Summer Day -- Westmoor
Etain wondered for the umpteenth time since beginning her descent why she was always the one sent on these wild goose chases, exploring the myriad subterranean complexes which seemed to characterise the Cities of Old Fontan. Shouldn't this be Leopald's job? But no, it was always the future heir to the Dubhaine name who found herself knee deep in mud and filthy water, her sharp eyes picking out the ghostly lineaments of stone and rock in the claustrophobic darkness.
These relics of the ancient Orcish tribes who'd once stood in opposition to the Elflords of Sirion, back when the shadowy influence of the Black Hand had brought half the continent to its knees, were a disconcerting mix of cyclopean stonework and plunging precipices, cavernous monuments to a time of inhuman craft before the Lords of the High Firmament had blighted the old races and driven them into the dark places. What heirs there still were to the Orcish Sorcerer-Kings had devolved to brute beasts, destitute and unthinking, whilst even the Elven people who'd overcome them were now diminished in stature, save perhaps the Great House of Serpentis to which her mother Erfrayj belonged, a daughter of that sprawling harem in which Erik Eyolf invested so much of his prodigious energy.
Still, Etain knew she must prove herself if she were one day to bear the name Dubhaine and step from the shadow of her illustrious forebears, and truth be told the confidence her grandmother placed in her to complete the tasks a noble of such rank and widespread fame couldn't be seen to be doing gave Etain a satisfying sense of purpose.
Today her task was quite simple. Deep beneath Westmoor lay a certain crypt, and in that crypt a bloodied alter, the unholy sanctuary of the mad Theocrat Jor where live captives were tortured and sacrificed as blood barter to his dark gods. Etain must find that hidden fain and destroy it. Hopefully without existential risk to life and limb.
Why? The details of that were somewhat sketchy, as tended to be the way with the Ambassador's schemes. Etain pressed gently downwards with her right foot on a stone outcrop she'd been surveying for some minutes, testing again to make sure it would take her weight before pushing down for all she was worth and using it as a springboard to half-leap half-somersault across the inky void, praying the barest mirage of substance in the distance was indeed the crumbling staircase her faded map suggested. Admittedly the map showed the bridge which had one time spanned the chasm at this point so there was a fair chance some of the stairs were still there but it was more than likely her headlong flight would plummet her to an inglorious end in the river far below, her shattered body never to be recovered.
Still, it didn't pay to dwell too long on such thoughts, and anyway Etain was by nature optimistic. Well, maybe optimistic's not quite the right word. She was if anything overflowing with the rambunctiousness of life, a woman who could savour fear and joy with equal enthusiasm without losing herself in either.
She landed with a jarring thuda, rolling down half-a-dozen shattered steps and crashing into the cavern wall. Momentarily dazed she pulled herself up onto her haunches and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. The dark really was more than even her elf-bright eyes could endure and unbidden an old cantrip came to her lips, a bit of mummers' magic beneath the likes of her grandmother but which seemed perfectly well suited to her current predicament. The playful rondeau teased the stale subterranean air
Unfrit as lit by hunter's moon
Upon our eyes there rests no gloom
That we may see as well as day
All obstacles lain in our way
And thus be free from lurking doom
Within this old decrepit tomb
Wherein rest many a treasured heirloom
And we remain with certain assay
Though few pass by that life presume
And fewer still that ask to whom
This ancient dark might best portray
The liveliness of Summer's Day
We are who know this pleasing tune
It took a little while for the charm to do its work, the logic of doggerel connecting here and now with there and then until Etain could see as clearly as on a midsummer evening. Not that this subtle display of power went unnoticed by the facies who'd been drawn here to feast on the memory of darker deeds. Memories whose savour had long since soured.
Summer Evening -- Westmoor
Nemean JeVondair Renodin
Among a few of his bannermen sat a young Prince, brooding as his face looked more angry than a thundercloud. Ready to send forth bolts to rain down upon the land below. The cheer that emanated from the upscale Inn did little to veil his temper. Even a gaggle of bards that was performing made the conscious decision not to get close.