The priestesses came back from the successful completion of their hunt with smiles on their faces. Several of them carried the head of the beast they killed on a series of poles lashed together with vines. It was a heavy mound of flesh to be sure, but with more than one woman eager to share the burden the task was made that much easier. In fact, the women were so willing to help carry the prize back to camp that Elideira had everyone taking turns as there were not enough places to grasp when holding the remains of the monster. There was no fighting over whom got to have the honors from the hunt as all shared equally in the glory.
The nude clerics trotted over to a space by the campfire that had previously been set aside for their prize, as they had been confident that they would return triumphant in the performance of their duty. After the head of the creature had been displayed to Elideira's satisfaction, she signaled for her sisters in worship to gather around the fire. Each priestess went to occupy the same spot that they had before, and then the clerics began to intone a prayer of thanks and a promise to again do well for the glory of the Dark Maiden. Elideira started the chanting herself, her fellow clerics joining in one by one until the air rang with the sound of feminine prayers. Then she laid her silvery sword down in front of her and reverently bowed to the ground, the rest of the clerics following suit.
Slowly the half elf sat up, and then she clapped her hands together. "Let us all get dressed my sisters, and then when the food is ready we can feast!" she announced joyfully. Then she picked up her sword, and afterwards she stood up and carried it back to her tent, nodding to Tey'Lena as she passed her dark friend. Ever since the first day that the C'rintri was officially inducted into the practices of Lady Silverhair's faith, Elideira had counted the woman as one of her closest friends. Of course it did not bother her one bit that her confidant's skin was charcoal black, unlike how many of the denizens of the Realms felt about those with Drow blood running through their veins. Her family, of whom she was estranged from, pretty much viewed the dark elves in as negative of a light as most surface dwelling races did.
The half elf walked into her tent and picked up a sliver of flint and a chunk of steel that she always kept next to a candle or a lamp. She raised the two objects in the air in order to strike them together to produce a spark to light the candle that she had left in her tent, when she sensed someone poking their head into the tent at that moment. Elideira heard a familiar voice speak a word of magic, and then her candle seemed to light itself. "Ha, I know it is you dalninil," she said to the figure hovering at her door, not even needing to turn around to see who it was.
Tey'Lena laughed from her position at the tent flap. "I knew that I could never fool you abbil. Your ears are too sharp for me to be able to sneak up on you," the Drow half elf said in all sincerity. She walked into the dimly lit interior of the tent, dressed in the short top and skirt that served as her clothing for tonight. It was not a conservative outfit by any means, but then again none of Eilistraee's priesthood wore much of anything during their feasts. She held a bottle of wine that was sealed with wax at the top, a gift that came as part of an unusual trade with a wine merchant. He had wanted to be present at a feast the clerics were staging, and Tey'Lena had allowed him to attend as long as he agreed to give her a bottle of fine red wine. It had taken the man only one hour to gift the C'rintri woman with several bottles of a rare vintage of port. She had heard later through her contacts with the rest of the world that the merchant in question was traveling the land, raving about the beauty of naked priestesses dancing in the moonlight.
The poor man was now considered to be his own best customer after repeating his tales to every tavern patron he met. However that did not stop the occasional man from asking, and in some cases begging a priestess of Eilistraee if they could possibly be invited to dine with them.
Tey'Lena shook her head in amusement at the memory, wondering why so many males acted so foolishly around a partially clothed female. Then she recalled the reason why she was in her friend's tent in the first place. "Elideira, do you have a couple of mugs hiding somewhere? We need something to hold this delicious drink that I brought," she said, shaking the bottle ever so slightly for emphasis. She looked around the interior, noting how impossibly neat everything was. Even the blankets on the bed were freshly washed and pressed. There was not a stray speck of dirt anywhere, and Tey'Lena was sure that if she looked at the ground she would find evidence that the half elf swept the cool, dank earth on a regular basis.
"This place is too neat by half," she added while dragging a finger along the edge of her companion's storage box. And, as she had suspected there was not a speck of dust to be found on it.
The woman waited while her friend Elideira put on her clothing and went into the chest at the foot of the bed and pulled out two clear glass goblets. The C'rintri noticed this and commented. "You carry wine glasses with you? Daninil, you are a treasure indeed!"
"It never hurts to be prepared Tey'Lena," Elideira told the woman as she took a seat next to her on the bed. She held the two goblets in her hands as regally as any noblewoman could have managed, while the dark half elf broke the seal on the bottle and removed the cork via a short cantrip. Then the C'rintri poured the wonderfully smelling beverage into the glasses without spilling so much as a drop. She picked up the cork and resealed the container of wine, and only when she had set the bottle on top of Elideira's storage box did she accept her share of the beverage at last. The lightly colored half elf grinned at her darker friend and said to her, "I do have to admit that these wineglasses are an indulgence of mine, and thus should be considered a luxury. At least we can enjoy this port at a leisurely pace as the roast venison is not going to be ready for another couple of hours."
"Hmm, but it is a luxury you deserve Elideira," Tey'Lena told her, sniffing the wine in her goblet and enjoying the rich aroma of the red liquid. She swirled the glass and inhaled the smell of the beverage once more. It was a rich, flowery smell with the barest hint of butternut and a heavy overtone of fruit. She took a mouthful of wine and sloshed it around her mouth, noting as she did so the lovely aftertaste of smooth oak. Someone had clearly devoted a great deal of skill to the production of this bottle of wine, and since Tey'Lena did not believe in wasting a thing she swallowed her sip of wine rather than spitting it out like one of her old teachers had taught her. "Ah, that merchant truly knew the value of his product. It was worth it I think to have him with us that night."
Elideira glanced at her friend in amusement. "I was busy elsewhere when that happened Tey'Lena," she reminded the C'rintri. "And if I heard the stories correctly a certain priestess, who shall remain nameless at this time, invited this wine merchant into her tent for a little celebration of her own. I was told that the man, whom others describe as a nice looking specimen, walked out of the tent as if he was drunk."
"Perhaps the male was drinking his own shipment," Tey'Lena said, her eyes dancing with mirth. "They can be so weak at times."
Elideira shifted her position and took a delicate sip of wine from her glass. "Or it could be that this merchant was intoxicated with the charms of a certain C'rintri. You were taught the erotic arts of your people, were you not?"
Tey'Lena tried to stare her friend down and failed miserably. "Hah, I knew you would find that out abbil. Yes, I did entice the male to my bed, but I did not go beyond the basics of the art of the bedroom with him. If I had the merchant's heart would have given out long before the sun had arisen."
The half elf sighed and grinned indulgently at her friend. If anyone else had told me this I would have suspected that they were merely showing off. Hmm, I wonder what her reaction would be if we met this seller of wine again? "I have no doubt about that. Was this male competent at least, or was he too impressed with the thoughts of his own performance to find out how he really did?" the ranger priest wondered.
"I would say that he was competent, but just barely. I am used to, how shall I say it, a much more vigorous man who knows the art of pleasing a woman." The dark half elf savored another sip of her port and gave the woman who was quite possibly her best friend a significant look. "And speaking of males pleasing females, I am wondering Elideira when you are finally going to share your sleeping space with a man. I suspect that you have not done so yet, though there are and have been, plenty of males who would willingly volunteer themselves for the task. You should try out the charms of some of them at least."
Elideira blushed at her friend's line of questioning. It was a difficult task to accomplish, and somehow the C'rintri managed to do that. "Oh, I am much too busy for that sort of thing. Besides, there is nobody I would be willing to lay with under the stars yet."
As usual Tey'Lena decided to press the issue further. She was unable to understand how the half elf sitting beside her could deny herself one of the more pleasant aspects of life. It was true that her blonde friend was a bit reserved on personal matters, and the charcoal skinned woman was once again reminded that Elideira came from a noble house, for her entire bearing hinted at that sort of background. She was able to recognize this for in her homeland of Dambrath she had come from a long line of aristocrats whose bloodline stretched all the way back to the time of Cathtyr Shintar, high priestess of Lovitar, who had slain Reinhar the Foolish in battle herself. Thinking of her own past reminded the C'rintri that she really didn't know that much about Elideira's background, and she found herself wanting to know more about her good-natured friend.
In the meantime Tey'Lena wanted to tease her companion about her breadth of male admirers before she would begin asking question about her family. "Are you sure there is nobody that you would desire to spend the night with?" the priestess mage asked knowingly, the corner of her mouth twitching with amusement. "There was that, what was it, paladin of Tyr and his small army we met a few months ago, who thought that you were the most beautiful woman in the Realms. I remember them falling all over themselves trying to "assist" you in your duties. It was most amusing to watch abbil, especially after we got to look at all the poetry they wrote for you. Some of them were quite eloquent and they made for a most enjoyable read."
Elideira drained the last of her wine from her glass, noting in passing that Tey'Lena was just finishing hers off as well. "I just wish that the bard the paladin had brought with him had not been there at all. He wrote a song a night for me, including the awful one about the fair maiden who's beauty can tempt a god. And do you know what the worst part of the whole thing was Tea?"
"No, please tell me," the dark half elf told her, knowing full well what the ranger priestess was going to say.
Elideira stretched and said, "I was the one who had to memorize all those songs! And that silly bard had mistaken my interest in his music as an invitation for something else. I swear that if Merand had not been there to keep an eye on him than I may have done something awful to that songbird! The bard couldn't keep his hands to himself."
The C'rintri developed a serious expression on her face at the mention of the Harper's name. She knew how the warrior felt about Elideira for she was attuned to the subtle signs of affection. She also knew that the half elf did not feel the same way about Merand as he did about her. Tey'Lena had to be well aware of what others were thinking and what they gave away through body language since it would have meant a punishing fate for herself in her country of origin if she had remained ignorant. As a matter of fact, her ability to pick up on subtle cues given off by those in a higher position had allowed a young Tey'Lena to convince the resident high priestess of Lovitar in her village that she would make a much better mage that a cleric. What the half Drow never told the priestesses who taught her, or even her own family, was that she had no real desire to inflict pain upon another. If she had let her true opinions be known, then that old woman would have made her a living example of the extremes of the Lovitar faith. And her Drow kin were no better, but at least she had not seen that much of them.
Tey'Lena considered her next few words very carefully for she did not want to upset her fellow priestess. "Abbil, what are you going to do about Merand? I know that he holds you in high regard, and if you want to dally with a male while you search for one that you truly like then he would not be a bad choice. He is… healthy and would be more than willing to share a tent with you."
Elideira sighed at the mention of the mercenary turned Harper. She really didn't want to toy with him nor hurt his feelings, which is the reason why she had turned down his marriage proposals so often and so softly. True, she could have been harsher in her dealings with him, and she may have grounds for doing that given his treatment of her when they first met. But she could not be that callous with anyone, and it troubled her that she was unable to give Merand the message that friendship was as far as their relationship was ever going to go. She explained all of this to Tey'Lena, and she also told her friend that what she wanted in a male was not a strong arm, but a strong mind. He would be a man in other words, who can make her think and keep her on her toes. To change the topic of conversation she promised the C'rintri that she would tell her about her own background as soon as she met her next to the bonfire with her little silver horn.
Elideira watched her friend leave and carefully pulled out the wooden case that contained her flute. She unlocked the container and lifted the lid that contained her beloved instrument. Satisfied that one of her most prized possessions was in good condition she pushed the lid down and locked the case again. Then the cleric of the Dark Maiden smiled for she honestly thought of her C'rintri friend as a sister, and if Tey'Lena would agree to it there was a ceremony that Elideira had recently discovered which would make two women into true sisters. After all they both were closer to each other than with their own families, and if things went well tonight the priestesses of Eilistraee would have reason to celebrate the declaration of sisterhood.
Dreams and Sacrifices: Part 3
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