butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
I stood before the full length mirror in my bedroom, and in my mind, I silently tallied my list of...assets:

Squeaky new leathers. Yes. My faithful lupine companion. Present and accounted for. Holy water? Tucked into a pouch on my belt. Just in case.

It was my first day going back to work after the incident at The Glade. I was supposed to bring Rinya, the sort-of-possessed wild elf druid at the center of this mess, with me on my rounds, and somehow influence her to have the strength and desire to ultimately reject transformation into one of Shar’s Nightbringers. I was being given a lot of leeway in this regard. Saving Rinya was deemed by Tathshandra to be of higher priority than the accomplishment of my typical daily tasks, and I was to succeed by any means necessary.

I strapped my many-pouched work belt around my waist, slid my longsword into its scabbard, smoothed my hair into a flattering but practical updo, and slipped my pack onto my back before taking one last gander at myself in the mirror and heading downstairs to make breakfast.

A very sleepy Ralenthra slumped in her chair at the dining room table, balancing today’s morning edition of The Silverymoon Sentinel in one hand, while she slowly scooped the breakfast I’d made into her mouth. It was an egg, bacon, cheddar and broccoli skillet. The oatmeal with fresh-picked raspberries and cream sat untouched and the orange juice glass was half full. I stopped by and kissed her on the cheek as Selune made her way under the table and sniffed for scraps. I shook my head. “Now Rale, your oatmeal is going to get cold.”

Rale mumbled through a mouthful of egg. “Not tha’ hungry.” I saw her hand snake under the table to feed Selune a few morsels.

I shook my head. “Nonsense. You were out all night last night. You need to replenish yourself, no matter what you were doing.”

My drow friend swallowed, and smirked. “I thought you wanted plausible deniability.”

“Hmph. I meant whether you were out burgling Silverymoon or boffing Tordrin,” I tickled her in the ribs and she squealed as I continued, “you’re going to need your strength later. Tonight’s the night. Nervous?”

“Me? Never!” scoffed Ralenthra as she scooped her first spoonful of oatmeal into her mouth. “I’m more worried about you. Have another day like you did yesterday, and I’ll have to pick you up in a carriage and ferry you home.”

“Oh don’t you worry. I’ve got this.” I smiled brightly, and almost believed my words. Despite my outer confidence, inside I was shaking. Rale knew it, and squeezed my hand gently before I mustered the courage to walk out the door with Selune following close behind.

~


One thing you had to commend Tathshandra and the Glade for; they were stunningly efficient. Not one full day after Shiera’s demise and she had a replacement, albeit a temporary one. The new supervisor, Tania, was a gnome with curly blonde hair, baby blue eyes, cherry lips, and a pleasant, if awkward, demeanor.

The first thing she said to me was “You have to get her out of here, she is making everyone uncomfortable!” Tanya pointed a twitching finger at a kneeling figure just outside and to the left of the door, but still visible from their vantage point. She continued, “She’s like a sentinel of creepiness.”

Selune and I stepped outside and I crouched in front of the similarly posed Rinya, who simply stared forward, past me. She still wore her weathered dark green (almost black) leather tunic but no footwear, kept her matted, coiled locks back from her face with her black, white, red, and grey-beaded headband, and wore her necklace of identically colored beads and feathers with a large, but well-worried carved bone wolverine fetish as a pendant. Her methods of communicating were unorthodox, to say the least.

“Rinya.” I said, tentatively. It was a start.

The wild elf’s eyes flickered from side to side briefly before focusing on me, her pupils dilating. She bared her teeth and snarled at me. Selune’s ears went back and she too bared her teeth as she returned the sentiment.

I didn’t say it was a good start.

Perhaps picking up on my quizzical expression, Rinya narrowed her eyes and spoke in her rather unique blend of elven and sylvan. “Grr...zzhould have tch-tch killed me.”

I paused as I initially struggled to render her rather unique creole, shrugged and replied in Sylvan to her. “It would have been no mercy to you or to anyone else if we’d killed you yesterday. Your soul would have been annihilated and Shar’s taint...” I paused, and looked around surreptitiously, “would have been allowed to spread unabated. The only way to stop its spread then would be to use spellfire, but that would have obliterated Silverymoon.”

Rinya’s dark eyes continued to look through me, past me. She chittered briefly, then said “Sso? Distrutchukshun wai-ye o’ zings. Ebrrerythin endzz. Zis plaisse...” she gestured all around her, “no ezzeption.”

I stood up and put my hands behind my back because I could feel them creeping precariously towards my hips to sit in judgement. “The path of the druid is to serve nature, to serve Life Itself. You didn’t always believe death was the answer or you wouldn’t be a druid yourself.”

Rinya shook her head and then stood. She towered over me by just over two hands. “Not death. Annihilazzion. Oblizzion. Ssometimess preferable t’ pain of losing ebrrerythin. Ssoft ssity druid. Could nezzer undersstand.”

I stood on tiptoe, and angled Rinya’s face down so she would see me and then held her gaze. “Pain is part of what makes us who we are. How we face it helps to define us. And yes, it’s true that life must sometimes be culled if it is to thrive. But there is more to life than pain and death. Every once in a while life will remind you of that.”

Rinya broke eye contact as she scoffed. “zzuppose you zzink you’re zza one to teach me.” She looked at me again, staring hard, as if she was daring me to try to help her.

I crooked my finger at her. “Come follow me.”

She made as if to walk, but I heard the distinctive clinking sound of metal on metal. “My Goddess! Have they been keeping you chained up like a rabid dog all this time?”

Rinya nodded her head, her expression one of acceptance, maybe resignation. “Ai-ye...am...a dai-yenzzhrr.”

I turned on my heel and stormed off towards the office, muttering, “This is not acceptable.”

~


“So, do you know who’s responsible for Rinya being in shackles?” I smiled and asked Tania after striding back through the door, Selune bringing up the rear.

It must have been a scary looking smile. Tania gulped. “Well, you see...she...uh...she...um.”

I stared at her. Then I raised my eyebrow.

Tania looked from right to left and continued, “She’s dangerous! And big! For an elf.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. “You’re afraid of her? Surely you have adequate field experience to-”

Tania held up her hands. “Look, I don’t want to get in any trouble. I’m just trying to take the proper precautions-”

I slammed my fist down on the desk, Selune snapped, and Tania jumped in her seat a little. “This was your call? You have her chained up like she’s some sort of prisoner-”

It was Tania’s turn to give the chastising look. She crossed her arms and smirked. “Isn’t she?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Not while I’m in charge of her, no.”

Tania paused, pouted, and protested, “But what if she...does something? I don’t want to be held liable-”

I pursed my lips. “I will be held responsible, and will make full restitution should she turn...violent.”

Tania appeared to be contemplating. I decided to sweeten the deal. “I will be going to The Blue Bottle tomorrow night for a wine-tasting party. I could pick up a little something for you while I’m there...something...sweet?”

“A pint bottle of their finest whiskey and cream liqueur, and we have a deal.” I nodded in assent, and the gnomish druid tossed me the key to Rinya’s shackles with a sly, mercenary smile.

I turned on my heel and returned to Rinya with Selune and the key to her freedom, of sorts.

~


I took her to the open market. I didn’t know why, but I had to start it somewhere. Merchants from every booth pressed samples into our hands; sweet summer peaches, spicy peppers, stinky cheeses, and succulent squab sausages that Aumador Uldon had just cut down from the smokehouse this morning. Even my lupine companion boggled at the bounty spread out before us, and she begged for morsels every chance she got. By the time we reached the end of the promenade, all three of our bellies were full of splendor.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rinya search the crevices of her mouth for hidden morsels with her tongue even as she patted her flat stomach with an expression of elated satisfaction. She caught me looking at her, and cocked her head in a serious matter. “Pleazzurable. But ssurrely zzerre is morre t’ life than food.”

I shook my head with a wistful smile. “Normally, this would be the moment I would take you to a pub and get you dancing on the tables. But today is not the day for such things. Maybe tomorrow. I have an invite to a party at the Blue Bottle tomorrow night...”

A touch of amusement entered Rinya’s voice. “Oh? Have ssomezzing zzat rrequirrezz a tesst o’ zzobrriety?”

I should be sober. It’s a religious ritual I am helping a friend perform.”

Ah. Perrhapzz plazze whirr we can still hearrr muuzzic then? Ai-ye underrzztand Ssilverrymoon is famouzz forr herr barrdzz.”

~


We stepped inside The Dancing Goat, side by side while Selune slept off her full belly in the stable adjacent. Jasper smiled a greasy smile upon our arrival and then turned to grab a bottle of elven wine.

I waved my hand in an act of gracious and reluctant refusal and smiled. “Not today, Jasper. I’m on duty.”

“Well then, are you two ladies feelin’...adventurous mayhaps?”

Rinya and I looked at each other slowly, but Rinya gave the innkeeper a broad smile and pounded her fist on the bar with much enthusiasm and burst out in her best Common, “Yess, good maan. Ai-ye sseek-kuh-kuh...adventya-urre!”

Which is to say, not very good. I fought the impulse to bury my face in my hands and instead concentrated on freezing my expression in something resembling a polite smile.

Jasper stared at her a moment, then shrugged and spoke, as he wiped the bar casually with a not-so-clean rag. “Y’see, my youngest daughter, Canna, she’s been spending a lot of her free time at the Seven Little Fortunes with Mei...Mei Xiang, the Jings’ youngest girl. Calls her “her bosom friend”. Seems she’s become also become sort of a casual apprentice of their oldest son so she’s been trying her hand at tea-making. She’s been going to market, spending her entire allowance on frivolous “delicacies” but she uh, hasn’t had too many takers. You’ll try some, won’t ya, Seledra? It’ll make her tenday.”

Hesitantly, I nodded, which was met with a loud bellow from Jasper. “Canna! Come on out here, girl! Someone wants to try one o’yer mysterious concoctions!”

The young brunette with bouncing curls and big blue eyes came running out, then stopped suddenly, ducked back into the kitchen, and then walked out calmly, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles in her apron. “Lady Nailo! I am honored that you would be willing to sample my humble wares!”

I smiled gently at the nervous girl. “Do you have a menu?”

Canna shook her head vigorously. “Oh, no! I’ve only developed two flavors, however these varieties are of the finest art-artisan’s quality. I stand by my product. I-I hope you don’t mind.”

The girl placed two copper canisters on the bar in front of me, one after the other, using both hands. She opened the one on the right first. “This one is called Lavender Dreams. There are lavender blossoms in there, of course, but also pink rose buds, passion flowers and peaches. Very soothing and pleasant. I created it in honor of the announcement of your courtship with Lord Methrammar, Lady Nailo.” She bowed her head ever so slightly.

I nodded my head politely in return and let her continue.

Canna smiled a little wider, and her eyes danced with delight as she uncovered the second canister. “This one, however, I think is my first masterpiece. Chocolate and Chili powder from Maztica, blended with strawberries and summer apples. Spicy yet refreshing. I call it Maztica Fire.”

Rinya and I looked at each other. She smiled I and spoke up for us. “Fire, please.”

Canna grinned proudly and re-covered her tea canisters. “Excellent. I’ll put the kettle on.”

~


There was a city ordinance forbidding satyrs from going about without humanoid clothing (due to what it would do to the females in the vicinity) and so he wore clothes, but only barely. Strategically tight wine-colored breeches slung low over his hips, and a wine-stained white shirt open at the navel revealed a small golden harp piercing hanging from his left nipple that denoted him as a member of the Harpers.

The Tiefling was the satyr’s opposite; pale-skinned, with tattoos covering much of his unclad torso. He had a mop of straight, white-blonde hair, but black eyebrows. He wore regular boots, so I assumed he was one of the “lucky ones” who didn’t have cloven feet. His luck (at least when it came to his fiendish ancestry physically revealing itself) ran out when it came to the rest of his features, however: he had pointed canines, a prehensile tail, solid gold orbs for eyes, and curved black horns. Despite his somewhat unsettling appearance, he was still...bafflingly alluring.

Meree called out from the balcony, “All right boys, you may begin. And no funny stuff with the pipes, Youngerstar. There are virgins present!”

I sipped my tea, snorted, and mumbled “Where?” under my breath, but then out of the corner of my eyes, noticed Jasper shooing his daughter off with a “not taking any chances” speech.

The satyr spoke up in a seductive bass voice, “Hello everybody. I’m Mal Youngerstar and he’s Fenris T’chort. We’re The Horny Bastards!”, and then launched into a tune that was first melancholy, then sensual, then rollicking, then slowed down to a sizzle. All this done with two voices (Mal’s bass and the Fenris’ baritone), the panpipes, and the djembe. Even Meree was impressed. She fanned herself with whatever stiff paper she could find when she wasn’t muttering Detect Magic incantations. But the Horny Bastards had heeded Meree’s warning. It wasn’t magic that made them alluring. It was just...them. I shifted uncomfortably throughout the entire performance even as I enjoyed it (and tried not to enjoy it quite so much as I was), and when it was over, I was leaning awkwardly against the bar with my legs crossed tightly and my arms firmly crossed over my chest. Rinya had no such so compunction to resist their charms. Her hips undulated in time to the beat, she closed her eyes rapturously, and compulsively licked her lips the whole time. Watching her freely enjoy herself was pure torture for me, but I also knew that this was for her benefit.

I kept repeating that thought in my mind as they approached us after their performance was over (six agonizingly tantalizing songs later), eventually propositioning both of us, and though every nerve in my body screamed at me to join the three of them upstairs I stayed physically true to Methrammar. I was going to have to visit him again. Soon. If I didn’t, I was unsure of what I would do if I found myself in arms reach of Magnos.

No. I waited three hours patiently with the help of only one glass of elven wine to deaden my nerves and a long, haphazard game of fetch outside with Selune from which I’d returned before the three of them came back downstairs because The Horny Bastards had another performance that afternoon. Rinya’s muscular, statuesque form positively floated as she descended the staircase, her skin glistening and glowing, her alto voice taking on a lyrical quality as she crooned a Horny Bastards tune breathlessly, her mouth split into a blissful grin.

I led the way out the door. “Well, that concludes lesson number one.” I half sighed, half grumbled as Selune loped after us.

Rinya stretched like a cat behind me. “Ai-ye feerr li-yekuh new woman arready.”

I frowned. “Well, there’s more to life than sex.” I can’t believe I said that.

Rinya smiled. “Ai-ye know. Zzerre’s wine-tassting at zza Blue Bottle. Ai-ye told Mal et Fenrriss et zzey arr eagrr t’ attend.”

A wine-tasting party at the Blue Bottle, presided over by the leading Priestess of Sune, with a satyr in attendance. That won’t lead to group sex, I thought. I cleared my throat. “We will continue tomorrow eve. Do you have something nice to wear?”

Rinya cocked an eyebrow at me.

Tomorrow afternoon then. A visit to the Glittersmokes and the salon before a little party at the Blue Bottle...”
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: (Seledra05)
Mother's coachman dropped Ralenthra and me off at my townhouse just as Silverymoon's bells tolled twelve. Maybe hurrying home wasn't such a good idea. I hurt all over and I've barely tranced in the...two days it's been since we left Amalith.

Along the way, Ralenthra and I chatted intermittently about Tordrin and I not only advised her to open up to him but I encouraged her to join the Harpers. Hopefully, that will give her more character-vouching so she can stay here. When I brought her back with me to Silverymoon, I knowingly lied through my teeth to the Knights in Silver, giving them her good-girl alias Mayurra Aerynae. Hopefully, that won't be catching up with me as long as she manages to stay out of trouble.

After about a four-hour trance upon returning, I awoke and surprisingly saw Ralenthra sleeping soundly in her room. I had never known her to sleep before. Perhaps it is Tordrin's influence, or perhaps she is finally starting to feel safe here. I smiled and headed back into my room to change. I pulled out my uniform from my last day on duty and discovered to my chagrin that the lining of my leather bodice had been horribly ripped (Sune's tits, we had been quite, um, passionate that night, hadn't we) and that my outer robes were, shall we say, a bit soiled. Oops.

I put them into my pack and got dressed in an extra uniform I had in my closet, then headed out to the Glade, first to report to Tathshandra, then to start my rounds for the day. Hopefully, I would have time to drop off my uniform for cleaning and repairs before my shift was over. I think I might ask Ralenthra if she wants to pop in at the Dancing Goat for a drink or two after hours.

Tathshandra seemed to sense that my anxiety had somewhat abated since I'd last seen her and was pleased to hear of my Song of Trees ceremony in Amalith, as well as all the fit-for-public-consumption details about the wedding ceremony and reception. I was entertaining the idea of telling her about Methrammar and had thought against it when she handed me a note that had arrived just before I had.

My dearest Seledra,

I thank Mystra that we met that wonderful day in Everlund and I hope to see you again soon. You are quite charming and I think you have quite a promising career in Silverymoon ahead of you. I would appreciate it if you joined me for the Midsummer festival. This is a high-profile event, so I'm sure I don't need to stress to you the importance of holding up a good public image. Wear something nice and try to keep a safe distance from your drow friend, at least until your reputation has been further cemented. I will send a coach for you on the evening in question.

Yours,

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


I had briefly allowed myself to be excited, but my heart sank at Methrammar's request to distance myself from my friend. He and I would have to have a little chat about how I am not one of his soldiers and therefore that he has no place to give me orders. I could take my own coach, thank you very much, and Ralenthra would ride there with me if she wanted to go. I crumpled up the note and put it in a pocket in the front of my cloak.

The three day long Midsummer Riverfest would start the day after tomorrow and culminate on Midsummer proper with the ritual bathing of all citizens in the Rauvin river and the planting of seeds in the Garden of Silvanus. The ritual would be followed by a huge concert played by many musicians on the Moonbridge while the Spellguard caused the waters of the Rauvin to spray up in dazzling patterns and illusionists filled the air with colored lights.

I can't wait to see the look on her face when she sees it.

In the meantime, she'll probably make a killing with all the tourists in town.

After my visit with Tathshandra was through, I visited with my shift supervisor, a half-elf by the name of Shiera Huxley. She informed me that my patrol would be limited to the Northbank district (luckily, I can take the same portal back that I took to get here) where it was my turn to check in on the cat colony on Many Cat's Lane and perform inspections at the Garden of Silvanus.

Druidry is a spiritual practice that carries a lot of divine power, but it's also a job. After I step out from the portal to Northbank and walk out onto the street, people will often stop me - a young halfling will ask for advice on how to deal with the snails in her garden, a little old lady will ask me for advice on how to adjust her dog's diet and surprise visits to domestic animal breeders are performed so that the city's ordinances are being followed to the letter. On many days, things don't go according to schedule. Lost pets have to be returned to their owners, a horse owner may stop me to help his filly birth a foal or a druid may have to work in conjunction with the Knights in Silver for criminal offenses. Druids test the Rauvin to make sure it is clean and healthy, check the trees for disease and harvest from the public gardens for the poor.

A paladin of Helm from Waterdeep by the name of Tam Waynolt tried to register a complaint with me about the halfling leaf his neighbor was growing in her garden and I had to remind him that this is Silverymoon and not Waterdeep, so halfling leaf is legal here. Knowing ordinances is important too. He could probably use some halfling leaf himself, but I wasn't about to suggest it while on duty.

The cats swarmed me as I approached. It was nice to be missed. A queen had recently given birth and had too many kittens to feed, so I took the odd runt back to the Northbank druid station to be fed special teas and gruels to make it strong and healthy. I also brought back another druid to help me retrieve the queen and the rest of the kittens so that the queen could be spayed before being returned to the colony. After dropping off the queen and her brood, I continued with my inspections. An old tom named Tybalt was dying. I sat down, held him in my lap and gave him an herbal concoction that would end his suffering quickly and painlessly. I stayed with him till his shudder told me he was gone. It's the most difficult part of my job, to deal death. The tenets of my faith say that life must be culled in order to thrive, but the nuts and bolts of culling life are...painful for me. Still, I would be lying if I said that I didn't have to kill at least one creature a day for one reason or another, be it sickness, injury or simply necessity.

After I visited with and inspected the rest of the cats, I headed west towards the Garden of Silvanus. Many of the poor cultivate their own plots here, since they cannot afford a yard of their own and many volunteers from all walks of life come here to grow food for others less fortunate than themselves. The Garden is a little more like a farm than just a garden. Sure, there are fruit trees, grape vines and rows upon rows of vegetables, grains and herbs, but there are also a few goats and cows that produce milk and cheese, there are chickens raised for their eggs, an extensive apiary with busy bees and easy access to the river for fishing. The land is lush and well watered due to its proximity to the river and fertilizer is plentiful due to the couple of cows and fish. The druids are here to direct the volunteers, to point out what is a weed and what isn't, to show which plants need more fertilizer and to nurture the animals that help us in the garden; the bees, ladybugs, praying mantises, spiders and earthworms. I could spend all day here and know of a million more things that still need to get done.

Apparently, there had been an incident. One of the richer citizens had been raising Cormyrian snails as a delicacy, and some had escaped, only to have invaded the surrounding gardens and bred out of control. He had been fined for his carelessness and the snails that were plaguing the gardens needed to be destroyed. Salt works fine for individuals, but it cannot be used on a large scale as it causes gardens to turn fallow. Individual crushing was required for this job. Some of the more advanced druids and a few volunteers who were spellcasters used spells such as shocking touch or ray of frost. I had to get snail goo on my boots. Yuck. I spent hours fishing out and crushing snails before my shift was over and I was relieved.

Before I left the Garden, I took a dip in the Rauvin and swam for a bit, soothing my sore muscles and cooling my heated skin. After drying off and getting dressed, I stopped at the local tailor/washerwoman establishment, Tiggywinkles. Tiggywinkles was a family run establishment that practically had a monopoly in the western section of the Northbank district. Run by a family of industrious Lantanese gnomes, Tiggywinkles set the standard for thrifty, environmentally sustainable business in Silverymoon, and like many gnomes, they also made a fortune doing it. Contrary to popular belief, the family name is not Tiggywinkles (it's Glittersmoke; Mr. Glittersmoke's brother Arberin runs a fireworks shop around the corner), but it was named after a series of beloved pet hedgehogs.

The matriarch of the Glittersmoke clan, Aribelle, was manning the counter. "Hello, dearie." She greeted me in much the same way she greeted everyone and commenced to inspecting what was left of my uniform. Wearing a complicated looking eyepiece, she checked out my leather bodice first. "Your bodice requires a new liner and new stitches. It can be ready by tomorrow, if you need it. If you want it properly buffed and polished, however, you can't pick it up until the afternoon." I didn't need it back immediately and it could use a new polish, so I took that option.

"This, however..." She lifted my cloak and sniffed it, "I cannot do here. I can give you a solution to clean it at home in your bathtub, but...well, I can't risk it...contaminating...the clothes of my other clients." She tossed me a vial. "Put that directly on the stain. Wash it in boiling water first, with a cold water rinse. If the color fades, bring it in and I can re-dye it at a discount due to the...inconvenience." I was about to protest, but I realized that my privacy was more important than convenience. Mrs. Glittersmoke was known far and wide as a discreet businesswoman, but her six daughters were well known to be a bit on the...gossipy side. I put my cloak back in my back with the vial and headed home.

I wasn't home any later than usual, but Ralenthra wasn't there. I fed and played with Selune awhile, changed my clothes and headed towards the Dancing Goat, hoping I would find her there already.
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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