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The inn is almost empty, for Dragons mate in the sunset sky over Port Told and humans may never see such a wonder again. Even the barmaid loiters in the doorway to watch and the barkeep must face his DarkElvish customer alone.
'Poor stuff, this,' says the DarkElf in perfect Bourchian. She pushes her glass back across the bar.
'The strongest we have,' the barkeep says, his voice threatening to fail him. 'Imported from Livania.'
Expensive, that means, and his face says he does not expect her to pay. But she tosses a gold coin onto the polished wood of the bar. The coin spins and spins and he cannot tear his eyes away.
'A room,' says the DarkElf.
'Yes.' He raises his voice. 'Marle.'
The barmaid at the door twitches and backs into the room. 'Not now, Joshe,' she says, still craning to stare out at the sky. 'Dragons.'
'And Elves,' says the DarkElf. The coin has never stopped spinning.
Marle turns but the DarkElf stares over her shoulder. The two humans follow her gaze.
A LightElf stands in the doorway, gold hair and one gold-flecked eye shining in the red light of the dying day. The other eye is covered with a patch, giving him a rakishness at odds with his stern demeanour. He folds a parchment and puts in his pocket but he does not look away from the DarkElf.
Her coin stops spinning. The clink as it falls flat echoes in the hush.
'Cheap trick, goblin.' The LightElf speaks Ancient. 'This is what you are reduced to.'
'It speaks,' the DarkElf says, still in Bourchian. She does not move as the LightElf puts hand to sword hilt and stalks towards her. 'It speaks of reduction and yet DarkElves do notfeel the need to consort with humans.'
'Scoff,' says the LightElf, softly, standing before her, his sword half drawn. 'You will learn.'
'You propose to teach me?' She insinuates with a silken tone to her voice and a sinuous twist to her body, and still insists on Bourchian.
The LightElf takes a breath, recoiling from her allure. He rallies. 'I need teach you nothing. Our treaty with the humans heralds your end.' He says this in Bourchian, her tiny victory.
'Ah,' says the DarkElf. 'You give over half of Wyvern and think an alliance with these short-lived creatures will help you?'
'Your words come from rancour.'
'You have allowed the humans to establish a foothold, their little kingdom Ardmore--they will drive you out and cut down the trees and dam the rivers.'
She turns suddenly and her look sends Marle scurrying up the stairs, presumably to prepare her room.
The LightElf leans forward. 'This is why they ally with us. They fear you.'
'Peace,' the DarkElf says then. 'I am Jacoby NightSword, here for rest and recovery. I wish no trouble.'
The LightElf sits at the bar a few stools from her, still fingering his sword. But he replies. 'I am Kintore OneEyed, once SureBlade.'
The scar snaking from behind his eyepatch is red and fresh. Jacoby's gaze flicks over it but she says nothing.
He half-turns his back and calls Joshe over. 'I will hire a room.'
Joshe's gaze darts between the two Elves. 'Yes, sir.'
'I am not here with that creature.' He is vehement.
'No, sir.' Joshe takes a step back.
'He is confused,' Jacoby says from behind her glass. 'I also take lodging here. Such a glamour of Elves he has never seen.'
'Give me water,' says Kintore.
'Myself the same.' Jacoby puts her empty glass upside down on the bar in the traditional Bourchian manner. 'But make mine your alcoholic variety.'
The two Elves drink almost in unison. Kintore puts his cup down, shaking his head. 'Another,' he says, leaning on the bar, hair hanging in his face.
Jacoby holds her glass out too. Again they drink together. The cup falls from Kintore's hand. Jacoby catches it as it rolls across the bar and sets it upright and inverted.
'We will take that room now.'
Kintore makes an incoherent sound. If Joshe has misgivings, he does not voice them to the DarkElf.