Of all the humanoid races of Solkin, avayla had the shortest lifespan. They lived, on average, to be about forty-five. At fifty, they were truly ancient. Some speculated that this resulted in a stronger inclination toward caution and self-preservation than other species; if they were only getting at most fifty years, they were going to get as many as possible, darn it.
Teyla Eastwind supposed that this survival instinct was what drove her to take her notes on summoning and abandon all of her trapped and unconscious friends to be found by The Cabal. Or maybe she was just a selfish and cruel person. Either way, she had successfully summoned a demon, and she wasn’t going to let Skymoore’s hooded overseers take that from her.
Avayla kept to themselves and their tribes, mostly, so most of Skymoore ignored them when they could. Up here they were most often bakers or whittlers or fishermen, and hardly any of them ever committed any crimes, so when The Cabal or the city watch were on the lookout for suspicious activity, they hardly ever bothered looking up in the sky or the rooftops for a flying escapee. Teyla used this to her advantage, flying from one rooftop to the next, only moving when the coast was clear.
Unfortunately what she hadn’t considered was that the Warm Moon was full tonight, and especially large, too. As such, a member of The Cabal – lets’ call him Dennis – might be struck by the notion of looking up at the night sky in admiration. Such a thing might occur simultaneously with Teyla perching on the side of a music shop, preparing to take off.
And it did.
“Excuse me, miss,” ‘Dennis’ said. “What are you doing up there?”
“Looking for my keys,” Teyla said as vapidly and innocently as possible. “Well, not my keys, those are long gone. I’m hoping to stumble across another key that is exactly identical to mine. You know how they say one in every ten thousand keys is the same? And there are about two-hundred thousand of us in Skymoore, so…that’s, two hundred keys?”
“Do they say that?” ‘Dennis’ asked. The idea alarmed him more than he cared to admit. He’d never heard anyone say it, but he figured there were many things he’d never heard people say that are also true.
“All the time,” Teyla replied, confirming he-whom-we-are-calling-Dennis’s worst fears. “The Losing of the Keys is in two weeks and I don’t want to be caught dead without a key. Well, I do, but – you know. And, oh shoot, and I need to get into my house, too. Hadn’t even thought of that.”
“And you’re looking for them on the roof?”
“Of course. Rats love to steal keys.”
“What would rats be doing on the roof?”
“Roof rats. You don’t know about roof rats? What do they teach you guys? They run rampant in the Mish Mash. Running around on everyone’s roof, stealing their keys. We’re not too far, so one of them may have decided to venture out further in search of some, you know?”
‘Dennis’ rubbed his chin. He had heard there were a lot of locksmiths in the Mish Mash. Maybe this was why. It occurred to him how hard people must have it in that neighborhood. Not just poverty, but they also have to pay locksmiths to replace keys stolen by rats on their roofs? Surely he shouldn’t trouble this woman with questions on top of all that. After all, she probably hadn’t even noticed the flaming gorilla if she was looking for keys.
“Well, alright then,” he said. “Sorry to have troubled you. Best of luck in your search.”
“And yours, too. I mean, if you’re searching for something. Are you? Oh, never matter. Ta-ta!”
Teyla flew to the next rooftop.
She’d never had a home of her own. Or a proper job. She just settled in some abandoned corner of the Mish Mash until someone kicked her out.
These days she was living in the attic of an abandoned art museum. She’d a fondness for paintings, and there were still some sitting in the attic. When she’d first arrived, they were collecting dust, but she’d since assembled them into a small gallery of her own making. It was a great source of personal pride, and she dreaded the day some landlord realized what she was doing and forced her away.
That evening, when she landed on the ledge above the museum’s door, she found that the padlock she’d placed on the window to the attic had already been unlocked. Did she just forget, or…?
There was someone waiting for her when she entered. An unfamiliar figure, sitting in the rocking chair beneath a painting of Talbot Windomere. Sitting on their lap, opened, was a book called Death Need Not Be the End. Teyla had purchased it from the lost and found nearly a year ago.
“You fancy the eldritch arts, do you?” the figure asked. Teyla could not see their face. Their voice was androgynous. “What would you pay to learn more. To live forever?”
Teyla, alarmed by the situation, said the first thing that came to mind. “Anything.”
She spoke the truth.