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October 25th, 2011


22 Eleasis 1372 - Midday

I'd been a busy little bee for the past fortnight or so. With many of the druids taking their vacations, there had been a lot of hours to cover at work. The dance Ralenthra was teaching me had kept me occupied for a few evenings as of late. It was time for some harvesting and canning of the fruits and vegetables from my garden. There were, of course, intermittent visits from Methrammar. Finally, I kept myself especially busy thinking of reasons why not to give Magnos that amulet yet:

I'm sure he has a lot of studying to catch up on. And he's probably busy bragging to everyone in earshot about what an amazing job he did during his first assignment. And there are girls, I'm sure, or one, I don't know, that he's wanting to...see. Friends to converse with. New languages to learn. New robes to buy. Halflings to hit on. Suckers to swindle. Besides, maybe I should get this thing polished and appraised, in case he doesn't like it and I have to sell it. And...I don't have anything to wear. Not that I care what I look like when I see him, but when I go out, I want to look presentable, don't I? And my hair is a little flat on this side. Oops, I broke a nail! That just won't do. Is that a dark cloud in the sky? Looks like rain. Besides, he may not even want to see me. And I might not necessarily want to see him, so there! Of course, when I was at the Goat the other night, I looked for him, but that was just so I could avoid him. Yes.

One of the druids that worked the evening shift was sick, so I agreed to cover for her. Not having to report for work till the toll of three, I spent the earlier part of the morning lolling about in bed reading one of my older books, Delilah's Delights #43: The Half-Elven Highwayman. In fact, I had not read that particular tome since I was barely more than a child. Not since I first met Aelthas. I had to give him some credit. It took him two years to break my heart. But then again, maybe he just hadn't the opportunity before then.

Despite the fact that I was 100 years old at the time, there was a certain amount of inequity in the relationship. I looked...mostly mature, but the relationship between Aelthas and I resembled something like a human girl of 13 being courted by a human boy of 18. A handsome, brilliant and charismatic boy of 18. I was starstruck.

Two years. Two years of picnics, stargazing, and dinners and dancing at Helmer's Wall, the Stagstand, and the newly-opened Sorlar's Smiling Satyr...

I pointed up to the sky. "Look, Aelthas! It's Angharradh! Isn't she beautiful?"

Aelthas grinned and poked me on the tip of my nose, "No, you silly little fool! That's Valessea."

Father would have been so upset had he known that I had made such a mistake. Angharradh is especially sacred to moon elves. I frowned. "But I thought..."

Aelthas threw back his head and laughed. "I'm just kidding you, sweetheart. She's both! Come here." Aelthas tangled his hand in my hair and drew my lips to his. After we parted, he produced a pair of shears from his pack. "May I?"

I was genuinely puzzled. "May you what?"

Aelthas' countenance softened. He whispered tenderly, "May I have a lock of your hair, Seledra?"

I blushed furiously. "Aelthas...I've never had my hair cut in my life! I'm not supposed to cut it until..."

"Until your 120th birthday, I know. It's just that..." Aelthas ran his fingers through his hair. "...it's such a long ways off! I'll be an old man by then. Maybe you'll have forgotten me." He pouted. I could never resist that pout.

"You will never be an old man, Aelthas. I know you. You'll be a great wizard someday..."

"I am a great wizard!" he remarked incredulously.

I continued despite his interruption. "...and you'll use the Wish spell to remain as young and handsome as you are now." I lowered my eyes. "Besides, I could never forget you, Aelthas. I love you so!"

Aelthas lifted my chin and looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. "Ha! If you love me, you'll let me have a lock of your hair."

I bit my lip nervously and blinked. "Will it hurt?"

Aelthas caressed my cheek and smiled. "I'll be gentle, sweetheart. I promise." And with a snip, off came a small curl.

I didn't feel a thing, but I had to be sure. "Is there...blood?" I squeaked.

Aelthas laughed. "Oh gods! There's red everywhere!" And then he mussed my hair before kissing me again.


I had truly loved him, hadn't I? And I thought that maybe he loved me too. A scant few days before he betrayed me, he even introduced me to his parents. Perhaps he thought I would have forgiven him. And he certainly didn't see my mother's act of vengeance coming.

It was because of Aelthas' betrayal that I spent nearly the next 20 years studiously avoiding men like him. Brilliant, charming, and talented humans were off the menu. And so was anyone looking for a commitment, which left many of the elven boys in Amalith rather put out. Of course, there was a ranger or two that would be gone for weeks, even months at a time that I found...comfort with when they passed through our village, but for the most part, I followed the advice Tathshandra gave me the day I left Silverymoon to train with my aunt: Don't shit where you eat.

Aelthas was my first male lover, and of course I will never forget him if for that sole reason. To give credit where credit was due, though, he was quite good. The second? A wood elf ranger who could have used a bath. Six was on the Midwinter holiday while everyone else was celebrating on the ground below. Eight...Fodoric the gnomish bard. Oh, the giggling. Nine was up in a tree. Not smart, as we fell out of said tree. I twisted my ankle, he broke his wrist. Ten was a sweet half-elf out of Waterdeep. He liked to be tied up. Twelve through seventeen were some of the boys from the village. I only said I'd followed Tathshandra's advice for the most part. Eighteen was very nearly a heartbreaker. Twenty-one...was a dwarf. Twenty-two I think I wore out. He actually fell asleep. That was on a trip to Everlund. Twenty-three and twenty-four? Twins. At the same time. On my birthday. Twenty-seven was a bad call. I very nearly took a vow of chastity after that one. Twenty-eight, Duglan, an old school friend, changed my mind. Thirty and thirty-one were at the Greengrass Festival this year, before I met Ralenthra. Thirty-two was...lovely, delicious, wonderful. And finally there was Methrammar, making it 33.

Nearly twenty years I spent trying to wash Aelthas off of me with the touches of other men. But no matter what, like a madwoman, I kept feeling him everywhere.

But it occurred to me as I looked back on those days this morning that I no longer felt my heart ache for Aelthas. Perhaps it had been some time since it had. And maybe I was just using the hurt he had caused me as an excuse to not, as Ling put it, "follow my heart."

I checked the gnomish timepiece that sat on top of the bookcase behind my bed. It was about to chime the hour before midday. There was plenty of time to get ready, get to the Conclave, do what I needed to do and get back home in time to leave for work. Splendid!

I needed that hour. I spent half of it in front of my closet stark naked trying to find the right ensemble for the occasion. I didn't think my new cheongsams from Shou Lung would be appropriate under the circumstances. Green? You wear green all the time! The white dress with cherry blossoms embroidered on it? So last season. What is this purple shimmery thing doing in here? Is that Mother's? Goodness, that's low cut! Hmm. I need a bit more coverage than that, I think.

Finally, I chose a strapless, filmy, petal pink frock that clung to my every curve, yet was light and loose enough to flutter in the wind.

I bathed, put my hair up, dressed (with matching slippers, purse, and white parasol of course), slipped the ruby amulet into my purse and headed out the door towards the Conclave.

22 Eleasis 1372 - Afternoon

It had been almost twenty years since I last set foot on the Conclave campus grounds, not counting the occasional concert I attended at Fochlucan, which stood on the very eastern edge of campus. I stood in the center square, next to the huge Lurue Fountain, turning in circles while I twirled my parasol in the opposite direction.

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

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

Aelthas opened the door.

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

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

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

Oh dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, before that."

"Duglan was in love with you."


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I rolled my eyes. "Wonderful."

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

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

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

Magnos was near, and approaching fast.

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

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

Sune's tits!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susan opened up her purse.

Oh no you don't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled. "I'll...see you later, Magnos." And then I turned and walked out the door. When I was sure that I was clear from view, I ran as fast as I could out of the Farm and off of the campus grounds. The bell tolls told me that I had enough time to go home, change, and shred this damned dress before I had to head out to work for the evening.

22 Eleasis 1372 - Night

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23 Eleasis 1372 - Morning

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25 Eleasis 1372

“Seledra. You are Tel'Quessir, and you are my A’Sum. Nothing else matters.” It was winter, 1262. I had begun to notice that I was different from the other elven children. My mother sat at her writing desk poring over menus by wandlight, trying to decide what meal she would try to pass off as her own cooking this night.

“But O’Si, the others call me a mongrel. When we play Sun versus Moon, both sides push me away, say I’m not one of them.”

My mother’s violet eyes flickered cold for a moment before she returned to her menus. “Seledra, you are better than those common chaff moon elves and those snot-nosed sun elves...”

“But O’Si...isn’t O’Su a moon elf?”

Mother’s mouth spread into a chilly smile. I shuddered. “Why yes. He is. And perhaps it is something that your father should remember more often about his people. If a hundred, a thousand of them were to die, it would be of little concern to anyone but themselves. Like vermin they are. Common. And unremarkable.”

My face fell. No matter how much I hoped for the contrary, I knew I was my father’s daughter and not the product of my mother’s forbidden passions with someone who had warm blood in their veins. What must she think of me then? “But O’Si, doesn’t that make me...”

“No! Your father may be common, but you are MINE. MINE, MINE, MINE!!!” With a great flourish of my mother’s arm, the menus flew to the floor. Mother was standing now, breathing heavily, teeth gritted and tugging her hair for a few moments until finally, after seemingly having regained her composure, she began to use Prestidigitation to move the scattered menus back onto her desk. My mother was not, after all, one for manual labor if she could possibly help it.

I thought the danger had passed. “So...if O’Su is common and unremarkable, and I, as your daughter, am not, then what are you?”

“I don’t wish to talk about it, Seledra. It doesn’t matter anyway.” She sounded resigned, perhaps a little sad or wistful. But if I had listened just a little closer...

My curiosity got the better of me. “What are we, O’Si? I want to know!” But I was young. I didn’t know any better. The look on my mother’s face made me run towards the stairs that led to my bedroom. But I was unable to outrun my mother’s rage, or her Ray of Frost spell.


“Aren’t you going to visit your Mother today?” Ralenthra was gazing at the calendar I had hanging up on my kitchen wall. I was sitting at the dining room table examining the various takeaway menus in my possession, stopping every once in a while to scour my Druid handbook for information about curses and how they can be reversed for Aelthas. “It’s her birthday,” she continued. “Isn’t that what you...er...people who know where their mothers are do?”

“I sent her a gift.” I said nonchalantly.

I didn’t have to look up to know that Ralenthra raised an eyebrow at me.

“It’s a nice gift.” I countered to her silence. “I can’t visit her. I’m busy. I’m sure she understands.”

Ralenthra hoisted herself up on to the counter, plucked an apple from the fruit bowl beside her and took a generous bite. “You have the day off.”

I slowly looked up from my papers. “I’m planning our meals for the week, trying to find a way to reverse Mother’s curse on Aelthas, and I have to practice the dance for your upcoming ritual. Also? I just don’t...want to deal with her madness today.”

Ralenthra crunched her apple thoughtfully. “Understood,” she said, after swallowing. But something caught her eye. “Is that...is that Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs I see hidden under the Seven Little Fortunes menu?”

I grimaced in embarrassment but confessed, all the same. “It’s the first volume, yes.”


“He’s a bit of an odd sort. He talks about events he could not have possibly witnessed and of course, everyone else being evil but him makes any information that came from anyone else instantly unreliable. He’s narcissistic, vain, whiny, self-absorbed-”

“Wait, shouldn’t you like him then?” Ralenthra grinned.

I rolled my eyes and continued.“Shut up. He’s a got a creepy idea that his sisters all want to sleep with him...”

Ralenthra took another bite of her apple. “Typical.”

I made a face. “Really?”


“Ew. Anyway, I want to like him. Because he’s good and all, you know, fighting the good fight. But...he makes it rather difficult. In fact, he’s kind of insufferable.”

“And yet?”

I cover my face in my hands. “And yet I can’t put it down for long.”

Ralenthra finished her apple. She hopped down off the counter, opened the window that was over our sink and tossed it outside that window into the compost bin below. “Let’s see it then.”


I excitedly rolled out the large parchment detailing my grand plans for breaking into the Hall of Records. Aelthas and Duglan, my constant companions, took a gander.

“You’re going to do WHAT to WHO?” Aelthas stared at me, eyes wide.

My beau had obviously gotten to the part where I seduce a priest of Deneir (or as many as I have to) in order to get access to the ‘Forbidden’ Spellbook section at the Vault of the Sages. Why have the books around at all if they’re not going to be read? “Oh, that. Don’t worry about me. I’m still a virgin, after all.”

“You are??!” both the boys exclaimed.

I thought of Thralia, and blushed. “Well, technically, yes.” I answered, and then I clarified, “Anyway, I’m not using anything south of my waist for this job. I don’t have to.”

“You sound pretty confident.” intoned Duglan with a wink and a smile. “Want to give us a demonstration?”

“Shut up, Duglan.” Aelthas said with a scowl. He turned to me, and brushed a stray lock of hair behind my ear. “Seledra, why? Why are you doing this?”

“I need to sow the seeds of chaos. After you cast the spells to bend the wards around the university and open up all those portals, most of the mages will be too busy trying to shut them down to detect what’s going on at Everdusk Hall.” It made perfect sense to me at the time...

Aelthas held me, not ungently, but with some urgency, about my shoulders. “But that’s the thing with chaos. It’s unpredictable. You could get burned. And then all of us will suffer. Is it worth it?”

I sighed. “Aelthas, what are you?”

He raised an eyebrow, as if he wasn’t sure where I was going with this. But he humored me. “I’m a human. But my mother is a half-elf.”

“What kind of elf?”

He shook his head in irritation. “Why does it matter?”

I answered calmly. “Answer the question. Surely you must know.”

Aelthas sighed and rolled his eyes even as he concentrated. “My mother was raised by her human mother. My elven grandfather died young. Some sort of accident. He was...a moon elf. From Evereska.”

“See? You know what you are. And I bet you could tell me where your human ancestors hail from as well.”

“Seledra, I don’t see-”

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM, Aelthas! Don’t you know how unsettling that is? And don’t you think that if I had any other options at my disposal, that I’d use them? Whatever my mother is hiding from me, she’s hiding it very, very well. And father is no help at all.”

Aelthas gulped and stared at me a while. Duglan had already retired to a nearby chaise and draped a book over his face to escape the awkwardness. My beau sighed and kissed me on the forehead. “Very well, sweet heart. It’s your choice. Just...don’t get caught, all right?”

“Don’t worry. If I get caught, I won’t say who helped me. I love you, Aelthas. And I will never betray you.”


Late into the night, I could still hear Ralenthra howling with laughter as she read Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs. I peered over my covers at the next two books from the drow’s autobiographical series as they sat, waiting for my perusal, on my nightstand. There was to be even more to follow, I had heard. I scowled.

I turned my back on the tomes to stretch. Ralenthra had really put me through a workout today. After the dance practice, she still had energy to burn, and decided that she also wanted to draft me into becoming her sparring practice partner. I must have broken three wooden swords today because I wasn’t fast enough to hit her. I comforted myself with the fact that when I do hit, I hit hard. And no, I don’t mean her.

Wielding the sword today made me think more on my goals of embarking on an adventuring side-career. My hands would tingle with anticipation every time I went to the mailbox, as I hoped that each day will be the day a summons comes from Captain Tagen, or whoever Tagen is working for, telling us to pack our bags and head out somewhere kind of dangerous.

It didn’t come today, but hopefully something will come soon. I just know that something good is going to happen...


I dreamed...

I saw a short, red-haired human girl fitted into finery worthy of a lady-in-waiting; watching the Glittersmokes buzz about the girl was Thralia, who looked like she was giving detailed instructions, either to the gnomish seamstresses or to the human girl...

I saw Ralenthra, poring over what looked to be this very diary. Looking over her shoulder was Tordrin, who was pointing out something of note to my friend. Ralenthra’s eyes widened...

I saw a drow male reclining on my mother’s bed. He seemed to be arguing with a striking-looking female sun elf who was attempting to use my mother’s scrying mirror. A soft grey cat hopped on the bed beside the drow and swatted him in the face. The sun elf laughed. The drow fell off the bed unsuccessfully trying to swat back at the cat. The sun elf laughed even harder...

I saw Kronk, flanked by Selune and a half-elf Heartwarder as he carried a human girl child on his shoulders. The snow was falling softly. Cardinals and Blue Jays circled about the girl as she laughed. Kronk and the Heartwarder seemed to be looking for something, and they finally stopped at Joon’s Curry Stand in the Market District. Everyone ate heartily.

I saw Silverymoon Palace. A bolt of lightning struck nearby.

I saw Magnos and Jonah, with Scamp wrapped around his master’s shoulders like an old woman’s fur collar, outside the Map House. They were discussing something rather animatedly, with Jonah’s expression going from dubious to more dubious to annoyed to resigned...


I awoke with a start. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the vignettes I bore witness to were connected somehow. And I wondered why I wasn’t there.

26 Eleasis 1372 - Morning

“Ugh. I’m sorry, but I draw the line with incest. This is not what I had in mind when all I wanted was to just curl up with a good book!” I slammed the tome shut, set it down on the table, and pushed it away from me in disgust before sipping some raspberry herbal tea.

Ralenthra shook her head, rolled her eyes, and gently pushed the book back across the sitting room table at me. “They don’t actually do it, you know!”

I grimaced and gingerly took the volume back. Soon, I was frantically trying to find the page I’d left off on. “Still,” I said with a pout. We soon fell into a comfortable silence as we both got drawn into our respective books.

Ralenthra had finally returned the first volume of Drizzt Do’Urden’s memoirs to me, as she had “acquired” the next two volumes he’d had published so far. Which means that she must have robbed poor unsuspecting Rand’s Books late last night after riffling through the entirety of volume one and then settled in for a pleasant trance for the rest of the night.

Selune’s head popped up from off the floor by my feet and whined a little. Suddenly, there was the sound of boot heels on my front porch, followed by an urgent-sounding knock at the door. I glanced sidelong at Ralenthra, who sighed, walked to the door, stood on tiptoe, looked through the peephole and said, “It’s one of your co-workers. Should I let them in?”

That was an odd occurrence. I nodded. “Don’t forget to disable the trap first.”

“Ohhhh. So that’s why you had me get the door...” Ralenthra got to work. “Still, it would be nice to test it out on someone else before Methrammar starts snooping around again, though. Just to make sure.” She fiddled with a few wires and knobs and opened the door without any more delay, which drew a startled gasp from my visitor.

“Oh! Oh my stars, you scared me! Um...you’re...you’re Mayurra, right? Is Sel-seledra home?” I’d never heard my supervisor sound so nervous. Ralenthra grinned at her, which must have seemed to my guest like a fiend baring its teeth, opened the door wider, and pointed in my direction before turning to retreat up the stairs with her ill-gotten loot.

I waved at the tall, brunette half-elf as she walked past my threshhold. “Hello, Shiera. I didn’t think they let you out of the office.”

“Hmph. I wouldn’t be here unless it was important. Tell me, when was the last time you were at the Glade?”

I raised an eyebrow and got up from my sitting room chair. “I was there on the 22nd. To visit with Tathshandra.” I clasped a hand over my chest. “Is she all right?”

Shiera held up a calming hand. “Tathshandra is fine, because she doesn’t know what has happened, and...I’d like it to stay that way.” A shadow passed over her heart-shaped face. “Seledra, there is a...dark presence...in the Glade.”

I was already walking towards the wardrobe that held the armor and weapons owned by Ralenthra and myself. “A...dark...presence. Why did you come to see me? Why not ask a cleric?”

Shiera’s large brown eyes occupied themselves with examining my sitting room rug, a gift from Methrammar, imported from Calimshan. “There are several reasons. One: you are on call for today, two: you don’t have enough seniority to refuse, three: you may not be a cleric, but you do have some expertise in this area.”

I had stepped behind the changing shade I’d gotten in Shou Lung and was starting to slip into my leather armor. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

Shiera sighed. “Your religious scholarship may come in handy in diagnosing the...source of the corruption, and in how to dispel it.” She cleared her throat, and by the tone of her voice when she spoke, I knew the next words were difficult for her to speak. “Also...you’re an adventurer now! You live with a drow rogue, you whack at nasty things with swords, you’ve braved haunted monasteries...you’re fearless...aren’t you?”

Puzzled, I turned and gave Shiera a side-long glance. “Look, I never said I wouldn’t do it. You don’t have to convince me. However...” I pondered the weapon collection before me. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Shiera. What I actually need to know.”

Puzzled, I turned and gave Shiera a side-long glance. “Look, I never said I wouldn’t do it. You don’t have to convince me. However...” I pondered the weapon collection before me. “There’s something you’re not telling me, Shiera. What I actually need to know.”

Shiera stared at me a moment, blinked, and replied, “It’s all my fault! I let her in, yesterday afternoon. I knew there was something off about her, but I thought the Glade would give her peace! If Tathshandra should find out...and...and I don’t want to be known as the druid whose oversight led to the corruption of Mielikki’s Glade.”

Well, that’s a start. I laid a finger on my familiar longsword. “Her?”

Shiera nodded solemnly. “Yes, a wild elf druid. Name of Rinya.”

I slid my longsword into its scabbard and headed towards the door with Selune at my heels. “Let’s go. You can tell me the rest on the way there.”

26 Eleasis 1372 - Midday

The midday sky overhead was dark as night, and all around us there hung a cold, soupy, and unnatural mist. As Shiera, Selûne, and myself tentatively passed through the gates, I could have sworn the very air that swirled around us got colder and clung to my skin like a wet frock.

“This isn’t good,” Shiera whispered, as she lit a torch.

“You’re telling me,” I breathed.

Many of the animals had taken refuge in the ground or in various hollows. All the birds had taken flight. The glade itself seemed to be under a silence spell. My skin crawled as it never had before in this place. I couldn’t help feeling that something horrible had happened here. Before the wood swallowed us up, I looked up at the sun, or rather looked up to where the sun should have been. Selûne whined and licked my hand.

The sun’s light had been blotted out completely directly over the Glade. In the near distance, however, I could still see the sun peeking through less thick clouds as it illuminated the city. So it was not an eclipse. I wracked my mind, but I couldn’t shake the notion that there was nothing natural about any of this.

I resumed our abandoned conversation in order to prevent myself from slipping into sheer terror as we trudged deeper into the wood. “So this Rinya, does she have a familiar?”

“Mmm, yes,” Shiera responded. “A wolverine.”

“Unusual. She should stand out quite a bit. If we can find her in this soup.” I put my fingers to my lips and whistled for Nestor, hoping against hope that he would respond. And I waited.

And waited.

Finally, like the sliver of light in a new crescent moon, Nestor parted the darkness surrounding us. He nodded formally to Shiera and nuzzled my hand affectionately. I whispered, “Nestor, what has happened here?”

“Seledra...there is a strange druid here. She is in great pain, and I feel for her, but she is endangering the place with her presence. I can only hold back my mares for so much longer before they kill her. Come!” He knelt, so that we both could bestride him, and he took us deeper into the forest, with Selûne trailing behind us.

It was a quarter of a bell toll before we arrived close enough to the heart of the corruption without risking being spotted. There the druid called Rinya knelt, eyes completely black as a moonless night, and covered in the blood of her own familiar, who now, sadly, lay dead in front of her. It appeared that the elf was preparing to light the body ablaze, as if for some foul sacrifice. I consciously tried to sharpen my hearing in order to pick up what she was chanting...

...Netherese? No, wait. Loross. My ability to differentiate between the languages was academic, much like a cleric may memorize chants in a different language than her own, and know what that language was, but be unable to converse in it. But from what I could remember from my studies at the Lady’s College, this was an old chant from the days of ancient Netheril; one that Shar’s clerics created in order for interested parties to invite Shar to possess their bodies, usually for the purpose of revenge. In so doing, the person would gain the power of Shar and be joined with her, until their death, for a price. The poor, trusting creature murdered by this grief-maddened girl must have paid it for her. Rinya was in the ending stages of becoming a Nightbringer. And any place that played host to such a foul ceremony would become permanently tainted at the final stage of the ritual.

The girl’s pain radiated out from her person, and that which was feeding on that pain threatened to choke out all life around her. She had to be stopped. But she also had to be spared, so she, and the Glade could be cleansed of the taint. If she died in this state, the whole Glade would die with her.

I could only hope that I wasn’t too late to stop her.

I quietly slid off of Nestor’s back and tried to think fast. I whispered to Shiera, “I need you to go to the Temple of Silver Stars. Tell High Moonmistress Shalyssa Lurialar to bring two of her Lunatics. Then go to The Tower of Balance. Explain to Lord Magister Althorys that Shar is attempting to corrupt our Glade and tell him to bring two clerics with him. Make a stop at Dawndancer House. Fetch Shandalara Sindertal and two of her priestesses. Lastly, and I know you wanted to avoid this, but I need you to bring Tathshandra here. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can blame me for this.”

“Doesn’t Tathshandra need attendants?”

We are going to help Tathshandra.”

“That’s still only twelve. I mean, if you’re trying to do an Avatar banishing, you’ll need...”

I finished for her. “I need to find a dryad from this space to aid us, I know. You just go. Now. Nestor?”

Nestor took off into the mist towards Silverymoon. Meanwhile, I steeled my courage and hoped we wouldn’t have to face a fully fledged Nightbringer. From my vantage point, I could see that the elf was getting closer to starting that fire...

And then I blacked out.


It was completely dark. I heard voices:

“How dare you interfere in my business, whelp?”

“You don’t belong here. This place is sacred to Mielikki and Lurue. And They are coming.”

“I have bound more powerful beings than them into my service. I do not fear them, nor do I fear you, insignificant speck of dust that you are.”

“You will not find a foothold here, Mistress of the Night. Not now, not ever. This little one will not let you have the girl and she is under my protection. Even now, your forces are being routed from the city, and soon, this place too shall be cleansed. Your coup in Silverymoon has failed.”

“No! This is not over, yet...”

“The more Avatars you lose, Lady of Loss...”

“Be silent. You are not worthy of my time.”


I awoke to find myself covered in barkskin, supported under my arms by another creature who smelled of magnolias. As I struggled to reorient myself, she whispered to me in sylvan, “You fainted, druid. I do not mean to harm you. I only wish to hide you and aid you in stopping the Wounded One. Use my bark to hide yourself from your prey. Hurry!”

I must not have been unconscious for long. I mentally sent a message to Selûne for her to remain calm and not to attack the other druid, or the dryad for that matter. Rinya was about to light the sacrificial pyre. The dryad leapt onto my back, and wrapped her arms about my shoulders. She whispered urgently to me again as I slowly began to approach the druid, “Mielikki is here. She is protecting the glade with the mists, dampening any wood the Lost One finds. But you must hurry!”

Step by step I crept. Silently, I marveled to myself as to how light the dryad was to carry. Or maybe I had become stronger lately. As I grew near and circled behind Rinya, I got a better look at her. She was tall for an elven female, about a half foot taller than me. Her skin was nut brown, her hair dark as night, thick and long and tangled. It remained to be seen what her eyes looked like naturally, but I wasn’t going to waste my time guessing. As soon as I was within reach, I drew my longsword, raised my arm, and swung...

26 Eleasis 1372 - Late Afternoon

...The wild elf fell to the ground with a thud. I hurried to check her pulse.

She was still alive, but unconscious. The dryad was nowhere to be seen, but I heard Shiera's footsteps growing gradually louder behind me. "Oh, thank the Goddess!" I sighed in relief, "Help me tie her up, will you?"

"Of course." Shiera's voice was flat. Her steps came slowly, deliberately, and she whispered something under her breath. I couldn't make it out exactly, as Selune started growling. I thought that given the circumstances, she was simply on edge.

I grimaced as I struggled to lean Rinya against a nearby tree trunk. "Um, could you hurry it up? I have no idea how long it's going to be before the ritual will be ready and she needs to be secured."

Sheira mumbled again, and her voice took on a quality of taunting false sympathy meeting sing-song. "No one is coming, little one. Soon, Silverymoon will belong to the Lady of Loss." Selune snapped and lunged suddenly. Sheira screamed in pain, but soon my wolf yelped and crumpled to the ground in a heap.

The cry of my familiar caused me to spin around just in time to see a limping Sheira lift a dagger over her head. Selune lay in a heap a few feet away. The air surrounding the woman I'd only known previously as my supervisor swirled with the scent of belladonna and blood. "Oh, you bitch!" I shrieked angrily, as I clutched about for my sword fruitlessly. It was too far away to reach it in time to deflect her. Instinctively, I crossed my bracer-clad wrists above my head.

"Dark Deity, favor me now!" Sheira cried as she swung and there came a loud crack quickly followed by a white light that pierced through the darkness. When my eyes were no longer dazzled, I saw that Shiera lay dead at my feet and that Tathshandra was standing before me in her summer yellow garb and red sash, her long, smooth rowan staff extended in front of her. She was accompanied by a familiar face, Shalyssa Lurialar, the half-elven High Moonmistress of Silverymoon, clad in her silver and white robes now spattered with blood, mace outstretched.

"What in the Nine Hells is going on today?" I cried, and then ran to Selune and wrapped my arms around her.

The clerics exchanged a look, and Tathshandra responded breathlessly. "Shar's followers in Silverymoon have attacked all of the high-ranking clergy of Her rival deities." Shalyssa continued, "We ourselves just finished dispatching five of our would-be assassins." Tathshandra nodded and added, "I can only pray that our colleagues were as fortunate as we." She approached Selune and chanted some healing prayers while Shalyssa quickly moved to secure the immediate area.

As if to answer the priestess's entreaty, Lord Magister Althorys, spiritual leader of the Tower of Balance and the Spellguard, appeared with a pop! Resplendent in his blue and white robes, he casually dusted himself off as if spiritual warfare and assassination attempts were just everyday sorts of occurrences to him. Althorys bowed deeply to the senior priestesses with a flourish. He acknowledged me with the subtlest of nods, but then, to my surprise, addressed me directly. "Lady Nailo! Trouble certainly seems to follow you about. Back at the the Tower, my associates are still trying to figure out how those trolls managed to bring down the wards of Silverymoon and storm the gates during the busiest festival of the year..."

Tathshandra cleared her throat. "We are glad you survived your encounter-"

Althorys stroked his dark silver beard confidently and interrupted. "Yes, well it was nothing really. They sent nine of them after me, you know. Of course only five made it past the warding glyphs. You see, it pays to have a decent security system." As he spoke, the temperature dropped dramatically. He seemed oblivious as he arched an eyebrow at the other clerics.

With Selune restored to health, Tathshandra moved to the opposite of Shylassa, who, with her lips tight and with a determined set to her jaw, inquired of the magister, "How did you know to come here?"

"You mean other than the huge darkness spell hanging over the entire Glade that's visible from all points around the city? Or are you referring to the dryad, riding on a unicorn, who beseeched me to aid you in an Avatar binding ritual?"

The air around us seemed to grow heavier, duller somehow. Selune whined, but got to her feet and followed me as I moved to shape the west side of a circle that was forming. The Moonmistress' eyes narrowed. "Your sarcasm is noted." It seemed that her green eyes pierced through the darkness; through boon of her goddess or by sheer will, I did not know.

I raised my voice, somewhat meekly, as I was in the presence of highly respected senior clergy, "She contacted you on my behalf, Lord Magister."

"On whose authority?"

"On...on my authority." I stuttered, but remained firm. "This wild elf here has been possessed by an avatar of Shar, but the bonding ritual was left incomplete. If we act in time, we can bind the Avatar, and still save the druid. So perhaps we should-"

"Why would I care about saving her? If she's a part of the conspiracy, then maybe she deserves to die," interrupted the magister with a sneer of disdain. There was a pause, a sigh, and Althorys pinched the bridge of his nose while shutting his eyes tightly before he continued. "However, if there is no better way to stop the taint from spreading, then I will comply."

"My, but you are a shining beacon of compassion, dear Althorys!" rang out a silvery voice, followed by a throaty but distinctly feminine chuckle belonging to a second person. As they came closer, it was clearer that riding upon Nestor's back and holding on to our heroic dryad was Shandalara Sindertal, auburn-haired and amber-eyed high priestess of Sune. Trailing close behind them was Kuth Charagon, an ambitious blonde-haired, blue-eyed young priest of Lathander who'd risen up the ranks quickly in the ten years since entering the clergy, and a dusky-skinned young woman I did not recognize clad all in white whom I guessed was the owner of the laugh.

By my count that made eight. Not enough to do a full Avatar Binding, but almost enough to perform a Binding of Nine. A Binding of Nine allows for a temporary bonding between an Avatar and it's host, but seals the taint inside the host. However, the Avatar is more trapped than bonded, unable to feed off the emotions of the host, and in one moon cycle's time, the host must reject the bonding process, an arduous event similar to breaking a life-threatening fever. Though this is a grueling process, it is possible, and if the host successfully fights it off, the Avatar is destroyed. I needed one more, though...
"Shandalara, so...glad you could join us!" Althorys exclaimed with a flush to his cheeks and a frog in this throat. "And Seipora! What a surprise! I wasn't expecting to see you - "

"Outside the Festhall?," said the woman in white. She smiled, but it was not a friendly smile. Her bared white teeth were striking against her dark lips and obsidian eyes. "Sharess understands that Shar must be fought at every turn. My business here is deadly serious, magister. You would be wise to make yours the same. The Lady of Loss hungers to destroy Mystra. Indeed she wishes to swallow all until the very universe is nothing but darkness, an abyss of loss where all is forgotten. Only then can she rest satisfied."

Althorys raised an eyebrow. "You seem to know much about the Nightsinger's wishes."

I could not remain silent at this pettiness, this further delay. "If you tore your nose out of your spellbooks and left your tower more often, you'd know that Shar once held The Dancing Lady in her sway for some time. She, and therefore Her clergy would like be privy to some of Shar's desires." Seipora nodded in appreciation and I continued. "But we are wasting time with these denominational squabbles! We must ready for a Binding of Nine."

Althorys smirked and said condescendingly,"By my count we only have eight."

I nodded. "That's what I thought too. But then I remembered that all unicorns are considered lay priests of Lurue. Nestor? Would you honor us?"

Nestor tossed his head in affirmation. "You honor me, Seledra. Of course I will help to heal this taint."

We were all finally gathered in a circle, Nestor, Seipora, Shandalara, Kuth, Althorys, Shylassa, Tathshandra, the dryad (whose name I soon learned was Magne) and myself. I pulled a modest Wand of Light out of my tool belt, raised it high, and spoke. "I, Seledra Nailo, Forestarm of Mielikki, call upon my Goddess to bind this interloping spirit. At the Moment of Truth, may it leave it's host unharmed and unsullied. May it find no refuge in plants nor animals..."


The participants replenished with cakes and ale provided by Shandalara, who was also the proprietress of the Blue Bottle Winery. Before Rinya awoke, Tathshandra took me aside. "You do realize that you are taking responsibility for her. She has to be strong enough to fight off the possession within one month, or it will be up to you to kill her."

I nodded solemnly."I know. There was little choice. The matter with Shiera sort of forced my hand, but I'm prepared to face the consequences."

"Shiera," whispered Tathshandra, "I'm sorry about that. We had our suspicions about her, which is why we kept her away from public duties, but we didn't realize that she was part of a sleeper cell. We will all have to conduct internal reviews, make sure no one's fallen through the cracks." She stood up and walked towards the unconscious wild elf. "You won't have to watch her all the time. We will provide her with a clergy cell on our grounds, but you will need to take her with you on your rounds in the city. Show her what it is to be a druid again. But this isn't pruning vines with a sword, lovey. Her life depends on this."

I took my place between Rinya and Tathshandra just as the former awoke.

I put my hands on her shoulders and explained in elven that her familiar was dead. She looked incredulous, until I pointed to the body. I had to catch her fist that was headed for my mouth, open it, and show her who was responsible. Rinya ran to the nearby river, washed her hands over and over and over, weeping and making chittering noises to herself.

I sat by Rinya, rubbing her shoulders in a consoling manner while disconnected sounds poured out of her; I discovered that she spoke a creole of Elven, Sylvan and a smattering of animal sounds. Selune moved to bump her head against the wild elf's hand, which just made her cry harder. One by one, the other clergy members made their exits until only Tathshandra and the Magister remained. I tried to focus on sorting out Rinya's stream of babbling, especially after this gem:

"You should muzzle that druid of yours. She's very rude..." growled Althorys, as he and Tathshandra moved to speak in a more private location.

In a matter of moments, Althorys approached Rinya and I by the banks of the river. "You have one month, girl. One month to prove to every clergy member present for the ritual that she is no longer corrupted. If you fail, it means her death...and possibly your own if you've been tainted by her. Prove you can back up your considerable cheek, and you may have a future in this city." And with a pop he was gone.


Exhausted, Selune and I finally walked through the door around tea time. Ralenthra had a kettle on and was sitting on the countertop devouring another volume of Drizzt's memoirs. When I slumped into my favorite carved rosewood chair and laid my head on the table, she smirked. "Rough day at work? Did you have to deliver twin foals or chase down an illegal weed killer merchant?" The tea kettle began to whistle. Ralenthra waited for me to get it first.

I didn't move. When I spoke, I'm sure it came out muffled and partially obscured by the kettle's whistle. "No. But Shiera is dead, Selune almost got killed, and I have one month to steer a corrupted wild elf druid right or I'll have to kill her. And I insulted the Lord Magister. You'll probably read about the rest in the evening papers. Maybe. Unless they're afraid it will cause a panic. Which it probably would. I'm going to go lie down now."

Ralenthra hopped down from the counter, paused, and slowly approached me. Ignoring the furious teapot, she leaned over behind me and embraced me with one arm while smoothing my hair with the other. Then she laughed and said, "If there's anyone I know who can prod one down the straight and narrow road, it's you, 'Ledra." She lifted my head up with both hands until I was facing the ceiling and kissed my forehead, before scurrying off to the hearth to retrieve the kettle.

"But you're not going to bed before you have some tea," Ralenthra continued, who had started pouring the tea into cups. "Luckily, it's oat straw tea, and not the stuff you brought back from Shou Lung!" She passed a steaming vessel of liquid comfort my way.

"We should really give that stuff a name some time." I said, before bringing the cup to my lips.

"Sarnor Oloth," Ralenthra said quietly. The sun had begun to set and she was watching out of one of the windows.

I put the cup down. "I'm a little rusty on my drow dialect."

Ralenthra turned and the setting sun formed an orange halo against her white hair. "Swift Darkness."