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02 March 2010 @ 10:26 pm
Midsummer 1372  
I roused from my meditation, alone for the first time in several days. Tordrin had mentioned the need to need to get lots of rest and get up early for the festival, so I had suggested we spend the night apart. "Are you sure?" he'd asked me. I'd reassured him that it didn't bother me, but I neglected to mention I was feeling overwhelmed and was looking forward to a night alone. It was my first chance to reflect on the step I'd taken.

I hadn't told Seledra any of it, yet, and she'd been most disappointed last night to learn that I was spending the night at home. I, for one, don't understand how the girl can have so many doubts, deny them as she might, about her own relationship, and none at all about mine. But then, maybe she truly is in love with Methrammar, and I'm merely projecting my own complexes on her. The gods know I have enough doubts for the both of us.

I sat in bed for a few minutes, my arms around my knees, then sighed and got up to go to the privy. Seledra's door was slightly ajar when I passed her room, and I saw her holding up two gowns, looking from one to the other, though it was a few hours before we would need to be ready. Well, it was understandable she'd want to look her best. This was probably the most important day of her life, save perhaps her initiation as a druid.

I went about my routine slowly, trying to distract myself from thoughts of Tordrin. After my morning ablutions, I went to the kitchen, but decided I was too anxious to eat. So I made my way to Seledra's small sitting room and plopped myself on the settee. I was expecting a package, and from the position of the sun, it wouldn't be long. Better to be near the door than make Seledra have to get up. I couldn't dress until it came, and in the meantime, it was getting ever harder to avoid my thoughts. I had grabbed a book before I sat down, but my eyes scanned the words without seeing them.

So, I'd decided to trust Tordrin, sort of. At least, I told him the truth; whether I truly could trust him with it remained to be seen. He could still be playing me. I wondered sometimes, foolishly, if he wasn't secretly a psion, tugging at my subconscious when we were together, compelling me to give up my secrets. He may as well have been, the way I lost all sense of self-control when I was around him. My recklessness frightened me; what if I'd made the wrong choice in telling him my story? In even investing so deeply in a relationship with him, after so short an acquaintance? Yet I couldn't seem to deny him anything when he looked at me, no matter what I resolved when I was alone. No one had drawn me in like this since . . . well. It wouldn't do to think of him. And this was different even from him, at any rate; I'd always had as much sway over him as he did over me. This, though. I didn't know what this was. Was it love? Does love feel like leaping off of a cliff, not knowing where the bottom is? I wasn't sure I liked it, whatever it was.

Of course, Tordrin wanted to spend time with me at the festival. Never mind that I hadn't worked in several days and needed to make up for lost time. I still expected to have several hours to myself, at least, so I planned to head out prepared. I couldn't work the festival in my regular gear, no matter how much easier it would have been to move around. Seledra wanted me to be there for her presentation and Methrammar's announcement of courtship, and I knew she'd like it if I dressed for the occasion. Not to mention the grand carriage Methrammar was supposed to send for us. Not only did Seledra have no intention of complying with Methrammar's request to keep away from me, she was practically going to flaunt me in front of all Silverymoon, and I would certainly look odd stepping out of a fancy carriage in leathers.

I had in Menzo a glorious gown that one of my employers in House Drii-Upoth had commissioned for me, that I might wear when she sent me to important social events, replete with slim pockets and other "decorative features" in which I could hide coins or small valuables. The gown was fashioned out of intricately woven brocade, to hide any slight bulges that would otherwise show through the slim fit of the dress. But even had I not left it behind when when I fled to the surface, Menzo fashions were not quite Silver Marches fashions, and it wouldn't have done.

The voluminous skirts currently in fashion in Silverymoon made it easy to devise a new gown with a similar function. It was not so easy to find a dressmaker whose work was suitable for such finery, but who also would not ask questions about unusual features, especially on only a few days' notice. I wouldn't have needed such a thing had Seledra not met Methrammar. In the end, I purchased a plain-but-fashionable lavender silk gown, nicked some matching fabric and a bolt of coordinating purple velvet, and made a deal with a fellow thief whose mother was a seamstress. I didn't know what he told her the dress was for, nor did I care; I cared only that she did a serviceable job adapting my admittedly sketchy instructions to the style of the dress. It was this dress I was waiting for, for I had paid extra to have it delivered. Seledra seldom questioned my comings and goings, but this morning was special, and I didn't want her to worry about me being back on time. After all, I could always make do with a regular gown if this one was late.

After what seemed an eternity (though it had been, in fact, only three quarters of an hour), I finally heard a light rap on the door. I opened it to find a small, grimy boy holding a large parcel. His eyes grew wide when he saw me, but to his credit, he waited until he'd handed off the package and I'd handed him a couple of coppers before running off in terror.

I hurried back to my room with my package. I glanced through Seledra's door again as I passed; she was sitting at her vanity, doing up her hair. Once in my room, I examined the dress. I smiled to see that the woman had made every alteration I'd specified: pockets, larger than customary, hidden by extra folds of fabric, a small bustle that had an opening in the fabric from whence I could extract my lockpicks, if needed, and a detachable flap of fabric behind the pockets, to hide my dagger. She'd even added some decorative appliqué, to dress up the simple lines of gown, and further draw the eye away from the more unusual additions. With the velvet, she'd made an overdress, though I wouldn't use it until winter, split down the back to sit on either side of the bustle, with long, pointed sleeves that also served as further storage.

Once dressed, I gathered together the final pieces of my costume, including a strange contraption of metal spikes and fabric that opened out into a sort of dome. The gnomish inventor who was hawking them in the market the other day called it a "parasol" and said it was to protect fine ladies from the harsh sun. Perfect for my "sensitive drow eyes," he'd said when he spotted me in the crowd. It was just convenient enough that I wasn't too irritated that he'd drawn attention to me. And I found I was able to sharpen the tip into a nice point, for extra defense.

Arranging and rearranging my dress helped to finally distract me from my brooding about Tordrin. When I was done, it was nearly midday. I was surprised Seledra hadn't popped in already, since it had been quite some time since I'd seen her at her vanity. I grabbed some hairpins and headed to Seledra's room.

I went in without knocking. Seledra was a vision in bright green. She wore one of the gowns from Shou that she bought on our recent excursion to Everlund, and matching slippers, and she'd arranged her hair into an elaborate up-do.

"How do I look?" I said as I entered, posing when Seledra turned.

“Gorgeous," she replied, smiling. "Do you want me to do up your hair?”

“Nah, I prefer to leave on time. How long have you been sitting here, an hour?” I teased. I separated my hair into two tails and rolled them into high buns on each side of my head.

Seledra stood and grimaced into her mirror. “Two, actually. I just can’t leave it alone.” Poor thing was under a lot of pressure today; all Silverymoon would be watching her. After a brief silence, Seledra asked about my gown modifications. She was, of course, suitably impressed. When I was finished, she said, “It also looks like you’re a little bit . . . more endowed. Is that a modification as well?”

“Good eye. It’s a push-up mechanism that not only works as a distraction, but storage as well.” Another gnomish invention. I might start wearing it all the time. Not that my natural endowments were anything to be ashamed of.

Just as I got everything back in place, we heard a knock at the door. Methrammar's coachman. The anxiety crept back in as we rode to the festival grounds, especially since Seledra didn't feel like talking. I almost asked her if she'd brought a flask along, as she sometimes does. Much as I tried to avoid strong drink, I could've used a shot of liquid courage. I had no idea when I would actually see Tordrin; all he'd said the night before was "I'll find you." No doubt. We turned heads as the footmen helped us out of the carriage, but we were both too distracted by our thoughts to pay the crowd any mind. Seledra stopped and scanned the grounds, and I thought she was looking for Methrammar, until she grabbed my wrist and marched off in a seemingly random direction. She stopped at a crowded stall topped with two signs: One that read "Heavenly Queen Bakery" and another that merely depicted a weird-looking cylinder with a white center. No wonder the stall was so popular. Just like my Seledra to head straight for the phallic symbol.

"What is that supposed to be?" I asked Seledra, as we waited in line.

"A cream horn! It's a Silverymoon specialty, a pastry filled with sweetened, whipped cream." Seledra smiled at me with a crazy look in her eyes. It was a little scary. She didn't look like that even when she was talking religion. She gave a me a questioning look to see if I wanted one, as she moved toward the head of the line, but I declined.

"Huh. Could they not get a better artist?" I asked. Seledra was first in line, now, and ignored me as she paid for her pastry.

"You’ve simply got to try one of these. They are divine," she said as she finally turned back toward me. Remarkably, the sign turned out to be a fairly accurate reproduction of the real thing.

I shook my head; despite having skipped breakfast, I didn't think I could eat anything; my stomach was churning so. But I didn't want to tell her that, because then she'd demand to know the whole story, and this was just not the time or place for that. To deflect, I said, “I’m really not interested in making a spectacle of myself.”

Seledra looked confused, so I made some lewd hand gestures as we stepped out of the queue. She got it then, and started laughing. Then she took a huge, exaggerated bite out of her cream horn, getting cream all over her mouth. In the midst of licking her lips, she froze, staring at something nearby.

"What is it?" I asked.

Seledra didn't answer; she only squirmed her eyebrows up and down. Finally, mouth still full of pastry, she managed to say, "Look. Over. There."

All I saw were a couple of young human men, one of whom was the wizard who frequented the Dancing Goat, the one who made the eyedrops for me. What was his name again? Jo- something. Jordan, Joabam, Jolon, Jonas-- "Oh, Jonah!" I said, snapping my fingers. "I bought my eyedrops from him. Nice guy, you’d like him. He doesn’t test on animals, just . . . his . . . friends. Seledra? Hello!" I looked back to Seledra, but she was gone, threading through the mob at the stall as fast as her little silk slippers allowed; I had to run to catch up with her. Finally, she ducked behind another stall and stopped.

"It's him. The boy. It's him," she repeated breathlessly, her face turning almost the color of her hair.

"Jonah? Really?" I didn't really think Jonah was her type. He was kind of a little guy: smart, but not the best looker.

Seledra shook her head, still catching her breath. "His name is Magnos." That name sounded familiar. A friend of Jonah's? That must've been it, but I didn't think I'd ever met him.

"Which one is he?"

"The one with the dark hair and dark eyes and wearing the ostentatious red and purple robes. You can’t miss him," she replied, burying her head in her hands. I looked again. It was the tall human walking with Jonah. Just as I glanced over, he winked and flashed a white, toothy grin at the attractive young lady who had only moments before handed Seledra the pastry still clutched in her shaking hand. Oh, yeah, he was her type. I should've guessed. I laughed.

“Boy? The way you’re acting, I was expecting something more criminal. That, my dear, is a man…ish. I mean…he’s probably no less mature than you. Us. You know, the whole aging…slow…thing. Yes.” That didn't come out quite the way I'd planned. Seledra still looked spooked, though, and all she did was start walking away. “You’re so like Tordrin in that way. You like men from Kara-Tur, Hells, anything from Kara-Tur, like he likes drow." Why did I just bring up Tordrin? The man is taking over my mind. Gods, girl, think of something else. "Huh. So he’s the one that helped you practically demolish that room! We had to pay through the nose for that, remember?” I started laughing again, at the memory of what that room looked like.

Seledra glared at me, and took an absentminded bite of cream horn as she continued to make her way through the crowd. I kept teasing her along the way, and she told me all about her encounter with the gutter-minded Glittersmoke girls, the laundress's daughters, when she had her bodice repaired. “I’m surprised the thing was salvageable," I said to her. That bodice was a piece of work, I tell you, when she was done with it that night. "How would you explain it to your boss if it …"And there he was. I froze. I'd forgotten about him for a few minutes what with the cream horns, and the boy, and all. But there Tordrin was, leaning against one of the many announcement boards scattered across the festival grounds, looking for all the world like he'd known I would pass by there, and my stomach twisted itself into a knot. As if on cue, he looked right at me, smiling, and I smiled back in spite of myself. I realized Seledra was looking at me, so I turned and gave her a goofy grin.

"Oh go on you silly goose, I'll be fine. See you later!” she said, and with that, I gave in to Tordrin's magnetic pull. As I joined him, I looked back to see Seledra wandering off in the opposite direction. Part of me wished we could have stayed together a little longer; it was nice to forget my worries for a while. I turned back to Tordrin.

"Good morning, beautiful," he said, taking my hand. "I have something for you." I was alarmed for a moment that he might be accelerating things even further, but he picked up a large bundle that I hadn't notice on ground next to him and held it out it to me. "Go on, open it! I promise it won't bite." He held the bundle while I pulled back the folds of paper wrapped around it. Staring back at me was a slightly fuzzy fabric in a soft, mottled grey. I reached in and pulled out a long cloak with a silver clasp. "Linsey-woolsey," he said. "I know it's a little early yet, but this is the Silver Marches. It'll start getting cool at nighttime very soon. I figured you probably didn't bring much with you out of the Underdark, so you might need a nice cloak. It won't be suitable for winter, of course; you'll need a heavier one then." Gods, he babbled on. Was he actually nervous? Tordrin? "I hope you like it. I know you like jewelry, but, well, I thought that might seem too much like a courting gift, and, well, I don't want to scare you away." He looked at me very earnestly. If he really was playing me, he was very good.

"It's lovely," I said. And it was; for all it was so simple, it was very fine workmanship. "I'll have to remember not to wear it for, um, work. I wouldn't want to ruin it." I smiled shyly up at him, only to realize that Tordrin wasn't looking at me anymore. He was glaring at a small group of festival goers who were gawking at us, and he moved slightly to place himself between them and me. They moved on, quickly, and Tordrin smiled back at me. He gestured to someone I couldn't see. A very young Harper scout, apparently a trainee, appeared out of nowhere.

"Find a courier if you would, please, and have this sent to Mayurra's address." Tordrin said, handing him the cloak, "and then go tell Thralia that I'll be back in about a half an hour." The scout nodded and scampered off. "I wish I had more time to spend with you, my dearest, but a musician's work is never done, you see." He pulled a long-suffering face, making me laugh, and then put his arm through mine. "I think we have enough time for a quick meal, though. Have you eaten?"

"No. I . . . wasn't very hungry this morning, but maybe I could eat something now." My stomach, had, indeed, untied itself a bit. How does he do this to me? We started walking, wandering among the food stalls. Tordrin finally suggested one that was advertising cuisine from the Dalelands. We shared a pasty filled with venison, potatoes, and onions, something I hadn't had since leaving home, and a small flagon of Dalelands ale. While we ate, we had a comfortable conversation about nothing of import, just local happenings, books, music . . . the sort of companionable talk I often shared with Seledra. It was, perhaps, the first time he didn't tease or needle me. We just . . . talked. Maybe it was because we were in such a crowded place, or maybe it was that the newness was wearing off. Or maybe he figured he had me now and thought he didn't need to try so hard anymore. Either way, it was more relaxing than I expected our meeting to be. Finally, Tordrin looked at the sun and got up from the table we shared (alone: despite the size of the trestle table, no one would sit near us).

"Well, beautiful, I'm afraid I must leave you to your own amusements. Thralia will be wanting a break from singing, and I'm sure the fans are wondering why I'm not there. Try not to do too much damage to the tourists' purses, all right?" I giggled as he gallantly kissed my hand.

After watching him stroll away, I discreetly checked my accoutrements, and made my way back into the festival crowds. I avoided the areas where I recognized other thieves already working. We weren't really organized, here in Silverymoon, but for the festival, we'd come to an agreement whereby we could all get a decent take. I came to an area close to the central stage, where Seledra would be presented, and surveyed the grounds. The proportion of upper class citizens was higher here, allowing me to use my finery to my advantage. I was just about ready to pick out my first mark when I saw a flash of red hair attached to what appeared to be a little blind boy sitting against a post begging for alms. I was a little surprised; I only knew the girl (for it was, in fact, a girl) by reputation, but I'd heard that she's been injured recently, badly, and no one had expected to see her here.

I sighed. I'd gotten started too late, and it would be harder to find a territory that wasn't already staked out. I prepared to move on, but I thought maybe I could get a little info first. I approached the pickpocket carefully; once I was near, I noticed how her hand shook as she held her cup out. She must not have recovered so very much, after all. I dropped a couple of coppers in the cup.

"Don't spend it all in one place, little master," I said.

"Oh, no, Lady," she replied, a little weakly. "I bring it all straight home to my mother!"

"Well, a festival like this is bound to be crawling with pickpockets and cutpurses, so you'd best be careful." I trusted she was in the loop enough to pick up on the signal we were using today.

"Oh, don't worry about me, ma'am. They don't bother a poor little chap like me. 'Sides, I know how to avoid 'em." Ah, she was as smart as I'd heard.

"Care to share some pointers? I'm a little worried about my own purse."

"Well, I can tell you there ain't anybody to bother you over on the east side of the square, ma'am."

I dropped her another copper. "Good to know, little master. I thank you."

"Thank you very kindly, ma'am. Mother and I will eat every day this week." She bobbed her head, and I made my way to the east side of the central square of the festival.

It wasn't quite as good a spot as what I'd left, but good enough. There were a lot of busy stalls, and anywhere that commerce was going on should prove profitable. I spotted a harried woman trying to corral four children, with a fifth, an infant, in her arms. She didn't even bother to conceal her purse under her skirts; it simply hung from her waist. Easy pickings. I ambled toward her, gazing about like a tourist. When I was close to her, one of the children ran right in front of me. Just the opening I was looking for! I stumbled and fell, dropping my parasol from my left hand while I drew my dagger with my right.

"Oh! My eyes! My parasol! I can't see!" I cried, on my knees, covering my eyes now with my left hand. The woman hesitated for a moment (I am a drow, after all) before thrusting her infant into the arms of the oldest child and rushing to help me.

"I'm sorry, Lady, they're just children, they do run about so!" As I expected, the children continued to get underfoot as the women tried to assist me. I groped the poor woman as she tried to help me stand.

"Oh, My eyes! I must have my parasol!" I repeated, as I felt around for her purse.

"Garen, boy, get that . . . that . . . whatever she called it! Bring it here!" she yelled, just as I found the cord that held her purse and cut it free with my dagger. Purse and dagger both went into a pocket, to save time, just as the boy I had "tripped" over came up with my parasol.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Lady, it's got all dirty," the woman said, dusting it off. Clearly, she was terrified of offending the dangerous drow woman. I kept my eyes down as I took back the parasol. "You're-- You're not hurt, are you?" she continued, backing away now that I was fully upright and had my parasol in hand.

"I'm quite all right, Mistress. Thank you."

"I'm so very sorry about Garen, he--"

"No need to worry; I understand how excitable they get on days like these," I said, kindly. I'd considered going the haughty route, but she'd be less likely to come looking for me when she discovered her missing purse if she remembered me as nice.

"Oh, thank you ma'am. I'll keep better control of them, now-- Garen! Lissa! Get back here! Now where was I, yes, I hope you're not terribly offended, Lady, but I think I'd best look for their father now, yes. Do have a good day!" The woman took back the infant and scurried away from me as fast as she could with all those children in tow. I moved toward a shady spot to dust myself off and rearrange my garments. The crowd that had gathered kept their distance, and gradually went back to their own business as I appeared unlikely to cause any further commotion. When it seemed no one was watching anymore, I carefully transferred my dagger back to its scabbard. Examining the purse could wait until later.

The rest of the afternoon was not nearly so eventful. I swiped a few loose coins left unattended on tables and counters, flirted with a few men who were getting drunk early in an ale tent, lightening their pockets in the process, haggled with some stall keepers to distract their attention while I swiped some small items that I could sell later. I did fairly well, considering my late start. Soon enough, the sun was high and it was time to head to the square for Seledra's introduction.

Fortunately, I was not far, so I had time to stash a good portion of my take in my bustle, leaving in my pockets only that which I could reasonably be expected to have purchased. As I joined the gathering crowd, I easily spotted Seledra and Methrammar near the main stage. Just as the fanfare was beginning, however, both of them stopped and stared into the distance. When Methrammar ran from Seledra's side, I looked back to see what was going on. At the end of the thoroughfare that led to the square was a large group of trolls.

Trolls? Within Silverymoon's gates? I knew enough about the city's defenses that something had to have gone terribly wrong for this to happen.

By the time I had processed what I'd seen, most of the crowd had also noticed, and people started screaming and running in every different direction. I turned back toward the stage, but Seledra was no longer there. I tried to make my way over there to look for her, but the chaos of the crowd made it slow going, and in the meantime, the trolls were coming ever closer. I decided the best course of action was to find my own hiding place to wait out the attack. I ran to the stalls--already abandoned--nearest my position, and hid behind one of the counters. I spotted some shelves taking up space in a cubby hole I otherwise could have hidden in. I banged on one with the butt of my dagger; fortunately, these stalls were meant to be temporary, and the shelves were not very solid. I helped myself to some of the abandoned goods and some stray coin while I knocked the shelves out, every so often peeking out to keep an eye on the trolls' progress.

I peered out once more to see a large pair of grey-green hands grab one of the fleeing festival goers near me. It was time to stop watching, and start hiding in earnest. I shimmied into the space I had made and whispered a prayer to every god whose name I could remember. My hiding place didn't last long, however, as one of the trolls crashed into my stall, knocking over one of the posts that held up the awning and breaking the counter in half. As the troll tore at the awning that fell on its head, I grabbed the collapsed parasol that I'd left on the ground. I jabbed at the troll's groin with the sharpened tip, causing it to howl in pain. I didn't do much damage, but I distracted it enough to get away.

No sooner had I crouched in the shadow of another stand than another troll spotted me. I tried stabbing at it with my parasol again, but it ripped the thing out of my hands and broke it in half. So I pulled my dagger back out and leapt at the troll. One would think my experience with the orcs would have taught me something, but no. Of course, I only managed to stab the troll in its toe, making it even angrier than it already was. It overpowered me before I could get away again, and threw me into a cage. One of several that I now saw around the square, each being filled with festival-goers. Something told me that our festival was quickly becoming the trolls' smorgasbord. I resolved to keep quiet, thinking that perhaps if I didn't call attention to myself, I'd be able to escape after they hauled us back to their lair. I only hoped Seledra was safe, and I determined to look for her as soon as I could free myself.

My determination soon proved unnecessary, however, as Silverymoon's Knights in Silver and High Guardsmen poured into the square and quickly dispatched the trolls. After getting the situation under control, the Guardsmen methodically came around and opened the cages. A Guard patted down each citizen as they came out of the cages, "to make sure we're not hurt," they told us. I was only a bit nervous--I thought my goods were secure in my bustle. But when the nice Guardsman handed me out of the cage, the unthinkable happened: something rattled.

I tried to play the surprised lady. "Oh, my bustle! I think part of the framework broke when that brute threw me in here . . ." Which was true; something had clearly broken, otherwise it would have been too well packed to make any noise. The Guardsman reached behind me and gently shook the bustle, and of course, it rattled even more.

"We got a hot one here!" he called to one of his fellows, and they led me away for a more thorough search. I expected to be arrested, at that point, but I did not expect their reaction when they found a small, shield-shaped piece of silver among the rest of my . . . trinkets. I didn't even remember taking it, but I can't be expected to pay attention to everything I steal, can I? It didn't look like much to me, but the Guardsmen seemed to think it was important enough to physically pick me up and haul me to the prisoners' wagon at the edge of the square. They didn't even finish searching me; they'd unloaded everything from my bustle, but the few things I'd left in my pockets, and a couple of things nestled in my bust, were still intact.

Perhaps what was most surprising, however, was finding Seledra to be one of my companions in the wagon, sprawled across the lap of that young man she had tried so hard to avoid earlier.
 
 
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