It's been a long time since I've posted a FR fanfic! I'm taking a break from Entreri and Jarlaxle to play around with Cavatina and Kâras from Lisa Smedman's Lady Penitent trilogy. This is set just after Storm of the Dead and assumes that the events of Ascendancy of the Last never happened and never will (I really don't like the ending of that book).
This fic is based on the classic fic-writer's assumption that hate = love, so obviously Kâras and Cavatina bicker all the time because they are secretly attracted to each other. That's obvious, right? It's rated T for now, but it might go up later... so if you're looking for this fic and can't find it, make sure you're set to see "all ratings."
Disclaimer: Faeraun, the Forgotten Realms, and all recognizable places and characters belong to Wizards of the Coast and their respective creators. In particular, Kâras and Cavatina were dreamed up by Lisa Smedman. I'm only borrowing all these things for a little fun, and am making no money off them.
And without further ado...
Would you like my mask?
Would you like the mirror?
You can look at yourself.
You can look at each other.
You can look at the face—
the face of your God.
- Loreena McKennit, "Marrakesh Night Market"
Shadow & Silence
Cavatina had never been very good at hiding her emotions. By the standards of the surface races she was as inscrutable as any other dark elf, but to other drow what she felt was often all-too-visible. For the first time in her life she was grateful of this, since it meant people stayed out of her way as she stalked through the corridors of the Promenade.
When Qilué had called her to Skullport to receive a new assignment, she had it would be something challenging. After the near-disaster in the Acropolis, she had been thankful for several weeks of rest, but now leisure was growing old and she was ready for excitement. Qilué's assignment, however, promised nothing but tedium and frustration.
She paused in the Cavern of Song, where a handful of priestesses were singing, their swords raised to the point of light on the cavern roof that marked the progress of the moon in the World Above. Up there is was Midwinter's Night, the longest night of the year, and the air would be bitterly cold, but down here it was as mild and unchanging as ever.
Despite Qilué's announcements that Nightshadows were welcome to add their voices to the hymn, none were present. Cavatina supposed Kâras' appearance in the Cavern that day had been to aggravate her, rather than out of any desire to lift his voice in praise to Eilistraee.
Thinking about the Nightshadow made her angry all over again, and she forced herself to stand a moment longer in the Cavern, letting the music soothe her. She needed a level head if she was going to talk to Kâras, or it would be easier than usual for him to provoke her.
When she felt calm enough, she set out from the Cavern of Song with brisk strides. On the opposite side of the Promenade from the Protectors' quarters an unused section of rooms had been turned into quarters for the converted Nightshadows. Cavatina, who had never gone into the area before, thought they seemed barren and lifeless. The Protectors decorated their corridors with murals and carvings, and a central chamber was filled with comfortable furniture for socializing and eating. Although the Nightshadows had a similar chamber, it was completely empty, and their corridors were bare. It was like they didn't care, she thought—or like they didn't intend to stay long.
She pondered the implications of that last thought as she found the correct door and knocked. No one answered. She waited several minutes, and knocked again. When there was still no answer, she tried the handle. It was locked and, knowing Kâras, trapped.
Cavatina scowled at the door. She knew Kâras was inside; Qilué had told her he was in his rooms. To make sure, she sang a brief song of divination, which only confirmed his location. Surely her pounding would have roused him from Reverie. She considered briefly that he might be hurt and unable to open the door, but quickly dismissed the notion. More likely, she thought, that he was simply ignoring her.
Aware that he had managed to infuriate her before she'd even spoken a word to him, she sang up a shield of moonlight and slammed her foot just to the side of the latch. The door, made of flimsy mushroom stalk, splintered. Cavatina backed away hastily, but was still hit by several darts that zipped out of the doorway. They bounced off her shield and clattered to the floor, their tips gleaming with poison.
A dark shadow spread out from the doorway, and she backed away further, but it did not follow, only filled a large area of the corridor with inky blackness. Cavatina sang a dispelling, to no effect. With a sigh of irritation, she leaned against the opposite wall and waited for it to Kâras to come out.
A minute passed, then five, and when Kâras still did not appear Cavatina began to worry. Perhaps both Qilué and her divination had been wrong, and he was not in his rooms at all—or perhaps he was lying inside even now, somehow injured or ill. She didn't like Kâras—or any of the other Nightshadows—but since they were on the same side now she couldn't deny him help when he might need it.
She stepped through the darkness cautiously, wondering if Kâras had left any other traps. The moment she crossed the threshold, she was plunged into a silence so deep her ears rang. Blind and deaf, she froze for a moment, heart pounding. She quickly realized the spells were not directed at her, but rather that the entire room was filled with spells of darkness and silence.
She sang another dispelling, feeling her way through the song by the way each note resonated in her body. This time it worked; she still couldn't see, but she could hear her own breathing and the steady beat of her heart. For a moment Cavatina stood there, marveling at the difference between silence and silence.
Before she could try again to dispel the darkness, something struck her in the arm. She cried out and whirled, drawing her sword. It pealed a note of warning as she slashed it blindly through the air. Belatedly, she realized that the singing sword was exactly the wrong weapon for this fight: its singing covered up any revealing noises her opponent made, while giving away her own position like a beacon.
She slashed again, and felt more than heard someone move to avoid the blow. The sword hummed menacingly, and a male voice swore hatefully.
Cavatina hesitated. "Kâras?" she said. His name came out slightly slurred; her lips felt numb.
"Cavatina?" the voice said, and swore again.
The darkness vanished suddenly. She found herself in a luxurious sitting room filled with thick carpets, overstuffed furniture, and soft draperies—but no Kâras. Cavatina turned, sword raised, and Kâras, who had been standing behind her, jumped away.
"You!" she said, advancing on him. "You attacked me!" Insubordination she expected from him, and could accept up to a point, but an outright attack was something she was far less willing to forgive.
Kâras stood his ground. "You broke into my room," he snapped. He held an assassin's hollow-pointed dagger in one hand, and she saw that it's tip dripped with blood—her blood.
"You didn't answer you door!" The words came out thickly. Her whole face felt numb now, and a line of numbness ran from her shoulder to the wound in her arm.
"So you broke down the door?"
Kâras' mask covered most of his face, but she could almost hear his lip curling as he spoke. She flushed, unwilling to admit she'd been concerned for his safety when faced with his disdain and the pain of the wound he had caused.
The blood rushing to her face left her feeling hot and light-headed. She reached for the back of a nearby couch for support, but overbalanced and fell gracelessly to the floor. Her singing sword fell from her hand and landed noiselessly on the thick carpet.
Kâras knelt beside her a reached for her with the hand not holding his dagger. Cavatina slapped it aside and turned the motion into a hard blow to his jaw. As he reeled, she staggered to her feet, clutching at the couch for support. The room spun wildly around her and her pulse pounded loudly in her ears, but she managed to stay standing.
"Dammit!" Kâras pressed his hand against the side of his face. "I'm trying to help you! You're poisoned."
She stared at him in disbelief. "You poisoned me?"
"You broke into my room," he repeated, in a tone that made it clear he thought she was stupid. "I thought you were an enemy."
"What enemy would attack you here in the Promenade?" she asked. Her tongue and lips refused to work together, and the sentence was mostly unintelligible.
Kâras slid the dagger into a sheath on his wrist. He took a cautious step forward. "You should let me heal you," he said gently, as if she were a dangerous animal he was trying to soothe. "You'll pass out soon."
Cavatina's thoughts felt thick and slow. All she could think was that Kâras, a Nightshadow, had attacked and poisoned her, and she could not trust him. "I can heal myself," she slurred.
She tried to step away from him, and her vision went dark. When it cleared again, she found herself on the floor, staring up at Kâras as he leaned over her, one hand on her arm and the other brushing his mask. The black fabric shivered as his lips moved, and she felt the numbness recede from her body and her mind.
Cavatina sat up slowly as Kâras took his hand away. She reached out and found the hilt of the singing sword, and Kâras backed away quickly, as though afraid she would attack him. Clearly her face was betraying her emotions again.
"You broke into my room," he said for the third time. His right hand rubbed his left wrist, close to the sheathed dagger.
Cavatina climbed to her feet and managed to keep her temper in check. "Why didn't you answer your door?"
"I was meditating," Kâras said.
Her temper slipped a little. "Then you should have had no trouble hearing my knock!"
Kâras narrowed his eyes over the top of his mask. "Every Midwinter," he said, "the Nightshadows honor their Lord by meditating in a state of total deprivation of the senses, levitating within a globe of silence and darkness for one day and one night. This year," he continued, and Cavatina thought she heard a trace of bitterness in his voice, "we honor the Masked Lady in the same way. Surely you knew that?"
Cavatina felt heat flood her face. Qilué had told her to wait until tomorrow before finding Kâras, but she hadn't explained why, and Cavatina had ignored the high priestess' instructions. Her first instinct was to lash out, to attack to cover her own ignorance and embarrassment. A few weeks ago she might have, but her recent redemption was still fresh in her mind and she resisted the impulse. Instead, she sheathed the singing sword and turned toward the door. This put her back to Kâras, which she didn't enjoy, but also hid her burning face from him.
"I'll let you get back to your meditation, then." It wasn't an apology, but it was most she could bring herself to give him. Redemption would only make her bend so far.
"You may as well tell me what you wanted with me," Kâras said. "Now that my spells are dismissed, I can't cast them again. It would seem my meditations are ended early."
Cavatina thought her chagrin could not be greater, but it would seem she was wrong. That she had broken into his room for no reason was bad enough; that she had ruined his worship of their mutual deity, however strange to her his method, was worse. She forced herself to turn back towards him, knowing he could clearly see her shamed blush with his heat-vision.
"Lady Qilué sent me. She has an assignment for us."
"And she wanted you to deliver this assignment today?" Kâras asked sarcastically.
"There's been a murder in the Misty Forest," Cavatina said, ignoring him. "She wants us to investigate."
Kâras did not suffer from Cavatina's inability to hide her emotions, but she thought he looked surprised. "Lady Qilué is sending the Slayer of Selvetarm to solve a murder? With a Nightshadow to watch her back?" His eyes crinkled in a smile and added, "Or perhaps it is the other way around. Either way, why does she want us, of all those at her command, to perform this task?"
"There are only two Nightshadows at the Misty Forest shrine, and one or both of them are wrapped up in this somehow. That's why she want you: you're one of the highest-ranking Nightshadows, and she feels this is important."
"And you? If she doesn't trust me there are any number of other priestesses she could send on this mission."
"Qilué does trust you," Cavatina said without thinking, though she wasn't sure it was true. "And I don't know why she chose me." She couldn't quite keep the bitterness from her voice.
"Is anyone else to accompany us?"
"No. You'll take your orders from me."
Kâras' eyes narrowed, and she expected an argument, but he only said, "And what is this murder?"
"I don't know," Cavatina said again. "Lady Qilué didn't tell me. She said she wants us to see the situation without bias." She turned to the door again, eager to get away from him, and said over her shoulder, "Meet me at the Moonspring at moonrise tomorrow night."
The broken jam prevented her from latching the door, but Cavatina pulled it closed behind her, and did not look at Kâras as she left.
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