Elideira hummed softly to herself as she set to polishing her sword with a soft rag. She was enjoying the moment of doing nothing of significance, for it allowed her to relax. Supper had been eaten, and now everyone who wasn't on watch duty lounged around the campsite in that lazy languor that came after consuming a good meal. Dinner had been a simple affair consisting mainly of roasted rabbits and vegetables and tubers wrapped up in leaves and shoved into the coals of the fire to cook. No one really felt like moving anywhere after a meal like that, which was just as well for their next destination was less than a day away and there was no sense in rushing anywhere when there was no real need to do so.
True the group could have pushed themselves hard all day and arrived at the countryside manor that was their next destination, but that would have been too much traveling too soon. Also, since it was Harpers waiting for them there and everyone knew it, it was unlikely that the members of that secretive organization would have let them relax upon arrival. More likely than not their 'hosts' would have wanted to get straight down to business as soon as they had reached the manor. So, by mutual consent of the remaining party members, they had lingered and set up camp in order to make for a more relaxed trip.
The half elf let her eyes drift from her task and settle on one Harper in particular. Gorion was seated on a patch of grass and concentrating on a couple of scrolls he had placed in his lap. She could see the serious look of deliberation on his face as he gazed upon those parchments and the frown that threatened to tug those lips of his down. She wondered what could be troubling him and she wished she could go over and talk to him and try to make his task easier. If it was a ballad or a story he wanted to untangle then she was sure she could help him. She did have to admit, privately to herself that she just wanted to spend time with him.
Elideira tried to figure out why she wanted to be with him so much and she couldn't really come up with an answer. When they had shared that wine in town so long after their very first meeting, it had been like two old friends had reunited. Perhaps that was true but she really didn't know. Actually, she was unsure of everything she learned about men when it came to the sage. He didn't fit in with the profile of the charming womanizer nor the overworked scholar who had little idea of how to spend time with a woman without talking constantly about his or her studies. Gorion did that but not to excess and he made it all sound so interesting. And he was humble too for he didn't brag at all about his recent battle with a dragon. He had said it was merely a task that he had to attend to along with the help of a few friends, albeit a dangerous one that people should never attempt if they could help it.
She blushed when Gorion looked up from his work only to find her staring at him. She dropped her gaze and risked a glance back at him. He had resumed his undertaking with that quiet kind of seriousness she had come to like about him, so he didn't notice that she was looking at him again. She tried to imagine what he'd look like with his hair loose and a smile on his face.
"You are staring at your male again," Tey'Lena whispered in her sister's ear in Undercommon, causing Elideira to jump with a start. "You've done that ever since he came into that last town we were in."
"I have not!" Elideira protested, also in Undercommon. "You just happen to catch me when I'm looking at him, that is all."
"Hai, that is every waking moment of yours," Tey'Lena sniffed. "Just go bed him already. I know you want to and you know I know how much you want to. You've never taken a male into your bed before so you're not going to be as good in the bedchamber as I was when I was your age. You want the old and scruffy one, don't deny it."
Elideira clenched her teeth together and shot back, "He's not old and scruffy!"
Instead of getting angry, Tey"Lena laughed. She sat down beside the half elf and covertly pointed in the direction of the studiously working mage. "Hmm, I noticed you failed to deny you want him to share your sleeping roll. Don't worry, I can see that he doesn't have too bad of a body beneath that robe of his. No, it looks quite delectable, in a pale, thin sort of way. Perhaps he won't be a complete disgrace in the bedchamber after all. I can give you advice in that direction, sister."
Elideira opened and closed her mouth in shock, but her words refused to come out. She tried again and replied, "Tea, why do you keep pretending you had to escape the Underdark when I know full well I spent more of my life underground than you did?"
"Temper my dear sister, temper," Tey'Lena chided. "I say that because it amuses me to say it and nothing more. Besides, you haven't answered my real question. What are you going to do about your chosen male?"
"I don't know," the half elf admitted. "He seems so serious, and will he still be around once this mission is done?"
"Ah, now we get to the truth!" Tey'Lena said triumphantly. "You want him to stay. You need to give him an excuse to stay with you, with us. Why not appeal to his willingness to learn things by teaching him something?"
Elideira wasn't stupid, she knew her sister was trying to get her to say something about sex, but she wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. Then she had an idea, one which would require her to be in constant contact with the sage. It would at least allow her to figure out for herself whether or not it was just a simple case of girlish infatuation she had over Gorion. "Thank you Tea, you've given me an idea."
"Oh, I have?" Tey'Lena purred wickedly. "What is it and does it involve oil in any way?"
Elideira stood up, and pointedly ignoring the oil comment told her, "I'll teach him the tongue of the Maiden's people. That should occupy us for a while. I'll talk to you later."
She walked towards the spot where the Harper sat, though she was still close enough to her sister to hear her say after switching to the Common tongue, "Hai, that will occupy the two of you only until you find more interesting things to do amongst yourselves."
The half elf ignored whatever else Tey'Lena was saying and made her way to the spot where Gorion was reading. He glanced up in her direction when she cleared her throat to let him know she was there. "Good afternoon," he said politely, the parchment he was holding crinkling in his lap.
"I noticed how hard you're working on those scrolls," Elideira began, for want of a better opening. "You want some company?"
Gorion patted the grass beside him and replied, "Of course Elideira, come sit with me. Perhaps you can listen to what I've discovered and help me figure out what it means."
She smoothed out her tunic and sat down beside the man and carefully placed her sword beside her. She had to admit she wasn't much of a scholar, so she was under no illusion that her insight was going to be all that valuable. Still, she was going to try to help even if all she could do was listen. The half elf looked at the sage and what he was reading and finally asked, "What are you reading anyway?"
Gorion reshuffled the pages until they were in an order that made sense to him and he motioned for Elideira to lean closer so that she could see the writing on the parchments. "These documents here," the mage told her, "are actually copies of Alaundo's prophesies I made from reading the originals in Candlekeep. They trouble me for they foretell of many things, and I think I'm almost on the verge of puzzling out their meaning. Yet I've been staring at them for so long that the ink is blurring on the page."
"Which ones bother you the most?"
The Harper shook the sheaf of pages he held and answered, "All of these are observations on things that haven't happened yet, though I fear that they soon will. Like the prediction that the gods will walk the land as mortals. Powerful mortals, but still mortals. That will cause all sorts of trouble, mark my words."
The half elf pressed her lips together and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "My goddess does seem… concerned about something. All of us who speak to her have heard that she will at one point not be found in Arvandor or even the Demon Web Pits. All of us priestesses have discussed this at length, but we've yet to come to a conclusion."
"Oh? Care to tell me more?" Gorion said with the intent interest any scholar had in a subject that fascinated them.
Elideira shook her head. "There's not much to tell. Even Qilue can't get any real answers out of Lady Silverhair. Our goddess is a moody one and she refuses to say anything more on the subject. I get the impression that perhaps there's a disagreement among the gods, but Qilue thinks it's more than that. So we clerics are left to figure out the meaning ourselves."
Gorion grunted, not satisfied with the reply but let the matter drop anyway. He set aside the top parchment and showed the priestess the next one. She frowned when she read it, for did it mean what she thought it did?
"It says here," she said carefully, pointing to a passage on the creamy colored page, "that a god will die, if I'm reading this correctly. Is that true?"
The sage sighed heavily and replied, "Yes, it's all too true. I fear more than one god will die, but there will be successors for some of them. Things change it's true, but what distresses me and what I'm not too sure of is what one god is apparently planning to do in the event of his destruction."
She looked closely to where Gorion indicated she should look on the page and a frown appeared on her face. "Gorion, this speaks of the Lord of Murder perishing."
The sage patted her on the arm in a comforting gesture. "Yes, more studying must be done on the matter, but it looks like Bhaal will be no more at the time that the gods walk the land."
Elideira thought of her family's involvement with the Bhaalite church and shivered. She didn't like them and she never would. What was good about intentionally killing someone in cold blood as an act of faith? She would be glad to see that faith die. "Good, he's a horrible god and Faerun will be a better place when we see the last of him."
"No," Gorion told her. "Bhaal's influence will not end with his destruction. The great Alaundo has predicted that the Lord of Murder will somehow try to cheat death should it come to pass. Some of my associates think I spend too much time obsessing over fevered dreams of the future, although I like to think of it as being prepared. Some at least agree with me and will work to prevent his return."
"How will that happen?"
Gorion shrugged and studied the rest of the parchment he held for a minute. He sighed and started to roll all his scrolls together to put back in their case. He looked seriously at the half elf beside him and spoke. "I know not how we can truly prevent it, though should the troubling time come to pass we will do our best to thwart his plans. I'm disturbed because there has been scattered reports of a dark figure, not dark of skin but dark of deed, forcing himself upon unsuspecting women, for what reason I can not discern. I fear that there might be a connection between that activity and the prophesies I've read. I can't be certain and I hope I'm wrong."
Elideira smiled and replied, "I hope you're wrong too in this. Still, that an evil god like Bhaal will be no more is reason enough to celebrate. If the seer Alaundo is right and the gods will walk among us, then I plan to be where my goddess will be. All of her priestesses can be there to comfort her and meet her without having to go to Arvendor to do it."
"Who knows Elideira, you may have a bigger part to play in the prophesy than you realize," Gorion said.
The half elf shivered as a chill passed over her. Then she looked up and realized a wind had sprung up. "I doubt that. I'll ride out the trouble with my sisters in faith, for that's the extent of my role in it. To turn the tables on you, maybe it's you who has a large role to play in Alaundo's prophesies."
Gorion grinned. "Clever, handing my own words back to me. Now, I'd like to turn the talk away from gods and towards you. I'd like to know what you've been doing since you've left Sembia."
Elideira crossed her legs and said, "I've done many things and eventually I found my true faith. If you like, I can teach you how to speak in the tongue my goddess prefers to hear."
"I'd love to learn to speak a new language, particularly Undercommon. I have a feeling that will be very useful to me."
She threw her head back and laughed, delighted at his response. "Gorion, you would want to learn even Orcish, if you could find one willing to teach you!"
"True," the sage conceded, a twinkle appearing in his eyes. "Although no Orc can approach the beauty of my current instructor. Er, I mean you're a beautiful woman Elideira and I'd love to learn what you have to teach."
"This will take a long time," the half elf pointed out.
"Nothing worthwhile is done quickly," Gorion countered.
"Unless one is running from a rockslide," Elideira joked.
"True," the mage responded. "Or running from danger."
The priestess smiled though inwardly she was both nervous and happy. Perhaps Gorion would stay even after the current mission with the Harpers was done. She cleared her throat and said, "We must start at the beginning, and the first lesson is how to properly pronounce some sounds in Undercommon."
Gorion listened patiently and the couple leaned close to each other as they went through the task of teaching the sage another tongue. More than one person watched the interplay between the older human and the younger looking half elf with the big ears. Selona was wistful as she looked upon the scene from her vantage point at the entrance to her tent. She would like to have something as nice as what was developing between Elideira and Gorion. She was coming to realize some things about herself and she watched her friend almost as a distraction from her thoughts. She was glad that the fussy half elf had finally found a companion she liked. Tey'Lena of course was waiting for an opportunity to give her sister an I-told-you-so look, but the lighter hues woman never obliged by glancing in her direction. The Crintri was pleased of course, though she was also watchful for she had always been secretly protective of the woman. More than once had she quietly worked to get rid of an unsuitable male that had designs on Elideira.
There was one person who did not share in the general happiness. When the married elves had left the group the day before, he barely noticed their absence, no matter that he had been clashing with the husband the entire time he'd known them. It was the presence of the sage Gorion that made him uncomfortable and moody, so much so that when a long standing irritant was gone he barely gave it a thought. No, though he knew he should trust the sage, he couldn't bring himself to fully like the man, and now he knew why. Merand watched Gorion and Elideira talk, though to his mind it seemed to be more than just talking. He didn't like how the older man acted towards the half elf that had captured his heart, though there was little he could do for she appeared to welcome any attention that his fellow Harper could give her.
Maybe, just maybe Eli would get tired of spending so much time with Gorion, but Merand doubted it. She'd never acted that way towards him, that's for sure. With a grim determination and ignoring the heaviness in his heart, the warrior disappeared into the cover of some nearby trees and continued with his task of acting as guard for the campsite. Once he turned his back on the others, he didn't return until his shift was ended.
Dreams and Sacrifices: Part 10
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