Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.9.
I have been here. I recognize the ornaments and mural-paintings of the dark crypt… Yes, I have been here recently. Why am I here again?
For my sister… to help her, to help myself…
The quiet sound of the footsteps, the clattering of the weapons, the whispering in the dark…
What do they say?
Their faces… one, two, three, four, five… where is the sixth… where is she?
Why the tears in their eyes?
The silhouettes part to reveal another… lying on the floor… her face, so unnaturally pale, marked with great suffering and pain…
What has happened?
“YOU KILLED HER,” the familiar voice says.
“I would… never… why would I do such a thing?” I protest weakly.
An unnatural, invisible force parts her lips and exposes a couple of sharp, pointy fangs… a vampire… she is a vampire…
“YOU CAME, ONLY TO LOSE,” Bhaal’s voice booms in my head.
“Why… why the warning?”
“SHE SHOULDN’T HAVE COME. EMBRACE THE POWER TO SAVE HER. OTHERWISE, SHE IS DOOMED.”
“Is this real? Or is this only a trick… an illusion you have conjured to trick me into using the power?”
“WILL YOU RISK FINDING OUT?” Bhaal’s loud laughing ends the dream and I wake with a start…
“Must not… allow her to come…” I mutter struggling beneath the bed sheets, but suddenly I feel myself being held in a firm and strong embrace.
“Having a bad dream?” Jaheira hums gently in my ear, “worry not, I am here to take care of you… you are safe and at good health.”
“Jaheira… what happened?” I finally open my eyes fully to regard her and notice that Viconia and Imoen are also present in the room. The images of the dream still are fresh in my mind, so I choose to remain silent for a moment.
“Druid’s Harper friend almost killed you, jaluk. You lost so much blood that we thought you are done for, but Jaheira and I emptied all our spells into your carcass and… well, I am glad to see you returning to us,” Viconia gives me the short summary.
“Yeah! And… and we showed that bastard Vermin really good!” Imoen squeaks, relieved to see me alive, “Eddie and I, we hit him with all we got and destroyed some pieces of furniture downstairs, while Jaheira… um… well, she… actually she scared me a little bit…”
“Scared you? How? Why?” I look at Jaheira, but she averts her gaze.
“Our dear treehugger almost lost it… she went after this Dermin like an enraged beast. She strangled him to death with her bare hands and her grip was such that she completely crushed his scruff…” Viconia elaborates on the details and Imoen makes exaggerated retching sounds.
“Well… I am glad to know that you feel so… strongly,” I take Jaheira’s hand in mine and smile at her, but she looks at me angrily.
“What… what on earth possessed you to pull such stunt? You know well enough that you cannot be raised, Theodur,” Jaheira admonishes me.
“Jaheira… you know yourself, that there is a very good chance that the resurrection might fail for you as well,” I look at her seriously, “and I would pull such stunt again, if necessary.”
“What? Why?” she asks, without thinking.
“Because I love you, of course. Because you would do exactly the same thing for me,” my answer is simple enough.
“Ah… to hells with it… what should I do with you…” she sighs, “might as well kiss the fool,” she exclaims in mock desperation, before leaning down and embracing me tenderly.
“Awww…” Imoen sighs dreamily.
“Pah! Mongrel love… don’t strangle him druid, I think one victim per day should satisfy your bloodlust,” Viconia snorts.
“Jaheira… would you mind telling me more about this Dermin?” I ask her as she has released me.
“Dermin… he was the man who introduced me to the Harpers. Every novice Harper has someone who watches over them and gives advice – they are called sponsors. I met up with Dermin soon after I had left the druid grove in Tethyr. I do not know how, but he seemed to know of my determination to serve and uphold balance…” Jaheira explains, “he ordered me to travel to Berdusk, to the famous Harper base – Twilight Hall. That is where I received my first tasks… and that is where I met… Khalid.”
“Well, I think that Harpers suck,” Imoen adds cheerfully, but then corrects herself, “um, are you still a Harper, Jaheira?”
“I guess that I am… but the question that should be asked needs to be phrased differently,” Jaheira sighs.
“You mean like… do you still want to be a Harper?” I try my guess.
“Almost… can I still be a Harper, that is what has been plaguing me,” Jaheira confesses, “and Imoen… I understand you, but know that not all Harpers are alike and for some of them I have little fondness myself. For example those Harpers that have been stationed in large cities – they frequently resort to achieving their goals with spreading rumors and deceiving others into helping them or ruining the plans of the opposition. Poisoning and assassination are parts of their everyday routine… I never approved of such methods of manipulation – but that does not mean that I could not serve as a Harper.”
“I was wondering about that, myself… I mean – excuse me for saying this, but you would probably make the world’s worst spy… and Khalid was equally bad. Somehow, I can’t imagine dad doing any of this, either… he was always one to take a direct action,” I add.
“I guess some of them weren’t that bad… sorry for jumping to conclusions, Jaheira…” Imoen looks a bit peevish.
“There are a lot of folks like us, amongst the Harpers – those of the adventuring sort. They spend most of the time traveling the land and looking to right the wrongs and fight injustice with a direct action, not being led by the orders of the superiors, but only by our beliefs – which is what Gorion did, Imoen,” Jaheira explains, “and I joined the Harpers to do the same.”
“Well, I know that you are one of the good sort,” I smile at her, “people like that meddler Elminster only give Harpers a bad name.” Jaheira only snorts at that and Imoen and Viconia share a little laughter.
“What about Bodhi?” Imoen asks suddenly, “You know… I kinda want my soul back, really… when will Theo be ready to go?”
“Definitely not today, Imoen,” Jaheira explains, “besides, it is already late afternoon… first thing tomorrow, I think he should be ready then.”
“We will inform the others then,” Viconia turns to leave and motions Imoen to follow her, leaving Jaheira and me alone in the room.
Sleep does not come easy this night. I suppose that it is only because I have spent most of the day in the bed – I actually feel quite refreshed and ready to go without waiting until the morning comes.
Or maybe it is because of that dream. I think that Bhaal was only tricking me, but still… there was something else, something that was not present in my previous Bhaal-dreams. A feeling… a peculiar feeling… as if Bhaal had only intruded in the dream midway through it – but how? And why?
If those earlier images of Jaheira, being turned in vampire and killed, were not coming from Bhaal… should that mean that this is going to happen? He has never been the one to give such clear foreshadowing… always those have been some grand promises of power! This didn’t seem like entirely Bhaal’s doing… then again, it probably was… it couldn’t be anything else! Perhaps… perhaps he knows that Jaheira would die if she were to come with me? And… and he knows that I would be broken, useless to him then? Perhaps he wants to prevent that?
No, I guess it is all Bhaal’s doing, after all… but can I risk and ignore such warning only to lose her to my indecision? And it was so easy to tear up a dozen of vampires in Spellhold and cripple Bodhi, making her flee, bleeding, broken and in panic…
Would submitting to Bhaal for once, only this once, leave such irreversible damage? In any case, it would be I who would get hurt, not her… I think turning to look at my lover, sleeping peacefully beside me.
I will probably get yelled and perhaps even beaten up in the morning, but that is something I would likely endure… in fact, even treasure. I have no doubt that I will return alive – I know that the power of Slayer is too great for an army of vampires to withstand.
I suppose that I need to take Imoen with me, however… perhaps she needs to be nearby when I kill Bodhi. I hope she has memorized some invisibility spells – otherwise it might prove too dangerous, I ponder, before slowly and silently crawling out of our bed and donning my gear as carefully as possible. I stand for a while to look in Jaheira’s peaceful face, as if trying to savor these moments in case if something unpredicted was to happen. In fear of waking her up, I hesitate to kiss her – so I leave her and silently sneak towards Imoen and Viconia’s room.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.9.
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