1.8 Interlude: Rodrigo

# 1854 9 - 12 mins.

The sun still hadn't crested over the hills of the new land, and the colony lay dark and silent. Rodrigo sat in a chair with his feet up on a mahogany wooden desk. He had glasses on and an open book in his lap. The uncomfortable position bent his neck in a strange way, forcing out a snore with every inhale. He was sleeping.

The sun began to rise and a solid beam of sunlight hit his face, causing him to stir. He awoke, and looked around, unsure of where he was. He rubbed his neck at the dull ache that had started there and then continued reading his book where he had left off.

The title read, The Dangers of Magic. He read over the history of a man who had once tried to learn all types of magic and the doom that the world faced as a result. It twisted him, turning him into a mindless monster. Many say that this is the reason history only records the last few hundred years: because no one should ever be able to find how he learned each type of magic.

He glanced up from his book at the picture frame on his desk. In it was a woman with olive skin like his own. She wore a loose flowing white shirt and a colorful bandana to tie back her hair. He was in the picture with his arm around the woman, smiling. He breathed a sigh and then noticed something out of the corner of his eye.

Rodrigo looked out the window and saw a group of Avians, a group of Dwarves, and a group of Gnomes entering the town square, all heading in the direction of the well.

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

The bickering that was beginning among the different races ceased upon his entry into 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 this colony from devolving into chaos, and keeping races separated helped make that possible.

It also meant that they might be able to find what happened to the first colonists, and he might be able to find Alejandra. He thought of the picture on his desk.

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

The search parties gathered their water in silence, intimidated by Rodrigo's presence and 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 were halted due to this treaty. No signs of anyone breaking the treaty yet.

For once the world seemed silent. Rodrigo looked at it as the eye of the storm though. The treaty was a bit of a pissing contest on its own, and it was only a matter of time until it imploded. This colony would not be a safe place when that happened, even though it was intended to be a sanctuary.

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

Rodrigo sat down at the bar and ordered breakfast from the old scraggly woman who ran the bar. While he waited, he stood and examined the large map. He noted new landmarks added to it—some mountains, rivers, and forests, but nothing of particular interest. He wondered if the different races would actually share the useful information or just keep it to themselves.

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

He sat back down, ate his meal, and went back to the lodge for a meeting with the other representatives. They all gathered around a table on the first floor of the lodge. Rodrigo sat near the end of the table with a view out into the square.

The other representatives gathered around. "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?" Kethral, the white feathered Avian said. The higher tone of his voice and quick movements of his head made it hard for Rodrigo to listen. The Avians always sounded so pretentious.

Tibil, the salt-and-pepper graying Dwarf spoke. "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 potentially breeds less conflict."

"I am in favor," said Tallesia. She was the Elf with blonde hair tied into a loose braid. She had sharp features and an elegance about her. "The tents are packed in there pretty tightly. It would be nice to spread out a little bit."

"The Dwarves aren't giving up their land, they're just expanding into the hill," said Tibil with a raised voice.

"If you are going to hide in the hill then you forfeit the 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 sat.

Of course, we would make a tent city 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 do you need to dig into the hill, Tibil? Timbers for supports?" said Rodrigo.

Still, in a huff, Tibil said, "Yes. And help hauling 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 was creased with frustration.

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

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

Rodrigo saw something out of the corner of his eye, the Treek girl entering the town square with a battered Elf limping along with her. Rodrigo rose from his chair. "I'll be right back," he said.

He walked outside and up to the odd pair clenching his fists. "What is going on here?" he said. The Treek looked surprised but kept her eyes low. It was strange to see a Treek on a daily basis now. It had been so long since he had seen one.

The Elf spoke in soft words, "Its not her fault. I was attacked by an ogre. She saved me." Rodrigo assumed it was a lie. Not only was this a Treek, but to work with or save an Elf, that's unheard of.

Rodrigo looked at the girl for some tell that it was a ruse. He studied her dark, rough-skinned face. She always seemed to look away, and Rodrigo couldn't be sure why. Was it out of respect, or fear, or was it just because she knew Humans liked that sort of thing? She seemed to have a mischief about her, always getting herself in trouble.

"Is this true?" Rodrigo asked her, hoping again to provoke some kind of tell—some sign that she had actually harmed the Elf or that there was anything but cooperation going on here.

"Y-yes, sir," she said. There it was again. That attempt at showing respect. At least she had the decency to try.

"Very well. Where are you bringing him?" Rodrigo said.

"We have a medic. I'm bringing him there now." said the Treek girl.

No signs of lying. No tells that one is under the other's control, but it still seemed odd. Why would they ever work together? Rodrigo thought. He didn't expect it to last long regardless, but he didn't want to be the one to pick up the pieces either. Something like this going poorly could ignite the hate that right now was carefully hidden in the colony. It could spark the war once more and break the treaty.

"I'm watching you," said Rodrigo. He made a point to look directly 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 could ruin this whole thing. She could cause this whole careful balance of tolerance to crumble before any progress is made in finding her. He thought of the picture on his desk.

As he walked into the room and sat, 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 getting 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.

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

Rodrigo cut him off. "We've all lost someone. The rules are: 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 girl and the 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 to the ground and that Treek is drawing the most attention."

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