Human/elven relations.Council Hall, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Nyssa stood, unassisted, in the office of Matriarch Starpetal. Her crutch leaned against the wall by the door. She waited with Kazimier, who also stood. The matriarch entered, her blue gown trailing. "Good morning," she said. "I didn't expect either of you to be here so soon after dawn."
Kazimier bowed to the matriarch. "I thought that Dame Nyssa would like to get going as soon as possible this morning."
"I see." Matriarch Starpetal sat at her desk. "And how is her leg, Kazimier?"
"Healing, Matriarch. I'd prefer if she were off it at least another day, but Dame Nyssa does have her quest to complete."
Amusement tugged the corners of Nyssa's mouth upwards. "Matriarch, with Kazimier with me, I'm sure that won't have to lose my leg."
"And the supplies?"
"My squire is packing them on my horse as we speak, Matriarch. Thank you again for your generosity."
"Kazimier, will you be travelling alone with Dame Nyssa?"
"No, Matriarch," Kazimier answered. "I have found volunteers to come with me. One is an outrider. An apprentice, but her master has nothing but praise for her abilities. The other is a wizard."
Matriarch Starpetal cocked her head. "A wizard? Why haven't I heard complaints from Matriarch Eaglebough about one of her son's mages being usurped by some upstart?"
"Technically, my volunteer isn't part of the Guild of Mages." Kazimier coughed. "She hasn't had the time to apply."
"She?" The matriarch rubbed her forehead. "Oh, Kazi, tell me it's not her."
"'It's not her,' Matriarch." Kazimier shuffled his feet. "I did get permission from the outrider chief, though."
"Small favours." The matriarch pushed away from her desk. "What the Council does not know won't hurt it." She got up to walk over to Kazimier. "Kazi, do be careful." The matriarch pulled him into a tight hug."
"I will, Matriarch." Kazimier returned the hug. "And no strays this time."
Matriarch Starpetal released Kazimier. "Go with my blessing, and the blessings of the Lightbringer."
"Thank you, Matriarch."
Starpetal stepped over to Nyssa. "And may your quest find its end."
Nyssa bowed her head. "Thank you, Matriarch."
Matriarch Starpetal ushered Nyssa and Kazimier to the door. "And please send news when you can."
Nyssa followed Kazimier down the corridor and out of the Council Hall. She waited until she was out of sight of the building before asking, "A wizard who isn't in a guild?"
"It has been known to happen." Kazimier kept his sight on the way through the walkways of Wildwood.
"Right. This journey has become cursed with being interesting."
"I have not heard of this curse."
"A far away land believes in it," Nyssa explained. "'Doomed to have an interesting life.'"
Kazimier shrugged. "I don't see a problem with life being interesting. It gets dull with the same day every day."
Nyssa stared at the elf's back. "Perhaps. And perhaps we are not the type of people who would enjoy a simple life."
"No, Dame Nyssa, we are not. Though it is possible that we weren't chosen to live a simple life."
"Destiny avoids us? And enough of the formalities. We'll be together for some time. Just call me Nyssa. I hear enough 'ma'am's from Leo as it is."
Kazimier kept his steady pace. "Of course, Nyssa."
The pair arrived at the West Gate. As Nyssa suspected, the dark elf was there, fully clad from shoulders to toe and uneasy in the presence of the horses. A younger elf girl on the cusp of being a woman busied herself with placing packs on a pony. Both elves had a long, thin sword in scabbards on their belts; the elf girl also had a quiver. Nyssa glanced at Kazimier; he had a longsword instead of the estocs the elf women carried. Leomund finished arranging the gear on all five of Nyssa's horses ready; her black and white charger, the two brown riding horses, and the two cream pack horses. The charger, towering over the elves' horses, clomped on the thick wooden planks.
Kazimier called over the dark elf and the young woman. "Nyssa, this is Wren," he pointed to the young elf, "and Jyslyn. You may have seen them when you arrived."
Wren stared at the knight. Jyslyn stood beside the young elf. "I am pleased to see you didn't succumb to the poison."
"I'm pleased, too, Jyslyn." Nyssa looked over at the elves' horses. "Have you ever ridden a horse before?"
"There's nothing to worry about," Kazimier said. "I've arranged for a gentle horse for her." He offered Jyslyn a reassuring smile. "You'll get used to being on horseback. Is everything ready and packed?"
Wren nodded. Jyslyn said, "She's been busy all morning."
Nyssa approached her riding horse. "Time to mount up." She made sure her squire was on his horse before getting on hers. "There's a crossroads with an inn that we can make before sunset."
Wren clambered aboard her mount. Kazimier helped Jyslyn get on her horse. The dark elf took the reins with both gloved hands. The elf priest then mounted his ride and maneuvered it beside Jyslyn's. The gate lowered, providing a ramp down to the ground. Nyssa took the lead, guiding her horse down. Wren followed, then Leomund. Jyslyn let one hand free of the reins long enough to raise the hood of her cloak. She let Kazimier guide her horse to the ground.
Away from Wildwood, Nyssa slowed her horse. "We'll take it--" She cut off her words as Wren raced by. "I was going to say 'take it slow until Jyslyn was comfortable riding,' but someone has other ideas."
"Wren's just doing her job," Kazimier explained. "She'll come back to make sure she hasn't lost us."
"And if the lass doesn't come back?"
"If there's trouble, she'll return to tell us. That's her job as an outrider."
"Wait, then how am I supposed to protect her?" Jyslyn asked. "I'm not going keep up with her."
"You could ask her for riding lessons."
"As wonderful internal elven policy is," Nyssa said, "I do have a point. It's a week's ride to the dwarven mountain, and that's if we don't get caught up in bad weather or run into any problems on the road. We can take it slow the first day. The crossroads are close enough that even with delays, we should make it."
"I can help her, ma'am," Leomund offered. "I mean, I've never ridden an elf-raised pony, but horses are horses, right? Each one has a personality to figure out."
"Please." Nyssa tried to find Wren through the trees lining the simple road. "And someone explain this to the outrider, too."
Morien Citadel, the Sundered Chasm
Valenza swept her arm, clearing the table of everything on it to a crash agaisnt the wall. "It's been a week since anyone saw her, so don't tell me to keep calm, Tereka. Mother is apopletic with Jyslyn's disappearance. I told her she should have disposed of the brat when she was born."
Tereka rolled her eyes. "You said that about Biala when he was born. I imagine you said that about me, too." The dark elf smiled. "Besides, Mother isn't in a condition to worry about our wayward sister. I heard she had an unfortunate accident. Mother fell on some swords, then threw herself into the river to hide her shame. That was a lovely touch, Valenza."
"That can become an epidemic, Tereka." Valenza sat back down. "Especially if we cannot find our missing sister."
"You don't need her. With her gone, she can take the blame for Mother's untimely death. Such a disappointment, our Jyslyn was."
"I will not brook disobedience. Jyslyn has failed to learn that lesson."
"For all we know, Jyslyn had an accident, a real one, and her body is somewhere that we can't get to." Tereka sat across from her sister. "You know how she liked to explore."
A commotion erupted outside the dining room. The dark elves' brother strode in, carrying a goblin by the throat. He threw the creature to the stone floor. "I have information."
Valenza got up and walked over to the groveling goblin. "You will clean up this mess, Biala."
Biala kicked the goblin. "Tell her."
The goblin whimpered. "Great mistress, I saw her, your sister with the red metal hair."
Velenza knelt down to face the goblin. "Where?"
"She was going up."
"Up?" Valenza wrapped her hands around the goblin's throat. "Up where, you toad?"
"Towards the outside," the goblin gasped.
Valenza released her victim. The goblin coughed as he tried to catch his breath. "Outside." Valenza stood. "My dear little sister has gone outside." As her voice grew softer, Biala and Tereka backed away from their sister. "I'm sure there is an explanation." Valenza backhanded the goblin. "How far did you follow her?"
"She left the trade caves. I tried, but she disappeared." The goblin flinched.
"Biala, tell our agents above ground to find her. I do not want any failures."
Biala snapped to attention. "Yes, Mistress Valenza."
"That's Matriarch, now."
"Yes, Matriarch Valenza."
Valenza glared at her brother. "What are you waiting for? Go!" She turned to the pitiful creature on the ground. "You, on your feet!"
"Yes, Mis-- Matriarch." The goblin did as commanded.
"You do deserve something for your help."
"Thank you, Matriarch!"
Valenza grasped the red ruby amulet she wore as a necklace. She whispered a soft prayer. The amulet's ruby lit from within. The goblin's expression went from expecting to fear as his fingers went from pale $green flesh to dark grey shale. The transformation sped up his arms and legs. In moments, his horrified features were all brittle rock. "Tereka, throw this trash into the chasm. Make sure you hear it break."
Tereka stared at the shale statue of the goblin. "Yes, Matriarch," she stammered. "As you wish."
The first night of the journey.