Hope you like it!
Sand searched frantically through his drawers, pulling them out and spilling their contents on the floor, not caring about the unenchanted wands or various trinkets scattering throughout the room and rolling under the furniture. He was looking for gems – he generally kept them among other crafting material, except for the most valuable ones, which were in a small silk bag in his bedside table's drawer, over the secret compartment where Rustyn's Mystra symbol used to be. He would hate to spend those ones now, however – he hoped some other ones would make it.
Grabbing a handful of assorted jewels, like amethysts, greenstones, and obsidians, he sighed deeply. He tried to convince himself these would do, but knew all too well they wouldn't. In the end, he resigned and slipped the silk bag in his pocket as well, and waited for the sunset. He would not leave by day, no one needed to know where he was going.
Meanwhile, the United Faiths, in four again, had just reached the seashore, only to be attacked by a group of undead. To their great surprise, Rustyn immediately dispatched them with powerful fire spells – then, in a completely natural voice, told them she thought it would be useful to learn them as well, as learning is always good and interesting.
"Poor souls…" Kelly knelt down to bless and thus set free the soul of the last one they killed "all the ghosts and the dead deserve to rest… when we get this merchant business going well…",
"I still don't know how we got tangled in this" muttered Rustyn, distractedly drawing figures in the wet sand with her finger.
"…I'd love to explore all the places I had read about in those books, all those famous ghosts, maybe I could give peace to them" the priestess continued undisturbed "like the elven cleric of Mystra still trapped in her ruined temple in Myth Drannor, or the hunter never leaving Neverwinter Wood, chasing the dryad who enchanted him, and the elven woman frozen in the mountains, always calling her child… I wonder how many stories they could tell us, or how happy they will be when they finally drift away…"
"All right, Kelly" Arlian the ranger seemed to be the only one who actually paid any attention to her "and I will accompany you."
"Thank you…" the priestess of Ilmater, who swore modesty and chastity, looked to the ground to hide her blush.
"Let's settle here, it's getting dark" Jyissi interrupted them.
Rustyn, feeling calm, let the waves was her body, the cold moonlight reflecting on the endless sea, as the group reluctantly agreed to set up camp on the beach. They were most likely worried she would drown them on a whim, like when she used to sink ships for fun in her lonely days on her island. But no, she somehow got accustomed to them, and just wanted some peace, which the sea granted her this time. Her mind wandered off; she could still see Umberlee's ivory statue, the one she crafted herself as she learnt more and more about crafting over the years from the books she gathered, and the blue diamonds in her eyes, her dress adorned with star sapphires and emeralds.
Jyissi, unable to sleep, eyed her for quite some time before deciding to take action: since the mage kept on staring off into the distance, probably not caring about the other three as usual, she thought she was in the safe. Careful not to make any noise, she snuck over to Rustyn's bedroll and bags. She found what she was looking for in a matter of seconds, her eyes, well-accustomed to the darkness, quickly spotted the shape of the thick book, and her skilled hands pulled it silently out. Jyssi quickly pulled in the shade of a large rock, to see the writing in peace and quiet. Fall of House Lae'raien…
Celhir Agarinil ("bloody knife") Lae'raien did not need a stick to walk; having recently turned 400 years of age, he was still a strong elven nobleman, but the tragedies that struck his family had signed his features to make him look far older. His originally warm golden hair was quickly turning white, the eternal wrinkles of sorrow marking his face, his once burning sunset eyes bearing a constantly tired look. Despite holding himself straight, he kept the stick beside him, as it was originally a gift from his only beloved daughter Alindra Vanimashae ("beautiful ocean"). Ever since the day Alindra disappeared…
"Like what you see?"
Jyssi shook in fear at the cold voice. Rustyn leant over her from behind the rock, her dress hanging on her arm. The elf's hand reached out, ready to grasp her throat with deadly force, but the already bent fingers stopped before reaching her. The svirfnebling blinked, not really knowing what was going on.
"Oh, it doesn't matter… nothing ever matters… I cannot change the past…" Rustyn, instead of trying to harm Jyissi, merely took the tome from her limp hands and placed it on the rock.
"I'm so sorry…"
"Shut up…" Rustyn stood gracefully in the pale light as she slipped back her into beautiful, dark blue dress. Always blue, despite many people telling her she looked the best in brighter colours.
"You're my blood, Rustyniel" Celhir said, presenting her with a fur-lined blood-red mantle "you're a countess."
She sadly caressed the cover of the book. So many secrets… so many memories…
Jyissi, taking the opportunity, began to sneak away.
"You stay here!" Rustyn suddenly called to her in a low, yet commanding voice.
Damn my curiosity… the svirfneblin braced herself for Horrid Wilting or any other destructive spell coming her way.
Rustyn picked the book up, and looked intently at Jyissi, a little hesitation in her beautiful sunset eyes.
"You… you want to hear, right?"
"I said I'm sorry!"
Rustyn motioned for her to sit down, right there, as they were quite to a distance from the other two, sleeping peacefully.
Jyissi settled on a piece of driftwood, and Rustyn beside her, on a smaller stone.
"This book is so wrong in many, many places…" she whispered as she opened it "let me tell you…"
And she began to read the story, changing the details and telling Jyissi nothing but the truth. For some reason she knew the svirfneblin would never pass it on, nor actually make any use of it. But she would make a better listener than her only companion apart from Falma; the eternally cold wind.
Pay first in gold, second in lore, third in blood and fourth in song.
Sand looked up at the statue of Umberlee at the Priory of the Depths, getting more and more afraid that this trip would be his last, and he would be dragged down and drowned by the goddess as an infidel, a heretic in her temple, knowing all too well that he not only loathed her, but was also cursed, doomed to die by her hand. But it was too late to turn back, and he knew he had the most chance of finding answers here.
He dropped a half-handful of gems on the altar. Umberlee's eyes appeared to flash – but the next door immediately opened.
The floor was covered with a thin layer of icy cold water, penetrating Sand's boots, but he would not feel the cold there – he felt it much more in his heart, as he made his way across frozen, dark halls, hearing the moans of drowned in his mind, trying in vain to shield himself from their suffering.
He knew Umberlee's symbols, knew of her faithful ones, then past the second door he paid in blood as the drowned tried to drag him down. Only his undying will kept him going, as no books could ever teach him the one thing he wished to know about the Queen of the Depths: why was his beloved apprentice taken by her? How could she muster the power to freeze her heart?
"Oh, Rustyn…" Sand felt the pain of ice spikes cutting through his skin as he tried his best to pay in song, to play the right melody, or rather horrible hymn to appease Umberlee.
He saw her smiling, as she looked up from a thick book. Her slightly annoyed expression at Xavier's latest marriage proposal. And then, her evil, angry face as she tried to drown him.
"Why are you here, heathen?" the prioress did not even turn to look at him "know that you bear the curse of the Queen of the Depths, now thrice upon you, as you tried to humiliate her with unfitting sacrfices."
Sand bowed his head, blood staining his robes.
"The Goddess does not welcome heretics like you."
"Prioress, I come with a question."
"You come in vain."
Sand struggled. He remembered all the years of hard work… yet, there was one thing… one person more important to him than any wealth. He looked up, having reached a decision.
"Then?" asked the prioress.
Without any hesitation, Sand pulled the silk bag out of his pocket and spilled the star sapphires, the diamonds and the rubies at the woman's feet.
After the ringing and the slight splashing silenced, he could see the eyes of the white idol on the wall flashing again.
"You are welcome to ask – you have paid the right respect. But you are not welcome here, as your heart is untrue. Let me hear you out."