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)
The market would be open late into the evening. Methrammar was adequately softened up. It was time to spring into action.

I sidled up to my lover and batted my eyelids coquettishly as we exited our suite together. “Methrammar darling, are you practiced at transmutation spells?”

The tall half-elf at my side bowed his head in thought. “Well,” he spoke hesitantly, “my mother enchanted a wand with a few spells of the transmutation school. The great thing about it is that it has unlimited uses.” He pulled the wand out of a pocket on the inside of his cape and pointed it at me dramatically. “I call it...the Transmogrifyer!”

I giggled and Methrammar smiled gently. “Yes, it's a rather silly name, isn't it? Tyresia was actually the one to call it that. Mother meant it for me to use for diplomatic purposes only, but Tyresia was always thinking of more amusing things to do with it.”

I took it out of his open hand gently and felt it crackle with Alustriel's magical aura. The Transmogrifyer was indeed a powerful artifact. I winked at Methrammar and and swished the wand at him playfully. “So, what's it loaded with?”

As we continued down the stairs to the exit, he listed off the stored spells of the wand I now held in my hot little hand:

Disguise self
Polymorph other
Translate languages


Perfect. I frowned slightly and tried to sound unimpressed. “Doesn't sound like much. I mean, only three spells?”

Methrammar stared at me, mouth agape. “Remember Seledra, this wand has unlimited uses per day!”

I bustled ahead of him and out the door. He strode to catch up. I called over my shoulder, “And it can be used anywhere, even here?”

“Oh, yes!” my companion exclaimed.

I chortled to myself and stopped suddenly after we reached the tea house from the day before. “I want to play a game.”

Methrammar frowned gently. “Darling, the locals are uncomfortable with your presence as it is. Best not to force yourself on them. I know you think you can change the world by the sheer force of your will...” he stroked my cheek affectionately,”and sometimes even I believe that you can, but, well, we're on vacation!”

I pouted. “I believe this little excursion was your idea of showing me a good time, yes? You said I could do whatever my heart desires! I want to play. I want to win. There's something I want to buy in the market...”

My lover wrapped his arm around my shoulder placatingly, “Whatever it is that you want, darling, I'll buy it. No price is too high-”

I couldn't make him pay for the amulet. The very idea made my skin crawl with guilt. I held my hand up. “No. You've already been more than generous. This is something I have to do for myself. However...”

Methrammar raised a hopeful eyebrow.

I continued, “I need you to cast a few spells on me. I know that they will never let an elf beat them, even if I am a better mahjong player.”

Methrammar gazed past me at the people swarming in and around the tea house and nodded. “You need to be beyond reproach. You need to look like one of them, and not one of the locals. No one wants to walk inside their favorite tea house only to spot their doppelganger. And I'm sure you don't want someone getting too familiar with you if they recognize you either. That leaves someone who can't possibly be in the vicinity.” He grimaced sheepishly. “I'm afraid I'm not familiar with too many individuals of the Shou persuasion."

I cocked my head to the side. "You should do something about that sometime."

He nodded. "I know."

"Well, who do you know? An ambassador? A diplomat? A traveling monk on a mission to right wrongs where he sees them?" I poked.

Methrammar shook his head. "No country from Kara-Tur has any ambassadorial relationship with any country in Faerun, and that's been making trade with them rather...slippery."

"Well, maybe you should take another trip here, make some contacts, see about building an embassy back in Silverymoon. Your mother would be proud." I said.

Methrammar smiled broadly. "You're right, that's a wonderful idea. I shall let her know as soon as I see her again."

here was a lull in the conversation. We weren't moving forward. So I poked again. "I'm not sure you answered my question, darling."

"Mm?"

I repeated my question from earlier. "Who do you know?"

Methrammar heaved a sigh and mumbled something I couldn't hear.

"What?"

Methrammar said a little sharply, "Magnos."

I must have been visibly taken aback, for my lover softened his expression and continued. "Yes, it's terrible, isn't it? I wish I had someone more...appropriate for you, but there it is."

I stammered. "B-but there's got to be someone else. Anyone else. Not him." The temptation would be too great.

"He is of the Shou persuasion, is he not? He's male, which will give you a bonus in this society. And finally, there is absolutely no chance that he'll come walking through this door. You're not...uncomfortable with the idea, are you?" He raised an eyebrow at me and gazed a little penetratingly into my eyes.

I blinked. "No, should I be? Sure, I could use the swagger and the confidence, but...well, I mean, it's just-"

"Yes?" He stretched out the word for an inordinate amount of time.

I flailed my arms about. "He's got man parts! I mean, how-how do you walk around with those bits dangling between your legs? Don't they get in the way?"

Methrammar threw back his head and laughed. "I guess you'll find out soon enough, my love." He grew quiet and caressed my cheek. "Are you sure you want to do this, darling? This will be...quite awkward for me, but I'm willing to do it because I don't believe they'll be fair to you otherwise. And because...I love you so."

I had come too far to stop now, and I'd make it up to him later. I stood on tiptoe, kissed him in the corner of his lips, and emphatically nodded.

Methrammar shook his head gently with a wistful smile, "Willful girl. Come on round back here. We'll need a little privacy for this."

I followed my handsome half-elf around the back of the tea house and braced myself. I half expected it to hurt, but it actually tickled a little. I took advantage of a nearby pond to see the results.

And was promptly transfixed by my reflection. I gazed from all angles. I walked back and forth. Methrammar fell over laughing.

"What are you snickering about?" came Magnos' voice rumbling out of my mouth, which I covered quickly with my hand.

"I never thought I'd see Magnos swish and sashay like that. I daresay it's worth the price of admission!"

I stole another glance at my reflection. "You were...quite accurate." again came Magnos' voice.

Methrammar bowed with a flourish. But then a shadow passed over him as he said, "I never forget a face."

I was beginning to wonder if this charade was going to be worth it. I adjusted my stance, remembering how Magnos carries himself, and walked towards the door. My mimickry must have been convincing because I saw the smile fade from Methrammar's face out of the corner of my eye as he watched me. "I'm going to use the water closet first, then I'm heading to the mahjong table.

"What, you have to relieve yourself?"

I stuck out my tongue at him and turned on my heel, saying "Wouldn't you like to know? Stay close!"

***


Methrammar was kind enough to give me locals' garb so I wouldn't pass out in the sweltering heat, but it took some time finding my way around in it. He had been, now that I could see everything, scarily accurate. I wondered briefly, as I put my clothes back on, whether he'd been spying on me. The thought sent a chill down my spine before I pulled myself together and strode out the door.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
I...miss them.

It had only been two days spent in Shou Lung's capital city, never leaving my lover's sight when that thought crossed my mind.

I missed the constant bickering. Whether it was between Magnos and Kronk, Magnos and Ralenthra or Magnos and myself, our lively arguments kept the long journey to the shrine honoring Berronar Truesilver from becoming tedious or frightening. It was...oddly comforting, like being part of a family. Almost.

I missed the energy of battle. Dorn had been right about one thing; the four of us, when working together towards a common goal, were a force to be reckoned with. Kronk could be a whirlwind of destruction, efficient if you know how to play him. Treat him with the respect befitting the warrior he is, return his kindness, give credence to his sometimes deeply hidden gems of wisdom; these were the keys to leading a man such as Kronk. Magnos shocked me with his sheer capableness, his cool head in the heat of battle made one believe that mentally, he was at least 10 steps ahead of everyone else around him. Arrogant he may be, but even I could not deny that he was perhaps the most naturally gifted spellcaster I'd ever met, including my parents...and Aelthas. Ralenthra, my best friend, my confidante; even she had surprises for me. It was fascinating to watch her nimble fingers disable a deadly trap or take down a distracted enemy with a calculated shot from her crossbow; finally I had images to go with the scant stories she had told me about her work.

But no one surprised me so much as I had surprised myself. Already, the battle against Ugurth's men at Olostin's Hold seemed decades away. Sure, I had a few nicks and bruises to show for my relative lack of experience, but I loved the pulse of blood in my veins as I fought our enemies, loved the clanging sound of metal on metal, loved the completely palpable feeling of victory as I had never felt it before in my life; four working as one living, breathing entity...and Dorn, whatever he was.

I missed the discomfort of traveling long distances by foot, the sleeping on the ground in tents under the stars, the hunting and foraging for food after Magnos ate all of our rations, the wilderness between the towns and settlements of Luruar where danger lurks behind every bush, inside every cave, and even in the skies above.

It had been two days since I had returned from Berronar's Monastery and he still remarked about the new scar on my right shoulder. He traced the raised flesh absentmindedly when I dressed, when we bathed, when we made love, as if to remind me of the consequences of the adventuring life. "I would hate to see a scar like that on your pretty face, Seledra. I am glad that your...obligation to Silverymoon is at an end."

Ah, but I did have a scar on my face. I had neglected to take a potion to mend my split lip that I received courtesy of Nim Tagen. Odd that he hadn't noticed. Needless to say, I hadn't felt compelled to bring up my feelings to him on the subject of the adventuring life...until now.

We sat across each other in the dining room of our suite, partaking of a soup called Liuwei tang, said to help counter the sweltering summer heat. Gently, I dabbed my mouth with a starched white napkin.

Methrammar spoke first. "This is delicious."

I smiled. "Yes it's quite lovely, darling. Perhaps we could finish it off with some ice cream. Although, you'll have to have a hand in the last stage of making it as Ray of Frost is a little out of my area of expertise."

Methrammar smiled, "I could teach you if you like."

I demurred, "No, I'll have to make do with Entangle for now. You know that as a druid, the arcane is forbidden to me."

Methrammar chuckled. "How could I forget? Selune's shared your bed more than I have! "

I countered, "I guess you're not the only one that doesn't want to let me out of their sight!"

My lover reached out and caressed my cheek. "Do you chafe, my love?"

I shook my head demurely. After a pause, I continued. "Darling...do I snore?"

Methrammar nearly spit out his soup. "Of course not, dearest! Whatever gave you that notion?"

I wrinkled my nose. "One of my traveling companions claimed that not only do I snore, but that I am a blanket hog! Me!"

Methrammar paused, as if he was listening to the wind chimes outside our window, then spoke. "Oh Seledra, don't be silly! Of course you don't snore. Everyone knows elves don't snore, even when they elect to sleep."

I sipped some of my plum wine and then continued. "And the blanket hog thing, that's not true either, right?"

Methrammar blinked and looked down at his soup, as if to examine it. "Don't. Be. Ridiculous, darling! You are the very model of graciousness even in your sleep!" He slurped some more of his soup and looked at me again. "But...just out of curiosity...which one of your companions accused you of these things?"

I spoke before I thought. "Magnos, that ungrateful bastard! His blanket got all wet, so I let him share my dry one. My blanket! I didn't have to share it with him! I could have let him tremble, half naked and damp all night long!" The vision of Magnos half naked, wet and trembling entered my mind's eye suddenly, and with my voice suddenly feeling thick, I cleared my throat. "Nothing happened, darling. I assure you!"

Methrammar looked a little suspicious, so I endeavored to change the subject. I returned to slurping my soup, and after a while, I leaned in conspiratorially. "Do you want to know a secret?"

Distraction success! He took my hand in his. "If it's from you, of course."

I looked right into his eyes. "I loved it. Adventuring, you know? It wasn't a punishment at all! I felt..."

I was about to say alive, free, purpose-filled, but the look of disappointment spreading across Methrammar's face stopped me. He sighed. "Seledra, mercenary work is a dangerous business."

"I can handle it..."

"It changes people."

"My faith will keep me centered..."

Methrammar paused and gently laid his spoon down onto the table. "I don't like the company you'll be keeping."

"Darling, we've talked about this. Ralenthra..."

"Oh, so you're calling her by her real name now, are you?"

"That's not fair. I was only trying to protect her."

The color was rising in his face. "Protect her from me?"

"Protect her from the whole world, if I could. But I...failed, so I don't see what the point is in going over this yet again."

"Well, for your information, I wasn't referring to your drow friend."

"There's a shock."

"I was referring to the mage."

I froze.

Methrammar smirked knowingly and sipped at his soup. "Touched a nerve, have I?"

"What? I don't even-"

"I'm not a fool, Seledra. Nor am I blind. He's handsome, charming and intelligent; I've seen the way he looks at you... and every other female in the room."

"I guess you could say he thinks of all women the same way..."

"That's not what I meant. I saw the way he looked at you...and I saw the way he looked at every other woman in the room. It's different."

He likes me? Oh Sweet Sune, he likes me? I cleared my throat and tried desperately to curb the flush to my cheeks by fanning myself. "So he thinks me pretty. Aren't I? Who cares if he finds me attractive! He's young, he turns his attention to a different girl each week, I'm sure! Besides, I could drop him like a sack of potatoes." I picked up my spoon in the most decisive way possible, and resumed eating my soup.

We sat in silence for a while. Methrammar picked up his spoon and began to eat as well. After a while, he spoke. "So it's settled, then."

I sipped at some ice water and crunched some ice between my teeth before answering. "Yes."

My handsome half-elf grunted and stirred his soup briefly before looking up in confusion. "Wait. What did we just decide?"

I picked up my glass of chilled plum wine as if to toast and exclaimed, "We decided that I can take care of myself and that I am to resume my new career as an adventurer. So, I am to gather my
companions to me when such a time arises as I see fit." Then, I heartily drank down the whole glass and grinned.

Methrammar blinked. "How did you...I don't even..."

I laughed as I flicked at the now-empty crystal goblet with my fingertip, but when I spoke, I distinctly heard a slight edge to my voice that instantly recalled my mother to mind. "Don't argue with me, darling. You will always lose."

Methrammar stood up abruptly, fiercely grabbed me by the wrist, upset the table and pulled me to him. I felt my skin flush with excitement. He whispered low. "You may have won the battle, my dear Seledra, but the war is still anyone's game."

And with that he kissed me hard and carried me to bed.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
We stepped outside into the Imperial City. Nothing I'd seen in books could have prepared me for the majestic beauty of this place.

Nor even my dreams.

The inn stood on a hill and to the south of us, we could see the Forbidden City. Like the Imperial City itself, the Forbidden City was entirely contained by a wall (comparatively opulent, which featured dragons in a colorful mosaic). The home of the Imperial Family was not just a single palace, but a palatial complex. As outsiders, we weren't allowed to set foot inside the palace, but the view from where I stood was enough to last a lifetime; in each corner stood a tower that was a pavilion onto itself, in the center of each side of the wall loomed a massive and imposing gate . Immediately bursting into view were the bold red walls and yellow roof tiles that ruled the schemes of all buildings of the complex. But if you looked closer, you could see the splashes of aqua and green, of purple and white. And there wasn't just one palace alone. There was the The Palace of Earthly Purity (where the Empress lived) and the Palace of Heavenly Purity (where the Emperor lived). Further dotting the royal campus were the "minor palaces": The Hall of Mental Cultivation and the Hall of Union. Off in the distance I caught a glimpse of the Tombs of the Emperors.

To the north, spread at my feet was the city itself. Though not as epic in splendor as the Forbidden City, it was nothing to sneeze at. It was different, but somehow the approach was the same. There was that same meticulous effort of living in harmony with the elements and the surrounding flora, but with such delicate-looking architecture - buildings made of mostly wood and paper and sometimes decorated with the most intricate rosewood carvings - and with such beauty! Strung on wires and dotted throughout the city like multicolored gems were lanterns of all colors (mostly red). It being summer, many of the surrounding trees were heavy with fruits, among them plum, cherry and orange trees that leant a light, sweet scent that somehow managed to hold its own with the smell of spices, of cooking, of life surrounding them. Far, far to the east was the great Temple of Heaven, gleaming white, red and blue in the midday sun.

Tears stung my eyes as I gasped in something like wonder. Methrammar wrapped his arms around me from behind and whispered into my ear. "Is it everything you thought it would be?" Wordlessly, I kissed his cheek and sobbed. He chuckled. "Today the city is yours, my love! You may do whatever your heart desires."

I scanned the surrounding area. It appeared that the market district was straight ahead. And where there was a market, there would be food stalls. Yum! Never mind that I just ate. How often does one get to come to Shou Lung?

I quivered with anticipation. "First, I'll need a trunk. For everything I'm going to buy!" My voice grew from a whisper to an excited squeal towards the end that turned more than a few heads. Methrammar hired a man with something called a rickshaw to hold my trunk while I shopped. I fet sad and guilty to see a human being hitched to a wagon like a beast to carry my things, and even though I knew it was an accepted custom, I made Methrammar promise to see that he was compensated as well as any denizen of Silverymoon.

Of course I bought things for myself. Paintings to put up in my bedroom, small stoneware representations of the local deities, jade jewelry, an ivory mahjongg game set, spices for cooking, a few bottles of plum wine, an antique feather fan, incense, and of course clothes. I even was able to buy some lacquered masks and sake from Wa, and crafts from Wa, well, they are simply unavailable in Faerun, period.

I took a break inside a bustling teahouse where I was able to win a considerable amount of money playing mahjongg (I learned the game as a child from my mother, who in turn had picked up the game during her honeymoon in Thesk; I went on to be Lady's College champion two years in a row) with the rather loud and pushy locals, that is, until someone took notice of my pointed ears and accused me of using elven sorcery to cheat. Methrammar was able to glean as much via a translate spell. I had to give all my winnings back, but at least they didn't make me leave before I could finish my tea and zhájiàngmiàn, or wheat noodles with fried bean and meat sauce. As I slurped up the greasy but delicious nest before me, I pondered what I should get my new companions.

Ralenthra likes delicate, beautiful things with fine craftsmanship. A gold and jade necklace perhaps? Kronk, well, I'd have to get him something he couldn't lose too easily. Hmm. I think I noticed a piercing in his left ear. Maybe I could get him a nice ivory earring with gold inlay...

Magnos was a problem. I knew what he'd like. Something flashy and gaudy that he could show off. I saw a gorgeous ruby amulet with the stone the size of my thumb and surrounded by pearls that I was sure he would have gushed over. But was it too personal? I mean, that kind of jewelry for a man I hardly know? He might think I was in love with him, and then I'd never hear the end of it. On the opposite end of the spectrum...I could get him a pen. There were some lovely pens that were pieces of art unto themselves! But who gives a pen as a gift to anybody but their father? It's absurd! A musical instrument? Hmm. I wonder how Magnos feels about the bardic arts. Clothes? He's not your personal paper doll, Seledra. I was uncomfortably conscious of the fact that Magnos had Shou heritage and didn't want to insult him, even though he was as far from that part of himself as a hawk from the moon.

As hard as I tried to come up with a more genteel alternative, the image of the amulet danced through my brain long after night fell and I grew sleepy and content in Methrammar's arms. It occurred to me that Methrammar might not want to pay that much for it if he knew who it was for. But I had a plan.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
Down, down down.

I saw a giant eagle flying west, it's cries filling the air...Tordrin and Ralenthra reaching across a table...a lunar eclipse...Ralenthra in prison with a festering wound...a great fountain exploding in color...fire coming from the sky, setting buildings aflame...a faerie queen, running through the streets of Silverymoon despite having wings...a blast of snowy air rustling the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling of the Dancing Goat...


I awoke, bleary-eyed, to the sound of a soft wind ruffling the drapes, the smell of spices in the air and the sensation of being ensconced in silk sheets.

"Mmm, where am I?" I mumbled.

It took me awhile to figure out where I was, that is, until I felt the familiar sensation of Methrammar's long leg brushing against my naked thigh. Even then, the answer to the question I awoke with was in bed with Methrammar. He must have realized that I wasn't merely talking in my sleep, because he kissed my neck softly.

"Good morning, darling." he whispered. "Would you like some dim sum and tea? I know you are very fond of it."

I rolled over to face him and gave him a little kiss. "Oh, you're sweet. You got me takeaway from Seven Little Wonders?"

Methrammar smiled. "No, I was thinking we could get room service."

I blinked.

Methrammar gestured towards the window. "Why don't you look outside?"

I drew the sheets up around me, walked to the window and looked out below. Before my eyes were scores and scores of wooden buildings with paper windows and doors, thousands of people in clothes of every color of the rainbow bustling through the streets and haggling in a language I didn't understand. In the distance was a gigantic palace that looked vaguely familiar to me, but only so much as an object you've only previously seen in books looks familiar when you see it represented in real space before you.

I whispered reverently. "Shou Lung. The Imperial City." Methrammar laid his hands gently on my shoulders and I turned to look at him. "How did you..."

Methrammar looked rather sheepish. "Well, the palace in Silverymoon has a portal and I'd set the location for Shou Lung for when you concluded your...business."

I turned my back to him again to gaze outside. "I don't remember any of this."

Methrammar chuckled. "Well, you were pretty deep in your cups when I came to pick you up from the Dancing Goat. You were dancing on the table with your wizard companion and some woman from Baldur's Gate." He slipped a menu into my hands. And I remembered...

After Magnos and I had finished dancing, Erdri flagged us down and asked if she could join us at our table since Tordrin was going back on stage. Drinks and conversation flowed. Kronk eventually took a room upstairs for the night. After playing a few hands of Three Dragon Ante, Erdri had the brilliant idea of playing Truth or Dare. Some time during the game, I took Dare, which is how I ended up dancing on the table. The music was so hypnotic that I didn't want to stop and soon Erdri decided that I looked like I was having way too much fun to be dancing all by myself. Seeing two reasonably attractive elven women dancing together may have been the impetus for Magnos to hop up, although I may have beckoned to him in some way. Like with my fingers and tongue. I don't remember for sure.

Huh.

I looked down at the menu in my hands. "How hungry are you?" I asked, rhetorically. I knew I was starving and started checking items off: char siu bao, har gau, steamed chicken feet and mango pudding with green tea.

While we waited for our food, I bathed, and Methrammar set out my next surprise for me when I stepped out; an apple green, mandarin-style gown with the most intricate embroidery I've ever seen. I attempted to give him a crash course in how to use chopsticks, but he had little patience for the native dining accoutrements.

The food arrived and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to cajole Methrammar into eating his share as he was a little squeamish about the chicken feet. I poked at him playfully with my chopsticks. "Come, Methrammar. Just because it hasn't been boiled in a pot until it's mushy and gray and tasteless doesn't mean it's not suitable for consumption!" Begrudgingly, he ate.

As we made our way downstairs so we could explore the Imperial City together, I casually asked, "So when are we going back?"

Methrammar slipped my arm around his and said, "I was thinking we could spend two weeks here in the city and-"

I stopped. Something was bothering me. I tried desperately to recall the details of my vision. After some time where I must have seemed catatonic, I spoke. "No, I have to go back. Tomorrow."

"What? But I made plans for us!"

I shrugged. "You should have consulted me first."

Methrammar smacked himself in the forehead. "By the Nine Hells, woman! If I consulted you about everything we'd never get to do anything!"

"Look, I'm sorry that I have a life-"

"Is this about Ralenthra?"

"What?"

"Is this. About. Ralenthra. Again?"

I stood there like a stone, staring up at him. Finally I relented. "Yes. She's in trouble."

"How do you know that?"

I started walking again. "I just know."

"How is that even possible?"

Why does this even matter? Exasperated, I blurted out, "I don't know, Methrammar. Maybe I bedded a diviner once and his power of prophecy rubbed off on me."

"That's a bit crude, don't you think?"

I shrugged. "I have a complicated relationship with magic." It was now his turn to stare blankly at me. Frustrated, I threw up my hands and said, "I had a vision, Methrammar!"

Methrammar crossed his arms in front of his chest. "You had a vision."

I nodded. "Yes."

"And this vision told you that Ralenthra is in danger."

"Yes. Somewhat." Er...

Methrammar sighed laboriously and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'll make you a deal, Seledra."

"Speak then."

"Give me one more day. I'll have you back by the morning of the 8th, Silverymoon time. I'm sure she won't get herself killed in the meantime."

I pondered his offer for a minute or two. "Alright, agreed."

And with that, we stepped outside our inn and into the greater city beyond.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
Sparkling blue eyes; lustrous black hair; pearlescent skin with tinges of blue around the tips of the nose and ears. Tordrin must be getting vain. He shared these features with the woman who caused Ralenthra to storm out of The Dancing Goat in what I believed to be a jealous (and drunken) huff.

"I guessh she cares more about him than she thinkssh," I grumbled into my strawberry ale after Ralenthra slipped out the door to do gods know what.

Moon elves all look pretty much the same, actually. Well, mostly. They are all supposed to have black, white or silver hair; eyes are typically green or blue and they all share a slightly bluish tinge to their extremities. I could never understand, therefore, why my hair was red and why I had a pinkish- violet tinge to my skin instead of blue. These are traits I share with my mother. I asked her, once, why we were different from the other moon elves. A ray of frost spell that hit me in the back of the neck was the only answer I got.

I was ten years old.

"Is someone going to explain what's going on?" Magnos shocked me out of my stupor.

Shooting him an exasperated look, I held up one hand and made a shape like an O. "Ralenthra," I said. Then, I took my other hand and curled all but my pointer finger into a fist. "Tordrin," I said. Finally, I took my pointer finger and inserted it into the hole my other hand made, over and over.

"I think I'm going to need a clearer demonstration," said Magnos, grinning. He turned to Essie, who had come to check on us. "More ale please, sweetheart." I scowled and made a more hostile gesture at him with my hand.

"And turkey leg for Kronk." piped up our half-orc companion. It was his second of the evening.

I tut-tutted at Magnos with one swaying finger. "Better watch out! Kronk might even out-eat you this time."

After more drinks arrived, Magnos patted me on the arm. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go kick his ass. Or better yet, go kick her ass. Just make sure to get yourselves wet while you're at it. Mmm...wet frocks."

My ale almost came out of my nose as I suppressed a giggle. "Are you kidding me? He'd kill me and then Ralenthra would get even more put out than she already is."

"Well, you're going to have to take a more subtle tack than your usual rush-in-with-sword-flashing thing," he said.

I gulped down the remainder of my ale and slammed the goblet back down to the table. "I can be subtle! " I exclaimed, maybe a little too loudly.

As I walked away from the table with alcohol-infused resolve, Magnos smacked me on the behind. I turned around. "Uh, that's the spirit!" he called out, raising his glass as if he was toasting me.

I was boldly striding towards Tordrin and his mystery woman when I was intercepted by Venye. Ariadne and Jaden struck up the band and began to sing a lively tune. He attempted to twirl me away from my desired destination. I was having none of it.

"Well hello, drow person!" I said as I wriggled out of his grasp and pushed my way past him. "Goodbye!"

I stopped when Tordrin was standing before me.

"Miss Nailo."

"Mr. Windweaver. Such a pleasure."

Tordrin bowed and extended his hand. I took his hand (See? Subtle.) and together we whirled across the dance floor. "Venye tells me that you have business of a personal nature that you'd like to discuss."

I smiled, but there was a dangerous edge to my voice when I heard myself speak. "You know why I'm here, Tordrin."

Tordrin blinked but continued to keep the pace. "Please, speak then, my lady."

Trying to maintain my composure despite my tipsiness was challenging. I managed to look him in the eye and step on his foot at the same time. But at least I was enunciating my words clearly. "I have spent much of my time since Shieldmeet trying to convince my dearessht friend that you love her." Well, mostly.

"Seledra-"

I tripped. "Don't interrupt me. Don't you dare. I've been trying to help her pick up the piecessh of her broken heart that you yourself shattered. Trying to convince her to trust you again. Which is hard, because she doesn't trust easily to begin with."

"She trusted you pretty quickly."

"Well, I wasn't trying to get into her bloomerssh from day one."

"Seledra!"

"What. Did. I. Say. Aboutinterruptingme!" To be honest, I was more worried about losing my train of thought than angry at his repeated attempts to get a word in edgewise. I felt a bit lightheaded, but I quickly composed myself and smiled sweetly for the benefit of those around us. "I like you, Tordrin. And I honestly believe that you have the best in mind for Ralenthra. That you care about her. But desshpite the fact that you two split merely days ago, here you are, getting cozy with another woman. And I will not have that."

"Seledra, I can explain-"

"How dare you."

"She's my sister."

I stumbled to a halt. At least two other couples bumped into us on the dance floor before Tordrin got us moving again. I grunted and smirked. "Your sister."

"Yes, my sister. Her name is Erdri. She's a wizard and she lives in Baldur's Gate."

I laughed, probably longer than was necessary. "You expect me to believe that? How stupid do you think I am?" But then I looked deeply into his face. As if he read my mind, he pointed to the mystery woman, who was watching us with no small amount of amusement and waving at me with a cheeky grin. I peered at her. Then I looked at Tordrin again.

And then I sobered up really quick.

"Oh!" I smacked my forehead.

Tordrin looked relieved as he led me off the dance floor. "You see it then? The resemblance?"

I sat down at the table with Tordrin and Erdri. "Yes. Yes I do. But Ralenthra will need even more time now. And I'm afraid she's going to do something stupid tonight."

Tordrin shook his head. "You won't always be there to stop her. She'll need to learn to curb her own impulses. Hopefully, she won't have to learn the hard way."

A new tune was struck up and just as Tordrin was about to formally introduce me to his sister I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Magnos, bowing. "May I?"

Erdri winked at me and I begrudgingly extended my hand to Magnos. I started to walk towards the the dance floor, but then stopped and turned back to face the tall moon elf my friend loves so.

"Oh, and Tordrin?"

"Seledra?"

"Don't hurt her again or not even Venye will be able to protect you from me." I grinned and waved.

He gulped but then his face softened. "I won't."

As Magnos and I joined the dance, he raised an eyebrow at me. "What was that all about?"

I shook my head. "You don't even want to know." After a few moments, I added, "Where is Kronk and why are we dancing?"

He tilted his head to the side. "Relax, princess. Kronk's on his third turkey leg and regaling Essie about our grand adventure. Besides, I figured that since you were making like the town doorknob, I may as well have a turn."

I frowned and rolled my eyes. "You're nauseating."
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
As we re-entered Silverymoon's Moorgate I felt a sensation not unlike large, cold riverbed stones lodged in my gut. Here we were, returning to Tagen with no scepter and no one but a twitchy duergar in our custody.

Surely we are going to prison, I thought. And then we will all die. Well, maybe not Ralenthra. She could survive anything.

But I tried to maintain an outwardly sunny demeanor. We had alerted a contingent of Knights in Silver at Rauvinwatch Keep as to the presence of the nobleman's body and it's precise location. Magnos had been grumbling about the matter ever since, asserting that it was likely that in order for the city to avoid embarrassment, the murder would simply be covered up or whatever. I'd been too busy trying to ignore him since our adventure at Berronar's Monastery to recall exactly what it is he said. Really.

We had done everything asked of us, save bring back the scepter and apprehend the nobles behind the attempted coup. Personally, I was still shaken by Dorn's sudden disappearance. What were we supposed to tell Tagen?

Shortly before our rendezvous with Tagen's men, I turned to Ralenthra and asked, "Rale, do I snore?"

My friend looked sideways at Magnos before answering. "Did that idiot try to make you think that you snore? Elves don't snore! He's just mad because he didn't get lucky with you!" and with that, she smacked him upside the back of his head and walked on ahead of us.

"Ow!" exclaimed Magnos. He rubbed his offended area and called after her. "What in the Nine Hells did you do that for, Menzo?"

I shoved him in the chest. "I don't snore, you fool! Elves don't snore, everyone knows that!"

Magnos grinned roguishly. "Well of course she's going to say that! She's biased against me! Besides, even if she were right about the snoring bit, that does nothing to prove that you're not a blanket hog!"

Damn it all, I'd forgotten about the blankets. Before I could ask, Ralenthra turned around and replied to me in elvish. "Don't even bother to ask me about that one. First of all, we've never shared a bed. Secondly, I don't want to give him any ideas that we have by lying about it for you. We'd never hear the end of it."

I pouted. Magnos chuckled. "No luck, huh? I guess you'll have to poll some of your lovers to vouch for you!"

Such a disgusting man!

~


Our arrival was expected. Guards escorted us to a private room at Hammer and the Helm, a well known meeting place for off-duty Knights in Silver. This made everyone sweat just a lilttle bit more. A few discreet raps at the door were answered by a jovial "Come in!" and before we knew it, we were facing a beaming Nim Tagen, clad in casual black leather so fresh it groaned when he moved. In front of him, on the small round table he beckoned us to was a pastry and a cup of steaming black tea. As my mouth began to water in appreciation, Tagen spoke.

"Ah, it is good to see you all so well! Miss Nailo?" he crooked a finger at me and then pointed downwards to the seat next to him on his right. "Everyone else, please take a seat where you like." I took my place next to Tagen with Ralenthra on my right, Kronk on her right and Magnos squeezed in between Kronk and Tagen. "Oh, and guards? Send some pastries and milk up for my road-weary companions, I am sure they'd appreciate it." Magnos grinned from ear to ear.

Tagen continued. "Your associate, Dorn, arrived last night and gave me his report, along with the scepter. Capital thinking, Rel Astra. He said that with your idea for him to go ahead first in the dead of night with the scepter he was able to avoid detection with ease."

Magnos' eyes grew wide for a moment, but then he smiled, drew his arms behind his head and reclined in his chair. "Mmm, yes. It was on-the-fly, but I have my moments."

I cleared my throat. "I see. Captain Tagen, I wonder if we could peruse that report so that-"

Tagen waved his hand dismissively. "I'm sorry, Miss Nailo. The report is classified. My summary at this meeting will have to suffice."

Ralenthra's eyebrows shot up. "Classified? Why?"

A knock on the door revealed a barmaid, bearing four pastries, four glasses of milk, a small bowl of cold whipped cream and a spoon on a silver tray. Tagen placed his finger to his lips as if to hush Ralenthra and then looked appreciatively at the barmaid as she laid the dishes down on the table. He passed the bowl of cream to me first, so I spooned some on my pastry before passing it to Ralenthra. Oh, the pastry was delicious; flaky and sweet and filled with apples.

Ralenthra looked annoyed, but shut her mouth and scooped out some cream for herself before passing it to an oblivious Kronk. Magnos' hand began to hover over the place where the cream would soon be, if Kronk were actually paying attention. Ralenthra and I happily dug into our pastries and Kronk drank his milk while Magnos whimpered a little. I think I even heard his stomach rumble. I stifled a giggle as I slowly savored the only meal I'd yet had that day.

After the barmaid left the room and a guard closed the door behind her, Tagen did not rush to continue. Instead, he spooned sugar into his tea, stirred it and took a sip before speaking again. "The report is classified just as your criminal records are now classified. Does this not satisfy you? Only officials with the very highest rank can peruse your criminal records, which will state that you have paid your debt to the City. To anyone else, it will be as if they are looking at a clean slate. Does that not please you adequately, Miss...Aerynae?" Tagen winked at Ralenthra. Looking at no one in particular, he asked, "Shall I continue with the summary of the report?"

Ralenthra and I nodded our heads, Magnos was too busy alternately staring at his pastry and Kronk to notice the question, and Kronk just grunted. Tagen took this as his cue to continue. "Your on-the-job skills have some promise. Seledra seems to have the makings of a natural leader and a healer, but needs to work on her offensive spell-casting and swordsmanship. Ralenthra was quite handy with traps and locks, but she needs further practice on her ranged attacks. Magnos appears to be able to back up the chip on his shoulder with his impressive grasp of the arcane but he needs to spend more time paying attention to his surroundings rather than the swaying hips of his female companions."

"Hey, I'm versatile!" cried Magnos, indignantly. Slyly, he reached for the cream bowl, drew a huge scoop of cream out, and deposited it upon his pastry before surreptitiously sliding the bowl back in front of Kronk.

It was at this point that Kronk finally realized the bowl was in front of him; he picked it up and peered inside. "Aw, no cream for Kronk!"

I kicked Magnos under the table.

"Ow! What did I do?"

I stared at Magnos, raised an eyebrow, and then tilted my head in Kronk's direction. Pouting, Magnos scooped half his cream onto Kronk's pastry. Kronk beamed and dug in happily. Magnos only slightly less so.

Tagen cleared his throat. "Kronk needs to balance his admittedly very effective barbarian rage with some caution or he will meet his end via a deadly fire trap."

Ralenthra guffawed out loud with her mouth full. "Wha?" she asked when all eyes turned to her.

Tagen finished his pastry and his tea. "In closing, they have proven themselves to be a promising team. I have also concluded that the four of them, when working together towards a common goal, are a force to be reckoned with. I recommend further supervision before their full potential can be assessed."

"Wait, what?" cried Ralenthra.

I swallowed and asked, "You mean this isn't over?"

Magnos tapped his fists on the table triumphantly. "I knew it."

Kronk looked like he was still trying to process what just happened. Then he finished, and he was mad. He stood up and clasped the back of his chair firmly, his muscles flexing like he was about the lift and throw it, but I stopped him by resting a gentle hand on his arm. "Everybody calm down. Congratulations, Magnos. You were right." He smirked. I added, "Don't get used to hearing it." He pouted.

Tagen looked around at the lot of us staring daggers at him. "I-I am sorry, but this is out of my hands. Someone very powerful is interested in recruiting you for mercenary work and with a report like this, the City will probably want to continue working with you as well. Besides, you have too much promise to go back to your old lives. You could...do some good."

Ralenthra shook her head. "I don't know..."

Tagen got up and walked to the door. Standing in the doorway, he turned and faced us once more. "Think about it, but don't take too long. You'll be contacted soon." And with that, he swept out of the room.

I stood up and called after him questioningly. "By whom?"

Magnos laughed softly and whispered, "Eaerlraun."
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: (Always Keep the Faith)
Shim Changmin felt a chill go down his spine despite the warm summer sun that shone down on him, his fellow members of TVXQ, representatives of both the South Korean and North Korean governments, and a crew of about a hundred. Though the group was on hiatus at the time due to a lawsuit, this performance and photo shoot was a very special exception. Relations had recently thawed between the two Koreas, and there was talk about ending the war that had divided them for over 60 years. TVXQ’s performance was the opening to ten days of talks and festivities at North Korea’s famous resort, Kŭmgangsan, and them just being there was a goodwill gesture on behalf of the South Korean government. How could we refuse, thought Changmin, when we can help end the war?

That is not to say that things weren’t...awkward. Yunho and Jaejoong were doing their best to not make physical contact. Junsu blocked everyone out, listening on his iPod to the latest mix that Kanye West had sent of “Ayyy Girl”, a song he had recorded with Jae and Yoochun. Yoochun was guardedly happy but nervous. He had not been able to maintain his American citizenship and ending the war was of particular interest to him. Yoochun was a tender soul, and even Changmin didn’t know what fighting in a war would do to him.

The youngest member of TVXQ felt lost. He hated to be alone, and had gotten used to staying close to Yunho or Minho ever since the lawsuit, but it wasn’t enough to fill the gaping hole that was left by the absence of Jae, Chun and Su. Now they were together again, but everyone was off in their own corner. No one wanted to be disturbed. And what made matters worse, was that he wasn’t able to read anyone’s mind today, not even for fun. Someone or something was running some sort of interference. He shrugged, and cracked open the second volume of In Search of Lost Time with one hand as he stuffed a piece of Opera Cake into his mouth with the other. Probably just a precaution. Nothing to worry about. Standard operating procedure and all that. Everything is fine.

~


One hour till showtime. They could all perform this routine in their sleep, but Yunho was concerned that Junsu was still lounging in his chair, a hour after the stylist had finished with him, with his eyes closed. Junsu was the most disciplined of all of them; he normally would be warming up right now. Maybe their new management is working them really hard, thought Yunho.

He was nervous. Tiny blue flames danced along his fingertips as he paced across the grounds, eyeing Junsu here, making small talk with the dignitaries there, and every so often, stealing glances at Jaejoong. Before he could look away, Jae locked eyes with him for just a moment, and his heart felt like it was either going to break or burst. With Jae he could never tell. I’m just nervous because it’s been so long since we’ve all been on the same stage. Changmin would have told me if he sensed something was wrong. There’s nothing to worry about. Everything is fine.

~


Jaejoong’s heart was in his throat. Ever since the hiatus, he and Yunho hadn’t spoken much. All their communications were monitored, and Changmin refused to be the go-between for their more explicit messages. “It was bad enough cock-blocking you guys all those years,” he would say. Being a psychic, he would never be able to understand what Jaejoong was going through, being apart from Yunho for such long stretches of time, wondering if he really still felt the same. He wished he could just know. Jaejoong felt powerless. Though he still had Yoochun and Junsu to look after and care for (and that was a full time job in and of itself), he missed having Yunho’s arms around him every night. He missed waking up next to him. Hell, he missed both of them terribly. He even missed that snarky maknae bastard Changmin stealing bits of dinner before it was ready. I suppose, he thought, this feeling is normal. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure to get over it soon. One day the tears will stop coming out of the blue. And then everything will be fine.

~


Yoochun was doing his best to keep up a sunny demeanor. He had even managed to make eye contact with Yunho without scowling at him. Ever since the split, comforting Jae had become a full-time job, when it was usually Yoochun himself who was on the receiving end of the emotional pampering. Especially since...well, just thinking about that caused a cloud to appear in a previously cloudless sky, and it blocked out the sunlight. An unseasonably chill breeze whipped Yoochun’s silky black hair back. She had told him that he needed a haircut when he last saw her, and as usual she was right. Damn her. Yoochun wondered why Changmin hadn’t inserted himself into his thoughts and told him to “Man the fuck up” yet. He gritted his teeth, forcing a smile on his face, and the cloud dissipated. He figured that he may as well check on Junsu. And then we can get up on stage, do our thing, save the world and everything will be fine. Nothing to worry about.

~


Junsu was sitting slumped in his stylist’s chair when Yoochun found him. “C’mon, baby. We should be warming up now,” Yoochun whispered as he tugged on Junsu’s arm.

There was no response. Yoochun frowned and shook Junsu by the shoulders, gently at first, then increasing in urgency as the reality of the situation dawned on him. “Su? Su-yah! Wake up!” Junsu was pale, his face glistened with sweat, and his breathing was shallow. Yoochun concentrated, sorting out the energies in Junsu’s body. Whatever was wrong with him, it wasn’t natural. Going purely on instinct, Yoochun tried to send a message in his mind to Changmin, hoping that the maknae was eavesdropping on his mopey thoughts instead of being absorbed in Volume Two of In Search of Lost Time: À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs in the original French, of course, while eating his third piece of Opera cake.

The lack of an immediate response, led Yoochun to believe that Changmin was either unwilling or unable to read his thoughts. The slender pianist slung his ailing friend over his shoulder and frantically called out for Yunho.

~


This was apparently what they had been waiting for; they, being a rogue faction of the North Korean Military. Yunho, hearing Yoochun’s cries for help, burst into flames and began to fly in that direction, until he saw Jaejoong out of the corner of his eye. He was surrounded by men with guns but even though Jae had no offensive powers and little way to defend himself, his eyes were full of defiance. He called out to Yunho, “Leave me. Save Su!” before he was tranquilized, and fell to the ground in a heap.

Yunho roared, and without thinking, he rushed at Jae’s attackers, before a surge of energy rushed through him and felled him as well.

Changmin had dropped his book and licked his fingers clean by this point. He ran towards Yoochun. “Chunnie! Take Junsu and fly out of here!”

Yoochun was panicking. His two best friends were unconscious. Yunho, his rock, though he was loathe to admit it, was also neutralized. His breathing began to hitch. Oh, not now, asthma, he thought. “Min, can’t you do something?”

Changmin grabbed Yoochun by the arm and dragged him to a place where they could briefly hide. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. They don’t work! My powers don’t work. You have to save yourself and Junsu! Go! Fly! Now!”

Yoochun’s breathing became more shallow and swift. He paled, and shook his head.

Changmin slapped him across the face. “Fly, you fucking babo!”

And then Yoochun rose into the air, slowly. Clouds descended and the wind picked up. “I can do this. I...I can save us.” he whispered.

Changmin shook his head. “No, Chun. You’ve got to get Junsu out of here!”

But Yoochun could no longer hear him. His eyes rolled back and, as he spread his arms wide, lightning crashed from the sky and hit about half the soldiers in his eyeline.

What he didn’t realize was that those soldiers were bait. He soon felt electricity course through his entire body before he fell limply to the ground.

Changmin shielded Yoochun and Junsu behind him protectively as the soldiers approached. A young Captain stepped forward and smiled at him. He had just enough time to say, “Fuck my life” before he joined his hyungs in unconsciousness.

NaNoWriMo

Oct. 25th, 2010 05:51 pm
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)

I know it't cheating, but I think I'll revise and finish my DBSK fanfic as my NaNoWriMo project.

Sue me. :P

I'm thinking of making the YunJae chapter more graphic. Forgive me the seemingly uncharacteristic self-consciousness about it. It is one thing to be comfortable reading smutfic but writing it is a whole different story. This may require more...research on my part, LOL.

One thing is certain. Before November 1st, I need to update my OMFG It's Dong Bang Fucking Shin Ki posts at least one more time. This LJ is in need of more lulz.

Incidentally, I know my fic isn't the greatest thing I've written, but I'd appreciate more feedback on it from you connosieurs of DBSK fics. I'm never going to get better without help. *puppy eyes*

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

butterfly_sunrider: (MinnieUnf)
About five months ago, I posted this picture



in my twitter with the following byline:

"As much as I love the Min (and you know I love the Min), I gotta name ChansUNF the Hottest Maknae in KPop."

EPIC MAKNAE PICSPAM COMMENCES... )
butterfly_sunrider: (God is my DJ)
Bon Jovi - Bed of Roses. Part of a High School Flashback Superplay :)
butterfly_sunrider: (God is my DJ)
Cathy Dennis - Too Many Walls. Part of a High School Flashback Superplay :)
butterfly_sunrider: (God is my DJ)
Tori Amos - Doughnut Song (Live). If "Boys for Pele" doesn't speak to you yet, wait. It will.
butterfly_sunrider: (God is my DJ)
KARA - Lupin. A Best Fuckin' Five Quintuple Play.

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