It was night-time again. No one had tried to push Viconia any further on her problem for the rest of the day, and she kept it to herself. She was sitting up in her room, unable to sleep, unable to turn her thoughts away from her dilemma.
Her room had not seen particularly much use, but Viconia was certainly making up for it. She lay restlessly on her bed, tossing and turning. Kal had offered to talk several times, but she had shot him down each time and drove him away the last time with a little more fire than it had probably warranted. She knew her mood was probably troubling him, and she regretted that, but the regret had come after talking with him, and not during. While she talked with him, fear was in control, and she had aggressively pushed everyone away. By this time, Kal had stopped talking with her, clearly at a loss where things he could do were concerned.
She looked at the timekeeping candle. It was now early in the morning, two past midnight. She was tired, but unable to relax. Viconia shifted her tunic restlessly. It seemed every time she closed her eyes she could hear Shar's whisper.
Presently, she got up and left her room, hoping that doing something, anything, might accomplish what several hours of trying to sleep had not. What that something turned out to be was pacing outside her room, and unsurprisingly, it was not a great improvement.
"So, Viccy...what's up?" Cel asked from her perch on the outside of Kal's door.
"Nothing," Viconia replied irritably. "I simply cannot sleep."
"Oh," Cel said. "Well, that's no good. But you seem a little nervous. Are you sure you're all right?"
Viconia gritted her teeth. "I am fine. A little unsettled, perhaps, but I am fine." Must I go through this with everyone?
"All right. Hey, why aren't you inside?" Cel said, blade flaming for a second, with a tendril of blue fire indicating the door behind her.
Despite herself, Viconia smiled faintly. "And how is that supposed to help me sleep?"
She could almost swear that Cel's blue glow blushed pink for a few seconds. "I didn't mean that!"
Viconia raised an eyebrow. "So what did you mean?"
"I meant sleeping. You know, the actual meaning of the word. He really loves you, you know. Maybe you could talk it over. Or just sleep. Talking doesn't solve everything, I can tell you. Better than sleeping alone at any rate. Some people find sleeping with someone who loves you very relaxing. Tends to work better than warm milk or slapping your head with an eel."
"Slapping your head with an...?"
"It was one of those old folk remedies...five hundred or so years ago. Not a good idea."
"I...would not imagine so."
"Well, anyway, going in is worth a shot, right?" Cel said. "Unless you want to go find yourself an eel."
"No, I do not believe an eel is an option. Very well, I will go in." Viconia opened the door silently and slipped in.
Kal was sleeping peacefully, and quietly. Viconia walked across the room and sat on the bed next to him, laying a hand on his chest, just listening to him breathe.
Her hand jerked up and away as the voice rang through her mind once more.
One day - one short day - without my power, and you already crumble like a cake of dry mud, Shar said. Pathetic, Viconia DeVir. Or have you not looked at yourself recently? What would the drow priestess I once knew have said about this woman I see now before me? The one who has been mired in indecision all day? The one who depends entirely upon an all-too mortal man for her entire happiness?
Viconia bowed her head. By what used to be her standards, Shar was right. She had been weak, indecisive, paralyzed with fear. And even though they were not quite her standards any more, she still despised what was happening to her. Though she did not solely blame herself.
In my infinite mercy, Shar said, emphasizing ‘mercy', I shall grant you one last chance, Viconia DeVir.
The crackling dagger appeared again, hovering exactly where it had appeared the night before.
The condition remains the same. Kill him.
Viconia refused to move, sitting motionless on the side of the bed. The angry resentment she felt towards the goddess was as clear as fire against a starless night.
Come now, Viconia, Shar implored, using a far more conciliatory tone. Unfetter your mind from your delusions. He is an obstacle on your path to power. Recall well what you did to obstacles in the Underdark. You remember your sister, Minolin, do you not? She would have had you executed - and you will be just as dead if you persist in this path. You have killed before - kill again.
Long minutes passed.
You are allowed one foolish decision, Viconia DeVir. But one only. Reject me again and you shall know torment. Imagine an endless eternity of days such as these, full of indecision, stretching to the ends of time. You have much time to live yet, and I can make sure that no accidents end it early.
Then a solution occurred to Viconia, very quickly. Shar read it off her mind. No. You will not do it.
I can, and I will, Viconia shot back. Now get out of my head. She moved toward the door, kicking the dagger out of the way. Opening the door, she headed for the stairs. Cel asked her something, but she didn't answer.
Soon she was on the roof, and she walked up to the edge, droplets of rain falling all about her. With a detached, almost professional air, she judged the distance to the street below. Enough. One little jump and everything would be fine. No hard choices. No indecision.
Then another voice spoke to her, a very different. It was very soft, lacking the haughty overtones of Shar, and seemed to come from within her rather than without.
Why are you doing this?
Too caught up in her own thoughts to notice the irregularity of another voice talking to her, Viconia answered it absently. Because it is what I must do.
That is a shame. Why do you feel you must do this?
Because the decision to make is impossible. I will not kill him.
And you will not tell him of your situation, either?
The voice took on a faint tone of curiosity. Explain to me why you will not kill him.
Because...because I love him.
And do you think he does not love you?
Do you not think that he also cannot abide the idea of being without you? Do you not believe that he, too...cares? The voice was questioning, but not confrontational.
I do not know.
A ghostly chuckle. Far from a good reason to kill oneself. Do you doubt that he loves you?
I...I do not...think so.
If Tyr, his god, ordered him to kill you, do you think he would?
N-no. No, he would refuse...just as I did. I...I know this.
And you are right. Just like you, he would rather kill himself than kill you. But why must killing be involved? Whatever the playwrights may say, the objective of love is life, not death.
And what would you have me do?
Go back. Tell him everything. He loves you, and will never let you go - no matter what.
I am not sure how I will live without my power.
People live without power every day. And it is preferable to dying without power. Do not die for your love, Viconia DeVir. Live for it.
A long, long moment passed. Then, slowly, but with startling clarity in the sound of the rain falling, Viconia's foot scraped back against the floor, and she stepped down from the edge of the roof. Yes...yes...I will. Even without my power...I will.
Then you do understand the meaning of love, Viconia DeVir. One of the first of your race to do so in a very long time. A sigh. There was that ranger, but some other power seems to have decided that it isn't for him. Instead, he's going to kill a thousand orcs, or something like it.
Suddenly, the strangeness of her situation hit Viconia. Who...who are you?
I have many names, Viconia DeVir. Among the humans, I am known mainly as the Lady Goldheart. The elves, or the surface elves, I should say, know me as Hanali Celanil, the Winsome Rose. Love is part of what I am. And you understand it far better than many of my faithful do. I would be honoured to call you one of my own.
But you said....
I asked if you were ready to live without power, for the sake of love. You were. I did not say that you would be required to live without it. A sparkling golden necklace, with the symbol of the heart of gold affixed to it, appeared out of the air and descended slowly towards Viconia. As I said - I would be honoured to call you one of my own. It is your choice, naturally. But I do believe you will find my faith much more...enjoyable, than that of Shar. And much truer to yourself.
What...what do you require?
A silvery laugh. I 'require' nothing. I am not Shar and I am not Lolth. I am only what is in your heart. Look inside yourself, Viconia. I believe there is some of me inside you, no matter what has happened in the past. And I believe that makes you eminently suited to be one of mine.
Viconia smiled. I believe you are correct. And with that, she reached out and took the necklace.
Around Viconia's neck, the symbol of Shar she wore broke in half and fell to the ground, the black chain slithering to the floor like a dead snake. In its place, Viconia affixed the radiant gold of Hanali's blessing. Around her, the vines that wound their way around the rooftop burst into brilliant yellow blossoms.
You cannot do this! Shar roared, voice rumbling through Viconia's mind, though its fury was clearly directed elsewhere. You shall not steal one of mine in this way!
She is not one of yours. She was never one of yours, Hanali replied calmly.
You are not as powerful as I, Shar said threateningly.
For a moment there was a crackling tension in the air, and Viconia felt very small as the two deities faced off. There was no sound, no sight, no smell...but the overwhelming feeling of presence was unshakable.
True, Hanali said with indifference. But I do not stand alone.
Suddenly the sense of presence multiplied, and Viconia dimly perceived a few vague images; sparkling, coloured lights, a red-haired woman laughing in the bright sunlight, a pair of pursed lips, and countless other symbols that blurred by too quickly to know.
This is not over! Shar snapped.
It never is, with you, Hanali observed dryly. But you cannot face us all. Back to the shadows!
With that, Shar's presence fled, and many of the others followed it. Viconia shook her head slightly to clear it.
Worry not about Shar, Hanali said. My sisters will deal with her. As for you - Kalvorin is awake, now, and very worried about you. Let him know that there is no longer any cause for worry. Go now, with my blessing.
And without looking back, clutching the gold heart about her neck, Viconia ran downstairs.
All That Glitters...58
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