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Everlaen:Story:Hospitality

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The 15th of Kythorn, Year of the Staff

Arrival at the Palace

It was moving from late afternoon to early evening by the time the group arrived at the palace. The days had been steadily getting longer though as spring marched into summer and also as the party had travelled south and the sky was still bright and blue above their heads. The heady scents of evening flowers beginning to open could be detected and the heat of the day abating and rising of the land was noticable itself, giving its own subtle scent to the day.

Their progress through the city was noted from time, but after a while it became obvious that the occassional curious glances they were getting was more to do with the presence of Deityr than anything else and possibly Andril. Since entering the vale, they had seen no other people other than elves, and of those almost all had been moon or gold elves. Still, they were not stopped or accosted and they simply had the feeling they were unusual rather than unwelcome.

The palace - which Lorathon had explained was not so much a royal residence as a meeting hall for the Hill Council and a centre for the workings of the government - was a beautiful building, as they expected. It was not as overwhelming as might have been thought, given the name. Rather it was a fairly low building which climbed up one the hills of the city with wide terraces spreading out around its environs like a stately woman smoothing her skirts as she sat elegantly awaiting a caller. The gardens and patios were laid out quite exquisitely, as again came as no surprise to the newcomers, who were seeing exquisite surroundings wherever they looked today.

Climbing polished wide white marble steps flanked with matching balustrades and stately statues of tranquil and wise looking elves, they approached the main entrance, set into a horseshoe shaped enclave lined with reaching pillars supporting only the sky. It was here they were stopped for the first time and the palace guards came forth to enquire as to their business. Lorathon spoke to them and they passed through, only to be stopped again a little while later as was the nature of such things and places and soon they were being passed and lead from one place and person to another until they could finally wait in a pleasant antechamber.

In the Antechamber

Some fruit juice was served to them as they waited on simple benches, their surroundings fairly plain and tasteful allowing each member of the group to easily focus their thoughts inward. They had not been waiting for so long when a well appointed moon elf came to greet them. He was dressed in fine clothes with tight black leggings and a deep purple shirt with extremely long and frilly cuffs to his sleeves, dangling almost past his knees. Over this he wore a waistcoat of silver sammite. A number of bejewelled rings adorned his long fingers and a silver circlet with a gleaming moonstone adorned his brow. His hair was long, plaited into a single silver rope which hung below his waist.

Lorathon stood and bowed in greeting to the elf as he entered and the pleasantry was returned in a slightly more profunct way. "Lorathon Starhome, I see you. What can I do for you, or do you come on your father's business?"

This was Hal'Ky'Thaness, the palace Chamberlain and one of the senior civil servants of the realm, in that almost all business which reached the Council had to pass through him first and he was charged with the upkeep and day to day running of the palace, the centre of government. He had held his post since before Lorathon had been born and was famously unphased by anything or anyone - including the Watcher Over the Hills and head of the Council, Lord Erlan Dursar.

Lorathon looked at the Chamberlain and smiled inwardly to himself, as a youth, he and his freinds sometimes joked that he was not an elf at all, but rather some kind of construct or golem, such was the precision and efficiency with which he conducted himself and the palace. His ability to remain unfazed was legendary. He and his companions could all transform, their bodies twisting and changing as new forms erupted forth, appearing as Lolth, along with a pair of Yugoloths and Pit Fiends and the strongest reaction they could possibly elicit might be a raised eyebrow followed by a terse, but very quiet, "Damn."

"I see you, Hal'Ky'Thaness, and bid you greetings. I am indeed on Father's business, as well as that of the Council's. I have returned with the envoy of Everlaen" With that he turned slightly and raised his left hand to introduce his companions.

"May I present the Lady Selenne Irithyl, Sircar Blueshaft, the mage Deityr, and Andril Forlorn, a noteable bard."

Hal'Ky'Thaness bowed once more, this time rather less sketchily. Selenne curtseyed back - which looked rather odd with her in hose - and Sircar bowed.

Before any more pleasantries could be exchanged, the Chamberlain broke in, addressing Lorathon. "Well, in that case, I suggest you make haste to your family estates then. The Hill Council is not in session today." Obviously believing that concluded the matter, he turned to leave.

Lorathon watched as the Chamberlain spun neatly on his heel. He usually disliked trips to the palace and a long, ardous journey that was met with a curt "no thanks" at the end was not the welcome he had in mind. Hal'Ky'Thaness' bluntness had a tendency put him off, and this was one of those times. It wasn't his fault really, Hal'Ky'Thaness was punctual, and wasting time to him was like sunlight to a vampire. Nevertheless, he waited until he took two full strides before he spoke, "Chamberlain, may I ask as to when the Hill Council will convene?"

The Chamberlain turned and raised an eyebrow at Lorathon which spoke volumes about his timing. There was a pause. It was precisely the length of time it would take an elf to take two strides. "Just under a ride," he answered. "Or in nine days to be exact." There was another pause while he gave Lorathon the opportunity to interrup him again before he started off once more about his business. This time it was not Lorathon who broke in though, it was a newcomer.

A Grand Entrance

Sweeping in through the doorway came a woman of obvious station. Her bearing was a definite part of it, but the elaborate nature of her clothes was the clear indicator. If Hal'Ky'Thaness had appeared richly atired, this woman made him look like a drably dressed beggar. Her dress was wide, extending outwards probably a little further than she could reach and was made of a succession of beautifully stitched panels of purple and green. They were cut and embroidered in such a way that they looked like feathers, overlapping and some magic on the dress gave an impression that they almost fluttered and ruffled as she entered. Her waist was narrow and the bodice of the dress became wider again as it reached her shoulders. At the front though it was cut low and pushed her womanly assets up and out. A trail of tiny sparkling gemstones trailed from her left brow, down her cheek, across her neck and down over her right breast. Her arms were bare from the shoulders down, save for a golden armband around her right upper arm. That was, bare until they reached the wrists. A purple scarf was tied about the right and a green about the left. They trailed low as she walked, brushing the ground. She too had a great many rings adorning her fingers as well, but beyond all this one feature struck out more than any other.

The woman's hair rose up in a mighty crest which added more than two feet to her height in a jet black crest, fanning out from her head in a concave arc. Twined into the hair was silver wire and from these dangled small bells which tinkled quietly as she moved and amathysts and peridots in a spray reminscent of a peacock's tail. Under this all, her pale white, almost blue face looked small and ever so delicate, but her dark eyes shone out with amusement and purpose, the silver flecks in them almost seeming to swirl at she looked on.

"What is this?" asked Lady Selya Hawksong, as Lorathon instantly recognised her. "Do we have guests in our fair city and we cannot even offer them basic hospitality, Lord Chamberlain? How poor we must seem in their eyes." She shook her head at him chidingly and the bells in her fan of hair chimed in chorus.

Lorathon tried to keep the smirk from his face but failed slightly as one corner of his mouth tugged upward by a degree. He had enjoyed annoying the Chamberlain, whose attempts at retaliation were largely unnoticed. Lorathon considered it a battle won that he had found a way to annoy the man. There had always been a sort of contention between them. But then again, he seemed to remember a certain young elf of 30 or so launching a rotten egg into the back of the Chamberlains head many years ago. He wasn't seen of course, but somehow Hal'Ky'Thaness was ever suspicious of him afterwards.

He was somewhat taken aback at Lady Hawksong's sudden appearance and by her beauty. Her gown was lovely, as was the rest of her attire. He crossed his arms and tilted his head, favouring the Chamberlain with his blue eye and waited for his response.

Hal'Ky'Thaness refused to be intimidated by the Hill Lady. He dealt with the Council on a regular basis and while he gave them the respect they were due, he did not hold them in awe. "I am afraid, Lady Hawksong, that the affair of hospitality is not mine. The Council have not informed me of any special guest and if Lord Starhome has made invitations then they are his concern. The Hall of the Hill is not a inn. It is the seat of government."

Lady Hawksong inclined her head, a slightly ironic smile on her lips and her hair jingled once again. She flicked her fingers in a dismissal of the issue and turned to face the others. "Then I shall extend my own hospitality to these new arrivals." She dropped a middling courtsey towards the party, and smiled warmly. "I am Lady Selya Hawksong and I offer you rest and refreshment in my own estates while you stay here."

Lorathon offered her a welcoming smile in return, and made sure his return bow was slightly deeper than her curtsey, reminding himself that he was addressing a Hill Elder. He liked Lady Hawksong, she was beautiful and charming, but as his eyes swept the floor out of her sight he thought to himself, "Wonderful, 'The Game' has begun." The Game he referred to was the political food and drink the Hill Council indulged in daily, ( along with a healthy dose of contention, or perhaps, indegestion ). It was so prevalent that it had trickled down into almost every aspect of life in Evereska, to one extent or another. Upon their approach to the city he had noticed that there was no one to greet them. He had thought that the Elders would at least reciprocate with an envoy of their own. He also thought that they would assign his companions a bungalow or spacious cottage for their stay, considering that this was first and foremost, a diplomatic mission. But now those thoughts were gone, replaced by the grudging realization that this too was another ploy, another peice on the board that when moved, will create a ripple effect that touches all the other peices. They were to be treated as if they lived here.

As he stood he quickly weighed his situation. If he refused, and brought them all to his family's estates, it may distance Lady Hawksong and any support she may offer. If he accepted, it wouldn't look good for his father's youngest son to take up rooms elswhere. He also felt that he should stay with his friends as he considered himself a sort of host, remembering his promise to them. His mind began to entertain further complications but he firmly squashed them before the tumult made him sick, but not before one final thought bubbled to the surface. It was a lamentation he once heard muttered by a worshipper of Illmater, 'Only the dead are the lucky ones!' For in death there are no politics.

Their eyes met, liquid blue with emerald and ice. Lorathon smiled again with genuine thanks. After the Chamberlain's brusque demeanor, her kindness made him feel better. "You have my thanks Lady Hawksong, your offer is most kind and much appreciated." A sudden thought struck him. She didn't recognize him, and why should she? He was the son of a Hill Elder true, but he made a point of staying as far away from politics as possible. He stood a bit straighter, "I am Lorathon Starhome." He turned and gestured toward Selenne and the others, "With me is the envoy of Everlaen. May I present the Lady Selenne Irithyl, Sircar Blueshaft, the mage Deityr, and the bard Andril." With a slight pause he forged ahead. "Forgive me my Lady, we only came to the palace to announce our arrival, as the road has made us weary with battle and death. I had expected an entourage to meet us already, and since there had been none, I am afraid that I have already promised the envoy a hot meal and warm beds, and with rumors of my sister's return Mother would be hurt if I didn't at least take my first night's rest in my rooms under her roof. Perhaps tomorrow when we are rested, we will be capable of being proper guests?"

Lady Hawksong inclined her head graciously in Lorathon's direction, the bells in her hair somehow coveying a sense of amusement. "Yes, I can see the family remblance. Truly, you are your father's son." Her lips quirked, and for a moment Lorathon thought she would add more, but instead she turned her attention to the others.

"A pleasure to meet you all, I am sure," she enthused, her voice honeyed and rich. Her gaze ran over Deityr with a twitch of her lips, lingered on Andril and stopped to take Sircar's measure before it came to rest on Selenne. "Etriel," she purred, layers of satisfaction conveyed by that single elven word. "I have heard of this... Everlaen. I must admit to curiosity about what brings you here."

Selenne bowed from the waist in an unadorned style, which none the less conveyed respect despite contrasting sharply with the florid gestures typical of Evereskans. Her golden braids cascades over her shoulders as she tilted her body. She held the position for a very brief pause, then fluidly came upright once again. "The pleasure is ours," she replied, her own voice musicial and lilting. "I am pleased, though surprised that you have heard of Everlaen. It cannot be compared to... this." She gestured around her to indicate Evereska or perhaps merely the palace. "We would be delighted to take advantage of your offer of hospitality, soon. You are most gracious to strangers in your city."

"Not at all," replied Lady Hawksong demurely. "How could I do aught but greet an envoy so, a veritable ambassador of diplomacy. You shall be the guest of honour at tomorrow night's ball and we shall dance in Sehanine's sight. It would be quite a social coup to present a scion of the House of Irithyl to my guests." She pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow in question.

"Then, my companions and myself must attend, assuridly," Selenne answered. "I do so enjoy dancing. There are so many different steps and to so many different types of music. I am intrigued to see what is in fashion here in Evereska."

Lady Hawksong leaned back and laughed, the sound mingling with her bells. She seemed genuinly amused. "Till tomorrow then," she said when she had recovered her poise. With a look at Lorathon which almost made him jump, as if an electric jolt had struck when their eyes met, she made a gesture of farewell, and glided smoothly from the room as elegantly as she entered, the scarves at her wrist fluttering in her wake.

There was an almost audible relaxing of breath in the room as the party suddenly found themselves alone. Hal'Ky'Thaness had departed at some point in the interchange unnoticed. More than one of the observers felt like they had just witnessed a duel, fought blindfolded with invisible swords... and with considerable skill. It was almost tempting to look for some cut, too fine to notice the blow landing.

"Well, that was... interesting," put in Sircar. "What was all that about? And are all the Hill Council like that?"

Lorathon's lips tightened into a thin line as Lady Hawksong dissappeared through the door. He gave Sircar a dismal look, "Welcome to Evereska."

Homecoming

The stars had begun to shine overhead in a dazzling display, thousands upon thousands of stars gleamed in the deep blue canopy above. They were walking quietly down a path lined by beautiful giant oak trees and flowers of rare blossoms. The moonlight that shone through the mythal gave the air a pleasant clarity and the nearby ferns 'shussed' gently in the light, crisp breeze. Lorathon had hurried them out of the palace, holding a finger to his lips after Sircar's question, lest some other rogue Hill Elder claimed to 'accidentally' run into them and make the same offer. After Lady Hawksong, he suddenly felt conspicuous, like he was escorting them through enemy territory. Within an hour or so, everyone in the vale would be aware of their presence, that is, if their passage had not already been marked.

When he was sure that there were no ears close at hand he looked at Sircar, who was still waiting for his answer. "Do you remember when we camped in the hills north of here, and I spoke of how ... political this place is? Well, I must apologize to you," he looked at Selenne and over his shoulder at the others, "to all of you. I don't believe I've prepared you well enough. 'The Game' has begun, where words and actions are your sword and armour. And yes Sircar, everyone of the Elders is like that, to one extent or another. Although some hide it better." He paused a moment to let that remark sink in. "Everything we say and do from now on will be weighed and judged, and affect the outcome. Your goal will not matter nearly as much as how well you play. What I mean by that is this: imagine we are all peices on a game board playing 'wizard's chess' or what have you. Moving a lowly pawn may seem trivial but, right or wrong, that one move will be like ripples on the surface of a lake." They continued onward and he explained the relationships between the Expansionists, the Moderates, and the Isolationists, naming the entire Council and the groups they stood with. "Lady Hawksong made the first move, by offering her hospitality. Which would have given her no small amount of prestige, not to mention pride," he said, and looked at Selenne with a meaningfull stare, "sheltering the one and only Irithyl under her roof. I countered, and if her eyes had flung real daggers, I'd probably be dead." He bit his lower lip, "But I've had my fill of political pit vipers...er, Hill Elders for one evening. Home is this way". "Crumbs", remarked Andril under his breath. Both he and Cup had been in sitautions before where diplomacy had been required but Andril was the kind of elf that relied more on charm than any natural intelligence and he knew it. He would had to be sure to keep out of trouble and helf the villagers as best he could.


Some time later they climbed a set of marble semi-circular steps to stand before two tall sculptures of polished pale grey stone flanking large double doors. The doors were set into a delicate, yet somehow formidable white stone wall. Both statues depicted majestic elven knights bearing tall swords before them. Such was the skill of their manufacture, that no matter where one stood, they were always under their gaze. The doors themselves were exquisitely crafted with chisled multi-coloured glass in leaded panes and curiously without handles. Lorathon stepped toward the door, motioning his companions to remain where they stood. He muttered something under his breath and snapped his fingers. The great doors swung silently inward. More than one of his companions noted that, suddenly, they felt as if they were no longer being studied or watched.

The foyer inside was both wide and tall, lit by four glowing balls of light suspended over black iron sconces high up on the walls. The floor was laid with black tile, polished so that it reflected the stars through the domed glass ceiling above. The walls were a delicate off-white, lined with narrow pillars and paintings of stately elves. There were also landscapes of old, with tall delicate spires of beautiful elven craft stretching above a vast forest. Lorathon took a deep breath and let it out slowly, 'Home', he thought to himself, breathing in the familiar scents that sparked a multitude of memories. He turned to the others with a ready smile and twirled his cloak off of his shoulders.

A soft chime sounded and the doors opposite the five opened silently. The doors swung outward to reveal midnight blue curtains stitched with a vine-like pattern to give them subtle texture. Stepping through the curtains was a tall Moon elven woman of perhaps 300 or so. She introduced herself as Lady Ardel. She was wearing a floor length dress of silver and grey with loose fluffy sleeves that hung off of her shoulders with an open neckline. The dress contrasted nicely with her shining black hair that was tastefully arranged atop her head. Her only jewelry was a pair of earings with small diamonds hanging on chains that spun and sparkled as she moved. Her eyes were a warm and welcoming grey and she smiled at the newcomers with open arms. "Welcome honored guests. It's a pleasure to have you here. We've been looking forward to meeting you." Lorathon introduced his freinds and Lady Ardel greeted them in turn. She had been in charge of the operations of the Starhome estate for a very long time, indeed, there was little that went on that she was not aware of. Where her guests were concerned, she always remembered their tastes and requirements and always managed to convey genuine sincerity, making everyone feel welcome, as if she were speaking to a very old friend. She took Lorathon's cloak, slipping it into a cleverly hidden closet, and offered to relieve the others of anything they did not wish to carry.

"I see our young Master Lorathon has delivered you safely." She inclined her head towards Lorathon and her brows came together slightly, "Lorathon, where is Aramil? I was told that the two of you were sent out together, or has he decided to return to the grove instead?"

Lorathon's eyes darted breifly to the floor before looking back up at Lady Ardel saying, "Aramil has fallen." Lady Ardel held her hands in front of her skirt and nodded slowly, "I am sorry to hear, would you like me to send word to the Heirophant at the grove?"

"Yes, and tell him I'll be by in the morning to return what effects of his that I was able to carry."

Lady Ardel nodded again and her eyes and her voice once again brightened, "The Lord and Lady Starhome have been looking forward to this meeting and are eager to welcome you themselves. I'm sure you must be weary, perhaps you would all care to enjoy a meal in the garden?"

Meet the Parents

She turned toward the curtains and pulled a hidden cord that parted them to reveal an arched doorway with a dozen low broad steps that decended into a hallway with more polished black tiles, the walls of which were decorated with more pillars and paintings like the foyer above. As they walked down the hall there were several other hallways that led off to the left and right.

As they entered the open central courtyard they were greeted by a gentle breeze and twinkling stars overhead. The courtyard itself was lushly decorated with all manner of trees and flowers of every variety. The same carefully crafted detail that was present in the vale was reflected here although were the vale was sculpted, the garden felt quite natural, as if a section of deep ancient forest had been placed here. As they walked, dust motes hung in the air, the sounds of gently swaying trees and the gurgling trill of running water reached their ears. Thick ivy clung to the walls giving the impression of limitless distance. Several night birds sang overhead and the smell of jasmine greeted them as Lady Ardel guided them along the narrow path through the short thick grass. The path led to a small granite bridge that spanned the gurgling brook. After the bridge, the path turned to the right and followed the brook upstream while the land rose slightly until they reached a small waterfall. Waterdhavian roses and moonflowers from Cormanthor framed the path from the waterfall as it led to a giant Duskwood tree. The trunk was fully eight feet across with the boughs some fifty feet in the air. Beneath the tree, decorative lanterns were hung, giving warm illumination to a long stone table and tall high backed chairs. The table was set on a large round granite slab that nestled against the roots of the giant tree, with three steps preceeding it. Before the table at the top of the steps stood Lord and Lady Starhome.

Lady Ardel stopped three paces from them, bowed her head, and stepped to the left, turning to face Lorathon. Lorathon stepped forward and bowed, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, "Mother, Father, may I present the Lady Selenne Irithyl, and the envoy of Everlean." With that he stepped to the right, turning to face them.

Illthonna Starhome beamed at them. She was stunningly beautiful, dressed in a gown of flowing veridian silk. She stood some five and a half feet tall with thick raven black hair full of waves and curls that hung to her waist, on her forehead sat a white opal suspended by a silver chain. Curiously, there was a shock of white hair coming from her left temple. Her skin was very pale with a thin pale blue line running into the white band of hair next to her brow. Her eyes were shining emeralds as she descended the steps and greeted each of them by name, shaking their hands. "You are most welcome here." She looked at Selenne, "It is an honor to meet you my Lady." With that she curtsied gracefully and waved a hand at her husband, "This is my husband, Lohrderon Starhome.

"The honour is ours," Selenne replied formally and bowed. "Your son has been most helpful, and not simply in guiding us to Evereska. But perhaps he should be the one to let you in on his news. I would not wish to steal his thunder."

Selenne gestured to each of her companions in turn. "This is Captain Sircar Blueshaft of the Gateguard, the bard Andril Forlorn and Deityr of the High Forest." Selenne was almost too distracted to continue as Andril produced an outlandish bow at the mention of his name, but managed to continue. "It is a pleasure to make your aquaintences. Lorathon speaks most highly of you."

Lohrderon smiled at them in turn. He was tall, perhaps just over six feet. His long silver hair was held by a circlet of mithral, in the center of which was a large star sapphire, and several rings adorned his hands. He wore long soft robes of deep royal blue silk embroidered with runes and symbols in thread-of-silver. In his hand was a tall polished staff of black wood topped with an intricately carved platinum setting that spanned the last foot of its length. Topping the staff was a large round crystal. The staves mithral butcap clinked lightly upon the stone as he came forward. He stood tall and straight, walking with a measured pace. When he spoke, his voice was at once warm and compelling, and his bright blue eyes shone in the light. "Well met my freinds, well met indeed. As my wife has said, we are honored by your presence. We would also ask that you join us for dinner." He laughed, putting them at ease, "Be at peace my freinds, you are our guests. This," he said, waving his hands at the garden," is no Council chamber. No I would rather hear of your journey, and proud Everlaen from which you hail."

"Yes," Illthonna put in, favouring her husband with a sideways glance, "we'll save the politics for those posturing old crows shall we?"

Lohrderon favored his wife with a quiet smile and turned back to them, "Tell me, has my son had time to show you around the city yet? Do you know where you will be staying?"

Lorathon began to look noticeably uncomfortable as four heads turned his way, "Er... I told them they could stay here, Father."

Lord Starhome turned to look at his son, his face showing no emotion save for a slightly raised eyebrow. The flickering light played across his noble features and he was silent for the space of an eyeblink wherein numerous calculations could be seen briefly in his gaze. A smile played across his lips, "Excellent." he said, motioning to the table, "Shall we?"

Selenne nodded graciously and took a seat. "I hope we are not imposing on your hospitality. Lorathon has told us some of the political situation here. We would not wish to compromise your position."

"Indeed", Andril commented, "it would not be right for us to call unpon you to house us after your son has already done so much. And all decisions seem to have amplified repurcussions in this place- it would be unfair to have your good house tarnished if our objective were not be realised".

Lohrderon and Illthonna took their places, each at one end of the large stone table, and waited for their guests to take their seats before being seated themselves. Leaning his staff against the arm of his chair Lohrderon turned and smiled at the young woman, "Nonsense my dear, Lorathon has offered you the comforts of our home, and you shall have it." He paused to lean back in his chair while placing his elbows on its arms and folded his hands together, a small small tugging at one corner of his mouth, "Besides, ones...position if you will, is never quite where anyone suspects it to be, here in Evereska." His smile grew deeper making his eyes twinkle and his voice adopted a hushed tone as if revealing a secret, "Too many busybodies lurking about."

Lorathon, who had taken a seat next to his mother at the far end of the table, was suddenly reminded of Lady Hawksong and didn't quite manage to stifle a snicker. His father raised his head towards his son, his smile gone, and Lorathon related their encounter with the Hill Elder upon their arrival at the palace. At her parting behavior Lohrderon nodded and quietly said, "Mmm...oh really."

Illthonna gave her son a look of mock irritation and whispered, "Are you still having it out with the Chamberlain?" Lorathon looked at her and shrugged his shoulders and whispered back, "What was I supposed to do? He's still hiding that stick up his-". He was suddenly cut short from a rather sharp kick under the table.

"We have only seen but a little of your beautiful vale here," Selenne continued. "We would welcome the chance to see more. It is really quite different to the Elven Court and of course beyond any comparison to our humble settlement of Everlaen. It is a thing of joy to see that the People still live in such a place on Faerun. Lorathon has volunteered to show us some of the sights, and we will be grateful of such a guide. That is, if it does not take him away from other duties."

The attentions of those gathered drifted toward the elf in question and Lorathon stopped his quiet conversation with his mother to address Selenne's statement. "Father, in the morning I must visit the Heirophant in the grove."

Lohrderon said, "Indeed."

Lorathon waited breifly before continuing, "Aramil has fallen, and I must bring his effects to the grove. Lady Ardel has already sent word for me."

His father dropped his chin toward his chest and closed his eyes for a moment. After a slow, deep breath he raised his head again, "Of course, yes, of course you should."

At that moment, as if sensing that things had grown uncomfortable, Lady Ardel appeared with a cart laden with several varieties of wine and other spirits. After everyone had their drinks, Lohrderon spoke again, while gently swirling a large, well-aged brandy. "I'm glad you find Evereska so pleasing my dear, but I'm sure your Everlaen must have a charm all its own. I wouldn't dare call it humble. You can't judge a place - ".

"Or a person." Illthonna said.

Lohrderon raised his glass toward his wife and smiled, "or a person... by how grand their appearance may be! It's character that matters most," he motioned at their surroundings, " this place was little more than a collection of huts ten thousand years ago when Corellon guided our ancestors here. Imagine what Everlean could become in that time?"

Selenne smiled in what seemed to be a polite agreement, but Lorathon had happened to glance at her eyes as his father posed the rhetorical question. For a moment it was if a sunbeam had slid out from behind a cloud, but then it was gone as quickly as it had come as Illthonna broke in.

Illthonna had seen the look in her husband's eye, a look that she knew well, when he was gearing up for a lecture concerning his most beloved subject; history. She knew if she didn't interrupt now, nothing would stop him. She turned to Selenne, "All things considered my dear, I trust Lorathon got you here safely?"

"Indeed. His aid was most helpful - and not just in travelling. He happened to meet us with most excellent timing to help us in a difficult situation. I must admit," Selenne mused. "We were surprised to find out that our envoy was expected, never mind to receive a guide. How was it that you learned we were coming?"

Lorathon turned to her with his mouth hanging open. He blinked, stiffly, and looked rather pointedly at his father. Since he was the one who sent him on this mission in the first place he had assumed that his purpose was known.

Lohrderon was holding his glass up to the light, peering at the brandy's colour. "Your coming was foretold, my dear." Lohrderon said, "Perhaps on the morrow, you should accompany my son to the grove. I'm sure you would be well recieved."

"I think that I should first visit the temple of Corellon," Selenne replied. "We are here on the Protector's work and it would seem best that I at least should visit there at the first reasonable opportunity." She smiled self confidently as she spoke and Lohrderon wondered if it came from her faith. She had not struck him as a priestess when he first saw her, but perhaps he had erred.

"I am afraid we did not get to meet Aramil, but perhaps while I am at the temple one of my companions would like to go with Lorathon to the grove," she suggested. "I am a little surprised to find that there is a high ranking priest of the Wild One here. We have seen no Sy'Tel'Quess since we arrived, save for Andril."

Lorathon had no objections to Selenne's proposal and said so.

Lohrderon lowered his glass and took a sip of the fiery liqour. Nodding at it in silent approval, he raised his head and smiled at Andril, and spoke. "Indeed there are many aspects of our kith and kin that make their homes here," He looked back to Selenne, "In any case you say that the Protector has set before you a quest eh? Hmm...indeed." One of his eyebrows climbed toward his hairline and his eyes glittered with keen interest. He smiled widely, "Then of course I shall see to it that you are brought to the temple as soon as you are ready."

Deityr sat silently at the table. He swirled the glass of red wine clutching it ever so gently. He guessed there might even be a hint of cinnamon in the wine. He was finally beginning to take stock of what was going on all around him. He had no idea how he might have been of use to the elves from Everlaen in a political game. He had never been to the place, although admired what it stood for. Quietly contemplating his surroundings and situation the young half elf wondered how long it would take before he got used to the awkward looks he had been receiving from the elves. More than likely never. "I think I'll be going with you tomorrow Lorathon, I would like to see more of your grand city. Someone with your local knowledge would be more than useful for those questions one always asks oneself when in a new location with such culture, history and may I say beauty." The half elf held his head up a little higher. Who were elves to be the judge of him.

Deityr had piped up first and Andril was glad he had. He could not attend such a heartfelt scene without wondering what he was doing ther having never known Amaril. Andril imagined that he would have been a good elf and a friend to Lorathon- worthy of respect. But aside from that he sensed a little fragment of anxiety on the part of Lohrderon at the mention of the dead elf's name. And whatever may have been said as far as he was concerned the game was never over. Perhaps he was being over cautious in this homely environment, but both he and Cup that there would be even warmer smiles to come with proportionately more calculating natures to boot. He would be on guard all hours of the day.

He took a sip of wine and it went down the wrong way. He spluttered intensely until Deityr gave him a firm but fair slap on the back. "Maybe i could then accompany you to the Protector's temple, Selenne. I could certainly do with the opportunity and maybe afterwards i could investigate a guild or two for the old, you know, mando". Andril wriggled his fingers in the motions of mandolin playing. It was more a request than a statement but he imagined that Selenne would be more than happy to let him go off and play. There would be plenty of time to negotiate this or that in the evening; the day belonged to string instruments.

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