butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
“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.”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
“Seledra. You are Tel'Quessir, and you are my A’Sum. Nothing else matters.” It was winter, 1262. I had begun to notice that I was different from the other elven children. My mother sat at her writing desk poring over menus by wandlight, trying to decide what meal she would try to pass off as her own cooking this night.

“But O’Si, the others call me a mongrel. When we play Sun versus Moon, both sides push me away, say I’m not one of them.”

My mother’s violet eyes flickered cold for a moment before she returned to her menus. “Seledra, you are better than those common chaff moon elves and those snot-nosed sun elves...”

“But O’Si...isn’t O’Su a moon elf?”

Mother’s mouth spread into a chilly smile. I shuddered. “Why yes. He is. And perhaps it is something that your father should remember more often about his people. If a hundred, a thousand of them were to die, it would be of little concern to anyone but themselves. Like vermin they are. Common. And unremarkable.”

My face fell. No matter how much I hoped for the contrary, I knew I was my father’s daughter and not the product of my mother’s forbidden passions with someone who had warm blood in their veins. What must she think of me then? “But O’Si, doesn’t that make me...”

“No! Your father may be common, but you are MINE. MINE, MINE, MINE!!!” With a great flourish of my mother’s arm, the menus flew to the floor. Mother was standing now, breathing heavily, teeth gritted and tugging her hair for a few moments until finally, after seemingly having regained her composure, she began to use Prestidigitation to move the scattered menus back onto her desk. My mother was not, after all, one for manual labor if she could possibly help it.

I thought the danger had passed. “So...if O’Su is common and unremarkable, and I, as your daughter, am not, then what are you?”

“I don’t wish to talk about it, Seledra. It doesn’t matter anyway.” She sounded resigned, perhaps a little sad or wistful. But if I had listened just a little closer...

My curiosity got the better of me. “What are we, O’Si? I want to know!” But I was young. I didn’t know any better. The look on my mother’s face made me run towards the stairs that led to my bedroom. But I was unable to outrun my mother’s rage, or her Ray of Frost spell.


~


“Aren’t you going to visit your Mother today?” Ralenthra was gazing at the calendar I had hanging up on my kitchen wall. I was sitting at the dining room table examining the various takeaway menus in my possession, stopping every once in a while to scour my Druid handbook for information about curses and how they can be reversed for Aelthas. “It’s her birthday,” she continued. “Isn’t that what you...er...people who know where their mothers are do?”

“I sent her a gift.” I said nonchalantly.

I didn’t have to look up to know that Ralenthra raised an eyebrow at me.

“It’s a nice gift.” I countered to her silence. “I can’t visit her. I’m busy. I’m sure she understands.”

Ralenthra hoisted herself up on to the counter, plucked an apple from the fruit bowl beside her and took a generous bite. “You have the day off.”

I slowly looked up from my papers. “I’m planning our meals for the week, trying to find a way to reverse Mother’s curse on Aelthas, and I have to practice the dance for your upcoming ritual. Also? I just don’t...want to deal with her madness today.”

Ralenthra crunched her apple thoughtfully. “Understood,” she said, after swallowing. But something caught her eye. “Is that...is that Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs I see hidden under the Seven Little Fortunes menu?”

I grimaced in embarrassment but confessed, all the same. “It’s the first volume, yes.”

“And?”

“He’s a bit of an odd sort. He talks about events he could not have possibly witnessed and of course, everyone else being evil but him makes any information that came from anyone else instantly unreliable. He’s narcissistic, vain, whiny, self-absorbed-”

“Wait, shouldn’t you like him then?” Ralenthra grinned.

I rolled my eyes and continued.“Shut up. He’s a got a creepy idea that his sisters all want to sleep with him...”

Ralenthra took another bite of her apple. “Typical.”

I made a face. “Really?”

“Really.”

“Ew. Anyway, I want to like him. Because he’s good and all, you know, fighting the good fight. But...he makes it rather difficult. In fact, he’s kind of insufferable.”

“And yet?”

I cover my face in my hands. “And yet I can’t put it down for long.”

Ralenthra finished her apple. She hopped down off the counter, opened the window that was over our sink and tossed it outside that window into the compost bin below. “Let’s see it then.”

~


I excitedly rolled out the large parchment detailing my grand plans for breaking into the Hall of Records. Aelthas and Duglan, my constant companions, took a gander.

“You’re going to do WHAT to WHO?” Aelthas stared at me, eyes wide.

My beau had obviously gotten to the part where I seduce a priest of Deneir (or as many as I have to) in order to get access to the ‘Forbidden’ Spellbook section at the Vault of the Sages. Why have the books around at all if they’re not going to be read? “Oh, that. Don’t worry about me. I’m still a virgin, after all.”

“You are??!” both the boys exclaimed.

I thought of Thralia, and blushed. “Well, technically, yes.” I answered, and then I clarified, “Anyway, I’m not using anything south of my waist for this job. I don’t have to.”

“You sound pretty confident.” intoned Duglan with a wink and a smile. “Want to give us a demonstration?”

“Shut up, Duglan.” Aelthas said with a scowl. He turned to me, and brushed a stray lock of hair behind my ear. “Seledra, why? Why are you doing this?”

“I need to sow the seeds of chaos. After you cast the spells to bend the wards around the university and open up all those portals, most of the mages will be too busy trying to shut them down to detect what’s going on at Everdusk Hall.” It made perfect sense to me at the time...

Aelthas held me, not ungently, but with some urgency, about my shoulders. “But that’s the thing with chaos. It’s unpredictable. You could get burned. And then all of us will suffer. Is it worth it?”

I sighed. “Aelthas, what are you?”

He raised an eyebrow, as if he wasn’t sure where I was going with this. But he humored me. “I’m a human. But my mother is a half-elf.”

“What kind of elf?”

He shook his head in irritation. “Why does it matter?”

I answered calmly. “Answer the question. Surely you must know.”

Aelthas sighed and rolled his eyes even as he concentrated. “My mother was raised by her human mother. My elven grandfather died young. Some sort of accident. He was...a moon elf. From Evereska.”

“See? You know what you are. And I bet you could tell me where your human ancestors hail from as well.”

“Seledra, I don’t see-”

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM, Aelthas! Don’t you know how unsettling that is? And don’t you think that if I had any other options at my disposal, that I’d use them? Whatever my mother is hiding from me, she’s hiding it very, very well. And father is no help at all.”

Aelthas gulped and stared at me a while. Duglan had already retired to a nearby chaise and draped a book over his face to escape the awkwardness. My beau sighed and kissed me on the forehead. “Very well, sweet heart. It’s your choice. Just...don’t get caught, all right?”

“Don’t worry. If I get caught, I won’t say who helped me. I love you, Aelthas. And I will never betray you.”


~


Late into the night, I could still hear Ralenthra howling with laughter as she read Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs. I peered over my covers at the next two books from the drow’s autobiographical series as they sat, waiting for my perusal, on my nightstand. There was to be even more to follow, I had heard. I scowled.

I turned my back on the tomes to stretch. Ralenthra had really put me through a workout today. After the dance practice, she still had energy to burn, and decided that she also wanted to draft me into becoming her sparring practice partner. I must have broken three wooden swords today because I wasn’t fast enough to hit her. I comforted myself with the fact that when I do hit, I hit hard. And no, I don’t mean her.

Wielding the sword today made me think more on my goals of embarking on an adventuring side-career. My hands would tingle with anticipation every time I went to the mailbox, as I hoped that each day will be the day a summons comes from Captain Tagen, or whoever Tagen is working for, telling us to pack our bags and head out somewhere kind of dangerous.

It didn’t come today, but hopefully something will come soon. I just know that something good is going to happen...

~


I dreamed...

I saw a short, red-haired human girl fitted into finery worthy of a lady-in-waiting; watching the Glittersmokes buzz about the girl was Thralia, who looked like she was giving detailed instructions, either to the gnomish seamstresses or to the human girl...

I saw Ralenthra, poring over what looked to be this very diary. Looking over her shoulder was Tordrin, who was pointing out something of note to my friend. Ralenthra’s eyes widened...

I saw a drow male reclining on my mother’s bed. He seemed to be arguing with a striking-looking female sun elf who was attempting to use my mother’s scrying mirror. A soft grey cat hopped on the bed beside the drow and swatted him in the face. The sun elf laughed. The drow fell off the bed unsuccessfully trying to swat back at the cat. The sun elf laughed even harder...

I saw Kronk, flanked by Selune and a half-elf Heartwarder as he carried a human girl child on his shoulders. The snow was falling softly. Cardinals and Blue Jays circled about the girl as she laughed. Kronk and the Heartwarder seemed to be looking for something, and they finally stopped at Joon’s Curry Stand in the Market District. Everyone ate heartily.

I saw Silverymoon Palace. A bolt of lightning struck nearby.

I saw Magnos and Jonah, with Scamp wrapped around his master’s shoulders like an old woman’s fur collar, outside the Map House. They were discussing something rather animatedly, with Jonah’s expression going from dubious to more dubious to annoyed to resigned...


~


I awoke with a start. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the vignettes I bore witness to were connected somehow. And I wondered why I wasn’t there.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
We arrived back in Silverymoon at dawn. I was unaccustomed to the effects of teleportation over long distances while awake and fought to keep my equilibrium so that I wouldn't vomit all over myself.

Methrammar chuckled. "A bit green, my love? Well, green always was a good color for you."

I rolled my eyes and shook my head slowly. "Does that ever get easier?"

He shrugged. "It's hard to say. The first time we went through, you were unconscious. Maybe it's something you will get used to in time." He draped his arm around me and pulled me close. The sudden movement caused me to lose control over my gag reflex and I vomited on him.

My face flushed with embarrassment. "Oh, Methrammar, darling, I'm so sorry!"

He grimaced and drew out a handkerchief. "It's...quite all right, my dear. I'll have a coach take you home. Love you!" After he gingerly kissed me on the cheek, he swept out of the room. Gathering up what was left of my dignity, I walked towards the door of the teleportation room, which was manned by court wizards who barely managed to hide their amused expressions as I wobbled out.

After getting dropped off at my house, I went into my garden and gathered some ginger to sooth my unsettled stomach while the coachman carried my considerably heavy trunk upstairs. I drew some water from the well for some tea and went inside.

"Rale, I'm home!" I called out. My voice rang through the halls of my empty house. I went up to her room and saw that she still had her black leather armor lying out where she had left it...two days ago.

Oh Hells, I thought. That's not good.

I hurriedly cleaned myself up, sliced the ginger, wrapped it in a handkerchief, took a sip of the well water and walked right back outside, bidding the huffing coachman goodbye as I set out on foot. The first place I went was the Hall of Records, where I checked the news for the last of couple days. No dead bodies of drow females discovered. Good. However...oh girl, no. Attempted burglary. Well, she was pretty drunk when she left that night. Not much information beyond that, though. I sucked on a piece of ginger and walked to the Dancing Goat. I had been meaning to meet with Thralia anyway, to run Eaerlraun's name past her and see if she had any helpful information as to Ralentha's whereabouts.

Sunlight streamed through the somewhat dingy windows at my favorite haunt. Jasper was manning the bar and cleaning glasses. I casually slid onto a stool in front of him. "Hey there, Jasper!" I said, my voice a little raspy.

Jasper smiled a greasy, slightly toothless grin. "'Lo, Seledra. How's my favorite city employee? I noticed you're back together with-"

I cut him off with a dismissive but friendly wave and my best attempt at a smile. "I'm a little ill, Jasper, but don't worry, it's nothing you'll catch. Listen, is Thralia in? I need to speak to her." I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Tordrin.

"Feeling a little less feisty today, Miss Nailo?"

I managed a weak smile. "Please, Mr. Windweaver, call me Seledra!"

He chuckled warmly and clapped me gently on the shoulder. "Only if you call me Tordrin."

I stuck out my hand. "I'll drink to that."

He shook my hand and laughed some more. "No, please don't."

We both laughed for a bit. After we composed ourselves and I was about to ask about Thralia, Tordrin ran his fingers through his hair and opened his mouth to speak. "Can I talk to you? About Ralenthra? I need your help. I'm at my wit's end, here!"

I patted the seat next to me and smiled. "Have a seat. I'm sure that if we put our heads together we can come up with something."

Tordrin surprised me. He seems so smooth and confident in front of a crowd or in battle, but in matters of the heart, he was like a lovestruck boy, confused and more than a little scared. He fidgeted a little with the salt and pepper shakers in front of us. It looked like just my head was going to have to do.

"Well," I took a deep breath, "she's still upset with you. She didn't want to talk about you at all while we were out on 'Silverymoon Business'. And the whole mix-up with Erdri just rubbed more salt in the wound," I leaned in towards him conspiratorially, "which just means she's still in love with you. But..."

Jasper leaned over and snapped his fingers in between us. "Are ya gonna be wanting something to eat or drink? I have to go roust some paying customers out of their beds."

I looked at the light pouring through a nearby window. "Is it high noon already?"

Jasper shook his head. "Nah, just a few wake up calls." He thrummed his dirty fingernails on the bar in front of us. He clearly wanted us to order something. I wasn't dumb enough to order breakfast here, but clearly Tordrin hadn't yet learned his lesson. I quickly ordered an orange juice, and while Tordrin blathered on in detail his breakfast order, I felt...a presence. I looked up to the top of the stairs.

It was Magnos, adjusting a new set of blue and purple robes and strutting about like a peacock. Damn him, he looked good. I had to make an effort control my breathing. Leaning on the doorway behind him was a saucy-looking red-haired half-elf I recognized from my rounds, Laerune Brightwing. Why, she was old enough to be his mother! Well, better her than her daughters, I thought. I shuddered, glad that I wasn't eating breakfast as I recalled their examinations. Hoping he wouldn't see me, I turned back to Tordrin, and promptly forgot what I was going to say.

"You were saying that she's still in love with me, but..." repeated Tordrin.

I blinked, then regained my composure with a snap of my fingers. "Oh, right! I shouldn't mention you for a few days, like at all." He frowned and I continued. "You know, to give her a false sense of security. I might even wait for her to bring you up. And then...I strike!" I smacked my palm on the bar in front of me for emphasis.

Laerune called after Magnos in a husky voice, "Thank you so much for the wand!"

Tordrin seemed puzzled. "Strike? With what?"

I turned around to see Magnos bow deeply with a flourish and blow a kiss to Laerune. "My dear, you know that I simply can't bear it when a woman feels unsafe in her own home!" Oh, please.

I tried to suppress a gag by focusing on the task at hand. "Oh, a little misdirection. When she mentions you, and she will, mind you, I will then press the issue until she gets irritated. Which won't take long. Then I promise her never to bring you up again if she'll go out for some fun that night. What I won't tell her is that we'll be coming here and that you will be waiting to ambush her...with...love and stuff."

Magnos was at the bottom of the stairs now. He called after Laerune. "And the side of bacon?"

Tordrin smiled and shook his head. "Seledra, sometimes I think you might have missed your true calling. When do you think the big night will be? I want to make sure I'll be available."

Laerune replied, "I'll have it delivered to your dormitory this afternoon, darling boy!"

Jasper returned to the bar and set down Tordrin's platter of runny eggs, burnt toast and surprisingly well-cooked bacon, as well as my orange juice. He looked from me to Magnos, up to Laerune, then back to me and grumbled with raised eyebrows, "This will be awkward." I shook my head at him briskly before picking up my glass.

Magnos beamed. "Excellent!" Then he mumbled, "I've been craving that stuff for days now."

I swirled my juice around in my hand as I thought. Finally, I said, "Well, depending on what condition she's in when I find her, I think the tenth would be good. What say you?"

Magnos whispered, "Ooh, speaking of tasty morsels...Seledra! May I?" He grabbed a piece of bacon off of Tordrin's plate and stuffed it in his mouth. Tordrin was too busy wrapping his head around the fact that Ralenthra was missing to notice or at least care. I wasn't, so I grabbed Tordrin's spoon and rapped Magnos on the knuckles with it.

Magnos rubbed his hand indignantly and pouted. "Ow! Hey, I asked, didn't I? Am I supposed to wait for an engraved invitation? It'll get cold!"

Tordrin stammered. "She's...she's missing, you say?"

I sipped my juice calmly and nodded slowly at Tordrin. "She never came home the night of the fifth. Her new leathers were in the same place she'd left them."

Tordrin stood up, pushed his platter towards Magnos and shook his head. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"

Magnos shrugged, grabbed a spoon, and dug in.

I sighed. "I didn't want you to worry. Besides, I came here to talk to Thralia about it only after checking the obituaries and the crime logs. She's locked up somewhere for burglary, but I couldn't find out where."

Tordrin closed his eyes and clasped a hand over his heart. "You're sure?"

I smiled reassuringly at Tordrin. "Of course. I was just hoping Thralia had more information so I could go bail her out. I swear."

"I'll go get her for you." Tordrin said, clearly relieved. He headed upstairs and I called after him. "Tordrin, we're still on for the tenth!" He nodded and turned to walk down the hall. I turned to Magnos, who had inhaled Tordrin's breakfast and was now pouring the remainder of my juice down his throat. "You're a pig. No wonder why you're so drawn to Laerune Brightwing."

He finished gulping down my orange juice and licked his lips lustily. I felt my skin flush. He grinned cheekily, pushed at his nose with his finger and made a snorting sound.

I replied, "Well, you'd better stay away from her daughters or she'll turn you into bacon next."

Magnos shuddered. "Please, Seledra. I just ate. One of the first things I learned as an incoming student was to keep my wand away from the Brightwing girls. Of course, we wizarding students like to keep the sorcerers in the dark about that. Heh." He smiled wickedly. "But Laerune on the other hand, she can teach a man a lot of things, and I'm all about expanding my vast store of knowledge."

I grunted and stared at my glass rather than look at him. "I talked to Methrammar, you know. He says I'm not a blanket hog. So there."

Magnos rolled his eyes. "You expect me to take anything that Momma's boy says seriously about you? He doesn't know you! Not like I do." He smiled and winked at me.

I gasped in indignation. "He's my lover! How could you know me better than he?"

He drew in close. Too close for my comfort. I gulped. He whispered. "He doesn't get you all riled up like I do, does he? He's never seen you in the heat of battle like I have, the way you look with your cheeks flushed and your eyes flashing and your hair all wild. He's never seen you bored or demanding or wrong-headed or foul-tempered like I have! I doubt he could handle the real you. That's why you're getting some on the side, am I right?"

I blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

He smiled again. "You know, from that Tordrin guy, right? Well, since Ralenthra's not interested in him anymore, I guess he's fair game."

That bastard. I should throw that amulet I got for him in the river. I sneered at him. "I really don't think you're in any position to critique my love life. At least I don't give it up for a side of bacon!"

Magnos smacked his hand on the table and laughed heartily till tears streamed down his cheeks. And then he laughed some more. Finally, after wiping the tears from his face, he said, "You think she paid me for sex...with bacon? Oh no, no, no, no, no! She's been having trouble with people trying to break into her home. She needed a little extra security, so I supplied her with a wand and a few scrolls. She's low on cash this week, so I had her pay me in trade and her trade happens to be of the porcine persuasion." Then he grinned and pointed in my face. "The sex was just a bonus! And you're avoiding the question."

I guffawed, and spoke before I thought. "You think...Tordrin and I...ew, no! If I was going to be unfaithful to Methrammar, it certainly wouldn't be with another elf."

His eyes widened. "Really. That's Very. Interesting."

Thralia's laughter rang out behind us like tinkling silver bells. "Lies!"

I smiled. "This isn't college, Thralia. I'm talking about present day. By the way, since we both know elves don't snore, perhaps you could answer me this: am I a blanket hog?"

Thralia's response first consisted of more peals of laughter. "Oh yes, if my memory serves me correctly!" Magnos grinned smugly. Thralia continued with a throaty whisper. "But if you're looking to refresh me on that matter we could have another go..."

She was teasing, but Magnos almost fell out of his chair. I shook my head and grinned. "No, it was just the one time, Thralia."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and pretended to be jealous. "Oh, I see how it is. You're still hung up on human wizards, then?"

I turned bright red. This time Magnos did fall out of his chair. I replied, not looking at either of them, my voice coming out thick, like honey mixed with sawdust. "That was also, Thralia, just the one time."

Thralia's smile faded, just slightly. "Yes. Of course." Magnos pulled himself up, dusted himself off, and excused himself as he "had a delivery coming". He walked away stiffly.

When he was out of earshot, I hissed through my teeth. "Thralia! Magnos. Is. A. Wizard!"

"He certainly has a magical effect on you. Your face matches your hair, my dear! Though I must say, he is striking." She looked after his retreating form appraisingly.

I shook my head. "No, Thralia. Not this one."

Thralia pouted and tilted her head to the side. "Oh come on, Seledra. You have the prince of the city wrapped around your little finger. Don't be greedy!"

She was teasing me, I know that now. But I took the bait. I threw up my arms and squeaked, "I'm not! I'm not even interested in him! He's arrogant, and vain, and selfish, and a gluttonous, wanton pervert. I'm just trying to save you the trouble."

Thralia grinned. "Sounds like you like him."

I blushed, frowned and took my turn to cross my arms over my chest. "I don't wish to talk about him any further."

She rolled her eyes dramatically. "Now there's a shock. So. You wanted to know about our wee rogue friend? She's in the common prison in Southbank. That's where they lock up the petty criminals. Only those with serious offenses go to the dungeon in the palace. I guess Alustriel believes in keeping her friends close, but her enemies closer."

I smiled, stood up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Anything else I need to know?"

Thralia sighed. "Only that she's feeling really sorry for herself."

I excused myself, but paused before turning away, trying to recall something I had been meaning to ask her, about something Magnos had said, but I couldn't recall what it was, and besides, Ralenthra had been in jail for almost 3 whole days and I was in a hurry.

Ralenthra looked and smelled terrible. Her hand was badly infected and she had broken ribs and bruises all over her back. I decided then that I would have to talk to Tathshandra about setting up rounds for the druids and clerics to visit the jails so that the prisoners could receive adequate health care, because this was just shameful. We walked in silence to Seven Little Wonders so that I could pick up some takeaway. I had not yet a chance to replenish my pantry and I wasn't in the mood to cook.

As we walked home, I felt her looking at me expectantly, like she was expecting a lecture or for me to start crying. I opened my mouth to speak, but...

...truth was, I didn't know what to say to her. I was relieved that she was all right, but scared that she could be so careless, and disappointed that she got in trouble the very night we got pardoned for treason. So, rather than say the wrong thing, I shut my mouth. I smiled, and she smiled back, as best she could, under the circumstances. We walked side by side and picked up a few things from the markets that dotted our path home. Every so often I made sure to make eye contact with her and share a smile.

In the end, I chose to remain silent and only allowed myself to communicate to her through my actions and expressions. Ralenthra didn't seem offended by this; when we got home, I ran a bath for her, carried her upstairs, and helped her bathe since her injuries hampered her every movement. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I just ignored her incredulity and started going to work. I knew that Ralenthra's mother left early on, and I wondered to myself, who did this for her? My own mother did this for me, right until I left for university, although with less frequency by that point. The very idea of going without such motherly attention seemed positively foreign to me.

Ralenthra was...a bit stiff, so I started with her hair. It was uncharacteristically messy and more than a little greasy. It was like she just didn't care. I pulled out the some pins and stuck them in my teeth, grabbed a comb and gently combed out the knots and tangles. Despite the care taken, I still heard her grunt a little at times, but she didn't stop me. I grabbed a nearby cup and filled it with bathwater, leaned her head back slightly, and went to work on washing her hair, massaging her scalp. She sighed and stretched out her legs like a cat. Shampoo, rinse, comb-out, towel-dry, pin-up.

In order to be less intrusive than simply going to work at her with a washcloth or Seldarine forfend, my hand, I pulled out a bath mitt I'd picked up at the market and lathered it up. Ralenthra's eyebrows shot up in surprise. I started at the back of her neck, washing with one hand and gently working out kinks with the other. The work I did to relax her neck and shoulders was countered when I grabbed her arm a little too quickly or forcefully and she flinched. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. I grimaced and bowed my head apologetically, then resumed my work in a more mindful fashion. After I helped her to lean forward so I could wash her back, I noticed a random patchwork of scars scattered about there. I wondered to myself about where she had gotten them; were these from her comparatively privileged albeit not-so-great life as the daughter of a Priest of Vhaeraun or from her rough and tumble existence in Menzo? With elves, it's so hard to tell, much like one's age, how old scars are. Everything feels like it happened a lifetime ago. I was extra careful when moving over these mystery marks, but if it bothered her, she never showed it.

Washing the front was, even for me, a little awkward. It was nothing I hadn't seen before, so there was no gawking a la Magnos going on, it was just...so intimate. I chose the more comfortable option, which was to look at her face as I lathered and rinsed her torso with the bathing mitt. It seemed less clinical that way. I wasn't going to pretend that this wasn't an almost achingly personal act. She certainly didn't. She made a few attempts to snatch the mitt from my hand, but each time, she moved a little quickly than she was ready to, and she'd yelp a little before reluctantly dropping her hand back to her side. But as much as I tried to communicate with my eyes to her, I love you and will always be your friend throughout, it wasn't until I had moved on to her legs that she stopped averting her eyes from mine or attempting to take over herself.

After I helped her out of the tub, while she finally closed her eyes and relaxed, I healed her and applied salves, poultices and dressings to what wounds I had not the energy to heal. I was getting better at this. My connection to the Goddess was strengthened by our little group's excursion to the monastery. But it was still fortunate for her that I had not gone to work today.

Selune joined us, and we ate our still-warm dinner on the porch and read until it got dark. I devoured the tales about Mao Sai Fung while Ralenthra took her turn with A Banquet of Flesh. We watched fireflies dance in the summer night's soft breeze. Ralenthra's body gradually un-kinked and relaxed over the course of the evening. I even caught her smiling a few times, and it wasn't just while she was reading. She was probably glad, maybe even surprised, that I never lectured her or grilled her about what she'd done. I didn't have to. She'd tell me about it when she was ready.

At twilight, she stood at the bottom of the stair and hesitated, shuffling her feet and staring at the floor a bit before finally heading up. When she reached the top of the stairs, she slowly turned and looked over her shoulder at me with a quizzical expression, then shook her head dismissively as she entered her room. I waited a while, then followed her up the stairs and knocked on the side of her open door. She was sitting on her bed, legs drawn up to her chest, staring out the window opposite, her mind elsewhere. I knocked again and she nodded silently, so I came in and tucked her into bed. I sat beside her a while, just smiling at her as she stared at me wide-eyed, like I was quite mad. For a just a moment, I thought that she was going to cry, but finally, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and exhaled, "Seledra...I'm...I'm so sorry."

I smiled and kissed her on the forehead. "You don't have to apologize to me. Just don't get caught again, all right?"

She laughed and we embraced, staying that way for a long time.

She drew back and rested her head upon her pillow, pausing before she spoke again. "How could She let this happen?" she asked.

I shrugged. "I don't know, but maybe you should talk to Her."

"Talk to Her. That's rich." Ralenthra rolled her eyes and shook her head.

I pondered for a moment and then replied, "Make it special. Isn't there some sort of ritual dance that drow do when they want to worship Eilistraee? I could help if you want."

Ralenthra gave me a cockeyed look. "Well...yeah. But it's...naked...and you're, you know, not a follower."

I took a deep breath. "Before I was a druid, I was a divinity student. I am not so foolish as to believe that my Goddess is the only goddess and that She alone can meet all needs. Different problems require different approaches and sometimes different deities. You think all those sailors worship only the Bitch Queen? You are my bosom friend. Again, if you don't wish to petition your Goddess alone, I will be with you."

Ralenthra's eyes widened for a moment. "I'd have to teach you the dance. It's a little...complex. And it's...been a long time."

I smiled. "For you? I'll have it down before the next crescent moon. That's a promise!"
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
Clack! Clack! Clack!

The cool, smooth ivory tiles clicked against each other as I and three others shuffled for my third mahjong game of the night. I was on a roll. My last game had finished before it had even begun with a "heavenly win" and the less serious players had either retreated to other, less competitive tables, back to their tea to lick their wounds, or if female, hovered around me like honeybees, buzzing with appreciation for every crafty move I made. They especially liked it when I flipped my chips downward along the knuckles of my hand. I was so buried in the part that I had started to wink back at them and let them pour my tea, peel my lychees, and pop the fruit's sweet white flesh into my mouth for me.

Magnos, I think, would have been pleased.

Eighteen stacks, two tiles high...

The dealer threw three dice. Next game, it would be my turn to deal, if I didn't clean everyone out first. I tented my fingers and took a moment to notice my current opponents.

The Dowager was one of my most stubborn opponents, an ancient but clearly wealthy woman that no one wanted to make eye contact with who sat across from me. She had kept changing in her jewelry for more chips and plum wine and was now almost completely bereft of any ornamentation beyond her sumptuous silken robes, tiny slippers and the little lion-faced dog that perched on her lap. The diminutive pooch looked vaguely familiar to me at the time, but I could not place where I'd seen him.

The Doctor sat to my left. The current dealer, she was a soft-spoken blind woman in what I guessed to be her early 30s. She wore a plum colored cap and matching robes. Despite her condition, her fingers were nimble and precise, and whispers I'd overheard led me to believe that she was a doctor!

The Thief, on my right, was a man said to be the leader of the Guild, a semi-criminal organization operating out of the Imperial City. Semi-criminal, as this new leader was weeding out the slave traders from his employ, but certainly had no problem with poisoners, thieves, or loan-sharks working under him. His personal bodyguard, a huge, bearded bear of a man wielding twin axes, drank heavily with a much shorter, skinnier and harried-looking man by his side at a table near to us. The Guild Leader didn't look like he needed the protection. His muscles rippled under his open, sky-blue vest. Strapped to his back were twin sabers, still sharp. His wits were as keen as his blades and his fingers were so quick, that I consciously kept my chips near so that he didn't surreptitiously make off with them.

The Doctor took four tiles to the the left of the divide. The rest of us followed suit until we each had twelve tiles. The Doctor slid a fingertip across her tiles and frowned. The Dowager looked at her tiles, looked at the board, looked at the tiles again and sighed wearily before pouring herself another drink. I looked at my tiles, did not smile, but sipped my tea and smacked my lips. I may have been cleaning up, but it was soon apparent that I still had a lot to learn about playing mahjong in Shou Lung.

The Thief watched me closely, smiled to himself, and then called over his shoulder, "Hou, you'd better fetch my wife. It looks like this game and the next will be brief."

Surprisingly, it was the small, hen-pecked looking man who answered. "Are you sure that's necessary?"

The Thief smiled. "Yes, tell her I want her to blow on my dice when it's my turn to deal. For good luck." The short, harried man took off into the night.

The Doctor started first. "Discarding nine wan."

I chuckled at the Thief and scooped up the desired tile. "You think your wife can save you from the sound thrashing I'm giving to your wallet? Discarding one suo."

The Thief smirked at me. "Not my wallet, no. Discarding xi wind."

It took six turns, but I had my desired hand by the end. I spread out my hand proudly. "Baiban pung (three of-a-kind). Nine wan kong (four of-a-kind). Seven suo sheung (straight of three). Dong eyes (pair)."

The crowd that had gathered to watch our game gasped as the Dowager pulled a small headpiece from from her hair, causing it to fall around her face in grey tangles. She slapped it on the table and demanded more chips. The Thief mumbled under his breath, "Any moment now, Ling!"

Everything came to a stop as an imposing-looking young woman walked through the door. It was odd, the respect commanded by one so young and so informally dressed. She dressed in an elegant dark blue and gold pantsuit and wore her hair in a practical style that was parted down the middle in the front and drawn into a conservative bun in the back. The circular jade pendant she wore matched the one the Thief also wore around his neck.

Ah, I thought, she's his wife.

And then she turned and stared at me, narrowing her eyes. A not unfriendly smile crept across her face. She crossed the room, whispered in the Thief's ear, whereupon he got up and she sat down in his place. It was my turn to deal, so I threw the dice, and we began to shuffle the tiles again.

I turned to her and said, "So, you've come to rescue your husband from the slaughter?"

You can imagine my shock when she answered me in Elvish. "No, I'm here to rescue the Princess." She gestured towards the Dowager. And then I remembered that I'd seen a portrait of the old woman and her little dog in one of my books. My eyes popped, but I said nothing. I was in way over my head and I could only hope at that point to get back to Silverymoon alive.

She let that sink in for a while, until we started to take our four tiles at a time, and continued with "and I'm here to make you a deal, as I can see that you mean no malice."

Crap.

She must be able to see through the disguise other spell. I looked at my hands to see if the spell had worn off. Still Magnos' hands. True seeing, then. Must be a powerful mage.

Tentatively, I spoke in Elvish back to her. It sounded lovely uttered by Magnos' voice. "What do you want?"

The woman chuckled heartily and then pinned me down with her eyes. "I want you to lose, little creature. You did not come in here to drain the royal coffers. You came in here because you want something."

I gulped, and ransacked my mind for information. If this woman was here to keep me from bankrupting the Princess Dowager, then who was she? And then I remembered. Out loud. "Scholar Ling. A Wu Jen. Rose from an obscure fishing village to become the chief adviser to the new Empress, Sun Lian. Some say you disposed of her father yourself."

"That's part of the story, yes. But what is it that you want, curious little creature?"

I sighed and looked at my tiles. Another "heavenly win" sat in front of me, mocking me. What did I want more? To win everything or to get what I came in for? I drew a deep breath and exhaled as I pushed all my chips in. "There is an amulet in the market. Ruby, surrounded by pearls on a gold chain. I want it."

Ling sat back and thought a moment while I drew a worthless tile and discarded a valuable one. "Ah, I know the one. It once belonged to a Wu Jen of the previous dynasty. It is an artifact of some arcane power, now being peddled for some collector to snatch it up. But why would you want that, little druid?" She smiled playfully. Like a cat about to devour a mouse.

I smiled back. "I never said I wanted it for myself."

Ling's face softened, as she looked from the Thief, who was now chatting it up with his bodyguard, back to me. "I cannot give you what your heart wants, but the amulet will be yours, I promise you."

Every turn was a small blow to my ego as I threw away strategically vital pieces and kept useless ones. As my hot streak ended, people returned to their tables and their homes. My attendants dissolved one by one into the background. It was not enough for me to simply give back what I had won, indeed, the Scholar refused me on that. I had to lose. I feel as though Ling was trying to teach me something in my voluntary defeat, about pride, about temperance, about sacrifice. I hoped that I had learned enough so I'd never have to go through something so humiliating again. At least I was allowed to lose everything in one game.

When the game ended, the Doctor bid us all goodbye, and she patted the arms of the Scholar and the Thief as she left. The Princess Dowager sat pliantly as her finery was returned to her person by the Scholar and the Thief together.

The Scholar, slipping earrings back on to the Dowager's ears, whispered to the Thief, "You don't have to stay. I've got this under control."

The Thief, slipping rings back onto the Dowager's fingers, whispered back, "You have everything under control. Always. I'm still here because I want to be near you." He took her hand gently and kissed her fingertips.

"Always." Ling replied. Then she shook her head as she began to re-arrange the Dowager's hair. "Sky, we've talked about this."

Sky smiled wistfully and handed the Dowager's headpiece to Ling. "And we'll talk about it again, I'm sure. I realize that Lian needs you daily for guidance and counsel so that she will become a more wise and compassionate leader, but she doesn't need you to tuck her into bed at night! What I want to know is, will I see you later?"

Ling scowled at Sky, her mouth a tight, forbidding line. But when he smiled and waggled his eyebrows at her, her eyes began to dance and she snorted out a laugh. Ah, we are all fools for love, I thought with a smile. "Tomorrow," she said. Sky nodded and turned to leave but she told him to follow us.

As we walked out, I walked past Methrammar, who was watching me with a bewildered expression. I shrugged, mouthed for him to follow us and continued out into the cooling night air with the Scholar and the Dowager. A handful of the Imperial Guard was waiting. Ling instructed them to take the Dowager back to the Palace.

"Shall we wait for you, Scholar?" asked one of the guards.

Ling considered. "No."

The guards all smiled.

Ling rolled her eyes and waved them off. "Oh, stop it. You're like a bunch of old women!"

After the royal carriage pulled away, Ling took me by the hand and returned to speaking elvish. "Come."

The Scholar kept her word, and where it would have taken a life's savings from one such as me, the amulet was given to Ling with just the mere pointing of her finger. She tucked it away in a pocket over my heart and said, "Do not be afraid to let your heart lead you, little creature."

She smiled at me one last time and ran to Sky, taking his hand, and stealing away with him into the night.

Methrammar was waiting for me. I ran to him. We walked back to our inn in silence. Finally, when we reached the bottom of the stairs, he asked, "Did you win big?"

I smiled, and answered, "I got what I came for."

We mounted the last flight of the stairs together. Methrammar laughed and said, "Good. Now, let's get that silly man-suit off of you!"
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
When we could just move no longer, we made camp. After we all gobbled down a carelessly heated but surprisingly tasty noodle soup that Magnos threw together, I left Dorn in charge and took Ralenthra aside to talk.

"You've been quiet today." I said as we sat side by side at the river's edge.

Ralenthra sighed. "I haven't really felt much like talking, or at least doing it in mixed company."

"And you're still hurting because of Tordrin, right?" I added, cautiously.

Her head jerked sharply away from me. "I don't want to talk about him."

I continued, unabated. "He loves you, Ralenthra. I know it. Here." I struck my chest with my fist. "I'm sure he had his reasons..."

She stared at me, her eyes glistening in the moonlight. "How dare you defend him after what he did to me?"

"You really have to stop assuming that everyone is out to get you. It's not healthy." I said, matter-of-factly.

She was angry now, so much so that her voice was shaking. "It's kept me alive."

"The avoidance of death is not living."

"Save your platitudes for the faithful," she said bitterly.

"Just because you don't believe, it doesn't make it any less true. Rale, it's okay if you still need to talk about it, or even just cry."

Ralenthra shook her head. "I don't need to talk about it, I don't want to talk about it, and I don't care about Tordrin anymore so stop trying to play matchmaker with us."

I sighed. What I did next would either earn me a kidney punch or would help to release some of the pent-up emotions that Ralenthra was experiencing. Maybe both. Cautiously, I reached out to her and poked her in the shoulder. At first, she looked at me like I was crazy, but then she poked me back. I poked her again and she poked me again. We went back and forth at this until she finally started to laugh a little. Then I saw her shoulders start to shake. She turned to me, and a single tear was rolling down her cheeks. It was a start. "It hurts, 'Ledra. It hurts so much."

I wrapped my arms around her. "I know, Rale. I know."

Ralenthra found a comfortable perch in a nearby oak tree while I set up next to the river. I helped the men set up their tent and then took a discreet bath in the deliciously cool water. Finally, I changed into pajamas, wrapped myself in my blanket, sat down on my bedroll and started to go into trance.

And then, it began to rain. It wasn't exactly a soft and gentle summer shower either.

"Oh, damn it!" I quickly rolled up my blanket and bedroll before gathering the rest of my belongings and scurried over to Ralenthra's tree. Despite my emphatic pleas, she refused to come down and seek refuge in the tent.

"You're overdramatizing. I'm fine," she shouted over the storm, "And you've been spoiled by city life."

I only grunted in response. As I marched away towards the men's tent, she called out, "For every time he gropes you, you owe me ten gold pieces!"

~


"Just help me with this, will you? I've got to peel myself out of these wet clothes and I'm not doing it in front of you."

Magnos sighed laboriously as he helped me put up the sheet that would divide the tent in two. Kronk was a heavy sleeper, and sometimes I could barely hear Magnos over the snoring. "I just don't think this wall is necessary."

The sheet being properly attached, I started to undress. "You two have plenty of room on that side. And could I get some light in here? I'd like to be able to see what I'm doing."

"What do you want me to light up?" Magnos asked.

"The tent." I replied.

"The whole thing? I don't think you mean to say what you're saying."

I growled impatiently, "Then tell me what you need me to tell you."

"Look, just give me an object to cast light on and I'll give it back to you. It should be sufficient to light up the whole tent for, oh, about an hour."

I thought for a moment, then lifted the necklace Methrammar gave me over my head and thrust it through to the other side of the sheet.

I heard some clinking noises. Magnos mumbled a bit and soon the tent was filled with a gentle luminosity, adequate for reading. After a few moments filled with more clinking noises, he handed my necklace back to me. I found a secure place to hang my necklace and took the opportunity to get out of the uncomfortably damp pajamas I was wearing. Magnos cleared his throat and said, "It's a little too snug on this side for my comfort."

"Boo Hoo," I replied, as I dumped out my pack in order to search for another pair of pajamas. Just after I pulled them on, Kronk let loose a huge fart. Magnos groaned, gathered his belongings with surprising speed, and barged into my side of the tent. "What do you think you're doing?" I hissed.

"Escaping from certain death." He looked around for a spot to make himself comfortable and continued, "My, but you're the messy sort aren't you?"

"You're not going to be any safer over here, you know. Especially since you let some of the polluted air in. Now my side is contaminated." I had started to hold my nose and the last sentence came out pinched and nasally. Even Selune whined a little and covered her snout with her paws.

Magnos cozied up to me. "Well, if I'm going to die, let it be in the arms of a beautiful woman. Hold me, Seledra!"

Magnos' own pungent odor knocked me backwards and I quickly covered my face with my pillow. "You're not going anywhere near me smelling like that. Get back over to the other side. You smell as bad as Kronk!"

Magnos pointed outside. "Do you want me to jump in the river and run back?"

"You're dirty and smelly and streaked with sweat." I combed through my scattered belongings and found one of my soap stones. After sniffing it and finding the scent sufficiently not-girly-smelling, I handed it to him. "Strip. Go outside and scrub yourself down. Don't come back until you're squeaky clean."

Magnos sighed and rolled his eyes. "Turn around."

"What? You got an eyeful of me this morning!"

Magnos shook his head and twirled his finger. "This show's not for free. Turn around."

"Hmph." I turned around, but grabbed my hand-mirror and pretended to try to put my hair up with one hand while gazing rather appreciatively at Magnos' reflection. He took off everything but his breeches and walked outside.

~


I was busy reading my copy of A Banquet of Flesh when Magnos burst in unceremoniously. He was dripping wet, holding his breeches in front of him, and his teeth were chattering. My heart, and everything south of it, melted. A little. I got up and wrapped my blanket around him in an effort to dry him off.

Holding one finger out, I dragged it down the center of his chest, making a squeaking noise. Suddenly, Magnos took my hand, drew my finger into his mouth and sucked. I moaned and bit my lip. He wrapped his trembling arms around me and said, "Seledra, I need your warmth. I want you, Seledra."

"Seledra? "

"Seledra?!"


"Hey, Princess!"

I was shocked out of my stupor to see Magnos bobbing up and down on the balls of his feet impatiently. "Are you going to just stand there or are you going to let me dry off and change with a little privacy?"

I sat down with a pout as he pushed past the sheet to where Kronk was sleeping. I picked up my book again, opened to a random page and stared in shock.

Our clothes lay strewn carelessly across the room and were soon joined by the vase of flowers and complimentary bowl of fruit from the table as I replaced them. “Now,” I moaned. But as if distracted, he instead bent down and picked up the daisies from the floor, quickly weaving them into a crown and placing it on my head. “Look in the mirror,” he said. Turning my head to the left, I sat up and drew my knees to my chest while he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and sweetly kissed my cheek. I smiled at our reflection and he whispered softly in my ear, “You look like a Faerie Queen.”

"Again? That's impossible!" I sputtered.

"What's impossible?" Magnos popped his head in on my side of the sheet.

I juggled the book in my hands in a failed attempt to conceal it, but this only stirred up his curiosity. Soon, the rest of him, with nothing but his breeches on, was by my side. Oh, Sune. Why do you hate me so?

Magnos plucked the book out of my hands. "A Banquet of Flesh, eh? Reading about cannibals?" Then he looked closer at the cover. "Oh. Ohhhhhhhhh. You insatiable little minx, it's one of those Heartwarder-enchanted books, isn't it? A fascinating bit of magic these things are. Pulling from your memories to dramatize the best sex of your life in book form. Amazing." He clucked his tongue at me and handed the book back. "Read it."

"No."

"Are you embarrassed?"

"Yes, and it's none of your business."

"C'mon, we're both adults here." He lowered his voice to a sultry whisper. "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours."

I sighed, but deep down, my curiosity gnawed at me. "Oh, all right. But you have to promise not to laugh."

Blushing furiously and my voice reduced to a husky whisper, I read the passage to him. He stared at me a while, blinked, and then grinned devilishly. "It isn't Methy, is it?"

I shook my head. "No."

"Ha, I knew it. Too smooth to be that Mama's boy."

I rolled my eyes. "So glad you approve." I said. "Now it's your turn." I handed the book back to him.

Magnos took the book in his hands and flipped through the pages. "Huh." He scratched his head. "That's weird."

"Are you holding out on me, Magnos?"

"No, it's just that...the pages are blank."

I guffawed.

"I'll thank you not to laugh, it's a sensitive subject," he sniffed.

"You want to tell me about it?" I said, laying a hand gently on his arm.

Magnos shook his arm away. "No."

I looked down, a little embarrassed at my behavior. I mean, he hardly knew me. There was no reason I should have assumed any trust from him. "I see. Well, we should probably go to sleep anyway. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

"Yeah. Here's your blanket back, by the way. Thanks," he said with a little smile.

It was damp and completely unsuitable for keeping me warm. "It's wet," I said.

"No worries," he said, "we can share."

And so it was, after I put my personal items back into my backpack, that Magnos and I laid our bedrolls side-by-side, laid down next to each other, and shared his blanket. Just before I drifted off to sleep, he spoke.

"There was a girl I was with recently, but she must have drugged me because I have no memory of her. That's why the book doesn't work. Or, why it does, but it's blank. Because my memory of her is a blank. But she must have been really something, Seledra. She must have been something."
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
We were able to stock up on more food at Rauvinwatch Keep. While we were there, I slipped my boots off and soaked my sore feet in the cool water of the Rauvin river. It felt so good that I drifted off to sleep with Selune draped across my lap. Luckily it was Ralenthra who came to wake me, as Magnos was still stocking up on food with the 10 gold pieces I'd given him. She stood over me, hands on her hips, shaking her head."You've created a monster. The soldiers are going to go without supper tonight."

"Poppycock, " I replied, squinting in the early afternoon sun, "He's to buy only as much as he's willing to carry."

Ralenthra pulled me to a seated position and helped me get my boots back on. "Hopefully he won't con Kronk into carrying the brunt of it behind your back, then."

Finally, I stood up. After taking a deep breath to center myself I said, "Kronk doesn't like Magnos enough to let himself be conned by him."

As I wobbled on my legs like a newborn filly, Ralenthra clapped me on the shoulder. "Speaking of Kronk, we should make sure he hasn't gotten himself into trouble, eh?"

Kronk had purchased some barbequed venison and was carrying a plate of it and a large tankard over to the riverside. He found a bench carved from a felled oak tree, sat, and had started to eat when I stopped, and grabbed Ralenthra's arm while mentally telling Selune to sit by Kronk.

Selune obediently approached Kronk with a wagging tail.

Kronk turned, saw my wolf approach him, and smiled. "Hello, Wolf. Want deermeat?"

Selune licked her chops and barked.

"Sit, Wolf!"

Selune sat, and Kronk rewarded her with a slice of venison.

The half-orc continued to give Selune simple commands and reward her for following them until he had given her half his venison. "That's all, Wolf. Kronk eat lunch now."

Selune rolled over on to her back and got a belly rub while Kronk finished eating and drinking. Ralenthra smiled and said to me, "I think Kronk is doing just fine on his own. Let's make sure Magnos hasn't gotten himself arrested yet."

And with that, the two of us went looking for our mage. My legs felt like jelly, but we had to keep going for at least four more hours.

~


Ralenthra and I passed the time during the early afternoon doldrums with lessons in drow sign language. It was becoming more and more apparent how useful this skill would be to share, especially now that we had so much talking behind others' backs to their faces to do. We figured that the safest bet was to conduct our conversation in elvish. For example:

"Eir vol. Sai shaendrol, sor air 'sael ci sestal'," explained Ralenthra (All right. To begin, this is "flank the human").

I nodded and repeated her gestures. She smiled. "Byrn sor air 'lair air shor thosi'" (Now this is "Kill it with fire").

Again, I mimicked her movements. She nodded enthusiastically. I asked "Shar eidyr, 'rial cos ail si vor'?" (How about, "punch him in the ribs?")

Ralenthra started to gesture and then shook her head. "Ei pyrn shyr baelaes ber vel mystaeli ail si vor. Mar tardi. Ai ker mysti tylyzelor kaer jhyr ail salarol" (A drow would never just punch someone in the ribs. Stab maybe. I guess some colloquialisms get lost in translation).

Magnos snickered to himself. He was probably thinking of something dirty, that pervert.

~


We took a brief respite about an hour later as Selune was acquiring herself a meal of freshly killed rabbit. Magnos sidled up to me and whispered, "Not that I didn't appreciate the lunar display this morning, and not that I don't like seeing that big lug doing all the heavy lifting, but it really isn't necessary."

I turned and raised an eyebrow at him, incredulous. "Can it be, Magnos, that you are volunteering for something? Someone get me some smelling salts! I might faint."

He smirked. "Your sarcasm is but the least of your charms, your holiness. But I'm still willing to sacrifice one of my spells for the greater good."

"And which spell have you decided to sacrifice?" I asked.

"Why, Tenser's Floating Disc, of course! It's one of the most useful of all my spells. Every time my friend Jonah has a little too much elven wine at the Goat, we use it to carry him back to the dormitories."

I smirked. "Has anyone ever had to use it to taxi you around?"

He puffed out his chest, "Oh no. I can hold my liquor."

I snorted.

Magnos smiled. "Oh, you doubt my talents? Maybe I should take you to the Goat sometime and show you how skilled I am."

I gulped and was afraid that I was starting to blush, so I turned and pretended to look off into the horizon for Selune. In truth, she had communicated to me that she was on her way back, but was currently being distracted by a squirrel.

When I turned back around, he was still smiling. "Have you ever been to the Dancing Goat? There's a great variety of beverages to get drunk on, cheap, if otherwise unappealing chow, and the music! They always have great live music."

I nodded. "I hear the inn is a ripoff, though."

Magnos grimaced, "Tell me about it."

Selune came loping back into view and I called an end to our rest stop. Ralenthra beckoned me to her and as we walked along, she whispered, "Did he just ask you out on a date?"

I whispered back, "I didn't agree to anything." After pausing for a moment, I added, "Of course, we could all go together when this is done. That way, nothing will go wrong!"

Ralenthra shook her head. "The last time all four of us were in the same place in Silverymoon, the city was attacked by trolls."

I sighed, "Oh, don't be so negative."

She looked sideways at me, suspiciously.

I whispered emphatically. "It's not a date."
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
I awoke to Selune's cold nose nuzzling my hand. It was still dark, but we have to be at the Moorgate at the crack of dawn. Gingerly, I pulled myself out of my warm, soft, comfortable bed and sauntered over to Ralenthra's room. She was already awake and dressed.

"Did you remember the talcum powder first?" I asked.

"Damn it." said Ralenthra.

A short time later, we both stood in front of the full-length mirror in her room, powdering ourselves down.

"Do you think I look ashy?" asked Ralenthra.

"I'm more concerned about how hot you're going to be. One, it's summer. Two, you're wearing all black. Three, you are black. Four, you're wearing a catsuit under your five studded leather armor." I listed the problems off on the fingers of one hand.

"I'll be fine. Drow are cold-blooded creatures, after all." she said with a sardonic chuckle.

"Well, our route follows the Rauvin river. Don't be too proud to take a dip in the water to cool off."

"I'll be fine."

I sighed, then pulled on my leather corset and battle skirt. Buyer's remorse was starting to set in.

"I'm not sure about this whole 'going drow' thing," I said as I began to weave my hair into two long braids.

Ralenthra was also braiding her hair. "Well you were the one who was so concerned about being too hot."

I looped the two braids into a halo style and tugged at the skirt fretfully. "It barely covers my bottom. What if I have to jump? I'll expose myself!"

"It's nothing Magnos hasn't already seen before," she replied. As my face flushed, she quickly added, "I kid, I kid! Besides, he'll probably be too busy staring at his own reflection in the river to notice. You'll be fine. Really."

~


We gathered at the Moorgate at dawn, some of us more rested than others. Dorn was silent and stone-faced as I handed out supplies, Kronk receiving his sundries with a surprised smile and Magnos accepting his with bemusement. Selune took an alert stance as she was getting a read on our little party. She seemed to recognize Kronk and licked his hand. Magnos and his snowy owl Hedwig she acknowledged with a friendly bark of approval. However, she kept growling at Dorn until I gave her specific instructions not to. She whined in protest but obeyed. I took a deep breath, surveyed our fellowship, and smiled.

"I got us a tent." I proclaimed, proudly.

"A tent?" said Magnos, as he dug into his bag of jerky. "How generous and thoughtful of you. I hope you don't mind sleeping outside, Kronk. The ladies and I...need our space."

Ralenthra spoke up. "Actually, the tent is for you males. I am quite comfortable sleeping outside and for druids, sleeping outside is practically standard."

As Magnos turned to stare at me whilst in mid-chew, I cleared my throat and nodded enthusiastically. He was incredulous. Pointing at Kronk, he said, "You mean I have to share a tent with that guy? He smells like a meat locker and it will only get worse in close quarters!" Then he popped more jerky into his mouth.

Kronk growled. "Kronk right here you know."

"Enough fighting, all right?" I shouted. I took the folded up tent from the guard that accompanied us from my house. "Someone give me a boost." Kronk offered his arms to me, but I shook my head.

"Actually, Kronk, I was thinking you could carry the tent. It's quite light, if a little cumbersome."

Kronk pouted. "Kronk not pack mule."

I smiled and patted his arm. "But Kronk, you're so big and strong, it will be like nothing at all! Ralenthra can't carry it as it would almost drag on the ground. I'm not much taller than she is." Here I whispered to him conspiratorially, "And you know the scrawny magic person is too weak to carry even a light tent like this."

Kronk, adequately mollified, chuckled and offered his back. I looked at Magnos, who was emptying the remainder of his bag of jerky into his mouth. "How about that boost, then?" I asked.

Magnos crouched.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

His mouth slightly full, he explained, "Get on my shoulders. I'll give you a boost that way."

I thought about my lack of knickers and shuddered. "I am not wrapping my legs around your head."

"Such a pervert! Here then." Magnos cast Tenser's Floating Disc. "Ride my disc."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ralenthra smack her forehead. "Excuse me?" I asked.

Magnos swallowed and enunciated his words more clearly. "Ride. My. Disc. Here, I can see you're intimidated by its size. I'll help you up."

I found myself getting hoisted up by the waist and seated on the floating silver disc. I skittered to my feet and the tentpack was handed to me. It took a few moments to make sense of the various
buckles and ties and the situation was not made any easier with Magnos standing almost directly underneath me.

As I was putting on the finishing touches, Magnos chuckled."Looks like a full moon."

I sighed, exasperated. "She shouldn't be visible at this time of day."

"I can only state what I see with my own eyes. From here, she is round and full and so close I could take a bite out of her."

I wheeled around to see Magnos and his lasciviously grinning face. Before I could draw my sword and strike him with it, Ralenthra elbowed Magnos in the ribs, not hard enough to bruise anything but perhaps his ego, with a "That's enough sky-gazing for you, Rel Astra. We've got a job to do."

Kronk turned to me. "You want Kronk to flatten magic person for you?"

I thought of my bet with Ralenthra. Apparently she had heard the offer too, and it set her eyes gleaming. I replied, "No, Kronk. That won't be necessary. He's good for something. Probably."

And we set out west, following the river. Just after passing through the gate, Magnos paused and sniffed the air. "Does anyone else smell brimstone?"

Dorn raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

~


I had shopped for a five day journey. Why had Magnos gone through all his food before midday? Why? Also before midday, I was starting to realize the wisdom of "breaking in" a pair of boots before you go walking long distances in them. But I wasn't the only one suffering it seems.

"Are we there yet?" groaned Magnos one hour into our journey.

"No." said Ralenthra.

"This is a travesty of justice, I tell you. The trip alone is going to kill me," Magnos intoned bitterly. Hedwig hooted sympathetically. "Thanks, girl. It's nice to know someone cares."

I sighed laboriously as I hobbled along, "You're not the only one with aching feet, you know. But some of us know how to suffer with some dignity."

"Oh yes! You're very dignified, Moonmaiden. I'd cast Tenser's Floating Disc for you, but I had to use that up so you could give us all a show. Not that it's not appreciated, but I'm afraid that you owe me 7 silver." Magnos piped up matter-of-factly.

"I don't owe you anything, Magnos." I groaned and rubbed the heel of my hand into my forehead as I recalled this morning's blunder.

Dorn spoke for quite possibly the first time since we met him. "Will you two just shut yer traps?"

I felt a little chastened being scolded by a stranger, especially one who had been assigned to keep an eye on us. Kronk laughed a little and pumped his fist in the air. Ralenthra sighed in relief. Magnos, as usual, couldn't care less about making a good impression on our creepy little warden.

"Mercury doesn't grow on trees you know. Do you have any idea what a risk to my well-being I am taking by carrying it on my person? It could make me go mad!" Magnos exclaimed with a grand flourish.

"Pity," said Ralenthra, flatly. "You are truly a great hero. We should all bow in your presence."

"Exactly," said Magnos, seemingly oblivious to her sarcasm.

Ralenthra made an obscene gesture at Magnos in drow sign and walked quickly ahead. I strained to join her despite my aching feet.

I could hear the sullenness in Magnos' voice as he loudly added, "And damn it, I'm hungry. Kronk, can you spare any of that jerky?"
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
In the dead of night, still having been confined to our cells, the four of us were rousted from whatever sleep we'd had, gathered into a room and seated at a round table. Ralenthra and I, refreshed somewhat after a four hour trance, sat on one side, Magnos and Kronk, the former sleep-deprived and the latter rather hung-over, on the other, and Captain Nim Tagen sat between us. Magnos' fingers were tied together. As this was happening, Tagen took a big damn pipe out of his pocket and lit it. Unfortunately, he wasn't smoking halfling leaf, which would have gone a long way in soothing my jangled nerves. I coughed.

Tagen look a long puff on his pipe and spoke. "You may be relieved to know that after your interrogations, it has been decided that the City of Silverymoon will be lenient with you..."

He waited for us all to sigh in relief, which we all did, albeit involuntarily, then he smiled and continued. "And by lenient, I am saying that it has been decided that you will be granted...clemency...if you agree to do something for us. After all, we are not fools. If you choose not to help us, you can expect a long and uncomfortable stay in the palace dungeon."

Ralenthra was rubbing her temples. Kronk scratched his chin. Magnos shifted in his seat. I spoke. "What's the job, Tagen?"

"So blunt, Miss Nailo..."

"I don't think any one of us is going to choose a long prison sentence over performing a service for the city, so I gather that it's best not to waste anyone's time, any more than it already has been."

Captain Tagen frowned. "Perhaps you did not learn your lesson earlier for your impertinence..."

Magnos cleared his throat. "I agree with the lady, Nimmy. I know I don't want to spend any more time here than I have to."

Before Tagen could physically react to Magnos, Ralenthra spoke up. "What my more hotheaded associates are trying to say is that we would be fools to turn down your generous offer, Captain Tagen."

Tagen smiled at Ralenthra and then looked at Kronk. Kronk said, "Kronk glad he not be dead, but like Sel-Sel..."

I helped. "It's Seledra, Kronk."

Kronk nodded, then looked confused. "Now Kronk forget what Kronk was going to say...oh!" He pounded his giant fist down on the table, which shook violently. "Kronk want to know what special favor be."

Magnos piped up, sounding cranky. "Yes, are there rats in the royal cellar that need killing?"

Captain Tagen folded his hands in front of him and began. "A few miles west of town, there is a monastery, well, an abandoned monastery that once housed dwarven monks devoted to Berronar Truesilver."

My ears pricked up at this. Finally! My religious studies would pay off!

Tagen continued, "The current use of the place seems to be a base of operations for some nobles that are seeking to stage a coup and overthrow Lady Alustriel. The scepter that was found in your possession, Kronk, was a fake. The real one is believed to be at the monastery, where enchantments meant to harm Alustriel are to be placed upon it."

Magnos grunted. "You want us to capture a bunch of disgruntled nobles and retrieve a trinket for you? Isn't that a job for the Knights in Silver? Why send us?"

Tagen's eyes darted in Magnos' direction. "Silverymoon is a well-oiled machine. I can't just grab a few parts out of that machine and throw them about at will! Besides, this little mission will prove to us whether you are worthy of mercy or not."

Ralenthra was cracking her knuckles. She spoke again. "So what are we looking at? I doubt those nobles are alone."

Tagen smiled warmly at Ralenthra. "You would be correct. Early intelligence indicates that the nobles have hired goblin and duergar mercenaries as guards. You'll have to get through them, plus the usual traps and other nasty things you might find in an abandoned facility of that size."

I raised an eyebrow. "Such as...?"

Tagen examined his fingernails absentmindedly. "Nothing you can't handle."

I leaned forward and looked into his face."Humor me. I like to be prepared."

Tagen looked up and smirked. "Why don't you ask your diviner?"

I shot back. "Maybe I will."

Magnos objected. "Hey, leave me out of this!"

We both turned and stared at him.

Magnos suddenly became very interested in a spot of grime on the table. "Or not."

Captain Tagen took a few puffs off of his pipe and spoke."Well, you have the necessary information. Do we have a deal?"

As Tagen awaited our replies, the four of us sat in silence. I looked from face to face, and impatient to get this all over with, I offered, "Let's have a vote, shall we? All in favor?"

I rose my hand. Ralenthra rose her hand. Magnos rose his hand slowly. The three of us turned and looked at Kronk.

Magnos pinched the bridge of his nose and squinted. "Kronk?"

Kronk turned to Magnos."What?"

Magnos spoke slowly. "Do you want to do this?"

Kronk nodded his head. "Yeah."

Magnos was gritting his teeth. "Then...raise...your...hand."

Kronk grinned. "Oh. Yeah." Then he raised his hand.

I stood up. "So it's unanimous. Can we go now?"

Tagen grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back down into my seat. Magnos snorted.

Tagen spoke. "No, you will spend the rest of the night in...slightly more comfortable quarters. You will return to your homes in the morning, where you will be accompanied by armed escort at all times. You have one day to prepare for your journey. At the crack of dawn, you will gather at the west gates of Silverymoon. It should take you no more than a day and a half's march to get to the monastery."

I scoffed. "What, will no horses be provided for us?"

Tagen rolled his eyes. "No, your highness. You will walk. Oh, one more thing."

Magnos, Ralenthra and I collectively groaned.

Tagen continued. "You will be accompanied by Dorn Strabelin, a dwarven mercenary. He's worked for the city several times, enough that I trust him to nanny you lot. Keep you from killing each other or from running off."

Ralenthra cursed under her breath.

~


And so it was that a few hours before dawn, contracts were signed, and we were given rooms for the night. They didn’t lock us up in the rooms, but the windows were barred and there were guards at the end of the hallway, to make sure we didn’t leave. I stood at the barred window in our chamber and stared at the huge bonfire and fireworks that streaked the sky, pretty sure that the step up in accommodations were due to Methrammar’s behind-the-scenes wrangling. Ralenthra stepped out of the chamber she and I shared and walked towards the end of the corridor. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t want to speak to me ever again. Indeed, she hadn’t spoken to me since she came back from her interrogation. I heard a familiar voice.

“I'm sorry; I had no choice.” It was Tordrin, coming down the hallway. Then that means…“There are worse things to be wanted for, you know.”

“Than something I didn’t do?” She snapped. The first words I’d heard her say since we got here.

“Than espousing the cause of a good goddess. Look…“ Tordrin tried to counter.

“You betrayed me!” she cried out. Oh no. No, no, no.

“Listen,” he said, “I don’t know what happened at the festival. I’m already working on that. I know you and I know Seledra, and I know Kronk, sort of. I’m sure someone planted those tokens on you, but it’ll take time to find out whom, time the Knights in Silver won’t give. In the meantime, I couldn’t withhold the information they wanted, not this time.”

“This time?”

“You know very well that Thralia and I knew about your other . . . identities . . . since Everlund, and I suspected more, even if I didn't know all of it. The guards here ask questions when there are drow around, even when they've been vouched for. Especially when their activities in the city are slightly suspicious. We’ve been questioned since we came back into the city and our recent association with you became known, and we've covered for you. I've covered for you. A lot."

"Well, of course you did. You hadn't gotten everything you wanted from me, yet." Oh, this is not going well.

Tordrin sounded stricken. “You can't really think that. . . . You must know how much I care about--"

"If you truly cared, you wouldn't have told them everything," she said coldly. "You would have kept your promise. Why couldn't you just tell them that I'm a thief and mercenary from Menzo? Why, if not because exposing me was your plan all along?"

"I had no intention of exposing you. You have to believe me!"

"Then why?"

"Because it was better for you that they know the whole truth."

"How? So they can extradite me back to my own people, as punishment for my crimes here? At least if they just imprisoned me as a thief, I would've had a chance of escaping!"

Tordrin let out a deep breath. "Ralenthra, can't you see that I'm only trying to protect you?”

“Protect me?” she shouted. “I was doing just fine protecting myself, you know!”

“Were you? Your elaborate misdirection a few weeks ago may have thrown people off your scent for a while, but not forever. What are you going to do when they find you again? Because they will. You can’t pull the same trick again. Will you just slip away and move to a new city? How many times can you do that?”

“As many times as it takes.”

“What about the friends you’ve made here? There are people who actually care about you, you know.”

“I’d have been able to hide here longer than I will now that you’ve let everybody know who I am! You may as well have sent a letter to all my enemies inviting them to Silverymoon to kill me! Drow don’t just throw you in a cell and give you bread and water every morning. For all I know, by the time I get back from this—this suicide mission—if I get back—they’ll all be here waiting for me. And it’s your fault! You’ve probably been planning this all this time; you’re just as bad as those people from Olostin’s Hold! I wish I’d never met you!”

I heard Magnos shout from his room, “There are people trying to sleep around here, you know!”

A gruff voice called out “What’s going on out there? Tordrin, d’ya need some help?” I could stand it no longer. I walked out of our chamber and stood in the doorway. Tordrin turned to respond to the guard, “I’ve got it covered, thanks.” His momentary lapse of attention allowed Ralenthra to wriggle out of his grip, and she ran toward me.

“If you want to protect me, leave me the hell alone!” she shouted as she flung her arms around my neck. My arms went around her instinctively. I gazed over Ralenthra’s head at Tordrin and locked eyes with him for a moment. He looked at me pleadingly, almost helplessly, appealing to me as only one fair elf can to another. But she was too raw now for me to make the peace between them. I shook my head and watched his heart break before my eyes. Quietly, I drew Ralenthra into the room and locked the door behind us. I sat her down on a bed and held her as she sobbed for what felt like hours.

Finally, it seemed right to speak. I gently smoothed her hair out of her face with my hand. “Why does it matter, that anyone knows your real name? The people from Menzo are after Corael, aren’t they? They won’t keep coming after you just because you’re involved with Eilestraeeans, will they?”

“Them? Probably not for that. But they’ll find out that Corael and I are the same person, and Corael made them lose favor with Llolth. It’s a big deal. They may stop looking for me eventually, if I can keep away from them. It’s a waste of resources. Besides, I’ve heard the House regained favor recently, so they may not care about me so much. But they won’t hesitate to kill me if I run into any of them”

But as things stood right now, with Ralenthra in Silverymoon she would be untouchable by the Menzo drow. Any drow trying to enter the city requires a vouching for his or her character from a reputable citizen. They are the only race to have to go through this screening process. “Then what are you so worried about?”

“My father. You think your family is messed up? My mother wanted to kill me when I was a small child, because I was too small and weak.” I couldn’t hide my shock. How could a mother want to kill her own child? Ralenthra shrugged. “It’s the drow way. Someone, I don’t even remember who, convinced my father not to, that he should wait until I grew some more, to see if I had other talents that made up for it.

“My mother was furious, but my father forbade her to harm me. He’s a high priest of Vhaeraun, so he had enough authority in the clan to make that decision. My mother left soon after; she had never fully bought into the idea of equality, and she rankled under the authority of a male. She went back to the Underdark, I’m not sure where, to serve Llolth.

“But my father let me live, at a time when the Auskovyn were struggling to carve out a home on the surface. He gave me precious resources that could have gone to someone who would’ve better benefited the clan. He invested in me. When I was training to be a ranger, he knew I cheated, but he let it go on, because I’d finally proven I had a skill that could be valuable. When he caught me with the Eilestraeeans, it was more than a crime; it was personal. He will never stop hunting me, because he invested in me, and I proved to be a waste. Maybe he was right.” She paused. "I told him, you know."

She didn’t have to say it, in fact, I wish she hadn’t. I tensed, despite myself. "I told Tordrin everything. And he used it against me, the first chance he got. He told me he'd never tell anyone, and I believed him. I'm such a fool, Seledra. Such a fool." It was unfortunate, the timing of this whole matter, to say the least. By the look in Tordrin’s eyes, he was living in a terrible nightmare come to life, forced to choose between keeping his word and doing what he believed to be in everyone’s best interests, only to lose what he cared about most. But I knew it took a lot for Ralenthra to put her heart out there after so long, perhaps for the first time ever. She took a chance and it cost her. It wasn’t right that fate itself seemed to be conspiring against the both of them and their happiness. And I couldn’t help feeling somewhat responsible. After all, I’d introduced her to Thralia.

It was fortunate for me that she again leaned into my shoulder for comfort, so she could not see my face. What could I say in the face of her despair? How could I restore her faith in her own self-worth when I knew so much of what she’d done to survive for so long might now be rendered as only merely delaying the inevitable? Even if I had the perfect words, she was so raw, so heartbroken that I wasn’t sure they would have any effect.

“Maybe this mission is a…blessing in disguise for you. If you stay moving with the rest of us there to all watch each others backs…okay, Magnos will probably only be looking to save his own skin, but still…on the run or in Silverymoon, you will be safe with us. Maybe you’ll be able to keep using ‘Mayurra’ as your identity here. Maybe the Captain will keep his word and ‘Ralenthra’ will remain a secret.”

The rising sun outside our window hit Ralenthra’s hair, giving her a pinkish-orange halo. She sighed. “That’s a lot of maybes, Seledra.”
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra3)
Last night I dreamed.

A beautiful, golden-haired half-elf gave birth to a full elven baby boy in Evermeet, surrounded by sun elf relatives, and died soon after, but not before she named him Khiiral.

A temple to Chauntea in a faraway land was burnt to the ground; the only escapee a 14 year old girl who fled west, first on foot, then by boat and finally on horseback, for thousands of miles. After 5 years of crossing many lands alone, she came to a place where yet again she saw others who looked more like herself and understood her speech. The land told her she had not circumnavigated Toril, so she stayed, married a woodcutter and had a son.

Aelthas Vihuel, in his customary blue and green robes, crossed a field and approached a hooded female figure in green.

“Seledra?”

The woman turned and pulled back her hood.

“Who…who are you?” he stuttered.

A familiar voice spoke. “Do you not see the resemblance? The only things Seledra shares with her father are his name, his eyes and his unfortunate lack in stature. The rest belongs to me.”

Aelthas raised his wand, but the woman continued to speak. “I am Evindra Starwind, not that the name means anything to you, ignorant wretch that you are.” She cocked an eyebrow and smirked at the nervous young human. “Lower your wand, Aelthas. If I had wanted to kill you, you would be dead already.”

Aelthas did not move from his defensive position and the wand was summarily knocked from his hand. She sighed, annoyed, but not threatened. “No, I will not kill you. Instead, you shall suffer.” A bolt of lightning was shot from my mother’s hands, but even without his wand at his disposal, Aelthas blocked it.

“Asomatic Spellcasting, clever boy! Good to see you didn’t spend all your time at university getting drunk and deflowering maidens.” A gust of wind knocked Aelthas to the ground and my mother stood over him.

“Why are you doing this?”

She narrowed her eyes. “I do this because you have broken my daughter’s spirit. That I do not forgive."

Aelthas interrupted, crying out “Seledra would have done the same if I hadn’t first.” A crackle of electricity hit him, stunning him.

“Silence! My daughter has cried herself to sleep every night for the last week. She is inconsolable. My husband and I are sending her to the High Forest in hopes of settling her nerves. But you, you shall have no…such…respite.”

With that, a blast of silver light flew from my mother’s hands and hit Aelthas square in the face. Where a handsome young human male of twenty once lay, there was a man who looked closer to seventy in his stead. “Did you love her?” she asked.

He replied feebly, “Yes.”

My mother turned on her heel and walked away. “But not enough. Congratulations on your graduation, Aelthas.”


I sat at the vanity in my room, wearing my high-collared green silk dress from Shou, green silk slippers and my necklace from Methrammar and was pulling the last tendrils down from an elaborate hairstyle for the big occasion. I’d had plenty of time to work on my hair due to the strange dream I’d had. Was it real? If so, what did those first two women have to do with me? If my mother had confronted Aelthas, why did she never tell me? Is that reason for the “sickness” I’d heard he was stricken with before he began teaching at the Conclave? Was there a reason why this dream was filled less with symbols and more with complete events? After waking with a start, I couldn’t go back to sleep, and I became so obsessed with taming my hair that midmorning flew by without me eating even a morsel for breakfast. Today was the day I was to be presented to the City of Silverymoon as the object of Methrammar Aerasumé’s affections; it was to be announced that we were courting, which was the step before betrothal, which was the step before marriage. My father and mother had said that they might be in attendance which raised the stakes even more. Nine Hells, the whole of Silverymoon would be there. Even…

“How do I look?” Ralenthra came into the room in a lovely lavender gown. Not very stealthy, but if she went around in her usual thieves’ leathers, she’d stick out like a sore thumb (more than she already does, I guess). I noticed that she kept smoothing her dress over and over but said nothing. Maybe she was just a little nervous going out like this in a crowd.

I smiled. “Gorgeous. Do you want me to do up your hair?”

She grinned back. “Nah, I prefer to leave on time. How long have you been sitting here, an hour?” She whipped out some hairpins and started styling her hair into little round balls, one on each side of the top of her head.

I stood and took one last turn in the mirror, grimacing. “Two, actually. I just can’t leave it alone.” We fell silent, but for the growling in our respective stomachs. I turned away from the mirror and looked at Ralenthra. She was fidgeting with various compartments in her dress and mumbling off a checklist to herself. I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow at her. “So…are you going to tell me about your secret compartments?”

Glowing with pride, she showed off the deep pockets that looked like mere fabric folds on either side of her hips, a small bustle of fabric in the back that doubled as a compartment for some of her thieves’ tools and the re-attachable fabric just behind the hip pockets that made accessing the hip scabbard for her dagger that much more convenient. That thing has got to be gnome-manufactured. I nodded, impressed, “It also looks like you’re a little bit…more endowed. Is that a modification as well?”

Ralenthra smiled. “Good eye. It’s a push-up mechanism that not only works as a distraction, but storage as well.”

As she concluded with her own finishing touches, a knock came at the door. Dear Mielikki, was it midday already? I peered through a curtained window and sure enough, it was the coachman Methrammar sent to take us to the Festival. I gave Selune a hug and kiss and told her only to hunt for creatures that were throwing Silverymoon out of balance. And with that, Ralenthra and I boarded the carriage that would take us to the heart of the Festival. As we sat there in jittery silence, I felt the flask full of raspberry liqueur in my little silk purse. Damn, I should have left that at home. I worried that the temptation to drink my nerves away might be too strong.

The two of us made quite the entrance in the gleaming silver carriage drawn by six Calishite stallions and even more so as we stepped out in all our finery, aided by the footmen. I can’t say I was overly concerned about it at the time, as I was starving and there were food stalls all about. What I craved most of all was a cream horn, and the best place in all of Silverymoon to get one was from Aradia, the woman who was the current proprietress of the Heavenly Queen Bakery, a business run by humans that had been passed from mother to daughter for centuries, almost since the founding of Silverymoon itself. Luckily, Aradia had set up a food stall for the festival.

It was packed, but the wait would be worth it, or so I thought. My stomach gnawed on itself as I pulled Ralenthra into line with me. She glanced up at the sign above the stall. “What is that supposed to be?” she asked. Could it be she’d never had this before? With an almost evangelical fervor even the Helmites would balk at, I smiled wide, and Ralenthra took a little step back. “A cream horn! It’s a Silverymoon specialty, especially at Midsummer. A pastry filled with sweetened, whipped cream!” Soon I was first in line. I looked back at her and she shook her head, so I only bought one for myself. She lowered her parasol slightly, looked at the sign again, and said, “Huh. Couldn’t they get a better artist?”

As I pulled the recently purchased treasure to my face, I said to Ralenthra, “You’ve simply got to try one of these. They are divine.” Ralenthra shook her head firmly. “I’m really not interested in making a spectacle of myself.” I raised an eyebrow at her, completely stumped until Ralenthra started making obscene gestures with her hands. I giggled and then lustfully took a greedy bite from my cream horn, licking my lips clean from the excess cream that had spilled out of the flaky pastry. Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched and looked up. To my horror, it was HIM.

Oh, Hells, no!

Ralenthra must have seen my frozen expression. “What is it?” My face remaining frozen except for the attempt I made to point using only my eyebrows, I managed to squeak out, “Look. Over. There.” She looked, and an expression of recognition passed across her features. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, Jonah. I bought my eye drops from him. Nice guy, you’d like him. He doesn’t test on animals, just…his…friends. Seledra? Hello!” I had turned away as quickly as I could, with Ralenthra having to run a little to keep up until I was satisfied that we had ducked out his line of sight. “It’s him. The boy. It’s him.” I kept repeating to her, as I felt my skin beginning to flush like I was a Lathanderite cleric at tonight’s bonfire. What had I been thinking? Silverymoon is a big city, but did I really think I was never going to run into him again? Ralenthra still seemed confused. “Jonah? Really?”

I shook my head, and it was at that point that I uttered the name that I had not dared to speak or write anywhere since that night at the Dancing Goat, not to Isioleth, not even to Ralenthra. I said, “His name is Magnos.” Ralenthra turned around scanned the crowd again. “Which one is he?” she asked. I groaned, “The one with the dark hair and dark eyes and wearing the ostentatious red and purple robes. You can’t miss him.” Then I put my head in my hands. Ralenthra chuckled. “Boy? The way you’re acting, I was expecting something more criminal. That, my dear, is a man. Well, sort of. I mean…he’s probably no less mature than you. Us. You know, the whole aging…slow…thing. Yes.” Still in a state of shock, I remained silent, but started walking again while she followed. Ralenthra continued, changing her tack, “You’re so like Tordrin in that way. You like men from Kara-Tur, Hells, anything from Kara-Tur, like he likes drow. Huh. So he’s the one that helped you practically demolish that room! We had to pay through the nose for that, remember?” She guffawed. I’m glad she thought it was funny.

Ralenthra and I kept moving through the crowd with her teasing me all the way. “Did you ever find your underwear?” I shook my head and she continued, “How about that bodice? Did you get that back from the shop yet?” I told her about my entanglement with the Glittersmoke girls. “I’m surprised the thing was salvageable. How would you explain it to your boss if it …" Her eyes grew wide for a moment and she froze. Looking ahead, I saw Tordrin and as I turned to her, she turned to me and grinned. I rolled my eyes. "Oh go on you silly goose, I'll be fine. See you later!” And with that, she ran off to join him, though something told me that she may have gone somewhat reluctantly. I decided at that point to start looking for something to calm me down for my engagement with Methrammar.

Hundreds of distractions awaited me. It seemed there was a busking bard for every fifth stall. On my left was the stall representing Kamala's Fine Herbs and Hookah Shop. Kamala is a halfling woman hailing from Calimport. She opened her shop in Northbank about five years ago and sells the best halfling weed in the city. Students from the Conclave and young artistic types crowd her place in the evenings and smoke halfling weed from the hookahs she imported from Calimport. She also sells mushrooms that were previously limited to use by druids and shamans in vision quests, which is a bit less ethical, but if people want to expand their spiritual horizons, I'm not averse to looking the other way when I see her selling some. Of course, both the halfling weed and special mushrooms make said seekers hungry, and Kamala's slightly unhinged but culinarily talented brother Sammy obliges them by keeping late hours at his Calishite restaurant, The Djinn’s Delight (the same one my mother and I went to on the 28th of Flamerule). He ran the stall next to Kamala's today and unnervingly asked every customer with a Neverwinter accent if they knew a halfling named Tomi Undergallows. On my right, carnies competed with each other for the silvers of passerby, but with all these sights, sounds and smells, I still couldn’t get Magnos out of my mind.

Up ahead, there was the stall for Rand's Rare Books. Jaq Rand, the proprietor, has a wide variety of books and scrolls, including the erotica that Ralenthra and I devour. Discreetly, I picked up Memoirs of a Heartwarder. Those saucy Sunites!

As the glasses of wine increased, so our inhibitions decreased. He took my hand and led me to the dance floor, where I danced with him as I hadn’t danced with anyone in far too long. The band played ecstatically and we matched our movements to them for song after song, until finally, breathless, he locked his brown eyes on my green ones, tangled his hand in my auburn hair and drew me to him, drinking deeply from my lips. As he sucked on my bottom lip, I managed to growl, “You. Me. Upstairs. Now.”

Flushed, I slammed the leather bound volume shut. I must be losing my mind or something. At random, I selected another book with the delicious-sounding title of A Banquet of Flesh. I remembered that Ralenthra had recently picked this book up for us and that it was waiting for my perusal on my nightstand at home. My hope that it wasn’t about cannibals encouraged by the cover image of a handsome young man biting lasciviously into a peach.

Our clothes lay strewn carelessly across the room and were soon joined by the vase of flowers and complimentary bowl of fruit from the table as I replaced them. “Now,” I moaned. But as if distracted, he instead bent down and picked up the daisies from the floor, quickly weaving them into a crown and placing it on my head. “Look in the mirror,” he said. Turning my head to the left, I sat up and drew my knees to my chest while he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and sweetly kissed my cheek. I smiled at our reflection and he whispered softly in my ear, “You look like a Faerie Queen.”

My eyes blurred suddenly, and I gently put the book back in its place. I rubbed my eyes frantically, and groping almost blindly, I grabbed The Wail of the Banshee.

After slamming me against the door, he buried his face in my neck and my legs went around him instinctively. Then he moaned softly, but clearly enough, a name that was not mine. I froze. “Excuse me?” Slowly, he lifted his head and met my hardened gaze with a bashful grin. “Oops.” I untangled myself from his embrace and gently pushed him in the chest. “Who is Susan?” He raised his eyebrows sharply. “Susan? Who is Susan?” He was repeating my words back at me, using a typical male stalling technique. “Yeah. Not my name. Who in the Nine Hells is Susan?” He scratched his head, and if he were less drunk, he probably could have come up with a better explanation. “Ah, does it matter? You’re here and I’m here. Would you rather I was with Susan calling her by your name?” I slapped him and walked past him to start picking up my clothes, but he grabbed me by the wrist. “Let go of me,” I growled, and slapped him again. He smiled and dropped my hand. “Fine,” he said. “Fine,” I said. “Good,” he said. “Good,” I said. “Bint,” he said. “Bastard,” I said. And I went to slap him yet again, but his time he caught me. The heat between us was undeniable. He continued to smile. “You like it rough, do you?” I drew closer to him and whispered huskily, “Shut up and kiss me.” Soon the table had been knocked over, and we were on the floor.

Furious, I threw the book back on the shelf. Jaq called out and ran towards me. “Hey, are you going to pay for that?” My eyes bloodshot, I screamed. “No!” He backed off. “All right then. No need to get snippy.” I sighed and headed to the section where the translations of the newest martial arts serials written by Mao Jiao Long that have also been catching my eye were. I flipped through the first volume, The Way of Jun Fan and was so piqued that I bought it and the second volume, The Nine Golden Swords of Telflamm. Breathing a sigh of relief, I was free.

Soon I heard the familiar strains of Sun & Moon wafting through the air. I followed the sounds to the edge of their stage and listened with rapt attention to Tordrin as he sang:

My young love said to me, my mother won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind,
And she stepped away from me and this she did say,
It will not be long love ´til our wedding day.

She stepped away from me and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there,
Then she went her way homeward with one star awake,
As the swans in the evening move over the lake.

The people were saying no two were e´er wed,
But one has a sorrow that never was said,
And I smiled as she passed me with her goods and her gear,
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

I dreamt it last night that my true love came in,
So softly she entered her feet made no din,
She came close beside me and this she did say,
It will not be long love ´til our wedding day.


It was mid-afternoon, and after some more absent-minded browsing of the stalls, a meal of steamed pork buns at the 7 Little Wonders Inn's stall, and just a little sampling of the local brews at the dwarven-run Ale Gardens, I found Methrammar easily, as tall as he is. He took me in his arms and kissed me so deeply and tenderly that I was almost woozy from it. He smiled broadly and pressed his forehead to mine. “I apologize, my darling. I know that was slightly against social convention, but oh, what you do to me.” He lifted my chin with his finger, smiled warmly and continued, “You are devastatingly beautiful today, my love. I pity the other men who gaze upon you and know that they can never have you. Come, let’s present you.”

This was it, my crowning moment of glory, the most important day of my life thus far. Time seemed to slow down as we moved through the crowd and I passed by my parents, offering a little smile. My father looked slightly less stern and maybe a little proud, or was it prideful? My mother smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Her thoughts seemed elsewhere, and when I tried to follow them, I felt as if I were falling into a deep whirlpool. Methrammar gently tugged on my arm, as I had forgotten myself.

And with a flourish of horns and drums, as Methrammar and I were about to take the stage, a sight I was quite unprepared for confronted us. First, I almost fell over when, with a snap, all my pleasure centers fired at once. Normally, I would see that as good, but at the time, it could only mean one thing: the wards were down. Then, I had to remind myself that I had not sampled Kamala's hallucinogenic wares because my eyes and ears told me that a horde of trolls were off in the distance, about a mile away and getting closer. Methrammar quickly ran off to join the Knights in Silver in repelling the monsters but not before telling me to get somewhere safe. I turned and saw my parents; my father standing ramrod straight, holding my restless mother’s arm like an anchor. I ran to them, but was repelled by some sort of force field that my father must have cast. “Why aren’t you helping?” My father responded curtly, “My days of getting involved in the affairs of others are over.” He turned to my mother with a stern look. “And so are hers.”

I ran for cover and started to wish that I hadn’t left my sword, or my wolf, for that matter, at home. Something positively itched at my fingers, and rather than being scared, I was actually a bit excited, if a bit worried about Ralenthra. I couldn’t just crouch there and wait for rescue, so I looked around for a weapon. I saw a bucket of water not two feet away from me and looked down in defeat. “This is hopeless,” I moaned. Then I looked again. I ripped the skirt of my dress off at the middle of my thigh and tore it into three long strips. I dunked those strips of silk into the bucket of water and proceeded to braid them together, all the while stealing glances at the troll’s hunting party as they drew nearer and nearer. Finally, I tied knots at both ends so the silk braid wouldn’t fall apart, slung my purse across my torso, climbed up on top of a stand and waited. When a huge troll broke away from the thick of the battle, I leapt on top of him and wrapped the silk cord around his neck and twisted it tightly. He grabbed at his throat, but couldn’t get his big hands underneath the braid. Just then, another troll grabbed me around my waist and held me up in the air, roaring. The first troll didn’t like that and threw a punch at the troll holding me, sending me flying. I hit the ground with a thud and started to feel a little triumphant when a third troll came by and hoisted me into a cage along with a couple of total strangers. I looked around and saw that there were, in fact, dozens of these cages about the festival grounds. There is usually only one use for a troll cage: storage for future troll meals.

After a while, the wards went back up, the sounds of battle dissipated, and I saw Methrammar returning to the area with an expression of triumph mixed with confusion. For a moment, I thought he had seen me. I freely admit that at that moment I was in no condition to be presented to the people of Silverymoon; dress torn, skin flushed, hair I had worked so hard to tame disheveled. I may have even broken a nail. My last moments in the cage were spent fruitlessly scanning the crowd for Ralenthra and in prayers to Lady Mielikki for her safety. It was at that moment that my cage was opened by a Silverymoon High Guardsman, who started patting me down.

“Excuse me, just what do you think you’re doing?” I put my hands on my hips and raised an eyebrow at the young officer.

The guardsman tipped his helm to me. “This is just a routine search, Miss. To make sure you’re unharmed.”

“Well, officer, I am employed by the city as a druid. I can assure you that I am totally uninjured.”

The officer looked me up and down. “You look like you must have put up quite the fight back there. Are you sure you didn’t hit your head?”

It was possible. I had a small mirror in my purse, so I slung it back around and opened it up. Seeing a small silvery glint, I snatched out its source. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my mirror. It was, however, a damn Lauthaul token, a big no-no for low-level city employees like me, to say the least. I’m not sure what grew wider upon seeing it, my eyes or the Guardsman’s smile.

I was arrested before I could catch Methrammar’s eye.

As long as there were people watching, the Guardsman handled me gently, but when we got to the prisoner’s wagon, I was shoved unceremoniously inside, where I landed right in someone else’s lap. Someone familiar. It was when he touched my face that I knew who he was, that unmistakable spark. Soon I was looking straight into the eyes of Magnos. He winked, grinned and said, “Haven’t we met before?”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
I woke up in the middle of the night. It was just as well that Methrammar had gone back to his own quarters because I had work to do. I ritually bathed, dressed in my druid's robes and, after descending to the forest floor, chose a tree whose dryad I would serve for the next day. Usually this day-long ritual consists of small tasks done for the dryad (or treant, where applicable) and most dryads I have served during my years have been pretty low maintenance. Of course, I'd never tried to combine a Song of Trees ritual with a wedding before.

From what I'd been able to gather (Sylvan gets a little rusty when you only use it once a month), this dryad was once a wild elf druid named Ebudae. She was mortally wounded fighting the corrupt Blue Bear Tribe of Uthgardt barbarians and, after the ritual that ended her life as an elf was performed, she was buried under the oak tree she is now bonded to about half a century ago. I asked her if she had known Ariel in life and she replied that she had once been a part of Ariel's circle when she was a druid. I explained the day's festivities and her eyes lit up.

"Ariel's firstborn daughter. I remember her when she was just a baby. May I come to the wedding? It's been so long."

I'd never heard of a dryad attending a wedding before. I replied "Since I'm performing the ceremony..." My eyes grew wide as I wondered if I had possibly overextended myself for this day. "I don't see why it should be a problem."

The dryad smiled. It was like she'd read my mind. "Do not worry, sister druid. My needs are few. A handful of berries here, a glass of mead there."

For the first few hours, things ran pretty smoothly. Ebudae and I chatted and I made her breakfast. Then, at the crack of dawn, the Harpers got up, bickering over who got to bathe in the nearby stream first. The twins came down next, as did Riol, the half-orc orphan that Ariel adopted when I first came out to train with her (I remember feeding and bathing him and now he's all grown up). They started setting up what was left to set up on the grounds and I went to help them as my dryad seemed content just lounging in a patch of sunlight, her feet dipped in the stream.

The guests began to make their way down. First were Ralenthra and Linu, who were chatting amiably, followed by a pretty but haughty looking bard who introduced herself to me as Sharwyn ("just Sharwyn"), who otherwise spoke to no one and a nicely cleaned-up half-orc who introduced himself to me as Daelan Red Tiger. We made small talk about the state of the Red Tiger clan until Methrammar came down. Finally Ariel and Celeborn made their way down and I understood why I had not seem him at lunch the previous day. In the short while since I had seen him last, he had become quite frail and perhaps was even making preparations for the passing west. Neighbors began filing in from the other villas and guests began taking their seats. I made one last check-in with Ebudae before taking my place at the altar.

For those of you not in the know, druid weddings are a bit...long. The ceremony alone lasts about three hours. The site has to blessed, the couple has to blessed, the bread and salt they share in the first "movement" has to be blessed and there are interludes to be sung by soloists at the right intervals. And that's just to start. But even so it is still a lot less high maintenance than the day-long pomp of a Lathanderite ceremony or your typical weeklong gnome wedding!

First up, I sang, blessing the place, blessing the guests, invoking the Treefather, the Earthmother and the Forest Queen. Then the couple approached the altar, so I got to bless them as well. They did the traditional chants for the first movement (Aarin was well rehearsed for someone who wasn't a druid), shared the bread and salt and that was followed by Sharwyn's solo.

During her solo, I had a brief chance to scan the audience and it was then that I realized that something was wrong. We were missing two of our soloists, Taeghen and Thralia. In the brief time we'd had together, Ralenthra had managed to teach me rudimentary drow sign. I managed to catch Ralenthra's eye and started signing to her, but it seemed that either I still need more work or I was too nervous to sign anything properly. She signed back "What?" and finally, as I realized time was of the essence, mouthed the words "where's Thralia" to her. I saw her turn to Tordrin and the two of them excused themselves, heading to the Harper's camp after Tordrin stopped and briefly whispered to Jaden, who nodded. When Taeghen's turn to sing came, he was still nowhere to be found. Instead, Jaden rose from his seat, walked to the altar and sang the solo instead.

Next came the pricking of the fingers of the bride and groom and the sharing of blood. Take it easy, it was just a few drops. Sharwyn looked a bit pale and I wondered at that moment exactly how useful she was in combat. After that part was done, Ariadne sang her solo, wisely taking it a little more slowly than usual, as Tordrin's solo was coming up next and he had yet to return. Finally, I saw them approaching, but without Taeghen and Thralia. As they drew closer, I saw the shadow that had descended upon both their faces, though it was clear they hadn't had a spat...their body language was even more intimate than I had seen after Methrammar and I had left lunch yesterday. I made a mental note to ask her about that. After Ralenthra took her seat and Tordin approached the altar for his solo, I saw her mouth the words "not coming" to me. Larue's Horn!

In my mind, I beckoned Selune to bring Ebudae to me and the dryad was beside me before Tordrin's solo was over. I asked her if she knew the particular solo that I needed covered and luckily she did. She agreed to fill in for Thralia and finally I could relax a little before the next movement began.

The bride and the groom each produced a lock of hair to be burnt together on the altar. More chants. Falco approached the altar and sang his solo, which was followed by Ebudae's solo. Everyone was so charmed by a dryad performing at the wedding that I don't think they minded that the program wasn't followed exactly as printed.

Finally, the last movement commenced: the handfasting. Methrammar was actually a part of this one, binding the four cords the groom brought to the grooms arm on one end. Aarin's cords came from Methrammar, Lord Nasher (before the falling out obviously), the Neverwinter church of Tyr (who donated the cord from material that Aribeth once owned) and Isendur. I attached the cords belonging to the bride to Pandora's arm. These were given to her by Ariel, Isioleth, Linu and myself. Chants from myself, repeated by the bride and groom went on as I wove the cords together until they were quite well bound. Finally, Ariel and Celeborn approached with Ariel's archdruid staff, which was laid on the ground at the feet of the almost-married-now couple. Pandora and Aarin hopped over the staff and that...was finally that.

***

It was midday. I had 12 more hours of service to go before Ralenthra and I could finally leave. Well, Ralenthra could leave if she wanted to, but I was stuck until my day-long service was up. Thank goodness everyone always want to talk to the bride and groom and not the officiant after most weddings, because I was spent. After checking in with Ebudae and promising her that I would get her some cake and mead as soon as it was being served, I approached Ralenthra and Tordrin. Tordrin excused himself.

Ralenthra whispered low. "What is the Eldreth Veluuthra?" At her utterance of the words my blood ran cold. I replied, "They are not words spoken of in good company."

Ralenthra continued. "Thralia and Taeghen were arguing. He said he wouldn't let her be a part of this...blasphemy against The People. Apparently it's not just humans he doesn't like. He gave her a lecture about the Talaviirs and...Tordrin and me. That's when Tordrin said Eldreth Veluuthra and spat on the ground. What is it?"

Just as I was about to answer her question, we heard a loud shout coming from the Harper's camp. Ralenthra and I ran to see what was going on and it appeared that Tordrin had just knocked Taeghen to the ground with his fist. He stood over Taeghen's prone form with a look of utter disdain. "You will not bring this evil to this place. You will not bring harm to May, my agents or Jaden..."

Taeghen laughed as he spat his blood on the ground. "Jaden needs no help from me to destroy himself. His fate is already sealed."

Thralia stepped forward, rapier in hand and she pointed it at Taeghen's throat. Though her eyes filled with tears, her voice was firm and strong. "We two are blood and that is why I spare your life today. But after you leave this place...you are no longer kin to me."

Taeghen seemed genuinely alarmed by this. "Thralia, please."

"No! You will not show your face at Moongleam Tower. You will not be granted passage into the city of Silverymoon. Every elven settlement between Evereska and Evermeet will know of your name and your deeds, and if I see you again, it will have been better for you had you never been born at all."

"You trust those blood traitors more than your own flesh. Foolish woman. Of course, what should I expect from a sun elf who gets rejected by a..." he snickered, "half-orc."

"Enough. Take your possessions and leave this place. We will have wards placed to prevent your return." She turned her back on Taeghen.

He reached his hand out to hers. "But, Thralia..."

She squared her shoulders and did not turn. "Goodbye, Taeghen."

And with that, Thralia strode past us and over to the stage. Luckily, Ralenthra and I were the only witnesses to this exchange as everyone else was quite immersed in the whole wedding business. As Tordrin approached us, I excused myself and saw to Ebudae's cake and mead. Finally, I sat down by myself with my own serving. Methrammar was assisting Meree and Jaden in setting the wards against Taeghen's return.

I thought to myself, Thralia is having a very, very bad tenday.

***

It took a little less time to tear down the ceremony area to make way for the reception. This time, we had Meree and Jaden helping out by levitating items and moving them, as they didn't quite have the brute strength of someone like Riol. As soon as I finished my cake and mead and started to add my help to the workers, he picked me up off the ground in a big bear hug. It had only been about half a year since I'd seen him last, but after being considered quite short for a half orc, he had shot up about half a foot in height.

"Leddie!" he roared with laughter. "You've shrunk!"

I smiled up at him after he put me down. "How are you doing, kiddo?"

"I've never been better! Isn't this great? I'm so glad I didn't miss the wedding. I got er...a little distracted during my patrol."

"Again?"

"Yeah, but it wasn't my fault this time, it was the wood nymphs!"

"What is it with all these irresistible half-orc males?"

He grinned. "That's a secret. Who's the other one?"

"Oh, May and I met him back in Everlund. Apparently when he's done with the er...ladies of the evening, most of the time they don't even charge him. And, uh..." I whispered low. "A sun elf friend of mine tried to get him to go to bed with her."

Ah, youth. With it comes indiscretion. Riol pointed at Thralia, who was being comforted by Ariadne and Miri. "You mean her?" he shouted incredulously. I jumped up and grabbed his arm. For a moment, I simply swung from it like I would from a large tree branch before he realized his mistake and lowered his arm. "Sorry, Leddie." We set about our work and continued our conversation.

"She's a bit sensitive about it, and what with her cousin turning out to be a psycho, losing one of her oldest friends and getting rejected all in the last few days, well, I wouldn't mention it."

"You can trust me, Leddie." And with that he proceeded to launch into all the local gossip as we worked.

***

Sun & Moon were soon setting up their instruments as I sat watching them with glazed eyes and the sun began to set. Ebudae spent much of the time chatting with Ariel and Ralenthra found herself in a conversation with Aarin before she made her way to take a seat beside me with her own cake and mead.

"So..." I turned to her and smirked, "You and Tordrin, huh?"

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Well, you two have been practically inseparable all day. And for another thing, there's that pendant of yours. That's moon elf work." I grinned. "Did he get that for you?"

She turned to me with wide, blinking eyes. "What, this old thing? You know how I like sparkly stuff. I just happened to pick it up during my many travels."

"Not in any of my family's rooms, right?" I raised an eyebrow at her.

Ralenthra rolled her eyes. "Of course not, silly." Her eyes turned serious for a moment. "I earned this."

I cocked my head. "Earned it? Like with a day job or something?"

I'm sure she thought I was acting clueless, but I was so exhausted that my brain wasn't quite working properly. I guess she decided to humor me, since she explained. "Back in Cormanthor, this was my reward for winning a little contest in a particularly ingenious way. My winning the contest led to my being trained as a rogue."

"As good a way to earn something as any." I chuckled. "Well, at the rate you're going, it may not be too long before Tordrin gives you another sparkly thing."

Ralenthra blushed a little and quickly changed the subject. "So...you and Methrammar, eh?"

I shrugged. "I guess. I mean, maybe. Who knows? We're both busy professionals and he doesn't exactly reside in Silverymoon proper. We'll see how it goes."

Ralenthra cocked her head. "Your enthusiasm is truly astonishing. What's the matter, Mister Goody-Goody didn't melt your butter?"

I sighed. "I've had better. But...I mean, that's not everything, right? He's a very accomplished gentleman from a good family. There are a lot of women who would give their eyeteeth to be in my position. I should be grateful."

Ralenthra laughed sympathetically and clapped me on the shoulder. "Whatever you decide, just try not to discuss me too much. I just had to extricate myself from another tangle with Aarin. It would be nice to go at least one more day and not have to get interrogated. Again."

"You can count on me." I gave her a hug and felt a strong hand on my shoulder. Apparently, another hand had landed on Ralenthra's shoulder as she looked behind her too. While Methrammar nuzzled my ear, Tordrin whispered to Ralenthra and she smiled. "See you on the dance floor!" she said as she walked off hand-in-hand with Tordrin. Methrammar and I soon followed, arm-in-arm. Tordrin apparently had received a reprieve for at least the first three songs Sun & Moon would play. As I saw them whirl together, I smiled. Good for them.

Though I dutifully checked in on Ebudae regularly, she didn't seem to need much from me and I was able to spend most of the evening on the dance floor in Methrammar's arms. I found him to be a very good dancer, but very formal. As the evening progressed, I watched Sharwyn drunkenly make passes at Aarin to the point where Linu had to escort her to her room. When Linu returned to tell us that Sharwyn was now out quite cold, Isioleth guffawed. Daelan retired soon after, after a dance with Ebudae.

There were group dances, there were more breaks for Tordrin spent with Ralenthra and a beautiful waxing moon illuminating the night. If it weren't for the exhaustion, I would say that midnight came too soon. Ebudae bade me a fond farewell before retreating back to her tree. Methrammar tenderly kissed me goodbye as Ralenthra, Selune and I were packed into my carriage. As we rode away and I began to drift off I only regretted that I never got to ask Pandora why she had not told anyone else in her family about Unebrion.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
As the rose-colored sunbeams began to reach the bottom of the forest floor, so was our journey to Amalith coming to an end. Isioleth rapped on the carriage door to wake us.

"Come on out," she called in her husky voice. Then she took a false distinguished tone. "The, uh, bride wishes to see you." Ralenthra was wary, I could tell, but silently, she stepped out of her side of the carriage. I did too, and took it in, the place I lived in for the happiest eighteen years of my life. The village of Amalith was almost entirely up in the great trees of the High Forest, with beautiful elven villas built into and around the trees in perfect harmony connected by sturdy rope-and-wood bridges and to the ground by an elaborate pulley system. On the ground, some space had been cleared for the upcoming reception and colored lanterns on strings were hung all about from tree to tree. Amalith is an almost totally self-sufficient commune, made up of a few families (all elven of some variety), subsisting on sustainable hunting and foraging for food. Many work as craftspeople or sell wares in nearby Olostin's Hold. It is thoroughly grounded in a love of nature, as a druid circle led by my Aunt Ariel is based here.

"It hasn't changed a bit." I said happily. Isioleth slapped me on my back. "Yeah, I know. I can't wait to get back to Hilltop, as boring as that one-mule town is."

Isendur caught up to us. "Now, Isioleth. I'm sure that Drogan will keep us plenty busy with our studies. And Hilltop is nice country, with nice people."

Isioleth scoffed. "You just say that because you like that Haniah girl who works for the mayor. At least you have Dorna to compete with! Xanos and that dumb paladin Mischa, we don't really have much in common."

"At least Xanos makes you laugh...and you're right, Mischa is pretty stupid."

We stepped onto the platform that would take us to the Lorien villa. Isendur grasped the rope and turned to Ralenthra. "I hope you don't mind heights, Miss Aerynrae." Just then, we heard a whistle. "Hold up," called out Tordrin, "is there room for one more?" I looked at Ralenthra, who was a little flushed, though I'm not sure if it was Tordrin drawing near to her (to conserve space, I'm sure) or the heights we were starting to experience.

As we reached the top, Ralenthra turned to Isendur and smiled politely. "Could you show me to my room? I need to...sort my things." Isendur shrugged and led her away, with Tordrin watching her as she went. After she was out of sight, Tordrin said, "Miss Isioleth, why don't you walk Seledra to her room. I think I know how this gadget works and I'll bring up some of the others before your brother gets back." She grinned at him "Oh, okay!" and looked at me like "who the hell is this guy" before shrugging. "So", she continued conspiratorially, "how's life in the Big City? Are you having lots of good sex?"

I turned to her with a raised eyebrow. "Issey, aren't you still a virgin?"

"Well, yeah, so? It doesn't mean I don't know what sex is. " And then she made obscene gestures with her hands that made us both collapse into giggles. "Don't hold out on me. I wanna hear all the details."

"All right, but when it happens for you, you'd better ante up."

"Takasi! That's not going to happen for a while yet."

"And why not? If I recall, you had to beat the local elven boys off with sticks when I left."

"Yeah, elven boys are boring. I don't care too much for humans either. They just don't do much for me."

"Dwarves?"

"Um, I don't think so."

"Gnomes?"

"Please, we're about to eat lunch, here."

"Halflings?"

"What do you think I am, some kind of pervert?"

"Well what then? Tief-"

"Don't change the subject, Leddie. I can tell there's something going on with you. First off, there's a strapping half-elf talking to Aarin in our kitchen who has brought you up more than once," she winked, "and secondly...secondly with you there is always a human. At least there is when you keep trying to change the subject."

I stuck my tongue out at her.

"Now I know there's a human. Fess up."

I groaned. "He's just a boy, Issey. He's eighteen or nineteen - "

"Cradle robber."

"Hmph. Any human with our species would be cradle robbing. Unless it's Elminster."

"Ew. Oh, that was uncalled for!"

"He's about six feet tall, has black hair, black eyes...he's a magic user..."

"I knew it, I knew it! You were always a sucker for magic users. Well, does tall, dark and handsome have a name?"

"I don't remember."

"One night stand, huh? Wicked! Pan'll be in in a little bit. I'll go get her."

"Wait!" I reached into my pack and pulled out a box. "This is for you."

With a wide grin, Isioleth wasted no time opening the box. Inside were a pair of crystal-studded hair sticks that I'd bought for her in Everlund.

"For when you do find that boy, Issey."

After hugging me, she scampered off to find Pan. I flopped down on my bed. The interrogations would continue until morale improves. I can't wait.

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