Chapter 3: Rayn
Rayn was a half-elf.
Elves rarely mated with humans. In fact, male elves never showed any interest in the plump and ephemeral beauty of human females. On rare occasions, a man would be so strong and valiant that he would be an acceptable mate for an elf female. Tall, beautiful and blessed with unnaturally long lives, such offspring would be esteemed in both cultures.
Far more common was the unsavoury union of men and elf females, invariably associated with warfare and raids. Their offspring would be shunned by men and elves alike, and most would be left to fend for themselves on the lowest rung of society as pickpockets, thieves and whores.
Rayn’s mother chose a different path, raising her daughter alone in the woods for six years, until she died from starvation and exposure. Driven by hunger and unable to forage for food in winter, the orphan Rayn found her way to Sandcastle where her habit of talking to trees and stones had her apprehended and admitted to treatment at the academy within days of her arrival. By the time she met Ada, Rayn had spent more than three years subjected to magical desensitisation behind closed doors.
The off-set eyes she inherited from her father were the only distinguishing trait in an otherwise unremarkable visage. Rayn always seemed out of tune with other people, unable to comprehend their customs, rituals and social play-acting. Books and scrolls became her comfort, enabling her to share in the ideas, thoughts and emotions of other people without actually interacting with them.
Straight out of the academy, Rayn somehow managed to get an unpaid position as the apothecary’s assistant. Despite her blunt demeanour, her obsessive nature and dedication to getting every detail right made her excel in the role. When the store owner drowned two years earlier, with no known relatives, the young half-elf had inherited the small apothecary. Such luck was unheard of among the half-elves of Sandcastle.
‘What do you want?’ asked Rayn.
Ada hadn’t seen Rayn in months and needed a few breaths to adjust her expectations to her former roommate’s confrontational style of dialogue.
‘Nice to see you, too,’ Ada answered, trying to keep the exchange civil.
‘Your boyfriend left you for someone else?’ Rayn prodded. ‘No!’ Ada said, instinctively, before she admitted defeat. ‘I left him after he slept with someone else. How did you know?’
‘You only come when your boys beat you or sleep with someone else. Or both.’
‘That’s not true!’
‘Yes, it is. What do you want from me?’
Ada took some time to recall her visits to Rayn over the last couple of years and realised that Rayn’s statement was not entirely inaccurate. She discarded half a dozen denials, before settling on the only way that worked with Rayn.
‘You are right. I need a place to sleep for a few nights. Until I can find something else. Please?’
‘You can sleep under the counter. Don’t steal from the shelves,’ Rayn replied and turned her back to her, seemingly disinterested in further conversation on the subject.
Ada drew her breath sharply and was about to deny the accusations of theft. Again, Rayn spoke the truth. Indeed, on several occasions, Ada had pilfered exotic herbs from the store, desiring to experiment with their recreational effects.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, meekly.
‘You are, now,’ Rayn said.