July 21, 1861.
Washington, D.C., Washington D.C.
“And Eru (God) said unto the Mavari Firyava (Elves, lit. Shepherds of Men), ‘Take from the earth the Limpëon (Wine-stone, likely incarnum), and from there you will gain Power, and through this Power your enemies will fall in My name.’
-The Mavari Firyava (Elven) Ainaparma (Bible), Istari 1:5, translated by Thessalia Eilkalyn.
William “Bill” Stewart was a nervous man. He had barely made it past university, but somehow had managed to be hired as a courier for the President himself. Each day, like an Israeli household in Egypt with blood on their doorposts, he had been passed over by the cold, menacing shadow of being fired.
The twenty-first of July had passed normally so far. He woke up, had a small meal, changed his clothes into something more dignified than what he was wearing then, and walked out the door. He walked to the telegraph office, receiving and sending telegrams. Then, at approximately 3:30 PM, the President himself came to see him.
“Mr- Mr. P-p-p-r-resid-dent, t-to what d-do I owe th-the p-pleasure o-of your c-comp-p-p-an-company?” he stammered, quite pitifully.
“Nothing much. I just have a new assignment for you,” replied the President, “It involves DOING WHAT I PAY YOU TO DO! There are five- count them, five- letters for me there, and you have brought me exactly-” Lincoln mimed counting for a moment- “ZERO! Approximately equal to the amount of BRAINS you have!”
Bill was now nearly unconscious, for fear that the cold, menacing shadow had finally come for him.
“But that’s not why I’m here. No, though I’d love to berate you all day, I need you to go find somebody.”
Bill, now in a fetal position, changed his expression to one of confusion, making for an amusing tableau. “…an-and wh-wo w-wou-would th-that b-be?”
“Four people. Estella and Oren Fawns, Vernon Hislop, and Amos Beckham.”
Bill’s expression returned to fear. “T-th-th-the-the w-wi-wiz-wiz-wizards, M-mi-mis-mist-mister-mister P-p-p-r-resid-dent?”
“No, the other people with those names. Yes, of course the ‘w-wi-wiz-wiz-wizards!’”
Bill stuttered, “W-w-w-whe-wher-where w-w-wou-wou-would-would I f-f-f-fi-fin-find-find th-the-them?”
“I don’t know, that’s your job, not mine!”
Bill wisely decided not to correct the President that finding people was the police’s job, not his, and instead just went to do what he was told.
Gadsby’s Tavern, Washington D.C.
Bill nervously opened the tavern’s door, which was almost as pale as he. The acrid smell of alcohol and uncleanliness emanated from the room’s inside, as well as a slight odor that he couldn’t place. Another aura that Bill felt was that of drunken laughter.
He cautiously walked past the barrier separating the main room and the entryway. The laughter grew ever louder. Suddenly, Bill felt something cold and wet on his head. And everywhere else. He jumped out of the way in time to not be hit by a falling glass mug, in a tactic which would not later be called “mugging,” which shattered into more than five pieces.
Bill looked up. There was nowhere that a mug could conceivably have been hung. The unplaceable odor again reached his nostrils. A mug rose from a distant table, followed by more laughter, and dumped more ale on him.
“Why are you still here?” slurred a woman.
“Th-th-the P-p-pr-pre-pres-pre-presi-id-presiden-president s-s-s-sen-se-s-sent m-m-m-me,” Bill managed to say.
“He sent you here?”
“H-h-h-e s-s-s-se-se-sen-sen-sen-sent m-m-me t-t-t-to f-f-fi-fi-fin-fin-find E-e-es-es-est-est-este-este-estel-estell-estellaa a-an-an-and O-o-o-r-re-oren F-f-fa-fa-fawn-fawn-fawns.”
The laughter stopped. All the tavern’s patrons, that is, those who were awake, turned towards him.
Throughout the planet, there are locations where tectonic plates meet. These are called “plate boundaries.” Some such boundaries are called “transform boundaries.” Tectonic plates are constantly in motion. At transform boundaries, the plates sometimes cause earthquakes. When this occurs, tremors can reshape the landscape and destroy structures. The strongest recorded earthquake was felt almost half the world away. Bill’s tremors at this moment were stronger than that.
The woman, voice suddenly unslurred, stood to her full height. Her eyes glowed red-orange. “WHAT. DID. YOU. SAY?”
Bill stepped back. He tried to speak, but was unable to. Not figuratively. He was physically unable to. He tasted something in his mouth. It reminded him of the thing he had smelled earlier. It was, he would have assumed were his mind not occupied by more important things, such as being petrified (figuratively this time.)
The woman, as Bill obviously wasn’t responding, continued talking. “The president sent you to find me, did he? He wanted me to ‘help’ him with something, probably involving petty disputes. Buchanan did, and look where that got him. A new sandbox, controlled by the army, and full of people who hate him, and negotiations with the Lára i Anartar elves. What does Lincoln want? Maybe if he cared, he’d’ve figured out that Oren is DEAD!” She shouted the last word, and several tears were forcefully expelled from her eyes like cannons.
Bill found his ability to speak had returned. “H-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-he d-d-d-d-d-di-di-di-did-did-did-didn-didn-didn’t t-t-t-t-t-t-t-te-te-te-te-te-tell m-m-m-m-m-m-me,” he managed to say.
“He didn’t tell you? HE DIDN’T TELL YOU?!?” She sighed, and punched Bill, having somehow flown towards him.