No bed compares to a hammock on a ship in calm waters. Despite the conversation that ran late into the night, Royce wakes up feeling more rested than he’s done since before he took custody of the Wand and ended up in the resulting series of arguments with Nong. He stretches slowly, touching the thick beams that support the deck above, then heads towards the ladder to get up above.
The quay is milling with people. Large kegs of clean water are being carried into the belly of the Flaming Sword, and empty barrels are unloaded. As he makes his way towards the gang plank, thinking he might brave the retrieval of his cloak himself, a lithe figure catches his eye. He’s off he ship in no time and steps between the ware houses into a narrow alley that smells strongly of piss and fish guts.
“Tempus has guided your steps.” Ilian says, beaming. “I knew I’d find you here. Did your old captain tell you he’d brought me into port yesterday?” “It came up, yeah. He didn’t know who you were, though. Not precisely. Said he thought you were some sort of Emerald Enclave agent. Seems to have no idea you know me.” “He’s a good man, Royce. You’re his spitting image, sometimes. Even if he hadn’t talked about you the way he does, I would have guessed you two were close. I didn’t tell him I knew you. I didn’t think he needed the questions.” Royce frowns. “But I have many questions. I thought you were long gone. Why are you back here? Where did you run off to? Whereto now? And White Hair said you’d paid an inordinate price for your passage. Do you need more gold?” Ilian, laughing, holds up her hands in defense to the onslaught. “You’re asking directions to a known destination, Royce. You know I came from down south for me to be able to sail in on this ship. You know that my decision to disembark here means I must continue inland, otherwise I would have told captain Mollor to head further north. Your dear captain surely also told you that the gold he received came in a bag marked by the Emerald Enclave. They are not stingy and I will be well-equipped for what is to come.”
“As to why…” she continues, “You know I can’t share that. But I’ll tell you that I plan to visit an abandoned town called Conyberry, in the hopes of getting some answers from an ancient source of knowledge that is said to reside there. I’m hoping she can lead me closer to my eventual goal, but also give me a hint about Nong’s location. I heard he’s left without a word and it worries me that he has not returned. If I can, I’ll seek him out.”
Royce nods “Can’t say I’m satisfied with your answers, Ilian. Don’t blame me if I try to keep an eye on you.” She laughs again. “I wouldn’t expect anything else. Besides, after letting me convince you to spare Menzoberranzan, I feel like there isn’t anything I could refuse you.” Royce pauses for a moment. “It made strategic sense. That’s why I agreed. But now that I’ve had time to think, I believe it would have been unjust to slay those who are trapped in a system with no real choice between good and evil. And most of that city… They had no choice. They see themselves as slavers, but I couldn’t tell many of them apart from the slaves they kept.” Ilian eyes her friend for a few seconds “That sounds… unusually nuanced, for someone of your faith.” “Tell me about it. Those acolytes I’m training… I’ve tried to talk to them. But they dismiss it as me getting soft in my old age. They only want the stories. None of the lessons. I just wish they’d stop treating me like I was their father. They’re barely younger than me!” Ilian smiles “Going down below ages anyone before their time, I think. Even if they don’t run into evil ghosts. I must be off, in any case. Can’t stay long.” Royce raises an eyebrow. “You said you couldn’t refuse me anything. So I say we’re having breakfast before you go. Call out Tusker from wherever you hid him. There’s a tavern in Shinbone Alley that I’ve been meaning to go to and you’re coming too.”
Ilian places her hand in the crook of Royce’s elbow. “Tusker is with Yonica, so his breakfast is arranged. Let’s go eat. You can tell me how you’ve been doing keeping that big evil wand from corrupting anyone.”