Elf Blood, Free Novel, Chapter Eight

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*You guys know we talked about doing a shared world.  We went with a whole continent so that Dave can have his jungle and I can have my big city with diners.  We’re working on a contract which we should have in a week or two (and yes, we’ll post it for your enlightenment although we haven’t decided yet if anyone not in the group can play.  OTOH if it’s very successful, we’ll inevitably enlarge it.  For now, here’s the eighth chapter of Elf Blood, book one of Risen Atlantis. And for now it is ©Sarah A. Hoyt 2013.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email Goldportpress@gmail.com. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.*

For previous chapters, see here.

VIII

I left the interview in a muddle.  Why would Chara Parthlan have me followed?  Until her husband had come to hire my services, I hadn’t even known of her existence.  I guess I knew her father in law existed, but not who he was.  Not really.

Perhaps she’d thought to hire me?

It seemed unlikely.  Unless he also thought that she was supposed to be the great sacrifice.  Maybe everyone in the hill thought it.  If city elves sacrificed their own, I imagined that the atmosphere in a hill leading up to the great sacrifice would be  a stewpot of paranoia.

I’d never thought I’d say this, but perhaps my father’s people did it better.  Oh, sure, they killed unsuspecting – or even suspecting mortals – but at least the entire hill didn’t boil over with insanity.

And suddenly I realized that with Chara Parthlan dead, Ardghal couldn’t be afraid she was the executioner set for the great sacrifice.  That meant the main thing he wanted me to investigate was gone.  Which meant that he probably didn’t want to hire me anymore.  Which was fine, since I didn’t think I wanted to be hired.

It’s all very well to think of investigating murders up close and personal.  It all sounds very grand in imagination and in the sort of lookies about detectives, the detective is either never in any danger, or fully able to meet whatever might happen.  But I had been at a party in which a woman – well, an elf, at any rate – had been killed and partly eaten.  And the guilty party could be… anyone, including my would be client.

I’d have sworn that Ardghal was innocent, or at least that he’d been truly surprised at finding her dead, but what I was willing to do or say meant nothing.  It wasn’t like I knew that much about city elves.  It could be argued I didn’t even know that much about my father’s people.  It’s not like I’d been petted and cossetted and taken as their own.

It didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter.  I left the closet-like interview room feeling like someone had lifted a load from my shoulders.  I didn’t have to think about the Parthlan’s anymore.  And if I saw their stupid commercials on TV, or something about a runway show with their fashions, I would turn it off.

I started towards the door, and it is a measure of the confusion in the house that I was allowed to leave without anyone even asking where I was going.  Outside the gates, my feet already sore from the walk through the garden – at least the place where Chara had been found was cordoned off and had police all over it – I found myself wondering whether I should be able to walk all the way into the city and whether it was worth even attempting.  I still had enough money to call a taxi, the problem was getting a cab all the way up here.  Someone would have to call, and I thought finding the Parthlan’s buttler and asking me to do so might bring all sorts of awkward questions.

“Thank God,” a male voice said, and I felt a hand grab my upper arm.  I turned, wrenching my arm free and ready to employ what defensive magic I knew.  It wasn’t much, but I had learned it from the hill, so it ought to be enough to floor someone who assumed I was an easy mark.

Only I never let fly.  The man looking at me, panting a little as from a race was Ardghal.  I registered a delayed shock, since elves never use the divine name, in vain or otherwise.  In fact, it is not known if they have a concept of divinity.  A lot of the churches say they are a separate creation, independently arisen from the forces that generated the universe.  Some say they have no soul.  Whether people like myself had a soul confused even more people.  Most churches considered us abominations.  The one my mother and I had attended considered us mortals, like other mortals, and treated us as such.  I felt a great nostalgia for the simple little church which met in a place that used to play lookies.  The looky palace had gone under, but the faded red velvet on the chair remained, and something like the odor of glamor long gone.  Our pastor had been a small man without even a slight bit of the theatrical, and the contrast had made the services endearing and almost surprising in gentleness.

But I hadn’t found a church in Pomae, and given how other people had treated me, I was afraid to try.

Parthlan stared at me, his eyes wide.  “Thank God,” he said, again.  “I caught you in time.  I must talk to you.  I must—”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Parthlan,” I said in what I hoped was a forbidding tone.  “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.  I have decided not to take the case.”

“You have decided not to—” he repeated, as though trying to make sense of something foreign or strange.  “But, you can’t!”

“Certainly I can,” I said.  “It is plain your wife will not be killing you.”  I said it matter of fact and repented it immediately.  It was as though he got a thousand years dropped on him all of a sudden.  His features suddenly appeared ghastly, hard and sharp, as though sculpted in bone, and his skin became pale enough that it might have been bleached bone.

“She won’t be—” he said, and to my horror a sound tore through his throat that bore a strange resemblance to an uncontrolled sob.  But he swallowed hard and said, his voice hard, and fast, “Don’t be a fool. Someone else might.  And Chara’s–  Chara’s murder might be related to that.  They might have killed Chara because she said she wouldn’t kill me, or… or something like that.  Don’t you see you have to help me?  You have to find who killed Chara.”

“I don’t think,” I said, “That I’m equipped to do any such thing.  The police are on the case.  They—”

“The police!” he sneered.  “One of our kitchen maids could obfuscate them with glamour.  Please.  You must help me.  You must investigate Chara’s death.  You must solve it before midsummer.”

“But—” I knew I should give him a simple no, and walk away and never look back.  Even if by the time I got to the city my soles would be gone, and probably my socks and the bottom of my feet too.  “But why me?  I’ve never investigated anything!”

“Because the seeing said you were the one to do it,” he said, in the tone of someone tired of sparring.

“What seeing?”

“The seeing I performed before going to see you.  I cast for who, in all of Pomae, would be able to keep me alive through midsummer.  And I got you.”

“You got me?”  Seeings – foreseeings, by elves, were usually more accurate than that.  Unless Ardghal Parthlan’s second sight had a sense of humor this made no sense.

“That’s what I said,” he said, exasperated.  Then calmer.  “Look, if I go get my car and drive you home, will you let me explain what led me to you.”

I opened my mouth to tell him I wasn’t insane to get in a car with a man who was probably a murderer and was certainly out of his mind with panic.  Much less with an elf in the same condition.  But what I said was, “The police would never let you leave.”

He shrugged.  “A simple glamour.  I think they’ve already forgotten I exist.  No one will stop us.”  He looked at me full on, his eyes very earnest.  “Look, give me till we get to your place to convince you to take on the case.  If I fail, I’ll never approach you again.”

Surely I wasn’t crazy enough to take him up on this?  I really didn’t need to get in a car with a potential murderer.  I didn’t need to get in a car with an elf, anyway.  I knew what they used for cars.

What kind of madness, then, possessed me to say, “Okay.  Sure.”

 

 

4 comments

    1. That isn’t so bad, it is what they use cars for that causes them to deserve being pounded into mush.

    2. I’d guess some fairy tail and or horror entity, with a really decent disguise ability.

  1. It’s the attitude of privilege “I am able fog their minds, therefore I can fog their minds anytime I feel like it.” The lack of respect for laws or people. I want them kicked around until they decide to play nice.

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