(Part 37) For the complete list of this series, please go here.
Aly perched on a stool at the bar in Murder Row. After ordering a drink, she pulled out the portrait and set it on the bar. Her mind wandered back to the conversation she had with Matron Ophalia the other day.
“Does this woman look familiar to you, Matron?”
“Looking for a lost family member, I see?”
“Yes, yes. I have not seen her in many, many years. After going so long without hearing from her, I thought it would be best to come searching for her.”
“I have seen her, at least as a child.”
The barkeep plunked a cold mug down in front of her, waiting for payment. Aly traced her fingers over the elven woman's face, lost in her thoughts.
Excited by the first breakthrough, Aly asked the matron a series of questions. When did she last see her? Where did she go? What was her name? The last question almost blew her cover.
“You do not know the name of your own sister, child?” Matron Ophalia raised an eyebrow.
“I meant, what did you know her by…” Aly clenched her jaw, mentally kicking herself for such a slip up.
Ophalia's look softened again. “It's alright, dear. You needn't lie to me. You haven't seen her since you two were separated have you? Yet, you've somehow come into possession of this portrait and long to be reunited, yes?”
Aly lowered her eyes, her silence allowing the matron to believe she had figured it all out.
“I haven't seen this girl in many, many years. I do not recall her name, as there are so many children to keep track of,” she tilted her head towards the orphanage behind her, “as you can plainly see.”
“I just need something – anything – to help me in my search,” Aly pleaded earnestly.
“I'm sorry dear,” the matron responded softly.
Aly turned to walk away, dejected.
“Wait…” the matron called out, rubbing her temples. Aly stopped, turning to face her. The matron jabbed her pointer finger in the air. “I just remembered! She ran away… I think. She couldn't have been here too long. And I think the other children called her ‘Riss' or something similar.” She smiled apologetically. “My memory isn't what it once was, dear.”
Ophalia stepped closer, peering at Aly's face. She reached out to touch Aly's hair. “Just like I can't remember when you left.”
Aly's face contorted with a mixture of anger and confusion. She grabbed Ophalia's wrist, wrenching it away from her hair. “I was never one of your little brats,” she spat and took off, leaving the matron standing there, stunned.
“Another one that got away, eh?” he nodding with a knowing smile.
Aly looked up, seeing him before her. She fished out a few coins from her pocket and placed them on the bar. “She eludes me, that's for certain,” Aly sighed.
The barkeep chuckled as he shook his head. “What do they say… if it's meant to be she'll be back.”
“Let's hope,” she muttered into her mug as she took a drink.
She regretted losing her cool with the matron and had briefly considered snapping the old woman's neck. How dare she insinuate that she knew who Aly was or where she'd been. She'd never been in an orphanage! She slammed the mug down on the bar, startling several other patrons.
Glowering at the portrait, she swirled her drink around. Aly took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Even if the old bat was mistaken about her, she seemed certain she recognized this woman's face. There had to be more answers inside the orphanage.
* * *
Aerissa tucked her legs beside her, curling up on the couch in the inn's common area. She cupped a warm cup of tea in her hands as she chatted with Twyla about her new orders.
“I'm really not sure I should go.” She blew gently into the cup, cooling the tea before taking a sip. “What if it's not safe?”
Twyla nodded, listening quietly to Aerissa's concerns.
“Who knows if he's looking for me? I'd prefer it if he thought me dead. I mean, we weren't living IN the city, but…” she sighed, pressing back against the couch. “What do you think, Twyla? Should I go?”
“O' course, Rissy, ye must. One, it be an order from Mavren. Two, ye cannat hide fo'ever. Silvermoon is plenty big, ye shall be fine.” She patted Aerissa's knee reassuringly. “Besides, what a honor ta be sent before the Lady ‘erself!”
Aerissa placed her hand over Twyla's then recoiled at the feel of her undead flesh and boney fingers. Embarrassed, Aerissa attempted to cover up her repulsion by patting Twyla's hand quickly. “You'd like to meet her?”
Twyla removed her hand from Aerissa's knee, seeming not to notice the reaction to her flesh. Sitting back in her chair, Twyla clasped her hands, her face seeming to light up. “Aye, I'd be blessed.”
Aerissa set her tea on the table. She leaned forward, whispering, “Do you want to see the locket?”
Twyla nodded excitedly, leaning in as well. Aerissa slowly pulled the locket out of her pocket. Quickly, she glanced around the room. Satisfied that they were alone, she unfurled her fingers, the locket safely cupped in her hands.
“Ooh, that's beautiful!” Twyla cooed. “I hardly can believe it's condition after all these years.”
Aerissa nodded, carefully opening it and turning it over and around for Twyla. She smiled warmly. “If you are this excited over it, imagine how pleased Lady Windrunner will be when she learns it's been recovered.”
“Tis an important task he entrusted ye with, Rissy.”
“I'm beginning to see that.” She closed the locket and returned it to the safety of her pocket. “I suppose I should leave for Silvermoon tomorrow…get a proper dress….then travel to the Undercity. Anything you need while I'm there?”
Twyla tapped her chin. “Aye, there be supplies we need. Ye should check with Tomber too. Get the goods on yer return here.”
* * *
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