I'm lucky I'm still alive, she thought, as she worked at the knots with her teeth. What in the Nine Hells was a band of armed humans this size doing this far into Duendewood? How had they avoided notice? Whatever the answer, it meant that war was on its way... which meant that Ruin, damn him and his insights, was right.
The knots had been tied tightly, and prying at them only made them bite deeper into her wrists. Still, she wouldn't give up...
Someone pushed the tent flap aside. A guard entered, ducking to accommodate the low cloth ceiling. Sherra froze, but there was no way to disguise the fact that her arms were no longer behind her back. The guard approached: a woman, human, but something...
She recognized the illusion as the woman neared, but she couldn't see through it. The ostensible human knelt beside her, turned her head to one side, then turned it back. With a casual gesture, she dropped a knife into Sherra's bound fingers.
"It's not her," said the woman, rising into a crouch and turning back to where a pair of guards stood on either side of the entrance. "Damn it." She moved back out of the tent, straightening as she emerged into sunlight, and walked away. Neither of the guards seemed to notice the illusion, but then there was no reason that they should.
Sherra pulled the knife in close, hiding it against her body, and waited.
It was well after dark when Sherra sliced open the back of the tent and wormed her way out. It had taken time and patience to cut the ropes that bound her; it had taken far more to wait for the sun to set. She straightened and looked around, wishing she could melt into the darkness and pass through the camp unseen. Instead, she forced herself to stand upright, to look as if she belonged, and started for the edge of the camp.
She had taken all of three steps when someone stood from the shadow of another tent. For a moment she couldn't breathe, but the figure didn't move or call out. It just stood there, looking at her. They regarded each other for a long moment; then the figure shifted forward and said quietly: "I'd like my knife back."
Saminansa Eldrish was the darkest elf that Sherralitha had ever seen. In the dim light of the camp her skin was black, though it picked up orange and gold highlights from the troopers' campfires now and again. Her hair was darker still, her eyes a curious grey-green that didn't seem to belong on such a face. She walked confidently through the camp, stopping at another tent and stepping inside before emerging with Sherra's swordbelt -- rapier and dagger still in place -- and her citole.
Sherra stepped forward and kissed her. No matter how strange she looked or how unexpected her presence was in a camp of human invaders, Saminansa had freed her and brought back her citole. Sherra couldn't help but love her, at least a little.
The feeling only intensified when Saminansa drew back with a small soft smile, touched her lips with a single finger, then drew the minor illusion of humankind around them both. They walked out of the camp with all their equipment in place, just another pair of scouts on patrol.
Hours later, in a tent several miles up the road, Sherra could finally ask her questions. "So what the hell were you doing there?"
"Scouting," said Saminansa, rolling over on the blanket. She looked sated and sleepy. "Much like you, only I already knew that the humans were trying to slip squads into Duendewood. They're hoping to surprise us when the invasion comes, to have forces pop up seemingly out of nowhere."
"You're sure it will be war?" Sherra, spent and lethargic herself, couldn't help but ask the question with a strange sense of deja vu.
"I don't see how it could be anything else." Sam rolled back over, put a gentle hand on Sherra's bare shoulder. "...But there's nothing we can do about it now," she added. "It's only a short walk to Brindinford from here, and we can alert the Baron's forces to the presence of armed invaders."
Sherra chuckled. "You sound like my cousin," she said.
Sherra nodded and looked over at the greatsword that lay along Sam's side of the blankets. "You should meet him. You'd like him. He's sure this will end in bloodshed, too."
Saminansa sighed. "We've already had bloodshed," she said. "You didn't think I was leaving their scouts alone, did you? I'm the reason they were patrolling in groups of six. These are our lands, and humans like them don't belong here."
Sherra considered that. She was too relaxed to think of politics and killing, but... "You're one of the Hierophant's people, aren't you?"
"My parents were. But when the True Elves resurfaced here in Duendewood, my parents came to make contact... and stayed. I was born here; I've lived here all my life. I'm as much a Duendewood Elf as you are."
Sherra stayed silent for a long moment. "I didn't mean to give offense."
"You didn't," answered Sam, then leaned over and kissed her. "Others have, and I suppose I'm answering them."
Sherra considered that, then nodded. "I still think you should meet my cousin."
"After this?" Saminansa smiled. "How could I refuse?"
Smilin' Sam is a Dark Elf (so in this game, a dark-skinned True Elf -- none of the usual business with Lolth and ancient curses and like that) bard-barian with an intriguing family secret dating back to one of her great-grandmothers.