Chapter the Thirty Ninth: The Exposure of ArroganceI stuffed the glass in my purse and marched straight back to Jormund, a curious annoyance creeping over me. I even offered to help you...! I was too late, however. An elven guard hollered at me the moment I drew near. "What business do you have here?!" he shouted. "Jormund is under arrest for murder."
The presence of the guard struck me as terribly odd. I hadn't crossed anybody else coming onto or going off of Wrath's platform, which could only mean somebody knew of Wrath's death before I did. There's more to this than it seems... I'd better play dumb until I figure out what's going on. "Murder? Who is he meant to have killed?"
"That doesn't prove he killed him." Although I made the same assumption until I encountered you here.
The guard scoffed at me haughtily. "Who else could have done it? Elves like us don't kill each other. Besides yourself, he was the only other outsider in Qintarra when the murder occurred."
You really expect me to believe that you lot are so perfect? "'Elves like us'? Are there other types of elves?"
The guard's face suddenly turned a light shade of red and he stared at the wooden platform instead of me when he answered. "Uhh... no, there are not. You must have misunderstood my meaning..."
Right. You really expect me to believe that, too. You're a terrible liar. "How was he killed, if you don't mind my asking?"
Please ignore the convenient proof I have right in my pocket. "What about Magick? Quench Life would have done the trick."
The guard actually laughed as I suggested it. The tone of arrogance in his voice was almost more than I could bear. "No. We of Qintarra are acutely attuned to the flows. If any dark necromancy had been used, we would have felt it."
There you go with that 'we are perfect' hogwash again. "This is all very interesting. May I go in and speak with him?"
The guard looked me in the eye, silently judging me before answering. He thought he was so much better than me, it was sickening. "Sure, go on in. But don't try anything, I'll be listening out here."
I nodded at the guard and approached Jormund. "I do not believe you are guilty of killing Wrath." That was abnormally straightforward, even for myself.
Who are you to question somebody that believes in your innocence? "I just don't think you would kill someone in cold blood." It was dishonest, but now wasn't the time to get into specifics. Not with that haughty elf watching.
Jormund let out a sigh, leaning up against a nearby wall. "I appreciate your confidence in me. It is a pity no one else around here shares your view. I need to get more information if I am to hope to free myself from this predicament. Do you know anything that may be of help?" It's about time you realized you aren't exactly surrounded by friends.
I chose my words carefully, not wanting to tip my hand to the guard listening outside. "The guard said he wasn't killed with Magick or a weapon."
Jormund seemed to take my meaning and he whispered in closely, "Is there any evidence that you know of?"
I opened the top of my purse just wide enough so that he could see the empty glass lying there, "Just this. It has a strange odor to it."
"I would be happy to help you out, for a fee of course." It was like some kind of habit. I just couldn't stop asking for money. In all fairness, however, I had quite a few more important things to be doing than helping to bail out some outcast dwarf. At least for a fee I could loosely justify the actions as aiding in my search for the Black Mountain Clan.
He scratched his beard for several moments before finally stating, "I will give you my prized Staff of Xoranth for your help, madam."
I shrugged helplessly, casting him a sideways glance, "I have no use for things of Magick."
He refused to budge. "The Staff of Xoranth could fetch quite a substantial price on the open market for you."
Fair enough. I suppose it's questionable of me to demand payment in the first place. "I accept your offer, sir. Good day."
I turned and gave the guard a curt nod before scurrying off across the platforms to find the apothecary Jormund mentioned. No matter how many platforms I traversed or how often I gazed out upon the forest I never ceased to be amazed at the splendor of it all, nor did I ever grow more comfortable despite that.
The apothecary's shop was poorly labeled, but I should've expected as much for Qintarra. It was like the small town from hell. Everybody knew everybody else and outsiders were tolerated, but hardly welcome. There was a haughty elven woman looking annoyed at me as I entered, so I got right to the point, "I'm looking for Sharpe."
Called out suddenly, indeed. ...and you're his 'wife'? I didn't think elves had the same customs as humans. "I needed to ask him about a poison." I showed her the empty glass with the odor in it.
She stared at me straight in the eyes for several moments before answering, barely taking her eyes off of me long enough to glance at the glass. "Yes, I recognize it. Very distinctive odor."
"Do you sell that type of poison here?" I carefully scrutinized her countenance as she formulated a response, trying to determine if she was about to lie to me. My question had been rather extremely direct. Question three: did Sharpe poison Wrath?
She sighed nervously, trying not to show her apprehension. "Yes, we do. I don't know if we have any at the moment, though." Her nerves were showing through quite clearly. If they normally had it, but were unfortunately fresh out, she'd just all but admitted it had been recently used.
"The poison in that glass killed Wrath. Did you know him?" Of course you did. You both live in Qintarra. Everybody knows everybody here.
Her surprise actually seemed somewhat genuine. I was beginning to wonder if she was really in on the whole affair after all, or if she was only now beginning to realize the point of my questioning. "What can you tell me about him?"
She frowned and seemed sad, almost to the point of tears. "We had... a history. The three of us were friends, long ago, but he became angry when Sharpe and I began living together. Who killed him, that dwarven student of his?" The sudden shift in topic was far too sudden to ignore.
Damned elves! Why do you all immediately assume it was the dwarf? "Why did he become angry when you began living together?"
She turned away, as if the wall were easier to talk to than I was. My intent stare probably made it even more uncomfortable than it already was. "He said it was offensive and damaging to the village for us to carry on 'like humans,' as he put it." I knew it. Elves don't marry.
"He felt you were violating elven customs?" I knew little of elven customs, other than what I'd read about, and even that was only a faint inkling in the far back of my mind. I was curious to learn what I could firsthand.
It's time for the big question. The one you've been avoiding. "Did Sharpe hate Wrath enough to kill him?"
She crossed her arms and stared at me angrily, her hatred evident. "It was the other way around, actually. I think Wrath became a bit unbalanced. Of course, we all know that elves do not have it in them to wantonly murder each other over things like jealousy."
Stuff it. I don't buy that whole 'we're perfect' nonsense. It comes out of your mouths so often it's like you're trying to make up for the sad truth by shouting the opposite as often and as loudly as you can. "Could Sharpe have poisoned Wrath to protect you?"
She grew more and more nervous, hastily tossing out further excuses. She was so focused on getting rid of me that she hardly realized she was just repeating herself. "If he had felt I was in danger, I believe he would do anything to protect me, even sacrifice himself. But as I said, elves would never even think of killing one another. We take a wider view of things, as you know. This life is only one that elves exist in. When we die, we go to another level. So what purpose would murder serve?"
Don't tell me you really believe the ridiculous nonsense that's spilling out of your mouth. If you're all so damned perfect, the disappearance of the Black Mountain Clan must just be a figment of my imagination, is that it? "But you yourself said that Wrath was unbalanced."
She finally realized that I had her cornered and no amount of 'elves are perfect' rhetoric would clear the name of her 'husband'. "Is your distress because you know Sharpe is guilty?"
She simply stared at me over her crossed arms and tapped her foot wordlessly, waiting for me to leave. Fine. Be that way. I know Sharpe is guilty and I'm going to prove it. I wanted to investigate her shop, but doing so would be quite difficult with her standing there. The local elves were a bit too eager to run outsiders through, so I elected instead to kill some time. The woman would have to sleep sometime, and if her 'husband' were truly out of town that would leave the shop unguarded.
Casually strolling about the treetops, though uncomfortable, was enjoyable in some regards. I was still irked at the pomposity of the elves, but it wouldn't do to label them all based on the experiences I'd had thus far. There were some good elves, too, even if the rest really made one work to realize it. I strolled up to an elf whittling away at a bow, just passing the time away with chatter. "Hello, good elf. Might I ask who you are?"
He smiled up at me, and I was immediately thankful that he wasn't inherently annoyed at my mere presence. Finally, somebody reasonable. "As with most elves, I have a very long name. But in your tongue, I am called Ellumyn..."
I smiled back, "A pleasure, Ellumyn." Glancing at the bow he'd been whittling I stupidly asked, "Might I ask what you do here in Qintarra?"
It actually wasn't the answer I quite expected to hear, but it was interesting nonetheless. I was beginning to like this elf. "I can see where you get wood, but where do you get metal?" I was never one to let my curiosity go unsatisfied.
He didn't seem to be bothered at all by my questioning, "Well... I've many suppliers. We trade often in Stillwater, when the need arises. But, just lately, I've run out of mithril. If you know anything about the metal, you know that it's rare. I'm having trouble finding a new source, and many of my objects are incomplete without it..."
"Interesting... I just happen to have some mithril right here..." I came from the Wheel Clan, of course I pilfered some mithril. I didn't tell Loghaire, though. I don't think he'd have approved.
Ellumyn perked up at my mention of it, "Really? The only place I know to obtain mithril is in the caves of the Wheel Clan. Well done! I'm offering a magickal bow in trade, if you're willing to part with it..."
Wheel Clan indeed. I've got plenty more where this came from, and I could always sell a bow. "Surely... here you go." I handed him the bulky sheet of metal I'd been lugging around.
Trust isn't quite the word I'd use, but then again... I suppose Loghaire does trust me, misplaced though that trust may be. "Thank you, Ellumyn. It's been a pleasure. Good day to you." I wandered off to the next nearest platform, exploring around as the day pressed on.
I was on the complete opposite side of Qintarra as Jormund now, the town itself not being particularly large. I couldn't say that any one area of the town was really heavily populated either. I knew elves were few in number and reclusive, but there were scarcely even a few dozen of them. There had to be more that I just wasn't seeing, and certainly there were the elves that travelled or lived elsewhere, but it still struck me as odd just how few elves seemed to be in their own city.
There was one elven woman who seemed rather interesting to me on that last platform. She had a peculiar glow about her that I couldn't quite place, but it did seem familiar to me. "Hello, madam. Might I ask who you are?"
Sammy, Sammy, son of... Merle didn't keep silent about my thievery for long. She was a greedy old hag, and she fully intended to extort me for whatever she could. If she'd decided to open her mouth it would've been all over, and we both knew it. I had to do whatever she asked of me... I had no choice. I shook off the unpleasant memory and returned to my conversation. "Yes, of course. I am Samantha Colburn." I was certain the memory would return in all its 'splendor' the next time I had to introduce myself.
Whysper smiled at me, completely oblivious to what was going on in my head. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Samantha. What brings you to Qintarra?"
I shrugged, answering noncommittally, "Oh, just passing through... tasting the local flavor and what not..." Yes, no reason at all that I'm days away from the nearest human settlement in the middle of a race of people that despise me.
"I see." She raised her eyebrow at me curiously, smirking. I knew my lie didn't pass her scrutiny, but she didn't seem to particularly care to expose me either. "Qintarra is a strange place to drop in for a friendly visit. Well, be that as it may... what can I help you with?"
"Actually, I was curious about what exactly you do here in Qintarra." It wasn't even a lie. That had been my entire reason for approaching her in the first place, though now it occurred to me that was a rather odd thing for me to do. I could never just keep to my own damned business, so I always went everywhere bothering other people about theirs. Even now I was killing time to better facilitate solving a murder mystery which didn't concern me in the slightest.
I knew it... that glow... I must have the same look, surrounded by magick like this. By the gods, a dwarven wizard and an elven scientist... and in Qintarra, both. "A scientist? What is it that you're studying, Whysper?"
She seemed happy to be discussing the topic with somebody that showed genuine interest. "Well, I'm studying the local wildlife... there are many strange and magickal creatures in the Glimmering Forest, and no one has really taken the time to catalogue them all, study their unique characteristics... so I am."
"Fascinating," I marveled, "So what creatures are you studying right now?" Although I did have an academic interest in her studies, there was a certain prudence in knowing about the local fauna when one was traveling through unfamiliar climes.
She brought out a tiny little orb that glowed spectacularly even in the middle of the day. "Right now I'm cataloguing different types of Will-o-the-Wisps according to their particular essence. I'm almost finished, but I can't seem to gather a sample from the rare Vol'ar Wisp."
Her information was already far more detailed than I was accustomed to for creatures in this particular area. She was right, nobody had really bothered to study them before. I was interested in doing my part. "Perhaps I could assist you in gathering some essence...?"
Not really... but I am interested in science. "I'll do so and return."
She clapped her hands excitedly, "That's wonderful! If you travel within the Glimmering Forest long enough you should run across a Vol'ars Wisp. Good luck to you, my friend!"
Long enough, eh? Surely by the time I'm through I'll be as acquainted with it as the average elf. After all I've been through I somehow doubt I'll find the answers I'm seeking quite so easily. "Good day to you, Whysper."
At last the day was almost finished. I wandered around the various platforms of the tree city once more, waiting for the dim light of dusk to fade into twilight before at last making my move. In the darkness of night I crept back towards the now-empty apothecary's shop. I was somewhat surprised that it didn't even have a door for me to bother unlocking, but then again I was in Qintarra. There was a locked container towards the rear of the shop, however it was of practically no consequence to one such as myself.
Just like I thought... the poison is here, clearly used. I swiped the incriminating vial from the container and hastily departed the shop. I strolled back over to Jormund's platform, but he was fast asleep and the guard watching over him didn't seem to be in a particularly friendly mood. I was tired anyhow and it seemed like a good time to catch up on some rest, so I found an open bench and lied down for a spell. Virgil and Vollinger didn't seem to mind overly much, and Terry quite liked the open air.
Sleep was fitful and uncomfortable for me, especially considering how surrounded I was by magick. I've got to get out of this bloody city... and the forest as well, though I've a feeling I won't be rid of this area quite so easily. Groggily I wandered back to Jormund's hut to find him awake and the guard from the previous day having returned to his post. "I believe I know who killed Wrath..." I taunted the guard.
He crossed his arms and stared down at me, "Oh? And who would that be?"
I spoke my words clearly, wielding them as though they were a weapon against elven arrogance and prejudice. "Sharpe. Wrath and Sharpe were in love with the same woman."
I wouldn't dare make an accusation like that without the proof I knew you'd ask for, you haughty bastard. "Like this?" I held out the vial of poison and he sniffed at it carefully.
His eyes widened suddenly with incredible shock and he took a step back, "This is not possible! Elves don't kill each other... it just doesn't happen!" He shook his head sadly, muttering, "I should have known... with them living in the same house, acting as if they were 'married'. Our village is our family! Romantic lovers may be something some of us play at when we're young, but no self-respecting adult shuts himself apart from the community that way! It disrupts the communal flow!"
"Obviously Sharpe was bent on ruining the social order!" I was sure he wouldn't detect my sarcasm or I'd have never bothered to say it. So much for that 'we are perfect' nonsense, eh?
He seemed quite angry and continued muttering, "I knew something like this would happen eventually. Those freaks, trying to ruin Qintarra with their 'marriage'! It all makes sense now."
I cleared my throat quite purposefully. "I'm assuming you'll be releasing Jormund, now?"
"You have fun with that. I'll be going now." I stepped past the guard and confronted Jormund.
Jormund looked up at me, almost embarrassed. "Thank you for clearing my name."
"You're welcome, Jormund."
I took the staff from him and handed it off to Virgil for safekeeping. I certainly didn't want to hold onto it, and Virgil used to have a thing for staves. "Aren't you going to leave, now that Wrath is dead?"
Jormund nodded, "I am sure that I will take my leave of this place soon enough. First I must decide where I am off to, eh?"
I thought about asking him to accompany me, but the idea of having anybody more magickally inclined than Virgil along just didn't agree with me. "Perhaps we will meet again, then. Good day, and good luck wherever you may travel."
"Indeed. Thank you again, madam." I turned and walked away. At last I was done poking my nose around where it didn't belong. It was horribly rude of me, and counterproductive, but I just couldn't help myself. I always wanted to explore whenever I reached somewhere new.
I wandered back across several platforms, seeking out the one that I had carefully avoided on the previous day. There was a rather stern looking woman standing guard in front of a massive doorway and no less than three other elves stood guard around her. Even from a distance there could be no mistaking her identity. I approached and looked her straight in the eyes, "I'm sorry, I don't believe we've met..."
Well this is going to be a barrel of laughs. "Uh... okay. I'll get right to the point. You're Raven, are you not?" She nodded almost imperceptibly. "I'm here to speak with the Silver Lady."
Her eyes narrowed at me and she took on a gratingly condescending tone. "Oh... you mean my mother. That's quite a request, and one not so easily granted..."
It was all I could do to avoid rolling my eyes. "Believe me, Raven... she's going to want to speak with me..." Technically, I was an official emissary for Loghaire Thunder Stone.
I'm well aware that not all elves are required to be arrogant, annoying, and incredibly self-important... so why is it that so many of you choose to be like that? I sighed, trying to think of the shortest possible way to get an audience without making any more enemies than I already had. "I see. How can I convince you of the urgency of my quest...?"
She seemed to sense the resentment in my voice and she relented slightly. "You'll have your chance," her voice had grown softer, though compared to a normal person she still spoke rather firmly. "Forgive me if I seem a little abrupt, but I've many things on my mind today, and there is much to be done. Once I've taken care of some of the more pressing matters, I'll talk with you about your needs..."
Standing there like that, you don't particularly look like you're taking care of anything. "I understand. Perhaps I could be of service?" I knew all too well that if I wanted anything to get done I had to do it myself, no matter who I was dealing with.
She gazed out over the forest thoughtfully, "Hmmm. It's possible... you ARE human, and one of our problems does concern humans. No offense, but your race is a mystery to me..."
Right. All humans are the same, so certainly this human MUST be able to help you with your human problem. Ugh. "Probably no more of a mystery than your bad manners are to me..." Bloody hell, did I actually say that one out loud? Well, it's true.
Indeed, I actually did say that out loud. Oops. "Understood. Are you sure I can't help?"
She stared at me, not bothering to conceal the hatred she had for me and all others of my kind. To her I would never be Samantha, I would always just be another human girl. "There is a group of humans camped a few days journey from here. We know not what they want, but where humans go, trouble usually follows. The place they are camped is called Falcon's Ache, and it is considered a holy place for the elves of Qintarra. We would like you to find out why the humans are there, and remove them..."
That's where the altar of Ter'el is located... "I'll do it." Perhaps I hadn't hesitated long enough.
"I just need to know where it is..." Stuff your arrogance, woman. I'll not accept any advice from you when you take that tone with me. If your holy ground gets soiled because you neglected to mention something that's on your conscience not mine.
She marked my map with a location only about three days journey away. I nodded, "Thanks, I'll be back when it's done." I could hear her chuckling lightly as I left. Hmm... she let me leave too easily. If there was something important to the elves, she'd have made damn sure I knew about it. No, she's hiding something... something far more important to me than to her. Damnation, how do I keep getting myself into these messes?
Bonus ContentRequested by Spike McMayhem
...and now, for the conclusion of the Virgoo Saga.
That's it, it's over From then on stupid characters always call him Virgil. I've uploaded all of the sound files and a select few 'bonus' sounds that I enjoyed (you'll have to download it to see which, but I promise you won't be disappointed).
It's under 4 megs. Seriously, the voice acting is awesome and I really encourage everybody to listen.