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: (Default)
I'd been a busy little bee for the past fortnight or so. With many of the druids taking their vacations, there had been a lot of hours to cover at work. The dance Ralenthra was teaching me had kept me occupied for a few evenings as of late. It was time for some harvesting and canning of the fruits and vegetables from my garden. There were, of course, intermittent visits from Methrammar. Finally, I kept myself especially busy thinking of reasons why not to give Magnos that amulet yet:

I'm sure he has a lot of studying to catch up on. And he's probably busy bragging to everyone in earshot about what an amazing job he did during his first assignment. And there are girls, I'm sure, or one, I don't know, that he's wanting to...see. Friends to converse with. New languages to learn. New robes to buy. Halflings to hit on. Suckers to swindle. Besides, maybe I should get this thing polished and appraised, in case he doesn't like it and I have to sell it. And...I don't have anything to wear. Not that I care what I look like when I see him, but when I go out, I want to look presentable, don't I? And my hair is a little flat on this side. Oops, I broke a nail! That just won't do. Is that a dark cloud in the sky? Looks like rain. Besides, he may not even want to see me. And I might not necessarily want to see him, so there! Of course, when I was at the Goat the other night, I looked for him, but that was just so I could avoid him. Yes.


One of the druids that worked the evening shift was sick, so I agreed to cover for her. Not having to report for work till the toll of three, I spent the earlier part of the morning lolling about in bed reading one of my older books, Delilah's Delights #43: The Half-Elven Highwayman. In fact, I had not read that particular tome since I was barely more than a child. Not since I first met Aelthas. I had to give him some credit. It took him two years to break my heart. But then again, maybe he just hadn't the opportunity before then.

Despite the fact that I was 100 years old at the time, there was a certain amount of inequity in the relationship. I looked...mostly mature, but the relationship between Aelthas and I resembled something like a human girl of 13 being courted by a human boy of 18. A handsome, brilliant and charismatic boy of 18. I was starstruck.

Two years. Two years of picnics, stargazing, and dinners and dancing at Helmer's Wall, the Stagstand, and the newly-opened Sorlar's Smiling Satyr...

I pointed up to the sky. "Look, Aelthas! It's Angharradh! Isn't she beautiful?"

Aelthas grinned and poked me on the tip of my nose, "No, you silly little fool! That's Valessea."

Father would have been so upset had he known that I had made such a mistake. Angharradh is especially sacred to moon elves. I frowned. "But I thought..."

Aelthas threw back his head and laughed. "I'm just kidding you, sweetheart. She's both! Come here." Aelthas tangled his hand in my hair and drew my lips to his. After we parted, he produced a pair of shears from his pack. "May I?"

I was genuinely puzzled. "May you what?"

Aelthas' countenance softened. He whispered tenderly, "May I have a lock of your hair, Seledra?"

I blushed furiously. "Aelthas...I've never had my hair cut in my life! I'm not supposed to cut it until..."

"Until your 120th birthday, I know. It's just that..." Aelthas ran his fingers through his hair. "...it's such a long ways off! I'll be an old man by then. Maybe you'll have forgotten me." He pouted. I could never resist that pout.

"You will never be an old man, Aelthas. I know you. You'll be a great wizard someday..."

"I am a great wizard!" he remarked incredulously.

I continued despite his interruption. "...and you'll use the Wish spell to remain as young and handsome as you are now." I lowered my eyes. "Besides, I could never forget you, Aelthas. I love you so!"

Aelthas lifted my chin and looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. "Ha! If you love me, you'll let me have a lock of your hair."

I bit my lip nervously and blinked. "Will it hurt?"

Aelthas caressed my cheek and smiled. "I'll be gentle, sweetheart. I promise." And with a snip, off came a small curl.

I didn't feel a thing, but I had to be sure. "Is there...blood?" I squeaked.

Aelthas laughed. "Oh gods! There's red everywhere!" And then he mussed my hair before kissing me again.


~


I had truly loved him, hadn't I? And I thought that maybe he loved me too. A scant few days before he betrayed me, he even introduced me to his parents. Perhaps he thought I would have forgiven him. And he certainly didn't see my mother's act of vengeance coming.

It was because of Aelthas' betrayal that I spent nearly the next 20 years studiously avoiding men like him. Brilliant, charming, and talented humans were off the menu. And so was anyone looking for a commitment, which left many of the elven boys in Amalith rather put out. Of course, there was a ranger or two that would be gone for weeks, even months at a time that I found...comfort with when they passed through our village, but for the most part, I followed the advice Tathshandra gave me the day I left Silverymoon to train with my aunt: Don't shit where you eat.

Aelthas was my first male lover, and of course I will never forget him if for that sole reason. To give credit where credit was due, though, he was quite good. The second? A wood elf ranger who could have used a bath. Six was on the Midwinter holiday while everyone else was celebrating on the ground below. Eight...Fodoric the gnomish bard. Oh, the giggling. Nine was up in a tree. Not smart, as we fell out of said tree. I twisted my ankle, he broke his wrist. Ten was a sweet half-elf out of Waterdeep. He liked to be tied up. Twelve through seventeen were some of the boys from the village. I only said I'd followed Tathshandra's advice for the most part. Eighteen was very nearly a heartbreaker. Twenty-one...was a dwarf. Twenty-two I think I wore out. He actually fell asleep. That was on a trip to Everlund. Twenty-three and twenty-four? Twins. At the same time. On my birthday. Twenty-seven was a bad call. I very nearly took a vow of chastity after that one. Twenty-eight, Duglan, an old school friend, changed my mind. Thirty and thirty-one were at the Greengrass Festival this year, before I met Ralenthra. Thirty-two was...lovely, delicious, wonderful. And finally there was Methrammar, making it 33.

Nearly twenty years I spent trying to wash Aelthas off of me with the touches of other men. But no matter what, like a madwoman, I kept feeling him everywhere.

But it occurred to me as I looked back on those days this morning that I no longer felt my heart ache for Aelthas. Perhaps it had been some time since it had. And maybe I was just using the hurt he had caused me as an excuse to not, as Ling put it, "follow my heart."

I checked the gnomish timepiece that sat on top of the bookcase behind my bed. It was about to chime the hour before midday. There was plenty of time to get ready, get to the Conclave, do what I needed to do and get back home in time to leave for work. Splendid!

I needed that hour. I spent half of it in front of my closet stark naked trying to find the right ensemble for the occasion. I didn't think my new cheongsams from Shou Lung would be appropriate under the circumstances. Green? You wear green all the time! The white dress with cherry blossoms embroidered on it? So last season. What is this purple shimmery thing doing in here? Is that Mother's? Goodness, that's low cut! Hmm. I need a bit more coverage than that, I think.

Finally, I chose a strapless, filmy, petal pink frock that clung to my every curve, yet was light and loose enough to flutter in the wind.

I bathed, put my hair up, dressed (with matching slippers, purse, and white parasol of course), slipped the ruby amulet into my purse and headed out the door towards the Conclave.
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)
I...miss them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Methrammar spoke first. "This is delicious."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I can handle it..."

"It changes people."

"My faith will keep me centered..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"There's a shock."

"I was referring to the mage."

I froze.

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

"What? I don't even-"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that he kissed me hard and carried me to bed.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
Down, down down.

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


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

"Mmm, where am I?" I mumbled.

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

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

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

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

I blinked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What? But I made plans for us!"

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

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

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

"Is this about Ralenthra?"

"What?"

"Is this. About. Ralenthra. Again?"

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

"How do you know that?"

I started walking again. "I just know."

"How is that even possible?"

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

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

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

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

I nodded. "Yes."

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

"Yes. Somewhat." Er...

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

"Speak then."

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

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

And with that, we stepped outside our inn and into the greater city beyond.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
When we could just move no longer, we made camp. After we all gobbled down a carelessly heated but surprisingly tasty noodle soup that Magnos threw together, I left Dorn in charge and took Ralenthra aside to talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The avoidance of death is not living."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

"The tent." I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

"Seledra? "

"Seledra?!"


"Hey, Princess!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No."

"Are you embarrassed?"

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

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

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

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

I shook my head. "No."

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

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

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

"Are you holding out on me, Magnos?"

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

I guffawed.

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

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

Magnos shook his arm away. "No."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selune obediently approached Kronk with a wagging tail.

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

Selune licked her chops and barked.

"Sit, Wolf!"

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted.

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

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

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

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

Magnos grimaced, "Tell me about it."

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

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

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

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

She looked sideways at me, suspiciously.

I whispered emphatically. "It's not a date."
butterfly_sunrider: (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?"

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