Alyae Baenghym's day goes from bad to worse from several assassination attempts, a house war, and then a kidnapping. But none of this can compare to her being summoned to house Torvirr.
The decapitated head dropped on to the desk of Alyae Baenghym. Its rotting and decaying skin left no doubt that it had been dead for quite some time. Its hair was ash grey and falling out, its teeth were a horrid yellow, and upon impact the left eye popped out and rolled to the floor. Alyae had no idea what liquid the head was sitting in prior to landing on her desk, but it splattered all over her as soon as it landed, spraying the ichor on her face and clothing.
She wasn’t squeamish about dead body parts, she had seen them before, and this wasn’t even the first head to have landed on her desk. It was her third. The other two had been dead more recently and had delivered a spray of blood and cranial liquids with their unceremonious landings and she had just cleaned herself off when this one came. She wished that the goblin that was delivering the parts wasn’t so ecstatic about his job.
Alyae was a female dark elf. She was average built for a female and like most dark elves she had red eyes and long white hair, hers going down to her waist. Except, unlike most dark elves, her hair was a mess with blood, ichor, decayed flesh and other indignities that she didn’t want to think about and wasn’t sure she could ever wash out no matter how hard she tried. Unlike the rest of the students in class today, she was wearing a deep red blouse that only gave a slight and modest hint of cleavage, her black rothe hide pants and her black rothe hide boots.
The rest of the students wore their wizard’s garb. They were all novice wizards and as such they were given the task of sorting out the dead body parts. Malzebowan had prided itself with having a large number of necromancers and because of this there was a high demand of body parts. But Alyae doubted that was why they were sorting out the parts, she was sure that there was some other reason. They were supposed to glance over each body part that was given to them and determine if it could be used or if it was to be discarded.
Although the task itself seemed pretty straight forward, she had noted that periodically an old bone would show up and it would be rushed upstairs to be examined by a higher official than she could ever dream of becoming. She was sure they were looking for something and that they were having the youngest students sort through the piles to weed out the obviously non-essential items. But she had no idea what they might be looking for and really didn’t care. Necromancy wasn’t the field she was interested in, the course had been required and so she was here.
Most were male but there were two other female in the group and they were always huddled together near the back of the room. They could be heard whispering to each other, disturbing every class they were in, including this one. The male instructor could only give them a glance of annoyance since they were female and by rights they were superior. He was helpless in preventing their chatter and their disruptions. The two female didn’t even bother using the silent hand language to communicate to each other which only let everyone know that their disruptions were deliberate.
Alyae looked at the head with disinterest. The features were so poor that she couldn’t tell if it was male or female. It was obviously meant for the discard pile. With disgust she pushed the head off the left side of her desk where it left a slimy trail of its unknown fluid and fell with a thud into an awaiting crate already half full with other body parts. She wished the collections goblin would hurry up and dump her crate, the sight and smell was starting to turn her stomach.
The instructor walked to the head of the class.
“That will conclude the class today.”
The students finished glancing over the body parts that had been put on their desks, almost most of which were just dumped into their discard bins as they were as eager to get out of class as Alyae was. As she got up to leave she heard a pop and felt something squash under her boot and she knew exactly what it was. She put her hand to her forehead and sighed. It was going to be one of those days.
After retrieving her long sword and her piwafwi off of a hook on the wall near her, she wanted to keep it as clean as possible for fear of her Matron Mother’s wraith; she followed the rest of the class out the doors and into the halls. She was glad to get out of there. It wasn’t just the necromancy class or the two other female students that she was in a hurry to get away from, but it was the fact that her heart wasn’t in wizardry at all. She was a bard.
Her Matron Mother had tried to send her to the temple to be a priestess, but she was miserable at it. She couldn’t even pretend to pray to the self-proclaimed Spider Goddess, she found the thought alone to be revolting. Then her Matron sent her to the academy of melee, the academy of sorcery, and even to the house of acquisitions in hopes that she would prove herself useful in something. Alyae was able to pick up a little bit of each to become what her heart desired, a bard. And although she despised this class, she still needed the lessons taught in the other classes here at the academy of sorcery.
Once her Matron had finally given up all hope of her daughter becoming one of the professions she wanted, she allowed her to continue with her bardic desires in hopes that Alyae would become a dark dancer, a deep singer, a battle dirge, or some other form of bard that would be useful to their society. Alyae knew what her Matron wanted but she found these avenues to not be to her liking either, although she wasn’t going to let her Matron know this for fear of being replaced by another sister, which she always had the fear of anyway.
Alyae continued down the various hallways that branched off in different directions. She wanted to get to her dormitory that she shared with the other two females, grab the gear she needed, and head over to the Guild of Acquisitions before she was late for class again. As she turned down the hallway that lead to the door she was looking for, she noticed that it was empty save for the two females from her class standing near the door.
‘Damn, I really didn’t want to deal with them today.’ She thought to herself.
“Looks who’s here,” one of the chimed in a sarcastic tone.
“If it isn’t Alyae,” said the other, “too good to be one of us.”
Sweat broke out across Alyae’s forehead. It wasn’t the banter or the fact that she was outnumbered or even the possible threat that she knew would more than likely come, but it was what the other female had said. If she had put together that Alyae was “too good” to be a follower of Spider Queen, or “to be one of us”, than Alyae would be hunted down as a heretic with the punishment of death or worse.
“Velg'larn here tells me that you think you are better than me. She says you think you are a better wizard and that you are better off since your house is higher rank. Is that what you think? You think you are better than me?”
“I said no such thing,” Alyae replied. She might be innocent, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew where this conversation was going and she knew there really wasn’t any way out of it. Her hand slipped to her long sword, but then thought against it. There wasn’t enough room in this hallway for a sword fight. She did have her dagger in her boot, but she remembered an old saying about bringing a dagger to a magic fight. This would probably be a wizard’s dual with one or both of them dead.
“Are you calling my ally a liar?”
“I didn’t say that either.”
“Then you are calling me a liar?”
Alyae sighed. Her suspicions were correct, this really was only going to end one way. She might as well finish what was started. She ran through a few spells in her mind and selected the ones she wanted and in which order.
Finally, with her spells selected she gave her response, one she was sure her fellow student wasn’t prepared for.
“Yes, I am calling you a liar.”
The first student went silent. She really didn’t think she would be able to goad Alyae into battle; she was only hoping to make her run away and then be able to brag about the incident and thus bringing shame to a higher house than her own. Now, however, it was time to actually teach this rothe a lesson. She started to put her hands into motion.
Alyae caught sight of the spell that was being cast and she quickly went through the motions of her spell. She knew that her opponent might be able to repel the spell with her natural spell resistance or even be able to brush it aside through sheer will, but she had to try. Her spells as a bard weren’t very offensive by nature and she knew she had to strike first and strike successfully before her opponent had a chance to cast something that could do considerable amount of damage. Fortunately Alyae’s spell went off first.
A light green discharge hit the other student and bathed her in terror and fear. She arched her back and went to scream, but only an eerie silence came forth. Then there was a gurgle as she started to spit up blood before she fell to the floor dead.
Alyae looked at her opponent in bewilderment. The spell she had cast was supposed to make her run away in fear, not die choking on her own blood. She even doubted that the spell would be able to cause the weakest heart to stop beating in terror. Then she saw it, a blood stain pooling from the middle of her back. Her opponent hadn’t died from the spell; she had died from an assassination attack.
“You killed her.” Alyae said to Velg'larn with astonishment.
Velg’larn looked at her with uncaring eyes, the blood still dripping off of the dagger that was still in her hand. “No. I didn’t kill her. You did. And I witnessed it. Now, I’m going to tell her house that you killed her. Perhaps they will retaliate by killing you for me or perhaps it will start a war between your two houses. It doesn’t matter. I will rise in power and position either way.” Velg’larn said the finally word on the spell that was on the tip of her tongue and she was gone.
Alyae was beside herself. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want a blood feud between the two houses, and definitely not for something she wasn’t even responsible for. Oh course once her mother found out, she would really be in trouble. This was not good. She had to find a way out and turn this around. A thought came to her and she smiled.
Quickly, Alyae opened the door to her shared dormitory and dragged her roommate inside. She needed to do this quickly before anyone came down the hallway and saw her. Once inside she hurriedly closed the door.
Inside there were four beds, but only three of them were being occupied, there were only three females this year following the teachings of the arcane, the rest of them were trying out to be priestesses. The room was small and crowded with the furniture. Besides the beds there were four personal foot lockers with locks, a small side table for each bed, many pegs around the room, one sconce that held a magically lit torch as the only means of light, and two desks with two chairs, one for each desk. The theory was that the occupants of the room would learn to share the desks, but it usually caused more friction than if there weren’t any desks in the first place. But Alyae suspected that this was the real reason for have only two desks to begin with.
Alyae found the foot locker she was looking for, it was the chest belonging to the dead roommate, and tried to open it. It was locked. She searched the dead body and found the key and a dagger. She kept the dagger and used the key to open the lock.
When she opened the chest she found the student’s belongings. There were the usual supplies of spell ingredients, flasks of powder, and flasks of liquid, her spell book, and a small coin bag. She emptied the contents out and thought about putting the dead body into the chest, but then got a better idea.
She went to Velg’larn’s chest and tried to open it. It too was locked. She cursed her luck. There was a class at the Guild of Acquisitions that would have taught her how to pick locks, but she never took it. Her mind searched her available spells and found one that might work. She put her hands into motion, pointed at the lock and cast her spell. A tight sonic beam came from her finger and hit the lock, shattering it. She smiled. She really didn’t need that class after all. Inside were similar items to the first footlocker and after removing them, she put the dead body inside and closed the trunk. Now Velg’larn could get blamed for the kill.
Alyae didn’t want to wait around to find out and she was already running late for her other class in the Guild of Acquisitions. She quickly went to her own locker and opened it. She only had a modest lute and a small coin bag. As a bard she didn’t need a spell book and being from a lowly house she didn’t have much. She took all of her items and left as quickly as she could.
She hurried through the corridors, past a group of male wizards and out of the school for the arcane. She kept her pace at a quick speed, but not too much as to rouse suspicion, and she kept her gaze forward, meeting the eyes of every male and doing her best to use her rank as a female to move them aside. It wasn’t a tactic she liked to use, but she had to admit it did have its privileges, especially when she was in a hurry to get to her next class and even more so when trying to flee from an assassination.
She passed the school for the melee and continued to give the guards direct eye contact in hopes that they would continue to ignore her and her ploy worked. They turned their gaze submissively and pretended not to notice her. With any luck she would be able to get through most of the city before the dead body was found. However, when she got to the spider shaped building, the one dedicated as a Temple for the Spider Queen, she was the one that turned her gaze away in submission. She may have been an equal as a female, but these guards were priestesses and she was not. And if they found out that she would rather not worship the Spider Queen… She shuddered at the thought, then her heart skipped a beat as she wondered if the guards noticed the sudden shuddered she had. She gave a quick glance and noticed that the guards barely had even noticed her.
Alyae made her way down the slopped ramp to the main city on the cavern floor. She always did feel out of place at this part of the city. This was full of the richest and the most powerful dark elves. The cost of the clothing that any one of them currently wore was more than she would probably ever see in her lifetime. Each one looked at her with contempt and scowled at the thought that such a lower class was allowed to walk the same streets as they did. She even was sure that one of the females looked at her with a look that suggested that she would rather take Alyae as one of her slaves and another shudder ran through her as she was trying not to think of what all that might entail.
She crossed the richest section of the city, through the common section and finally into the slums. Although she felt more secure in the common section, she still felt a feeling of condemnation from those above her in rank. And although she could maintain a presence about her to fit in, her piwafwi gave away her lower class standings. It was the slums she came from and this was probably the most dangerous place in all of Malzebowan. She dreaded her life here.
The slums had derelict buildings, humanoid press gangs, murder, open drug usage, and from time to time House Barrindar would send in their solders to deal with anyone as they felt. She had to duck aside into a nearby alley to avoid one of the House Barrindar patrols, scurry past several male dark elves that looked as if they would drag her into one of the derelict buildings if they thought they could get away with it, and was about to cross into the smithy section when a group of humanoids came around the corner, blocking her progress. She sighed. It really was going to be one of those days.
The press gang consisted of one ogre, three orcs and six goblins. Usually she avoided the House Barrindar patrols, but realized her need for one now. Unfortunately they were never there when she needed them and always there where it was the least convenient. It was easy to tell that the ogre was the leader of this gang and if she wanted to get past them she would have to deal with him first and fast.
“Wheres yu goin?” The big ogre asked his speech barely discernible from basic grunt sounds.
She needed to buy some time, even if it meant escalating this encounter. “None of your business. Now move out of my way.”
“Yus cant tell us wat to do. We no have mistress, no house, we no slaves. We free. We tell you. You pay if you want to pass. Huh? Wat you say?”
The ogre thought he heard the female dark elf say something, perhaps too softly for him to hear. He leaned closer to listen to what she was saying.
Alyae’s spell went off as she spoke to the brute. “There is no need to be like this to me, I’m on your side. I know what it’s like to be oppressed by this society. You can let me pass.”
The ogre looked at her with a new insight. Yes, she was right; she was its friend, its best friend. It didn’t need to delay her any longer.
“Yes. Me move for yu. Me even follow and protect yu. Yu come with us, we take yu.”
“I’m on my way to the Guild of Acquisitions.”
“Me know where that is. Take yu.” The ogre turned and led the way.
Alyae found no other delays on her way to the front gate of the guild as none dare to even approach the horde that she had collected.
“Thank you. You can now go back to patrolling your area.”
“Yes. Thank yu. Is a good to be with yu. Will go now.”
Alyae shook her head as the ogre and the rest of the others left. It was so easy to manipulate the stupid.
She made her way through the various corridors of the guild until she found the door to the class she was supposed to be attending.
“Damn,” she muttered to herself finding the door closed. The class had already started and she was late, yet again. She sighed, opened the door and went in.
Inside was a fairly large room about fifty feet by fifty feet. The class had used this room many times since it was large enough to accommodate the whole group. The room was usually empty unless the instructors moved in some portable pieces of equipment to demonstrate various ways to further their teachings. There had been simple traps to disarm, locks to unpick, and small mock walls to climb. She hadn’t been to all of them as she didn’t think she would need them, but she thought she might find today’s class of hiding in shadows very useful.
Today the room was full of mannequin dummies. They were all dressed in various articles of clothing and each article had several bells hanging from them. The class was already in the process of trying to remove various objects from the pockets. Although these were her instructors, her classmates, and the right room, it was obviously not the class she wanted to take.
“For those of us who don’t have the decency of being here on time; let me have the opportunity to repeat myself. We have rescheduled our original class for this one.” One of the instructors said as she walked in.
Alyae sighed in resolution then took a spot at an unoccupied mannequin. She spent a couple of hours trying her best to remove the objects concealed in the pockets of the clothing without disturbing the bells. Usually she failed miserably but she did manage to get her prize twice without a sound only to be met with a disappointing look from her instructors. Obviously she had done something wrong, although she had no idea what it was. And of course they wouldn’t say anything, the male instructors knew better than to correct a female.
After her miserable performance and the feelings of inadequacy she left the class and headed toward the dormitory she had at this facility. She shared this room with four other females so she rarely came here, but this was better than going home. As she turned the corner she saw one of her roommates entering the room. It was Naut'sohna.
Just as Alyae caught up, Naut’sohna turned on her with dagger in hand. Alyae was just barely able to get out of the way as the dagger flashed by her neck. She took a step back as the dagger came again and yet again. As her assailant took another step forward, Alyae also took a step forward and drove her knee into the female’s gut, making her bend in pain.
Quickly Alyae spun around and down, using graceful and fluid movements. Her hand went down to her boot and pulled out her dagger. She was up in time to block the next attempt.
The two combatants circled each other. Alyae’s heart was beating fast, she really didn’t like to get into melee combat if she had to, but if she did have to, she found her ability to twist and turn, to dance, was an asset. Her assailant was too close to use a spell so she resolved to finish this by dagger.
She spun as the next attack came at her and then spun back the other way. Her movement caught Naut’sohna by surprise and she was inside her extended arm reach. Without even thinking, Alyae ducked as Naut’sohna tried to bring her dagger back in barely missing the top of her head. Suddenly Alyae came up and let her blade follow. The dagger drove deep into Naut’sohna’s gut. The female coughed up blood, her eyes rolled in the back of her head and she fell to the ground, dead.
It was a voice from further down the corridor. Alyae looked up and saw one of her instructors.
“I didn’t know you had it in you. If you keep this up you will promote yourself to the top of the class by process of elimination.”
“But I was only defending myself.”
The instructor only shrugged. “I don’t care what you call it; just have the mess cleaned up.” With a smile the male instructor turned and left the corridor.
Alyae couldn’t believe what was going on. This was the second assassination attempt in the same day. She shook her head. It wasn’t time to try to sort out conspiracy theories; she had to get rid of the body. She doubted that she could hide the body in a chest again. If these two attacks were a joint conspiracy and if the dead bodies were found the same way, it would all link back to her. She would have to find another way to get rid of her.
Just then a goblin rounded the other corner of the hallway. It was probably just a janitorial goblin, but it would do.
“You come here.”
The goblin stopped and turned as if it were about to run.
“Don’t make me come after you.”
The goblin bowed its head and made its way to her.
“I want you to take this body to the mushroom fields. They will chop it up for fertilizer. Understand?”
The poor goblin nodded and started to drag the dead body away leaving a smear of blood behind.
She was thinking about raiding the female’s foot locker when the other two roommates rounded the corner.
“Have you seen Naut’sohna?” One of them asked as they approached.
She shrugged. “Search me.” Then she turned and made her way out of the guild.