A light glow bloomed into existence, dimly illuminating the room from a corner as a female voice from the room's doorway said, "You could just have come to the compound's gate during something resembling business hours and asked to see me, you know. If you can't afford to pay coin, I'm open to barter."
He turned around to see a female figure wrapped in an overlarge lounging robe standing in the doorway.
"So, what's a pretty high elf doing in my library in the middle of the night?" She was hitting a note between exasperated and amused, and from her expression she knew that calling a male high elf 'pretty' would annoy him.
He corrected her. "I'm a half breed, not a high elf."
"So, the other half is what, dark elf?" She didn't sound upset by the thought.
"That doesn't worry you?" He just looked at her after he asked the question. Dark elves did have a reputation, and she was uncomfortably close to the truth.
She shrugged. "None of us are responsible for what our parents got up to before we were born," she replied. "Besides, if you wanted me dead you would have done something about it before you came in here."
"Point," he conceded.
"So, what are you looking for? I can save you time and stop my books from being messed around if I help you." She crossed her arms in front of her cheat and waited for his answer.
"I'm trying to recover my father's spell book." The words sounded like they were being dragged out of him because he really hadn't wanted to tell her that.
"If I've got it, then I don't know that I've got it," she replied. "I don't have spell books because I research facts, not magic. So, it either doesn't look like a spell book, or...someone's been stowing stuff in my storage room while I was out. Again." She looked cross. "Why do you think I've got it, and do you know how long I might have had it?"
"You don't want to know why I want it?" He was surprised.
"I figure either your father wants it back, or it's a family heirloom, or your inheritance." She shrugged. "I would prefer that you hadn't broken into my house, of course. So, what are we looking for and might it glow in the dark?"
"It's bigger than a quarto size, but still reasonably easy to carry, if you're not carrying anything else," he told her. "It's too tall to fit upright on some of these shelves, and so broad it would hang over the edge. It's bound in purple leather with no writing on the spine or cover. My father...left it somewhere for safe keeping, but when he went to retrieve it a few days ago, it was gone. We paid a diviner for a scrying, and she pointed to this house."
"If it's that size and not sticking out off the shelf, then it would probably be in my office, with the atlases," she mused. "Otherwise, we'll have to see if there's anything in my storeroom that I didn't put there." She added casually, "By the way, how did you get in through the compound's wards?"
"What wards? There weren't any. Or dogs. Or watchmen. It wasn't as difficult as I was expecting, given your family's reputation." He hoped that hadn't come across as insulting.
She went still. "There weren't any wards? But...." The light glow flew out of its corner and twisted its way around him, showing her his face, clothing and equipment clearly. "Oh, when you said you were a half breed, you meant you're half elf and half human. My apologies if I hurt your feelings earlier, but you should still have run across our wards."
"Half human from each side, quarter high elf and a quarter dark elf, and you weren't insulting," he waved a dismissive hand. "But there were definitely no wards."
"That sounds like you might have followed someone else into the compound tonight," she said. "Much as I don't want to get my family involved in our business, I'm going to have to raise the alarm."
There was a boom of thunder close enough to shake the house, followed by the sounds of an explosion that made the house shake again.
"I think they already know," he said grimly. "Look, if you don't have to go out there and help defend the compound, is there somewhere safe we can hide?"
"That," she said just as grimly, "depends on whether this is a targeted attack, or whether they intend to raze the entire compound to the ground. Follow me, please." With that, she turned and headed towards the other side of the house.
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