I’m running away... well cycling to be exact. Is it still called running away if you are using a different form of transportation? It’s been a question that has drifted through my mind since I left home this morning.
I left the city behind me hours ago. I stayed off the highways and major roads, and I’m travelling the old road along the river. The busy city streets soon turned to suburbs, then into rolling farmland, and - as I climb into the foothills - I now find myself surrounded by trees. This is logging territory.
It’s going to be dark soon, I debate cycling through the night to see if I can get to Hillcrest before resting. I’ve only stopped occasionally for snacks and lunch, but otherwise I’ve been cycling all day. The clouds that I’m riding towards might make me seek shelter sooner than I would like. I can see the light pollution from Hillcrest bouncing off the cloud cover in the distance. With the way the road twists and turns along the river, I’m not sure I can make it there before I hit rain.
Suddenly the sky darkens fast, and I hear a rumble from the clouds. Nature has decided for me I will not get much further as the skies suddenly open up and the road gets dangerously slippery. I can feel bike hydroplaning in the heavy rain, and I’m already soaked. I spot a cliff side to my right and pull off the road. I walk my bike as best as I can through the dense underbrush till I reach the clearing by the cliff. Fortune smiles on me as I find a hollow in the cliff face. With the direction the wind is blowing, the hollow is dry and shows promise of shelter. I lay my bike against a bare rock and cuddle myself into the natural alcove in the rock. Unless the wind changes, this will provide me shelter for the night. Now all I need is firewood. I can’t stay in these wet clothes, I need to dry off or I’ll catch a cold or worse. The night at this time of year gets chilly, I’m at risk of hypothermia if I can’t warm up soon.
I munch on some granola bars from my backpack, drinking the juice I brought to save the last of my water. I survey the darkening woods around me. If I can find a break in the rain, I should be able to gather enough of the fallen trees nearby to give me a small fire for the night. After an hour the worse of the thunderstorm rolls by, and I take my cycle headlight to find my way in the woods. It takes almost another hour to find enough broken limbs and kindling that I can safely carry. I drag my bundle back to the alcove and set up a little fire pit between the debris of the large fallen rock that formed my cubby.
I break the small twigs to make kindling, thankful for my survival kit matches to start my fire. One advantage of being a Llama Scout, I think to myself. As my small fire starts up, I break the larger branches into smaller pieces, smashing the thicker branches on the rocks - as I don’t have an axe.
A twig snapping to my left between branch breaking suddenly makes me stop. My eyes search through the dark wood. A shadow moves in the darkness beyond the light of my small campfire. I carefully put down what I have in my hands and slowly reach for a larger branch and my headlamp.
As I move to the motion, I see the neon reflection of fabric. I relax when I realize what is stalking in the woods is most likely human. As the shape moves closer, they are all dressed in black, except for a neon glow from the inner lining of their hoodie, hair highlights and shoelaces.
“Do you intend on poking me with that stick?” A soft female voice says to me.
As she steps into the firelight, her skin is charcoal, almost black, her eyes are nothing but black orbs - like her entire eyeball is just one large pupil with no white or iris.
“What are you doing here in the middle of nowhere?” She asks with a smile. While her voice of soft and gentle, the fangs in her smile have me worried.
“Umm.. I was seeking shelter from the rain.” I say nervously, unwilling to give up my weapon now that I think I face something that’s more than human.
She looks up at the break in the clouds. “The storm has brought colder weather with it, I’m not sure your small fire and collection of twigs will suffice, your clothing is still damp. It’s not healthy for you to stay out here.”
Her tone is soft, comforting, and her face calm and concerned. I find myself lowering my defences at her non-aggressive nature.
Her almond-shaped eyes soften, I can see motion in the orbs. “I am known as Luna, do you have a name?”
“Oh. Uh.. Simon.” I stutter. I should be scared and running. Why is she being nice to me?
“Simon, that is a charming name.” She smiles again, showing those fangs of hers.
Really should be running now, Simon, before she eats you....
“You shouldn’t stay out here tonight Simon, it’s not healthy for you, you could catch cold and get sick.” Luna says with a concerned tone.
I look around at our surroundings. My voice sounds more brave and confidant than I am. “Says the girl who’s out with me, in the middle of nowhere, on her own. How did you get here, anyway? I didn’t hear a car or engine...”
Luna grins, her smile looking as friendly as it does deadly. “Do you want me to show you?”
My curiosity is getting to better of me as I wonder what she has planned. She doesn’t look much older than I am. I smile as I grab my backpack, hoping we’re going to leave the small cool alcove to someplace dry and warm.
“Sure.” And reach for her outstretched hand.
A gust of wind surrounds us, putting out my little campfire, and we are suddenly propelled into the sky. I’m.... Floating? I feel both solid and not at the same time as Luna and I drift towards Hillcrest.
“This is the most exciting way to travel.” I feel Luna’s voice more than hear it. Do I have ears right now? Everything feels surreal!
We land on a roof of a nightclub along the main uptown strip in Hillcrest. I feel myself grow more solid again as my feet touch the gravel of the rooftop. I’m also oddly dry.
“Wasn’t that fun?!” Luna says excitedly, still holding my hand.
In the glow of the surrounding lights, she is a dark form with only her neon accented clothing and hair showing her movements. And those beautifully perfect white teeth. I look around, trying to get my bearings.
“We’re in Hillcrest, right?” I ask hesitantly.
“Yes, we’re on the roof of the Temptations Night Club, come, let me introduce you to my mother.” She smiles at me, I can see a twinkle in the black orbs and I’m wondering what she has planned for me.
I use humour to diffuse my nervousness. “We’re not even dating yet, and you want me to meet your mother?”
She giggles, it’s a sweet sound. “You’re funny. I knew there was something about you I liked.” She smiles as she leads me to the rooftop stairway door.
I welcome the warmth as we open the door. The noise and music get louder as we walk down the stairs. We come out into a back bar of the 2nd floor of the club. The music is coming up from the DJ below us. The first thing I notice is the smells and aromas surrounding this floor. Exotic, I look around at people around us. Some look human, some look almost human, and some look like they’ve never been human at all. I get distracted as a foot-long humanoid with dragonfly wings flies in front of me, looks at me for a moment, before fluttering off again.
I look at Luna, perplexed. “Was that a...” I’m at a loss for words.
“Pixie. One of the regular faerie-folk who come to the club.” She says over the music. Her voice is crystal clear despite the noise and commotion around me.
I look around the room. It’s shaped as a large donut, with a glass railing opening to the floor below. From my vantage point, I can’t see what’s down there, but the crowd sitting or leaning along the railing seems to enjoy what they are looking at below. Dancing, perhaps?
“I don’t see my mother, she must be tending bar downstairs.” Luna says calmly and we walk towards a lit staircase.
I pass by an interesting assortment of patrons, none of which seem to find my presence strange. I slide along a tall Asian gentleman in a long coat and scarf; I look at him, wondering why he’s not uncomfortably warm when he gives me a fanged smile in greeting. Never mind, don’t want to know, I quickly turn away watching Luna, she’s not let go of my hand since we landed. Her skin is soft, warm and her grip comforting.
We walk downstairs, passing a very tall and imposing bouncer. What I see as I look around the room is not what I was expecting. Oh, this is a dance club, as the DJ rolling out the house music is promising, but the raised dance floor has 2 poles and exotic dancers in various forms of undress. It doesn’t take long to spot staff from patrons, as the people working the club are all dressed in lingerie. Those not interested in the men or women up on stage are dancing the to DJ’s beat on the lower dance floor. It seems this club has a little of something for everyone. At 15, I’m pretty sure that I don’t belong in a place like this.
We make our way to the front bar where another ebony skinned woman, like Luna, dressed in black leathers, is serving drinks. Luna flags her and she smiles. She nods to a man in an evening suit who takes over the bar for her.
The tall woman brings us to a quiet booth away from the crowd. When we are alone, she turns to us.
“Luna, what are you thinking bringing an under-aged human into the club?” Her voice is stern, but not angry.
“Emenya, I found this boy out in the woods, it would have been cruel to leave him out there tonight.” She says in a worried tone.
“Because of the blood moon?” the woman is almost a twin to Luna. They look so much alike. Dark skin, black orbs for eyes, with just enough makeup to accentuate her features. She looks exotic, beautiful, and smells equally compelling. Though she looks a little older than my new friend, and her voice is deeper with an almost constant sultry tone to it.
“Exactly, I would not leave him out there as a snack to new werewolves.” Luna says firmly.
“Werewolves exist!?” I say in surprise.
“Yes, and they are feral and savage at the onset of puberty, at least till they gain control of the change in their bodies. This is the first full moon of fall, very dangerous for a young human to go running around on their own.” The woman sitting across from me says calmly. “What were you doing so far out in the woods alone?”
I shuffle my feet nervously and look at my hands.
“Come Simon, there’s nothing to fear here.” Luna’s soft and gentle voice says beside me. Why do I trust so deeply in this strange creature?
“I was...” I sigh, “I was running away from home.” I say in a sad tone.
“Why would you run away from home?” Luna’s mother asks me.
“Because my parents no longer love me?” I reply, “At least not after the argument I had with them last night.”
She gives me a soft motherly smile. “Now, now dear. I’m sure your parents don’t hate you.”
“They caught me wearing some of my sister’s clothes.” I start. I don’t know why I’m telling this stranger my story, I guess I just needed to tell someone. “They asked me if I was gay.”
“To which you answered?” She pushes me to continue as I hold back my tears.
“I’m not gay. I like girls, but not just like them as in attracted to them, I want to be one myself. I don’t fit in anywhere as a boy!” I retort. “I get teased, and bullied, and I’m not strong enough to defend myself. My parents told me to knock it off and stop being such a baby.”
“So you ran away from your pain.” She says softly in a comforting tone.
Luna puts a comforting hand on mine, and I instinctively lean against her for support. I only met her tonight, but she just feels so safe right now.
“I didn’t know what else to do!” I say with a tear rolling down my cheek. “I don’t want to end my life, I just don’t want to be Simon, the girly wimp that everyone picks on in school anymore.” I look at her and sniffle. “Am I wrong to hope that there’s something better out there for me?”
She gives me a loving smile. “No, you’re not wrong to hope for a better life child. In fact, I believe I know someone who can talk to you about it.” She looks at Luna. “But he can’t stay down here, he’s too young, bring him back upstairs and wait in a booth, Rose will find you there.”
“Yes, emenya.” Luna says nudging me and we get out of the booth.
“And don’t walk this time.” Her mother says in a stern tone.
“Yes, emenya.” Luna says, bowing her head. She looks at me, “Ready?” I nod, though I’m not sure what I’m ready for. She takes my hand in hers, her touch is so soft, so gentle. She reaches up.
"Amlelyana" and the club disappears for a moment.
We suddenly reappear upstairs directly above where we were before. A few patrons look our way in mild surprise, before turning around and going back to their drinks and conversation.
“How did you do that?” I ask in surprise.
“Drow are strong in magic, I wish I could teach it to you.” She says with a smile.
We sit in a booth, and a waitress comes over and asks us if we want drinks. I ask for a root beer float and Luna asks for something called a Blood Fruit Cocktail.
“So... Drow, as in D&D, fantasy type Elven creatures from the Underdark?” I ask as the waitress leaves.
“Role-playing games are wonderful at introducing to open minds that there is more to the universe than humanity.” Luna says with a smile.
“Is that why I am not afraid of you?” I say puzzled.
We’re quiet for a moment as the waitress gives us our drinks and then moves away.
“I am not frightening because of this.” She says swirling the strange murky purple drink. It smells metallic, but also sweet, like the aroma that surrounds her. “The blood fruit in this drink takes away the deathly pallor of my vampiric nature and makes me more alluring.”
I take a sip of my root beer. “Wait, I thought you said you were drow...” I say confused.
“My mother was a full-blooded drow turned vampire before she had me, so I inherited all of her traits when I was born.” She looks up at me. “The thirst only started at puberty, but since then I need this fruit to keep it down or I become bloodthirsty like any other vampire in here does.”
I look around the room nervously. I’m a mundane human surrounded by creatures of myth and legend, some of which I thought were only figments of imagination. Much like the three gnomish creatures sitting at the small table behind me.
“So..” I clear my throat. “Am I the only human here?” I say in a worried tone.
“There are humans here.” Luna smiles at me and it calms my emotions. The effect this girl has on me is amazing. “I thought you would be more comfortable on the main floor, but my mother says you’re too young to be sitting in the exotic dance club. There are other humans up here as well, the magically adept are drawn to the club’s exotic nature - and not just for the dancers downstairs. Don’t worry, luv, you are safe here with me.” She gives me a warm smile and I suddenly relax.
The moment I met this strange girl in the woods, I’ve felt safe. There is just something about her that tells me I can trust her. Despite all of my reading and gaming, she’s not the cruel, bloodthirsty, cynical creature of hatred that fantasy novels make either of her races to be. No, she’s stunningly beautiful, attractively alluring, and kind.