Not half way to Westgate, Shaundakul, the human god of portals, appeared and teleported the other caravan guards and I to a completely foreign city. The explanation for this was rather long and complex, and I have very few pleasant memories of that trip, so I will not record them here.
The main result of that failed journey to Westgate was that I, quite unintentionally, became an adventurer. For some reason, by merely applying for the job of guarding that caravan, I made myself part of an adventuring group composed mostly of Rivven. I had always assumed that adventuring groups chose each other, and were not randomly thrown together. Evidently, I had been misinformed.
Traveling with Rivven was grating, to say the least. I do not mind dealing with them, but I do not like extended contact with them. Inferior species are tiring and irritating. And they had no respect whatsoever for me, seeing it as my duty to take care of them, and offering no thanks for what I did. After a few tendays of this sort of treatment, I resolved to sell them all into slavery once we got to Westgate.
But enough of that. The city we were teleported to was another Rivven one, predicable on the Surface, called Beldin. Shaundakul seemed to think it a reward, since the city was filled with portals, and as such, was evidently one of his favorites. We arrived right in the middle of the Fearthegn’s Bar, the main adventurer meeting place of the city, quite unexpectedly and disruptingly. Disruptingly, because of the various objects which were displaced when us, our table, and chairs suddenly arrived in the middle of the room. Not surprisingly, we were taken to the King.
King Avery, hearing that we had been sent by Shaundakul, promptly told us the woes of the town. Evidently, we had been sent to do something to help Beldin, rather than to enjoy ourselves. Not surprising, given the rather odd nature of the gods and goddesses. Beldin was threatened by the Aurilites, worshipers of the goddess Auril. As one of the deities of fury, she is predictably troublesome, especially up north. I had heard of her a little in the Underdark, and a great deal more on the Surface, but I had never before been in a situation where I had deliberately challenged her.
Our first action, however, had to do with routing out a group of Cyrists who had been causing trouble of one kind or another. I believe the rivvil who informed us of their presence was a young cleric of Bane; at least, he gave us Bane’s Holy Symbol to leave in their house after we had dealt with them. We gained entrance with, of all things, “Cyric Cupcakes”. These Rivven can be very foolish. We killed some, captured others, and gained the house as our reward.
Then we turned to finding the Aurilites, and figuring out what exactly they were up to. We failed in this, however, and lost our only contact. I will not be so foolish again. Soon after, our adventuring group broke up. We had never had a great affection for each other, and this failure was the last straw, as they say on the Surface. I alone remained in Beldin.
I had to admit to myself, I had grown to like the town very much, and was tired of moving from place to place. I like some stability; after all, I was not raised to be an adventurer in the standard sense of the word. For a time, I lived in the house that we had taken from the Cyrists. Then, a few other Eilistraeans, driven from their city in the Underdark, came to the Surface. We banded together for protection and mutual support. We petitioned King Avery for a place to set up a shrine to Eilistraee, and he gave us a small gorge near Beldin. I have lived there ever since.
Soon after, a young priestess, also of Eilistraee came to Beldin. She was a D’Vreeze, and likewise, came from Ched Nasad. I had known her mother before I left. Much to my chagrin, King Avery told her, without asking me, that she and her house could stay in the Eilistraean Enclave. She left her spider there, but does not visit much, which is probably for the best. Otherwise, things might not be as pleasant there.
When King Avery gave us the gorge, I swore to him that I would do my utmost to protect Beldin; I and my House. At first, I thought that the best way to do this would be to reform my adventuring group. After all, I still had the house, and it was falling into disuse. So, I went out and met every adventurer who came to Beldin - a daunting task, but fairly enjoyable, at first. I had quite a few acquaintances, and had a few who were almost my friends. Not true friends perhaps, but they were willing to help Beldin, and I did not mind their company. Unfortunately, one by one, they all disappeared. That, I have found, is the way of adventurers: they never stay long, and are rarely committed to anything.
As the months passed, I became discouraged. I was making no progress against the Aurilites, and soon, everyone I knew disappeared. I withdrew to the Eilistraean Enclave, and stopped going out to meet the ships as they came in. I have regretted this since then, as I regret all my bouts of despair after the fact - not that I feel I can do a great deal about it at the time.
New adventurers came, different from those before. They actually seemed to care about Beldin, and were willing to stay, at least, semi-permenantly. Slowly, I recovered from my despair, and began to go out again about Beldin. However, unlike before, it was Keyna Fearthegn, the leader of the Bounders, and my rival, who showed them about. As a result, I heard much of their exploits, but knew them only slightly.
The exception to this rule was Comui Rivvitti, a Darthiiri wizard whom I met while hunting Aurilites. He showed better sense than most Darthiiri adventurers, and actually bothered to find out whether or not I meant harm. Most of the Darthiiri adventures who come to Beldin assume that the stories that they have heard about drow are untrue, presumably since that have never before encountered drow. I find that I prefer the suspicion to the stupidity, since foolishness of any kind is irritating, and there is a thrill in opposition. I’m afraid that I’ve lived with conflict for so long that I would be bored without it. But that is beside the point.
This happened around the time when the adventurers of Beldin were first pushing farther north, in an attempt to drive the Aurilites farther from Beldin. Keyna Fearthegn and I, joined by Comui, made raids on them the most frequently, at least to my knowledge. At first, Comui generally took Keyna’s side in all arguments and taunting matches, even picking up her habit of calling me ‘darklin’ , a name which I despise. I called her ‘rivvil’ in return, but never did think of anything appropriate to call Comui - I really did not care much for his opinion.
After this had gone on awhile, and we knew each other about as well one can when all one does is hunt, Comui decided to go on a ‘pilgrimage’. He told everyone about it, and promised that he would explain when he got back. I missed him slightly while he was gone. At least, I missed his spells, which were extremely potent against the Aurilites.
When he returned, I asked about his pilgrimage. I was not particularly curious, but he had promised to tell. After all, there was nothing else I could think of talking about. He told me that he had gone to the Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan, for the purposes of joining. Naturally, I knew this to be a very foolish thing to do, and I told him so. But he had stomped out of there, because he had sensed that he was being manipulated by the Archmage in charge of the Arcane Brotherhood. Of course, why he was surprised by this, I am not completely sure, though it was news to him that the Archmage was a lich. Then Comui went on to talk about how he had been too desirous of power, and that he had been running away from. . .what? I’m not sure, but it was the most insightful conversation I had heard from an adventurer yet. In fact, I was so busy thinking about what he had said that is was not until after he had left that it suddenly occurred to me that it was at least a little odd that Comui had told me so much.
Well, in the meantime, I had offered Comui the house in Beldin which I had owned, explaining that I wanted to form an adventuring group. Comui was hardly the ideal partner, as far as I was concerned, but he was an improvement, and I thought he could be relied upon.
Then all of Beldin’s adventurers were caught up in a search for the mythals. The reason for this was so: an elven woman named Kat Cys’varion - part drow, but Darthiiri in appearance - had lost her memory sometime before coming to Beldin. The cure involved touching the mythals, whose healing powers would be able to restore her. It was during these hunts that I actually began to carry on long conversations with Comui - at least, conversations on my side. He had been the one to talk before, and now it was my turn. I have few objections to telling people at least some of my life story, and no objections to telling them what I think.
It was summer, and Eilistraee’s Run came. It is supposed to be a beautiful feast, but for me it has always been the worst torture possible - an excercise in humility and controlling my temper. Every year I must go to Siluvan, patiently and kindly offering my services for the day to Lord Aravilar Jadys’Varine. Naturally, he and the rest of House Jadys’Varine make the most of it - speaking condescendingly to me, and calling me ‘dhaeroaw’. I hate it. I am not even allowed to retaliate by calling them ‘vyshaan’, though my goddess should know they deserve it.
This time was particuarly trying, and I completely lost my temper - giving Lord Aravilar a tongue-lashing for working at cross purposes to the cause of Eilistraee. This was but the culmination of many insults. Upon arriving and settling down in Beldin, I had sent Siluvan a good-will offering, which they had sent back with critisms concerning its workmanship. I had returned the favor when they had sent a gift in return. Our relationship went downhill from there.
Not long after I had managed to sooth my pride from this encounter, Comui managed to find me in the Treetower. Whether he used divination, or saw me climb up there, I do not know. I did not particularly like the fact that he had found the Treetower, but there was nothing I could do about it, and could not quite justify getting angry with him since it was so obvious that any offense was accidental.
I interupted my night song, for politeness sake, and talked with him. The conversation turned from this to that until finally reaching the subject of religion - brought on by the full moon shining overhead.
‘Do you . . . love . . . Eilistraee?’ he asked. I was put a little off balance by the question - after all, love is not the first emotion directed towards a goddess in the Underdark. I looked at the moon for inspiration, and I had to admit it:
‘I don’t know.’
I kept looking at the sky, feeling strongly for the first time what had only been a inkling before: there was something missing. Everything I was taught said the answer should have been ‘yes’. I explained. ‘I . . . don’t understand my goddess the way I should.’ I laughed, rather bitterly. ‘I could loose my spells any day, and not know the reason why. . .’ That was when I noticed from the corner of my eye that he was holding a flower - looking at it, and twirling it between his fingers as he talked. For some inexplicable reason, I disliked the gesture.
’I will be leaving soon,’ I said, a mischievious whim suddenly promting me turn another whim into an actual plan. ‘I’m going to the High Forest.’
He crushed the flower in his hands - a gesture which I pretended to ignore, but took note of - and asked me why.
‘I need to speak with my teacher’.
He did not understand. I could tell what he was thinking: she’s abandoning Beldin.
‘I’m not running away’, I hastened to assure him, ‘Beldin is my home; I will be back’.
His reply was one of the strangest I had ever heard - he said that for the first time in his life, he believe in something: himself, and me. The most sense I could make out of that statement - which, then and now, is a Surface idiom I do not quite understand - was that he trusted me. And that irritated my pride - I am dhaeraow after all, and I expect to be accorded a certain amount of respect and fear. Of course, it was a great compliment, but I did not quite comprehend this until later.
’You trust me?’, I said. ‘I could slit your throat if I had a mind.’
‘Kill me now if you must,’ he replied. ‘You certainly have the ability’. That was more than I expected - either he was completely mad, or he truly did not believe I would do it. I toyed with the idea of proving him wrong, and then thought the better of it.
‘What? In the Enclave? Then I’d loose my spells for certain’. I knew he’d beaten me as far as the fear game was concerned, and there was no point in being a bad sport about it.
Then he said, with standard Kivvil nievete, ‘Just do what is in your heart, Vaune’.
I wanted to laugh. ’If I did that,’ I replied, ‘I would have killed you.’
He smiled. ‘Sometimes Vaune, I have trouble telling when you’re joking’. It was no joke, but perhaps it is best he did not know that. I bade him Aluve, and he left. I danced a long while that night, and thought on what had transpired. It was then that I began to suspect that Comui cared a great deal more for me than was good for him.
Being based on a sudden impulse, my reasons for going to the High Forest were vague. I wanted to talk to Eclanthe and the other priestesses; something was wrong. That was all. But the longer I thought about it, I realized that wasn’t quite the reason why. I knew deep down that I was not as good a priestess of Eilistraee as I should be, and talking to Comui had made this very clear to me. Only a little while before, I had been telling Eldina about my ambitious daydreams of rebuilding Ched Nasad. Now, they seemed wrong for a Sworddancer. I suddenly realized how little I actually knew of the goddess who lent me her spells, and whose representative I was supposed to be. I needed to be retrained. However, as I thought about it more, my reason became very clear to me. I had left the Shrine before I was ready, Quilue and Eclanthe had both told me as much. I had left because I was angry, before I had really absorbed the whole point of the faith of Eilistraee. I had related to Eilistraee the same way I had related to Lolth. There was more trust certainly, but it was an extremely mercenary approach. At heart, I still believed in the tenets of Vhaeraun.
Comui understood none of this, mainly because he did not ask, yet nonetheless, a few days later he asked to accompany me. I was stunned. I said ‘yes’ - my goddess alone knows why: at this point, I liked him.; I had talked with him many times; He had shared his confidence with me. But if anyone had told me a few moments before that I would allow him to come with me to the High Forest, I would have called them insane. After all, he was my inspiration for leaving in the first place. ‘Good’, he replied, crossing his arms, ‘though I would have followed you anyway’. Of all the nerve!
I said that we would go after the Long Night. I wanted to put off my journey as long as possible, because I didn’t want to leave Beldin. Yet, now that I knew there was a problem, I wanted to set everything to rights as soon as possible. I was conflicted, and anxious, the next few months as a result.
And hence it was that the Tenday of Bad Luck came at the worst possible momnet. This was primarily Comui’s fault, since he insisted on taunting Beshaba. Her retaliation was the loss of his staff, which Tymora was so kind as to retrieve for him. However, the price for the staff was high.
Tymora gave Beldin to Beshaba for an entire tenday, and Beshaba’s first act was to kidnap a rivvil child from Aerlith, surround him with halfling shadowdancers, and threaten to kill him. We - Comui, Kat, and I - were forced to run all the way to Karenlynn in an attempt to save him. In the end, we failed, and Beshaba appeared in order to gloat over us.
Comui, for some reason, was the most upset over this turn of events, going so far as to say to Beshaba, ‘Kill me instead of him’.
This was completely beyond my experience, and scared me worse than anything else possibly could have, so I hissed in his ear, ‘Shut up, Jaluk, before you get us all killed!’
He ignored me, but Beshaba simply laughed and refused his offer, saying that the his death would be a far less unlucky happening, since he could be raised. The child was dead forever. How, exactly, this was the case, I am not sure - one does not question a goddess, especially one as random as Beshaba.
Kat collapsed from exhaustion, and I would have done the same except for the fact that it was necessary that someone keep their head about them. Comui was inconsolable, and reacted to the realization of his failure with utter despair. At the time, I put it down to jaluk stubborness, dumped a helmet full of water on him, and that was the end of it for that day.
However, I could not help myself from wondering what had caused him to offer his life for the child’s, since his life was obviously worth more. That a human mother might offer her life for her child was a possibility known to me, though it seemed very foolish in my eyes. But an elf offer his life for a rivvil child he had never seen in his life? That was . . . wrong.
I waited a tenday or so before asking him about it, though I hesitated even then, for I could sense that the memory hurt him. My intuition was not far off. When I put the question to him, he turned away. I had no choice but to leave him alone, and I did not see him again for two months. I have never asked again.
A few days before I planned to leave, I saw Comui again. He seemed rather nervous, almost as though he wanted to avoid me. But I was in no mood to be avoided, since I had not seen him in two months, and wondered what could be wrong. We were able to talk a little in the Fearthegn’s Bar, but there were other adventurers around. It was an enjoyable, but unenlightening, evening.
The next day, I was able to get him to tell me what he had been doing. At least, I am fairly sure that he told me the truth. I am uncertain at times about the trustworthiness of what Comui says about himself. He had been researching a spell, he said, a polymorph spell. Part way through the process, he had been attacked, by, of all things, the lich of the Arcane Brotherhood. Comui had fought him off, but was certain that he would come back. So, he had resolved to polymorph himself and disappear.
This seemed perfectly reasonable, to a point, until he told me that he wanted to polymorph himself into a drow. This stunned me, and it was only the fact that I have a great deal of racial pride that kept me from be disgusted by this obvious betrayal of his own people. But, then again, he had never been particularly proud of his own people. No Sssiks Darthiiri is he - though his looks suggest that he could be.
I told him that I thought the transformation very unwise, but he did it anyway. I suppose I could have stopped him, but I’ve trained myself not to do such impetuous things on the Surface. I’ve learned the hard way that it is very unwise indeed. Not that I think he would have hated me or tried to have hurt me for it. . . perhaps it was, after all, weakness.
So he went and turned himself into a drow, or at least, took the form of one. He’s no more smarter, more magic resistant, or in any way superior to what he was before. His scar is gone, but it remained on his soul. He is still bitter, and forgetting that he was ever Darthiiri will not heal it. I sense that this is the driving force behind most adventurers. Kivvilen run away to become adventurers not because they want to be heroes, but because they are running away from home, family, and responsibilities. I did the same, so I suppose I fit right in, but what I was running away from was evil; what they are running from is good.
I agreed to hide Comui. So, he became a member of House Nasadra, pretending to be my brother. I do not think he realizes that anyone with any amount of sense will notice that there is something wrong, but then again, most of the people I know are devoid of sense. I suppose I will simply have to deal with things as they come, and he will have to do the same.
I could put off my journey no longer, though I sensed that I was needed in Beldin. Another jalil had come to Beldin - a Ssinsriggorbb - and I felt that it was my duty to take care of her, and try to convert her if possible. I was more than a little angry with myself for being unable to stay, but there was nothing that could be done. So, I left with a heavy heart, feeling that I was neglecting my goddess’s mission while seeking to draw closer to her.