"C'mon, Kher, can't you hurry up?" The plea is punctuated by a tapping foot, impatience written into the stance of broad-shouldered girl.
A person sways into view, hidden from the chest up by books of various styles. She stumbles to the nearest table and drop the stack there, then, wheezing slightly and pushing now-messy hair from her face, steps away.
Only once this is finished and she has straightened does she acknowledge the other.
"You realize," she says, "that you volunteered me for this. Every day. I didn't complain because it got you sword-fighting lessons. And now, I'm going to do what was asked of me. It will cost you only five minutes, and I'll could be finished faster if you help."
The first fidgets in her armor, looking away. Finally, she speaks up. "I don't... want... to organize books…"
The other nods. "Fair enough. You'll have to wait."
This answer appears to displease the first. She strides to the table and begins to pluck away tomes and jam them into whatever space she can find until a pull at her arms stops her.
"Taev, no," scolds the second, and she gingerly removes each of the misplaced books. "The Order of the Radiant Heart: Volume Two," she says, holding it up, "does not go between A Compendium of Fantastic Beasts and The Adventurer's Guide. It fits between Volume One and Volume Three."
She slides it into place, then looks up. "You know that if you rush this, I'm just going to have to rearrange it again, and then this will take twice as long."
Taev makes a frustrated noise and throws her hands in the air. "You can do this when we get back! By the gods, Kher, you can rearrange the whole of Candlekeep for all I care, just not now!"
Kher's features soften. "Taev, this won't take long. But the monks are not – and I love them to death when I say this, I really do – known to be organized. Some floors haven't been catalogued for the better part of twenty years. Without me to fetch things for them, they need to have a system they can use, or Candlekeep could be in ruins when we return." She turns back to give a sympathetic smile as she repeats, "five minutes."
Taev turns away. "Fine. Give it whatever structure you want. I'm just – bored." She begins to gesture in the air. "There's a whole, huge world out there, Kher, and we're finally going to get to see it. And the longer we wait for you to—"
"I'm finished," Kher interrupts, and stands.
Taev blinks. "...really?"
Kher laughs softly. "Yes, Taev. I'm finished. Are you really going to stand there talking about how much you want to get going, or are we actually going to get going? Wasn't there a new sword you wanted?" And her sister grins.
Taev sets the pace, walking with long strides so that Kher struggles to keep up, and eventually decides to simply trail behind. When she finally does catch up, she finds her sister standing by Winthrop, in front of shelves carefully arranged with wares.
"Hey, Kher, which armor do you think I should get...?" Taev asks without turning.
Kher waves a hand, heading for the stairs.
"The best you can afford," she replies, noticing how Taev's gaze flickers back to a certain set. "Really, anything you want. I'll trust your judgment here. I'll be back in a moment; I'm going up to prepare our packs."
Taev nods absently, still examining, and Kher leaves her to her task.
Their shared room is unlocked—considering the price paid at the gate, none here would have reason to steal anything except Imoen, and a simple lock wouldn't even slow her down.
From under her bed, she pulls out a simple satchel. There is another wadded up inside it, and she shakes out the both of them from gathered dust. The wrinkled one is for Taev - in goes a lightweight change of clothes, a small pillow, a pocket knife and a piece of flint. Her own pack is similar, but she also adds two stubby candles, a multi-looped belt, and a worn book that had been resting on her bed.
This done, she heads down the stairs once more, but turns a corner to reach the kitchens. She returns to Taev with filled packs, now weighed down with three apples each and broken-off chunks of cheese wrapped in cloth, as well as a canteen of clean, albeit metallic-tasting, water.
Taev is outfitted in silver armor now, the only distinguishing feature of which is that one shoulder is spiked and larger than the other, and looking decidedly intimidating. She is weighing a sword in her hands, twisting it and jabbing at imaginary enemies, but she smiles at Kher as she accepts her bag and slings hers on her back.
"Come one, warrior, let's go," Kher says, and starts for the door.
This is met with a frown. "Don't you need anything?" Taev tugs on the thin sleeve of Kher's robes. "Armor, perhaps?"
Kher only shakes her head. "Anything more than this obstructs my casting. I'm sure I could manage after a few months of practice, but for now, it seems unnecessary. Besides," she adds with a smile, "I'm sure you'll take care of any threat that appears, o mighty warrior."
Taev laughs, hefting her sword and beginning to follow Kher "of course. Nobody touches my sister if I have anything to say about it."
"Hear these words and tremble, Faerun; the mighty Taev shall tonight be set loose upon the world."
They take the long route around, deciding to say their farewells to friends before their journey.
Unfortunately, they forget that many of their friends are in the habit of asking things of them, up until the point that they are hailed by familiar and irate-looking dwarf.
When they approach, deeming escape to be impossible, he says, "I've a task for you girls. There's rats in the cellar again. There'll be a reward if you get rid of 'em quickly."
Kher gives a pinched smile and a raised finger, and pulls her sister aside. She speaks in a hushed whisper. "Taev, didn't you say you took care of all the chores left?"
Taev balks. "I did! I mean, I thought I did! I even sorted through straw for Phlydia's book!"
"Well, you—" Kher pauses. "She left her book in straw?"
"Yeah. And she gave me a gem for it."
"Hm. That was very kind of her. ...and you said she didn't like you."
Taev shakes her head, but is obviously pleased. "Still, what are we going to do about Reevok? Da- Gorion's expecting us!"
Kher places a finger on her lips. "Mh... you go on ahead. Tell Gorion we're mostly ready, and I'm taking care of a... problem." She shoots a glance at Reevok before looking back to Taev, "I should be done by then."
She turns back to the dwarf. "I'll do it."
He nods, then leans in to whisper conspiratorially, "I think the cats are in on it…"
This gives her pause, but she heads down. The chitter and squeak of scurrying rodents can be heard quite clearly here, and it gets louder with each passing second, until the sound reaches a peak and she is confronted with the source of the noise - surrounded on all sides by the grey-furred creatures. She eyes them each, a strange glint in her eyes.
As Taev walks away, she catches a glimpse of Kher, her hair fanning out as she stands in a circle of chittering rats and declares, "fear me; for I am the one they call Ratsbane!" before and swinging her staff wildly.
Taev shakes her head with a smile; her sister always was an odd one.
When Taev returns, Kher is sitting on a wooden barrel, slightly bloodied fingers scratching at an orange cat's fur as it purrs. There's no trace of magic, either – apparently no need to waste spells when a staff will do the job just as well.
"There now, kitty..." she coos, keeping with the façade, "you wouldn't really join forces with those nasty rats, would you?"
The cat only meows, leaping gracefully from the barrel.
Kher dusts herself off and stands. "Oh, hello, Taev. I didn't know you were back already. You should have said something." She grabs her staff from where it leans against a wall. "Are you alright? You look a bit pale."
Taev's eyes widen. "I-? Oh! No, I just – had something to say."
Kher, squinting and shielding her eyes as they walk into the light, says, "alright. What was it, then?"
There's a pause. "Imoen just… said something weird..."
Kher shoots her sister a smile. "Is that new?"
Taev shakes her head. "No, this is different. Something about a letter of Gorion's."
Kher slows her pace, but it's several moments before she speaks. "Really? And did she say what this letter was about?"
"No. Just that he wouldn't want her tagging along because of it."
"Huh. It's likely nothing, then. He sends many letters, and we read few of them. If this weighs on your mind, we can ask about it when we rest."
"Yeah, I guess, but... Kher?"
Taev taps the fingers of her left hand against her shoulder, the action resulting in faint, tinny noises. "I think… I think all this secrecy is because we're in some kind of danger. This morning, I – you know that room that's usually empty, the one by the barracks?" At Kher's nod, she continues. "I went to go find this old dagger someone stowed away in there years ago. I thought it might be useful, and I couldn't remember if you had ever gotten another one. I got... attacked."
Kher blinks. "You what? Someone - who attacked you? One of the guards? Should I speak to someone?"
Taev waves her hands, "not one of them, Kher. Someone new."
Kher frowns, and says, slowly, "but we haven't had anyone new pass through the gates in weeks."
"I know. That's what I thought. But I swear I'd never seen him before, and he attacked me, and now he's dead. I killed him. And Parda didn't seem surprised at all, just sad. And I was confused, and trying to sort it out, so I went to find you… and I thought, well, 'that's it and now I'm done with it.' So I told Gorion we were about ready to go, talked to Imoen, and..." She growls, frustrated. "I hadn't found the dagger earlier, and I still thought you might need it. I asked one of the watchers where I left it, they suggested some places, and when I went inside, I was attacked, again. I only got scratched, he died, but—"
Kher whirls on her. "You got attacked, and the first thing you mention is 'oh, Imoen was acting weird'? Do you even know what they were after? What if you had gotten hurt, really hurt?" Distress shows on her face and carries in her voice. "Why didn't you say something to me?"
Taev scowls. "What would I have said? 'Oh, hey Kher, how has your day been, mine's been fine except for the parts where someone tried to shove a dagger in my throat'?"
Kher looks as though she wants to say something more, but then she deflates. "I could have helped."
"Help- look at you, you're all... frail and wispy and elven. I can't exactly help wanting to protect you."
"I should be the one protecting you. I am older."
"Sure, older, but you're an elf."
Kher giver her a thin smile. "I think you're proving my point."
"I prove no point but my own." She punctuates this with a falsely haughty sniff.
Kher raises her nose and pouts. "Yes, well. Don't we have an odyssey to undertake?"
And they smile.
By Taev's direction, they find Gorion standing in front of the Library. He starts down the steps at their approach, and it is Kher who speaks first.
"H'llo, dad," she greets. "We're ready now."
He nods, and, gesturing away from them, begins walking past them.
"Your sister said as much. Come, we must leave with haste."
They trail behind him obediently.
As they walk past the guards and gate, Kher speaks.
"You really won't tell us where we're headed?" she asks, walking close to Gorion.
The gates are closing behind them, and she tries to keep her voice light. She has never been outside the walls of her Candlekeep, and it's difficult to suppress the feeling of loneliness that comes over her at that thought.
He shakes his head, and it seems to her a solemn motion. "I'm afraid not, child," he says, "better you do not know."
Not the answer she wanted, but one she expected. "I trust your judgment, father."
Taev, up ahead, stops and turns. She grins, a fierce and exuberant flash of teeth. "Kher, you worrier, lighten up. Where's your sense of adventure? It's like we're going on a quest!" She mimics a swordfight, snatching up a branch and using it to fend off imaginary foes. "And the world had better look out. The three of us are unstoppable!"
Gorion chuckles and shakes his head, and Kher must suppress a smile.
"Look out world, indeed," she murmurs.
It's a fine start to an adventure.
[A/N: Edited 12/7/12]