An Emberlight Universe Story
By Frederick Lacroix
There’s nothing worse than a party crasher, especially when that party crasher is a halfling thief who stole your great-grandmother’s ring.
Ryla doesn’t like to make waves, but she’s a handywoman; she fixes other people’s problems. She tries to keep away from small time criminals as best as she can, but it’s not always possible.
Just how far will Ryla go to get back her property?
Ryla jumped over the short brick wall separating the two backyards where she had tracked the halfling who’d just crashed her friend’s party. She was slightly drunk, enough not to notice the pool until it the last second. She swayed left and right trying to regain her balance then planted herself firmly on her feet again. She took a moment to look around the little secluded garden where she’d landed.
Dim light shone between houses and lit the area with a yellow glow. Some cheap patio furniture were scattered around the unmowed grass. A couple of big yellow trucks and a set of bright red plastic beach shovel and bucket stood out, but Ryla couldn’t make out a place where a kid could use those. She backed up a few steps from the pool and started walking again, giving the nightly death trap a wide berth.
On the other side of the pool, she paused for a few seconds, trying to hear the halfling she was after, but the little bastard was too quiet. Ryla sighed and hopped another short brick wall. Maybe she’d have better luck on that side.
That yard was better maintained and there was no pool that Ryla could see, nor was there any children’s toys around. She squinted her eyes and observed the corners where shadows were denser. There weren’t many places to hide, but a halfling thief could squeeze himself into a breadbox. Or so they claimed. Ryla didn’t feel drunk anymore, but she was starting to get desperate. The more time passed, the less likely it was that she would find the little pickpocket and, by extension, her great-grandmother’s ring.
She sighed again and moved to try one last yard. The thief wasn’t quick enough to outrun her, not without magic help anyway, but he might just be good enough to escape regardless. Ryla peered over the next wall, a shorter one, and into another unkempt backyard. This one had nothing to hide behind or under, and thanks to some cheap solar lights half-choked under the vegetation, few shadows. Ryla shrugged. The halfling was long gone.
“Fuck,” she whispered.
Ryla sat on the grass, her back pressed against the cool brick wall. She cursed some more under her breath at the loss of the family heirloom, and the loss of her target. She wasn’t much of a tracker by nature, but she was quick enough to keep up with whatever she was after. Most of the time anyway.
She took a deep breath and kicked herself back on her feet. Sitting there, moping, wasn’t gonna change anything. Someone at that party would know something, or know someone who would. Her friend kept a mixed company of work colleagues and somewhat less reputable childhood friend, of which Ryla was part of. Ryla smiled and moved quickly toward the way she came from.
She jogged back to the street, expertly jumping each wall she’d climbed before. She picked up the pace once she hit the asphalt and not two minutes later, Ryla found herself on her friend Kathy’s porch. A porch currently occupied by three couples, separately engaged in a furious make out session. Ryla grimaced and pushed past them. The house would, she hoped, be less of a slobbery mess.
She looked around the living room, trying to spot Kathy. No dice. Ryla peered into the kitchen before splashing sounds and cheering voices started coming from the backyard loud enough to be heard over the music. Ryla prepared herself mentally for more shenanigans but was surprised to find only three people, two women still wearing their dress and a man in his trunks. They were frolicking in the pool while a half dozen more people egged them on. And among the onlookers, she spotted her friend, hand in hand with one of the tallest elf she’d ever seen.
Ryla approached and stood behind Kathy for a few moments before tapping her on the shoulder. The young woman didn’t turn back right away, still engrossed in the spectacle of the three people splashing and laughing. Ryla tapped again.
“What?” Kathy asked with a long sigh, before seeing who she was speaking to.
“Need a word,” Ryla said. “If y’ain’t too busy.”
Kathy nodded, lifted herself on her tiptoes and whispered something to her elven friend. He nodded and she let go of his arm.
Ryla backed away and Kathy followed. She couldn’t hide her furrowed brows and the look of annoyance on her face but, at that particular moment, Ryla didn’t care. That ring was too precious an heirloom to let it get stolen like that, and it was hers to protect. Plus, she had promised to pass it on to her child, if and when she found the time time to have one, of course. She smirked to herself. The things you do for family. Ryla made few promises, but she kept them no matter what. She moved to the corner of the house where she stopped and turned back to face Kathy.
“What’s up?” Kathy asked.
“The halfling that was here before,” she said. “Do you know him?”
Kathy thought for a moment. “I think his name is Wally,” she replied. “He’s a friend of Jonas.”
Kathy pointed to the guy in the pool. “You didn’t… damage him did you?” she asked.
“I didn’t manage to catch the little thief,” Ryla said, observing Jonas. “But I have a feeling Jonas is gonna help me remedy to that.”
Ryla took a step forward but Kathy put a hand on her shoulder.
“Look, he stole a few watches and a couple of rings. It’s not the end of the world. You should leave well enough alone. Everyone’s having fun now and I’d rather you didn’t make a scene. One per party is enough.”
“I just want Jonas to tell me where I can find Wally. I don’t intend to make a scene,” Ryla said. “Tell you what, how about you ask him to come talk to me here? That way there won’t be any shouting. Or damages.”
Kathy’s face dropped and fear flashed in her eyes, but she nodded. She turned around and started walking, dragging her feet really, until she arrived to where Ryla’d originally found her. She lifted herself up again and said something to the elf, who turned to look at her.
The elf called for Jonas, approached the pool and crouched down. There was an exchange of words Ryla didn’t manage to understand from afar, but she saw both men look at her. She gave a little wave and they stopped looking. The elf stood up and said something to Kathy who sprinted to the house. Jonas exited the pool, followed by two women. Kathy came back running with a pile of towels.
Jonas, followed by the elf, walked over to Ryla. He stopped and the elf offered him a cigarette, which he took. The elf lit it and Jonas exhaled a cloud of smoke.
“Talirin here tells me you want to speak to me. What can I do for you, darling?”
“I’d like to find your friend Wally. He took something from me and I’d like it back,” Ryla said.
“Did he, now? That Wally sure knows how to get to a woman’s heart.”