By Brian Flood
Chapter 15 - Auryon
The Happy Satyr Festhall
Hill’s Edge, The Sword Coast Backlands
Early Evening, 13th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The sights, sounds and smells of merriment swirl around the finely dressed moon elf. But this particular patron of the Happy Satyr is a study in contrasts. Despite the rich silk and linen from which his brightly-colored clothes are spun, the garments appear worn and slightly faded – as if they are the only clothes the elf owns. The crystal goblet of elverquisst wine in front of him conceals the facts that he spent the last few nights sleeping in a cheap inn a few blocks away and that only one gold coin and some change remains in his purse.
In the crowd of mixed heritages that patronize the gaudy festhall, the elf is unremarkable. About the average height of an elf or human male, he is slight of build. Dark blue hair flows from his head and is tied back from his face with a purple headband, revealing a typically sharp elven face with chiseled features and pointed ears. A backpack lies on the floor near the legs of his barstool and a long sword – its pommel hinting at fine craftsmanship – rests in a scabbard on his hip. When he lifts the goblet to his lips for another conservative sip, those near him catch a fleeting glimpse of a soaring eagle tattooed on the inner side of his left wrist.
The elf swallows slowly, letting the drink work its way down his gullet, warming as it goes. He frowns when he considers the fact that he may not be able to afford another goblet until he can find some sort of income. Gone are the days when he lived on the laurels of his sire’s merchant business. Now, the only coin he has to spend must come from finding work. To this particular elf, that means selling his sword – or more appropriately, his sword arm.
Auryon Mendelanya winces at that particular thought. How has it come to this, that one trained in the employ of steel and spell by the bladesingers’ guild in Evereska – honed to be employed in defense of the elven peoples and their way of life – must sell his skills in order to simply put food in his belly, wine to his lips, and a woman in his bed?
Well, that’s simple, he thinks wryly to himself. It’s that last item of note – women. For too many seasons, he flirted with the female population of the towns through which he passed as a member of his father’s merchant coaster. Then it all caught up to him and he ran. Ran from the fog-enshrouded hills of Evereska, ran from his past, ran from his family.
And now I’m here, he concludes. Hill’s Edge – the single most popular spot in the Sunset Vale for merchants and mercenaries to find one another in the pursuit of complimentary financial goals. The sellswords seek income to fill their mouths and beds, as well as to replenish the tools of their trade from the many weaponsmiths, armorers, and blacksmiths that have set up shop to benefit from the need of their services. The merchants seek security to protect their wares from the predators – both two-legged and four-legged – that prey upon the caravan trade. It all makes for a nice, symbiotic relationship, he surmises.
One of the resident ‘working ladies’ of the festhall brushes by the elf, making flirtatious but clearly intentional contact. Speaking of symbiotic relationships… a warm smile spreads over the elf’s features as he returns the woman’s glance. But then he remembers that his purse is more barren than a farmer’s crops in the dead of winter and the smile fades. Interpreting that as a lack of interest, the woman moves away to more lucrative – and financially stable – customers.
Soon thereafter, he feels a hand on his shoulder and a purring voice with the lilting tone of an elven female sounds from behind him. “Auryon Mendelanya?” the voice inquires.
Turning to meet the eyes of she who uttered his full name, Auryon’s hand concurrently drops to his belongings in readiness of flight. Who could have followed me thus far?
The elf is both surprised and somewhat delighted to find himself locking gazes with the striking beauty of a moon elf maiden possessing midnight blue hair and sapphire eyes. She is dressed in traveling clothes – most of which are covered by a soft gray cloth cloak reminiscent of that worn by the elves who guard the Grey Cloak Hills near Evereska.
“Are you Auryon Mendelanya?” the maiden asks again. “The son of Laniel Mendelanya?”
“Quite obviously, my denial would be futile,” Auryon replies sharply. But with a broad smile and raised eyebrows, he straightens his posture, revived from his reverie.
“To whom do I owe the pleasure?” he asks, extending his hand in gentlemanly greeting.
“You may call me Aris,” the elf woman replies rather matter-of-factly.
Her eyes pass over Auryon’s clothes, the goblet on the bar, and then glance about the fest hall. “It would seem that your… adventures… have taken on a rather conservative nature. Might I inquire why?”
“Indeed, lady, would that we avail ourselves of yonder table, our conversation could begin in earnest?” Auryon asks, politely evading the maiden’s question.
“That will serve for the moment,” Aris replies.
The two elves move to a nearby table to gain some privacy – or, more appropriately, a relative privacy given the raucous nature of the fest hall. Once seated, Aris hails a passing service maid and points to Auryon’s flagon of elven liqueur. “Two please,” she says politely, clearly comfortable in ordering for the both of them.
When the woman has turned to fill the order, the elven maiden returns her attention to her new drinking companion. “So,” she asks with an air of quiet confidence, “what brings the son of Laniel Mendelanya to Hill’s Edge?”
“Why, Laniel sent me on an errand, of course,” Auryon answers. “Though in all honesty, lady, I have little interest in completing my duty,” he continues, rationalizing that the best lies are those based upon truth.
“How are you acquainted with Laniel?” It is the second time that the youth uses his father’s given name rather than any familial label.
The polite smile drops from Aris’ face. “No interest in duty, you say? That is indeed… unfortunate.”
She stands suddenly, her chair sliding harshly across the wooden floor. “As for your own question, I think I shall leave it unanswered. Unless of course, you would prefer we trade falsehoods. I shall take my leave – I’m sure you can cover the cost of the two flagons. I believe elverquisst runs about, what, a crown each in this town? Surely a merchant’s son can handle that.” The elven maiden turns on her heel and makes to leave.
“Aris!” Auryon raises his voice and stands. “Forgive me lady, but it seems I offended thee after having your acquaintance for only too few a moment, and I know not even why.” He pauses to ensure he has her attention and lowers his voice accordingly. “It has been a long while since I have had the pleasure of decent elven company. If you would spare me, I would give you a less evasive and more fitting introduction, so that I would not have upset your day by causing you a frown,” offers the young elf, along with a slight obeisance.
The maiden turns back around to face the bladesinger. “Perhaps if you learn to show respect for others, you will find that you can impress more and offend less. You may start with ceasing to lie to other Tel’Quessir. Although I believe there are some in Silverymoon who would have other additional recommendations.”
She returns to the table and retakes her seat. This time, Auryon catches a glimpse of a sword pommel that was concealed by her cloak before she closes the garment about her again. Aris’ facial expression is neutral as she holds the other elf’s eyes with hers and waits for him to speak.
“Well lady,” Auryon begins in a less-than-haughty manner, “as you can see, I am travel-worn and in long need of the comforts of home. Yet home is a luxury I can ill afford, presently. I would have it that for now. I refrain from telling you why, just that it does involve my father, along with many moments of ailing regret that have brought me here and find me alone.
“And thus I offer genuine thanks for your company,” he adds with a smile that is gone as quickly as it came. “I am glad I am here, though, and that home is far away, for now. All my lack of apparent wealth, that of companionship and coin for a hearty meal, does not equate for my possession of novel experience – new people, new lands, new wine, a new location of the stars in the sky. I could never imagine that a life of counting coin would offer such gladness. And thus you find me here, wondering where our servant lass has disappeared to?” he asks himself in the form of a light-hearted joke, looking animatedly into the corners of the tavern.
As if in answer to his wishes, the serving girl stops by the table briefly to deliver two flagons of the elven liqueur that Aris ordered. Glancing askance to Auryon, the elven maiden reaches into a belt pouch and flips two gold coins onto the girl’s tray. With a nod of thanks, the girl moves away to serve other customers.
Aris returns her attention to Auryon. “What if you had a chance to kill two thrushes with one stone’s throw? Achieve that novel experience you so dearly seek while also making progress toward repairing your fractured relationship with your father… and your homeland?”
“My thanks for the drink, lady. Now, that sounds to me like three thrushes, which would be a magical throw indeed, or a very large stone.” He grins at his own joke. “You have succeeded in raising my interest, though,” admits Auryon, who sees his sought-after wine as suddenly unimportant.
“I am pleased to hear that,” Aris says in a carefully measured tone. She takes a sip of the elverquisst and pauses for several heartbeats as she collects her thoughts. Then she resumes speaking in the same manner.
“There may come a time in the near future when your unique... abilities are required,” Aris begins, glancing pointedly to the tattoo on Auryon's inner arm. “As your name and... past actions... are known to others, so is your training and demonstrated skill.”
“The proposal to which I allude will most likely entail a significant journey – and is sure to be wrought with intrigue and no small amount of peril. At this point, I can unfortunately give little other insight as there yet remain questions to be asked and answered by those who would commission the expedition.
“I assure you, however,” the elven maiden states firmly, “that the cause is just – I swear this by my blood and on the honor of Evereska. Should the expedition succeed – and you survive – I would imagine that it would go some distance in repairing the rifts that have been torn between yourself and those who remain in our shared homeland.”
“Undoubtedly an attractive proposal, as I would enjoy seeing my sisters again,” admits Auryon in a show of sudden warmth, sipping his wine. “Why do you follow this course of so many unknowns, Aris?”
“Because it is for a noble cause,” the elven woman replies. “The cause of freedom, mostly. And because I find solace in the companionship of those with whom I share the danger and the thrill of the adventure. But I will most likely not be traveling with you. I am merely an intermediary in this instance.”
Auryon replies thoughtfully, “I cannot refrain from thinking that I am only receiving part of the story. Nevermind though, for at the same time the mystery is indeed attractive, Aris!
“What is required of me at this moment? I do hope I’ve time to finish this wine,” he smiles, gesturing with his flagon in his table-companion’s direction.
“All that is required is that you stay in Hill’s Edge and remain out of trouble,” Aris replies. “When the time comes, you will be found and summoned, accordingly. So for now, let us just enjoy our native drink in peace,” the elf woman finishes, clearly suggesting that she is not interested in further conversation.
“Very well, I shall try,” Auryon answers with a smile and a second attempt at humor. He is not ignorant of the nuances of implicature, however, and discontentedly settles into his drink and the sights of the bar.
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