The White Badge of Deceit; Chapter 4

Twitch spent the better part of the day making sure he had everything he needed for the trip ahead. There was so much to be covered; tack and saddle, proper shoeing on his horse, clothing for himself, checking the condition of his weaponry, and going through his spellbook. This last measure was the most vital. No matter what the intelligence provided in the dossier, if Twitch didn’t have the right spell then his plans would have to be altered. This was the curse of any spellcaster, but for a bard it was made more difficult by his not having access to all of the spells that a man of his experience would normally possess. It frequently annoyed him to think that if he had chosen a different path in life he would by now be able to summon armies of undead soldiers, or flatten a fortress with single word.

Of course, if he had taken that path he wouldn’t be able to most of the other things that made him indispensable to the fat man in black, and the nation they both called home. By late evening Twitch had sorted through his repertoire and settled on a few different plans. Nothing of course could take into account every possible combination of events going drastically, horribly wrong, but that is the part that always excited the shadow elf. He liked a challenge. And he loved an adventure.

Instead of entertaining the good people downstairs, Twitch had dinner delivered to his room. Bex made up a dye for his hair so he could turn it from ivory to a jet black color. She would rather have used magic or perhaps a potion but detectable spell use was out of the question. There were safeguards in place that Twitch knew about from the information he had been given but he was concerned with the security measures that he wasn’t aware of. And a simple way to identify somebody as not belonging someplace was to look for magical means of deception. Even something as simple as a change in hair color could be enough to trigger suspicions. It wasn’t worth the risk. He would also keep it braided. He hated having his hair braided for long periods of time, but it would make an excellent change of appearance.

When Bex had finished with his hair, Twitch took to mixing up a concoction to stain his skin to make it look darker. Shadow elves were too fair skinned to pass easily as other elves, unless those other elves had been underground for decades. Fortunately, Twitch had years of experience darkening his skin to blend in to a variety of settings. He couldn’t bluff his way through a wild elven community for an extended period of time, but he could certainly melt into a mixed-race society for a few days.

The key though wasn’t cosmetic, but charismatic. Twitch would rely heavily on his personality to get what he needed done. The music helped, and spellcraft could be employed in small amounts to charm strangers, but really it was his smile and laughing manner that got results. Twitch would need to bring his best game for this mission. He knew the language, so all he had to do was make sure the words tumbled out just right.

The skin dye took quite a while to mix. He had to keep adjusting to get it just right. He didn’t want it too dark. He didn’t have to look weathered. He just needed to look like he wasn’t a corpse, which is a reasonably accurate, if somewhat unkind, description of just how pale shadow elves are. He applied the skin dye all over his body. No spot could be missed because he had no notion if anyone might catch him slipping into a bath or simply changing clothes. This was too important a job to risk being caught by being sloppy.

The result pleased him. He looked more like a high elf, and that was exactly the look he had been going for. There were plenty of high elves throughout Geldenreich, and though they were not a very significant part of the population, it would not be out of the ordinary to see one milling about a regional capitol. Twitch took great care to make sure he got every spot using a small handheld mirror. The illusion was perfect.

After going over his plans again, Twitch put on his night shirt and crawled into bed. Elves didn’t normally require a lot of sleep. But tonight Twitch needed his rest. The adventure began in the morning.

The sun was several hours away from rising when Twitch snapped awake and immediately rose from his bed. He quickly got dressed, leaving his night shirt on the bed. He grabbed up his bedroll and the large saddlebags he had packed his belongings into. With his mandolin slung across his chest, he made his way down stairs in the still sleeping inn. He put his roguish skills to work and silently exited the inn and made his way to the stable.

His horse was a speckled grey stallion that Twitch had owned since it was a newborn foal. He had purchased him from a local farmer for six gold coins. He had always called the horse “Sixx” and the creature was exceptionally fond of the shadow elf. When Twitch walked in to the stable, Sixx looked at him. He sniffed and stared at Twitch. Finally the horse realized it was his master and whinnied his delight to see him.

Twitch took Sixx out of his stall and got him ready for the day ahead. He checked his horseshoes again, and put the finest riding blanket he had on him. Then he saddled him, and gingerly hung the loaded saddlebags on to Sixx who stood patiently waiting. Sixx was happy to be out, and knew that soon he would be travelling with his favorite person in the whole world. Twitch was happy too, not just to be on the road but to be embarking on another quest. He hummed a happy tune while he put the finishing touches on making certain that Sixx was ready to go.

As the shadow elf exited the stable he became very aware of a presence watching him. There in the dark leaning against a great oak tree in the yard was Bex. She hardly moved as she spoke. “Did you need this much of an early start for this task?” Her voice was soft, yet travelled through the still predawn air like a thunderclap.

Twitch just smiled as he effortlessly swung up into the saddle. “I am eager to commence. Patience is not one of my virtues.” He laughed quietly. “Thank you, Bex. I’ll be in touch.” With a jaunty wave the bard nudged his horse with his heels and off the two of them went down the road to the northwest. It was going to be a long trip.

Bex watched them until they were over the horizon. Then she turned and went back to the inn. She had several days before her skills would be needed, so she was going back to bed. It was nice to not have anything to do for a change.

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