I finished changing into my new clothes and folded a wad of cash into an inside pocket. The clothes were Elvish in cut. Which meant long and billowy just the way I hated, but they more than covered my tattoos. I burned my old clothes and scattered their ashes in the night black water near the docks. This late the wharfs were quiet; the only sounds were the waves lapping against the wooden berths and the leaves of the forest city sighing. I passed a figure sleeping in a canoe tied to one of the smaller docks, her hooded head poked up from inside the bow.
The streets of the Elven Enclave were lined with sweeping runes of light. They flowed like streams, meandering up walls and across the road in unbroken lines of silver now gold and back. They did more than just light the way; each rune stream was carrying petabytes worth of information throughout the entire city.
It wasn’t a long walk from the south docks to the Elven Riviera with its silver and golden willow trees lining the shore. Each long bending bough was lit with fairy light emanating from the runes that wrapped from the base of each tree to the tips of their branches ending just above the almost perfect reflection glowing in the water.
“Jesus, who are you trying to impress? You’ve been here a million times before.” Damien said.
“It’s called setting a scene, asshole.” I shot back.
“It’s called cut the verbosity and get to the fucking point.”
If you don’t know who Damien is you haven’t been paying enough attention.
I’ve been paid to do some fairly eyebrow raising shit in my time, but this was a new one for me. I held the long stem of a blue Elven rose-lily in my hand. My target was at the other end of the Riviera, a two mile stretch of shorefront popular in the Enclave as "The place to be" with the person you want to bone. The lovers of the Riviera paid no mind to the hour, but even this late couples were few and far between. Here and there they walked hand in hand or hip to hip.
A pair walked between the roots of the massive tree buildings cornering a street ahead of me. An elf and a human: not an uncommon site in the Enclave. It smelled faintly of green in the golden forest city. I saw a cherry pass between them. They held hands as they walked, close but not too close. Jesus. They turned onto the Riviera still close enough ahead that I could make out their conversation. She laughed.
“You’re honestly the best... “ I heard her say, the laugh still echoing in her words. The sap blushed with a shoulder shrug and a chuckle.
I tried not to listen.
They were going the same speed as me. Fuck.
She drew closer to him so they were shoulder to shoulder, fingers intertwined. She held his arm closer to her side with her free hand.
“Hopefully he’ll make a move soon and we can just slip past them.”
Thirty minutes later they were still talking.
“Why have we been tailing these fucks for thirty minutes?” Damien demanded.
“The target isn’t going anywhere, and how often do we get to stroll down the Riviera?”
“And get some voyeuristic kicks listening in on oblivious lovebirds?” Damien chuckled.
“When on the Riviera do as the Rivierans do”
“You’re my rock too…” She said to him.
Clearly they’d been friends for a while.
“Just fucking pass them already!”
“I can’t! If I walk any faster it's going to take like, five minutes to pass them. And if I just speed walk or run they’ll definitely notice me.” I said.
“He’s struggling. The poor bastard might be blind to the right move, but if he saw me right now the shame fires would burn my face into his memory. And then I’d have to kill them.
“He’s already having a hard night. I’m not heartless.”
Thirty more minutes and I was either going to shoot them or pass them.
“... words are like rivers; they’re not just water passing through. You have to know the currents and the depths.” He said.
Jesus fucking christ.
“He’s in love with you!” I shouted, and broke into a run past them. Like a record needle being ripped they stopped in the track. I ducked my head as I passed and threw a cantrip runestone to the ground between us. It erupted in silent azure streams and pink sparks. She burst out in a peel of lilting laughter.
“What?” I heard him sputter
Before I could hear whether or not he found his sack I was around the next bend. The Riviera ahead of me was empty, and I slowed back to a stroll.
“You think he did it?”
I rounded another corner, and the grove of enchanted trees at the end of the Riviera came into view. The elf runes of the Riviera flowed in a river of light to this small forest within a forest. The runes spread out in the treetops like glowing tributaries, the radiant streams weaving in and out of the snarl of branches and vines of the canopy. From a distance the light of the spectacle lit the night like a fairground.
The wind in the leaves carried a lone Nightingale’s song. Whether the elves had imported them or had a species of their own I wasn’t sure, but either way I had to give the bird his due.
“Since when are you an expert on birds; how do you know it’s a guy?” Damien asked.
“You think a girl has to try that hard to get laid this late?”
I made my way into the labyrinth of vines tangling along the ground beneath the giant trees. The massive roots came up out of the earth to form the base of the trunks well above head height. Where the roots tangled they created deep pools of shadow; perfect for couples looking for a place to ‘sit’ in private. The night air was filled with birdsong and lover’s cries as I walked silently through the forest of intertwined and writhing limbs.
I could hear the lake again before I could see it. Shortly after that I emerged from the treeline and onto the sandy shore. The rune lit tops of the trees behind me were reflected in the black waters like a roaring bonfire. A narrow slit of land just wide enough for two to walk cheek to hip thrust out into the waves.
At its end a lone woman sat with her long dress billowing out in the fiery little waves rolling gently past her. Her sun kissed sandy blonde hair was radiant in the light of the grove, and it poured to the small of her back. Intricate tattoos snaked their way up her arms the way the runes made their way through the Enclave. She gazed out over the lake to a shore she couldn’t see.
Between her hair pulled back by the wind, slender legs in the water, and curves reflected in the mirror of the lake she was worth a picture’s worth of words.
I took a step onto the peninsula.
“Moryriene?” I called out. The Elven name sounded more like a melody pouring off my tongue. She turned and pierced me with her gaze. Yards away, I could feel them boring into me. Trying to anyway.
“Where’s Alastevan?” She asked. I held the blue rose-lily out to her as I approached. Her green blue eyes locked on it, and then widened in shock.
“He asked me to give this to you. He’s not going to make it tonight. He sends his love.” I said. Her hands trembled as she took the flower from me.
“Is he all right? Where is he!?” She asked me, panic in her voice. She was already talking to my back. I was slipping through the roots of the shoreline as I heard her splash to her feet.
“Wait! Come back!” I heard her cry out. Uselessly. He’d paid me to bring her the flower, not comfort her.
“Please come back…”
But he couldn’t.
The nightingale’s song had stopped; he’d found his love.
“Or maybe he’s composing a lament.”
The next afternoon I woke up with the screen still on the Enclave News Network. This hour’s top story: another body found in the dock districts. This time that of the Tenth Precinct district chair. Investigators say the murderer severed the victim’s spine before using some sort of combustible to remove his head.
They didn’t mention that it wasn’t anything personal to his murderer, just a job.
Or that he’d met his victim’s last request.