Anomen Delryn would never have believed it possible that he could hate, loathe and fear anyone or anything as much as his father, Cor. Then he had met the one true love of his life, which was wonderful. Unfortunately that also meant meeting her horrible little familiar, which was rather the opposite. Now he found himself actually having nostalgic thoughts about his father, thinking that maybe the old man had his good points after all. For one thing, he didn´t LITERALLY bite.
The cleric-turned-knight rubbed his nose and frowned at the humiliating memory of last weeks disastrous attempt at achieving intimacy with his Lady. How a dragon that small could have a bite that hard was beyond him. Even worse, since then there had been no other good opporunities. Anomen´s dark glare took in his small and sparsely furnished room at the Copper Coronet with such contempt and frustration the fading paint ought to have been peeled right off the walls. The blasted Faerie Dragon hadn´t left its Mistress´s side for days now, giving Anomen a look of smug superiority whenever he got near. The sight of it curled around Cailiana´s neck or being cuddled on her lap was enough to make him want to scream. But he couldn´t, or she would only think him overly sensitive and immature.
No, he would have to come up with another plan. One thing was certain. This time, when the Moment came, the beast would NOT be present. Anomen considered himself a patient man, but that creature had a habit of staring at him with wide and disapproving eyes, as if it were reviewing his performance and finding him lacking. That kind of look would be enough to kill even the most romantic of moments.
Anomen sighed and picked up his helmet. Perhaps a short walk would help him think of something. Could he ask Cai to lock the beast up? But no, that would mean admitting feeling intimidated. He couldn´t let her believe him incapable of handling the situation. Even if he was.
It wasn´t fair in the least, Anomen complained to himself as he made his way through the crowded streets of Athkatla. His selfpitying walk down Memory Lane kept him from paying much attention to his surroundings and he sometimes jostled people without realizing. Another man would probably have been mobbed and beaten up by now, but other pedestrians took one look at the fully armed and muscular man with the large warhammer and the dark scowl on his face, and wisely decided to forget and forgive.
It doesn´t act this way with any of the others, Anomen grumbled silently. It plays happily with Minsc and Boo, lets Jaheira pet it without protest and even seems to accept Yoshimo. A common thief! Why me?
It had begun at that very first fateful meeting, he remembered. There he had been at the Coronet, trying his best to ignore the riffraff who always tried to poke fun at the wouldbe paladin. He had been almost ready to give up his hopes of meeting good and worthy adventurers when suddenly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen came walking through the door, looking weary and sad. When she crossed the room his knees turned to water and he felt his voice rise half an octave as he hurriedly adressed her.
”Fair lady, what brings you to this cesspool of corruption?”, he managed before feeling his brain shut down completely as she smiled at him.
”I seek adventure and honor”, she responded, blue eyes meeting his and making his armor feel very, very hot.
”Chance smiles upon you for I am a warrior of some worth”, Anomen hastily blurted out. ”I am Anomen, warrior priest of Torm. What is your name?”
Did I just say that?, he thought. Did the gentle beauty of this woman´s face just cause me to misspeak the name of my very God? How my father would laugh if he knew.
Then he forgot he ever had a father as she smiled again and opened her mouth.
”Where did you get the idiotic accent from? Have you been reading too many romance novels?”
Anomen felt the insult pierce his heart like a foeman´s sword and tried to gather his tattered dignity. As he was about to answer her, he noticed that the woman was blushing prettily and looking as embarrassed as he felt.
”Puff!”, she hissed, seemingly speaking at her backpack. ”Will you stop that? The gentleman was only being polite.” She then turned to Anomen again, honeycoloured curls bouncing as she shook her head. ”I´m terribly sorry”, she said. ”Puff is my familiar, and he likes to practice his ventriloquism on unsuspecting strangers. I´m sure he didn´t mean to be rude.”
Anomen wasn´t so sure about that as he suddenly noticed the tiny, lizardlike dragon peeking out at him from the pack. Still, he had let the insult pass, willing to overlook anything for the sake of seeing that smile once more. And by now he had even made her smile a few times himself, and hopefully tonight he would be able to do even more than that. If only the dragon could be gotten out of the way, that was.
Anomen suddenly realized that he had made his way to Waukeen´s Promenade and was in fact standing outside the Adventurer´s Mart, staring into empty space and talking to himself. About a dozen curious shoppers of diverse ages, races and genders were watching him interestedly, trying to decide if the ranting madman was dangerous or simply pitiable. The knight flushed, stammered a few incoherent words, and ducked into the shop to get away from the stares. Inside, he strolled about the shop, glancing at the various shelves and trying to look as if he would eventually buy something. Not that they had replaced the stock in months
”Greetings customer! A pearl to you!” It was a welldressed merchantwoman who had addressed him. She was middleaged, but still an attractive woman, with a smooth face and laughing dark eyes, and her blue dress was decorated with gold thread and lace. ”I am Deirdre”, she went on. ”I have magical items for sale, artifacts like none you have ever seen before. Mystery and Magic, all for reasonable prices and sure to interest the most cynical of adventurers.”
”Mythanks, Mylady”, Anomen protested, ”but I do not need…”
”No? Not even to impress your beloved and chastise her pesky familiar? I´m surprised.”
”What?! How did you…”
”How did I know? Why, my good man, you were standing in the street for a good ten minutes grumbling and swearing about how it keeps chewing on the leather straps to your armor and tying your beard in knots when you sleep. Very poetic it was. And loud.”
Anomen sighed and turned to look at Deirdre´s wares. There might actually be something worth buying, and if he didn´t she would probably tell on him the next time he came here with Cai.
Five minutes later a merrily whistling cleric came rushing out of the shop. On his way back to the inn he smiled at every passing stranger, laughing and singing, tossing coins to beggars in the street. In his arms he gently carried a carefully wrapped package, sometimes giving it a happy little pat.
”Better gird yourself for battle, fiend”, he crowed contentedly to himself. ”There is going to be some serious lovetalk tonight, whether you will it or not!”
A few hours later Anomen was nervously chewing his lower lip as he prepared to try oon his new purchase. The helm wasn´t very flattering, it looked a lot like some strange skull, and he didn´t like to think about where it had come from. But that wasn´t important. The only thing that mattered was what it could do. He gingerly rubbed the unreadable scrwalings above the eyeholes three times, then waited as instructed.
”At your order!” Anomen had known what to expect, but the experience was still unnerving. In front of him stood an exact replica of himself, down to the small mole on his left cheek and the scar from the campaign against the Hillgnasher giants.
But the voice doesn´t seem quite right, he thought. I don´t sound like that, do I? He turned to the summoned simulacrum and began giving it its instructions. Afterwards, he carefully stuck his head out the door to make sure nobody was watching and gestured for the simulacrum to follow him.
”Point the sword and I shall strike!”, it remarked cheerfully and loudly. A small muscle started to twitch near the corner of Anomen´s mouth.
”There is a time and a place for bold bravado, squire”, he whispered furiously. ”This is not it. Just be quiet and come with me.”
”I hear you well enough”, the simulacrum whined, but it followed him without further protest.
At the top of the stairs Anomen gave pause. The sound of drunken laughter drifted up from downstairs, indicating that the regular patrons had started to gather. He then gave a small start as the guffaws quited down and he heard Yoshimo´s smooth voice.
”Very good, Puff”, the thief was saying. ”You are a very clever dragon. Here, have another piece of apple.”
Anomen was confused. The dragon was downstairs? Shold he reconsider his plan then? But no, it still wasn´t far enough away from Cailiana. Any moment it might decide to return to her. Besides, he wanted to see what Yoshimo was doing. Was he teaching the animal tricks?
Trying to move as silently as possible the knight looked over the railing. What he saw below nearly caused him to tumble over it.
Yoshimo was sitting at the table directly below him, seeming very pleased with himself. A big crowd of drunken men surrounded him , laughing and pointing excitedly on the table, where the Faerie Dragon sat preening itself. The small animal glittered orange in the candlelight and its tail was twitching slightly with amusement.
”Now let us see what else you can do, little one”, Yoshimo considered. ”Ah, yes!” The thief smiled to himself and addressed the dragon. ”Puff”, he said. ”Show us our good friend Anomen, if you please”.
The dragon giggled, a sound like tiny bells of silver. It then stood on its hindlegs, stuck its chest out and humphed selfimportantly at Yoshimo.
”What is it NOW?” it bleated, sounding like a cross between a pig and an illbred child. Anomen heard the railing creak ominously under the suddenly increased force of his grip as hoots of laughter turned roared in his ears and made him see the world through a red mist.
”Good Anomen”, Yoshimo continued as a small smile grazed his lips. ”What would you say if I told you these good people all find you an annoying braggart who couldn´t think his way out of a paper bag and who deserves a spanking for calling Yoshimo a ”filthy thief” earlier today?”
Puff´s eyes twinkled like stars as it nodded its scaly head at the crowd.
”I stand amongst the righteous!” it squealed and put a paw across its heart as it pretended to swoon.
”Excellent!”, Yoshimo said. ”And now the final question. Anomen, what if this filthy Yoshimo were to tell you to go and stick your head up your own backside as punishment?”
The Faerie Dragon fluttered its wings happily at the thief, then turned around and pretended to stumble over its own legs.
”I shall go forth at your command!”, it stated proudly, looking out beneath its tail and drinking in the admiration of the by now hysterically laughing crowd. Yoshimo raked in the gold coins the audience was tossing his way and then handed the familiar some honeyed nuts which it greedily gobbled up. Meanwhile, Anomen was quietly fuming upstairs, trying to resist the urge to rush downstairs and smash the thief´s head in.
”Get going!”, he whispered hoarsely to the simulacrum. It opened its mouth to confirm the command. ”No. Say nothing! Not a word. Go!”
As the simulacrum heavily walked downstairs, the laughter slowly died down and turned into an uncomfortable silence. Within half a minute Yoshimo was sitting at an empty table, surrounded by several empty chairs. Everybody in the bar was very carefully not noticing him. The simulacrum walked over to the table.
”I am going out” it declared in a loud voice. Yoshimo looked puzzled. This wasn´t what he had been expecting.
”Yes?”, he said a bit apprehensively, trying not to stare at the other mans bulging muscles.
”I am going out to meet with my Lady”, the simulacrum went on. ”We have an appointment. Together. In the park. Alone.”
”Oh?”, Yoshimo said. He tried to edge further away from the erratical cleric. The man had to be drunk or possibly insane. ”That´s nice. Very nice.” As the cleric mutely turned around and walked out the door, Yoshimo shook his head. ”It has to be all that praying”, he remarked to himself. ”Mucks a man´s brains up, it does.” He didn´t notice that the Faerie Dragon suddenly winked out of sight, nor did he hear the low hissing sound that purposefully moved towards the door.
Victory! At last! Anomen didn´t know whether to laugh or cry, his earlier anger all but forgotten as he hurried towards Cailiana´s room. With any luck that simulacrum would lead the familiar on a wild goose chase across the entire city, maybe even getting it lost. And now to swiftly keep that postponed appointment with his Lady.
A rather too short while later, Anomen glanced nervously about the room for the seventh time. The slim fingers of the sorceress tangled themselves in his beard and yanked his head back down, also for the seventh time.
”Anomen”, Cailiana whispered in his ear, ”what on earth is wrong with you? You barely seem to notice me, you jump at every sound and you were in such a rush you almost forgot to remove your helmet. It´s disgusting by the way, I liked your old one better. Are you ill? Or have you changed your mind about – about us?” Her voice trembled at her final words.
”NO! I mean Yes! I mean, I love you Cai, my Lady, I never want to leave your side.”
”Oh, no?”, Cailiana remarked somewhat waspishly. ”But you do seem to be in an awful hurry to get out of this bed. Since when did ”laying together in the night” become ”ten minutes and a nervous breakdown?”
Anomen barely heard her. Would removing the helmet have affected the simulacrum spell? What if it had dissolved? What if the little Pit Fiend was back already? He strained his ears, listening for giggles.
”Anomen! Are you listening to me?”
”Er-My Lady? Did you hear something just now? Under the bed?”
He then found himself bodily pushed out of the same bed. ”Oh, just go!”, Cailiana exclaimed. ”Go sleep it off somewhere else. I’ll talk to you later. IF you can form coherent sentences by then.”
Anomen nearly wept like a baby as he dressed himself.
Not again!, he thought. Helm, why do you test your servant thus?
He glanced at the bed, but Cai had turned her back to him and pulled the covers over her head.
”My love…”, he tried.
”Go away!”, came the muffled answer.
Gritting his teeth Anomen reached for his enchanted helm. Much good THAT had been. He hurriedly stuck it on his head. And then he was suddenly screaming, cursing and trying to wipe runny and foulsmelling dragon leavings from his eyes, as a happy giggle like a dozen silver bells reached him from the open window.
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