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Venye

26 Flamerule

location: Dancing Goat Tavern, Silverymoon

Sun and Moon were finishing their rehearsal when one of the serving staff, a surly human male named Guff, approached Miss Thralia.

"Man in 215 wants to see you."

She raised an eyebrow. "Me, or the whole group? We're rather busy at the moment—"

He shrugged. " 'ow should I know? 'e says ta give a message to the blonde elf singin' downstairs. Somethin' about 'ow 'e loved yer 'arp solo the other night."

Miss Thralia and Tordrin exchanged glances. "Did you say 'harp solo'?"

Guff snorted. "Those ears of yours purely decorative, eh? 'At's what 'e said. 'E loved yer 'arp solo."

"Thank you," she said, handing him a coin.

He bit the coin and nodded, shuffling off.

"That should do it for tonight, everyone," she said. "We'll reconvene at supper."

Tordrin put his mandolin down and joined Miss Thralia as she lowered herself off the lip of the stage. She made eye contact with me as they approached.

I nodded and took a rearguard position behind the two as they walked past. The body language of my field leaders was alert but not alarmed—no immediate threat. Nevertheless, old habit compelled me to scan the room for anything amiss: the band members were putting away their instruments and a lone barmaid swept the floor in anticipation of the evening crowd. Falco caught my sweep and shot me a questioning look; I winked at him; he worries too much about me as it is.

Miss Thralia and Tordrin led the way up onto the tavern’s second floor. The hallway was narrow; the walls were thin. The Dancing Goat’s clientele, present company excepted of course, didn’t seem the discriminating sort. The sound of heavy snoring rumbled through one of the closed doors. Another door barely muffled the intimate cries of a couple. I’d have to warn Falco about the walls here.

We stopped in front of room 215. Thralia knocked: two distinct measured raps that probably couldn’t be heard one room over, especially with the fun that couple was having.

“Enter,” a commanding male voice answered. Beneath the reply, I also heard something else: the song a sword sings as it unsheathes.

I grabbed Miss Thralia’s shoulder. She smiled back reassuringly. Nevertheless, she opened the door with unusual deliberation before stepping in. Tordrin followed, and I took the rear, making sure to close the door behind me just as deliberately.

“It is wonderful to see you,” said our host.

“What a pleasant surprise,” replied Miss Thralia. “We didn’t know you were in town.”

“But it is always good to see you,” Tordrin added.

“Come now,” said Moonlord Eaerlraun Shadowlyn, half-elven ranger, Lord of Moongleam Tower, and High Harper of the Silver Marches, returning his swords to their sheaths. “There is no need for formality between friends. Have a seat, all of you. Venye,” he turned to me. “Don’t skulk back there. It gladdens my heart to see you again. I trust Miri is well?”

I dropped to one knee, lowering my head. “Master Shadowlyn. Miri is most well. Thank you for your concern. We have not forgotten your kindness to us.”

Eaerlraun came near and placed a hand on my shoulder. “Think nothing of it. Having you here with us, working for a purpose, is more than enough thanks.”

He turned and resumed his seat at a small circular table set up in the room. “Now then. I understand that you’ve had an eventful trip.”

Miss Thralia nodded and told him of the happenings in Everlund, Olostin’s Hold, and Amalith. She omitted some of the more extracurricular details involving her interactions with the half-orc and Tordrin’s interest in the wee kinswoman, but emphasized their contributions at Olostin’s Hold, as well as the capabilities of the red-headed spitfire and her two cousins. (Eaerlraun seemed particularly interested in the latter, but dropped the subject when Tordrin mentioned they were studying under someone named Drogan at Hilltop, at which point the ranger grunted, “Eh, well there’s no purpose fishing in that lake.”)

When Miss Thralia mentioned Barundar’s death at Olostin’s Hold, Eaerlraun tut-tutted and when she told of Teaghen’s betrayal at Amalith he nodded grimly, “Unfortunate.”

After she finished speaking, he questioned us until he knew the events as well as we did. Then the Moonlord leaned back in his chair, steepling his hands together.

“The loss of Harper manpower troubles me,” he said. “We’re stretched too thinly across the Marches as it is; we can’t afford to lose agents.”

Tordrin nodded. “I agree.”

“I want you to focus more on recruiting in the coming months. Start with these three you mentioned: Kronk, Mayurra, and Seledra.”

Miss Thralia stiffened in her seat; Tordrin spoke immediately. “Sir, they’re intriguing candidates but they’re nowhere near ready to join us, especially at an emotional level. Mayuura’s position here is tenuous at best, and should she be pressed I fear she’ll flee the Marches in search of more anonymous haunts. Her situation is delicate and requires a gentle handling.” I suppressed the urge to snicker; fortunately, Eaerlraun’s attention was not on me.

“And Kronk,” added Miss Thralia, “has shown very little if any inclination toward serving our interests (again, the suppressed snicker on my part). While he has proven to be most capable, he has…questionable associates and a history of troublesome encounters.”

“Oh, you mean like Venye here?” asked Eaerlraun with a smile. “Or half your present company?”

Miss Thralia flushed slightly. “Your point is well taken, but at present we don’t even know where Kronk is. I must concur with Tordrin: neither Mayurra nor Kronk are currently ready to join us.”

Our superior nodded at this, as if in acknowledgement, but I knew from past experience that such objections wouldn’t sway him if he had his heart set on something.

“And what about the druid? Is she also unready to heed our call?”

Miss Thralia hesitated. “She may be ready, but her situation is complicated by a couple of factors.”

He nodded for her to continue.

“She works at present for Silverymoon’s civil service as a city druid.”

“A position not incompatible with our aims,” observed Eaerlraun.

“This is true, but her loyalties to Silverymoon and, and its…first son may supersede any interest she may have with us.”

“I see,” he said. “Lord Methrammar has taken an interest in her, then?”

Miss Thralia spoke slowly, “While I am not certain, I believe this to be so. They were quite frequently in each other’s company at Amalith.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Thank you for your report. All of you. I am pleased with your work and hope for your continued success. Keep an eye out for potential recruits. Is there anything further to discuss?”

Tordrin said, “I don’t believe so. Thralia?”

“No, I think that covers it.”

“Very good then,” said the ranger. “I’ll most likely speak to you again later in the week. I’m not in town long, but there is some business I must attend to.”

We stood to make our way to the door.

“And Venye?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Stay a little. I want to hear the whispers among our local thieves community.”

The request was not unusual, and as Tordrin passed me, he said, “I’ll let Falco know you’re running a little late.”

The door closed behind them.

“The thieves’ community has been quieter than usual due to increased pressure from Silverymoon authorities this past week. It appears that—”

Eaerlraun cleared his throat. “That can wait, Venye.”

“Sir?”

“The three we were discussing earlier: the half-orc, the drow, and the moon elf. Do you know their whereabouts?”

“The girls are easy. They frequent this very same tavern. I can get you home and work addresses within a day or two,” I said.

“Have it done. And the other?”

“Not at the moment. He may not even be in town.”

“Make inquiries. And let’s keep this between you and I for now, okay?”

This, also, was not unusual, for Eaerlraun was nothing if not circumspect. If he’s here, I’ll find him, sir.”

“I know you will,” he said, standing up. “Report back to me with your progress tomorrow night.”

I stood as well. “Yes, sir.”

********************************


27 Flamerule
location: the streets of Silverymoon

I had excused myself from a Sun and Moon performance to walk the city. My senses always feel clearer at night: the air seems crisper, the starlit streets sharper. The spitfire and the kinswoman's whereabouts had proven disappointingly easy to find. Miss Thralia had even told me that she expected to see both of them at the upcoming festival. The stumblefoot, on the other hand, had shown no sign of even being in Silverymoon.

Until I heard him clattering down the street carrying that human girl. She looked tiny in his arms, especially with the effortless strength with which he carried her. Yet the careful way he held her and the urgency of his stride indicated she was hurt—how badly I could not tell from my rooftop vantage spot.

Tailing them to the Shining Scroll was a simple task; he was so distraught over his companion that he didn't so much as look over his shoulder once. I followed from a respectable distance on the rooftops until they entered the storefront. From there it was a simple matter to descend to street level, approach the door, and let my slippers work their magic.

I pressed my ear against the door.

"Lay her here." A commanding voice, but smooth around the edges. Female. Had to be Xara Tantlor, the hydra-faced proprietress. This was followed by a pained groan that had to come from the girl. Clinking glass noises and soothing sounds from Xara followed.

I assumed a more comfortable position as Kronk poured out the story of his and Katri's botched blackmail attempt against the late Lord Aesir. I shook my head. While the caper didn't speak well of his the half-orc's judgment, it at least explained his tenuous connection to Xara. While Eaerlraun would forgive a number of blemishes in one's past, even he might hesitate at an overly chummy relationship with the Shining Scroll's owner.

"What is it?" our bumblefoot asked.

"Kronk, these things need to be turned over to the Silverymoon High Guard." My breath caught, and I drew nearer to the door. "You've trusted me this far with Katri's life. Trust me a little more."

A grunt in reply. I could practically hear the clockwork grinding in a vast expanse of near-empty green-skinned skull. Finally, "Katri will be all right?"

"Let her rest here for tonight. Find a place to rest and you can visit her in the morning."

Another grunt, followed by heavy, armor-jingling footsteps toward me. I leaped upward, catching the overhanging eaves an instant before the front door opened, flooding the stone steps with the backlit silhouette of a large and worried half-orc.

I watched him trudge down the street and pondered following him, but he had shown a disturbing lack of discretion in his time here, so he probably didn't even have a bunk to his name yet, much less a safehouse. Besides, he was going to show here tomorrow morning anyway, and Eaerlraun would kill me if I passed up an opportunity such as this.

Withdrawing a wand from my tunic, I flicked it a few times, concentrating on a very specific image: middle-aged human male, average height, average features, wearing the uniform of Silverymoon's High Guard. Image fixed in my mind, I tapped my head with the wand, and the air around me rippled. The darkened window next to the door reflected the features that I'd been concentrating on. Perfect.

Noisily, I approached the front door, cleared my throat, and knocked. When no one responded, a second knock elicited the clattering of someone cleaning up, followed by Xara's eventual answering of the door.

"We're closed," she said. Then she looked at me. "Oh, hello, officer. What can I do for you?"

"Funny," I replied in a deeper, gruffer voice. "I was about to ask the same of you. I was patrolling the area and thought I heard something from one of the houses around here…"

Her face betrayed nothing, and then produced a radiant smile that reminded me of Miss Thralia's, but for its disconcertingly swift appearance. "Silverymoon's defenders, as always, impress me," she said. "And from the High Guard, no less! I was just thinking that I might need their services right when you called, Captain…"

"…Mathis," I supplied.

"A pleasure," she curtsied. "Xara Tantlor, proprietress of this humble establishment."

I nodded. "And how may I be of service?"

"Captain Mathis, as you are no doubt aware, some of my clientele traffic in magical artifacts of unknown origin."

"Go on."

"Where they obtain such artifacts is not always disclosed to me, nor do I encourage acquisition through…illegal methods." She looked at me with the wide eyes of a little girl admitting to sneaking an extra sweet after supper.

I approximated the scowl I'd seen on many a city watchmen's face. "Ms. Tantlor, if you've come into possession of contraband of any sort, it is your obligation to disclose them."

"And I am always perfectly happy to assist the city in whatever manner that I can," she replied. "However…"

"However…"

"This modest shopkeeper would be most reassured if she had assurances against…undue prosecution."

"Your duty to Silverymoon should compel you to do what's right." That particular gem never worked for me, but it was worth a shot.

"And I do try to do right," she pouted, drawing nearer. "But it's so hard being good around such strong, powerful men such as yourself." She touched my chest with the tip of a delicately curled finger.

I stepped back in order to maintain character, and more importantly, the illusion. "Ms. Tantlor, this is outrageous. I should report you to my superiors at once!"

Xara sighed. "Dull, too." She walked behind the counter and reached beneath it to produce a worn satchel.

"Open it."

She rolled her eyes and emptied the bag's contents onto the counter.

I suppressed a gasp.

"Where did you get these?" I picked up the silver lauthal tokens, found only in the possession of the most trusted members of Silverymoon's servants. Illicit possession of one was one of the city's few sure tickets to execution.

Xara flushed. "It was part of a consignment lot. I didn't notice these until after the deal was complete."

"Who was the seller?"

She paused. "He was new. Said he's come from the western settlements."

"His name."

"Captain Mathis, surely you must realize the fine line I straddle in order to protect my clientele's interests!"

"Ms. Tantlor, I don't care what or who you straddle for your business's sake! What was his name?"

Her expression turned cold. "He called himself Do'Urden."

"Was he—"

"The most famous drow in Faerun? Of course not. Like I said, I don't ask many questions of my customers. If he wants to call himself Elminster the Almighty, that's his business."

I examined the remaining contents on the counter: some tools, a ring, miscellaneous papers. A scepter caught my eye. The design on its head looked familiar. "Lady Alustriel," I breathed.

"Is that what it says?" Xara could have been discussing mediocre wines, or a piece of fruit that had turned rotten. "I see that mark frequently among the knockoff trinkets that less honest peddlers offer me from time to time. No, Captain. This cheaply-made paperweight isn't worth your time, much less my display space." She moved to take it.

I pulled it out of her reach. "I'm afraid that in light of the woeful lack of information we have about your mysterious seller, all evidence must be considered carefully." Xara's consternation at that drew me to ask, "Are there any other items from the consignment lot?"

"No," she said. "Now if you've nothing further to ask, the hour grows late."

I gathered the tokens, the scepter, and the other contents into the satchel. "I must return these to my superiors at once. Should we have further questions for you, someone will be dispatched to take your statement."

"I'll await with breathless anticipation."

I tucked the satchel away. "Your cooperation in this matter is appreciated."

Maintaining the coolness, she said, "The pleasure was mine, Captain."

I left the shop hurriedly, eager to report back to Eaerlraun. As I stepped onto the cobblestone street, I couldn't help but wonder why she had chosen that particular inflection.

Comments

Upon rereading, I reiterate that the voice is slightly off, next to Sabrina's version. It's hard to point to anything specific, though. I don't know how big a deal it is in the long run.

Minor question on detail: I thought it had been established that Sun and Moon was not starting it's regular gig at The Dancing Goat until after the festival? But here you have them already performing there. We should clarify this with Sabrina, as I've already written Ralenthra's posts leading the festival as though they're neither playing nor residing there yet. I don't remember, though, if Sabrina and I only discussed this verbally or if it was actually established in a Seledra post. I checked through the yahoo group messages, and it's not in there. But I remember it quite specifically.

at which point the ranger grunted, “Eh, well there’s no purpose fishing in that lake.”

I'd actually give the speaker's name, here, as Tordrin is also a ranger, making the statement ambiguous.

You'll want to check over your dialogue; quotations marks were missing in several places.

Magnosian passages

It's hard to pinpoint specific examples of what's making me think of Magnos, but these are probably the best I could pick out to illustrate it:

"The sound of heavy snoring rumbled through one of the closed doors. Another door barely muffled the intimate cries of a couple."

"flooding the stone steps with the backlit silhouette of a large and worried half-orc."

More than anything, I think it's that sometimes the wording is just a bit florid, which makes me think Magnos, who seems to always try to sound grand, while I think of Venye as a little more direct and to the point.