Holly relaxed into her window seat, sighing away the past week.
“What should we do first?” Laura asked, unpacking a book.
Holly pictured her parents’ holiday house, longing for the serenity of having nothing to do. She smiled. “Go to the beach, of course.”
Laura nodded. “Done.”
The train glided away from the platform, picking up speed until they were free of the buildings and roads. Besides the murmur of passengers, it was quiet.
Goats and cows grazed in winter-fed fields. Holly searched the frozen mountains in the distance. She could see woolly mammoths relaxing; their shaggy, russet coats contrasting with the olives and greys of the mountain. A small member of the family who had strayed, suddenly cantered back to the group. Holly could see a shorter figure creeping sneakily close. The mammoths, now aware, charged at the figure as a mass of thunder and tawny daggers. Their tusks swept side-to-side through the grasses. Holly watched the saber cat retreat.
A waft of citrus kindled Holly’s interests away from the window. Laura poked her thumb into a mandarine and offered a piece to Holly, which she took. The fresh, tangy flavour burst through her mouth, only providing her with additional mental clarity.
Outside, the plains merged into rock and forest. Trees which had been seeds before humans had arrived, stretched out their knurled limbs as if trying to capture the train. There were plenty of creatures in the wild who would thank the trees for capturing prey.
Holly caught a view of furry, ebony legs as thick as her torso, scrambling into a cave as the train passed. She noticed the loose scraps of a deadly web floating with the gusts of the train and a flash of a pale, spherical egg inside the entrance.
Best to remember her dagger, next time.
The train climbed higher, circling around a valley. The home of the wood elves: a tree the width and height of a skyscraper, stood in the valley keeping watch as it had done for thousands of years—as did those within. Holly could make out a few of the balconies, warmed with the lights of lanterns.
A rainbow of worn trader's tents lined the path which led to the expansive and elegant entrance to the tree. As the train slowed, a few passengers—mostly petite elves with the telltale slanted eyes and ears—rose from their seats and made their way to the exits. The station was busy, but peaceful. A rush of damp, mossy air drifted in when the doors opened. So did the chortles and screeches of woodland birds. Holly considered disembarking for she enjoyed the leafy, timber aesthetics of the elves.
Amongst the chatter she noticed a trader, chanting his wares. Selling his fabrics and sugar from the east, the tail of the man-sized feline swayed casually behind his haunches as his exotic voice crooned.
“Here find colours. Here find festivity. Here find sweetness.”
The journey continued.
Ten minutes out from their stop, the train halted. Holly heard the cries before she saw the flashes of fire and the hail of arrows. The forest had cleared to plains, where wildflowers had scattered themselves through the grasses. Leggy, high elves, wearing mage’s robes, sprinted through the flowers a distance from the train. Amber beams of light shot intermittently from their staves into the sky, searing everything in their path. They were followed by a company of fanged orcs, riding on two-legged stumpy lizards. They drew their bows at will, somehow steadying their aim as the creatures beneath them rushed. Holly was surprised they moved so smoothly considering their chubby legs and bent body.
An alabaster-haired elf shouted. He motioned to the others with an arm gesture before Holly noticed his eyes widen.
A spray of ice from the sky covered the grass in frost. There was a rhythmic thumping overhead and then a deep, screeching roar as a dragon landed in the field.
A frost dragon.
Its skin glinted silver and cobalt in the sunshine. Its belly heaved as it took in breaths, either from exhaustion or anger, Holly didn't know.
The high elves and orcs stood their ground, waiting for an indication from the leaders to attack.
Holly drew her breath in while tightening her grip on the arm rest.
The dragon pushed itself into the air. A few seconds later it hurtled along the length of the train a meter from Holly’s window. She jerked away.
“Are you ok?” Laura asked, lifting her head from her book. “It was only a passing train.”
Holly exhaled. “I'm fine, Loz...It was a surprise.” She adjusted to a comfortable seating position. “My brain got carried away...I was just thinking of some ideas for my next fan fiction.”
Inspired by characters from The Elder Scrolls Online.
Written for The Australian Writers' Centre, Furious Fiction,