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Seledra3

Shieldmeet, 1372 - Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. "Fair enough."

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

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

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

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

~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Buy one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I've got ten gold on Kronk."

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

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

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

"You're stalling."

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

Ralenthra grinned. "You're on!"

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

"Four?!" exclaimed Ralenthtra.

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

After coins and goods were exchanged, the brunt of the burden was placed on the guards and we walked home in the softly fading dusk light.

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