The following morning, when Alexandra and Rosalee finally arise from their long, human sleep, Inglorion tells Alexandra, “I came for a reason, you know. I’m here on tribal business.”
Alexandra looks up from helping Rosalee to dress. “What is it? Should we go outside?”
“No. Better to discuss it in here. I can’t tell you the whole, and I’ll ask you to use discretion with the information I’m about to give you.”
She ties the bow on the back of Rosalee’s dress, gives her a kiss. Rosalee scampers back to the game she was playing. “What is it?”
“A strike force of 15-20 Theates and Xyrec troops may deploy into the area. They’re on a specific, limited mission. They may not make it this far, and they have no reason to interfere with your tribe.”
She nods thoughtfully. “A small force — so they won’t approach the city walls directly.”
“Even the most reckless Xyrec commander wouldn’t storm a walled city with 20 troops. But you see my concern. Incidents may occur. There may be rumors.”
They both consider for a moment. She asks, “What portion of this can I discuss with others in my tribe?”
“Outside of your tribe — with other humans, or with gray elves — nothing. Within your tribe, the fact that a small number of troops may be operating between here and Amakir. Nothing about which tribes are involved, or the fact that they’re on a specific mission. If possible, wait to discuss it until you hear reports through other sources. I believe the immediate risk is low, but I wanted you to have key facts, and time to react.”
“Will there be combat? A war?”
“Not immediately, if it happens at all.” He sighs, and looks at Rosalee, who seems oblivious to the conversation and its gravity. “It will affect my movements for some time. I have an errand in Liamelia, and I’ll make every effort to talk to Collatinus, and my brother Marcus — I’ll make arrangements for you to visit.” He adds shyly, “I don’t know what you prefer — I can arrange for one or both of you to remove within the city walls temporarily. It would be safer.”
“It’s a kind offer, but of course we can’t accept,” she says.
“I didn’t think you would.”
“Where will you go?”
“Once my business in the area is complete, I’ll go to the Underdark. It will be soon. I very much hope —” He breaks off, smiles. “I hope this will all pass, that nothing will come of it. And it very well may. I’ll stop by here again before I leave, and let you know how things stand with Collatinus, provide you with a letter of introduction if I can’t take you there myself. I do think it will help to see and talk to him.”
He waits for a natural break in Rosalee’s play, snuggles her and talks to her quietly. He tells her he’ll be gone for a little while, but that he will take her to see his friend Collatinus presently, and she will get to see his hens and quail, and perhaps milk the goat. She’s clearly not attending to his words. He believes that she understands more than she seems to, and that she may remember his words later.
“I love you, baby doll,” he says, and kisses her. He releases her, and she wriggles free and returns to her game.
He gives Alexandra a comradely hug. “Sorry about that,” Alexandra says. “She really doesn’t know.”
He laughs. “I tell myself that she does. She’s unconcerned because she knows it will be okay.”
“She was upset about something yesterday.”
“Yeah, but you can see she’s not worried about my leaving. Something’s wrong, but she knows I’ll come back, safe and sound.” He kisses Alexandra’s forehead. “Don’t let my news worry you. I’ll see you soon.”
He straps on his sword belt, shoulders his bow, quiver and pack. Just as he’s about to leave the caravan, Alexandra stops him. She seems agitated, can hardly meet his eyes. “Inglorion, how are you planning to get back to the Underdark? What egress points do you know around here?”
“I’d planned to travel back down the post road to Amakir. Krysztof showed me one in the North Mountains long ago, but I’d be hard-pressed to find it. Why?”
“There are others, ones that are used only by the Xyrec. I don’t know them all. No one does. If you get into trouble, and you need to get to the Underdark quickly, there’s someone who can help.” Her eyes are fastened urgently on his face. “It’s only for an emergency — something close to life or death.”
He nods. “Of course. I won’t use it lightly.”
“There’s a tattoo parlor in town, down by the docks. It’s called Hairy Tattoos. The owner, Harrison Henschel, is one of us. Speak to him directly, face to face. Show him your token and calling card. He can get you to the Underdark almost immediately, or get a verbal message to someone in Physryk. Of course it’s extremely risky. You must never tell anyone that you know of it.”
He kisses her hand. “Thank you, Alexandra.” He leaves, feeling shaken. He doesn’t dare press her on the subject, but it sounds as if there’s a Drow egress point within the city walls.