Welcome to Thread 4, or the fourth season of Buffy's Book 1!
This book began with Buffy being briefly incarcerated in the Imperial Prison, and will end as she attempts to bring freedom to the city of Kvatch. It is a sprawling story that will require more than 150 episodes, spread over five threads. Appropriately, I have nicknamed Book 1, 'Do You Know the Way to Kvatch?'
Thread 1 included episodes 1-26.
Thread 2 began with a brief recap of thread one, then included episodes 27-56.
Thread 3 began with a brief recap of thread two, then included episodes 57-84.
Please allow me to offer a small summary of our previous thread that I hope might prove useful as a review, or for those who are joining us in progress:
Thread three began with Buffy's sixteen-part miniseries called 'The Leyawiin Expedition'. In Leyawiin, Buffy completed Daedric Shrine quests for Nocturnal and Sanguine. She befriended the orc, Mazoga and the two ladies became Knights Errant of the White Stallion. Buffy learned much of courtly ways and convinced Count Leyawiin to send a soldier named Sergeant Lucilius Marcus to Kvatch to help Savlian Matius. Buffy also convinced Captain Caelia Draconis, of the Leyawiin guard, to send letters to her counterparts in each of the other cities requesting that they consider following Count Leyawiin's example of providing some assistance to Kvatch.
Dagail, of the mages guild, helped Acadian gain the power of speech to augment his telepathic ability.
As Buffy prepared to leave Leyawiin, she and Acadian pondered the wisdom of their course. Trying to learn how to defeat Mehrunes Dagon's Oblivion Gate at Kvatch by consulting other Daedra Lords had yielded no answers. They agreed to seek the advice of the only Daedra Lord who had helped Buffy at all - Azura.
After visiting and obtaining the advice of Azura, Buffy made her way to the Daedra Lord Peryite. There she discovered that her paladin was actually an ancient Nordic dragonrider who perished centuries ago along with his ice dragon, Phantom. Fellow dragon Peryite was intrigued enough to offer Buffy the opportunity to learn what she sought - how to survive Oblivion and fight Daedra. And fight she did, emerging from Peryite's plane as a Daedra Slayer.
Buffy than asked the Arcane University for assistance to Kvatch. After investigating a matter at Wellspring Grove for Raminus Polus, Buffy earned a promise that her request would be taken to the Council of Mages. Raminus told her it would likely be two weeks before the Council would convene and that he would send word to Buffy's guild chapter in Bravil when he had a decision for her.
Now, for those newer readers who would like to catch up to us in one short sitting, you might find this helpful: Buffy – The Executive Summary Thread.
We now join Buffy as she arrives in Bravil and begins a massive storyline called 'The Tournament of Archers'. Although it will span less than two weeks of the bowgirl's young life, it will require this entire thread and approximately thirty five episodes for her to tell the tale.
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85 The Tournament of Archers, Part 1- Home to Bravil
It was fall harvest time, and the air was cool enough that Superian's unlabored breathing created clouds of mist in the moonlight. As the warm moisture drifted back and encountered my cooler body, her breath turned to droplets. After a night of riding, I was wet and chilled.
Finally, streaks of morning sunshine began to slip between the trees and blaze cheerful beams across our path. The elusive kisses of warmth on my left side were welcome. Birds were beginning to flit and dance now, among the branches that formed a canopy above the Green Road.
We had not stopped, except for the occasional bandit or animal attack since leaving Harm's Folly. Helping Corrick had been the right thing to do, but I was aching to get home. I still had almost two weeks before I might expect word from the Council of Mages regarding help for Kvatch. I looked forward to spending the delay in Bravil.
Gradually, the leafy canopy fell behind us, yielding to thinner forest and an occasional glimpse of the Upper Niben as it began to widen. The sun had climbed, and now fully bathed us in its delicious warmth. As familiar walls surrounding the City of Mara came into view, my heart joined the birds overhead in song. I leaned forward to pat Superian's neck. "We're finally home, girl."
"Hail Bu- I mean Dame Buffy!" The booming voice came from a mail-clad soldier, wearing the surcoat of a Bravil guard. As I got closer, I recognized the smiling Imperial standing post at the bridge to the city's gate.
"And hail to you, Gladius." I reined Superian to a stop next to the man and slid to the ground. "That's the first and last time I expect to hear that 'Dame' stuff from you," I playfully chided. "Wherever did you hear such a thing anyway?"
"A Legion rider by the name of Lucilius Marcus passed through here some time ago on his way from Leyawiin to Kvatch, and spoke of you. He said they dubbed you a knight errant down there. Is it true that you talked Lord Leyawiin himself into sending help to Kvatch?"
"True enough I guess, Gladius. I really don't care for titles though. I just want to be a simple girl from Bravil." Extending both arms to emphasize my simple hunting attire I pleaded, "Seriously, do I look like a knight? Just Buffy. Please?"
"Fair enough, Buffy." The professional soldier's weathered face creased into a warm smile. "Welcome home."
"Thank you. . . my friend." Although the words were a little hard to say, they were justified.
I led Superian to the Bay Roan Stables and started uncinching her saddle.
Gladius Maro had killed my beautiful friend City Swimmer. The Argonian had stolen from the chapel then resisted arrest with her dagger. The guard had given City Swimmer every opportunity to yield, but she persisted in her attack. She was no match for the veteran swordsman who was forced to cut her down.
I remembered drawing my bow against Gladius in anger, then realizing City Swimmer's death was her own fault. I knew Slayer could not ease my grief, and yielded to the guard. Gladius had gently placed his hand upon my shoulder as I wept, the lifeless City Swimmer in my arms. He had also provided a strong and steady arm than helped keep me from breaking down at the Argonian's simple funeral.
"Well, how's my girl?"
Startled, my thoughts of Gladius evaporated and I turned my head toward the cheerful words. The stable hand, in rough clothes, produced an apple and offered it to Superian. He then joined me in removing the mare's tack and grooming her.
"I'm sure she's missed you, Antoine." I gave the ruddy-faced Breton a handful of coins. "She quite adores you and the way you spoil her."
Antoine looked at the gold, then pocketed it. "You always pay more for Superian's care than you need to, Buffy. I like your mare, and would treat her my best without your extra money."
"I know that, Antoine." I shrugged. "Much of my gold does indeed go for Superian's care. My needs are simple though, so I don't miss it"
As I opened the door to the Mage's Guild, I noticed a small figure with his back toward me speaking to Ardaline. A bow and quiver rode outside the black traveling cloak he wore, and his hood was drawn back upon his shoulders. He ran a hand through unkempt brown hair, displaying the distinctive ears of a wood elf.
Ardaline saw me as I approached and I heard her say to the Bosmer, "Just a moment please." She then grinned, and quickly moved from behind her alchemy counter to give me a fierce hug. Breaking away and stepping back, the Altmer wagged an elegant finger. "You've been gone entirely too long. The only news of you we get is an occasional 'Buffy sighting' from the odd Legion soldier or Black Horse Courier rider.
"I know, I know," I said sheepishly. Changing the subject, I added, "Who's your friend?"
"I'm sorry," said Ardaline as she looked at the elf. "This is Aradroth. He recently moved here to Bravil. Aradroth, this is Buffy." Ardaline looked down at me and continued sternly, "She lives in Bravil too, but you wouldn't know it sometimes. Buffy's a fine illusionist and about the best archer around - well, except for Daenlin of course."
"G'day Buffy, how ya going?" As the elf extended a hand, his unusual words revealed an exotic accent I couldn't place. The polite smile did not match his slate gray eyes. They were cold, bored or devoid of passion - I couldn't determine which. They were also somehow familiar.
I offered my hand also, but he reached past it to grip my forearm in a warrior clasp. His stature was short - less than mine even - but his hand was strong. Instinctively I grasped his forearm in return.
"Well met, Aradroth." Face to face now, I could see that under his cloak he wore a black leather raiment. A sheath was strapped upside down to his chest, restraining a dagger. There was an elven short blade attached to his sword belt.
As Ardaline and Aradroth concluded their business, I placed several portions of fresh ectoplasm into a bowl on the alchemy counter. The Altmer's pretty blue eyes lit up. "Thank you, Buffy. I was running low. I see you've just cleared the chapel's undercroft again." She produced some coins. "Is this enough for your efforts?"
I dropped the gold into my coin purse without really looking and smiled. "Sure it is, Ardaline. I only need enough to board Superian, buy a few arrows and the odd bottle of Tamika's."
The blond Altmer giggled. "Remember the last time we shared some Tamika's? The pillow fight and fashion show? I thought Kud-Ei was going to kill us!"
"Oh yes!" I grinned. "If Delphine had kept her mouth shut, we might have gotten the feathers cleaned up before-"
"Ahem." Aradroth cleared his throat, looking understandably bored. "Shock poisons?" The question, as he looked at the ectoplasm with a raised eyebrow, seemed more of a statement.
Without really thinking, I responded, "Well, that's one use, although the resulting poison can be a bit heavier than other options. Lighter weight poisons with more lethal and immobilizing effects can be created if-" Suddenly I noticed Ardaline staring at me, her mouth agape. I couldn't help but see a flicker of interest in Aradroth's eyes however. "-um, I mean, at least that's what they told me in alchemy class. Ardaline and I mostly use it in our hair conditioner recipe." I didn't add that the Bosmer's unruly brown mane could certainly benefit from some conditioning.
The smile from Aradroth did not extend to those gray eyes. He tipped two fingers to an eyebrow. "Ladies." Wheeling, he then pulled the cloak's hood over his head and made for the door. The lithe, effortlessly quiet exit revealed that he was no stranger to the ways of stealth.
Daenlin's face burst into a grin as I entered the Archer's Paradox. "Buffy! Welcome home." He grabbed both my hands and held them out to my sides as he inspected me. "You look wonderful, but a little underfed." He craned his head to peek into my quiver and frowned. "Getting a mite low back there don't you think?" Without giving me a chance to speak, he glanced at the wood elf in the corner of his shop inspecting arrows. "Have you met Aradroth?"
Finally, I pulled my hands free and gave the balding Bosmer a kiss on the cheek to shut him up. "Yes." I smiled. "I'm low on arrows, it's wonderful to be home and I've met Aradroth." I then added, "Daenlin, I need twenty broadhead elven arrows and five of those enchanted armor-piercing ones."
"That mix sounds like a beauty. I'll have the same," said Aradroth.
Daenlin scratched his head. "Not exactly deer hunting fare, you two. Let me check my stock on the second floor."
I watched Daenlin as he climbed the stairs, then turned to study Aradroth's unreadable face. I spoke first, "Given your arrow selection, it seems we've more in common than an appetite for poisons, yes?"
"So it seems," Aradroth replied with no emotion in his voice. He then cocked his head slightly. "Ardaline's a dear sheila but I believe I could learn more about the darker side of alchemy from you. Dinner? Perhaps Silverhome on the Water tonight at seven?"
I blinked, surprised at his matter-of-fact forwardness. Surely his interest in me couldn't be. . . no, I decided. Not with those cold, almost mean eyes. I expected his motive was curiosity. I was full of questions myself as I looked at his bow and curved elven short sword. I had no doubt he knew how to use them. Then, there was that intriguing black armor raiment and cloak. "I'm very flattered, Aradroth, but must decline. I'll be cooking dinner for Daenlin tonight like I always do upon returning to Bravil. I'm sure we can get together soon at my guildhall though."
Aradroth gave me a polite smile that did not reach his eyes. "I'll hold you to it. I hope that -"
"Well, you're both in luck in seems," interrupted Daenlin as he came down the stairs, his arms full of arrows. "Now, I've inspected each one of these." He began doling them out. "Have you heard? The archery tournament is to be held in Bravil this year, and within the week. I presume both of you will enter?"
I responded with a giggle and a curtsy. "Daenlin's Apprentice shoots where and when her master tells her to." I then gave him a meaningful look and added, "Oh, don't forget about dinner at my house tonight."
"We're not talking about living targets here, so what's the point, mate?" quipped Aradroth dryly.
Daenlin looked at the younger Bosmer and frowned. "Tsk tsk." Turning to me he winked. "Buffy, I see we'll have to work on our friend here. Oh, and how could I forget about our dinner date tonight?"
* From Buffy's scrapbook: