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

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

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

“But O’Si...isn’t O’Su a moon elf?”

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

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

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

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

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

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


~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And?”

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

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

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

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

I made a face. “Really?”

“Really.”

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

“And yet?”

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

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

~


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

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

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

“You are??!” both the boys exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed. “Aelthas, what are you?”

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

“What kind of elf?”

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

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

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

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

“Seledra, I don’t see-”

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

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

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


~


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

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

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

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

~


I dreamed...

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

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

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

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

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

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


~


I awoke with a start. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the vignettes I bore witness to were connected somehow. And I wondered why I wasn’t there.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
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)
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: (Default)
In the dead of night, still having been confined to our cells, the four of us were rousted from whatever sleep we'd had, gathered into a room and seated at a round table. Ralenthra and I, refreshed somewhat after a four hour trance, sat on one side, Magnos and Kronk, the former sleep-deprived and the latter rather hung-over, on the other, and Captain Nim Tagen sat between us. Magnos' fingers were tied together. As this was happening, Tagen took a big damn pipe out of his pocket and lit it. Unfortunately, he wasn't smoking halfling leaf, which would have gone a long way in soothing my jangled nerves. I coughed.

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

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

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

"So blunt, Miss Nailo..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shot back. "Maybe I will."

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

We both turned and stared at him.

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

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

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

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

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

Kronk turned to Magnos."What?"

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

Kronk nodded his head. "Yeah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnos, Ralenthra and I collectively groaned.

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

Ralenthra cursed under her breath.

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

“This time?”

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

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

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

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

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

"Then why?"

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

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

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

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

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

“As many times as it takes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rising sun outside our window hit Ralenthra’s hair, giving her a pinkish-orange halo. She sighed. “That’s a lot of maybes, Seledra.”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
The blindfold was taken off and someone was pointing a lit wand in my face.

“Care to explain why a city employee vouched for the character of and has been harboring a known criminal since Greengrass of this year?”

My life, as I knew it, was over. So, I decided to adopt an air of defiance. “I’m sorry. Didn’t you bring me in for having that Lauthaul token in my purse? Why don’t you stick to that topic instead and leave May out of this?” As far as I knew at this point, Ralenthra had been caught stealing, and that her identity was still a secret.

I was wrong. He lifted his hand as if he was going to strike me. “There are penalties when a woman lies, Miss Nailo. Even the spoiled daughter of a hardened mercenary and a renegade sorceress is not above Silverymoon justice.”

“Excuse me? My father was an adventurer and my mother…my mother is…”

“Under house arrest for the last 20 years for her attack on a young man you were once involved with, Miss Nailo. Of course, we look the other way from time to time, like when you two went out to lunch recently. It seems that your father and her penchant for drink have…broken her spirit enough to keep her in line.”

So my dream was true. “And my father?”

“Mystra’s tits, girl, I am not here to answer your queries about family secrets! Suffice it to say that MANY have been kept from you. You have no small amount of intuition about you. That’s why you were expelled for attempting to break into the Hall of Records!”

I got a good look at his badge and smirked. “Be careful, Captain. I’m not sure the High Lady would appreciate you blaspheming her mother like that.”

He smirked. “You don’t deny conspiring to break into the Hall of Records?”

“I thought that I was expelled for…”

“…your public fling with Aelthas? Oh, you poor little fool. It was Aelthas who told the deans about your plan when he was taken in for questioning. Your public deflowering was only a minor prank which would have yielded a small slap on the wrist, shall we say.”

My head was spinning. Smelling blood in the water, he continued.

“The Alchemy department at the Conclave reported the theft of a vial of an experimental concoction called Potion of Forgetfulness at around the time of your expulsion. Can you tell me anything about this?”

“What?”

“’What’ is no kind of answer, Miss Nailo. Yes or no, can you tell me about the current whereabouts of this potion?” I remained silent. He continued. “Because the concoction made that year was highly unstable. It, er…leaks.”

I said nothing.

“It breaks down over time, Miss Nailo. After a while, it only takes a trigger for the victim to regain his or her memory. It would be…unfortunate…if it were to be used. It would only delay the inevitable.”

At this point, I tried to block him out. I meditated on the elements:

May the powers of earth sustain me…

“So you see, Miss Nailo, we have enough on you to not only take your job away, but to put you in the dungeon for quite a while.” I felt Captain Tagen caress my cheek mockingly. “Too bad that pretty girls like you don’t do too well in prison.”

He got up and began to pace the floor confidently.

“That is, unless you think your knight in shining armor will save you. You’d be wrong of course. Methrammar may fancy you, but in his heart of hearts, the Lady named Silverymoon will always come first. We’ve established already that you have run through whatever influence your parents once had in bailing you out, so you have little choice but to cooperate.”

I said nothing and kept my eyes tight shut.

“So…tell me about your accomplices. Ralenthra Ilphukiir, for instance. Were you aware that while working as a mercenary in Menzoberranzan, she led raids on the surface to capture slaves? She helped separate families, destabilize settlements. At least one small village was burned to the ground to cover their trail. There was…no sign of survivors. We have documentation.”

She had never told me, but in the beginning, our relationship had been based on ‘plausible deniability’. It hurt me that there may be some truth in what Tagen was saying, but I wasn’t going to sell her out over something she’d done years ago. She was a different person now, I knew it. I spoke. “I met her earlier this year, at the Greengrass Festival outside town. I was in a bar, getting drunk, when I saw a bunch of drunken human males picking on someone much smaller than them. I got cocky, started a fight with them to stop them. By hook or by crook, we took out the whole bar together. She got me out of there, healed me up. I saw no reason not to trust her after she could so easily have disposed of me then. She. Is. My. Friend.”

Captain Tagen nodded. “You just keep adding to your laundry list of crimes, Miss Nailo. Drunk and Disorderly. Multiple Assault charges. Tut, tut, my dear. Such a scandal!” He drew close to me and tucked a stray lock of my hair behind my ear. “Why can’t you just admit to yourself that you were played? She easily could have killed you, yes, but she needed you to get into Silverymoon. And you played right into her hands! Typical of Mielikki followers, I’m afraid. Too soft, far too trusting. Testify that your drow ‘friend’ Ralenthra bewitched you and that she masterminded this whole affair with the tokens to take Silverymoon down from within, to allow her filthy people a way inside the most vulnerable places in our fair city. If you don’t turn on her first, she’ll turn on you. Say it.”

I said nothing, but shook my head and looked away.

May the powers of air inspire me…

“Fair enough, how about the muscle of the operation? Kronk, is it? He has a criminal record as long as my arm, keeps questionable companions, and that’s not even including you or your drow ‘friend’, members of Silverymoon’s Thieves Guild, as well as a renegade and disgraced former Harper. Arson, drunk and disorderly and murder are only some of the crimes he’s accused of. The scarbearer is a menace to society, and you’d be doing Silverymoon a service if you testify against him. Tell me about Kronk.”

“Kronk?” I burst into giggles. “Kronk? You think he had something to do with this? Ha!”

Captain Tagen slammed his fist down on the table. “You will take these proceedings seriously, Miss Nailo. You could face the hangman’s noose tomorrow, for treason.”

“You seriously think Kronk is capable of grand larceny?” Okay, he could be, but he’s not exactly the subtle type. As for the other crimes, I don’t think Kronk would kill anyone who didn’t have it coming. He’s got a good heart, the big lug. “He’s not an example of what we like to call stealthy.”

Tagen growled. “No, but you need someone in case Plan A fails. You need a one-man cavalry.”

I folded my hands in front of me. “Let me tell you what I know of Kronk. Mayurra and I met him in Everlund. He was working as security for Sun & Moon. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They like to play the harp. He also took down several orcs in Olostin’s Hold single-handedly. Kronk helped save the town.”

“And he let his half-brother escape with a particularly valuable artifact once in the safekeeping of the Harpers that could destabilize the region and put peace talks with…certain parties…at risk.”

Well, that was a rare slip-up on the Captain’s part. If a minor orc chieftain like Urgurth got a hold of a ‘peace-destabilizing artifact’, the only peace that could be sought would be a truce with Obould. I’m not sure the dwarven citadels would like that, but at least they wouldn’t be losing so many to a war on two fronts, one with Obould’s orcs and one with the denizens of the Underdark. It was a smart move, in the long run. That’s why Alustriel rules the Marches.

“This is quite a impressive little plan, Miss Nailo. A two-pronged attack from the Underdark and the Orcs not yet united under King Obould’s banner. Give us Kronk, at least. You’d be doing Luruar a service.”

Again, I shook my head.

May the powers of fire illuminate me…

“Now, what I don’t understand is your connection to Jonah Goodman.”

I was genuinely shocked. “Who?”

“Don’t play stupid. You were still in his arms when we opened the door to your prison wagon upon your arrival here. Surely you are familiar with him.”

I had to fight the urge to laugh. They had the wrong man. All I knew about Jonah was that he was a friend of Magnos’. “Well, he’s much bigger than I am; it was hard to wriggle free.” I grinned nervously.

“My dear girl, he is a wizard, you are a druid. You could have easily taken him down physically; especially since he no longer had his components pack with him.” Oh. Crap. “So, why were you in his arms?”

“Uh…I don’t know a Jonah Goodman. I never met him before in my whole life.” It was still the truth.

“Liar!” The Captain slapped me across the face. No one, not even my father when he was at his most angry had ever struck me before. I was more shocked than hurt, though. I am no delicate flower. I scowled defiantly, despite my swelling lips.

“It would be easier for you if there were an angle here, but there isn’t. Bring your ‘experts’ in here and they’ll find I’m telling you the truth. I. Don’t. Know. Jonah. Goodman.”

“Don’t mock me girl, I am the expert here! I have 100 years experience with the Knights in Silver. You are just a hot little number who lucked into a cushy job as a city druid. Jonah is your firepower. As a member of the Spellguard, he also has access to spell ward tokens. But he doesn’t have any political reasons to bring down Silverymoon. He’s not doing it for money, either. He’s your lover.”

Oh, hell.

It was then that I realized that he had me. It was quite brilliant really, even if it wasn’t (well at least most of it) true. There was just enough truth to make it stick. Physical evidence, motives, and if I didn’t crack under the pressure someone else would. Captain Tagen must have sensed my panic. He smiled, most unpleasantly. “And the last piece clicks into place. It’s all connected. You used that young mage like you used Aelthas Vihuel, like you’re using Methrammar. Have you information on Silverymoon’s vulnerable spots through him as well? You seduced them and got them to do your bidding. But you don’t even care about them; all you care about is that drow whore.”

The intensity in his eyes was nearly manic. He got right in my face and I closed my eyes tight. “All I need from you is a guarantee…that you will testify that your drow ‘friend’ Ralenthra bewitched you and that she masterminded this whole affair with the tokens to take Silverymoon down from within in congress with an alliance of rebel orcs, to allow their filthy peoples a way inside the most vulnerable places in our fair city. Implicate her, the scarbearer and the traitor and you go free. You keep your job, you can go back to your old life, and you can even marry Methrammar if you choose with no more legal interference. Do it. If you don’t, you will lose everything. You may not even be spared the hangman’s noose as a traitor.”

May the powers of water nourish me.

I opened my eyes and a single tear rolled down my cheek. “No.”

Furious, Captain Tagen banged on the steel door behind me three times and called out. “Get this one out of my sight!” He then looked at me in disgust. “You are a disgrace to the elven race. May Corellon have mercy upon you.” And with that, I was seized upon by two guards and led outside towards the holding cells they were keeping Ralenthra, Kronk, Magnos and I in. To my surprise, I was greeted by quite a commotion: Methrammar was here, struggling with five other men trying to hold him back.

“I order you to let me through! I must see her! Seledra! Seledra!”

Tears stung my eyes. “Methrammar,” I whispered softly. I didn’t think he’d come for me.

Captain Tagen coolly strode out of the interrogation room and with a single nod, the wall of men hemming Methrammar in broke apart. He rushed to me and gathered me close to him, kissing me more intensely than he’d ever done before. My already tender bottom lip split into an orchid of blood. Methrammar drew back, horrified. “What did they do to you?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw them men lead Ralenthra away towards the interrogation room. Captain Tagen looked at Ralenthra and then glared at me as a warning before closing the door behind them.

“Nothing. A troll hit me in the face with his club during the raid. I’m lucky I didn’t lose a few teeth.” I said, almost light-heartedly.

He looked around furtively, as he gently wiped my mouth clean with his handkerchief. “Come with me, Seledra. This is no place for you. We can go back to your house…”

“No. I’m not going anywhere without Mayurra.”

Methrammar nodded, with a sad smile. “I was afraid you’d say that. Mystra knows I can’t make you do something you don’t want to do.” He took his cloak off and wrapped it around my shoulders, then kissed me softly on the forehead. “Just stay safe, my love. I’ll come for you again in the morning.” Tagen’s men then put me back in my cell, right across from the one Magnos and Kronk shared. Kronk was asleep and was probably going to wake up with a nasty headache. Still, I feel as though he’d done this before. I got the impression that Magnos had been watching me since I stepped out of the interrogation room. He smirked and clapped sarcastically.

“How touching.”

“Excuse me?”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Was that…Methrammar?”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes.”

“You two are lovers?”

“What do you think, genius?”

Magnos held out one hand, made a fist, jutted out his thumb and pointed downwards with it sharply. At the same time, he stuck out his tongue. “Pbthbththths”

“That’s lovely, Magnos. Maybe when you graduate from kindergarten, we can discuss it further.”

“I. Don’t. Like. Him.”

My mouth fell agape. “Uh…you don’t have to. Who I take to my bed is none of your concern.”

“Not yet, it isn’t.”

“More like not EVER.”

“Your holiness,” He pointed to his head with both hands. “I see myself in your…future.”

“You’re delusional.”

“No, he is. The man is either blind or he’s just stupid. Either way, I would have hit that Captain in the face for roughing you up like that if you were…if I were him. I can’t believe he swallowed that line you gave him.” He mimicked my voice. “’Oh, a big nasty troll hit me!’ I’m surprised you didn’t say that you walked into a wall or something.” For a moment, I was a little flattered at his concern, fake or not. I almost wanted to give him a little heads up about the identity problem they had, but…

I shrugged off Methrammar’s cloak to reveal my well-muscled arms, lifted my right hand high above my head and jumped up, grabbing the bars above my head and began to pull myself up repetitively. “And just what were you going to hit him with? Magic Missile? I can take care of myself, thank you very much. I don’t need a man to do it for me.”

He snorted and leaned back with his arms behind his head, crossing his legs languorously. “I can see that.” He paused, as if for effect. “So, are drow women as insatiably hot in bed as they say?”

“Is that all you think about? You disgust me.” I can’t believe I slept with this man. Almost.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” He smirked.

I must have been drunker than I thought that night. “You're the most contemptible person I've ever met in all my life!”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Confidentially, I think you're a bit of a stinker. I’m getting some sleep, your grace!” And with that, he rolled over on his cot, turning his back on me. How dare he!

I stamped my foot, turned by back to him and finished my repetitions with my left arm before meditating again. That bastard. How I hate him!

~


Ralenthra returned from her interrogation apparently unscathed. She re-entered our cell with no resistance, but when I dropped from doing my pull-ups and moved to embrace her, she held up her hand to halt me. Out of the vision of the guards, she quickly signed that we would speak later. Dejected, I nodded, and looked past her to see Magnos being led out of his cell. He turned his head towards me and managed a wink and a grin before getting hustled down the corridor to the interrogation room. With him gone, Ralenthra wanting silence and Kronk still sleeping, I felt...isolation. Wrapping Methrammar's cloak around me, I sat on the cold stone floor and meditated in an attempt to shut out my surroundings...

...which worked fine until I started hearing and feeling a commotion coming from the interrogation room.

Blast.

Blast.

Creak.

Blast.

Creak.

Blast.

My eyes flew open. What in Mielikki's name was going on in there? Probably something he already had coming, the cheeky bastard. I shook my head vigorously in an effort to shed such pettiness and refocus my thoughts. The blasting and creaking continued and it took all the inner serenity I had to keep from grinding my teeth in response. Finally, there was a great crashing noise, followed by silence. My stomach dipped. Forest Queen, am I actually worried about that obnoxious man? Well, of course I was worried! In my gut I knew he was as innocent as I was, in a manner of speaking of course, and he was getting worked over just like I had.

It was silent for what seemed like ages. I finally turned around to look at Ralenthra, who seemed to have noticed the unusually long silence as well. She raised an eyebrow then shrugged and looked away as she took her hair down and started to braid it. Finally, a gruff and authoritative voice broke the silence.

"That won't be necessary."

I heard Magnos, his breathing a little shaky. "Are you going to help me get out of here?"

The gruff voice responded in a tone that sounded like the owner was just about to dig into a rich and decadent dessert. "You could say that. You're clearly not Jonah Goodman. That must make you Magnos."

Way to go, genius.

"You could say that," responded Magnos. I could picture his smirk as if he were right in front of me.

Their voices, soon joined by those of Tagen and one of the guards, dropped into murmurs too quiet for me to make out until I heard Tagen speak in a deferential tone, "Yes, Eaerlraun."

Magnos was back to his usual routine of insulting people who could turn him into a grease spot, presumably Tagen. "Does that mean we're still on for tomorrow night?"

In spite of myself, I chortled. Ralenthra gave an exasperated sigh. He was shoved along the corridor by the guard Vasher and accompanied by Captain Tagen. Seeing Magnos get manhandled amused Kronk enough to elicit a snort of laughter.

Tagen had his back to me at this point and said to Kronk, "You're next."

Kronk looked at Magnos, "They hurt magic man?"

Magnos, still being held up by the shoulders, shook his head, if a little weakly.

"They save that for women and furniture." I flushed a little and was glad that his back was turned so he couldn't see the tiny smile on my face. Vasher then shoved him to the ground of their cell and grabbed Kronk's arm, leading the half-orc out of the cell. The cell door was still open, and Tagen was still in earshot, so I took a chance.

"Captain Tagen?"

"Yes, Miss Nailo?"

"I am still considered a city druid in the employ of Silverymoon, am I not?"

"For now. Yes."

"Then I de...humbly request that you allow me to examine the mage. He seems to be hurt."

"Yes. I know." Oh, I bet you do.

"Let me do my job."

"Are conjugal visits part of your job description, Miss Nailo?"

My face flushed in embarrassment and anger. "Captain Tagen, continue to interfere in my work and I will see to it that Lord Methrammar interferes in yours."

It was my trump card. I was only going to be able to play it once. Tagen froze for a moment, as if considering, then he gestured to the guard known to us as Griggs. "Let her...service the mage. When she's done, put her back in her cell."

Magnos still lying on the floor, snickered. "She's going to service me. Heh."

"Oh, do shut up," I said as I was led from one cell to another. The doors slammed behind me. I knelt down and felt his forehead. It was warmer than it should be. They'd hit him pretty hard, whatever it was. From his initial symptoms, I guessed that it was a low-level evocation spell, but when one is a young human wizard "blessed" with a wizard's stamina, it wouldn't take much to do some serious damage. Still, I needed to get a closer look. I scooped an arm behind his shoulders and drew him to a seated position. He leaned into me and his lips brushed my ear. I shuddered.

He whispered, "They're testing us, you know."

That was better than thinking that Tagen actually believed the yarn he'd spun in his efforts to get me to pin the blame on the others. I nodded and got us to our feet before walking him to his bunk and leaning him against it as I started to remove his cloak and robe. He chuckled, "Why, you little minx..."

I groaned as I pulled his robe off of him. "This isn't what you think, Magnos." I cringed. He'd never gotten around to introducing himself in the carriage. Maybe in all the hustle and bustle since then, he'd forgotten, though. Remembering how meticulous he was about his clothes and how I'd teased him mercilessly at the Dancing Goat about this trait, I started folding his robe neatly and placed it at the head of the mattress where a pillow would normally be.

Still weak in the knees, he fell into me again. Again, his mouth and his hot breath found my ear. "I don't remember telling you my name, Seledra."

I grunted a little and turned my head so my lips could reach his ear. "I heard voices down the hall. And you're the only person I've seen since who looks like a Magnos. Lucky guess, huh? Hail Tymora!" I cut my babbling off with a giggle and hoped that I hadn't called him by name earlier. Gently, I moved him to a seated position on his bunk and started undoing the laces of his shirt. After I pulled it over his head, I laid him down and assessed the damage. Just as I'd suspected, a low-level evocation spell delivered point blank to the chest. The skin of his chest looked red and irritated, a large, purple bruise was spreading over the direct area of impact and he was having some difficulty breathing. Probably magic missile. I placed my hand on his chest, smiled and said jokingly, "Oh, Magnos. You didn't have to go defending my honor like that."

He chuckled again. "Anything for a lady."

I closed my eyes and began to chant softly to Mielikki.. I felt my hand grow warm and tingly with healing energy that transferred from my goddess to me to Magnos. The bruise turned from purple, to green to yellow and finally faded completely; the surrounding redness dissipated and his breathing returned to normal, so I started to move my hand away, but he'd caught me by the wrist and drew me close to him. "Don't go yet. Feels good." He softly brushed my swollen lip with his left thumb and opened his eyes. "Why didn't you heal yourself first? Now you'll have a scar." Magnos gave me a disapproving look that made the dimples in his cheeks pop.

Struggling valiantly not to laugh, I broke eye contact with him, shrugged and gently freed myself from his grip. "Ah, I'll be okay. When I get home I'll take a potion." I then got up and faced the door. "Guard?"
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra3)
Last night I dreamed.

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

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

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

“Seledra?”

The woman turned and pulled back her hood.

“Who…who are you?” he stuttered.

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

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

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

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

“Why are you doing this?”

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

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

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

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

He replied feebly, “Yes.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Hells, no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As long as there were people watching, the Guardsman handled me gently, but when we got to the prisoner’s wagon, I was shoved unceremoniously inside, where I landed right in someone else’s lap. Someone familiar. It was when he touched my face that I knew who he was, that unmistakable spark. Soon I was looking straight into the eyes of Magnos. He winked, grinned and said, “Haven’t we met before?”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
It was the second morning in a row that I had checked in on Ralenthra only to find that she wasn't there. After closing the door, I smiled. Maybe her gambit worked after all. As for myself, I had a morning shift today to be followed by lunch with my mother (oh joy) and a stop at Tiggywinkles to pick up my bodice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The fool girl didn't kill him?"

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

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

"Mother, you're disturbing me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I responded, "So what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gwen piped up. "Yeah."

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

Glenda sighed, "Now she gets it."

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

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

Gilda nodded. "Or lost your faculties."

Gwen added, "Quite."

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

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

I responded blankly. "Uh, no."

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

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

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

Gwen beamed, "I did."

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

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

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

Glinda crinkled her nose. "Ew"

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

Goldie offered, "And ripped your bodice."

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

Gilda jumped up and down. "We do!"

Gwen joined her. "Yes!"

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

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

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

Glinda gasped. "Were they big?"

I nodded. "As big as Gwen."

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

I nodded solemnly. "Very."

The girls collectively shuddered.

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

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

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

My dearest Seledra,

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

Yours,

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


I guess I should be glad that I hadn't made any plans or anything...
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
With Isioleth and Isendur leading the way and the Harpers trailing slightly behind we made our way through the High Forest to Amalith. I am so embarassed. And upset. I thought this little road trip would be fun and until we reached the ass hole of the Silver Marches everything was fine. If only the wedding were held in Everlund, all of this would not have happened.

I looked over at Ralenthra, her silvery hair glowing in the moonlight that streamed through the window of the carriage as she tranced. She saved my life and those...people, those humans especially, were so cruel to her. The wood elf I could almost understand as they are not exactly known for being too bright, but damn it all, why do people have to be this way?

I can at least count on Isendur and Isioleth to be good, as they'd already met her and didn't seem suspicious or bothered. Ariel didn't seem upset when I told her. I guess that leaves the bride and groom, oh, and Methrammar.

Ooh, Methrammar. I hadn't had a chance to think about him in a while. What a fine, fine specimen of a man he is. What a gentleman. I wonder how he dances and if he will dance with me at the wedding. And then I remembered the last person I'd danced with. The boy.

The charming, clever, handsome and good-natured boy with magic crackling and dancing on the surface of his skin. Who wouldn't remember me even if I walked up to him and flashed him.

This is all too much, too much thinking. I opened my pack and took out a small bottle of raspberry ale, downing it as quickly as I could. A wonderful numbness washed over me.

It is so much better when one doesn't have to feel anymore.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
Up, up, up the stairs in the tree...She touched the pond again...I saw Ariadne running though a huge gilded glass temple...numerous people tried to stop her...she couldn't fly...she ran with her long red and white robes trailing behind her...she was screaming something...I couldn't hear...running towards a gate...

"I don't want you to heal both!" a male voice barked. "Do what you can for the moon elf. Shayla, help me tie this one up, then you can guard her until the fight's over out there."

"Why don't we just kill her now?" a female voice, I'm assuming Shayla, asked.

Excuse me?

"I would, but the constable wouldn't like that much. Even for her kind, he insists on giving fair trials. He'll want to question her before he does anything," the male replied.

I opened my eyes to the tiniest slits and much to my distress, I saw a male wood elf yank Ralenthra roughly to her feet, and heard her cry out. Selune, who was lying in my lap, stirred, realizing I was now awake.

The one that must be Shayla tied her arms behind her back. Then she took a piece of cloth and gagged her. The male shoved her back to the floor, and Shayla stood scowling over her with a crossbow. I decided to test my ability to move. Ow. My head hurt so badly that I couldn't hold back a moan.

"I couldn't heal her fully, but I think I helped," said another female. "She almost came to, just now, but she seems to have taken quite a blow to the head and went back out again."

"Stay with her would you, Betha?" the wood elf said as he bent to tie Ralenthra's feet. They certainly weren't taking any chances. "You don't have any healing spells left, anyway, so you may as well stay out of what's going on out there. You be a good little prisoner, inky, if you want to have a chance to make your case to the constable. Shayla here is a little trigger happy sometimes, and she hates drow almost as much as I do."

Bastard.

He then turned and went out to join the battle outside.

My best friend was in horrible pain, bound and gagged like a prisoner right next to me and I was unable to do so much as turn my head without it hurting. Selune was my only chance, as she was uninjured. I stroked the scruff of her neck and sent her pictures in my mind: our surroundings, Tordrin...bring him here...somehow...help...fast.

I was unprepared for her leaping off of my lap and over the wall above my head, too fast for either Betha or Shayla to stop her. It actually took a minute or two for them to recover from it.

"Do you think that wolf was a spy?" Shayla finally asked Betha. Betha shook her head and gesticulated towards my unicorn head amulet. "The moon elf is a Mielikki follower. The wolf probably belongs to her. What I don't understand is why she would leave her when she is ailing."

"Because she was going to get help."

The women turned and saw Tordrin in the doorway, his left hand lighly fingering the handle of his longsword. With his right hand, he flicked at the silver harp pin on his chest, "Tordrin Windweaver, Harper Agent at your service - what do we have here?" He looked over at us casually.

Shayla puffed out her chest. "I, um, we" she corrected herself after a sidelong glance from Betha, "discovered this dirty drow trying to kill this wounded moon elf. As you can see, she won't be hurting anyone now." She looked quite proud of herself.

"Since things are under control in here, I'm going to have to ask you to go aid the rest of your townsfolk in the battle outside. We need all the able-bodied warriors we can get, what with the orc army's western reinforcements that just came in. Meanwhile, I can see to the druid's wounds and take the drow into the custody of the Harpers."

Shayla looked skeptical. She shifted her weight from side to side. "Tharivol told me to stay." Tordrin was having nothing of this. He grabbed her by the shoulders. "We have no time to discuss this, soldier! Get out there and fight! I'm sure Tharivol will be proud of your battle prowess. And you, " he looked to Betha, "You can get in the Inn's kitchen and start making up some poultices for the wounded, unless you have some healing spell scrolls at your disposal."

The women marched off to their respective destinations and I dropped my little charade. As soon as they were both out of the stable, Tordrin dropped his pack and weapons to the ground and rushed to Ralenthra's side, taking the bloodstained gag out of her mouth. Selune loped back inside and re-situated herself on my lap. It may have been my double vision at the time, but I swear I saw his hands trembling as he began to free Ralenthra from her bonds and he whispered words I couldn't make out. He then laid her flat on his cloak that he had spread on the ground. Ralenthra appeared at this point to be slipping in and out of consciousness due to the pain. She opened her eyes and tried to smile at Tordrin, but it came out like a wincing grimace instead and she finally passed out cold. Tordrin gently kissed her eyelids and then practically dove into his pack, digging out poultices, bandages and potions. He didn't even look up at me as he complimented me on my original thinking and tossed me a healing potion, which I swiftly guzzled.

"Was there really a reinforcement?" I asked him.

He finally looked up, after having quite swiftly cleaned, packed and wrapped Ralenthra's wounds and took a deep breath. "Yes. Seventy-two heads." He started to tend to my injuries. As if he anticipated my next question, he said, "But some things are more important. Besides, I'm sure Tharivol and company may have to change their minds about drow after fighting side by side with the Talaviirs. All the same, I'm staying with you two in case the militia comes back."

Ralenthra was beginning to heal and she started to murmur in her unconscious state. A pleasant breeze coursed through the stable even as the battle wound down outside. And I finally stopped seeing double.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra)
I dreamed a dream...a vision, really.

A beautiful woman with a warm smile and riding a unicorn appeared to me in the forest and led me to a crystal clear pool. She touched the pool with a slender finger and bade me to look into the water.

I saw...

My cousin Pandora, looking somewhat older, stumbling through unfamiliar brush and picking up a shiny brooch only to suddenly disappear.

A small human girl standing in the middle of a barren field. She raises her arms and crops spring from the ground. She walks and flowers grow where she steps.

Ralenthra, as she gets devoured by a giant red dragon.

A huge full moon behind the silhouetted figures of a large armored figure and a slight, petite figure.

That same full moon lowering into a huge desert until it disappears under the ground.

My cousin Isioleth facing down an archdevil in a magnificent city and joined by a male dwarf, a female drow, a paladin's ghost, a...tiefling and a...kobold in finery??!

A male elf wielding a great and terrible sword. He had a mark on the inside of his arm that looked like the one on my hip.

Rats...swarming around my feet.

Looking in a mirror and, instead of seeing myself, seeing a male drow coolly smiling back at me.

My dead cousin Unebrion sitting on a throne with a blue-skinned woman on his left and a heavily armored half-orc on his right. The woman turns to him and mouths the words "Lord of Harrowdale".

The boy, only he is a statue.

An unusual-looking drow woman drawing a gleaming bastard sword and a drow male by her side brandishing a double-bladed sword and facing down an army of driders.

A young male half-elf with black hair, almond-shaped green eyes, creamy skin and an oddly familiar smirk stopping a red-headed female tiefling from bashing a door in and instead unlocking it with a wave of his hand. The door opens and they are bathed in a golden light.

The woman with the warm smile touched the water again and the visions disappeared. She led me to a hollow tree and told me to go down the stairs inside. If I ever needed to see her again, I just had to go up the stairs in the tree. She kissed my forehead and said "All will be well and all will be well and all will be well."

I went down the stairs. Down, down, down and the vision ended.

It is dark and Ralenthra has not yet returned.

I shuddered. It is a great boon to receive a vision from one's Goddess. But it also means great responsibility. That, or I've gotta lay off the elven wine.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra2)
Evening falls.

At Ralenthra's insistence, we left Silverymoon early in the evening. She seemed so surprised that I was able to play along with her con but she didn't know me before I became a druid.It took more than one expellable offense to expell a Silverymoon Nailo. It took three. My parents gave a lot of money to the University in their efforts to turn me into their picutre of the perfect elven girl and I failed them miserably, on purpose. True, I was not planning for my last indiscretion to be the one that would finally get me expelled; I had, in fact, planned to go out in a much more grand fashion.

My first offense was the re-opening of the portals between the dormitories during curfew hours. This sounds like a smaller offense than it really was. I suppose a small part of me thought I was playing Sune but most of me just thought the ensuing chaos was fun. As part of the deal, I kept my partner's identity a secret; only a gifted mage could have broken the spell wards on the portals and kept them open, confounding even the staff. Of course, only a gifted seductress with a flawless memory could have gotten the necessary "nonexistent" spells right out from under the noses of the supposedly celibate priests of Deneir at the Vault of the Sages without being able to write them down. I was put on probabtion.

My second offense was the theft of a map I had sweet-talked out of Esklindrar the Sage, the man who runs the Map House. It was a complete map of the entire university and could be used to track any object or person with a command and the touch of a wand. I hadn't really stolen it. I had borrowed it, had my partner make a faulty counterfeit copy of it and returned the counterfeit to Esklindrar instead. This time, it seems, I was put on "double secret probation".

My third offense was to be the theft of the genealogical record of my father's family, held in Everdusk Hall, which would have required the assistance of nine more classmates. I was convinced that secrets were being kept from me by my parents, but unfortunately my greatest plan never came to fruition.

My partner, the gifted young human mage betrayed me by convincing me that we should "consummate" our bond of petty crime and elaborate pranks - in front of a mirror. Too bad all the mirrors in the entire University had been enchanted as scrying mirrors and I wound up putting on a free show for everyone - students and faculty alike. Aelthas Vihuel got away scot free, by testifying against me in front of the school board. I hear he's an instructor now...and he hasn't aged well, the old bastard.

Change comes slowly for an elf, but I like to think that I have changed these eighteen years. I try to do good by others without being too preachy. I try to trust people, even though many have betrayed my trust. Finally, I try not to cause trouble just to get a rise out of others. Unfortunately, it seems that trouble follows me now instead of the other way around.

Speaking of which, I may have been too hard on Ralenthra. Even if she was taking advantage of those peoples' kindness, doesn't she deserve some kindness? We've all made mistakes - I'm a living example of that. She's been through more than I could probably imagine. If she were really a bad person, she could have stabbed me in my bed numerous times or robbed me blind. Maybe it's because I'm more useful to her alive and loyal but maybe she just needs a friend. She may have thought she could hide it from me, but even after we were a few miles away from Old City, she was quiet and I think I saw her dab her eyes a few times. Of course, if I ask her, she'll probably just tell me that she's reacting to the eyedrops. Bah. I'll apologize in the morning, as it looks like she's deep in trance.

It's not going to be the most restful of nights. It's hard to enter trance in a bumpy coach, but not impossible. Tomorrow morning we will be in Everlund, the closest "big city" to Amalith. After that, it's a day trip to the village of Olostin's Hold. We'll spend the night there and leave the following morning for Amalith, getting there on the following morning. We'll probably spend three whole days in Everlund then. Plenty of time to get to Amalith and meet up with family and friends. I just hope Ralenthra doesn't get too bored or feel left out. She'd probably like the Loriens, if she gave them a chance.

I gazed at my new green dress from Mistress Nalari, made with more care than the other green dress spun by Mother on an all-night weaving marathon. Decisions, decisions. Decisions that can wait till tomorrow.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra3)
It was a hot summer night.

After an uneventful day at work, I escaped from the summer rain into my favorite pub, a dingy little dive close to the waterfront called The Dancing Goat. I only meant to get a few drinks, maybe catch a show, as they always have great music.

I wasn’t counting on meeting him.

It started out as an accident. I squeezed next to him at the crowded bar in my efforts to get some service, or at least that was my intention, but my cloak caught on a barstool and I stumbled into him instead.

Which caused him to knock over his glass of Cormyrian ale all over my cloak and the floor. Which I then slipped on.

He caught me in his arms and pulled me to my feet (young male, human, wizard), all flustered apologies, his agitated voice betraying a local, but rural accent. I pulled my hood back, smoothed my hair, and looked up into his eyes. He looked down into mine and thunder shook the entire building.

Jasper, the proprietor of The Dancing Goat, bellowed out over the resulting din, “Take it easy, folks! She can handle it!” The Goat had gotten a new roof installed back in Mirtul. Jasper was very proud of it.

The young man smiled at me, and for a moment I was speechless, which never happens. He was very handsome, almost pretty in a boyish sort of way; black hair, dark brown eyes, golden skin. His heritage appeared to be Kara-Turan of some sort. If he was local, I surmised, he was probably of Shou extraction, though something told me there was something else in the mix. He was tall, not too tall, but...just right. I liked him very much indeed.

He tilted his head, smiled and asked, “Do you like pineapple?” The accent was gone. Curious.

I stood up on my own power and finally found my tongue. “Hello, what an odd question! I don’t think I’ve had the...pleasure.”

The young man raised an eyebrow. “You should.” he replied.

I smiled at him. “Like pineapple or...have the pleasure?”

The mage winked and chuckled. “My lady, why not both?” He motioned to Jasper. “Pineapple. Ruby Port. Mint. Pineapple. In that order.” Then he dusted off the stool next to him and gestured for me to take a seat.

Jasper spoke. “Will do. And hello, Seledra! What will you be having this evening?”

I was still looking at the mage. I quickly turned my head. “I’ll have a glass of elverquisst-”

The mage interjected, “Ooh, make that two.”

“-two elverquissts, and we’ll share the pineapple dish.” I looked at the mage and smiled before turning back to Jasper. “My treat.”

The wizard shook his head. “Oh, no. I couldn’t possibly let you pay.”

I replied, “I have a discount.”

He tilted his head again with a smile. Which was adorable. “No, really. I insist.”

I winked at him. “You can pay for the next round. I’m not going anywhere.”

~


I love music. But I don’t remember much about what was playing as we sat and talked together, just a scant melody here and there. The mage's charm was not a polished thing. He did silly things like trying to read my palm and telling funny stories about pranks that he pulled at school...

“Seledra? That’s a nice name. You know, you don’t look like a moon elf. It’s like there’s...something else there I can’t put my finger on. Oh, wait!” He delicately stroked the tip of my left ear with his fingertip and I shivered with delight. “Hey, would you like to have your fortune told?”

And I like to drink, especially when I’m with a man, as it does wonders for...breaking down one’s inhibitions. But I didn’t actually have that much to drink that night and neither did he. We did eat quite a bit of pineapple, though. And when the band kicked off a lively tune, there we were whirling about on the dancefloor...

“Look at you! I thought druids were supposed to be stoic and serious.” He laughed after a particularly vigorous jig left us dizzy and leaning into each other for dear life.

“You’re thinking of Silvanus druids. They’re the real sticks-in-the-mud. I’m a Mielikki druid. We’re much more fun!” I giggled, and would have told him about the even wilder Shiallia followers, but I didn’t want to give him any ideas. “I mean, do Silvanus druids ride bareback on unicorns? They do not.”

“You ride bareback?” He asked, with a little flush to his cheeks.

“On occasion.” I winked.

He showed off a few of his magic tricks...

“Here, let me get that for you…” He raised his finger, and the piece of pineapple floated up towards my lips, I moved to grab it in my mouth at the same time he did. I bit down, he tugged, and slurped the remainder of the fruit into his mouth with a grin.

And he was able to keep up with me on a wide variety of topics, in fact, it was the exchange of information that seemed to excite him the most...

“Between Azuth and Savras for First Magister? Of course it was no contest! But you know what’s really suspenseful? Netherese. Wizard. Duels. They could wreck whole cities! Karsus bringing down most of Netheril was, in essence, just an elaborate duel with Mystryl. Which he lost. Well, they both lost, but She got better…”

He dressed richly, but did not carry himself like a rich boy. I should know, as I grew up around money. For one thing, he was too neat to be rich. Cleanliness of that magnitude is something servants worry about (unless like me, you had strict parents), but he had an almost compulsive bent to him the way he brushed dirt off or picked away lint from his garments.

What did irk me a little was that his eyes seemed to flit to anything in the room wearing a skirt, but as I had no claim on him, I brushed it off. Mostly...

“You know, if there’s someone else you’d rather talk to…” I started, with a raised eyebrow and what I hoped was an appropriate expression of disdain.

“Why would you say that?” He stared at me with a wide, innocent eyes.

I gestured at the various women he had been looking at. “You keep looking at other girls while I’m trying to have a conversation with you. It’s...unnerving.” I pouted.

He winked at me. “Ooh, you’re jealous!”

I looked away and crossed my arms over my chest. “Shut up.” Then I got up from our table. “Or better yet, just go do what you want, I’m going-”

The mage stood up, grabbed me by the wrist, pulled me towards him and kissed me.

Time. Seemed. To. Slow. Down. Everything and everyone but he and I melted away. Whatever elements that make us, the stars, the mountains, the seas - the very universe seemed to swirl together in a great harmonic hum of pleasure that wrapped around us and resonated outwards for infinity.

The building shook again. He whispered, “Did you feel that?”

I licked my lips to taste him again and gulped as I looked into his eyes. I briefly pondered telling him about the stars and the mountains and the harmonic resonance of the universe but decided that I didn't want to scare him off. “I don’t know. Was that thunder or my heart?” I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him back.

I had never met anyone who had even bothered to try to sweep me off my feet before, and though I've been around, it was nice to see someone put in the effort. I hadn't had so much fun in years, not since before I'd left Silverymoon.

When we paused to catch our breath, he whispered hoarsely. “Upstairs. Now.”

I tossed Jasper a few coins and my companion and I made our way up the stairs. Though we had flirted madly all evening I had no idea what to expect behind closed doors. Turned out he was full of surprises. Hells, I surprised myself.

With the door shut and barred behind us, we unclothed each other with reckless abandon. I giggled when he lamented that his robes would “get all wrinkled just lying on the floor like that.” After I sank my teeth into the soft flesh where his neck met his shoulder, he tore the stitched leather bodice of my uniform in his excitement. We struggled for dominance, spinning this way and that, slamming into furniture, knocking over anything lighter than we were; on the bed, on the floor, up against the wall, on top of the table.

He was a giver. Gods, did he like to give. And he was good at it. I was...appreciative, and tried to give as best as I got. This resulted in attentions so intense as to almost be retaliatory, though it was clear there was no malice beneath them, and then the cycle began again. We laughed as hard as we loved, and we loved hard.

Love. I probably shouldn’t use that word. But then again, anything less than that word to describe the events of that night just feels vulgar to me. Perhaps a better one will come to me in time.

After knocking over a bowl of daisies, the mage became distracted. He stopped, bent to pick up the scattered blossoms, and began to weave a crown of them, placing them on my head and turning my face so that I could see myself, and by extension, us, in the mirror. “You look like a Faerie Queen,” he whispered, and kissed my cheek. I watched our reflections; the moment was perfect, and it terrified me.

In bed afterwards, he babbled a bit, telling me his life story for all I know, only I couldn't hear him for all the blood pounding in my ears. After his dark eyes closed, I watched him. I recalled my first, and only other time, with a human; the fallout from our affair led to my being expelled from the Lady’s College and a lot of embarrassment for my family. Father was so disappointed in me, and only intervention from my mother prevented a sound lashing. He said to me, "You can't trust humans. They are nothing but trouble. For all the briefness of their lives they will make their time with you miserable." Worse than that was the threat hanging over my head were I to get involved with another human. Other fathers may joke about harming their daughters’ suitors, but my father is not the joking kind. Like it was yesterday, the pain stabbed at my heart. I looked down at the boy, caressed his face and whispered, "I won't give you a chance to hurt me. And I don’t want you to get hurt because of me. I want to remember you just the way you are, right now." I reached inside my pack. I didn't leave the Lady's College without nicking a few things for my trouble, including a vial of a potion of forgetfulness. One last time, I kissed the boy and as he smiled in his sleep, I put the vial to his lips and poured, just a drop or two.

Then I heard a light tap at the door.

"What are you doing?" Ralenthra, my drow rogue friend and housemate whispered.

"Ssh! He's asleep!” I hissed. “How was your take?"

"Plausible deniability?"

"Right."

Quickly, I covered up his face and got up. Ralenthra sniffed. "Eew."

I jumped about two feet. "Lurue's horn, you scared me! How did you get in here?"

Ralenthra shrugged. "It's what I do. Who's the human?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Plausible deniability."

"Right."

And with that, we left swiftly. I paid Jasper a generous sum not to tell the boy who I was and went home, hoping I would never see him again.

I think I finally have words for what it was I shared with him. It was a mistake. A beautiful, wonderful, terrible mistake.

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Butterfly Sunrider

March 2016

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