Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.7.
“W-what? Who…” I awoke with the start and as I rise upwards in the bed, I knock Jaheira’s head off my chest, causing her to wake up as well.
“What is wrong? Having a bad dream… again? They seemed to have stopped after… well, Spellhold…” Jaheira looks at me, worried.
“No… not the Bhaal dreams, this time… something else,” I reply, trying to gather my thoughts together, “I remember… a woman. Err… please do not be jealous.”
“I will make an attempt,” she smirks, “now, please continue.”
“I think she was an elf… a blonde elf. And that horrible, horrible voice…”
“Ah, that… Aerie, was it her? Do not tell me that her unfortunate death troubles you so much,” Jaheira looks at me, incredulous.
“Eh, no…besides, it was not her – someone else, someone we have not met as of yet. And she was trying to tell me something… something about Irenicus.”
“What? Try to remember, this might be important,” Jaheira takes my hand encouragingly.
“She spoke of… a warning. Yes, she knows about my lack of soul and warned me to search for it as quickly as possible, a rather redundant request, I might add. She showed me Irenicus… he was killing elves, she said he was using the power of the Bhaal taint. Somehow… the woman’s voice was rather accusing when she was showing me those visions… as if I had willingly given Irenicus my soul…”
“That is ridiculous. But I do wonder who she is – it seems that she knows what is happening in Suldanessellar. I guess it means that we must hurry up,” Jaheira concludes.
“Yes, she warned me to hurry up… and I remember her words… ‘He has stolen your future to replace his own, avoided his proper fate.’ I wonder, what was his ‘proper fate’… Jaheira, could she have been some goddess from Elven pantheon?” I ask, puzzled, “mortals usually cannot assign or decide on what is the ‘proper fate’ of others.”
“That is a good guess, Theodur – though your description is a bit too vague for me to suggest who amongst the Seldarine might be your benefactor… perhaps Sehanine?” Jaheira muses, “Now if there is nothing else, you should get back to sleeping.”
“I think I am a bit too excited to sleep, dearest,” I smile, drawing her closer to me and she does not put up any protests at all…
We pack up our belongings and head downstairs in the early morning, I see that our friends are already waiting for us, Viconia and…
“Imoen! Is… is that you? Wha… what happened?” I look at my sister, mouth gaping wide open as I hardly recognize her.
“Yep, and don’t stare like that! Don’t you think I look better this way, bro?” she looks at me mischievously, obviously awaiting a compliment, which in this case is well deserved.
“Ch… Imoen, what prompted you to do such thing?” Jaheira is equally surprised.
“I did,” Viconia speaks suddenly and we turn around to face her, “admit it, pink is not a suitable color for someone who refers to herself as a ‘master rogue’. Black suits her style much better, I think. I find this to be an improvement.”
“Err, no doubt about that… but the suddenness of it all was just a little shocking…” I chuckle, “raven-black goes quite well with her green eyes. What do you think, Eddie?” I address our wizard who has just arrived in the main hall. For a long time he just stands there, staring at Imoen and I notice that Viconia is glaring daggers at him.
“Quite… err, fascinating, if I may say so (that little chimp is actually quite attractive… well, not nearly as attractive as my Noralee, but still…)” Edwin mutters.
“Well, if you are done staring, how about we head over to Keldorn’s estate?” Viconia interrupts the silence and following her words we quickly leave the tavern.
Keldorn and Nalia already await us fully prepared, Keldorn’s orange-colored full plate is shining brightly in the morning sun and making us all wince.
“Lady Maria has not raised any complaints about my temporary leave as I have some dealings in Athkatla regarding the sale of our estate,” Keldorn explains, “and I think that you would appreciate another sword arm in the battle against that foul vampire – it would be an honor to aid you in such valiant course.”
“Are you not afraid of leaving your wife and daughters alone with so many young and handsome men around?” Viconia asks mockingly.
“I shall let that comment pass, drow. If Theodur has allowed you to travel with him for so long, then there must be something in you that isn’t all despicable and loathsome,” Keldorn retorts, “now, allow me to explain what are our options on reaching Athkatla. First is the route through Imnescar – I believe you had visited Imnesvale before?”
“Yes we have – it’s a beautiful place and I would love to see it again,” I reply and Jaheira nods rather enthusiastically.
“However, traveling through Umar Hills might be rather dangerous – they have had an infestation of dangerous lycanthropes as of late,” Keldorn points out, “and it will take four days to reach Athkatla, instead of three if we take the other route.”
“Sure, we will take the fastest route – time is of essence, Keldorn,” I reply, “we can visit Imnesvale to catch back on pleasant memories later.”
“Very well, I was merely pointing out the options,” Keldorn smiles, “the other route will take three full days – on the first day we travel from Esmeltaran to Amnwater, we should get there by early evening. Then we travel from Amnwater to Crimmor by using the Eshpurta Road – it is quite crowded with the caravan traffic and thus much safer as opposed to the path through Imnescar. We should be in Crimmor by the end of the second day. And if we leave Crimmor in the early morning of the third day, we should be in Athkatla by late noon. Does that sound agreeable?”
“Very much so, Keldorn,” Jaheira smiles, “Now unless someone has a thing to add, I propose that we get moving – it is time to send that vampire right to the Abyss.” Jaheira’s statement does not generate wild cheering, but at least it urges us to finally get moving – and so the traveling can resume once again.
We arrive in Athkatla at the evening of the third day - the sun that has been harassing us on our travels has finally retreated beyond the horizon. The trip had been moderately entertaining, but nothing of exceptional note. We were attacked twice between Esmeltaran and Amnwater, but no more distractions followed afterwards.
The first encounter was a group of highway muggers who mistakenly took us for a simple merchant caravan – something that suggested me of their incredible shortsightedness. They had been very easy to dispose of, and so we did without even breaking a sweat. Keldorn was actually quite thankful about the chance to flex out his old muscles and I have to say that his skill is very much formidable despite his years – his help in defeating Bodhi will be much appreciated.
The second encounter proved to be a bit messier – we were ambushed in a place where the road went through a narrow ravine and the bandits had a tactical advantage and they proved to be a lot more skilful than the first group. They had at least three priests amongst their ranks, which Keldorn later identified as worshippers of Cyric, according to his words they have been spreading as a plague lately.
One of them managed to cast a holding spell on poor Viconia and another of the bandits used this to repeatedly beat the drow with a blunt object breaking her arm in two places and another blow across her chest area made her cough up blood until Jaheira had healed her properly. The offender was himself immobilized by Imoen’s spell and killed by Jaheira’s scimitar that passed right through his guts with a squelching noise.
Imoen’s reaction had been rather emotional as she hugged Viconia, sobbing on her chest and in turn making the drow look rather abashed. Various expressions ranged in the faces of my friends as they quietly witnessed the silent embrace of the two women… Jaheira’s eyes were full of concern as she obviously was worried about Imoen despite my efforts to convince her and gain her approval of this blossoming relationship.
Edwin had pretended to be studying a particularly interesting rock in the gravel and refrained from any smart-arsed comments. Nalia had looked both slightly repugnant, but also mildly intrigued… Keldorn’s facial expression was one of unmasked disgust. That concerned me, to say the least.
After this encounter, I noticed that the group tended to separate in many small fractions, Jaheira and I walking upfront of the others. Keldorn and Nalia formed yet another small group, with the paladin watching over his protégé like a hawk. Viconia and Imoen held back to the tail of the group, speaking very little and occasionally exchanging a word or two with Edwin who mostly held to himself and looked slightly depressed and deflated.
This presented another problem when I had to book rooms for us in the inn – Edwin refused to share a room with Keldorn and Viconia objected when I suggested that Nalia joins Imoen and her. It did not present a financial problem, rather than made it quite hard to find an inn with so many empty rooms, thus we had to split the group and take up lodgings in two different inns in both Amnwater and Crimmor.
I am very relieved that we manage to arrive in Athkatla without further distractions and I hope that perhaps concentrating on a common goal will help to weld this rather tumultuous group together.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.7.
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