Magpies of Praulia- Inspired again by my steadily growing and developing world.
The tavern was not as Ula had been told taverns would be. It was clean with white washed stone walls and well lit by simple metal chandeliers that held many candles. There was no foul stench and her shoes did not stick to the floor as she’d been warned would happen in such places. As she stared around the open and welcoming inn, a rosy faced woman walked to the edge of the wooden bar and smiled brightly.
“Looking for a room or meal, Miss?” She asked cheerily. Ula shut the door behind her, completely leaving the dark of night and entering the warmth.
“Both, if available.” Ula replied as she shrugged off her heavy but worn purple cloak which was only done up by a few wooden buttons at her neck.
“Of course.” The woman gestured to a stool at the bar. “What do you fancy?”
“Just something simple.” Ula was still suffering from the foreign foods of this land that she had mistakenly bought and eaten without realising their spiciness or strong flavours. In her home the food was a lot more homely and didn’t cause her to reach for a glass of water after the first mouthful.
“Coming right up.” The woman nodded and turned to talk through a small window in the wall to where Ula assumed the kitchen was. Ula let her body relax from the long days trek. It had been a flat road but a tough one with dust being easily kicked up and little shade from the beating sun. With a sigh she placed her small pack on the seat next to her. “What brings you here?” The inn keeper asked in a jolly tone.
“I’m just passing through.” Ula tried to hide her fatigue from her voice. “I’m on my way to Praulia.” This caused an almost sudden silence to pass over the room.
“Praulia?” The lady asked tensely. “Then you’ll be going to see the elves.” Ula nodded, not understanding their reaction. Normally when she spoke of going to see the elves of Praulia most people got a glazed look in their eye and went into wistful speak of their famed beauty and wealth. After all, tales of the Praulia elves had had time to travel far over the thousands of cycles they had been in the world. Their reputation consisted of such tales of great wisdom, intelligence and everyone marvelled after them.
“This is the town at their border?” Ula asked in panic, wondering suddenly if she had travelled the wrong way.
“Yes, yes…” The woman began wiping the top of the bar furiously with her rag. “What is it that takes you to them?”
“I have goods to sell.” Ula smiled. “I hear they pay greatly for items of unique and beautiful properties.” In her naivety of youth she pulled out a large ring, not realising all of the eyes that were trained on her to see what riches she carried. The inn lady stared at the exquisite piece made of gold metal swirling around three large rubies set in the middle.
“A very fine trinket.” The woman said finally clasping her hand over the piece to hide it from the prying eyes. “But you would be better to take it to a merchant in the market. I’m sure you would find a good price there.”
“You do not think the elves would find it of value?” Ula asked placing the ring back into her pocket.
The woman frowned. “I do. Very much so.” She then leaned in almost conspiratorially. “They take anything they think comes up to their standards: jewellery, paintings, instruments, all of it. Indeed, it is said that the very walls of their buildings are covered in tapestries of such glorious and rich silks that they can only be seen in the radiance of sunlight. The songs that play in their halls make grown men weep at their splendour.”
“I have heard tales like this.” Ula said to which the woman shook her head.
“The elves of Praulia do value beauty over all things. So much so it has consumed them over their long lives. Where once they were a wise race now they are… corrupt.” She took a deep breath to steel herself. Ula leaned closer. “It is said that only those of very plain looks dare trade with the elves for not only do they want beauty in their objects but people too.”
Ula recoiled. “They take people?”
“The ones of superior beauty, yes.” She replied sternly. “A shadow lingers over that place, their need of exquisite things has laid a foul air there. For a long time they have not been considered elves but creatures of need, magpies taking what they want to glitter their nest. It is dangerous to travel there.” Her heavy warning weighed down on Ula. “Fill up on good food, Miss.” She said suddenly breaking the tension that had fallen between them and placed a plate of bread and cheeses before her. “Rest and think over what I have said, hmm?” She smiled at her hopefully and then walked to the end of the bar to see to another waiting customer.
Ula’s hunger suddenly vanished, her thoughts overtaken with this new information on the elves. If it had just been her, maybe she would have risked it. She did not consider herself of any particular beauty with her long auburn hair and small brown eyes. Yet she did not want something to befall her. Her trip to sell the last of her family’s heirlooms was only to be able to feed her sisters and brother. Her fingers fiddled with her satchel. Should she turn back empty handed or risk these Magpies of Praulia?