[size14 It had been some time since Galen had received a summons. Usually, his requests came in the form of a letter or a human messenger. It was rare that he was called to meet the elf who gave him the job. He had a feeling he would not be turning this one down and it had nothing to do with how extravagant the decorations of the lord’s keep were (and therefore he would no doubt be making a lot of coin from this job). It was mostly because he was afraid he might be locked away if he refused. He had seen many castles and keeps, but none so grand as this. Lord Aymar clearly liked to show off his wealth and Galen was sure his vanity and pride would not react well to being turned down.
Galen had been standing in the main hall for almost two hours now. His hair was almost dry from the rain that seemed to have not stopped for days. A guard had led him inside after inquiring about his business, then sent for a page, who then no doubt sent for Lord Aymar. Galen had handed them his summons as proof, which left him with nothing now, standing about stupidly and watching the guards pass by on patrol. Once, he spaced out and stared into the fire in one of the sconces so long that when he looked away he had a spot in his vision. It was when he was blinking it away that the page came back.
“Lord Aymar will see you now,” he said simply and led the way through the main hall and down a few side corridors. Galen felt so out of place here in his worn cloak and weathered leathers. As would be expected, most of the occupants other than the servants were elves and were all in finery. The guard’s boots sounded on the hard marble floor where Galen’s soft leather ones made no sound at all. He was given a few curious glances, but mostly he was ignored.
At the end of the next all, they reached a door. The page turned to him. He was a human boy no older than fifteen. His eyes shone when he met Galen’s eyes as if he saw something he wished he could be. “You’ll ‘ave to give your weapons to the guards,” he said. So he did, handing over sword, quiver, and bow to one of the guards at the door. The knife in his boot stayed concealed, but he knew he would not need it nor would they need to know it was there. The second guard with his hands free opened the door for him. The page stepped back. Galen took that as his queue to head inside.
He entered a study with bookshelves lining the walls and a desk in the center occupied by a very cross looking elf writing something no doubt very important. Two guards flanked him on either side. Galen stood inside the door for several minutes before the elf finally stopped his scribbling and put his quill down. When he looked up, he was met with the fierce, sharp features of an exasperated lord. His long, dark, elven hair fell across his shoulders and his piercing light eyes met Galen’s. Galen bowed as was custom.
Lord Aymar crossed in front of his desk and looked Galen over. “So you are the ranger I have heard so much about? You can track a man across the entire continent if need be?”
[i If paid enough,] Galen wanted to retort, but did not want to be whipped, so he simply inclined his head.
“Discretion is most important. I need to know that this will not get out.”
“My Lord, if I may be so bold?”
“You have heard of me and yet you cannot name one of my jobs in detail. Is that not proof enough of my discretion?”
Lord Aymar seemed to think on this while looking Galen over. Then he nodded, as if deciding. “It is no ordinary man or elf I ask you to track down. It is my daughter, Sariel.” He gestured to a large painting on the wall of his family so that Galen could see Sariel for himself. He waited for some kind of response which Galen did not give. “This does not surprise you?”
“Runaway daughters are not unusual in my line of work.”
“You don’t wish to know why she has run away?”
“I make it a point to not ask questions.”
Lord Aymar’s mouth seemed to twist up into a small grin. “I chose the right man for the job, then. There is one thing you [i must] know about her, though. Her magic is… unorthodox.”
“I am no stranger to dealing with magic, My Lord.”
“Then you have all the tools necessary to bring her in? I will provide you with whatever is necessary.”
Now this was odd. Using magic to quell magic was generally a human invention. The fact that an elf of such status was offering it to him freely was the first indication that perhaps Lord Aymar was right about his daughter being unusual. “I’m well stocked up, I assure you.”
“Good. She was last seen in Highmount, a town south of here. Now go. My men will give you whatever else you may need for the road.”
Galen bowed once more and turned to leave. His things were returned to him and he just as promised, he was offered food for the road and anything else he could possibly want. He wasn’t used to being treated so well by a bunch of elves, but he knew it was only because they wanted something from him.
He knew better than most to never trust them. He wore the truth on his back. The scars that magic could give when you stepped out of line.