The summer heat had finally broken in the Frandpull Valley, making the days bearable and the nights pleasant. Amil and Yostan sat on the side of Gure Hill staring up at the stars as they made their lazy trek across the sky. Not too far away, at the bottom of the hill, they could still hear the noise from the Harvest Festival.
“Do you think that there’s really something out there?” Amil asked, pointing up to the sky.
“We’re to that point of the night, are we?” Yostan replied with a chuckle. “The deep questions part?”
“I’m not trying to be deep. Just listening to that traveling monk that came through the village today, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was right. What if there really is something more out there? What if there are many more things out there?” Amil said. “What if there’s a world where we don’t have to worry about the fey or dragons or gnolls and goblins?”
“What if there’s a world without humans?” Yostan suggested, leaning his head to get a look at his friend, who just happened to be human. “What a world that would be. No more deep questions and no more chaos.”
“Shut up,” Amil said. “It’s not my fault that I’m 16 and you’re 88 and we look the same age.”
“I didn’t say it was,” Yostan replied. “Honestly, think about how I feel. I’m friends with you now, but I met your grandfather when I was your age. I’ve been friends with your family for three generations now. I had to attend your grandfather’s funeral last year.”
“I’m sorry,” Amil said, shaking his head. “I just thought how much better the world would be without all the monsters in it.”
“A lot of the monsters in this world come from the existence of magic, and the multitude of deities. To remove one aspect would likely remove all of it,” Yostan said. “I know I had a similar thought when your grandfather was fifty. I wondered if there was a way to stop him from aging so fast. Not make him immortal or anything, but like just slow it down, you know?”
“I’d ask what happened, but I already know that he died of old age,” Amil replied. “So there’s nothing like that?”
“There are things that can slow aging, or even make someone immortal,” Yostan replied. “I looked deep enough into it that the elders in my family caught wind of it. They were furious about it and made me stop researching.”
“Why would they be furious? Didn’t you explain to them what you were doing?” Amil asked.
“Of course I explained it to them. They even understood why I was doing it,” Yostan said.
“Then why stop you?”
“The truth is that a lot of those kinds of magics are forbidden, and for good reason. There are ramifications for doing things like that,” Yostan said. “Not just for the person using the magic, but for the person who’s life is extended unnaturally.”
“What do you mean?” Amil asked, turning onto his side to look at his friend.
“Well, have you ever met a really old human before?” Yostan asked.
“My grandfather,” Amil teased, but then shook his head, seeing Yostan’s serious expression.
“Well, you see, each race is created differently. We all deal with age a little different. It’s common for elves to live to nearly a thousand years old, there’s even legends of some of us making it that far, but humans only live to be around a hundred.”
“So, for a human to live longer than that is bad because they start to lose their mind. They can’t handle time in such long increments. Life is a flash for you. You live passionately and run from the moment you can as though nothing can stop you,” Yostan said.
“How are elves different?” Amil asked. “It’s not like you don’t die. It just takes longer.”
“Imagine for a moment that you’d live to be ten times as old. You’re young now, but imagine that you were one-sixty instead. Imagine how your mind would be different. Your thoughts would be different. You could think much deeper thoughts. You could spend a year pondering a simple question and not even bat an eye,” Yostan said, his voice sounding more distant the further along he got in the topic.
“You sound like my dad,” Amil replied.
“That’s kind of my point,” Yostan said. “As much fun as we have together. We have fun because I still appreciate it. It’s not uncommon for elves like me to go on long journeys that last the length of a human’s life. Often enough we journey with a human and only return when they are gone.”
“So what keeps you here then?” Amil asked.
“Your family,” Yostan replied simply. “I grew to love your grandfather as a brother. Your father much the same, and now you and I are bonding. I stay here to look after your family and ensure that you all stay safe.”
“So you’re bound to us?” Amil asked.
“Yes and no,” Yostan replied. “If you were to go adventuring, I’d likely go with you. I’ve been fighting off the wanderlust for some time, if I’m honest, but you all choose to stay here and I choose to stay with you. I don’t regret it in the least.”
“So If I were to leave, you would follow me?” Amil asked.
“I would keep you safe from harm, yes,” Yostan said with a quick nod. “That has been my charge for a very long time. I don’t think that I could break it if I wanted.”
Amil opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated and shut his mouth again.
“What is it? You want to leave the village?” Yostan asked.
“Are you sure you want to do that? It’s dangerous out there,” Yostan said.
“I’ve been weighing it out for a year now,” Amil said. “I have saved enough coin to buy some armor, a weapon, and some supplies. I’ve been wanting to go, but didn’t want to leave alone. Hearing you say that, would you come with me?”
“If you get your father’s blessing, yes, I will accompany you on your journey,” Yostan said.