Their adventures come to an end abruptly when a stranger approaches Inglorion in the taproom of an inn. The stranger is a gray elf, rare enough this far inland. His dress suggests that he’s a ranger: long bow, short sword, leather armor. His clothes are muddy from travel, and he smells like the outdoors.
Inglorion and Sieia are between jobs. Sieia is asleep upstairs; Inglorion hangs out in the taproom of the posting inn, listening for news, looking for work.
The stranger talks briefly to the tapster, then approaches Inglorion’s end of the bar.
“Cold night,” he says.
“Muddy, too,” says Inglorion. “Looks like you’ve been traveling.”
“I’ve been on the road for two weeks now. I’ve come from a port town, Liamelia. Perhaps you know it.”
“I know it well.”
The stranger studies Inglorion. The tapster brings him a glass of gin. “Thank you kindly. That helps with the cold, to be sure.” He takes a sip, turns back to Inglorion. “What are you drinking? Can I buy you a round?”
“I’m a cheap date. What brings you this far inland?”
“I’m looking for a young lady.”
“Aren’t we all?”
The stranger gives a small, tight smile. “Not that kind of lady, and not for that reason.”
“You’re from Liamelia. I wonder if you would know her.”
“I doubt I can help. I haven’t been back there for years.”
“Her name is Sieia Shelawn. She comes from a good family, and may be traveling in the company of her brother, a half-Drow named Inglorion.” He takes a sip of his gin, looks deeply into Inglorion’s Drow eyes.
“Sieia Shelawn and her half-Drow brother, Inglorion. I might have news, depending on who’s asking, and why.”
“Her family is looking for her. Her parents died unexpectedly, under tragic circumstances. She’s an orphan now, and she stands to inherit a good deal of money.”
“Good God,” says Inglorion blankly. He looks hard at the other man, cocks his head. “Who are you? Are you carrying identification, a letter from the family?”
“The head of the family, Marcus Shelawn, hired me to find her.” He pulls a letter out of his cloak pocket, unfolds it, slides it down the bar to Inglorion. It’s a letter of introduction for a ranger named Sextus, signed by Marcus Shelawn. Inglorion recognizes the handwriting and seal immediately.
“So you’re Sextus?” The stranger nods. “Tell me what happened.”
“You’re Inglorion, aren’t you? Child name Fabius?”
Inglorion nods impatiently, and a cold light flares up in his eyes. “Look, I have a right to know. Apart from anything else, Tereus Shelawn was my father, too.”
Sextus raises a hand, as if to ward off the flash of rage. “No need to fight me over it. You look just like he did at your age, except for the eyes. You’ve had no news all this time? All right, then. Her father — your father — founded a settlement outside the city gates called Xialo. There was a Drow raid. No one escaped. They all died — Tereus, his wife Lavinia, his brother and sister-in-law, their children, two other families that lived there with them.”
“That stupid fucker, settling outside the city walls. How many died?”
“Thirty-five adults and children. One child taken prisoner, likely enslaved.”
“But not Marcus?”
“No. Marcus, his wife Penelope, their son Aramil — they refused to join the settlement, and were safe in Liamelia at the time.”
Inglorion nods abruptly. “Marcus was never a fool. He’s had Tereus’ measure all along.”
Sextus finishes his gin, sets the glass down. “She’s a considerable heiress, you know. It’s been a long time. Her brother thinks it’s time she came home to the family. Can I talk to her?”
“You’ll have to. I’ll try to prepare her.” Inglorion shakes his head. “She won’t like it. She doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of life in Liamelia.” He frowns, looks at his watch. “It’s late. I take it you’ll stay here tonight? I’ll bring her to you in the morning.”
Sextus asks, “You won’t interfere? Try to keep her from the family?” He almost recoils at the heat of Inglorion’s glare. It flares up quickly, then dies down, leaving Inglorion looking forlorn. Sextus remembers that Inglorion isn’t much older than Lady Sieia.
“I’ve known for a long time that she would have to go back,” Inglorion says. “She won’t like it, and she won’t understand it. But now that Tereus is dead, there’s no barrier. I’m sure Marcus will treat her kindly.”