(Many errors and spelling mistakes to correct, but here it is before editing..which I am leaving until tomorrow as I am knackered)
I eagerly looked toward the door, anticipating the appearance of my next interesting interview. His name is Qwillian, and he is brother to my last interviewee, Quinnley Dell. If Quinn made a stir among the patrons, Qwillian, rumored to be an elf of lusty inclinations and with an eye for the ladies as well as, his deserved reputation as a master thief, he was certain to get his fair share of pub reactions, both from the men and the ladies alike, and I certainly didn’t want to miss it, only, he seemed to be late. 5 minutes past the hour and he was yet to show.
“What are we looking for?” a soft voice whispered into my ear, making me jolt in my seat, I hadn’t heard anyone approach. I looked over and found myself literally nose-to-nose, with a sea of blue, his eyes shone brightly in the darkened pub revealing his Fae heritage. Eyes that were contemplating me very, very closely. I could smell his breath, a heady mix of cinnamon, ginger wine, and apple? He smiled then, and my mind went completely blank. He was crouched on the floor next to me, as if he had been perched there for some time. It unnerved me.
“I..um..you?” I shook my head like a dog “SNAP OUT OF IT!” I reminded myself that I was a professional and needed to get the job done. I lifted my hand and pushed against his chest, his very dark, very bare chest, save for a small blue vest, mutely demanding space. Was that a six-pack? Oh, my.
He leaned back on his heels, propping one of his elbows on his knee, while the other held his chin in contemplation of me. He looked down at my hand, smiled and nodded in approval. Laughter filled his eyes when I saw where his eyes had gone and snatched my hand back in embarrassment.
“Full-figured, but with very nice curves. He quirked an eyebrow, “I like myself some curves, so no bother.”
I huffed at his comment, I knew I was full-figured, had always been so, I grew up in a family that enjoyed food. Curves? Humph!, no one ever noticed I had them before, generally it was more my weight and hair that people noticed. Someone was trying to snowball me. I put on my professional reporter voice. “Do you mind sitting down? ” I cleared my throat, “So, we can begin the..um..er..interview.” I squeaked when his hand shot out and grasped my chin. He was suddenly very serious, and slightly dangerous.
“We shall begin in a moment. I like to know who I am speaking with, before I go disclosing my personal information. You doubt my word about the curves, but I never speak false when it comes to women and their bodies. Elves can’t naturally lie. We can confuse, distract, even manipulate, but direct questions we will answer with only truth. Do you want to know what I have learned about you so far, lovely Bex?”
I looked at him in surprise. I had not expected this. I nodded.. Inwardly realizing that this was the second Dell that had me nodding mutely during an interview. What is it about this family that always renders me speechless? Is this something to do with elves as a race, or this elf family in particular?
He stood swiftly walked to the stool across from me, pulled it out, and sat, all in one fluid movement. It was like watching a dancer.
“You are a fidget type. You don’t necessarily need movement, but your mind races and you need an outlet when sitting. You literally have conversations with yourself, in your head. Your hands are never still , you pluck at anything near you. Your mind never really conscious of the object you are holding, since generally your mind is elsewhere.” He nodded at my hand on the salt shaker, I looked down in surprise, then, hastily put it down. “You like yourself, but you don’t expect others to do so, you actually assume they won’t understand you, which is either from experience, or lack of self-confidence . You have an unconscious ease about you, though you are never still. Your eyes interest people because it contains more knowledge than you show outwardly. You have deep thoughts, and it makes others wonder what you are thinking. You dress down, as if wanting to fade into the background. You have a desire to know things, which makes your job choice the right one for you. Which, shows you know yourself very well indeed. Your sexuality is the most interesting, as you have a sensuality that simmers below the surface and it is…” he paused contemplating me “extremely sultry.” I felt my face blush scarlet. I unconsciously moved my hand, but caught his smirk and dropped it back to my side, pretending I had not been intending to pick up the salt shaker again. “You like to be the one asking the questions, but not for control, though you do like too dominate slightly, you just have a lot you want to know about things, your curiosity Is worse than a cats. You are also kind and gentle.”
I stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Ok, no more.” I tried making my voice more authoritative, then paused, realizing I might have hurt his feelings. “Please”. I whispered embarrassed, “I…you see too much, can’t we just.” I gestured to my notepad. His eyes softened.
“As you like” he nodded,”Ask your questions lovely Bex.”
I cleared my throat. He was not at all what I expected. He was definitely hot. All elves are hot, lets be honest, but..his sexiness was slightly overshadowed by a sense that he was watching, listening, noticing everything. He was also very perceptive. I had no doubt he would have gone on for some time, and in greater depth, even this surprising quality wasn’t as shocking as his kindness. He exuded control and cleverness, but something about the way he spoke, his voice was gentle, soft, and very dangerous.
“Ok,” I cleared my throat.
“You are Qwillian, and your brother is Quinn. Your personalities are different, but also similar.”
“Quinn is quiet, he likes to think, he is not expressive. Me? I like the sound of my own voice.” He smiled without an ounce of self-consciousness. “We both know how to be still and how to notice details. Quinn is, slightly shyer than I.” He paused when I scoffed. The man I met had not appeared in the least shy.
“Quinn likes to read. He has a poetic heart and a romantic soul, something inside him was deeply hurt the day his mate-mark didn’t appear. He puts on a hard act, but the truth is, he is in pain, because the one thing he has always desired has been denied him.” He sighed. “When our parents died, Quinns one secret hope, was that one day he would have a family of his own. A mate who would accept him and love him. Provide him with children. Maybe not fill in his hearts holes, as no one can truly replace the family we loved, but certainly give him new spaces to fill with something solid to hold onto when times are loneliest. He cut his hair. You noticed this?” I started. I had not expected this question.
“Y..ye..yes. Is that not a normal trait among elves?” I had not realized it to be strange at the time, but now that I thought about it, I realized, that Quinn was the only elf I had ever seen with short-cropped hair.
“Don’t elves normally have, um..er..” I gestured to the elaborate braid down his own back, festooned with feathers, beads and other various ornamentation.
“Yes, it is an elves honor, his hair. It is decorated, when he is young, by his sisters and cousins, but that is merely because he indulges them. Later, when he finds his mate, it is a mark of pride. It is a way for his mate to lavish care and attention upon him, to show he is much loved and very, very taken.” He smiled to himself, perhaps recalling some memory. “He does the same for her, it is very intimate and the very first way that she flirts with him. When they court, before their bonding ceremony, this is one of the first rituals she will perform for him, showing him her interest in front of others.” He looked at me sadly, “This is one of the ways that my brother shows his suffering. He cuts off his hair, it is like a reminder to himself, of what was taken from him, when our parents were lost. He cannot forgive, he cannot forget. He will have revenge instead, it is all he believes he has left to him.” looking at my face he nodded at what he saw there. “Yes, you understand now. My brother, who might have been kind, romantic and gentle, seeks now only revenge. He wants only death for his pain. I believe it lives in him still, a small spark, but if he has his revenge, what then? He cut off his hair because he wants everyone to know, that he is no longer elf. He is assassin.”
“What about you? Do you seek only revenge, have you no one?” I asked quietly not wishing to interrupt, but needing to know, for myself, if I am honest, more than my readers, who I was certain, would also be interested.
“Me? Quinn is my brother, he is my family. I will do what I can for him. As for love and family to keep me grounded, I have my ladies. Ah! You misunderstand” he chided seeing my expression, but did not explain further. I opened my mouth to ask for more information, but he spoke again distracting me.
“I am a thief. I like the challenge of besting someone. Anyone can rob a fool and make off with his coin, anyone can steal from a poor man. Anyone can steal from those who have no defenses of their own. Poor people haven’t time to learn to prevent themselves from being taken, they are too busy just trying to keep enough to survive. No, my desire is to best the ones that steal from the poor ones. I enjoy doing what is considered impossible. I like making those that cheat others worry. I like making them sweat, get angry, curse my name.” He laughed out loud in derision. “I enjoy, very much, making the rich feel what its like to be at the mercy of another. For the rich, it is not about money, you see. Its about power, holding something that another needs desperately, and denying it to them. They don’t stop at money. They take things that are not meant to be stolen. Innocence, hope, and faith. These are things, that even a rich man should leave well alone. A rich man who only steals coin, I can understand, but one who steals more than coin, those that take more than they have a right, crush innocence, take something vital, just because they can, those are my victims.”
I was startled mute. I had never considered a thief to be noble before.
“Alderdeen is a planet in pain. It has suffered from attacks and sieges. Its people are strong though, there are rebellious factions and they mean to win back our freedom.”
“Do you speak of the Red Silks? The secret assassins that everyone whispers about?” I gulped. “They say that anyone who speaks of the Red Silks are immediately arrested and interrogated.” I spoke of the warning, but the truth was, this was what I wanted to know. This was my true interest in the Prince of thieves. I had been intrigued by the Red Silks from the start of my career, which wasn’t all that long, less than a year. They had appeared just recently in Alderdeen. Rebels who targeted the heads of the Blood trade market. 3 high level Princes had died so far, murdered in their homes in the middle of the night, even while guarded and protected by armed guards, border alarms and enchantments. They killed without mercy, silently without a single victim raising the alarm. They left no trace that they had ever been there, nothing truly left to connect the murders to one another, not even the method of death being the same each time, nothing to connect them except for the single long slender red silk ties left with the victims, as a warning or a threat to others, no one was entirely certain. They had become known far and wide as The Red Silk Assassins, the stories whispered in dark corners and behind hands.
“The Red Silks are said to be assassins, they say they only care about killing, that they are heralded as heroes of Alderdeen, but are just rabid wolves who thrive on death and destruction. What do you think?”
Qwill studied me closely.
“The Red Silk Assassins are the answer to Alderdeens oppression. Look around and notice. The low people speak to one another now. They make eye contact and notice one another. They whisper about the deaths. When they speak of the assassins, there is hope in their eyes, a hope that many have not had in years. Many of these people.” He gestured widely to the room, no longer speaking quietly, but taking on a definite tone of lecture or speechmaking. The bar was dark but crowded and doing a brisk business. The various patrons had mostly pretended not to be listening to our conversation, but when the word “Red Silk” had been spoken, there had been a definite pause to the sound in the room. Now, they all looked carefully over and there was an awareness I had not noticed previously, some reporter I am. I didn’t even notice we were being observed. “Many of these people” he continued, “Have watched a loved one drained of blood right in front of them, and those were the lucky ones, the ones not killed outright were taken as slaves to the blood trade or concubines to the highest paying off-worlder ship, made to harvest crops on other planets until the day they die from exhaustion. Most of those taken are women and children, cut off from their loved ones and often never seen again. The children grow up never knowing about their own culture, their own people.” He sat down again, his voice tired and angry.
“If the Red Silks are not more than wolves, then I welcome them, just the same. There is hope for our people with every death of a blood trader. The enemy of my enemy, is my friend.” he met the eye of many a patron just after his impromptu speech was done. I was impressed, and a little in awe of his bravery.
“Aren’t you afraid that you will be arrested? If anyone here..”
“Do you think my choice of pub was an accident?” he smiled slyly. “This pub, is secure with only certain clientele allowed to enter.” He shared a nod with the bartender, who refilled a pint nearby. The man nodded softly to Qwill acknowledging him with an uttered “Boss”
“BOSS?” I stared back at Qwillian in shock.
His laughter was loud and long. The patrons joining in clearly delighted by the subterfuge they had pulled off at my expense. Cloaks were discarded and differing species were revealed Fae, Were, even a few Gargoyles were in careful attendance.
“Yes, Boss. Even a thief needs a legitimate place to work”
I realized I had been had from the very beginning. Qwill had never arrived the pub to meet me, he had been here all along. This pub was full of his own men, er…people, I amended my thoughts, when my eyes fell on a few female weres looking me over with undisguised interest .
“Why? I asked” looking him straight into the eye. “Why have you really agreed to my interview? Why, all of this?” I gestured to the elaborate plotting to make the pub appear normal and the disguised patrons.
He gazed at me a moment.
Do you remember when I was describing you as this interview began, that I said that you are kind and gentle?”
“You stopped outside a brothel once. Where a woman was being beaten by a patron of that place. You saw what was happening and you grabbed his hand, stopped his fist. You stepped forward and prevented his action, even though the woman was clearly just a whore. You were thrown to the ground and told to not meddle in the affairs of others. He tossed some coins at her feet and strode away, promising you retribution for your interference. He left only because the Drakken-riders were coming to investigate. You took off your head-scarf and staunched the bleeding of that woman. Gathered up the coin and made her take it, telling her that his coin should go to something more valuable than that mans pocket and not to be ashamed to use it for that kind of good.”
I was struck speechless. How had he known? I had lost my job after that action. It was why I was now an independent reporter working for a very low paying press. I wasn’t sorry though, I was glad. The press I worked for now was small, but we had become like a family. That day had changed my life.
“There is nothing in this town that escapes my notice. What is not witnessed by me, is witnessed by others and shared, sometimes freely, sometimes for coin.” He sat back and made a motion with his hand, suddenly the pub went back to being noisy and disinterested in our conversation once more.
“Why?” I asked again.
“We want your help. We need your help, to get the word of the deeds of the Red Silks to the people of Alderdeen. To give them the truth, but more than that, to give them the unvarnished truth. We need someone like you, lovely Bex, to report the truth and not be swayed by those who would stop you or be swayed by pressure, like the other press would be. Your group is small, only 3 of you?” I nodded
“Yes, 3 of us. Me, my friend Danika, and her husband Froy. We run a very small press. Just enough money from the ads to feed ourselves.” I blushed. I had been trying for weeks to hide the fact that our circulation was not as prestigious as I pretended it to be, for this interview, and the other. Seems I need not have bothered. They apparently hadn’t been fooled for a second.
“Do you think your friends might accept my offer?”
“What is your offer?” I asked looking at him with no lack of concern.
“We give you inside information, share with you the things we learn, before anyone else. Make sure you and your friends are safe, protected, and warned of anyone who moves to shut you down. Provide you with the means to increase your readership with exclusive information, and you in return, promise to keep the identities of your sources private. Get the truth out there helping those who need hope.”
“It could be dangerous, I…I don’t know”
He looked at me for a moment. “You have already decided to do it Bex, or you would have left already.”
I gulped. He wasn’t wrong..”My friends.”
“Will be protected. I promise.” His eyes told me everything I needed to know. My friends had come with me when I left the paper. They believed as I did, that Alderdeen deserved an honest and incorruptible paper. I blew out at my bangs, and did what I always seemed to do around these Dell Elves.
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