18. Rude and Inquisitive Elves

When Inglorion enters the city, the atmosphere has shifted from the last time he was there. Additional guards are posted at the gates, and though they recognize him, they question him closely about his business and how long he plans to stay.

“I’m here to visit family — Marcus Shelawn and Sieia Ceralac,” he says. “My valet should have already gotten us rooms at the Shepard’s Rest. Two nights, maybe three, then we’ll head back to Amakir.” He smiles at the guard. “Is there news? Anything happening? I know you’re just doing your job, but….”

“No, no, nothing like that,” says the guard. “You know how it is. They give you a list of questions to ask every third traveler, or every fifth one. They’re collecting statistics. This time it’s supposed to be something connected to the hotel tax. Nothing personal.”

“I certainly don’t take it that way,” says Inglorion. “I know you have a job to do. It just seemed a little unusual.”

The guard says, “Oh, no. We’ve been doing this for years. Any weapons besides what I can see?”

There’s no reason to press the point, so Inglorion says, “Besides two longswords, a bullwhip, a longbow and ammunition? No. I plan to leave all this at the inn, too, unless Liamelia has become a lot more dangerous over the last few months.”

“That’s all you’re carrying? Nothing concealed?”

“A spare quiver and ammunition. That’s it.”

The guard makes a note in a ledger and waves Inglorion through the gates. As he passes through, Inglorion sees that the guardhouse is fully staffed — a dozen soldiers are stationed here and there instead of the usual loose knot of reservists playing dice.

Behind the gates, life seems much as usual. Business is brisk at the outdoor markets, footmen stride to and fro with packages and letters, and gentry trot by on horseback. The crowd in Green Park is thin and languid, but that’s unsurprising. The summer rains are underway, so the paths are muddy, and even in the early morning, the humidity is oppressive. If anything has happened, it doesn’t seem to concern the general population. He’s inclined to doubt his perceptions, but he can’t shake a certain physical discomfort. Most obviously, his face feels stiff and brittle from grinning to demonstrate that he’s a good little gray elf, not at all Drow, nope, not even a little bit.

Collatinus is already hard at work when Inglorion arrives at Shelawn House. He’s replacing a bank of tired-looking annual flowers in the formal gardens. He nods at Inglorion, who says, “I hope to bring Rosalee to you in the next few days.”

“She’s welcome anytime,” says Collatinus. “I could have used her help this morning.” He stops, mops the sweat from his brow. “I’m sorry to cut you short, but the heat rises quickly this time of year.”

“Of course. I won’t keep you.” Inglorion pauses, then says, “Collatinus, if anything should happen to me or her mother, could you look after her, at least briefly?”

The gardener pauses, looks surprised, straightens up fully, looks Inglorion in the eye. “Of course. Is something afoot?”

“No, nothing in particular. But her mother is human, and no longer young. I’d rather ask now than put you on the spot.”

“Of course. Have you talked to Marcus?”

“I’m going to pay him a call tonight.”

They part, and Inglorion heads for the docks. The Shepard’s Rest appears unchanged: Quiet, half-full of business travelers intent on keeping to themselves. Ajax has secured a bedroom and a private parlor, and has set up his nest and arranged Inglorion’s clothing and toiletries. He seems miffed, so Inglorion inquires about his journey.

“Your Lordship, the elves here are rude and inquisitive.”

“Asked you a lot of questions at the guardhouse, did they?”

Ajax shuts his lips firmly, frowns. 

“There will be more of that,” says Inglorion. “I’ll have to send you home presently.”

Ajax looks distinctly sullen.

“Hm.” says the Marquis warily. “So….”

Ajax is much like a house cat, in that he probably spent an hour or two inspecting their new quarters thoroughly, then whiled away the morning by staring at a back spot on the ceiling, making certain that it’s a flyspeck and not an actual fly that requires killing. However, there’s a small but non-zero probability that an unsupervised house cat has slaughtered a half-dozen each of songbirds and mice, and accidentally set fire to a ship and its rigging.

Like a cat owner, Inglorion has received the occasional gory gift, and he’s morbidly anxious not to repeat the experience.

“You needn’t worry,” says Ajax. “I haven’t done anything you wouldn’t like.”

Micromanagement is abhorrent to Inglorion, so he represses an urge to demand that Ajax produce a current list of things he believes his master would like. Instead he says, “Oh, very well,” and strolls back to the bedroom. He spends the next few hours goofing off, writing in his journal, working on a translation, gazing out the window looking for pretty fellow-travelers, and nibbling on bread-and-butter and sipping coffee that Ajax has thoughtfully procured from the waiter.

Inglorion wanders down to the taproom that evening to find an odd, buzzing energy. Drow have reportedly slaughtered a caravan consisting of either 10 or 100 merchants in the North Mountains. War is either imminent, or has been declared, or is impossible but entirely necessary. Inglorion spends a few hours in the taproom listening and trying to distill these rumors into something useful. Something has happened, but it’s hard to know what, or whether he should act. He eventually decides to call on Marcus, as planned. Perhaps he’ll learn more there, or better information will be available at the inn later that night.

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