Draven sat on a smooth granite boulder that was more than half buried in the earth, leaning back against the fencepost that butted against the stone and taking a rare break from his chores. Since his brothers had left more of the work had fallen to him and he had much less time to goof off, but he knew his family wouldn’t begrudge him a few stolen moments. His thick fingers were surprisingly nimble as he braided sections of his beard idly, twisting the thick hairs to bind the ends of the braids.
His mind drifted into a stream of consciousness that led him from one memory of Eva to another, her laugh and her smile. Her warm whiskey colored eyes, her honey and strawberry scent, the feel of her in his arms. She was his first love, a human noble who had stopped at the Darius farm to have her sister’s mare re-shod and their first encounter had ended with her pinning him to the ground under her knee.
In spite of the training she’d already obviously had, Eva had asked him to teach her how to fight, she didn’t like relying on others to protect her and Draven was only too happy to teach her what he knew. She’d taken to dual wielding short swords like a duck to water, which suited her petite frame, barely an inch taller than him, and she was a quick study in hand to hand as well. Draven closed his eyes and recalled their sparring matches, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth at the thought of how many of those matches ended in a hot and sweaty tumble in their secret meadow.
They were an unusual pair, human and dwarf, noble and farmer, and yet they complimented each other as rain did spring. Neither of their families knew about their relationship, they’d surely frown on it for any number of reasons, but the idea of being without Eva caused them both physical pain so they held their secret close.
Draven heard footsteps and his eyes opened to find Lord Townsend looming over him, Eva’s father, and his heart lurched into his throat. The human was very tall, towering over Draven at six foot four and staring down his narrow nose at him, his gray eyes cold and menacing.
“Dwarf,” he began in a low voice that was just as cold as his eyes. “You shame my house with your low and shabby self. You dare to lay your hands on my daughter, to violate her and steal her maidenhead, making her useless to me.”
With every poisonous word Lord Townsend spoke Draven found his frame vibrating more and more with fury, his hands fisted at his sides.
“And now, to add insult to injury, your filthy seed has taken root inside her traitorous belly.”
Draven felt the blood drain from his face. “Eva is pregnant?” Hearing the word out loud didn’t make it feel any more real, he had to see her, had to get her away from her toxic father and without waiting for Lord Townsend to utter another word Draven hopped up onto the boulder and launched himself at the man, swinging one meaty fist and landing a solid blow that laid the human out.
Running the five paces to Lord Townsend’s horse he pulled himself into the saddle and dug his heels into the animal’s sides, sending the stallion lurching forward. The 20 minute run into town felt like an hour, scenery passing in what felt like slow motion until finally Draven pulled the horse to a sliding halt in front of Eva’s house, leaping from the saddle and running through the front door.
“Eva! Eva!” Draven called out to her and was only met with the screams of scared servants. Bolting up the stairs he looked up and down the long second floor hallway, his blue eyes locking on a matronly figure blocking the farthest door. Turning to his right he ran at her and with a shriek she pressed herself to the wall, allowing Draven to throw the door open where he found… nothing.
It was clear that this was Eva’s room; her clothes lay scattered across the floor, spilling from an open armoire and her scent still hung in the air, as familiar to him as his own, but the room was empty. It was when he noticed the toppled furniture that his heart rate doubled, she’d been taken by force, but to where? Spinning on his heel he marched to the woman cowering in the hall, clutching her dress in an iron grip and she raised her hands in a feeble attempt to ward him off.
“Where is she?!” His voice was like thunder, loud and demanding her attention but she seemed incapable of speaking instead of wailing and Draven pushed her away in frustration, storming out of the house and making his way home on foot.
That evening he told his family over dinner that he was leaving, he told them of his love for Eva and his need to find her and their child and the support he’d hoped for, that he’d counted on, was there in abundance.
Dawn found him on the road, The Diplomat strapped to his back and a small satchel of food and clothes slung over one shoulder. In spite of his worry and his fears about Eva there was a spring in his step, and memories of her touch and her easy laughter kept his spirit light and hopeful, after all as she always said: It’s an adventure.