Chapter Fifteen

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Arc 2 - A Trick of Light

“It’s a disgrace. Though, I suppose, you won’t see it that way.”

Lynn jerked her head to the left to see the elfblooded man who gave her bread two nights ago sit down next to her. There was wine on his breath, but no aggression in his movements and a mellow expression on his face. A melancholy drunk, she concluded. Not a threat.

“To you it’s just a tall building. But it’s a source of pride to us. We’ve rebuilt it, just like our ancestors would have done. Brick by brick, spell by spell. And now an outsiders lives there.”

The man was looking up at the tower wistfully. Lynn shot a glance at Josh who sat across the street, to which he responded with a deliberate shrug. This was their third day of observation, and any diversion was welcome. If the guy wanted to talk, let him talk.

“He’s got lots of gold, sure. But what good is gold, when you’ve lost your heritage? This was an ideal. We’ve toiled for years, you know. Decades. For the promise that one day we’ll get to live in a tower of our own. And to exchange that for gold… Ah, who am I kidding. Gold is plenty good. And besides, the tower will still be there when this foreigner is gone.”

The man looked at Lynn to see if she had anything to add. She didn’t, the plight of people with property was entirely alien to her. The silence dragged on, and the elfblooded had almost grown bored enough to get up when Lynn had gathered courage to speak.

“How’d he buy it? The tower.”

“Technically, he’s renting it. An important distinction. As to how, it’s the Shadow. With a daylight crystal missing, it now glomps my tower, and partially glomps his. People didn’t want to live like that, not when there was an option to take a payout and move in with relatives. Can’t say I blame them, I’d have sold my share of my tower, had it been of any value.”

“So why do you stay there? Can’t you move in with relatives?”

“Can’t you? I imagine neither of us have another option. And some day the crystal will be back, or a new one will be made, and it’ll all go back to normal.”

“Must be nice, havin’ that to look forward to.”

“It has been, for the first few months. But I’m losing hope. Not sure how much longer I can last on the Reclamation Committee’s pitiful salary.”

“Pft. Try lasting on no salary at all,” Lynn smiled, surprising herself. She didn’t expect she’d emphasize with an elfblooded.

“I couldn’t. Don’t know how your kind manages it.”

“My kind?” And there it was. That’s why no one liked them.

The man laughed at her indignant look.

“The homeless. What, you think I despise humans? My mother was one.”

“Why’d you care so much about your elvishness, then? Why can’t you just be like other folk?”

The elfblooded considered this question.

“Because we came from something. Not just us, by the way, you too. So much has been lost in the Last Battle, whole civilizations wiped out, cultures destroyed, so much art lost. And art matters. Culture matters. It’s what we are as a people. With elves gone, we try and preserve every bit of the elven culture that we can. We scour surviving sources for hints of how our ancestors lived. That’s what I do, I’m a historian.”

“You say culture matters, but why? I live in a ruined tower, every night culture’s threatenin’ to collapse onto me. Can’t say it’s doin’ me any favors.”

“That, my friend, is a topic for a whole scholarly argument,” the man laughed again, “Or a dozen. I’m Melai, by the way.”

“‘m Lynn. If you can’t answer about culture, maybe you can at least explain this to me. Why towers?”

“What do you mean?” Melai was genuinely puzzled.

“‘s not like they had to huddle together like we do. No Shadow back then. Seems like they’d have to do a lot of stair climbin’ for no good reason.”

“Ah, but there’s so much more to elven towers than just their height!” Melai grew animated, tracing the details he so clearly envisioned with his hands, “Winds would sing between them, banners of living green dancing to their tune; the towers themselves focused and amplified the magic flowing through the world; the moonbridges were a sight to behold…”

“Moonbridges?”

“Indeed! There were many towers, not just a few we have now. And they were all connected by a network of bridges made of hardened moonlight. See that stone over there, under the large window?” Melai pointed to near the top of his tower, some thirty meters from the ground, “that’s a door, actually, not a window. And the stone is a foundation stone, from which the moonbridge springs.”

“But there isn’t one?”

“Alas, there isn’t. Not enough moonlight – we only catch glimpses of it, before the Shadow comes. And evidently it’s not enough. Or maybe there’s something wrong with the Moon, wouldn’t surprise me. All those moonstones had to have come from somewhere, after all.”

“Seems dumb. Why use moonlight, when you could just use, I dunno, stone and iron? Wouldn’t that be more stable?”

“An excellent question! We’re not actually sure – the reasoning for this has not been recorded. Maybe they did it because they could, because to them it was the other way around: why toil with stone and iron when you can do it with magic and moonlight. But I think it was a part of their social life. A moonbridge could be re-anchored, you see. Connect to a different tower, at the owner’s whim. I imagine they changed with the mood of their people, a physical representation of their relationships, a canopy of intrigue connecting the entire city, ever shifting.”

Melai’s voice trailed off. Lynn tried to follow his gaze, to see the glory of the past he yearned for. But instead of a vibrant city all she saw were lonely towers sticking up like bleached ribs of an abandoned carcass. Below them, life teemed. Dirty and sometimes desperate, sure, but vibrant in its own way. No, she decided. It’s nice that elves used to live here, good for them. Makes for a pleasant daydream. But she won’t ever understand those who dedicate their lives to bringing them back. Not that she’s done much with hers.

They sat in silence for a while, one thinking about a perfect past, another about an uncertain future. Eventually, a question made its way to the front of Lynn’s mind, a bothersome insecurity she’d felt all the while which finally found its way into words.

“Why’d you talk to me?”

Melai looked at her with a sad expression on his thin face. For the first time, Lynn noticed wrinkles surrounding his eyes, poorly concealed by make up.

“Because I know a bit about being ostracized, due to my recent change in circumstance.”

“Your neighbours’ circumstance changed, too. They sneer at me.”

“Screw my neighbours,” Melai muttered bitterly, “They think if they pretend nothing’s changed hard enough, life’ll go back to being that way.”

“Don’t all elfblooded?”

As soon as she said it, Lynn cursed herself. She had to go and offend the one person who’s been nice to her in however many weeks. To her surprise, Melai smiled.

“You’ve got bite! You’re missing the point, but that’s my fault for not explaining it. Guess we’ll have to have more of these conversations! Can I ask you something, too?”

“Go ahead.”

“Your eyes. Are you?..”

“Oh,” Lynn turned away, ashamed, “Yes, I used slime. Used. I’m tryin’ to stop.”

“I’m glad to hear that. I’d like to help you. I don’t have much, I really don’t. But I can give you some food sometimes.”

“Thank you. I… Thank you.”

“Well. I will see you around, neighbour,” Melai patted the girl on her arm and left. Lynn watched him go. She wanted to cry for some reason, but the sight of Josh approaching made her pretend it was just a discharge from her swollen eyes.

The boy plumped down where Melai just sat, a grin on his face.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“Do what?” Lynn found a note of annoyance in her voice, which Josh ignored.

“Get people to open up to you. First the dragonkin girl, now the elfblooded.”

“He just wanted to talk.”

“Not to me, though.”

Josh pulled out an apple from the inner pocket of his shabby coat. Lynn could remember well how he got his food.

“Maybe if you didn’t hurt everyone you can, they’d like you, too.”

“Ain’t hurting nobody I don’t need to. You know how it goes.”

“I do, I just… Nevermind. Have you noticed anything useful, or are we just wastin’ time here?”

“Nope. But we’re not wastin’ time. You saw marquis come home two nights ago, and someone was killed by the Beast that night. Confirms it was him.”

“I knew that already.”

“Don’t hurt to know for sure.”

“Fine. Now what? No one’s going in. Are you certain they will?”

“Ain’t certain of nothin’. You got any better ideas?”

“We’ll wait until the night, then. Will figure something out come morning.”

Lynn was losing patience, but in an hour Josh has been proven right. Shortly before Shadowfall, a large man came with a cart and a girl to help him. The tower’s door opened for them, just wide enough for Lynn to see a figure standing inside – a personal servant? The pair carried their goods in, the man bowing his head sheepishly as he entered. They made several trips, bringing an assortments of meats and other produce inside, and left in a hurry.

“There you go,” grinned Josh, “A butcher and his daughter. They’re the target.”

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Comments
  1. Smurfton says:

    How closely does this follow your D&D campaign?

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