Kaive dismounted from his palomino steed with practiced fluidity, landing with both feet on the ground before the stable keeper. He cut an impressive figure compared to the young man, who could have been no older than eighteen years of age. Wearing a soft, black sable cloak, a vest of elven spun silk, and bearing a sheathed longblade at his waist, he looked like someone of particular importance. His ears, long and slender as elven ears were, flashed gold and silver and glittered with the fire of diamonds. He boasted two gold earrings on the right ear, three on the left, and on each earlobe was a diamond stud, square solitaires that winked in the afternoon light. He drew a small leather purse from one of the many pockets of his cloak.
“You take the King’s Coin?” he asked in the common tongue. The currency of Artegia was the most commonly used system in the world, and its money was good almost anywhere. In these lands, however, with barons, earls, and counts who ruled over sovereign states, it was never a precisely sure thing. Some locales only accepted local coin, others preferred dwarven thanes or Imperial crowns. Generally speaking, though, a purse of Artegian pennies and signets would pay one’s way anywhere in the world.
“We accept all coins here, so long as the money’s good,” the stable boy replied, hand outstretched. Kaive plucked a pair of copper pennies from the purse and dropped them in his palm. The stable boy took note of the numerous rings around his fingers. Two sapphires and a ruby, mounted on silver and gold, caught his eyes in particular.
“I’ll be here an hour or two. Feed her, make sure she’s ready to leave when I return,” Kaive stated crisply. The stable boy nodded and assured him his horse would be taken care of before leading her away to the stabling. Kaive’s eyes lingered on the horse a moment before he strode towards the door, his soft moleskin boots sinking into the damp dirt ever so slightly. It had rained recently, but only briefly, and certainly not enough to drive the taste from the air. As a light wind passed he ran the tip of his tongue along his lips and caught a trace of something imperceptible to the ordinary tongue. It was the faint taste of crackling ozone and daffodils. He smiled faintly as the magic tickled his taste buds. They were closer than he expected.
Kaive pushed open the door of the tavern and entered without attracting much attention. Travelers were not uncommon here, and it was a fairly busy day for the Grey Swan. Twenty-something people were scattered about the tables and at the bar including a bushy bearded bartender and a pair of waitresses shuffling here and there with plates, silverware, and tankards of ale in hand. He wasted no time in surveying the scene, and approached the bar with a casual ease and familiarity. His eyes, however, were anything but. They darted here and there, tracking faces and taking inventory of arms and armor.
“How can I help you, sir?” The bartender, who was cleaning out a used tankard with a rather filthy rag, was a jovial fellow with a broad smile. Kaive slid a light, silver coin the width of his thumb across the bar, an Artegian signet. The bartender kept himself from staring too long at it. Nothing anyone typically ordered at the Grey Swan was worth silver, meriting it a stare, but he was a courteous man and conscious of his manners.
“I’m looking for a tall, lanky fellow, an Isilidori in the company of a young Athelidori,” Kaive responded, his gaze focused on the bartender’s eyes. “You strike me as an attentive man. Surely two elves wouldn’t have stopped in at your tavern without your notice.” They had been here, he knew. He could taste the singed ozone of the Isilidori’s magic, the arcane footprint dancing on his tongue with every breath that passed his lips. The bartender knew as much as well. Elves were not particularly common in the region, and traveling Isilidori, with their dark skin tones that ranged from nightshade blue to light mahoghany, stuck out like sore thumbs. Kaive slid another silver coin across the bar. “It’s rather urgent,” he added.
The bartender nodded. “They stopped by two days ago. There was a third fellow with them, a man with a bow. Brown hair, I think. They were traveling the Trader’s Road on foot, due north,” he told Kaive. Kaive frowned. He couldn’t place who this third person might be.
“You wouldn’t happen to know if anyone here came down south on the road since then, would you?” The bartender indicated a few of the patrons with subtle nods. Kaive gave him a word of thanks and went off to gather some information. He knew he had to be swift, however. He was hot on their trail and there was little time to lose.