It was a cold night with a heavy wind in Talossa. The Lamplighter walked down the street, his lantern in one hand, wick in the other. As he reached the corner of the Goldsmith's Way and the Jeweler's Road, he saw the familiar shine of another lantern. Taking a deep breath, he prepared the ritual greeting of his guild. "Ahoy!" he stated. "Be the lanterns lit?"
"By my own light, and faith," said the other. "And be yours?"
"I have not shirked!" answered the Lamplighter. Stepping forward, he saw the familiar face of his old friend Grunewald. "A chill night, hmm?" he noted.
Grunewald nodded. "But a quiet one, Nathan. At least from where I stand."
His fellow glanced around the darkness. "For people perhaps, but this wind makes up for it." He sighed. "I've relit one out of every three lamps tonight."
"One out of every four myself," noted Grunewald. "But then, the wind is less a problem in the Westside."
"Indeed, indeed," muttered Nathan. "A lucky draw, on a night like this."
"I thank the Seven," said Grunewald. He looked down at his feet. "Any news about...?"
"My brother has sent me no word from the Concordat," said Nathan.
Grunewald bit his lip. "It feels wrong to hold a Metropolitan in gaol..."
"And it feels wrong to let a man who tried to arrest the Ancients roam free," noted Nathan. "So we remain at an impasse."
"True. True. Odd times." Grunewald coughed. "Well, a good evening to you, Nathan."
Nathan turned away. "You as well, Grunewald." The Lamplighters went on their designated routes, eyes open in the night. Nathan shivered and told himself it was the wind, and then told himself that he lied to himself. Grunewald was right about it being odd times. Talossa had found itself in a situation where every choice seemed wrong, and had, like all the Free Cities stumbled its way to a choice that seemed to be the least wrong, hoping they'd chosen correctly.
And there was no indication that this would end any time soon.
The lamp just ahead had been blown out. Nathan lit his wick, and then carefully guided into the lamp. As it blinked back to life, he saw the body lying nearby. At first, he thought it was a drunk. Then he saw the blood. Walking towards it, he went to check to see if the man was alive.
And that was when he saw it wasn't a man, but an Erl.