Asphodel held the ring tightly in her hand. Her mother had given it to her not long before she left Rindisillaron. It had been her grandmother's ring and she felt an emotional attachment to it.
Although elves lived long lives in comparison with humans, they did not, contrary to popular belief, live forever, nor were they immune from diseases that ravaged the world of Vimar. Her grandmother had succumbed to one of these diseases the previous year. She wanted Asphodel to have her engagement ring as a keepsake.
Now, Asphodel clutched the ring as she wept for what she knew would never be. Vass had become addicted to the drugs and alcohol that his so-called friends had plied him with. He would never make the fortune he had promised her. All his money, and hers, had gone on his own addiction and not to selling the goods to others.
Asphodel did not approve of his work as a drug dealer, but now he was not a dealer, but an addict. She needed to get away.
She packed her few belongings and searched the apartment for anything she could sell, and for some food. She packed it all into the pack she had carried away from Quatissillaron when she and Vass had eloped. She paused to think for a moment before opening it again and taking out half of the food. She could not leave Vass with nothing.
The few objects she had stuffed in, she left there. After all, Vass had plenty money with her jewellery. How he chose to use it was up to him. She blew her nose, looked round the apartment that now looked presentable after all her efforts and walked out of the door.
She looked both ways along the street. A few people were going about their business, but they took no notice of a girl coming out of her apartment. Vass was nowhere in sight. Asphodel supposed he had gone to sell her jewellery. The jeweller's shop was to the right, so she went left in the direction of her workplace.
It was dark on the street and Asphodel felt a little afraid as she walked. Where could she go? Perhaps her employer would allow her to spend the night there, then she could go and see if she could find a caravan going away from Frelli. If she could find her way to the caravanserai through the winding, spiral streets of the city.
She found herself outside her place of work. Lights gleamed from the upstairs windows. She knocked on the door.
A head appeared from the window upstairs.
'Yes? What do you want? We're closed now. Come back tomorrow.'
The Krommel, the scribe, was pulling his head back inside when Asphodel stepped into the light cast by his window.
'Asphodel,' he gasped. 'What are you doing her at this time of night? Wait, I'll be down in a sec.'
After no more than half a minute, the door opened and Krommel beckoned the girl inside. She entered into the room where they did the copying ever day, but Krommel led her upstairs to where the family lived.
As soon as she entered the room, Krommel's wife, a plump woman of around forty years of age, noticed her bruises.
'Oh, my dear, what happened?' she exclaimed. 'Let me tend to your injuries. Sit down over there.'
While she bustled around finding things that would ease the bruising on Asphodel's face, Krommel handed her a bowl of stew and a spoon. The girl ate gratefully.
After she had finished and the curious children been sent to bed, Asphodel explained what had happened.
'I need to get away,' she said. 'I'm sure Vass will try to find me. I need to go a long way away. I can't go back to him.'
She put her head in her hands and wept.
Krommel's wife put her arms around the young elf.
'Of course you can't,' she said. 'Men who hit women never change. Oh, they say they're sorry and perhaps they are, but then the drink and drugs will take over again and it will keep on happening.'
'I still love him,' said Asphodel, raising her tear-streaked face. 'I don't know why, after what he's done. Not only to me, but to others by selling them drugs. He started selling before he started taking them. I know if I saw him, and he asked me, I'd go back to him. That's why I need to get right away.'
'I'll be sorry to lose you, girl,' he told her, 'but I agree. You must go away. Do you have money?'
She nodded. 'A little. I've also got a ring I can sell until I find some other employment.'
'Well, you must have your pay for what you've done since your last pay packet,' Krommel told her, walking over to a safe in the wall.
He returned with a pouch of money and handed it over.
'There's more here than you owe me,' Asphodel said.
'Take it. I can afford to give you a bonus.'
Asphodel thanked him and stashed the pouch away into her pack.
The next morning, Krommel told one of his sons to escort Asphodel to the caravanserai. Asphodel was glad of his company and guidance as she knew she would never have found it on her own. It lay just inside the walls to the west.
The lad said goodbye, and Asphodel rummaged in her pack and found a small coin to give him. He thanked her and quickly disappeared into the crowds now gathering in the caravanserai.
Which one to take? There were several that looked ready to leave. suddenly, Asphodel saw, through the crowds, a familiar figure. Vass. He looked angry as he pushed people aside. His head turned this way and that, looking.
How had he found out where she was? Had Krommel told him? No, her former employer wouldn't have done, she was certain of that. Perhaps he had just guessed. Then he spotted her. He reached into his pocket and gave something to a small figure. It was Krommel's son. Vass had bribed the child into saying where he'd taken her. She could not blame the child. No one had told him not to tell Vass.
She looked around anxiously. A caravan was just about to leave. Asphodel rushed over and asked the leader if she could join.
'We're just leaving,' he said as the wagons rolled forward. 'Do you have coin?'
'I have some. Just take me as far as this will allow.'
The man took the coin and Asphodel jumped into the last wagon and watched as Vass's figure grew smaller and smaller.
Where will Asphodel's coin take her? Can she escape from Vass?