Cover for the short story Unexpected Old Friend by Frederick Lacroix


An Emberlight Universe Story
By Frederick Lacroix

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Nadya has been tasked with following this guy around, and she manages to do just that until he ducks in a side alley.

While she tries to stay hidden, she hears something she hadn’t heard in years; Graem.

Can Nadya find the will and the courage to confront her old friend?




Nadya looked outside, through the windshield of her car and through the windows of the Elven fast food joint. The dirty glass of her own car combined with the even dirtier one of the Pointy Ears Burgers made trying to recognize people inside difficult at best. She lit up another smoke and exhaled the cloud of smelly herbs through the open driver’s window.

It finally stopped raining about ten minutes before Nadya took up her surveillance and she was glad. The job was boring enough as it was, there was no need to get drenched and get cold too. It was adding insult to injury. But the rain was also good at hiding people. Nobody noticed her when she walked behind her target with the large, black umbrella she’d purchased especially for that task. But most men noticed the slim girl wearing gloves.

Back inside the decrepit building of what used to be the flagship store of a promising exotic cuisine restaurant but turned out to be just another fast food franchise, Nadya’s mark got up and walked out of sight. Nadya kept her cool. The man just went to the bathroom. From which he emerged again a few minutes later and headed to the door.

Nadya knew the man had taken his car from his house to this place since she’d tailed him in hers. But Stark, her target, left the parking lot behind on foot, sending Nadya on a cursing spree. She gathered her digital camera quickly and followed him.

Stark looked like a tourist. He was slow and deliberate, looking through uninteresting shop windows, examining statues and reading the plaques of what used to be the Elven Quarter of the city, but was now mostly a slum. Some of the monuments bore the characteristic runic style alphabet of Dwarves, who had taken over a great deal of this district since they’d won the street war their two races had waged for the past three thousand years or so. There was some human graffiti too, even though Nadya’s people were neutral in all of this. She didn’t really understand the old hatred that divided the two people. From her point of view, they had much more in common than they realized. But Human politicians, kings and clergymen had repeated that for the past two thousand years, at least. Even the prophets of old hadn’t been able to unite all three species together.

Lost in her contemplation, she almost missed Stark ducking in an alley. The man was a sneaky bastard, that much was certain. She peeked in as she passed in front of it and tried to see her target through the dark alley.

There was barely enough light to make out the two forms about a hundred meters away. Both looked equally tall. Nadya couldn’t distinguish if either of them was Stark. She stopped and leaned over the brick wall. After taking a few covert pictures, she moved towards the silhouettes as quietly and covertly as she could.

The form on the left punched the one on the right, who collapsed on the ground with a loud cracking noise. Nadya caught the yelp that was about to escape her throat and hid behind the nearest dumpster. She was much closer now, ten to fifteen meters at most. Then the familiar noise began.