Twilight part 2 : To protect and to serve
"GET HIM! There he goes!" Gerty yelled as the party chased the monster through the hallowed halls of the Calimport University Liberary in the Quill Ward.
"I have you now," Glyill said calmly as she approached the monster which had settled itself on a huge cabinet filled to the brim with all manner of scrolls. She snuck as silently a possible, using every dirty trick she had learned during her long years working as an assassin for the Shadow Thieves, but unfortunately, just missed the monster when she swung her holy mace. Instead, she hit the cabinet. Due to the added stress, an already over-filled cabinet toppled forward... Not even Glyill's amazing dexterity could move her away from the waves of scrolls which spilled from the cabinets. Her mace flew from her hand as the sea of literature completely overtook her.
"Ah, NOO!" the hysterical librarian yelled in horror. "They annals of the Night War!"
The monster flew towards another stack of books, chased by Gerty. The creature encountered a loose stack of books sitting on a windowseat and, without effort, swiftly drilled through the hundred books on a row.
"My gods!" the librarian cried in sorrow as he saw a 4-inch hole in all the formerly antique books. "Those were the writings of Raqiil yr Pershakhal el Komhaya!"
"I got him!" Gerty yelled and jumped through the air to catch the monster, but she missed her quarry as well. Gerty slammed into a bookshelf, which swiftly toppled, starting a domino-effect across the entire library.
"Just a minute..." Lenny muttered as he prepared to throw his spear at the monster, which had landed and was sitting on the arm of a chair. "Steady... just, AAAh", he yelled as the final bookshelf, which he was hiding behind toppled as well. Hundreds of books fell on top of the startled paladin, completely burying him with paper.
"My turn!" Vierna yelled. "Mind you, this wasn't what I had in mind when I took this monsterhunting job."
"Tell me about it," Shivon said. "It won't keep still, I can't cast my spells at it!"
"It's a monster, plain and true!" the librarian screeched, his greying head as red as beet. "KILL IT! KILL IT!"
Vierna grimaced and took up speed. She ran parallel of the flying creature, waiting for the right moment to dive through the columns and make a grab for it. But considering the earlier attempts to catch the monster, Vierna came up with another plan. While running she removed her cloak from her back and held it out next to her. After building up even more speed, she ended up actually running ahead of the creature, after which, she made her move... and threw her cloak towards the monster.
The creature let out a short yelp as it impacted with the cloak and crashed to the floor. Immediately, Vierna made a grab for the creature, took if from her cloak and held it out in front of her. The creature was a small Dragonet, only 5-inch long with brown colored scales and small, sharp teeth.
"Let go of me," the dragonet demanded in a squeeky female voice, "lest I bite and sting thee!."
To add to her point, the little dragonet snapped her jaws in a threatening fashion.
Vierna smiled to herself. The 'monster' she was hired to catch or kill, was none other than a Bookwyrm, a very rare variety of a Faerie Dragon. Vierna remembered her father once telling her the history of the Bookwyrm as a bedtime-story when she was a child. It was created as a magical experiment by a wizard over a thousand years ago. Apparently, the wizard was almost driven insane by his daughter's large collection of Faerie dragons which, for some reason, all wanted to pull pranks on him constantly. So, the wizard hatched a plot and ran an experiment to make Faerie dragons more serious by giving them a magical appreciation of fine literature. The experiment turned out wrong, however, but the wizard only found out about it when the transformed Faerie dragons had eaten his entire liberary of rare magical tomes. Enraged, he threw the dragons out of his home... Unfortunately, his magically inclined daughter found out about her father's plot and threw a hissy fit, which ended up with the wizard being turned into a toad. Bookwyrms, as they would soon be called, were very rare, but the scourges of libararies across the realms. Though the Bookwyrms usually eat fruit or small insects, they consider paper (the older it is, the better the taste) a delicassy. Plus, they still hadn't lost their affinity for pranks and preffered to speak in rhymes, true to their Faerie dragon nature.
"What are you doing here?" Vierna asked. "You aren't suited to live in a desert climate..."
"I know, to my lament," the dragonet said. "my peril, to extent. Fly I across a home, and smell a musty tome. Wished only a treat, but alas 't was no mean feat... For I was trapped in a crate, oh I feared my fate... But open and the light did greet, only to find myself these tasty treats!"
"That is true," the librarian said while he surveyed his beloved books with a broken heart, "I... I ordered some books to be shipped through Baldur's Gate. But when I opened the crate all the books were eaten and this... this... this FIEND shoots out of the crate instead!"
"Baldur's Gate?" Vierna asked. "What were you doing at Baldur's Gate?"
" Ah, my Drowish friend, I was near wit's end," the dragonet said. "For I had been searching low and high, for the Grail of Bookwyrms 'tis no lie! For a magical place called Candlekeep, where a Bookwyrm can snack till she weeps!"
"Ah, I see," Vierna said, not mentioning she knew exactly where Candlekeep was. "Sorry, I can't help you with that... But I'm afraid you'll have to leave the library..."
"I understand, and will comply," the dragonet whimpered. "But I cannot tell a lie, I feel warm and exhausted and well I am not. Alas, will dying in this sandy desert be my lot?"
"No, it won't," Vierna smiled. "Come into my pack. It's cool there and dark, and it might a good idea for you to stay out of the sun for a while."
"Ah, sleep a lot I will," the dragonet perked up, "To hybernate afore I get ill! Trust you I shall, until return to colder climes will tell!"
"Okay," Vierna said. "We'll take you back to the north soon enough. Just sleep in my pack until then..."
"Like you I do!" the Bookwyrm giggled and jumped into Vierna's pack. "I go with you!"
"YES!" the librarian added, "get that thing out of here! Go now! Here's your reward!"
After giving the sack of gold, the librarian continued his rant. "You damn adventurers created more mess than the actual monster! YOU WILL STAY HERE AND CLEAN THIS MESS UP!"
Lenny and Glyill had just managed to remove the books and scrolls from their persons and had just joined Gerty and Shivon when this bomb was dropped. As all four were about to issue loud protests, the librarian shouted. "AND THOSE BOOKS MUST BE PLACED IN THEIR PROPER ORDER! YOU, DROW! GO AND TAKE THAT THING WITH YOU! YOU OTHER FOUR WILL CLEAN THIS MESS UP RIGHT NOW!"
Just before she left, Vierna put her journal and her and Shivon's spellbook in her Bag of Holding, safely out of reach from the sleeping Bookwyrm.
"Ah, memsahib Vierna," Daoud ben Abdul greeted as he re-entered the main room of the 'Smiling Camel Inn'. Vierna looked up from scribbling in her journal to return the kindly innkeeper's smile. "I see you've been to the marketplace," he said, pointing to a sack filled with shoes.
"Yeah," Vierna said while popping another dade in her mouth, "there's plenty of stuff to buy in the Khanduq Wards."
Calimport consisted of a numerous amount of Sabbans, like a patched quilt in the form of a city. It's winding streets and the confusing strategy of building caused a lot of confusion for traders and visitors alike, who quickly found themselves lost, or unable to find their destination. Fearing loss of trade, Caliph Pershakhal had ordered a massive reorganisation of the city. Numerous sabbans which basically served a simular function were brought under the rulership of a somewhat larger ward. To complement this system of wards, several broad roads and squares were plowed through the city, providing easy access to various points in Calimport.
Waiting for her friends to finish their task back at the liberary back at Quill Ward, Vierna had done some exploring and shopping to kill time.
"I would say so, memsahib Vierna," Daoud replied with a smile. "Would you like a complementary frosty beverage?"
"Thanks, Daoud," Vierna smiled. "It's a hot day outside..."
Vierna continued writing in her journal, to describe the events of the last week. Her encounter with Tipper Quickfist, their locating the Orcish camp and bringing the hearts back to the city, and, last but not least, the capture of a Bookwyrm.
Suddenly, Brimstone pressed his large head between Vierna's arms to lick her face with his fiery tongue. "Hey," Vierna giggled. "I missed you too..." Vierna took a moment to rub the Hellhound's belly.
"Well, we would have been done sooner, if you had put those books away properly," Lenny said as he came through the door.
"Hey, I didn't think he'd notice!" Gerty retorted.
"Didn't think he'd notice," Lenny muttered tiredly.
"He is in that liberary twenty-four hours a day," Glyill said in a low threatening voice.
"And you, little miss," Gerty told Vierna. "You were out of there mighty fast!"
"Hey," Vierna giggled, "no one actually likes having to clean up their room! Besides, I bought you guys presents!"
"What?" Gerty said as she examined the pair of shoes that Vierna had tossed to her friends. "Shoes?"
"Special shoes," Vierna smiled as she examined the short, leather shoes, open on top while the front of the shoe was fashioned in a stylish curl. "We can't wear boots here in this climate. Not unless you like smelly bootfeet..."
Generally appeased, Vierna's friends removed their boots and tried on the new shoes. "Hey!" Gerty said. "They fit perfectly!"
"Well," Vierna smiled. "I wouldn't be much of a leader if I didn't know your shoesizes..."
Another person entered the inn, however. This time it was Muzar Zabbir, Calimport's captain of the guards and chief of security to the Caliph. His voice was grave when he spoke, betraying a feeling of grim anticipation. "Ah, Vierna," he said in obvious relief. "I am glad to find you here. The Caliph has once again asked to see you immediately.
Again, the party moved through roads and sabbans on their way to the Pasha's Sabban, the only ward consisting of a single sabban where the hedonistic palace of the caliph was situated. Surrounding the Pasha's Sabban lay the Palace Ward, a long conglomerat of villa's and houses of nobles, which represented the richest part of town.
And again, Vierna and friends were led into the throneroom where Caliph Harun el Poessah was quietly contemplating. His tired eyes flashed relief when he saw the adventurers enter the room, though. Today, he also seemed to be flanked by a pretty young woman in her early twenties with jet-black hair. "Ah, my young adventurers," he greeted happily. "I'm sorry to summon you here on such short notice, but I have a task for you, should you decide to take it."
"Let me tell you this," the young woman chuckled. "I'm sure you won't enjoy it..."
"Raeefa, please!" the caliph said, and then sighed. "This here is my eldest daughter and heiress to my throne, Raeefa el Poessah sim Kirdahh," he added, while Raeefa made a curt bow.
"It concerns my youngest daughter, Fatima el Poessah sim Kirdahh, sixteen years of age," the caliph said with a grave voice. "Let me give you a bit of background. Ever since I rose to the throne several years ago and started my fight against slavery, I have, at occasion, been sidelined by a group called the Carhilian Circle, which is a violent proponent of slavery. They do not have any political power, but often resort to theft, assassination and other underhanded tactics. They are nothing more than thugs and brigands..."
"So what's the problem then?" Gerty asked, but was, once again, jabbed in the side by Lenny.
"The problem is, that my agents have reported that the Carhilian Circle is planning to kill my youngest daughter to send a message to me and my other supporters," the caliph said.
"And we wish you to prevent that," Raeefa added. "Although for the life of me, I cannot imagine why..."
"Hush, child," said caliph el Poessah. "Though I wish Fatima would actually make something of her life, that is no reason to stand by and let her be assassinated."
"I know that, father," Raeefa said, "but still..."
"I take it, you two don't like each other much," Vierna nodded. "Meilekki knows, I've had plenty of conflicts with my own baby sister Rauva as well. I love her no less, though..."
"Wait 'till you meet Fatima," Raeefa chuckled.
"With the celebrations at the home of my Grand Vizier Suleiman el Ja'afar, which all the noble families will be attending, I'm afraid most of the palace-guards will be transferred there tonight and tomorrow, leaving only a skeleton crew at my palace," the caliph said. "I would like you to keep her safe..."
"Sure," Vierna said.
"GREAT!" Gerty yelled. "Can we make use of the facilities? Hot sauna's, twelve coarse meals, the large pools, sliding barefoot over a polished marble floor?"
"Yes," the caliph simply said. "Muzar? Please show in Fatima..."
"Now you're in for it," Raeefa giggled.
Immediately, a young lady was being led into the chambers. She was blonde, quite an unusual haircolor in these regions, and she wore painfully colorful clothing. A haughty expression crossed her face as she observed the party of adventurers in front of her. "Like, this is so tooootallly innecessary, dad..." she spoke in a whiny voice, capable of carving through metal.
"Child, please..." the caliph said.
"Mistress Fatima," Muzar Zabbir told the whiny teenager, "I have worked with this group before. They are trustworthy and will keep you safe."
"Ah, that is, like, such none-sanse, peon," Fatima replied. "Like, these smelly orcs could do any better. If they, like, come to kill me and stuff, I'll just, like, do POW and PUNCH! Besides, I am, like, a princess and they HAVE to obey me or be hung! It's bad enough I cannot, like, attend the party and stuff!"
Vierna and Glyill shared a look. 'Oh yeah, this was a live one.'
"See what I mean?" Raeefa chuckled. "One hour in a single room with her and you'll end up shooting her yourself."
"Like, shut up Raeefa," Fatima spat. "You are SOOOO totally a bitch..."
"Well at least I don't have to go to summerschool to fix up those, ahum, low grades," Raeefa retorted. "Any lower and you might end up sitting in the school basement..."
"Girls please!" the caliph said. "Raeefa and I shall attend the party at my grand vizier's estate, while Muzar shall remain at the guardhouse of the palace, so if anything goes wrong you can always see him..."
"Okay," Vierna broke in. "We restrict ourselves to the northern wing of the palace. There'll be less ground to cover, and we can keep an eye on Fatima that way..."
"WHAT!" Fatima menaced. "I AM A PRINCESS! I can, like, go anywhere I want! Daddy, if you love me, you will, like, have that Drow hung!"
"Just..." the caliph began, and was having trouble keeping his temper reigned. "Just listen to the nice lady, or I will have you locked up in the tower for the duration of the party!"
"That is, like, SOOOO unfair!" Fatima yelled and stamped her foot. The Caliph was actually happy that Raeefa was born before Fatima, since Raeefa was genuinely interested in politics and his contra-slavery measures. Unlike Fatima, whose only concern was what to wear every day and to have all her outfits color coordinated.
The first few hours with Fatima were hell on earth. Constantly whiny, constantly countering Vierna's guidance, constantly complaining about everything and everyone. She badmouthed the servants, she badmouthed Vierna and her friends. She even went as far as to badmouth Gerty's turnipstew, a capital offence in Gerty's book.
Finally, as evening fell and the darkness outside made a perfect cover for an assault, Vierna ordered Fatima to be taken to the northern wing of the palace. Again under loud protest, of course. The hallsways of the richly adorned palace were lit with magical lights, so after closing off that section of the palace, it made for an easily defensable place. Serveral guards were already in place when the measures were taken, and were put on full alert.
"So, that food was, like, totally eeeewwww," Fatima complained. "If you were, like, my cook, I would have you beheaded while me and my friends, like, watch..."
"Friends?" Gerty asked. "We're talking real-life, non-invisible, non-imaginary friends here, or have I hit a sore spot?"
"Like, shut up already! I have friends!"
"Wow, really? How much do you pay them to hang out with you?" Gerty chuckled...
In the meantime, Lenny was staring back between his spear and Fatima, thinking how a sucking chest-wound would add to Fatima's looks. Yes, she would definately look better gurgling blood, but then he remembered he was a paladin...
"So, back in the throneroom..." Gerty said, but then she noticed Glyill staring intently at the two black-clad guards in the back of the room. Like all the other elite guards, they wore black clothing and had their faces covered with a black mask.
"What's up, Glyill?" Shivon asked.
"Those guards," the half-elven ex-assassin said in a low voice while grabbing her mace. "They are not the same ones we left here before..."
Knowing they had been discovered, the 'guards' sprang to life and fished crossbows from their cloaks. Immediately, Vierna overturned one of the tabled while the party took cover from the onslaught of crossbow-bolts.
"Dammit!" Vierna snarled. "How'd they get past the closed doors?!"
"Inside job?" Shivon suggested.
"Must be," Glyill said.
"HEY!" Fatima suddenly shouted and rose her head above the table. "Don't you dare shoot at me! Don't you know, like, who I am?!"
"Get down, you fool!" Lenny shouted.
"FOOL?!" Fatima yelled angrily and stood up, rising fully above the long table. Immediately, Lenny stood up as well, grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her down to the floor just before the crossbow-bolts would kill them. Apparently, four more faux-guards had joined the other two...
"How DARE..." Fatima started to say, but found herself cut off by an iron grip around her throat. Glyill, her eyes flaring spoke in a low, threatening voice. "Be silent, impudent wench. If you ever endanger me or my friends again with your egotistical manners, I will snap your neck like a twig and leave you for the vultures to feast on!"
And for the first time this evening, Fatima fell silent.
"Okay," Lenny said. "If we can get those archers of our backs, I think we can make a sprint for the exit..."
"Do you have another one of your exploding bolts, Gerty?" Vierna asked.
"Yep," Gerty said. "Problem is, I can't get a clear shot off in this barrage..."
"What if I distract him with a Sunfire-spell?" Shivon asked.
"Hey," Gerty raved. "That'll blind 'em. This boy is proving his worth already!"
And sure enough, the tactic worked. Shivon cast a ball of brilliant light and tossed it over the table while everyone else held their eyes tightly shut. Following the explosion of brilliant light, Gerty fired her exploding bolt in the middle of the circle of blinded assassins, killing one of them while deafening the others, enabling the party to slip away for a game of cat and mouse in the large palace.
"I am a princess!" Fatima whispered harshly. "I sooo totally don't want to sit in a closet."
Lenny shared a look with Glyill, and once again stared from his spear to Fatima. Sure, he'd become one of the Fallen, but at least he'd be doing the world a favor...
"Ssssh," he heard say from outside of the closet. "It's me! Vierna!" she said. Both Vierna and Gerty, had carefully decided to check out the hallways looking for a way out of this keep.
"And?" Shivon asked.
"There's a small gardenhouse in the yard," Vierna said. "If we climb out the window on the first floor and can get there unseen, we could sit this one out while these faux-guards tear the palace apart trying to find us..."
"But how do we get down to..." Shivon asked.
"Way ahead of you, love-toy," Gerty grinned and tossed her friends several servant's uniforms. "We've picked up these. The blackies seem to leave the servants alone..."
Several moments later, the party made themselves ready to escape their persuers. Unfortunately, there was a single snag, in the person of Fatima...
"I am, like, totally unrecognizable!" she said.
"You know," Shivon said. "It kinda defeats the purpose of a disguise, if you wear it under your original clothes!"
"But these clothes are, like, totally mismatched!" Fatima whined.
After a few tense moments, the party and the princess finally managed to escape the palace and enter the gardenhouse, where, after putting out all the lights, they started to play the waiting-game. However, after about half an hour, Vierna and Lenny were still staring outside the windows, constantly observing the movements of the black-clad faux-guards. So far they hadn't left the building to search for them, and according to Glyill this operation did not fit the profile of an assassination squad. According to her, assassination squads only consisted of four people of less, and would act swiftly, but this was almost an army, which hung around the palace for hours...
Suddenly, a shimmering portal opened,
"So, that's how they got in there so quietly," Vierna said.
And a black-cloaked wizard stepped out it.
"Hey, now that guy looks familiar," Lenny grimaced.
"Yep," Vierna sighed. "That's our guy..."
Immediately, one of the faux-guards came running out of the palace, carrying a very familar cloth potionbag. It was the one with the hearts which the Orcs had collected during their raids.
"Sweet Lathander, all this assassination-business was a diversion!" Lenny said. "They only wanted the hearts all along!"
"Dammit," Vierna said. "Okay, guys! We have to strike now!"
"Excellent," the wizard said. "The master will be pleased..."
"Don't bet on it!" Vierna yelled.
"What?!" the wizard yelled. "You idiots! Get them!"
Immediately, spells were fired and the distance between the faux-guards and the party was quickly covered. A battle broke out. Lenny speared a guard, while Glyill smashed the skull of another with her holy mace. Again, like at the Orcish camp, the wizard made a grab for the bag and headed for the portal, and again, Vierna was upon him. A grab for his cloak ended up toppling the wizard and sending the bag flying... Unfortunately, Vierna was not prepared for the faux-guard which suddenly jumped out of the portal. The crossbow-bolt slammed through a weak-spot in her Red Dragon Plate and imbedded itself deep in the Drow ranger's shoulder. Startled, she yelped and fell to her back, while the wizard recovered, grabbed the bag and jumped through the portal with the surviving faux-guards. But just as the guard who shot Vierna prepared to flee, Gerty shot a crossbow-bolt in his throat, causing him to fall silently into the grass, just before the portal closed.
"Ow," Vierna grimaced when she felt the bolt sticking out of her shoulder. Immediately, Glyill used her magic to desintegrate the bolt and healed her friend's wounds.
"Hey, look!" Gerty said after helping herself to the fallen guard's wallet and other valuables. "He's wearing a seal-ring!"
"Are you, like, done yet?" Fatima shouted from the guardhouse at the top of her lungs.
"Get a squad of guards over there to clean up the mess," Muzar said and then slammed his fist on the table. "DAMN!" he shouted. "It's confirmed. They only took the hearts. Fatima was never a target..."
"Anything about that sealring?" Vierna asked.
"Yes," Muzar said. "That is the most perplexing part of this little mystery... It is the seal of the elite guards, under the direct command and only loyal to Grand Vizier Suleiman el Ja'afar..."
"Ha!" Shivon said. "I knew it. There's a traitor in every court..."
"Truth be told, I share your suspicions," Muzar said, "but he's also one of the most respected citizens in Calimsham, so I don't think a seal-ring will be enough proof... I think, though, that any evidence of his involvements could be found in his office at his estate. The party would make for an excellent diversion, and with several of my guards stationed there, I could easily have them slip you into the estate... I should warn you, though, the place is crawling with guards, so it would be best for only two of you pull this incursion off..."
"You up for it, Gerty?" Vierna smiled.
"Hey, is a turnip tasty?"
Btw, the bookwyrm is my own creation, not the Ad&d version... I thought this one would be funnier...