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: (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)
I woke up in the middle of the night. It was just as well that Methrammar had gone back to his own quarters because I had work to do. I ritually bathed, dressed in my druid's robes and, after descending to the forest floor, chose a tree whose dryad I would serve for the next day. Usually this day-long ritual consists of small tasks done for the dryad (or treant, where applicable) and most dryads I have served during my years have been pretty low maintenance. Of course, I'd never tried to combine a Song of Trees ritual with a wedding before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

"Again?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

"Whatever do you mean?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Dwarves?"

"Um, I don't think so."

"Gnomes?"

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

"Halflings?"

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

"Well what then? Tief-"

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

I stuck my tongue out at her.

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

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

"Cradle robber."

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

"Ew. Oh, that was uncalled for!"

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

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

"I don't remember."

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

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

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

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

After hugging me, she scampered off to find Pan. I flopped down on my bed. The interrogations would continue until morale improves. I can't wait.
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
The sun had yet to crack the sky, but I awoke from my trance with a start. Something in the air. Something ill, something out of balance. Something that did not belong and I could literally smell it...

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

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

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

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

I heard a rustle just outside the window.

"Something tells me she's already awake."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who?" I asked.

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

By the Nine Hells.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh. Dear. Mielikki.

Thwping! went Isioleth's bow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We've taken down half of the infantry, but Urgurth and his personal guard still stand," she replied softly. Her voice was soft like desert sand and her eyes glittered like a pasha's favorite diamond. As she dressed my wounds, I blurted out, "You are as kind as you are beautiful. I can see why Jaden is so in love with you." My eyes widened as I realized what I had said but she smiled dismissively, saying, "That’s quite a blow to the head you took out there. Rest now, dear." I shrugged; puzzled both by her complete nonreaction and the surety of my conviction in something I could know nothing about. At the same time I was so sure that what I had just said was true. I opened my mouth to apologize, but I could see she was distracted by something. I looked in the direction in which she was staring but saw nothing, as I blacked out...
butterfly_sunrider: (Default)
All this secretiveness can be exhausting for me sometimes, which is just one of the reasons I could never be a Harper. Don't get me wrong, I admire them and believe in their work, but sometimes it's enough of a challenge to remember all the codes I've learned for my dealings with Ralenthra in the short time that I've known her.

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

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

She looked up at me with a wide grin.

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

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

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

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

"Where are these from?"

"The shopkeeper said they were from Shou."

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

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

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

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

"Good point."

"And you?"

"I met a very nice gentleman..."

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

"Listen, it was only the one time -"

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

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

I narrowed my eyes at her and she looked away.

"You did, didn't you?"

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

"It was put on my tab, Ralenthra."

She squirmed a little.

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

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

Ralenthra looked remorseful for a moment and nodded.

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

"How disappointing."

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

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

So it was a rather quiet evening. We have a big day tomorrow.

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Butterfly Sunrider

March 2016

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