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4.

“So,” the Elf says when we’re properly relaxed, “you assume Yanos wants in on the Key thing.”

“Yes,” I say, “I assume that. Of course I had assumed that Yanos had fallen in a hole somewhere, and that assumption didn’t pan out. So.” I swish a little. “Where exactly did you meet Yanos, anyway?”

“First time,” she says, “in Silon, you knew he was from Silon, right?” I didn’t, and my face says so. But it explains the tiny accent. “Yeah. He was in the navy for one cruise. Ship came in, he got kicked off, I ran into him in a bar, I was just running away from home—!”

“How old were you when you ran away from home?”

“Oh, basically what I am now. It was last spring.”

“Oh. How old was he?”

“I guess maybe 25? You know. Humans.” She chortles, goddess bless her.

“Was that when you slept with him?”

“That was the one night I slept with him,” says Zelin. “I slept with a lot of guys that spring. Some women too. I don’t really have a preference one way or the other.”

“And the next time you saw him?”

“Was down here. About May I got sick of Silon, of Silontis in general. Aeraf is right on the border of the Silontian Empire, and the Silontians have picked up a certain flavor, and that’s what I was getting away from. They speak of Carleu with—well, they speak of Carleu with what I would call a disdain bordering on respect, so I thought I’d head for Carleu, and where in Carleu? I ran into people who had been through Insmoor, who mentioned Valen Dungeon, so that seemed like a good bet. College town, some history, no Elven Realms too close by. And of course they all said, look up Daisy Delatour when you get there, she’s an up and coming conjurer.”

“Ha ha. So was he all about the Lapis Circlet back in Silon?”

“Actually not. Actually, he was all about the Coin of Arista. It was supposed to be this coin that this powerful witch from Zondia put a bunch of her power into.”

“Zondia?”

“It’s a suburb of Silon. Anyway, it was obviously extremely precious, and he could find buyers who would pay tens of thousands in gold for it, and he had all these hints and ideas about where it was, it was supposed to be in the mountains south of Silontis, not especially far from Aeraf in fact. I think he slept with me because he thought I might mutter secrets in my sleep. But of course, as you may be aware, we of the Fair Folk do not need sleep but rather walk in dream while awake under the stars—did you know that?”

“And did you actually know anything about this Coin of Arista?”

“Only that it sits in the treasury of the Countess of Aeraf to this day, and has sat there for at a minimum of six hundred years, which is longer than I’ve been alive. She’s my great aunt, by the way, the Countess is.”

“Did you tell him?”

“Nope.”

I swish a little. I ask, “So do you think he’s interested in the Key?”

“It would be like him. Are you sure what you saw was The Key?”

“I’m very sure, Zelin. I am very sure. Don’t ask me why, I just am.”

“No, no,” the Elf replies, cleaning out her pipe before she refills it. “If you’re very sure, then I am very sure. You are, after all, the famous Daisy.”

“So what should we do about it?”

“Well, when the war is over in a month or so—what do you want to do about it? Leave it in the care of Her Ladyship Thyrssa the Black?”

“Um, no,” I say. “I mean, other than Odnorek, I’ve never heard of a famous dragon who didn’t ultimately meet a famous warrior and get the worst of it. Or archer. And if Yanos doesn’t get lucky at some point, someone else will. And this Key.”

“Yeah,” says Zelin.

“Do you know what it does? At all?”

“I know it’s the sort of thing that Kronah and Time Warriors want to get a hold of. I don’t know why. It’s not powerful like a Wand of Wonder or something, but it’s important somehow. It’s important.”

“Yeah.” I laugh slightly and swirl the water some. I sort of shrug. “Maybe it’s wrong to say this, but you know? I guess I don’t trust anyone with something like this, other than me.”

 

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