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12th of Uktar - The Great Party - Part One

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12th of Uktar - The Great Party - Part One

Post  Penelope on Thu Oct 08, 2009 10:36 pm

This will start on the 12th of Uktar, around 9 am in the morning of the second, and final, day of the party in Zazesspur.

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Ashara was fairly certain that her feet hadn't touched the ground during the entire walk to the tent where the party was being held. She couldn't remember a time when she felt this good! Though it was nearly winter now, and the chill air had that biting edge to it, she felt nothing but warmth as she pranced toward the tent. Yes...there was prancing...

Elric had parted company with her after their conversation at the top of the tower in order to get cleaned up a bit, while she went on ahead to meet with the other Champions.

The priestess heard familiar voices singing, well before she arrived. Something about hugging a balor... She hadn't heard that one. Maybe one of the bards played it after she left yesterday evening. Pushing open the tent flap she stepped over a few sleepy partygoers and headed to the central table where most of the merriment was taking place. There were no musicians on the stage at this time, it seemed they were between shows, so her inebriated friends had decided to sing a few songs of their own to keep the patrons entertained. They were that for sure...entertaining...

Gwilly, Eddick and Therogeon all sat at the table in various states of drunkenness. It was fairly obvious that all three probably hadn't gotten any sleep the night before. Ashara wondered where Kaber was... There was no destruction, so that was always a good thing. She'd never seen the minotaur drunk before, but she realized that there was potential danger in that. She hoped he would be back soon.

Righting a fallen chair, she sat down at their table to listen to the rest of the lively, if poorly rendered, song.
--------------------------------------------
"Ashara, its about time you joined the party!"

Eddick the Steady lived up to his name. Although his small frame had consumed much more than his fair share of alcohol, he remained more upright and alert than one would expect. His eyes were bleary and his nose red, but he had an air about him that let people know that even though he was having a good time, he could face down an army single-handedly if need be.

"Ashara, I'm glad you are here. I am sure that the King hasn't been drinking with us because of what I have to go through. You save one city from total destruction and suddenly everyone wants to buy you a free drink. He must hear no end of it. I do have to admit that I do not envy him in the slightest bit."

Eddick paused again to take a swig of his ale. As he tipped his head back to reach the bottom of his glass he tottered just a little, to show this was not his first ale, and it probably would not even be close to his last.

"I left it all once, I don't want to have to do it again. People do not know what they are able to do until they try. They always think that if we just had this person to take care of us, we would be okay, but that's not how it works. Sometimes you have to let yourself be put into a situation so you know where you stand. It took me twenty-five years to get a town to grow up enough to accept that, but I did it. And I don't want to do it again."

The old druid looked suddenly cross at himself, and then as though it was never there, he broke into a wide grin.

"But now look at me, I just spent the last 24 hours letting a pixie tell me what to do, and I do have to admit, it is quite liberating. I can see the appeal in authority, I tell you. It isn't quite the evil I thought it was I imagine."
----------------------------------------------------
Ashara was enjoying seeing Eddick let loose during the party. Somehow he managed to always be dancing with the prettiest girls, be surrounded by the most adoring citizens, and drinking enough ale to make Kaber woozy. Well...maybe not Kaber. She wondered if he had gotten any sleep last night.

Though his speech was a bit slurred, his thoughts were coherent as he addressed her. "We all have strength, it is true, though we are not all born to lead. Those with that gift are able to bring out the strengths in others, and more importantly, inspire hope, which is a very potent weapon!

Be glad of your gift, my friend! Let the people of Zazesspur buy you all the drinks you can handle. When my life was saved, I needed to show my appreciation. Give them what they need, then they can go about the business of rebuilding."

As she was speaking, a beautiful elven woman entered the tent and moved fluidly over to the stage. Her sparkling blue eyes swept over the crowd, and the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, in a confident smile. Every conscious person in the room watched as she delicately sat on the edge of the platform and opened the ornate box she carried, which contained a set of silver panpipes. The elf lifted the instrument to her lips and crossed one leg over the other, keeping time with her foot as she began her tune.

The haunting melody transported Ashara back to Impresk, back to the crystal clear lake and the snow-capped mountains. She missed her home. The beauty of the place as well as the people. Just before she could slip into melancholy though, the tempo of the song increased dramatically, changing to a bright and lilting tune. The crowd cheered and those that were able, got to their feet to dance.

The priestess laughed at how easily her emotions could be swayed, and turned back to her aged friend.

"Well Eddick, yesterday I think you managed to dance with every girl in Zazesspur but me. I've gotta say, I'm a little jealous, and if you would so honor me, I will try my hardest not to step on your toes!" Ashara smiled widely and offered him her hand. "If you are able of course..."
---------------------------------------------------
"Able?" Eddick actually looked a little insulted before he broke out into a grin that showed his teeth in spite of his long goatee. "I'll show you I am still able. I have got a good thirty years of able left in me!" he boasted.

(Dexterity check = epic fail)

Eddick rose up from his chair and promptly tripped over it sprawling out on the grass, narrowly missing an unconscious partygoer. He lay for an instant, stunned, and then he turned over.

"Perhaps I should reassess my abilities."
----------------------------------------------------------
"Apparently the people of Zazesspur already HAVE brought you all the drinks you can handle...” The priestess frowned slightly; disappointed that she wasn't going to get her dance.

She reached down to pull him to his feet, but though he was smallish in stature, he was a lot heavier than he looked. Eddick started to stand, but couldn't get his legs under him fast enough. He fell hard to the ground again, pulling the priestess down on top of him. Laughter erupted around them, and though Ashara smiled as she rolled off the druid, her fierce blush betrayed her embarrassment.

She quickly stood and brushed the dirt off her vestments. Bracing herself this time, she reached down again, and was able to help him stand. The snickering died down and the dancing continued.

"Well then...,” Ashara cleared her throat, "should we try once more or do you think you're done for the eveni...morning...?"
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Eddick brushed himself off as well, not because he cared much if he had grass on his clothes, he actually wore a small woven grass wreath on his wrist, but he was caught up in the moment, and was embarrassed as well.

"Giving up is either a sign of weakness or wisdom. But one does not know which unless one does not give up." He offered the young cleric his arm. "I have always been one for the search of enlightenment."

He led her out into some space apart from the table and the small crowd that watched them tumble, and did a bow to begin the dance when the music promptly ended. The song had about been ready to finish when a young man, emboldened with drink, had started to make overtures to the elven woman playing the pipes. She momentarily paused to knock the young man out with a sap she kept in her pocket, which brought roars of laughter from the crowd.

While the slightly inebriated guards came to haul the young lad away, Eddick decided to fill the moment with a completely unconnected question. "I have always wondered, why do you always keep your hair in braids? Is it part of your religious order, or do you just feel that all that hair needs to be held under lock and key?"
----------------------------------------------------------
Eddick's question drew her attention from the concern for young man who had been knocked out.

The priestess let down her braids last night after retiring for the evening. It had probably been over a year since she had done that last. "I'm sorry, you probably think it looks silly this way," she ran her fingers through her hair as she spoke, "I don't wear it like this often."

"No, Lathander doesn't care how we keep our hair." She laughed aloud. "It's just that when we're on the road, it's much easier to function without it blowing in your face. Besides, dirt and blood don't wash out as easily as you may think."

Ashara shook her head a little and smiled. "I must say though it feels a bit freeing without the braids."
-----------------------------------------------------------------
"Actually, I believe that's called relaxing!" A familiar voice said from behind her. "You should let it down more often. Looks good." Elric had finally returned to the party. He practically glowed. After all the time on the road and in caverns and on ships... He'd nearly forgotten what it felt like to be 'clean' again. Clean clothes, clean-shaven, just plain clean! It felt great.

"You simply HAVE to feel the wind in your hair when flying one of the Bees someday! Simply amazing!" The half-elf had his mandolin ready as he looked around. "No music? What'd I miss?"
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Eddick blinked his eyes several times. He then squinted and peered around Ashara's shoulder. "They are gone!" He shook his head. "I need to lay off the drink, I think. Everything is starting to get a bit blurry."

The music started up again after its untimely interruption with a lively tune.

"Elric, it is good to see you again, but if you will excuse me, I have an invitation to dance." With that he grabbed Ashara's hand and spun her around once for good measure before beginning the steps. As Ashara inevitably looked back toward her beau, Eddick stuck his tongue out at the young half-elf, then as she turned back his face turned into a smile.

"It's my first dance with the prettiest girl here!" He shouted, probably a bit too loudly. "And perhaps it’s the only one I get, so don't you think about cutting in!"
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Ashara turned, smiling brightly at Elric, but before she was able to greet him, Eddick spun her around and pulled her into a dance. It was obvious that he had done this before. Even drunk as he was, she had a hard time keeping up with him.

"It's my first dance with the prettiest girl here!" He shouted, probably a bit too loudly. "And perhaps it’s the only one I get, so don't you think about cutting in!"

She flushed crimson at the complement, and then laughed, grinning at the druid. "He won't cut in, Eddick. We have a deal! One dance for one song!", she said, probably a bit too loudly.
--------------------------------------------------------------
"No worries Eddick." The half-elf laughed. "I'll wait my turn." As Eddick whirled Ashara off into yet another dance he didn't recognize, Elric found himself a spot to sit down and watch the show.

Elric scanned the room. Once again he was amazed to see the resiliency of the people here. Granted the Champions had been through hard times, and the party was a welcome respite... but in the next day or so they would be gone. Whether back to Impresk or parts unknown this disaster would be behind them. These people however would be staying.

To the best of his knowledge the current king was just one more faction in the midst of a civil war. Their capital city was nearly destroyed. Armies still marched. Not even counting whatever turmoil the rest of the world may bring their way. But still they sang, they laughed, and they danced. Truly amazing.

Elric couldn't stop smiling as he settled back and waited for either the dance to end or the musician. Whichever came first.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Eddick swirled the pretty young cleric around the dance floor. He smiled when they nearly ran into another couple, and they took a few more turns. Overall, the dance seemed to be successful, but for a moment about halfway through, Eddick got a flash of memory.

Ella had just turned sixteen, and had dozens of fine suitors before setting her eyes on a young man from Sharmid with a nice inheritance as well as a keen nose for business. This dance with her was the last one he would get. He knew it, but she was still pretty oblivious, being in love. Everything changed then, more than anyone would ever admit. She said she would always be his little girl, but her choice had already been made.

The old druid shook off the cobwebs and tried to refocus on the present. The drink was making his head a little fuzzy, and thankfully the song was over. "Well, I believe that was without catastrophe, so I would consider that giving up would have been foolish. I had a wonderful time. Thank you. Now I must sit down."
---------------------------------------------------------------
She curtsied to the druid as the song ended, and carefully helped him back to the table so there wouldn't be any other accidents. As soon as he sat, a rosy-cheeked woman tapped him on the shoulder and offered to get him a drink. Ashara chuckled and said a prayer for Eddick as she turned to look for the other Champions.

She was pleased to see Gwilly and Therogeon were chatting pleasantly at a table. Those two had been at odds since she could remember, but after Dagadar, something had changed in Therogeon. She was still astounded by the difference in him.

Scanning the crowd, Ashara saw Elric sitting at a table listening to the performance. Next to him, two girls whispered together, daring each other to go speak with the half elf. Before either of them garnered enough courage to approach him, hoots and cheers went up for the bard as she finished the song. The elf stood and took her bows, then exited the stage.

Ashara walked quickly over to Elric and sat down. Nudging him with her shoulder, she smiled playfully. "So! Do you think we could hear one of those elven ballads, or do you have something else in mind?"
-------------------------------------------------------------
Elric pretended to think about it for a minute. "I don't know..." he turned his head to regard the cheering crowd. "Sounds like a tough act to follow." Finally breaking back into a smile. "But, who am I to turn down a request!"

Before some other (probably scheduled) performer could get there, Elric hopped up on the stage. The crowd cheered. While not quite as distinguished as the professional bards at the party, he had been making a name for himself. The city knew he was a member of the group who sponsored this celebration, and he had shown a habit of playing things they had never heard before. Both details that helped make him a rather popular person in these parts.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Elric began. "Please bare with me, this piece is a little new to me... but not to the world. Your may be in for a treat. This song was discovered in a lost treasure trove of knowledge that had been sealed for at least five millennia, and its unknown when it was last played before that!" The crowd seemed to die down a little in curiosity. Even the bard who was supposed to be on the stage right now, seemed to calm down a bit and lean a little closer. "I've been saving it for a special occasion, and now seems pretty special to me. There quite literally is none alive today who have ever heard it." The half elf gave the crowd a smirk and added "Lets hope I don't mess it up too badly."

The song he sang was haunting ballad. It told of the first elves and how they befriended dragons and how they taught each other magic. Obviously told from an Elf's perspective, though nothing like any history commonly taught. It taught of acceptance and teamwork and had a happy ending. The crowd loved it.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Ashara was impressed with both the song and his skill, and cheered loudly along with the rest of the crowd! She thought that if he ever decided to do something different with his life, that he surely could make a good living as a bard. Traveling to different cities, playing for throngs of people... It didn't sound like such a bad life at all. There would be decidedly less blood. She pushed the thought out of her mind before it turned darker.

As Elric hopped down off the stage to let the scheduled bard begin his song, the two girls that had been sitting near him, rushed over to him pleading for a dance.

Hmm... Maybe there was one hazard to bard life...

The priestess stood, but was ambushed by Gwilly, who pushed an enormous mug of ale into her hand, insisting that she needed to 'party harder.' Well, she didn't want to rain on the pixie's parade, so she sat back down and took sips from the glass. It was around 10 am after all. Not too late for a drink.
---------------------------------------------------------------
As he started to head back to the table he seemed to be swarmed by partygoers, young female partygoers. The half elf was flattered, but at the same time it sent a cold a chill down his spine. The situation was entirely too familiar. Pushing that thought out of his head, and the enthusiastic music fans to the side. He worked his way back to his friend’s table.

Besides, he chuckled to himself. He already had a dance coming from the prettiest girl here. The druid said so, and he's old and wise... Ask anyone. Looking around the dance hall he spied Eddick dancing with two women at once, and somehow staying on his feet. Elric thought about it, and estimated that the druid had probably danced with at least most of the women here!

As he approached the table, he found an ale waiting for him. Sitting down next to Ashara he asked, "Well, What did you think?"
---------------------------------------------------------------
"What do I think?" She arched an eyebrow and smiled at him warmly. "I think it hardly matters what I think. Did you hear your audience?" Ashara took a drink from her mug and pointed at the bard on the stage. "If you'll notice, that poor fellow up there already has beads of sweat forming along his brow. He's trying to out play you. Well I wish him good luck in that endeavor!" She raised her ale in a brief toast. "Since you asked though, I think you could make a career of it. You already have groupies!"

Taking another drink of ale, Ashara could feel the warmth of it burning down her throat. Her fingers were already getting tingly. Lightweight... She pushed the mug away from herself.

She saw Elric glance over to the druid who was showing off his dancing skills. "That man is like one of those gnomish devices with the wind-up paddle on the back. He just doesn't stop! I'm not entirely sure he slept at all last night. You think you know someone..."

She smiled and returned to the subject at hand. "At any rate, I've noticed that you've improved considerably even since before Dagadar. I know you've been practicing a lot, but I think those new songs are stretching your capabilities. It really is a joy to hear you play. I don't think I ever told you that before, but well...there you have it.
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Gwilly was having the time of her life! It was the second day of the party and she hadn't wasted a minute of it, not even for sleeping! There was so much to do and so much to see! She was even getting lessons from one of the players on how to juggle! All the laughing and dancing and music were like the finest wine to her pixie soul! Yes, Therogeon had done quite well!!

Gwilly looked up from the table where she was teasing Therogeon to see if there was anyone available for dancing. It was time for the pixie to get up and move! Elric's song had stirred something inside of her that she just couldn't keep down. As she looked around she spotted Elric and Ashara talking and laughing together across the pavilion. Ashara's hair shone in the late morning sunlight like a fire fully ablaze! It was the first time Gwilly had ever seen it let out of the braids. She was entranced by the beauty of it for a moment. Then she was off, as quick as lighting. "I'll be back!" she shouted over her shoulder as quite as lighting.

She sought out the bushes and trees that where still gently touched by Autumn's hand. Salal, and red berries, and a few of the lingering orange and yellow leaves on the bearberry bush. She deftly wove the salal and berries together into a crown, and then went to work on bearberry branches.

When the pixie had finished she flew over to where Elric and Ashara still sat. Quick as a wink she placed the crowns on their heads, the salal and red berries on Ashara and the bearberry on Elric. She turned toward them and fluttered down to the ground making a deep bow. "Good morning, your lord and ladyship," Gwilly said in mock formality, "duke and duchess of our hearts and homes, regents of the woodlands, and, let us not forget, the King and Queen of love itself!" The pixie giggled and quickly flew off!
-----------------------------------------------------------
Elric started to blush from the unexpected praise. In his mind he was only passing good, and he tended to quickly dismiss the crowds applause. After all, they were pretty drunk. He was about to downplay his talent when Gwilly crowned them.

It took a second or two to figure out exactly what just happened, and when he looked at Ashara she was turning as red as the berries in her hair. Something about the situation pushed him from shock to hilarious, and he burst out laughing.

Standing up suddenly he spun into a deep bow, "May his Lordship interest his Queen with a dance?"
----------------------------------------------------------
Eddick excused himself from the ladies he was dancing with, and sat down heavily. He could not count the number of women that had made overtures at him the last couple days. This place was full of widows. He understood them, and wanted to help them, but he could not. The wild was his mistress now, his guilty pleasure. He would not even think seriously about leaving her for a life of comfort or ease. There were many things to do, many places to be. He did enjoy the festivities, but he did not enjoy the desperate longing of a desperate people drowning their sorrows in drink.

This generation was not quite as lost as they felt though, not as lost as the Gnoll tribes, who ended their own lineages. There were many children left, many women capable to raise them well. They could bounce back, they just needed about 20 years of rest from wars. But another war was on the horizon. Eddick had rescued the king, saved the capitol city, just to watch the whole thing happen again.

There was another light tap on his shoulder. A young girl, barely twenty, blushing and batting her eyes. Eddick's heart went out to her, he could see it all over her face. She was a widow too. Eddick smiled knowingly at her, and got to his feet. "Come my dear, let us enjoy the life we have left. There are yet good things in this world to gladden the heart."

Eddick went back out on the dance floor with yet another patient, feeling a little like a surgeon on the front lines. So much healing yet to be done, and yet more war for tomorrow.
--------------------------------------------------------------
"May his Lordship interest his Queen with a dance?"

This time, she managed to recover admirably from the shock of the pixie's well-intentioned mischief. Elric bowed to her and she curtsied grandly in return. "I thought m'lord would never ask!" Ashara grinned as she put her hand in his and was led off to dance floor.

She wasn't as graceful as many of the ladies there. She couldn't pretend that she knew all the steps to all the dances, but it hardly mattered to her in that moment. Ashara was content to enjoy the time she had with him, before harsh reality closed in on them again. She was simply enjoying living and she felt better than she could remember.

When the music came to an end, she smiled and adjusted his crown of leaves. "This newly appointed kingship suits you, Elric! It's so nice to see you happy. To see all of us happy for that matter!"
---------------------------------------------------
Elric couldn't imagine himself happier. "What's not to be happy about! We're all alive. We've saved the world... how many times now? Even Therogeon's out of his grump!" He laughed heartily. "Today is simply for fun!"

He enjoyed seeing Ashara like this. Ever since Waterdeep, true moments of happiness were few. Even when she was happy, there was always a hint of something behind her eyes. Guilt? Grief? A cloud of some sort preventing her from truly enjoying life. Today however Elric didn't see that. Today she was simply Happy, and that made him all the happier.

"I wonder..." He asked as he reached for his mug of ale. " Do you suppose this is what's its like to be a Pixie?"
------------------------------------------------
"If this is what it's like to be a pixie, than I truly envy our little friend!" Ashara laughed. "It's no wonder her joy is so infectious."

The priestess rested her chin in her hands and watched the people milling about the pavilion. For two days they were leaving their burdens outside and enjoying the opportunity to relax and feel alive again. To put aside the losses of friends and family and home and just be... The cheer on the faces of her companions warmed her heart, and she knew that she needed to remember this day always.

Ashara jumped up suddenly. "I need to retrieve something from my room," she told Elric, squeezing his shoulder in excitement, "I'll be back shortly!" As she turned to leave, she noticed the two young women that had previously approached him, sitting at their table looking slightly downcast. "Elric, it is your choice of course, but there is nothing wrong with giving your fans what they want...as long as ALL they want is a dance!" She winked at him. "Just be sure to save some energy for me, I'm not done with you yet!" She smiled mischievously and skipped out of the tent, back to the castle.
---------------------------------------------------------
Elric was at a bit of a loss. He really had no interest in dancing with strange women, but at the same time he didn't want the girls to be having less fun because of him. If that made sense. He ran it through his head a few times and it still seemed jumbled somehow so he discarded it. Add that to the problem of there being two of them. Who to dance with first?

Fortunately the problem seemed to solve itself. The next song that played seemed to be some kind of local group dance. A large group of people made their way to the dance floor, the girls included. Elric joined in.
--------------------------------------------------
Ashara returned from the castle breathing heavily from her haste. She had a weather-beaten scroll case slung over her left shoulder and a small leather pouch in her right hand. Looking around the room, she saw Eddick taking a well deserved break from the dancing while still managing to entertain three ladies with his stories as he recuperated. Gwilly and Therogeon were 'dancing'...actually, it looked like the mage had Levitated himself and was letting the pixie spin him in circles. She didn't see Elric amid the crowd, so the priestess sat down at the table and gently pulled out a roll of parchment. Two tiny weights held the paper in place as she took the charcoal from her pouch and started sketching.

She drew Therogeon laughing as he tried to remain upright while being spun in mid-air. Didn't have a picture of that yet... Well...the laughing Therogeon part at least. Moving to a different section of the page, she sketched Eddick guffawing as the gaggle of women whispered in his ears, then on to Gwilly. She had only two other drawings of Gwilly, since she was seen so rarely, but she cherished both of them as reminders of special moments they had shared. Kaber was still absent, but it was still relatively early, so hopefully he would be in later.

Where was Elric? Ashara stood to get a better view of the dancers. Finally she spotted him. He had been backed into the corner of the pavilion by the two overly amorous women, and was trying to maneuver his way out without causing any hurt feelings. Remembering the incident in Evereska that he had once spoken of, which explained the look of distress on his face, the priestess strode hastily over to them.

"Excuse me, ladies?" The pair turned to face Ashara. "Eddick the druid, the savior of your king and of Zazesspur itself has requested the favor of a dance with you both! See! He's sitting over at that table now, gathering his strength in order to put forward his best effort for the two of you. It would be wise of you take this opportunity now, before he's unavailable again!"

She took Elric's hand and gently pulled him back to her table as the two girls chatted amongst themselves before heading over to speak with Eddick. "I'm sorry about that," she said apologetically, as she sat and pushed his ale back in front of him, "I didn't realize I had thrown you in with the sharks." Ashara smiled as she picked up her charcoal again and brushed off a fresh piece of parchment. She could have drawn his face from memory, but she wanted to get the bearberry crown just right, and the glint in his eyes that she had seen earlier... Hmm. The situation with the young women had apparently caused panic to replace the glint. "Are you okay? " she asked with increasing concern as she set her tools down.
-------------------------------------------------
An uncomfortable Elric reached for the mug of ale with a slightly shaky hand. "Better now... Nice rescue by the way." He gave her a wry smile. "You know how I have problems with things I can't hit." Elric felt a little guilty turning their attention on Eddick. However when he looked the druid’s way, it was obvious that the druid had things well in hand.

"Now what is this that you so easily tossed me to the sharks for..." he teased good-naturedly. He noticed that she had brought some paper and charcoal. Outside the rod of resurrection, he hadn't seen her draw much. "Can I see what you’re working on?"
------------------------------------------------
Aside from the sketch of the Rod, none of the CoRD members had seen her drawings. She worked on them in the evenings during watches or in her room when they were staying in towns along the road. It was a way of crystallizing memories for her, though her father had always called it an "impractical waste of time." She treasured them now. The sketches of her parents and Josiah, past and present members of the Champions, the view of Impresk Lake where they stood together before venturing out into the world... They helped to ground her, reminding her of where she had come from and why they were doing what they were doing. Faces mostly...of friends they had made along the way, enemies they had faced, and even victims of those enemies. She didn't want to forget them. Maybe someday, but here in the eye of the storm she felt she needed to remember. Of course she left THAT particular scroll case back in the room, since they were under royal decree not to discuss business, and some of those faces would bring up memories that would sour the mood.

Timidly, Ashara slid the drawings she had just done of their friends across the table to Elric. She picked her charcoal back up and continued working while watching for his reaction out of the corner of her eye. "I...I wanted to remember you like this. I wasn't sure when we'd be at another party..."
----------------------------------------------------------
Elric had noticed Ashara sketching in the past. It was obvious she was self-conscious about her work, and she never showed them to anyone. He knew what it was like to take a part of yourself and share it with others. Whether Music or drawings the risk was still the same. As she slid the portrait to him he was determined that regardless of what it looked like he was going to try to make her feel good about it.

As he looked at the picture the smile slid off his face and was replaced by pure amazement. These were good. REALLY good. The faces of his friends seemed so lifelike... He had seen artists in Evereska. And elves were known for their attention to detail, but this matched anything he had seen there. "This is amazing!" The half elf tried to regain his composure."Seriously... This is a gift." He looked around and saw Therogeon, more or less doing the same thing as in the picture."You 'just' did this? I've only seen a couple of elves with this kind of talent, but they require either the use of magic or a minimum of six weeks of sittings. Are you using magic of some kind?"
-------------------------------------------------------
She was not expecting that kind of reaction from him. Maybe a "wow, that's pretty good," or a "yeah, that looks almost like Therogeon", but nothing like the astonishment he wore on his face right now.

It didn't seem like Elric was just teasing her... "You really like them?" Ashara beamed at him. "They're kind of rough yet, but I'll take the time to fix them up tonight I think. I just wanted to get a quick sketch so I could get their movement right." She flushed a bit as he stared at the drawings. "No, there's no magic. It helps to know my subjects so well, though!"

Pushing a lock of hair back over her ear, she continued scratching at the parchment with the charcoal, occasionally glancing up and smiling as she studied his face. "All novice priests of Lathander are encouraged to take up some form of creative pastime, and do their best to perfect it. Since I'd been doing this since I was a child, I chose cooking." Ashara burst out laughing at the absurdity of it. "I suppose it's come in handy on occasion, since we left Impresk, but it's been much easier to work on this. I do have a delicious recipe for displacer tiger that I will have to donate to the temple in Waterdeep, though!"

After about fifteen minutes of sketching, Ashara blew the loose charcoal off the paper and slid it across the table to Elric. The portrait of the half elf took up the entire sheet. It was rare that she had the time to sit and study every detail of his face like this, so she happily made the most of it.

"I'm not as good with paints," she stated apologetically," they're not as practical to carry around, so I haven't had the practice with them. I do hope to tackle that challenge someday though!"

The priestess pulled a small cloth from the pouch to wipe the black from her fingertips. When she finished putting away her tools, she ran her fingers through her hair and adjusted the crown of leaves and berries on her head. The current bard at the stage appeared to be wrapping up his performance.

"How many of those elven songs did you find beneath the mountain, Elric? Do you plan on copying them?"
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"About a dozen or so..." Elric thought about his own scroll case full of copied music. "I haven't really had time yet to sort through them all. Just practiced a few in my difficulty range and I'll play around with the rest later."

He thought about the second part of the question for a moment. "Copy them? For others? I don't really know. I've been asked a few time already, but I haven't really had a free moment to worry about it." The half elf got a little quiet. "I'll probably share. Its always a little flattering when someone wants to learn one of MY songs, but these really aren't mine." He shrugged his shoulders with a smirk. "I'll admit, its kind of fun having all this long-lost knowledge to myself, but there's really too much that could happen on the road. If anything were to happen... and they'd be lost again... That would be a crime."
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She nodded in agreement. "Perhaps when we get back to Impresk you could make a copy of each of the pieces and then leave those copies in safekeeping when we go on our way." Ashara smiled and winked at him. "There's no reason for you to share this find right now...you've certainly earned the right to keep it to yourself for as long as you wish!"

He seemed far away for a moment, remembering a different time, and she was curious where he had gone.

She frequently wondered what it was like for Elric, growing up a half elf in a city full of elves. Some parts he spoke of fondly, other parts...not so much. He had found something of a family among them, though not the one he originally went seeking after. He had also found intolerance in spades, cruelty and abuse. How he had managed to become the person he was through all of that, simply amazed her.

The priestess noticed Elric absentmindedly tracing his thumb along the neck of his mandolin. She motioned to the instrument. "Did you often play for the elves in Evereska?
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Watching the crowd, the unabashed joy dancing and moving around reminded him of Evereska. Say what you wanted the Elves knew how to party. They spent so much time uptight, that when they did relax, they did it with the same zest for life. Has it really only been two years, less really, since he left there? It seemed a lifetime ago. It was a lifetime ago.

"Hmmm..." Elric snapped back to the present. "Oh, Yeah... On occasion. Not the best audience. Of course they have higher standards for music." Held out his normal human sized hands. "Stubby fingers y'know. I had to work twice as hard to be half as good as the legitimate musicians."

"Mostly when I played, the humans who were visiting gave me the most attention. Still for all their snide comments, more than a few elves did kind of linger about a bit when I played."
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She pressed her palm against his. Elric's fingers were a good half-inch longer than hers. "See," she grinned at him, "stubbiness is relative!"

An older man with a lute stepped onto stage, and the crowd cheered loudly for him. She guessed that he was probably a local bard, or perhaps from the city itself. The tables emptied as the people crowded onto the dance floor. Ashara's hand closed around half elf's and she stood, urging him to his feet.

The music was a bit faster than she was used to, and it took a few moments to get the steps down before she could concentrate on something other than not falling over. Smiling brightly, she looked up at Elric. "Do you think you'll go back there someday? When it's safe again of course... Maybe I could tag along, since you say humans visit Evereska on occasion. You could play those ancient elven ballads for the elves! I'm sure they would love that!"
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The half elf shrugged. "I don't know. There isn't anything left for me there. I've outgrown Evereska, I think. It isn't home anymore. That's in Impresk now." The tempo started to change, and caught him by surprised. He tried shuffling his feet to avoid stepping on hers. And Failed. "Ahh, Sorry about that." he quickly apologized. Neither of them really knew what they were doing in this dance, and he knew it wasn't the first time nor certainly the last that they would misstep.

"I don't think the Elves would be very appreciative of these songs....,” he continued. "Lost histories and treasures found, sung by 'me'... That would cause trouble." As he looked at the young priestess he thought he saw a flash of disappointment cross her face. "Then again... if you'd like to go sometime, I'd gladly show you around. Its really a beautiful place."
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Ashara nodded happily, as if the date for the trip had been set.

"I wish they could see you the way I see you!" she smiled, brushing his cheek. "Eldorath saw the promise in you when you were so young...do you think the wind will ever blow him across your path again? He would be so proud!"

She blushed and shook her head apologetically. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to grill you like this..."
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Whenever she started complimenting him like this, he could feel the tips of his ears turn red. He quickly tried to divert the conversation away from himself. Thinking of his old Mentor helped.

"I hope so. There’s been quite a few times recently that I've wondered where he was. It's a big world out there, but most of its in chaos..." He said coming dangerously close to breaking a royal edict. "You'd like him, and I'm sure he'd like you!" Elric smiled wistfully, "I hope you get to meet him someday."
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She smiled bashfully and dropped her eyes. "Oh, I'm not sure he'd like me much, I'm afraid I'm verrrrry human... Though it seems he is more open minded than most of the elves you met there."

Ashara was lost in thought for a moment. "Actually... Lathander has recently given me knowledge of a spell that could help find him if you wished. I would only need something that belonged to him. If there was anything he gave you, I could use that and a map to point to where he is currently. It really would be nice to meet him after hearing so many of the things you've told me!"
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Elric laughed. "Yes, you are. You’re perfectly human. And I wouldn't change a thing! Trust me. He'd like you just fine. Not all elves have a thing against humans, many of them get along just fine with them. And Windwalker was the most tolerant Elf I've ever heard of"

"As for where he is... He could be anywhere! That's always been his thing." Elric thought back to when he left the elven city. The quick sale of the house and scrambling of his few possessions that he had. "Possessions... He gave me a lot of things, but not many were 'physical'." Just as he was about to give up a sudden thought came to him. "My staff! The one back at Impresk. I got that from him... But does that still make it his? Or is it mine?"
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"Your perfectly human. And I wouldn't change a thing!" Ashara smiled up at him appreciatively at the kind words.

"All I would need is a sliver of that staff. I'm honestly not sure if it would work for the spell... It may depend on how long he owned it compared to the time you've had it. I think it would be worth a try though!"

The smile slid slowly off her face. She'd been considering approaching him about a particular idea for some time now, but she was concerned how he would react to it.

"Elric...," she almost whispered, unable yet to meet his eyes, "There is a chance that I could show you what your mother looks like... There may also be a very slim chance that I could help you find her. The only catch is that I would have to look into your memories." Ashara looked up at him anxiously, cheeks reddening. "I just wanted you to know that I would do that for you if you wished..."
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Elric heard the words, but it took him a moment to register what she was saying. His Mother? It had been years since he'd had any real thoughts of her. He'd left on a fools errand without any clues and only hope when he was a just a child. In the years since he'd always kept an eye out for her, but hadn't actively pursued that quest for a very long time. He'd spent most of his life with no clues, and eventually even hope had departed. The last few years it had merely been routine to claim he was looking for her, but honestly he'd admitted to himself it would never happen. There hadn't been a 'plan' in longer than he could remember.

He looked at Ashara "Would that work? I don't have any memories of her..."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
"You don't remember having memories of her, but you must! Your first memories of life... You must have seen her face then, before she took you to your father. I would have to go all the way back to the beginning, but if I see her face in your mind, I could sketch it for you."

She swallowed hard. There were few things more personal than rooting around in someone's brain, and it wasn't something she took lightly. It could get confusing sometimes, living other people's memories. Occasionally she would confuse someone else's experience as her own. For some time after the spell was completed, Ashara needed to 'take inventory' of her own memories and discard those that were not hers. It was an exhausting process, but if it could provide Elric with some link to his mother, she could think of nothing more worthy of that effort.

Ashara realized that they had stopped dancing and were standing in the middle of the floor with other couples spinning around them.
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A look of confusion covered his face. He didn't know what to say. The theory was sound. He had trouble understanding why she would do this. He thought about how much that spell drained her. He didn't like to see her like that, but when they're saving the world sometimes it was deemed necessary. But for this? An old quest he had mostly given up on? Why would she do that? He thought back to admission of what it was like to heal people.

"Ashara... What is it like when you read memories? Is it just pictures... Voices... feelings? A lot of my memories aren't happy ones..."
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Her brow furrowed as she thought how to explain. Just as she opened her mouth to speak, a very drunk older gentleman, slammed into her from behind, nearly knocking her to the floor. Ashara apologized to the man and quickly moved out of the path of the other dancers and back to their table.

She took a seat and gathered her thoughts before Elric sat down next to her. "I see only what the person saw. No sound, no emotion. Only the memory as it happened. I have had a good amount of experience with this spell though, so I am able to skim forward through those memories very quickly." She raised her eyes to meet his. "So quickly that I wouldn't be able to see them, until I got to the point I was interested in that is."

"I know how it must sound..." Ashara whispered, embarrassed, "Having someone browse through your memories is...well...invasive..." She almost grabbed for a braid then, but remembering that they weren't there, she forced her hand to stay in her lap. "I just thought it wouldn't be fair to you if I didn't let you know of the possibility. If there was a chance that I could know a bit more about my parents, I would like to hear about it at least."
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"Invasive?" Elric responded with surprise. "Ashara, Its not that I want to keep secrets... I don't want to hide anything from you! It’s just, all the things I've lived through... I'd never ask you, I'd never ask anyone, to live through that."

"If there was a chance that I could know a bit more about my parents, I would like to hear about it at least."

He thought he understood then. Of anyone else he's known, she understood what it was like to be missing that part of you. To not know where you came from, or why you were left behind. She couldn't solve her own mysteries, so she wanted to help him solve his. But was that really true?

"Ashara." Elric with a glint in his eye. "What about your past? The spell you have for Eldorath's staff, wouldn't that work on your medallion? It had to come from somewhere. You gave me spells this morning, what about the memory spell? You know I'd do the same for you. I don't have the same gift you have, but once it’s in MY memory..." He stopped for a moment. An idea had just formed.

"Ashara? Is there anything that prevents someone from reading their OWN memories?"
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Shock was evident on her face as she looked into Elric's eyes and blinked. Twice.

"I...I don't know if the spell could work that way...," she stuttered, "I would have to research it a bit. It might work, but I'd have to take precautions. It's possible I could get lost in my own mind if I wasn't careful. Perhaps that is something I could ask about in Waterdeep."

"The spell I would use on a splinter of your staff however could definitely be used on my medallion. I would have to scratch a piece of it off though, since the material is consumed with the casting." She pulled the medallion from beneath her robes, and turned it over in her hands. "I don't know if this would be considered my parents' for the same reason that your staff could no longer be considered Eldorath's, but like I said, it would be worth a try at least."

Would she want to meet her real parents? She used to be afraid to know the reason why they left her, but now, that fear seemed so insignificant.

"You gave me spells this morning, what about the memory spell? You know I'd do the same for you."

The priestess put the medallion back in its place resting against her skin. She knew Elric wanted to help her as much as she wanted to help him. He couldn't know what it would entail though...the things he would see... He wouldn't be able to control the speed of the memories, he would have to go back through everything, live everything!

Her gaze dropped to her hands fidgeting on her lap.

"I had thought briefly that I might be able to give you the ability to read my memory. It was a fleeting idea. Not only is the spell beyond my ability to pass along, but the thought of you seeing the things I have done..." Ashara's shoulders slumped as if a great weight was dropped over her neck. "You would never be able to look at me the same way. I couldn't live with the horror that I would inevitably see in your eyes." Her chest rose and fell erratically as if in mounting hysteria, but she squeezed her eyelids together tightly and forced herself to calm down. She wouldn't think of them now. She refused to cry. Not here at Gwilly's party.
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The dark cloud was back, heavier than before. He knew what it was going through her mind. The same thing that caused her to toss and turn when she slept. He reached out and took her shoulders, turning her to face him.

"Ashara. Look at me! I want you to understand something. No, I need you to understand. Nothing I saw would change anything. I already KNOW what happened back then. Remember... I read the journal. Everything was documented. What happened, what was felt..." He took her chin in his hand and met her eyes. "Look, do you see any horror? I know the difference between who you are and what was done. I know."

He was quiet for a moment. He let the words sink in.

"The elves have this thing... its called Communion. Occasionally if the people are right, and they trust each other completely, its like they can share Reverie. I can't achieve reverie, but these spells would be close. If it were possible..."
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His vehement words pulled her out of the darkness she had begun to sink into.

The journal. Ashara never understood why, in the state of mind she had been in, that she would have left such incriminating evidence for them to find. Somehow that tiny part of her that remained, needed them to know, needed them to find her. He had come for her. Not to convict her of her crimes, but to save her from them.

He forced her to meet his gaze, and though she tried to lower her head, Elric held her chin firmly. She wanted to argue with him. To tell him that it would be different if he saw the acts happen. As Ashara looked into his eyes though, she knew that it wouldn't matter. For some reason she couldn't explain, he accepted her for who she was, and yes...even what she had done.

"The elves have this thing... its called Communion. Occasionally if the people are right, and they trust each other completely, its like they can share Reverie. I can't achieve reverie, but these spells would be close. If it were possible..."

"You would...do that? " her voice strained, understanding the significance of what he was saying. "Willingly?"

She had never heard of Communion, but she could imagine the intensity of such an exchange, and was stunned at the amount of trust he must have in her to make that claim. Ashara knew at that point that she wanted to share everything with him if she could, but could she?

"The nature of the Imbue won't allow me to transfer a spell as powerful as Memory Read, but if there is another way, and you're certain you'd want that...I will find it."
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"In a heartbeat." Elric answered without hesitation.

"You don't have to hide anything from me, ever. And I don't want to hide anything from you." He had to start speaking up. The tent had been slowly getting louder. It was no longer morning, and it appeared that though a lot of people had slept in today most were awake now. The second day of the party was really starting to pick up.

"If you can make the memory spell work, then I'd like you to do it. If we can both do it then even better. But don't take yourself out of this. Your family is just as important to you as mine is to me. If there’s anything I can do... I know I don't have any magic abilities... but I want to help you too."
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Ashara took his hand that was holding her chin, and held it against the side of her face. As she closed her eyes, she felt the sorrow that had been welling in her heart, recede, and fill with a much more powerful emotion.

"Tomorrow morning," she smiled softly, "I will petition Lathander to allow me the ability to grant you that spell, just once for this purpose. I will do so every dawn for the rest of my days if that's what it takes. If he sees fit to give us that gift, than we will use the spells together. I think I would like that best. Together."

She sighed at her own weaknesses. "Thank you for pulling me out of that, and I'm so sorry! Here we are celebrating and I'm killing the mood... Gwilly would take it as a personal affront if I had a nervous breakdown at her party!" Laughing, she added, "You've saved me from the wrath of the pixie!"

Shortly after the bard finished his set, a man and a woman entered the tent, each carrying a number of thinly bladed weapons.

The priestess raised her eyebrows. "Sword swallowers! This could get interesting..."

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