Sixty-one

Sixty-one

A Chapter by Isemay

The elf with unsettlingly large eyes stared back at her and tilted its head slightly. Syreilla nearly jumped when she realized he was imitating her.


“Get to know each other later.” Odos had a hand over his face as she glanced at him. “Little Rook, this is Finwion. If you’ve heard any of the old elven stories of the clever boy, this is who they were talking about.”


“I’ve never heard any.” 


The elf made a peculiar gasping sound and even Odos looked surprised.


“You never told any elvish stories, old man, and the only story I heard as a small child was how I was a horrible hideous wretch for not being a boy and that it was my fault that the elf wanted nothing to do with my mother.” She gave the appalled looking elf creature an apologetic glance, “I’m not fond of elves. They’ve always either shunned me, mistreated me, or left me to those who would.” Exhaling, she added, “I’ll make the effort to get along with you as long as you don’t act like the rest of them.”


Finwion frowned and started wagging his finger at Odos.


“My uncle scolded me as well.” The old man’s hazy grey eyes narrowed, but he still looked vaguely amused, “I’ve been trying my best to repair the damage, haven’t I?”


She shrugged slightly, borrowing her face and upsetting those she loved didn’t feel like he was trying to repair anything but until that he had seemed like he might have been. “Repairing a thing doesn’t unbreak it and people aren’t things. Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to me, but I do love you, old man, and I’m trying. Hammersworn may have gotten the softer parts.”


“Motherhood helped her to forgive a great deal.” His face softened into a sad smile. “We all have our tasks. Go with Finwion, listen to his advice, and don’t be rude.”


He vanished as she sighed, glancing at the elf, “You realize he could have asked me not to get into mischief and it would be just as easy as not being rude, yes?”


The elf grinned and beckoned to her, offering a hand and holding open a doorway. Taking it, she held onto it with a firm grip and followed him through. They came out on the other side at the thinning edge of a forest near what looked like a palace. Balconies on the outer walls and what looked like silken banners hung from the sides.


The elf tugged his hand away and rubbed it giving her a reproachful look. She mouthed ‘sorry’ at him and began assessing the wall. Smooth, but with those long banners and the slope of it… apparently the elf wanted to start with the easiest of the temples. 


Finwion tugged at her sleeve and pointed deeper into the trees. Syr followed curiously. Perhaps he wanted to wait until it was dark. With a place this easy to get into she was certain she didn’t need to but… He led her to a falling down gate around a spring and mimed diving in.


Keeping her voice low, she shook her head and argued, “Those walls would be so easy to get up I could rob this place with one eye and both hands tied behind my back, going in that way would be tricky and dangerous.”


The elf put on a sour face and began acting like he was arguing bitterly with someone, arms flailing.


“Fine, fine. Your rules.” She grinned at him as he looked at her dubiously. “I need to shake the dust off of my feathers anyway.”


Eying the water, she took off her outer layers and most of her kit, tucking them into her bag. The gem she looped around her neck the way that Kyrilla had shown her. Before she could jump the fence, Finwion shook his finger and mimed taking all of her clothes off. Syreilla stared at him.


He pointed to the palace, according to his gestures, inside would be pretty women in nothing or nearly nothing. The gist of his idea dawned on her.


“You want me to go in through the baths, naked.”


Tapping her jewel, he seemed to think she could keep that on.


Syr had to take a moment to compose herself, opening her mouth to speak and then closing it and taking a few steps away. Being naked around elves was the stuff of nightmares. Gritting her teeth she resolved to break the fingers of the first person who tried to lay a hand on her. She wasn’t helpless. Exhaling, she stretched and focused on the task at hand. Get in, get the gem, get out. There was more at stake than just the stones. 


Finwion was looking at her with concern when she turned back around. She gestured for him to back up and finished taking off her clothes and kit. Going in with nothing but the gem felt too wrong so she took a small bundle of tools and tucked it into her mouth. In moments, she was over the gate and in the frigid water. 


With the chained gem, her way was lit as if she had a guide, the most difficult part was holding her breath and keeping moving for so long. Her lungs burned and stars were bursting in her vision by the time she came up gasping in the palace’s cistern.


Taking a moment to wring her hair out after she heaved herself from the water, Syr followed the path that illuminated in front of her. She found herself in a chamber holding pipes and an oven that seemed to heat the water that must go into the baths. Her path led to the oven but she tested the door regardless, finding it locked. Putting out the fire might lure someone in… Putting out the fire with a trick Orefinder had shown her, a less heavy handed version of the spell she’d used to extinguish the flames on the burning dwarf, she placed a holding ward where she expected someone would need to stand to either inspect or relight it. 


She found an unobtrusive spot to wait and remained still and patient. At the point she began to consider picking the lock, she was rewarded with the sound of a key turning. An elvish woman came in muttering to herself and fetching something from the other corner of the room, finally getting caught in the ward. Syr cautiously stepped out of hiding and, realizing there was only one person, she stripped the woman and put on the loose, wispy garment, coiling her hair and pinning it with the gold pin in an approximation of the way the woman wore hers as well. It was practically the same as being naked. As an afterthought, she relit the fire with the supplies in the woman’s hands. If the water stayed cold, someone would come looking to see why.


Slipping out of the room, she made it a point to walk calmly, to carry herself as if she belonged, anyone seeing her at a distance would see just another elf because that was what they expected to see, hopefully. Her path lit in front of her again and she followed it out into a courtyard, past laughing, embracing elves, into a vine covered arbor that led to a white door. She made her way inside as if it were the door to her own chamber.


Syreilla glanced around at the extravagant furnishings as she headed for the stairs. Everything she could see had been gilded or draped in silk. The next chambers along the open stone stair were filled with paintings of elvish women. Many of them were of them naked or wearing something as wispy as the garment she’d stolen from the woman in the room near the cistern. Some of the paintings were pornographic enough for the Magpie’s brothel.


The sound of a woman’s laughter and a low male groan made her hesitate as she made her way further up. The staircase was exposed and if anyone were here she could only hope they were occupied enough with each other not to notice her. She kept her movements slow and deliberate. Unhurried. The bed was in full view as she silently proceeded up the stairs. Luck was with her, the golden-haired woman was on top of whoever was in the bed and speaking something that sounded indecent to him in elvish, facing away from the stair. The man's view was blocked by the elf.


It was impossible not to risk a glance. Syr came to a stop on the stair as she did. For a moment she nearly left the stair to rip the woman from the bed. The hands moving up the w***e’s back were unmistakably Vezar’s, and the voice, she’d never heard him speak elvish but it was him, she was certain. A voice inside her told her to keep moving, do the job. She forced herself back into motion, risking another glance from above at an angle she could see their faces before she passed by completely. It was Vezar, Vezar and some delicate looking elf woman, either a priestess or the goddess herself. 


The job. You can rely on a Rook. Fighting back the fury, and the agony of betrayal that made her want to weep and go back down there casting every horrible spell and ward she knew, Syr found the lavender gem in the next room, grabbed it, and chose to leave through the window rather than pass by them again. Vines made climbing down, even with the stone in her hand the work of moments.


As she touched the ground she held the stone in both hands as she willed every thread and cord that connected her to Vezar to be severed and heard a scream of agony from above. Syreilla palmed the stone as she made her way toward the walls, stopping and pointing with a concerned look on her face as people rushed past her toward the wailing. 


Checking the anchor of a silken banner first, she took hold of it and slid down, dropping effortlessly the rest of the way and landing on her feet. Finwion beckoned almost frantically from the edge of the trees and she darted over letting him take hold of her arm and pull her to another place. The trees here were large, thick, and dark, they might have been daunting or ominous if they didn’t suit her mood.


The elf, however, was ecstatic, he was dancing around gleefully and turned to her as if he expected her to be celebrating as well. With her free hand she pulled the sodden pouch of tools out of her mouth.


“I need to take this to Uncle, but I’d like my clothes back first, please.” 


Nodding, he picked up her bag that she was almost certain hadn’t been there a moment before and brought it to her, holding out his hand expectantly. She put the pouch in his hand and popped the gem into her mouth. The scandalized look on his face made her feel better. 


Finwion sucked his cheeks in and started wagging his finger at her and she couldn’t help but laugh, spitting the gem back out. She looked at the milky lavender gem for a moment before wiping it on the wispy garment and trading it for the pouch, “One of the few people I trusted absolutely has broken my trust. I found out while I was getting this stone.” 


The elf tilted his head and studied her face carefully.


“Trust doesn’t come easily to me…” 


He pointed and mimed her opening a door and she took a breath and nodded. “Let me get dressed-”


The elf snorted and waved his hands pointing to himself and then back at her miming again the door opening.


“You’ll take it through?” She hesitated and then inclined her head, Vezar might have gone back already to speak to Hevtos and she didn’t want to see him. “Thank you.” Pulling the door open she glanced to make certain it was the doorstep, grimly noticing the figures before giving a nod to Finwion.


Looking as if he were trying not to laugh, he slipped through and she closed it taking the time she was alone to get back into her clothes and kit. As she finished, he stepped back through with a smile and beckoned to her, opening a door and looking in with a comically perplexed expression and then exaggerated relief before offering his hand.


Taking hold, less firmly this time she went through with him to what looked like a cavern. She opened her mouth to explain why she’d looked first and he put his hand over her mouth with a nervous expression. Syreilla gave a curt nod and let him keep hold of her hand as they moved as silently as possible through the dimness.


Finwion looked dismayed as he took in the tiny decayed boat that had been dragged up onto the shore of the black, glass-like lake they came to. Just from looking at the water she was certain she didn’t want to try to swim this. A half remembered story about a stone boat came to mind and she bent picking up a small rock and studying it. There was supposed to be one on the shore where the Acrine met a dwarf made lake. It and the mine had long been abandoned. 


The elf was looking at her in horrified fascination. Holding up the stone, she pointed at the boat and then looked around with a frown. To her surprise, he took her hand and led her back to where they had started before opening the door to the place they’d come from. 


“There used to be a mine, a dwarf mine, near the Acrine. And if I remember the story, they had boats of stone they used on their lake. At least one should still be there.” At his sceptical expression she waved her hand, “Dwarves can do amazing things with stone, they’re better with that than steel and you won’t find better smiths. If one of the stone boats is still there I would bet almost anything that it still floats.” 


He still looked a little dubious but he nodded slowly and reopened his door, this time to an overgrown reservoir. The sound of water pouring over the side was the only thing she heard as she pointed to the flat bottomed stone boat lying on its side. It looked as if it had been made of thin layers, and the bottom itself was peculiar and not smooth.


Lifting it, however, was easier than she expected. It wasn’t much heavier than a wooden boat of the same size and between the two of them they should be able to carry it. Before he opened the door, Finwion frowned and insisted with his gestures that she try to carry it alone. For a moment she was baffled but then she realized he might need his hands for the door. A few steps alone… She should be able to manage. Finding a good grip, she gritted her teeth and tried to lift it. 


Carrying it alone wasn’t quite possible, but she could set it on her feet and manage a lift, heave, hobble movement that could get her through the door while he held it. Struggling with the stone boat, she managed to get it through without cursing or dropping it. Together, they carried it to the shore. Finwion mimed carefully easing it into the water and she did her best to help him without letting it make a sound against the stone shore and without setting foot in the black water that seemed deeper than it should be even at the edge. It still sent ripples across the lake’s smooth surface.


Getting in without stepping in the water or falling out wasn’t easy either. She got in first with all the skill she could summon before he pushed it a little further out. If he hadn’t been an elf, she was certain he couldn’t have managed it. Once they were floating on the water she realized what they’d forgotten. With an expression that said they were both idiots she mimed a pole to push them along. He nearly laughed, waving his hands and gesturing to wait. After a moment the boat began to move.


On the far shore a pale, sour-looking elf with white hair stood patiently. The boat pushed itself up onto the shore with the grating of stone on stone and Finwion helped her out with a mischievous smile making several gestures to the other elf. 


“You were not to bring another boat, and is this dwarven? Stealing from them causes endless difficulties.”


Syr grinned and shrugged slightly, catching onto why she’d been told to carry it through the door on her own quickly. “I think I’m the one who brought it, if you want to be picky about things, and it is. It was abandoned though, so it’s not stealing, it’s salvage. I’ll ask him nicely to help me take it back if you’d prefer it not stay.”


“Who are you, half-elf?” The white-haired elf looked her over with a deepening scowl.


“I’m the Golden Rook.” She put on her widest maddest grin and watched him blink.


Finwion put his head on her shoulder and sighed contentedly, even without looking at him she had the feeling he looked like a child asking if he could keep a pet.


“I should call you…?” 


“Rook, will do.”


“Rook is not a name.”


“Fair is fair, I don’t know yours either.”


The elf next to her began to laugh, pulling her head to the side to kiss.


“If you belonged here, Rook, I would suspect you of being one of his.” The white-haired elf looked both amused and annoyed for a moment. “You may call me… In this language, Bone White.”


“Ah, you’re like Uncle then? Your duty is to the dead?”


Bone White blinked again and then smiled faintly, “You call him Uncle?”


“I do. He-”


Finwion stopped her and stepped forward opening his hands. He and Bone White stared at each other for a long moment and then the white-haired elf looked back at her. 


“The Golden Rook, you serve your father’s uncle and take the unwilling dead where they belong.”


“I do. I like him, and there’s something very satisfying about dragging lich to his doorstep.”


Smiling, Bone White reached into his sleeve and brought out a pearlescent grey stone that made her skin tingle from where she stood. “I lend this to him because I agree with his purpose. I would have it back after she is free.”


“Thank you. I promise you, it will be used for that purpose and returned to you.” She stepped closer, opening her hand, and he placed the stone in it. As he leaned in to say something, she said firmly, “You can rely on a Rook.”


He looked her in the eye for a long moment and then smiled again. “So I see. You may leave the boat. I would prefer to have all of the crafts that can cross my waters in my possession.” 


Finwion moved to push it back into the water and the white-haired elf cleared his throat, “Leave the boat. I will allow the Golden Rook to open the door between Hevtos’ realm and mine from this side of my shore, this once.” With amusement at the now gesticulating elf, Bone White turned and inclined his head to Syr, “I will meet you on the other side when you return it to me.”


“If that’s what you prefer.” She gave him an impish grin, “Uncle is particular about people coming and going too.”


He made a sound like laughter in his throat and Finwion gasped. The elf looked as if he were pouting as she opened the door for him.


The doorstep was thankfully empty as she stepped through with Finwion, but Hevtos came out with a smile to greet them.


“My Golden Rook, two in one day?”


“Bone White requests that it be returned promptly when the task is done. I promised him it would be.”


Finwion sourly began miming laughter and fawning at her, widening his already wide eyes, before huffing and turning his back.


“To my surprise, I’ve found two elves that I like, Uncle, and one of them seems to be upset with me.” She gave the elf a grin as he turned to make a face at her.


“Bone White is the other?” Hevtos smiled faintly at the stone in his hand. 


“Yes.” Taking a breath, she summoned some seriousness, “Uncle, I need to sp-” She stopped as Finwion grabbed her arm and tugged at her. “I have to go, Uncle.”


The still sulking elf pulled her back to the place they’d been before they went to visit Bone White. Night was falling and even with her gem it was getting dim beneath the trees. The elf wagged his finger at her as if she’d done something wrong and disappeared into a hollow tree trunk. Shaking her head, she found a tree with thick branches and climbed up into the crown. 


Wrapping her legs around the tree and peering up she could see a few stars and it made her remember nights spent before she and Hammersworn had been split apart, drowsing safely up trees. The last time she could remember, she’d spent the night waiting for Vezar to return with a cart. Her heart ached.


Closing her eyes and fighting back the hot tears that were trying to escape, she pressed her face into the tree trunk. “Don’t you dare cry, Rook. We turn our tears to dragon’s fire and we pour them out.” Taking a deep breath she focused on what was left to do, trying to remember how many elven gods there were and, somewhere in the dark, sleep pulled her down.



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on February 3, 2021
Last Updated on February 3, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Isemay
Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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One One

A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay