AN: A silly, short little thing I wrote in one evening. Loosely inspired by a kmeme prompt, though it didn't meet nearly enough of the OP's requests to warrant posting there, so I decided to give it a home here instead.
There's an elf in my tavern.
Now – don't you look at me like that. An elf's coin's as good as any dwarf's or human's, far as I'm concerned, and The Silver Lion didn't make it the best inn this side of the Minanter by turning away a third of her paying customers – but I don't hold truck with violence and bloodspill in an establishment I've built from the ground up, and this elf has violence in him if I've ever seen it. And a bloody great sword, too, for all he keeps it wrapped up and hidden in his room.
And that's another thing. What self-respecting man hefts a bag as full of coin as I've ever seen – and I said don't look at me like that! I live by the coin and I keep my family in clothes and food and roof by that coin, so if I've made a living of judging a man by his purse what's it to you? Anyway – where was I? Oh, yes. What self-respecting man carries enough gold with him to not only buy my inn but the damned rat-trap of The Tabard across the street and then asks, of all things, for the second-best room? I can't tell as he's a fool or he's a thief, but either way it's making me twitchy as a hen with a fox in the coop.
Now to his credit, he's quiet and polite and he don't pinch the serving girls, which is more than I can say for some of the regulars. Can't even say he's a coward, though he keeps to corners as much as any mouse I've ever seen – he gave Joran over there the sharp end of his tongue one night when the fool man wouldn't leave well enough alone with one of the girls. Council leader's husband, too, so the man ought to know better, but all it took was a glare and a word. "Stop," the elf said, that's all – and sure as I'm standing here Joran stopped.
Course, all that means now's that the girls can't keep their heads on their work. Even Emma's gone moon-hearted over him, and she's always been a good steady girl. Two nights ago she was getting shoved around a bit on account of how crowded the tavern was for feastday, and just as she was about to drop her tray that elf just reached right around her and caught it. Now who does that, I ask you, outside of penny novels and the fluff inside little girls' heads? Just took the whole thing until she'd got her feet under her, then handed it back and went off without a word.
Hmph. Nobody asked for a foreign elf to come filling my girls' eyes with stars, did they? Even if he does have coin.
What's that? Oh, no, never that I've seen. Only one glass of wine with his dinner, every night – never enough to get real drunk. He's right over there in the corner now – you can see him if you lean your head around that post there. Yes, the one in the cloak. Don't even ask about what's under it; I've seen him at that same table every night for these three weeks and not once has he taken down that hood. All I know is he's tanned as the islanders and he's got two markings on his chin, here – and even in the dark, his eyes burn.
Oh, Maker above. Listen to me going on – I'll be as bad as the rest of 'em in a few days if he don't move on soon. At least let me top you off for listening to me prattle on like this. There. Better? Good.
Hm? Say it again, love, it's louder in here than when Maggie's goats got into the chantry. No, I haven't got a clue what he wants. Asked him that myself after the first fortnight when he seemed perfectly happy to just sit there and drink 'til the Maker himself comes again. All he said was he was waiting for someone – not a word more, no matter how I asked. Never asks for anything, never goes out either, so far as I can tell, and my girls know to leave the paying guests' rooms alone unless they ask for cleaning. Now, Jimson did say he saw a ghost flying out of a second-floor room a few nights ago – but Jimson when he's drunk is as like to say he can fly himself, so I'm sure I don't know what he thought he saw.
Of course ghosts aren't real, dear. Nobody'd go into a chantry-yard otherwise, would they? Certainly not Kirkwall's anyway. The stories we've heard coming out of there…enough to chill your bones and turn your hair white by themselves. Mages and templars and the Grand Cleric dying? Those are real. You don't need ghosts for that.
Oh, nothing to complain about, I'm sure, not when so many others have got it so much worse. Not that what we've got here you could call a real Circle, it being just Gevin and Goody White and our own little Ennabelle. Old Forsyth's as much a templar as we've ever needed, though he hasn't lifted his sword in ten years and Goody White'd have his hide for it anyway. Nursed him herself, she did, and set every bone in his arm besides when he fell out of the oak tree in his da's pasture.
Ennabelle's a sweet little child. Ten last nameday, and as proud in her blue pinafore as I've ever seen her. Got my eyes but her father's goodness, which is why I keep the louts in order down here and my Sam keeps the books upstairs. But there, love, you're a kind one for asking. Too kind to be in a place like this on your lonesome. Surely you've got a sweetheart of your own somewhere?
Lost? After Kirkwall – oh, I see. Well, I and my Sam'll keep you and your boy in my prayers, I'm sure. There's too much unrest in our world to let distance get in the way. Now, now, don't smile at me like that. Let an old woman worry about a young one. And I'm not blind either, girl: I see those calluses on your hands. Nobody's got hands like those that isn't used to hard living.
And there's the smile gone. Well, I suppose it don't matter much in the long run. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, and you'll find your boy. Maker knows there's justice in some things.
Well – would you look at that. Look, I said, not stare, love. That elf's looking right at you. You remember what I said about his eyes burning? Call it fancy if you like, but I've got eyes in my own head and bits to silver that cloak's not near as dark as he thinks it is. No – don't get up. He don't tolerate flirts, and a good girl like you is bound to be after more than a quick tumble when you're looking for your own sweetheart. Besides, I told you that elf's dangerous. Markings like that and a sword and no word to anyone about where he's from – that's not the good decent folk you should be seeking out. Let me give you a room for the night, dear, and – do you know, I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.
You mean – you're—
Well! I do beg your pardon, serah! I had no idea, I'm sure. And here I've been just rattling away in your ear when I'm sure you've got all sorts of important things to take care of.
One does hear rumors to that effect, I suppose, even here, but idle fence-talk never amounts to anything in the end. Oh, go on, girl, and keep your coin. You let a foolish woman ramble while your elf's been waiting in the corner for three weeks. And you'll be just a big a fool, I'll have you know, if you try to hide even one of those gold sovs under your cup – don't think I don't see you. Oh – fine! I suppose this is how you threw over Kirkwall then, eh? Stubborn as any mule I've ever met.
Get on with it, Champion. He's waiting.
Hmm? Oh, Emma. Good. Here: take this bottle and go refill that elf's glass. Tell him it's on the house. And then you and the girls leave the two of them alone, understand? They've got some catching up to do. There's a good girl, go on.
Well. Would you look at that. White hair under that silly hood after all, and eyes green under their burning. Second-best room, indeed. They won't need it at this rate. Young hearts, for all the weary lines of grief they've got between them.
He does look rather handsome when he smiles, doesn't he?
I think I'll go find Sam.