Montaron and Xzar came in first, Talek having a quick conversation with a Talon outside, his laughter reaching the tent. Viconia was standing proudly, one foot on Imoen’s unconscious form, looking like a cat that had caught a mouse.
The two Zhents froze.
“I found this little girl playing hide and seek near the tent.” She grinned. “What should we…”
“Heal her! Now!” Montaron snapped. Xzar screamed, shaking his head wildly and moving away from the centre of the tent.
“What?” Viconia looked confused and looked down. “Why are you so worried about her?”
“Hey guys, what’s wrong?” Talek’s voice sounded as he came closer.
Montaron cursed. “Just heal her, drow, that’s….”
“Imoen…” Talek saw her the moment he entered, eyes going from her unconscious form to Viconia with one foot on her, a mace in her hand.
For a moment, he just looked at Viconia, as if expecting the image to vanish. Then his face twisted in an expression of rage and he stormed forward. Viconia just had the time to realize her mistake when Talek was upon her.
He didn’t have his sword in hand, and it saved her life. Instead she was merely bowled over, caught under more than hundred kilo of flesh and steel, two hands on her neck, quickly tightening. Her red eyes stared fearfully as she uselessly clawed at the gauntleted fingers.
“I trusted you!” Talek said in a hoarse voice. “How could you? How COULD you?”
Viconia’s mouth went open and shut in a vain attempt to breathe. Xzar gibbered in panic and an awakened Edwin looked in confusion at the scene. Montaron got next to him, not daring to touch the enraged fighter. “Stop it! Boy! Talek! For Mask’s sake, calm down! She didn’t know!”
Talek didn’t seem to hear him, squeezing harder, Viconia’s clawing became less coordinated, panicked and spasming.
“Talek! You never told her what Imoen LOOKS like! She didn’t betray ye! Ye’re hurting a friend!” The words were yelled.
For a second they didn’t seem to get through. Then the flames in the brown eyes vanished as if someone had poured a gallon on it. The hands left Viconia’s neck as if burned. His face pale, Talek fell back, getting off of the Sharran. She coughed and wheezed as she regained air.
“Heal her.” Montaron just pointed at Imoen.
Viconia nodded, crawling on hand and feet towards the fallen girl and getting a healing spell out in a hoarse and rather shaky voice. Talek was sitting a bit away, biting his lower lip and looking worried at Imoen. Soon Viconia removed her hands, looking at Talek. “She’ll be all right.”
Talek nodded, relief obvious on his face, next to shame. “Viconia… I… there’s no excuse for…” His words died on his lips.
Montaron made calming gestures. “Just a misunderstanding. It happens, right drow?”
Viconia just nodded, rubbing her throat. “Just a misunderstanding.”
“No.” Talek said. “I should trust you. I should have let you explain. I’m just as bad as them.”
“Will you stop with the snivelling already?” Viconia snapped, getting everyone’s attention. She got up to her feet. “I am drow! Do not think that a little strangling would leave too much an impression on me after what I have seen and done. Nothing happened, and you made a clear message that your friend is not to be harmed”
Talek got up, looking thoughtful. “But… I…”
“I do not consider you any less a friend of mine as before.” The drow said with a grin. “And I’ll make sure there are plenty of opportunities to show your trust in me in the future.”
Talek nodded and smiled. “Thanks, Viconia.” He grabbed the drow in a friendly hug, momentarily wiping the satisfied grin of her face. At that moment Imoen started to stir.
Montaron had been watching the conversation with a mix of worry and irritation. When he noticed the girl’s awakening he clapped his hands. “Okay, the two kids need some time to talk, everybody out of the tent.”
Edwin protested. “What? I demand a proper night of sleep! The lack of proper rest is causing my extraordinary mental capacities to function at less than their awe inspiring zenith! Already my head is pounding.”
“Ye don’t want a hangover, stay of the wine, Thayvian… now get out there!” The wizard grumbled but left, Viconia being the last one to leave, looking with a sly grin at Imoen, whose eyes were starting to open, before leaving.
Montaron closed the tent flap, cursing softly. “Damnable fool girl! Sneaking alone inhere. I thought the thrice cursed druid would keep a tighter leash on her!”
Xzar scowled. “I don’t think I like her talking to him. She’s gonna try to keep him small! He shouldn’t run, he should win!” His words were ignored.
“I’m surprised you stopped him from killing me, halfling. Wouldn’t it have been convenient for both of us to die?” She grinned.
“Ye’ve got uses, drow, and I’d like to keep the happy sunshine girl alive too if there’s no need to have her die. What annoys me is that the boy has compared his little outburst with that of the druid.” He gave her a sneer. “Figures it’d be a Sharran of all people that could make him consider forgiving the bitch and her boy toy.”
Viconia made a face and wanted to answer when Edwin spoke up. “Ooh, wonderful. As if this day hasn’t been ‘interesting’ enough now those imbecilic hobgoblins are complaining about something. (That’s what I like about summoning. Call them, and when you’re done with them you dismiss them.)”
As he said, a bunch of hobgoblins had walked into the human part of the camp, weapons drawn, stopped by some bandits and Black Talons. Harsh words were exchanged, some people trying to calm the belligerent hobgoblins down.
“Ah damn it!” Montaron said. “The rumour can’t have gotten out yet! This is bad, anybody draws a weapon there and the whole thing is gonna…”
Montaron’s words were interrupted by two arrows coming from the human part of the camp, each hitting a hobgoblin.
“Talek…” Imoen said, a relieved smile on her face as he sat next her.
“Hey Imoen!” He said, grinning broadly. “Eh… sorry about Viconia. She didn’t know you. Is your head okay?” He looked concerned.
“I’m… fine…” Imoen said, rubbing her head. “Talek, what are you doing here?”
“I thought I should be asking that.”
“You know what I mean! Joining the bandits!” Imoen sat up.
Talek nodded. “Oh, we were on our way to the Friendly Arm to meet you when some farmers and Fist came after us. We took out the farmers, but the Fist would have taken us if not for them. They offered us to join them, and it was a handy way to know who was behind it all. Turns out the bandits thought they were working for the Zhent.” He continued to talk enthusiastically. “So they’re pretty pissed at the guys behind this all. We’re gonna take out the hobgoblins and then go to the Cloakwood to…”
“TALEK!” Imoen interrupted. “I mean what you are doing killing people? Even if you pretended to join them, you can4t just join their raids! I found the elf." Imoen looked at him, hope to get an explanation, a denial, an excuse, or just regret.
Instead Talek just sighed and gave her a smile. “I’m sorry, Im, I tried but… I stopped trying.”
“No,” Imoen grew pale. “Don’t say that.”
“It had been coming a long time. I tried, you know I tried. Always thinking that if I tried a little harder, a little longer, I’d become happy, like you, and Gorion, and all the heroes in the stories. I thought that once I left Candlekeep, it’d all get better, but it didn’t.” He smiled. “Ever since I just accepted I was what they called me, I’ve been having a blast, making friends, having fun. No more worries about what people are saying behind my back.” He stood, a determined look on his face
“Talek, there is something wrong with you, something bad that makes you… that makes you act like that. We’ll find a way to stop it.” Imoen rose as well.
“Stop it? Hell no, I’m just beginning to like it.” He grinned for a bare moment. “Besides, maybe some of those guys in Candlekeep were right. Maybe my mother or the guy with her was a fiend or something like that. Would explain the Helmite’s reaction.” He made a soothing gesture. “Anyway, please don’t worry, Imoen, I’ll be fine.”
“FINE? You’re going to get yourself killed!” Imoen’s voice broke.
“I rather die than going back to what I was.” Talek said sharply, then softened. “Imoen… please… I know you’re good… and I won’t hurt anyone close to you. I even think I can get along with the two half-elves.” He smiled, desperate to ease his friend’s pain.
“Please… Talek… don’t…” Imoen shook her head.
He lowered his head. “I… I never… meant to hurt you but… I can’t do it anymore. I won’t.” He looked at the exit. Noise could be heard. “All the thing I’ve been trying to get: friends, a home, not worrying that I won’t be up to some bastard’s standards, I got them by just going with my feeling instead of trying to bend over backwards for people.” He said, stubbornness rising in his voice.
Imoen bit her lip. “We need to talk, Talek. I shouldn’t have left you alone. You have to come with me!”
Talek grinned. “Sure, I guess I can come with you. Where are the two half-elves?”
“They’re…” Imoen suddenly grew pale. The sounds outside were becoming louder. “Oh no.”
“We need to get out of here, now.” She said.
“What’s going on?” Talek said.
Suddenly, Viconia stormed in. “Talek, put an end to the conversation. The hobgoblins have somehow seen through the ploy! We need your strength.”
Talek drew his sword. “I’ll be there in a second. Be right back, Imoen.” He stepped away, but Imoen grabbed his shoulder.
“No! The Flaming Fist is coming. Talek, you have to get out of here! I’ll get you to Jaheira and Khalid and we’ll tell the Fist I helped you escape and…”
“The Flaming Fist?” Talek said. “Damn it, I need to warn Tenhammer!”
“Talek!” Imoen cried.
Talek hesitated a bit looked at Viconia. “Vic, I trust you. Get Imoen to safety, and get back!” He headed for the exit of the tent, Imoen ran behind him, but was stopped by Viconia. “We’ll talk afterward Imoen, but you know me better than to think I’d abandon my friends.”
He ran out. Imoen calls after him drowned by the sounds of battle. Viconia grinned wickedly at her. “So, I finally get to meet Talek’s childhood friend he cares so much about. He almost killed me for harming you, do you know that? He’d be devastated to lose you.”
Imoen looked at the mace the drow carried. “What are you going to do?”
Viconia grinned. “Exactly what he told me to do, little girl. I’ll bring you to safety. I’m rather curious to see how far you’re willing to go for your dear friend.”
“You keep your stinking hands off of him!” Imoen said, stepping forward.
The drow laughed scornfully and threw the girl her weapons. “Your violent friend almost strangles me and I’m the one who should keep her hands off of him? How righteous. Follow me, Imoen, I’d hate for you to die at some hobgoblin’s hands.” She ran out, Imoen reluctantly following her.
The four attackers quickly gathered, looking pleased at the skirmish erupting and quickly growing into a full night-time battle. Some of the Talons had assumed the plan had been compromised and rather than making attempts to calm the battle, roused the other humans and fanned the flames.
Dynaheir smiled. “One spell and two arrows, not bad at all.”
Jaheira nodded. “No time to pat ourselves on the back, though, give the signal, and let us hurry.”
Dynaheir nodded and spoke some words, raising her hands to the sky. A red symbol rose in the sky, a dragon rising out of a lake, surrounded by broken chains. It remained there for a few seconds and vanished. Very few bandits had noticed. “There, now to make for the captives!”
The group ran down into the camp. There were none who challenged them. They were in the human part of the camp and most humans were concentrating on fighting hobgoblins. The darkness helped to keep them from noticing the intruders. When they came at the tent that had held the captives there was an unpleasant surprise.
“Empty?” Khalid said, looking around. “W…where did they t… take them?”
Dynaheir said something in Rashemani which sounded like a rather vicious curse. “The smell of captive slaves is yet strong here. Mayhaps they have been moved!”
Jaheira scowled. “Blast it! We cannot stay here. Once the Fist attacks, we need to be at the edge, rather than here.”
“Nay!” Dynaheir said with unusual vehemence. “We must find where they hid it. I shall not allow these fiends to…”
“We c… can’t stay here! We’ll g…get surrounded!” Khalid kept an eye on the exit, nervously watching the bandits run past.
“The risks are worth the gain!” Dynaheir said. “We shall make for the large tent and…”
“We will not, Dynaheir, you overstep your bounds!” Jaheira snapped. “I wish to save these people as much as you, but we did not agree to a suicide mission!”
Minsc stepped back and Khalid winced as the two women locked gazes. Dynaheir looked away. “Thou art right, I forgot myself. Nevertheless, Minsc and I must search yet a bit longer.” She looked outside. “We shall try to avoid notice until the attack begins.”
Jaheira looked ready to protest, but sighed. “Do as you must, then, but be careful.” She looked outside. “On three. One, two, three…”
Talek had gathered his companions, telling them about the imminent arrival of the Fist. The battle had only just begun and already corpses littered the ground. Finding Tenhammer took longer than expected. It was dark and the people they encountered were sleepy and more interested in the battle than answering questions. Eventually, they found him in a duel with Ardenor, who held his own against the grizzled mercenary. Xzar mumbled a spell and several sickly green orbs left his hand, striking the hobgoblin in the back, causing him to jerk in pain and allowing Tenhammer to crush his skull.
“What the nine hells happened?” He asked angrily .”I thought I told you…”
“Fist!” Montaron yelled. “It’s a Fist ruse! We’re about to be attacked!”
“BANE!” Tenhammer cursed. “You tell the ones waking up to prepare for them! I’ll see if I can get the hobgoblins to stop.”
No more words were said and the commander ran off. The group tried to alert many to the danger. Some Talons quickly started to gather groups and prepare, but without knowing where the attack would come from, the men were panicked.
And then one of them said he had seen the symbol in the sky. When he heard the description, his face twisted in a vicious scowl. “Rasheman!”
“What?” Talek asked.
“The wychlaran! She survived! She’s behind this!” He almost hissed. “You have to kill her. You promised..”
“If she’s behind this, she’s dead!” Talek interrupted him. “Montaron, Xzar, you warn the rest.” Talek bared his teeth. “This time I’m taking her HEAD!” Without waiting for an answer, he followed Edwin.
They spotted each other near the large tent. There weren’t that many robed figures running around. The moon and stars giving enough light to see the dark-skinned woman and her defender. They had ran into some bandits that had attacked them, but were deftly cut down by the large ranger.
“There she is! And she has her imbecilic, bald bruiser with her! Kill them both!” Edwin yelled.
Talek had his eyes on the man, a large, impressive figure carrying a large, two-handed sword. “Him!” he growled and charged.
As the last bandit fell, Dynaheir caught a flash of red in the moonlight and recognized the Thayvian. “Minsc! The Thayvian is there, and his hired killer as well!”
Minsc turned towards them, rage blossoming in his eyes. “The evil wizard and the evil man that hurt Minsc’s witch? Minsc will HACK THEM TO EVIL LITTLE BITS!” The leather armoured giant stormed forward furiously.
“Minsc, hold…” Dynaheir’s face hardened as the berserked ranger didn’t seem to hear her. “So be it then. Prepare thyself, red wizard!”
Edwin sneered. “You won’t live to see your petty schemes fail, Rashemani witch!”
As the two wizards began casting, the two swordsman met, blades clashing together with thundering force. Talek, surprised by the berserk fury had to step back.
“Evil man! You DIE!” Minsc roared, angry swipes pressing Talek hard.
The other swordsman scowled. “You’re not him.” he said, “but I’ll teach you not to attack my home!” He struck at the man’s legs, causing a small wound that the ranger completely ignored. “I’m gonna tear you apart!”
As the swords clashed, the casters finished their spells. Edwin’s words caused a group of kobolds to appear close to the wychlaran. At the same time a burning arrow left her hand, striking the mage in the side, causing him to cry out in pain as his flesh sizzled.
Minsc and Talek both were lost in their battle to notice. Two simultaneous strike pressed them in a deadlock, the two men locking eyes as well in murderous bloodlust and berserk fury. Again Talek was forced to back away in the face of the ranger’s superior strength. One blow struck his armour, not piercing it but with enough force to bruise through the metal.
Edwin quickly reached for a vial of water to douse the fire and reduce the burn marks. Dynaheir, dodging and weaving, cast a spell, managing to stifle a cry that would have interrupted it as one of the kobolds made a cut over her leg. From her hands, a fan of fire erupted, burning several of the kobold’s faces and causing the cowardly creatures to flee.
And then battle cries could be heard from all around the camp as the Flaming Fist mercenaries charged. Edwin cursed. “Drat, her ironclad buffoons have arrived. Pull back, we’ll get them later! We need to get to the others. (I’m not dying today!)”
Talek growled but stepped back. “This isn’t over!” He snapped at the berserk ranger, stepping back as fast as he could. Minsc tried to pursue in berserk fury, but the cut on his leg slowed him down, and he roared in frustration as Talek turned and ran for the other bandits.
When the ranger started tried to pursue as fast as he could, Dynaheir called out. “Minsc, desist! I command thee!” The ranger stopped, breathing heavily as he struggled against his rage. Edwin was ranting against the bandits and mercenaries, where the last traces of infighting had stopped. A few of them looked ready to consider finishing off the two wounded intruders. A few even shot a few arrows at the tall rangers.
“We have done our part, Minsc.” Dynaheir said as Minsc pulled back. “And gave it our all to find the slaves, now, tis time to leave the local law to their task.” Nursing some shallow wounds the kobolds had delivered to her, she cast a magical light to show her visage and headed as fast as she could towards the oncoming Fist.
“But the evil wizard and his evil swordsman…” Minsc tried.
Dynaheir smiled grimly as the Flaming Fist stormed past them at the middle of the camp where the bandits were gathered. “Much as it would have pleased me to bring down the Thayvian myself, I shan’t mourn if he and his thug fall under a lawman’s blade or perish at a rope’s end.” She looked over her shoulder. Arrows were fired from the gathered bandits. Only a bare few of the heavily armoured Fist fell. “This shall all be over soon.”
About Blood 59: Confrontations
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