A/N: Sorry for such a long delay. Chaotic holidays, bronchitis, and writer's block were the culprits. But not to fear, here is an extra long chapter. Hope you enjoy it
Dark, snow laden clouds had hung over Targos since before dawn. In truth, most of the frozen north, from the Lonelywood, east to Icewind Pass, and across to the Western Pass, were completely enveloped within the snow storm. So it was that the sun had not been seen for several days, but although hidden from view, its setting in the west marked the close of day.
This particular evening found the town of Targos quiet and devoid of activity except for the torch-lighters, and several guards patrolling the parameter. Evidence of their passing was brief, as the heavily falling snow quickly filled in their boot prints. Torches sprang to life, one by one, fighting the increasing darkness. A bitterly cold wind had risen from off the lake, encouraging the torch-lighters and guards to quickly complete their tasks and seek shelter. It was a good evening to be fireside.
The company had been closeted with Lord Ulbrec for several hours, deciding the best course of action for Targos. After some sound counsel, the company had decided to accept the task that the commander asked of them. In a day, weather permitting, they would leave Targos heading southwest to retake Shaengarne Bridge from the goblinoids.
Now, in thanks and appreciation, Targo’s commander was honoring the company with as sumptuous a feast as could be had in all of the Ten Towns. Within the private wing of Lord Ulbrec’s quarters, lay a room meant as a quiet haven from the outside world and its demands. Adjoining the dinning hall, the snug room was richly appointed, warm and comfortable with a large stone fireplace, and ample, cozy seating. Numerous, colorful tapestries, depicting well known times in Faerun’s history, graced the walls. A well laid fire within the hearth, chased away the chill of the evening. Its heat beckoned, as did the goblets of wine, hard ciders, and tankards of golden ale, that had been set up on the side board.
It was here the company was asked to wait until the dinner hour. Their host had excused himself as soon as he had shown them to the private parlor, stating he had an urgent matter that demanded his immediate attention.
Left to their own devices, the party members drifted about the room. Dressed in new robes, of a dark, opalescent blue, Peony wandered about the room as gracefully as any noble lady. After several moments of indulging her innate curiosity for her surroundings, the rock gnome helped herself to a goblet of a light pear cider. Giggling softly as the effervescent bubbles hit her nose, she continued her exploration. A table set to the side of the room, caught her eye. It boasted a beautifully carved wooden game board. Several types of wood inlaid the board in a design of intertwining knots that resembled different animals. Atop the board were placed intricately carved pieces of white and red marble. Setting her goblet down, the petite mage, looked at the pattern in which the pieces were arranged. Clapping her hands in delight, Peony turned to ask, “Does anyone know how to play Tafl? Who will play a round with me?”
“Come little one, I will take your challenge. A hearty ale and a rousing game will lend itself well to the wait for dinner,” stated Nord. The tall man looked the part of a titled knight at his leisure, a quilted, dark brown gambeson, beneath a fine, silvery chainmail shirt, topped by a surcoat in the colors of the Radiant Heart. Costly in their prime, the clothing’s age was apparent, showing some signs of wear at cuff and hem. But with each article of clothing, there was also evidence of meticulous care. Playing the part of gallant knight, Nord pulled out the chair for Peony, and the two started their game.
Smiling at the knight’s gently teasing tone, Valeero made her way over to a bookcase at the rear of the room. Dressed this evening in the robes of a Cleric of Lathander, the young woman had a much softer appearance. In muted, multihued shades of golds, russet browns, and soft rose, her robes seemed to imbue the warm colors of the dawn. A medallion representing her order, was suspended on a chain around her neck. The delicate looking links fell to her chest, where lay the pale, golden disk. Several rays of the sun stretched heavenward, extending beyond the upper curve of the circle. Beneath the sun, the medallion depicted, rolling, green hills. Valeero absently fingered the necklace as she became absorbed in the numerous books before her. Gently her fingertips brushed their aged, leather spines, as she read the titles. Volumes on the history of various countries within Faerun were among them. Along with tomes on the different schools of magic, and healing.
A few steps away from the priestess, a very proud, but subdued Diriel, casually perused the books on herbal lore. In an attempt to genuinely honor the commander’s house, or at least, for Anariel’s sake, he had dressed in the robes of a druid. Visions of a deep, ancient forest came to mind at the rich, green color of his robes. The candlelight that fell across the herbal tome, also touched the tawny gold of his hair. Warrior braids on either side of his head, were well tended, bond in leather strips. As the elven druid turned yet another page, there came a whiff of lavender and rue. The scents were old and faded, yet their fragrant lingered, soaked into the very pages of the book. Diriel closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, his shoulders lowering in relaxation.
Walking near the opposite wall from the books, the dark elf was the picture of elven grace. For once, his handsome features were visible, his silver white hair plaited and cuffed in silver bands. Under the insistence of Anariel, who claimed it was a poor reflection on her, Rizdaer’s old clothing had been replaced with new fighting leathers. Black leather, lined in a soft lambs wool for warmth. Soft black fur edged the collar of the doublet. Pleased with the warmth that the new clothes provided, the drow was happier still with the numerous new sheaths, which had been purchased for his growing arsenal of throwing daggers. Even now, he had some ten daggers secreted about his person. For the first time in a long time, the drow felt a small measure of security.
At the moment, Rizdaer was looking over Lord Ulbrec’s favorite collection. Against this wall, there was a large display of centuries old weaponry, dating over several thousands of years. Bladed weapons mingled with weapons that were strung. Long bows and cross bows, shared space with everything from swords, and axes, to daggers, and halberds. Many of the finely crafted pieces had ancient scripts and pictographs decorating them. Rizdaer looked them over intently, mentally gaging each weapon, its weight, and best use. One rather ancient looking dagger looked to have a form of the drow language written upon the hilt. His mouth silently formed the words, wondering what magic, if any, remained.
Across the room, the fire snapped and popped, as a log fell from atop its perch. Sitting near the hearth, Anariel gazed into the flames, her thoughts lost in the past. She had been thinking of her past quite a bit lately, finding herself distracted at times. Perhaps it was all the inactivity. Surly it would be better once they were away and on the trail.
A soothing, warm voice startled her from her revere, “May I offer you some wine, my lady?” The Mulhorand sorcerer stood next to the settee. As was his wont, he was dressed in jewel toned robes. This evening, he had chosen a deep sapphire robe, with a long, blue, inner tunic, several shades lighter in color. Suspended from a black leather belt, were his wands, and an exotic looking dagger. Its long, curved blade following the flowing line of his robes. His shining, dark brown hair fell in gentle waves to his shoulders. Glancing up at the handsome aasimar, Anariel noticed that Jaemal was patiently holding out a goblet of fragrant wine to her. She accepted the wine and motioned for the sorcerer to take a seat near her, just as Valeero joined them. Jaemal looked over at the tome she carried with her, with interest. The dark leather book was bound in dark copper fittings, with pages edged in a golden gilt.
The sorcerer brushed his fingers gingerly across the tome, “What is it you have there Valeero?”
“It seems to be a history of the dales here about,” explained the cleric. Turning the preserved pages slowly, all three members of the company eagerly perused the book. Fine flowing script marked the passing history of the northern climes in concise detail. On several pages near the tome’s center, beautifully rendered maps covered numerous pages. Even though the trio studied the maps for technical reasons, their craftsmanship and artistry did not go by unappreciated.
Two quarters of an hour past when at last the doors to the dining room were opened. Within the graceful arch, Lord Ulbrec and his lady wife greeted the company. Pleasantries where traded by all present. Even the brooding druid, who conducted himself politely, with nearly faultless manners.
Still dressed in his robes of office, Lord Ulbrec coughed politely to gain everyones attention, “Now my friends, if I may, before we go in to dinner there are some things I must share with your leader.”
A small dramatic pause followed as their host faced Anariel, “Firstly, in thanks for having accepted this mission, my lady wife and I have selected some personal gifts for each of you. We hope these small tokens will help you in your struggles against the enemy. You will find these items awaiting your return to the Weeping Widow. Secondly, my Lady, I am pleased to inform you that I have had messages from your father, Lord Ni ‘Tessine. Better still the messages were delivered by his envoy. A fine man, and by his own words, one special and known to you.” Targo’s commander smiled broadly at the elven maid, his arm encircling his wife’s shoulders.
Lady Elytharra, gowned in a rich dark topaz brocade, smiled at her husband before also addressing Anariel, “He is to return shortly from the inn. I fear we were unable to house him and his escort here at this time. But Butterman promised some of his best rooms for your friend.”
Suddenly anxious about seeing someone from home, Anariel smoothed her braid, and tugged on her newly purchased clothes. With her fighting leathers ruined by the worg, she had been left only her gown to wear. Not wishing to wear the garment in the snow storm, the elf had opted for a pair of youth’s black leather breeches, topped by a russet colored shirt of softest wool, and a black leather jerkin. The clothes were warm, but hung on her slender frame.
Anariel drew in a deep breath to settle her sudden nervousness. Messages from her father were bad enough, but who is it that delivered them? Lady Ulbrec said the person claimed to be someone special?
There were only two people that her heart held as special; one was beyond the veil, and the other, her youngest brother, would not have been permitted to travel north to see her. Unless, a thought then occurred to Anariel, could her father’s retainer have made the journey?
Kethlon had long been with the family and was more like a trusted family member than a retainer. But would he have claimed to be special to her? Doubt clawed at her insides. Cinching her belt tighter, the maid straightened her shoulders, head held high.
Voices could be heard in the hall. Anariel smiled at the thought of seeing Kethlon. Chewing her lower lip, she wondered if he had brought news of her brothers and sisters.
Then a tall figure stepped into the room, his dark, hooded cloak obscuring his face. The man tugged off his fur trimmed gloves, revealing not the hands of a servant, but rather, the long tapering, manicured fingers of a noble.
“Kethlon?”inquired Anariel, hesitantly, for the figure was too tall. The hands too refined.
Swirling his full, furred cloak in a graceful arc, before capturing it with his arm, the tall figure bowed before those present. He then faced Anariel alone, before bowing again. He rose to his full height, resplendent in a plum colored doublet of a rich velvet. He smiled warmly at her, “Mae govannen Anariel Peranwyr, nae saian luume,” said Ruach D’irthaear in greeting. Placing his right hand over his heart, he continued,“Cormamin lindua ele lle.”
Anariel froze upon seeing the man before her. As the smile faded, and the words of welcome stuck in her throat, the nearly healed wounds from the worg’s claws became more pronounced, against the pallor of her skin.
The smooth, cultured voice from her past, spread a chill though her blood as no goblin or worg could. Her hand instinctively went to her back, to draw her dagger, but propriety and awareness of others stayed her hand. In a voice something like a strangled growl, she whispered, “You.”
Turning from her shocked expression, the golden elf politely greeted all those remaining, “Please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Ni’Tessine’s Emissary, Ruach D’irthaear.”
His manner was charming, and his etiquette, exact. Tall, handsome, with pale grey eyes, and shoulder length hair, the color of darkened honey, the elf drew everyone in with the warmth of his smile, “I bring tidings from Luskan and Neverwinter.”
What followed was a flurry of polite gestures and words of greeting, as Lord and Lady Ulbrec led their guests into the dinning room. Somehow, Anariel found herself on Ruach’s arm, being escorted toward the dining hall. She fought the strong desire to snatch her hand from Ruach’s arm.
The golden elf leaned his head down toward the maid, “So lirimaer, how do you fair in these northern climes?” Pausing a moment, Ruach glanced down Anariel’s form. “Tell me, has being in this desolate wasteland done away with your sense of decorum? As a paladin’s daughter, you should attire yourself as befits your family.”
Realizing that Lord Ulbrec and his lady wife were right behind them, Anariel thought better of her retort. Nearing the curtained archway to the dining hall, she answered, “I and my company are fairing well, thank-you. As to my, choice of attire, well, even though it is all the rage with the goblins we have been entertaining, I will be sure to pass along your suggestions to my dresser.”
Her smile openly counterfeit, her curtsy exaggerated, she moved away from the elf lord before she gave into the temptation to garrote him with the drapery cording.
Lady Elytharra took charge once everyone had gathered in the dining room. With the ease of an experienced hostess, she saw that everyone sat in their assigned seats. A grave error was discovered when all were seated and Rizdaer was left without a place at the table. Unruffled by the slight, the dark elf stood aloof and quiet, to the side, and behind Anariel’s chair. Anger warmed the elven maid as she looked at their hosts in askance. Targos’ commander flushed in discomfort at her direct stare. In truth, he wanted for all the world to just send the drow to the kitchens, or better yet, back to the inn.
Seeing this as a slight to his own elven heritage, Diriel also rose from his seat and looked to the commander, a thinly veiled look of disgust on his handsome elven face. Adding to the company’s solidarity, Valeero and Jaemal quickly rose to their feet. Then, as Peony made to rise to her feet, a delicate cough came from Lady Elytharra, prompting her husband to call for another place setting. The wordless battle won, room was made for Rizdaer, and the party members resumed their seats.
A polite stream of conversation was initiated by Lord and Lady Ulbrec, who sat at either end of the table, as was their due. Lord Nord sat to the elven sorceress’ right, while Valeero sat at her left. As fate would have it, Anariel was placed in the middle of the table to one side, while Ruach was seated directly across from her. Rizdaer was seated to her right, while Jaemal sat to her left. As soon as everyone took their seats, a wonderful jewel colored wine was served.
As the first course was served, Ruach told of how he, and his men had found themselves tramping cross country in the blinding snow from the mouth of the Shaengarne River northward to reach Targos. “Now I may say that I have traveled as far north as I have southward. But enough of me, shall I give you news from the southlands?”
All at once several names of faraway places were called out to the elven lord. Smiling, he then gladly gave news about the lands to the south of the dales. He touched on matters as far south as Amn with the recent trading skirmishes between Athkatla and Calimport. Then there was the recent marriage of the daughter of Neverwinter’s leader. He was charmingly polite with Peony’s queries about Silverymoon and laughed as she related one of her shorter stories.
Sipping his wine, he turned toward Valeero, as she asked about the promised troops from Neverwinter. As practiced as any statesman, he gracefully parried Valeero’s questions, side-stepping a definite answer without alienating the Lathander cleric.
From her end of the table Lady Elytharra interjected, “My, I am sure you have proven your worth to Lord Ni’Tessine many times over. My lord husband mentioned that you were formally the paladin’s Field Marshal, and yet you are so very polished and such a poised speaker. Have you considered following in your patron’s footsteps and becoming a diplomat?”
“Madame, you honor me with you flattery,” replied Ruach in a humble manner.
“Oh, but I only speak the truth,” simpered Lady Ulbrec. Turning her attention to Anariel, she continued, “Surely you and your father must often count this young elven lord, a blessing. What with his many skills, and experiences as a soldier, and diplomacy, like so many gem stones in a crown.”
Anariel once thought of Ruach as everything the Lady Ulbrec suggested, and more. To her undying shame, she remembered how she once believed that she loved this man. Then one fateful night, she learned the truth. Like honey on a thistle, her reply came in a sweet, yet barbed voice, “Oh yes, Master D’irthaear has always been known for his swordplay, his silver tongue, and his stones.”
Finding her sarcasm amusing, Ruach smiled, “As you have experienced in the past, my lirimaer.” When the object of his innuendo flushed, the golden elf felt certain that he still had a hold on her.
Unaware of the many underlying currents, Sir Nord commented from the other end of the table, “So then sir, given your military training, I have a few questions for you about what can be done here at the palisades.”
Ruach artfully directed the conversation about Targos’ battles, allowing for the soldiers to dominate the conversation, as he sipped wine at his ease. Lord Ulbrec and Lord Nord filled the golden elf in on all that had happened in the last sennight with the goblin hordes and the attack on the palisades.
“As soon as we arrived we happened upon a secret tunnel where the buggers were infiltrating the docks,” explained Wind. The knight continued the tale through the day of the latest attack on the palisades. Ruach’s smile grew tight when he heard of how Anariel had led many of the skirmishes against the goblins. A furrow of concern creased his brow when he learned she had become pinned down by the worg.
Facing the dark haired elf, Ruach addressed her, his tone taking on a gentle, concerned quality, “I wondered at the marks on your face and neck. I fear Anariel, that this will distress your lady mother most grievously,” he sighed heavily.
“Your concern is touching but unnecessary, and you need not tell my mother any of that particular tale,” came Anariel’s terse reply. Softly, with regret, she added, “I have no wish to worry her.”
“Your actions,” Ruach said with a pause. “Your actions grieve her. In truth, it was she who begged me to take the assignment to come to you. The sweet woman fears so for you so, and only wishes for her dear child to return home.” There was a slight pause and then, “My sister Naerwen also sends her wishes for your return home.”
Silent, a pale Anariel drained her wine.
Shaking his head, he tried to hold Anariel’s gaze, “I remember, even as a child you always did insist on playing at sword fighting.” One golden brow arched, the smooth voice taking on an edge, “You are no longer a child Anariel, and one of these days, you will find yourself on the wrong end of the the blade, with no one to rescue you.”
As the paladin’s emissary continued his attempt to stare Anariel into submission, Rizdaer leaned closer to the maid, his voice laced with contempt toward the golden elf, “How long has he known you?”
Anger washed across Ruach’s golden features, especially as Anariel flashed a radiant smile to the drow. Choosing to ignore the dark elf, he continued,“Would that you had chosen to remain home where you are most needed, lirimaer. You know it would be best to leave this fight to the men.” Glancing around the table, as if for added support, the former field Marshall found the men quiet, while he himself was under the keen scrutiny of four sets of feminine eyes, none of them pleased. Laughing gently, he quickly added, “Please, do not misunderstand me. I admire the deep, quiet strength of the fairer gender. My ladies, I but voice the concern of all decent men for your safety and well being. It is in the male’s nature to shield females from all manner of evil.”
“I take it you have never met a drow female,” quipped Rizdaer.
Cold, pale grey eyes glowered at the drow, but Ruach continued to pointedly ignored the dark elf’s remark. Glancing over at Diriel instead, he asked, “Tell me Master Druid, from where do you hail?”
Diriel’s reply was ambiguous, if not a little abrupt, “Far to the south.” It was unclear if his bored tone was due to having to endure the celebration, or if he disliked the newcomer. Either way, he continued with his meal in silence, resisting all attempts from either his host or hostess to be drawn out in conversation.
“Ah, the far south. I see, how mysterious of you,” replied Ruach lightly. The golden elf’s smile did not reach his eyes. Lady Elytharra gracefully filled in the silence with polite small talk as the next course was being served. He noticed that Anariel had not eaten much from the first course, and was yet again, receiving another goblet of wine.
“Anariel, should you be drinking so much. You of all people know the trouble it leads to,”cajoled Ruach gently, as if speaking to a child. “I will ask you to please refrain,” he continued as he reached across the table to place a hand on hers.
Jaemal heard the slight hiss from under Anariel’s breath as her father’s envoy touched her hand. Jerking her hand away as if burned, the wine sloshed in her goblet, threatening to spill. In a quiet, controlled voice, Anariel spoke simply, “Unless your intent is to wear my wine, touch me not again.”
Jaemal shifted slightly, in his mind, the tension in the air nearly crackled as if magic had been cast. In an attempt to distract the golden elf, who was showing marked signs of a scowl, the sorcerer asked, “From whence do you hail Master D’irthaear?”
“I have lived for a time in many places. I lived for a short time in Shadowdale, Waterdeep, and Luskan, but most recently, Neverwinter.”
“Ahhh, a most pleasant city. Filled with such diversity and yet also brimming with culture. Although I must admit, the city of Waterdeep quite won my heart,” Pausing to lift his goblet, the sorcerer intercepted a whisper of a smile, in gratitude, from Anariel. “Tell me sir, if I am may, just what is it you do as the emissary of a paladin? Does it require much traveling?” Warming to a favorite topic, Ruach told of his duties and responsibilities.
An additional course was added to the present one, and still Anariel had eaten very little. Having learned over the last sennight of her partiality for coney, Rizdaer set several small, choice pieces of rabbit on her plate from his. He leaned down towards the elven maid, and spoke quietly, for her ears alone. In a gentle voice laced with a light mixture of humor, and concern, he said, “Eat mistress. If only to have strength to thrash the bastard within an inch of his life.”
Having imbibed a little too much wine, Anariel snicker softly at the drow’s words. Feeling the disapproving gaze of her father’s envoy upon her, she turned her attention to her food and thoughtfully brought a piece of meat to her mouth, but it was thoughts of Ruach that she chewed upon. Looking directly at him, she asked, “Master D’irthaear, when did my lord father name you his emissary?
“Why address me so formally dearest sister?” asked Ruach. Upon seeing the undisguised anger in her eyes, he smiled, “Ah lirimaer, your father deemed me worthy, and gave me the honor over a fortnight ago.”
“I am no more your sister, than you have honor,” growled Anariel.
“You forget yourself Anariel Peranwyr. As always you need to learn respect and to curb your tongue,” warned Ruach quietly. “It is these tendencies that led to your elder brother’s death and my sister’s undying grief.”
A few heartbeats passed in silence as grey and green eyes warred. Despite her anger at the elf before her, Anariel felt the ever familiar tendrils of guilt, twist and coil about her heart. She reached for more wine.
Tension filled the growing silence. To cover the discomfort, Valeero politely asked what she thought was a safe question, “I am confused Anar. I thought you said your brothers were younger than yourself.”
“Well, they are, but-”
Without his usual politeness, Ruach spoke over Anariel, “Well I am sure that most of you are aware Anariel’s twin, Lavir. Before he was tragically killed nearly two years ago, he was betrothed to my sister, Naerwen. ‘Twas he that was the eldest. So, you are right priestess, Anariel’s surviving brothers and sisters are all younger.”
The golden elf sipped from his wine goblet, before continuing, “I but call Anariel my sister because, well, aside from knowing her since she was a youth, she is also my younger brother, Sian’s intended. Once they are wed, we shall all be as family,” A slight pause then, “as it should have been.”
Ignoring the stab of guilt, Anariel exclaimed, “Married?” A bark of a laugh nearly choked Anariel,“What illness has affected both you and your brother that you talk of marriage to me?”
A smug smile crossed Ruach’s face,“Ahhh, my lirimaer, you must not be so hard on yourself, using sarcasm to deflect the pain. Given your past mistakes, you should be honored that Sian still wishes to wed you.” He chuckled briefly, “He will not be please with me telling you this, but, when you left, he became so distraught that he settled an agreement straight away with your father.”
Reading the elven maid’s face rightly, Ruach saw the anger building, and set himself to quench it with more guilt. “You must know that Naerwen has forgiven you your part in Lavir’s death, and welcomes you into our family. As do we all. Anariel, it is your father’s wish for the joining of our houses. His letter to you will explain more.”
Self doubt and guilt warred with the desire to scrape the smug smile off Ruach’s face with her dagger. Or better yet, her spoon. But was something of what he said not true? In her selfishness, had she not slain her brother? She shuddered inwardly as she remembered the inconsolable Naerwen, consumed by grief. Remaining trapped in her misgivings, Anariel drained yet another goblet.
Watching her closely, Ruach smiled contentedly. There was a slight tremble in her hands, and the tumult of emotions he saw behind her eyes pleased him. He felt certain that he could, in time, break her willfulness. The golden elf considered telling Anariel he was under direct instructions from her father to bring her back, willing or no, but decided to wait until they returned to the inn. It may not be wise to speak of taking Anariel back to her father when Lord Ulbrec believed her to be delivering Targos from the goblins.
Glancing back at Anariel, he noticed her openly hostile glare. He smiled.
“Ah, here is our last course,” announced Lady Elytharra. The elven sorceress made a last effort with small talk as dessert was served. Anariel declined the delicacy and accepted another goblet of wine instead.
Stung by her apparent disregard for his earlier warning, Ruach grabbed hold of Anariel’s wine goblet, “You forget yourself Anariel. I asked you to refrain from drinking any more wine.”
A dangerous glitter flitted in Anariel’s eyes, belying her contrite words, “You are so right . . . here, take it from me.” With a quick turn of her wrist, the wine splashed the golden elf’s brocade doublet.”
“Oops . . .”
A split second of silence was followed by muffled snickers. Hiding behind strategically placed hands, those present were beset by the unmitigated nerve to laugh. All though not joining the mirth, Diriel gave the elven maid a small smile, and a nod of approval.
Even Lord and Lady Ulbrec seemed to be having difficulty keeping a straight face, “Oh dear, poor man, mi’lord, accidents will happen. Would you care for a cloth?”
Taking the proffered cloth from Lady Elytharra, Ruach dabbed at his face and clothes. Glaring pointedly at Anariel, he sighed wearily, disapproval and censure heavy in his voice, “I had hoped that you would have stop behaving like a child. But I see Sian will have his work cut out for him.”
“Cretok shu,” growled Anariel as she hiccuped loudly. Fortunately for her, no present knew what she had said, except for Rizdaer.
As it was, the dark elf nearly choked on his wine as he laughed out loud. Only today his mistress had asked him to teach her some of the more choice drow phrases. This one had been one of the easier ones to learn. The simplest, most direct translations was, orc shit.
Some of the golden elf’s mask cracked at the edges, as his cold eyes glittered dangerously. Although he did not understand drow, Ruach was a smart enough to know he was being disrespected. Anariel needed to be put in her place, and if Sian could not handle the task, then he would gladly tame her.
As for the drow, well, it rankled his sense of personal honor to be laughed at, particularly by someone as inferior as the dark elf. Before he left Targos, the golden elf promised himself the pleasure of killing the drow. That thought brought a genuine smile to his handsome face.
Finally, the meal came to an end. Leading the way to the main hall, the hosts saw that everyone was properly cloaked and bundled up against the frigid weather out of doors. Several guards were to lead the company, carrying lamps suspended on poles. As they gathered at the door to leave, it was determined that Ruach would follow them back to the inn shortly, as he had military dispatches from Neverwinter to deliver personally to Lord Ulbrec.
Rizdaer and Anariel were some of the last to depart. Unobserved by anyone, the drow glanced back across at Ruach. The golden elf was watching Anariel as she was fumbling with her cloak. Rizdaer had seen that look often in the eyes of his people, one of ruthlessness, and secret hatred. Oh yes, surface dwellers were no better than drow.
As the company made its way to the inn, the snow continued to fall, thick, wet, and heavy. Two soldiers lead the small troupe, their lanterns swinging wildly in the cold, bitter wind.
Placing himself behind the soldiers, Diriel took up the lead to guide the little band onward. Nord, after adjusting his cloak’s furred collar, reached down, and deftly picked up the rock gnome. With a chuckle, he set Peony on Jaemal’s back. The knight then proffered his arm to the cleric as they trudged forward. Anariel closely followed, Rizdaer trailing just behind her. The wind howled.
What seemed like an hour pasted by as the party made their way to the inn. Struggling at the rear of the party, Anariel found the wind to be a mighty adversary. As it tried to knock her down, or push her over the cliff, she fought to stay upright and walk forward. Her weaving steps did little to aid her against the wind and icy terrain. Hampered by too much wine, wind, and exhaustion, she continued to lag further, and further behind her companions.
Rizdaer watched Anariel as she continued to struggle. He knew it was inevitable that she would trip, fall, or slip. She was often times clumsy when sober, he shook his head at the thought of her inebriated. So it was that Rizdaer had wisely kept several paces behind the elven maid.
Finally, her ungainly steps got the better of her. Stumbling, slipping on the frozen ground, her arms flailing like pinwheels. Pulling up short, her back came into solid contact with the hard, unyielding surface of the drow’s chest. A strong, leather clad arm wrapped about her waist, and held her securely against him. Lowering his head, Rizdaer spoke into elven maid’s ear. Laced with a touch of gentle sarcasm, he said,“Careful my graceful jabbress. Come, let us get you inside where you will be safe.”
“Safe,” Anariel parroted, her speech slightly impaired. She shivered from the chill wind, and snuggled closer to the drow. Rizdaer kept an arm around her waist, tucking her even closer to his side, as they continued to walk toward the inn. It made her feel secure, and oddly comforted. A scattered thought took root in her brain. With the help of the wine, it made her laugh out loud, “How odd.”
“What is odd, my mistress?” A small smirk teased his mouth as he listened to her slurred words.
“You are illl . . . ilythiiri, a drow,” replied Anariel.
“This should come as no surprise to you mistress, and yet you find it, odd?” queried the dark elf.
“No, no, no, you have it all wrong, how do you say it? My friend? Ussta abbil?” Pausing, she patted Rizdaer’s arm that looped about her waist, “I will explain. You sssee, you are from a people known for their cruelty and evil ways. It is odd that I feel ssafer with you, a warrior of the drow, than one of my own. Why are people so blind? They see you as evil, all dark, but he is the one, the golden one. They see only that he is tall, handsome, and charming, but he iss the evil one.”
Anariel stopped suddenly, forcing Rizdaer to do the same. Looking up at the drow she said, clearly, seriously “Sleep with your weapons close, Riz.”
“I always do mistress, I always do,” came the soft reply.
Next Chapter to Follow Shortly (I hope;)
Saesa omentien lle = Pleasure meeting you
Mae govannen Nae saian luume’ =Well met, it has been too long
Cormamin lindua ele lle = My heart sings to see thee
lirimaer = lovely one
kyone, ussta suliss’urn jabbress = careful my graceful mistress
cretok shu = orc shit