Alinash Brightblaze approached the Shepherd’s Gate. There were less people than he had expected which would make passing the by the guards slightly more risky. He filed into line behind a farmer with a cart who was bringing his goods to sell in the market. He smiled briefly as he saw one of the two guards at the gate stop someone ahead of them and began to ask him questions. That was good. There would be one less pair of eyes on him.
He moved closer to the gate, staying directly behind the farmer’s cart. He eyed the guard interrogating the man he had stopped as if it were a spectacle to slow down and watch. In reality, he simply wanted to keep his head turned away from the other guard.
Alinash flinched as someone grabbed his arm. With his head turned, he hadn’t seen that the idle guard had, in fact, taken notice of him.
“Hey, you!” The guard shouted at him as he pulled him away from the other elves passing through the gate. Alinash suppressed the impulse to reach for one of his daggers that he had hidden on his person for self-defense. The guard continued, “You’re a bit young to be traveling alone. Don’t you have schooling to attend?”
Alinash bit his lip. He hadn’t had to deal with comments about his youth for a few years now. “I’m sorry, sir. I should be in school. You’re right about that. But my baby sister is gravely ill. Minn’da has to stay at home to take care of her, and Ann’da has to work the fields on the farm or there won’t be any food to eat. Minn’da said it would be okay if I miss school just this once. Please, sir. I have to go to the Spire, and see Priest Sunstone. Minn’da says he’ll help.” Alinash silently hoped that Priest Sunstone still worked at the Spire. He was well-known in Murder Row for taking charity cases. He supposed if the priest was no longer there, and the guard knew of it, he could just feign ignorance on the part of his false mother.
The guard said nothing about the priest, but still seemed concerned that he was missing school. “Did your Minn’da write a note?”
“Minn’da doesn’t write very well, sir. I don’t think she’d be able to if she tried. She wasn’t very good in school, and then she had me so she couldn’t go anymore.”
“Just let the kid go through and see the priest. Do you know your way to the Spire, kid?” The other guard, having finished questioning the elf he had stopped, stepped over.
Alinash’s heart was racing, but he continued on with his acting. “I do! I’ve gone there with Minn’da a few times. I’m sure I remember the way.” He grinned innocently as a proud child would.
The first guard let go of his arm as the second one nodded and said, “Just be careful not to make a wrong turn and end up on the Row. There’s lots of unsavory types there.”
Alinash nodded in agreement. “I’ll be careful. Thank you, sir!” He hurried off through the gate, pacing himself to be in a rush, but not too much of a rush. For him, he couldn’t round a street corner fast enough. At least they hadn’t recognized him. He wasn’t going to give them any reason to be suspicious. He didn’t look back, but calmly, with only a hint of a child’s enthusiasm for saving his imaginary sister, made his way to the first street that turned towards the Spire. The library and the market that he wanted to visit were both on the way to the Spire, so his lie worked out well.
He hurried along the streets to the market, carefully picking those which he remembered were patrolled less often by the guards. He hoped the patrols were the same since he had left a few year years ago. He supposed they must be as he reached the market without seeing a single guard. He noticed one arcane patroller making it’s way through the crowd at one end of the market. Alinash had no doubt there were guards at their posts around the market as well. He hoped the posts were all at the same places he remembered them being. He joined a steady flow of people heading along one side of the market, opposite the direction of the arcane patroller. He knew there was a wine shop in this direction as well.
He found the shop without incident, and bought two bottles of aged Silvermoon red. He had thought briefly of stealing them, but good wine was something worth paying for. Besides, if he was caught, he’d only cause trouble for himself, and trouble was the last thing he needed in Silvermoon.
He made his way back out into the market after securing the bottles in his bag. The wine shop owner had asked about his age, but Alinash had expected that he might. He simply told the man that his father had sent him to get it for a party that he was throwing for later that day. The shop owner had believed him, and made small talk about the party as Alinash paid.
All in all, things were going quite well. Alinash quickly found a stall with hand-made blankets, and bought one for Harrier, who had complained about the scratchy blankets at the chapel. True it was warming up, but it was still cold at night sometimes. It was also true that he’d only be using it on the way home. Alinash hoped he’d like it anyway.
He started heading out of the market and towards the gate that led towards the Spire when someone brushed up against him. He caught the elf by the wrist just as his hand was going in Alinash’s pocket. He turned to look at who would dare to pick his pocket while tightening his grip on the wrist. All he could see was the lower half of the elf’s face from under his cloak. He narrowed his eyes as he watched the surprised mouth curl into a sly grin.
“Brightblaze. Imagine finding you here.”
The smile seemed familiar, but it wasn’t until the elf said something that Alinash could place it. “Paeris Skyweaver, reduced to picking pockets?” He let go of the other elf’s wrist and took a few steps towards the gate.
“An elf needs something to live off of. I wouldn’t get too sassy if I were you. There’s a nice price on your pretty little head, and there’s guards right over there.” Paeris nodded towards one of the guard posts as he followed alongside Alinash.
Alinash furrowed his brow in thought as he continued walking. “Our employer was caught. How are you not wanted as well?”
“They arrested him before they got to his office. I destroyed his records of me before they had time to get there and figure out who worked for him. I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.” He looked at Alinash as they passed through the gate, “We all thought you had left the city.”
“I did.” Alinash twitched an ear in irritation. “You say you were lucky, but you could have just as easily have been a rat. How else would you have known he was being arrested elsewhere at the moment that you were destroying the records?” His voice lowered as they passed through a crowd on the other side of the gate.
Paeris lowered his voice as he replied, “I never rat when I’m paid well, and as much as I did dislike our former employer, he gave us very fair percentages. Speaking of being paid well, there’s a guard post just ahead, and you did stop me from taking your coin. Given the price on your head, I think you owe me to keep quiet.”
Alinash kept his voice low, “You’re a swine, Paeris.”
Paeris held out his hand, “Now, or I yell for help.”
Alinash hesitated, quickly considering his options. He could easily flee on foot and very likely get away. He had an advantage of being shorter than most elves, and therefore easily lost in a crowd to even the tallest guards. However, even if he did manage to flee, that would leave him without the trip to the library for the book. The book was the reason he had to come back to Silvermoon in the first place. The street was too crowded to silence Paeris in any way. Alinash did feel he could use a good kick to the throat, but not in front of so many people. Running him through with a dagger wasn’t a valid option in this crowd either. Alinash reached for his coin purse. He held it out and dropped it in Paeris’s hand.
“It feels light.”
“It’s all I have.”
Paeris twitched an ear. “You have an hour before I tell the guards I saw you.”
Alinash scowled at the other elf before heading off in the general direction of the library. He looked back a couple of times to make sure he wasn’t being followed. “Swine.” he muttered under his breath as he walked by a large fountain. The library was just on the other side of the fountain. He was aware that time was ticking now, especially since he wasn’t even sure if Paeris knew how long an hour was. He quickened his pace to the library.
He was relieved to see the library was open, and there wasn’t anyone standing at the door telling him he wasn’t allowed to go in. He’d never been to the library before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. He’d never seen so many books in one place. He wasn’t sure where to start looking for the one he had come for. He realized that his bewilderment must have shown on his face as an older elf approached him.
“Can I help you? You look a little overwhelmed. I’m Belanor Sunseer, one of the librarians.”
Alinash glanced around at all the book shelves, still unsure the other elf could help him find just one. “I’m looking for a book.”
The older elf smiled, “You are in the right place. Are you looking for a specific book, or a book on a specific subject?”
“A specific book.” Alinash still didn’t believe the elf could find it, but decided to give it a try anyway. It would be better than looking through them all himself. “It’s called Time to Cast. I think it’s about magic.”
The librarian looked at him. “An early mage student? You barely look old enough to be finished with your general education.”
Alinash withheld an ear twitch. No one ever mentioned how young he looked in Stormwind. “Oh no, it’s not for me. It’s for my older brother. He asked me to come get it for him on my break between classes.” Alinash lied to prevent any questions about magic studies that he wouldn’t know the answers to, as well as to excuse himself for not being in school at the moment.
The librarian nodded, “This way then.” He led Alinash past long rows of books and into another large room with even more books. Alinash wondered how many other rooms there were.
The librarian stopped at a cabinet full of drawers, and slid one out, revealing cards inside. He started to flip through them. “You said Time to Cast is the name of the book?”
The librarian slowed as he flipped through the cards, looking at each one more carefully now. He went a few cards back and flipped through the same ones again. “It appears we don’t have it.”
“How can you tell? You’re not even looking at the books. My older brother was sure it was here.”
The librarian sighed. “We can check the section I think it would be in if we had it, but I assure you that every book we have has a card in the library index.”
Alinash followed the other elf down a long corridor of books to the section he thought it might be in.
“I don’t see it anywhere here either.”
“If someone borrowed it, can you tell when it’ll be back?”
“No one borrowed it if there’s no card for it.” The librarian said. Another librarian happened to turn down the same row of books. The first librarian motioned for him to come over. “This is Tandar. He works this section of the library. Tandar, have you heard of a book called Time to Cast? Our young friend here is looking for it for his older brother, who is certain we have it. I’ve not found any card for it in the index, nor can we find the book on the shelf. I thought you might know more since you keep this section organized.”
Tandar frowned as he joined the other two elves, “Time to Cast? It wouldn’t be on these shelves. These books are for beginning mages and that book is rather advanced. Some of the Magisters complained that it had some outdated spells, so it was taken off the shelf.”
Alinash twitched an ear, “What happens to books that get taken off the shelf?”
“We store them in another room and put them out for sale one weekend per month.”
“So you still have it. It’s just in another room.”
“Oh no,” Tandar answered, “This book was taken off the shelf months ago. It was sold the first time it went out for sale.”
“Sold? To whom?” Alinash was beginning to get impatient. He tried not to let it show.
“You’re lucky I actually know the answer to that question.” Tandar stated. “I happened to be filling in that day for Karesh at noon so that he could go get lunch. He’s the one who usually handles our book sales. Any way, the book was sold to a young mage. I remember him because he said he was the headmaster of a new school in the Ghostlands. Naturally, I didn’t believe him, but I looked it up, and they’re actually on the ranked list, and not at a very bad placement on it either.”
Alinash raised a brow, “The Ghostlands?”
The second librarian nodded, “Fairsong Academy, if my memory serves me right.”
“Fairsong Academy.” Alinash repeated. “Thank you. I’ll let my brother know. Perhaps he’ll make the trip there and ask if he can borrow it.” He frowned slightly and headed back towards the library exit.
He wasn’t sure how much time was left in Paeris’s hour, but the quicker he made it to the Shepherd’s Gate, the better.
The gate to Eversong was in his sight when he heard the warning bell sound. His ears straightened and he looked about. The guards were being put on alert. The bell sounded once more. It was a high alert then. They would have someone running around to all the guard posts to inform them what it was about. Alinash knew he only had a limited amount of time before the guards at the gate were informed about what they were on alert for, and he had a bad suspicion that it was him they were looking for. He quickened his pace towards the gate. The guards, a different pair than the two he had seen when he had entered the city, watched the crowd with sharp eyes. He kept his head down and walked just off to the side behind an older blond woman, hoping to be mistaken as her son and not looked at past that. They were no more than three yards away from the guard post when a younger guard ran up to the older two.
“What are we on alert for?” One of the guards posted at the gate asked.
The younger guard took out a rolled up piece of paper and unrolled it in front of them. Alinash couldn’t see it from the angle he was at. He looked back down at the ground, keeping pace with the older woman near him.
“Brightblaze? This poster has been hanging up in the headquarters for quite some time now.”
Alinash stiffened at mention of his name. That swine. I hate that swine. He forced his feet to keep moving and tried to appear at ease. I’m just following my old mother home.
“He was spotted between the market and the Spire by someone who claims to have been neighbors with him in the Row. He’s sure he’s not mistaken.”
Alinash passed the guard post, keeping his eyes on the ground, and matching the older woman’s pace.
“We’ll watch for him then.”
The other guard spoke up, “It’s probably a false alert. You know how it is. People from the Row get a sniff of gold, and suddenly they start seeing all sorts of things if they think they’re getting paid for it. Sorry to say for him that seeing someone doesn’t pay unless it leads to capture. We’ll be on alert anyway. We’ve been looking for this one for a while.”
The voices faded behind him. Alinash couldn’t make out anything else that was said as he walked further along the path leading away from the gate. The older woman he had followed out headed south at the fork in the road. He took the path heading west that led back to the ruins that he and Harrier were staying in. He had much to discuss with him.