Friends or Lovers? Part 7
After finding the treasure, Kane and the others spent another two days exploring the area before finally starting back to Beregost. Safana continued to flirt constantly with the Bhaalspawn warrior, trying her best to slyly come between him and Viconia, while Edwin tried his best to ignore her, thankful that the drow was so busy arguing with Safana that she took little notice of him. He planned to do everything possible to keep it that way. He was already doing his best to try and get back to his usual self, snapping at his companions and making his normal sarcastic, nasty comments whenever the opportunity arose, hoping that it would shake off any suspicion. At the very least, it made him feel just a little better.
It was while they were camping by High Hedge that Viconia finally snapped. After a shouting match that lasted most of the evening, during which the drow ordered Safana to leave Kane alone and the thief pointed out that she couldn’t help it if she was more attractive than an evil, dark-skinned elf. As the three males had half expected, the argument eventually came to blows and Kane was forced to pull Viconia away, while Kagain grabbed hold of Safana. Edwin sat slightly away from them all, trying to concentrate on memorising his spells for the next day and keeping well out of it. He didn’t particularly want his eyes scratched out.
“You tell her to go!” Viconia demanded, rounding on Kane, who grabbed her hand to stop her hitting him. “I will not stay here another minute with her! And before I leave, I’ll…I’ll kill her in the worst way I can think of! You give the orders here, fearless leader, so you tell her that she has to go!”
“Maybe he doesn’t want me to go.” Safana taunted and Kagain tightened his grip on her tunic, keeping her held back. “Maybe he’ll be glad to get rid of you instead. At least then he could do what he likes without you whining in his ear and following him around like a lovesick puppy!”
“Safana!” As Viconia struggled to break free, Kane put one arm across her chest, pining her arms to her side, trying to best to keep her under control without having to physically hurting her. “Viconia, calm down! Safana, I really don’t think this is going to work out. Maybe you should go.”
“Fine!” Kagain released Safana and she picked up her pack, scowling at Viconia. “I never wanted to travel with your stupid group anyway! And I pity you, Kane, I thought you were a real man, but now I can see that she has you wrapped round her little finger!” She stormed away into the trees, shouting several more insults as she went before finally disappearing.
“Well then,” Kane let go of his lover. “That is the end of that. You could have been a bit less harsh, Viconia, she wasn’t all that bad.”
“Good riddance, that’s all I can say!” Viconia said at once, rather coldly. “What did you expect me to do, lover? Just stand back and take something that belongs to me? I was not going to let her come between us.” Her tone softened and she wrapped herself around him, sliding a hand up his chest. “Sometimes you have to fight for the things that are important to you and you know how important you are to me.”
“Aye,” Kane agreed, but Edwin could swear that there was a hint of impatience in his voice. “How could I forget with you always reminding me?”
She laughed and kissed him. It hurt Edwin to see it, twisted his insides, though he couldn’t quite tear his eyes away. Kagain gave a disgusted snort and went back to polishing his beloved axe. As the two drew apart, Viconia happened to glance his way and scowled as she noticed Edwin watching them. The wizard lowered his head, feeling awkward and wondering yet again what Kane saw in her.
They arrived back in Beregost the following day. Despite having been so eager to leave the small farming village just a few days before, Viconia was now pleased to be back. Or at least pleased to have a comfortable bed and some half decent food. Edwin was pleased too; though he didn’t say anything for fear that the others would mock him for it. He had never been one for the rougher side of adventuring, sleeping on the hard ground in the wind and the rain, spending days living on stale bread, meat and cheese. But he was beginning to get used to it and there were things that made it more bearable. He just hoped that Viconia wouldn’t ensure that he had to leave the group.
But she has no proof, only her suspicions. If she says anything to anyone, I can always deny it. And Kane…he wants me to stay.
That evening, sitting alone in the corner of the tavern as usual, Edwin was once more troubled by his thoughts. Desperate to stop thinking, afraid that if he didn’t, he might start acknowledging, or even accepting, his growing feelings, he left the inn and went outside for a walk. Still remembering well what had happened the last time, the wizard took care to keep right inside the town and by the time he returned to the inn, his head was clearer. Although he wasn’t sure how much longer he could go on pretending…the constant struggle he faced to keep the way he felt hidden from his companions was doing him no good.
When he finally went back inside, Edwin was rather startled to see Kane sitting alone in the corner, a half-empty glass in his hand. Either Viconia was asleep or they had had an argument, and the wizard knew which one he was hoping for. But it already appeared that they had been busy, Kane’s hair was a little untidy and his shirt was almost completely unbuttoned and Edwin felt a stab of jealousy.
What does he see in her? He asked himself for the umpteenth time. He could do so much better.
Since neither Kagain nor Viconia were around, Edwin went over and sat opposite his leader, glancing down at the dirty table.
“Are you all right?” he asked, taking great care not to sound too concerned. “Has something happened?”
“Nothing more than usual,” Kane said wearily. “Just Viconia being her normal, possessive self again. I know it’s a harsh thing to say, but sometimes I really wish I’d never got myself involved with her.” He paused and drained the last of the liquid in his glass. “Don’t get me wrong, I do care for her, but she does my head in sometimes. I hate the fact that she thinks she can control me just because she regularly shares my bed. No one controls me, no one! And she won’t accept that I don’t love her either.”
“You…you don’t love her?”
“No,” the warrior signalled to the bartender to bring him another drink. “She knows that, I’ve always been honest with her about my feelings. But she has grown to depend on me and loves me in a way that is most unusual for a drow female. She really believes that if she keeps all other women away from me, one day I’ll wake up and decide that she is the only woman for me. It’ll never happen, but that is women for you. They never listen.”
“You have never been in love?” Edwin knew that it was a personal question, but he couldn’t help asking it. Kane instantly shook his head.
“Love…it damages people,” he told the wizard. “If it isn’t causing you a lot of pain, it is twisting you, making you say things and do things that you wouldn’t normally. I learnt that when I was very young, from my mother. I decided then that I didn’t want any of it; I didn’t want feelings holding me back and stopping me from doing what I wanted, or needed, to do. I like women, I like their company, I have even been very fond of one or two of them. But I don’t want love or marriage or children, I want adventure, excitement, a bit of fun. And I have yet to meet a woman who has even come close to convincing me to change my ways.”
“One day someone will come along,” Edwin muttered, not quite able to meet his eyes. “You had a difficult childhood, didn’t you?”
“Aye,” Kane laughed bitterly. “Aye, you could say that.” He paused for a moment and took a sip of his new drink. “You were lucky, you know,” he said finally. “To have had the upbringing you did, to have parents who loved you…who still do love you, your teacher who was always there to protect you, a decent education. I could barely read and write until I was thirteen, you know, until Benny took me in and taught me. I spent my earlier years watching my mother being beaten black and blue, taking beating after beating myself, not to mention the constant abuse, always worrying about where the next meal for me and my sister was going to come from, having to force myself to get up and work when I felt so ill that I thought I was going to die, about having to fight and steal just to even have a hope of surviving.”
“That’s…that’s terrible!” Edwin shook his head, shocked and angry, hardly wanting to believe what he was hearing. “I guessed that your childhood wasn’t easy, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”
“It isn’t something I usually talk about. I try to forget it, but it isn’t easy.”
“You can tell me if you like,” the wizard said at once. “If you think it might help you. And I’d…I’d like to know more about you.”
“I grew up in the slums of Athkatla.” Kane seemed reluctant to speak at first, but he did anyway. “There were five of us, my mother and father, my older brother Carlo, myself and my younger sister, Lucie. My father had a fondness for drink and it made him very violent. At first it was just my mother he took out his frustrations on, but then he turned his attention to my brother and me too. After a while, my brother began to copy his behaviour, he used to shout at my mother and push me around, hit me. I put up with it, though it made me angry, because I had too, there was nothing else I could do. But I never let either of them see how much it hurt me and I never let them touch Lucie either.”
Edwin shook his head, not knowing what to say. Try as he might, he could not even attempt to imagine being in such a situation. Having to live in fear every day, never knowing when the beating would come.
“We never had any money,” the warrior continued after a brief pause. “Because he’d spend nearly all of it on drink, not even leaving my mother enough to feed us or cloth us properly. He forced my mother to work on the streets in the end, but she had to give all the money she earned to him. I started stealing when I was very young, mostly picking pockets at first, though I broke into a few houses and stole things from shops too sometimes, just trying to keep my sister and myself fed. My mother…she refused to stand up to my father. She loved him and believed that he would change, that she would be nothing without him. The love she had for him even led her to betray her own children!”
“That’s why you believe that love can be so damaging.”
“Yes,” Kane agreed, though Edwin got the impression that the warrior had only half heard his words. “We lived like that for years. Lucie and I, we depended on each other to get through the most difficult times, because that was all we had. Back then; I couldn’t understand why father hated me so much, though now I know it was because of what I am. But he also hated me because I wouldn’t submit to him, he wanted to see me beg and plead, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. And the more I resisted, the more he would beat me. So it was just Lucie and I against the rest of them, against the rest of the world. We could always rely on each other.” His voice grew strained and he broke off once again.
“What happened to her?” Edwin pressed gently, though he had a feeling that he already knew the answer.
“She died.” Kane swallowed and continued again, his voice still strained. “She got sick one winter. I knew that she was dying and I begged my mother to stand up to my father, to get some money from him to take her to a temple. But she wouldn’t, she knew that my sister was dying and she would do nothing! I told her that I hated her, that if Lucie died then she deserved to burn in the hells. She was killed a few days later, murdered in a dark alley. Lucie…Lucie hung on for another week and I did everything I could for her, but it was too much for her. I didn’t care about my mother, harsh as that may sound, and I still don’t, but losing Lucie hit me very hard. I was in a daze for weeks afterwards, I tried to act normal but I could focus on nothing. There was an emptiness inside me.”
Without thinking, just wanting to do something to comfort him, Edwin reached over to where his leader’s hand was resting on the table and covered it with his own. Kane smiled gratefully and continued his story.
“Eventually I started realised that I had nothing to keep me at home any more. I could take care of myself, I didn’t need anyone else. So the next time my father started, I stood up to him. He didn’t like it and told me to get out, so I went. Then I lived on the streets for a few months and that’s when I first realised that there was something different about me. I…I murdered some people and again I got a feeling of power. That was my blood calling to me, telling me to strike out against those people who had hurt me.”
“That’s hardly surprising,” Edwin said sadly. “And then you met Benny?”
“Yes.” Kane smiled a little at the memory of his former teacher. “He was working for the Shadow Thieves at the time and he took me in and taught me a lot. It took me a long time to trust him, but he understood and gave me time. He cared about me, really cared in a way that no one else ever has. I was happy for a while, but it didn’t last. The Shadow Thieves wanted me for their own purpose, they wanted to develop my powers and make me stronger so that I would be of some use to them. Benny tried his best to protect me from them, while not actually betraying them, but when he felt that things were going too far, he protested. The Shadow Thieves found out, labelled him as a traitor and he…just disappeared. I’d been with him for almost three years then and I felt lost after that. Then I got persuaded to go to Candlekeep with the monks…didn’t like it there much, but I spent nearly four years there.”
“Imoen,” the warrior smiled again. “She is my half-sister, a Child of Bhaal, several years younger than me. She found me a little scary at first, and I always thought she was rather irritating, but we got on well most of the time. None of the monks liked us spending time together, they thought I might be a bad influence on her, but we didn’t let that stop us.”
“Where is she now?” Edwin asked. “Is she still in Candlekeep?
“I don’t know,” Kane shrugged. “I think so…I hope so. I had to leave, you see, though I hated leaving her all alone, but it was the best place for her. I only hope she isn’t dead, I seem to have a habit of losing the people I love.”
“Do you think Benny is dead?”
“It’s been…ten years now,” the warrior said sadly. “I can’t stop hoping, but I don’t think he’ll come back now. I don’t believe the Shadow Thieves killed him; he was far too powerful for any of those idiots to take down. But knowing him, he probably accepted some really dangerous quest and got himself killed by an angry wizard or eaten by a fire breathing dragon or something. But maybe he is still alive, maybe he tried to find me but couldn’t…or perhaps he has heard of some of the things I have done and no longer wants anything to do with me. As much as it hurts, I’d sooner believe that he is dead then to consider the possibility that he is out there hating me.”
“I am certain that isn’t the case,” Edwin said quietly. “I might only know what you have told me about him, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t give up on you, any more than Master Dekaras would give up on me.”
“Perhaps. But if he is still alive, I just wish he would come back. I wouldn’t even being angry at him for staying away so long, just so long as I knew that he was safe and that he still cared for me.” Kane shook his head and then switched the conversation back to lighter matters. “Your assassin isn’t well known in these parts, but Benny mentioned him once or twice, told me that he wasn’t one to cross.”
“He can be quite…intimidating, I suppose.”
“I highly doubt that he could be scarier than Mae’Var,” the warrior smirked faintly. “That’s the leader of the thieving guild, who Benny worked under and he was just…incredibly creepy. And he loved torturing people too. I never showed that I was scared of him and Benny was never afraid of him, but then nothing ever seemed to scare Benny. There were plenty of people who were afraid of him though.”
“Nothing ever seemed to scare Master Dekaras either,” the wizard also managed just a small smile, relieved that they seemed to be on slightly happier ground. “It sounds like he and Benny have quite a bit in common. I wonder if they’d get on if they ever met.”
“It does sound like it,” Kane agreed. “Though I suppose it would depend on the circumstances they met under. I can just see them sitting in a tavern somewhere,” he chuckled faintly, “exchanging tales on how much trouble we caused them in our younger days.” He put down his empty glass and yawned loudly. “Anyway, it’s good to see that the old Edwin has come back a little lately. I was worried about you, you were acting very strangely.”
“I have just had a lot on my mind recently,” Edwin admitted. “But everything is fine now.” He yawned too, a smaller yawn. “Perhaps it is time we went up to bed,” he suggested. “It’s getting very late and you look tired.”
“As tired as you look?” Kane asked. “Actually I am looking forward to my bed. Hopefully Viconia will be asleep by now, so I can actually get some rest.”
Edwin smiled at little at that, part of him feeling happier then he had in days, though his fear that Kane would find out his feelings and reject his friendship was still strong. The two men stood up and made their way upstairs, pausing outside Kane’s room. Then the Bhaalspawn did something that surprised them both. He threw his arms around Edwin and gave him a brief hug.
“You’re a good friend, Eddie,” he said quietly. “Thank you for listening tonight, it really has made me feel better.”
Suddenly he pulled away and averted his eyes, embarrassed by his sudden display of emotion. Edwin’s heart was pounding and he felt equally embarrassed. As Kane muttered goodnight and went into his room, shutting the door behind him, Edwin stayed in the hallway for a moment or two, staring at the closed door, wondering if Viconia was still awake, if the two would…no, he couldn’t think about that. It was too painful.
Finally he went to his own room next door, though he suspected that he would get little sleep that night. He couldn’t help going over and over what had happened, the feel of the warrior’s arms around him, the smell of alcohol, leather and sweat…It was going to be a long night.
Friends or Lovers? Part 7
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