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“Ugh. I’m sorry, but I draw the line with incest. This is not what I had in mind when all I wanted was to just curl up with a good book!” I slammed the tome shut, set it down on the table, and pushed it away from me in disgust before sipping some raspberry herbal tea.

Ralenthra shook her head, rolled her eyes, and gently pushed the book back across the sitting room table at me. “They don’t actually do it, you know!”

I grimaced and gingerly took the volume back. Soon, I was frantically trying to find the page I’d left off on. “Still,” I said with a pout. We soon fell into a comfortable silence as we both got drawn into our respective books.

Ralenthra had finally returned the first volume of Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs to me, as she had “acquired” the next two volumes he’d had published so far. Which means that she must have robbed poor unsuspecting Rand’s Books late last night after riffling through the entirety of volume one and then settled in for a pleasant trance for the rest of the night.

Selune’s head popped up from off the floor by my feet and whined a little. Suddenly, there was the sound of boot heels on my front porch, followed by an urgent-sounding knock at the door. I glanced sidelong at Ralenthra, who sighed, walked to the door, stood on tiptoe, looked through the peephole and said, “It’s one of your co-workers. Should I let them in?”

That was an odd occurrence. I nodded. “Don’t forget to disable the trap first.”

“Ohhhh. So that’s why you had me get the door...” Ralenthra got to work. “Still, it would be nice to test it out on someone else before Methrammar starts snooping around again, though. Just to make sure.” She fiddled with a few wires and knobs and opened the door without any more delay, which drew a startled gasp from my visitor.

“Oh! Oh my stars, you scared me! Um...you’re...you’re Mayurra, right? Is Sel-seledra home?” I’d never heard my supervisor sound so nervous. Ralenthra grinned at her, which must have seemed to my guest like a fiend baring its teeth, opened the door wider, and pointed in my direction before turning to retreat up the stairs with her ill-gotten loot.

I waved at the tall, brunette half-elf as she walked past my threshhold. “Hello, Shiera. I didn’t think they let you out of the office.”

“Hmph. I wouldn’t be here unless it was important. Tell me, when was the last time you were at the Glade?”

I raised an eyebrow and got up from my sitting room chair. “I was there on the 22nd. To visit with Tathshandra.” I clasped a hand over my chest. “Is she all right?”

Shiera held up a calming hand. “Tathshandra is fine, because she doesn’t know what has happened, and...I’d like it to stay that way.” A shadow passed over her heart-shaped face. “Seledra, there is a...dark presence...in the Glade.”

I was already walking towards the wardrobe that held the armor and weapons owned by Ralenthra and myself. “A...dark...presence. Why did you come to see me? Why not ask a cleric?”

Shiera’s large brown eyes occupied themselves with examining my sitting room rug, a gift from Methrammar, imported from Calimshan. “There are several reasons. One: you are on call for today, two: you don’t have enough seniority to refuse, three: you may not be a cleric, but you do have some expertise in this area.”

I had stepped behind the changing shade I’d gotten in Shou Lung and was starting to slip into my leather armor. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

Shiera sighed. “Your religious scholarship may come in handy in diagnosing the...source of the corruption, and in how to dispel it.” She cleared her throat, and by the tone of her voice when she spoke, I knew the next words were difficult for her to speak. “Also...you’re an adventurer now! You live with a drow rogue, you whack at nasty things with swords, you’ve braved haunted monasteries...you’re fearless...aren’t you?”

Puzzled, I turned and gave Shiera a side-long glance. “Look, I never said I wouldn’t do it. You don’t have to convince me. However...” I pondered the weapon collection before me. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Shiera. What I actually need to know.”

Puzzled, I turned and gave Shiera a side-long glance. “Look, I never said I wouldn’t do it. You don’t have to convince me. However...” I pondered the weapon collection before me. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Shiera. What I actually need to know.”

Shiera stared at me a moment, blinked, and replied, “It’s all my fault! I let her in, yesterday afternoon. I knew there was something off about her, but I thought the Glade would give her peace! If Tathshandra should find out...and...and I don’t want to be known as the druid whose oversight led to the corruption of Mielikki’s Glade.”

Well, that’s a start. I laid a finger on my familiar longsword. “Her?”

Shiera nodded solemnly. “Yes, a wild elf druid. Name of Rinya.”

I slid my longsword into its scabbard and headed towards the door with Selune at my heels. “Let’s go. You can tell me the rest on the way there.”
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