Valiska Reports to Shahann via an Enchantment
April 27, 301.
At night, when she was well away from shore, far from observers physical and magical -- and when the seas were calm and the winds favorable -- Valiska lashed the faering's tiller in place. She sat in the cockpit and ate cold fish and drank plain water and found them delicious, for she was hungry, tired, and chilled.
She checked her course again by sky and wave, and found it satisfactory.
Then she took the nickel silver brooch from her shirt. It looked like a pale, blond, round shield of metal with a twisted wire rim and a cabochon of internally fractured polished quartz in the center: pretty enough, but of no great value.
But the cabochon was more than it seemed. She carried it for emergencies, in case she discovered something so important the tribe had to know it immediately, even at the potential cost of revealing herself. Elven magic, their own magic, might sense the activation of the enchantment on the quartz. They did not know for sure the capabilities of the mages among Men: they tended to be a secretive lot, keeping their knowledge close, passing it from master to apprentice and journeyman but making a mystery of it to the world at large.
But now she was offshore. She could not see the shore of Lisianthus from the deck of the faering, nor even the Western Isles. So she laid two fingers atop the cold polished surface of the cabochon and sent a flicker of magical energy through it.
She repeated it twice. And then her own quartz glittered, as someone on the other side sent magic in turn back to her.
"It's Valiska," she said to it. "I'm offshore. The question is: why am I offshore?"
"Shahann," came the answer. "I too am offshore. I am supposed to be delivering a message from your grandmother to Silverwind, but the reports there are sufficiently troublesome that I have thought better of taking the ship in. I am headed to Vhaerun Bay to pick up the network and assist your Aunt Ashliin with the rebuilding."
"How bad is it?"
"The casualties were light but, as always, painful. The harbor's a ruin."
"Which way should I go?"
"Vhaerun Bay, if you can manage it." Her aunt's voice seemed oddly directionless, emanating from the cabochon. "I could use an assistant."
"Did I err in Silverwind?" she asked.
"Only by not being something I knew you weren't when I sent you," came the answer. Valiska tilted her head. "Drow women don't naturally walk, act, talk, or think like the women of other peoples. I have a few consummate actresses who can pull it off, but that's not one of your talents."
"What did I do wrong?"
"Like most of the rest of us, you walk as if you're wearing a sword, even when you're not. You have the demeanor of someone who doesn't expect to charm anyone into doing anything. You move like someone who expects to win her next knifefight.
"People notice you and remember you, even if they're not sure why.
"Under ordinary circumstances I'd continue the experiment, because I'm betting you'd become a fixture of the waterfront, and and thus invisible, in time. But right now there are parties in Silverwind who ought to be unusually wary. You don't have that time," said Shahann.
Valiska said, "I told you about the ships whose manifests don't match what they were loading. Because I looked in the crates."
"Yes, and that was well-done. And some of the others never made landfall at the ports they said they were sailing to."
"There's more," said Valiska. "A fortnight ago someone bought a fellow with kin inland enough rounds that he eventually started babbling about how they were making it big selling last year's grain to a big hidden distillery. They take it along roads north of Silverwind country at night. The peasants who're part of it think it's a scheme to dodge the city's very high excise taxes.
"I went out, anchored off the coast, and sculled back, then went north to follow the surreptitious wagons. The stuff goes into a big tunnel hidden behind a waterfall. And nothing comes out but coin, and a few bottles of illicit liquor, to encourage the suppliers."
"Ooh. So that's how they're feeding quite so many people on so much barely-eroded basalt. I knew the trade from Vhaerun, and their minor sea traffic, were never enough." A pause. "I assume there's a Silverwind principal behind this."
"Probably. I don't know if my informant knows who it is. By the time I found out about the wagon trips he was barely coherent.
"The bad part is, there's enough going in that I think it's not just some of the peasants that are in on it. I think someone's probably quietly emptying the city's reserve granaries."
Valiska Sei-Varun, former spy in Silverwind.
Shahann Sei-Varun, spymaster of the tribe.
Amerakhte Sei-Varun, leader of the tribe, Valiska's grandmother, mentioned, not present.
An unnamed sailor in Silverwind, mentioned, not present.
Various peasants in Silverwind, mentioned, not present.
Last edited by Valiska Sei-Varun on Wed May 03, 2017 1:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
This happened on April 26, 301.
Valiska sailed out in the faering often, well out of the harbor, and pulled up her lobster pots.
In one particular pot there was a slight hollow in the buoy, which opened; and she would slip a coded message into it whenever she had anything to report. Mostly, she sent long list of ships, whither they were bound, and what cargo they carried.
The messages always disappeared. She had no idea who collected them. Quite possibly she never would know.
She always checked for an answer. But so far the concealed compartment had always been empty.
This time, she opened the buoy, and found a coded message therein. Decoded, it read:
Sail at once.
She studied it carefully. Then she drew a deep breath. It had the right subtle marks to be from Aunt Shahann.
... probably meant someone had found her out.
Or Aunt Shahann thought someone would discover her soon.
Her aunt usually sent men into her position: they didn't stand out so much in human culture. She wondered if that had been the problem, or if she'd made an avoidable mistake, or if something worse had happened.
'Sail', with no destination given, meant to get out as quickly as she could by the surest route she could: never mind where she went. It meant, preferrably, 'do not return to Silverwind at all'.
That, she could manage. She always kept the faering stocked for a voyage, for exactly this reason.
Then she winced. She was going to have to spend days aboard a boat that smelled to the skies: lobster bait.
Maybe by the time she got to her destination her nose would die. She could hope, anyway.
This was the first pot on her route. She cut the altered buoy off and threw it into the bilge, so no one would notice it, by some mischance, if they pulled the pot. Then she tore the net out of the pot's frame of wooden slats and dropped the pot again, this time with no bait. Nothing would get caught in it when she wasn't there to tend it.
So she did for every pot on her course, northward along the shore. If she had caught lobsters, she let them go, dumping them over the side back into the water: there was no practical way to cook them offshore while singlehanding the faering.
Instead of turning back when she reached the last pot, she came about and headed out to open sea.
Valiska Sei-Varun, now a former spy in Silverwind, Khimele's daughter, Amerakhte's granddaughter.
Shahann, Valiska's aunt, Amerakhte's second daughter, spymaster of the Sei-Varun.
An unidentified agent of Shahann's who must live in the vicinity of Silverwind and be at home in boats.