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Part 2: This Bloody Dawn

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#1 Guest_Dallan_*

Posted 18 November 2002 - 07:25 AM

Love is mortalkind's greatest folly...and its greatest strength.
-Dallan Starfall, in Of the Children of Murder.

* * *

I awoke groggily. The dreams were back. Only recently had I been able to rest at all without either my late-but-unlamented Father or my ungracious former host interfering in my dreams. Evidently, that grace period was over.

"You contain within you the very essence of that which takes life. There is power there, all you need do is reach out your hand and take it." he had said. I don't want power! I want a life! A life that doesn't involve people lining up to kill me just because I made the mistake of being born! Get out of my mind! Both of you!

How arrogant of me, to think that a god, even dead, and an archmage, even insane, would vacate any place merely on my say-so.

My eyes opened further. Who were those figures in the distance?

No, not in the distance; my vision was still fuzzy.

Five of them, standing around the camp, surrounding us.

With knives.

Oh, curses.

Thanking everyone who'd ever trained me in combat, I quickly rolled out of my blankets and to my feet, calling out for all to hear, "Wake up, people! We've company!" Who was on watch, I wondered, and more importantly, where on Toril is he? Lacking time to get my sword, I focused solely on getting up, and getting the word out.

A startled curse from Valygar, on the other side of the camp. He was the only other on his feet, though the others were slowly climbing to them.

Damn, they must have been good, to sneak up on him. My last thought, before their leader rushed forward, knife in hand, to the nearest of us, Jaheira. In a silvery flash, a knife was at her throat. "Nuh-uh, we can't have that, can we?", he chided me, while holding the struggling druid.

Bad to worse. Trying and failing to master my rising panic, I asked, "Who are you, and what do you want?"

"My name be my own business. You may call me Ertof Dand. And as for what I want...I've a business proposition for ye.", the bandit replied confidently.

"You have an unusual method of opening negotiations."

"I've an unusual proposition. It goes like this. You give us all your gold and valuables- and don't tell me you don't have any, you're adventurers, and we aren't blind- and we let you live. You don't, and...well, we kill you all, starting with the lovely lady here. I really suggest co-operating...it's the best for all of us. Especially her."

My mind raced. For a moment, I contemplated simply doing what they wanted. No, they aren't fools. They know there's no way we'd let them get away alive. They'll just take our things and then kill her...us.

But what other option is left? Aerie and I combined could probably obliterate them with magic...but they'd kill Jaheira.

Oh, sure, she can be raised...but why would she return to one who'd been as faithless as that? And without her I would surely die...

Ah, Fate is cruel. The morning after I admit that, even to myself, was I to lose her? Either she died here, or we all did. In neither case would I reach the prison where Imoen was held, alive. I knew that in my heart of hearts.

I carried too much pain, death, and grief within me already. My Father's call sounded sweeter to me every day I went without Imoen, every day I remembered what Irenicus had done to Dynaheir and Khalid, every night of torment in my dreams.

If I lost her too, lost her now, I would in so doing lose myself, become another Sarevok, another monster, another murderer.

I would rather die.

I would rather die...that's it. It's time to press Aataqah's button. Will it be so easy to do, in reality?

"I have a counteroffer. Let her go before she bites off your fingers," "Ertof" smirked at that, "and I'll be your hostage instead. I'm unarmed, unarmored, and, best of all, far more docile. You'd be far better off with me in her place. Just let her go."

"Ah, the noble self-sacrifice! Let's see what yer lassie thinks of that, shall we?" Ertof uncovered Jaheira's mouth just long enough for her to voice her vehement disapproval of my plan, with curses that would impress a sailor born and bred.

Forgive me, Jaheira, whether I live or die. Especially if I die. I do what I do, what I have to, that you might live.

* * *

In retrospect, it shouldn't have worked. He should have laughed in my face, slit her throat, had his cronies shoot me while I doubled over in grief, and killed all of my friends while I dissolved into dust and blew into the lake.

I like to think he was impressed by my bravery. Or shocked by my stupidity. There's a fine line between the two. Only the Gods know. And him, but he hasn't talked for...quite some time.

-excerpt from Of the Children of Murder.

* * *

"Well, boy." he gloated, "Looks like she doesn't like that at all. Still willing to go ahead?"

"As certain as I've ever been in my life."

"How touching. Too bad that life won't last much longer." But he removed the knife, to my surprise, though he kept on holding her. And then he continued, lifting the knife in the air. "Kracer! Take the shot!"

I heard a click, a buzz, and then felt pain, overwhelming pain. It brought me to my knees for a moment. I only vaguely heard Jaheira screaming "Not again!", the flapping of wings, and then the clash of swords as battle began, for those still on their feet.

And then rage replaced pain as my self-control began to slip. The Other rose in my mind, my Father's presence, his essence, calling me...and I answered, drinking deeply from the pool of tainted power. No! I will not die here! Not if I have anything to say about it!

Pain was replaced by cold fury. The desire to die for love was replaced by the desire to kill those who had dared to do this. Not just kill them. Make them suffer. Make them know and fear me as a Child of Bhaal. For however long they remained alive, of course.

I rose with grim determination to my feet. This was no battle, it was a chaotic melee of brutal close fighting. Swords sang in the air and clashed against others desperately brought up to block. I heard pained cries...but whose, I could not tell. Perhaps mine. People swirled in and out of sight. But my eyes, through that thin red haze of rage, sought out only one.

There he was, parrying the whirling quarterstaff of a furious Jaheira. "Ertof Dand, or whoever you are..." I called, darkness and power and fury all echoing in my voice, surprisingly loud for one as wounded as I had been. Or thought I had been.

This is quite unusual.

No, really?
Evidently, Milei had woken up. If you're going to stand there and yell and be a target, at least let me make you harder to see.

And I felt her magic wash over me as I faded to translucency.

I was the only free agent on the battlefield, it seemed. Being left for dead had its advantages- I could act with impunity. Almost. The bandits had rushed into melee, one to each of my friends, and could not afford to do anything to react to me as long as I stayed clear.

I continued. "Great plan you had. Ambush some sleeping adventurers, rob them, and live like kings on the proceeds.

One minor flaw, though. Since you're Amnish, I suppose you're justified in overlooking it. Orbis...Infucatus...Calculus!" And a coruscating ball of many-coloured light appeared in my hands and flew towards him.

"I need no weapons, need no armour! Not for such as you! As long as I am alive, you are all dead!" By now, the voice was booming, resonating across the battlefield. I wouldn't have been surprised if only the presence of hostile people with weapons kept anyone from running away.

The ball slammed into Dand at the waist, and the entire area turned grey. Immobilized, he could only watch as the bleak gray of stone spread from there over his entire body. His eyes filled with terror before they were consumed by the inexorable force of magic.

Jaheira stopped in midswing as her opponent was rendered a statue. Stopped, turned, and looked at me. What was in her eyes? Confusion? Fear? Anger?

I held her gaze for what seemed an eternity, as the clatter of falling weapons indicated that the other bandits had chosen the better part of valor. Rage left me, power left me, pain returned in full force.

"Know...that I have done this for you.", I managed to say. Then...blackness.

* * *

The statue is still there. I suppose it serves as a monument to the utmost folly.

But whose folly?

-from Of the Children of Murder.
* * *

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