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The inn was quiet, although at a time like this it was to be expected. It was only six in the evening, and Silenn was a small town. The fire still roared in the center, and nearby sat Drunst. Drunst finished his glass of water, and leant back. The two ambassadors should be here soon, hopefully some use, and then he could go with Abepecian and them to try and track down these Orcs. If he was lucky, some mercenaries or others would help.
Two dark shadows moved through the sparsely populated streets of Silenn, both of them holding on tightly to their weapons as two sets of lilac and red eyes went from one side of the street to the other, searching for anything that might be intending to cause ill will.
"Jabbress," one of the persons spoke, a drow male, as he drew back his dark hood, "The Inn is not far from here, we need not conceal our presences any longer."
The other cloaked person laughed softly at the male's words before pulling the hood back just enough for a face to appear in the darkness.
A drow female smiled grimly as the faint light of the stars shone down from above, drawing in a breath of the stale, animalistic scent of Silenn.
"I do not think so, Antaonar," she spoke softly before continuing her fast pace, heading for the Inn seen in the distance, "These humans are not known to be hospitable of our kind. Keep your hood on until we can have a private moment with the man that the esteemed Matron Mother Drada sent us to meet."
Slowly the male, Antaonar, nodded before pulling up his own hood once more and hurrying after his Lady, keeping behind her a few paces as he continued looking for any kinds of trouble near the two of them.
He and his Lady had not traveled for as long as they had to be surprised by some lowly human, be they male or female, but Antaonar knew that there had to be another reason for them coming here. He knew that the esteemed Matron Mother had been quite dismayed by both his Lady and himself lately, a dismay that had continued to grow for the past few decades, but he would not dare try set words upon his Lady's thoughts.
She knew the real reason why they were here and not back in Ilythiir to protect the Matron Mother, and if his Lady knew then there was no reason to doubt the words she spoke.
As Antaonar continued his inner musings, the two drow reached the entrance to the Inn and quietly slipped inside the door, immediately welcomed by a warm hearth and a somewhat cheery atmosphere.
"Jabbress?" he questioned softly, stepping closer to his Lady as the two of them scanned the room. Finally his Lady stopped her search around the room, her eyes locked upon the frame of a man with long, mussed, black hair.
Drunst looked up as the two walked in. Slightly put off by their appearance, he hesitated for a moment, unsure whether it'd be polite to stand. In the end, he stood, and gestured towards the seats next to him. Best to play it safe and be as polite as he could for now.
The female drow strode right past Drunst, not sparing him even a single glance as she sat down in the nearest chair and leaned back, striking a somewhat imposing form despite being covered in dirty, travel worn clothes. Her companion, Antaonar, opted to stand behind his Lady's chair instead of sitting himself, directing a rather fierce scowl in the direction of the human male still standing.
"You are the human male we are supposed to meet with, yes?" the drow female asked curtly, her voice heavily accented, while pulling back her hood just enough for her facial features to be visible in the Inn's dingy light.
"Yes, m'lady. May I say, it is an honour to meet you here," said Drunst, sitting down, opposite the Drow.
"Are you sure your... companion wouldn't like to sit down?" he asked, slightly put off by their expressions.
"Antaonar will decide on his own whether or not your presence is tolerable enough for him to sit," the drow female replied haughtily before brushing a hand over an imaginary crease in her dark cloak.
The human in front of her was... of acceptable appearance despite the rather weary and travel worn look he had; if anything he'd make a passable battle slave should he ever decide to visit one of the subterranean cities. The female drow smirked as she looked him over, taking in every feature from his handsome features to the small, elaborate designs on his armor.
"I am Ardulae of the esteemed drow House of Noqu'ath. I have been sent here by the Matron Mother Drada to secure my city's alliance with Silenn," the drow female, Ardulae, spoke curtly as she directed her gaze back on Drunst's eyes, "For your own sake I hope that this little quest of yours won't go on for too long. Antaonar and I have other matters to attend to in the nearby future."
"Of course, I understand," replied Drunst, deciding he definitely didn't like the woman. He was pretty certain he wouldn't like the man either, but wasn't sure yet. What they meant by For your own sake he had no idea. Surely they wouldn't attack him, as that would be inviting war with not just Silenn, but most of the Kingdom as well. Right?
"We plan to wait here a little longer, as the Chief Rider should joining us soon. If you would like any drinks or food, I will be happy to pay. However, if you feel you cannot spare your time," continued Drunst, hoping his sarcasm and annoyance couldn't be heard, "We would understand if you needed to leave."
Immediately Antaonar stood straighter, his longsword halfway out of it's sheath before Ardulae stopped her guard by locking his sword arm in a fierce grip.
"Jabbress! Izin uns'aa ulu sarn'elgg nindol rivvil whol ukt hawressae! (Mistress! Allow me to punish this human for his insolence!)" Antaonar snarled silently in drow, minding his tone as to not disturb the other patrons of the Inn.
"Z'lonzic! Vost nindol a h'uena! (Enough! Cease this at once!)" Ardulae replied back heatedly in her mother tongue, her grip tightening around Antaonar's sword arm.
"He insulted you, Jabbress! He belittled you by that disgraceful behavior!"
"Antaonar!" Ardulae now growled before shooting Drunst a narrowed glare, "No more of this behavior! Alu. Usstan inbal inbalus z'lonzic d'dos whol uss isto. (Go. I have had enough of you for one night.)"
Slowly Antaonar nodded before he stepped away from the table, letting his sword slide down in its sheath once more with a quiet click, before he headed back towards the entrance to the Inn.
Ardulae then turned her body back to facing Drunst, placing a bored expression on her face, "I do apologize for that abhorrent behavior that my male showed. Please, do forgive him and accept this as a token of good will."
Pulling a finely cut gem out of a small pouch, Ardulae offered it to Drunst, letting the small gem rest in the middle of her palm.
"No, it's fine. I'm sorry if I inadvertently insulted you in any way," said Drunst, not wanting to provoke anything more, "But keep the gem, I insist."
He'd grabbed hold of his sword when Antaonar had grabbed his, but not taken it out the sheath.
Narrowing her lilac eyes, Ardulae leaned forward and grabbed Drunst's hand, forcibly placing the finely cut gem in it.
"I think that you may have... misinterpreted my reasoning behind giving you this, rivvel," she said calmly, a slightly threatening undertone lying just below the surface of her voice, "I did not give you the gem as a token of peace... I gave it to you in order to seal the contract. As long as you hold that gem in your possession then I, and Antaonar as well, will be in your service. I'd advise you not to lose it," she finished curtly before leaning back in her own chair once more.
"Let me get one thing clear now, Master Human," Ardulae said slowly as she let her eyes drift from one place to the other in the small Inn, "Drow are not like those fluttery, disgusting Elves that you probably know the most around here. We take what we want and we strike when it is needed. You wanted an alliance with us, now you need to be prepared for what is to come. My Matron Mother will not take kindly to this little adventure of yours going awry, not when an alliance between Silenn and Ilythiir hangs in the balance, which is why she sent us. Lead with resolve, for we drow will accept nothing else."
A harsh look came over Drunst face, and his eyes hardened as he spoke, saying, "I'm no-one's master, gem or no gem. Masters are for slaves. If you take what you want and strike when it's needed, that doesn't sound like you want to help us. Now, ambassador," Drunst spat the word, "Since we're suffering from a slight orc problem and your... what is it? Jabbress? Whatever she is, she sent you two as ambassadors for an alliance of some sort, and we need your help. Clearly she either thought it'd be important, or she wants you gone, but you're here now, so you will help us."
He held the gem up to the light, inspecting it, before putting it in a small satchel around his waist.
"If that means I keep this gem 'til the orcs are all dead, so be it."
"For someone born as into the human race you are quite astute," Ardulae mused wryly as she leaned forward, resting her chin in the palm of her hand as she over at Drunst, "But yes, we still need to address the matter at hand. These Orcs you speak of... what is it that you need done?"
"We can track them to the mountains, but there they dis- Oh?"
As he was speaking, a young man had walked next to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Drunst turned round to look at him.
"Ah! Oliver, what is it?"
"Abepecian just wanted to tell you he'd be busy but would come when he could. Said you could set off when you were ready."
Drunst nodded, "Good lad. Keep training. Remember - use your feet when blocking to add strenth."
Blushing, Oliver hurried away.
"What was I saying? Oh, we track them to the mountains but then the tracks just disappear. Same place each time. We wanted help to track them and then to help kill them. We can't spare many soldiers."
As Drunst was speaking a set of lilac eyes followed the boy, Oliver, as he disappeared into the crowd once more.
Hmm, still little more than a boy, not even blooded yet... he'd make a poor soldier, Ardulae thought wryly once Drunst had finished speaking of the Orcs before turning her attention back to Drunst.
"No tracks simply disappear, Captain," Ardulae said as she kept her eyes trained on Drunst's, "Either you missed wherever they have diverted from the path you took, or you are not as competent a tracker as you thought that you were. It is as easy as that."
Ardulae's eyes flickered to the door of the Inn for a few moments before her gaze returned to Drunst, "Luckily for you, my set of skills lies within the realm of shadows. I can find anything as long as you give me a direction. Tell me where to begin and I promise that results shall appear within days."
"There was a small farm just South of here that was attacked. I can take you there today or tomorrow."
"South?" Ardulae repeated before she pushed the chair she was sitting in backwards and rose, "Then I will be departing immediately. Precious time is being spent right now, rivvel, time that we cannot lose if you wish to have this done quickly."
And with those words Ardulae turned around without as much as a farewell and headed for the door, leaving a stupefied Drunst behind.
Outside the street was quiet, most shops and stalls just closing for the night. A young man was having an argument with a stall holder and one person almost bumped into Ardulae as he scribbled something on a piece of paper, realizing and apologizing just in time as he hurried off. A few moments later, Drunst left the inn.
Catching up with her, he asked, "Where's your-the soldier?"
"Right here, rivvel," a venomous voice spat behind the captain of Silenn before appearing from the shadows of a nearby closed stand, "Jabbress, what are we to do now?"
Ardulae looked on in amusement for a few moments as she watched Antaonar shoot Drunst poisonous glances before she changed her expression to a more serious one, "I will be departing at once to scout ahead. You will be staying here with our dear captain and help getting ready for this little expedition. Captain, when you are finished we will meet at the foot of the mountains you spoke of earlier, is that acceptable?"
"Alright. To the East there's an oddly shaped overhang. It's quite easy to spot - looks like a star. I'll meet you there in an hour or two with as many guards as we can spare," said Drunst, wincing inside at having to stay with Antaonar.
Ardulae nodded curtly at Drunst's information and then turned to grab her guard's arm, dragging Antaonar a few paces away from eavesdropping ears.
"Jabbress?" he questioned softly, his face softening as he watched his Lady smile softly up at him.
"Antaonar, ussta che (my love), please do not get into trouble with this human while I am away. I do not want to come back to a city bent on executing the both of us," Ardulae said softly as she placed her gloved hands on Antaonar's cheeks, a soft look overtaking her eyes as she looked up at her lover in the closest thing to adoration that a drow could come.
"That human..." Antaonar began slowly, "He... he irks me in a way that not even the darthiir are able to. He is so... so ignorant!"
"He is human, Antaonar. Their race has been ignorant since the dawn of their creation," Ardulae said and pulled Antaonar down to press her forehead against his, "But I need you to be in control this time, I need this to work so the balance will be restored back home in Ilythiir."
"I... I understand, Jabbress," Antaonar said softly and stepped away from his Lady, a cocky smirk now adorning his dark lips, "I shall do as you command, Jabbress, and I promise that I shall not fail you!"
"Good, jaluk," Ardulae replied before she turned around, heading out through the town and into the wilderness.
As he watched his Lady disappear into the shadows of Silenn, Antaonar walked back to where Ardulae and he had left the Captain to stand.
"It seems that we will have to work together for now... partner," Antaonar said slowly, spitting the last word as if it was something vile and disgusting, "I do hope that you are ready to begin the mission, yes?"
Drunst took a deep breath, nodding, "Almost. Just need to get a few things ready. There's nothing you need, is there?"
"No," Antaonar said curtly as he crossed his arms, looking up at the darkening sky as small droplets began falling, "Nothing at all..."
"Alright," said Drunst, setting off for the Guard House.
Antaonar followed closely behind Drunst as the two of them walked through Silenn, his eyes dashing from one place to the next for any possible signs of danger.
The buildings of Silenn looked so... vulnerable in Antaonar's eyes, most of them completely made out of wood with a few stone-houses dotting the streets that Drunst and he took. For someone who was completely used to houses made out of the magically enhanced stone of the subterranean Arda, all of this was quite underwhelming for the drow, making his eyebrows scuffle together as weakness after weakness sprung up inside his mind. That the villagers on the surface had survived for as long as they had was frankly put, in Antaonar's mind, a minor miracle.
A few minutes later, Drunst arrived at the Guard House. After fumbling with the key for a moment, he opened the door and went straight to a chest. Rummaging through it, he took out a horn and a hooded cloak before moving to a weapons rack and grabbing a bow and some arrows.
Turning to Antaonar, he said, "Alright, I think we're ready to go now. Sorry about that, but just wanted to be prepared."
Antaonar nodded without a single word, noiselessly turning around and walking out of the door as he tucked his hood closer in an attempt to refrain from being completely soaked by the drizzling rain.
Running through the surprisingly even terrain, Ardulae kept close to the ground and used many of the natural outcroppings of rock and bushes to keep out of sight from any possible enemies out in the dark.
She was far too close to the lands of Rivendell, far too close for comfort, and she desperately tried running even faster. What she didn't need right now would be a clashing with a few sentries from Rivendell, something that she didn't have the resources, nor time, to spend if she wanted to get to the ruined farm as soon as possible.
In the distance she could already see what looked to be the burnt remains of a hut, and as she drew closer to her destination Ardulae began to spot several animal-corpses lying scattered around the compounds. Crudely made arrows, clearly of Orcish origin, sat in the surviving pillars and supporting beams, and whatever wood that hadn't perished in the raid was splattered with blood, human without a doubt.
"Such crude creatures," Ardulae snorted as she assessed the area, kneeling down in the mud to get a look on the surrounding ground, "No wonder we stopped worshiping Morgoth and his vile creations..."
The rain that pelted down from above made it harder for Ardulae to see anything, even with her enhanced vision during night time, and the drow assassin quickly headed into the cover of a few trees standing in the middle of what once had been a courtyard.
"There's nothing left here," Ardulae muttered to herself as she leaned against the still-dry trunk of the tree, letting her eyes scan the ground around here in a last attempt to see if anything was to be salvaged from the sight.
Then, when a beam of moonlight broke through the thick blanket of clouds that covered the night sky, Ardulae's lilac eyes fell upon a small, shimmering object lying half-buried in the mud.
Her eyes narrowed as she bent down to pick it up, quickly wiping the mud and dry dirt off the small object to reveal a symbol that had the drow assassin nearly drop what was a small brooch to the ground.
On the brooch was engraved a symbol that Ardulae knew all too well... the symbol of Ilythiir's Ruling House, House Noqu'ath...
After around a quarter of an hour of walking in moody silence, Drunst held up his hand.
"Stop," he said, simply, before pointing to a tree. Just visible through the rain was the outline of a human or elf there, flattened against the tree.
The rain was slowly beginning to thin out, the constant moist instead being replaced by a coldness that crept all over the area.
"Jabbress!" Antaonar breathed as he recognized the drow female leaning against the tree, hurrying to Ardulae's side at once.
Ardulae's hood was down, revealing a long curtain of fine silvery white hair that stuck to her scalp due to the rain and a furious expression on her face.
"You're here early," Ardulae said from her place beneath the tree as she looked at the two men, "But I suppose that is better than not showing up at all."
The drow rolled her shoulders backwards before moving with Antaonar back to Drunst, "There was nothing unusual at the farm," she said, easing a lie into her words without as much as a flinch, "All left back there are dead animals and a burnt down cottage. Whoever arranged this made sure that the Orcs would leave nothing behind."
"I didn't think there would be," said Drunst, taking his hood down once he was under the rock, "but it's good to be certain. The tracks will be washed away by know, but I can show you where they lead before."
Ardulae nodded, slipping a hand down in a pocket where the brooch lay and clenching the object tightly.
Mother, are you behind this? she mused mentally as she shot Antaonar a neutral look, Does Antaonar know about this?
Drunst set off, heading up the mountain, eventually stopping after reaching a large river, the current rushing through the rocks and mud.
"The tracks just stop here. Even if they did manage to cross the river, there are no tracks on the other side."
"Antaonar, find a way to cross that river," Ardulae said softly as she knelt in the still-slippery mud, her gloved fingertips lightly tracing the ground as crimson eyes flickered from one place to another, while Antaonar gave a sharp nod and disappeared into the shadows that surrounded the trio, "Find us when it is done."
"I believe that your Orcs have not simply vanished into thin air, dear Captain," Ardulae spoke with a grim smile as she looked across the river, "They have simply gone with the water, and if not that then they must have found a way to traverse this infernal creation of nature," she scowled as she eyed the raging waters in front of her with poisonous eyes.
"They'd be washed away. At least some would have been drowned and washed up on the shores of lake Hendr, but we've found none," replied Drunst, before continuing, "Even if they had crossed, there would surely be some sign of them on the other side. There's a small waterfall - 10 or 15 meters high - downriver from here with no sign there."
"I see," Ardulae replied calmly as she rose from the muddy ground, "Do you know of any caves nearby? My guess would be that there's something close to the waterfall."
"I'm not sure," muttered Drunst, shaking his head, "Nothing I know of, but it's definitely possible. It might be best if we head back first though. Wolves and other beasts are more likely to come out at night. Besides, it can be easy to get lost in the dark and if you fall in the river..."
Barely holding back a very unladylike snort, Ardulae glanced up at her companion, her vision obscured slightly by the thick strands of still damp silver hair that clung to her scalp.
"Do you even know the first thing about drow, dear Captain?" she questioned, obviously amused as she patiently waited for an answer.
Drunst blushed from embarrassment, before shrugging, muttering, "Well, you live in caves, and, well, you can see in the dark. Still. I could fall, and then you might get lost."
"The first two things you spoke of are correct, somewhat, at least," Ardulae said as a smug grin spread on her face, "Not all of us live in caves if you must know; the city that I come from actually lies above the surface, though not many know it."
The drow then turned to face Drunst, "I will not let any of us fall, to do so would be disgraceful. I will lead, you will direct. Should it happen that you fall to the ground then I will wait."
"Very well. Follow me," said Drunst, putting his hood back up and setting off.
Nodding sharply Ardulae silently followed the human Captain, slipping into the comforts of the darkness surrounding them.
After thirteen minutes, they arrived at the waterfall, and raging torrent. There was a path down, with an old and moldy fence next to it. Drunst began to head down.
Ardulae slipped in front of Drunst, her white hair clearly visible despite the two companions' nearly pitch black surroundings, and practically glided over the somewhat slippy terrain as she scouted on ahead.
For a moment Drunst almost slipped, but he regained his balance in time. After a short time, they were at the bottom of the waterfall, with the water raging around them.
"I don't know where a cave would be. if I'm honest. Possibly behind the waterfall, but then the orcs would have to get down somehow."
Ardulae smirked as she began walking towards the banks of the river in front of the waterfall, ignoring Drunst's questioning looks she was receiving, before she waded out into the water, walking along the edge of the stony and muddy shore.
The water was absolutely freezing, the searing sensation cutting straight through her heavily padded leather armor and making the leather stick uncomfortably against her skin.
"This way, dear Captain!" Ardulae called as she continued waddling through the icy water and disappeared into the masses of water as she passed through the waterfall.
Ardulae was right about the cave. As she passed through the waterfall, she saw the huddled figure of a woman there. As Ardulae entered she scrambled to her feet and grabbed a dagger from her waist. Waving it uncertainly in Ardulae's direction, she tried to shout but it came out as a whimper.
"Wh-who are you? W-what do you want with me?"
Ardulae stopped immediately, her eyes narrowing as the water trickled down her thoroughly soaked body, and instead moved towards the side of the cave that had appeared behind the waterfall.
She said nothing to the shivering woman in front of her, instead following the walls of the hidden cave until she reached dry land. Heaving herself up from the icy water, Ardulae leant against the wall as she never took her eyes off the shivering woman far away from her, waiting for Drunst to come through the water as well.
Drunst came through a few moments later, having taken off his hood and cloak. Spluttering, he saw the woman and grabbed a hold of his sword. As Ardulae came closer and climbed up, the woman pressed herself against the wall, clearly terrified for her life.
"Who are you?" she repeated, her eyes darting from Drunst to the Drow in fear.
"We're friends," called Drunst, over the noise of the waterfall.
Ardulae snorted, "You might be. Do not rope me in with your weak females, rivvel."
At those words Ardulae sat down on the rocky ground, melting into the darkness of the cave.
The woman shuddered as Ardulae spoke, and looked to Drunst as though a plea for help.
"Ambassador, this seems to be a matter for the law. Therefore, let me deal with it," snapped Drunst, before returning his gaze to the woman. She was wearing ragged and ripped clothes which seemed a little too big for her and her arms were thin sticks.
"Can you put down your dagger?" asked Drunst, letting go of his sword and moving slowly towards her.
Sinking to the floor, she dropped it next to her and looked up at Drunst through her dirty blonde hair.
Ardulae's eyes burned with anger as she glared at Drunst's turned back, years of training automatically spotting several weaknesses where his armor didn't quite cover enough of his vulnerable neck, while her nature immediately demanded for the human male in front of her to learn his place, beneath her boot, until Ardulae mowed down the struggling feelings within her.
"How dare you?!" she hissed softly in the darkness, her voice too quiet for Drunst's human ears to pick up the, "You imbecile!"
She couldn't put this alliance at risk, not when it was barely strung together as of the recent events, and most certainly not when it seemed as if her own House was involved in this. The woman in front of them could tell them things, things that Drunst wouldn't have been able to find back at the farm, things... things that they needed so those troublesome Orcs could be silenced once and for all.
Unaware of what Ardulae was whispering, Drunst knelt down beside the woman and asked, "What's wrong?"
"H-him. He wants to kill m-me."
"Who is he? Do you know where he is?"
The woman looked down sadly and shook her head, muttering something about being drunk.
"I can help, I promise."
"M-my betrothed. My p-parents wanted me to marry h-him. H-h-he was rich and-nd..."
Her voice trailed off before Drunst gave her an encouraging smile, telling her to keep going.
"H-he... He wasn't good, h-he..."
"You don't have to tell me. I understand," said Drunst, quietly and sadly.
"I l-left him. Th-there was another man, a nice man," she smiled through her hair, despite the tears running down her face.
Ardulae snorted, audibly, but ignored the seething glare that Drunst sent her way as she rose from the ground and once more stepped into the faint light that came in through the water.
"I will be outside the cave, it absolutely reeks in here," she said coldly, sending the blonde woman a scalding look as she turned her back at the two humans and waddled out in the icy water once more before disappearing behind the curtain of water.
Drunst gulped. He knew, or at least suspected, what had happened to the other man. Orcs had most likely killed him in one of the recent attacks.
Wiping her eyes with her sleeve, she continued, "One night, Eryk, the f-first man, h-he got d-drunk an-an' he attacked h-him. K-k-killed h-him. S-said I-I-I w-was n-next,"
Staring with blank eyes at the waterfall, she said, "I ran. Ran back to the farm. He'd got there and killed them. And burnt the place down. So I hid."
Drunst ran his hand through his hair, sighing.
The farm. The first farm to be attacked. She thought it was him. Oh Gods, how do I explain this?
"I don't know how to say this. Your farm wasn't attacked by your- tha- the man. Orcs have been attacking settlements, and that farm was the first. I promise you, I'll protect you. I can get you to Silenn. Oh, make sure not to annoy the Drow - the woman and her bodyguard. They've got some strange rules. Easily insulted. Haven't decided if I like them yet."
The only reaction the woman gave was a sharp intake of breath, before she nodded shyly and headed to leave the cave, followed by Drunst after a few moments.
Ever since his Lady had asked him to scout ahead, looking for some way to cross the river, Antaonar had been fairly sure that someone, or something, was watching his every move.
He'd grown used to the feeling over the years as he had spent more time inside Ilythiir and the city's dreadful politics than out in the field with the rest of his men, but this time it was... different somehow.
Eyes were watching him from every angle, shifting when he did, stopping when he did, yet Antaonar continued moving along the edge of the raging waters, his eyes flickering from one spot to the next as he tried finding somewhere they could cross.
He continued moving along the banks of the river for almost half an hour, the prickling feeling of being watched never disappearing, before he stopped, having arrived in front of a large waterfall.
He saw the shape of a human wearing heavy armor, armor he recognized as belonging to the human male he and his Lady had accompanied the entire night. The male, Drunst, his mind whispered to him, was taking off his cloak and hood while walking towards the waterfall.
The same second that the human had disappeared behind the raging waters, Antaonar crept towards the waterfall and knelt by the banks, straining his eyes to see if he could spot anything move behind the curtain of water blocking his path.
Antaonar didn't have to wait long before a much smaller, more delicate, form appeared from behind the waterfall: his Lady Ardulae.
"Jabbress!" Antaonar spoke as he immediately straightened his posture, practically ripping off his own cloak to bring around his soaked Mistress when she reached the banks of the river.
"Antaonar," she spoke curtly, her hands clenched tightly and her teeth bared, "Report your findings," she snapped as she practically ripped the cloak from her manservant's hands and wrapped it around her much smaller frame.
"There were no signs along the river that suggested someone able to cross it, Jabbress," Antaonar spoke carefully, more than aware of the furious mood his Lady was in at the moment, "The Orcs have not crossed."
Ardulae swore, loudly, at Antaonar's words before she rubbed the tips of her fingers against her forehead in annoyance.
"We will find nothing here tonight," she growled as she turned her head back towards the waterfall, "I hope that damn male hasn't decided to rest is such a place as this."
Both Ardulae and Antaonar looked up when the two humans exited the cave hidden behind the waterfall, their eyes glowing softly in the darkness around them as the moonlight lit up the area around them, before narrowing their eyes as they watched the shivering, thin woman clutch at Drunst's arm desperately while avoiding their piercing stares.
"She will be coming with us then?" Ardulae spoke harshly as she eyed the human woman with barely concealed annoyance, before continuing on despite Drunst's lack of an answer, "And just how will we get this woman to safety then? What if a pack of Orcs, something else perhaps, attacks us? Neither Antaonar nor I have the abilities and time to waste on weak rivvil like her."
"We should be safe just heading back to the town. If we are attacked, then at least that saves us the bother of finding the orcs. She shouldn't be too much trouble, anyway."
The woman looked nervously at the two discussing, standing there awkwardly.
"No trouble?" Ardulae spat as she rose from her spot on the ground beside Antaonar, narrowing her glowing eyes as anger flared up in her mind, "No trouble?!"
"Jabbress, you shou—!"
"Do you have any idea about what you will lead straight to us?!" Ardulae snapped as she stalked over to Drunst, ignoring how the shivering woman pulled back behind the Captain, "That female reeks of fear, it wouldn't surprise me if every Orc pack in this area should know our position by now!"
Drunst's face locked, and he stared at Ardulae, not shouting, but stating, "Listen to me. She is going to go to Silenn, with me, right now. If she does attract those orcs, then at least she'll find them quicker than if we have to track them down. I don't know what you thought we were going to do when we found the orcs, but we'd have to fight them anyway."
He turned to the woman, saying quietly, "Don't worry. I'll get you back safely."
"You know nothing!" Ardulae snarled as she reached out and grabbed Drunst's front, dragging his face down to hers in a surprisingly strong grip, "You might take your precious little female back to safety, you might think that doing this one good deed will give your surface village the courage to sleep soundly for another night, but not ever assume that meeting the danger head on is much different up here from down below," she growled, eyes burning in the darkness as she stared straight at Drunst, "The words "Danger strikes when you least expect it to" are ingrained into the mind of every drow child, no matter the gender, and I would assume that you surfacers have something at least resembling those words."
Silence ensued as the two sides regarded each other, Antaonar keeping a tight grip on his sword's handle the entire time as his eyes never left the drow and man standing a few feet away from him.
"You may think that this is just a result of the Dark One's fall less than a year ago," Ardulae then continued as her grip on Drunst's front tightened, "But that is where you are wrong! Orcs does not organize like this, they do not think far enough ahead to know when the best time to raid is due. Someone is controlling them, someone intelligent, and that someone is humanoid!"
"And if you think that I will let this woman, this innocent woman, die out here, alone and scared, then you are wrong too! I am not like that, and I don't care what you say. I don't care if in some cave miles away the weak would be left to fend for themselves, because right here, and right now, they're not. Those who can help others help those who can't help themselves. If she puts me in danger, so be it. You can do what you want," spat Drunst, "But if you ask me to leave someone behind, I need you to know that I would never leave someone in danger."
He stood still, staring at Ardulae with disgust in his eyes.
"She will be your responsibility, rivvil!" Ardulae spat as she abruptly let go of Drunst's front and twirled around on the spot, angrily marching back to her place beside Antaonar, "We leave immediately!"
"Good," said Drunst shortly.
They managed to return to Silenn without any trouble, for whatever reason. The walk had taken them about a quarter of an hour.
The very moment that the group stepped inside Silenn's gates, both Antaonar and Ardulae disappeared into the shadows without as much as a word, leaving Drunst and the woman standing alone in the dark.
The two drow snuck their way back to the Inn they had met Drunst in, meeting a rather bleary-eyed owner standing behind his desk.
"One room," Ardulae grunted as she threw down a gold piece in front of the owner, her eyes glowing dangerously below the shadow of her loaned cloak, "Have a bath brought up immediately."
"R-right, milady," the owner nodded shakily as he handed Ardulae a crudely made, brass key before he turned around and yelled for a maid to bring up a tub and warm water, "It will be on the top floor, first room to your right."
"Antaonar," Ardulae simply spat before she turned around with a disgruntled expression on her face and headed for the stairs.
Drunst looked at the woman sadly, realizing he didn't even know her name.
"Come on, I'll get you a room in the Mended Lute. You can stay there until we find a more permanent place for you to stay."
Drunst headed there, arriving a short time after the two drow.
Drunst was up early the next day, rising before dawn to a quick breakfast of boiled egg. He hadn't spoken to either of the drow since their parting last night, but hoped he would see them in the inn.
As the Captain continued his breakfast a lanky boy ran up to him with a small note in his hand and planted it in front of Drunst.
"The Spider's Child sends her greetings and gives this to you, Captain of Man," the boy said before darting off once more.
Wondering what Ardulae want to say to him - knowing that only she would use that strange wording - Drunst opened the note, reading...
"Salutations, dear Captain
It whould sem that only yhou and I will be shearcging for the Orcz. Antaonar will jhoin uz this ehvening.
Raising his eyebrows, Drunst folded the paper and shoved it in his pocket. She hadn't said where to meet, so he assumed it would be in the inn again. Finishing the egg, he fished the paper out of his pocket again, flattening it out and grabbing a quill. After calling for some ink, he began to scribble some notes on the paper.
Running his hands through his hair once again, Drunst looked over his scribblings.
Led by someone???
- From Silenn?
Somewere Somewhere that was attacked?
- Where else? Why here_
Where did they go??
- Whould here about a dissappearing wizard
- Crossed the river somehow?
sine sign of them across the river
dow did they get across? Boat - where'd they hide it - we'd see drag marks, swim? be washed a way
- Backtracked? we'd see trail leading of, and bits would be heavier and we'd see prints going backwads
As Drunst continued his his musings over the written notes, Ardulae watched the boy she had given the note run out of the door while clutching a small fist around the coins he had been paid. She then turned to look as Antaonar mounted his loaned horse and approached the male drow.
"Jabbress?" he questioned when she silently reached for a small pocket on the inside of her cloak and drew out a sealed envelope.
"You will deliver this to the scout placed north of Ilythiiir, Antaonar," Ardulae spoke curtly as she looked up at her guard from below her dark hood, "No one else must read what I have written inside it, not even you."
"You do not trust me," Antaonar nodded and refrained from grimacing, even if he knew that his Lady no doubt had seen his face twitch slightly.
"I do, Antaonar... in many ways I trust you, mostly so as a brother-in-arms, but this... this bears ill tidings for Ilythiir if my thoughts are made into reality," Ardulae spoke softly before she rested a hand on his thigh, "Do not let any female near that letter. Give it to the scout. He is one of ours."
"Of course, Jabbress," Antaonar nodded before he lashed the reins and dashed through the streets of Silenn as the sun made its descent up into the sky.