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Pitfalls of the Palantir  by Haleth

Haleth, warm in a cocoon of woolen blankets, slowly returned to awareness with the soft whisper of rain pattering on the rooftop.

She took a quick inventory of her condition. The headache was finally gone. She could open her eyes without hundreds of tiny daggers digging into her brain.

She vaguely wondered exactly what Inglor had given her the day before. She had never known one if his remedies to fail. Perhaps that particular potion only worked for elves. Or maybe he had given her the wrong potion. Even elves had bad days and being attacked by the amorous 'lady' had likely put him off balance. 

Haleth seriously considered rolling over and going back to sleep when her stomach awakened. It began to remind her that she had not eaten the day before. 

There was also the matter of the missing palantir.

With great reluctance she pulled herself out of bed and stumbled around the room. A small part of her mind prepared her body for the day. The rest of it was occupied with the theft of the palantir.

The night's sleep had not brought any revelations. The palantir had gone missing, along with Inglor's personal effects, but not his gold. Hopefully Inglor himself had stayed in his room the previous evening. There was far way too much feminine trouble stalking the oblivious elf, waiting for its chance to pounce.

Moving with cat-like quiet, Haleth opened the door and peered suspiciously into the hallway.

It was no surprise to find a young woman standing outside Inglor’s door, her nails scratching on the wood while she whispered.

Haleth propped herself against the doorframe and watched the proceedings with interest. 

"Please let me in," the woman was saying. Even from the back she was a lovely creature. Golden hair fell in soft curves to the middle of her back. "The other night was just a mistake. I can change you if you let me try."

"I don't think he wants to be changed," Haleth commented as she tugged on the spilt ends of her sun-faded, ginger hair. 

The woman whirled around like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. 

"It would be a step up," she said, regarding Haleth with a sneer. 

Fighting words before breakfast. Inglor certainly did have an affect on women.

"I've taken plenty of steps with him." Haleth smiled a slow, wicked smile. "From one end of Eridaor to the other. All those nights alone together in the wilderness. Just the two of us and the stars." 

The young lady uttered a word that no lady should know.

"I'll tell you what," Haleth said, pushing past her would be rival. "Why don't we just ask him?

"Inglor." She rapped on his door.

The door opened so quickly that Haleth almost knocked on the elf’s nose.

"Haleth, I'm so glad you're awake." He pulled her into the room and quickly shut the door on the red-faced woman. Haleth had half an instant to grin triumphantly at her before the latch snicked shut. 

"Is she the one who turned her ankle the other night?" Haleth asked.

"Yes. Her name is Daisy. How did you know?"

"A little bird told me." 

Inglor shook his head, not understanding the expression but not ready to question her about it yet.  Undoubtedly he had filed it away and would raise the subject again at a completely inappropriate time; most likely when they were running for their lives.

"She's been at my door half the night, scratching and saying the strangest things." A hunted look shone in his clear blue eyes.

"That's fine, Inglor," Haleth said with a lopsided smile. "I think I've frightened her away for now. We're going into the wilderness today, at least we will if that guide I asked Butterbur to contact turns up. I doubt she'll follow you into the brigands’ camp. And, even if she does, I'll protect you."

"I am not in any physical danger from her." It was a bald statement of fact.

"I know," Haleth laughed. "But she makes you uncomfortable."

He considered this. Inglor always looked good when he was thinking. 

"She wants something I cannot give her," he finally said.

Haleth unsuccessfully stifled a laugh. It came out as a snort.

Inglor gave her a hurt, confused look which only made her laugh all the harder.

"Don't worry, Inglor," she said when her laughter had spent itself. "We should go to the common room and look for our guide."

"Is she still out there?" he asked nervously.

Haleth opened the door a crack. The visitor was indeed still there, darkly scowling from the shadows.

"Yes. Still lurking about."

"Can you make her go away?" he asked forlornly.

Haleth considered for a moment. A nasty smile spread across her lips. "I think so," she said. "I'll need your help, though."


Several minutes later, Daisy had wilted away and Inglor and Haleth were seated in the common room. The fire blazed merrily in the hearth, its warmth driving away the dampness that hung in the air. The sky outside of the glazed windows was leaden and filled with rain.

"So this Daisy was the one who hit me?" Haleth was extracting an explanation of the other night's events from Inglor. The room empty except for them and one other patron who huddled by the fireplace, rubbing his hands to warm them. With patched clothes and several day's worth of beard, he looked even less respectable than Haleth.

The guide that the Innkeeper had promised them had yet to appear.

Haleth chewed on a piece of dry toast. It was the all her stomach would tolerate. 

"Yes, I'd never seen you take a blow, much less collapse. It worried me." 

"Then you carried me to my room?" 

"I just told you that," Inglor was more confused than upset by the repetition. He seemed to wonder if the blow to the head had affected her more than he had originally thought. Haleth was certainly smiling more than she usually smiled. The effect was somewhat disturbing.

"Don't worry about it, Inglor," she patted him on the arm. "I'm just enjoying the story." It served her right to get belted by that backwater fake damsel in distress. Too bad she had not been awake to see the look on Daisy's face when Inglor had carried her away. It almost sounded like a scene from one of those romantic stories that had always made her gag. Except the heroine was not supposed to be out cold and dead drunk. Details.

"I don't understand how rocking the bed made her go away," Inglor suddenly said.

Haleth lowered her head and coughed to hide her laughter. 

She was saved from further explanation when the man who had been at the fireplace wandered over. He stared at Haleth's food as it went from her plate to her mouth.

"Hungry?" Haleth asked him conversationally.

"Yes, actually, I am," the man said. He was a short, nervous with dark thinning hair and shifty, dark eyes. 

"Have a seat," she pushed out a chair for him with her toes.

She continued to eat while the shifty-eyed man watched her intently.

"Haleth," Inglor was shocked by her callous attitude.

"Yes?" Haleth said sweetly, delicately wiping the crumbs from her lips with a napkin.

"Don't you think we should..." he began.

"Ask our new friend his name?" she finished, glaring at the elf and hoping he would get the message. "What's your name, friend?"

"Barnabas," Shifty-eyes answered.

"Barny. Well, Barny, good to meet you. I'm Haleth and this is Inglor. He's an elf. I'm not. You come here often? Or did the wind just blow you in?"

"I came because I was hungry," Barnabas said, giving Inglor puppy-dog eyes.

He had picked the wrong target. The Elf could not interpret human facial expressions.

"Well then order something to eat," Haleth smiled. "I'll call the Innkeeper for you."

"That won't be necessary," Barnabas said, glancing over his shoulder. "I should be going."

"Haleth, this poor man is hungry, shouldn't we...Ow!" Haleth's foot connected with Inglor's shins under the table.

"We might be able to get something for you if you're a little down on your luck," Haleth smiled. "Unless you've got better things to do?"

"I've got no plans." Barny settled into his chair.

"Haleth, why did you kick me?" Inglor asked with reproachful confusion.

"My foot slipped," she said sweetly. "Sorry about that. Could you go and find Butterbur for us, please? Barny here needs something to eat."

She watched Inglor limp out of the room with a twinge of guilt. She had not meant to kick him that hard.

 





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