Elf Blood, Free Novel — chapter 10
*So sorry guys. I ‘m writing against the dregs of the flu and it’s SLOW. I’m sure I’m over the flu, but I’m still SO tired, that everything just takes an enormous amount of effort. I started much earlier, but…*
*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.
Mike’s Deli was almost empty that time before breakfast and after the late night theater-goer rush. I wondered if it was my imagination that the patrician Ardghal Parthlan, drew into himself as we entered the homely establishment, with its smell of fries and spices, and its middle-aged motherly waitresses.
I thought this would be a long way down from the sort of place where he’d normally eat. And then I thought of what he’d said. Surely, he wasn’t intimating that he too was only half-elf. What? The heir to a prosperous hill and raised on everything the elven power could command. Not hardly. And not with that much power, surely. He might have misspoken unintentionally. Or perhaps he was lying to get my attention.
I walked ahead of him, mercilessly ignoring his discomfort, to the booth in the back. When I could – which amounted to my being fairly flush – I came here for a glass of milk and a sandwich.
The booth was scuffed and the table’s aluminum top was scratched, and Ardghal looked truly uncomfortable when he slid in.
But not so uncomfortable I didn’t notice him casually dropping a privacy spell over the booth. Oh, not the sort of thing that would make anything we said inaudible. That would be too obvious. Just the sort of thing that would make it impossible for anyone not paying very close attention to follow the trend of our conversation. They’d hear the words, but not be able to assemble them into anything. It was a sophisticated spell. Sophisticated, unobtrusive. Elven.
I didn’t have time to say anything because Lina, the waitress who was normally on duty this late at night, was standing by the table and looking at me. “Hi, hon,” she said, though she couldn’t possibly remember me from the two or three times I’d come in that late. “What will it be?”
I remembered that spell, and considered that Mr. Parthlan had been altogether too premature. So I grabbed the menu and pointed at the club sandwich, then said, “And a glass of milk.”
Parthlan didn’t look up. “The same.”
Lina looked momentarily puzzled but “The same” wasn’t that hard to put together. She nodded, and smiled, and walked away.
I wanted to ask Ardghal what he could possibly be thinking to set that spell in place before we ordered, but looking up, I saw that his eyes were unreadable. It was as though he were thinking very deeply of something he could never express.
I realized his wife had just died. He’d suspected his wife of wanting to kill him. Whether that was true or not, they were married – city elf and forest elf, foreign and native – surely he’d felt something for her, and surely he was feeling something now. What, I didn’t dare guess.
So, instead, what my mouth said, as my eyebrow went up in a quizzical manner was “Un’uruh? Really?”
I don’t know why I did it, or why I picked that most offensive of words. Surely there were better ways of finding out if he’d misspoken.
A dark blush climbed from the collar of his white shirt to his forehead, and he narrowed his eyes at me, as though deciding if I had done it on purpose. I realized in retrospect I’d done the right thing. I mean, if I offended him, he would not be able to keep up a pretense, if it was a pretense.
But when he said “Yes,” his voice harsh, and catching in his throat, it wasn’t possible to doubt it. He was, as I was, Un’uruh. Or at least he believed he was so. And he’d grown up with the consciousness of it, and the word stung him as much as it stung me.
So it was probably entirely too wrong of me to lean back and cross my arms and say, “Really? Fascinating.”
I supposed he would have liked to slap me. No. he would have liked to shake me until my head rolled off my shoulders. But all he did was say again, “Yes,” this time in a less emotional tone.
We were interrupted by the waitress setting the plates in front of us, and then he waited till she walked away and said, “My father kidnapped my mother. Back in Ireland. It was a runaway marriage. They came here. She could sew better than any elf maiden, he says. I suppose sewing is an accomplishment in the old country, for I daresay my sister wouldn’t know how to mend a hole. Never mind. He came here. And they had me. And I am his heir. And father is stubborn. He could have let it go to my brother, by law, but I am his heir, and father is proud. I might be Un’uruh, but I’m his son, and he gets to decide, and he will make it stick. He refuses to admit something that is half his is not good enough.”
“And … your wife?”
He sighed. “I don’t know,” he said. His eyes were narrowed again, but this time it seemed to me that he was trying to hide emotion, rather than showing it. Was he grieving? Not that it meant much. Many a murderer has grieved for his victim.
I took a bite of the sandwich, because, well, it would be a waste to not eat Mike’s club sandwich. And I took a swallow of the milk, and narrowed my eyes back at him. “you don’t know what?” I asked. “I know you thought she meant to kill you.”
“Yes…” He said, and sounded like it was long ago and far away.
“If you take a bite off your sandwich it won’t turn you wholly human, you know?” I asked. “I’ve been eating human food for years and I remain caught between and Un’uruh.”
“What?” he said, blinking.
“When is the last time you ate?”
He looked as if the privacy veil affected him, and he had no clue what I’d just said. “I don’t know,” he said, at last. “Sometime… in the morning?”
“Eat your sandwich,” I said. “My mother always said if you didn’t eat you couldn’t think.”
He lifted the sandwich and took a bite, and put the food back down, and took a small swig of milk. I got the impression he was doing this to appease me. “Look, I don’t know about Chara. I don’t know if she loved me or not, I don’t know if she ever loved me or not, I don’t know if she wanted to get rid of me – I don’t know anything. A month ago, I’d have told you that we’d fallen in love and married in the teeth of all opposition and that we were still in love and very happy, but now—”
“What happened a month ago?”