Lerinala sneezed into her handkerchief and rubbed the tip of her nose absently. The musty smell of the study made her nose twitch, as the owner was not fond of fresh air. Blinking tired eyes, she fought to focus on the tome she studied. The mage had almost completed the research that kept her shut up in the musty tower. With painful precision, she finished copying the last of the information into her research book. Laying down her quill, she stretched with a quiet moan as the muscles in her back released and her spine popped. Massaging the cramps from her hand, Lerinala read over the tome to ensure she hadn’t missed anything.
Satisfied all the information she needed was meticulously transcribed into her book, she gently returned the stack of tomes she had pored over for the last month to their places on the shelves.
After checking to make sure the ink had dried, Lerinala closed the scarlet leather-bound book, carefully wrapping it in oilcloth before packing it in her traveling satchel. Her studies here were complete and now it was time to repay the man who had allowed her access to his library.
“Master Therlian?” Lerinala called as she reluctantly walked down the spiral stairs that would take her to the next floor in the tower. She found the shadow-cloaked mage in his workshop, where old bones littered the workbenches mixed with other odd paraphernalia. He was muttering under his breath as he read out of a book propped against a skull.
“Ahh. I had wondered if perhaps one of the tomes had swallowed you. That happened once; some unfortunate scholar wasn’t paying attention and opened the wrong book. I never saw him again.”
“Master Therlian. I wish to thank you for allowing me the use of your library. I have found what I was looking for,” Lerinala told him in her accented common, “now is the time for the payment I owe you?”
A dry chuckle escaped the ancient mage who turned dark eyes and stared hungrily at the elven woman. His gaze took in her carefully braided golden hair, and delicate elven features. Lerinala shuddered in reaction. “Ah yes, the payment. Do you have what I asked for?” Lerinala nodded, and reached into her satchel pulled out a pouch and handed it over. Therlian opened the pouch and drew out a carefully coiled lock of what appeared to be silvery-white horse hair.
“A lock of unicorn hair, a difficult component for me to obtain. It must have been easy enough for you, maiden of Leuthilspar,” the mage purred, causing Lerinala to blush rosily. “Your debt is paid, you may leave, unless of course you wish to stay?” he finished, smirking. Lerinala bit the inside of her lip to keep from retorting angrily. She might need access to his library again some day and it would not do to anger the mage.
“There is still daylight, if I leave now, I could make quite a bit of progress along the road before having to stop to rest. Fare well Master Therlian,” she told him with a slight inclination of her head before shouldering her satchel and walking quickly down the stairs, four floors to the entrance of the tower.
“Goodbye little elf, I am sure we shall meet again,” came the response down the stairway. After letting herself out the door, Lerinala sped down the path that led away from the tower to put some distance between herself and the odd mage until she reached the main road. As she silently traveled along the main road, Lerinala muttered under her breath in her native language, its liquid syllables rolling off her tongue. “Ugh, all human men the same. Do they think of nothing else?” she unconsciously shuddered, “How could he think I would… he is just like all the lewd men, incapable of controlling themselves…” she trailed off as she reached the outskirts of a village. She made a beeline for the far side, making no effort to smile at the people she passed.
After leaving the village, she continued her journey. There was a ship that traveled from Waterdeep to the Moonshae Isles where she could take a hidden portal home.
Home. A wave of homesickness rose in her breast. It had been ten years since she had seen her parents, who lived quietly on the isle or her twin who was off in the service of her lady. In her hunt for arcane knowledge, Lerinala had been forced to remain among the humans too long. She had met other elves along her path, but in most cases they had been among the humans too long themselves and were unrecognizable as elves except in appearance.
Lerinala blinked herself out of her reverie to find her feet still walking the road though night had fallen. The mage warily glanced to each side of the path where the trees grew closely together. Having heard rumors of travelers being attacked and killed after dark on this road, Lerinala chose to err on the side of caution and entered the trees, trusting on her heritage to help her move silently through the forest. A quietly whispered incantation would keep the animals and other little annoyances from bothering her as she shadowed the road to avoid getting lost.
Pausing to look around, the mage pondered on the rumors being spread around regarding the deaths of the travelers. They had been fast, vicious ambushes. The bodies had been stripped of their belongings and left slashed to pieces for other travelers to stumble over. Most of the attacks had been aimed at humans, but there had been elves, halflings and even a dwarven party. Lerinala remembered with revulsion the description of the elven bodies that had been found. Their heads had been left in a neatly stacked pile, ears removed and symbols carved onto their faces. Lerinala hadn’t seen the remains with her own eyes, so she knew not what the symbols were.
As quietly as she could the mage crept through the trees, halting suddenly as a group of silent figures stealthily emerged from a cave. The entrance was almost completely invisible. If it hadn’t been for the figures standing outside, Lerinala wouldn’t have seen it. In the dark it was impossible to discern much about their features. They were about the same size as herself, and appeared to be wielding a variety of weapons. Lerinala figured she had found the mystery ambushers. While two of the figures watched the surrounding area, the other four figures seemed to be holding a consultation, though no conversation was heard.
All the details clicked in a corner of Lerinala’s mind. Fighting off a hatred deeply bred in her blood, Lerinala forced herself to back away in an attempt to go for help. The snapping of a twig sounded like a thunder blast and Lerinala froze for a second before springing into action, fleeing towards the road. Lerinala hissed in pain as bolts of magic hit her in the back, while arrows hit the trees she dodged around with loud THUNKS. She reached the edge of the tree line and tucked herself behind a tree, whispering a chant in her breathless voice, praying she could finish before those silent shadows reached her.
Her chant was cut off as the tip of a blade rested against her throat. Wide-eyed with panic, the elf surveyed the drow raiding party that surrounded her. The male that held the sword to her throat grinned fiercely with excitement while awaiting orders from the female who stood wielding a whip that seemed to move of its own volition..
“Elgg l' darthirii elg'caress lu' inbau ol phor xuil!” she whispered to the rest of her party, her eyes gleaming red in the darkness.
“Poor lotha klez, jal maglust. Usstan telanth udos inbal udossta jivvin xuil ilta t'yin belbau ilta ulu l' Orbb Valsharess pholor udossta yutsu delmah.,” responded the drow holding Lerinala captive, all the while giving her an appraising glance that sent shudders of fear down her body.
“Feh. Dos orn'la defile dosstan xuil nindel? Dos xun rath'argh ulu dosst lodias! Fridj elgg ilta lu' udos orn sevir saph l' byrren.” another growled softly before spitting into the dirt.
“Ussta jallil zuch relishes l' tyav d' ilta ogglinn. Plynn ilta ulu l' har'ol. Jarnil, dos zexen'uma xuil ilta while udos kku hunting. Il zhah xa'huuli ulu udossa elghinyrr. Ser dosst restraint while jivvust xuil ilta.,” the black cowled woman ordered the one holding his sword to Lerinala’s throat before gathering the remaining members of the party and disappearing into the shadows. The drow before her smirked and stepped away, motioning for her to turn around. The mage turned slowly, eyes darting frantically for a way to escape. As she faced the tree, Lerinala dove to the right, ducking to the other side of the tree before running further into the woods in an attempt to lose the drow who would surely pursue her. The area around her grew pitch black and Lerinala froze, unable to see even shadowy images. As quietly as she could, she stepped forward, hands outstretched looking for a tree to put her back against.
A moment later, Lerinala lay flat on her back, head throbbing, ears ringing and stars dancing in front of her eyes. The darkness had lifted, and the drow stood above her with a fierce grin on his face.
“Ji lotha darthirii nek, gaer zhah fol malar wun dos p'luin jal. Ol morfethen l'ultrinnan mzilt mzild pleasurable, lu' lil orbb valsharess orn l'amith dosst elghinn tangis' mzild,” Lerinala heard him whisper as unconsciousness pulled her into its embrace.
Lerinala awoke in total and complete darkness to the sound of metal rasping on stone. Her breathing came in gasps through the gag tied tightly around her face. Her arms ached from the unnatural position they had been tied in. Her hands had been forced into fists with tight pouches tied over them to keep her from moving them. Her nose itched, and she was freezing. With that realization, her body began shivering. A cruel chuckle came from behind her. Footsteps approached her, and there was a ripping sound as cool air stroked her back.
“Hwuen l' byrren yutsu lotha tiu, udos orn k'lararl l' draeval ul'naus. Vel'drav nind yutsu lu' udos inbal jal inbalus udossta shar'tleg, dos orn plea orn'la whol l' jiv'elgg ulu kku. Serlatha orn harventh doeb dosst xukuth wun l' orbb valsharess' kaas, lu' udos orn harventh tir dosst haren whol natha uil'mriz lu' sevir dosst karliik whol byrren ulu ragar,” was whispered from the darkness accompanied by the light slap of leather on leather before searing pain flashed across her shoulders, forcing a cry through the gag. Another chuckle before more pain. Lerinala drew upon her magical training, forcing her mind into exercises meant to aid in her meditation, but each time the lash landed, her concentration shattered. However, the drow grew bored of his game quickly when the gag muffled her cries of pain.
Roughly lifting her by the hair, he pulled the gag out of her mouth and dropped her to the sandy floor. Unable to see where he had gone, Lerinala, in a burst of desperation, began chanting quietly under her breath. With what sounded like a muffled curse, the drow kicked her in the ribs, forcing the air out of her lungs and silencing her chants. He kicked her again and Lerinala retched and lay still, gasping for air. She moaned as she was flipped onto her back and found herself staring into the vicious face of her captor, who had his dagger out and a fierce look of anticipation on his face. Recognizing his intent by the look in his eyes, Lerinala desperately struck out with her bound feet, staggering him.
“Lotha elg'caress!” he spat, his agility incredible as he quickly recovered and landed an awkward kick to her head, dazing her before landing another, more solid kick to her stomach. Lerinala fought to remain conscious with every fiber of her being. Alternately retching and gasping for air, she curled into a ball in an effort to stop the beating. Another kick landed and Lerinala felt one of her ribs snap. With a scream, she fell once more into darkness.
Dreams of pain and torment followed her into the darkness. She opened her eyes and found herself staring dazedly into the brown eyes of another elf who was whispering quietly, “Hunter I ask your blessing to ease the wounds of this child of the isle who has suffered at the hands of our enemy.” Warmth flowed from his hands into her body sending her into a peaceful sleep.
Lerinala stirred with a soft moan. She felt the softness of a bed beneath her and the warmth of a blanket covering her. There was a rustle of cloth as someone moved beside her. “Don’t move,” a quiet feminine voice commanded in elven from beside her. “The healer reached the end of her skill healing you. She will return, after she rests and meditates.”
“Whuh ahn I?” Lerinala asked through swollen lips, terrified of the fact she couldn’t open her eyes.
“You are in the settlement of Greyhome. The ranger who found you was able to heal you enough to allow him to bring you here. Our healer tended to the worst of your wounds first.”
“I cahn’t thee,” she whispered.
“Your face was badly damaged. Due to the healing performed, there will be no scarring, though it is still horribly swollen. We have covered your face with salve containing medicinal properties to help bring down the swelling naturally and keep the pain away. The healer has told me you still have other injuries that require her magical touch, and that you must remain still. The best thing for you now is rest.”
Lerinala heard a brush of cloth next to her and a cool cup was gently pressed to her lips. “Drink this. It will help you sleep. Know you are safe.” Lerinala swallowed the warm liquid, tasting the faint hint of mint. Almost immediately, a floating feeling overtook her. Lerinala relaxed and drifted off to sleep.
Lerinala woke once more to the sound of a whispered conversation beside her.
“Have you told her?”
“She has only woken the one time. I didn’t think it my place, when she could hardly even speak,” whispered the voice Lerinala recognized as the woman she had spoken with. “Its gone. She doesn’t ever need to know. She would have hated it and everything it represented.”
“It has been a month since Kyreneth brought her here. I have finally healed her enough to allow her to wake and start moving on her own. With that she will have the chance to wonder, especially since her attacker escaped back into the foul darkness.”
With that pronouncement, Lerinala’s eyes flew open. Her vision was blurred and the light hurt. Lerinala bit back a moan and tried to sit up. She collapsed back against the pillow.
“He got away?” she asked, her voice husky with disuse. The two elven women, one dark-haired and one fair stared at her with surprise, their mouths in identical ohs of shock. The dark haired one spoke first. Lerinala recognized the brisk voice of the healer.
“Kyreneth shot the foul thing, but it escaped through the back into the Underdark. You were so gravely injured, he couldn’t leave you to pursue. He managed to heal you enough to move you and brought you here to us. He left the next day to take up the hunt.”
“What else is it you did not wish me to know? I heard your conversation.” The fair-haired lady threw a look filled with chagrin at the healer who sighed, resigned.
“What do you remember?”
“Him... Beating me over and over, kicking me. I fought, tried to use my magic, then darkness,” Lerinala stated stiffly, shoving the nightmarish memories aside to deal with another time.
The healer sighed. “This complicates matters.” She stepped forward and laid her hand on the mage’s brow as though looking for signs of fever. Lerinala captured her hand and looked into her eyes. The compassion and sorrow she saw there told her all she needed to know. With a shudder, she dropped the healer’s hand and covered her face with her own.
“Oh gods,” she whispered over and over, rolling to her side and pulling herself into a fetal position. The rest of the overheard conversation suddenly made sense. A feeling of revulsion crawled over her skin. Her stomach cramped, and she began to shake. The two ladies stared at each other with indecision before swooping in to try and soothe.
A month later, Lerinala sat on a bench outside her hostess’s home. It had been formed out of a living tree and small designs had been coaxed to appear in the smooth bark. Tracing the never-ending patterns with her gaze never failed to soothe Lerinala when her mind was unsettled. Her fingers brushed lightly over the living designs while she tried to force her mind to relax into the paths that would prepare her for the studying she’d ignored all this time. Once again, her mind refused to drop into the familiar paths.
“Lerinala,” Shrenneah called, stepping out the door of her cottage into the garden to look for her charge. Face troubled, she took in the appearance of the woman who had been carried to her half dead. The mage’s wounds had healed, most without scars, but her face was gaunt and her skin ashen instead of merely pale. Her clothes hung off her body accenting the weight she had lost. The worst was her eyes. There was a bleakness there, and deeper down a terror that her tormentor who had escaped might return to kill her. Shrenneah prayed that soon would change. Lerinala turned those haunted eyes to her hostess questioningly. “You have a visitor.” A wiry figure stood in the shadows behind her, carrying what looked like a leather sack. The mage stood slowly and walked with care to the doorway, standing hesitantly out of arms reach. The figure stepped into the sun and Lerinala gasped with recognition as her gaze met the brown eyes of the ranger who had rescued her. He nodded shortly and held out the sack which Lerinala accepted automatically, surprised at the weight.
“This should help you sleep at night. The monster that harmed you is no more.” Lerinala was hesitant to open the bag, but did so with an odd fascination. Inside the sack was a head, which Lerinala registered as having belonged to her tormentor before dropping it and gaping silently with horror. Then the meaning of the contents of the bag sank in. He was dead. He couldn’t return, for here was his head. This complete stranger had hunted him down at great personal risk and killed the drow who had almost killed her. She looked at the ranger and stammered nonsensically. The ranger merely raised an eyebrow, nodded at both the women, and walked back into the cottage. Lerinala stopped babbling and met Shrenneah’s bemused gaze.
“Excuse me,” Lerinala told her and dashed around the side of the cottage, reaching the front just as he was leaving the yard. “Wait!” Lerinala called out. The ranger stopped, waiting for her to catch up, gasping for air and a stitch in her side. “You saved me. You brought me to safety then returned to hunt him down, yet I do not even know your name.”
"Kyreneth,” came the short response.
“I am Lerinala and I owe you my life. If ever you have need of me…” He nodded curtly and walked down the road, leaving Lerinala to stare after him as he disappeared into the tree line. A soft footfall broke Lerinala’s reverie and she turned to look at Shrenneah. “Where are my books?”
Another month passed in which Lerinala worked to regain her strength, and studied hard to learn her spells once more. Dressed in her traveling clothes, which were still loose, Lerinala hugged Shrenneah then Terilana the healer, all three with tears in their eyes. “Where will you go?” Terilana asked.
“To find more spells. Learn more magic. Magic that will defend our people against those that live in the Underdark. I would have it that no other should suffer at their hand.” Lerinala’s expression was fierce. It softened when she looked at the women responsible for giving her back her life. After handing each of them a pouch and a dagger enchanted to provide a keen edge, she picked up her satchel and headed down the path.
Lerinala crept over the marshy ground, her feet squishing occasionally, surrounded by those capable adventurers she could find. Over the past several months, her studies had revealed a spell requiring components that were dangerous to obtain. Even after gaining them, the spell would be beyond her skill for some time. The scout she had hired stepped out of the shadows before the group and silently pointed toward the north. Carefully they crept in that direction. Lerinala’s grey eyes widened in alarm as her nose began to twitch. She pinched it tight in a futile effort to stop the sneeze, failing miserably. Blushing as everyone looked at her in surprise, she whispered “Excuse me?”
A huge black dragon burst through the trees, his mouth opening up to breathe…
Authors Note: Drow translations supplied by the House Maerdyn Drow Translation web site. Without it, this would not have been nearly as fun to write. *grin* Oh and Thank you Madam Editor for sifting through all the commas and moving them around. You know who you are. Lil.
Edited twice for stupid mistakes I should have caught earlier
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