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#1 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 01:14 AM


From the Journals and Papers of Dr. MorningGlory Gaeston
(Rated PG-13: Adult themes, mild language, violence,)


It was time for evening meal by the time I returned home. Everyone exchanged what they had done during the day and everyone but me sounded as though they had been terribly productive. Of course, I wasn't forthcoming about my little visit with Ribald, and only offered that I had stopped by my office to see if anything truly required my immediate attention.

“It’s good that you did, Glory,” Father offered. “A little time away from this can not but help to alleviate some of the stress for you.” I simply nodded in agreement.

“Nigel and I have the required preventative almost completed in an ingestible form, Glory, so you do not have to concern yourself with us,” Connor leaned over and patted my hand affectionately. “I have also managed to produce two more collars and an additional controller’s collar should we have need for them, and we have additional bio-agent readied as well. It would seem that we are almost to the point of just sitting and waiting until the appointed hour that we can put our plan into action.” As an after-thought, he added, "I assume Aran has the arrangements for the underground excursion well in hand?"

“Oh, yes.. Even as we speak they are being finalized," I replied. It wasn't totally a lie, I told myself. "And, yes, Connor, I do realize that for the most part -- and the hardest part -- we patiently wait. I fear I am just exhibiting some of my inherent predilection for impatience.” That brought a chuckle from everyone except Father.

The balance of mealtime was spent in Connor regaling us with stories of some of his more unique research over the years. Nigel was intrigued and Father listened politely, although I knew he had no interest in what he would deem such mundane activities. My own mind kept wandering to what we would find in the newly revamped dungeon under the northern end of the Promenade. Five more days and I would find out, I thought.

Evening time brought a visit from Hendak via my dressing table mirror. They were encamped a half-day’s journey south of the small village where Jaheira and Viga lived and would arrive there the next day in time to restock supplies and visit with Riona’s dear friends and former party member overnight.

All too soon the images faded from my mirror and again I was separated from my other half until I fell asleep and there would be some semblance of being in each other’s presence. He had only gone that morning and it already felt like forever.

Aran surprised me the next day by introducing me to the beginnings of parrying with an opponent with equal weapon. It was not unlike the basic moves my fencing tutor had instilled within me many years prior. He seemed pleased that I had more than basic knowledge and skills, though both were rusty because of time gone by. He also spent some time introducing me to ‘moving’ targets.

“Most adversaries will not extend the courtesy of standing still while you prepare to defend yourself, or try to kill them,” he explained rather humorously. “You have to first determine what your immediate strategic advantages are and then strike while you still have them.” I wasn’t quite sure if he was grooming me in the ways of defending myself, or if being an assassin was such a part of him now he couldn’t help but let it spill over into his teachings. I concluded that it really didn’t matter. I was going to learn whatever it was he was going to teach me. I needed it all.

He seemed almost anxious to have me learn as much as possible that day. Precise and concise, he pushed, and before I realized it, we had spent most of the morning there on the back range. He was strangely apologetic on our way back to the city.

“My apologies, Glory,” he began. “I did not mean to keep you so long this morning as I am sure you have other duties and obligations to which you must attend. I lost track of time.. Sorry...”

“No, Aran, that is perfectly alright. We have preparation of all of our preventative well underway, Connor has finished additional collars, and we are, in essence, simply waiting for Riona and her party to deliver the bio-agent in a few days time….and, well, there is nothing more for us to do here but simply wait until the gala. We can’t do much more than that.” I paused for a moment. “Quite frankly, I appreciate the diversion but I also don’t want to take you from your duties, either.”

He smiled. “The Shadow Thieves can do without my esteemed presence for a few hours each morning. I doubt the organization will crumble in so short of a time due to the absence of my gentle self.” His comment was designed to make me laugh and instantly had the desired effect.

“Gentle?” I smirked, remembering the glimpse of how he dealt with his underlings by watching him with Alexa and Bodine. Hard, cold, precise, exacting came to my mind. Anything less would have meant a weak and ineffective Shadow Thieves and even I realized their overall value to the social and economic structures of the city and the country. The Shadow Thieves were such an ingrained part of Amn, maybe even Faerun, that its demise would cause catastrophic economic chaos.

He dropped me at the great house before returning to the Docks, and I decided to have my noon meal with my children, foregoing the company of the gentlemen already seated in the dining room. They seemed to be engaged in much lighter conversation this day with a lively debate of local politics being heard from the main foyer. Fortunately, generous amounts of laughter were also heard indicating that the subject matter had not predicated a mood of contentiousness, as sometimes happened. I imagined that Father may have been on a bent and, as such, could be quite amusing with his observations of the bureaucrats and company that supposedly ran our fine city. I did at least say hello, beg my excuses and left to spend time with the twins.

Later in the afternoon, I quietly asked Drusay to fetch a carriage for me and with my small pouch of a comfortable shirt, pants, and slippers I journeyed forth to my office. I had a couple of hours to practice in Ribald’s basement before evening.

Charona was in classes every afternoon now, so no explanation for my ‘unexpected’ presence was required. I quickly relocked my front door and made my way back to the storage room. Changing clothes was a snap, and once I saw where the secret door was and realized I could easily walk through the ‘illusion’ of wall, it was nothing to make my way downstairs. I rummaged through the cabinet for Ribald’s practice materials where I found the pouches he had described to me. I also found two other daggers that the generous half-elf had left for me with a note – “Be careful, but I thought you might find these of interest…” Both were enhanced, but as the note said, handling such magic weapons and their energies was a practiced talent in, and of, itself. After parrying with one, I understood what he meant. All totaled, I spent another two hours repeating what I had learned over the past several days and many of the new things from that morning. It was Ribald’s footfalls on the stairs that alerted me to the fact that I might have stayed longer than I could afford to.

“Ahh… Missy,” he started and laughed as he entered the room. “I am glad to see that you have come to no harm yet. And forgive me, because I know I shouldn’t be callin’ you ‘Missy’, but…” His face colored a slight pink with embarrassment at his unintentional forwardness.

I interrupted him. “It’s all right, Ribald. Missy from you is just fine. One of Father’s dear friends called me that when I was a little girl. It was a term of endearment.”

“Aye, Missy, it is,” he smiled. “At least from me, it is.” He immediately changed the subject. “And I know since we don’t have windows down here, you might be losin’ track of the time, so I thought I would come down and tell you that if you have plans for evenin’ meal or if you’re expected someplace, you might best be runnin’ along. It’s, er, getting about that time.” He winked.

“Thank you, Ribald,” I said hurriedly. “If I don’t get back home soon they will be sending out a search party.”

“That’s what I figured,” he replied. “You go on ahead and I’ll tidy up here for you. Don’t want to be late, now.”

“Thank you, Ribald,” I quickly planted a small kiss of appreciation on his worn cheek and scooted up the stairs.

“I’ll be down to help you tomorrow, Missy,” he called after me.

The good mood from noon meal had spilled over into the evening mealtime. Waukeen was able to rejoin us and proved herself to be quite the raconteur with several gossipy and embarrassing little stories about her fellow deities.

It had been a good day, I thought, as I sat in front of my mirror awaiting my nightly visit. My own reflection faded away and was replaced with the now familiar visage of my puckered-lipped, half-god husband. Over the next several minutes, I was introduced to Jaheira, a beautiful half-elf, her husband, Viga, a handsome dark-haired, dark-eyed human, and their newest addition to their family, a baby boy, only a few weeks old. The party would spend the night there then resume their trek in the morning. With luck, they would arrive at the entrance site by nightfall.

Later, I lay in bed thinking before drifting off to sleep. Four more days… Just four more days.

# # #

The next day was much as the previous one. Again, Aran seemed almost driven to cover as much as possible without overloading either my mind or my abilities. And, again, we spent almost all morning at our task. He also seemed strangely preoccupied as we returned to city, inquiring after the children and only a casual question of how the trek to the North was going for Riona and party. My thin attempts to engage him in other conversation proved for naught. He was simply just not talking, preferring to unconsciously bite at his thumbnail as he stared out the carriage window.

Ribald was good to his word, having shown up downstairs shortly after I arrived. He proved to be an excellent observer. Watching me, then offering tips how I could improve. It was a different way to teach than how Aran always showed me. I didn’t know which technique I preferred, but they both seemed to be having the desired effect. I seemed to be quickly and steadily improving.

“Aye, Missy. You’re comin’ along nicely. Nicely, indeed,” he winked. “And tomorrow I’ll drag out the moving targets. Looks like you might be ready for a little advancin’ from what I can see that your teacher’s done taught you.”

Evening meal was again pleasant and I excused myself early to spend a few minutes with the babies before I knew I would be hailed from my mirror. When I finally saw my dear Hendak's face, I knew they had arrived at the entrance. Tomorrow they would descend through a series of small adjoining caves and caverns and at the last possible minute, Imoen would cloak them all in an invisibility spell. It would take very little effort for them to gain access to the water supply and deliver the agent. Then their task would be finished and they could escape undetected to the surface. All that would be left was the long trip home. And if all went according to plan, they would arrive home just about the time the party was concluding, or a little later if they happen to run into difficulties.

That night as I lay in bed, I thought. Three more days.. Only three more days......

# # #

I was still at home the next morning as Hendak came through on the dressing table mirror to tell me they were ready and just now beginning to traverse the underground area to the illithid city. They estimated they would arrive in a couple of hours’ time. He assured me they would be out by nightfall when he would again contact me. As seamless and simple as the plan sounded, I still couldn't help but be concerned for all of them.

Aran patiently awaited my arrival downstairs after I sent word by Drusay I would be a few minutes late.

“Any news?” he asked as I walked down the hallway toward him.

“They have arrived and are prepared for their descent to the illithid city,” I nodded curtly. “All is going according to schedule and with a little luck, we will hear from them this evening that the package has been delivered and they were undetected.”

“Ahh…,” he sighed in relief as I turned to Drusay.

“Drusay, I am already running late. If you would please tell Father what I have said and also ask him to convey it to the others. I will return at noontime.”

“Yes, Madam,” he bowed slightly and Aran and I were out the door.

Lessons again were just a little more intense than the previous day. I didn’t know if Aran was unwittingly showing the strain of the waiting for this all to be resolved, or exactly what was driving him. He never lost his patience, but he was very keenly exacting. I couldn’t help but notice the faint glimmers of the precise and dispassionate Shadowmaster which he usually kept hidden from me, but nevertheless was now subtly at work in his teaching demeanor. I couldn't help but admire his clarity of focus.

The balance of the day was a duplicate of the previous and early evening found us fidgeting around the dining room table awaiting the large mirror to spring to life with news of something other than the reflection of our evening meal’s remains. We did not have to wait very long.

A composed and happy group of faces filled the large glass. It was immediately evident that they had been totally successful as demonstrated by their very enthusiastic thumbs-up. Hendak held up the slate board. “It is done,” it read. “It has been delivered without incident. All are safe and accounted for.” That is all we needed to hear as a loud cheer arose from us, followed closely by a huge collective sigh of relief. Hendak quickly rubbed the markings away and began writing. “Presently topside and will begin return trip tomorrow morning. See you later tonight.” A giant pair of puckered lips filled the glass as the vision began to fade.

As I lay in bed later, I thought. Two days… just two more days. Tick-tock... tick-tock........

# # #

“Thank you for sending the messenger,” Aran said as the carriage rolled along the city streets on its way out to the cabin. I had had a cryptic note delivered to him the evening before relating that ‘the package had arrived safely’. “It was good news,” he commented.

“Yes, it was. I still don’t understand why you refused my dinner invitation that you might be there with us and witness it firsthand,” I replied. And, I really didn't understand.

“Just what Mrs. Mulholland would love to see out her drawing room window, Glory. Me arriving for dinner with Hendak gone. Especially after the other day,” he snorted, referring to the incident in front of the stationers.

“I thought you were all in favor of using us as allegedly having a torrid affair as the perfect cover, Aran,” I chided him. “Did you change your mind?”

“It’s fine for my people to believe such a thing, but upon reflection, I really don’t want to subject you to such ugly chatter if it is not absolutely necessary,” he said, rather matter-of-factly.

“I’m a big girl, Aran. I can take care of my own reputation,” I offered. "Plus, I could care less what that old windbag says about me."

“I just don’t think I want to be responsible for enhancing it in a negative direction, Madam,” he nodded. “Ultimately it is bad for me… and if it’s bad for me, it’s bad for business.”

“Really, Aran. Is business all you ever think about?” I could tell even the strain was starting to show with me, my voice edged with a tinge of sarcasm.

“Madam. I must. It is what I am,” he replied then shrugged.

“You are still coming to the gala tomorrow night aren't you?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Yes, Glory. I will be there, just as I promised. However, I must cancel our lessons in the morning. I have another commitment that I cannot delay or cancel. Shall we take them up again two days hence? I imagine that the day after the party you may want to spend the morning with your husband, assuming he has returned by then.”

“Of course. I would not wish to ever intrude on your schedule,” I said, thinking all the while how fortuitous that I did not have to come up with an excuse for canceling tomorrow morning in order to accommodate my little illithid hunt.

# # #

As I lay in bed that night before sleep overtook me, I thought. One more day.. Just one more day and this nightmare will be over. Tomorrow morning…. Showtime .............

To Be Continued…..

AN: Special Thanks for Guest Cameo of Viga

#2 Guest_Blue-Inked_Frost_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 11:19 AM

More preparations, I see! It was fun to see more Aran and Ribald in the chapter. I liked how you set up Aran cancelling the appointment - he knows more than he's saying. :)

#3 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 05:44 PM

More preparations, I see! It was fun to see more Aran and Ribald in the chapter. I liked how you set up Aran cancelling the appointment - he knows more than he's saying. :)

I think it's fair to say that Aran always knows more than he's telling. LOL

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