220 – “Finding Connections” – Tonklyn
“Will you be needing any further assistance,” an older, shorter elf asked Tonklyn, “Sir?” The elf was speaking the common tongue, and his words were polite enough, but his tone and diction clearly indicated that he was not at all happy that Tonklyn, a human traveler here in the elven city of Emberfire, would sit down at one of his tables. The elf was dressed in a finely ruffled silk shirt and tight dark leggings. He wore a long and pocketed apron tied very properly about his waist.
Tonklyn sat at the small table at the side of a large round plaza near the center of the city. He smirked and waved the man away without a word. Even though it was night, the area was brightly lit with hundreds of small gemstone shards, each magically glowing a different color. In addition, larger gems were mounted higher up, strategically placed under shiny reflectors, brightly lighting the plaza.
The air was a strange mix of chill and warmth. It was the dead of a winter night, true, and Emberfire City was built high up the side of a mountain. Still, the ground radiated a comfortable temperature. Steam rose from vent holes all around the plaza, fed through tunnels and piping from the volcanic heat deep in the mountain underneath. Occasionally, the breeze would shift and the heated steam would waft past him. He thought about taking off his cloak. There weren’t many people outside on the plaza at this hour, and that suited him fine.
Tonklyn sipped his wine. It was actually very good, one of the best he had ever tasted. However, he was careful not to react too much. He didn’t want to give the elvish waiter the pleasure of impressing him.
Sniveling little twit! He’ll think differently about me before next year is out. He glanced across the other tables at the door to the inn. The elf watched him warily from the window. He’ll be like all the others in Twynne Rivers. They will remember me soon enough.
The sounds of singing and dancing drifted through the plaza, along with the smells of roasting meats and baked breads. It all came from various inns, taverns, and eateries all around the square. The city was ramping up into Winterfest. A full week of parties and celebrations would descend into the city, and for most people, real work would stop.
Tonklyn looked closely at the festive lights. These were magically empowered gems, called the oculi creator; the “eyes of the creator”. The color of the individual oculus often revealed the kind of magic that empowered it. Blue is for mental powers. I’ll bet there’s a clairvoyant wizard on the other end of all of those blue gem shards, keeping a tight watch over the plaza.
He dropped his gaze and scanned the far side of the plaza, paying particular attention to the smaller streets and alleyways that opened up into the public space.
In the entrance to one, not too far off to his right, he saw an elvish lady standing under a larger oculus lamp. Her cloak was short, and the dress that hung from underneath was a subdued red and wrapped snugly around her knees. She looked in Tonklyn’s direction, then set her gaze to the ground, a gesture of a servile attitude.
Tonklyn smiled and stood. He was a stout, even portly man, and not too tall for a human. His hair was a bit long, but well-groomed, and his beard was neatly trimmed as well. He shook his cloak into a comfortable place and strode over to the lady.
When he arrived at her side, they regarded each other. She was a high elf, by birth, but her life didn’t seem to be as elegant as many of those in the plaza had that night. Not among those in the center of the city, anyway.
Tonklyn reached into his pocket and pulled out a small coin pouch. He handed it to her, and she hefted it before stowing it in her own pocket and smiling up at him. “Follow me,” he directed.
She stepped into one of the darker side streets and walked ahead of him. Immediately, they stepped down a long, wide staircase, taking them to another level of the city on the side of the mountain. There were no larger overhead lamps, but there were some homes and buildings that had the smaller shards hung in bottles or globes, and a few of them had interior lights streaming from windows. Still, the way wasn’t easy to see, and the lady had to pause a few times on the stairs for Tonklyn to catch up.
At one such moment, he noticed a dark and hooded figure standing in a doorway ahead of them. The elven lady walked past the figure with caution, but didn’t slow. Tonklyn noticed that the figure moved to fall into step a few paces behind him. He was as tall as Tonklyn, and perhaps even taller. His shoulders under his cloak were not muscular, but still more broad than Tonklyn’s.
After a few turns down other alleys, Tonklyn noticed that the man was still following him, and was even closer. This made Tonklyn smile to himself.
Finally, the girl stopped. She leaned toward Tonklyn and pointed to a doorway just a few short yards away. “That’s it,” she whispered.
Tonklyn nodded and stepped toward the door. “And the dragon riders will be in there?” He looked back at her. She nodded. Tonklyn saw the hooded figure step up behind her.
“Thank you so much for your help.” Tonklyn said, “but I’m sure you understand that I can’t leave any trails to be followed.” He glanced over her shoulder and nodded once. The dark figure’s arm flinched and the girl’s face recoiled in shock and pain. She tried to scream, but before she could, her eyes drooped, her shoulders slouched forward, and her knees buckled. She fell, dead and bloody, onto the street.
The man behind her reached out with a hand covered in dark, scaly skin. He retrieved the dagger, and wiped away the blood and poison.
“Hide her somewhere.” Tonklyn said, and stepped to the door.
Author’s note: What do you think Tonklyn wants with the Dragon riders? Add your comment below!