In our previous episode, Buffy was awakened by a disturbing dream about the Dark Brotherhood. She surmised that the dangerous eyes and manner of the elf Aradroth had likely prompted the dream. After inquiring about him at her guild, Buffy went for a ride with Superian, only to be accosted by a highwayman and surprisingly rescued by Aradroth.Count Lauriel-
I'm so pleased to have you join us! I know there are many wonderful stories to keep up with. Once we approach the end of the tournament, I expect to slow our posting pace to better support the time demands on our readers. I was so delighted to see you bring Helena here! I recall the discussions between you, I and SubRosa as you were making your choices about creating your young Breton healer, and am humbled that you considered our input. Rider-
I remember your kind words from 1.0 regarding the festive/renaissance flavor we were trying to weave into the tourney. Thanks to your encouragement, we are trying to maintain or even enhance that in 2.0. mALX-
Thank you! I don't think the dream was an Acadian plant; rather I think it was triggered as Buffy subconsciously knew where she had seen the dangerous look in Aradroth's eyes before. SubRosa-
Yes, more SubRosa trademarked imp chips.
Thanks for liking Buffy's little vendor encounter; sometimes it is the little random things in life that provide our memories. Since Aradroth's decisive strike worked, let me quickly credit the tactic to the wonderful lesson that Pappy gave Teresa regarding daggers. It was just perfect for this. Yes, it seems Buffy is now indebted to the scary elf.Thomas Kaira-
Thank you. I'm sure Buffy was more surprised by that unexpected rescue than anyone! Yes indeed, when you first met Aradroth, you offered him the benefit of the doubt. It's a little early to tell for sure, but I'm so pleased your instincts regarding Aradroth seem to be on the mark. King Coin-
Thanks, I too am glad that Buffy chose, at the Inn of Ill Omen, not to embark into the world of killing for hire. Faced with her dark rescuer, Buffy's head is spinning with emotions that include fear, nurturing, curiosity and reaching out.Grits-
Thank you! Yes, Buffy is an optimist. If she were locked in a room full of horse manure, she would excitedly search for the hidden pony.
So, now we have a young, frightened optimist who no doubt feels indebted to her dark rescuer. Destri-
Thank you for enjoying the small touches (the banner merchant, Antoine's prediction on the stable business during the archery tournament). We freely surrender to Buffy's observations and smelling the nightshade as she dances along while straying on and off her path. More Aradroth coming up! Wolf-
I thank you so much for your kind words and allowing Aradroth to join Buffy's world in time for the tourney. He is a fascinating character. Is he dangerous? You bet. Does he have any elfinity (sort of like humanity) inside that raiment? Buffy's nurturing and meddlesome nature will likely force her to try and find out, prudence-be-darned. The paladin has already offered his warning but, like Daenlin, he realizes you can't hold on to a butterfly. One way or another, we will learn quite a bit more about Aradroth in this next episode.
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88 The Tournament of Archers, Part 4- Do We Have an Understanding?
"Nay, keep your gold," said Aradroth. "That lesson on poisons we talked about at the Archers Paradox would be most welcome however. As you see, we stand at the trailhead leading to nearby Flooded Mine. I have a small day camp on the shore of the Niben there with quite the bonza view. Will you join me for lunch?"
Well, wandering into the woods with a stranger who could suddenly appear from nowhere and move faster than a cat didn't necessarily seem like the wisest of choices. Of course, I wasn't exactly known for wise choices. Hadn't I said only this morning that I wanted to reach out to Aradroth? Deferring his question, I posed my own, "Are you injured?" If I could establish a healing bond of white magic with this frightening elf, perhaps I could better assess his character.
"Not a scratch but I thank you for your concern," he replied.
So much for that idea. Normally, Superian's judgment about strangers was better than mine. I couldn't tell though if her current nervousness was due to the dead Khajiit at our feet, or the Bosmer in black waiting for an answer.
It seemed Aradroth noted my uncertainty, for he added with a touch of impatience, "Perhaps 'tis I who should be leery. I have no doubt that your magicks could turn me into a fine fat rabbit like the one in my tucker bag. The very one I was planning to roast over my cook fire and am now willing to share with you."
I smiled at the image of Aradroth as a little bunny cloaked in black. I had indeed promised to discuss poisons with him. Oh for Mara's sake, Buffy! If he wanted to hurt you, he could have easily done so right after killing that Khajiit. "Forgive my lack of graciousness. Lead on, my rescuer."
With a paralyze spell not far from my hand, we walked the short trail toward the Niben. Once away from the body of the highwayman, I paid careful attention to Superian. She was quite relaxed now, even nosing Aradroth curiously. The elf responded with a couple of gentle pats to her shoulder.
My mare's take on Aradroth was reassuring and, by the time we arrived at the day camp, I felt much more at ease. Aradroth stirred his campfire to life as he added some wood. After freeing himself of bow, quiver, sword belt and cloak, he knelt by the fire and set about skinning and spitting the rabbit he had pulled from what he called his tucker bag.
I watched the elf as I removed Superian's tack. Without the black cloak, his raiment revealed quite the cute little butt. My mare pawed the water with a front hoof and swung her head toward me. "No, girl. If I cast a spell for you to run atop the water without me along to monitor its duration, you'll be mighty upset when you have to swim back to shore from the middle of the river." With a snort, she whirled and contented herself to run along the sandy beach. "Don't you flash that tail at me," I called after her.
Shortly, Aradroth and I were seated on opposite sides of the campfire sharing roasted rabbit.
"I truly am grateful for your intervention today." Shaking my head as he offered a bottle of ale, I added, "I'm sorry if I seem uncomfortable around you."
"I get that a lot," he replied.
I watched Superian for a few moments. Her need to run sated for now, she grazed calmly by the river's edge. "We both know why you make people uncomfortable."
"Whatever do you mean?" said Aradroth.
I pointed at the inverted sheath strapped to his chest - the one restraining the weapon that had instantly killed a highwayman. "That's a beautiful dagger. I used to have one just like it." I studied his face. "It was called the Blade of Woe, and given to me by a man named Lucien Lachance. He had the same cold look in his eyes that I see in yours." One gray eye briefly twitched almost imperceptibly. His thin lips parted to speak.
I held up a hand to preclude his answer, and continued, "Your eyes have just admitted what I suspect your words will not. I travel successfully in many circles because I know how to keep the secrets of others. Had I not stayed my bowstring against Lucien's request, I would have been your dark sister. Rather, I have a whole town that is my loving family. Many of them have darker natures, but that does not preclude my friendship. I offer you the same, as long as you mean no harm to my family."
The slate gray eyes gazed out across the Niben. "I choose to live in Bravil," he finally said. "The town offers the services and discretion that I require. Your family is not in danger from me. An imp does not defecate in its own cave."
"Thank you, Aradroth."
"And what of you, Buffy? I recall the passion as you began to discuss poisons yesterday at the Mages Guild. And your arrow selections from Daenlin - rather specialized, yes? I see the lithe agility in your movements, the quality of your equipment. If you note me for a killer, it is because it takes one to know one."
Defiantly, I returned the hard stare of his challenge and said, "I have learned to survive in a harsh land, and I lay no claim to moral high ground. Killing with my bow is exhilarating, and I do not apologize for that. When my friends are threatened, I freely admit to rage, vengeance and even cruelty."
My boldness could not stand against his piercing gaze. I lowered my eyes and softened my tone. "I-I simply do not kill innocent people, and my killing is not for hire. Aradroth, I'm sorry you feel no kindness. I hope someday that will change for you." I lifted my water bag in a toast. "Here's to a lot more understanding of each other than we had an hour ago."
"Indeed." After returning my 'toast' with a sip of ale, Aradroth set the bottle on the ground then rubbed his hands over the fire. "Now, might I prevail upon you to show me something green and a bit more deadly than the stuff Ardaline might cook up?"
I took a long pull from my water bag, then said, "Well, I believe I owe that much to the elf who has both saved and fed me today."
Pulling my pack closer, I began rummaging. From the protection of my alchemy bag, I produced a mortar, pestle and the other tools of poison making. My hand returned to my pack several more times for ingredients. Buffy?
I paused, to stare at the fire. Barely nodding, I acknowledged the paladin's silent voice in my head. Are you sure that enabling an assassin with sophisticated poisons is wise?
It seemed that the only interests Aradroth and I shared were lethal ones. Yet. . . I wanted him to continue opening up to me. I had seen glimmers that perhaps he was not as dark as he seemed. Acadian was right though. I smiled, and winked at the flames.
I said to Aradroth, "I'm going to show you a glimpse of what could be possible for you." I laid out five ingredients, one of them in a small leather pouch.
Aradroth moved around the fire and sat next to me. "Five? I thought four ingred-"
Placing a finger to the Bosmer's lips, I interrupted, "Don't think, just watch." I broke up a length of spiddal stick into my mortar, then dropped in a blob of congealed putrescence. After placing a root of harrada into the mixture, I sprinkled in some frost salts that I had purchased at the University. "Now, here's the tricky part. The harrada was only to coax the frost salts into the poison; we call that a catalyst. I can now easily take it out." I removed the brown root. "See? The other three items stay in there just fine. Now, we add a secret ingredient, some water and mix."
I did not tell Aradroth that the powder I added from the leather pouch was vampire dust; nor did I tell him that commonly found gall of imp would work as well as the congealed putrescence that could only be found on the nearby mysterious island in Niben Bay.
When I finished refining the concoction through one alchemy apparatus after another, I poured the resulting thick liquid into a vial and inserted a small cork. I then rose to my feet so I could allow magic to fill my hand. Lightly touching a fingertip to the side of the vial, a small symbol grew from the glass which would help identify its contents. After sitting back down, I said, "This poison will prevent spellcasting, deplete health, and cause both fire and frost damage. It's very light weight and is quite lethal - particularly against strong opponents that can cast spells."
The bored look was gone from Aradroth's eyes. "I see now that I sit at the hand of a master. Tell me, what are the two unfamiliar ingredients?"
Ignoring his question, I said, "Consider how much evil there is that needs to be destroyed. You don't have to be part of it." The gentleness in my voice surprised me. "This poison works just as well on necromancers and vampire battlemages as it does against innocent men or mer. You think of Bravil as your home and you don't kill innocent Bravilians. I hope that one day that you can think of all Cyrodiil as your home." I placed the poison into one of the outer compartments of my pack. "When you do, I will share more secrets with you."
Aradroth sighed. "Nilawen says similar things when she overhears Nordinor and I talking. She too is convinced I have a heart."
I was unsure if I had touched that heart or not. Regardless, the mood became awkward and I changed the subject. "Let's talk archery, Aradroth. Are you any good?"
The elf cocked his head. "Well, I can hold my own, but because I split focus between blade, bow and trying to learn the odd spell, I'm no expert. Why?"
"Will you enter the tournament with me? It means so much to Daenlin to have competition." Trying to keep the mood light, I contorted my face into the best pout I could muster. "Please?"
"Very well," Aradroth held up a hand in mock surrender, "besides, I rather like Daenlin."
"Wonderful!" After a grin, I added , "May the best Bosmer win. Tell me, what kind of enchantment is on your bow?"
"I use a demoralize effect. Let a victim run away full of poison I say, or even alternate between two enemies and keep them dancing in fear."
"That's brilliant, Aradroth," I replied.
He looked at my bow on the ground next to us. "And yours?"
"Slayer will totally but briefly drain an enemy's speed. The enchantment makes my target ignore both me and the snap of my bowstring for a moment. I can usually remain hidden after shooting. It also delivers shock damage and helps capture the magical energy of my foes.
"Quite impressive." After tapping one finger against his chin for a moment, he asked, "Say, Buffy, you know that you can reduce the sound of your bowstring, right?"
My mouth fell open and I stared at him. Aradroth gently lifted my lower jaw closed. He actually gave me a thin smile before continuing, "Can you see the tassels on my bowstring?" He stood, offering a hand to help me to my feet. "Grab your bow."
A few moments later, I held Slayer and we were standing at the river's edge.
Aradroth pointed. "Shoot out across the water and listen to your bowstring."
Obediently, I loosed an arrow. THWACK!
Aradroth took Slayer. I watched carefully as he fitted two small yarn tassels, one approximately a hand's width from each end of the bowstring. "Here, try it now."
I did so and and the result was a noticeably softer 'thwick'
. "Aradroth! That is
"Well, they tell me it has something to do with helping to equalize the speed at which the different parts of the bowstring snap home, but I make no pretense of understanding. I just know it works, as you can hear." I was surprised that, for once, his smile included those gray eyes. "Buffy, I know I make people uncomfortable, yet you have offered your hand in kindness. I will not forget that."This post has been edited by Acadian: Mar 21 2011, 03:33 AM