After speaking with Eric, Evan considered what to do next.
I suppose I could try and find the sailor in town to make sure he is not committing a crime. He shook his head. No, Eric and his men can take care of that; it is their job, after all. But I could confront the elf and warn him to stay away. Evan scratched his head. I doubt that would do any good and it would tip my hand. No, I should return to the Grey Horse and let the seaman come to me.
Next, Evan thought about his plans for the evening.
The Grey Horse should quiet down around midnight, assuming Frank still closes the Inn’s doors at that hour, the way his father did. So, I should be standing guard by the registration counter a few minutes before midnight and remain on duty until dawn. The cook should have risen by then to start breakfast, and activity among the Inn’s guests should have resumed. That only gives me about six hours for sleep. I should have dinner and go to bed by half past five, so I can be alert for the long night ahead.
The clock tower chimed five in the afternoon as Daniel looked up from his meditation. James and Iriel stood in front of the lad’s straw mat in the common area they shared.
“Care for dinner?” the bard asked.
“Yes,” replied Daniel. “I am hungry.” He hastily put on his shoes and sprang to his feet in a fluid motion.
Stepping out into the lobby, James said, “Iriel and I have been giving some thought to locating members of your family. We couldn’t find a wizard in town to help, so I think the next step is to go to Wrightwood. I know a bard and local historian there; she specializes in tracing family lineage. I can write to her and we may be able to visit her in the spring.”
“Do you think she can help?”
“I can’t say for sure, but I don’t see why she shouldn’t be able to.”
“I will resume my search in Wrightwood then. Thank you.” He bowed to James and Iriel.
James pulled open one of the doors to the common room. He gestured to Iriel to proceed. She hesitated; protocol among the elves called for Qua’ril masters to lead the way. Of course, they were not in Oldarmare and human customs were different. She shrugged and stepped inside; Daniel followed. James entered behind them.
They walked single file through the maze of tables until they came to an unoccupied one. Sitting down, James waved at Evan, who was seated at the next table. Evan inclined his head in response to James. Frank came out of the kitchen and approached his old friend.
“Dessert?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Evan. “Some pie.”
“All right,” said Frank, and cleared the plates from the table. He glanced at James, Iriel, and Daniel and said to them, “I’ll be back in a minute to take your orders.”
“No problem,” said James. “Take your time.”
Evan looked at the bard. “Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all.”
Evan got up and sat beside James and Daniel, facing Iriel.
“Enjoying your time in your hometown?” Iriel asked Evan with a smile.
“A little, yes. I’ve not had time to catch up with any old friends, but I’m sure I will.”
James raised an eyebrow. “Why not? What’s got you so busy?”
“I’ve been spending most of my time tracking leads on an elf I saw earlier this afternoon.”
The bard wrinkled his nose. “An elf? I didn’t think there were many elves in Clearbrook.”
“There aren’t. And this one seems very interested in Tindolen’s gem.”
Iriel sat up straighter in her chair. She moved her hands apart and threw her shoulders back. “What difference does that make? Maybe he admires the craftsmanship.” She pointed to herself. “I certainly do.”
“Maybe,” said Evan. “Or just maybe he’s a thief come to steal it.”
The elf glared at him, her eyes narrowed, and her mouth became almost a snarl. “What is it about humans? Why do you immediately distrust strangers? Or are you just suspicious of all elves? Why is he a thief and I am not?”
Evan heard the edge in her voice. Quietly, and in a level tone, he answered as he pointed a finger at her. “Because you are the niece of a man I’ve known my whole life.” He gestured over his left shoulder with his left hand thumb outstretched. “The elven sailor is not.”
Iriel opened her mouth to respond, but no words came. Instead, she just shot him twin emerald spears from her eyes and her nostrils flared.
“Do you really think the elf is a thief?” James asked. His eyes darted to Iriel and then back to Evan.
“It’s a distinct possibility,” said Evan. “Word that Clearbrook is celebrating St. Sebastian’s week has undoubtedly spread to other towns by now, and if someone described the gem to him, it might have piqued his interest. However,” he continued, “suspicion is not proof and without proof, there’s little more I can do except wait and see what happens.”
Frank returned from the kitchen with Evan’s pie and handed it to his friend. Then he took Iriel, Daniel, and James’s orders. It took a minute for Iriel to calm down enough to order, but she managed and Frank disappeared into the kitchen again.
Daniel cocked his head to one side. “Why does the elf want Aure?”
Evan swallowed some pie before responding. “Hard to say. It depends for whom he works.”
James raised his eyebrows. “Are there multiple possibilities?”
Evan placed more pie on his fork. “Yes, he could be, for example, a dukef.” He put the fork in his mouth.
“Do the dukefs want to reunite Aure with his brothers?” asked Daniel.
Evan stared at him, raised an eyebrow, and swallowed. “I don’t know.” He looked across the table. “Iriel, what do you think?”
She thought for a second before answering. “I do not think so. I’ve never heard any of my people express such an interest. I know I thought the Aglaril were lost … at least until the beginning of St. Sebastian’s week.”
“But,” Evan added, “I would think the first interest of the dukefs would be to keep us from remaking the Crown of Power so it can’t be used against them.”
Daniel looked confused. “But if the dukefs find the Aglaril first and remake Balodol, can’t one of them wear it and use it against us?”
Evan and James looked at each other, then James turned back to Daniel. “No, only certain people can use it.”
“Really?” said Daniel, his eyebrows knitting. “Why?”
“Because the Crown of Power was given to the elves to fight evil. To prevent abuse, the Makers of the World put safeguards on it so that only the most worthy can wield it,” explained the bard.
Daniel tilted his head to the other side. “The most worthy? Who is that?”
“Well,” James began, “for starters, the line of elven kings: Argol; his son, Aldandur; and his grandson, Everron. Beyond that I’m not sure. No one has ever said.”
“Is the heir to the House of Richmond worthy?” asked Daniel.
Evan broke off more pie to eat. “Yes. The royal heir seeks to correct an injustice done to him or her.”
“That explains a lot,” said Daniel. “Aure showed me how King Argol used the Crown of Power and how he lost it.”
“Showed you? How?” Evan asked with interest.
“I’m not sure exactly; I saw images in my mind. I’m sure I saw Argol and his battle against the demon Zor …”
“Don’t say that name,” Evan interrupted and slammed his fist on the table. Iriel jumped and tipped over the empty wine glass in front of her. James sat up and pushed away from the table, his eyes round like marbles. A few people at the tables nearby turned to look at Evan’s sudden outburst.
Evan paused for a moment to regain his composure. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you; but speaking the names of demons gives them power and that’s not something we want to do.”
“No, it’s not,” agreed Iriel, quietly. “But that’s no reason to shout or bang the table like an orc.”
“I’ll remember that for the future,” said Evan with a smile.
“Please do,” replied the elf with annoyance.
Frank returned with their meals: a plate of vegetables and fruit for Iriel, some roasted chicken and seasoned potatoes for James, and a large chef’s salad for Daniel.
They began eating and were quiet for a few seconds when James looked across the table at Daniel. “So you saw Argol’s last battle. Remarkable. Can you describe it?”
“Describe it?” repeated Daniel. He stabbed a chunk of tomato with his fork. “Why?”
“It would make a great story.”
“Let me think about it,” said Daniel. “The images are hard to pin down — like dreams and all jumbled up. I’ll need to sort them out first.”
“Did the gem tell you anything else?” Evan asked and pushed his empty pie plate away.
Daniel shook his head. “The images spoke for themselves. Argol gave his life to save his people.”
“True,” said Evan with a nod. “And when the elves subsequently learned that all the humans of Davenar were not dead, they split into two groups: the elves of Oldarmare, who have been our friends, and the dukefs, who hate humans because it was humans who unleashed the demons in the first place. As they see it, all humans are responsible for the death of their beloved king.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes and swallowed his food. “That does not sound very elven. Master Alendil always taught me to be tolerant of others.”
Iriel smiled. “Master Alendil is correct, Daniel. Tolerance of others is best. As Father Evan said, the dukefs behave as if all humans are the spellcasters who summoned the demons. It is unfortunate; they seem unable to forgive or forget.”
Troubled, Daniel sat quietly thinking and staring at his plate for a few minutes before pushing it away, his food only half-eaten.
Iriel, looking somber, also sat quietly. She glanced at James and smiled weakly.
“We’d better get to bed,” James said and motioned toward the door to Daniel. “We have to be on duty in less than seven hours.”
“All right,” Daniel replied and stood. He bowed to Evan and then walked toward the exit.
“Good night,” Iriel said to Evan before she followed Daniel out of the room.
“Good night,” said Evan. “Sleep well, all of you.”
“Thanks,” said James.