The light revealed a man of medium height, slight in build, but with an air of one who would not be trifled with to advantage. He stood easily in the room, with what remained of it's seven foot ceiling well above his head. He carried himself ramrod straight, and without a careful look at his face and silver hair, he would have appeared to be in his forties, perhaps beginning the path to the end of his first half-century. Even in his face itself, when closely examined, his true age was indistinct. He gave the impression of boundless experience, but unless one was allowed to look deeply into his eyes, one would not have a ghost of a chance of a clear understanding of how ageless, or how much experience. Lines radiated from his eyes into his upper cheeks, etched by a lifetime of smiles, and squinting into the brightness of the sun. At this moment, they were gullies of fatigue; ravines of weariness. And he was hungry, too.
The old man made a last visual sweep of the room, and turned his attention towards the small package lying within his cloak on the battered table. He stared at it for a moment or two, his eyes misting.
" It's all for you to do now" he whispered. " All for the likes of you to sort out. Buggered if this couldn't all be one pathetic attempt of humour on the part of the younger gods." He leaned over the cloak and it's bundle, and in an even quieter voice murmured " I'm afraid, you know."
At that point, the bundle began to wail, as though the world was about to end, again.
"Bugger" said the old man, and made a few desultory finger movements. The bottle of milk, complete with nipple that appeared from thin air, hovered over the package for a moment, in fact closer to a mere second, before descending gently within the folds of the cloak. A huge smacking sound ensued, as the level of the liquid decreased with amazing speed. In less than a minute it was empty, and the sounds had changed to something akin to an industrial hoover swallowing velvet drapes. This however, soon stopped, and following a brief moment of silence, the cloak shook with the violence of the belch that issued from within, and after a moment more, soft breathing, quite audible, and nothing more.
The bottle, following what appeared to be an instant of indecision, disappeared.
The old man blinked in surprise. ".But I didn't do that.." he muttered as he walked closer to the now quiet bundle and looked down at the child wrapped within. The infant, as though aware of the attention, opened an eye, and smiled.
This drew both an answering smile and an involuntary shudder from the old man, as again he pondered the caprice of the Fates, that a Swamp Elf had been chosen for their purposes. For truth be told, they were not the best looking representatives of their fair race. They lived in undefined areas between the sea and the hills, a good distance from the traditional Elven woodlands, moving from site to site in search of land they could be comfortable in for a while, before it sank beneath their feet. They were Elvish, and heir to all attributes associated with forest types, they just weren't fair, of face or manner. They were the Tinkers, the Travellers, of the Elven Race. Swarthy, and given to rather large eyes and noses, they were held in what kindly could be called disdain by their more graceful cousins. And they cared not a whit.
That, at least, was more the rule than otherwise. A true exception to the rule had been the mother of the child now in his care. Never had there been a more beautiful and gentle woman, and that indeed had been the cause of much of the present problem. She had attracted the eyes of many other than the late lamented father of this orphaned child.
'She had been too smart..' the old man fumed to himself ' not to have known what was to come. She was too adept at the Art to have walked into this blindly..' Yet she had allowed the suite to be pursued and consummated, for no better reason than love.
Now, here was he, saddled with a child he was bound to protect, at least for the now, and City Guard to escape, preferably for good.
It was the saddest Spring he had ever endured, and he had passed quite a few of them.