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Lich's Labour Lost, Part 1

Jan 26th, 2014
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  1. Silverymoon. If Neverwinter is a Jewel in the Crown of the North, then none can deny that Silverymoon is the whole Crown. No other city in Faerun could compare. For centuries it had stood as the conflux of over a dozen trading routes, a place where almost all races were welcome to trade, to discourse, and to live and work side by side. Even in Senka's youth it had been a magnificient place, and it was the obvious choice of destination for even one such as her, seeking assistance with her...unusual problem.
  2.  
  3. She regarded the city's walls from afar with cold, illusioned eyes. She had spent several days preparing for this trip, regrettably enduring ever more intense dreams as she did so. The dreams confirmed her in her choice. Whatever this...problem was, it wasn't going to go away of its own accord. She needed to find unusual means to deal with it, and no city within this Plane was more likely to have those means than Silverymoon. Sigil was completely out of the question, ever since that unfortunate incident with Three Dustmen and way too much narcotic haze.
  4.  
  5. It had been centuries since she had visited Silverymoon though. It was hard to know how best to prepare. Orjalun was gone by now, surely? He had been a close friend in her fleshen life, though she had distanced herself greatly from him in the years leading up to her final transformation. She couldn't imagine him ever approving.
  6.  
  7. "Excuse me, traveller, can you tell me about this city?" She asked, cloaked in the strongest illusion spells she knew. To the farmer riding in his ox cart before her, she would appear to be a robed and cloaked woman with pale, faintly luminiscent skin and piercing blue eyes, strands of rich black hair falling around her face. The curve of a sizable bosom(Might aswell go whole hog when casting illusions, she justified to herself) straining beneath her robes.
  8.  
  9. The Farmer pulled up, startled at the sudden appearance of a woman in the road before him.
  10. "Why, tis Silverymoon! Capital of the Silver Marches. Good place to sell turnips. And buy them, if you're of a mind, miss." He winked, unveiling his cargo behind him. "Special discount for one as lovely as you."
  11. She simply arched an illusory eyebrow at him. "I see. Perhaps could you be good enough to let me ride the rest of the way in your cart? I can pay with uh...coin." She hoped the farmer would not be unduly weirded out by millenia-old burial mound coins. Precious metals were still valuable, after all, and Adventurers traded in such things all the time, surely?
  12.  
  13. "No coin necessary, marm." He chuckled. She awkwardly clambered in back, finding physical actions somewhat difficult. Despite seeming and almost -feeling- like she had muscles, ligaments and arms, she had to remind herself that she was, well, still a frail skeleton. And her usual magical means of movement would have to be very carefully concealed, she knew. Even one slip could prove fatal.
  14.  
  15. "Perhaps you could tell me more about the city on the way, good farmer." She said, distracting him from asking her any questions.
  16.  
  17. "Well, I've heard a few things bout tit, mind. Good Inns. Fancy ruler, Alustriel or somethin'..."
  18.  
  19. The cart trundled on, and Senka realised she was going to have to endure the most inane details on her journey. Still, hopefully this would be the most inconspicuous way of gaining entry...
  20.  
  21. ==============================
  22.  
  23. Siegfried Mund watched idly as the dwarf gyrated lithely, preforming a strip-tease out of their black lace dress, revealing a profoundly muscled and disappointly flat chest. Still he forced a friendly smile, and pretended to write some notes on the sheet in front of him.
  24. "Excellent work Grugni. Very uh, graceful."
  25. "You think so Professor Mund? I've been trying so hard to be more feminine, like." A growly voice returned. Mund nodded politely. It was difficult, he supposed, for those poor souls born in the wrong gender- wrong species possibly, even- to go through daily life with such yearnings, desires to express or experience identities and physical experiences that simply weren't possible. Especially if they didn't really know what those experiences were meant to entail. Mund tried to provide a safe space for such folk, aswell as deal with all manner of...disorders of the mind, he supposed.
  26. The Trans-gender dwarf completed her routine, flushed, scratching idly at their thick beard. "Been thinking about shaving again, Professor. I know you said some women have beards, but I just can't feal comfortable with it on. Its most distressing. What would me mates say?"
  27.  
  28. Mund nodded politely. A simple Polymorph Self or Genderswap spell could probably fix most problems he encountered, but such magics were rare and expensive, and often hoarded by the Truesilver Library and its Magi for their own inscrutable, and no doubt lewd, purposes. So he provided a cheaper, more therapeutic solution. Where possible.
  29.  
  30. "Have you considered perhaps wearing a fake beard when around your friends? That way you could have the smooth chin you desire and avoid social ostracism." He suggested politely, focusing intently on the paper in front of him. Of course, sometimes his...clients expected more intimate aid from him.
  31.  
  32. Grugni's brow creased with thought. "Well, s'possible I s'pose. But we Dwarves know a real thing from a fake. S' why our merchandise is so good." Grugni twirled, admiring his dress and its ruffles. "Fine stitching on this one, Doc. How do you find such lovely dresses?" They cooed, in their best attempt at a feminine voice. Sadly, Dwarves were not particularly blessed in this regard. Apparently even the dwarven biological females were just as masculine as the men.
  33.  
  34. "I have discreet arrangements with seamstresses." He coughed, meaning something quite different. "I hope it'll be satisfactory for your own personal use?"
  35.  
  36. "Of course! But...I was wondering, well..." Grugni batted her eye-lashes, and leaned forward. "How could I repay you for your...kindness..." She breathed heavily, her hot breath exhaling into Mund's face, Her beard bristles almost touching him.
  37.  
  38. "Aaaah I'm sorry but it seems we've run out of time. I lookforwardtoseeing you next week, Miss Beynornsson."
  39. "Please, call me Grugnita."
  40. Mund winced internally. "Miss Grug...nita." It was not that he had a problem with his clients tastes, he supposed. Simply their choice in how they expressed such tastes to him. He was charting very strange and new territory, he knew. Most people liken to Grugni would live lifes of misery, or be condemned as mad, he supposed. A lucky few might find the necessary magics to make their preferred lifestyles a reality. Even so, he was finding that there was great variety amongst his clients. Grugni was certainly unique in their...somewhat tenuous grasp on what feminity actually was, or consisted of. They seemed to think it involved lots of pretty dresses, sultry pouts, and uncomfortable close proximity to him. Even in private Grugni sometimes forgot, and didnt seem to mind which pronouns one used in addressing them. Still, if it made them happy, and made him rich, he would happily facilitate them.
  41.  
  42. "Ah, whose my next client, please?" He called out to his secretary, as the stout dwarf sidled out, trying to sweigh hips that just weren't made for sweighing.
  43.  
  44. "Olofire Gladomain, Knight in Silver here to see you sir." Came the nasal reply. Gladys was the perfect Gnomish secretary, with a crafted beehive hair-do, an obsession with keeping her nails filed and his files nailed. Figuratively speaking.
  45.  
  46. "Ah, a new client. Please, be seated Mr. Gladomain..."
  47.  
  48. The towering elf was clad in shining half-plate armour, his boots clanking as he walked. His face was curved in a cruel sneer, and his eyes blazed as he strode across the room, grapping Mund by his lapels and dragging him out of his comfy chair.
  49. "I'm not here to be talked at and indulged like one of your freaks, Mund! I'm here on rather different business. The Academy is getting concerned complaints about you. Improper behaviour. Lewd carryings-on. Stuff that makes even the Preistesses of Sune gossip uncomfortably. We can't have worms like you in our fine city, Mund. So I've been sent to give you a friendly warning. Silverymoon is a tolerant city, too tolerant some would reckon, but even our fine community has its...limits." The elf spat his words into the therapist's face.
  50. "I assure you, Sir Gladomain, nothing indecent is being done here-"
  51. "I just saw a Dwarf walk out dressed like an expensive whore from the House of Palms! I'm sure you do far more than just...talk to these people who come to you. The Seamstresses’ Guild has been patient with you, "Professor", and so has the Council. If we get any concrete proof of impropriety on your part..." He shook the cringing human menacingly.
  52. "Let's just say that in my centuries of service, I know how to Lawfully and goodly kick your scrawny ass in as painful a manner as possible. Don't. Cross. Me."
  53. The Elven Paladin flung him back in his seat, and wiped his gauntlets with a fine handkerchief, disgusted. "Don't make me come back here." He strode out, his greaves clanking as he walked.
  54. Mund idly wondered how the Paladin knew what the House of Palms was. He adjusted his spectacles, and brushed himself down. Well. He thought. He better find some more respectable clients. That, or people who weren't likely to cause a fuss to the city.
  55.  
  56. "Clear my schedule for the afternoon, Gladys. I need a drink. badly."
  57.  
  58. =======================================
  59. Senka found the sights and sounds of the city strange. Had it really been so long since she had been here? Had it been so long since she had walked amongst the living? She found the feedback her magical senses were giving her almost overwhelming. She was tempted to turn them off, but feared that would leave her exposed to attack. Too many immortal creatures fell into coma by default, she knew, distancing themselves too much from the world, turning too far inwards. Yet she had always haughtily felt herself above such a weakness.
  60. The smells alone were overpowering. So many different scents, clamouring in her mind, running the gamut from trader’s spices to the smoke of chimney fires to the shit in the gutters to the sweat of the day labourers... Her mind tried to process it all at once, and was reeling.
  61.  
  62. “Pretty amazin’ isn’t it miss?” The farmer said. She nodded, struck dumb by the city and its life swirling around her. “ah, thank you good farmer.” She handed him a handful of coins, too distracted to notice she had paid him a year’s wages in ancient Mulhorandi coins.
  63. “Ah thank you, miss!” He called out after her, but she quickly disappeared into the throng around them. Getting past the bored city guards had been almost childishly easy. But then again, the Spellguard probably never expected a Lich to so brazenly walk through the main gates. Or ride through it stinking faintly of turnips, either, she amended. She stumbled through the crowds, her head whirling. She knew this was all illusion. She couldn’t get dizzy. Yet despite her efforts she found herself being buffeted through the crowds, the noises, sights and sounds rippling through her, throwing her constantly off balance.
  64.  
  65. “Hey, watch were you’re going, stranger.” She bumped into something hard, and was almost sent flying. An impression of metal. She looked up from the ground, her eyes still swarming as they tried to focus. A beautifully chiselled face, with murky blue eyes, wide and inviting like the sea. A cruel smile, and pointed ears. An elf in shining armour, dazzling her.
  66. She felt a strange stirring in her soul she’d never felt before. Elven charisma? Surely not, she was immune to such petty mind tricks.
  67.  
  68. She accepted the out-stretched, gauntleted hand. “Ah, Im sorry, Im new to the city-“ She mumbled, doing her best impresson of an overwhelmed country maid. A little too good an impression, she thought.
  69.  
  70. “It is nothing for a maid as fair as you.” The Elf said haughtily. “Please, allow me to help you. I am a Knight in Silver, it would be my duty- no! My honour to assist a woman such as yourself.” He looked into her own eyes, apparently seeing no flaw in her soft, pale face. She felt confused by the intensity of his gaze. Did he suspect anything? Impossible, her illusion spells were epic-level.
  71. “Uh, charmed. My name is...Sally. Sally Ryde.” She lied. Although it was unlikely her true name would be recognised in this time, with Elves it was always best to be careful. Though this elf seemed young for his race, and she was probably old enough to be his mother.
  72. “Sally! What a charming human name, full of grace and homely appeal.” He said, oozing charm, though his words masked a subtle disdain, or perhaps a gentle pity. “Please, allow me to help you. Do you have somewhere to stay in the city, relatives perhaps?” He asked.
  73.  
  74. She shook her head. “I don’t know anyone in the city. I was...well, I was planning on staying in a Tavern or something.” She bluffed. Truth was, she had planned to sneak out of the city at night-time once her errands were done. Keeping up an illusion of this complexity even while asleep would be difficult even for her.
  75. He gasped in mock horror. “Surely not! Such Taverns are breeding grounds for all manner of ill vice and rowdy danger. Please, allow me to direct you to an Inn of good repute, where you may rest safely.”
  76. Before long she was being guided gently through the crowded streets of Silverymoon, across broad avenues and into a quieter, calmer part of the city. The architecture changed from haphazard thatch and timber to straight, elegant columns of stone and tiled roofs, with shimmering glass windows and the gentle hubbub of traffic. She found the almost rustic air of these quieter, broader streets oddly reminiscent of her old home, long ago.
  77. “Here we are! Sorlar’s Smiling Satyr! A fine and trust-worthy establishment, ideal for a young maid such as yourself to rest in safely. Please, don’t worry about payment, I have an arrangement with the proprietor.” The elf paladin smirked.
  78.  
  79. She blushed, her pale cheeks turning a delicate hue of rose. “Please sir, you are far too kind to a simple countrymaid. May I ask your name?” She asked shyly. Inwardly she cursed how good she was at pretending to be flustered.
  80. Dominate him and flay his flesh from his bones! The thought crossed her mind. You are no simpering maid, but an Avatar of Arcane Might! Assert yourself!
  81. She quietly ignored this impulse.
  82.  
  83. “I am called Sir Olofire Gladomain, of the Knights in Silver. It has been a deep and abiding pleasure to meet a rose so lovely as you, Miss Ryde. But alas I must return to my civic duties. If you want for anything whilst staying here in this tavern, simply speak to the proprietor. I hope I shall see you again soon.” He took her soft hand in his, and gently brushed his lips across her milky skin. It was almost deathly cold, he noted, but he made a mental note to warm her up some time later. He smirked inwardly at his less-than-chaste thoughts.
  84. To Senka, she simply blushed, finding his gentlemanly gesture amusing. An illusion easily maintained, but she wondered how more...amorous advances would affect her. Again that strange stirring, deep in her soul. Was she...aroused? Impossible.
  85.  
  86. As the Knight bowed and left her, she quickly made her way into the Inn. A quiet, respectable place, mostly full of women and their dignified male callers and escorts. A perfect place to preserve chastity, and avoid unwanted, prying eyes. She suspected that this Sir Gladomain was less chaste than he seemed. Still, as good a place to rest at night as any, she supposed. She would need to conserve her energy if she was going to remain in the city for a while, and dedicate all her energy to the complex web of illusions surrounding her. It was not enough simply to bend light to appear fleshen and human, but she had to constantly refine not only the input she was receiving from the world to imitate sensory input, but to ensure her output- sound, body warmth, smell, touch- matched that as expected by those she interacted with. Illusions were not even her original focus as a Wizard, yet in the centuries since leaving flesh behind she had inadvertently become ever more skilled at them, preferring to hide her mound from inquisitive adventurers and vigilant crusaders alike. Her burial mound, that is. Again, that oddly amorous stirring.
  87.  
  88. Her problem was evidently getting worse.
  89. “Excuse me, ah, Mr.Sorlar?” She asked.
  90. “Not he, he died long ago. Please, call me Quinten.” The friendly innkeeper greeted her. He was a somewhat portly satyr, and wore the deep-blue robes of a Sorceror. Senka could sense he was quite accomplished, and that he obviously had the ability to keep things calm and tranquil around here. Not that she couldn’t crush him in an instant if she wanted.
  91.  
  92. “Perchance you know where I could find some Scholars or Academics of ah, certain provenance?” She tried to frame her request in terms anyone could understand.
  93.  
  94. “Depends, ma’am. What sort of Scholarly work you after?”
  95. “Well, its uh, a problem of a difficult and personal nature...” She blushed. The Sorceror’s eyes widened.
  96. “Ah, if you be wantin’ uh, women doctors, then I highly recommend the Temples of Mielikki or Selune-“
  97. “No no no!” She hastily said. “Ah, nothing like that. Uh, problems of the uh, mind. Problems of an uh, nonmaterial nature.” She tried to explain in as vague a sense as possible.
  98.  
  99. He frowned. “You don’t appear cursed or bespelled, and you don’t look mad to me.” He said bluntly. “My apologise ma’am, we get all sorts here. Well, uh, I guess the best place to ask would be the Vault of the Sages. They keep all manner of esoteric knowledge there. Oh! Maybe you mean...well, surely a lady such as yourself couldn’t...” The Satyr sorcerer blushed. “There is one of them, uh, “therapods” or something, who works over the Moon bridge near the Dancing Goat. Terrible place of ill repute though, and there’s all sorts of unsavoury rumours about him and his clientele.” The proprietor whispered.
  100.  
  101. “Do you perchance mean a therapist?”
  102. “Aye! Thats the thing. But you wouldn’t be wanting someone like that, surely.”
  103.  
  104. “Dancing Goat you say? Across the...Moonbridge?” She gulped. Crossing that place would put her very uncomfortably within the strongest part of the wards being given out by that damn Mythal. She could probably maintain her illusions, but any capacity for self-defence would be severely limited. She’d have no means of escape, either.
  105. Nonetheless, this sounded close to what she was looking for. Psychiatry was a lost art, once common in Mulhorand and a few other places, but now vanishingly rare. Few people had the patience for “talking cures”, she knew, and preferred the instant, have-it-now effects of divine or arcane magic. That is, until you had a problem no amount of magic could easily solve.
  106.  
  107. “The Dancing Goat? What could possibly go wrong?” She mused to herself, once she had finished her arrangements. She had no real possessions nor any need for food or rest, at least not yet, so it was simple enough, once a room had been booked, to simply head out back into the streets.
  108.  
  109. Afternoon was wearing on, and it would soon be early evening. Perhaps she could find this man before sunset. She strode confidently across the Moonbridge, ignoring the feeling of a shroud falling over her. It was just her imagination, she told herself. And so long as she was not detected, she had nothing to fear.
  110.  
  111. She quickened her pace anyway. Just an evening chill, she thought.
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