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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t say it was a good start.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

I stared at her. Then I raised my eyebrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rinya cocked an eyebrow at me.

Tomorrow afternoon then. A visit to the Glittersmokes and the salon before a little party at the Blue Bottle...”
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
It had been almost twenty years since I last set foot on the Conclave campus grounds, not counting the occasional concert I attended at Fochlucan, which stood on the very eastern edge of campus. I stood in the center square, next to the huge Lurue Fountain, turning in circles while I twirled my parasol in the opposite direction.

Faculty offices...where were they again? Umm. Oh yes. In the opposite direction from Lurue's horn. Aelthas used to say it was on the ass end of the campus. I giggled at the memory and then composed myself again before heading off in that direction. Past the honeysuckle bushes, past the Invocatorium, past the shrine to Oghma in the center of the apple grove and there it stood, covered with more ivy than I remembered.

After checking the directory, I ascended three flights of stairs to his office. I could only hope that he was in. I knocked on the ornately carved mahogany door five times.

Aelthas opened the door.

When he saw me, he yelped and promptly slammed the door in my face. I placed my cheek to the door and spoke softly, "Aelthas, it's me, Seledra. Green eyes, remember?" A few moments passed before Aelthas opened the door again, slowly. He was pointing his wand at me with a trembling hand. I touched the tip with my finger and gently caressed my way down the wand to his gnarled hand. He closed his eyes. "Gods-damned tease! What in the Nine Hells do you want?"

Well, you're as crotchety as you look. No! Bad, Seledra! Be nice! "Aelthas...I...I came here today because I wanted to let you know that I forgive you and that I'm sorry for what my mother did to you and that if there's anything I can do to help you, don't hesitate to ask." I took a much needed breath to recover.

"You? Forgive? Me?" Aelthas said, "You should be asking for my forgiveness! Look at me, Seledra! If I get any more decrepit, I'll dry up and blow away in the breeze!"

Oh dear.

I reached out and touched his cheek. He flinched. "Don't touch me!"

I withdrew my quivering hand and shook my head. "I never meant for this to happen. I didn't even know about the curse until a few months ago. You do believe me, don't you?"

Aelthas pinched the bridge of his nose and sat down in the large, velvety purple chair in front of his expansive desk. He replied, "Your mother... she is a powerful sorceress with a rare gift. She used spellfire on me. I have not yet found a cure for what she has done. My own studies in necromancy have been less than fruitful and my correspondence with the Mage of Shadowdale has been similarly plagued with inconclusive results. I had begun to accept that there was no hope for a cure. And then you show up 'to help', like a bad copper piece."

It stung more than I had anticipated. My chin began to tremble, and a single tear rolled down my cheek. Aelthas used prestidigitation to wipe it away.

"Oh, Sweetheart," Aelthas sighed, "I never could resist your tears."

I grunted. "And all the tears that stained the letters I wrote to you for over a year? You resisted those."

"I never read your letters, Sweetheart. I was too bitter." He opened up a drawer and pulled out a thick stack of envelopes tied together with red string. "But I kept them. That has to count for something."

"You exposed me in front of the whole school. You humiliated me!" I could feel my fist clenching. Consciously, I unclenched it. I was not there for revenge.

Aelthas cocked his head at me. "Do you really think I did that? You know me! Why would I do anything to so obviously incriminate myself?"

I paused. In twenty years I had never considered the possibility that he didn't enchant those mirrors. If that was true, then it had to be..."Duglan! Oh gods, he was your roommate!" Ugh! I can't believe I slept with that guy!

Aelthas nodded his head. "And he was jealous. He was in love with you just as I was. When I was brought in front of the disciplinary board I had to make a choice...Seledra?"

I was staring at him. "What did you say?"

He blinked, and started to repeat himself about the disciplinary board.

"No, before that."

"Duglan was in love with you."

"And?"

Aelthas sat there, frozen. And then it dawned on him. "Oh gods, I never got around to telling you, did I? I'm sorry, Sweetheart. I...loved you. I really did. It's just that when the time came that I had to choose between you or throwing both myself and my best friend under the carriage, I...well, I chose to save myself. So I took responsibility for the mirrors and gave them you and your heist in exchange for a clean record. I thought you were unhappy at the Conclave anyway, and that you'd understand, but I should have known not to cross an elf in such a way. I was too gifted to expel and Duglan would have forgiven me much faster."

I was trembling, but I nodded my head and smiled weakly. He loved me. Once. But not enough. My mind wandered to other subjects. I smiled. "Do you have a student named Magnos?"

~


My meeting with Aelthas ended with a friendly embrace and a promise that I would scour my brain for a divine answer to his conundrum. I took a last look in the mirror above his chair to make sure I was presentable and left.

As I walked into the early afternoon sun, I hesitated. Was I ready for this next part? Or would it be a disaster?

Through the apple grove, past the shrine to Oghma, past the Invocatorium, due west I moved through the campus towards the Farm.

He may not even be at home, Seledra. You should just leave. I entered the huge dormitory and gazed at the mailboxes in the wall. Goodman/Rel Astra. 3rd Floor. Ugh. More damned stairs. I trudged upwards and wandered into a student recreational room where a halfling student had just lit a pint on fire and was preparing to down it. I stood there, fidgeting and clearing my throat until I got his attention. After he'd had a few droughts, he looked up, saw me, scurried to my side and offered his hand in greeting. "Terro Antkiller, of Antkiller's Emporium of Exotic Herbs at your service, milady. How may I be of service to you?"

I bent down, shook his hand and smiled. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Antkiller. Would you be so kind as to direct me to the residence of Misters Goodman and Rel Astra?"

He cocked his head at me while looking much lower than my eyeline. "Another one for Magnos, eh? Ah, well. Down the hall, 3rd door on the left."

I smiled again, thanked him and continued on my journey. I thought I heard a whistle after I turned my back and walked further down the hall, but I can't be sure.

After knocking on the door it was promptly opened by a rather angular-looking boy with sandy brown hair and soft brown eyes that widened a little when he saw me. A silver ferret climbed up his body and perched on his shoulder.

I cleared my throat and stuck out my hand in greeting. "Mr. Goodman, I presume?"
He smiled at me and shook my hand. "I'm sorry, but Magnos isn't here. You should come back later." Hedwig hooted softly in the background.

I ignored the strange greeting, smiled warmly at him and winked. "Sweet boy, why do you assume that I'm here for Magnos?"

He blushed, smiled and looked away. "Because beautiful women are always here for Magnos. Speaking of which-"

At first I was flattered and I smiled, but then I fully digested the implications of what he'd said and my eyebrows shot up before I interrupted him. "Oh is that so?"

Jonah grimaced. "Now I know that you're here for Magnos...Seledra, right? Did I mention that Magnos isn't here? Because he isn't...here."

I whirled on him. "How do you know who I am? Did Magnos tell you about me? What did he say? It wasn't crude, was it? Because there was no crudeness going on between us. At all."

Jonah's eyes flitted over my body for a moment longer than was comfortable to me. He blushed again and said, "Let's just say you fit the physical description."

I rolled my eyes. "Wonderful."

Jonah shook his head. "Look, I'm sure you're a lovely person and all, but you really have to get going. Like now."

I thrust my hand into my purse and yanked out the ruby amulet. "No, you look! I went all the way to Shou Lung and gambled in mahjong against the Dowager Princess herself to get this-" I waggled the amulet in Jonah's face "-for Magnos. I've been putting this off for almost two whole tendays and I'm not letting anything else stop me if I can possibly help it!"

Hedwig started to make excited chittering noises. I knew exactly what she was saying.

Magnos was near, and approaching fast.

Well, my rattling the shiny ruby amulet in Jonah's face probably wasn't a good idea, because his ferret snatched it in his teeth and ran all around the room with it, disturbing Hedwig from her perch, overturning piles of books, clothes and various sundry other items onto the floor. Following closely on his heels was Jonah, who knocked over everything his ferret was too small and light to upend. Hedwig flew to and fro, and in her efforts to avoid crashing into Jonah, she swooped onto my head, sending my hair cascading down from its updo. Perhaps attracted by the flash of color, the ferret leapt from the top of a nearby bookcase right down the front of my dress. Jonah, forgetting himself in his urgency to retrieve his familiar and the amulet, reached in to scruff him...

Just then, Magnos opened the door, and I discovered why Jonah had been trying to get rid of me. Magnos had not come alone. On his arm was a breathtaking blonde wearing the same exact outfit I was wearing, sans the ferret in the décolletage and the owl headpiece.

Sune's tits!

Magnos stared for a moment, then recovered. "Seledra! What a...surprise. Susan, this is Seledra, my..."

"Business partner," I finished. The ferret leapt out from my cleavage with the amulet still in his mouth and clambered up Magnos till he was able to curl up comfortably around his neck.

"I thought I was your business partner!" said a flustered Jonah, who finally removed his hand.

"She's my other business partner," clarified Magnos. "Hey, Scamp! What have you got there?" The ferret named Scamp deposited the amulet into Magnos' grasp and returned to his master as if nothing had happened. Jonah started picking up the scattered mess that his familiar had made and Hedwig calmly returned to her perch.

I was about to start fixing my hair when Susan extended a delicate alabaster hand in my direction. I moved to give my usual firm handshake, and she gave me one of those limp things that so many girls with noble breeding give for fear of breaking a nail. "You have quite a grip there, for a girl!" she said.

Yes, well I suppose I picked up some extra muscle swinging my longsword about, keeping Magnos from getting eaten alive by zombie kobolds, I did not say. "Oh, I'm so sorry! Sometimes I don't know my own strength! I should...do something...about that." I managed a lame giggle and an apologetic bob of the head even as I gritted my teeth in a forced smile.

"I'm not sure you should do anything about your strength, Seledra. Susan, she can do pull-ups with one arm at a time! Only Kronk is tougher than she is, and she smells better." Magnos said.

Susan's eyebrows came together in a tiny frown and her lower lip jutted out ever so slightly. I quickly changed the subject from me to something hopefully less polarizing: "I see you have the amulet."

"Yes," Magnos said. "Is it yours? I mean it was in your-"

"No. It's not mine. It's, um, yours...now. I was...out of town and...picking up gifts for everyone and it just...called to me. I..I knew when I saw it that...it should be yours." I stammered nervously.

Magnos held the amulet up to the sun streaming in through a nearby window in order to better examine it. "You got me costume jewelry?"

I felt my cheeks flush. "No, you fool! It's...magical. It has magical properties. I-"

Jonah chimed in, "She defeated the Princess Dowager of Shou Lung in a battle of Mahjong to win it!"

I covered my face with my palm and shook my head, embarrassed. "Look, if you don't believe me, you can get it appraised. Just don't take it to a pawn shop!"

"But it costs 100 gold to get things like this appraised!" Magnos groaned and rubbed his forehead.

This wasn't going at all the way that I'd imagined. My hand slid slowly down my face, and I was beginning to feel a tightness in my chest.

Susan opened up her purse.

Oh no you don't.

I beat her to the punch. "Well, you didn't think I was going to make you pay to appraise your own gift, would you? You're so silly sometimes." I laid the 100 gold onto Magnos' hand and felt that lovely, warm spark emanating from him.

Magnos looked at the coins in his hand, then looked at me and shook his head. "I can't take this from you, Seledra. You've already gotten me this...thing, which I'm sure is of great sentimental value-"

I reached out to his open palm and closed it over the small bag of coins and said, "Please, I insist."

Magnos pushed his hand back towards me. "No really, I don't need it. I still have plenty of money left over from what Captain Tagen paid us! You know how...thrifty I am!"

Hmph. You probably spent it all on new robes and lunch with Susan already, you liar. I gritted my teeth and spoke stiffly."Magnos, the money either stays in your hand or gets stuffed down your gullet, but I am not taking it back!"

Magnos paused and seemed to consider the scenario for a moment, then pocketed the money. "Thank you," he said.

I smoothed out imaginary wrinkles in my dress. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Susan. Jonah." I looked at Magnos. He was looking at Susan again and it occurred to me that the whole time our little interlude there had gone on, he'd been lit up like a firefly. Of course he's smitten with her, and she's beautiful...and...human. I guessed then I had been foolish to think that he had been in any way seriously attracted to me. And of course, I told myself that this was a good thing. Good for my relationship with Methhrammar and good for business. Good. Yes.

I smiled. "I'll...see you later, Magnos." And then I turned and walked out the door. When I was sure that I was clear from view, I ran as fast as I could out of the Farm and off of the campus grounds. The bell tolls told me that I had enough time to go home, change, and shred this damned dress before I had to head out to work for the evening.
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)
Sparkling blue eyes; lustrous black hair; pearlescent skin with tinges of blue around the tips of the nose and ears. Tordrin must be getting vain. He shared these features with the woman who caused Ralenthra to storm out of The Dancing Goat in what I believed to be a jealous (and drunken) huff.

"I guessh she cares more about him than she thinkssh," I grumbled into my strawberry ale after Ralenthra slipped out the door to do gods know what.

Moon elves all look pretty much the same, actually. Well, mostly. They are all supposed to have black, white or silver hair; eyes are typically green or blue and they all share a slightly bluish tinge to their extremities. I could never understand, therefore, why my hair was red and why I had a pinkish- violet tinge to my skin instead of blue. These are traits I share with my mother. I asked her, once, why we were different from the other moon elves. A ray of frost spell that hit me in the back of the neck was the only answer I got.

I was ten years old.

"Is someone going to explain what's going on?" Magnos shocked me out of my stupor.

Shooting him an exasperated look, I held up one hand and made a shape like an O. "Ralenthra," I said. Then, I took my other hand and curled all but my pointer finger into a fist. "Tordrin," I said. Finally, I took my pointer finger and inserted it into the hole my other hand made, over and over.

"I think I'm going to need a clearer demonstration," said Magnos, grinning. He turned to Essie, who had come to check on us. "More ale please, sweetheart." I scowled and made a more hostile gesture at him with my hand.

"And turkey leg for Kronk." piped up our half-orc companion. It was his second of the evening.

I tut-tutted at Magnos with one swaying finger. "Better watch out! Kronk might even out-eat you this time."

After more drinks arrived, Magnos patted me on the arm. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go kick his ass. Or better yet, go kick her ass. Just make sure to get yourselves wet while you're at it. Mmm...wet frocks."

My ale almost came out of my nose as I suppressed a giggle. "Are you kidding me? He'd kill me and then Ralenthra would get even more put out than she already is."

"Well, you're going to have to take a more subtle tack than your usual rush-in-with-sword-flashing thing," he said.

I gulped down the remainder of my ale and slammed the goblet back down to the table. "I can be subtle! " I exclaimed, maybe a little too loudly.

As I walked away from the table with alcohol-infused resolve, Magnos smacked me on the behind. I turned around. "Uh, that's the spirit!" he called out, raising his glass as if he was toasting me.

I was boldly striding towards Tordrin and his mystery woman when I was intercepted by Venye. Ariadne and Jaden struck up the band and began to sing a lively tune. He attempted to twirl me away from my desired destination. I was having none of it.

"Well hello, drow person!" I said as I wriggled out of his grasp and pushed my way past him. "Goodbye!"

I stopped when Tordrin was standing before me.

"Miss Nailo."

"Mr. Windweaver. Such a pleasure."

Tordrin bowed and extended his hand. I took his hand (See? Subtle.) and together we whirled across the dance floor. "Venye tells me that you have business of a personal nature that you'd like to discuss."

I smiled, but there was a dangerous edge to my voice when I heard myself speak. "You know why I'm here, Tordrin."

Tordrin blinked but continued to keep the pace. "Please, speak then, my lady."

Trying to maintain my composure despite my tipsiness was challenging. I managed to look him in the eye and step on his foot at the same time. But at least I was enunciating my words clearly. "I have spent much of my time since Shieldmeet trying to convince my dearessht friend that you love her." Well, mostly.

"Seledra-"

I tripped. "Don't interrupt me. Don't you dare. I've been trying to help her pick up the piecessh of her broken heart that you yourself shattered. Trying to convince her to trust you again. Which is hard, because she doesn't trust easily to begin with."

"She trusted you pretty quickly."

"Well, I wasn't trying to get into her bloomerssh from day one."

"Seledra!"

"What. Did. I. Say. Aboutinterruptingme!" To be honest, I was more worried about losing my train of thought than angry at his repeated attempts to get a word in edgewise. I felt a bit lightheaded, but I quickly composed myself and smiled sweetly for the benefit of those around us. "I like you, Tordrin. And I honestly believe that you have the best in mind for Ralenthra. That you care about her. But desshpite the fact that you two split merely days ago, here you are, getting cozy with another woman. And I will not have that."

"Seledra, I can explain-"

"How dare you."

"She's my sister."

I stumbled to a halt. At least two other couples bumped into us on the dance floor before Tordrin got us moving again. I grunted and smirked. "Your sister."

"Yes, my sister. Her name is Erdri. She's a wizard and she lives in Baldur's Gate."

I laughed, probably longer than was necessary. "You expect me to believe that? How stupid do you think I am?" But then I looked deeply into his face. As if he read my mind, he pointed to the mystery woman, who was watching us with no small amount of amusement and waving at me with a cheeky grin. I peered at her. Then I looked at Tordrin again.

And then I sobered up really quick.

"Oh!" I smacked my forehead.

Tordrin looked relieved as he led me off the dance floor. "You see it then? The resemblance?"

I sat down at the table with Tordrin and Erdri. "Yes. Yes I do. But Ralenthra will need even more time now. And I'm afraid she's going to do something stupid tonight."

Tordrin shook his head. "You won't always be there to stop her. She'll need to learn to curb her own impulses. Hopefully, she won't have to learn the hard way."

A new tune was struck up and just as Tordrin was about to formally introduce me to his sister I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Magnos, bowing. "May I?"

Erdri winked at me and I begrudgingly extended my hand to Magnos. I started to walk towards the the dance floor, but then stopped and turned back to face the tall moon elf my friend loves so.

"Oh, and Tordrin?"

"Seledra?"

"Don't hurt her again or not even Venye will be able to protect you from me." I grinned and waved.

He gulped but then his face softened. "I won't."

As Magnos and I joined the dance, he raised an eyebrow at me. "What was that all about?"

I shook my head. "You don't even want to know." After a few moments, I added, "Where is Kronk and why are we dancing?"

He tilted his head to the side. "Relax, princess. Kronk's on his third turkey leg and regaling Essie about our grand adventure. Besides, I figured that since you were making like the town doorknob, I may as well have a turn."

I frowned and rolled my eyes. "You're nauseating."
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: (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.

Profile

butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
Butterfly Sunrider

March 2016

S M T W T F S
  12 345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 01:52 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios