Things did change at the Winter Tavern and Inn. More customers came by once word spread about my talent with healing herbs. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get asked to create some sort of concoction that would help with a wound or an ailment of some sort. The Tavern began to fill up more often, and I was requested to make different kinds of tea that would help people in their struggles.
Though the change wasn’t instantaneous. It took a while and a few brave people giving me a chance before it started to become more common for them to stop by. I almost felt like the town was more accepting of me and letting me stay. I felt more welcomed. That was until I saw the people outside of the tavern passing me by and simply glaring when they saw me.
I had noticed that most the people that came in were regulars. It started to become habit for me to see them and start making their typical request of a drink. I knew what they wanted and how they wanted it. But the people outside, they refused to enter because I was there. Some of them I recognized from before Mr. Natale saying they weren’t welcome if they didn’t want me there. I especially recognized the man who attacked me. My hand instinctively went up to rub my head when our eyes met.
“Are you alright?” A friendly voice caught my attention as I stared out the window.
I looked over to see Luna standing next to me. Clearing my throat, I nodded my head. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just remembering something unpleasant.”
His helmet turned as he looked out the window. “That fellow harm you?”
I went back to clearing a table of dishes as we spoke. “During one of the first days I was here, yes.”
“I’m sorry about that.” He turned back to me.
“Mr. Natale saved me then.” I responded and lifted up the tray of dishes. “He and his wife have been very kind to me. I’m just glad I could pay them back.”
Luna began to follow me as I made my way to the kitchen. “I heard your healing drinks and tonics have been helping many people out. That’s good.”
I stopped just before the door to the kitchen and looked back at him. “If I can help, I will. But I’m doing my best to survive in a kingdom that doesn’t like me or my kind. I’m just glad that there are caring people around like the Natale’s... and you.”
He let out a chuckle. “Keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine. When you have a chance, can you bring me something that will help with pain? Just up to my room.”
I paused for a moment and nodded before I went into the kitchen and began to wash the dishes. After a while longer, the need for my help lessened and I was able to start working on Luna’s request. After the people of the town began to open up to my healing herbs, I began to stock up on many different plants. The Natale’s gave me a shelf to keep the herbs on so they were easy to access. I was glad to find Moris Roses in the flower field and made sure to keep a constant supply of them.
Moris Roses were named after the Elven God over the Land and Skies. The looked like any other rose except for one thing. Along with the vivid red color, the edges of the petals were a royal gold color. Those petals held a strong natural healing element in them that Elves knew how to harness. If they weren’t prepared right, the flower could poison the user. The main thing needed for the healing element to work was heat. It needed to be cooked until the gold on the petal seeped off into whatever it was being used for. Thus, most of the time it was mixed into a tea because it was the easiest to catch the healing gold.
If the gold didn’t get into the mixture, the healing agent of the rose wouldn’t be in the mixture, leaving only the residual poison from the petals. The gold part of the petals neutralized the poison and left only the healing part of the mixture. I began by taking several petals of the Moris Rose and putting them into water that was slowly being heated by the fire below. As I waited for the gold to properly seep into the water, I prepared sweeteners and cream for Luna to add into his drink. I went back to the brew and noticed the healing part of the rose began to steep into the hot water. That was the time to add any additional flavors. I added some mint and lavender. But I left it at that, too many flavors would clash and could hurt the healing tonic.
Once it was complete, I carefully removed the used petals and leave and poured the liquid into a warmed pot with a cup and saucer next to it. Placing it, and the cream and sweetener options on a tray, I lifted the weight and propped it against my hip as I opened the kitchen door. I slowly made my way to the second floor of the inn and knocked on the door for room two. With the tray balancing between my hand and shoulder I waited for his okay to enter.
“Is that you, Elora?” His voice called.
I heard footsteps walk over just before Luna opened the door. He still had his full armor on, including the helmet. I realized that the whole time I knew this man I had never seen his face. I’d never seen him without his armor on. He moved to the side and allowed me to enter his room. I walked in and placed the tray with the tea on the table. As I set the cup off of the tray and onto the table, I poured the tea into it. As I turned around to leave, I jumped at the sudden awareness of how close Luna was to me.
“Sorry about that.” He said with a chuckle. “I wanted to see what you prepared for me.”
I cleared my throat. “I made a mint lavender herbal tea with you.”
He looked at the drink and tilted a head. “Why does it look red and gold?”
“That’s because there’s essence of the Morris Rose in it.” I explained.
Luna’s head turned towards me. “The Morris Rose?”
“The red rose with gold tips.”
He suddenly jumped back. “You mean Royal Death?”
I couldn’t help but snort back a laugh. “Is that what you humans call it?”
“No one cooks with that rose because it’s poisonous.” Luna explained.
I had to laugh, probably one of the first since I had left home. “That’s because humans don’t know how to prepare it so it isn’t poisonous. The gold tips of the rose hold a healing agent that neutralizes the poison. My people use it all the time to help against pain and wounds that happen in day to day life.”
He stood there for a bit and stared at me. “How do I know that I’m not going to die because of this?”
I crossed my arms. “Do I have a reason to poison you?”
“I’m a knight from the same kingdom that attacked your home.” He countered.
“But,” I argued. “You’re one of the only people who has shown genuine kindness to me during my time here. I wouldn’t kill someone who cared for me like that. And if I wanted to poison you, I wouldn’t tell you what I used to make the tea.”
He still didn’t move. I let out a sigh and reached for the pot of tea, I took a small cup from the table and poured some of the drink into it. Lifting it to my lips, I prepared to drink the tea, but Luna reached over and stopped my arm from tilting the cup.
I let out a sigh. “If you’re really so skeptical I’ll show you how I prepared it.”
“You really are certain this is safe to drink?” He let go of my arm.
To answer his question, I drank the tea in the cup and it only took moments for my fatigue and soreness of the day to disappear. As he sat there and watched, Luna seemed to be accepting of the mixture. His stance relaxed and he nodded. I gave him a small smile and turned to leave the room. Just before I left, I paused.
“How long has it been since you took that armor off?” I asked.
Luna sat down on the chair next to the table. “I take it off every night.”
“But I never see you without your helmet.” I turned towards him.
“Well,” his head turned towards me. “That’s because I need to keep those around me safe.”
“As long as I have my sword, I can fight against anyone who means harm.” He explained. “As long as I have my shield, I can protect someone from anything thrown. As long as I have my armor, I can stand in the way of danger to make sure someone lives.”
I looked down at the ground. “You aren’t like most knights.”
“You mean most Obrenor Knights.” He looked over at me.
I shook my head. “I mean any knights. I can tell you that I knew plenty of Elf knights that only cared about status and looking good. They didn’t always care about the people. But just because there are a few bad ones, doesn’t mean all of them are bad.”
He gave me a small silent nod. With a soft smile on my lips, I opened the door and walked out of his room to finish my tasks for the day. But as I went to bed that evening, my mind returned to the knight who cared about every life around him. The knight who wanted to protect everyone. The knight who showed true kindness to me despite being an Elf from a kingdom what his own considered an enemy. And I wished, hoped, and dreamed that he would eventually have a day that he felt he could go without his armor because he didn’t need to risk his life for someone.
In the middle of the night, I woke up feeling the need for some water. I moved the blanket from my body and stood up. The chill of the wood floor met my bare feet as I walked over to my door. Pushing on the handle, the door didn’t budge. My tired mind cleared in an instant. I pushed again, and the door didn’t open. I was blocked in.
Panic filled my chest and I tried to push against whatever was keeping the door closed, but it wouldn’t move. I pounded on the door and began to shout for help. But no one came. As I tried to figure out escape, I noticed the light below the door began to flicker and grow. Soon, the smell of smoke began to fill the room and I quickly realized that I was trapped for a purpose. I tried once more with the door, my hand grabbing the metal handle. But I quickly recoiled as the heat from the fire outside of my room made the handle extremely hot. I backed up to the corner of the room as smoke filled the area. My eyes began to burn and it became hard to breathe. I sank to the ground and held my injured hand against my chest as I tried to call for help.
My conscious began to waver and I slumped to the side, hitting the ground with little strength to get back up. The last thing I recalled was hearing the sound of something heavy moving and falling before my door was broken off its hinges and a figure ran over to me.