That first night when I tested Orient on her skills with the arms she had chosen, I had a shock and very pleasant surprise. I found that she was not only competent, but exceptional in her skills handling both weapon and body. You see, I had never fought a drow before, so the experience was enlightening.
She did not have the strength that I did but she had a much higher endurance level. She won me over by simply waiting me out; well that and the finesse with which she handled the blades that were almost taller than she was. She moved as if in a dance, a graceful twirling of limb and blade. And that was her weakness, she could not stop moving or she would lose the momentum that allowed her to wield the blades at all. So she was slow to start and had to defend herself with other blades she kept stashed all over her person including at the hems of the peek-a-boo dress she wore.
We fought for hours in this evasive method. She whirled in tight spins that brought her dangerously close to my blade but never within its reach. Well, that was until I began to tire and loose a little focus on the effort of just moving. I parried and dodged and did what I could to stay out of the way of those quicksilver blades. But I could tell that she too was loosing her focus on the match although not due to physical tiredness, but rather from what seemed speculation of my capability to keep going even though she could very well see that I was tiring.
And while she did that I took my chances and attacked. The dipping thrust that I aimed at a point just behind her right temple forced Orient to cease the incessant whirling to block. Once she lost momentum, her movements became slowed with the bastard sword in her right hand while unbalanced with the great sword in her left. This caused her to tip and lean into my blade, nicking off the top of the delicate pointed ear. The small bit of flesh fell away and the stump began to bleed sluggishly.
Orient just stood for a moment, staring stupidly at me. Slowly bringing her left hand in front of her face, she brushed the backs of her fingers against her ear and then looked in shock at the oozing liquid that came away on then. When she looked at me again it was a slightly more guarded look than before.
"This is the first time I have been blooded by anyone other than a drow," she told me. "Who are you human?"
For the first time I heard the dark elf's superiority in her voice. "I am Damian, just as you are Orient." I had retorted, not wanting to give her my true name when she so obviously did not trust me with her own.
The dark elf glared at me for a moment more, and then began her whirling dance again. I prepared for an attack, but she just sheathed the oversized blades. Then she regarded me with a wary eye. As, so in turn, did I.
"What say you to my skills?" she asked then.
"I say that though I won first blood, you are competent enough with such large weapons as you have chosen. However, I have seen nothing of a long distance or fail-safe weapon. I shall–" I never got to finish my sentence at a blade whisked past my ear. I really looked at Orient and noticed that she was crouched lower to the ground, hand on a dagger in her boot top. Her other hand was held away from the folds of her skirt and holding a bladed star.
"Very well, we begin tomorrow."
After that, I never doubted the skills of this odd drow. Anything she said she would do, she saw done to the best of her capabilities. I never saw her fumbling for skills she did not have. She always did things her own way. And so the next day we set off to Hydell. We had already worked out our disguises and Orient wasn't very happy with hers.
I hired a caged wagon, that could be covered to carry her during the day, and it fit into the guises we were trying to fill. I was a trader of exotic slaves and Orient was my greatest prize. Any trader who managed to capture and subdue a full grown Drow were either playing a few short of a deck or very stupid. But if we had gauged the self-styled Lord Oriss, he would be unable to resist.
I rode ahead of the wagon dressed in the gaudiest things I could come up with to display wealth. Even from the advanced distance I could hear the noise coming from the wagon. Things rang against the bars as Orient chucked things about. She was still mad at me for the outfit I had found for her. I grinned. It would be a complete draw for Oriss and she looked absolutely fantastic in it, if only she could see. As it was I couldn't wait to get her to the palace so that she could be in complete darkness for at least a day before we were introduced to the Lord. Nights spent on the road were chancy because she had to stay outside where all the torches in the world were lit.
Finally we had arrived at the godforsaken palace. I had managed to get us a suite that was out of the way of the rest and therefore an undesirable place for the obese residents to visit. Now all I had to worry about were the servants. But that was easy to get around as well because they were expressly forbidden from coming near Orient's chamber. I wandered about our suite ordering the servants around to put the trunks and other items here and there.
Then I wandered into the chamber in which Orient' cage had been placed. From the door I could see her ear twitch as I leaned against the jamb. I could see that she was still sulking in the corner. She wasn't yet wearing any of the costumes I had had made for this excursion but no longer did she wear her peek-a-boo dress either. She wore a pair of homespun breeches and a slightly tattered shirt and she was cleaning one of those gigantic swords. She beckoned me in with a tilt of her head and I closed the door to the chamber behind me as I approached the cage. I unlocked the bars and joined her in the corner.
"I do not like this Damian," she said crossly.
"Neither do I, but you told me yourself you have not the magic to disguise your true being so we have to work with what we've got and you know that selfish pig will want you for his collection," I replied with fervor. "You will have the perfect chance to attack him. If I know you, and I think I do, you'll find a way to hide several sharp objects in those costumes and you can gut him any which way you please."
"That does have a pleasing sound to it," she contemplated the thought with a slight smile as she continued to clean the blade by the sounds I could make out.
"It most certainly does. Now, tonight I must present myself before Lord Oriss and announce your presence. You however will not be presented until tomorrow, I arranged that so that you could have one day of full dark before being paraded about on a leash."
Orient looked up at me then, I could tell because I could see those indigo eyes staring in my direction. Something flitting through those orbs, but it was gone before I caught it and the eyes returned to their work. I could hear the quiet sigh of the cloth against the blade.
"You would do better to put that away and put on one of the outfits for while I am gone," I said, perhaps unnecessarily as I turned to go. Something whizzed past my ear and I knew by the thunk that it made that I would find one of her blades in the wall next to where my ear had been.
"I shall see you when I return."
Dressed in another gaudy outfit, this time of purple and orange with green trimmings, I made my way down to the audience chamber. The self-styled Lord had yet to make his appearance, so I was made to stand in an ante-chamber with several other persons who were to be introduced to the man. I could hear them whispering in groups, some of the conversations were easily intelligible, and many of them were about the way that they had to pay tribute to the pig that did nothing for them or their children as he had promised so long ago. The only ones, it seemed who were not complaining were the ones that had gotten fat and rich under Oriss's rule. I stood between the two parties, saying nothing, moving not an inch from the center of the room. When finally the pig deigned enough time had passed and made his way to his 'throne,' the herald at the door beckoned to me. I approached the man, slowly, pride and arrogance showing in my every step.
"Your name, good sir," the herald asked quietly.
"Ashtad of Faegelnor, slave trader, fifty-second for the throne of Fothnor," I declared loud enough for the entire room behind me to hear. The sudden stillness in the room was almost shocking.
I wondered as the herald opened the great door to announce me if any realized the significance of the name and the claim that lay with it.
I turned my attention to the crowd before me. Lord Oriss sat on his throne surrounded by beautiful slave girls bearing food, wine, fans, or laying sprawled around him looking at him with what had to be falsified lust. The man was absolutely vulgar and disgusting. He reclined on his throne, all his fat folding around him. He was wearing only a loincloth with draping tassels caked with food. His face was red with his obesity. I watched him pull one of the concubines on his lap to fondle her. (AN: Remember this guy is telling a story, so 'Papa, Papa! Stop no more!') I could only just help not gagging, this was not going to be as easy as I had thought. Finally the blob of fat recognized my presence and beckoned me forward.
"So Lord Ashtad, you grace our court with your presence," the man said through the flab. "We are pleased to grant you welcome in our court."
That the man had the unmitigated gall to use the royal third person rankled on both my persona and my person. The first urge was to slaughter him then and there. After that I calmed myself with a deep breath and bowed slightly to the pig.
"It pleases me to be here," I replied.
"Please sit down," he said never moving, but indicating a chair a few steps down the dais from his.
I sat as invited and waited through all of the other introductions. No one else was invited to join us on the dais and I could see all his cronies begging like dogs for the privilege. Once all of the introductions were finished Oriss shooed away everyone except for two of the concubines, both blonde and very lovely.
"Now, good man, I hear you have brought a drow for my pleasure," he addressed me as if he and I were the dearest of friends, which I had no intention of ever becoming, but the act had to be upheld.
I nodded courteously and said, "At the moment, my lord, she is for your viewing pleasure only. While she is very lovely, if you like such things, and very delicate looking, she is untamed and very volatile. However in a few months she should be ready for whatever you have in mind."
"Very good," Oriss almost managed to clap his hands. "I take it that I shall see her tomorrow?"
"Yes, my lord. At what time would it be most convenient for my lord?"
"After the evening meal. Now, my boy, is there anything that I can offer to you for your pleasure? Eh?" Oriss nudged the blonde beauty hanging off him.
"Thank you, but no my lord." And I managed to say this with the proper amount of insinuation. "I have my own entertainment waiting for me."
Upon returning to our suite I went first to my chamber to change into more comfortable clothing. After losing the skin tight breeks and overflowing shirt, I made my way, barefoot to Orient's chamber. I found the door open as I had not left it. A tad worried, I found Orient inside in one of the 'outfits' I had purchased for her, it looked almost as if she was wearing little more than silk scarves. She was, however, covered in all the proper places and the dress was made of eleven or twelve arm spans of very fine spider silk dyed in a very pale blue. But it was not enough, I saw, to cover what looked like a tattoo on her back between her prominent shoulder blades. It was shaped like a setting sun over a craggy horizon, except that it glimmered and shone like solid silver. Such a metal could not be laid into flesh, it would poison its bearer no matter whether they were elven or not.
The drow lay in fitful slumber in her cage in the corner farthest from the door. I could tell she was trying to huddle away from the light coming in through the doorway. I supposed one of the servants had come by and opened the portal. Stupid, ignorant sons of goats. But then the thought came to me that I was thinking better of a drow than humans oppressed by a cruel leader and with that the thought that she was exotically beautiful crossed my mind. Those thoughts struck me as so unparalleled and odd that I did not know what to think.
Shaking my head entirely confused, I lay my pallet down outside her cage and lent myself to unconsciousness.