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An Offer She Can't Refuse (Original, F, F/F, allergies)


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This story features a pair of original characters in a D&D-inspired setting - it's a world of my own invention rather than any of the Forgotten Realms settings, but uses some spells and concepts that may be familiar if you've played D&D before. If you haven't, hopefully it should still make sense as a stand-alone story.

Warnings: there's a bit of (not too graphic) description of mess, so if you're completely turned off by that it may be best to give this one a miss. Some swearing and innuendo (Elan, my dark elf rogue and the POV character here, has a bit of a foul mouth on her). Also, a character gets tied up in a completely non-sexual context. Since there's no actual R-rated action at all here I've assumed it's appropriate for the general fiction board, but please let me know if I've missed anything.



House Marbrand may be one of the most prestigious noble families in Valmere, with a pedigree going back a thousand years and a host of heroic deeds to their name, but the security on their estate is a little excessive even for the cream of the nobility. Ten-foot-high walls topped with spikes, guards posted at every gate even in this foul weather, a pair of lesser beholder-kin roaming the premises with their many eyes on stalks, looking every which way at once. Elan huffs in disgust. You’d think it was the Hierophant of Nova Aurealis himself who lived here, not some reclusive heiress.
She’s cased the place for a week, familiarizing herself with all the entry and exit points, the schedules of the guards and the house’s occupants. Lady Isabeau Marbrand, it seems, rarely leaves her estate, but her movements within it are unpredictable and she keeps late hours; the only time Elan can be reasonably sure she won’t be discovered breaking in is to do it while the lady is asleep. Which suits her just fine. Elan’s always tended towards a nocturnal schedule herself.
A shadow in grey, her cloak and leather brigandine matching the dusky hues of her skin, magicked goggles over her eyes concealing the tell-tale reflective gleam of her irises in the dark, she silently hoists herself up and over the wall. Dancing around the spikes on nimble feet, she steadies herself and leaps across to catch hold of the low-lying branch of a convenient maple tree, swinging herself up and over. From there, it’s a moment’s work to shimmy up to the uppermost branches of the tree – just in time to avoid being spotted by one of the beholder-kin floating by down below. It’s late enough in autumn that the maple has shed most of its leaves, but the dappled greys of Elan’s cloak help conceal her well enough from even the Spectator’s many prying eyes.
Elan breathes a relieved sigh once the creature is finally out of her sight. Honestly, who keeps bloody beholder-kin for guard dogs? Lady Isabeau must be paranoid indeed, she thinks. Climbing up and along a branch as far as its weight will carry her, she surveys her surroundings. No magical traps in sight, at least none that she can detect. Physical traps, however, are more difficult to spot. She can’t overlook the possibility of a pit trap being buried beneath an innocent-looking pile of leaves, or a paving stone rigged to set off an alarm elsewhere in the estate. Best to bypass such dangers – why disarm a trap when you can simply avoid it altogether? And for Elan, the simplest solution to such a problem has always been to take the high road. Literally.
The tree is too far from the house for her to jump, but that’s only a minor obstacle to the cunning rogue. She pulls a grappling hook from under the folds of her cloak and fires off a silent shot; the hook shoots out and catches on the edge of the roof, above the conservatory. In her week casing the place, Elan had rarely seen anyone entering that part of the estate, especially this late at night. There’s always the chance that a servant might pass by and see her, but like anything in her line of work, it’s a calculated risk. And she’s always been good at arithmetic.
With a whoosh and a soft rustling of fabric Elan propels herself upwards, using the momentum of the grappling hook to leap off the wall, flip herself up and over the eaves and onto the roof. Perfect. The rooftops of Valmere may as well be home to a street rat like Elan Veldreth, who’s been cutting purses since she was old enough to hold a dagger. It’s not as though there are many honest job opportunities for a drow in this city, after all. Even if she could walk in the daylight without the headaches and dizziness that come with being under the sun for hours at a time, people are still prejudiced against her kind. No, the nocturnal life has always suited Elan. And with the money from this score, she’ll have enough to settle her debts once and for all.
And then… who knows? Maybe she’ll get out of this shitty city for good, move to Blackwater or someplace where bloodlines aren’t the be-all and end-all of a person’s prospects. Maybe she’ll even leave the criminal life behind her. Find a nice cushy job where she doesn’t have to be out in the pouring rain at night trying to break into some noble’s house.
And maybe I’m the Dragon Empress’s long-lost twin sister. She laughs inwardly at her own foolish imaginings. Going legit? Perish the thought. Once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel – and Elan Veldreth, whatever else she may be, is very good at being a scoundrel.
She makes her way carefully across the slippery surface of the Marbrand estate’s roof, keeping an eye out for loose tiles or hidden traps. Ah – there it is. The window that, if her observations are correct, should open up into the bedroom of the Lady Isabeau Marbrand. Sole heir to the Marbrand family name, and the current owner of the Jewel of Valor, Elan’s target.
Silently she lowers herself down from the rooftop to balance precariously on the ledge of the Lady Isabeau’s window. No magical wards on the window, just a latch to keep the shutters closed. Elan’s no mage herself, but her goggles let her spot all but the most subtle magical wards and traps; they’d cost her a pretty penny, but they’ve saved her hide more than once. She pulls her thieves’ tools out from the small pouch on her belt and gently pries open the latch with deft fingers; a gentle push, and it swings open soundlessly. Ah, she does so love robbing nobles. Their homes are always so nice and clean and well-maintained, no creaky floors or rusty hinges to spoil her stealthy approach. And of course, the bastards usually deserve it.
Lithe as a cat, she slips through the window, landing softly on the carpeted floor. The room within is tidy and well-kept, but… kind of spartan, as far as the bedrooms of rich folk go. At least in Elan’s experience, and she’s plundered the bedrooms of a fair few rich folk. Occasionally even after spending the night with their inhabitants. The wives of stuffy old noblemen are always so fun to seduce; so easy to please, and by the time they notice their fancy jewels have gone missing, it’s too late.
But the Lady Isabeau’s bedroom has no such finery on display. A simple wardrobe, a writing-desk with a wooden chair, and an unassuming bedside table are the only items of furniture besides the lady’s bed itself. The boots at the side of the bed are unadorned leather, though clearly well-made, and the longsword propped up against the bedside table looks equally fine. She catches a glimpse of an embroidered frock-coat sleeve peeking out from behind the wardrobe door; clearly the lady dresses well at least. But there are no potions and powders, no gilded ornaments, no outward signs of wealth and prestige. Unusual, for a member of the nobility. At least such a simple and uncluttered room should be easy to search.
She takes a few cautious steps closer, wanting to get a glimpse of this woman, the daughter of one of the city’s most powerful noble houses, now the last of her line. Everyone had thought Lady Isabeau perished in the same shipwreck that had claimed the lives of the rest of her family. Her return to Valmere five years later had stirred up rumours aplenty, and her aversion towards public appearances had only stoked the flames of infamy. Some said she was hideously disfigured, perhaps not even human at all but some manner of undead creature. Still others claimed she wasn’t the real Isabeau at all, but an imposter trying to lay claim to what remained of the Marbrand fortune. Elan puts little stock in such rumours, but despite herself, she is curious as to what kind of person Lady Isabeau is; this noble heiress who keeps her living quarters so plain and stark by choice.
Lady Isabeau, last of the noble house of Marbrand, lays still and silent in her bed. She’s sleeping on her side, facing the wall opposite the window, her face in profile. A handsome face it is too, Elan thinks. Too stern and angular to be called classically beautiful, she’s nevertheless far from the grotesque creature of rumour. Her strong jaw and cheekbones are framed by dark hair, a few loose strands tucked behind her rounded little human ears. Her eyelashes are darker still, a stark contrast against the pale linen of the pillowcase, fluttering gently above a long, straight nose that tilts upward ever so slightly at the end.
Elan rubs her own suddenly itchy nose, leaning ever so slightly closer for a better look. There’s a light dusting of freckles across the bridge of Lady Isabeau’s nose and cheeks, and another over the patch of collarbone peeking out from her nightshirt collar. Webspinner’s mercy, but Elan’s always had a weakness for freckles. If she’s honest, Isabeau Marbrand looks every bit the sort of noble lady she’d like to seduce. A pity it couldn’t be that sort of job.
But seduction means being seen, which is a luxury she can’t afford here. Nothing that could leave loose ends or be traced back to her in any way. This job, the Jewel of Valor, is important enough that she can’t fuck it up. It has to be flawless. It has to go off without a… without a h-h-hitch–!
“HH’nkt!!” Elan barely manages to stifle the sneeze that suddenly overwhelms her. Beneath her goggles, her eyes are watering with the force of it; that was a strong one. Curious. She normally has a bit more warning than that before she sneezes. That is, except when it's…

Hayfever season. Elan sniffles, and curses inwardly; there, on the bedside table right next to a small velvet box, is a vase full of chrysanthemums. Of course it had to be bloody chrysanthemums. Most of the plant life in the world above the Underdark irritates her nose, but chrysanthemums are one of the worst offenders. Now that she’s noticed it, the scent is overpowering. If it weren’t for the goggles, her eyes would probably be streaming.
And that little velvet box – she’d bet anything the Jewel of Valor is in there. Which means she’s going to have to get closer to the damned chrysanthemums. Great.
Pulling her scarf up over her mouth and nose, Elan inches closer towards the bedside table. She’s protected from the pollen, but the scent of the flowers alone is enough to tickle her sensitive nose. She’s going to have to make this quick. One last glance over the room for traps: all clear. The box itself, though, might pose some difficulty.
Gingerly, she reaches out towards the velvet box, her hand brushing against a chrysanthemum’s head as she does so. A little cloud of pollen bursts forth from the flower, dusting Elan’s glove and the box beneath it; the flowers rustle softly in their vase. The Lady Isabeau inhales sharply. Elan freezes, ducking for cover behind the curtain of the lady’s four-poster bed.
One second, two, three… ten seconds go by, and Lady Isabeau’s breathing evens out again. Elan gently flicks open the latch of the little jewellery box, and lifts the lid as quietly as possible.
Its contents are sparse and functional, much like the room itself. A small brooch with the insignia of House Marbrand, a signet ring, a pair of cufflinks – and there, a multifaceted, teardrop-shaped sapphire about the size of a robin’s egg: the Jewel of Valor. Lady Isabeau’s jewellery box is hardly a worthy home for such a treasure; as a self-proclaimed expert on gemstones, Elan’s almost offended. Still, not to worry. If all goes well, she’ll be delivering it to a deserving (or at least well-paying) new owner before the night is done.
She takes out a tiny jeweller’s glass from her pouch and inspects the gem, holding it up to the moonlight from the window to see it more clearly. No doubt about it, this is the real deal, right there in the palm of her hand. She just has to get this back to the guild, and she’ll be able to –
“hh’nkt–! hH’tzsch!” Elan stifles another two sneezes into her leather-clad fist – and Lady Isabeau shifts and murmurs in her bed. Shit, shit, shit! Hurriedly, she pockets the glass and the gem, turning to check on the noblewoman.
Lady Isabeau has rolled over to face the window, her arm dangling over the edge of the bed. She’s still breathing deeply and evenly, her lips slightly parted, looking for all the world like one in the depths of slumber. Just for a moment Elan thinks she sees those dark eyelashes flutter open – but no, surely it can’t be. If she’d seen Elan at her bedside, surely the lady would be screaming and calling for the guards by now.
With a silent sigh of relief, the rogue turns away once more. A few quick steps and she’s back at the window, ready to vanish away into the night—
Until a hand snakes around from behind to grab her waist, and a blade is held to her throat. “Care to explain what you’re doing in my bedroom?” a husky alto voice breathes in one pointed ear, and Elan shivers.

Oh, she’s in it deep this time. Without a hitch? I’ll be lucky to get out of here alive, Elan thinks, flexing her wrists against the ropes binding her to the Lady Isabeau Marbrand’s chair. They’re tied firmly; there’s no chance of escape. Her gear’s gone, the Jewel’s gone, and to top it all off her nose is starting to run. Wonderful.
After grabbing her at the window, Lady Isabeau had stripped Elan of all her weapons and tools, her cloak, and even her goggles. The lady herself is now leaning against her desk with lantern in hand, looking down at her with an impenetrable stare, somehow managing to appear lofty and superior even in her striped pyjamas. She does cut an impressive figure, tall and well-muscled in the way that comes with many years’ worth of martial training; it had been the work of mere seconds for her to incapacitate Elan and divest her of her weaponry.  The unflappable confidence of the nobility, it seems, is deserved in Lady Isabeau’s case. “I suggest you start talking,” she says coolly.
“Oh? I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Elan says with a sniffle, aiming for roguish charm and landing somewhere closer to hayfeverish misery. “How would you know I’m even telling the truth? Better to just let me go now.”
Lady Isabeau sets the lantern down on the desk and mutters an incantation, her long-fingered, sturdy hands twisting into arcane gestures, casting spidery shadows against the walls in the flickering lamplight. Fuck me sideways, she’s a bloody mage? Elan curses inwardly. She hates dealing with mages. Magic makes things unpredictable, and unpredictable is the last thing she needs in her line of work.
The spell is cast, and Elan senses rather than sees a wave of magic wash over her, testing, probing. She feels something in her straining against the spell, trying to resist – and then it snaps, like a string pulled too taut. She knows somehow that lying to Lady Isabeau in this room isn’t going to be an option. A truth compulsion spell. Just great. “Isn’t that spell usually a priesty thing? You don’t look like the – hh-hih! snff! – holy type,” Elan says.
“I’m not.” Lady Isabeau smiles grimly. “Now. Tell me your name.”
The rogue has one of her many aliases on the tip of her tongue, more out of habit than anything. “Elan,” she blurts out instead, then jerks in the ropes as she tries to clap a hand over her mouth. Fuck! “Last name unimportant. Extremely unimportant. I’m no one of any consequence, honest.” The fact that she’s able to get all that out while under the compulsion of the Zone of Truth is… a little insulting, honestly.
Lady Isabeau just nods. “And what do you want with this?” She pulls the Jewel of Valor from her nightshirt pocket, tossing it in the air and catching it with ease, not breaking eye contact with Elan the entire time. Her expression is terrifyingly neutral, those dark eyes calmly assessing her every movement and revealing nothing about what she finds. It’s the kind of stare that makes Elan want to start babbling out of sheer social anxiety. She’s got to be careful.
“Money?” Elan says, with an attempt at a shrug. “I’m a thief. It’s what we do, stealing things for money. Listen, Lady Isabeau – can I call you Izzy?” The lady shoots her a withering glare. “Okay, definitely not Izzy. Beau? You look like more of a Beau. Beau, are the ropes really necessary? Not that I’m averse to being tied up by attractive women, but usually they at least buy me a drink fi… fiiirrhh…” Her eyes glaze over with prickling tears, nostrils twitching and flaring as the chrysanthemums’ strong scent assaults her sinuses. “hehhISSCHH! hhtiSSSH’ue! snff! Ugh.”
She sniffles and blinks, clearing the haze of tears from her eyes. Lady Isabeau is staring at her, stone-faced as ever, but… Elan could swear there’s a blush spreading across those high cheekbones and the bridge of that aristocratic nose. Even the rounded tips of her ears are pink. For such a stoic, intimidating-looking woman to get so flustered by a little bit of innuendo is…
Well. It’s unexpectedly cute.
The noblewoman clears her throat. “Who are you stealing the Jewel for, then? Surely you didn’t just choose to break in here on a whim.”
“What, no ‘bless you’?” Elan dodges the question. “I’m wounded.”
“I told you I wasn’t the holy type.” Lady Isabeau’s lips quirk up ever so slightly, and there’s a sparkle in her dark brown eyes that hints at genuine amusement. “But tell me. Who’s your buyer? I will have an answer – unless you’d like me to call for the guard? You won’t find them nearly so accommodating.”
Hells. “The Guildmaster would kill me,” she blurts out, then gasps and clamps her lips shut tightly.
“Thieves’ Guild, then?” The lady crosses her arms over her chest. “I thought as much. But who hired you? Was it Lord Rathbone? That weasel-faced son of a—” She cuts herself off, perhaps frustrated with her own show of temper. Clearly there’s some bad blood there.
Whatever the story is, though, it’s none of Elan’s concern. “I don’t know of anyone by that name. The buyer is… a collector. More than that, I can’t say. They really will kill me if I give away a client’s identity, you know. Or worse. The Guild likes to make an example of thieves who break their rules.” Elan’s voice trembles, and not just from fighting the urge to sneeze. The punishments for breaking the Guild’s code of conduct are notoriously unpleasant.
But by the Webspinner, does she need to sneeze. Even her eyes are itching now, tears welling up in the corners, tiny grains of pollen from the chrysanthemums nestling in her eyes and nose and wreaking havoc. Unable to wipe her nose, all she can do is let it run; the lady is staring, and Elan realizes she must look an absolute fright, but that’s of secondary concern to her right now. She can barely spare the thought for anything besides putting an end to this infernal itching.

“If you can’t untie me, at least can you give me a haaaahh…” Elan gasps for air desperately, only filling her nose and throat and lungs with more of the allergen. “A handkerchi-hi-iiieeehh–! hihh’TSHIEEEW! ehh’ISSHIIEH–!! ‘ISSCHH! ‘ESCCHHT!!” She sneezes helplessly, straining against the ropes binding her to the chair with every shuddering breath. “hh’ihh… ihhHEH’SCHIIEEW!”
That last sneeze seems to have taken it all out of her for now; she gasps for breath as the fit subsides. Her eyes and nose are streaming now, clouding her vision, tears and snot mingling together and running down her face. Her entire face feels as though it’s on fire.
Suddenly, something cool and soft is brushing across her tear-stained cheeks, then under her nose and mouth, wiping up the mess. “Blow,” Lady Isabeau commands, and Elan is powerless to do anything but comply, releasing a wet, congested-sounding blow into the soft linen. A firm hand holds the kerchief to her nose, pressing against one nostril and then the other, letting her empty her sinuses.
The force of the blow irritates her already over-sensitive nose, and Elan feels a familiar tickle. “h’ihh!” she gasps, straining against the ropes once more as she sucks in air. “hhESCCHHumff!” She sniffles wetly, her nose still nestled in the lady’s handkerchief. “I-I think I’b done dow,” she mumbles into the fabric, her face flushing hot with embarrassment.
The handkerchief falls away, and she looks up. The Lady Isabeau, strangely, looks perhaps even more embarrassed than Elan feels. Her cheeks and the bridge of her nose are flushed a most becoming shade of pink, the tips of her ears even darker, pupils blown so wide her eyes look nearly black. Elan would have expected her to be disgusted, but she doesn’t look like that at all. She looks… fascinated.
Huh. That’s different.
“…Bless you,” Lady Isabeau murmurs, voice rough.
“Thought you weren’t the holy type.” Elan sniffles, and is gratified to see the lady blush once more. Yeah, she definitely liked that. It’s always the nobles who are into weird shit.
Lady Isabeau clears her throat, glancing away briefly, handkerchief clenched in her closed fingers. Then her gaze snaps back to Elan, embarrassment put aside. “I have a proposal for you, Elan. One that it would be in your best interests to accept.”
Elan looks down at her bound chest and feet, then pointedly back up at the lady. “Sure, why not? I’m not going anywhere in a hurry. Snff.”
There’s that slight upwards quirk of the lips that passes for a smile from Isabeau Marbrand. “Indeed. My proposal is this: I don’t call the guard on you—”
“I like this plan so far.”
“And in return, you and your skills will be at my disposal when and where I see fit.” Before Elan can open her mouth to protest, Lady Isabeau holds up a hand to silence her. “You will of course be informed of any assignments in advance. I don’t intend to interfere with any responsibilities you may have to your guild.”
Elan nods thoughtfully, considering this. “When you say my skills…” She raises an eyebrow suggestively. “What kind of assignments are we talking about here?”
“The kind that require a… certain light-fingered touch. A degree of stealth and subtlety,” Lady Isabeau says, not rising to the bait. “I trust I make myself sufficiently clear.”
“Oooh, a daughter of nobility purchasing less-than-legal services from a common cutpurse. Such… hh’TSCHEW! snff! Such scandal.”
Lady Isabeau smirks. “I didn’t say I’d pay you.”
“Hey! That’s not a very fair deal!” Elan splutters.
“No money trail, no contract, nothing that could lead back to me; in return, I will graciously refrain from having you thrown in prison for attempting to rob the noble house of Marbrand. I get your services, and you keep your freedom. Sounds like a fine deal to me.” The lady smiles, with all the certainty of a chess player who’s already worked out what her opponent’s moves will be five steps ahead of time.
And, damn it all, of course she has. Given the choice between being at the beck and call of an eccentric noblewoman or life in prison, it’s an obvious one. Elan’s not stupid. She knows even if she runs away from this, the Guild won’t protect her if House Marbrand calls for her arrest. The word of a noble heiress versus that of a common thief, and a drow at that – it doesn’t take a genius to know which one carries more weight.
“I accept your terms,” Elan says finally. As if I have any other choice.
Lady Isabeau simply nods. From the desk behind her she takes a dagger (one of Elan’s own, she notes with some chagrin) and comes to cut the ropes binding Elan to the chair. “Then you’re free to go.”
Just in time for Elan to bury her twitching nose in the crook of her arm with a pair of shuddering sneezes. “Esschihhh! hIHH-tchew!” Wiping her nose on her sleeve – oh, she’s never going to take something as simple as being able to wipe her nose for granted again – she stands and makes a grab for her gear on the desk. Lady Isabeau is still holding one of her daggers, and the other two have been stashed away somewhere; Elan supposes she should be thankful enough she’s letting her leave with her life.
The tools of her trade retrieved, she opens the window, breathing in the scent of rain on the cool night air. Time to go, before she pushes her luck any further tonight.
“Wait,” Lady Isabeau says suddenly, a note of hesitation in her usually steely voice. Elan turns back towards her just in time to catch a blur of white out of the corner of her eye. She raises her hand instinctively to catch the object just before it hits her in the chest.
Turning it over in her hand, she furrows her brow in confusion. It’s the handkerchief Lady Isabeau had cleaned her up with earlier, soft (and still slightly damp) white linen wrapped around a small, solid object. She unwraps it; the handkerchief’s contents glimmer in the moonlight, beams of light reflecting this way and that off the multifaceted form of—
“The Jewel?” Elan gasps. “You can’t be—”
“Your collector can have it,” Lady Isabeau says, her face unreadable. “It means nothing to me.”
Wide-eyed, Elan gapes at her. “Has anyone ever told you you’re insane? I’m not complaining, mind you. But you’re absolutely raving. Cute as hells, but completely barking mad.”
As she makes her way up to the rooftop and into the night, the sound of Lady Isabeau’s laughter rings in her ears.

Edited by Snapdragon
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I love this!! This fairy-tale, allergy ridden prisoner plot line is right up my street. Thank you so much for writing and I can’t wait for more!

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Always love stories based on DnD or have fantasy elements, this one was no exception, absolutely loved it! Cant wait to see what happens next :)

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OMG your writing is just aMAYzing! I especially delighted in

On 10/19/2019 at 10:56 PM, Snapdragon said:

it’s a calculated risk. And she’s always been good at arithmetic.

On 10/19/2019 at 10:56 PM, Snapdragon said:

It has to go off without a… without a h-h-hitch–!

On 10/19/2019 at 10:56 PM, Snapdragon said:

Ah, she does so love robbing nobles. Their homes are always so nice and clean and well-maintained, no creaky floors or rusty hinges to spoil her stealthy approach. And of course, the bastards usually deserve it.

thanks so much for sharing!

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This is tremendously well written.  Like extremely high quality writing with excellent world building and descriptions.  I felt like I was in the room with them at the end there!  

I certainly hope you decide to continue in some capacity.  😃

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  • 3 years later...
  • 4 months later...

I would definitely follow a series on these two getting up to more mischief. great story!

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