butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
We arrived back in Silverymoon at dawn. I was unaccustomed to the effects of teleportation over long distances while awake and fought to keep my equilibrium so that I wouldn't vomit all over myself.

Methrammar chuckled. "A bit green, my love? Well, green always was a good color for you."

I rolled my eyes and shook my head slowly. "Does that ever get easier?"

He shrugged. "It's hard to say. The first time we went through, you were unconscious. Maybe it's something you will get used to in time." He draped his arm around me and pulled me close. The sudden movement caused me to lose control over my gag reflex and I vomited on him.

My face flushed with embarrassment. "Oh, Methrammar, darling, I'm so sorry!"

He grimaced and drew out a handkerchief. "It's...quite all right, my dear. I'll have a coach take you home. Love you!" After he gingerly kissed me on the cheek, he swept out of the room. Gathering up what was left of my dignity, I walked towards the door of the teleportation room, which was manned by court wizards who barely managed to hide their amused expressions as I wobbled out.

After getting dropped off at my house, I went into my garden and gathered some ginger to sooth my unsettled stomach while the coachman carried my considerably heavy trunk upstairs. I drew some water from the well for some tea and went inside.

"Rale, I'm home!" I called out. My voice rang through the halls of my empty house. I went up to her room and saw that she still had her black leather armor lying out where she had left it...two days ago.

Oh Hells, I thought. That's not good.

I hurriedly cleaned myself up, sliced the ginger, wrapped it in a handkerchief, took a sip of the well water and walked right back outside, bidding the huffing coachman goodbye as I set out on foot. The first place I went was the Hall of Records, where I checked the news for the last of couple days. No dead bodies of drow females discovered. Good. However...oh girl, no. Attempted burglary. Well, she was pretty drunk when she left that night. Not much information beyond that, though. I sucked on a piece of ginger and walked to the Dancing Goat. I had been meaning to meet with Thralia anyway, to run Eaerlraun's name past her and see if she had any helpful information as to Ralentha's whereabouts.

Sunlight streamed through the somewhat dingy windows at my favorite haunt. Jasper was manning the bar and cleaning glasses. I casually slid onto a stool in front of him. "Hey there, Jasper!" I said, my voice a little raspy.

Jasper smiled a greasy, slightly toothless grin. "'Lo, Seledra. How's my favorite city employee? I noticed you're back together with-"

I cut him off with a dismissive but friendly wave and my best attempt at a smile. "I'm a little ill, Jasper, but don't worry, it's nothing you'll catch. Listen, is Thralia in? I need to speak to her." I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Tordrin.

"Feeling a little less feisty today, Miss Nailo?"

I managed a weak smile. "Please, Mr. Windweaver, call me Seledra!"

He chuckled warmly and clapped me gently on the shoulder. "Only if you call me Tordrin."

I stuck out my hand. "I'll drink to that."

He shook my hand and laughed some more. "No, please don't."

We both laughed for a bit. After we composed ourselves and I was about to ask about Thralia, Tordrin ran his fingers through his hair and opened his mouth to speak. "Can I talk to you? About Ralenthra? I need your help. I'm at my wit's end, here!"

I patted the seat next to me and smiled. "Have a seat. I'm sure that if we put our heads together we can come up with something."

Tordrin surprised me. He seems so smooth and confident in front of a crowd or in battle, but in matters of the heart, he was like a lovestruck boy, confused and more than a little scared. He fidgeted a little with the salt and pepper shakers in front of us. It looked like just my head was going to have to do.

"Well," I took a deep breath, "she's still upset with you. She didn't want to talk about you at all while we were out on 'Silverymoon Business'. And the whole mix-up with Erdri just rubbed more salt in the wound," I leaned in towards him conspiratorially, "which just means she's still in love with you. But..."

Jasper leaned over and snapped his fingers in between us. "Are ya gonna be wanting something to eat or drink? I have to go roust some paying customers out of their beds."

I looked at the light pouring through a nearby window. "Is it high noon already?"

Jasper shook his head. "Nah, just a few wake up calls." He thrummed his dirty fingernails on the bar in front of us. He clearly wanted us to order something. I wasn't dumb enough to order breakfast here, but clearly Tordrin hadn't yet learned his lesson. I quickly ordered an orange juice, and while Tordrin blathered on in detail his breakfast order, I felt...a presence. I looked up to the top of the stairs.

It was Magnos, adjusting a new set of blue and purple robes and strutting about like a peacock. Damn him, he looked good. I had to make an effort control my breathing. Leaning on the doorway behind him was a saucy-looking red-haired half-elf I recognized from my rounds, Laerune Brightwing. Why, she was old enough to be his mother! Well, better her than her daughters, I thought. I shuddered, glad that I wasn't eating breakfast as I recalled their examinations. Hoping he wouldn't see me, I turned back to Tordrin, and promptly forgot what I was going to say.

"You were saying that she's still in love with me, but..." repeated Tordrin.

I blinked, then regained my composure with a snap of my fingers. "Oh, right! I shouldn't mention you for a few days, like at all." He frowned and I continued. "You know, to give her a false sense of security. I might even wait for her to bring you up. And then...I strike!" I smacked my palm on the bar in front of me for emphasis.

Laerune called after Magnos in a husky voice, "Thank you so much for the wand!"

Tordrin seemed puzzled. "Strike? With what?"

I turned around to see Magnos bow deeply with a flourish and blow a kiss to Laerune. "My dear, you know that I simply can't bear it when a woman feels unsafe in her own home!" Oh, please.

I tried to suppress a gag by focusing on the task at hand. "Oh, a little misdirection. When she mentions you, and she will, mind you, I will then press the issue until she gets irritated. Which won't take long. Then I promise her never to bring you up again if she'll go out for some fun that night. What I won't tell her is that we'll be coming here and that you will be waiting to ambush her...with...love and stuff."

Magnos was at the bottom of the stairs now. He called after Laerune. "And the side of bacon?"

Tordrin smiled and shook his head. "Seledra, sometimes I think you might have missed your true calling. When do you think the big night will be? I want to make sure I'll be available."

Laerune replied, "I'll have it delivered to your dormitory this afternoon, darling boy!"

Jasper returned to the bar and set down Tordrin's platter of runny eggs, burnt toast and surprisingly well-cooked bacon, as well as my orange juice. He looked from me to Magnos, up to Laerune, then back to me and grumbled with raised eyebrows, "This will be awkward." I shook my head at him briskly before picking up my glass.

Magnos beamed. "Excellent!" Then he mumbled, "I've been craving that stuff for days now."

I swirled my juice around in my hand as I thought. Finally, I said, "Well, depending on what condition she's in when I find her, I think the tenth would be good. What say you?"

Magnos whispered, "Ooh, speaking of tasty morsels...Seledra! May I?" He grabbed a piece of bacon off of Tordrin's plate and stuffed it in his mouth. Tordrin was too busy wrapping his head around the fact that Ralenthra was missing to notice or at least care. I wasn't, so I grabbed Tordrin's spoon and rapped Magnos on the knuckles with it.

Magnos rubbed his hand indignantly and pouted. "Ow! Hey, I asked, didn't I? Am I supposed to wait for an engraved invitation? It'll get cold!"

Tordrin stammered. "She's...she's missing, you say?"

I sipped my juice calmly and nodded slowly at Tordrin. "She never came home the night of the fifth. Her new leathers were in the same place she'd left them."

Tordrin stood up, pushed his platter towards Magnos and shook his head. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"

Magnos shrugged, grabbed a spoon, and dug in.

I sighed. "I didn't want you to worry. Besides, I came here to talk to Thralia about it only after checking the obituaries and the crime logs. She's locked up somewhere for burglary, but I couldn't find out where."

Tordrin closed his eyes and clasped a hand over his heart. "You're sure?"

I smiled reassuringly at Tordrin. "Of course. I was just hoping Thralia had more information so I could go bail her out. I swear."

"I'll go get her for you." Tordrin said, clearly relieved. He headed upstairs and I called after him. "Tordrin, we're still on for the tenth!" He nodded and turned to walk down the hall. I turned to Magnos, who had inhaled Tordrin's breakfast and was now pouring the remainder of my juice down his throat. "You're a pig. No wonder why you're so drawn to Laerune Brightwing."

He finished gulping down my orange juice and licked his lips lustily. I felt my skin flush. He grinned cheekily, pushed at his nose with his finger and made a snorting sound.

I replied, "Well, you'd better stay away from her daughters or she'll turn you into bacon next."

Magnos shuddered. "Please, Seledra. I just ate. One of the first things I learned as an incoming student was to keep my wand away from the Brightwing girls. Of course, we wizarding students like to keep the sorcerers in the dark about that. Heh." He smiled wickedly. "But Laerune on the other hand, she can teach a man a lot of things, and I'm all about expanding my vast store of knowledge."

I grunted and stared at my glass rather than look at him. "I talked to Methrammar, you know. He says I'm not a blanket hog. So there."

Magnos rolled his eyes. "You expect me to take anything that Momma's boy says seriously about you? He doesn't know you! Not like I do." He smiled and winked at me.

I gasped in indignation. "He's my lover! How could you know me better than he?"

He drew in close. Too close for my comfort. I gulped. He whispered. "He doesn't get you all riled up like I do, does he? He's never seen you in the heat of battle like I have, the way you look with your cheeks flushed and your eyes flashing and your hair all wild. He's never seen you bored or demanding or wrong-headed or foul-tempered like I have! I doubt he could handle the real you. That's why you're getting some on the side, am I right?"

I blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

He smiled again. "You know, from that Tordrin guy, right? Well, since Ralenthra's not interested in him anymore, I guess he's fair game."

That bastard. I should throw that amulet I got for him in the river. I sneered at him. "I really don't think you're in any position to critique my love life. At least I don't give it up for a side of bacon!"

Magnos smacked his hand on the table and laughed heartily till tears streamed down his cheeks. And then he laughed some more. Finally, after wiping the tears from his face, he said, "You think she paid me for sex...with bacon? Oh no, no, no, no, no! She's been having trouble with people trying to break into her home. She needed a little extra security, so I supplied her with a wand and a few scrolls. She's low on cash this week, so I had her pay me in trade and her trade happens to be of the porcine persuasion." Then he grinned and pointed in my face. "The sex was just a bonus! And you're avoiding the question."

I guffawed, and spoke before I thought. "You think...Tordrin and I...ew, no! If I was going to be unfaithful to Methrammar, it certainly wouldn't be with another elf."

His eyes widened. "Really. That's Very. Interesting."

Thralia's laughter rang out behind us like tinkling silver bells. "Lies!"

I smiled. "This isn't college, Thralia. I'm talking about present day. By the way, since we both know elves don't snore, perhaps you could answer me this: am I a blanket hog?"

Thralia's response first consisted of more peals of laughter. "Oh yes, if my memory serves me correctly!" Magnos grinned smugly. Thralia continued with a throaty whisper. "But if you're looking to refresh me on that matter we could have another go..."

She was teasing, but Magnos almost fell out of his chair. I shook my head and grinned. "No, it was just the one time, Thralia."

She crossed her arms in front of her chest and pretended to be jealous. "Oh, I see how it is. You're still hung up on human wizards, then?"

I turned bright red. This time Magnos did fall out of his chair. I replied, not looking at either of them, my voice coming out thick, like honey mixed with sawdust. "That was also, Thralia, just the one time."

Thralia's smile faded, just slightly. "Yes. Of course." Magnos pulled himself up, dusted himself off, and excused himself as he "had a delivery coming". He walked away stiffly.

When he was out of earshot, I hissed through my teeth. "Thralia! Magnos. Is. A. Wizard!"

"He certainly has a magical effect on you. Your face matches your hair, my dear! Though I must say, he is striking." She looked after his retreating form appraisingly.

I shook my head. "No, Thralia. Not this one."

Thralia pouted and tilted her head to the side. "Oh come on, Seledra. You have the prince of the city wrapped around your little finger. Don't be greedy!"

She was teasing me, I know that now. But I took the bait. I threw up my arms and squeaked, "I'm not! I'm not even interested in him! He's arrogant, and vain, and selfish, and a gluttonous, wanton pervert. I'm just trying to save you the trouble."

Thralia grinned. "Sounds like you like him."

I blushed, frowned and took my turn to cross my arms over my chest. "I don't wish to talk about him any further."

She rolled her eyes dramatically. "Now there's a shock. So. You wanted to know about our wee rogue friend? She's in the common prison in Southbank. That's where they lock up the petty criminals. Only those with serious offenses go to the dungeon in the palace. I guess Alustriel believes in keeping her friends close, but her enemies closer."

I smiled, stood up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Anything else I need to know?"

Thralia sighed. "Only that she's feeling really sorry for herself."

I excused myself, but paused before turning away, trying to recall something I had been meaning to ask her, about something Magnos had said, but I couldn't recall what it was, and besides, Ralenthra had been in jail for almost 3 whole days and I was in a hurry.

Ralenthra looked and smelled terrible. Her hand was badly infected and she had broken ribs and bruises all over her back. I decided then that I would have to talk to Tathshandra about setting up rounds for the druids and clerics to visit the jails so that the prisoners could receive adequate health care, because this was just shameful. We walked in silence to Seven Little Wonders so that I could pick up some takeaway. I had not yet a chance to replenish my pantry and I wasn't in the mood to cook.

As we walked home, I felt her looking at me expectantly, like she was expecting a lecture or for me to start crying. I opened my mouth to speak, but...

...truth was, I didn't know what to say to her. I was relieved that she was all right, but scared that she could be so careless, and disappointed that she got in trouble the very night we got pardoned for treason. So, rather than say the wrong thing, I shut my mouth. I smiled, and she smiled back, as best she could, under the circumstances. We walked side by side and picked up a few things from the markets that dotted our path home. Every so often I made sure to make eye contact with her and share a smile.

In the end, I chose to remain silent and only allowed myself to communicate to her through my actions and expressions. Ralenthra didn't seem offended by this; when we got home, I ran a bath for her, carried her upstairs, and helped her bathe since her injuries hampered her every movement. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I just ignored her incredulity and started going to work. I knew that Ralenthra's mother left early on, and I wondered to myself, who did this for her? My own mother did this for me, right until I left for university, although with less frequency by that point. The very idea of going without such motherly attention seemed positively foreign to me.

Ralenthra was...a bit stiff, so I started with her hair. It was uncharacteristically messy and more than a little greasy. It was like she just didn't care. I pulled out the some pins and stuck them in my teeth, grabbed a comb and gently combed out the knots and tangles. Despite the care taken, I still heard her grunt a little at times, but she didn't stop me. I grabbed a nearby cup and filled it with bathwater, leaned her head back slightly, and went to work on washing her hair, massaging her scalp. She sighed and stretched out her legs like a cat. Shampoo, rinse, comb-out, towel-dry, pin-up.

In order to be less intrusive than simply going to work at her with a washcloth or Seldarine forfend, my hand, I pulled out a bath mitt I'd picked up at the market and lathered it up. Ralenthra's eyebrows shot up in surprise. I started at the back of her neck, washing with one hand and gently working out kinks with the other. The work I did to relax her neck and shoulders was countered when I grabbed her arm a little too quickly or forcefully and she flinched. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. I grimaced and bowed my head apologetically, then resumed my work in a more mindful fashion. After I helped her to lean forward so I could wash her back, I noticed a random patchwork of scars scattered about there. I wondered to myself about where she had gotten them; were these from her comparatively privileged albeit not-so-great life as the daughter of a Priest of Vhaeraun or from her rough and tumble existence in Menzo? With elves, it's so hard to tell, much like one's age, how old scars are. Everything feels like it happened a lifetime ago. I was extra careful when moving over these mystery marks, but if it bothered her, she never showed it.

Washing the front was, even for me, a little awkward. It was nothing I hadn't seen before, so there was no gawking a la Magnos going on, it was just...so intimate. I chose the more comfortable option, which was to look at her face as I lathered and rinsed her torso with the bathing mitt. It seemed less clinical that way. I wasn't going to pretend that this wasn't an almost achingly personal act. She certainly didn't. She made a few attempts to snatch the mitt from my hand, but each time, she moved a little quickly than she was ready to, and she'd yelp a little before reluctantly dropping her hand back to her side. But as much as I tried to communicate with my eyes to her, I love you and will always be your friend throughout, it wasn't until I had moved on to her legs that she stopped averting her eyes from mine or attempting to take over herself.

After I helped her out of the tub, while she finally closed her eyes and relaxed, I healed her and applied salves, poultices and dressings to what wounds I had not the energy to heal. I was getting better at this. My connection to the Goddess was strengthened by our little group's excursion to the monastery. But it was still fortunate for her that I had not gone to work today.

Selune joined us, and we ate our still-warm dinner on the porch and read until it got dark. I devoured the tales about Mao Sai Fung while Ralenthra took her turn with A Banquet of Flesh. We watched fireflies dance in the summer night's soft breeze. Ralenthra's body gradually un-kinked and relaxed over the course of the evening. I even caught her smiling a few times, and it wasn't just while she was reading. She was probably glad, maybe even surprised, that I never lectured her or grilled her about what she'd done. I didn't have to. She'd tell me about it when she was ready.

At twilight, she stood at the bottom of the stair and hesitated, shuffling her feet and staring at the floor a bit before finally heading up. When she reached the top of the stairs, she slowly turned and looked over her shoulder at me with a quizzical expression, then shook her head dismissively as she entered her room. I waited a while, then followed her up the stairs and knocked on the side of her open door. She was sitting on her bed, legs drawn up to her chest, staring out the window opposite, her mind elsewhere. I knocked again and she nodded silently, so I came in and tucked her into bed. I sat beside her a while, just smiling at her as she stared at me wide-eyed, like I was quite mad. For a just a moment, I thought that she was going to cry, but finally, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and exhaled, "Seledra...I'm...I'm so sorry."

I smiled and kissed her on the forehead. "You don't have to apologize to me. Just don't get caught again, all right?"

She laughed and we embraced, staying that way for a long time.

She drew back and rested her head upon her pillow, pausing before she spoke again. "How could She let this happen?" she asked.

I shrugged. "I don't know, but maybe you should talk to Her."

"Talk to Her. That's rich." Ralenthra rolled her eyes and shook her head.

I pondered for a moment and then replied, "Make it special. Isn't there some sort of ritual dance that drow do when they want to worship Eilistraee? I could help if you want."

Ralenthra gave me a cockeyed look. "Well...yeah. But it's...naked...and you're, you know, not a follower."

I took a deep breath. "Before I was a druid, I was a divinity student. I am not so foolish as to believe that my Goddess is the only goddess and that She alone can meet all needs. Different problems require different approaches and sometimes different deities. You think all those sailors worship only the Bitch Queen? You are my bosom friend. Again, if you don't wish to petition your Goddess alone, I will be with you."

Ralenthra's eyes widened for a moment. "I'd have to teach you the dance. It's a little...complex. And it's...been a long time."

I smiled. "For you? I'll have it down before the next crescent moon. That's a promise!"
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
As we re-entered Silverymoon's Moorgate I felt a sensation not unlike large, cold riverbed stones lodged in my gut. Here we were, returning to Tagen with no scepter and no one but a twitchy duergar in our custody.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a disgusting man!

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kicked Magnos under the table.

"Ow! What did I do?"

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

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

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

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

"Wait, what?" cried Ralenthra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnos laughed softly and whispered, "Eaerlraun."
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
When we could just move no longer, we made camp. After we all gobbled down a carelessly heated but surprisingly tasty noodle soup that Magnos threw together, I left Dorn in charge and took Ralenthra aside to talk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The avoidance of death is not living."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

"The tent." I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

"Seledra? "

"Seledra?!"


"Hey, Princess!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No."

"Are you embarrassed?"

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

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

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

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

I shook my head. "No."

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

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

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

"Are you holding out on me, Magnos?"

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

I guffawed.

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

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

Magnos shook his arm away. "No."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selune obediently approached Kronk with a wagging tail.

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

Selune licked her chops and barked.

"Sit, Wolf!"

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted.

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

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

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

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

Magnos grimaced, "Tell me about it."

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

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

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

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

She looked sideways at me, suspiciously.

I whispered emphatically. "It's not a date."
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra4)
I awoke to Selune's cold nose nuzzling my hand. It was still dark, but we have to be at the Moorgate at the crack of dawn. Gingerly, I pulled myself out of my warm, soft, comfortable bed and sauntered over to Ralenthra's room. She was already awake and dressed.

"Did you remember the talcum powder first?" I asked.

"Damn it." said Ralenthra.

A short time later, we both stood in front of the full-length mirror in her room, powdering ourselves down.

"Do you think I look ashy?" asked Ralenthra.

"I'm more concerned about how hot you're going to be. One, it's summer. Two, you're wearing all black. Three, you are black. Four, you're wearing a catsuit under your five studded leather armor." I listed the problems off on the fingers of one hand.

"I'll be fine. Drow are cold-blooded creatures, after all." she said with a sardonic chuckle.

"Well, our route follows the Rauvin river. Don't be too proud to take a dip in the water to cool off."

"I'll be fine."

I sighed, then pulled on my leather corset and battle skirt. Buyer's remorse was starting to set in.

"I'm not sure about this whole 'going drow' thing," I said as I began to weave my hair into two long braids.

Ralenthra was also braiding her hair. "Well you were the one who was so concerned about being too hot."

I looped the two braids into a halo style and tugged at the skirt fretfully. "It barely covers my bottom. What if I have to jump? I'll expose myself!"

"It's nothing Magnos hasn't already seen before," she replied. As my face flushed, she quickly added, "I kid, I kid! Besides, he'll probably be too busy staring at his own reflection in the river to notice. You'll be fine. Really."

~


We gathered at the Moorgate at dawn, some of us more rested than others. Dorn was silent and stone-faced as I handed out supplies, Kronk receiving his sundries with a surprised smile and Magnos accepting his with bemusement. Selune took an alert stance as she was getting a read on our little party. She seemed to recognize Kronk and licked his hand. Magnos and his snowy owl Hedwig she acknowledged with a friendly bark of approval. However, she kept growling at Dorn until I gave her specific instructions not to. She whined in protest but obeyed. I took a deep breath, surveyed our fellowship, and smiled.

"I got us a tent." I proclaimed, proudly.

"A tent?" said Magnos, as he dug into his bag of jerky. "How generous and thoughtful of you. I hope you don't mind sleeping outside, Kronk. The ladies and I...need our space."

Ralenthra spoke up. "Actually, the tent is for you males. I am quite comfortable sleeping outside and for druids, sleeping outside is practically standard."

As Magnos turned to stare at me whilst in mid-chew, I cleared my throat and nodded enthusiastically. He was incredulous. Pointing at Kronk, he said, "You mean I have to share a tent with that guy? He smells like a meat locker and it will only get worse in close quarters!" Then he popped more jerky into his mouth.

Kronk growled. "Kronk right here you know."

"Enough fighting, all right?" I shouted. I took the folded up tent from the guard that accompanied us from my house. "Someone give me a boost." Kronk offered his arms to me, but I shook my head.

"Actually, Kronk, I was thinking you could carry the tent. It's quite light, if a little cumbersome."

Kronk pouted. "Kronk not pack mule."

I smiled and patted his arm. "But Kronk, you're so big and strong, it will be like nothing at all! Ralenthra can't carry it as it would almost drag on the ground. I'm not much taller than she is." Here I whispered to him conspiratorially, "And you know the scrawny magic person is too weak to carry even a light tent like this."

Kronk, adequately mollified, chuckled and offered his back. I looked at Magnos, who was emptying the remainder of his bag of jerky into his mouth. "How about that boost, then?" I asked.

Magnos crouched.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

His mouth slightly full, he explained, "Get on my shoulders. I'll give you a boost that way."

I thought about my lack of knickers and shuddered. "I am not wrapping my legs around your head."

"Such a pervert! Here then." Magnos cast Tenser's Floating Disc. "Ride my disc."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ralenthra smack her forehead. "Excuse me?" I asked.

Magnos swallowed and enunciated his words more clearly. "Ride. My. Disc. Here, I can see you're intimidated by its size. I'll help you up."

I found myself getting hoisted up by the waist and seated on the floating silver disc. I skittered to my feet and the tentpack was handed to me. It took a few moments to make sense of the various
buckles and ties and the situation was not made any easier with Magnos standing almost directly underneath me.

As I was putting on the finishing touches, Magnos chuckled."Looks like a full moon."

I sighed, exasperated. "She shouldn't be visible at this time of day."

"I can only state what I see with my own eyes. From here, she is round and full and so close I could take a bite out of her."

I wheeled around to see Magnos and his lasciviously grinning face. Before I could draw my sword and strike him with it, Ralenthra elbowed Magnos in the ribs, not hard enough to bruise anything but perhaps his ego, with a "That's enough sky-gazing for you, Rel Astra. We've got a job to do."

Kronk turned to me. "You want Kronk to flatten magic person for you?"

I thought of my bet with Ralenthra. Apparently she had heard the offer too, and it set her eyes gleaming. I replied, "No, Kronk. That won't be necessary. He's good for something. Probably."

And we set out west, following the river. Just after passing through the gate, Magnos paused and sniffed the air. "Does anyone else smell brimstone?"

Dorn raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

~


I had shopped for a five day journey. Why had Magnos gone through all his food before midday? Why? Also before midday, I was starting to realize the wisdom of "breaking in" a pair of boots before you go walking long distances in them. But I wasn't the only one suffering it seems.

"Are we there yet?" groaned Magnos one hour into our journey.

"No." said Ralenthra.

"This is a travesty of justice, I tell you. The trip alone is going to kill me," Magnos intoned bitterly. Hedwig hooted sympathetically. "Thanks, girl. It's nice to know someone cares."

I sighed laboriously as I hobbled along, "You're not the only one with aching feet, you know. But some of us know how to suffer with some dignity."

"Oh yes! You're very dignified, Moonmaiden. I'd cast Tenser's Floating Disc for you, but I had to use that up so you could give us all a show. Not that it's not appreciated, but I'm afraid that you owe me 7 silver." Magnos piped up matter-of-factly.

"I don't owe you anything, Magnos." I groaned and rubbed the heel of my hand into my forehead as I recalled this morning's blunder.

Dorn spoke for quite possibly the first time since we met him. "Will you two just shut yer traps?"

I felt a little chastened being scolded by a stranger, especially one who had been assigned to keep an eye on us. Kronk laughed a little and pumped his fist in the air. Ralenthra sighed in relief. Magnos, as usual, couldn't care less about making a good impression on our creepy little warden.

"Mercury doesn't grow on trees you know. Do you have any idea what a risk to my well-being I am taking by carrying it on my person? It could make me go mad!" Magnos exclaimed with a grand flourish.

"Pity," said Ralenthra, flatly. "You are truly a great hero. We should all bow in your presence."

"Exactly," said Magnos, seemingly oblivious to her sarcasm.

Ralenthra made an obscene gesture at Magnos in drow sign and walked quickly ahead. I strained to join her despite my aching feet.

I could hear the sullenness in Magnos' voice as he loudly added, "And damn it, I'm hungry. Kronk, can you spare any of that jerky?"
butterfly_sunrider: (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: (Default)
In the dead of night, still having been confined to our cells, the four of us were rousted from whatever sleep we'd had, gathered into a room and seated at a round table. Ralenthra and I, refreshed somewhat after a four hour trance, sat on one side, Magnos and Kronk, the former sleep-deprived and the latter rather hung-over, on the other, and Captain Nim Tagen sat between us. Magnos' fingers were tied together. As this was happening, Tagen took a big damn pipe out of his pocket and lit it. Unfortunately, he wasn't smoking halfling leaf, which would have gone a long way in soothing my jangled nerves. I coughed.

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

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

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

"So blunt, Miss Nailo..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shot back. "Maybe I will."

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

We both turned and stared at him.

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

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

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

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

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

Kronk turned to Magnos."What?"

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

Kronk nodded his head. "Yeah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnos, Ralenthra and I collectively groaned.

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

Ralenthra cursed under her breath.

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

“This time?”

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

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

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

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

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

"Then why?"

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

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

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

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

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

“As many times as it takes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I thought that I was expelled for…”

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

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

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

“What?”

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

I said nothing.

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

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

May the powers of earth sustain me…

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

He got up and began to pace the floor confidently.

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

I said nothing and kept my eyes tight shut.

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

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

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

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

May the powers of air inspire me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I shook my head.

May the powers of fire illuminate me…

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

I was genuinely shocked. “Who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, hell.

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

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

May the powers of water nourish me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How touching.”

“Excuse me?”

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

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

“You two are lovers?”

“What do you think, genius?”

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

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

“I. Don’t. Like. Him.”

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

“Not yet, it isn’t.”

“More like not EVER.”

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

“You’re delusional.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

Blast.

Blast.

Creak.

Blast.

Creak.

Blast.

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

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

"That won't be necessary."

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

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

Way to go, genius.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Captain Tagen?"

"Yes, Miss Nailo?"

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

"For now. Yes."

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

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

"Let me do my job."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chuckled again. "Anything for a lady."

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

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

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

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

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

“Seledra?”

The woman turned and pulled back her hood.

“Who…who are you?” he stuttered.

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

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

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

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

“Why are you doing this?”

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

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

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

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

He replied feebly, “Yes.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Hells, no!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The fool girl didn't kill him?"

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

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

"Mother, you're disturbing me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I responded, "So what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gwen piped up. "Yeah."

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

Glenda sighed, "Now she gets it."

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

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

Gilda nodded. "Or lost your faculties."

Gwen added, "Quite."

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

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

I responded blankly. "Uh, no."

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

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

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

Gwen beamed, "I did."

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

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

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

Glinda crinkled her nose. "Ew"

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

Goldie offered, "And ripped your bodice."

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

Gilda jumped up and down. "We do!"

Gwen joined her. "Yes!"

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

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

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

Glinda gasped. "Were they big?"

I nodded. "As big as Gwen."

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

I nodded solemnly. "Very."

The girls collectively shuddered.

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

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

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

My dearest Seledra,

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

Yours,

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


I guess I should be glad that I hadn't made any plans or anything...
butterfly_sunrider: (Seledra05)
Mother's coachman dropped Ralenthra and me off at my townhouse just as Silverymoon's bells tolled twelve. Maybe hurrying home wasn't such a good idea. I hurt all over and I've barely tranced in the...two days it's been since we left Amalith.

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

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

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

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

My dearest Seledra,

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

Yours,

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wasn't home any later than usual, but Ralenthra wasn't there. I fed and played with Selune awhile, changed my clothes and headed towards the Dancing Goat, hoping I would find her there already.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
I woke up in the middle of the night. It was just as well that Methrammar had gone back to his own quarters because I had work to do. I ritually bathed, dressed in my druid's robes and, after descending to the forest floor, chose a tree whose dryad I would serve for the next day. Usually this day-long ritual consists of small tasks done for the dryad (or treant, where applicable) and most dryads I have served during my years have been pretty low maintenance. Of course, I'd never tried to combine a Song of Trees ritual with a wedding before.

From what I'd been able to gather (Sylvan gets a little rusty when you only use it once a month), this dryad was once a wild elf druid named Ebudae. She was mortally wounded fighting the corrupt Blue Bear Tribe of Uthgardt barbarians and, after the ritual that ended her life as an elf was performed, she was buried under the oak tree she is now bonded to about half a century ago. I asked her if she had known Ariel in life and she replied that she had once been a part of Ariel's circle when she was a druid. I explained the day's festivities and her eyes lit up.

"Ariel's firstborn daughter. I remember her when she was just a baby. May I come to the wedding? It's been so long."

I'd never heard of a dryad attending a wedding before. I replied "Since I'm performing the ceremony..." My eyes grew wide as I wondered if I had possibly overextended myself for this day. "I don't see why it should be a problem."

The dryad smiled. It was like she'd read my mind. "Do not worry, sister druid. My needs are few. A handful of berries here, a glass of mead there."

For the first few hours, things ran pretty smoothly. Ebudae and I chatted and I made her breakfast. Then, at the crack of dawn, the Harpers got up, bickering over who got to bathe in the nearby stream first. The twins came down next, as did Riol, the half-orc orphan that Ariel adopted when I first came out to train with her (I remember feeding and bathing him and now he's all grown up). They started setting up what was left to set up on the grounds and I went to help them as my dryad seemed content just lounging in a patch of sunlight, her feet dipped in the stream.

The guests began to make their way down. First were Ralenthra and Linu, who were chatting amiably, followed by a pretty but haughty looking bard who introduced herself to me as Sharwyn ("just Sharwyn"), who otherwise spoke to no one and a nicely cleaned-up half-orc who introduced himself to me as Daelan Red Tiger. We made small talk about the state of the Red Tiger clan until Methrammar came down. Finally Ariel and Celeborn made their way down and I understood why I had not seem him at lunch the previous day. In the short while since I had seen him last, he had become quite frail and perhaps was even making preparations for the passing west. Neighbors began filing in from the other villas and guests began taking their seats. I made one last check-in with Ebudae before taking my place at the altar.

For those of you not in the know, druid weddings are a bit...long. The ceremony alone lasts about three hours. The site has to blessed, the couple has to blessed, the bread and salt they share in the first "movement" has to be blessed and there are interludes to be sung by soloists at the right intervals. And that's just to start. But even so it is still a lot less high maintenance than the day-long pomp of a Lathanderite ceremony or your typical weeklong gnome wedding!

First up, I sang, blessing the place, blessing the guests, invoking the Treefather, the Earthmother and the Forest Queen. Then the couple approached the altar, so I got to bless them as well. They did the traditional chants for the first movement (Aarin was well rehearsed for someone who wasn't a druid), shared the bread and salt and that was followed by Sharwyn's solo.

During her solo, I had a brief chance to scan the audience and it was then that I realized that something was wrong. We were missing two of our soloists, Taeghen and Thralia. In the brief time we'd had together, Ralenthra had managed to teach me rudimentary drow sign. I managed to catch Ralenthra's eye and started signing to her, but it seemed that either I still need more work or I was too nervous to sign anything properly. She signed back "What?" and finally, as I realized time was of the essence, mouthed the words "where's Thralia" to her. I saw her turn to Tordrin and the two of them excused themselves, heading to the Harper's camp after Tordrin stopped and briefly whispered to Jaden, who nodded. When Taeghen's turn to sing came, he was still nowhere to be found. Instead, Jaden rose from his seat, walked to the altar and sang the solo instead.

Next came the pricking of the fingers of the bride and groom and the sharing of blood. Take it easy, it was just a few drops. Sharwyn looked a bit pale and I wondered at that moment exactly how useful she was in combat. After that part was done, Ariadne sang her solo, wisely taking it a little more slowly than usual, as Tordrin's solo was coming up next and he had yet to return. Finally, I saw them approaching, but without Taeghen and Thralia. As they drew closer, I saw the shadow that had descended upon both their faces, though it was clear they hadn't had a spat...their body language was even more intimate than I had seen after Methrammar and I had left lunch yesterday. I made a mental note to ask her about that. After Ralenthra took her seat and Tordin approached the altar for his solo, I saw her mouth the words "not coming" to me. Larue's Horn!

In my mind, I beckoned Selune to bring Ebudae to me and the dryad was beside me before Tordrin's solo was over. I asked her if she knew the particular solo that I needed covered and luckily she did. She agreed to fill in for Thralia and finally I could relax a little before the next movement began.

The bride and the groom each produced a lock of hair to be burnt together on the altar. More chants. Falco approached the altar and sang his solo, which was followed by Ebudae's solo. Everyone was so charmed by a dryad performing at the wedding that I don't think they minded that the program wasn't followed exactly as printed.

Finally, the last movement commenced: the handfasting. Methrammar was actually a part of this one, binding the four cords the groom brought to the grooms arm on one end. Aarin's cords came from Methrammar, Lord Nasher (before the falling out obviously), the Neverwinter church of Tyr (who donated the cord from material that Aribeth once owned) and Isendur. I attached the cords belonging to the bride to Pandora's arm. These were given to her by Ariel, Isioleth, Linu and myself. Chants from myself, repeated by the bride and groom went on as I wove the cords together until they were quite well bound. Finally, Ariel and Celeborn approached with Ariel's archdruid staff, which was laid on the ground at the feet of the almost-married-now couple. Pandora and Aarin hopped over the staff and that...was finally that.

***

It was midday. I had 12 more hours of service to go before Ralenthra and I could finally leave. Well, Ralenthra could leave if she wanted to, but I was stuck until my day-long service was up. Thank goodness everyone always want to talk to the bride and groom and not the officiant after most weddings, because I was spent. After checking in with Ebudae and promising her that I would get her some cake and mead as soon as it was being served, I approached Ralenthra and Tordrin. Tordrin excused himself.

Ralenthra whispered low. "What is the Eldreth Veluuthra?" At her utterance of the words my blood ran cold. I replied, "They are not words spoken of in good company."

Ralenthra continued. "Thralia and Taeghen were arguing. He said he wouldn't let her be a part of this...blasphemy against The People. Apparently it's not just humans he doesn't like. He gave her a lecture about the Talaviirs and...Tordrin and me. That's when Tordrin said Eldreth Veluuthra and spat on the ground. What is it?"

Just as I was about to answer her question, we heard a loud shout coming from the Harper's camp. Ralenthra and I ran to see what was going on and it appeared that Tordrin had just knocked Taeghen to the ground with his fist. He stood over Taeghen's prone form with a look of utter disdain. "You will not bring this evil to this place. You will not bring harm to May, my agents or Jaden..."

Taeghen laughed as he spat his blood on the ground. "Jaden needs no help from me to destroy himself. His fate is already sealed."

Thralia stepped forward, rapier in hand and she pointed it at Taeghen's throat. Though her eyes filled with tears, her voice was firm and strong. "We two are blood and that is why I spare your life today. But after you leave this place...you are no longer kin to me."

Taeghen seemed genuinely alarmed by this. "Thralia, please."

"No! You will not show your face at Moongleam Tower. You will not be granted passage into the city of Silverymoon. Every elven settlement between Evereska and Evermeet will know of your name and your deeds, and if I see you again, it will have been better for you had you never been born at all."

"You trust those blood traitors more than your own flesh. Foolish woman. Of course, what should I expect from a sun elf who gets rejected by a..." he snickered, "half-orc."

"Enough. Take your possessions and leave this place. We will have wards placed to prevent your return." She turned her back on Taeghen.

He reached his hand out to hers. "But, Thralia..."

She squared her shoulders and did not turn. "Goodbye, Taeghen."

And with that, Thralia strode past us and over to the stage. Luckily, Ralenthra and I were the only witnesses to this exchange as everyone else was quite immersed in the whole wedding business. As Tordrin approached us, I excused myself and saw to Ebudae's cake and mead. Finally, I sat down by myself with my own serving. Methrammar was assisting Meree and Jaden in setting the wards against Taeghen's return.

I thought to myself, Thralia is having a very, very bad tenday.

***

It took a little less time to tear down the ceremony area to make way for the reception. This time, we had Meree and Jaden helping out by levitating items and moving them, as they didn't quite have the brute strength of someone like Riol. As soon as I finished my cake and mead and started to add my help to the workers, he picked me up off the ground in a big bear hug. It had only been about half a year since I'd seen him last, but after being considered quite short for a half orc, he had shot up about half a foot in height.

"Leddie!" he roared with laughter. "You've shrunk!"

I smiled up at him after he put me down. "How are you doing, kiddo?"

"I've never been better! Isn't this great? I'm so glad I didn't miss the wedding. I got er...a little distracted during my patrol."

"Again?"

"Yeah, but it wasn't my fault this time, it was the wood nymphs!"

"What is it with all these irresistible half-orc males?"

He grinned. "That's a secret. Who's the other one?"

"Oh, May and I met him back in Everlund. Apparently when he's done with the er...ladies of the evening, most of the time they don't even charge him. And, uh..." I whispered low. "A sun elf friend of mine tried to get him to go to bed with her."

Ah, youth. With it comes indiscretion. Riol pointed at Thralia, who was being comforted by Ariadne and Miri. "You mean her?" he shouted incredulously. I jumped up and grabbed his arm. For a moment, I simply swung from it like I would from a large tree branch before he realized his mistake and lowered his arm. "Sorry, Leddie." We set about our work and continued our conversation.

"She's a bit sensitive about it, and what with her cousin turning out to be a psycho, losing one of her oldest friends and getting rejected all in the last few days, well, I wouldn't mention it."

"You can trust me, Leddie." And with that he proceeded to launch into all the local gossip as we worked.

***

Sun & Moon were soon setting up their instruments as I sat watching them with glazed eyes and the sun began to set. Ebudae spent much of the time chatting with Ariel and Ralenthra found herself in a conversation with Aarin before she made her way to take a seat beside me with her own cake and mead.

"So..." I turned to her and smirked, "You and Tordrin, huh?"

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Well, you two have been practically inseparable all day. And for another thing, there's that pendant of yours. That's moon elf work." I grinned. "Did he get that for you?"

She turned to me with wide, blinking eyes. "What, this old thing? You know how I like sparkly stuff. I just happened to pick it up during my many travels."

"Not in any of my family's rooms, right?" I raised an eyebrow at her.

Ralenthra rolled her eyes. "Of course not, silly." Her eyes turned serious for a moment. "I earned this."

I cocked my head. "Earned it? Like with a day job or something?"

I'm sure she thought I was acting clueless, but I was so exhausted that my brain wasn't quite working properly. I guess she decided to humor me, since she explained. "Back in Cormanthor, this was my reward for winning a little contest in a particularly ingenious way. My winning the contest led to my being trained as a rogue."

"As good a way to earn something as any." I chuckled. "Well, at the rate you're going, it may not be too long before Tordrin gives you another sparkly thing."

Ralenthra blushed a little and quickly changed the subject. "So...you and Methrammar, eh?"

I shrugged. "I guess. I mean, maybe. Who knows? We're both busy professionals and he doesn't exactly reside in Silverymoon proper. We'll see how it goes."

Ralenthra cocked her head. "Your enthusiasm is truly astonishing. What's the matter, Mister Goody-Goody didn't melt your butter?"

I sighed. "I've had better. But...I mean, that's not everything, right? He's a very accomplished gentleman from a good family. There are a lot of women who would give their eyeteeth to be in my position. I should be grateful."

Ralenthra laughed sympathetically and clapped me on the shoulder. "Whatever you decide, just try not to discuss me too much. I just had to extricate myself from another tangle with Aarin. It would be nice to go at least one more day and not have to get interrogated. Again."

"You can count on me." I gave her a hug and felt a strong hand on my shoulder. Apparently, another hand had landed on Ralenthra's shoulder as she looked behind her too. While Methrammar nuzzled my ear, Tordrin whispered to Ralenthra and she smiled. "See you on the dance floor!" she said as she walked off hand-in-hand with Tordrin. Methrammar and I soon followed, arm-in-arm. Tordrin apparently had received a reprieve for at least the first three songs Sun & Moon would play. As I saw them whirl together, I smiled. Good for them.

Though I dutifully checked in on Ebudae regularly, she didn't seem to need much from me and I was able to spend most of the evening on the dance floor in Methrammar's arms. I found him to be a very good dancer, but very formal. As the evening progressed, I watched Sharwyn drunkenly make passes at Aarin to the point where Linu had to escort her to her room. When Linu returned to tell us that Sharwyn was now out quite cold, Isioleth guffawed. Daelan retired soon after, after a dance with Ebudae.

There were group dances, there were more breaks for Tordrin spent with Ralenthra and a beautiful waxing moon illuminating the night. If it weren't for the exhaustion, I would say that midnight came too soon. Ebudae bade me a fond farewell before retreating back to her tree. Methrammar tenderly kissed me goodbye as Ralenthra, Selune and I were packed into my carriage. As we rode away and I began to drift off I only regretted that I never got to ask Pandora why she had not told anyone else in her family about Unebrion.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
As the rose-colored sunbeams began to reach the bottom of the forest floor, so was our journey to Amalith coming to an end. Isioleth rapped on the carriage door to wake us.

"Come on out," she called in her husky voice. Then she took a false distinguished tone. "The, uh, bride wishes to see you." Ralenthra was wary, I could tell, but silently, she stepped out of her side of the carriage. I did too, and took it in, the place I lived in for the happiest eighteen years of my life. The village of Amalith was almost entirely up in the great trees of the High Forest, with beautiful elven villas built into and around the trees in perfect harmony connected by sturdy rope-and-wood bridges and to the ground by an elaborate pulley system. On the ground, some space had been cleared for the upcoming reception and colored lanterns on strings were hung all about from tree to tree. Amalith is an almost totally self-sufficient commune, made up of a few families (all elven of some variety), subsisting on sustainable hunting and foraging for food. Many work as craftspeople or sell wares in nearby Olostin's Hold. It is thoroughly grounded in a love of nature, as a druid circle led by my Aunt Ariel is based here.

"It hasn't changed a bit." I said happily. Isioleth slapped me on my back. "Yeah, I know. I can't wait to get back to Hilltop, as boring as that one-mule town is."

Isendur caught up to us. "Now, Isioleth. I'm sure that Drogan will keep us plenty busy with our studies. And Hilltop is nice country, with nice people."

Isioleth scoffed. "You just say that because you like that Haniah girl who works for the mayor. At least you have Dorna to compete with! Xanos and that dumb paladin Mischa, we don't really have much in common."

"At least Xanos makes you laugh...and you're right, Mischa is pretty stupid."

We stepped onto the platform that would take us to the Lorien villa. Isendur grasped the rope and turned to Ralenthra. "I hope you don't mind heights, Miss Aerynrae." Just then, we heard a whistle. "Hold up," called out Tordrin, "is there room for one more?" I looked at Ralenthra, who was a little flushed, though I'm not sure if it was Tordrin drawing near to her (to conserve space, I'm sure) or the heights we were starting to experience.

As we reached the top, Ralenthra turned to Isendur and smiled politely. "Could you show me to my room? I need to...sort my things." Isendur shrugged and led her away, with Tordrin watching her as she went. After she was out of sight, Tordrin said, "Miss Isioleth, why don't you walk Seledra to her room. I think I know how this gadget works and I'll bring up some of the others before your brother gets back." She grinned at him "Oh, okay!" and looked at me like "who the hell is this guy" before shrugging. "So", she continued conspiratorially, "how's life in the Big City? Are you having lots of good sex?"

I turned to her with a raised eyebrow. "Issey, aren't you still a virgin?"

"Well, yeah, so? It doesn't mean I don't know what sex is. " And then she made obscene gestures with her hands that made us both collapse into giggles. "Don't hold out on me. I wanna hear all the details."

"All right, but when it happens for you, you'd better ante up."

"Takasi! That's not going to happen for a while yet."

"And why not? If I recall, you had to beat the local elven boys off with sticks when I left."

"Yeah, elven boys are boring. I don't care too much for humans either. They just don't do much for me."

"Dwarves?"

"Um, I don't think so."

"Gnomes?"

"Please, we're about to eat lunch, here."

"Halflings?"

"What do you think I am, some kind of pervert?"

"Well what then? Tief-"

"Don't change the subject, Leddie. I can tell there's something going on with you. First off, there's a strapping half-elf talking to Aarin in our kitchen who has brought you up more than once," she winked, "and secondly...secondly with you there is always a human. At least there is when you keep trying to change the subject."

I stuck my tongue out at her.

"Now I know there's a human. Fess up."

I groaned. "He's just a boy, Issey. He's eighteen or nineteen - "

"Cradle robber."

"Hmph. Any human with our species would be cradle robbing. Unless it's Elminster."

"Ew. Oh, that was uncalled for!"

"He's about six feet tall, has black hair, black eyes...he's a magic user..."

"I knew it, I knew it! You were always a sucker for magic users. Well, does tall, dark and handsome have a name?"

"I don't remember."

"One night stand, huh? Wicked! Pan'll be in in a little bit. I'll go get her."

"Wait!" I reached into my pack and pulled out a box. "This is for you."

With a wide grin, Isioleth wasted no time opening the box. Inside were a pair of crystal-studded hair sticks that I'd bought for her in Everlund.

"For when you do find that boy, Issey."

After hugging me, she scampered off to find Pan. I flopped down on my bed. The interrogations would continue until morale improves. I can't wait.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
Up, up, up the stairs in the tree...She touched the pond again...I saw Ariadne running though a huge gilded glass temple...numerous people tried to stop her...she couldn't fly...she ran with her long red and white robes trailing behind her...she was screaming something...I couldn't hear...running towards a gate...

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

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

Excuse me?

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

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

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

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

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

Bastard.

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

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

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

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

"Because she was going to get help."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralenthra was beginning to heal and she started to murmur in her unconscious state. A pleasant breeze coursed through the stable even as the battle wound down outside. And I finally stopped seeing double.
butterfly_sunrider: (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...
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
All this secretiveness can be exhausting for me sometimes, which is just one of the reasons I could never be a Harper. Don't get me wrong, I admire them and believe in their work, but sometimes it's enough of a challenge to remember all the codes I've learned for my dealings with Ralenthra in the short time that I've known her.

She was sitting on her bed (she always takes the bed on the right side of the room) swinging her legs up and down and holding the silver silk gown I'd bought her up to her chest.

"Rolly, that was supposed to be a surprise!"

She looked up at me with a wide grin.

"If it makes you feel any better, I was surprised when I opened it."

"Well, it's not the only one..."

"Ooh, really? I hadn't gotten to that one, thanks!"

Quick as lightning, Ralenthra found the lavender gown and held them both up.

"Where are these from?"

"The shopkeeper said they were from Shou."

"In Kara-Tur? Wow!" Her usually jaded demeanor faded and her eyes shone in wonder for a moment.

"Well...thank you. It must have cost you a fortune."

"It was a fair price. So...were you...successful in your endeavors?"

"I'm here, aren't I?"

"Good point."

"And you?"

"I met a very nice gentleman..."

"Did you get him drunk and then drug him after you had mad, passionate -"

"Listen, it was only the one time -"

"Hey, you don't have to defend yourself to me. I'm the thief. At least you didn't rob him after -"

"Of course I didn't. You...you didn't."

I narrowed my eyes at her and she looked away.

"You did, didn't you?"

"Hey, he wasn't going to miss it anyway. He probably thought he'd spent all his money on you."

"It was put on my tab, Ralenthra."

She squirmed a little.

"Oh, all right. I'll find a way to pay him back. I swear."

"Ok, look. I don't care what you do in your free time, but please don't take advantage of my bad judgment calls with others again."

Ralenthra looked remorseful for a moment and nodded.

"Anyway, as I was saying, I met a very nice gentleman. And, no, we didn't drink and we didn't go to bed."

"How disappointing."

"Give me a couple weeks after we get back to Silverymoon. Soon, I'll have him wrapped around my little finger. Well, wrapped around some part of me anyway."

A little while later, Thralia came up to visit and the three of us chatted and played Three Dragon Ante, drinking sparkling plum wine imported from Wa (from Thralia's personal stash). Eventually we dined in our room with Tordrin joining us and sneaking Selune inside.

So it was a rather quiet evening. We have a big day tomorrow.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
I finally left Everlund as the gates opened at the crack of dawn, just after I had bought a horse to replace the one taken by Ralenthra for her own journey. Since I had gotten little rest the night before, I chose to trance on the journey to Olostin's Hold, drawing the thick cranberry-colored velvet curtains of the couch to a close so as to lessen the glare of the rising sun.

I awoke from my trance to find that we were arriving at Olostin's Hold. From the position of the sun, I could see that it was midday. I hoped that Ralenthra was alright. I had missed her. We would have lots to catch up on, I was sure. I knew that I had a lot to tell her.

Since the horses would need a day's rest, I checked them and Selune in at the stable for the local inn, the Bucking Mare. Cute.

Oddly enough, the one thing I didn't expect was that I would see Thralia and her team here before me. She wasn't supposed to be here until tomorrow morning. I hoped nothing was wrong.

I walked inside and saw Thralia sitting in a corner booth by herself and when I say I saw her, I also mean to make it clear that it was not immediately apparent that it was her, even to me. She didn't want to be recognized. I pretended not to take special notice of her and waited for her tell. In the meantime, I made small talk with the innkeeper and confirmed that I had a reserved room, which was apparently arranged for me by the woman in the corner booth. My coachman, whose name I have learned is Samael, walked through the door with my luggages. I told him to leave them upstairs outside my room.

Thralia lifted a single, graceful finger in the air and spoke in a thick, halting accent.

"Bartender, give me a whiskey. Ginger ale on the side...and don't be stingy, baby." It was her tell, at least it was for me. From what I understand, she has a different one for everyone, but I know not to ask about her business too much. I slid into the booth across from her. She had either dyed her hair a deeper shade of red or it was a very good wig. She slid her rose tinted glasses down her slightly wider than usual nose slightly revealing newly grey eyes.

The bartender took our orders and left us.

"I wasn't sure it was you, at first." I started the conversation in Sylvan just to be sure.

"Then I'm getting better."

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm on my way to your cousin's wedding." Something was wrong. Her lilting voice was weighed down by something heavy inside.

"You're early."

"I...took care of business early," she stammered. "Look, don't worry about me. Your package arrived before you did. Your room was the only room not taken this evening, so I had it delivered there."

"Well, can I eat first?"

"I don't see why not."

The food and drinks were laid before me. I started eating.

"What do you know about Methrammar Aerasume?"

Her eyebrows arched sharply.

"Don't mess it up, Seledra."

"What?"

"You think I don't know you were making kissy-face with Alustriel's son last night?"

"Sune's tits, can't I have any secrets?"

"No. Listen to me. Methrammar is a...fine man..."

"You haven't..."

"No."

"Thank the Seldarine."

"Methrammar is every woman's dream come true. He's handsome, chivalrous and brilliant. He just so happens to come from the best family in all of Luruar, maybe in the whole North. And he likes you. Really likes you. Tordrin tells me as much."

"Wait, Tordrin knows?"

"There is very little that his operative misses when he's following people." Huh. So Tordrin has an operative. I wonder if they share.

I had finished my lunch, which Thralia generously paid for. I decided to throw down the gauntlet. "What's wrong?"

"I fired my bodyguard."

"You fired him?"

"He quit. It gets worse."

"You didn't - "

"I did. He...wasn't interested."

I sat back in shock. As long as I'd known her, I'd never known of anyone who refused an invitation from Thralia Ma'freyja.

"Well...at least you won't be seeing him again, right?"

"There is that, I suppose. I've had enough of these little hick towns."

She tapped her front teeth with her fingernail. That was my cue to head out. "I'll introduce you to Isendur when we saddle up tomorrow."

And I headed upstairs, saw that my packages must have been brought inside since they were no longer outside the door and knocked the midday knock.

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Butterfly Sunrider

March 2016

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