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    Yeoldebard
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Elf's Hunt - 3. Gathering Information

"I must say I'm impressed."

Hope yelped as a halfling appeared next to him. Recovering quickly, he stepped away from her warily, recognising her as the same halfling that had approached him the night before. That was the third time someone had snuck up on him in two days. He must be getting rusty. Though the river was gurgling rather loudly here. Perhaps that was why he hadn't heard the halfling approach.

"I did not expect Nileen to give up the ring."

"That gnome was a friend of yours? You really should find smarter friends," he scoffed.

The halfling chuckled.

"No one ever accused her of being smart. That's why she was given the ring. I'll be taking that back now."

Hope scowled, pulling the ring out of his pocket.

"Hold on, I need money. Shouldn't I get a finder's fee or something?" he demanded.

"That depends. Where's Nileen?"

"Dead. She fell into an open grave. Wasn't watching where she was going."

"Dead? Oh. It's rather difficult to find good help these days."

A rush of emotion washed over Hope, the tiefling inhaling sharply. He felt anger, annoyance... and a hint of remorse. These weren't his emotions certainly. Narrowing his eyes slightly, he focused on the halfling. He could almost see her mind whirring away, an intelligent mind that was rarely caught off-guard.

"You are certainly good at what you do," the halfling said, breaking his concentration.

The sense of her mind faded away, but Hope didn't care. The whole thing had been disturbing. How the fuck had he done that? Was it also related to his heritage? Regardless of how it happened, the tiefling wasn't sure he ever wanted to do it again. It was like he had been reading her mind, but without actually reading her mind.

"I have a job you can help me with. Meet me outside the South Gate in two hours and I'll explain. Oh, and I still need that ring."

The halfling held out a silver coin and Hope grunted, but he traded the ring. He had no choice. Just like he had no choice in whatever job she was 'offering'. One did not go against the Thieves' Guild. Hopefully he hadn't pissed them off too much with the ring. And the crown. Fuck, he was a dead tiefling...

"Outside the South Gate in an hour," he nodded. "I'll be there."

"Good. I'll be waiting."

A sudden cloud of smoke surrounded the two, and when it cleared, the halfling was gone. Hope scoffed. A nice exit, but far too flashy. Shaking his head, the tiefling beat a hasty retreat back to the orphanage. He was a little wary of going back, but they needed to know what was happening.

Hope we greeted by Arran at the door. The elf stood with a broom in hand, the floor as clean as it was going to get.

"Any luck?" Arran asked.

Hope shrugged, handing over the silver.

"Hey, good enough. We get to eat tonight!"

"Yeah, not me. I'm in a bit of trouble with the Thieves' Guild. I don't want any of this to come down on the little ones, so I'm probably going to skip town, head out to Four Pines for a few weeks."

"What happened?" Arran demanded.

"It's best if you didn't know," Hope replied. "With luck, I'll return, eventually. Until then, you're in charge. Try not to gamble the place away while Im gone."

"Eh, you know me, I'll lose my pants before I gamble this place," Arran chuckled. "You be safe, okay?"

"I'll try, but at this point, I feel it might be a little late for that."

The elf embraced the tiefling tightly, eyes misting up slightly.

"Hey, at least you'll have one less mouth to feed," Hope said.

"The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. I'm just worried about who will give me advice with Jeanne now."

The two snorted, the tiefling stepping back.

"Well, I better get going. Say goodbye the others for me."

"Of course."

Hope turned away, stepping back out of the orphanage. He had a meeting he needed to keep.

 

Elluin picked his way through the narrow alleys of the south side of Cadara. He hadn't been to this part of town yet, and now he knew why. This was the place for the broken and destitute. People scrambled through the streets, clutching their purses close. The elf was grateful there weren't any children begging for scraps. He didn't have much money, and he couldn't bear to walk away without doing something to help them. Adults were easier to ignore. He could pretend that they had gotten themselves in this situation. There were many opportunities for work, from joining a fishing vessel to taking on work from the Adventurers' Guild. Or even taking an apprenticeship from a master of craft, like he planned to. Eventually. When he found a decent smith.

The buildings here were all old, two stories tall and sitting close together. It was barely past midday and the sun had trouble breaking through to the streets. Muttering quietly, Elluin picked up a stone off the ground, whispering a simple cantrip. A light blossomed from the stone, illuminating the rotting wooden walls around him. The elf shook his head in disgust. Clearly the Queen had given up on this part of her town long ago.

A rat scurried away from him as he walked, only to be caught by a person he had mistaken for a pile of rags. Good camouflage. Elluin looked away as the human sank his teeth into the rat. Gods this place was desperate.

"Well, I better get going. Say goodbye to the others for me."

That voice. It sent chills down his spine. He knew that voice, the voice of the tiefling. Turning down another alley, he saw a hooded figure walking quickly down the latest dark path. The figure turned their head as Elluin's stone lit up the alley, and the elf caught a flash of the tiefling's pale face.

Instantly, the tiefling began racing down the street. As Elluin watched, the figure leapt against a wall, bouncing across the street and onto the roof of another building.

"Fuck..." the elf groaned as the tiefling vanished.

He wasn't even going to try to catch him on the run. There was no way Elluin could match that display of acrobatics. But if he could figure out which building he come from, Elluin should be able to find someone who knew the tiefling. Barin had spoken about an orphanage, so that was likely a good place to start. But which of these rotting buildings was the orphanage?

The elf turned back down the street, finding the man he had passed a few minutes before. Pulling out a silver coin, Elluin approached the man.

"Excuse me, do you know where the orphanage is?" he asked, fighting to keep a look of revulsion from his face.

The man tossed his rat aside, licking the blood from his lips. He took the silver, biting it with rotting teeth.

"Down that alley, second building on the left. Mind your purse."

It was unneeded advice. Elluin had been keeping a free hand on his purse the entire time he was here. Still, he thanked the man and moved back to the alley. Taking a breath to free himself of the man's stench, Elluin drew himself up and approached the orphanage. Knocking on the door, he waited, hoping someone was there. Preferably someone old enough to talk.

The door opened, an elf poking his head out. He appeared like many of the people around here, torn clothes that barely fit, gaunt face surrounded by tangled hair. At least his face was clean.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"I'm looking for the tiefling who spends his time around here."

The elf scowled at Elluin, crossing his arms.

"I asked you who you are."

"Elluin Bryerieth of the Do'Kalen tribe. Do you know the tiefling?"

"Maybe. What do you want with him?"

"A name would be nice. And I want to know where he learned to use magic, because he isn't listed in the Guild," Elluin added as an afterthought.

"How do you know him?"

Elluin felt like banging his head on the wall. He was getting nowhere with this elf. Apparently gutter trash stuck together.

"We had a run in yesterday."

"And he didn't see fit to give you his name then. Why should I do so now?"

Elluin could think of several reasons, namely the fact that he had a sword on his back and the elf before him had no means to defend himself. But Elluin took a deep breath, and tried a different approach. Removing another silver from his purse, he held it up.

"I can make a donation to the orphanage in exchange for the information."

The elf stared at the coin, wetting his lips slightly. He hesitated, as though weighing his choices.

"Do you promise not to hurt him if I tell you what I know?"

Elluin nodded.

"I just want to talk to him," he said.

That could change though. But it seemed enough for the elf. Taking the coin, he let out a sigh.

"I swear by Lynestra, if you harm him, you will answer to me. His name is Hope. He's been running this orphanage, such as it is, for nearly ten years. He's no mage, that's for certain. Though he is rather good at talking his way out of situations. Always stuck me with the cleaning at any rate."

"Do you know where he's going right now?"

"He's leaving the city for a bit. But I don't know more than that."

Elluin shrugged. He'd take what he could get.

"Thanks," he said.

The elf nodded and closed the door, Elluin backing up quickly. He at least had a name. He could be happy with that.

 

He found the halfling waiting outside the city walls, a sizable purse on her hip. Hope kept his hand near his dagger, watching her warily.

"Relax, I'm not going to attack you," the halfling said. "I need you to do something for me. Succeed and we'll call your debt to my friends even."

She pulled the purse off her belt, tossing it heavily to the tiefling. He caught it, hefting it experimentally.

"This needs to be delivered to my sister in Four Pines before the week is out."

"Four Pines is at least six days from here."

"You're resourceful, right?"

The halfling walked toward him threateningly.

"If you want us to leave you and your friends alone, you better deliver," she said.

"It would be easier to deliver when you tell me where."

"Ask for Greta. That's all I'm telling you."

Hope let out a quiet sigh.

"Well, I'm off then," he said, turning away.

There was no response, not that he expected one. The halfling, whatever her name was, seemed to be rather good at vanishing. Adjusting the quiver on his hip and double checking to make sure his dagger was in place, Hope began walking down the dirt road, heading south. The river Garys flowed nearby, the sun glinting off the water. Hope had heard Four Pines was another settlement that was along the river. If he followed the river, breaking from the road, he might be able to cut a day off his journey. But to do so meant to pass through the Do'Kalen Woods, and he was not excited about that idea. Especially not with Elluin chasing him. Why was the elf coming after him? He had given the crown back.

"Okay, oh great writer. What am I supposed to do here?" he asked the world, his feet kicking up small dust clouds as he walked. "Or do I just close my eyes and walk?"

One thing was certain about this trip. He was going to be cold and hungry for most of it. But if it kept the orphanage safe, he was willing to be cold and hungry.

Copyright © 2020 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I would have thought that Hope would have done a little checking to find out who the halfling really worked for before just accepting the assumption that she was from the Thieves Guild.  Well, the trip sounds like the beginning of more trouble for him.

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