Chance Encounter

Long before there was EQ, Horizons, WoW or many of the other online multiplayer games, there was Ultima Online. I played UO quite avidly for several years. During that time, I developed a wide variety of new characters and eventually, they wanted me to tell their stories. The following is one such story.

(The names of some of the characters, those not played by my husband and me, have been changed.)

A chance meeting, that’s what it was. A glance in passing, a look—that’s all it had taken. One penetrating flicker of her astonishingly green eyes in his direction—and he’d fallen into her. The auburn hair frolicked around her shoulders like flames, cascading down the back of her sapphire dress. It was fire burning in his head. Elliandra, his best friend’s younger sister.

He’d known her for years and watched her grow from a child to a young woman. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and he was irrevocably smitten. He was a fool, he chided himself. She was nearly ten years younger. Why he had shoes older than she! But he was hopelessly, helplessly hooked.

“You’re done for, Shadow, old man.” He muttered to himself. “If Augustus doesn’t kill you, Elliandra will do it herself. She absolutely loathes you!”

Distracted by his thoughts, he nearly ran headlong into the moat around the lord’s castle. Stopping abruptly, he regrouped his thoughts and made his way inside to speak to the tailors about some fabric he wanted. A short conference later, he headed back through the moongate to Sanctuary, his new fabrics in his backpack.

He stepped onto the ferry and crossed the channel between Sanctuary island and the mainland. He could have recalled home, but he’d left his reagents behind and his runebook was out of charges. It was only a short run to the forge, his sister’s home, where he had a tailor shop set up to work. In his distraction, he barely noticed when the ferry touched the bank.

He disembarked and shifted his pack to the other shoulder. It was heavy and slowed his steps. He should have been more alert to his surroundings, but his mind fluctuated between thoughts of Elliandra and the new cloth in his pack.

The first brigand attacked Shadowdancer with a dagger. The blade itself would hardly scathe him, but the poison on it glittered with an evil, green ichor. He’d have to be wary of that, for he’d no cure potions with him. He dodged the next attack easily, shifting his pack of fabrics so they shielded his exposed side. Drawing his own blade, he parried the clumsy thrusts of his opponent.

Annoyed with himself for forgetting his spell reagents, he relied on his fencing skill to protect him. Fortunately, he was dexterous and practiced often with his blade, making him a tougher target than his attacker had anticipated. Still, the pack was heavy on his back and he began to tire.

An energy bolt crackled past his left ear, singeing his goatee and setting his long hair tingling to the roots. It took a moment to realize the spell had not been directed at him—right about the time it slammed into his opponent, throwing him to the ground. A second bolt followed the first. The man’s tunic caught fire, but he was already dead.

Shadow spun in a low crouch, searching for other attackers. He saw no one except a lithe figure dressed in light blue leather armor. Her hair was pulled back in a tight braid beneath a scarf, but he caught a hint of fiery red where it spilled out the back. Wispy curls framed her heart shaped face like tongues of crimson flame. Her emerald eyes danced with amusement as she dusted her gloved hands against one another.

It was then that Shadowdancer noticed three other men lying around her, tunics smoldering gently in the late afternoon breeze. He was good, but four on one were odds he wasn’t sure he’d have beaten without his spells. He certainly had been distracted or he’d have noticed them himself. A flush rose in his swarthy cheeks as the subject of his distracted state strutted over to the nearest body, picked it clean, and moved to the next.

“Elliandra,” he said huskily. “I owe you thanks.” He bowed deeply, his pack of cloth tilting dangerously over his shoulder.

“You owe me more than that, Shadowdancer,” she laughed, her voice like chimes in the wind. “You owe me your life, more like. What had you in such a state? Why you walked right past the lot of them the moment you got off the boat. I was a score of yards away and could see the look on your face. You must have seemed an easy mark to such as them.”

Shadow’s blush deepened. He couldn’t tell her it was her fault. She’d laugh at him. He dug his toe into the dirt, ears and cheeks burning with embarrassment.

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