Home > Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(16)

Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(16)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

“He did,” she said.

“I didn’t know he knew I existed.”

“I do not believe he did until recently.”

“Did Syran Moonleaf get back to your people and say something?”

She—Lirena, she’d called herself—frowned slightly. “I don’t know who that is.”

“He’s the only elf—light elf—I’ve ever met. He seemed to recognize me. I thought he might have made his way home and mentioned me to my father.” Was it arrogant to believe the elves would care about some half-blood mongrel and talk about me in their own world?

“The family learned of your existence from the Dragon Justice Court,” Lirena said.

I groaned. “Those guys.”

“Indeed. I see you do not care for them.” Lirena sounded like she approved.

“Most of the dragons I’ve met have been assholes.”

“Only most?” She smiled slightly.

I almost said something about Zav, but I didn’t know who this lady truly was. If she was my cousin and if my father had sent her, I wanted to trust her, but for all I knew, King Eireth was a bastard who was embarrassed that I existed, and he’d ordered Lirena to come assassinate me. Admittedly, I would be surprised if my mother had fallen for someone like that, but their romance had been more than forty-two years ago. Time changed people.

“Yeah, most of them.” I waved to her belt. “What’s that whistle you used on Zondia?”

“Zondia? She gave you her name before she tried to rip your thoughts from your mind? How polite.”

I tried to decide if it was weird that Lirena had figured out almost exactly what was going on in my apartment from the hallway, or wherever she’d been when she started blowing that thing. Maybe it wasn’t. Zav had always been able to tell what I was up to from a distance. Elves weren’t as powerful as dragons, but some of them were reputedly up there.

“Actually, she gave me a much longer name, but I don’t remember what it was. Something unpronounceable.”

“Dragons do have pretentious names.” Lirena removed the flute. “I will show you if you lower your sword.”

“I can do that.”

I’d been holding the point between us. A safety precaution.

As I sheathed Chopper, Lirena stepped forward, the flute resting on her open palms. Despite her elegant features and slender build, there were sword callouses between her thumb and forefinger on both hands. I assumed she knew well how to use the blade she carried. The magic emanating from it, the flute, and all the other items she carried jangled at my senses. Her gear was far more powerful than any of mine, with the possible exception of Chopper.

“There is not a word for the instrument in your language, but it was made by a bard who is a crafter. She’s very powerful. It can play music that’s passable to listen to, but that is not its purpose. The different notes contain magic and were chosen because the auditory range is displeasing to the beings they target. I played the dragon note. It is difficult to hit for all but trained musicians, but it disrupts their concentration so they struggle to draw upon their magic when it's assailing their ears.”

“It assailed my ears too.”

“Yes, mine as well. You found it unpleasant, but the dragon-specific note would not be a detriment to you using your magic.”

“I don’t have magic to use.”

Her eyebrows rose. “I wondered if anyone had ever taught you.”

“There aren’t any elves on Earth, or at least there weren’t until this summer, as far as I know.”

“That is true. This world became inhospitable to our kind. I will only be able to stay for a short time.” Lirena returned the flute to her belt.

“It takes a musician to play that? No chance I could learn?” I wondered if she would be willing to sell it. Or trade it. Our money wouldn’t mean anything to an elf from another world. What would? I had some nice souvenir Alki Beach magnets on the fridge.

“With time, I’m certain you could,” Lirena said, “if you have an interest in music.”

I didn’t, but even if I couldn’t play the flute, a musician in the city might be able to learn. I could start dragging a mariachi band along on my dragon encounters.

“You would have to come to one of the elven worlds to find an instructor,” she added.

Ah, the mariachi band was out. But was she extending an invitation to me? I almost asked, but I had work to do here.

“Maybe someday I can. I have a mission to complete here and a lavender dragon who keeps getting in my way. I don’t suppose you have anything else that you would be willing to sell, trade, or lend to me that would be useful in driving dragons away?” I didn’t truly expect her to part with any of her goodies—I knew full well how hard it was to acquire powerful artifacts—but it couldn’t hurt to ask. She had a veritable armory of magical items.

Lirena hesitated. “I am only supposed to observe you, not give you things.”

“If I die on this mission, you’ll have come a long way to observe a corpse.”

She frowned.

“Never mind.” I waved to dismiss the request. I’d always made do with what I had, and I would do so again.

“Do you believe that dragons will keep pestering you?”

“Probably. They seem to be my destiny these days.” I wondered how much she knew of my story. Had Zav’s mother, or whoever had blabbed, filled the elves in completely? Or only told the king that he had a half-breed daughter wandering a forgotten planet?

“An unfortunate destiny.”

“Tell me about it.”

Lirena nodded. “I see we feel similarly on this matter.”

“At least your people have effective ways to fight dragons.”

“To some extent, yes, but dragons are so powerful. It is rare we can do anything more than temporarily drive them away. If their numbers were greater, they would have enslaved or destroyed all who opposed them eons ago. As it is, we are under their rule. They pretend that we are allowed to govern ourselves and maintain our independence, reporting only infrequently to them, but if you break one of their laws, you find out exactly who the supreme rulers in the Cosmic Realms are.”

“So I’ve heard.”

Mankind had no idea how lucky it was that dragons had never shown an interest in Earth.

“I do not think your father would object if I gave you something to help protect you against dragons. That is not truly interfering, right?” Lirena pursed her lips and twisted one of her charm bracelets around her wrist. Since she seemed to be leaning in favor of helping, I kept my mouth shut while she finished debating. “And I already assisted you with that dragon, so what is done is done. I might be able to lend you something… small.”

I didn’t point out that she hadn’t truly helped me with Zondia, though I could see why she wouldn’t know that. She believed the dragon had barged in here and forced me to give up my thoughts. Understandable. But I feared Lirena might have inadvertently made matters worse. What if Zondia believed that Lirena and I were allies? She might think I’d faked being willing to reveal my thoughts, knowing all along that Lirena would show up and stop her. That could make her more suspicious of me.

“Elves help other elves.” Lirena nodded, as if she had convinced herself.

I decided not to remind her that I was a half-elf mongrel. Instead, I leaned forward with curiosity, not quite managing to keep the whatcha-got-for-me? expression off my face.

“And we are cousins.” Lirena unfastened one of her bracelets, the charms tinkling together.

“Do I have a lot of elven cousins? I don’t have any human ones. My mother was also an only child.”

“Nine. Five females and four males. One of our uncles has been prolific by elven standards. The longer-lived species usually only have a couple of offspring.”

“Nine? Do half-elves ever get invited for family dinners?” I imagined ten cousins fighting over drumsticks at Thanksgiving.

“Whether or not you’re invited to visit your elven family will depend on your behavior when I am observing you and what I report back to your father. No matter what, you would always have the right to come to the elven court and request slyserasha—the right to have your grievances heard by one of the three kings.”

“Huh.”

“I see you’re overwhelmed with emotion at this honor.”

“Yeah, it completes something in my life.”

She smiled. “I was warned that humans trend toward sarcastic.”

“You seem to have tendencies toward dryness yourself.”

“This is possible. I’m not a favorite in the elven court. You’re not allowed to be irreverent there until you’re at least five hundred years old.”

“How old are you?”

“Only a hundred.”

“Such a young pup.”

“Yes.”

I almost asked if she knew Freysha and how old she was, but something made me decide not to reveal more than necessary about my life, or who had wandered into it of late. It wasn’t as if Lirena had shown me her passport. Just because she said we were cousins didn’t mean it was true. What if she was a dark elf in disguise and only pretending to be my relative?

“How long are you going to be observing me, and what does my father want to know?”

“Not long. I do not wish to intrude in your life. I would not have even come into your dwelling if I hadn’t sensed the dragon. Your father, as one of the elven kings, is very busy. That is why he sent me to see if you are well and also to see who you are. What kind of person are you? Are you someone who should be invited to visit our world—and him—or not? He is married to another and has a child with her, so it’s a delicate matter.”

“Because he’s had a kid with another woman?” An unappealing thought occurred to me. “He wasn’t married to his wife when he came to Earth and shagged my mother, was he?”

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