Alustriel's Latest Consort
III: Soft Sword, Busy Hands
By Ed Greenwood
Although Taern, Laeral, and Alustriel's sons have satisfied themselves as to Larlake's lack of menace, they and the Harpers remain interested in his influence on the High Lady.
Larlake took on his role of her hidden protector by himself, and it seems to be one she tolerates with affectionate amusement more than anything else, but he has also willingly become something of a spy on the diplomats of, and influential local groups within, the other cities of the Silver Marches. The Soft Sword reports to her continuously on what he can learn of their personal thoughts and aims, so she can better judge what they're after in League deliberations. The Harpers and Alustriel's own trusted heralds do the same thing, of course, and they're intensely interested in what "slant" Larlake may be putting on what he tells his love (and so are trying to learn what he feels).
He says nothing to them, but doesn't complain or try to thwart their mind-reading spells, which have yielded this much:
Larlake isn't trying to sway Alustriel in any direction, other than to equip her with all the truthful information he can about her fellow city rulers and their most important citizens. He's come to believe (and has told Alustriel as much) that King Harbromm wants to be emperor of a northern empire sooner rather than later and will shatter the League to get onto the Silver Throne without hesitation. Larlake believes this will be a disaster, because Harbromm itches to plunge into fatal orc-scouring wars whilst ignoring the needs of the "weakling" protectorates. As the King of Citadel Adbar sees the future, once every last fell monster has been exterminated, really good roads can be built, the wild Dessarin uplands settled, and all the gem and mineral wealth flowing out of Mithral Hall and Mirabar will have to come through his new kingdom (if he leaves Luskan alone to stand as "the enemy" so law-abiding folk will avoid using them as a port, and if he neglects Neverwinter so that trade will flow up and down the Dessarin and Delimbiyr valleys).
Larlake thinks that Lord Helm and King Warcrown can be led by Harbromm into building an armed host for the Marches that will prove to be its doom when they inevitably split with Harbromm over his grandiose plans (that King Battlehammer, High Mage Taern, and High Marshal Aerasumé will, of course, also oppose). In Larlake's eyes, the First Elder of Everlund is a dangerous fool -- dangerous in that he's already Harbromm's tool, goaded into picking quarrels with Harbromm's opposition on Council whenever the King of Citadel Adbar wants him to do so -- and an utter incompetent. The Soft Sword thinks that if death befell either Harbromm or First Elder Moorwalker tomorrow, the Marches would be safer and stronger in an instant (no matter what confusion followed).
So far as Larlake can tell, Alustriel knew all this quite well before his arrival in Silverymoon, and welcomes him as someone of similar views with whom she can commiserate. She values him more as a friend and a lover, for she needs intimacy -- not just sensual pleasure, but backrubs and moments of silent sharing, as well as someone to laugh with when she lets her guard down and clowns (she can do devastating parodies of many Silvaeren, and all of her fellow Council members).
He enjoys easy friendships with most of Alustriel's sons (who are all, of course, results of Alustriel's loving nature) because they know and understand her needs but can't, as kin, fulfill all of them -- and because Larlake has never shown them a trace of considering himself "above" them, or even worthy of being their mother's consort. Larlake doesn't seem to have any personal pride, and very rarely shows any anger beyond cynical comments about those he dislikes or behavior he regards as selfish, foolish, or damaging.
His own interests seem to include trying to learn who's trying to thwart or position themselves for future supremacy in the realm Alustriel's trying to forge, observing who's up to what in the Marches, and (besides openly warning Harpers, Alustriel, Taern, and Alustriel's sons about events and intrigues) subtly manipulating divers persons to support Alustriel's rule and act against those who don't. His chief tools in such swaying are the subtly dropped comment, the fostered rumor, and the occasional simple illusion spell that shows a skeptic something to shatter her views.
Yet, to some, Larlake seems a man of masks; as one Harper asked another recently: "Who is he, really?"
Read more about Larlake's past in the fourth part of this feature!
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