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Part 7: Requiem

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#1 Guest_Dallan_*

Posted 18 November 2002 - 07:41 AM

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Everyone should hear their own eulogy at least once. It gives such a perspective on the fashion in which one has led their life, and on the people one has known while doing so.

Try, however, not to appear at your own funeral as a lich. This tends to cause problems. Isn't that right, Edwin?

-Excerpt from Of the Children of Murder

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Sped both by Imoen's magic and by an appreciable dose of fear, what was left of the party quickly reached the top of the narrow stairway, panting and breathless. Aerie was speechless and shaking, threatening to burst into tears with every unearthly howl from below, but holding them back through a supreme effort of will and the comforting and silent presence of Minsc.

In front of them, Valygar and Imoen stood unmoving, both sets of eyes turned unflinchingly downwards. The piercring screech of tortured metal drifted up from below, and Imoen winced.

Is that my future too? It took Sarevok in the end...he was barely human when we killed him. It's taken Dallan, worse than it ever took Sarevok...my brothers, that I never knew and never will. She would not cry. She could not cry. The wounds on her soul were still too fresh, too raw...and she didn't have the luxury of safety the utter collapse that the events warranted would require.

She remembered that fateful day two years before like it was yesterday. She had heard Candlekeep's Chanters reciting the Bhaalspawn Prophecy, and the single word "Follow." had echoed in her mind like a tolling bell, an inarguable, inevitable command. She had followed...to find Dallan standing over their foster father's corpse, weeping as if to continue the torrential rainstorm that had soaked the ground the night before.

Since then, the threads of their fates had run together. Her light heart and his heavy one had kept them both floating at an acceptable level above the ground, and they had kept each other sane during the long, bloody struggle against Sarevok, his machinations and all that had followed after.

And now, Dallan was lost. Lost beyond reckoning.

And she was changed. Changed forever by her knowledge of what she was, changed by the shadow that Irenicus had wakened in her soul.

And she didn't know what the future held. She didn't even want to contemplate it, for fear that she already knew what it held, having just seen it.

"It happens to them all in the end." A murmur, beside her, only audible because of the deathly silence of wherever the stair had led them.

The words stung, running so much in parallel with her own thoughts, but she turned to Valygar standing beside her and asked with a defiance she did not feel. "And just how do you know so much about the...the children of Bhaal?" She nearly tripped over the phrase, so unfamiliarly applied to herself.

"I don't. But I speak of another affliction you share."

Imoen grimaced. Despite their brief acquaintance she was all too familiar with Valygar's not-quite-rational dislike for magery, and she frankly wondered why Dallan had even kept him around, as he was far more enthusiastic about magic than even she was.

"Oh, yes. I'd nearly forgotten. After all, the only reason we aren't all dead is because of my magic, so of course it's a horrible threat to us all."

"I only think you should all be more careful with it. You meddle with forces you don't understand."

"Don't be too free with that "you". You can cast the odd spell yourself. I can tell that much."

It was Valygar's turn to grimace. "A relic of my tainted blood."

"Arcane or divine, it's all the same Weave, so the ranger stuff counts too." She pondered that for a moment. "So if you want to tell Jaheira the next time she's healing you that her magic is foul and dangerous...?"

"That's different."

"So the divine middleman makes everything okay?"

"The Gods are no better than we are, merely more powerful."

"So why not scowl at Jaheira?"

"Because I'd rather get my wounds healed than added to."

Imoen's chuckle was like the single stroke of a tiny bell, and was just as quickly swallowed by the gloom. "Funny. But you still haven't answered the question. If even the good Gods can't be trusted to use magic wisely, then why don't you distrust people who ask them for spells just as much? And if they can, but they aren't any better than we are, then why can't we?"

"It takes some nerve to defend magic when it's entirely responsible for your current predicament. And your brother's death."

Rage, the elemental fury of a woman scorned. She didn't even have the luxury of blaming Bhaal for it: she didn't want to kill him. Not really. Even slapping him would have been counterproductive. Maybe an Acid Arrow where it hurts? She looked up at him, eyes flashing, and flat-out hissed at him.

"Listen to me, you...you...you insensitive, pigheaded clod! I don't blame magic for what Irenicus did to us any more than I blame Minsc for you making me so mad! I blame Irenicus for what he did, and I blame you for what you're doing! Magic is just a tool, just like that enchanted family sword of yours, and it's the user that makes it good or evil!

And as for Dallan? If he were here, he could certainly have told you a thing or two about tainted blood! At least magic won't corrupt you unless you let it! He didn't...we don't have that luxury..." The flood of angry words slowed to a trickle, and a suddenly deflated Imoen turned away from Valygar and the shocked stares of Minsc and Aerie to look apprehensively down the stairs into the menacing darkness. She thought she could hear a sob. Was it hers, or someone else's?

After a long pause, a chastened Valygar spoke hesitantly. "I deserved that."

"Yes, you did. But keep apologizing." The voice held only an ember of its recent fire, a dull glow to its normal sparkle.

"Your brother was my friend, and an admirable man, and he fought bravely against the evils both inside and out."

"And lost. Just like I will."

A dry voice from below. "Wrong on both counts."

It was indeed Dallan, with the ever-present Milei at his shoulder, climbing wearily up the stairs in front of Jaheira, and his survival struck those above like a thunderbolt. Aerie cheered, and even Valygar looked jubilant...for Valygar, at least. Imoen, being Imoen, rushed forward and flew into his arms...forgetting that her Haste spell was still active. Only the armored bulk of Jaheira behind him kept all three of them from a nasty tumble back down the stairs, and even that didn't suffice to keep them all from falling into an undignified heap with a terrible ghastly noise of clattering metal.

There was a silence to match the noise, broken by Dallan's laughter. "Now that is the Imoen I remember." Jaheira and Imoen chuckled, but Minsc remained subdued.

When the mirth died down, he explained. "Boo says Dallan is not all there. Minsc is perplexed. Minsc can certainly see Dallan; he is not missing anything as far as we can tell, but Boo has never been wrong before."

"No," Dallan's sober reply came. "Boo is as wise as always. Irenicus did take something from me...from us both. A piece of my soul, he said...and now I can't resist my Father as easily as before. Gods, calling that waking and sleeping nightmare easy stings, but it's nothing compared to forcing back a divine avatar trying to steal my body."

The explanation was met with some small surprise from Aerie and Valygar, but only grim nods from the others, who'd met Sarevok beneath Baldur's Gate, at the fullest extent of his posession by the God of Murder. It fell to Aerie to ask the question that had been on everyone's mind given...recent events and revelations, and she did it with some trepidation.

"So why...why isn't Imoen manifesting the Slayer?"

Dallan shrugged. "I don't know, but I thank the Gods for it." His brow furrowed then, and he added. "Milei tells me that there's both less of Bhaal's essence in Imoen, and a countering divine influence. And that Irenicus was able to take more from me because I was an elf." He blinked at that, and turned to regard the pseudodragon with unblinking violet eyes that very nearly shouted "How in the Hells do you know that?"

Milei stuck her tongue out at him, to the great amusement of his companions. The elf rolled his eyes skyward, defeated, and then continued.

"As I was going to say....our resident oracle here says that whatever is protecting Imoen is weakening, if slowly...and as I've just proven, controlling myself will be no picnic in my current condition. If we delay, we will both be lost."

Jaheira spoke then, with a voice of steel. "Then we must find him, and take back what he has stolen from his hide."

Imoen pondered. "But where would we look? I doubt he's still here...he's done with us, after all."

A lilting voice came from the dimly lit corridor in front of them, and as the words came a man followed them out of the darkness, an unpleasantly familiar man.

"Oh, he's still here. In fact, he's just beyond that door down there." He pointed into the gloom, and then continued. "But you won't beat him...or at least, not unless you listen to me."

Dallan groaned. "Havarian."

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Some people have the irritating habit of turning up everywhere, when you least expect them. Some are malevolent, while some are merely annoying.

Of course, which is worse is a matter for debate.

-Excerpt from Of the Children of Murder

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