Warnings/notes: none, really.
Disclaimer: The wondrous world of Dragaera was created by Steven Brust.
written at 16th may 2006, by Misura, as a failed attempt at writing a drabble for the livejournal-community dragaera100 (prompt: Sethra Lavode)
Somehow, I hadn't really realized how much I'd changed by getting to know people like Morrolan, Aliera and Sethra. In fact, I should probably say that I hadn't really realized -that- I'd changed at all, let alone in any way that'd be significant enough to get me in trouble. (Well, Morrolan seemed to have made it a habit at some point to get me stuck in sticky situations, but at least he usually paid me for it, and on occasion even gave me an advance warning, so I pretended not to mind too much and only called him a bastard when I was sure he couldn't hear me.)
That changed on a fairly average evening when I'd decided the walls of my office were becoming a little too familiar for my taste. There weren't any documents I needed to read or sign, there weren't any Dragonlords wishing to use me as a reference-guide for witchcraft, and every crisis had either been solved already or decided to wait for tomorrow. I was, in other words, bored.
More often than not, I'm anything but bored, and usually not for reasons I enjoy. This particular evening, I was bored, and I didn't enjoy that very much either. According to Loiosh, this means there's just no pleasing some people. Personally, I think it means something else. I'm not sure what, but I'm sure a bit of -interesting- peace and quiet isn't too much to ask from life.
Anyway, I decided to go and get a drink. If I actually decided to try and maybe meet a nice girl who wouldn't mind meeting me again some other time, and showing me her bedroom, or coming over to see mine, that's nobody's business but my own; I'm the one telling this story, after all.
It's not particularly hard to find a place to get a drink in Adrilankha, not even when you're an Easterner carrying a jhereg on his shoulder. I'll grant you it's a little harder to find a place where you don't need to beat up a few rude people before being left in peace (considering Loiosh's personality, I shouldn't be surprised at the number of persons who object to his being in the same room with them, but then again, since I'm the only one who hears his comments on other people's looks, life-expectancies and manners, I actually don't know where they're coming from; maybe it's just more of that Dragaeran prejudice against Jhereg, except that humans aren't like Dragaerans).
Experience counts for much in these matters, and anywhere else, I suppose. Some things come natural to some people - I've yet to meet a Dragaeran who didn't have looking down his nose at humans down to an art, and not just because the average Dragaeran is a lot taller than the average human. Other things, you learn by a bit of asking around, some luck, a little carefully applied violence and a lot of experimenting. As a result, over the years I'd found several places where I could get a drink without needing to worry too much about getting my clothes dirty, or Loiosh risking getting injured by someone trying to shove him into a teakettle (yes, there's a long story there, and no, I'm not going to tell that one to you right now).
I found a nice, not-quiet table where I could keep my back to the wall and my eyes on the going-ons in the rest of the room - more because new habits die as hard as old ones than because I actually expected anyone to come and try to start anything with me. I hadn't yet spotted any attractive female company, but the night was still young, so I didn't let that keep me from starting on my glass of brandy. It wasn't particularly good brandy, yet it was cheap, and probably wouldn't kill me, so it was good enough for me.
Two men at the table next to mine were talking about some Dzurlord (I've forgotten both his name and the one of the bar, which isn't that remarkable, since nothing special happened that night, and it wasn't one of my favorite bars anyway; I'd only come there because someone had mentioned to me that it was a good place to find some female company, which turned out to be a complete lie). Neither of them mentioned how they'd came by his name, or how they knew his plans, or even why they cared.
In books, the main-characters are able to unravel top-secret conspiracies simply by happening to overhear a conversation - that one by Daymar's friend, what's his name again? comes to mind as containing a perfect example of how things shouldn't be going. I, of course, didn't get half so lucky; I'd never even heard of the guy they were discussing, which meant he probably had never been on Morrolan's guest-list, which, in turn, meant he wasn't all that important, because anyone who's someone in the Empire gets invited to Castle Black at least once, unless they're Morrolan, who doesn't extend invitations to himself.
(Once, I'd have added Jhereg to the list of no-go's, too, except that by now, you've probably heard of Mellar, who was invited because of a mere book, so possibly, Morrolan isn't all that fussy about whom he invites. He may be a Dragonlord, but he's much more arrogant than most, so odds are, he feels everybody's so far beneath him -excepting, possibly, the Empress, Aliera and Sethra Lavode- that there's really little difference between a Baronet and a Count, or a Jhereg and a Dzurlord.)
I never met the subject of their discussion afterwards either, for which there's a perfectly logical reason that has got nothing to do with fame or Morrolan's guest-list, and everything to do with Sethra Lavode. This is getting a bit ahead of my story though, so let's get back to where we were - or rather, to me, not drinking a glass of good brandy in the company of a pretty girl, but instead listening in on a conversation between two persons whom I'd never met about a third person I'd also never met, who, I learned, was planning to climb Dzur Mountain to meet its Enchantress, also called Sethra Lavode, whom I -had- met.
Honestly, Dragaeran stupidity never stops amazing me. By rights, it should make my job a lot easier, but naturally, things don't work that way. I don't see how storming up Dzur Mountain and annoying Sethra is any different from taking the same way home every evening without wearing any armor or weapons while passing through several dark alleys, but there you have it. The stupidity of Dragaerans is matched only by their perverted sense of logic.
The guy they were discussing being a Dzurlord did give him a bit of an excuse; tell a Dzur that doing something's bound to get him killed, and he'll rush off to do it faster than a dzur spotting an easy prey. It's a pity most Dzurlords either refuse to acknowledge my existence or owe me money, otherwise I'd probably have given in to the temptation of telling one of them that walking the Paths of the Dead while still alive had been a scary experience for me, just to see if they'd go and try to prove that anything a mere Easterner like me could do, they could do better and braver.
When they started arguing about how much of a chance there was of the Dzurlord surviving his adventure, one of them apparently noticed they'd gained an audience -that was to say: me- and invited me, as a supposed outsider with no interest in the matter, to voice my opinion about it all.
I said that Sethra would have the Dzurlord for breakfast. I mean, even if this guy was really, really good, he still wouldn't have stood a chance against Sethra, especially not on Dzur Mountain. It didn't take having met Sethra to figure that out, I thought, but didn't add.
They exchanged looks, stared at me for a while, and asked me if Sethra really ate all of her victims, or if she merely sucked them dry, what with her being a vampire and all, and me sounding like I knew a lot about her feeding habits and, oh, might I be able to recommend any books to them about the subject of vampires?
For a few seconds, I couldn't do anything but stare at them. I probably looked like an idiot; Loiosh tells me I did. (Actually, he said I looked 'more like an idiot than usual' which is sort of the same, and should tell you more about Loiosh' general opinion of me than about the expression on my face after being asked the questions I just mentioned.) After a while, their faces started to show some confusion, too, I assume because this kind of thing seems to be contagious.
In the end, I mumbled something about having some important business to take care of elsewhere and rose to leave. They probably knew the excuse for what it was, only there wasn't much they could do about it, since the bar wasn't the type of place where they could start something with someone who just might be better than them and trust the Guards to come and keep them out of trouble if I turned out to be a bit more dangerous than they'd counted on. Or, who knows, maybe they just weren't all that interested in pumping me for information about vampires in general and Sethra Lavode in particular; I'm pretty sure they weren't there to look for me specifically, so maybe I could have just told them to leave me alone and not gotten anything worse from them than an apology for dragging me into their discussion in the first place. (Loiosh is snickering rather loudly now. Just ignore him; it's what I do.)
Somehow, I wasn't really in the mood to try again in another bar, so I ended up going home early, where I spent perhaps fifteen minutes debating if I was awake enough to begin in one of those books I'd borrowed from Morrolan (okay, so he'd actually hinted rather pointedly that he thought I should read them, and I hadn't been able to think of a good reason to refuse) or, barring that, if I was sleepy enough to go to bed without being forced to study the interesting cracks on the ceiling for a couple of hours I could have spent doing something more enjoyable and constructive.
Just when I'd decided that I might as well see what knowledge Morrolan thought I couldn't be useful to him without, Morrolan proved that he does, indeed, have a knack for sensing it when people are thinking about him in less than favorable terms, since he chose that moment to contact me psychically to inform me he'd like to hear my opinion on a little security problem he was having.
(If you think that sounded harmless and boring, consider that Morrolan is, aside from the guy who lives in a floating construction that he can call Castle Black without people making jokes about it, also the keeper of Blackwand, one of the Great Weapons. Then take into account that typical Dragaeran tendency to understate anything unpleasant, such as mortal injuries and the extra costs of making some small changes to a cloak, and try imagining what 'a little security problem' Morrolan was having might turn out to be.)
(I must grant him this: it was quite a long time before I found myself being bored again.)
x- the end -x