Number 3 Beazel Drive
The skin on my lips was stretched thin and very chapped. I could barely contain the grin on my face as I walked through the thick and mostly desolate woods to the lonely house at the end of Beazel Drive. The idea of calling the footpath anything else was utterly laughable. A job is, in fact, a job. A footpath can sometimes become a drive. The sun was shining, the smile on my face was unbearable, and I did not want to take this job. I hoped my next client wasn’t going to be as disastrous as the prior five. I knew in my heart that it was, but gods I needed this job. Morwen Firestarter just had to be my last client.
The heavy oak door barely budged but as soon as it did, I was taken aback. At least the house was clean. Through the door I yelled,” Hello! It’s Bernie from the Safelight Council! I’m here for-” Before I had the chance to finish, a thunderous crash stole the words from my mouth. To my immediate left, a giant dull looking axe was sticking out of the splintered door frame. To my far right, was a human way too tiny for the size of the axe that had almost departed my soul from this realm, “Ms. Firestarter?” I croaked out, pretending that I didn’t notice the stream of urine making its way down my legs. The small woman crossed her arms, a sour look on her face. The look didn’t quite reach her eyes. Her eyes were all mischief.
“You’re a lot slower than my last aide. You almost lost it there.”
“Ah yes. I am not trained in combat. Only home elfcare.”
“You’re also a lot younger than my last aide. Are you sure you know what you’re doing, kid?”
“I am very good at my job and I’ll have you know I’m 119 years old.”
“Oh gods. No wonder. You are barely toilet trained. I told them not to send me a fucking child. Well. I have an extra set of pants. When you help with the laundry you can wash yours. Unless you want to hang around in piddle all damn day.”
Squishing in my shoes, I wobbled to the laundry bin and removed my soaked garments. Ms. Firestarted handed me a pair of trousers, I grabbed them swiftly. She tried to hide her laughter as I struggled to put the pants over my soaked shoes, “Son, just take the shoes off.” I scoffed at her, I may have groaned a bit. To be honest, I may even have been a little bratty.
Ms. Firestarter’s extra pants were far more comfortable than I could have imagined, and resolved to ask her, later when she wasn’t an infernal incarnate, where her pants had been made. Her home was clean, and she was obviously strong enough to throw an axe, I decided not to dwell on the fact that I didn’t really need to be there. Ms. Firestarter seemed fine on her own. In the end, it took me a levitation spell and 10 minutes to remove the axe from the wall. Her house really only took about an hour to fully clean to Safelight standards.
The cabin she resided in was cozy and smelled a little of mothballs even after a thorough cleaning. I had deep suspicions that Ms.Firestarter was the origin of the moth ball smell. She was able bodied enough so I spared us both the embarrassment of pulling out the loofah and special home elfcare soaps. Next culprit for the mothball smell was a rug on the floor that was worn and frayed. Although the same could be said of most things in the cabin.Everything in the living space definitely gave the impression that it was lived in. Everything except the tapestry. It took up the entire west wall. This tapestry was almost pristine, as if it had just been hung.
“Ms. Firestarter, what is that tapestry?” I finally managed to ask, despite a very sudden feeling that I shouldn’t. The sour look in her face finally reached her eyes. Moving faster than a human in her 60′s should have, she grabbed the axe I had left by the door frame and threw it with surprising strength at the tapestry.
The axe fell straight down from where it should have buried itself in the woven cloth and instead wedged itself in the floorboards. I groaned.Upon a closer look the tapestry seemed to depict an adventuring party. A tall elf man, a distinguished looking dwarf with handlebar mustache being held bridal style by a very muscular woman with red hair, a nearly nude half-orc man, a beautiful half-elf woman, and an elf stood in tandem in front of a gigantic dragon. I stared at the muscular woman, her demeanor was familiar to me. Before I could even open my mouth, I heard a soft, “I’m very tired. Please make me whatever vegetarian soup you have planned.”
She was slumped over in a chair that practically swallowed her whole. Her eyes were no longer mischief or sour. Whatever fire had been in Ms. Firestarter had died down to embers. I coughed, “I’m not actually a vegetarian. Unless you wanted me to make something more suited to vegetarianism I thought we could have a nice beef stew. Something hearty to get your spirits up?” She looked back at me and shrugged. “I don’t understand why I’m here to be honest. Ms. Firestarter, you seem very capable for your age.” Her face grew sour again and she crossed her arms. She looked a bit like a petulant child.
“Do you have any children?”
“Oh gods no. I hate children.”
That earned a laugh from her. She shook her head, “So do I. All I have is family that don’t mind their own business. You see that cursed tapestry?” I nodded, the tapestry looked untarnished despite what I assumed must have been years of neglect, “That girl in the center is me. My friends? They have barely aged, except for Makk, rest his soul. They don’t understand that I’ve still got it. They think buying me a cabin, when I made just as much coin adventuring as they did, and sending me a home elfcare aide is what’s going to stop me from dying before they do. I’m old but I’m not dead.” I couldn’t imagine aging faster than my friends, no only because I didn’t have friends, but elves age pretty slowly on the whole. Looking wistfully at the wall, Ms. Firestarter murmured, ” I hope I turn into a thrall so I can return the ‘favor’ Make sure you clean those vegetables before you cut them.”
I nodded, “You could always turn into a lich. That’d really show them.” Ms. Firestarter laughed and I rolled up my sleeves and chanted a rhyme in elvish, the vegetables became clean.
Ms. Firestarted rolled her eyes and curled inward, “You’re just like him too. Stupid elf so reliant on magic, I bet you’ve never actually washed anything by hand.” Startled, my eyes went over to the laundry which was hanging itself up outside. I knew what she was saying was true but it was still rude. Of course I used magic. It took too long to hand scrub a house. Of course I knew how to clean things the manual way., “Did you even hear me, Benjamin?” Benjamin?” Where did she even get that name from?
My name tag clearly said Bernie. The way she was squinting at my name tag told me everything I needed to know, “My name is Bernie-” Ms. Firestarter threw a worn cushion in my direction.
“I don’t care.”
“It may be out of my scope here but it really looks like you care.”
“Well. I don’t. Just make me the damn soup and I’ll sign off on your stupid time sheet”
“Oh no I gotta stay here the whole 8 hours, we’re having dinner too. Ms.Firestarter huffed and the chair seemed to envelope her even more.
“Do you know what I said to the last man who dared to threaten me with dinner? I tol-”
“I’m sure whatever you have to say is very threatening and scary. How do you feel about carrots?” She didn’t respond and I began peeling carrots. I felt more brave now that I finally understood Ms. Firestarter better. She was sad and lonely, but who wasn’t? She felt left out. A sense of relief flooded my body, she was far from the worst client I ever worked with. She was the only client who ever threw an axe at me, however.
While the soup was bubbling behind me, I went about setting the table, “Ms. Firestarter? Do you have a tablecloth?” She was sitting with her legs over the arm of the chair she was sitting in. Throwing her head over the other end to make eye contact with me, she pointed to a cabinet in the kitchen. She was pouting almost the exact way my younger brother did. He was 63. 64? Honestly there’s a bit of an age gap and I don’t think about it too much. It’s not very common for elves to have siblings, I got lucky, I guess. My bare feet slapped against the stone floor, a sad reminder that my shoes were outside drying. I pulled out a deep red cloth from the cabinet that Ms. Firestarter had pointed to.The cloth felt very strange in my hands. I put it up to my nose and inhaled. It smelled a little bit like dust and alcohol.
I shook out the cloth and with a flourish set it out on the table. That’s when I heard the chuckling from the armchair. I looked to the formerly pouting woman who made a very rude gesture my way, “That’s what you get for listening to an old woman!” I made a rude gesture back and turned away from her. The table had vanished. I swung back around. She cackled, “I thought you had to be some kind of big shot wizard to do home elfcare!”
I had lied on my resume. Who doesn’t? It doesn’t mean I wasn’t qualified! I knew how to cook! I knew how to clean! As long as I didn’t have a client who needed emergency transport, I had a license to drive a carriage! Honestly what were the odds of that? Especially where Ms. Firestarter was concerned, I was more likely to be in mortal danger. Or accidentally vanished by an enchanted tablecloth.
I wasn’t expecting to baby sit at my age. I always disliked kids. When Bernie showed up in my door frame I just wanted to scare the kid a little bit. I wanted to show him that I was no one to underestimate. I did not expect him to squeal like a pig and piss everywhere. Usually the home elfcare aides leave after I’ve given them a fright but this one surprised me. He stayed. He cleaned. He did a piss poor job, no pun intended, but he cleaned.
He didn’t know how to fold clothes, his casting was amateurish at best. I was already making plans to clean once he’d left. Something about his demeanor reminded me of an old friend, Fenric. He was our cleric and healer and a complete dumbass. There was something quite endearing about him, and Bernie had that same quality. I couldn’t quite place what it was at the time.
I found myself being won over by this kid, but I had to chase him off. I had to find a way. I bitched at him. I called him the wrong name. He stayed. I played the invisible table trick and I thought I almost had him. He broke down crying, “why are you being so bitter? It’s not my fault your friends don’t think to ask what you want.” He was right. I didn’t want him to be right. And I sure as hell didn’t want him crying on my floor.
“Why are you crying? I’m doing you a favor. I offered to let you leave and still get paid.”
Bernie buried his face in his hands, “I need this job, okay? I never wanted it! I-I lied on my resume and said I could do magic and I can only do this!” He waved one hand and blue sparks shot from his fingertips. “I can only do little things but our farm is in danger and I don’t even want to live there anymore but it’s im-important to MY DAAAAD” He began to screech and I’d had enough. I reeled back and gave him a bit of a slap.
He slid across the floor, sat up and blinked rapidly in shock. I picked up the enchanted table cloth, reversed it, and the table was back. I put on a pot of tea, “So you want to stay the full shift? Okay. Can you keep a secret?” Bernie nodded, tears still making their way down his chin. I threw a washcloth to him to keep the dribble off him, “I am pretty lonely up here. You are not to tell any of them, Ras especially.