Aurei thought of the lack of lighting in the room as soon as she closed the secret door behind her, but fortunately one of the guards had placed one of the Keep’s portable glow torches in a sconce inside the little room. Though she liked darkness, she was very glad for the warm white glow from the glow stick. Gamel had paid to have 20 of the enchanted torches created. They were very simple enchantments – a light spell cast on a glass crystal set into a metal torch with a permanency spell cast upon it to keep the lighting effect going forever. Of course the Permanency spells were rather expensive to have cast-- especially 20 times-- and the Duke had probably spent a ridiculous amount of gold for them. The thought of Pinel snatching up the very useful tools for his own use irritated Aurei, but he would want them of course.
Shaking the dark thoughts of the man out of her head, she began taking her barmaid dress off – her back against the secret door to make sure none of the males on the other side would try to peek, though she doubted they would dare with Brother Darv standing there. She stood there for a moment in her undergarments and looked closely at the suit of Drow chainmail. Though it was black in color, it shined as if new and she knew after a minute of examination that Thorm was right – the armor had been carefully cleaned. The thought of wearing something that a corpse had worn last did not exactly excite her. Yet seeing something that connected with her racial heritage could not help but intrigue her greatly. She slipped off her undergarments, hoping that Thorm was right about the lack of need for padding. The chainmail slipped on like clothing, the pants seemed to fit her perfectly, perhaps due to its enchantment as was the case with much of the magical armor she had heard about from the patrons of the Muddy Boot.
The chainmail top also went over her much like a wool shirt and it fit her nearly as well, though the chest area seemed slightly snug, which was a problem she often encountered with clothing. A moment latter she stood there looking down at herself. She now was covered from neck to ankle in very fine black chainmail that clung to her like a second suit of skin, though it was extremely comfortable to wear after she stretched it out by moving around for a few minutes. It felt as if she was wearing some strange metallic clothing that somehow made her feel as if she was naked – it fit so well and felt so natural. She wasn’t sure she would feel comfortable walking out amongst the males wearing only the chainmail, so she called out, "I think I want to try on the plate pieces too."
A muffled, "Ok" from Thorm came from the other side of the door, and a moment later the door opened just a crack and a Dwarven arm handed her piece by piece of the plate armor as he gave instructions on how to buckle them together and adjust them.
"If ye can’t figure something out, yell for me and I’ll give ye some guidance." Thorm said as he handed the final piece to her, and then closed the door panel behind him.
Aurei sat in the floor and began with the leg and foot armor first – she didn’t know what each piece was called, having never really paid much attention to armor until now. The armor had ingenious locking clips on each piece, many that could be slightly adjusted for a more comfortable fit. The upper leg pieces went on easily and were surprising lightweight. The lower leg piece had the boot part with the crazy heels attached to it, yet was crafted so that the ankles could pivot slightly. These too went on easily and aside from the high heels of the boot, fit comfortably. She wobbled around for a few moments, learning how to balance on the balls of her feet as she snapped on the other pieces. All went on surprisingly easy and seemed to have been designed so that one person could suit up by herself. Even the breast and back plates snapped together at the shoulder area, then swung out so she could put her head through it and then swing them back together and snap them together along each side. She was very pleased to find that the breastplate had been crafted with enough room for a more ample bosom and it fit perfectly.
Ten minutes later she stood there – on feet gradually becoming accustomed to the high heeled boots of the armor —fully assembled in actual Drow plate armor. She had to see herself in a mirror, so she very carefully walked to the door panel, finding that it wasn’t nearly as difficult to walk in the heels as she had feared, and knocked on it.
Thorm opened the door and she went into the room, her metal heels making a clopping sound on the stone floor of the keep. The men all looked very surprised when she came through and if she had known how her appearance had unnerved them for a moment, she would have probably raced back into the secret room and removed the armor. For before them seemed to stand a noble Drow warrior, well armored and ready to lead a band of dark elves on a raid of some surface community. Her red eyes glowed in the dim light of the room, and for just a moment, all of them were more than a little uncomfortable around the girl who now suddenly seemed to be an alien to them. But the moment only lasted briefly and Aurei’s warm and nervous smile cleared the image from their minds and she was simply the beautiful dark elf barmaid that they had known their whole lives.
"Wow" Pectros was the first to speak, "What a transformation!"
"Duchess, if I didn’t know who ye were, I’d be a-swinging my axe for your head. The armor fits ye perfectly, I’d say."
"Does it? If feels… well, almost indecent – especially the chainmail. I want to see what I look like."
"Put this on first, Duchess." Thorm held out a Drow helmet, which she assumed had been found with the rest of the armor. She slipped it on her head and as was the case with the other pieces, it fit as if it had been made for her. The men were shaking their heads at her appearance and she clip-clopped across the room to the expensive full-length mirror that Gamel had placed in her bedroom years ago. The image looking back at her caused her to actually gasp in surprise. She had heard tales of the Drow for many years from far-travelling patrons who were delighted to tell her about ‘her people’. Now she saw exactly what they were talking about. The image in the mirror was that of a tall Drow woman, the gracefully beautiful black and purple Drow plate armor shining in the dim light of the room. Under the heavy shadow of the war helm a pair of glowing red eyes seemed to be reflecting the very fires of hell from some hidden depth within the helmet.
"Yesh preserve me." She exclaimed, "I look like I stepped out of a nightmare."
"You’d scare me to death if I rounded an alley corner at night and found you standing there." Neal said, but he was smiling as he said it.
"I look fiendish. I have to get out of this outfit." Aurei took off the helmet and was beginning to walk back to the secret room to change clothes when from the first floor of the keep the main door opened up and she heard the voice of one of the watch guards call out, "Aurei?! Are you here?"
"Upstairs" she replied, then, remembering her appearance she added, "What’s wrong?"
"I’m sorry to disturb you, but we have some men that went out to check on the Flydros family around sunset and we haven’t heard from them since. It’s only a mile ride, so they should have reported back by now, unless they ran into trouble."
Aurei glanced over to Pectros and Brother Darv, who reflected her concern. The Flydros owned a large farm on the east outskirts of Westmark and were the furthest removed family in the community. Lory Flydros had just given birth a week before during a very difficult labor and her husband Phillio had, two days later, been gored by a bull on his farm and was still recovering. Aurei had ordered that each evening a detachment check on them.
"Al, do you have enough men to send out a couple of men to check on them?" Pectros called out.
"No sir – Lorren and Sloid are off duty tonight and are passed out drunk, I’m afraid. Geos is doing double duty on the west wall, so that leaves Ledd and Pollchov…as well as me, of course."
Pectros sighed in frustration, "Alright, Al, go back to your post, I’ll see if I can get up some men from town and I’ll lead them out to see what is going on."
"We’ve got enough here to go." Aurei suggested.
"Five? Yes, that would be enough."
"Six" Aurei corrected, "I’m going too."
"Aurei, there is really no need; they are probably sitting around the fire with Phillio drinking beer."
"I’d like to go, none the less. Let me change out of this armor first."
"Why?" The Dwarf asked, "It might be a good idea to keep it on – in case we run into any trouble out there."
"I’ll scare them to death if I come riding up dressed like this."
"We don’t really have time to waste, Aurei." Pectros suggested, his urgency revealing some concern.
"Alright" she agreed, then to Thorm, "Do you want to come with us?"
"I’d love to, but I don’t have a horse."
"Ride with me." Aurei suggested, and the Dwarf, never a huge fan of horses except when they are hitched to his merchant wagon, reluctantly agreed.
"Let’s hurry, then." Pectros recommended, and they all hurried out of the Keep and to the stables.