Writer's comment : Aaaaah, this was my first 'true' first story. The one where I found my calling : Humor. Using Jan, one of my favorites, in a pairing with the sarcastic Viconia, I figured was a sure route to hilarity. I practised at writing Jansen tales, something I would do A LOT over the next 2 years...
Normally, forests are quiet serene places, a source of inspiration to lone poets. Today however, the great Tethyrian forest was filled with sounds of a merry chase and curses that would tear the soul. The rustling of leaves, the breaking of branches. Two adventurers chased their prey through the woods.
"You know gnome, if your trap worked the first time, we wouldn't have to run all through these woods!"
"Details, details, everyone's a critic. Look, there he goes!" The gnome shouted.
Their prey made a sharp turn to the left. Another batch of Drow obscenities disturbed the idyllic beauty of the woods, as the huntress almost tripped over a gopher-mound. The gnome's crossbow sounded, but once again missed its target. After this embarrassing episode, the pair was once again gaining on their prey. During her run, the Drow began casting a powerful spell. She shouted a triumphant cry as the necromantic energies of a 'Slay Living' spell shot from her hands...and missed it's target by only an inch. The tree she hit slowly began to wither. Its leaves turned brown and fell to the forest floor.
"Nice shot girlie, that ancient oak will never bring harm to the good folks again! Stupid trees, kill'em all, that's what I always say."
"Shut up ! Shut UP! That's what I always say!"
The adventurers followed their prey once more trough the thick underbrush. The gnome cocked his crossbow once more, when his target deperately tried to evade its persuers. The gnome took aim, while their target jumped in the air. This time the Flasher hit its mark, hitting the hare the adventurers had chased for long. The gnome let out a whoop of joy. His Drow companion brought him back to him senses however, when she noticed that the stunned hare was rolling down the hill. The stunned hare was eventually launched into a mucky pool and bobbed to the surface some meters from the edge. The two tired adventurers stood on the edge, contemplating their next move.
"Well..." The drow insisted. "Jump in and get it!"
"Do you see anyone else here, male?"
"I don't know. My uncle Weinstein Jansen once came to an untimely end, when he dove into a pool of water. You don't want to know how..."
"You couldn't be more right about that. I don't want to know! Now get into that pool or I'll push you in!"
"But...but... it looks so cold! If I could just sample the water with my big toe first, that would be..."
Suddenly, a huge fish-like creature submerged from the water and sucked the stunned hare down its gob. The fish turned sharply and whipped its tail on the water, leaving our valiant hunters covered with disgusting water, muck and several species of dirty waterplants. The two stared at the water for a while, too stunned to speak.
"You know...That's exactly what happened to uncle Weinstein! Unbelievable!"
The drow fumed, while fishing the waterplants from her wet hair. "This is all your fault, you know."
"But...but, what are we going to eat tonight? You know what this means, do you?! We are going to starve to death now, we are going to STARVE TO DEATH! Before to long animals will be feasting on our carcasses. Our bones will bleach in the sun for all eternity...Well, Karis will just dissolve...But our bones will bleach, oh yes they will!"
"BUT WAIT...look at this! Worry not my dark-skinned friend!"
"I wasn't worried in the first place, you know."
"I've got a whole bunch of fresh, juicy, delicious TURNIPS left."
"Not more turnips!"
The gnome fished a very small bag from under his belt and pulled a turnip as large as his head from the small bag.
"What? Is that were you get all those turnips from? A miniature bag of holding?"
"Not just any bag of holding, my pointy-eared friend. This one has magics specifically scripted to preserve turnips in near-perfect condition. It's a family heirloom and I just don't show this to anybody, you know. I suspect you are feeling very specifically honored by now."
"You have no idea..." She replied sarcastically.
"Well you should be. It was crafted by my aunty Regina Jansen. She was an Illusionist of great power and free-lance turnip seller."
"You mean to say, that someone created an artifact level magical item, just for the mass storage of turnips?!"
"I'll let you know my aunty Regina brought turnips to the four corners of the world. The lands of Calimsham, Rashemen, Thay and Cormyr, all know the delights of fresh turnips because of her. She even tried to convert a group of Griffins to embrace the Way of the Turnip. Too bad they liked to eat her better. Anyway, I ask you kindly not to disrespect her, missy, or there will not be an after-dinner turnip for you tonight."
"Oh. Oh no." The drow spoke in a sarcastic little-girl voice. "Please. Anything but that." She used her normal voice. "It's all we've been eating since we ran out of food. I HATE TURNIPS, don't you get it! Whenever I see a turnip again in my long, long life, it'll be TOO SOON!"
"Tsk, Tsk Vicky. I've known you for a while now and I'm sure about one thing about you. I'm fairly certain that you are a..." he spoke his last words very slowly "...Closet-Turnip lover."
"It's true, it's true isn't it?! Don't you deny it, Vicky!"
"Will you please stop calling me Vicky?! My name is Viconia!"
"Sure Vicky, sure. But you know, Vicky? You remind me of my second cousin Amanda Jansen. She claimed to hate turnips too."
"This isn't another story is it?" Apprehensive
"Amanda was half Svirfneblin you know. That might also explain her taste in men, I think. She married and divorced three Half-Orcs in one year and fleeced them all in court. Made her a most wealthy lady..."
"But I digress, forgive me. Amanda always slinked away in the corners of the house during family reunions. Always staying as far away from the bowls of hand-out turnips as possible."
"Once she shouted out to all us turnip lovers, how much she hated turnips, but we never really paid attention to her, since we were all drenched with turnip-beer."
"I'm pulling out my flail now!!!" Malicious
"The next morning we found her in the turnip cellar. Except there weren't any turnips left . Amanda had eaten them all!! The only think she could say for a month was something like 'Burp'."
"Maybe if I feed you to the fish, he'll give me the hare back."
"What I mean to say is, you're just like her. Deny it all you like in public, but when you're all alone, you just send all those turnips down the hatch like there's no tomorrow."
"Hm Hmmm. And I'm the owner of the Athkatla bridge."
"Really? Wow, when did you buy it? Never mind, I've got some great ideas for you. You could ask for a bridge toll, I know a pair of trolls who'd be cheap labourers. I'm just kidding, I know. But you did heal that turnip for uncle Gerhardt, Ole Keldy wouldn't even do it."
Keldorn, that self-righteous old bastard. She remembered him well. He had threatened to kill her if she didn't leave the party. She smiled to herself as she remembered the priceless look on his face as Karis had calmly, yet firmly asked him to leave the party immediately. But she could have taken the old coot. She knew it. She also knew she could take care of herself, but liked that Karis was looking out for her. He made her feel somewhat safer and welcome.
"Well, gnome..."she said, still smiling."It was my naive hope you would be quiet for a few moments, if I'd heal the damn thing." She sighed. "It was an idle hope, chatty one."
"Well, that big turnip never looked so healthy and delicious. Hey, maybe we could start a business together. 'Jan and Vicky's Jumpin' Fresh Turnip Emporium', Turnips healed while you wait! We could make so much money. We should head back to camp, the others will be waiting for us. We can work out the details while we walk back."
Viconia chuckled. "I'm not sure Shar would appreciate me using Her Holy powers for the healing of turnips on a mass-production scale. By the way, if we start a business I insist the name be 'Vicky and Jan's Jumpin' Fresh Turnip Emporium'. Just so our customers know who's the superior one."
Just as Karis and Minsc made their way back to the campsite, Viconia and Jan approached from the other side of camp. He was surprised to see the two of them covered in muck. He approached his beloved to ask her what had happened, but a sharp look from her made him decide to let the subject drop. Instead it was Jan who spoke up.
"So, Kary. I take it you haven't had much luck either?"
"We came across a magnificent stag some hours ago, but we didn't catch it."
"Ah." Minsc piped up. "The stag, ancient warrior of the woods. It is only fitting and honorable to openly challenge such an animal to combat."
Karis laughed. "But the stag turned and ran, Minsc!" He clapped Minsc on the back.
"Yessss..." Minsc replied "Even Boo could not predict this ancient warrior of the woods to be such a coward!"
"So.." Viconia stated icily. "Turnips again tonight."
"No way, I've got something for ya." A merry voice sounded from the shadows. Imoen and Nalia stepped out from the bushes, both wearing grins from ear to ear.
"Take a look at this!" Nalia grabbed and overturned her bag of holding. A large body dropped to the floor.
"That's a wild boar!" Karis said astonished "How...?"
"Good ole 'skull trap', never leave home without it!" Imoen swelled with pride.
"'Magic Missle was the finishing touch!" Nalia said, just as proudly.
"We eat well tonight!" Viconia sighed. "Finally. No more turnips for a least a month!"
"Try not to sound so disappointed, Vicky." Jan said with a wink and smile.
'Vicky?!' Karis wondered.
Evening in the Tethyrian forest. Six figures sat along a campfire, on which a big boar (with a big turnip in it's mouth) was roasting on a spit. Karis was carving up the roast for his friends. Viconia and Jan had recently finished cleaning themselves and had joined the rest of the group.
"Hmmm," Imoen said while eating from one of the boar's legs. "Now that's good pig!"
"Be sure to save at least half of the boar for rations. It's still a long way to the Watcher's Keep." Karis said. While Jan was secretly sneaking crackers to Boo, Nalia let out a most un-ladylike burp, drawing laughs from all the others. "Oh, you should talk Viconia." Nalia said. "Your table manners are even worse than an Orc's!".
"Well..." Viconia retorted, with her mouth full. "How would you know how an Orc eats, hmmm. Besides, when you're always on the run like I have been, you learn to eat whatever you can get and you eat it fast."
These were Karis' favorite moments. The best thing of adventuring were the friendships that were formed. Friends talking amongst each other, enjoying each others company. Sometimes, like this time, even Viconia would let her hair down a little. She seemed to be a little less brooding tonight. Viconia...He loved her deeply and her happiness was very important to him. He hoped to one day find her a place where she would be welcome, where she could live in peace. Could D'Arnise Keep be this place? She had expressed a wish to rule a small piece of land with him, but he wondered if his subjects would accept her as their Lady. To hell with the keep then. Maybe a house, deep in the woods, faraways from civilisation, just the two of them...but would it be enough for her? Truly, he didn't care where he ended up, as long if he was with her. But what if his heritage once again caught up with him? What if another spawn of Bhaal came to kill him? She'd be in danger too! What about...gods where did this came from!!...a family? Yeah, that's a laugh. A Son of Murder for a father and an exiled Drow for a mother, what a wonderful start in life! And...when Elves and Half-Elves mated, their offspring were usually full elves. They would be full drow, forced to live very long lifes in a very prejuidiced world. How much of his taint would they inherit? A sad smile crossed his face as he thought what a wonderful grandfather Gorion would have been...
'Dammit Karis. Get a grip. Let's cross these bridges when we get to them.' For now he was just happy to be in her company. He was suddenly elbowed in the ribs by his sister Imoen.
"Hey, Karis. Wake up. Are you daydreaming about 'you-know-who'M ?"Imoen said with a sly wink.
"Imoen..." He groaned, embarrassed. " Please..."
"Sorry little brother. It's my gods-given right, not to mention every older sister's duty, to embarrass my little brother as much as possible. I'm sorry, it's the law of siblings. I must obey it!" she giggled. Karis noticed that Viconia was fuming, close to her breaking-point. There was trouble in paradise.
"So Jan here was telling us about his and Viconia's ill-fated hunting-trip. Viconia, I'm disappointed in you. I would expect you to jump in that water and wrestle that fish to get your property back. It's not the only property, you've wrestled for... or with." Imoen nudged Karis again, who desperately tried not to blush and miserably failed. Viconia, on the other hand, was getting angrier and angrier. "Why didn't you just jump..."
"BECAUSE." Viconia got on her feet and screeched. "BECAUSE, IBLITH JALIL, I CAN'T SWIM, THAT'S WHY!!!" That said, Viconia turned her heels and walked away from the party, leaving her friends stunned. Karis, on the other hand, got up and walked after her. He found her sitting on the riverbed a few hunderd meters away from the camp-site.
"So." She said softly. "You find it funny the 'great and haughty Viconia' as you once joked, the one who claims to be so superior, can't do a simple thing such as SWIMMING? Have you come to gloat and make fun of me, Karis?" She spat.
"I thought..." he said soft, rather dismayed and sadly "...you knew me better than that."
She lowered her eyes and softened her expression. An unspoken apology.
"I seen you staring at the sea for long hours when we were on our way to the Asylum. But I never would have guessed..."
"It's not like I'm afraid of the water." Viconia interrupted. "I've spent many hours on decks of ships overseeing the trade missions of House DeVir, but still, swimming wasn't one of the requirements for a priestess of Lolth." Karis sat down beside her. "I just never learnt. It might have even been fun to learn how to swim." She sighed. "But the only 'fun' for a priestess in Menzoberranzan, are the ocassional pleasures of the flesh, or torturing males with tentacle rods." She chuckled "My sisters certainly thought it was a blast!".
Karis remembered how Gorion taught him and Imoen how to swim in the sea when they were five and how much fun it had been. He carefully put his hand on her shoulder. " Remember that shallow part of the river we passed yesterday ?"
Viconia couldn't believe she was doing this.
She was laying face-down on the surface of the water clothed in one of her undershifts, with Karis holding his arms around her waist. Imoen was merrily backstoking circles around them.
"See, Vic. It's easy." The took a mouthful of water and jetted it in the air like a fountain.
'Showoff.' She thought.
"Now you know how to distribute your weight to keep floating." Karis said. "Now when I release you, move like a frog, like Imoen and I showed you."
"Karis... I've never even seen a frog." she said sarcastically. 'Damn it, Viconia. You're Drow. You can do this. Just do what Karis told you to do!'
"I'm sure you didn't...Ready? One, two, three, GO!"
Karis released her and Viconia made the moves Karis had shown her. Nothing appeared to go wrong until...
"She just sank like a stone!" Nalia yelled from the riverbank.
Karis started to panic and prepared to dive down to search for her. Suddenly he heard Imoen's indignant yelp, when two dark skinned hands pulled her under. Viconia surfaced and smiled in joy.
"Look at you..." Karis smiled. "...already swimming like an expert."
Viconia loved every minute of it. Feeling the cold water on her skin, actually moving through it, staying afloat. It was...fun.
Karis looked at the woman he loved and smiled. Viconia was a little happier today and that made him happy as well.
3. The Chase
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