(I was noodling around with some writing earlier today, and this is the result. I hope to write my way through the game, but updates will probably erratic, as I write when I have time, and that has been in short supply lately.)
The day had dawned bright and clear; warm with the promise of spring, and bright with the sound of birds singing in the roof eaves that lay above her room in the halls of Candlekeep. Arianna had awakened with a smile, breathing in the soft warmth of the air and listening to the melodic birdsong. Such a beautiful day was to be treasured, here amidst the chanting monks and dusty tomes, where the air was more often scented with the ghost of old parchment and faded ink, the air quiet but for the rustle of pages and the scratch of inked quill on parchment and vellum, or the hushed voices of scholars at their researches, making softly-voiced and penned notes to themselves on what secrets they had discovered within the priceless tomes and scrolls that were racked on bookshelves and carrels along the walls. Could a day with such breathless promise ever change someone's life? Perhaps not… and perhaps this particular one would.
She rose from her bed and dressed in her favorite garb, a shirt of sky blue and leggings of a deeper hue, taking a moment to brush her hair and teeth and stretch before her morning duties. Then she was off, her long legs flashing in the sunlight that crept through the windows as she ran to her chores. Every morning started this way, with the things she did for love (setting out a clean robe and breakfast for her foster Father, Gorion, and making sure the ink container, sand sifter, parchment cubby and pen holder were all full, cutting new quill pens if she had to; so used to the task that she barely needed to look to cut a perfect pen, clean and level), and those she did out of duty, which were much the same, but intended for the monks and scholars of the halls, not merely her father.
After a quick breakfast of bread, cheese and a flagon of ale, it was off to polish the iron bannister of the huge staircase that ran from the bottom of Candlekeep to the top to an even greater shine than it currently enjoyed, all while under the unsmiling, close attention of Tethtoril, the first reader of Candlekeep. His cold gaze reminded Arianna of a lizard, ever watchful for prey, and when she was younger, she'd often felt herself quailing under that chill gaze, but as she grew older, she wondered what she had done to merit such looks from him. Surely only childish high spirits had been the thing of which he had often disapproved, and if he could silence the monks of Deneir with such a look, what hope did she have of withstanding it?
Quietly, she continued her inside tasks, replacing the illumination candles which had burnt down to nothingness and trimming the wicks of the rest- the hazard of fire kept at bay by the enchanted candlesticks and sconces in which they burned. Some of the lights were those of magic, instead, ever-burning and never needing tending, barring magical accidents. But, as one of the monks had said when she wondered why the keep was not all lit by such light, "Apprentices need something to do besides practicing their penmanship…"
In between these tasks, she ran up and down the stairs of the keep, around and around, from top to bottom and then back up again, twenty times in all, keeping her body strong and her wind good so that her endurance grew. She had another lesson in the guard barracks today, and she was determined to show the Captain that he could not simply hold her off until she grew tired!
Her inside tasks finished, she headed for the main door, the glare of Tethtoril following her out like an unwanted haunting. But just inside the door was her father, Gorion, and he put his hand up to halt her. She could see the bright sunshine through the cracked-open doors, but no matter how much she wanted to be out there, she stopped, obedient to her foster Father's will.
Something seemed different about him today. His usual air of absentmindedness and distraction gone, to be replaced by a look of disquiet on his face and urgency in his eyes. The sight of him, so different now in feel, set off an unsettling feeling in her stomach. "Stop what you are doing," he told her.
"But Father," she said. "I'm in the middle of my chores. And you well know that the stable doesn't magically clean itself." No, it was her and the stableboy mucking out the old stalls and spreading fresh straw, filling the boxes with hay and oats, and the buckets with fresh water from the well, after a thorough scrubbing in the trough.
"Your chores are not important," he snapped, his expression stern.
Arianna held back what she was going to say with an effort. Her chores not important? When he had been the one to assign her to do them and make sure she followed through every day she had lived here? He'd been the one insisting that the chores would occupy her idle hands and teach her duty and discipline.
Gorion must have sensed the direction of her thoughts, for his expression softened slightly, but he did not smile. "I know this must seem confusing for you, but it is necessary. Do you remember your lessons on what and how to pack for a journey?"
Arianna's thoughts were put off stride by what was, to her, a non-sequitur. "Of course." She was about to list the requirements he'd drummed into her, but he interrupted her words unsaid.
"It is time for you to do just that, my child. Make yourself ready. We leave today."
"Today, but…" She felt a strange, unsettling sensation, as if she'd been plunged up to her chest in quicksand, and the world she knew was sinking out from under her, to be lost forever. "Can you tell me anything?" she asked, her voice hushed. "Where we are going…? How long a journey we'll be on…?"
"Only this- that the trip will be of an uncertain duration, and may end up being a long one. Buy from Winthrop and pack accordingly." He took her hand and placed a pouch, heavy with coin, into it, closing her fingers over the leather. "I have given you all I can- make haste, and tell no one where you are going. I will explain to you later."
This didn't make Arianna feel any better, nor did his last words, "Discretion is of the utmost importance. Hurry, Arianna. Hurry."
With slow motions better suited to a marionette made of wood than a living woman, she tied the pouch to her belt and moved across the inner keep to the entrance nearest Winthrop's inn. When she finally stood before the entrance, she didn't even remember the journey to get there. What was going on?