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Subject: Setting Off

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Date Posted: 21:02:21 11/24/02 Sun

The small attic window looked across the rooftops towards the city walls. The sky was growing lighter, streaks of early dawn just beginning to appear. Harion checked around the dim, grey room once more. He was leaving it as he found it. Bed made, floor swept. It was as if he had never arrived. Less than 24 hours, a pretty bad record. Still, at least he wasn’t being fired. That would look even worse.

Harion silently closed the bedroom door behind him and crept noiselessly downstairs. Something to eat before he left sounded sensible. He opened the kitchen door.
The Innkeeper was sitting alone at the table with a drink. He smiled as Harion came in.
“You woke up early too?” he asked. He looked at Harion’s clothes.
“You’re going out?” Harion sighed. There was no easy way to put this. How do you tell your employer that you’re walking out, less than 24 hours after being hired.
“I’ve got to go” he said simply and handed the Innkeeper Aryante’s letter. The Innkeeper took the letter cautiously and opened the wax seal. Some gold coins fell out and tinkled on the table. Harion’s eyes opened wide. The coins were worth a lot of money. The Innkeeper read the letter slowly. His lips moving as he struggled over some of the harder words. Harion envied him. He’d never learnt to read. It was something he’d always longed to be able to do.

When he’d finished, the Innkeeper looked up over the letter.
“Your assistance is requested by the elven Prince?” he asked incredulously.
“How on earth did you manage that?” he looked back at the letter again. Harion stood at the end of the table twisting his fingers, anxiously awaiting a reply. The realisation
of the task struck him. Hired by an elf. An Elf! Before he’d arrived here, they had only been tales of childhood fairy stories. He wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. In the stories he used to love, elves could run forever without tiring, live without ever needing to sleep and some could kill an enemy simply by staring at them. In some stories they could turn stones into gold nuggets and make themselves invisible. Of course, most of these were obviously not true. He was too old for such fancies. But then, he’d only half believed in elves existing before reaching the city.

“...Signed by the King’s royal healer.” The Innkeeper murmured, bringing Harion back to the present. “You do have some important friends.” He sighed and folded up the letter.
“You’re a good worker Harion, It’ll be a shame to lose you. Perhaps you’ll come back here when you return?” Harion looked up sharply.
“Would I still be welcome?” he asked in surprise.
“Your job will be waiting here.” The Innkeeper replied “I’ll persuade my wife to agree.” He smiled wryly. Harion thanked him and hacked a chunk of bread off the loaf on the table. He turned to go out the door.
“Good luck, take care of yourself” the Innkeeper called after him. Harion turned.
“I will...will you explain to Drea?” The Innkeeper nodded.
“She’ll miss you, as will we all. Come back soon.” Harion smiled and left the kitchen. He walked through the deserted bar and let himself out into the street. The snow had stopped falling and nestled on the streets. It glistened a pure white as dawn approached. Harion crunched up the street towards the palace, hastily eating his bread. He couldn’t help feeling a little apprehensive. What had he let himself in for?

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