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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. "Fair enough."

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Buy one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I've got ten gold on Kronk."

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

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

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

"You're stalling."

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

Ralenthra grinned. "You're on!"

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

"Four?!" exclaimed Ralenthtra.

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

After coins and goods were exchanged, the brunt of the burden was placed on the guards and we walked home in the softly fading dusk light.
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra3)
Last night I dreamed.

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

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

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

“Seledra?”

The woman turned and pulled back her hood.

“Who…who are you?” he stuttered.

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

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

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

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

“Why are you doing this?”

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

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

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

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

He replied feebly, “Yes.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Hells, no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As long as there were people watching, the Guardsman handled me gently, but when we got to the prisoner’s wagon, I was shoved unceremoniously inside, where I landed right in someone else’s lap. Someone familiar. It was when he touched my face that I knew who he was, that unmistakable spark. Soon I was looking straight into the eyes of Magnos. He winked, grinned and said, “Haven’t we met before?”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
The sun had yet to crack the sky, but I awoke from my trance with a start. Something in the air. Something ill, something out of balance. Something that did not belong and I could literally smell it...

Ralenthra was already dressed and perched on the foot of my bed.

"I was wondering when it would wake you too."

"I guess my danger sense is a little less finely tuned than yours."

"Not everyone has the luxury of living day to day without wondering when they will find someone's knife in their back. Come, let's wake Thralia."

I heard a rustle just outside the window.

"Something tells me she's already awake."

I got dressed quickly and opened the door only to be startled by what at first looked to be a drow female staring back at us, fist raised as if to knock.

She gasped and shook her head. "You startled me. Seledra and (she looked past me and nodded her head in acknowledgment at Ralenthra) Mayurra, I presume?" she said without a trace of irony.

We nodded. She continued. "I am Miri Talaviir. I work for, er...with, I should say, Thralia. I'm in her band. Sun & Moon? Surely you're heard of it." She spoke quickly, her words running over each other, everything so fast, fast, fast. She started to head downstairs. "Thralia is outside. That's where you need to be if you're going to help."

I approached the top of the top of the stairs, noting that I had never seen this girl before. Ralenthra seemed suspicious too. "You're in Sun & Moon? How come we didn't see you in Everlund?"

She turned around. "The full band only plays larger cities, like Neverwinter, Waterdeep and Silverymoon. I take it you've never met Cosmo or Taeghen either."

The name Cosmo I didn't recognize, but Taeghen sounded familiar...

"Um. Could we hurry it up? They could be here at any second!"

"Who?" I asked.

"What your senses tell you; a horde of orcs from the north."

By the Nine Hells.

We ran the rest of the way outside, where Thralia and Tordin were suited up. The rising sun caught the hilt of Thralia's rapier and made it glint. Selune ran up and greeted us, bumping my hand with her snout, but seemed to understand the seriousness of the situation. I saw Rilla, whom I guessed was turned back by treants who warned her of the coming horde. Falco, the gold dwarf percussionist for Sun and Moon sharpened his axes as he stood next to a short, dusky-looking elf male that was busily polishing his hand crossbow. Miri whispered, pointing to the dusky male elf, "That's my twin brother, Venye." As if she anticipated it, she volunteered, "Yes, we're half drow, half moon elf." Ralenthra rolled her eyes, but Miri didn't seem to notice. "It doesn't happen that much. We grew up in Skullport. It's an...interesting place." Venye turned to look at us, revealing a jagged scar across his left cheek. He smiled.

A gnome male (must be Cosmo) bustled about his Gondsman, filling a front compartment with bullets. He was in turn being fussed over by his wife, Meree, Sun & Moon's business manager, a pretty gnomish female in fancy black robes whose tiny hands emitted sparks that clearly irritated him, as he admonished her not to “short out” the much larger metallic man he called Kang. And there was Taeghen, who I'd only seen once or twice before, walking up to Thralia and gently putting his arm around the small of her back. Together, they whispered a prayer to Corellon. Flying familiars took their places perched upon the inn roof near Ariadne, an air genasi, who had floated to the top of the stable and, as she still hovered, was keeping a lookout. Jaden, a darkly handsome young half elf gazed upwards at her, absentmindedly smoothing his grey and violet robes. He was a magic user; that much was certain, but something about him made me…slightly nauseous, like the sickly-sweet scent of flowers dying in the too-hot sun. I chalked it up to nerves.

Needless to say, I was worried. What were a bunch of performers going to do against an orc horde, even a small one? Then, suddenly, from the east, there was a stirring in the nearby woods. Could it be? We all drew our weapons. Selune whined.

Two moon elves crested the rise on strong, sleek chestnut steeds. "Cousins!" I shouted, rushing over to hug them. They hopped off their horses and embraced me as I ran into their waiting arms. My cousins Isioleth and Isendur were twins; Isendur was born less than an hour before Isioleth, but he still treated her like a baby sister. She was the youngest of the Lorien family, but I think that the babying actually made her more apt to prove how strong she was. It made her headstrong, reckless and almost scarily capable. In short, she was my closest cousin. Isendur found himself the only boy in the family when his older brother Unebrion was exiled and since then, he had been trying to fill in more and more as the man of the house for his ailing father. However, they were both being given a chance to break free of these prescribed roles as students of the adventurer's school run by Drogan Droganson in Hilltop, which they had leave from while Pan's wedding festivities were going on.

Isendur said, "I hope you don't mind us getting here a little early. We thought you could use a couple extra hands when that horde arrives."

Isioleth looked at the position of the sun and then at the grim expressions all around. "Did we miss breakfast already?"

I asked how they got here so fast. Isendur replied, "We didn't. Word just travels fast in the forest."

The twins tied up their horses in the stable. Isioleth straddled a tree trunk to the left of the stable and shimmied, then tucked herself into the Y-split of the tree trunk, before tying up her long black hair with two arrows. Isendur followed her but, instead of staying in the tree, he detached a whip from his belt, swung it so it wrapped around a higher tree branch, and kicked himself off the tree, swinging over to the stable roof and landing lightly and deftly next to Ariadne. He bowed to her and said, “I hope I am not crowding you, milady.” Ariadne smiled shyly and shuffled her feet while I heard an audible grunt coming from Jaden’s direction.

After having turned face-forward again, Ariadne caught a glimpse of the horizon and whistled to bring everyone to attention. "Orcs in range!" she shouted, "Fifty heads!"

Oh. Dear. Mielikki.

Thwping! went Isioleth's bow.

"Well, so much for negotiations." I muttered, shouldering my cumbersome wooden shield and drawing my longsword.

"Those are Urgurth's men, Seledra. They don't negotiate and they don't take prisoners. They must want something. It's not like them to raid a small town in broad daylight."

As Isioleth spoke, the others got into position and I was beckoned to the front by Miri. Tordrin whistled and we heard a loud, sustained crashing noise coming from the woods. It was Qilue, his brown bear companion, who must have had to make her bed in a nearby cave. She took her place in the front line between Thralia and Taeghen. Selune followed me, though I tried to tell her that I didn't want her to get hurt. Arrows and bolts whizzed past us towards the orcs, who then began to charge. In the front, it was Miri, Falco, Taeghen, Selune, Thralia, the construct Kang (who had started spitting bullets from the mouth sculpted onto his “face” at the charging horde) and I. To each side, and slightly behind, were Meree and Jaden. In various perches on high were Ralenthra, Ariadne, Tordrin and my cousins. Rilla and Venye took sniping positions from the nearby cover of the forest. As the horde drew closer, Cosmo, who maintained his position just behind Kang, flipped a switch on the automaton, which then began to swing its axe and longsword-equipped arms at the orcs, who had never seen anything like it before in their lives.

I tried not to think about the fact that I had never killed anyone before as I swung my longsword and blocked. Here and there I used an entanglement spell or the like, but for the most part, I left the spell casting and healing to the others, who were clearly more experienced than I.

Dusky and swift, Miri performed an intricate dance with her bastard sword that seemed to dazzle the orcs even as she deftly cut them down, gracefully sidestepping their blades and maces. Next to her, Falco swung his dwarven waraxes this way and that in syncopation, playing the clanging armor and helmets of the falling orcs like he would his own set of drums, perfectly accompanying Thralia as she sang and thrust her rapier into foe after foe, keeping in time.

Just beside Qilue, Taeghen, his gold hair and skin glowing in the rising sun, confidently and proudly called for blessing from Father Corellon as he slaughtered the children of his mortal enemy and healed what little damage they inflicted on his companions, letting a few past him into the secondary line of defense to be bludgeoned by the skipping stones from Rilla’s warsling or ripped apart by arrows and spells alike. Meanwhile, cerulean-skinned Ariadne hovered like a ghost just above the heads of those few orcs that were let past the front line, her tousled silvery hair flying wildly behind her. Stopping only to leap with a dancer’s grace from helmet to helmet, she viciously kicked her foes to the ground and thrust her greatsword through them.

The petite but formidable Meree hurled lightning from her hands that caused creatures three times her size to twitch violently and collapse, dead, and even without the spark of life, Kang was a formidable opponent as he fought side by side with his creator, being able to switch instantaneously from melee attacks to ranged attacks and back to melee with the simple flip of a switch from the Lantanese Cosmo.

Jaden nearly drove me to distraction with the blackness that swirled about his arms like a charmed snake, only to extend them into great, long inky black claws. It was an awesome, yet terrible sight to see that blackness bandy about the hapless orcs who found themselves in Jaden’s clutches like a mouse being toyed with by his feline predator.

My cousins had taken to shooting arrows two and three at a time, sometimes hitting one foe in multiple places, sometimes hitting several foes, doing just enough damage for someone else to cut them down with little to no resistance; Isendur quiet but deadly as the grave, Isioleth brash and taunting like a drunken dwarf. With poison powerful enough to scent the air coating the arrows flying from Venye’s bow, I started to get dizzy. Ralenthra proved to be as coolly efficient in combat as she was at picking pockets as I felt her bolts whiz past me hitting mark after mark...and then it happened.

One of the orcs knocked me down and ran right over me. The same momentum that he used to nearly flatten me took him past Thralia and towards Isioleth, who had taken to hanging upside down from her bent knees and shooting her bow that way. The orc drew his axe and pulled his arm back, but he was cut down from both sides as Isendur’s arrow hit him squarely in the back of the neck and pierced upwards through his skull and Isioleth’s arrow hit him in the groin, lodging itself deep into his belly. Flipping down from her perch, Isioleth then drew her longsword and cut off his head.

Another one trampled me and Ralenthra hit him with a bolt to the shoulder. Enraged, he ripped it out and stormed towards her, kicking me in the head as he ran. Selune grabbed hold of his leg with her teeth and was dragged behind until Tordrin leapt in front of him and with less than five feet between them, shot the orc in the face with an arrow. Ralenthra smiled warmly as if she couldn’t help herself and Tordrin smiled back, almost shyly. I was rather shaken up from the trampling and kick to the skull, so Ralenthra and Tordrin dragged me from the front and propped me up in the stable. Selune joined me and Ariadne floated down to see to any wounds I had, but I assured her I was more embarrassed than hurt. I asked Ariadne how many there were left.

"We've taken down half of the infantry, but Urgurth and his personal guard still stand," she replied softly. Her voice was soft like desert sand and her eyes glittered like a pasha's favorite diamond. As she dressed my wounds, I blurted out, "You are as kind as you are beautiful. I can see why Jaden is so in love with you." My eyes widened as I realized what I had said but she smiled dismissively, saying, "That’s quite a blow to the head you took out there. Rest now, dear." I shrugged; puzzled both by her complete nonreaction and the surety of my conviction in something I could know nothing about. At the same time I was so sure that what I had just said was true. I opened my mouth to apologize, but I could see she was distracted by something. I looked in the direction in which she was staring but saw nothing, as I blacked out...

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Butterfly Sunrider

March 2016

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