He rose before the sun broke over the horizon and sat as it made its slow appearance, turning the pelt over and over and feeling its softness. It hadn’t dried hard as he’d expected, though its short, fine hairs had turned spiky in places. They gradually smoothed out as Maddeson ran his fingers over it, marvelling at it.
There were many strange things in the world. A hundred years ago elves had only been a rumour, a fairytale passed through generations or stories disbelieved by those who hadn’t glimpsed them. And yet here he was, a half-elf outcast whose existence wouldn’t have been dreamed of not so long ago. Who was he to know what other things more wondrous than himself might be out there? As a child he’d heard stories of selkies, of strange creatures who shed their skin to walk upon dry land and slipped back into it to vanish into the surf, and he’d laughed them off with the others, although more uneasily than some and with his fingers never too far from the tips of his ears. But if he was here, now, holding this . . .
Maddeson dressed quickly and strode from the room, the pelt tucked under one arm. The reception desk was mercifully deserted as he made his way past, but the door was unlocked and he offered a tiny mumble of gratitude as he pushed it open. He knew nothing of any local mysteries, and why would he? But when it came to water and creatures of the deep, he knew there was only one group of people he could ask. The few scattered early-risers in the street stared at him as openly as the congregation had, mouths ajar and their gazes locked on the neat points beneath the brim of his hat, but he barely registered them.
If only it was that simple.
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