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1.8 Interlude: Rodrigo

# 1680 8 - 11 mins. 6

The colony lay dark and silent, as the sun still hadn't crested over the hills of Daegal. Rodrigo was sitting with his feet up on a mahogany wooden desk. He was wearing glasses, and an open book sat in his lap. The uncomfortable position put pressure on his neck, forcing him to snore with every inhale. Rodrigo was sleeping.

The sun began to rise, and through the windows of The Lodge, a beam of light hit Rodrigo's face, causing him to stir. He awoke and looked around, unsure of where he was. He rubbed his neck at a dull ache that was curiously present. Unable to return to sleep, he picked up the book from his lap and continued to read from where he left off.

The title read The Dangers of Magic. It was an odd tome, covering the history of a man who had once tried to learn every form of magic, and the doom that the world faced as a result. It twisted the man, turning him into a mindless monster. Many had said that this was the reason recorded history only went back the last few hundred years. The knowledge that led that man to learn all forms of magic was too powerful for anyone to possess.

He glanced up from his book, finding the picture frame on his desk. In it was a woman with olive skin, much like his own. In the frame she wore a loose white shirt, flowing by a wind now frozen in time, and a colorful bandana to tie back her hair. He was with her, his arm around her shoulders. He smiled. Alejandra.

Rodrigo sighed, and as he tilted his head down he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.

Outside were three groups. Avians, Dwarves, and Gnomes were entering the town square, each neatly divided by race. They were heading in the direction of the well, already taunting each other as they approached.

Rodrigo's body tensed and his face turned sour. He stood up, feeling the aches from his impromptu bed, and went downstairs. He stepped out into the town square and leaned against the front wall of The Lodge with eyebrows lowered.

The bickering among the different races ceased upon his presence in the square. He was glad of it, but not because he cared about any of them. He cared very little in fact, but it was his job to keep the colony from falling into chaos. Keeping races separated helped make that possible.

It also meant that they might be able to find out what happened to the first colonists and his precious Alejandra. The picture on his desk was still clear in his mind.

He hated to even think it, but she was probably dead. It was the way these kinds of things usually went. By his guess, one race staged the whole thing to try and further their own agenda. But even if Alejandra was dead, at least getting to the bottom of the disappearances would allow him to get his closure, and his revenge.

The search parties gathered water in silence, intimidated by Rodrigo's presence. When they finished, the groups went on their way to the back gate.

Rodrigo went back inside and began looking through correspondence from the mainland. There were reports on the status of the war—all fronts halted due to the treaty. No signs of anyone breaking their vows yet, but it was inevitable.

For once the world seemed silent, but Rodrigo knew he was inside the eye of the storm, far away from the chaotic tension present on the mainland. It was only a matter of time until the peace treaty imploded on itself, regardless of the instigator. The colony would not be a safe place when that happened, even though it was intended to be a sanctuary.

With no crucial news received from the mainland, Rodrigo walked outside and into the tavern, next door. It was empty except for the cook and a red-haired Dwarf slumped over the bar, obviously drunk. Someone would have to address the Dwarf soon if he kept spending his days there, but Rodrigo wasn't in the mood. Besides, a fellow Dwarf should handle it.

Rodrigo sat down at the bar and ordered breakfast from the old scraggly woman behind the counter. As time passed, he stood up to examine the large map. There were new landmarks added to it—some mountains, rivers, and forests. Nothing of immediate interest. If any of the scouting parties did find something, would they share that information? Or would they keep it to themselves? Rodrigo was unsure.

He saw one green pawn placed among hers and picked it up. It was no doubt the Treek girl who was bound to cause nothing but trouble. She shouldn't have come here, he thought.

He sat back down and ate his meal. He spent the morning attending to his various duties. He checked up on the Human section of tents, met with some of the colonists, and recorded any findings that they brought to him. It was nothing more than some reports of creatures and insignificant landmarks, but it all took time. Eventually, he went back to the lodge for a meeting with the other representatives. They had gathered around a table on the first floor. Rodrigo sat near the end of the table with a view out into the square. The sun was already past its peak and had begun its descent to the horizon.

The other representatives sat down. Kethral, a white-feathered Avian, spoke first. "Well, things seem to be going fairly well within the colony. I have not seen many conflicts yet, and most people are contributing in some way or another. Does anyone have any points of order?" The light tone of his voice and the quick movements of his head made it hard for Rodrigo to listen. Avians always sounded pretentious.

Tibil, the salt-and-pepper graying Dwarf spoke next. "The Dwarves aren't built for living in tents. There has been talk among them about digging into the hill near their encampment. I suspect there won't be any problems there. Making camp in the hill separates us more and will breed less conflict."

"I am in favor," said Tallesia, an Elven woman with blonde hair tied into a braid. She had sharp features and an elegance about her that Rodrigo could not place. "There are a lot of tents packed in there," Tallesia continued. "It would be nice to spread out a little bit."

"The Dwarves won't be giving up their land. They are expanding into the hill, " said Tibil with a raised voice.

"If you are going to hide in the hill then you forfeit your land," snarled Srak, the Saurian representative.

"So the Dwarves do all of the work, and you get to benefit from it?" said Tibil, now standing in his chair and barely reaching the same height of the others who still sat down.

Of course, we would make a handful of tents into yet another war over land, thought Rodrigo.

The room devolved into chaos, with everyone shouting. Rodrigo slammed his fist on the table, emitting a puff of flame above it to add to the effect, and shouted, "Enough!" The others didn't seem happy with his taking charge, but they at least waited for him to speak.

"What will you need to excavate the hill, Tibil?" asked Rodrigo. "Timber for support beams?" Still in a huff, Tibil said: "Yes, and to haul away the dirt and rock too."

"Then any race that provides fifty percent of the logs or hauls away fifty percent of the earth may expand their tents into the Dwarf's section," Rodrigo said. His face creased with frustration, but it was a suitable compromise.

"That will work," said Tibil, and the Dwarf sat back down in his chair.

"Are there any other matters to be addressed?" asked Tallesia.

With the pause lingering in the air, Rodrigo saw something out of the corner of his eye. The Treek girl was entering the town square with a battered Elf limping alongside her. Rodrigo rose from his chair. "I'll be right back," he said.

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"I'm watching you," Rodrigo said, pointing a finger at the Treek girl. "Races don't cooperate. It doesn't work. When you find yourselves at each other's throats, neither of you will be welcome here again."

He didn't wait for a response, turning back to the lodge. He walked in and sat back down, angry with the Treek's recklessness. She would ruin this whole thing. She would cause the balance of tolerance in this colony to crumble before finding Alejandra. He thought of the picture on his desk. The thought made him bitter.

As he sat down, he heard the last of a conversation about an outspoken Elf in the tents who had been harassing some of the nearby Gnomes.

"I'll take care of it," said Tallesia, barely soothing the Gnome's rage.

Rodrigo looked out the window to see the Treek girl and Elf boy still gathering water from the well. Past them, the drunk Dwarf he'd seen earlier was slumped on the stairs of the tavern.

"Tibil. That Dwarf there has been spending his days drunk in the tavern. We'll need him to start contributing soon or he'll have to leave." Rodrigo said.

"He's had a rough go," Tibil said. "He lost his wife and ch—"

Rodrigo cut him off. "We've all lost someone. The rules are simple: contribute or get out."

Tibil looked angry, but Rodrigo didn't care. They couldn't afford to have leeches in the colony.

Rodrigo saw the Treek and Elf hobbling away from the well and looked to the Elven representative. "Tallesia, you need to keep an eye on that Elf too. I don't know why he would spend his day with a Treek, but it makes me nervous. The smallest thing could bring this whole colony crumbling to the ground and that Treek is drawing the most attention."

"That is concerning," said Tallesia. "I'll look into it."

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