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The Search for Knowledge
Posted: Sat Nov 26, 2005 5:54 am
The Championship was done. I was heartily glad it was over, and ready to pick up the reins of the tasks I’d set aside. Going on a rumor I’d picked up somewhere, I’d traveled to the far north into the Ten Towns region. I poked my nose around the sprawling town of Bryn Shandar to find nothing. The other towns being closed due to plague, I had wandered down to Mithril Hall to rest for a couple of days. It was there, once more I said goodbye to Sotana and watched her wing off into the sky, her feathered form becoming nothing more than a black spot before finally vanishing. Still feeling foolish about what she had revealed to me, and embarrassed by my lack of wisdom, I packed up my things to head back to Waterdeep where I hoped to find Tida. Perhaps she would be able to answer my questions.
It was cloudy and threatening snow when I walked into Waterdeep once more. I headed to the inn, looking to warm up, when to my surprise I saw the woman I sought sitting in the taproom of the inn. One of the obnoxious drunks that constantly spend their days in the tavern let out a whistle and murmured a proposition in my ear. I blushed slightly and ignored him, hailing the mage who sat calmly drinking some tea.
“Tida!” I exclaimed, stooping to give her a hug.
“Lilira,” she said, her voice surprised as she returned it. “How are you doing?”
I chuckled. “Tired! Enjoying the relief of the Championship being over.”
She gave me a look of understanding. “I'm sure, I heard some about that.”
I stared at the ceiling for a moment. “It was... interesting.” I summed up. She raised an eyebrow and I chuckled. “Nothing of too much interest, unless you were in the middle of it.”
She nodded. One of the drunks repeated his proposition loudly, and I glared at him icily, fighting the blush that wanted to return.
“And people wonder why I have taken up studying again,” Tida commented with a giggle.
Pulling out a chair and sitting down I chuckled.
“Maybe you can help me...” I began. This was the perfect opportunity.
Raising an eyebrow, Tida purred softly, “I can try.”
I glanced around the taproom, then leaned forward, saying in a hushed voice, “I’m looking for the Carcophans,” before leaning back and indicating to the bartender I wanted an ale.
Sipping her tea, Tida sat thoughtfully for a moment before replying, “I haven't seen either in a long time,” with a sigh.
I took a sip of ale from the bottle, and involuntarily made a face of disgust. Ale was not my drink of choice, but it had seemed the safest thing on the list of drinks. Apparently I was wrong.
“The tea is better,” Tida pointed out.
I muttered, “They don't seem to have it on the menu. The bartender used to keep some of mine under the bar, but it has been a while since I've replenished my stock.”
“True, I carry my own,” she said nodding. “Why are you looking for them?”
“I have some questions for Lintral,” I told her. I wasn’t quite able to stop the involuntary shudder. There was nothing wrong with the man; it was his art I was uncomfortable with. I needed answers though, and I could stand still enough around him to ask.
Tida raised an eyebrow before commenting, “I haven't seen him in some time. I think the last time I saw him he was down in Baulder's Gate.”
I nodded, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks. “I knew you were close at some point, so I had hoped you'd stayed… er… in contact.”
“I can try to get a message to him if you would like,” Tida purred softly.
“If you see him, could you just let him know I'm looking for him? Please?” I asked her quietly.
Tida nodded. “I can do that.”
“You’re welcome. You know all you have to do is ask and I'll help with anything you need,” she reminded me, taking a sip of her tea. Recent events ran through my head, and I fought the urge to spill all.
I took a sip of ale, and made a face. “This stuff really is horrible,” I exclaimed, setting the bottle on the table.
Tida giggled. “Yeah it is.” A drunk rudely interrupted our conversation with a lewd comment. Tida glared at him remarking, “It’s so crowded in here.”
I suppose the drunk thought I was an easier target for his drunken passes, and an icy glare from me changed his mind. “Filled with ill-mannered louts to boot,” I added muttering.
Tida nodded, “Only bad thing about this town. I would rather be down at my temple, but that doesn't always work.”
“I think more and more of buying a small house somewhere like Ardn’ir.” I commented.
Tida nodded. “With the way things are going I'm never going to get to settle down.” She sighed loudly.
I raised an eyebrow. “What trouble have you been getting into that makes you say that?”
“Just someone from the past seems to have popped up again.” I felt my mouth fall open in a silent “oh”. Tida calmly sipped her tea. “So now I have to find out exactly who this person is and if he is really who he says he is.”
I remembered something and started digging through my bag, pulling out the bottle of champagne I had picked up in Bryn Shandar, then I chuckled. Tida giggled and I felt myself blush again.
Tida purred softly, “Celebrating?”
“Leftovers... I never did get to drink it.” I told her, shrugging. She nodded. “I thought we'd have some champagne to celebrate the end of the games... We never did have time, I left immediately.”
“To look for the Carcophans,” I told her chuckling, circling back around to the point.
She nodded. “Last I heard Teej went into seclusion in her temple.”
I blinked in surprise. I hadn’t heard that. “I suppose she needed a break more so than most...” Tida shrugged. “I saw Lintral briefly in Baulder's Gate as I came out of Alyo's one day.”
“Had to do with everything and Gurns leaving,” she continued.
“That was some time…” I began, then interrupted myself as the meaning of her words sank in. “Gurns left?”
Again, Tida nodded. “Yeah, left in the night.”
That explained why no one had seen or heard from him. I wondered where he’d gotten to, but then, his part in the war was also a large one… I had many other thoughts and questions that flitted through my mind in that instance, but none I care to share. I frowned thoughtfully, muttering under my breath, “That explains that…”
“What's on your mind?” the enchantress asked me, raising an eyebrow in query.
“Nothing,” I told her, shaking my head and looking up at her. “Baulder's Gate you say?”
At Tida’s nod, I sighed morosely. “But he might have left from there,” she added.
“Might as well check,” I shrugged, groaning. Not south again. “I thought I was done with the south for a bit.”
Tida nodded. “Be safe going down there.”
I chuckled, “Hon, I've been living in a tree for the past month.” Tida nodded. “Not to mention running back and forth.”
Tida giggled. “Gets tiring after awhile.”
“VERY,” I stressed. “The path to Baulder's Gate is one quite familiar to me.” I sighed and Tida finished the last of her tea. “Well… just sitting here isn't going to get me there sooner.”
“I remember those days. Running from one end to the other,” Tida recollected as I pushed back my chair and stood, leaning down to give her a hug.
I chuckled. “They've never ended for me.”
“It was nice to talk to you again,” she purred.
“It was good seeing you,” I replied, embracing her once more. “Keep yourself out of trouble.” I told her chuckling again.
“I'll try,” was her response.
“And as always.. If you need my aid, send a message. If I'm able, I'll come,” I told her. Our paths might have taken different directions when I left the guild, but I still counted Tida as a good friend.
“You remember that as well,” she reminded me. I grinned, then muttering under my breath, left the inn with a final wave, heading south to Baulder’s Gate.
Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 8:10 pm
After leaving Tida, I headed to Baulder’s Gate and wandered a bit, asking around to see if anyone had heard from the Carcophan’s. No answers were forthcoming.
I was wandering down the Street of Songs, when a chill settled into my bones, raising the hair on the back of my neck and goosebumps on my arms. A hollow whisper sounded in my ears, “Master has heard you seek him. He waits at the Phalanx.” I looked to see where the voice came from, but nothing was there.
Embarrassing though it is to admit, I thought originally he had meant some military gathering place. Then memories of places I’d wandered came to me, and I knew where it was he spoke of. I turned my footsteps out of Baulder’s Gate and headed to the lava tubes to the northeast of Waterdeep. Singing quietly, I summoned a cloak of invisibility to surround me so I could avoid some of the annoyances in the area. I climbed through and around some of the creatures that blocked the tight passages, muttering under my breath the whole while. Once I was close, I stood, brushed myself off, ran nervous fingers through my hair in an effort to tame it, then strode in what I hoped was a confidant manner, into the crystal cave where the Phalanx resided. Lintral was waiting, concealed slightly by the revolving spectacle, until I drew nearer. The cave itself was warmer than the icy breath of winter outside.
It has been very rare indeed for me to meet the necromancer alone. Any previous time spent together was always in the presence of his wife Teej, or Tida. Necromancy scares me, for obvious reasons considering my mother’s history, and how it marked me. I have reviled the art my whole life to such an extent that I have never wished knowledge about it, until recently. Most necromancers I have had the misfortune to observe use the corpses they animate in the manner of toys.
Lintral differs in that he uses them as tools. He takes no pleasure in creating them, nor does he use them to amuse himself, at least never in my sight. True, he makes me nervous. His manipulation of undead strikes a sour note in my soul, but I have never been given cause to fear him. Hence the reason I saw fit to seek him out with my questions.
I smiled at him in greeting, and he nodded his acknowledgment of my presence before I spoke.
“Greetings Lintral.” How formal I was! It had been quite a bit of time since I’d seen him last, but honestly!
“Hello songbird,” he greeted me with a wink that sent heat into my cheeks, as always. I chuckled self-consciously. “You’ve been busy.”
I stared at the cavern ceiling, willing my blushes to recede, before stammering,”Yes... yes I have.” As always when I am reminded of the current insanity of my life, I nervously twisted the ring that started everything. When my blushes were under control, I met his gaze once more.
“I've er… been looking for you. But then you know that,” I began awkwardly.
The mage nodded.
“I have some questions. Lately I have been hearing rumors, about undead. I would like to learn more of them in general,” I rushed on to continue. It was presumptuous of me count on his aid when I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. Not to mention how people can change.
“I expected as such. Most do not seek me for my company,” he retorted. I felt an inward twinge. In my travels of late, I’ve taken little time to just stop by and greet old companions.
“You aren't exactly easy to find,” I pointed out, grinning ruefully. Lintral shrugged. Business could wait. The disturbing rumor Tida had shared with me stood foremost in my mind, so I had to ask, “But first... how is Teej?”
“She is well. Recovering through prayer and... exercise,” he answered with a wicked grin. I chuckled softly, succeeding in keeping the blush from tinting my cheeks on this occasion.
“Oh.” Remembering something, I began rummaging through my bags. “I was in Baulder's Gate when your... servant found me.” I shivered in memory of the chill disembodied voice whispering in my ear.
Lintral nodded. “The seekers do their job well. We've been spending time in Bryn Shandar, there's nothing quite like furs.” I grinned. To think I’d just been there. I must have just missed them.
“That place is confusing. I get lost there every time I visit,” I found the item I was looking for, and pulled out a well wrapped package.
“The streets are tangled, but workable,” he nodded.
I handed him the package I had picked up at the Silver Lobster before meeting him. “I thought I remembered your mentioning once your preference for the lobster in Baulder's Gate?”
Lintral shook his head, and I sighed, the sound barely audible over the crackling noises the crystal phalanx was making. He reached into his traveling bag and pulling out a large pouch, he showed me some grilled lobster, the smell had me practically drooling.
“Calimport. Nobody makes the same.”
I stared at the cavern ceiling, feeling like an idiot. “Ah.. my mistake.”
“It's a simple mistake to make,” Lintral assured me. “So you have some questions about the unliving. Such as?” The abrupt change in topics threw me for a moment.
I recovered enough ask, “What is the difference between the various types?”
Lintral shrugged. “Many and varied. Some of them have some basic intelligence, but never any of much import.”
I stood thoughtfully, with my arms crossed and index finger tapping my lip. “Zombies?” After all, Gyntner had mentioned them specifically.
“Mindless automatons basically. Stronger than skeletons simply because there's more there, but they're among the least powerful that can be crafted.”
It was time to stop tip-toeing. I needed to travel to Bryn Shandar to pick up some magical assistance before returning to poke around Ashstone some more. “To be honest Lintral, I've heard rumors that undead are being used to rebuild Bloodstone.”
Lintral nodded. “It makes sense, they can work without nourishment or rest, so long as the controller can give them explicit instructions.”
“But apparently there is some kind of problem with them clearing portions,” I added. I shivered uncomfortably.
“What sort of problem?” he asked.
“They aren't able to do it?” I made my statement a question, shrugging. “As I said... it’s a rumor. I wandered to the camp out of curiosity, and struck up conversation. I saw no sign of the "work crews" but I expect they would be in the city proper, which is not accessible.”
“Undead are capable of a great deal, but they need to be ordered to perform their tasks. Without knowing what issues are arising, I can't very well answer to their ability to address the issues,” Lintral explained. I nodded. “I've been following the fate of my home with some interest, though my knowledge of construction doesn't lend itself to assisting. I'm curious to see what will be done with it.”
“The roads have certainly been improved in portions, though it is quite the hike to get there,” I grinned at him. “And the pies! Mmmm.”
“It's always been a bit of a walk, though I expect the portals have lost their power,” the mage commented, then raised an eyebrow. “Pies?”
I chuckled. “Ah yes. Some of the citizens have adjusted to camp life. The things that chef can do with pies...” I raised my eyes heavenwards in an expression of bliss, before digging through my bag again. I pulled out a carefully wrapped pie, obtained the last time I was there, and handed it to him. “It might be a touch battered, though I do try to pack them carefully.”
I watched him break off a small piece and taste it. “Well baked at least. By whom?”
“Gyntner?” I said uncertain. For some reason his name always trips me up. I frowned then corrected myself. “Gynter.”
Nodding, Lintral praised, “He always did well with the peryton.”
“His bread was excellent.” I didn’t add how I knew that, and why I only bought bread.
“Good that he survived and persists, he will do well with the reconstruction.” Lintral commented.
“He is looking forward to the rebuilding so he can return to the fine cuisine he is accustomed to making.” I added.
One of the annoying, smelly chittas wandered through, sniffing around for food. Lintral muttered a terse arcane word and the cracking of multiple bones filled the cavern. I winced at the death cry of the creature.
“Well, since I went and broke them all, I guess skeleton is out,” Lintral commented.
I waved my hand under my nose. “They smell worse dead...” My stomach tightened as he began chanting and gestured over the corpse. A cold sweat broke out on my face, and I shuddered as the corpse came to life again with the completion of his spell.
Noting my discomfort perhaps, Lintral gave the zombie a terse order and it shambled north. “Slow and tireless. There's doubtless issues that would challenge their capability, but serviceable for menial labor.”
I nodded, unable to speak around the momentary tightness in my throat. I swallowed a few times before mentioning,”I'm still uncomfortable around such creatures.”
“They're tools, nothing more. You use a harp, I use a corpse,” he pointed out matter-of-factly. I kept from retorting that my harp had never been a living creature, part of a tree perhaps, but not a living, breathing, thinking creature.
“To you... to others they are… toys.” I was able to control the shudder that once more threatened to overtake me. Lintral shrugged. “The way you view them is why I sought you out instead of another.”
Back to the subject at hand it seems. I frowned before stuttering, “Lintral... what do you know of... of liches?” Curse that damn ancient, paralyzing fear of the thing, so huge I am incapable of even speaking of the creatures without fear affecting me.
“A good deal, enough to know that I'll never pursue that route,” came the response.
Taking a deep breath, I continued. “Can they alter themselves into another form of undead temporarily?”
Lintral shook his head slightly, “Not to my knowledge. They may be able to exert control remotely but possession is not within their abilities.”
I nodded my understanding, relaxing slightly, and my breathing returning to normal.
“An emissary was chased out of the camp by a ghost. He mentioned the lady had disappeared,” it was not my place to name him, and if Lintral knew somehow, it was not from my lips. “Myself, I figured she cloaked herself in invisibility while he was otherwise occupied.”
“That's more likely the answer,” Lintral agreed, “Or even just teleported or dimension doored away.”
I nodded as he continued. “Good for her if she has people believing her power is greater than it likely is.” He grinned wickedly, and I chuckled.
“Most mages I know maintain such an aura of mystery,” I agreed, “It is good for their image.”
“Like being hard to locate,” he commented, winking at me teasingly. I stared again at the roof of the cavern, fighting the urge to blush, and then laughed.
“Finding people is difficult at times, but at least I have the means to travel to find them,” I returned my gaze to the mage, grinning. Then I sobered.
“Thank you for your answers Lintral.”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “Answers take little to no effort.”
I grinned again, “Even though finding them sometimes does.” The man smirked. “Please give Teej my greetings when you see her again, and perhaps someday we'll actually trip over each other in a town somewhere...” I looked around the multi-colored cavern pointedly.
Lintral snickered softly. “Towns irritate me.”
“Waterdeep is not as much to my liking as it used to be.” When you’ve walked through the pristine forests of Evermeet, the smell of that city alone is enough to knock you out of your boots, no matter how much I have commented in the past about missing it. “I have been toying with the idea of a small house in Ardn'ir.”
“A pleasant little town, if you ignore the memories of the ones sacrificed,” he commented. I nodded. I’d heard vague tales of the attacks that had taken place there during the war.
Lintral’s next words shocked me into stillness, robbing me of words. “Never can tell if those decorative statues are carvings, or those who were petrified by the basilisks used during the raid.”
I stood there staring at him in startlement for some moments, silent while the crystal phalanx crackled its way through another transformation, before finally saying quietly, “I had not heard that part of the tale...”
“I don't imagine it was widely advertised. I just happen to have alternative sources of information,” he said with a casual shrug.
“It would explain the condition of some of the homes there… empty,” I added. He nodded.
Shaking myself out of my reverie, I told him, “I must take my leave. I have let some things fall by the wayside while aiding with the Championship, and must rush my steps to catch up.”
Lintral chuckled. “As you will. Ask around if you need to speak with me again, I'm certain our paths can cross.”
I nodded. ”Thank you again,” I told him with a smile. He nodded his farewell, and I left, cursing the close, serpentine tunnels, that caused me to get lost. Twice.
After I head north to procure some magical assistance, I plan to return to Ashstone, as myself, and perhaps catch a glance of this “Lady”, to lay my own concerns to rest.
Be she human, or be she lich?
Posted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 5:08 am
I had bumped into Sotana earlier at the Bloodstone Camp, within of all places, the cemetery. We examined some of the tombstones, and caught up in quiet tones, not wishing to disturb the restless spirits. After a bit, we parted ways, Sotana agreeing to meet with me in the evening, and I wandered off to explore the Nightwood, as the locals were calling it. Some time later, after avoiding a large pack of wolves, I decided it time to return to the safety of the camp. Peering through the gloom in an effort to find the road, I failed to notice I was being shadowed until I sensed a presence right behind me just in time to shift to the side, causing the blade to glance off my armor.
Cursing slightly, I drew my weapons, and whirled to find myself surrounded by a tattered bunch of bandits who appeared to share my own mixed heritage.
“Come now gentlemen… surely you do not wish to slay a simple bard?” Their intent was clear. They were hungry, and they saw my gear as a chance at improving their lot. My words were making no difference as I dodged, trying to keep a litany of words flowing in an effort to dissuade them. I saw it was of no use, they were surrounding me, and I had to break free. Quietly, I began singing and felt my limbs grow light and my motions speed up to match the pounding rhythm of my heart as it began to race to match the cadence of my song. My blades caught the light of the sun and they hummed as the reflected light blinded two of bandits temporarily. Feeling sick, I continued my dance, my blades biting into flesh and crashing into steel as I swung, moving steadily backwards.
I hit the large tree with a thunk, my verse weak for a moment as the impact forced the air from my lungs. My song strengthened as I regained my breath, and with a dance of blades, two of the bandits lay dead at my feet. I hissed in pain as one of the remaining bandit’s blades got past my guard, finding an opening in my armor and biting well. Four remained, and my side ached where the blow had gotten through, my song fading completely as I gasped for a breath. Deciding it was time to go, I slid around the tree trunk, gasping an incantation in a sing-song voice to cloak me in invisibility, before breaking into a pain-filled sprint back towards the camp. As I got closer, their pursuit faltered and I paused, a song of healing rasping out of my parched throat, its warmth easing the pain in my side.
I fumbled for a drink from my flask, and waited, listening for sounds of pursuit. A patrol could be heard coming up the trail, so I stepped out of invisibility, and rushed to tell them of the bandits. They listened to me then continued at their normal pace back up the trail to continue their patrol, saying nothing about handling the villains. Muttering under my breath, I headed to the camp.
I finally reached the door to the Guardpost where the Captain of the guard and Watcher have their office. As usual, reports were strewn over every available surface, though oddly, Sotana was standing within. I entered.
“Tana.. there you are. I forgot.. oh,” I broke off, noticing the short, lean woman with brown hair who was standing in conversation with the Captain.
“We do seem to meet in the strangest places,” the druidess murmured under the scolding the captain seemed to be receiving while his second in command shuffled her feet restlessly.
“Perhaps I could make good use of what's left of them, but we do need your men to stop with the surly sullen act,” the woman was saying. “Unless, of course, they would rather serve me, instead of the bandits.”
“I'll have a few words with the lieutenants,” the captain of the Camp’s guard replied.
“Why are we eavesdropping?” I whispered to Sotana.
“Remind them that when we are finished, they can invite their families to stay,” the woman continued over our whispered conversation.
“Good question...I heard a shout and came to see what was going on,” came the whispered reply.
“What shout?” I asked.
“As you say,” the captain responded.
“And if their sloth keeps them from acting in my interests, in our interests - they can serve for as long as their bodies hold together,” she pronounced chillingly.
Sotana and I edged backwards, trying to make our intrusion less apparent, but listening intently. Finally I had found the woman I’d been haunting the camp in hope of seeing, and thank goodness, she was merely a woman of flesh and blood.
The captain nodded grimly. “They will understand. They might not be able to speak much for a few days, but they will understand.”
“We seem to have...intruded...” Sotana murmured.
“I am glad that my faith in you is not unfounded.” The woman nodded at the captain.
“Indeed,” I added quietly.
“It's done enough.” The woman turned her hazel eyes on us, “You can spread the word, adventurers. We will be taking action against those bandits.”
“Oh wonderful,” I exclaimed, a certain battle still fresh in my mind. The elite watcher glared at me, and shifted a step closer to the Captain. The woman smirked at her. “I just fought my way free of some.”
Sotana nodded, adding “'That would help make travel easier here....encourage adventurerers.”
The mysterious woman whispered something to the watcher, who opened her mouth to reply, then thought better of it.
“Adventurers can take care of themselves Tana.. its the traders that need the protection,” I pointed out. Sotana shrugged carelessly. “Indeed… I have stood against bandits and had guards walk past. Or worse, they stand and watch.”
”The traders can hire protection and should...there are more dangers throughout their travels,” Sotana returned.
“I will be in the camp, Captain. There are other merchants who will seek their own corner of my city,” the Lady informed the captain, confirming in my mind her identity.
“And trade is to be our lifeblood,” the captain finished. The Lady nodded in confirmation. “I will continue here, more reports come in daily.”
“I will leave your men to you. Good day,” she told him, bowing in farewell before striding out the door.
Sotana and I stared at each other a moment. “Her city?” the druid mouthed silently at me in question. I nodded minutely in affirmation.
The captain caught my eye and raised an eyebrow at me. “You've been about asking questions. That's the Lady, if any can answer you she can.” I nodded at him.
“the...Lady?” Sotana queried. The captain nodded at her question as she looked back and forth at us in confusion.
“If you wish Tana.. I can explain,” I assured her.
She nodded. “Please do.'
“I'm certain the captain has other duties to attend to,” I told her, raising an eyebrow at the captain.
“Always,” he replied.
I nodded, and we both apologized for intruding, then chuckled at each other, stepping out of the Guardpost. ‘Tana grabbed my arm to halt my steps.
“Okay. Let's hear it,” the druid demanded sternly.
“Her.. minions.. are clearing the city,” I quietly told her, mindful of the squad loitering outside the Guardpost.
Sotana’s eyebrow raised questioningly. “Minions?”
“Come with me real quick,” I told her, heading further into the camp looking for a quiet place to speak. Snarling came from nearby as two of the wandering camp dogs fought for dominance.
I caught her eye and whispered, “Undead,” unable to keep the shudder of distaste at bay.
She frowned as I led the way into the Longhall where the merchants are set up.
“Nilan came here seeking a trade alliance,” I murmured quietly, ignoring Sotana’s frown at the mention of the drow. “He said something to offend her and she chased him off with a ghost or something.” I rushed on, adding “Back before the games,” before she could scold me.
Sotana nodded once. I continued, “He was injured, I bandaged him up and he went home. I haven't heard anything from him since.”
“But I am curious about possible trade here,” I changed the subject in an attempt to gather her interest, “And what is being done to encourage it besides building the roads.”
“The Lady did mention merchants and trade...” Sotana murmured thoughtfully. I nodded.
“Shall we go ask?”
The druid nodded.
Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 8:16 pm
I led us through the Longhall passing the various shopkeepers, smiling here and there as I looked for the Lady. It was quickly determined she was not within. “She's probably in one of the tents,” I commented to Sotana, who nodded.
We left the Longhall and began searching the area around the tents. Sotana suggested looking closer to the river, so I turned my steps that direction.
“Tis difficult to find a quiet place to talk,” I muttered. Finally in the center of the enclave, an area with a crude stage and a battered woven banner bearing the crest of Bloodstone, stood the woman.
“Lady?” I called to catch her attention. The elegant gold and garnet pin holding her hair back caught the light as she turned towards me.
“My pardons for barging in on your conversation, but I overheard you speak of trade?”
“For your city...” Sotana added.
“You heard correctly,” she informed us.
“To whom would one speak about such matters?” After all, it would do this area well if my idea worked.
“You would speak to me. Do you have interest in trade, then?” The woman met my gaze with a no-nonsense air.
“I am but a humble bard. However I am in the position of spreading the word to others in the far-off cities about possibilities,” I was quick to demur. The life of a trader was not for me, though I don’t mind helping friends get ahead in the world. Sotana, perhaps bored by the beginning of this discussion, noticed one of the camp dogs who stood there growling and began petting it in an attempt to calm the animal.
The Lady looked at me thoughtfully, weighing my words. “What is your price?”
“I have myself been thinking of encouraging a shopkeeper whose stock I am extremely fond of to expand her services,” I confessed, drawing a surprised glance from Sotana. I grinned at her impishly. I love Tana to death, but its nice to surprise her once in a while, otherwise she gets cocky.
Sotana, thoroughly distracted from her conversation with the no-longer growling animal, looked thoughtful, then the light of comprehension dawned in her eyes. “Ahh... Alyo?” she whispered. Instead of replying, I continued what I was saying.
“I think Alyo's silks would go well with Claire's and the others' trinkets,” I assured the woman, while Sotana tried to hide a grin.
“She sells silks then?” she queried.
“Does she ever…” Sotana mentioned fervently while I reached into my traveling bag, looking for the magical Llweyrr made bag I keep my silks in. My fingers nimbly fetched the first silken item they found in the bag, and pulled out a sash, followed by several skirts in varying shades.
“She's a veritable rainbow,” Sotana said as I simultaneously informed the lady, “In all colors of the rainbow.”
Sotana and I looked at each other and chuckled at our similar words.
“They look lovely. But your price, Bardess. You haven't mentioned it yet,” the Lady reminded me. Stalling for time, I carefully folded my skirts and slid them back into my bag.
“I have no price. Not in coin.” I told her. Why would I ask for money from a place that obviously doesn’t have a lot? How would that be helpful? Why is it no one ever believes that in my own way, I just like to help? Politics, yet again, so I will play the game. “Perhaps a favor further down the road if my efforts prove to come to fruition to the benefit of your city.”
I felt Sotana’s thoughtful frown next to me. Trying to make her understand that favors could be worth more than gold is difficult at times.
“Coin is easy, favors less so,” the Lady pressed.
Sotana leaned in close, whispering in my ear, “I am not sure it is wise to have such a one as this owing you favors.”
“You fought against the Vile One, both of you,” the woman stated, changing the subject abruptly. I nodded reflexively, Sotana doing the same. “Why?”
I blinked, surprised at her question, and unable to vocalize my response. I had been asked that a few years ago, and was able to answer then, though I was reluctant to share that response with the Lady.
“His victory would have disturbed the balance. He had to be stopped.” Sotana shrugged slightly.
“I will disturb the balance as well,” the Lady informed us.
“How so?” Sotana asked frowning.
“Did you know the city that had been here?”
“Only through stories and rumors,” Sotana told her.
“Only through tales my Mother passed me in my youth,” I shrugged. Mother had spent some time there in her adventuring years.
“A mere reflection of what will come.”
I lifted my eyes to the sky for a moment, before returning it to meet the Lady’s gaze. “Whereas Waterdeep is ruled by a holy knight,” I pointed out. I could have gone on to mention Leuthilspar, and Mithril Hall, but I think my point was made.
“Indeed,” was her response. “He would block me.”
“Evil has its place as does good. The problem comes when evil destroys good as the Vile One would have done,” Sotana elaborated.
“There is better money to be made in providing wares to the Good,” the Lady snickered.
“That is simply good business....I do not see how it affects the balance,” Sotana shrugged.
“Perhaps… but then some of those with evil intent excel at spending money on frivolities,” I added. “Balance.”
Looking at me, the Lady told me earnestly, “I will not act against my city's future.”
“Naturally,” Sotana murmured.
“No favor owed will interfere,” she continued as though the interruption had not occurred. I chuckled.
“Most likely wise for all parties concerned,” was the druid’s dry response, tossing a sharp glance my way.
“While my actions in the past have been foolish at times, I would not think to ask such a thing,” I assured the Lady, raising my eyebrow at Sotana.
“If you work to bring your finery to my city, your price - this favor - will not interfere,” she stated firmly.
“Any favor I would ask would not interfere in the workings of your city,” came my response.
“What is your price if I may ask? What do you ask in return for allowing merchants to deal their wares in your city?” Sotana asked.
“I require an investment into the city itself,” was her answer.
Sotana considered her words while I asked, “Have you a price to name for an ‘investment’?”
“If you are looking for a place to drop a shop, take our coin, and leave, you will not find it here,” the lady explained, “There are services we require yet, which will speed the development of the city and permit building of new shops and stores.”
“Services?” Sotana queried, “Such as?” I was glad Sotana was asking the questions, I just sat mute, listening intently to gather information.
“Tasks which are unsuited for the very unskilled labor I have in excess.”
Sotana looked at the Lady warily. “You seek...skilled labor then?”
“There is a portion of land which is rather treacherous at the moment. It must be cleared for development to continue,” the Lady added. Sotana looked relieved, and I nodded my understanding as the Lady kept speaking, “There are items we require - someone must negotiate a good price. And of course, the cargo will need to be defended.”
Sotana nudged me. “So you need.. Volunteers,” I commented, with a wry chuckle.
Sotana murmured, “Of course.”
“If one cannot offer their aid, freely, there is no room in the city for their shop,” she told us simply.
I nodded. “Do you wish me to tell those who show interest to report to you?”
“Yes. Klovus can speak with others if I am otherwise occupied,” the Lady confirmed.
I felt Sotana staring at me thoughtfully. I turned my head to raise an eyebrow questioningly at her.
The Lady’s next words recaptured my attention. “Should someone with more interesting talents wish to aid the city, we could negotiate.”
“Such as?” I asked.
Sotana leaned in close, whispering, “If you are interested in this work, I would add my efforts to yours to help you sponsor your shop.”
I grinned at the druidess, whispering in reply, “I'm awaiting a response from Alyo.” ‘Tana nodded.
“The ability to seek out items and people, perhaps,” she mentioned.
“Adventurers as a whole would be well suited to such tasks,” I replied. She nodded.
“Some...I have met a few who style themselves as adventurers who would fail miserably,” Sotana added dryly. I stared at the sky to avoid chuckling, then flashed her a grin which she returned.
“Naturally. There are many who fail in their first attempts to serve,” the Lady stated chillingly with a grin. I fought to tame my shudder of revulsion, turning it into a minute shiver. I knew what she meant. A second chance would likely be serving as one of her undead minions.
“I can run up and down the trails swiftly enough through the aid of my songs,” I commented.
“Travel is always a needed task.”
“Have you other means of spreading the word to merchants and other interested parties at the moment?” Sotana asked.
“It seems many have been waiting for the reconstruction, and already seek me out,” she replied, then muttered under her breath. Sotana and I nodded.
“It will be simple enough to spread the word further,” I shrugged.
“Lilira is certainly the person for that,” Sotana joked. I stuck my tongue out at her childishly, then blushed remembering where we were.
“I am a bard Tana... that is my trade,” I reminded her.
“And you do it so well....” grinned ‘Tana. I sighed at her exasperated.
“I imagine the 'investment' into the city will require some coin as well as labor?” Sotana asked the woman, getting back to the reason we were here.
“Funds will ensure a plot of land in prime merchandise areas, but service will ensure I consider the proposal.”
Sotana and I nodded.
Cheerfully, I added, “I will be happy to pass the word. I will speak with Mistress Alyo to see if she is interested. If she has interest I will gladly offer my services on her behalf.”
“And I would offer mine as well if that is Lilira's wish,” Sotana volunteered. A chill breeze blew through the camp, ruffling our hair, and stirring our clothing.
“Will you serve as proprietor?” the Lady asked me, “I doubt you could linger that long.” I shook my head. I had yet to purchase a house, the idea of being chained to a shop all day had my feet itching already. She nodded in understanding.
“Surely that work can be hired out,” Sotana objected slightly.
“I will leave the hiring of a proper proprietor to her,” I demurred. “I would work to ensure she has a place.”
“I believe I know a suitable place,” the Lady nodded, then glanced at Sotana briefly.
“And ‘Tana… your time is your own,” I told her, “If you wish to help with this, that is your decision, my wishes have nothing to do with it.”
Sotana arched an eyebrow, grinning, “For now, my time is yours Lil.” So generous with her time is Sotana. Always following me around to keep me out of trouble… sometimes I feel like I have a second mother. I chuckled ruefully, returning my attention once more to the Lady.
“If any of your acquaintances are knowledgeable in the field of geology, we have a specific need.”
I blinked in surprise. It was almost as though she knew of my acquaintance with a certain geomancer. He would be perfect for the job, if he would consent to help. I saw Sotana grin as she caught my thoughtful expression. She knew where my pondering was leading me, and nudged me playfully. I grinned at her.
I whispered to her, “Not sure if he'd help...” We shrugged at each other, and I added a little more clearly, “I can but ask.”
“Unfortunately, my knowledge of the land does not extend past the plants and animals that inhabit it so I am of no use,” Sotana mentioned not quite apologetically. The woman nodded.
I shrugged helplessly, “Mine is limited to the roads I tread on.”
“And the wine....” Sotana added, whistling innocently. I felt a blush creep into my cheeks.
“That one time... you're never going to let that go,” I grumbled, sighing at her. She returned it with a grin. I swear having her around sometimes is like watching a group of playful otters.
“Always a valuable commodity,” the Lady smiled coolly.
“Not when you've had three bottles of it,” I muttered, holding a hand to my head in remembered pain.
Sotana chuckled her agreement, “Unless you're a merchant looking to make a sale. The wine can be quite helpful in those cases.”
“Perhaps,” the woman agreed, “perhaps.”
“I wonder…” I trailed off thoughtfully. I wonder if Hamid would be interested in moving some of his trade north. His selection is really quite nice.
“Yes,” the Lady queried.
“There is nice wine in Calimport,” I grinned impishly at Sotana. She started it after all.
She returned my grin. “It is unfortunate no one has heard from Gurns in so long. I hear he was quite the authority on wines.”
“You are certainly enterprising,” the Lady mused.
“Merely plotting my path Milady,” I chuckled politely.
Sotana frowned, “Just don't let those dwarves open a liquor shop.” She shuddered.
“I believe we have taken enough of your valuable time Milady. I will be happy to spread the word of your requirements,” I assured her.
The Lady nodded, then frowned, searching her pockets for something.
“Something troubles you?” Sotana asked.
The Lady pulled a small object out of her pocket and handed it to me. “Be careful with that. It bears my seal, and thus my word.”
I almost dropped it when I realized it was a bone. Upon closer examination I saw it was engraved with a phoenix. I nodded to the Lady as Sotana peeked over my shoulder in an attempt to see the token in my hand.
“Now, I must return to my laborers,” she told us. We nodded.
Simultaneously, Sotana murmured, “Thank you again for your time,” and I “Thank you for your time.”
“Use it well,” the Lady said grinning, before uttering a few arcane words I recognized and slowly fading before our eyes.
Sotana and I sighed at one another, and I was hard pressed to keep from laughing, settling instead for a grin. “We spend too much time together Tana... we even speak the same.”
“Good thing we're both travelers and thus don't spend even more time together,” she retorted.
“Wanna see?” I asked, holding up the token. I passed it to her so she could examine it, before returning it to me.
“Well. This went better than I thought. Perhaps I should see if Alyo received my message. Want to come?”
Sotana nodded. “It would be interesting to see what she would have to say about all this.”
Together we wandered “down the hill”, heading to Baulder’s Gate via Waterdeep.
One thing I had to remember to do… write some letters to some bard friends of mine and start spreading the word. After all, I had a favor to earn.
As usual, thank you to my editor. *wink*