Elven rifles were often sold as art pieces, their elegant lines and etching on the metal nearly as thin as hair were done with beauty and function in mind. For anyone other than an Elf to use such a weapon with any skill was something of a feat since they lacked the inherent agility and strength. Most humans who owned such pieces were at least Lords of the Imperial court and rarely even fired them. Each guard at the Elven Embassy carried a rifle, bow, and dagger. If they sold them at market any one of those three items could easily pay for a vacation house.
All these things made spotting an Elf in a crowd rather simple. Their long barreled rifles were nearly as tall as they were, their hair was nearly luminescent, and they didn’t cover their pointed ears. Even a guard fresh from training and hung over could spot an Elf in a crowd, which was why Baelon took great pains not to look like one.
His white hair was trimmed short instead of following the custom of letting it grow from birth. The hat he wore was flat-brimmed with two specially placed patches where the tips of his ears would rub and his clothes were straight from a tailor who catered to human clientele. He smelled of the trail, just like the rest of the patrons in the tavern and when he moved it was accompanied by the clink of metal and groaning leather. To the casual observer he was simply a tall human who liked his privacy.
On the day that all the magic died in the world the flying Elven city of Ioristeth disappeared. Thousands of Elves were left without a homeland. The human run Toram Empire had been glad to help, as long as they swore fealty. It was a simple choice. Without a homeland to protect keeping only an ornamental fighting force wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Being versed in Elven Court Etiquette still required training in the use of a sword, dagger, and bow. In the age of firearms the Empire didn’t consider that privilege too dangerous of an allowance. They were secure in the thought that a bullet was faster than Elven reflexes; for the most part they were right.
Baelon could see the truth; they were pets, pretty little things to show off when others visited. After six hundred and fifty years the Elven capital was still lost, and contrary to Imperial propaganda they weren’t looking for it. There were hints, fragmented pieces of knowledge from the past which would point him in the right direction. Getting ahold of it, now that was the hard part. Imperial Intelligence, the agency tasked to search out clues for the lost city was, in fact secretly, charged with making sure it was never found. They hoarded old maps, destroyed resources, and quieted talk with cold efficiency. Recent rumors had led him to this tavern and stories of traders from across the sands carrying rare Elven coins. He just hoped he had made it in time.
Being an Elf in the reach of Imperial rule wasn’t as bad as being a goblin or a troll, but the human officials wanted to make sure it was clear who was in charge. The only ones really untouched by the eyes of the Empire were the Dwarves; mainly because they were too useful to alter and too stubborn to listen to the effort. The stout engineers were more concerned with building whatever project they were working on than laws of the land or whoever supposedly ruled.
“Need some company, friend?” A sultry voice called.
He looked up to see one of the many tavern girls running a finger along the back of an open chair opposite of him. She had her copper colored hair tied smartly in a bun with a single tendril draped along the right side of her face. A nearly sheer peasant top under a scarlet corset gave the impression she had more skin exposed than she actually did. A teardrop shaped necklace of onyx contrasted with her pale skin and drew attention to the hint of cleavage near the edge of her top. In a small town on the edge of the frontier like these, single women worked many jobs, not too many people realized how close a town was to utter chaos if there weren’t enough ladies available. This also meant they knew a lot of important things.
“Thank you, kindly,” he tapped the edge of his hat then stood to pull her seat out.
“Such manners,” she cooed choosing the chair closest to him. “I have a room if you’re looking for somewhere private.”
He leaned in close enough to brush her ear with the tips of his lips, the scent of her perfume floating around her in a cloud of spices, “I’m looking for information, not company.”
“They cost the same,” she smiled and ran a finger along his jaw. “Shame, you’re such a pretty one.” Her eyes went wide once she caught sight of his ears. “Follow me upstairs, second door on the right.”
Now this one is a professional, he smiled. “Lead on.”
Most ladies would have caused more of a scene. Instead she giggled lightly as she stood. A brief tease of her finger was the only stray move she made before ascending the stairs to her room. He took a moment to scan the room, making sure he hadn’t missed some unknown signal, before standing and following her path up the stairs.
“Ma’am,” he knocked politely on the frame.
“Come in,” her voice didn’t even quiver.
Baelon opened the door to see her sitting by a vanity table in the corner. The mirrors behind her gave a perfect view of the doorway and he noticed one panel was turned just enough to see the window as well. More important than all that was the small two-shot pistol she had leveled at his chest. He stepped in and closed the door behind him, keeping it against his back.
Here’s the first part of a story I was working on. I’ve decided to go in a different direction but wanted to share what I had written so far.