A quick note – or actually, just a question. I’ve noticed a drop in participation in the polls for the Heritage posts. Has the interest in this story completely fallen off? Does anyone want me to continue with it, or find another feature to do with my Monday posts? Please give me your thoughts. In the meantime, here’s the next bit of the story.
* * * * *
Minellye was nothing like Noshli expected.
Instead of tall, elegant elven features, Minellye looked very similar to Noshli herself. Was she also a half-breed? Noshli couldn’t think of another reason. Minellye’s elven features were still prominent – pointed ears, silvery eyes that seemed to glow softly in the dim light, white blond hair that fell nearly to her waist. But instead of the usual willowy build of an elf, Minellye was nearly the same height as Noshli. Come to think of it, Gimlineth wasn’t quite as tall as a full blooded elf would be, although he was taller than his sister. Noshli wondered if their half-breed status was part of what led to their banishment, but shook her head. She didn’t want to think of her father’s people being that ruthless. It meant nothing good for her future.
A future which would include trying to calm down one very angry elf.
Minellye glared at them from the door to the apartment. Althea took a step back, but Noshli pulled her to stay with her. It was obvious that Minellye’s anger wasn’t directed at them, but at her brother. “A word,” she said, grabbing his arm and hauling him into the room. Turning back to Noshli and Althea, she said, “Please give me a moment to speak to my brother.” The door snapped shut.
“Should we try to listen?” Althea asked.
“I wouldn’t,” Noshli said. “She doesn’t seem the type to mess with.”
“You’re right about that.”
Whatever Minellye had to say to her brother, it was brief. After a few minutes, in which Noshli hadn’t heard a thing from beyond the door, the door swung open again. “Please forgive my rudeness,” Minellye said. “You are welcome here. My brother says that you are friends who might be able to help us.”
“Friends may be a bit of an exaggeration,” Noshli said, with a hard look at Gimlineth. “You have information we need, and we have skills that can assist you. A mutual partnership.”
“Of course,” Minellye said. “Have a seat. We seem to have a lot to discuss.” She stepped further into the sitting room to where a small table and chairs sat next to a fireplace. As she took a seat, the firelight illuminated her arms, which were dotted with dark bruises. Noshli looked closer, but halted at the expression on Minellye’s face. “It’s nothing,” Minellye said. “An occupational hazard, if you will. I hardly notice it anymore. And with your help, I may not have to worry about it anymore.”
“I can’t guarantee anything,” Noshli said quickly, taking a seat and gesturing for Althea to do the same. Gimlineth did not sit, but chose to stand behind his sister’s chair.
“Understood,” Minellye said. “But you agreed to try, and that’s more help than we’ve had before.” She looked closely into Noshli’s eyes. “You have a great deal of power, don’t you.”
“I . . . I guess so,” Noshli said. “I haven’t spent much time around elves, so I don’t have anything to compare it to.”
“No, I can see it,” Minellye said. “You have more than I used to, that’s for certain. And way more than Gim ever had.”
Noshli glanced up at Gimlineth to see his reaction to Minellye’s claim, but his eyes remained impassive. “I have a question for you both,” she said. “You’re both half-breeds, aren’t you?”
“We are,” Gimlineth said. “It isn’t as noticeable with me, physically anyway. It’s part of why I have next to no magic at all. Minellye inherited magic, but fewer physical elven traits, much like yourself. Trust me, if I had magic on my side, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“And my magic has been waning ever since Nadine tricked me,” Minellye said, her face darkening. “I didn’t have that much to begin with, but then once she took the necklace . . .” Her voice trailed off. “It was all I had of my mother’s. She was sent away once they discovered that she was carrying a human’s child. Once she found out she was carrying twins, she convinced the clan to take us in. They weren’t happy about it, but they did it. We did the best we could to fit in, but it was never easy.”
“Why were you banished?” Althea asked.
“That is none of your business,” Gimlineth said quickly. “And that’s enough history for tonight. You agreed to help us in exchange for information on Naleniehl’s whereabouts, yes?”
“We did,” Noshli said. “Are you sure you know where to find him?”
“The clan travels to five different locations during the course of the year,” Minellye said. “They move with the seasons, usually twice during the summer. Always to the same places. We can tell you where they are now, and where they will be in three months.”
“Truly?” Noshli whispered. It was almost too good to be true.
“Truly,” Minellye smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She looked exhausted. “Naleniehl is your father, yes?”
“Then he will help you,” Minellye said. “It would be dishonorable not to. Now, to the matter at hand. We need a plan to get you into the brothel so you can retrieve the necklace. Nadine keeps it in a chest in her private chambers. The chest is locked, of course. I’ve tried to pick the lock, but nothing has worked. If I still had my magic, I would be able to open it easily, so I assume you will be able to as well.”
“Probably,” Noshli said. “I don’t make a habit of picking locks, but I could probably figure it out.” She tapped her finger on the table, tracing the grain of the wood. “The easiest way to get in would be to ask her for employment.”
“What!” Althea said. “You can’t be serious!”
“We’re not really going to do anything,” Noshli said. “You remember how much she loved your hair? And how she kept staring at me? She’ll take us on.”
“I, well, I suppose . . .”
“You can go back home if you wish,” Noshli said. “You don’t need to stay. I would understand.”
“No,” Althea said, her voice becoming stronger. “I can do this. I will stay and help.”
“Very well,” Minellye said. “Arranging to see Nadine will be easy. Once you are hired, let me know and I’ll show you where the necklace is.” She held out her hand. “Are we agreed?”
Noshli didn’t hesitate. After so long, she finally had a clear plan and a clear path to her father. “Agreed.”