“Look there, see the ears? Oh, my stars, see her eyes?”
The voices blended into the background as she took a step closer, one hand straying to her neck, stroking the amulet there.
The mortal shook his head, smiling slightly as he retreated back to his table in the corner.
The guard’s eyes, like everyone else’s, were riveted on the delicate point of her ears. The luminescent sheen of her eyes intensified and the air around her almost seemed to shimmer. Smiling at him, she asked, “Shall I continue to mind my own business?”
“Perhaps…perhaps it was my own…my own fault, milady,” the guard stuttered, fear making his mouth suddenly dry. “An’ he is jes’ a kid, after all. No harm done.”
“None at all.” An agreeable smile lit Tyriel’s face and the tension that had filled her drained out as the guard backed down, dropping into his seat, studiously avoiding her gaze.
It didn’t surprise her, as far south as she was. The folk in Zhalia were notoriously superstitious; elves were ranked on the same level as saints and angels and demons. To be feared, respected, or worshipped, depending who you asked and when.
Though one might think unkindly thoughts of the fae, few spoke them aloud for fear that the fae people would hear and drag them off to the cities in the hills to slave away in the elvish mines.
Though her chest ached from resisting the bully’s shove, she didn’t reach up to rub it, knowing better than to show any sign of weakness or reaction.
A low amused voice said, “That’s a rather…interesting act you have there. What was that, mass hypnosis?”
Turning to study the hooded stranger in the corner, Tyriel cocked her head. “Nothing so extravagant.” Moving closer, she bent over the table and gave a conspiratorial wink and said, “We elves eat babies at breakfast, didn’t you know? They know better than to anger us.”
“Hmm. How odd. All the elves I’ve ever known were vegetarians,” the man said in a low voice, careful to keep anybody else from overhearing as he reached up and shoved his hood back.
Oh, my, Tyriel thought with interest as she studied the pale face revealed. A face that could have been carved from alabaster stared back at her, with wide eyes of deep blue. My, my, my.
The slight arch of her brow was the only sign that she was the slightest bit impressed by that little known fact. And nothing revealed that her tongue was about ready to hang out of her mouth. “Are you going to give me away? Let them know how meek and cowardly we really are?”
“I didn’t say a thing about meek or cowardly.” Gesturing to the seat at his side, he said, “I am curious exactly how you managed that, though. I’ve never seen a guard from this towne back down from anything short of a fair fight.”
“It wouldn’t have been fair. I was busting men like him when I was barely old enough to pick up a sword.”
“Hardly what I meant.”
Recognizing the persistence, Tyriel shrugged. “It’s not a secret or anything. The folk in this part of the country are notoriously superstitious. They still believe that we lurk around in the shadow world, waiting for people to displease us so we can haul them away to harvest our mines for us.”
“I doubt you’d let somebody who wasn’t elvish into your mines,” the swordsman said, beckoning for another ale. “Can I buy you one?”
“I’ll pass.” She shuddered in remembrance of the one taste she had taken as she studied him. And he was quite a treat to the eyes…a fine one, indeed. That mouth…it was giving her some naughty ideas that had her belly getting tight as she shifted on the hard bench. “You seem to know quite a bit about the kin,” Tyriel mused, declining the offered mug from the serving girl. “How is that?”
He flashed her a grin. “I get around.”
“Hmmm. In your travels, have you heard of glamour?” she asked, her voice dropping to just above a whisper. With a conspiratorial wink, she said, “It’s a neat little trick that makes people think they are seeing something that isn’t there. Or more than what they already see.”
“So your eyes weren’t really glowing in the dark?”
“What do you think?”