ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

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ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » July 18th, 2011, 9:31 am

(Continuing the story of how Lorrin Elle fell in love with an elf. One large section to go after this one; probably about 20 entries here and as many more in that one. Sorry this has taken so long...)

Chapter 56: Interloper

Months passed, and Lorrin Elle settled into life among the Ensigerum of House Salaeia.

It was funny, he would sometimes reflect, how his initial impression of the house, and of Altissimis, could be so right and so wrong at the same time. He’d pretty well nailed the overall atmosphere of the place: condescending but generally sincere tolerance of the humans in their midst, and a certain two-facedness regarding the half elves – official acceptance, indeed nurture (at least nominally), of the healthy members of the race in Altissimis, with a well-concealed attitude toward them that wasn’t nurturing at all, far from it, incredibly far from it. However, he’d completely overlooked that there were those who genuinely cared for half elves among the Viradior just as there were among the Ensigerum.

His first realization of this oversight had come on one of his all-too-frequent assignments for guard duty at the temple of Senilis. He’d walked over to the place and found another of the clearly Errant beggars sprawled at the base of the statue. The elf walking with him had spoken roughly to the unfortunate man – “Be off with you!” But then, as they passed by, and as the Errant struggled painfully to his feet (one of which was severely clubbed, Lorrin noticed), the elf took a quick look around to make sure nobody was watching her – and then quietly slipped a small coin purse into the man’s outstretched hand.

“Don’t tell anybody,” she said to the suddenly hopeful Lorrin as they continued into the temple.

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Lorrin would remember this exchange a few weeks later, when he finally mustered up the courage to do something he hadn’t done before.

It was another tedious temple-sitting duty, this time at the temple of Anilis. As usual, the only worshippers, per se, were the barren, hopeless elven women praying for a child. That must be terribly difficult for them, he thought. By now he’d come to understand that the elves had a serious fertility problem. He’d also come to the realization that elves didn’t play the role of supplicants well. They were a proud race, not given to entreating their gods (or anyone else) gracefully. How tempting it must be, he thought, to skip the prayers and ceremonies here, which the elf women obviously didn’t want to go through, and make a half-elven kid instead …

He was nearing the end of his duties for the day when he realized that one of the supplicants was quite unlike the others; very unlike them indeed. What’s a half elf doing here?

The woman was tall for her race, which was one of the reasons why Lorrin had thought she was elven at first. She had reddish-blond hair that looked more human than elven, worn long over her shoulders. Her shawl was of the type Lorrin had seen on a number of elves. Her figure was … human. All told, she looked the picture of the kind of harmony between human and elven traits that he had been led to believe the majority of half elves, the non-Errant ones, had, at least until he got to Altissimis.

And now she was staring at him with a most unusual directness.

Their eyes locked for a moment, and then the woman came over to his guard post and spoke. “I’ve heard a lot about you. As soon as you’re off duty, would you like to see how the other half lives?” Without another word, she returned to her position in front of the altar of Anilis.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » July 31st, 2011, 7:59 pm

Chapter 57: How the other half lives

Thunderstruck, Lorrin recoiled in his post. She’s trying to seduce me … I think.

Well, maybe she was trying to seduce him. On reflection, he wasn’t so sure. Certainly the overture that this half-elf woman had made to him had … provocative undertones. At the same time, when Varani had made her advances (what ever became of her? he wondered), there weren’t any “undertones” to it; she’d simply announced that they were going to have sex, no ifs, ands or buts. This woman wasn’t an elf, but she couldn’t help being influenced by the way the elves did things (could she?). If that had been what was on her mind, she’d have simply said so. (Wouldn’t she?)

Lorrin’s shock gave way to puzzled curiosity as his time at the guard post neared its end. It grew more intense as he realized that his relief in the post was going to be Benny Knows-His-Sword. That was interesting. He’d never seen the squat, muscular man on temple duty before; in fact, he didn’t really know what the man did to earn his keep with the elves. (A corner of his mind provided the cynical answer: the same thing that Luca did back in training camp. In this guess, he was close to correct.)

Here he was now, coming to the guard post, with a little smile on his face. “I see you’ve met Luisa,” Benny said without any preamble, nodding toward the half elf in front of the altar. “I’ll vouch for her, she’s all right. You can go with her. Relax, you’re not going to get mugged or raped.” He smirked as Lorrin stepped out of the guard post.

Still trying to figure out what this strange encounter meant, Lorrin resorted to uncharacteristic flippancy. “So if she’s not working for muggers or rapists,” he asked, “what interest could she have in me? People in our outfit usually don’t have many dealings with half elves, do we?”

Benny’s smirk changed into something more thoughtful, if just barely. “Well, that’s the interest,” he said. “Go ahead. I’m serious, she’s okay, and what she wants to do with you is okay too. Now excuse me.” He pushed past Lorrin to the guard station, to assume his watch position.

Intrigued, Lorrin left the post and walked over to where the half-elf woman was meditating, or praying, or whatever she was doing. He stood appraising her for a minute or two, thinking, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this woman before. But how could that be possible? As he’d said, the Ensigerum just didn’t deal with half elves. Well, whatever, he thought; at least she was clean (which hadn’t been the case with many of the Errants), well dressed (definitely not true of many of the Errants), and … well, he had to admit it, plenty attractive as well.

It was perhaps indicative, Lorrin would later reflect, of how thoroughly he’d absorbed the elves’ own biases that he should find anything at all remarkable about those observations.

The woman looked up, just as Lorrin was about to clear his throat to announce his presence. “Sorry, didn’t see you there,” she said, smiling at him. (Was that smile of the come-hither variety? A mask put on for the occasion? Was there a hint of the predator in it?) “Let’s go, there’s a dinner waiting for you.” She stood up, and to Lorrin’s amazement, took his arm.

“How were you so sure I was going to accept this invitation?” he asked as they left the temple.

“Oh, we have our ways,” the woman smiled back, and Lorrin wondered: ”We”? So there’s more to it than this … forward … woman? Just what am I getting myself into?

He walked in silence as Luisa guided him through the streets of the city (the elven and human part, that is), toward the part of town where he’d never been before. The Altissimis that lay beyond both the elven grandeur, and the pedestrian life of his own kind.

The Altissimis of the half elves.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » August 17th, 2011, 11:04 pm

Chapter 58: Cultures and clans

It looks like … a town, Lorrin thought, not too perceptively. Well, what else would it look like?

The half-elf side of Altissimis, which he’d never seen before, was notable mainly for its complete normalcy. Here, as he followed Luisa, were stores bearing exactly the kinds of goods he’d seen in human space – if, possibly, sized to a slightly taller people, and with maybe just a slightly greater magical component. There, across the square, was what appeared to be a temple of Anilis (did the half elves worship elven gods? apparently), and another building that had that temple-like look to it but had a statue out front that Lorrin didn’t recognize. Did that mean that the half elves tolerated worship of gods other than the elven ones? For just a moment Lorrin felt the tug of his homeland; there had been no indications anywhere in elven space of veneration for the Mother Spirit. Might She be worshipped among the half elves? It seemed like a question worth asking, but not now.

He became aware that Luisa was watching him with interest as he took in the unfamiliar temple. “The Temple of the Elder Goddess,” she explained. “Many of my people believe that there was a spiritual force in our world before the gods of the elves came. They worship her there.” She chuckled, leaving Lorrin unsure whether there was supposed to be humor in it or not. “Most of them aren’t so sure that this goddess even exists, let alone is an object of worship, but they can’t bring themselves to worship the elven gods, so why not invent a religion of their own? It’s part of making our own culture, I suppose.”

They continued on through the town. There were stables and inns; services for visitors to town, clearly. (Half-elf visitors, almost certainly.) The half-elven side of town appeared to have its own constabulary; at least there were some uniformed half elves (both male and female, Lorrin noticed) lounging out in front of a building that had a shield-like emblem above its door. They didn’t appear to have much to do, however. The whole community gave a sense of peace and prosperity, of tranquility.

But where were the Errants?

Lorrin was quite interested in that question, actually. Every half elf he’d seen in this part of town looked entirely normal to his eye. Not a deformity was in sight – not a physical deformity, anyway. (He was well aware by now that Errant deformities could affect the mind, and the soul, as well as the body, but there was no way to look for those.) So where were they? Did the people of the half-elven enclave keep their infirm out of the public eye? Did they simply cast them out altogether, to rely on the – dubious – mercies of the magically superior elves? Was there another explanation he hadn’t thought about?

And how did that explanation mesh with the elven raid against the “troll” community that didn’t contain trolls?

He was still pondering these questions as he and his escort approached a park where children were at play, and no sooner had they arrived than a contingent of giggling boys and girls peeled off and came sprinting in their direction. A broad smile spread across Luisa’s face as she knelt to receive them and scooped up an energetic girl-child in her embrace. “Auntie Lu! Auntie Lu!” the girl squealed happily. “Who’s your friend? Is he – is he –“

Luisa’s smile broadened. “Yes, he’s a human,” she confirmed, then turned to Lorrin. “Humans in our community are a bit of a rarity.” And then she switched to the other elven language. “There’s a bit of resentment in the human part of Altissimis. Please don’t tell the children that, they think it’s just that they’re so exotic.” She switched back to the language of the Sanguen and addressed the girl. “Twyla, you look like you’re having so much fun,” she said. “And so many of your cousins are here! Is there a clan gathering?”

The child got serious for just a moment, although she was excited enough that she couldn’t hold it for long. “Yes, Auntie Lu!” she enthused. “Aunt Josie is in town for something, and so we’re going to have a big party! Aren’t we, Joey?” she asked a younger boy who’d joined them. The boy was obviously a bit more bashful; he just nodded and dashed off to rejoin the group, with “Twyla” in hot pursuit.

“You’ll have to excuse them,” Luisa smiled at Lorrin. “Their Aunt Josie doesn’t come here very often. My sister, Twyla and Joey’s mother, married into the ruling house of Clan Ramorciel, and her sister-in-law is some kind of diplomatic figure, a big shot in dealing with the elves. So it really is a big deal when she’s here.”

The half-elf woman kept discussing her family, but Lorrin’s attention was no longer on what she was saying … because he was putting two and two together.

”Clan Ramorciel.” A sister-in-law called “Aunt Josie” who’s a prominent figure in diplomacy.

Jozefina Ramorciel, in other words.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » September 5th, 2011, 11:23 pm

(Sorry this one is a little slow-paced, not to mention rather tardy; I've been out of pocket for a couple of weeks and couldn't do much writing. Things will pick up ...)

Chapter 59: Clan Ramorciel

“Oh, don’t worry,” Luisa said, correctly interpreting the look on Lorrin’s face – at least mostly. “You’re not crashing the party. On the contrary, you’re invited.”

Now how did she know what I was thinking? Lorrin wondered, then dismissed the thought. He was pretty sure his face had lit up at the prospect of seeing the beautiful half elf again. (Actually, most all of the half-elf women were turning out to be pleasing to the eye, weren’t they? Except, of course, for that little problem with deformities…) Surely, though, this was to be a private affair, with outsiders not welcome. Would a human be accepted? One who’d just happened to wander into the clan by accident?

It didn’t occur to him, at least not yet, to wonder whether his visit to Clan Ramorciel was really such an “accident,” nor which unusual presence, his and Jozefina Ramorciel’s, was cause, and which was effect.

The next hour or two passed in somewhat of a haze for Lorrin, as Luisa continued to show him around the half-elven part of town. Under other conditions, he would have been bored, he would later reflect; it was, after all, just a town, a place where people went about their lives … except that those people happened to be half elves. By the time Luisa steered him toward a large, handsome compound near the edge of town, he was more than ready for the tour to be over.

Looks almost like the home base for a lesser elvish house, Lorrin thought, inspecting the apparent seat of Clan Ramorciel. Well, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, he reasoned; by all accounts, the half elves took more after their immortal parents than after their human ones. They’d try to pattern their social structure, architecture, the whole thing, on the way the elves did it. (If he felt a brief flare of resentment at the way the humans stood on the outside looking in, it passed quickly enough that he didn’t notice.) Of course, they would only have had a few hundred years to build the physical manifestation of a clan/house, instead of all eternity as the elves had had, so it wouldn’t be as grandiose; but that was probably just as well.

A tall, uniformed man was waiting as he and Luisa approached the main building. “Welcome, my lord, my lady,” he said with a smile, and also a bow that almost was a genuflection. “You are expected.” A flare of magic – elven touches to that, Lorrin thought – and the door opened, but not before Lorrin could raise a hand in protest. “Thanks for the courtesy, sir,” he said, “but I’m not nobility. I’m Ensigerum, a servant of the elves, a –“

Luisa interrupted with a smile. “That’s nobility enough, Lorrin,” she said, gently steering him away from the doorman and into an entrance hall tastefully decorated with works of art, magical and otherwise, all showing greater – how to put it? – restraint than what he was used to seeing at House Salaeia. “Don’t underestimate yourself. You’ll fit in just fine here.” She favored him with a smile that, he thought, might be nearly as dazzling as what he expected from Jozefina.

She’s at home here, Lorrin realized. That probably meant that Luisa was half-elven nobility herself, if the concept applied for the half-elven clans. Certainly she moved gracefully and comfortably as she took his arm and ushered him into the dining hall, pausing to make small talk with other guests along the way, and to introduce her exotic human escort (still in his uniform from the duty at the temple) to a succession of half elves whose names he rapidly forgot. Handsome men, beautiful women … but where were the Errants? He put the thought out of his mind as best he could, as he entered the dining hall …

… And there she was. Jozefina Ramorciel was surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers – Lorrin would almost have said “acolytes” – and holding court as a princess might. Lorrin couldn’t help himself; he looked around to see if that smarmy elven ambassador was with her. No elves were in sight.

As he and Luisa approached, Jozefina turned to him with a smile that suggested the rising of the sun. “We meet again, Ensigerum Lorrin Elle,” she said. “It’s a pleasure…”
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » September 17th, 2011, 11:36 am

Chapter 60: Dinner, and afterward

Lorrin felt as if he was melting under the heat of that smile. “The pleasure is all mine,” he replied, simply and honestly; the fact that it was also the, well, protocol-based thing to say really didn’t matter at this moment.

The buzz of small talk in the hall subsided as a tall, dignified man strode into the room; the head of Clan Ramorciel, obviously. Much later, Lorrin would learn that his name was Shimon, and that he held the title of Cain of the clan, a word that meant nothing in any language he knew. Indeed, as he would learn, the half elves had basically invented the term, to signify the leadership position, distinct from any title held by the elven nobility or the human aristocracy that was just beginning to develop. For now all that mattered was that he was clearly important. All eyes turned to the tall man (even Lorrin’s; he surprised himself by being able to tear them away from Jozefina) as he spread his hands.

“Greetings in the name of the Great Goddesses,” he intoned. (Do I recognize a religion based on “Great Goddesses”? Lorrin wondered, decided he didn’t, and made a mental note to ask Luisa about it later.) “Our house is your house, and please extend your welcome to our two distinguished guests: Lady Jozefina –“ she modestly, and of course, gracefully (perfectly gracefully) nodded her head – “and Ensigerum Lorrin Elle, liege of House Salaeia.”

Lorrin wasn’t sure what to do, but he did remember some protocol lessons he’d picked up during his training, and smiled and bowed toward the Cain – who surprised him with a hearty chortle in response. “Oh, don’t worry about that kind of formality here,” Shimon Ramorciel said. “We’re not elves, to put it mildly, and we seek a comfortable, family setting when we meet for dinner. You are among friends here. Now please, dine with us. The feast is blessed by those who partake of it.”

“As is the host,” the rest of the table murmured in unison, almost causing Lorrin to break out a sardonic smile; for a bunch that claimed not to want “that kind of formality” at their dinner, they obviously still did have their rituals. The moment passed quickly enough, and the diners set to their first course, a mushroom soup that Lorrin thought smelled as delicious as anything he’d ever eaten, and as he would soon discover, tasted better than it smelled.

Later – much later – Lorrin would have few memories of the dinner itself. The fare had been consistent with that soup: simple (certainly by the standards of the concoctions the elves favored), superbly flavorful, and utterly enjoyable, from the soup through the main course (based on venison, if he guessed correctly; he hadn’t had that since leaving home, and it was wonderful, albeit nostalgic, to have it again), to a light, delicate berry dessert the made him feel as if were floating in the air.

Well, that and the brandy-like liqueur the berries were drenched in, anyway.

He’d been seated near, but not at, the head of the table, between a well-dressed, older woman and a young man whose bearing positively screamed “military.” That was interesting. There certainly weren’t any half elves in the Ensigerum, and only a limited town militia (with which he’d had some unpleasant experiences) that again seemed not to include the hybrid race. So what military force did the man serve in? Lorrin would later recall asking him the question (not in so many words, of course – he’d learned tact during his protocol training with the elves), only to get a bland “oh, I keep in shape” kind of answer that revealed nothing at all, and a very obvious change of subject by the woman on his left.

Truthfully, he still wasn’t paying that much attention anyway, because his eyes were still preoccupied with Jozefina Ramorciel – and with her cousin (or niece or whatever she was), Luisa. Jozefina was a vision in a light blue gown that set off her hair and her luminous smile, like the midday sun above a cloudless sky. Luisa had chosen a simple gown of earth tones that accentuated her own considerable beauty. Half elves, Lorrin thought, just seemed to be naturally beautiful people …

… Allowing, of course, for the fact there still weren’t any Errants at the table.

Evening turned into night, and then into late night, and dinner turned into post-prandial cigars for some of the older men (Lorrin didn’t smoke) and some dancing in the dining hall for the younger diners, with music of an unknown origin (half-elven, surely) provided by a string quartet. Lorrin initially sought to see where Jozefina was in the swirling crowd, but was deflected by Luisa, who proved to be a superb dancer, feather-light in his arms, yet perfectly balanced and surprisingly athletic. The experience left Lorrin starting to entertain certain fantasies … but no, best not to go there.

The music ended, to warm applause by the dancers. Most fun I’ve had in ages, Lorrin thought, but all things must end. He made polite noises to prepare to leave, only to get a rebuff from Shimon Ramorciel’s wife, a dignified gray-haired woman who’d been seeing to the guests and had only taken a full role in the dancing. “We wouldn’t think of it,” she scolded him. “It’s late at night, the rough elements are out, you’d be safer staying here. Besides, we checked with – someone at House Salaeia, and you’re off duty tomorrow, aren’t you? No, you’ll stay with us. A room has already been made up for you.”

Lorrin hemmed and hawed for a minute, then allowed as how this most gracious hostess might be right: it was late, he was a long way from home, and besides, he could still feel the brandy in that dessert. Yes, this seemed like a time when he could be away from his quarters for an evening; there’d been few enough of those. A servant escorted him to the room, where he made preparations to retire, thinking he’d fall asleep almost the moment he got into bed … but in that, he was wrong.

In fact, he was starting to fall asleep, replaying the events of the evening in an almost dream-like state, when the door of the bedroom gently opened, then closed with a click. Soft footsteps padded toward the bed, and Lorrin was instantly awake, even though he couldn’t see a thing. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he spluttered. “I must be in the wrong room, I –“

“Silly man, no, you’re not,” came a familiar female voice. A body slid into bed beside him – a lithe, beautiful, and utterly naked body.

“You’re not in the wrong place at all,” Luisa whispered, and the kiss she placed on his lips made it clear that Lorrin Elle wasn’t going to be sleeping a wink for quite a long time that night.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » September 18th, 2011, 10:56 pm

Chapter 61: Breakfasts

Luisa was gone when Lorrin woke up, almost more tired than when he’d gone to bed.

They had made love five times during the night, the half-elf woman throwing off orgasms with an effortlessness that seemed almost elven (and, Lorrin was embarrassed to admit to himself, that he’d found it difficult to keep pace with … although, thankfully, not impossible). It wasn’t just the kind of carnal itch-scratching that Varani and the other elves had “enjoyed” with him, either. There was a passion there, a fire … or at least, so he thought.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Isn’t it?

When he straggled down to the breakfast table, he was half expecting all eyes to be on him, but as far as he could tell, the others taking their meals there were entirely oblivious to the way he’d spent the night. Luisa wasn’t there, and neither was Shimon Ramorciel; “a government matter,” one of the half elves said. What kind of government did the half elves have? Lorrin wondered. He’d never heard of any specifically half-elven government in Altissimis. (Of course, it didn’t occur to him – yet – that the half elves may have wanted it that way. Secrecy, he would come to understand, was the half elves’ friend … and it would become more so in the years ahead, much more so.)

To his surprise, however, Jozefina Ramorciel was at breakfast … and she was heading his way. “Mind if I join you?” she smiled, and folded herself delicately into the seat next to his.

Lorrin fumbled his way through a round or two of small talk with the celebrated woman, feeling as if he was attempting casual conversation with the queen of the world – at least of his own world. He hoped devoutly that he wasn’t blushing. Anyway, if he was less than a … scintillating conversationalist under the circumstances, Jozefina didn’t seem to notice. She played her part in the small-talk ritual to perfection … and then she got to the point.

“Lorrin, there is a professional favor that I would like to ask of you …”

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Meanwhile, another, considerably more private breakfast was being eaten in a small and very secure room, elsewhere in the house.

“I assume you didn’t have any trouble seducing him?” Shimon Ramorciel asked Luisa over a bite of eggs.

“None at all,” she smiled back. “He was quite willing to be seduced – downright enthusiastic about the idea, in fact.” The smile broadened, and it wasn’t just with pride at what she’d accomplished. “Willing, and certainly able.”

“Good,” the older man nodded. “The way he’s been mooning over your sister, I’d been worried that he’d be, I guess I’d say, uncooperative. By the way, has he figured out the relationship yet?”

“No. He knows we’re connected somehow, no way to get around that. I told him that Josie was a visiting dignitary, and that I’m related to the clan by a marriage somewhere. I think he bought it.”

Another nod, and another affirmation. “Good. We don’t want our relationships known outside the clan yet, particularly to someone who may still be under the elves’ thumbs. You did well with the deception; Josie really is a visiting dignitary, more or less. I wish that damned ambassador would get his hands off her, but it isn’t going to happen any time soon. The things we do to survive …”

A playful smile crossed Luisa’s face. “I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better of this deal, though.”

The old man chuckled. “Sounds like it. Are you sure he’s an ally? That’s the important thing.”

She thought about it. “Sure? Not yet. How can one ever be sure what’s going through the mind of a human?” Particularly a human male, she thought, but did not say. “I think we can rely on him for what comes next, though.”

“Good. He’s the best hope we have – maybe the last hope we have.” Shimon stood up. “I have some things to do. Make yourself scarce until he’s gone, okay?”

“Right, daddy.” Father and daughter left the room.
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » October 6th, 2011, 9:11 pm

Short hiatus in progress here, because Errant Road is writing-intensive right now. Lorrin's story is by no means done. Hope to resume in about a week. Sorry ...
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » November 15th, 2011, 9:16 pm

[Sorry it's been so long since the last installment. Apologies, also, for this one being a bit slow-paced ... but the action will pick up soon enough.]

Chapter 62: A mission

Lorrin was a very thoughtful man as he walked back to House Salaeia.

Am I doing anything wrong here? he thought as he passed through the main gate connecting the human and half-elven parts of Altissimis. Have they asked me to do anything contrary to the oath of loyalty I took? I don’t think so. (Not yet, at least.) Have they asked me about any secrets of the elves? No; I don’t know any anyway. Have they asked me to break any rules of the unit? Certainly not, they were clear about that, clear that they’d never ask such a thing. He continued stepping through a mental list of reservations, resolving each one as he thought about it. No, he could comply with this – curious – request in clear conscience.

On the other hand, it wasn’t so much the “request” that Jozefina had made of him, he thought, as the – he thought the word was surreptitious -- nature of the thing. How could the half elves have enough influence with his masters to bring their plan off? Surely they weren’t expecting him to make the arrangements, were they? For a very junior member of the Ensigerum to get into the politics – well, it wouldn’t look right, it wouldn’t work, it would probably leave him in an exposed position in the House.

It didn’t occur to him yet that there might be other influential people in the House who also were sympathetic to the problems of the half elves, although it wouldn’t be long before it did.

“Well, well, well,” Benny Knows-His-Sword smirked at him as he entered the Salaeia compound. Benny seemed to have drawn guard duty out front, which was a bit out of the ordinary: the elves didn’t usually allow anyone quite as – unconventional looking to take a public post at the compound. “Looks like you might have failed a bed check last night, if there’d been one.”

For just a moment, Lorrin was mildly annoyed. “And how did you know where I spent my night?” he said, instantly regretting it; it was Benny who’d vouched for Luisa, after all.

The other man winked. “I have my sources,” he said. “And don’t worry, there wasn’t a bed check, and you didn’t have to be in your bed anyway.” His face got serious. “Just be aware that there are people around here who take more notice of things like that than others. Next time you go out for a night on the town, it’d be a good idea to cover your tracks a little more carefully. Now head over for Sergeant Smidric’s post, he’s got something to tell you.”

The older man was waiting for him when he reached the command post. “Been looking all over for you,” he said. “You’ve got a mission away from this pleasure palace.”

Lorrin tried to keep a straight face. How had they arranged it so quickly? “Whatever you say, Sergeant,” he answered. “Where’s it to?” He was pretty sure he already knew the answer, but it wouldn’t hurt to get confirmation.

Smidric looked around to make sure no one was listening, then lowered his voice. “Malacia. It’s this hush-hush city of the Rinkai. I’ve got a briefing packet on it, it’s on the waterfront, and you’ll never believe –“

“I’ve been there,” Lorrin interrupted, getting a startled look in return. “Back as an initiate. I know where it is and what it means, and I know how to handle myself when I’m there. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it all quiet.”

Because others than yourself have told me to expect this call, he thought but did not say … but the wry, wrinkled grin on the older man’s face told him he didn’t need to say it out loud.
----
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » November 27th, 2011, 9:23 pm

Chapter 63: Team building

“What’s the job?” Lorrin asked, not really knowing the answer; Jozefina Ramorciel had told him to expect this summons, but had said nothing about why.

“I don’t know,” Sergeant Smidric said. His body language said he didn’t really care, either. “Another diplomatic escort, I know that.” (So do I, Lorrin thought.) “Rumor has it there’s a confab of the elven high and mighty about some hush-hush project based there, something that’s not going well. That’s all I know.” He chuckled. “All I want to know.”

The other sky city, Lorrin guessed. It looked like the Keiren penchant for secrecy was working, after a fashion. Lorrin had already found out that the one-handed man knew pretty well everything about what was going on within House Salaeia, not just the military side of things but who was sleeping with whom, who had been mortally offended by what insult so that a duel might be coming, all that. If Smidric really didn’t know about the Nizami project, then the Keiren were doing a surprisingly good job of keeping it under wraps. He returned his attention to the older man.

“Briefing after lunch,” Smidric said. “I know you’re supposed to be off today, but go anyway. They might have some answers that I don’t. Plus you’ll get to meet the other people on the mission.” He chuckled again, a note of dismissal in it this time. “Have fun.”

What was that all about? Lorrin wondered as he headed for the briefing room. The sergeant wasn’t usually the kind of man to play with words and innuendo, but Lorrin felt as if he’d been missing something. Surely he’d know about Jozefina Ramorciel, wouldn’t he? Lorrin thought he had detected in the older man a certain – interest in the affairs of half elves, even though he’d never actually come right out and admitted it. He decided to ask Smidric directly after the briefing, if things went as he thought they were going to.

There were seats for about a dozen at the briefing table, and three were already occupied by the time Lorrin entered the room. Viradior Morchis was there, looking uncomfortable; Lorrin had already gathered that the elf didn’t care for escort duty, particularly if it might take him into unfamiliar territory. He was talking to another elf whom Lorrin did not recognize, a Cimmerii from the looks of her (Lorrin had never become used to that cadaverous complexion), probably a representative from one of the other Great Houses. The third seat was filled with the excessively wide form of a short, stout human functionary from House Salaeia. Lorrin couldn’t remember his name, but if memory served, he was the house physician/lifemage. What would such a person be doing on a diplomatic mission? Whatever his role, it seemed important; Morchis and the Cimmerii seemed to be deferring to the man as they consulted a pair of large scrolls with magical-looking runes inscribed on them.

Soon Lorrin was trying to make sense out of the scrolls – they weren’t in any language he recognized – and this occupied, he didn’t hear the approach of another member of the delegation until a most unexpected form settled into the chair next to him and leaned over toward his ear.

“Well, well, well, if it isn't Lorrin Elle. Long time no see,” Sarine said, at least the usual amount of irony in her voice, and possibly something more.
----
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Re: ES: Lorrin's Story, part 4

Postby Graybeard » December 25th, 2011, 12:45 am

Chapter 64: Filling in the details

“What are you doing here?” Lorrin said as he turned around to see the unexpected (and … attractive …) weapons master.

The elf regarded him quietly, her face neutral. (Didn’t this woman ever smile? Lorrin thought he could remember a grand total of two times when he’d seen her do so, and that was all. It was also two more times than his fellow recruits at the Ensigerum camp claimed to have seen such a thing.) “Same as you,” she said. “Trying to find out why they’re sending us off on this damned snipe hunt. Honestly, I have no idea.” The expression that crossed her face wasn’t a smile as much as a sneer. “To fix some idiotic problem the damn fools in the Great Houses have got us into, no doubt.”

Before Lorrin could respond, a herald shouted the traditional “All rise!” and the head of House Salaeia entered the room – with Jozefina Ramorciel at his side.

“At ease,” the distinguished elf said, motioning the party back into their seats. (He did seem to have a grasp of human and half-elven social conventions, Lorrin noted.) As soon as the formalities were satisfied, he got down to business. “You have been called here,” the elf said, “because most of you are among the few people who have seen the plans for the great construction project on the city we call Triunia.”

Sarine swore quietly as Lorrin tried to remember what the name meant. He thought he’d heard the name before, but … ah. Yes, his guess had been right. Triunia was what the Sanguen called the second Sky City, the one being designed for habitation by all three races, in a show of the elven “value” for the half elves and humans. The one being designed by Kiyan Nizami. He sat forward in his chair, his interest suddenly piqued beyond what a routine escort mission might entail.

“It has become necessary,” the elf continued, “for us to demonstrate the Sanguen’s commitment to this project by sending a diplomatic delegation to Malacia, where we will meet with Kiyan Nizami, the half elf who is heading the design effort. There will be delicate diplomatic negotiations involving myself and Miss Ramorciel, here. Behavior with the greatest sensitivity and discretion will be called for.”

Morchis wasn’t impressed. “My lord?” he interrupted, drawing a mild scowl from the noble elf (and an expression of surprise from Jozefina, Lorrin noted; the expression seemed misplaced on her fine features). “I can’t help but notice that you’ve selected for your escort party a large number of capable fighters. And what’s with Lifemage Lituziel? Won’t the Keiren be supplying medical assistance if we have any problems in our party?”

An emotion Lorrin couldn’t quite place played across the nobleman’s features. Muttering under his breath, he traced a magical pattern in the air, and suddenly the room grew quiet – yet, in its own peculiar way, noisy. There was a background whsshh just at the level of consciousness. Lorrin had seen this before: a security spell to prevent eavesdropping. Something sensitive was coming, and momentarily, the nobleman delivered it.

“What I am about to say must be held in strictest confidence,” he said, “and discussed with no one outside this room. Yes, Viradior Morchis, you are correct, there’s more to this mission than meets the eye.” He scanned the room, checking all the faces before continuing; if any were about to react – inappropriately to what he was about to say, he needed to know about it, now. Seeing no unexpected emotions on faces (or, Lorrin suspected, behind them, if mind-probing magic was in use here – he would not know until much later that this rather elementary precaution had been omitted), he continued.

“We have received definite information to the effect that while we are in Malacia, there is to be an attempt on Archmage Nizami’s life – and your job will be to stop it.”
----
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