Broken Thoughts

http://sandara.deviantart.com/art/elf-81676681?q=favby%3Alaylian%2F10661470&qo=84
Few customers lingered in Progress's Last Chance after closing, but Zero found himself in the private back room, nursing a sweet drink he never seemed to finish. He set the glass tumbler on the table when a knock sounded on the wooden door frame.

The chair moaned beneath him when he turned. Vii, the bartender, leaned in. Her full lips smiled at him, but her eyes held a careful blankness. Zero settled back into the chair. "I can take a customer."

Vii left. A second later a gaunt girl entered, pushed forward by a man with a steam crisped suit. Upper gentry, human. A past client, Zero realized. Carver something? Normally he thrived on repeat business, but the girl made his gut clench. People did stupid things with Elven artifacts. That was their choice. It wasn't his obligation to fix them.

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Carver sat the girl down across the table from Zero. The dark circles beneath his eyes made the red vessels stand out. Sleeplessness and grief. Zero sighed and reached for his glass. Maybe he could finish that drink.

"I need your help," Carver said. He placed his palms on the table. "I think someone is using a stone to steal my daughter's memories."

Zero drained the glass. "I'm an antiquities expert, not a sleuth. Take your questions elsewhere."

Carver's gaze met his. Zero's mother's words echoed in his mind, 'A desperate man is a foolish one'.

"You're the only elf--"

"Fine," Zero cut in. "Just shut up." He walked over to crouch beside the girl. She hadn't moved since sitting down, blinking only when tears pooled in her dry eyes. Clothes every bit as fine as Carver's hung on her skeletal frame. Her father had done an admirable job with her make-up, but Zero knew he could trace the path of every vein in her face if it was removed.

He placed a thumb on the vein over her temple. His lapis stone burned against as his chest as he pulled magic. What were her vanished memories?

Blood squishing in the carpets as she fell. Her mother lying porcelain pale beside her. Screaming. Her fault. Bloody saliva falling from her mother's mouth. She could fix this. Grabbing her father's elven stone made a happy warmth fill her head.

Zero jerked his hand away. He curled his shoulders inward. Such darkness.

"She asked the stone to take all her memories. Nothing can be done to reverse it," he said.

A blood vessel in Carver's eye burst. "You sold me the stone! This is your fault."

"You bought it. She abused it."

Carver grabbed his daughter's wrist and jerked her up. He walked out the door, shouting, "You'll hang!"

Zero stared down into the glass. Empty with no reflection but lights, like sparks. He sighed and said to the air, "Vartanian."

A soft breeze stirred his hair and his elemental followed the man out. They would be dead before Carver could tell anyone. Another customer gone. What a loss.

Sarah

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