Hello my dearest readers! In this chapter, we’re getting rid of a certain minor character and there's the meeting with a famous adventuring party. I hope you’ll like it and please, R&R
Now that you're out of my life, I'm so much better
You thought that I'd be weak without you, but I'm stronger
You thought that I'd be broke without you, but I'm richer…(Destiny’s Child, “Survivor”)
As they were travelling towards Athkatla, Imoen noticed a flash of something pink in a bush and obviously, she decided to check what it was. "Guys, I saw something! I’ll be right back", she announced, leaving the path and approaching the bush, "Oooh, look at this: a pink hammer!", she squealed with delight, trying to take it up, but it was too heavy for her, "Need a hand here".
Anomen joined her and effortlessly took the hammer out of the spiky branches, grateful for his metal gauntlets, "It looks enchanted", he noted, seeing the soft glow which surrounded the weapon, "Well done, Imoen. A lucky finding". "Okay, now hand it here". He blinked, "Why? You can’t wield a hammer".
"So what? Finders keepers and I found it! C’mon, gimme my hammie", she tried to take it, but he was quick to keep it out of her reach, a mischievous grin curving his lips. "Sorry, but I took it up first, so now it’s mine". "Not fair! Meeeeeg! Your boyfriend is being mean to me!", the little thief whined dramatically, pointing an accusing finger towards the Helmite.
Her half-sister sighed in a mixture of amusement and exasperation, "He’s right, though, Immy: you have no need of it, while he can make good use of it, as soon as we find out which kind of enchantment the hammer holds". Imoen pouted, crossing her arms on her chest, "Oh, pooh. Fine, keep the stupid hammie, ya mutton-mongering buffleheaded riff-raff", she muttered sulkily, walking back to the path.
Barely an hour later, the adventurers heard some voices discussing in Common not far from their position: one was gruff and annoyed, while the other was smooth and calm, with a harsh accent similar to Solaufein’s. "By Moradin’s breath, where has it ended up to?", the gruff voice cursed. "Come on, abbil, calm down: it can’t be far, we just have to look more closely around. Last time you saw it, we were camped here, no?".
Abbil?, Meg thought, That must be a Drow male...And I think I know this voice. As if to confirm her suspicions, the first speaker snapped, "The Hells I calm down, Drizzt! It’s easy for you, it’s not one of your scimitars that’s gone lost! It’s my thrice-cursed hammer!". A wide smile curving her lips, the Ilmatari walked into the clearing, "Hello Drizzt, it’s good to see you again!".
The Drow ranger’s head whipped around as he raised his scimitars defensively, but his tension dissolved ad he recognized the Human in front of himself, "Well, well, well, if it’s not Margaret Dawn! I am glad to see you, abbil", he smiled back and clasped her forearm, "What brings you here in the wilderness?". "We are on a hunt: a powerful Vampiress has stolen my sister’s soul...".
His white eyebrows shot upwards, "Since when do you have a sister? I thought you only had a brother". Imoen stepped forward, grinning, "Surprise, surprise!", she exclaimed, opening her arms wide like a magician after a well-executed trick, "I’m Meg’s sister! Well, half, but that’s the same, really. We’ve got the same dad".
"Imoen, well met! I trust you won’t try and steal my weapons again?", Drizzt winked and the pink-haired thief laughed. "Can’t make any promises ‘bout that". "Ha, you’re just as I remembered you. But how come the two of you are related? As far as I recall, Meg is the daughter of...", he trailed off, realization hitting him like a punch to the face, "Oh. I’m sorry, abbil".
"Nah, it’s okay, she’s the one who got the worst of it", Imoen leaned towards the ranger and dropped her voice to a loud whisper, thrusting her thumb in the Ilmatari’s direction, "She even turned into a big creepy crocodile-crab...". The other girl cleared her throat loudly, "Crocodile-lobster, please. Way more elegant and classy than a common crab", she sniffed with mock-indignation. "Sure thing, sis", the little thief replied and they both burst out laughing, while their companions joined them in the clearing.
Minsc blinked at seeing Drizzt, "Another Drow? Wait, Boo knows you! He says you’re the friend we met at High Edge, the one we helped killing the bad dog-men!". The Drow ranger nodded and shook hands with the Rashemi, "I will never thank you enough for your assistance, abbil. And I see you still have your...What is it again?". "A Miniature Giant Space Hamster, of course!".
"Ah, of course, how could I forget?", he chuckled, but his amusement became surprise as his eyes fell on Solaufein, "A fellow Drow, here on the Surface? This is...Unexpected". "He’s a friend, devoted to Eilistraee. He left the Underdark with us", Margaret Dawn explained, "Drizzt Do’Urden, meet Solaufein Daevion’lyr".
Solaufein hesitantly stepped forward, "Venduì, Drizzt". "Venduì, Solaufein. I am glad to meet a follower of Lady Silverhair", the ranger said in Common and then the two of them spoke for a while in their native language, the musical tones of their voices making a weird contrast with the harshness of the idiom.
Anomen shot a glance at his betrothed, "Do you know what they are saying, love?". "Only in broad outline: it seems like there is a secret village of Drow devoted to Eilistraee somewhere in the North and Drizzt has offered to lead Solaufein there after the mission is over". "That is good news: we won’t have to worry about his safety later and he will have a new home". "True. Ilmater be praised".
Finally, Drizzt shook hands with his kinsman and turned to the Ilmatari, "Say, during your travel, have you seen a, uh, a pink hammer?". "Damn you to the Nine Hells, Drizzt, it’s not pink! It’s RED! Red, I tell you!", the Dwarf, Bruenor, shouted, his cheeks flushing scarlet as his companions snickered. "Oh, I don’t know, Bruenor", a woman in leathers said, eyes sparkling with laughter, "Since Cirine cast that spell on it, it does have a certain pink shine...".
He looked about to explode, when the Painbearer coughed discretely, "Whatever the colour, I think we found it. Anomen, if you will?". The knight took the weapon out of his pack and as soon as Bruenor saw it, his face lightened up like sunshine. "My hammer!", he exclaimed joyfully, "Thank you so much, lad! May Moradin’s blessing be with you!", he added, cradling the hammer to his chest as though it were an infant. "You’re most welcome".
Yoshimo intervened, "I am sorry to interrupt this reunion, but we should not tarry: young Imoen needs to have her soul back", he reminded them. Drizzt frowned, "Yes, you mentioned this before and from what I can guess, it’s a matter of life or death. Is there something we can do to help?". Meg felt a knot in her chest easing, "Your assistance in killing her would be much appreciated, if you can spare the time.
But I warn you: Bodhi is a very powerful Vampiress and surely she has created new minions to fights us in her lair". "We do not fear Vampires and we’re ready to join you in this fight. Where can we find this Bodhi?". "She hides in the Graveyard District. We were planning to rest a bit and gather as many allies as possible before moving against her, though, so I suppose we can meet at the Copper Coronet, in the Slums, to plan our attack".
He nodded, "All right. But if I may ask, why that filthy place?". She smiled, "The owner is a friend of ours and since he’s been in charge, the inn is no longer filthy. It’s not as luxurious as the Five Flagons, but it’s clean and warm". "I see. We have some preparations to make as well, but we will meet you at the Coronet as soon as possible. Aluvè, abbil".
"Athkatla, at last! I can’t wait to be back home", Meg sighed and Edwin shot her a horrified look. "Kossuth, don’t tell me you’re referring to the Coronet! (If she keeps travelling for even another year, it will be too late to save her from permanently turning into a street rat)". "Hey now, it’s not that bad", she said a bit defensively, "And it’s the closest thing to a home I’ve had in a long time".
Anomen took her hand in his, a warm smile on his lips, "You will have a true one soon, beloved. This I promise you". "Your arms are my only true home, honey", she purred and kissed him softly, losing herself in his embrace for a long moment, while her half-sister snickered in the background.
"Heya, sis, are ya gonna spend all day cuddling or what?", the pink-haired thief asked with an impish grin, elbowing her in the ribs. "If you really want to know, yes, I was seriously taking it into consideration. But I guess we’ll have to save this for later, alas", the Painbearer let out an exaggerate sigh and resumed walking.
Before they could reach the Slums, though, a messenger approached them, carrying a sealed scroll and his eyes fixed on Anomen, "Hello, m’lord". The Helmite smiled at him, "Ah, hello, Terl, it’s good to see you again. Why so glum?". Terl handed him the scroll, "I’ve a letter for you and it’s nothing good...It’s from magistrate Bylanna Ianulin".
"Bad news, you say? What could possibly...", the young knight opened the seal and when he read the letter, his face twisted with sadness, "I see. Thank you, Terl, you’re free to go", he said, giving the messenger a gold coin. The older man gave him a pat on the back, his eyes full of sympathy, "Thank you, m’lord. I wish I could have brought you happier news. Goodbye", he nodded his farewell and left.
Meg gently touched Anomen’s hand, "What is it, honey? Can I help somehow?". "I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do, beloved, but thank you all the same. The letter says that my...Lord Cor is dead", his voice cracked slightly, "It seems that he drank a glass too many. The butler found him in the kitchen, he still had a half-empty bottle in his hands".
She hugged him and stroked his hair gently, "I’m sorry". The Helmite held her to his chest, taking comfort in her closeness as tears flowed on his cheeks, tears that no-one would have expected to see, considering how badly the old drunkard had always treated him. After a long moment, he dried his face and sighed, "I...Forgive me, I didn’t mean to...". "Shush, no need to apologize.
I know", his betrothed soothed him, placing a tender kiss on his lips, "Do you want to go home and make arrangements for his funeral?". Anomen shook his head, "I can’t go there now, I...I just can’t. And as for the funeral, the magistrate writes that it took place last week. It was not your fault, Meg", he added, seeing that she was about to speak, "Truth be told, I wouldn’t have attended to the rite even if I had been in Athkatla.
The only two things that remain to be done now are to go to the building of the Council of Six, so that the magistrate can declare me the new Lord Delryn and to inform Moira about all of this", his face actually brightened a little at the thought, "She will be happy to know that she has nothing to fear from our father anymore. But I’d rather deal with all of this after we’ve had some food, a warm bath and some rest". "Are you sure?". He nodded, "I am, my love". "Okay, to the Coronet then".
Hendak greeted them with his usual warmth when they entered the inn and he was very glad to know that they had finally managed to save Imoen. He even gave her a gallant hand kissing as they were introduced and the pink-haired thief blushed scarlet and giggled like a schoolgirl, obviously impressed by the former gladiator’s lovely manners (and by his good looks as well).
While they were enjoying a delicious meal at their table, basking in the familiarity of the common room and its bustle, Meg’s fingers absentmindedly toyed with her Ring as her eyes kept on darting towards the exit. "What’s wrong, child?", Jaheira asked her. The Ilmatari started, "What? Oh, I was just...Thinking about the allies we can rally for the incoming battle: if we split up and talk to them all at once, we will save time".
"True enough. Who do you want to contact?". "Well, the Order first of all: Bodhi is a danger to the city and an undead to boot, so they should be eager to take her down, no? And Linvail, since he still has a score to settle with her. Besides, he has a right to know about...About Sime and his other thieves who died in Spellhold", she added with a slight frown, "Let’s hope he won’t keep us responsible for that".
Yoshimo smiled, "Don’t worry, sekai no hikari, he knows all too well who is to blame for it and no doubt he will be eager to exact his revenge on her". "I hope you’re right, sensei. And I hope that he has enough men to spare for this task: the guild war has taken a heavy toll on the Shadow Thieves". "He will find someone to send into the catacombs, you can be sure of this: Linvail is not the kind of man to let an opportunity to destroy an enemy for good pass him by".
"Good to hear", she bit her lower lip, turning to the druidess, "What about the Harpers? Would they help?". "I...", Jaheira hesitated, "I don’t know, child. Surely a Vampire as powerful and evil as Bodhi is a threat to the Balance, but...". "But I am a Bhaalspawn, so I am a threat to the Balance as well", her charge concluded. "I didn’t mean that! It’s just...If we want to get something out of them, I will have to meet them on my own. I am one of them, they will listen to me".
Meg sighed, "Okay, then. As soon as Anomen’s problem has been solved, we will split up: Anomen, Minsc, Boo and Aerie will go to the Order headquarters, you will go to the Harper base and Edwin, Immy, Yoshimo, Solaufein and I will talk to Linvail. Oh, wait: there’s the Church of Helm too, they could help! Right, love?", she asked Anomen. "Truth be told, my lady, the members of the Church are mostly priests, not warriors...". "Even better: priests have spells against the undead, so their help would be extremely useful.
Can you talk to High Watcher Oisig as well, while you’re in the Temple District? Pleeeeease", the Painbearer added, exaggeratingly flapping her eyelashes and the Helmite chuckled. "If you ask it so sweetly, how can I refuse? All right, we will talk to him too". "Thank you, darling", she gave him a quick kiss as a reward, "And now I suggest we go to bed and get some rest: we have a busy day ahead of us".
When she and Anomen got to their room, while he was taking a warm bath, she took a piece of parchment out of her pack and read it carefully, once again admiring the Elven wizard’s neat handwriting. She couldn’t help wondering why Jon had bothered to write that note, since he obviously had no use for an enchanted mace which could destroy the undead. Besides, it was written in Common, something odd for him, considering that both his personal diary and all of his other notes were written in Elvish.
The note said: «The enchanted mace the blond-haired Spawn wields can be enhanced, so that its power against the undead will grow to the point where each blow can inflict three times its normal damage and wielding the weapon even grants protection against their life-draining powers. All it takes to achieve this is for a capable smith to coat its head with some Illithium. It is a rare enough material to find and still, I see she has some rocks of the precious metal in her Bag of Holding.
I wonder, where did she get it? No matter, she won’t be able to make use of her mace anymore, if Bodhi follows my orders and disposes of her and of her companions. But should the Spawn survive and should she ever face Bodhi again out of this asylum, this enchanted weapon would probably be the death of my sister. It is of no importance either: Bodhi has outlived her usefulness. And once I have achieved my goal, she will pay too. They will all pay».
The Ilmatari was already thinking about paying a visit to Cromwell’s shop the next day, when her betrothed came out of the bathroom, clothed only in a large cotton towel wrapped around his waist and she hastily stuffed the note back inside her pack before he could see it, feeling like a child who’s been caught with her hands in the cookie jar.
Rats, why am I feeling so guilty about a scrap of parchment? It’s not like I’m cheating on him or anything, I’m just...It’s just a note about my mace, nothing else, she thought, but a part of her kept on ruminating over the fact that it was written in Common, instead of Elvish. It’s nearly as if...No, that’s just crazy. He probably just meant to sell the mace to a smuggler, like he did with the stuff we had before our capture and the note would help him get more gold for it, that’s all.
Anomen’s voice interrupted her thoughts, "You can take a bath now, Meg". She turned and unconsciously licked her lips as her eyes roamed hungrily over his body, but then she shook her head, Not the time for this, girl, she chided herself sternly, "Thank you, honey. Are you okay?". "I am, worry not", her betrothed reassured her, but his eyes were still a bit sad.
"Do you want to talk about it?". He sighed, sitting on his side of the bed as he dried his hair with a smaller towel, "I don’t know. There’s a part of me which feels sad about his death, but another...I am ashamed to admit that a part of me feels happy at the thought", he confessed, cheeks aflame as he lowered his gaze to the floor.
"Nobody could blame you for that", the young woman said, sitting down beside him, "He was a monster, he treated you worse than dirt and made your childhood a living nightmare: it’s perfectly normal to be happy at the idea of him finally being out of your life for good". "But...What if Helm thinks me unworthy because of it? I mean...Monster or not, he was still my father".
"Helm has not rejected you, has He?". "Well, no...". "Then what are you afraid of? He knows you and He still considers you worthy of being His priest. This fact alone should quell your fears", she reasoned and he nodded slowly. "Yes...You have a point. I can still feel Helm’s power and His blessing over me, so I have no reason to worry", he smiled with relief and wrapped his arms around her waist, "Thank you, beloved".
"You’re most welcome, darling. And now, I’ll take a bath". "Do you need help in scrubbing your back?", he asked, a warm glint in his grey-blue eyes. "Oh? Is that an offer, my charming lord?", she purred, sliding her hands over his chest in a soft caress. "It is, my beautiful lady". "Good", she took his hand in hers and guided him to the bathtub and the world around them faded as they lost themselves in each other.
Abbil = friend (Drow)
Venduì = Hello (Drow)
Aluvè = Goodbye (Drow)