Alessia sat behind the bar, her chin resting on her hand. She tucked a strand of red hair behind her slightly pointed ear, then lazily waved her hand towards a pile of dirty glasses from earlier that day. The magic emanating from her fingertips purged the remnants of patrons’ saliva and beer from the glasses, leaving them sparkling clean. Again, with a vague gesture she used her magic to neatly stack them behind her on a shelf. Gods she was bored. It was mid afternoon and the inn where she worked was almost empty, most of the local villagers were out farming, hunting, or working on whatever crafts they lived off, just a few regulars were there, talking in low voices about the latest town gossip. Alessia could listen in if she wanted, but she found the goings on of the village dull, and as a sorcerer she found magic came naturally to her with no need to spend her days studying, so she worked at the inn in the hopes to one day save enough money to leave for a big city, or perhaps become an adventurer.
The door opened and Alessia glanced over expecting another regular in for a drink. Instead, she saw a pair of strangers dressed in rough travelling clothes. The first, who walked in front, was a half-orc man, with greenish brown skin and dark hair cropped to stubble. While his clothes were aged and worn from travel, Alessia’s eyes were drawn to the gleaming metal ankh hanging around his neck on a chain. It must be a holy symbol. The second stranger was much smaller, coming up to just an inch or so above the first man’s waist – a halfling. Alessia couldn’t tell much about the halfling, as much of their face was covered by a dark hood. She did spot a wicked-looking dagger hanging from their belt, and made a mental note not to cross this stranger.
The two new arrivals drew the eyes of the patrons as they strode toward the bar where Alessia sat. The half-orc spoke, in a deep but quite soothing voice. “We’re looking for something to eat. Something filling, we have been on the road for quite some time.”
“Yes, yes of course. Take a seat and I’ll bring something right over.” The two strangers sat at a nearby table, and Alessia brought them drinks and bread. “You’re a little early for a cooked meal, so I hope this is enough to keep you going while I get the stew started.”
“Thank you.” Said the half-orc. The halfling simply grabbed some bread and started eating ravenously.
The afternoon faded into evening and more regular village folk began to visit the inn, some for a meal or a drink, but most because they had heard there were strangers in town, not just strangers, but adventurers at that, and of exotic races for the majority human village. Alessia herself was swept up in the excitement, and used her position as a barmaid to talk to them as often as she could throughout the evening. She learned their names – Thrax the half-orc, and Rufus the halfling – but little else because Thrax was reserved, mostly politely asking about the village or ordering more drink, and Rufus did not seem to speak at all. Just about the only thing that could be confirmed beyond their names was that they were indeed adventurers. Despite their lack of participation, every conversation in the inn that night was filled with speculation about the pair.
The evening wrapped up slowly as one by one patrons left for their homes, tipping their hats to the new arrivals until eventually the inn was empty, save for Alessia, Thrax, and Rufus. Thrax dropped a small drawstring bag onto the bar with a satisfying clink. “This should be payment enough for tonight. We’d like a place to sleep.” Alessia opened the pouch to see at least twenty glittering gold pieces. It was more than she had seen in a long time, if not her whole life.
“O-of course! We have a room for you.” She said, awestruck by the casual attitude of the adventurers to spending so much money. She led them up to their room for the night and headed off to sleep herself.
The next morning, Alessia woke early and headed to the adventurers’ room to see if they needed anything. This was not strictly part of her job at the inn, but she had an ulterior motive. She knocked on the door and was greeted by Thrax’s deep voice. “Yes?” Alessia let herself in. Thrax and Rufus were already fully dressed for travel, and packing things into their backpacks.
“I just came to see if you needed anything.” She said.
“Nothing more will be necessary.” He replied.
“You’re leaving already?” She asked.
“Yes. We have a long trek ahead.” Thrax looked at the door, as if suggesting Alessia leave them alone. She ignored it, and nervously twirled a strand of hair with her fingers.
“Could… Could I maybe…?” She started but couldn’t express herself.
Sensing what she wanted, Thrax finished her thought for her. “You want to come with us?” He asked.
“Yes!” She nodded excitedly. “If… If that’s okay?”
Thrax sighed. “I’m not sure you fully understand what you’re getting into. Adventuring is hard work and we will ask a lot from you. You will have to pull your weight.”
“I’m a sorcerer,” Alessia said, ” and it’s not just cleaning magic. I can conjure the elements too!” Thrax and Rufus paused and looked at one another for a moment. Then, Rufus gave a single slow nod. Thrax put his hand onto Alessia’s shoulder.
“Very well,” he said, “you can join us. Go and pack what you need, clothes, rations, a weapon if you have one. We leave in an hour, with or without you. Meet us back here when you are ready.” With that, Alessia ran off with excitement to collect her posessions ready to become an adventurer.
In a little under an hour, Alessia packed most of her life into a large pack she slung over her shoulder. It weighed far more than the skinny elf was used to carrying. She cast a quick enchantment to relieve some of the weight, but even so the pack was still quite a burden. She returned, a little out of breath, to see the two adventurers just about to depart. “Ah,” said Thrax, “we weren’t sure you would come.” He eyed her up and down with a little skepticism. “Is that what you’re wearing?” Alessia was dressed in a conservative blouse and a fairly long skirt. She didn’t really own any rugged clothes as she spent most of her time indoors.
“Um, yes.” She replied hesitantly. Thrax just looked forwards and set off walking.
“Just don’t fall behind.” He said. Alessia was not worried about that, her legs were almost as long as Rufus’s entire body, surely she would not be the slowest member of the group.
Not long passed before Alessia found herself falling behind. She was struggling to keep up with her travelling companions who seemed to have a stride twice as long as hers, but it was when the group reached a rocky hill that it became too blatant to go unspoken. Rufus seemingly effortlessly scrambled up, and Thrax followed, clearing half the hill in a single step. Alessia’s journey up was neither as quick nor as effortless. She gingerly stepped from rock to rock, losing then regaining her balance, slowly making her way up the slope. Part of the problem was that her movement was constricted by her clothes, it was not the most practical hiking outfit. She finally reached the top panting. Her companions were not impressed. Rufus pointed at her skirt and nodded to Thrax. “Yes, I agree. We’ll have to do something about that.” He looked to Alessia. “That skirt is really slowing you down. Stand still.” She did as she was told, a little nervous, not helped when Thrax produced a sharp knife. He pulled the fabric of her skirt taut and cut a slit right down the middle between her legs, and then another at the back. Rifling through his pack, he then produced a few long scraps of cloth, perhaps to be used as bandages, and used them to wrap each half of the skirt around its corresponding leg, creating a sort of makeshift pair of pants. “You can sew it up properly when we make camp, but for now this will do.” Alessia was shocked at how casually he had just ruined an expensive piece of clothing because it was inconveniencing him. She did not voice this concern, worried she may simply be left behind next time. Instead she tried to focus on the positive: she was a proper adventurer now.
The group reached the edge of the dark forest where the artifact they were searching for was rumoured to be. Several hours had passed since Thrax had cut Alessia’s skirt, she had to admit that despite being upset, it really was a lot easier to walk in. She hadn’t fallen behind since. As it was getting dark, the three began to set up a camp, the idea being it would be a semi permanent base to mount scouting missions into the forest from. They pitched tents and started a fire by a small but fast flowing river, and sat down to rest. Alessia was given a needle and thread to sort out her ruined skirt, and she sat by the fire sewing it into a passable pair of pants. She watched Thrax retrieve a small tool from his pack, made of a handle and what looked to be a toothed blade. He knelt hunched over the river and placed the tool at his nape. Squeezing the handle and releasing it, he drove it up the back of his head, clipping the already short fuzz down to just a shadow of stubble. It answered the question, Alessia supposed, of how he kept his hair so short in the wilderness. She glanced around to see what Rufus was doing and saw him lying down fast asleep. She turned her gaze back to Thrax, oddly entranced watching him shave his hair to practically nothing, listening to the clack clack clack of the spring loaded clippers.
He was soon done, and he dipped a hand into the river, splashed a little water on his head and rubbed it all over with his large rough hand. Alessia felt a little warmth in her cheeks. Thrax then wandered over to sit by the fire. “It’s good that you are managing to keep up now. I might have another old pair of pants that will fit you.”
“Wait… So there was no need for you to ruin my clothes like that?” She replied.
“Perhaps not.” He said. “But I find that often the more dramatic way of making a point serves to fix it more firmly in your mind.” Alessia looked skeptical. “I doubt that you will forget to consider the two of us the next time you must choose an outfit.”
Yes, thought Alessia, and I will also not forget it the next time I have to buy clothes. “I think I’m going to get some sleep.” She said, heading into her tent.
“Very well. Sleep well. I expect tomorrow we may end up in a combat situation. Best you approach it with all your energy.”
The next morning, Alessia awoke with the sunrise. When she emerged from the tent, Thrax and Rufus greeted her with a nod and offered her a small dish of berries they had evidently foraged while she was asleep. She certainly had a long way to go before she was half the adventurer these two were. “You mentioned potentially seeing combat today.” She popped a berry in her mouth. “What’s the plan if that happens?”
“Rufus and I have fought together many times. Typically I face our foes head on while he attempts to find a flanking position. I would suggest that you try to stay close to me, use your magic to disable key targets, but above all focus on defence. My healing prayers are limited, and if one of us has to break away to save you it could easily put the other in danger.”
“Understood.” Said Alessia, dabbing some berry juice from her mouth.
The trio headed into the forest, led by Rufus who was presumably following some sort of path or track but Alessia couldn’t tell, and whenever the group changed directions it seemed to be totally at random. Still, Thrax trusted him, so if she was going to end up lost as a result of Rufus’s navigation, she wouldn’t be the only one. She needn’t have worried though, as it was not too long before they came across an old ramshackle building. Made of rocks and half collapsed, it was covered in foliage but still definitely there. The group stopped. “This may be it. Our objective could be inside.” Said Thrax. He walked slowly to the doorway – the door itself having long since rotted away – and hesitated. There was a quiet crunch, as if a branch had just snapped. And suddenly, an ear splitting scream as several figures rushed towards the group.
Thrax instinctively grabbed his mace, Rufus drew his daggers. Alessia’s mind raced as one of the assailants charged directly at her. They were roughly human sized, but with a more goblinoid face, and orange skin. She had read about these creatures before: hobgoblins. She had no time to recall facts about them as she raised her hand and yelled an arcane syllable, spewing a jet of fire at the charging hobgoblin. They dived past the flame, the furs they were wearing singed, but otherwise untouched. Alessia’s gaze darted round, looking to see if she could follow Thrax’s instructions and get closer to him. He was a few yards away, fighting two of the creatures himself. She jumped backwards, dodging the serrated axe swung at her by the hobgoblin, and sent a quick jolt of lightning back at them. The hobgoblin fell to the ground. Alessia did not allow herself a sigh of relief, and she started to run towards Thrax to help relieve him. She looked back as she ran to make sure the hobgoblin she had shocked was still down, and to her surprise they were no longer there. She turned ahead just in time to see them swiping for her face with their clawed hand. She tried to dodge to the side, but the hobgoblin’s claw managed to grab onto her long hair. Alessia let out a loud yelp as her head was yanked back into the path of the hobgoblin’s axe. A dagger whizzed past her face and embedded itself in the hobgoblin’s chest. And another. She glanced to her right and saw Rufus, hurling a third knife at her assailant, but he was unaware of the hobgoblin behind him. Alessia yelled out but it was too late. Rufus was struck by the hobgoblin’s club and fell to the ground. The knife he had just thrown hit the hobgoblin attacking Alessia right between the eyes, and they collapsed, dead. The rest of the battle passed in a blur, Alessia throwing fire at anything that came near, and Thrax entered a furious rage, crushing several skulls in a single sweep of his mace. Eventually the adventurers were victorious, but at a cost.
Thrax’s fury did not seem to subside with the end of the fight, but he managed to contain it to at least determine the status of his friend. He knelt by Rufus’s body and laid a hand on his chest. In the silence, Alessia could hear Rufus breathing rough, ragged breaths. A light glowed from Thrax’s hand and the sound of Rufus’s breathing became more regular. “Is he going to be alright?” Asked Alessia.
“Back to camp. Now.” Said Thrax. He picked the halfling up and began marching out of the forest. Alessia had no choice but to follow or be left stranded. The two exchanged no more words on the way back to camp, and Alessia felt very self conscious the whole way.
In fact, the two did not exchange any words for the rest of the day. Thrax spent his time tending to Rufus, invoking healing prayers. Alessia just lay there, unsure what to do. She wanted to help but figured Thrax probably did not want her help at the moment. Instead, she just went to sleep.
The next morning Alessia was woken not by the sunrise, but by Thrax. “Come out. We have something to sort out.” Alessia quickly dressed and left the tent with trepidation. “Over by the river.” Instructed Thrax. They walked to the river bank. “Kneel down.” Alessia did so. Thrax put a hand on her head, pushing her chin to her chest. “You caused Rufus to be gravely injured because of carelessness. Carelessness and this.” He grabbed a handful of her hair.
“Wh-what? No, please.” She said, realizing what was about to happen.
“The most dramatic lessons have the most impact.” Thrax repeated the sentiment from earlier. Alessia felt cold metal on her neck. It was pointless to resist, Thrax was much stronger than her. She held her breath. He drove the clippers up the back of her head. Alessia heard the clack of the mechanism and the crunch of her hair being shorn off almost to the root. Thrax dropped the first clump of red hair into the river, where it slowly floated downstream. Alessia watched it drift away as Thrax started to clip another path up the back of her head. Alessia started to feel a hot flush spread to her cheeks. The crunch of her hair being severed. The warm rough touch of Thrax’s hand rubbing the path of fresh stubble. She expected to be angry, or to weep, not… This. He clipped around her ear, leaving the entire back and side of her head covered in just a dusting of red fuzz, each time tossing the cut off hair into the river to be washed away like garbage. Thrax tilted Alessia’s head upwards, and began clipping along her crown, from back to front, letting the hair fall down in front of her face. As the first clump passed her vision, she let out a small moan, hoping desperately that Thrax didn’t hear. Soon the last scrap of long soft hair was cut off, and Thrax rubbed his hand all over Alessia’s stubbly head to ensure he hadn’t missed anything. She was almost disappointed that it was over when she felt water being splashed onto her scalp and a sharp blade placed at her forehead. Thrax slowly dragged the blade back over her head, shaving away the shadow of hair and leavIng a strip of pale, soft skin. He repeated his strokes over and over, relieving Alessia of the last of her hair. Thrax turned her around to face him, still on her knees. Now bald, with a pale scalp and flushed cheeks, she was prettier than ever. Her pointed elven ears were even more prominent surrounded by soft flesh.
“I would have expected more resistance.” Said Thrax. Then he noticed the small wet patch that had formed around her crotch. “But it seems that you might have enjoyed this more than I anticipated.” He placed one hand on her scalp, and with the other tugged down his pants, revealing his cock. Alessia almost instinctively opened her mouth and leaned in, placing her lips around his shaft. She licked up and down as he rubbed her head with both his hands, pushing her rhythmically back and forth. She could feel each pulse of his cock as he was getting closer to orgasm, and with each pass of his callused hands over her naked scalp, she was getting closer too. Just as he was about to finish, Thrax pulled out and spurted hot cum onto her head. The feeling of the sticky liquid on her skin was enough to send Alessia over the edge too, and her whole body tensed up with pleasure. “I have one more gift for you.” Said Thrax. He wiped the cum off her scalp and gently brushed his hand across it. It felt warm – warmer than before, a sort of glowing warmth. He then ran his thumb across her eyebrows. She felt the same warmth and saw the glow this time. As his thumb ran past her brow, she saw the fine hairs falling. “It’s gone.” He said.
“Forever?” Whispered Alessia, already knowing the answer.
Many years later, long after Thrax and Rufus had retired from adventuring, Alessia was still young for an elf and still yearning for adventure. She sat in a tavern, not unlike the inn she had once worked at. She watched a pair of entertainers performing feats of agility for the patrons. They would be perfect additions to an adventuring party with only one change, she thought, eyeing their long dark hair and touching her own bare head, now inked with arcane tattoos. The most dramatic lessons are the ones that stick the best indeed, she thought.