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: (Seledra3)
After a delicious lunch of dim sum, Ralenthra and I headed out to do some much needed shopping for adventure gear. We were accompanied by two guards who seemed to be the strong and silent type. Luckily, they mostly stayed out of our way.

First, we stopped off at Tiggywinkles. I needed armor stronger than what I wore under my druid robes for work. Again, Aribelle had left the shop in the capable hands and inquisitive minds of her five daughters...and Glenda's new boyfriend, a shaum-playing bard named Fodoric.

That was awkward. Remember how I'd said that I'd been with a gnome once? What were the chances, I ask you! He was tall for a gnome, about four feet, with sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes that were striking against his light brown skin. We were only together once, and it was enough to make me swear off gnomes forever. The giggling, the grabbing...ugh. My hope, which was that he hadn't remembered me, was dashed as he appraised me and concluded with a knowing wink. I shuddered a little before I decided to ignore him as much as possible. This strategy did not work out well. Fodoric started to play and sing the bawdiest song I'd heard in some time, while shooting lascivious looks in my direction:

A lusty young smith at his vice stood a-filing.
His hammer laid by but his forge still a-glow.
When to him a buxom young damsel came smiling,
And asked if to work in her forge he would go

With a jingle bang jingle bang jingle bang jingle.
With a jingle bang jingle bang jingle high ho.

"I will," said the smith, and they went off together,
Along to the young damsel's forge they did go.
They stripped to go to it, 'twas hot work and hot weather.
They kindled a fire and she soon made him bl-auggh!


It was then that Ralenthra seemed to trip and fall into him. She took her time getting up from her prone position on top of him and my elven ears heard her whisper threats in his ear that caused him to, shall we say, change his tune.

Glenda was clucking her tongue. "I heard you were arrested at the Midsummer Festival."

I rifled through some of the leather armor on display casually. "Hmph. Well, it was all a misunderstanding."

Glinda peeked out from behind the azure curtain behind the register. "I heard you were in the same prison wagon as Magnos of Rel Astra!"

Ralenthra caught my eye and mouthed his name with an amused expression before snorting with suppressed laughter.

I ignored my friend for the moment and responded to the inquisitive gnome girl. "Yes, that would be true..."

I heard multiple squeals from behind the curtain, and soon, the remainder of the Glittersmoke girls rushed out to hear all about it.

"Ooh, Magnos!" cried Goldie, hopping up and down.

"He's so handsome!" said Gilda, twirling in a circle. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Ralenthra gagging.

I turned to look at the leather armor, but not fast enough.

"She's blushing!" exclaimed Gwen, sucking on a lollipop.

In an effort to take the attention off of me, Ralenthra strode up to Glenda. "Do you do alterations?"

Glenda put down a blouse she'd been repairing, sighed, and pointed to the sign in the window. "I assume you can read Common."

Ralenthra lowered her voice. "I don't need you to let out the bust of my bodice or adjust my waistline. I'm talking about special alterations with detailed specifications."

Glenda's eyes widened, as did a greedy, toothy grin. She looked past Ralenthra at me. "And how about you, dearie?"

I pulled a bolt of hardened leather dyed a dark green out. "Can you make me something...protective...out of this that has some...ventilation? I don't want to die of heatstroke out there. Or chafe, for that matter. Thing is, we both need our gear in an hour. Can you do that?"

Glinda pushed past Glenda and scurried to the front of the store, locked the door and put up the "closed" sign before peering up at me with her merry green eyes. "Oh yes. And if you give us what we want, we won't even charge you the accelerated rate."

I stared at her, narrowing my eyes. "What is it you want?"

In less than two minutes, Ralenthra and I were standing in the inner sanctum of Tiggywinkles, stripped totally naked and dusted with talcum powder while all five girls measured and cut and sewed and fussed.

After he volunteered to help apply the talcum powder to Ralenthra and myself, Fodoric had been banished to mind the front of the store. "You've been ogling the elves enough," insisted Glenda, giving him a peck on the cheek, "And besides, mother will have our skins if we miss any customers, even for a special job like this."

Ralenthra had insisted that we both get our attire "in the drow fashion". When I balked, she coolly replied, "You won't have to worry about losing your underwear if you don't have any." Glinda, Goldie and Gilda proceeded to grill me about Magnos.

"What was he arrested for? I hope he doesn't lose his scholarship!" cried Glinda, as she flipped a tailor's monocle over her left eye.

I looked over at a smirking Ralenthra. She was verbally busy giving specifications for the hidden pockets for her bodice, but was clearly interested in what I would say. I replied, "Public indecency."

Ralenthra guffawed, Goldie dropped her scissors and Gilda's mouth popped open so that the needle she was holding between her lips fell to the floor. Glinda looked disappointed. I smiled gently. "That, too, was a misunderstanding. Some half-drunk Knight in Silver mistook a cream horn for his...er...wand."

Ralenthra started to shake with laughter until she stopped suddenly with a piercing yelp. Glenda sighed. "Now, if you'll just hold still, that won't happen again."

Gwen was puzzled. "But cream horns don't look anything like wands!"

"This," said Glinda, holding up a wand of mending that had previously been in her pocket, "is not the kind of wand she was referring to, Gwen."

Goldie interjected with a whisper. "It's the sort of wand only a man carries, and that you can sit on if you fancy him!"

"Ohhhhhhhh." said Gwen. "So Glinda wants to sit on Magnos' wand?"

The other girls became overcome with laughter and they all rolled on the floor giggling until tears were streaming down their cheeks. Glinda was blushing furiously, protesting all the while that her interest in Magnos was purely business. I was glad to not be on the receiving end of such teasing, if only for once.

Glenda quipped, "What business? We give him a fat discount! It's a good thing he was innocent, otherwise his scholarship wouldn't be the only thing he'd lose."

For the remainder of the hour, Ralenthra and Glenda kept up a lively banter while Gwen and Gilda assisted their eldest sister in constructing the skin-tight black leather armor with secret compartments and multiple built-in dagger holsters. Goldie and Glinda conned me into agreeing to come back in the autumn and winter for seasonally appropriate robes as they fitted me with protective, but skimpier-than-I'd-expected armor consisting of what amounted to a leather corset and matching battle skirt with flaps. "I'll put some enchantments on it, so you'll be protected from neck to knee!" exclaimed Glinda. "We also have some lovely, matching Boots of Striding in your size that should lace all the way up to the middle of your thigh." added Goldie.

In less than an hour, the girls were finished. Our new outfits were neatly wrapped and boxed and we were out the door.

~


Optym's Blade was the next necessary stop. As we walked through the door, Heliosturr Optym, the tall, dark and somewhat ruggedly handsome middle-aged human proprietor, flung a dagger into a target just above our heads. Ralenthra grinned. "This is my kind of place!" She approached the visibly intrigued knife-thrower and proceeded to talk shop with him while I headed over to the simple weapons section.

I had a standard-issue sparring longsword at home, a gift from my mother when I was sent off to the High Forest for my druid training. It was the blade I took with me on the way to Pandora's wedding; the kind low-level elven soldiers in the Knights in Silver wield.

When I went on my rounds in the city, I typically carried a sickle, in solidarity with the other city druids, but my hands often itched for a more elegant weapon. After all, Mielikki was more lenient than Father Silvanus about blending the traditions of one's people with one's religious practice.
I must have been staring at the longswords located an aisle over because Heliosturr drew one of his masterwork pieces out of its case and presented it to me.

"I see you've been admiring my elven blades, Miss Nailo,"he said. "Would you like to give this one a few swings?" In the background, I could hear Ralenthra throwing daggers at various targets within the shop.

I giggled and pointed at my delicate slippers. "In these shoes? I don't think that's a good idea."

He smiled, gently, but firmly. "Follow me." He also gestured to Ralenthra, who scurried about the showroom gathering daggers from their respective resting places before she followed us behind a red velvet curtain to what turned out to be a sparring chamber. As we stepped on to the straw mats, he pointed at my feet. "Take off your slippers." Then he tossed the longsword to me, walked to a weapon rack on the wall and drew a blade of his own before he struck a pose with a raised eyebrow.

I smiled, slipped off my shoes and bowed my head slightly before I turned my body towards his and struck a pose of my own.

Out came a helmed horror, headed straight for Ralenthra. As it swung its greatsword at her, she ducked and rolled towards another nearby weapon rack, where she pulled out a crossbow and a fistful of bolts.

Heliosturr smiled and called out. "This is merely for your edification, ladies. You're perfectly safe." Then he swung his longsword at me. I wasn't ready, and he slashed into the left sleeve of my dress.

He clucked his tongue at me. "Tut, tut, Ms. Nailo. You must stay on your toes."

I adjusted myself slightly before responding with a powerful slash in his direction that he blocked expertly. The strain of my biceps against the tight lace sleeve of my right arm was too much, and the material gave way. Impatient and annoyed, I tore both my sleeves off at the shoulder and readied myself.

Meanwhile, Ralenthra was standing down against the magically powered empty suit of armor. With a menacing "ka-chunk" sound, she released a bolt from the magazine, rolled to her left, fired, turned to her right, threw a few daggers into the wall and scaled said wall before she swung onto a high roof support beam, pulled herself up to a seated position and continued to fire from this more melee-proof location.

Heliosturr was visibly impressed by Ralenthra's acrobatics. So much so that I managed to strike at his leather vest, which I tore off and sent flying across the room with a smirk.

He laughed heartily. "Temper, temper!" He swung, but I was ready for him this time, and blocked his attack.

We parried back and forth for a while and it seemed that I was gaining the upper hand as Heliosturr was edging ever closer to the wall on the right side of the room.

Ralenthra had just vanquished her foe and was gathering the her bolts from the broken horror when I backed Heliosturr against the wall. I smiled sweetly. "Looks like I win."

He chucked softly. "Think again." He reached above his head and pulled out one of Ralenthtra's daggers from the wall. Then he threw the dagger, right at Ralenthra's head.

Ralenthra weaved to the side, causing the dagger to whizz past into a target on the wall behind her.

I was furious. "You could have killed her!"

Heliosturr shook his head. "No, your carelessness in the heat of battle could have killed her. You need to look at a fight from all angles, Miss Nailo. The enemy will take any cheap shot they can if you let them." He walked to the weapon rack and replaced his practice blade to its rightful place. He smiled. "You're not bad, for a druid. But don't let yourself get distracted when you think you're ahead."

As Ralenthra slowly scaled the wall to retrieve her daggers, I shook my head and marveled. "She really is amazing, isn't she?"

He responded, "Perhaps, but she is not very strong. She almost fell halfway up the wall in her hurry to get away from Eron."

I stepped off the mat, slid my slippers back on, and arched an eyebrow at him. "Eron? You named that bucket of bolts?"

Heliosturr stopped and looked at me incredulously. "Why not? You named your familiar, did you not?"

I nodded. "Fair enough."

While we paid for our goods, he spoke to Ralenthra. "You may want to consider learning how to catch those daggers as well."

Ralenthra looked skeptical. "Why do that when I can dodge?"

Heliosturr smiled thoughtfully. "Because not everything behind you is a target you want to get hit."

Ralenthra showed off her new rapier to me right after we left, the handle of which was laced with marcasite and, like her new set of throwing daggers, set with onyx.

~


Our last stop was A Handful of Stars, a shop staffed by clergy of Selune and often inhabited by adventurers, as it was stocked with travelling gear. I bustled my way through the crowd to the counter and flagged down a neophyte priest who introduced himself as Finn Delacroix.

"So, I need four tents..." I began.

Ralenthra grabbed my shoulder and pulled me away, calling out, "If you'll just excuse us a moment..."

Flabbergasted after getting dragged halfway across the room by a determined Ralenthra, I blurted out, "What are you doing?"

My friend crossed her arms in front of her chest."I can't let you spend a month's salary on a one-time thing. Besides, I won't need a tent. I am more than comfortable sleeping under the stars and you should be too, nature lover!"

I protested, "But there's humidity in the air! What if it rains?"

Ralenthra scoffed, "And what if it does? What's wrong with a soft and gentle summer shower?"

I whimpered a little bit. "Okay, I'll buy two, then."

"Buy one."

"Those two will kill each other if we make them share a tent."

"So? You're not emotionally attached to either of them. It might be fun to watch that insufferable wizard get his teeth kicked in!"

"I would think that the smart money would be on the mage."

"One hit from Kronk and it's nighty-night for Rel Astra."

"One spell from Magnos and Kronk is orc jerky."

We stood across from each other, both of us with a glint in our eyes and a challenging smirk on our mouths. Ralenthra dug into her purse.

"I've got ten gold on Kronk."

I smiled a little tauntingly. "See, you're letting your prejudices cloud your judgment..."

"Are you afraid your cute little wizard is going to get his ass knocked in the dirt?"

"No. Your bet is too low. It shows a lack of confidence. How could I take advantage of that?"

"You're stalling."

I pulled out a small, but weighty coinpurse and dangled it in Ralenthra's face defiantly."I'm putting one hundred gold on the mage."

Ralenthra grinned. "You're on!"

I turned on my heel and walked back to the counter. "Finn? Make that one tent, one backpack, a waterskin, five potions of cure light wounds, one leather sharpening strap, a flint-and-steel set, five small bags of jerky, five small bags of dried fruit and four bedrolls."

"Four?!" exclaimed Ralenthtra.

"Do you really think Magnos or Kronk own portable bedrolls? And you could probably use a fresh one yourself, Miss Roughing It!"

After coins and goods were exchanged, the brunt of the burden was placed on the guards and we walked home in the softly fading dusk light.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
It was the second morning in a row that I had checked in on Ralenthra only to find that she wasn't there. After closing the door, I smiled. Maybe her gambit worked after all. As for myself, I had a morning shift today to be followed by lunch with my mother (oh joy) and a stop at Tiggywinkles to pick up my bodice.

Shiera told me that my sole assignment was to help a sow in the Southbank district give birth and handed me a pair of elbow length leather gloves. Ah, job benefits. And I love little piglets!

Laerune Brightwing is a widowed half-elf who single-handedly runs the largest farm in Silverymoon's city limits. The City's druids visit her often, sometimes to help in the birthing of livestock, sometimes to discreetly recommend brews and salves to treat her rather promiscuous four daughters. I was glad it was just going to be the sow today, because I was not looking forward to inspecting sores and checking out whether the pus emanating from their private parts were yellow or green. Yecch.

When I got there, I could see why I had been summoned. Some of the piglets were breech, so I would definitely have to take an active role in the birth, or the sow would die. It took THREE HOURS, but the sow and all six of her piglets were saved. My gloves, however, were another story. After taking my leave, I headed towards my parents' house.

When she opened the door she was (thankfully) sober, but she crinkled her nose at me and ordered me to the bath before she would take me anywhere. In the middle of the bath, she tossed one of my older dresses (white with red cherries embroidered in the bodice and at the hem) and a pair of slippers (red to match the cherries) into the room so I would have something "adequate" to change into. When I was finally presentable (after putting my hair up into a braided halo), we were able to ride to a posh Calishite place near the palace on the east side of Northbank. Mother and I sat on little mats and ate with our hands spicy roasted chicken, couscous and grapes while drinking a sweet wine. Since we were in public, my mother was in no danger of intoxicating herself, but I was not out of the woods yet.

She smiled and keeping that frozen smile on her face, asked "So, when were you going to tell your mother that you are being courted by Methrammar Aerasumé?"

My jaw hung open. "I...just met him!"

She raised an eyebrow at me and her violet eyes sparkled. "But he is courting you, is he not?"

I took a large sip of my sweet wine and gulped it down. When I didn't answer her, she continued. "My sources say you are."

I rolled my eyes. "Again with your sources. Who are these people and why are you spying on me, mother?"

"I don't spy. I am simply looking after you. I am glad that you have finally stopped chasing after humans and have found someone at least slightly more worthy of our bloodline."

"That was almost twenty years ago. Can't you just let it go?"

She twirled a loose tendril of her red hair around a long finger. "Well, I'm quite sure that Aelthas has not let it go."

I dropped my chicken onto my plate. Mother looked as if she had said something that she had not meant to. "What is that supposed to mean?"

She daubed her mouth delicately with her napkin. "My dear child, have you been to the Lady's College since your...unfortunate departure?"

"I can't say I've had the pleasure."

"Well, I wouldn't suggest getting too close, as he may be nursing quite the grudge." As if anticipating my unspoken question, she placed her hand on mine. "Don't think he escaped punishment for what he did to you, blood of my blood."

And with that, she changed the subject. She wanted to know all about Methrammar and the wedding. I told her all I could while still leaving out any information about Ralenthra, the Harpers, the army of orcs led by Kronk's half brother, Taeghen's betrayal and the less than exciting boff I'd had at the hands (and otherwise) of the aforementioned Methrammar. She seemed pleased enough with the paltry information that I had left to tell her, but then I slipped up and told her about Unebrion. She paled and shook her head.

"The fool girl didn't kill him?"

"No, he yielded to her. He's blood. She couldn't bring herself to do it when she found out who he was."

She drank down the rest of her wine and cursed. "Takasi. Celeborn should have drowned the boy at birth."

"Mother, you're disturbing me."

"They knew he was cursed when he was born. Their foolish mercy will cost them someday." She pointed her finger at me. "If I had been in the same position, I would not have hesitated to do it myself."

"All right, that's enough of that."

"I'm not talking about you, child. Unebrion is cursed. You most certainly are not."

"Well, I still think we should go now."

Despite the fact that we had been speaking rather evenly and calmly in elven in an establishment filled with mostly humans, the subject matter of our conversation still made me uncomfortable. She drew herself up to her full height and I was reminded why my father rarely goes out in public with her as she has a few inches on him. We rode back to my parent's abode in silence with me feeling rather uncomfortable and my mother seeming rather pleased with herself. When we arrived, she embraced me and wished me luck with Methrammar. I can't remember the last time she was so pleased with me about anything.

Before heading back home, I stopped at Tiggywinkles, where unfortunately Aribelle Glittersmoke's five busybody daughters were working without her watchful eye.

Glenda, the oldest, began the interrogation, "So."

I responded, "So what?"

Glinda, the one with green eyes, continued, "How did it happen?"

Larue's Horn, how did they find out about the bodice? I stalled, "How did what happen?"

Goldie, twin to Gilda, proclaimed, "She's stalling." Damn it.

Gilda, twin to Goldie, agreed, "Definitely stalling."

Gwen, the youngest, chimed in, "I think so, too."

I tried to play innocent. "I am not stalling. I just don't know what you're talking about."

Glenda rolled her eyes. "Now you're just playing dumb."

Glinda pointed at me. "You can't fool us!"

Goldie crossed her arms sternly. "Out with it, already!"

Gilda smirked confidently. "We'll drag it out of you eventually."

Gwen piped up. "Yeah."

I think I have something. "Wait, is this about my bodice?"

Glenda sighed, "Now she gets it."

Glinda smacked her forehead with her hand. "Gond preserve us!"

Goldie grinned. "We were beginning to think you'd been conked on the head!"

Gilda nodded. "Or lost your faculties."

Gwen added, "Quite."

I sighed and rolled my eyes indulgently. "Look, it was a job-related thing."

Glenda waggled her eyebrows. "Does your job involve love bites?"

I responded blankly. "Uh, no."

Glinda frowned. "We've seen this before, you know."

Goldie held up my bodice and waved it around. "It bears all the marks of experiencing the throes of passion."

Gilda said confidently, "And Gwen overheard Mother saying she couldn't launder your soiled cloak."

Gwen beamed, "I did."

I smirked. "Well, it isn't what you think, girls."

Glenda put her hands on her hips. "This had better be good."

I started. "You see, there was this little old lady..."

Glinda crinkled her nose. "Ew"

I turned sharply at her. "I told you, it's not like that. She stopped me on my rounds..."

Goldie offered, "And ripped your bodice."

I crossed my arms in mock disgust. "Do you want to hear this or not?"

Gilda jumped up and down. "We do!"

Gwen joined her. "Yes!"

I narrowed my eyes. "Then hold your tongues, all of you. She said she had rats in her cellar."

Glenda put her hands on her hips. "Rats," she said cynically.

I raised an eyebrow at her. "DIRE rats. They went straight for my throat. Fortunately they missed."

Glinda gasped. "Were they big?"

I nodded. "As big as Gwen."

Goldie did a double take at her youngest sister. "Were they...scabby?"

I nodded solemnly. "Very."

The girls collectively shuddered.

I continued, "I barely escaped with my life, let alone my bodice. So you little scamps better keep your minds on more wholesome subjects or people are going to start calling you Guttersmokes."

Shut up for once, they rung me up and sent me on my way.

Before stopping at home, I picked up some Shou takeaway (two servings, in case Ralenthra was back). When I finally arrived at my final destination, I found a letter from Methrammar in my mailbox:

My dearest Seledra,

Your presence is cordially requested at my quarters in Rauvinwatch Keep tomorrow evening, 29 Flamerule 1372. I have already made arrangements with your employer and a coach will be ready to pick you up at your residence at midday. I look forward to seeing you again.

Yours,

Methrammar Aerasumé, High Marshal of the Argent Legion, Rauvinwatch Keep


I guess I should be glad that I hadn't made any plans or anything...

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