew again was a mystery to her but like everything else Kelly had no choice but to accept it.
The guy in the green cloak wheeled on Krell with a wavy bladed sword in his hand and whistled. At that sound about 10 men with crossbows revealed themselves from the brush on both sides of the road roughly five on each side. "Dragon dung!" was Glim's only comment.
Kelly knew she was safe for the time being and said softly to Glim "Stay down" as she stood up slowly and with a stately sort of grace.
The man with the sword; a kris-blade Kelly believed it was called yelled to his men who had flanked them so well "Iff'in anyone makes a move open fire!"
Krell eyed the man balefully and said in a low growling voice "You picked the wrong merchant nitwit, This is gonna cost ya dear."
"No actually I don't think it will - Oh well what have we here? Watch them close!" The bandit-leader said as he eyed Kelly standing and gently hopping down.
Kelly for her part, felt calm and collected, she wasn't sure why but she knew that her spell would keep her safe and she felt as though she had the upper hand right now. The way this bandit leader guy was eyeing her; (despite grossing her out a bit) was indicative of an appreciation for her looks, something he wouldn't want to mar unless she gave him good reason. So long as she didn't escalate the situation it might be manageable.
"Sir", she began coolly. "What are your terms to avoid bloodshed?" Kelly's words were marvelously smooth and peaceful no bit of insecurity or insincerity crept into her tone as she addressed the bandit.
"Ah" he sighed. "The dulcet tones of a noblewoman, fantastic utterly fantastic....My terms dear lady are nothing less than the complete and utter surrender of your poor outmatched little group at which point we will relieve you of your goods and leave you to make your way to your destination unharmed."
Kelly knew immediately he was lying. She sensed his greed immediately and the idea that she might be a noblewoman probably meant to him that she was ransom worthy. Further there was something in his eyes that told her that he had no intention of letting anyone go unharmed. This man was a cold blooded killer of that she had no doubt.
Her concern was that the fact that the four guards that accompanied them were not ready. Her confirmation that battle was going to occur put her into a defensive mode of thought and as she though of how to protect herself she felt her skin tingle just a bit. She got the feeling of being wrapped in a protective cocoon though she could see everything, she knew something was there between her skin and the world and she welcomed it.
Fortunately her face reflected nothing of her thoughts and she continued to play her game readying herself for the danger to come. "What assurance have we, that upon surrendering our arms that no harm will come to us?" Kelly worked hard at emulating what she thought the natural speech patterns of this common tongue would be.
"Why my word dear lady" he responded in almost a courtly fashion.
This guy was slightly smooth Kelly had to admit, he looked every bit the gentleman rogue and his manner suggested that he had no desire to kill anyone. Kelly knew better though. It was plain as day to her.
Kelly looked at Krell with a quirky little smile and said "Well I suppose we have no choice really..." She began to prepare a spell in her mind and then with a flourish of her sparkling white robes she spoke out in a clear ringing voice full of power unexpected to even her. "Defend yourselves! They mean to kill us!"
Kelly's eyes blazed with power and it seemed to everyone watching almost as if she were the only one present. Her robes gleamed bright white and she seemed almost like some goddess bringing her fury to bear on the hapless ruffians.
Wheeling, she turned to the crossbow wielding bandits on her right side and extended her hand fingers splayed wide and spoke a phrase of arcane power. Even as she spoke the words of power two crossbow bolts streaked towards her, only to fall at her feet stopped dead in mid air. From her wide-splayed fingertips came three bolts of radiant white energy that surged to strike three separate bandits unerringly.
From somewhere in the back she heard a similar phrase spoken and saw three more missiles strike three separate bandits on the same side; two of them who were hit previously by hers. To Kelly's immense satisfaction six more crossbow bolts arced towards her, two missing entirely and four being stopped by her protective spell. The spell wouldn't hold forever but it would hold long enough...she hoped.
Behind her she heard Krell and the bandit leader go at it with the clang of steel on steel, Kelly couldn't even begin to imagine Krell being bested by that lying bastard. Especially the bandit leader being half his size but you never know. Kelly made a mental note to check on him in a minute.
She could hear the sound of the guards in back slipping from their saddles and rushing into the brush to attack the bandits while they tried to reload. One of the guards...Tristan it looked like, was a little too slow and took a bolt straight in the chest dropping him instantly.
In a moment as she readied the same spell she saw Jack Archer sprint into the brush with his rapier drawn falling upon a bandit on the left side with frightening speed. The rogue was seriously outmatched however and was using a crossbow to defend himself against a master fencer. In a matter of a half second he was bleeding profusely from a nasty slice on his arm making keeping that crossbow between Jack and himself more and more difficult.
Seeing one of their number in dire need one of the other bandits dropped his crossbow and drew a shortsword. He began to circle around behind Jack as the other two guards engaged his cohorts.
Kelly turned her attention to the right hand side again letting fly with another volley of magical bolts. Two of the five fell groaning in pain and one out and out ran away. Kelly smiled, the odds were turning.
Kelly surveyed the field quickly, but was distracted by the pain, anger and fear that was in the air. Was she the only one who sensed it? It made her want to just crawl underneath one of the wagons and hide. She knew she couldn't though there was too much at stake right now this little caravan was family and they needed her. Kelly couldn't fail them it just wasn't in her to let them down.
The little caravan was surrounded by chaos. The bandit leader was somewhere behind her tangling with Krell. She trusted Krell to handle him though it sounded like he was having a hard time of it.
One fully healthy and one wounded on the right side. The healthy one was urging the hurt one onward and they were making their way to her. That wasn't good, her spell wouldn't protect her against a sword and she highly doubted that her robes protective properties would be enough to keep them off of her.
On the other side the two of the guards and Jack were cleaning up and two of the bandits had made a break for it. Jack had his down but one of the guards went down under a lucky hit by a bandit's club.
Jack was making his way to her now apparently he saw the two closing on her but the unengaged bandit was coming up behind him with blood in his eyes and sword held high.
Kelly's mind went wild, what to do? Without thinking she yelled to him desperately "Jack behind you!" and at first he stared at her oddly without realizing what it was she had said, before turning slightly belatedly.
All Kelly could see was the murderous rage in the bandit's eyes as he closed on Jack, and from somewhere deep inside she summoned forth power like she had no idea that she had access to.
Urgently she screamed out the words to the spell and from her fingertips came a single solid stroke of lightning. It caught the bandit full in the chest and literally picked him up bodily and slammed him into a tree, burnt and scorched beyond recognition.
Kelly stared in disbelief for a second and then the other two were on her, it was all she could do to unsheathe her rapier to defend herself. She tried her best to fend them off but within the space of a few seconds they had drawn both blood and screams of pain from her. Her arms had deep gashes in them, her parries came too slow and weak and she began to feel faint as the waves of exquisite pain washed over her.
Then Jack was upon them and never had Kelly been so grateful to see another person in her life. In the first second he dropped the slower of the two and left him gurgling in his own blood from a lightning quick slash across the throat. It may have been the haze of pain but Kelly was absolutely certain that Jack Archer was the epitome of grace and perfect swordsmanship at that point.
Kelly's awareness crept to her agonized arms and slowly she chanted a little singsong spell, different from the others she had cast, as she stood aside from Jack and the last of the bandit troops. It eased her pain almost instantly and within moments her arms only ached a little. By then Jack had the last of the bandits disarmed and on his knees with Jack's gleaming blade at his throat.
Kelly looked around and saw that Glim and Arpen had made judicious use of some throwing knives to deter any further aggression on the part of the bandits. Jack looked at her curiously and asked "Are you alright Milady?" Kelly looked at Jack with eyes full of gratitude and nodded, a bit too affected to speak.
Behind her Kelly heard a scream from what must have been the bandit leader from the sound of it and turned to find one of Krell's hand axes buried deep in the man's collarbone. He fell to the ground twitching and soon lost consciousness.
Jack ran to him and said "No, he has to face justice! We have to make an example of him. Death is too easy."
Kelly for her part merely walked among the dead and dying, her eyes wide in horror as the gruesome scene washed over her. In Alexander Kelly's entire life the worst injury he ever witnessed was a badly broken leg in a kickboxing match on television. Movie stuff was so sanitized as to not even count in that regard and he had never really gone in for that sort of thing.
Now Kelly came to the side of a downed guard, It was Tristan but he was still barely alive. The crossbow bolt had apparently missed his heart and had instead punctured a lung. Tristan had managed to twist out of the way just enough to save his life. Kelly could literally feel his pain, it made her very soul ache and tears rolled down her cheeks freely.
"Oh Tristan..." Kelly didn't know what to say but whatever she had meant to she didn't finish. Instead she reached out to him and began to chant the singsong words to the healing spell again. She pulled the bolt free from Tristan's chest with a sob as she felt the sharp burning pain of it. And a moment later Tristan was conscious and coughing up blood out of his newly healed lung.
Kelly stared at her hands for a second, blinked away some tears and moved to the other guard. His pain was worse and it nearly made Kelly pass out as she drew near. He had taken a nasty stab wound to the abdomen and his whole body was afire with agony. Kelly sobbed softly and choked out the words to the healing spell relieving the majority of the man's pain. She cast it again, easier this time to bring him fully around and feeling like himself again. His name was Edan if Kelly remembered and he was the one who pulled double-duty as cook sometimes.
He looked at Kelly with disbelief for a moment and then broke out in a great big smile and laughed. He took her hand and kissed it reverently and rose to his feet stretching. Kelly dried her face on her still aching arms and realized that the slash marks and blood were gone from her robes and as she wiped her tears off in her sleeve her face became clean, dry and fresh.
Tristan leaned up and groaned before looking at Kelly with a haunted expression. He didn't say anything but his eyes told the tale clearly enough. Guilt and contrition were there written plain as day to her. She nodded to him and moved on to check on the rest of the crew stopping by Arpen and Glim. She had one maybe one healing spell left in her
The halflings were well enough. Arpen seemed to have a serious distaste for violence and was very concerned about the status of all of his guards. Glim was immediately respinning the tale into heroic proportions to tell to the folks back home and before many versions had gone by Glim had her flinging lightning at everything in sight. Kelly laughed, god it felt so good to laugh, she thought.
Soon the situation was assessed well enough and Arpen decided to send Tristan to Waterdeep for the guard. They would bring cages for the prisoners and then the caravan could be on it's way again.
Arpen couldn't say enough about his new found friends and promised them free room and board for the duration of their mutual stay in Waterdeep
Kelly was weary in a way she had never been in all her life. She still hurt in her arms where the slashes had been and she finally broke down and cast the healing spell again. Now she felt better and she took her place beside the fire next to her friends. As luck would have it she ended up next to Jack Archer. There was a very different feeling between the two of them now. Gone were Kelly's cool disdainful looks and non-committal answers. She looked at the tall man with a mixture of respect and gratitude now, no more games she told herself. This was a good solid human being and messing this up was not an option.
They listened to Glim's retelling of the tale in draft format and offered creative embellishments to amuse his children when he returned home. It was odd but Kelly hadn't really thought of any of these people as "people" per se. She was considering only their effect on HER world not the greater world outside of her awareness. It was oddly comforting to know that Glim had a wife named Wira and 4 little kids. "Imagine how small they must be" Kelly speculated to herself.
She looked back into the fire and thought for a bit about the day. She knew she had to do it...had to.
Jack looked up, startled out of his thoughts. Kelly was looking at him hesitantly, an expression of vague indecision on her face. Compared to the cold, haughty attitude she'd had so far, it seemed quite out of place.
When she saw she had her attention, Kelly continued. "I was wondering if I might speak with you for a few minutes? Privately?"
"Of course, Milady," Jack said, standing. "We can talk over there." He motioned to the other side of the wagons, well away from the prisoners.
Kelly took Jack's proffered hand gently and rose with grace and poise despite feeling a wreck. She walked slowly, her expression thoughtful and her eyes on the ground, to the indicated spot on the other side of the wagons. She wondered if anyone was watching, and what they were thinking. No matter.
She looked up into the giant of a human's bright green eyes and began slowly, "I thought it important to thank you, truly and sincerely for what you did today." Her gold-flecked dark green eyes gazed into his steadily and she gripped his arm for emphasis.
"I know you saved my life, Jack and um...I..." Kelly's eyes began to well up with tears "I haven't ...um...relied on anyone else for years." She took a deep breath and tried to maintain her composure but her lip trembled a bit and she had to blink a lot to see. A tear rolled down her cheek but she made no move to wipe it away.
Kelly saw a flicker of something, and sensed that Jack didn't trust her, that she might be insincere. It was the sort of realization that upset her even more, but what made it worse was that she knew she deserved it. Here was another person, another living, thinking, feeling being who was stranded far from home and she just left him hanging out to dry. She could have been there for him and vice versa and eased the fear and anxiety that they both no doubtfelt but she had been so wrapped up in herself and her own fear that she had abandoned him. It was a shitty thing to do and she knew it.
Kelly sniffled again "Look I'm sorry...I know I've been...kinda cold..." she admitted sniffling and trying to keep from a full blown crying jag. Another couple of tears rolled down her face. She didn't want to draw attention to them so she just let them be. "I was just...scared and didn't know if I could trust you."
"Since we're being honest," he said, deciding now was as good a time as any, "I have to admit I didn't do it completely unselfishly." Jack held up a hand at the look of outrage starting to build in her eyes. "I don't mean I saved your life only to get something in return. I would have done that anyway. It's just that there was something that added a little extra . . . urgency to the moment."
"But...what do you mean...what made it urgent?" Kelly asked finally wiping the tears from her cheeks on the sleeves of her robes.
"Well, it was when you warned me about the guy sneaking up on me," Jack told her, folding his arms over his chest.
"What about it?" Kelly asked, confused.
"It wasn't so much what you said, or why. It was *how* you said it."
"I - I don't understand."
Jack smiled then, like a chess player springing a hitherto unforeseen checkmate. "Hadn't you noticed what language we're speaking?"
Kelly realized belatedly that she had slipped into her native English when she'd gotten emotional. And from what Jack had just hinted, she'd done the same when she'd tried to warn him earlier. So much for her sly tricks and subtle subterfuge.
"Um...uh no...Oh shit" Kelly looked up at the man sheepishly and simply said "So you know..." it was a question, but it wasn't it didn't bear asking.
Jack lifted his left hand, showing the ring he wore on one finger. "This lets me understand and speak languages. However, it doesn't keep me from telling who is speaking English around me."
His mouth quirked. "So yes, I know. And if you don't mind, I'd like to know how in the world you managed to get to Earth. And how you hid those ears. More magic?"
Kelly stared at him for a moment, confused and then she actually smiled somewhat giddily. Amused that he had it backwards. “What the hell” she thought “He’s already onto me…”
"Actually Mister Archer,” Kelly began in good old-fashioned American English “I'm not native to this place...Um well…My body is but my consciousness isn't. I woke up here in this body and I've been trying to sort it out ever since"
Jack blinked, surprised. "You, ah, aren't really an elf?"
"Ah...well I suppose that's a matter of semantics. In all actuality inasmuch as we really are standing here, I am thoroughly elvish. Historically however? No, I was not born an elf and I spent 30 years as a human on Earth. So call it however you wish." Kelly grinned ironically and shrugged in resignation
"Okay." Jack nodded. "Makes as much sense as anything else here, so far. How long ago did this happen?"
"A few days ago... like a day before you found us... I hope you aren't mad...I just wasn't sure. I'm really sorry Jack, I was just worried..."
"Worried about what?"
"That you were after me..." Kelly said softly. She was worried that this was a bad idea but she was tired of hiding things and was desperate to be rid of the games. "When I woke up I was near a body, a body that had been fried by lightning."
"After you?" Jack blinked again. "How could I be? I'd have to have somehow monitored you leaving Earth. That's like some sort of conspiracy theory." He paused, then grinned. He stepped back and spread his arms. "See? No sunglasses, no Armani suit."
"Yeah well it's just as likely as any other scenario that I could come up with at the time. I mean if two of us came over how many others came and how..." Kelly smiled softly at him and looked utterly relieved.
Jack frowned. "Yes. Your . . . transfer, for lack of a better word, possibly happened the same time mine did." He looked at her form frankly. "Obviously, we weren't affected by the magic in the same way. Maybe you didn't get enough of the effect?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "Did you have a lightning storm?"
"I dunno...I was at my desk and there was a roar and and all the electricity went out. Could have been a lightning strike, I'm sure. Where were you taken from?"
"Outside of Crownsville , New Jersey . There was an SCA Faire going on, but everything stopped when this wild lightning storm came up. I got hit, and the next thing I knew, I was here."
"Damn" Kelly giggled "Some people will do anything to get outta Jersey ..." She smiled reasurringly at Jack, adjusted the circlet on her head and combed her hair back absently with delicate fingers. That made sense, Jack had been at one of those SCA things… hence the rapier and cloak and whatnot. It was the fact that Jack had appeared already outfitted for this world than had initially concerned her. As if he might be at home here and have the familiarity advantage.
Jack laughed softly. "Well, I don't actually live there, so most of those tax problems don't concern me. I just go to Princeton ." He stopped then, a frustrated frown on his face. "I mean, I used to. If you're trapped here too, I guess I'm back to where I started. I was hoping that you would know a way home."
"Yeah...I'm sorry Jack I have no idea how to get back. But I'll tell you a secret... I'm really glad you are here. Having someone here from home... I dunno... It just makes me feel so much better, ya know?"
Jack tilted his head, considering it. "Yes, I suppose I do know what you mean. Of course, up until now, I thought you were a real elf. Um, I mean, always an elf."
He paused and then shrugged. "So did you look like this, um, before? I mean, is this you, just…elf-ified?" He snorted softly at his coining, but he couldn't think of another way to put it right then.
"No I didn't look anything like this and I think I was a lot bigger... How tall are you anyway? I'd kinda like to figure out how tall I am using you as a reference If I can..." Kelly answered evasively and quickly shifted the conversation back to Jack’s court. If she told him the whole story, he might not be so eager to help and protect her, she worried.
"About a hundred ninety-four centimeters" he answered.
"Gee that helps...let me whip out my handy dandy conversion chart...oh wait I left that on my other body..." she quipped sarcastically.
"Sorry, sorry -- I just like doing that to people. Metric makes so much more sense -- pretty much the only good thing to come out of the French Revolution. Certainly nothing else 'scientific' was good from that." Jack shrugged. "Anyway, I'm six-four."
"Hmmm ok then, let’s see…” Kelly stood closer to Jack and told him "Ok put your hand on top of my head and see where I come up to on you, please?"
"Um . . . okay." Jack moved a little closer looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Ah, you look to be about . . . five feet at the most. Probably an inch or two less."
"Damn no wonder everything seems so huge. That explains a lot. Thanks Jack." Kelly stepped back and smiled appreciatively up at the tall human.
Kelly reconsidered telling Jack about her former gender assignment. This would never work if she lied to him. Plus, what if he found out that she’d been lying… AGAIN. He might never trust her at all. She couldn’t afford to lose her only connection home. Plus they should stick together…It just made sense. So finally she resigned herself to the ugly task at hand. "Oh...I should probably tell you something else...though I'm not sure how to put it...This is kind of weird and well…whatever. But I used to be...well...a guy.”
Jack looked as if he didn't understand at first, but slowly it appeared to sink in. "You . . . weren't a woman... before?" he asked with a sheepish expression as he did so.
Kelly instantly felt a change in his attitude toward her. It rather felt like a slap in the face with a cold cloth. The fondness, the affection all that warmth was just gone. Hell it almost hurt. She swallowed hard and answered "No. I wasn't. I wasn't going to say anything because of the weirdness that is about to ensue between us due to it.
"Um, yeah." Jack looked away and blushed heavily. "Well, not exactly your fault . . . ."
"But I decided that I don't want to hide anything from you... You saved my life Jack I owe you the truth at least. I'm different now though... My outlook has changed and I'm sure a lot more emotionally expressive than I used to be."
"Of course I still like girls which may make me one very lonely elf..." she sighs "I doubt there is a serious lesbian movement here..."
"No . . . I suppose not." Jack frowned and glanced back to the others by the campfire. "I'm not certain, since they didn't really speak about it much, but in medieval society I suspect any lesbian would be considered a witch. Not that it took you much to be called one back then . . . ."
Jack stopped then, and grinned. "Of course, you might not have that problem, at least. These folks have no issues with you using magic, and so I guess they don't have a problem with witches."
"It will all come down to what religious freak is in charge and what the belief system of the moment is." she sighed.
Jack's grin fell as if deflated. "Good point," he said. "We don't know what kind of religion is in power here. Even if it's Christianity, I doubt that it's as tolerant as the Roman Catholic Church is. It could be some fundamentalist sect. Or something gone bad." He thought for a moment. "There was a novel series that dealt with a similar idea. It dealt with a Church that strongly disapproved of all the witches and warlocks running around, but couldn't do anything to them except in special circumstances."
"And going back to the lesbian issue, I don't remember many cultures being tolerant about it at all until the US started accepting it. Even the Greeks considered it a bit . . . strange. A bit two-faced, if you ask me -- grown men in Athens were open about their relationships with young boys."
Kelly interjected, adding "And lets not forget the polytheism of the Greeks, Romans, Hindu's and Egyptians etcetera etcetera. I think historically speaking the "one god" concept was kind of limited to only a few cultures."
"Either way until we have more info it’s all speculation. We need something to base our information on..."
"Right." Jack thought for a moment. "When Thistletop mentioned this place called Waterdeep, he said it like someone back home might have said 'New York' or 'Hollywood.' I didn't want to give away how little I knew about it, so I couldn't ask. Have you found out anything?"
"Nah” Kelly answered “I've been playing amnesiac for the most part. I didn't want to start telling tales of other lands and so on and find out that they were xenophobes or something. Mostly I've just been trying to deal with this whole female elf body thing. I really wish I could get a good look at myself..."
"Well . . ." Jack blushed. "You're very pretty now, but, um, kind of hard to describe. Even if it weren't for . . . you know.
"But I know I've got a spell to project illusions in the spellbook I… acquired." Jack shrugged at Kelly's questioning look. "There was a guy who attacked me after I woke up. I knocked him out and took his things. He had a spellbook, and I've been studying it. I guess since you got . . . put in that body, you have fully-formed knowledge of magic. I seemed to be able to suddenly have spells, but they went away, and I have to keep renewing them with the book.
"Anyway, the point is, I might be able to project a mirror or something. Maybe like one of those multi-surface mirrors at the department store or something."
Kelly nodded appreciatively at the idea "I have a little mirror thingy in the pack I found near me when I woke up but it's woefully inadequate, that would be wonderful"
Kelly smiled at Jack and said "Thanks for being so...good about all this. I know it's a bit much...especially...considering" She sighed sounding somewhat shut down.
Jack blushed again, not as deeply as before, but still evident. "Um, you're welcome." He seemed to have a hard time meeting her eyes. "Although, the illusion thing will have to wait a bit. At least until the morning -- I've prepared my capacity for spells already. According to the book, I can't prepare new ones until after a full night's rest. It doesn't say why – it was just a sort of standardized guideline at the start. I think it might have been written by the guy's teacher."
Jack looked at the rest of the group again. "Any anyway, it might look a bit strange to the others. We should probably wait until we get to Waterdeep."
"Yeah probably it would indeed. Kelly agreed. “Though if I'm half a pretty as I think I am I could probably sell tickets." she giggled melodically.
At Jack’s comments about his book of spells she nodded, listening closely "Gee that's funny I have a book too but it's only got one page in it and Ican't understand a word of it. Kelly said looking thoughtful.
Jack knit his brow. "Strange. The spellbook's symbols were hard to understand, but I managed to figure them out. I haven't done it for all of them, but somehow I knew the basics. I had to use spells for the ordinary text notes the previous owner used, though."
"For me the spells just sort of come out, I see things differently and feel things. And then they just come out when I need them. It's certainly not anything like I thought a witch would be or a mage or whatever...I need to find out what the hell is up with that too"
"I'm hoping this Waterdeep has a good library or something.” Jack said hopefully. “I -- I mean, WE really need information."
Kelly smiled kindly up at the giant of a man and added "Well I’m pretty good with people so I will start grilling everybody a bit more and seeing where things lie. Then we can get back together and share info"
"Sounds like a plan."
"Maybe there's a magic school in Waterdeep or something." Jack grinned. "Hey, if we've got an elf, two hobbits, and a halfblood orc here, maybe there's a Hogwarts."
"Oh God I hope not!" Kelly giggled softly "I hope that magic is at least kinda rare I'd like to have some sort of saleable skill to survive on here...”
"Good point. Very good point." Jack frowned again. "I have some money, but I don't know how much it's worth. I might be able to get a job doing something other than magic -- I made a pretty good living back home by teaching rapier, sabre, and duello. I might be able to do the same. Krell said that rapier fighting is rare, and in our history it started in big cities. It's annoying having to carry around armor and a big sword in case you got challenged."
"Yeah" Kelly smiled "You were amazing with that thing. Those guys barely had a chance to blink" Kelly was fairly gushing with admiration.
"Heh." Jack managed not to blush this time, but he still looked embarrassed. "Thanks. Sort of. It wasn't fun. It made me feel . . . cold, kind of. I've never used a rapier to hurt anyone deliberately before I came here. And those were the first people I killed." He sighed. "Had to do it, but it doesn't feel good. I suppose I should be glad for that, I guess. I don't think I would want to be a person who took death lightly."
"Yeah I know...it was much harder on me than I thought it would be.” Kelly confessed “Even though I've never been a violent person. It still hurts when I think about it..." Kelly took a deep breath "Damn somebody please stop me before I start crying again..." she tried to joke but it came out sort of sickly and sad.
Kelly sighed deeply and looked up at Jack and shook her head. "I think it was a lot easier being a guy Jack. A LOT easier. I am just a wreck."
"Well . . . if it helps, I think I'd be half-crazy from a complete sex change . . . not to mention ending up as a different species." Jack chuckled. "There was a recently published SF novel where a human got transformed into an elf. Of course, she was female to begin with, but she had to adapt to all sorts of things. For instance, as an elf, she couldn't drink beer without feeling sick. She was a bit ticked off about that." He said the last in a slightly ironic tone, hoping to make Kelly feel a little humor.
"Aw shit" Kelly said softly "I didn't even think of that...man I really liked beer too, I have a feeling I am going to be every bit as pissed off as she was, if not more so. I guess it's kinda funny though..." she sighed again clearly not all that amused
“Well, that was a work of fiction. Maybe elves here can do it. Have you noticed anything strange about your body?" Kelly looked at him with her hands on her slender hips and one elegant eyebrow raised. Jack blushed again and corrected himself "Um, I mean, besides the . . . um, obvious differences."
"Nah she was right whoever she was. All my senses are sharper, especially taste. Touch too my skin is so sensitive now that I have a really low pain threshold..."
Kelly smiled gently at the poor guy. He was trying so hard to be nice. She touched his arm gently and said "Thanks for trying to cheer me up it’s really kind of you. I'm just in a tough spot right now."
"C'mon” Kelly gestured back in the direction of the campfire “Let’s get back to the rest I'm getting tired of listening to myself whine."
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