CHAPTER I: HOME AND AWAY

A SANTHARIAN NOVEL

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. Viresse spends a day in the New-Santhalan Library before setting out on her research journey, together with her colleagues of the Great Santharian Compendium.

 

er footsteps were nearly silent as she padded down the dark cobbled hall. Her fur lined boots did have heels but they were not the ones making noise as she nimbly carried her lithe figure down the corridor toward the Library. Rather, it was her dark cloak that made the noise that alerted to her presence - it hissed as it slid along the ground behind her. She reached out a pallid hand, and pushed one of the heavy eur'oak doors open.

The Library was an expanse of room - stone walls and cobbled floor, much like the hall, but carved far better. Every few peds was a large arched window, letting the late afternoon Santharian sun ease through the clear panes. Glass was a commodity in Santharia, but easily obtained, considering the hight and rank of this library. Tapestries and fine portraits lined the walls between the massive windows, and corridors of books and tables flanked the main passage through the library. Lamps were set up at every few peds, for though it was light outside, those here that read and studied were known for failing eyesight.

Her dark garmets now stood out as she continued to walk across the sun-bathed cobbles. Ravenblack hair glistened as the blades of light danced across the long strands, beads of shimmering gold seeming to set portions of her hair ablaze. Her pale pointed ears poked through the strands of ebony hair, hinting at her uniquely elven origin. But she was not elven as many of the Santharian kingdom thought of elves - she was of dark origin, making her a feared elf by many.
 

She did indeed squint as she entered each band of light - black lashes fluttering against the sun, and the corners of her painted eyes began to water. She was unaccustomed to the sun, and she forerver would be. But this was the world she had entered, and thusly the world she would live in.

Her eyes caught a female figure in a purple gown hunched over a massive tome. While she couldn't see the face of the woman that read, the octagonal spectacles that perched on the edge of her nose were a definite giveaway.

She spoke to the woman in purple, her voice hollow but melodic. "Dalá..."

The brown-haired woman looked up, her rust brown eyes aglitter as the lamp nearby released bits of its light into them. For a moment she was silent, almost taken aback - as all are at her appearance, for it is habit. But quickly Dalá smiled, a friendly smile that hid nothing.

"Viresse!" she cried, and stood up from the table setting her dainty hands upon the tome with force and kicking up a small plume of dust. She gathered her skirts and rushed around the short end of the table, speaking in a hurried manner. " Wow, you look great! I mean- you look as well as one like you would look... Oh, I mean, You look good because I have not seen you in so long!" Dalá reached for the pale Viresse and threw her arms around her - while Viresse stood stiffly, still not entirely comfortable with certain human rituals.

"What have you been up to, my darkened friend!?" Dalá asked as she unlatched herself from the drow, and set her spectacles on the table. Her rounded face held a smile very well, it was a wonder her portait that hung upon the Library wall did not have one.

Viresse paused for a moment before speaking - Tharian was not her first language - far from it. She composed what she wanted to say in her head before she spoke to Dalá. She smirked for a moment, then parted her black painted lips to speak. " I have just come from Nepris, with some work on a very interesting cleric." She cocked a dark brow and looked to Dala as she reached into her cloak and pulled out a beaten scroll. She held it out for Dalá.

"Does it have anything to do with Nehmar?" She asked as she pulled the scroll open and looked at the text. After a few moments of looking, she cocked her head. " This is not even Styrásh, Vir! "

"It is Ifer'hém Styrásh." She snickered for a moment. "You should know that." She leaned back and seated herself upon the table, and looked at Dalá as she read. "It is about Damari Amisys. Another who received a new lease on life... kind of like your Nehmar." She sat for a moment while Dalá looked over the text scroll.

"Oh, I see. Some of the words are unchanged - but the accent marks are in entirely different spots - some do not have accents at all!" She looked up from the scroll at Viresse. " It looks a LOT easier."

Viresse smiled. " We do not like to beat around the bush. It is a lot more interesting to jump in and find what is IN that bush; milari or mimsy." Dalá handed back the scroll and Viresse tucked it away. She looked at Dalá for a moment. " Are you interested in more?"

Da nodded. " It's not Nehmar, but it's good enough. Inspiration is striking."

"Good. I like to know you're working." She nodded. "I am going to see Arti. I'll give him the scroll, and hopefully it should be translated and compiled by next week." She slipped off the table. " Is that okay?"

"Oh, that would be PERFECT! I'm still working on the Debt of Bones, but it should be finished by next week. If I burn the midnight oil, of course. And we know I will." She smiled widely and clasped Viresse's hand. "I am not here very often, it is good to see you this time! Let me know when you come by again, and I will try my hardest to plan my trip at about the same time. "

"I will try my hardest, but Messengers do not much like the Hovel Frond." She smirked. "I do not mind it, though, so maybe I will drop by when I am in the area..."

"Great! Anyway... we both have work to do, so I will see you again, for sure!" Dalá nodded confidently. "Oh! If you're going to see Arti, give him this..." Dalá reached across the table and grabbed a small green satchel. She handed Viresse three small packages from the satchel. "Thyslan spice cakes, made earlier this morning! Two for the Sage, and one for you. Of course - Arti needs to get a bit of meat on his bones, so I know you understand."

"I do. Thank you very much, Dalá. I will see you around. Work hard." Viresse walked away from the table spice-cakes in arms. She heard Dalá humming to herself as she walked away, then the scuff of the chair across the cobblestone floor.

Viresse continued across the massive library, the sunbeams that streamed through the windows broken by the pale drow that passed through them. As she walked, she thought of the acquaintances that she had met through her years here. She wondered where Wren was - and thought of the Bard Judith as well. And Drogo. He had just come back from an extensive trip abroad. No one wanted to admit they missed the barbarian while he was gone, but everyone had, and let him know of such when he came back to New Santhala.

And Tarq. Probably one of her better friends among the Compendium, Tarquet Galbar had been absent from the Libraries for some time. The friendship had waned since he had left the Compendium - whether it was for the Weavers or his dislike of the community, no one was sure. Viresse and Tarquet had kept in touch since his departure, but not much.

She got to the end door of the library and pushed the door open with her shoulder. One of the spiced cakes fell from her arms, and she quickly scooped it up, noting that the damaged one would be hers to eat. She turned left at the end of the short hall and entered the second door on the right. The door was lighter than the first, so it swung harder than she expected.

The room was a fair amount smaller than the library but still a good six peds long. It had a wall of bookshelves on the right side, filled with battered parchments and well-worn texts of every size and color. The left wall had a varied assortment of taxidermied animals and potted plants upon several shelves. The far end of the room had windows, but were small, unpaned slits as compared to the glassed library windows. The room also had golden slits of sunlight pouring through, but the room more needed the lamps that illuminated the main desk in the center of the room.

The sound of the door caused the figure to look up from the map he was working upon. Artimidor Federkiel gave the same look every human had at Viresse - an instinctual shock. But his face softened as he recognized her. " Viresse," he said, his voice low and soft. He gestured to one of the large, overstuffed chairs that faced his desk, and he looked back to his map, the quill delicately etching a fine black line upon the paper.

As she sank into one of the comfortable chairs, she turned to her right. It was her turn to be taken aback- for Wren was seated comfortably in the chair beside her. Avennía Asaiá was a beautiful elf- with green eyes and pale blond hair. She had the elegance and beauty of an elven queen, for she had been at one time. Viresse smiled at Wren, who daintily smiled back - almost a smirk. Viresse opened her mouth to speak to Wren, but Artimidor spoke first.

"You've been busy, I hear. Nepris?" He stated, and looked up from his map. His brown eyes glittered in excitement, but his salt-and-pepper bearded face held a look of solemn interest. She smirked and nodded once.

"I was. Damari Amisys is quite the enrapturing woman, Sage. I have given Dalá a glimpse of her and she is already throwing caution to the wind." She reached into her cloak and set the rolled parchment upon the desk. She looked to Wren. "A cleric of Seyella and Baveras." Wren's eyes widened at the thought, and eyed the parchment.

" May I, Artimidor? " Wren asked as she reached over toward the parchment.

"You can, Wren - but do not be offended." He said to the glistening blonde-haired elf, and cocked a brow as he continued to work on his map. " Viresse may be elven, but she is a different kind."

Wren let a note of confusion cross her face, but she reached for the parchment and unfurled it anyway. She paused for a moment, then looked to Viresse. She cleared her throat, then began to speak in Styrásh - the elven language of Santharia, on which all elven language is based.

It was not Viresse's first language, for Viresse was from a different continent and a different sub-divison of the elven Race, but Styrásh was one she knew better than Tharian, and was far closer to her own than Tharian. "Styrát'raugií Styrásh. [It is not exactly Styrash.] " She stated, then paused as she scanned the sheet. "Styrát 'ná Styrásh fá Nybelmár...áll fá 'mehán. [It's Nybel-elven... but still more modified.]"

"Ifer'hém." Viresse noted. She leaned over the arm of her chair and Wren accomodated by leaving over her own so they could both look at the parchment. Viresse paused to gather her thoughts, then slowly spoke to Wren. "Styrát iuí dós xeuá no kará bejonán, sa kará styrát' iuí 'xeuá ..." [We don't write often, but when we do...]

"Styrát aváth [It is beautiful],"  Wren said.

Viresse would have blushed if she had been capable. "Vashén 'cýrath [Thank you]."

Wren continued. "Styrát 'Fá'áv'cál'âr 'Styráshcín, áll 'fá mehán, Styrásh aí. E'árn rethán 'xeuán, iú chón bóll fá liánn. É bóll iú rethán xeuán.  [It's like the Fa'av'ca'lar language, but modified, like stated. I cannot entirely make it out, but some words are easier than others. I am sure with some study I can pick it up.]"

A sound from the desk caught the elven women's attention.

"Ai, styrás! " Artimidor exclaimed. His grasp of elven was decent, but not at a fluent level. "Is it that beautiful that one cannot read the words but only analyze the appearance of its letters ?" He smiled, something not so often seen when Artimidor worked. He kept the elven women's attention as he blew on the map's ink to dry it, rolled it up and set it aside. Artimidor set the quill in the inkwell, then reached out his hand for the parchment.

Wren handed it to the Sage, who gently drew it across the desk and looked it over.

"Oh. Okay... I see it now." Artimidor noted, and ran his fingers of the first few lines of text. " It IS quite beautiful, Viresse. But you would be the only one that can translate it. No one knows Nybel-elven, save maybe Koldar. But I do not think he knows Ifer'hém Styrásh." He looked away from the script to Viresse. "You do this just to irk me, don't you?"

Viresse pressed her lips together and feigned thought. "Not entirely. Just when I miss you." She nodded once, and Artimidor snickered. Wren piqued a brow and gestured to the parchment.

"If it is not too time consuming, I would like to try, Arti. I am not doing anything terribly difficult, and this would be a hobby for the time being." Wren looked to Viresse. "Is that okay?"

"Well. I had told Dalá that it would be transcribed by next week. If someone can delay her from finishing her current story, that can buy Wren some time for translation." She smirked and looked to Artimidor, then to Wren. Wren looked at Viresse with a mischevious glint.

"Consider it done," Artimidor said, then handed Wren the parchment. "If you get stuck, I will just call Viresse in, and she can finish." Wren took the parchment, and stood up.

"Wait, Wren." Viresse said, and remembered the spice cakes. She handed Wren a spice cake. "Dalá made them." She then set the two on the desk. "Two for Arti, as Dalá demands."

Artimidor sighed, and picked up one of the wrapped cakes. "They are good, but I have had so many since she got here. You can take the other, Vir - I am sure I will have some for dessert tonight... I have been told I am having taenish..." He smiled and gestured to the other cake on the desk.

"Maybe I can wrench an invitation from her..." Wren said, and turned to leave. " I will see you around, Vir." She smiled and exited quietly.

Viresse took the cake from the desk, and began to unwrap it. "I didn't have one in a while. Thank you, Arti." She unwrapped it and looked at it for a moment - she had indeed received the dropped one. Which was fine and well, but he hoped for better luck when she handed them out.

"I am sorry about the Ifer'hém text, I really hope it is not a problem. I was just so excited, I wanted to write it as quick as possible." Viresse took a bite of the spice cake, and relished it as Artimidor spoke.

"Not a problem. You have got a former Leias on your work, so I would not be afraid in the least. besides, I have something I want you to do as soon as you are able." He eyed Viresse with his dark eyes, still aglitter with interest and almost even a child-like enthusiasm. It amused Viresse to no end - this aged man who still acted like a child. She swallowed her cake, then answered.

"What are you thinking of?" Viresse asked, and took another bite of cake.

"Something to wash down the cake?" Artimidor asked, and rose from his seat. It seemed as if Arti was beating around the bush, and Viresse became wary. He went to one of the shelves, and brought out a pair of snifters, and filled them with a dark red liquid. He set the bottle back and returned to his desk, handing one of the glasses to Viresse. He took a small draw, then looked to Viresse as she sniffed it.

"Corpseberry Wine. A variation of the vinterberry - in great concentration, it can kill. In wine, it just intoxicates." He smiled and took a sip. "Very fine wine, it can be expensive. But when one is just researching, one can get many things at a discount." He raised a brow. " I mean- it is not for personal gain here - there is a reason I am giving you a taste."

Viresse listened to Arti, then took a sip. There was a sour burn as it hit her palette, but quickly it eased into a warm, sweet numbing that followed down her throat as she swallowed. Indeed it was a fine wine - it did not have the fermented taint that many drinks had - probably due to the poison. "It is good, Arti. Thank you. But - why am I tasting this? I have never heard of it."

"Well - you will." Artimidor said. "I would like you to go to the Paelelon - and reasearch them." He took a sip of wine and drifted off, his eyes glazed over as he continued to speak. "The Eophyrhim are dark elves, the only still living in the Santharian kingdom. Due to the fear they invoke whenever they are seen and of their ruthless nature, few have actually wanted to reseach them..." He snapped back to reality, and looked at Vir. "Your drowish background would make it easy for you to relate and research them objectively and without threat."

Viresse eyed Artimidor for a moment. "Are you making me a niche-worker?"

"Not at all. In fact, you are essential. You have skills and knowledge that others would only hope to have, and this assignment will allow you full use of those skills." He smiled kindly and held up his glass, peering into the dark wine. " You know I ask you only because you can do it."

Viresse nodded. " I know."

Artimidor looked away from his wine, and the last shards of sunlight faded behind the King's Hollow. "Then you will?"

"Of course. Just be sure Wren can get the transcription right."

Arti chuckled. "She has rarely done wrong."

Viresse took a sip of wine. "At least, not that we know. "
 


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