*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 2014. 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.
I stared at the pictures in disbelief. I could not detect any means by which the pictures had been tricked out, but my magic was not the strongest one around.
Yet, I thought of how Ardghal’s family had received me, their seemingly invincible conviction that I was involved with him, and I felt a cold finger down my spine.
I don’t know what I would have done and said, if one of my interrogators hadn’t said, “You might as well talk. Your paramour has confessed, and he says the murder was your idea.”
I pushed the pictures back across the desk. Do policemen not read crime novels? Maybe there is a rule against it in the police force.
Surely, even they must know, though that “fly all is discovered” or its close cousin “Your accomplice has confessed and thrown you to the lions, so you should do likewise and tell us all” was the oldest trick in those stories.
I didn’t know how the pictures had been tricked, but I was now sure I was and that it had been contrived by the police.
You see, what I’d been afraid of, momentarily, is that something had been done to my mind. It’s not easy to do that to half-elves, but it is possible, and my father’s people could have tampered with my mind – and perhaps so could these odd city elves, as well.
I stared at the policemen now, and let my contempt show in my eyes. “I don’t know how those pictures were contrived,” I said. “Though I can think of many ways of doing it, but there is no more between myself and Mr.Parthalan than what I told you about before.”
They tried, of course, but I could see from the way they looked that their gambit had failed, and I think so could they.
They kept me for another four hours – maybe they had to justify their salary? Do investigators get paid by the hour? – and then let me go. I managed to grab a cab home.
My apartment is about the size you’d expect. Meaning I didn’t have room to swing a cat. Which was just as well, since I didn’t have a cat. If I’d had one, we’d have had to arm-to-paw wrestle for who got to eat most weeks, anyway, so it was all to the good.
Though right then I’d have been very glad of a cat or a dog or someone who would have shown joy at my coming home after a night out.
There was a streak of light showing in the grey slice of Pomae sky visible through my window. It looked pink and faintly embarrassed. And I felt faintly embarrassed coming back to my apartment, too, even if there was no one to see me.
I’d know it was a bad idea to get involved in the affairs of Ardghal Parthalan. I should have known, at any rate. What didn’t I know about the inadvisability of dealing with elves? If I didn’t, no one did.
So I took off my high heels, sheepishly, by the door, and looked with vague annoyance at the mess I’d left behind while getting ready to go out. The sofa-bed was littered with a confusion of stockings, which I’d decided were not good enough for this outfit. There was makeup strewn on the coffee table, and the three pairs of shoes (all that I owned and two of them inherited from mom) I’d auditioned for this dress were lined up in front of the sofa.
I picked them up, threw them in the closet, then went into the bathroom, removed my dress, which I threw outside the bathroom. I did this for practical reasons. After all, the bathroom was so small that if I’d left the dress in there, I’d be using it as a bathmat. And I was sure I could have it dry cleaned and sell it for enough to maybe pay a month’s rent.
Then I finished undressing, turned on the shower, waiting for the water to stop running rust-colored, and for the pipe to stop making alarming sounds not unlike a train chugging into a station. It gave its loud clang which meant that the real water was finally forthcoming and it started giving out lovely warm water.
I stepped under it and scrubbed the smell of police station, and the smell of the Parthlan’s party – mostly a smell of fear and suspicion – from my skin.
As I was drying myself, it occurred to me my landlady would want to know why I was taking a shower at that hour. Never mind. She’d undoubtedly be told when I’d dragged home, and there was always a real chance that she would end up tossing me out for being involved with the police. But maybe I would use a tiny little bit of glamour, just this once. I wasn’t sure I could afford to live anywhere else. Even here, it often taxed my resources.
I finished drying myself off, put on my robe, picked up my dirty clothes and put them in the hamper, and hung up my dress in the closet, away from the other clothes. Then I went to the kitchen – that is, the south wall of the apartment, and started making tea. What I wanted was milk, and maybe a couple of scrambled eggs and a bit of bacon. But what I had was tea.
I was sitting down on the folding chair, drawn up to the table that let down from the wall, ready to take my first sip of sugared tea, when someone pounded on my door.
I huffed, testily, half expecting it to be the police again.
This apartment was so old that it didn’t even have a magic viewer for the door. So I had to get up and go all the way to the door, to look through the small glass inset. I’d decided if it was the police, they could wait till I was good and dressed and ready to see them.
But the person on the other side wasn’t a policeman or, as I half expected, Ardghal Parthlan.
Instead, standing there, impeccably dressed, and obviously having enjoyed at least a passable night of sleep, was Treasa Parthalan.
I opened the door the limit of the chain and said, “I’m sorry. I just got home from the police station, and I’m truly in no mood for this. I’m officially off the case. I’ve told your brother as much. And you must leave me alone. I can’t help any Parthalans.”
She gasped, and I wasn’t sure if it was at what I said, or at the thought that someone had said no to her – something I guessed to be rare. Her huge, guileless blue eyes, much less clouded or guarded than her brother’s, turned to me, and she said, “I wasn’t going to ask you to take the case. I was going to warn you. That is… I think you should know what my father is planning.”
I sighed. If she was Un’uruh too, as Ardghal claimed, I should be able to take her on. In fact, unless she were camouflaging her power expertly, I should be able to. I doubted she’d had to learn as many dodges as I had, and unlike Ardghal she didn’t partake of the power of the hill inhering in the role of heir.
I opened the door, ready to stun her or drop her with a spell if needed. She came in, looked around and said “How—” but stopped, probably realizing that “How quaint” or “how cozy” would mean I’d hate her the rest of her life.
Instead, she waited while I closed the door, then turned back to her and asked, “What is your father planning?” And as she hesitated. “If you are going to tell me he’s going to separate me from Ardghal or some such nonsense, please stop. I have not had an affair with your brother, and only met him yesterday, and that only as a PI and client.”
She frowned at me, and shook her head. “Oh no,” she said. “Who’d think that nonsense. Ardghal doesn’t like women.”
I probably gasped. Look, this is not unusual among elves – or at least it’s somewhat higher than among humans – but I’d talked to him, and I’d swear he’d been in love with his wife. And then there was the fact his father thought I was involved with him. “What do you mean doesn’t like women?” I asked.
She colored. “I– Well… I’ve never heard that he liked men, either, if that’s what you’re thinking. But Chara said their marriage was never consummated.” She gave me a smooth up and down look. “And if he wouldn’t do that, surely he wouldn’t have an affair either?”
Forget her insulting look, that meant that no sane elf would bed me, of course. I wanted out of this case now.