Imperfection

In the Name of Honor

La’Vari woke up and spent some time working out and jesting with his mother. She informs him that his father has been gone most of the night at a meeting of the nobility council. There was a disturbance, but she doesn’t know any details. She expects him to be home some time this afternoon.
He set out for the day, running into Bell on the porch. Bell asked if he was going to participate in the Tournament of the Tides and asked that he do so in her name, for her honor. He agreed, and she gave him a pendant of Corellon Larethian to wear on a leather cord around his neck.

They set off to sign him up for the tournament, their destination just outside the arena. As they head out, Bell is obviously fidgety about something that makes La’Vari curious. Soon, they reach the arena where Bell’s sister, Cíe is also putting her name on the competition’s rosters. La’Vari now understands that Bell was nervous knowing that Cíe would be there. La’Vari had never expressed an interest in meeting her in the past, despite Bell’s many attempts to introduce them to one another. The meeting goes off as expected: Cíe is brash and overconfident as usual, and La’Vari asserts his own confidence as well. He has often wondered, now more than ever, how two siblings can turn out so very different. After signing up for the competition himself, they part ways, heading to their respective homes.

On his way home, La’Vari stops at a trinket stand run by a plump woman who looks to be somewhere in her 60s. La’Vari takes a look over her various necklaces, bracelets and decorative vases, then asks if she has anything unusual or out of the ordinary. The woman rummages around beneath the counter, finally producing a single item she think might fit his request: a roughly-cut red stone on a necklace. The stone seems to shine in the light unnaturally and shines differently if held different ways. The inside almost seems to shine akin to fire. La’Vari asks if he can buy it, but the woman seems reluctant. He attempts to persuade the woman with the fact that the necklace would be given to someone out of his love for that person, hoping she can relate to his tale, however long ago she experienced her own love story. The woman eyes her pearl ring dreamily and smiles, though she still seems reluctant to part ways with the stone. The woman tells him it’s probably just junk and holds no magical properties, and La’Vari leaves unconvinced.

La’Vari arrives home just after his father. His father seems troubled by something. La’Vari finds out that many cities throughout the area have been experiencing “kidnappings,” though a more appropriate term might be “adult-nappings.” Someone or some thing seems to be carrying many females of child-bearing age off, but nobody knows why. Those in charge of the other cities do not suspect the culprit to be any of the cities attempting to start a war. There has been relative peace between the cities for some time now.
La’Vari has a few suggestions for his father, but his father isn’t so eager to make any sudden moves. He doesn’t want to alert the rest of the city’s residents of the potential threat before they have more details. He thinks they have some time to think, consider their options, before they’re in any real danger. The other cities that have experienced this so far seem to all be quite a distant from their own. La’Vari and his father agree to discuss the matter again later, maybe tomorrow.

La’Vari goes over to the Galanodel’s household to take Bell for dinner. They walk down to the pier where La’Vari surprises her with dinner and charms her with some witty banter. They enjoy each other’s company, with some shy embarrassment, then head back to Bell’s house. La’Vari kisses her goodnight, watches her go inside and heads home for some sleep.

In the morning, La’Vari awakes to a dagger point at his throat. Cíe has been let in by his mother. La’Vari attemps a daze spell, but Cíe disengages him and jumps back to the other side of the room, just out of range. He feels for the dagger resting underneath his pillow as she begins asking him in a threatening tone where her sister is and what he has done with her. He grabs for the dagger, but Cíe does not react as expected. She breaks down in tears on the ground, let her hammer fall in emphasis a few times before La’Vari is able to shake her from her depression. She regains her composure, attempting to accuse him once again. La’Vari tries to make her believe that this is the first he’s heard of Bell’s disappearance.
Just then, La’Vari’s father enters. La’Vari informs him that Bell has gone missing, and his father replies that she is not the only one. Apparently, the city lost quite a few females last night…all of child-bearing age. La’Vari’s father says the council is organizing a small rescue party in the midst of the confusion and concern, in the hopes that the less people they send, the less residents will be alerted to the problem at hand.
La’Vari promises Cíe he will meet her outside the arena at midday if she will give him time to ready his things. She is very untrusting at first, then sees no other option but to do what he says. La’Vari grabs his things and heads out.

Up the hill from his family’s house, La’Vari spots two siblings arguing about something. He goes over to ask what is going. The siblings are Sorin and Veronica Hallowell, human brother and sister in their early 20s who have been asked by the nobility council to join the search party and take any orders from La’Vari. Sorin doesn’t seem to eager to be heading out, despite his being clearly equipped as a fighter-type. Veronica seems to be more confident, if not fairly reserved. La’Vari tells them that everyone will work together, and no one need be in charge of another. He also explains about Cíe and asks that they meet him at the arena around midday as well. The Hallowells agree, and La’Vari heads off towards the center of the city.

On his way to the arena, La’Vari spots the vendor of the trinket stand once again, twirling the stone between her fingers, flipping it over thoughtfully in her hands. She seems to be off somewhere else in her mind. La’Vari inquires about her willingness to sell him the stone again, and she says she can’t. She seems to come to a sad realization that she can’t remember where she got the stone or who gave it to her or when. La’Vari presses her to remember, but she says she cannot. He leaves the vendor to meet up with Cíe.

Cíe is standing outside the arena and is reluctant to admit that La’Vari might be a half-elf of his word. They still have time to share one sarcastic look before Cíe heads off to leave the city. The Hallowells show up, and La’Vari directs them to follow Cíe. Then, he scratches his name off the tournament’s sign-up roster. When he turns around to follow the others, he catches a glimpse of Cíe turning her head back away from him and shaking her head. La’Vari runs after the others, and two young guards of the civilian military meet up with him as he passes other vendor stands.

Once they leave the city, the guards, aided by Cíe’s judgmental confirmations, track the group that took the females. After some time, the tracks become more fresh, and one of the guards informs La’Vari that they appear to be following goblins. La’Vari begins to wonder how much farther they might have to go, when Cíe crouches down and hushes everyone in the party.

The pathway opens up to a small space between the trees, a goblin camp. There are three goblins huddled around a fire with their backs to the party, talking excitedly (or bickering, who knows?) to each other. Behind the fire, two tents are pitched, behind which are crates on wheels filled with hay. Occasionally, a goblin from within the left tent can be heard yelling out to the goblins around the fire, presumably telling them to keep it down.

La’Vari overshoots an arrow into some bushes at the back of the camp, along the tree line, to distract the goblins around the fire. They take the bait, wandering over to the back of the camp area to investigate. The party then creeps forward, hugging the tree line. Cíe, Sorin and Veronica move along the left with La’Vari and the two guards along the right. La’Vari creeps up to the right tent to listen. He hears two goblins inside arguing among the shuffling of cards. He lights a smokestick and smokes them out of the tent. They come out, agitated, pointing fingers at one another in accusation. As they blame each other, La’Vari comes up behind one of them and pushes the goblin through with his short sword. The goblin keels over in death as La’Vari pulls his sword out. The goblin arguing a moment ago with his now-dead companion shrieks at the sight of his friend’s swift and silent death, brandishing his morningstar in response.

La’Vari battles the goblin, clashing with him as another approaches from the other tent. Cíe, Sorin and Veronica have their hands full with their own three goblins. With everyone locked in battle, they are unable to tell how the other half is faring. One of the goblins attacks the guard, slicing into his side. The guard falls to the ground; La’Vari and the unwounded guard avenge him. With one goblin left for themselves, La’Vari sneaks a glance at the other side of the camp. They have two goblins to go. La’Vari swings; misses. The goblin swings; misses. They attack at once and become locked, short sword against morningstar. In a desperate attempt to end the struggle, La’Vari throws his weight, spinning the goblin around. With his back to guards, the one on the ground shoves his sword through the goblin’s back, releasing La’Vari as the goblin drops to the ground. Just then, the last goblin on the other side of camp falls dead.

La’Vari helps the wounded guard to his feet, and everyone gathers together in the center of the camp. Then, from the left tent, the goblin gang leader (now known to be the one who was yelling to stifle the goblins around the fire earlier) comes out from his tent, curious as to what’s taking his second-in-command so long. Surveying the carnage in his encampment, he addresses the group with an accusatory tone, asking what they have done!? La’Vari readies himself once again for what he assumes will be a more difficult battle. The goblin yells again (in Common), and La’Vari seizes the opportunity that the goblin leader is not attacking. He asks where the females are and why they have taken them? The goblin leader begins to hesitate, taking in the fate that has befallen his gang. Realization dawns over him that he is quite outnumbered now. He answers La’Vari’s questions, explaining that the goblins are gathering females for their hobgoblin and bugbear leaders because they are dying it. He says he was told that they need females in order to reproduce. Pushing the disgusting thought out of consideration, La’Vari tries various tactics to persuade the gang leader. He tells the goblin that they cannot mate with these females, to no avail. The goblin leader insists that his own leaders have given him orders and that he is following them. La’Vari then tries to persuade him that the hobgoblins and bugbears are lying to him, disguising their true plans and keeping them from him. La’Vari notices the goblin’s wavering will and offers him gold to leave the females and his mission. The goblin begins to protest when La’Vari drops a coinpurse of 20 gold on the ground. Midway through his protest, the goblin suddenly snatches the coinpurse and runs off into the trees behind the camp. The guards chase after him as the others search the crates.

Sure enough, the crates are filled him kidnapped females. Cíe and La’Vari pass over each one quickly in search of Bell. La’Vari notices Cíe stop suddenly in front of one crate. La’Vari reaches her and takes in a sight he’d rather never have set eyes on. Bell lies in the crate, covered in blood gushing from her neck. She fights to capture shallow breaths while looking up at Cíe and La’Vari. Cíe slumps down on the crate. Bell reaches up, and La’Vari takes her hand. La’Vari tries to tell her that it will be okay, but Bell is fading fast. She smiles at him as she takes her last breath. La’Vari straightens her body and gently closes her eyes to give her peace. As he folds her hands, he notices the other is clutching something. He carefully opens her hand to reveal a small, torn piece of paper depicting runes. The runes are unfamiliar to anything he has ever seen before. He stashes the paper and attends to Cíe.

The guards return with no luck. The goblin gang leader seems to have escaped, at least, for now. Everyone works to get the females back to Solbrar. They enlist the help of the ones capable of walking and eventually make it back to the city. Once they arrive, they are met by nobility and commoner alike as the city attends to the wounded and identifies the dead. La’Vari checks on Cíe, but she is distant. He asks if there’s anything he can do, but she says she is just going to go home to be with her parents. He understands and lets her go. He heads home himself as dawn breaks over a new day.

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