Chapter 1.1It was a dark and windy night. The wind came howling gently from the north, cold and biting, bringing with it the faint scent of lichen flowers from the green peaks of the Luding Mountains.
The river running beside the inn was quite deep but no more than three meters across. The innkeeper was an enterprising fellow and he would suspend small crates of beer into the chillingly cold river water. He was not supposed to do that of course, the river was the main source of water for the entire city of Tradmart and there were regulations against polluting it. But his customers paid more for chilled beer than warm mead, and this more than made up for the occasional bribes when officials came checking.
It was slow business that night. Most people including all his staff had gone home early for their spring reunion dinner. There was just him, his wife, and two regulars in the inn. One was a doctor from the north sector, the other was a police constable who had just dropped by for an unofficial break while doing his rounds. Both were finishing up already
He was cleaning the common room for the night while his wife was doing the kitchen. The doctor was leaving and ordered a beer to drink on his way back, so his wife leaned adroitly over the window to pulled up a crate from the river.
And then he heard her short sharp scream.
No, not rats, lizards, or cockroaches, Delana had nerves of iron and was not frightened by such common sights. Could she have injured herself somehow? He felt his heart skip a beat and then a rush of vigor flow through him as he dropped his mop and ran towards the kitchen.
From the corridor, he saw Delana standing facing the window, her back heaving hard with huge breaths. Whatever happened, it had got her really terrified.
"There, there, what's the matter, Delana?" Reaching out, he touched her shoulder gently and said as soothingly as he could. She said nothing, just turned to hug him and pointed at the ground. He looked down. And his breath stopped.
It was a baby. Human apparently, judging from his features, but his skin was an unhealthy shade of gray-blue and still dripping wet from the cold river water. He lay there quite neatly, as though just sleeping, in a crate of beer. The innkeeper gasped and felt sickened as though kicked in the gut. He could see no sign of life in the child.
"What's the matter? You need any help?" Both the doctor and the police had entered the kitchen as well. They had not seen the baby yet.