Tankards and Tempers
Chapter 48: Past and Present
After letting out a satisfied groan, a naked and sweaty Laska plopped down on her back and stared at the low ceiling of Rose's house. Rose, in an equally naked, sweaty and satisfied state, curled up against Laska and pushed the duvet away. The cold air felt comfortable on their wet skin as they lay together trying to catch their breath.
"Oh, gods, that was fantastic," Laska chuckled. A visit to Rose's house in the evening fielded predictable results. Instead of having dinner they decided to go for breakfast the next morning. "I missed you."
"I could tell," Rose replied softly as she snuggled Laska with her head lain on her chest. "It's a good thing we didn't go out this evening," she said as she looked at the small window. Outside, a storm was brewing; rain trickled against the roof and the window pane, mixed with the occasional flare of lightning.
"Laska?" Rose asked. "What's the matter? You've been kinda broody."
Laska frowned. "What? No way, you had my complete and utter attention."
"Oh, no," Rose replied quickly. "Not, you know, during. But you were... before... and after... Now."
"Sorry, I..." Laska said, then sighed... "It's nothing, I..."
"I noticed your thoughts weren't with me this evening," Rose smiled, her words not meant as an accusation, but spoken out of concern.
"It's my father," Laska sighed heavily. "After his death, Imoen and I buried him under a tree near Candlekeep. It was at the top of a cliff overlooking the bay. I like to think he would enjoy the quiet sea view. But, Firkraag's thugs raided his grave."
"That's terrible. I'm so sorry," Rose said.
"It pains me to think his remains are open to the elements. Part of me wants to leave for Candlekeep immediately to set it right, but I've sent a missive to Hull, one of the guards there, to look after it. The pigeon will probably get there long before I would."
"Why did they raid his grave?" Rose asked.
Laska smiled and kissed Rose on the lips before gently pushing her away. The elf sat up in bed and looked at the floor; her clothes were haphazardly strewn across the room after having been quickly discarded upon arrival at Rose's house. She noticed her vest was actually hanging from Rose's easel, while one of her boots was located on the windowsill. Soon enough, she found what she was looking for; her belt lay right at her feet at the side of the bed.
She picked up her belt and took a small glowing gem from a small beltpouch and held it in front of her. It shone bright red in the room as it lay in the palm of Laska's hand.
"What is that?" Rose asked as she lay on her side.
"Firkraag called it a sensory-stone," Laska said. "It records memories and can replay them. My mother left it with father for safe-keeping. He was supposed to give it to me to use when I was old enough to understand, but he... never got the chance."
"What's the problem, exactly?" Rose asked. "Why are you so upset?"
"It's what Firkraag said to me before we chopped him to bits..." Laska sighed. "I can't get it out of my mind. Did my mother leave me because I was impure? Or was it another one of his games? Part of me desperately wants to know, but another part of me wants to just throw it in the river."
Rose smiled and hugged her lover from behind, holding both arms around Laska's waist while pressing her cheek against the elf's tattooed shoulder. Laska felt Rose's warmth against her, and found it extremely comforting. "Have I ever told you about my mother, Laska?" Rose asked. "I never knew my father but my mother and I had a happy life. She never thought I was just a 'mere half-breed' like all the other humans did. She sang to me... gave me everything I wanted. She was my best friend... That's why I was so distraught when she died..."
"I'm... Fuck, this thing scares me..." Laska said. "I never had an image of my mother. I never even had need for a mother-figure, and I'm fine with that. Or at least I was. Dammit, why couldn't that overgrown lizard kept his big mouth shut?!" she sighed in frustration.
Rose lay her hand over Laska's, over the sensory-stone. "If you don't use it, you'll always wonder what your mother had to say to you. It could be good. It could be bad, yes, but not knowing is even worse."
"Am I ready for this?" Laska asked herself.
Rose giggled and started to nibble at Laska's neck for a bit. "Sweetie, after the things we just did, I'd say you're old enough."
"Touche," Laska chuckled. In her heart, Laska knew Rose was right. The tattooed elf knew she would not be able to forget about this. "I'm supposed to press this to my forehead. Well, here goes..."
Laska's breath quickened considerably as she moved the sensory-stone ever closer to her forehead. When the surprisingly warm surface of the stone touched her damp skin, her body stiffened as memories not her own started to flow into her mind.
Gorion smiled at the moon-elven woman sitting across him. They were sitting in Leilani Leafwalker's comfortable home, high up in the green forests of Silverymoon, the city that was home to many elves. Her house was small, but large enough for the moon elven archmage. It contained a small lab for her experiments, a small bedroom, a small living space and a huge library in comparison.
Leilani Leafwalker was exceptionally short, even for an elf. She was an elf whom had long ago sowed her wild oats and had long since retired from the adventuring life. Instead, she had recently (as most elves consider fifty years to be recent) chosen to settle down in a Silverymoon to be close to her two children, who lived there. Her days were spent studying magic and running minor experiments, though occasionally her wanderlust would kick in and she leave for month-long treks through the nearby forests and wilderness. Sadly, neither of her children had followed in her adventuring footsteps, but she had never begrudged them this.
Today, she was entertaining a guest; a good friend and an apprentice of old. She lounged backward in her chair, a playful smile ever crossing her grey-skinned face, looking at her friend Gorion as he told his tale. "That was until I impressed you with my tree-climbing skills..." Gorion said, continuing their conversation
"Tree-climbing skills, you say?" Leilani smiled. "As I remember it," she grinned, "you fell down and broke both your legs..."
"But you were impressed, weren't you?" the middle aged man smiled as Leilani's faithful wicker-golem butler poured them a new cup of Elm tea.
"I was impressed you were able to stay conscious long enough to ask me one more time to accept you as my apprentice," Leilani smiled as she drank her tea. "Thank you," she told her butler. "Could you please gather some green mistletoe for me and put them in my study?" The golem nodded and headed out the door.
"A spell?" Gorion asked.
"I like the smell," Leilani grinned in return. "Just put it in a little hot water and let it steam."
"Anyway, you did offer to apprentice me then, did you not?" Gorion smiled, his eyes sparkling.
"Well, I thought you were going to die of your injuries anyway, so I wanted to be nice..." Leilani joked.
"It's my tenacity which got me an apprenticeship under the legendary Leilani Leafwalker, eldest living member of the Leafwalker family, mistress of magic, keeper of the sacred chalice of Sehahine Moonbow..." Gorion said, a gentle humor sparkling in his eyes.
"Oh, please, will you shut up already!" Leilani smiled. "The sacred chalice is a moldy old pewter cup, which Sehahine Moonbow wouldn't even admit to owning! I'm using it as a paperweight and quill-holder..." Leilani shook her head. "There's old magic in Leafwalker blood. That's all there is."
That much was true. The Leafwalker family was a very old family with a long lineage going back to the time of the Elfwar. For as long as records of the family went back, the Leafwalker women had been blessed with potent magical aptitude, leaving the male practitioners of their family far behind them. In fact, Leilani's mother has been the Fey'Lasquillariq'uaiea Leafwalker, Fey for short, a wizard of Myth Drannor during its heyday.
Indeed, Gorion had been her last apprentice, a quick learner, an eager mind, a kind heart.
"So," Gorion spoke as he rose. "It was wonderful seeing you again, Leilani, I'm sorry I have to cut our visit short, but my party is waiting for me to come back with the potion. We still need to blow a nasty conspiracy out of the water."
"You always had problems with divination magics, Gorion. The images in the scrying bowl were always blurring. Let me guess," Leilani smiled. "Harper business, ey?" She knew very well what that meant. She herself had actually beaten the Harpers to the lair of an upstart Red Dragon. 'Imagine that,' Leilani thought to herself. 'A red upstart like that simply walking into a village and demanding ten elven maidens to walk into his lair to be eaten. Heh, one cold spell and he left off before I could kill him... Coward...'. She had also quite enjoyed the look on the Harpers' faces when they saw that the dragon they were supposed to trick into leaving the valley was flying off with his tail between his legs. One of the Harpers had been a young mage known as Gorion... and he had been pestering her to become her apprentice ever since.
"I know you've never liked them," Gorion nodded. "But they do good work."
"Hmmm," Leilani snorted. Gorion knew well where her dislike for Harpers came from. A botched up Harper assignment, or 'meddle-mission' as Leilani called them, had led to the extermination of an elven village in Tethyr, her sister being one of the victims in a slaughter. The Harpers tended to exaggerate their victories, but gloss over to downright burying their failures. "I suppose you can only tell me, but you would have to kill me afterwards?"
"I'll trade you a secret for a secret..." Gorion smiled gently.
"Not a chance," Leilani smiled, briefly hugging her former apprentice before saying their farewells. Creating a Potion of Revelation had been very easy, and she had fun catching up with her old friend. Glancing out of the window, she noticed the storm she had felt brewing all day was finally breaking through. Chuckling of a mental image of Gorion cursing that he had just stepped into heavy rainfall, she decided to curl up next to the warm fire with a book and a glass of fine Evermead.
She sat there for an hour, listening to the raindrops falling on her room while reading her book. Suddenly, she heard the front door of her house fly open. For a moment, she thought her whicker-butler had returned with the mistletoe, but she knew he would not just throw open the door.
Instead, she found a strange elf standing in the doorway. Leilani thought she had met everyone in the city, but she had never seen this male before. Then, the lighting flashed through the room, making Leilani gasp in horror as she saw the dead eyes of the elven male.
"You have power... you have been chosen," the male spoke in a grave voice.
Leilani tried to cast her defensive magics, but something unknown seemed to had stolen her powers... Without her magicks, she simply could not defend herself.
"AH!" Laska cried out as she hissed in pain. The sensory-stone fell to the ground as Laska rubbed her temples.
Rose was upon her lover immediately, holding her tight. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"That wasn't a pleasant memory," Laska took a few moments to catch her breath. "I felt my mother's pain. Bhaal raped her. It was... savage. Brutal."
"Gods, I'm so sorry," Rose closed her eyes.
Laska reached for the stone. "There's more. Let's see what's in here."
"If only I had stayed," Gorion said, guilt clearly visible in his eyes.
"You would have ended up as a bloody smear on the wall," Leilani said. "Don't beat yourself up over it."
It had been a year since that night, and three months ago since Leilani found out she was with child. At the moment, she was starting to feel the weight of her pregnancy, and delegated more and more tasks to her trusted wicker-golem.
"Whoever entered my home had enough power to cancel out my magical powers," Leilani said while she took on a more comfortable position in her chair. "Somehow, he canceled out all magical effects in my house. In a sense, no magic could exist there. Now, I've tried every kind of divination-spell I know, but I have yet to find out anything about this mystery-male."
"I know," Gorion sighed. "I know something more."
"What?" Leilani asked with anticipation.
"Only that," Gorion sighed as he sat down, a grim expression on his face, "you're definitely not the first person this has happened too. This has been going on for years... A dark male with dead eyes, of the race of the female his chooses to assault, appears out of nowhere and forces himself on his target. There's no way to know for sure, but apparently this has been going on for over a decade now... Minor targets, mostly commoners. You are the first more powerful person this has happened too."
"Lucky me," Leilani chuckled.
"Don't be so light about it," Gorion said. "For some reason, these 'encounters' always produces off-spring."
Leilani smiled and let her hand slide over her belly. "I've told you before... I'm keeping the baby. I have been getting on in years, so having a third child will be a delight. Besides, the baby is an innocent in all this..."
Gorion leant back in his chair. "I've heard you are leaving Silverymoon."
"Sweet Corellon," Leilani sighed. "What kind of sources do you have in that Harper organization of yours? I've only been offered the position yesterday!"
"Don't blame the Harpers for this one," Gorion chuckled. "The elves of Silverymoon are chatterboxes."
"Figures," Leilani chuckled herself. "Well, bless my ears," Leilani smiled, "but I've been offered a dual position, really. Ever since Zoar has been killed on Evermeet, Queen Amlaruil needs all the help she can get, so I was offered to take place in the Council of Wise Matrons to advise her. Also, in this position, I can receive training to become a High Mage... And for that I have to go to Evermeet."
"Do Syrayah and Brekthiel know?" Gorion asked.
"They know what has happened to me... and they know I am to leave for Evermeet," Leilani nodded, tossing her dark mane from her eyes. "Syrayah is ecstatic about the news of a coming brother or sister, and is coming home soon. Brekthiel is less enthusiastic about the whole thing, but both of them will come to Evermeet with me."
Gorion sighed. He wished he could be able to stay longer, but another mission for the harpers wouldn't allow him to. Instead, he wished her luck, and, with pain in his heart, left his teacher and friend alone for the second time.
Leilani smiled radiantly as she was lovingly feeding her baby girl. Little Fey'Lasquillariq'uaiea's Celebration of Birth was still going strongly and elves of Silverymoon that could still stand after all that drink and dance were still celebrating. Leilani had received a lot of gifts and well-wishes.
"Awww, she looks just like you, mother!" Syrayah Leafwalker, her oldest child, said as she was cooing over the nursing baby. "Hi there! Aren't you cute?" the red-haired Syrayah smiled. "Yes, you are! Yes, you are!"
"Oh, please!" Brekthiel, Leilani's son, snarled as he leant against the wall. "Trust an impure elf to coo over another impure elf," Leilani narrowed her eyes a bit, but knew her son was a typical conservative elf: so narrow-minded he could look through a keyhole with both eyes. He was young, though, and she expected him to grow up soon enough when he would encounter how bad some of the gold elf arrogance could be.
"Fifty years apart from you wasn't long enough," Syrayah snarled at her half-brother, for all three grey-skinned moon elven children in the room had different fathers.
"Oh, who has ever heard of a moon elf with red hair, sister?" the raven-haired Brekthiel shot back. "No doubt your bloodline's got a little human in the closet."
"I happen to like my hair!" Syrayah snarled and whipped her fiery mane towards her brother.
"Will you two stop it?" Leilani shot. "I don't want Fey'Lasquillariq'uaiea's first memories of life to be two squabbling siblings."
"Sorry, mother," Syrayah nodded.
"I apologize," Brekthiel looked at his feet.
In the meantime, Leilani took her baby from her breast, but was immediately met with loud protests from her child.
"Looks like she wants more milk," Syrayah smiled.
"Certainly," Brekthiel chuckled, but his hand swept a bit too close to the baby. "Ouch!" he shouted, drawing back his hand. "That child just attacked me!"
"How can she?!" Leilani shot her son a poisonous glare. "She's barely a day old!"
"I'm telling you, she pinched me!" he directed at the seemingly smiling and burbling baby girl.
"In that case she's an excellent judge of character," Syrayah chuckled.
"Laugh all you like!" Brekthiel retorted. "Fact of the matter is that this child is an impure elf..."
"Will you shut up?!" Syrayah snarled. "Not here... Not now!"
"Our little sister is the result of an unnatural joining! She doesn't even feel natural!" Brekthiel snarled.
"Please don't bring that up again," Leilani said, never wanting to think back to that horrible night again.
"But we cannot take her to Evermeet!" he tried. "You know how strict their rules are. This baby is an unnatural thing. They'll never let her in."
"She's my child!" Leilani snarled. "My baby! I carried her for two years! I hold her in my arms."
"Silverymoon will care for her," Brekthiel spoke with disgust. "These fools would accept even half-breeds in their midst."
"I will not go to Evermeet without my child," Leilani promised.
"I am your child too!" Brekthiel snarled. "And how can you not go to Evermeet! Our people need you! I need you!"
"To sponsor your application to academy?" Syrayah retorted. "You're so predictable..."
"Mother," the haughty elf nodded. "You are to assume a place of the Council of Wise Matrons, to receive a training as a High Mage! Surely you will not give that up for that, that... that thing!"
"My child! Your sister!" Leilani retorted, while her baby was lying calmly in her arms.
"Sure, sure," Brekthiel sighed, suffering from the same thing most Leafwalker males experienced; envy. Leilani knew exactly what was going on; Magic was a blessing for the Leafwalker females, but a curse to the Leafwalker males. Males in their family line actually had a lot more trouble developing their magical skills and male Leafwalker mages would always stay in the shadows of the females... Brekthiel was jealous... Thinking back, Leilani was happy that Syrayah's son Alris was seeking another profession than a mage, like some Leafwalker males did by default. Her grandson would be spared this indignity.
"Your sister needs her sleep," Leilani spoke harshly. "We will discuss this at a later time," she added before she stalked out of the room. She took a few deep breath to calm herself down before putting her baby in the little crib. She still heard her other two children arguing in the other room. After letting out a heavy sigh, she sat back in the chair next to the crib and watched her newborn sink into sleep.
"Did you hear them?" Leilani said to a figure in the shadows. Immediately, the 'Shadow-shield', a spell of Leilani's making given to Gorion as a gift for his graduation, dissipated. The middle-aged man stood there, strolled over to the crib and gentle tickled the baby girl under her chin.
"She's beautiful, Leilani," Gorion smiled. "Just look at those little pointed ears..." But almost immediately, he grew grim again as he stepped away from the crib.
"Are the rumors true?" Leilani said, her face not betraying any emotion.
"What happened to you is happening all across the Realms now. Powerful females are being assaulted, and the off-spring that were born from these foul unions were numbered high already," Gorion said grimly. "We still have no idea why this is happening, nor who is behind it. We only that it means ill for the future. Your child... you must hide her!" Gorion said, his voice taking on a more desperate edge.
"Gorion," Leilani said firmly. "NO! I will not! This is my child!"
"I... I... wasn't going to tell you this," Gorion sighed. "I really didn't want to, but... I had a dream last night. I... was approached by a demon of all things. The tallest balor imaginable with eyes of fire and wielding a blade larger than I was tall. But, don't ask me how I know this, but I could tell from his words and his demeanor that he was sincere. The balor led me to a dark layer of the Abyss. There, a woman sat on a throne of skulls. She was large and bore the markings of a traitor-priestess. At the foot of her throne stood six figures. Five I could not recognize, nor even see, but the sixth figure was a moon-elf with vile and unholy tattoos covering her entire body, her face locked in a feral and bloodthirsty snarl. I was suddenly back on Toril and found the Sword Coast turned into a gigantic battlefield. The soil was drenched in blood of the innocent. Then, the balor came to me again, and told me that all of this can be avoided... If your child is hidden from sight long enough."
"What are you saying?!" Leilani cried, looking read to break out in tears.
"If you take her with you," Gorion said, glancing at the baby, "Evermeet, the Sword Coast, Amn, Tethyr... they will all burn."
But Leilani Leafwalker did end up going to Evermeet.
Even though she was not even officially part of the council, she had quickly found out that being on the council wouldn't be the simple quiet job of learning and contemplation she had imagined it would be. In the past couple of months, she had been confronted with the elaborate and often vicious elven court politics. Lobbyists had been trying to influence her from day one on all kind of different issues she didn't even knew actually were issues until today. One of the most notable and vicious in her dealings was Ellesime, the young arrogant queen of Suldenesselar. And after Ellesime found Leilani less than willing to support her, the young queen changed her tactic and attempted to get her as far away from her as possible.
In the meantime, the matter of her child's future weighed heavily on her mind. Her sweet little baby-daughter, the Scourge of the Sword Coast? It was hard to imagine. And what place would be safer for her than Evermeet, the isle of the elves? But the warning had come from the one man she trusted above all others, including her family.
Poor Gorion. He had felt so terrible about not being able to help her, he had been afraid to face her, until Leilani told her she never blamed him. And now he stood before him, while at her back lay the vessel that would take her to Evermeet. Even know, she wasn't certain if she had made the right decision.
"I don't trust my child to Harpers," Leilani said, tears in her eyes as her daughter smiled at her. She always smiled... "But I trust my child to you, Gorion..." Behind them, the elven vessel lay docked at the harbor in Baldur's Gate, the sailors getting ready to set sail to fabled Evermeet.
"I'll make sure she'll grow up to be a strong, kind-hearted, wise and loyal woman," Gorion smiled. "Just like you are."
Brekthiel, her son, approached from the gangplank. "Mother," he said quietly. "The captain wishes to leave. I... am sorry."
Leilani closed her eyes and smiled. Though he had a mean streak, Brekthiel was a good son with a soft heart. He had felt awful about what he had said to her a month ago and, in the end, was a young elf who still had a lot to learn.
"Gorion?" she smiled as tears appeared once more. "A... a few moments with Fey'Lasquillariq'uaiea, please?"
"Of course," Gorion smiled, and allowed his teacher some privacy.
Leilani walked to a more secluded spot near the ship's berth and took a moment to tickle her child's tummy for a bit. "My sweet child, though it wrenches my heart, I must... leave you now," Leilani choked. "Gorion... for your own safety you must go with him now. I believe him when he says you are in danger. I love you, my child... and that is why I must leave you. At your Celebration, you were given many wish-gifts. For a long life, for deep friendships, for the gift of open-mindedness, for the gift of kindness, for you to find love and happiness... but I you have never received a wish-gift from me... Your private name."
Leilani held her daughter to her mouth and whispered in her ear, making the baby giggle as her mother's hair tickled her little face. "There," Leilani said, "now only you and I know that. You can tell it to me yourself when we will meet again, because we will meet again. I promise you that. I will scry you every day. I will see you grow up, little Laska..."
And for the last time, Leilani sang a haunting lullaby to her beloved daughter.
Laska threw her head back to release an anguished sob. Instantly, Rose was at her side, taking the elf in a loving embrace. "She... she loved me," Laska sobbed as she was being held. "She never wanted to be parted from me... She had to... She loved me, Rose... She loved me. Firkraag was lying... She loved me," she spoke in a mixture of sorrow and happiness. "She... she looks just like me. Just a lot shorter."
Laska looked at the window, a smile on her face this time. "She's alive somewhere. Possibly on Evermeet. I'll go find her one day. One day we'll meet again..."
Rose gently rubbed her lover's tears away. "Now you know," the half-elf smiled as her green eyes sparkled. "Aren't you happy you listened to me instead of moping about?"
"Hah," Laska grinned. "And to think I was about to throw that damn thing in the river."
"Laska?" Rose asked when the elf suddenly turned towards her with a sultry smile on her face.
"Allow me to show my gratitude," Laska grinned as she wrapped one arm around Rose's shoulders and gently rubbed the other over Rose's stomach, moving ever downward. After some teaching motions and caresses, Laska found her target, causing Rose to grasp and throw her head back. The elf saw an opportunity to nip and kiss Rose's neck before slowly pushing her towards the back. The night was still young, after all, and there would still be plenty of pleasure ahead.