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Bhaalspawn and Co: Melirinda. Part I: Under No Circumstances

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#1 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 29 November 2002 - 04:10 AM

Part I. Under no Circumstances.

Share pain and mirth
Share gain and loss
Share dreams that we have

Kivan Ashenbow


This story is about Melirinda GeGranier, a human female fighter who decided to become a druid after the beautiful city of Baldur’s Gate was saved by her exploits from a terrible war. She yearns for balance in her life, for she came to know that she is a child of a now deceased God of Murder – Bhaal. A group of friends who supported her and fought by her side is falling apart.

Branwen, a ferocious northern maiden, is going back to her native land of Icewinddale. There she wants to face her Barbarian kin. Her plan is ambitious – to prove that a woman can serve Tempus, the God of Battles and to seek a higher status for females in the Barbarian community. She believes that her experiences in Melirinda’s company and her knowledge of the world beyond the Spine of the World Mountains would assure her success.

Kivan, an elf from a far away Forest of Shadows – Shilmista- is leaving too. His only goal in life – to revenge the death of his wife, elven Enchantress Deheriana, was just fulfilled, yet his eyes are still sad. Melirinda’s heart aches for him, but there is nothing she can do. They part by the city gates, and she runs on top of the wall to see him gone.

Minsc and Dynaheir, a couple of wanderers from Rasheman would accompany Melirinda to a druid’s grove by Baldur’s Gate. They are not sure however, how long they will stay, for their spiritual journey: dajemma is far from over.

Imoen, a friend of Melirinda’s for as long as she can remember herself is the only one of her companions, who is not going to leave her side. Ever. Imoen is terrified by the prospect of spending few years in the druid’s grove…but she has a plan: a stack of magic books and scrolls should occupy her, while Melirinda pursues her new “nature fancy”.

Khalid and Jaheira - friends of Melirinda’s foster father, Gorion, will gladly accompany her to the grove. Jaheira, a half-elven fighter druid is to ask the Great Druid to accept Melirinda as acolyte. Khalid is inseparable from Jaheira, so he comes along. The group of six traveled together and spent some peaceful times in the grove.

However the news are troublesome. Dark fame of Bhaalspawn is catching up with Melirinda DeGranier. Melirinda’s origin is no longer acceptable in the small druid’s settlement and the party is on the road again. An attack in the darkness lends Melirinda and her friends in a dungeon of a mysterious mage, Jon Irenicus. When Melirinda finally manages to break out, to her sorrow she found out, that Khalid, Jaheira and Dynaheir are dead.

As the reminder of the group exits the dungeon they face Jon Irenicus himself and a battle issues… Unfortunately, a secret organization of Cowled Wizards arrests both Imoen and Jon Irenicus for using magic in Athkatla and teleports them away to an unknown destination.

That’s how Melirinda, Minsc and their new ally – Yoshimo, got clued in that they are in the capital of Amn, a neighboring state with Baldur’s Gate. Shadow Thieves Guild is willing to help Melirinda to find the prison, called Spellhold, where the Cowled Wizards took Imoen, but she needs to raise a large sum of money: 20,000 gold pieces to buy their assistance. A rival Guild, led by a Vampire Bodhi, promises to take Melirinda to the Spellhold for less money, yet Melirinda is reluctant to sign a deal with the darkness itself. She prefers the known evil – and accepts the Shadow Thieves offer.

One day Melirinda sees a familiar hooded figure in the crowd. That cannot be! Yet Kivan is making his way towards her and for a moment world becomes slightly less insane. The rumors of Melirinda’s mysterious disappearance reached the elven ranger somehow and he turned back, searching for his friends and their captors. Kivan did not share where he was travelling, but somehow Melirinda felt that he never went to Shilmista. He would only shrug his shoulders when Melirinda asked him how he managed to trace her to Athkatla.

Kivan is very glad to see the druid…in fact so glad, that Melirinda involuntarily asks herself: “What if?” But there could be no if, because Kivan’s heart is given to his wife, and Melirinda treasures his friendship too much to risk it by falling in love with the elf. It seems that under no circumstances Kivan and Melirinda can be more than they are now – true friends.

Game stats:

Fighter (level 7) dual-classed to Druid
Strength: 17
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 18

Appearance: Melirinda is about 5’9” tall, has long blond hair and gray eyes. She generally dresses in greens and browns, and prefers travel-friendly apparel. She loves using staves, clubs, and fiery scimitars…

Ranger, Archer Kit
Strength: 17
Dexterity: 19
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 10
Racial enemy: ogre
Special weapon: The Bow of Elven Archer.
Kivan is a Sylvan elf, about 6’2” tall, has dark wavy hair approximately shoulder length. Just like any other elf he is slender and his features are sharper than human’s. I would not waste few hours of your time describing his eyes, let’s just say, they are charcoal-black and have this peculiar almond shape, the elves are famous for.

#2 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 29 November 2002 - 04:12 AM

1. Nightmares.

You came to my dreams
before I was true to my heart
I was afraid to sleep
Yet I would not wake up…

Kivan Ashenbow

He felt cold stone against his shoulder and then too much pain to care for it. Something however prevented him from slipping back into unconsciousness. Soft foot stepping on the yellow leaves. How did he know that leaves were yellow? The elf did not gather enough strength to open his eyes yet. But the leaves were yellow before he finally fell. Mostly yellow. Red, where his blood stained them. And Deheriana’s blood. This thought finally brought him back to reality. Soft steps were that of a wild cat. The stone was the stone and the leaves were yellow and brown now. Blood had dried out since the elf had last seen it.

He knew he was in no position to bargain with the cat. The carnage had agitated the predator. His twisted and broken body would not offer enough stature and power to make the cat listen. So he’d have to fight. Fight. He wished, he could laugh at that joke! But if he would not, the cat will tore apart Deheriana’s body. He tried to move his left hand slowly. He already knew that the right was of no use, because he did not feel pain in it, he did not feel it at all.

His fingers touched something very familiar. Bow, it was his bow! Of course, it was nothing but a useless stick for their non-elven attackers, so they threw it away, just like their bodies. Bow was of no use to him now also, despite its magic. He was afraid that bow will never be of any use to him, not with the way his right arm had been broken and his wrist smashed and burned.

Stone. That was something less elaborate, but still effective. He reached for the stone, but he was not fast enough. The cat tensed and jumped. He did not notice cat’s claws digging into him, concentrating what consciousness left into single blow with the stone. After all, he only had one try. To his surprise, the hit was strong enough to dizzy the cat and set doubts in the wounded beast’s mind. Staring hard at the cat, trying to dive behind the glowing eyes he said: “go away”. The cat obeyed.

The elf rolled over and crawled towards the body piled on the ground next to his. Female was stiff and he knew she was long dead. He shuddered and lifted himself off the ground, then finally gathered enough resolved to look in her face. It was not Deheriana, it was Melirinda. He was about to let out a yell, but a strong palm slammed over his mouth.

Kivan’s eyes went wide open. Melirinda almost set on top of him, one knee firmly planted on his chest, palm pressing against his mouth and the second gripping to his once broken shoulder. For a second he wondered at the sight of her face from that angle and so close, but then he caught her muttering, which was highly uncomplimentary to the whole elven race in general, sylvan elves more narrowly and himself in particular. She somehow seemed accustomed to the uncomfortable pose, and Kivan’s heart went cold when he considered that it might not have been the first time. He gently tapped Melirinda’s foot with his relatively less obstructed hand. The muttering stopped when Melirinda was switching to well deserved critique of more removed Underdark elven kin. She threw her head up, shaking away untamed locks from her face and asked quietly: “Awake?” Then she tentatively lifted her hand off his face. “Yes and no.” – answered Kivan as calmly as he could. “Elves do not sleep.”

“ I wish they would,” parried Melirinda. The female looked exhausted and she was not interested in a short and informative excurse on elven-related issues he was about to offer.

“I promise, I will behave.” Kivan said instead, smiling at the absurdity of the statement. "Just a bad dream..."

"Elves do not sleep, do they now?"

"Well, who am I to tell?"

“Did you just smile? Darn, you Kivan! Must you do it in the darkness so I cannot witness that unique event?”

“Thank you, Melirinda,” he was grateful, but he was not sure for what exactly. For his salvaged pride? For unwanted compassion? For her just standing and chewing on a lock of hair and staring at him with gray sleepy eyes?

Melirinda suddenly spoke, with frightening decisiveness of humans: “If you ever need to talk…I am usually a better listener, than now…”

He knew that. However, she was exactly the person he would not want to be introduced to the content of his visions. Under no circumstances…

#3 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 29 November 2002 - 04:24 AM

2. Shadow Druids.

Among shadows, you are my light…

Kivan Ashenbow

Trolls. The stench was unmistakable. They all huddled for a moment at the very entrance of the mound. The inside was dark, wet, cold and very uninviting.

But they came to the groove to find the source of evil that tormented Trademeet and trolls haven’t been exactly a goodly race. Melirinda called for an investigation of the mound.

Despite his condescending remarks over few trolls they had killed in the forest, Anomen shifted uneasily and got his flail ready. Hill giants, he had allegedly killed, might have beene tough, but facing a pack of trolls inside of a dark cave was apparently low on his priority list that night.

Valygar’s wide back disappeared from sight and Melirinda concluded that he moved forward, hoping to break apart the trolls if they attack in a large group.

Suddenly the mound was filled with cracking and wails. Something was moving towards them. Anomen stepped forward and made an unsure swing. It nevertheless connected and rebounded of the large monster. Valygar gave an angry shout and few chunks of a dead monster plummeted through the air and rained on the group.

“Anomen, to your right!” yelled Kivan, the only one of the group who can actually see the trolls. Anomen hit and seemingly did some damage. “A fireball?” suggested Melirinda to Kelsey. “How about Valygar?” came an uncertain reply from the sorcerer.

“Get me some light here! I can survive ten of your blasted fireballs, wizard!” Valygar cried back excitedly. He sounded like he needed help. Melirinda chanted, praying for a fire blade - a torch and a weapon.

“Can you see which way I aim?” Kivan’s words to Kelsey was the last thing she heard, before shutting of the material world and falling into her casting trance…

The flaming scimitar appeared in her hand breaking up darkness and to their horror revealing at least dozen of trolls of all shapes and sizes. The fireball blasted in the far corner of the chamber setting couple of the wretched creatures ablaze. The chamber finally filled with dancing but strong light. The burning trolls were as beautiful as trolls can ever be.

Melirinda stepped forward covering the archers from frenzied, half burned monsters. Some trolls broke away from two tight circles, presumably formed around Valygar and Anomen. For few moments Melirinda thought of nothing, but parrying many hits. She was falling into weird rhythm with trolls. Arrows and darts flew over her shoulders and head, sometimes dropping to the floor, sometimes hitting a mark as if following unknown tune. These weird movement patterns, random battle cries and leaping fire tongues transformed the whole cave into an almost festive scene.

Minutes flew and still trolls were coming. Melirinda started slow count down in her mind trying to plan simultaneously for the moment when her magical blade will disappear. It was not much of a plan: hold her shield up and hope that iron skins will hold until she summons another blade. She now wished she used her staff or had an escape route prepared... But staff would not allow her using a shield and Melirinda had nowhere to run: behind her stood Kivan, Kelsey and Jan.

Longbow went flying past Melirinda and she was roughly pulled back, pushed aside and hidden behind the ranger. The flaming blade fainted, then it was extinguished. Apparently, she was not the only one who counted down. Chasing away the thought of what one well placed hit might do to a lightly armored archer, Melirinda grinded her teeth and started another chant.

New burning blade in hand, she was ready in a moment to stand by Kivan and to put finishing touches on the collapsed monsters.

They started moving – Kivan towards his bow, Melirinda towards Anomen who was faring worse then Valygar. Jan and Kelsey obviously preferred Valygar’s attackers judging from the amount of arrows and crimson darts protruding from his two still standing trolls. Kivan must have been working on Anomen’s company before taking Melirinda’s place.

Melirinda involuntarily looked upon Kivan. He just picked up his bow and pulled the string. Then he let it go, because the shot was spoiled anyway. An aiming archer cannot afford a smile.

“Melirinda, for Rillifane’s sake, get yourself something more permanent than this fiery sickle”… responded he to the gratitude in the maiden’s gaze.

“Duck!” shouted Melirinda jumping towards him, the abovementioned sickle whistling, flame roaring in the air just where his head had been. Her hit almost cut the troll in half, and she continued pounding on the beast, too afraid to look at what happened to Kivan.

Then she heard a whisper:

“You burned my ear, crazy woman.”

“I relied on the infamous elven agility, “ she almost laughed aloud with relief.

“You keep your back to the maiden and your face to the evil beasts and then your ears will be just fine, elf.” grumbled Anomen

“Words of a wise man, “ came soft reply and Kivan went back, re-joining Kelsey and Jan.

They set camp early that night. The majesty of the dark forest and friendly sound of their fire slowly removed tensions and trials of the day from Melirinda’s mind. She idly pondered if there was jealousy in Anomen’s voice, when he scolded Kivan … But Anomen had been jealous of every man and even of occasional oak tree, so his reaction was not telling her anything about Kivan or about herself… Then she saw the ranger in question sliding to the fireside from the night.

“Kivan, let me take a look at your ear,” she offered generously.

He came up towards her, lowered himself by her foot and leaned backwards, almost touching her knee with his head. Melirinda moved thick wave of the elf’s hair aside and stared at the peculiarly elongated ear.

“I see no apparent harm. Where is the burn? “ inquired Melirinda after a pause.
“Burn?” he reclined even farther and watched her for a moment as she was some curiosity. “Oh, those burn… It was just a lie…to get you out of that panicking state. You grip on the hilt was excessively tight, and that is dangerous. I wish I had time for an ode to the one who bravely saved my life instead of a lame joke, but alas, I had not.”

The conversation was dead and when Kivan rose, Melirinda expected him to walk away and continue his endless circle around the camp. He refused to rest for several nights in a row now…

“Melirinda,” he said as an afterthought, “Melirinda, you are a good fighter, and a good fighter does not put her life against a magical trinket. I wish to see you alive longer then a spell lasts. Listen to me, get a proper blade or use your staff, anything you like, just do not gamble like that anymore…your recklessness scared me today.”

Only genuine concern in normally removed elf stopped Melirinda from an angry challenge to prove who was the best fighter. She also considered telling him that she had an emergency plan or that flame blade was a proper blade for a druid… Instead, she offered:

“Thank you quessir,” summing up her emotions about the battle, the joke, the advice and about him.

He flinched as if Melirinda gave him a good slap on the face.

“Oh! I am so sorry, it’s my accent of course.” Melirinda jumped to her feet and almost bumped into the ranger. She felt intensively unhappy. A memory of a visiting elf-mage back in Candelkeep immediately popped up in her mind. “Melirinda, “ said the elf, “you can read Elven, you can write Elven, but under no circumstances you shall try again to speak Elven…” Gorion was very cold with the guest after that incident, but Melirinda indeed never tried to speak Elven aloud. So much for breaking the rules! What she just have said, must be an offensive word in Shilmista’s dialect or she has inadequate idea on Sylvan Elves and…

“No, no, it’s not your accent and why do you think I can judge an accent from a single word? I just do not want to be called the name I do not deserve, that’s all. I had done something terrible, Melirinda.” Kivan turned around and quickly disappeared.

Melirinda groaned. She felt better after that and was about to do it again, but groaning was not a remedy, so she sat back on the log and propped her chin against her palm and tried to think it over.

She could always rely on Gorion or his memory to make difficult choices. Now, she conjured his image and tried to discuss the matter with him. However, the imaginary mage only shrugged, and disappeared mumbling something about the benefit of a motherly advice, that she should have spent more time with Jaheira and that he was never much of an expert in the matters of the heart.

Matters of the heart? Melirinda was surprised that her heart suddenly got involved into all that… She might not have known her mother, but she had heard what many an all-too-bright-eyed girl hears in all parts of Faerun from a concerned parent: “human’s maiden eyes which look upon elves too often will shed many tears…”

“Under no circumstances shall I, Melirinda DeGranier, think Kivan of Shilmista anything but a trusted friend,” it was a weird vow, but the whole affair was weird. Why was he so upset with her compliment? He was changing somehow and she could feel it. But why? What was going on within her, levelheaded DeGranier? Melirinda thought she caught a glimpse of Kivan walking through the forest around the camp and as if trying to strike some agreement with him, she repeated softly: “Under no circumstances…”

#4 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 21 December 2002 - 07:57 PM

3. Two Sisters.

Two sisters you were
One wore black, another wore white
One was sad and another merry
Which one did I love?

Kivan Ashenbow

The sky turned tender pre-dawn green and silence was no more. Birds were just waking, not daring more than yawns and short "is it time yet?" but forest itself was breaking from stillness. Leaves twitched in shy wind. A branch overloaded with berries finally cracked and plunged down through the boughs to the mossy floor. However, mist was still clutching to the river and chill was at its deepest. Kivan stood, watching the morning dew appear on the linden’s leaves for the uncounted time in his life. Once the drops became fully visible and started trailing towards leaves edges, clashing together, running off to the ground, it was time to say farewell to the fading stars. Soon white, yellow and then orange will fill the east, forcing the short living green to transform into the dominant bright blue. It will be a fare day.

Their camp was springing to life also. Kivan’s companions were luring Jan out of his bedroll and rekindling the fire. They all looked rested and cheerful, despite the fact that every new hour could bring pain or death. It was a matter of few short days before he would not be able to go on without resting, but he pushed it away as far as he could. Rest and Melirinda were one now, and Kivan was not ready to face his old guilt, which gained new edge now. He stretched, shook away emptiness and the first hint of headache and walked towards his comrades.

“I saw a group of shadow druids attacking trolls east from here,” announced Kivan plainly. “Right. Then we shall be starting in that direction immediately.” with that Melirinda pulled her hair up, tied it and hid it underneath her helmet. Jan was out of his bedroll in an instant, knowing all too well that Melirinda was unusually harsh ever since they got a rumor of shadow druids involved in the matter from Cernd.

“We will get them Rind, and I fight much better when I am hungry,” grumbled Valygar. Kelsey sighed at this epitaph to their breakfast and recited some mumbo-jumbo. In a moment, he looked as someone’s first try (and poor at that) in sculpting, for his body and robes literally tuned stone-like. Anomen said or had done nothing except for watching Melirinda’s glistening chain mail. Melirinda’s chain was mesmerizing, Kivan had to agree with Anomen. It was made by elves to fit the wearer’s body perfectly. Even someone as "unelvingly" curvy as Melirinda was. Anomen, despite his distracted appearance, was ready and eager to go, full suit of shiny armor in place, mace in hand and shield at his arm.

Shadow druids were still pounding hard and being pounded at by trolls in a small glen, traversed by a stream, its water now boiling around troll’s stomping feet. Melirinda’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the muddied creek. But she gave no command to attack. Instead she stood, watching the battle calmly, seemingly deep in her thoughts. Kivan shrugged and pulled a fire arrow out of his quiver. Black or not, the druids were human, and in the battle between humans and monsters he had little trouble taking sides. Flaming line cut through the air and hit the nearest troll. Melirinda sharply turned about, and watched Kivan to place three more perfect hits into the dyeing troll. She watched Valygar and Anomen drawing their weapons and Kelsey falling into a spell.

"Very well", said she with a grim smile, "Jan and I will have to join into your righteous charge..."

Few moments later Kivan watched the group of shadow druids and their allies turning their blades onto the three fighters who had delivered them from the majority of the trolls. He sighed resentfully, noted Kelsey’s horrified "Oh, no…" and aimed at the mage who was making aggressive hand thrusts in their direction. The mage was the quicker that time. A conjured acid arrow pierced rough leather armor, burning through Kivan’s skin with ugly wheezing. Kivan steadied himself and tried to aim at the mage again. That was not necessary. Valygar took the man’s head off in a measured move.

It was over in few minutes, the battered druids unable to resist or seriously harm the seasoned group. Melirinda leaned to the stream, chanting softly. The dirty banks were ruined, grass and brush burned and wrecked, but the water calmed and was running clean again. Then she looked pointedly at Kivan: "Balance was served." After that, she led them to the circular stone structure; such a surety was in her step, that even less sensitive to the way of nature group members did not doubt that she got some sort of advice from the creek’s deity.

"How flattering, we are expected," whispered Melirinda. Then in ringing, excited voice, that Kivan had never heard before, even when she faced Sarevok, Melirinda cried: “For all that is true to nature, denounce your ways, or face my wrath!” The shadow druids were not impressed and their chanting filled the air.

Despite fiery blades aiming angrily at her and few thick clouds of poisonous insects, Melirinda charged, letting her fury with people, who perverted the balance, to carry her and to give her more strength and endurance than usual. She tasted hatred for the first time. Melirinda envisioned it as a beast rolling inside, wailing hungrily, and pushing her to kill. "Father," thought she, "this is the voice of my father." Suddenly vague promises of power she heard in her dreams became reality. When she acknowledged Bhaal’s parenthood openly, so she acknowledged that she might want what dead Bhaal left untapped in her soul.

But the ferocious battle offered her no time to ponder. Life was a simple sequence of strokes and parries, of hits and wounds. Melirinda was worrying only about gaining ground, more ground, breaking the next enemy’s resistance, killing him. Then came a plea for mercy. It broke through to Melirinda and stopped her swing in mid-air. She could not kill a yielding foe…not yet, and she was thankful for that. The admiring looks of her goodly allies were something she could throw on the scale against Bhaal’s taunts – and keep it balanced…

The grove’s gates were wide open, their defenders destroyed or hiding inside. Without hesitation Melirinda went in, the rest of her friends following closely. She felt unusual connection with them, now carried ahead by solidarity with them, not hatred and feeling stronger than when she was in her short union with Bhaal. Melirinda DeGranier had chosen Valygar, Kivan, Jan and Anomen over her powerful father. Under no circumstances would she surrender them, even if it was against her believes.

Then she spotted Faldorn. Shadow druid applauded the group entry and laughed heartily:

“You have had you fun and are still alive. Now leave before I destroy you…” with that she made a queenly dismissive gesture.

“Really? “ Melirinda’s gray eyes took a shade and sharpness of mithril. “I am pleased to offer you some more entertainment. The sort of you can participate in, not just sending your pawns to hunt. For I, Melirinda DeGranier, daughter of Gorion the Spellwielder, and a druid in my own right, challenge you, perverted shadow of a druid for the leadership of this grove.”

It appeared to Kivan that many druids held their breath and hoped for this daring newcomer to win over wizened and awful Faldorn. Elf, attuned to the way of natural world, Kivan could clearly see Faldorn’s connection to it in her primitive fury, in her great survival instinct and in her cunning. Melirinda championed the balance of the elements and the harmony of all leaving beings. It was Kivan’s opinion that Faldorn did not stand a chance against Melirinda.

The two females walked inside the arena – the ritual place and the heart of the grove. Both were wearing loose pants and tunics and let their hair down. For a moment, they seem almost sisterly, almost a mirror image of one another. With the gong’s sound both chanted, almost in unison, one – unleashing an insect swarm, second covering herself with iron skin. The first went on chanting, summoning more aid, protecting herself… The second went to grab a simple staff lying on the floor and attacked her opponent.

“You will live no longer then your spell lasts!” cried Melirinda, hitting the shadow druid repeatedly. Faldorn hissed and took to the staff but she was no match to Melirinda who had been a trained and well-conditioned fighter. Blood covered Faldorn, and the sight of it made her wild, mad. She was no longer in possession of her own body, twisting suddenly and letting her totemic animal, a black panther to take her place. Melirinda did not wish to kill the magnificent beast, but the grove had to be purged from the shadows.

Then she stood in the middle of the arena, victorious, hair cascading down her spine, her face upturned to the cave’s ceiling in gratitude to Sylvanus.

Melirinda insisted on staying in the grove for the night. She wanted to embrace the forest now free of shadow and regain her calm. Melirinda meditated long into the night, connecting to the restored natural spirit. Finally, she was back with her companions. They ate a fine dinner that night to compensate for the lost breakfast and lunch – with two cunning rangers it was easier to find provisions in the forest than in the city. The fire was fading and even Anomen’s tales grew shorter. Jan was snoring for some time by then and they kept their voices down hopeful that he’d not be awaken to tell yet another of his loosely relevant to the conversation stories. When the last log started smoldering, Valygar scooped up Jan and bade his good night. Kelsey was getting up, and casually tapped Kivan on his shoulder: "Common, fearless warrior, you have a night off. Who in his right mind will attack the most powerful druid in the whole of Faerun?"

"I’d rather sleep by the fire, and if you would, please leave my shoulder be. The mage nailed me…"

Kelsey leaned closer and whistled: "Acid…wicked spell. Anomen, you’d better take a look at that!" "Why did not you ask earlier, Elf?” Melirinda wondered why humans so often call others by their race. Jan was Gnome for Anomen more ofthen than not and she did not doubt that if Khalid and Jaheira were still with her, Anomen would call them Half-Elves. Anomen touched Melirinda’s shoulder to attract her attention: “Melirinda? Are you back to Toril yet? Can you cast a healing spell? Kivan got a burn a size of Dragonmere."

"And at least twice as deep," grumbled Kivan. "No need to worry Melirinda, it will heal by the morning."

"You go rest, friends," answered Melirinda softly, thinking how odd was the Elv’s behavior. He lied yesterday when he was not hurt and now he is denying his injury. "I will see what I can do for out stoical archer.”

Kelsey mumbled: "Acid arrow… When I was young and unaccustomed to the destructive magic flowing through my veins, I casted it to stop a robber in my dad’s store. It was terrible! His head melted under my very eyes. Terrible sight!" Valygar handed Jan’s body, still shaking with snores to Anomen, then he approached Kelsey and turned the sorcerer around to face his grim visage: "Kelsey, even a responsible wizard like you can bring disaster and death to people. I am glad that you at least realize it and do not enjoy it"

"Will you watch me, Valygar, just to make sure I am not going overboard?" asked Kelsey sadly." I am watching you, rest assured of that…" the two moved towards the tent together. Anomen gave Jan a disgusted look and then asked Melirinda: "May be we can trade few words after the healing is completed?"

"Of course, " answered Melirinda quickly, way to quickly and without giving it a thought. Anomen had to accept that and without any other remarks, he followed Valygar and Kelsey.

"It’s not a joke this time," said Melirinda examining Kivan’s shoulder. "I can cast a spell, but you must do your part. You have to promise me no lonely patrols, stargazing or dancing naked in the moonlight. Just sleep, or whatever you Elves do instead…and I recommend the tent"

“Dancing naked? Were you truly brought up in Candelkeep by Gorion the Sage, Melirinda?” dark eyes glistened with laughter. Melirinda did not answer. Kivan got up, pushed aside few larger pieces of wood scorched, but not consumed by the fire, until the dying embers formed a smooth layer. Then he pulled a blanket out of his pack and unrolled it over the embers.

"My healer, I should be warmer here than you in the tent. Care to try?"

"It will burn!" Melirinda leaned forward trying to salvage the blanket. However it did not catch fire. She stared at the blanket for a few moments in amazement. Then she touched the blanket and it felt comfortably warm. Melirinda thought that despite her love of nature and her chosen path she was ultimately illiterate in the ways of wilderness. "How?" she asked Kivan at length.

"It’s an elven-made fabric, Melirinda, we weave in some special strings and that’s why it is safe on the embers," replied Kivan settling on his improvised bed and undoing a fistula on his cloak.

"Elven, of course! I should have guessed," laughed Melirinda, but there was a touch of frustration in her voice. “He noticed,” pondered Melirinda, “he noticed and he will think me a fool.”

Kivan looked up at her and she suddenly saw sorrow in his dark eyes: "My people are on the wane, Melirinda. One day there will be only humans of all races left in Faerun. Until that day, allow me a small bit of pride in what we were and what we could do…"

Melirinda kneeled by the Elf and looked at him closely, as if she was afraid that he would vanish in a moment. "Do not say that. There is place for every race on Faerun. How else could be balance achieved if not through diversity?"

"Fear not, the balance will be… Just different balance. If the Time of Troubles lasted longer, wouldn’t the world adjust to living without magic and without gods?"

"Yes," Melirinda had to say, for she believed that balance could be the same yet different. Melirinda was unsure she was prepared to the world were none knows what are Elves. She surveyed Kivan, his sharp features, his exotic eyes, full of the starlight, his telltale pointy ears and slender frame and suddenly she knew that her world will always have at least one Elf in it. And so she said to him. Then the druid layed hands over Kivan’s shoulder and reduced the burn as much as she could. That was all. Melirinda started to rise but kneeled by him again and smiled: "There is something else I can try. It’s only a simple spell, but I hope it will help to chase your nightmares away," she chanted softly:

Baldur’s Gate is asleep
And my sweet Candlekeep,
The blooms in the Cloakwood

The dolphins in the Sea of Swords
And the seals in the Sea of the Moving Ice
All sleep tonight and they are peaceful.

So you shall sleep without hurt tonight
May Rillifane’s bless be on you,
Kivan of Shilmista."

With that, she left the ranger to his dreams, sincerely hoping that they’d be sweet.

On her way to the tent, Melirinda heard Kivan say his customary "Good night dear Deheriana," and this time it stung her profoundly. Kivan did it every night and he greeted his dead wife every morning. She once dared to ask how many years was it since Deheriana had passed away and he answered "27". That was before Melirinda was even born.

“Elves… May be they truly do not belong on Faerun? May be their place is Evermeet ?" Melirinda felt her eyes watering. The parental curse was taking its toll. "The human maiden eyes, which look at elves too often, will shed many tears…"

"My Lady?" Anomen was still waiting for her. "My Lady, what upset you? Just tell me and I will strike down anybody who dared…"

"Anomen, your valor is appreciated and I know that you are my knight and defender," for simplicity Melirinda tried to imitate his flowery language. "I am just tired and I let my emotions to overtake me."

"My Lady, you are so brave and yet so tender. Like a red flower that grows in our places. And just as beautiful. I picked up one and looked at it and I was thinking of you. Here it is my love. I love you Melirinda."
Melirinda took the flower. Anomen’s declarations of love were not new to her. The knight appointed her to be a Lady of his heart and he was adamant. "Anomen… I would not want to hurt you, but I feel it’s better if I tell it to you right away. I do not love you. I do not love you as you deserve to be loved by a maiden. But I can use companionship tonight…"

"My love," came a predictable reply, "let me remove my dusty armor and comfort you tonight. I hope that one day I will harvest the sweetest word in the world from your lips”

"So, I did get a man of a mystery after all," Melirinda thought sadly following Anomen. " Even two mysteries. First: why the hell he did not remove his armor when everybody else did that? The second is that invisible dust he uses. I swear I can use his plate for a mirror!" she chuckled to her thoughts.

Next morning Melirinda awoke early and was greeted by Kivan’s strange empty glance as she came to bade him "good morning". Her heart sunk as she considered that the previous night was so very quiet, that Anomen’s voice was not naturally soft and that Elves are famed for their keen hearing, among other things Elves are famed for.

She blushed deeply and turned away in frustration. Why would she think he cared? Melirinda DeGranier should stop fooling herself into chasing wild dreams. She was clearly imagining things. There was a male by her side. A simple, solid choice. But Melirinda now doubted that Anomen would bring balance to her heart, for under no circumstances she will love him.

#5 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 03:50 AM

4. By the Fountain in Trademeet.

Water can taste like wine sometimes
or turn bitter on your tongue.
And so can love…

Kivan Ashenbow

Melirinda stood by the fountain at the Trademeet’s central square. It was adorned by six statues. Her companions and she, herself, made of stone. She snickered and shrugged her shoulders.

"You were the Hero of Baldur’s Gate and now a Hero of Trademeet… Are you scaling down, all powerful Daughter of Bhaal?"- Melirinda never imagined that Kivan is able to taunt.

The druid turned slowly to face the elf, gripping at her new club. She was truly offended by this outburst. However, the memory of Kivan walking away and turning into a small dot on the road as she watched from the city walls of Baldur’s Gate was too fresh. Melirinda DeGranier was unprepared to part ways with the ranger once again. She tried to understand where the hostility was coming from and restore peace.

"You are wrong if you think I believe myself invincible…" she started quietly, hoping that this was the source of troubles. "Only a year and a half ago I was a young girl, her head full of stories and legends of the past and knowing not a taste of a real battle. I looked with envy at every guest coming from far away to the library and hanged on to his or her tales.

I had few gold pieces and a short sword and felt that the world is for me to take. Believe it or not, but I even practiced my incredible swordsmanship on a stack of hay… It did not survive the encounter. Great warrior, indeed,” Melirinda tried to laugh, but it sounded more like sobbing. “That was before a man attacked me, right there, in Candelkeep, the small and sleepy library populated by old mages … The man was a bounty hunter… Something unheard of in Candelkeep, the safest place on Faerun!

I fend off the attack and I killed the man. First blood I spilled was that of a hired assassin. I won, but the next attack came in a short while… And I won again.

Then my father, my TRUE father, Gorion, rushed me away, set me on my way… Saverok, whom you had a pleasure to meet in the adorable company of Tazok, caught up with us and Gorion told me to run for my life. I did. That was the first time I lost a battle. I lost my father and I lost my past with it.

Imoen found me in the woods and if not for her I probably would perish that very day. If you met us then, two frightened girls who fought xsvarts bravely, thinking it a mortal combat, you will never think me all-powerful again…

Only few days ago Imoen, my trusted friend, was wrestled away from me and I was unable to prevent her kidnapping! I won many battles fighting alongside my friends, but I also lost the two most important battles in my whole life. I know very well the bitter taste of losing… I am not all-powerful by any means."

"Right. But you wish to be, do not you? Blood… how can you go against it?" philosophically noted the elf, not even listening…or trying not to listen.

"What is it all about, Kivan? Why you are suddenly so hateful of me? Did I wrong you in any way?" Melirinda’s looked at him in disbelief.

"You need an explanation, Melirinda? I thought you to be a caring person. Unable, for example, to devastate a boy’s heart… or attempting to control everything, even how people feel about you. And not the sort to offer companionship to anyone who cares to ask…"

"Eavesdropper! How dare you…" Melirinda’s anger broke through the dam of wisdom, her hand flew, but the agile elf caught it easily and held it steadily away from his face. Their stares locked, like two swords. Kivan and Melirinda stood for a moment in the middle of Trademeet’s central square, glaring at each other angrily, their faces twisted with anger and pain. Some commoners started to gaze at them, and Melirinda felt hot flush rising to her cheeks. But the gray mithril did not melt exposed to the heat of boiling charcoal of the elven eyes. Kivan released the maiden’s hand and backed away a step.

"That was not much of a farewell, was it?" he said with a strange smile… Melirinda noticed only then, that Kivan was fully equipped and carried his backpack. He turned away from her and started for the city gate.

Melirinda wanted to cry out something legible, but she was angry, sad, and suddenly short of air. The world went spinning around Melirinda and the last thing she saw was "Melirinda DeGranier, Hero of Trademeet" etched on a plate below the statue, which suddenly was too close to her face.

She awoke and saw tree’s boughs moving above and glimpsed the sky. Was she floating through the forest? No, she was carried. Melirinda recognized brown cloak with a faint smell of smoke and resin. Kivan’s cloak. She had no desire to start another round of insults and had no idea why Kivan would be carrying her away from Trademeet. Well, one vague idea did form in her mind, but she discarded it based on the noble ways of the ranger and obvious dislike of DeGranier he had demonstrated few moments ago.

Meanwhile, Kivan gently lowered her to the ground and softly called: "Melirinda". Melirinda opened her eyes and looked up at him with as little surprise as she could master. She suddenly felt bad about lying by his feet, on the carpet of fallen foliage. She stirred and started lifting herself off the ground, still not averting her gaze from Kivan’s face. It went blank and pale as he watched her move.

"Now what? Let me guess: you were hoping I am dead and you are disgusted that I am not," grumbled Melirinda feeling uncomfortable with the elf’s irrational behavior.
"That’s how I found my wife, " said Kivan slowly, "on the yellow leaves… I had a mad hope that she is alive… then I had a mad hope that she would come alive at least in my dreams… That she would open her eyes and look at me. But she is dead…each and every time I see her, she is dead." He was looking past her, looking past the leaves, past this very day. Kivan was 27 years back in time. Melirinda knew not what to say but she embraced the ranger lightly and guided him to sit down on the disturbing yellow leaves. There was simply nothing else to sit on.

"And how can I hope? How can I hope after what had happened to her because of my cowardice?" Kivan looked at Melirinda and she saw how desperate he was and how haunted by his past.

"I do not believe you. You told me once that you and Deheriana were overwhelmed by a score of bandits. I had a pleasure to meet them and we killed Tazok. Twice. You had no chance to defeat them alone, no matter how valiant you are. I cannot understand how can you blame yourself for the cruelty of those monstrous beings." Melirinda tried to beat in every phrase into the elf’s mind. She’s write it out on the sky in huge capital letters if that would help.

"Listen, Melirinda, " replied Kivan, "when the bandits had surrounded us, I had my dagger pressed against Deheriana's neck. But I hesitated and lost the chance to save her..."

"What if you had killed her and then there was a chance for both of you to escape? Kivan, murder is irreversible... " Melirinda was almost as desperate as Kivan, feeling that if she fails to comfort him, something terrible would come to the ranger. She forgot her envy and jealousy of the last night and she forgot her anger. All that mattered to Melirinda DeGranier at the moment was to be able to find proper words for Kivan.

"Melirinda, if I had a moment longer she'd die from my hand and I would follow her," argued Kivan. "You know what happened instead? " Melirinda was unsure she wanted to know, but she kept silent, letting him to talk.
"She was begging the beasts for mercy...to spare me! Tazok found it comical and ordered me to be beaten in front of her and pretended that her pleas might touch his heart. If she'd only try a little harder. At some point, I fainted. When I came back, they were busy cutting off her ears. It became my only goal then to keep awake and be entertaining enough as a victim... The world became blurry, but I was forcing myself on my feet after each hit, I was yelling until my lips were able to move...until Tazok was finally bored by the spectacle and ordered Deheriana killed. There were enough volunteers and as soon as her lifeless body hit the ground my spirit have left me too. Apparently, they left both of us for dead. But I did not die. I did not die..." Kivan lowered his head and Melirinda stroked his hair and propped gently, starting to see a possibility:

"And you wish you had died?"

" I do," Kivan replied passionately. "I feel that life was given to me as a punishment for my weakness. I had betrayed the one I loved to the most horrifying end. Now I live under the shadow and cannot find my rest. "

With a silent prayer to Silvanus, Melirinda went for the only thing she saw fit: "Have you never thought that it was her love for you that granted you life? ". The druid did not draw breath, until he lifted his head and looked at her, scared and in pain still, but somehow lighter: "I ... never... did... Thank you my friend for giving me ...hope. At least an illusion of hope."

Melirinda sat, her arms wrapped around a man who walked Faerun ten times longer than herself and her heart as balanced, as she ever wanted it to be. "I am a fool," stated Kivan after a pause, "and I need many centuries to start understanding you…"

"I can offer you five more decades, six at most," sighed Melirinda. "That if you choose to stay by my side. Otherwise, you have to be contended with knowing me only for a short year. What’s a year for an elf?" "Just as long as a year is for a human."

He did not say if he was staying or going… Melirinda sighed again and stood up, offering him space and time.

She was about to leave, when someone came crushing through the woods calling "Lady Melirinda! Lady Melirinda!"

"Yes, I am here," Melirinda yelled back noting with displeasure that the female was making suspiciously too much noise…as if she did not want to surprise them with her arrival.

The peasant woman, neatly dressed and extremely agitated run out of the bush and almost fell in front of DeGranier.

“Lady Melirinda, excuse me my rushing up on you so, you being such a hero for our town and I should not bother you, but you are my only hope, Lady Melirinda. I was looking for you all over and then someone said that you …ahem… went to them woods and I thought I might find you here…” Melirinda went slightly dizzy and gave an involuntary glance to Kivan. To her amazement, his tanned skin did not mask blush very efficiently… Apparently, he was unucustomed to the situation when him carrying maidens away to the woods was the greatest event of the day.

“What’s your name good woman and what had happened that made you run all the way into the wilderness alone?” managed Melirinda at last.

“Jenia, my name is Jenia…” replied the woman and her speech finally slowed. “Tiris, my son Tiris, he came home and he is all shaking and afraid and his fiancée, Raissa … We cannot find her anywhere… Please, lady Melirinda, come with me, talk to Tiris…"

"I am coming immediately! " said Melirinda firmly. Kivan lifted up from the ground. "I will come with you, Melirinda. Something foul have happened, no doubt, and you might not have enough time to gather the rest of the group.” Suddenly he grinned. “I know you are a reckless rascal and under no circumstances I’d allow you to walk into danger alone.”

#6 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 04:26 AM

5. The Skin Dancers.

“No skin, flesh bleeds, soon die, big mess, HUUUNGRY”
A poet widely popular among Orcs

Melirinda and Kivan rushed past Jenia to the house on the far end of Trademeet. Some agitated locals gathered around the militia captain, preparing to start a search for Raissa. The chatting stopped the very moment Jenia and the companions entered the yard.

Melirinda cut through the small crowd, with Kivan at her heels and run into the house.

They had no troubles identifying Tiris. Shaken youngster, his face of some unearthly bluish shade was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, his eyes searching the walls and the ceiling, almost senseless. Apart from torn clothes and unnatural fear twisting his visage, he appeared to be unharmed.

Melirinda sat by the man, got a firm hold on his face, and uplifted it so he will be looking at her.

“Tiris,” said she calmly, “Tiris, my name is Melirinda. I came to help you. Were you attacked?”

Kivan handed her a jag of water he snatched from the table. The bathing of the eyewitness proved unnecessary however.

“Lady Melirinda…” whispered the terrified lad. “Please, please save Raissa…”

“I will do what I can, I promise,” replied Melirinda firmly, “but first I have to know what has happened.”

Tiris lifted his head and looked over to the villagers, which moved from the yard into the house following Jenia, Melirinda and Kivan.

Kivan understood the gaze as clearly as Melirinda. Tiris will only talk in private. The elf rose and politely guided everybody, including Jenia outside and shut the door from the street. Melirinda listened for a second to his soft voice coming from outside and found that it was surprisingly comforting for her as well. Then she turned back to Tiris. She was surprised how the man had survived for so long without going mad. The terror was spilling out of his mouth and he nearly fainted once he was finished.

“We will find Raissa,” promised Melirinda to Tiris after she had heard his story. Then she ran out of the doors. The crowd was no more… "How?" she asked Kivan. But added quickly, realizing that it was no good time to research his diplomatic skills: “To the western gate, ranger, and Sylvanus help us, for Rejiek made his sickly appearance in Trademeet. I’d be glad to squish this worm… He had kidnapped Tiris fiancée, Raissa and he is afraid they’d skin her alive or do something else horrible to her. He ran away, as he was too scared to realize what he was doing and that he is leaving her alone and helpless."

“Rejiek! Finally we had catch up to him!” Kivan was running towards the gate alongside her and the grim tone of his voice forbade troubles for the former tanner from the Bridge District. “I hope he has nowhere to run this time.”

Melirinda agreed with Kivan wholeheartedly. Rejiek was a pervert of nature after all. However, Melirinda also enjoyed the fact that Kivan did not argue with her intention to kill Rejiek.

“Hey, you!” came a sudden call. Melirinda and Kivan saw a man, dressed and equipped as a hunter. He hurried towards the pair and spoke urgently: "Had you happen to see strange creatures around here…skin dancers to be exact…well…people who look like they have no skin? I am hunting…”

“Rejiek!- chorused Melirinda and Kivan. Excitedly they tried to get any information out of the man on possible whereabouts of the Skin Dancers and Rejiek. Darsidian Moor, as the man introduced himself, gallantly invited them to join in his hunt and bade to meet at the eastern portion of the city. He did not have to repeat it twice.

"Wait", Kivan suddenly stopped and looked at Melirinda. "Kivan. Later! He will kill the girl!" yelled Melirinda. "You cannot fight dressed like that!" stated Kivan and she froze in her steps.

"Are you mad? Do you want to discuss suitable fashion attire for fighting murderous bastards?" and Melirinda thought she knew the depth of interracial misunderstandings between humans and elves to its very bottom by now!

"I meant armor!" Kivan seemed to be sharing her idea on the misunderstandings. "Here, take the bow, and stay back for once. Your tunic is perfect for shooting arrows in murderous bastards. Right color. Great cut."

Melirinda took up his great ashen bow, taller than her and raced forward, this time behind the elf. It seemed useless and untimely to indicate to Kivan that his leather jacket was not going to be much more successful in protecting him from the blows than her cotton tunic. Another point he missed was that only elves could use his enchanted bow. Melirinda wondered if Kivan fully returned from his trip to the past. It suddenly daunted on Melirinda, that he might have been treating her as an elf…female elf, his mate… Deheriana…

"I am no elf…I cannot shoot your bow…" protested she weakly to the ranger’s back.
"I know, but I hoped while you figure it out you might stay back safe," came the reply. "Sorry, that was a stupid idea. You are far too smart, human."

"If you only knew my version, you’d reestablish your believe in your supreme intellect, elf," the sarcastic lady inside Melirinda’s head offered. "Deheriana, indeed…"
They came to an abrupt stop, in front of Darsidian and Raissa… Rejiek lied on the ground in a pool of blood, skin fitting loosely to his twisted body.

"Help me!" cried Darsidian, "He is too strong! I am hurt, please, finish the evil beast off!"
Kivan, spear in hand, rushed forward, but Melirinda clutched his cloak. "Do not you think something is out off ordinary? Not natural? Look at the body… It is different, it is just not right…" Kivan saw nothing of the kind, but he trusted the druid’s instinct and looked at her waiting for practical suggestions.

"Attack Raissa," she said with conviction and Kivan reluctantly obeyed.

Melirinda was right! What looked like a woman was not but a Reijak in her skin! Disgusted, the elf pounded the monster with his sword, trying to glimpse what Melirinda was up to. The tanner was linked to some devilish powers however and Kivan had to fend off the attacks far worse than he had expected from an old artisan. But he got an answer to his question, for with a battle cry Melirinda DeGranier attacked Moor. "Be careful!" managed the ranger breathlesly, getting his cheeck torn by the dancer’s claws for his distraction.

"I hope you are not infested, beast", hissed Kivan giving Reijek his full undivided attention and introducing him to his sword.

Melirinda was done with Moor just in time to watch Kivan to put his blade through the tanner’s heart. She leaned towards the terrible body, which was Raissa one day and in a minute turned to Kivan with a sudden smile: "You should have been more carefull with the skin! She might need it again."

In truth, the corpse had risen, prompting Kivan to turn away, for elf could not stand the site of bleeding tissues uncovered by the falling Reijek’s hide.

"Oh, My Lady Melirinda… I am so grateful to be back in my own skin… Oh, my Lady but what they had done to me is terrible… I have heard them saying that I am surely be dead if something called resurrection… will not be performed…"

"I do not have the spell ready dear,” said Melirinda softly, “but I can get one from the temple and we will heal you, do not fear…Kivan, would you guard Raissa, in case if any more of those are lurking around?" "Yes, of course", the ranger, still keeping his eyes away from Raissa, dutifully took his position by the half-alive girl’s side.

Melirinda run towards the temple of Waukeen.

"Lord Kivan, came the girls voice "I am so terribly sorry to meet Lady Melirinda and you and look like a…. Oh, mine will I ever be looking like I was again? Would Tiris like me again? He run away when he saw what these beasts had turned me into… He was disgusted… " the girl started sobbing.

Kivan then did something he thought he’d do under no circumstances… he hugged the bloodied rugged corpse which once was Raissa. He told her that Tiris run for help, and did not stop before he found Lady Melirinda and that he pleaded with her to save Raissa whom he loves more than his own life… Raissa hanged to his every word and Kivan felt uncomfortable, praying that the restoration would do the trick and that the girl would resemble a human being again, not a flailed piece of meat.

Melirinda was almost dumbfounded by the sight of a corpse, rolled in Kivan’s cloak peacefully chatting with the elf when she returned. The druid hurriedly cast the spell, hating to keep the girl in the unnatural state. All three of them were relieved, after Raissa changed into a nice looking if slightly plain youngster.

Melirinda looked at Kivan. Now, that the adventure was over, neither of them knew what to do and if they have to part their ways. "Well, I’d walk Raissa home. We will be leaving for Umar Hills at the dawn tomorrow, so if you wish you could meet us by the Western Gate," finally offered Melirinda. Kivan nodded, and walked back towards the city gates.

"Oh, my Lady, he will! I promise you he will! He loves you so much Lady Melirinda! Just like Tiris, he sometimes gets very cross with me and goes away and then he returns ‘cause he cannot live without me, " Melirinda started to suspect that Raissa was living far simpler and better life than herself. She also felt acute pain for not having Imoen around…Imoen, she could chat so easily to…

To DeGraneir’s relief, Raissa soon switched from her revelations about Kivan’s feelings to the most important event in the whole of Faerun: Raissa’s upcoming wedding. Fortunately, Raissa was not a sort who requires a partner in a conversation.

Finally, after many thanks and hugs and praises Melirinda DeGranier got away from Tiris and Raissa’s family. The funny thing was she envied the closeness of this people, their apparent happiness with what they had and their comfortable dreams.

Melirinda walked across the central square of Trademeet and stopped in front of the fountain. "Under no circumstances should I have allowed to build that! Now everything is so confused!” In truth it was not the statue’s fault that she could not fall asleep, waiting for the dawn to break over Trademeet.

#7 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 05:05 AM

6. Of the Actors.

“What’s our life? A Game.
A.S. Pushkin

The elf sat watching the fires to burn lower, deep in his thoughts. He glanced at the sky and he knew that he has little time left to decide. The dawn will break in a couple of hours. Melirinda will be going to Umar Hills with or without him. Kivan involuntarily picked up his bow, his only remaining link to Shilmista. It was a wedding gift, made by his father in law to be and enchanted by Deheriana herself.

He wanted to go back to Shilmista not even a day ago. But now all the arguments he had for years against the return were on his mind. Good king Galladel was not pleased when Kivan had left the archer’s guard of Shilmista to wander the land with Deheriana. Even before that he did not welcome Deheriana’s choice of a husband. Galladel could not go openly against his nieces wishes, but Kivan felt uncomfortable at the court ever since, feeling stares, hearing bits of conversations and treated always as a page of his wife. It was unbearable for the proud elf even then, when he had Deheriana by his side, always ready to smooth things up and who did all the talking… How will he deal with his King and his kin if he return alone after many years of wandering?

He had no idea what to tell to Deheriana’s relatives if he ever entered Shilmista… Yes, he had killed Tazok, but what difference would it make to her parents, if Kivan walked through their doors without her?

However, Shilmista was his home and he longed for it, for his memories of Deheriana, he even wanted to take his place in the archer’s guard again. Kivan was entering his 3rd century of life by now and was not a boy who can be shunned easily anymore. And if Deheriana’s family will not be able to accept him, than they would have to grieve separately. Kivan’s own family was of no concern at least. They will not care about anything happening to him on Faerun, their only wish being for him to come and join them in Evermeet. This was something he could do.
Evermeet… Kivan had planed to leave for Evermeet after killing Tazok, before he got entangled into the affairs of certain Bhaal’s spawn – Melirinda DeGranier… He was not sure yet what to make out of seeing her dead instead of his wife in his nightmarish vision or out of the fact that he handed her the bow as he did hundreds times before to Deheriana.

He searched for anything common between the two women but could find no likeness. Apart from his readiness to die for either of them. And apart from his conviction that neither will accept that sacrifice. Deheriana did not. The ranger was terrified by the thought that Melirinda could also die and he would not be able to prevent it. He surely would not if he leaves her now.

Why did he want to go yesterday in the first place? Anomen? Did he really care that much for this arrogant human’s feeling? After all, Anomen was quite happy with what Melirinda had offered him. It was about Melirinda, not about Anomen, he realized.

Kivan got up and stretched. The only thing that was logical, that would explain all of his actions was that he was falling in love with Melirinda DeGranier. Logical, if unbelievable. Yet how else could he describe his feelings about the druid?

Still, was he to stay or to leave? Love for a human was something regarded as a tragic mistake by the elven community. When he met Melirinda he sensed more power than a normal human would have and suspected that she was at least half-elven. However, her true heritage explained the abnormality without involving the fair folk lineage. Should he be disappointed? Why? Because of the six decades, Melirinda was talking about? Kivan knew Deheriana for almost 23 decades. Yet if someone told Kivan that he’d have only a single hour with her he’d go for it.

When the group exited the western gate, they found Kivan leaning casually against a mighty oak tree, scanning the horizon. "You have no idea when sunrise is, have you?" greeted he Melirinda. "I do. May be a different idea than yours. For me the sunrise is when the disk of sun is touching the horizon with its lower part," improvised Melirinda, providing that the sun was in exact same position at the moment. "Well, next time I should remember that. I believe the sunrise comes with the first streak of red visible on the eastern sky," Kivan informed her and took up his usual place by Valygar’s side. Valygar looked at Kivan closely, and wondered what brought about such a change to elf’s fair features. After a while, he realized that Kivan’s hood was down and he looked happy. Valygar shrugged: such minor details were not his thing.

Their march was hasty and in few hours, the wide hilly plane was in view. It was a beautiful fall day and many flowers bloomed with last abundance, patches of vivid color on the yellow grass carpet. They could see the village; it was a huddle of few huts, sleepy and looking just like every other small farming community of Amn. Legend of a terrible witch who lived in those rolling rounded hills gave Umar Hills certain fame.

Now they were about to find out if the witch had returned or if it was some other evil being, which preyed on the villagers. A young boy they had met in Athkatla had told Melirinda and her companions that people strangely disappeared lately and that a group of famous halfing paladin Mazzy Fentan went out to search for the clues and was never seen again… How strange this story sounded in the bright daylight and how far from the truth! However, when they had passed through Umar Hills, looking for Valygar Corthala, the adventurers had heard all sorts of suggestions from the folks on who might be terrorizing the village… From orcs, strange wolves, the witch herself… Quite a choice of foes these hills offered to its inhabitants! They had no time on their last visit to stay and follow up on the locals tips, for they were on a quest to help a young noble to free her castle and save her father from the hordes of trolls…

A horseman riding hard, appeared on the road, shouting at them. Only "Delryn" was distinguishable from the distance. Anomen shuddered and looked at Melirinda helplessly:" Must be yet another of my father’s misdeeds. I have to deal with it all the time…" "Let’s wait and see," replied Melirinda dryly, for she had no desire to face drunken fool Lord Cor again. She was afraid that such a meeting might be hurtful to Lord’s Cor already failing health and bring about his untimely death.

The messenger slowed his steed, jumped off and handed a sealed scroll to Anomen. Delryn broke the seal and scanned the letter.

"Trouble," thought Melirinda, watching the young knight’s face. "Trouble,"thought she again, watching Anomen to tear apart the parchment and through it at her. Enraged, Anomen moved onto Melirinda: "You, it’s all your fault!" "Hey, hey enough of that!" Valygar got a firm grip on Anomen, which stoped the man’s advance.

Nevertheless, Anomen kept shouting at DeGranier: "That was a note from Magistrate! They found evidence that Saerk ordered Moira killed. My idiot of a father went to revenge my sister and of course got himself slaughtered by Saerk’s servants!" Melirinda felt that she knew where he was leading. "Like father like son," thought she coldly watching Anomen’s rage to gather momentum.

"I should not have listened to your advises! Anomen, do not touch Saerk, he might be innocent! Even my father could see he is a murderer! But you, you of all people who never hesitated to deal out death, were a goody-goody for a time. Now I have no family left, every dog will be laughing at Anomen who was more of a coward than…than his father!"

Melirinda wanted to punch Anomen into his red face. But she said quietly instead: "I gave you the best advice I could offer then… I am sorry that you feel remorseful of following it. Blame me if you will, but I do not think you are to benefit greatly from taking vengeance…nether then, nor now."

"Trust me, Anomen, revenge does not heal and does not take pain away," a melodic elven voice intervened into the conversation.

"All too true, I remember Aunt Jannine wanted to revenge once a pretty young lass who had been distracting Uncle Donie from turnip trade and many other things at home…" Valygar’s dangerous glare interrupted Jan’s budding story. The gnome stopped and returned Valygar’s stare. The ranger’s face showed slight exasperation.

Kelsey was about to add something or might have been trying to chant some spell (Melirinda thought it was a "hold person"), but Anomen seized the reins of the messenger’s horse and jumped into the saddle. The horse reared and neighed protesting the heavily armored rider. Anomen patted the stead, calming it and then regarded Melirinda almost tenderly.

"I am sorry my love, I should not have turn my anger on you. You meant well. May be too well for a man with darkness in his heart. But the choice is clear to me now. You cannot stop me again." With that, Anomen rode hard towards Athkatla.

After a moment’s pause Melirinda asked her suddenly quiet comrades: "How fast can we move?" The messenger coughed and said: " Sir Delryn would have to rest the horse soon, if he does not want to loose it." Melirinda shook her head slowly: "He will not rest the horse, I am afraid." "Then," said the messenger gravely, "he will walk the rest of the way after the horse falls. Valiant man Sir Derlyn is, but young and hotheaded, my Lady. One who paces oneself will outrun one who runs out of breath racing too hard. You might catch up with him before he enters Athkatla." Melirinda bit her lower lip. "Shall we?" her voice rang as Melirinda eyed the remaining companions.

"Oh, no" complained Jan, "we just walked here from Trademeet and now we have to run for Athkatla because of the knightling’s quarrels?" Jan looked at Melirinda seeking support, but there was none. Melirinda started walking for Athkatla. "Well," sighed Jan philosophically, "may be I’d see how Lissa is doing while we are back in town. Check upon turnip’s market…" Nobody listened. In low spirits, the group was going after Anomen Delryn.

The mystery of Umar Hills was left unsolved for yet another day.

They arrived to Athkatla’s City Gate late in the evening. Yes, said the guard, Sir Delryn had entered the town few hours ago. Through the streets of Athkatla they run, towards the Bridge District, were Saerk, Derlyn’s family nemesis, owned a mansion. All the windows were lit up brightly, sounds of fight and major commotion reaching the street. The huge main entrance door was barred.

"Should we sent for the guards?" yelled Kelsey. "No." answered Melirinda. "I am sure it has been done already, and if not – so much the better. We may still have chance to get Anomen out of there before the Magistrate will appear." Jan was running up the ladder leading to the second floor balcony. He was about to try out his skill on the French doors, but it was unnecessary. The lock was broken.

DeGranier followed right behind Jan and the two rangers followed giving each other a worried glance. Kelsey, muttering something about "break and entry " infiltrated the house the last of the group. Jan caught some of his grumbling and tried to comfort him with: "Why, but it was already broken in…So we can be only responsible for trespassing…" then he interrupted himself with a loud: "Look at the damage!"

Indeed the place was trashed. Couple of guard’s corpses piled at the entry and Melirinfa recognized wicked wounds from multi-headed Flail of Ages. DeGranier rushed down the corridor, scared of what she might find next.

The angry shouts, one voice all too familiar was coming from a huge oval room. At least both of them still were alive and breathing. Delryn and Saerk stood facing each other in the middle, shouting insults at each other. Saerk was in the midst of a long elaborate speech eloquently accusing and cursing Anomen, when Melirinda entered. Saerk immediately reminded Lord Cor to Melirinda.

Both men left their highly entangling conversation and considered a stubborn looking girl. Melirinda stood tall, reflectively chewing on a lock, which fall out of her ever-unruly mane. A particular mithril-like shine of her eyes screamed to Anomen that he went overboard this time. To farther intimidate them Melirinda put an arm on her hip. That move did not have a desired effect unfortunately. Rather it inspired thoughts not appropriate for revealing in the presence of minor children in every male in the room.

“What are you doing here, my love?” asked Anomen, a sincere surprise in his tone.

Melirinda swallowed a rather funny response. While she searched for something more appropriate, Saerk rudely commented her arrival, her relationships with Anomen and her hypothetical line of work, switching Melirinda thoughts to vivid images of bodily harm. She started wondering if killing Saerk was such a big deal anyway. Then she felt a slight pressure on her shoulder, coming from the group’s expert on revenge and calmed herself.

"I came here to stop you from foolish actions you are about to undertake," her calmness was nothing Saerk had desired. He wished for a fight, for a showdown and a full demise of the last Delryn. He broke her words with another stream of curses and taunts. Melirinda did not listen. She was walking towards Anomen, not letting his glance to leave her.

"Why should not I? Saerk took life of my innocent sister. My heart is full of dark feelings, Melirinda and nothing or nobody can stop my rightful strike. This man has no right to live. Tell me why should not I slay him? I am weak Melirinda, weak and undeserving of the place of honor offered to me by the Order…"

Melirinda saw that for once Anomen was assessing his feelings correctly. The man was on the verge, and nothing would bring his soul to proper balance. Nothing? She knew that there was at least one word she should try. In fact, Melirinda was thinking about it on the way to Athkatla and saw no other solution. It would be a lie, she knew, but what was a lie compare to a murder? Still DeGranier hesitated. A girl in her late teens suddenly entered the room, leading a younger boy, her face pale, her eyes wide with horror. "What’s happening, father?" started she hesitantly, but did not finish, staring at the fuming Delryn. Melirinda saw the almost insane gaze Anomen gave to Saerk kids and she understood that his revenge was about to take a terrifying turn. Melirinda DeGranier ran out of time.

"Anomen." She was not accustomed to lying, so her voice rang false, but she hoped that Anomen in his hysteria would not listen to her tone. "Alone you may be weak. But I am here for you and for you only. You told me once that you love me and beg you for the sake of this love to keep your hands unstained by Saerk’s blood."

Anomen seemed to be short of breath and for a split second, she hoped he’d faint and then everything would play itself out peacefully. He steadied himself however and asked her openly:

"I know you support me and want what’s good for me… I am so cold Melirinda, and the only warmth that could save me is that of true love… Do you love me Melirinda?"

" I love you Anomen," said Melirinda, breaking into tears, not knowing why. He cradled her in his arms, pressing hard against his metal plate. “Such a hard, cold plate mail he wears,” thought Melirinda. Anomen turned to Saerk.

"Death, Saerk? Death would not be punishment enough for you. Look, here are your kids and in front of them, I pronounce you a murderer of an innocent kid just like them, of my sister Moira, who had never done anything but good."

"Is that true?" the girl’s voice trembled… Theer was no doubt in her voice, only pain. Anomen did not look as a bandit anymore. He was an embodiment of everything righteous and lawful upon Toril. Than the city guards entered the house and Sir Anomen had earned thanks for helping authorities to arrest Saerk.

They left Saerk’s house and walked towards "Five Flagons", the tavern conveniently located around the corner. Suddenly all of them were very tired. With one exception. Anomen was in impossibly good mood and Melirinda felt her recent words weighing ever more heavily on her. Anomen made no secret of his intentions this night and his happiness, while Melirinda grew ever more withdrawn and sad. She was about to command to return to Umar Hills or to go to Windspear, or to Baldur’s Gate… Anything, but to delay the bedding time.

The salvation came to her in an unlikely form of the tavern owner who talked at length about the playhouse downstairs. Something else clicked in Melirinda’s mind. Raelis! He woman Quale had spoken about! They do not have to go far away and with luck they’d pick up some small complaint, which of course will require an immediate investigation by Anomen… Voila! She hotly insisted on them going to see the play.

Horrible! It was simply horrible! When the understudy, who was trying no less than the leading role lost his wits for the first time she sighed. Then she tried to keep a politely blank expression on her face. Then she was shouting along with the whole lot of the spectators to stop the play and finish the torment of the understudy…the whole lot except for Anomen. He sat there oblivious to apparent absence of any ability to act in the poor student, embracing Melirinda’s shoulders and loudly requiring everyone to shut up and let people to watch the play.

Soft whisper touched her ear: "Apparently, Sir Derlyn has very high tolerance of bad acting…even a terrible actress can fool him." Melirinda recognized Kivan’s voice and suddenly she felt better and whispered back: "Not all are born a true connoisseur like you, elf." She was almost sure that the smile they shared after that exchange was a smile of partners in crime.

Meanwhile, the troupe’s leader, Raelis stopped the play and came ahead with an apology. She explained that the leading actor, Haer Dalis was missing and that if any mercenaries were willing to search for him, they should contact her, Raelis. Melirinda go them hired in a matter of minutes. However, Haer Dalis and some rather mysterious gem were hidden by the kidnapper somewhere in the sewers and five against one the group had decided to let Haer Dalis to spend another night where he was. Instead of the excursion to the sewers, they ordered a huge dinner they well deserved after that troublesome day.
The dinner was nearing to its end, but Anomen was still not letting go of Melirinda, but by that time, she formed a cunning plan.

She apologized to Anomen and got up. While doing that, she gave a small pat to Kelsey, and when the redhead sorcerer looked up, she gave him a sign to talk to her privately in the antechamber, which led to the playhouse. She did not have to wait long. Always eager to please a beautiful girl, Kelsey ran up to her quickly. His expression became even more eager and he grinned happily as Melirinda asked him for a particular favor. He began casting before Melirinda even returned to her chair. A minute later Anomen’s head fell on the table, and he snored loudly.

Kelsey casually re-joined the company and noted: "It was a long day…"

"Well,"said Melirinda, trying hard to conceal bubbling laughter. " You all are likely tired and I am not going to keep you up any longer. But I am restless and the night is beautiful: I will go for a short stroll."

Both rangers reacted immediately by jumping up and announcing: "You are not going to wander city streets alone at night!" Melirinda was at the door by then and after making an uncommitted gesture she stepped over the threshold and was gone from sight.

Valygar gave one look at Kivan’s face and grumbled: "You go, elf…" and plunged down his chair again. Now, Valygar had seen walking and even running elves before, but that night the commonplace expression "lightfooted elf" finally started making sense to him… Valygar whistled quietly as Kivan was gone in a blink of an eye.

"With these two lovebirds gone, it’s our pleasurable task to carry the boy to his room," Valygar addressed to Kelsey and Jan. Unsurprisingly, his offer met no enthusiasm. Kelsey backed away and announced that he is going to check out the troupe, for none can party like actors! He was gone almost as quickly as Kivan. Jan looked at Anomen’s massive body, full plate and all and said: " I think I am going to visit Lissa." Valygar sighed. "What!" cried Jan excitedly, "When a beautiful girl goes out on a pier, rangers are dime a dozen to hold a candle for her! But when a poor gnome goes to dangerous Slums…"

"I would be glad to escort you, my dear…" Valygar snickered, "But I am afraid you’d insist on introducing me to your family. I have a strong feeling I’d be better off without knowing more Jansens. I can offer you the boots of speed if you feel nervous about going to the Slums alone, my beauty."

"After you had been wearing them for two weeks in a row? No way Valygar! I’d drown in them and the last thing I want is to be submerged into are the ranger’s boots…" with dignified expression, Jan left the inn.

"It’s you and me then…" said Valygar to still snoring Anomen. "Fun. Hey, maid, pour out more ale to my comrade here and to myself!"

"Darned pup aren’t gonna need the ale" a rough voice of a drunken dwarf was actually loud enough to make Anomem move uneasy in his slumber. "But I might" with that Korgan unceremoniously sat by Valygar and took the mug from the maid’s hands.
"Yor hates me guts! Har-ha-ha…" Korgan summarized the ranger’s facial expression. "I hate yors…"

That by some reason made Valygar to sit back in his chair and smile absently.

But Korgan could not be so easily ignored: "Hot babe, that Melli of yors. Poor taste! Girl shouldda go fer it when I offered! Now she’s with that pointy-eared bag of sighs. Remember my words, she gonna damp him too. Damped the knighty pup, did she, ey? Whos gonna say to pup?" He waited for a reply, but got none. But he did not need any: "Hoh, must be Melli horself… She is a good one to dish it out… The pup will learn to watch out for pointy-eared next time. If you got a woman, Valygar, and she looked another way, beat her senseless. Only way to teach them respect yor!"

"I have heard enough, dwarf." Valygar’s face was twisted with disgust. "Sit and drink quietly, if you wish, otherwise I’d beat YOU senseless…" Korgan went for his axe immediately, but Valygar sent it spinning away with a toe of his boot. Enraged Korgan attacked barehanded, but Valygar’s fist magically connected on the dwarf’s face and a rather dizzy Korgan found himself sitting back in his chair. He whipped out blood pouring abundantly from his lip and laughed again. "Val, you get guts in yor. Could make a real man if you stop wandering in them woods, like some pointy eared scum…"

Valygar started lifting off his chair again, revealing his impressive 6’4" tall and almost half that wide frame… Dwarf laughed and finally buried his face in his mug. Valygar sat back and relaxed. Anomen smiled happily in his sleep.


Kivan found Melirinda standing at the end of the long pier, watching stars… "The best place to see Correlian is from Evereska…" he pointed out 13-stars constellation, which is so dear to moon elves. Melirinda smiled: "Kivan?" he came closer and continued, watching the sky, making her to watch it too: " Here is Auranamn, the swordsman of the sky… We believe that he still guards us, and directs us to good, as he did when he sided with Correllon during the great battle with Gruumsh… His spirit will never be dead… It’s ironic that our hero has a terrible gem on the pommel of his sword, the Kingslayer – do you see this bright yellow star, Melirinda…

"The Kings Coin…as we human call it?"

"Yes, the very same…"

"Why won’t you tell me of Labraen, the archer? " asked Melirinda, "so many stories and yet I want to hear yours…"

Kivan laughed softly: "Now, look at my attempt to be a loremaster… Are you teasing me Mellirinda? You know too much to ask for a story from a simple sylvan elf"

Melirinda was suddenly unsure what exactly they are talking about. Stars. She tried to distract herself from his arm wrapped around her shoulders. Stars…

"I am a kid of a sage… but what is a book compare to stargazing with an elf…" managed Melirinda after a long pause.

"You are trying to flatter me. Badly. Remember, I am no fan of your acting… Sorry Melirinda, but you are no bard and never will be…" chided Kivan. The druid stared at him in disbelief: " I never strived to be a bard, Kivan. And if you are trying to tell me that I erred, then I know it…" The ranger shook his head. "No, Melirinda, you did not err, you tried to correct an error…I understand. But while your little ruse with Kelsey was an imaginative way to use his spell casting, you should think of a long term solution."

“Great, an elven ranger for a confidant,” thought Melirinda. She’d prefer, largely prefer Imoen. After all, at least she could have discussed the problem called "Kivan" with Imoen.

"Well, I can always insist on becoming Lady Delryn before anything else happens…" Kivan’s hand trembled on her shoulder. No, it did not. It was her overactive imagination again. "You will get this one very quickly if you ask. Then you’ll end up with TWO things you do not care for…" argued the elf.

"I can tell him that a paladin to be shall take chastity vows and I will not stand on the way of his brilliant carriere…" offered Melirinda, unable to treat the conversation seriously.
"Melirinda!" exclaimed Kivan, who was set on serious like northern arrow on the pole, "Melirinda, he is no 5-years old! And he knows about palladinhood more than you ever will!"

Melirinda sighed. "I will tell him the truth. If he will not be able to handle it, then I’d ask Viconia to travel with us… that if she is still hanging around the graveyard…"

"The drow? Well, my fearsome leader, we’d spend more time watching our backs with her in the group, then rescuing Imoen." Melirinda should have remembered old elf and drow problem.

"There was a girl in the circus… Not an adventuring type…but she had some measure of clerical power…" interrupted Melirinda Kivan’s grumbling about drows. "Aerie? Oh, she is a sweet child. And why did you say she is not an adventuring type? I remember she was quite eager to go…" Kivan sounded tiny bit too enthusiastic for Melirinda’s liking. Secretly she decided that Viconia, drow or not will do.

"Well, after you explain her which way to load the stone in the sling, then show her how to let it fly and spend another hour discussing that yes, it can hurt and actually the whole purpose of the act is to hurt… Then she might do something… Besides, she is a weakling, like all of …" Melirinda was not allowed to finish off her discussion of why Aerie is unfit for adventuring lifestyle. Kivan lifted her off the ground and held over the dark water…

"Please, continue, I am so very interested in the conclusion of that last phrase…" Kivan was watching her with his huge, dark eyes and she did not know if he actually was ready to drop her in the water to prove his point or not.

"Avariel…" finally Melirinda started weaseling her way out, "Young female avariel…"
"Really?" she thought she could feel a budding smile in his voice, "are you sure not just "elf"? Because, if elves are weakling… how long do you think I can hold you like that?"
"What are you doing, crazy woman?" yelled Kivan a split second later… as Melirinda shifted her balance, found a hold with her foot on some poll and lunched herself into the air. But she did not mean to go alone. Already in the water, Melirinda pulled herself up and gripped the pier tightly with one hand. Then she gave a pathetic whimper. Kivan went onto his knees, crying "Melirinda…" and peering down. The female’s other arm shot up, caught tight on his tunic and toppled him down from the pier.

When they climbed out of the water, Melirinda was laughing uncontrollably. Kivan pulled a string of seaweeds from his damp hair and told Melirinda: " Nice try…Always wanted to be a sea elf. I think you had enough fresh air for tonight, my Lady."
They walked back to the inn in silence. "I hope the rest are sleeping just like Anomen," put Kivan in words Melirinda’s hopes. He was wrong. They entered the tavern and stood for a second trying to figure out what was happening.

Anomen’s body floated between the tables. Kelsey leaned against the bar-stand, mute with laughter. Grim Valygar towered over Anomen’s body, a pouch of coins in hand… Then Anomen’s body bypassed the table…and Kivan and Melirinda saw two vigorously pumping dwarven feet underneath it!

Korgan! Now the pouch in Valygar’s hand made perfect sense. "Had a good time?" Valygar stared incredulously at the wet couple. "Is not it a bit too late in the season for sea bathing?"

"We tested some ideas about sea elves life…" Kivan’s attempt at the explanation was very poor.

Korgan mumbled something about "pointy-eared craziness" under his breath, and Kivan’s hand tightened on the hilt of his sword.

Jan walked into the inn at that moment his face a tragic mask. "Lissa’s child is sick… please, we must try to help!"

"Tomorrow," answered Melirinda firmly. "We are good for nothing now." "Well," said Kelsey," it was a lousy day. These actors are weird, remember my words… no party, locked doors…" Melirinda disagreed with the red head sorcerer for once. Kivan came back, which meant that under no circumstances she could have called the day lousy…

#8 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 05:38 AM

7. The Gnome’s Heart

Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance…

from a song unknown on Faerun by “Queen”

Melirinda was not ready to face Jan at all at 4 in the morning, but one glance at his pale face got her going. She actually found herself longing for the worst storyteller and annoying as all of the Nine Hells taken together and multiplied per Abyss, old Jan. But some half-mute, tragically looking imposter dragged her out of bed. He also was afraid to deal with larger males, so Melirinda after getting into her cloak from only third try went with him. She figured that if they’d start with Kelsey and leave encounter with Valygar till a half-decent hour, that would significantly increase the gnome's chances of survival.

Kelsey, rolled into a sheet, squinted at Melirinda from behind the door for a while until he grasped what was going on. He was pretty agreeable, but he refused point blank to fetch Anomen. Kelsey insinuated that the last time he went to do it, Anomen made him an "indecent proposal". Intrigued, Melirinda wanted to fish out more out of the sleepy sorcerer, but then she remembered Jan and made a mental note to get the tale later.

Kivan was not sleeping. He put away his writing kit and a small leather-bound notebook into his backpack. Then he asked for Melirinda’s club and volunteered to raise Anomen and Valygar. The elf’s slightly nasal pronounce gave Melirinda scruples about forcefully bathing him in the cold sea the night before. Kivans slowed at the doors, hearing Melirinda’s chant, and turned around. Magical energy of the druid’s spell rolled over him.

"No, Melirinda, you cannot get rid of a cold with a "cure disease". I have already tried earlier. By the way, you look lovely, but do put on something but the cloak, otherwise we’d have to fight through endless scum trying to solicit you." Kelsey came in time to catch the last replica and mused enviously: "By Mystra! If I only could cast infravision! Bloody lucky elves!" Melirinda was fleeing to her room, and the rest of Kelsey’s reflections on infravision and elves were lost to her. Which was for the best, she supposed.

The sunrise found rather distraught and underslept group walking into the Slums. Lissa, Jan’s former fiancée, was staying with the Jansen’s family, apparently abandoned by her husband, with her mortally sick daughter. The house was somber, and though it still was very early, none of Jan’s countless relatives was sleeping (or there were even more of them?). They huddled around Lissa and a tiny child’s crib. Melirinda looked at the baby and could not recognize the disease. But she could see very well, that the child’s condition was grave indeed. "Anomen?" called she for the second opinion. "I am no expert on gnomish pediatrics…" hissed the man, not moving a single step closer.

Melirinda had no time for his moodiness. She walked over to Lissa and the poor gnome confirmed her suspicion that the illness might be caused by a curse. Desperate mother suspected her estranged husband. Jan looked at Melirinda and mumbled: "Uncle might know something…I think…"

When Melirinda climbed back from the basement, a glimpse of hope appeared in her gaze. Uncle was half-mad, but which Jansen was not? At least they could try something instead of sitting around desparing!

She stood for a second, taking in the weirdest scene. A rainbow has been suspended from Kelsey’s fingertips, for the amusement of the child. The redhead wizard managed to put a weak smile on the girls’s face, by wiggling his fingers making the colors shift. Then the baby went for a wand hanging from Kelsey’s belt: "A mage to be!" proudly cooed Kelsey. "You get well first and when you grow up, you’d be a great mage, remember my words…"

Amazingly, Valygar was talking to Jan, and Melirinda caught: "Of course, you are staying here, with Lissa! We will go get the cure even if we have to kill every Cowled wizard in town!"
Cowled Wizards were source of all evil for Valygar, and who else could steal a life of a child? Lissa was crying into Kivan’s shoulder, elf telling her something soothing quietly… Her eyes watered. She loved each and every one of them at that moment.

Anomen was still standing by the entrance, only he crossed his arms on his chest, which made him look even more out of place. He was the first one to step out when Melirinda broke the silence and called for the group to follow. Jan said his good buys and gave Melirinda a pleading look.

"For Helm!" burst Anomen as soon as they exited the Jansen’s abode, "why the creatures as useless and pitiful as gnomes still allowed to live on Faerun! They should have been all exterminated. Melirinda, love, I hope we are not wasting our time on this useless family, when glory calls us to fight monsters and dragons? At least we got rid of this ridiculous Jansen. Now this ill-conceived group might look half-acceptable… "

Melirinda took her club back from Kivan and said in a casual tone: "Anomen, I think you should report back to the Order of Radiant Heart. Consider that you have fulfilled your obligations to me."

"What?" bulked Anomen. "What? My Love, I do not understand… you do not want me to be near you to protect you? May be you want me to commit heroic deeds in your honor, like the knights of old, so you can hear about them in the bard’s tales and reward me upon my return with your affection?"

"No." answered Mlirinda simply. "I am afraid you picked a wrong Lady to serve to. I mingle in a strange company and I do small things, because they are the part of the greater balance. Be gone, Anomen, for you will not find what you seek staying by my side. There are no heroes here."

"You will be sorry, Melirinda! One day when I will be the greatest paladin in the Realm, you’ll remember my name, and then you will come back to me! I will be waiting, Melirinda. I love you and I will love you forever. I hope you see your mistake soon. Ask for me in the Order’s quaters…but remember I will not forgive you easily."

After being turned down flatly by Viconia, the companions were pleased by the excitement with which Aerie, the non-adventuring type, had joined in. She broke into tears as soon as she heard about the dying baby and demanded them to rush to the Lady Jisstev’s house were the hunt for the cure started. "I …I have been captured when I was trying to heal a child…I love…love children. Such a terrible…terrible man…who cursed the baby… " Aerie kept sobbing all the way to Jisstev’s house from the Promenade.

Who would have suspected that the elegant and snobbish Lady Jisstev was a follower of some "Enlightened" cult based apparently in the city sewers? "Nobles…" laughed Valygar bitterly, "they have everything and go seek thrill in the Slums!" "Some seek it in the forests…" noted Melirinda smiling sweetly to the last representative of the once grand Corthala family.

The man whom Lady Jisstev directed them to, after many vows of full secrecy and promises of terrible punishments in case they broke these vows did not impress Melirinda. He was an average height, sort of pale, crouching a bit and speaking in a silly whimpering voice. He immediately told them that he’d not talk about anything but business at hand and would not reveal his persona. As if they they cared…

"Take down my enemies for me," dramatically announced Hidden, "and the gnomish child shall be well again."

"We will take care of your enemies, wizard," growled Valygar, "but beware if you will go back on your promise! I’ll cut you down…" "Valygar has great warrior’s spirit," intervened Melirinda, finding inspiration in the memory of her former companion, Minsc. "Your enemies will crumble under his attack!" The man gave a dry chuckle. "We shall see…" Suddenly, Melirinda wanted to know what they were set up against so blindly. But Hidden was tight-lipped.

"Back to Five Flagons" sighed Kelsey philosophically. "You should have guessed beforehand… You could have woken me up right before the battle…"

"How…how could we have known?" wondered Aerie. "One cannot know the future… Unless he is a diviner… Uncle Quale once had a diviner to perform in the circus…"

"Jan!" the foursome chorused, then they all stoped, confused and started saying, again, in unison: "Sorry Aerie, go ahead, Aerie, what was that about Uncle Quale and the diviner?"

Aerie, embarrassed by such attention, smiled shyly and burst into tears again: "You are all so…so nice to me…"

She was still sobbing spontaneously when they entered Fieve Flagons second floor. Two men (or were they creatures?) immediately charged the group leaving no doubt whom Hidden wanted dead. They were tall humanoids, with greenish skin and dark shiny hair pulled up and gatheerd in a long pony-tail on the top of their narrow heads. Their eyes were truly scary, huge, almost twice the size of a human, mirroring and hypnotizing.

"Githyanki…" said Kivan curtly and aimed his bow. Valygar’s beautiful katanas were already ringing against heavy two-handed swords… Melirinda and Kelsey went into frantic chants, the first creating a swarm of poisonous insects and sending it the enemie’s way, to disturb any splell-casting. The Githyankis were famed as skillful mages. The sorcerer tried to dispel what magical protection was on the warriors. He seemed to succeed, because Valygar’s katana finally get covered with blood. Melirinda, after her casting was completed, rushed to Valygar’s side, club high in the air. "Melirinda, what should I do?" asked Aerie in a high nervouse voice… "Load stone in your sling and throw it in the closest Githyanki…" replied Kivan, for Melirinda was taking a blow at the moment. Valygar would have to step back and heal and he looked gratefully at the fiery maiden by his side. "Anomen is an idiot…" whispered Valygar. Few bullets soon joined the cloud of Kivan’s arrows as well as the mini-fireballs, Kelsey’s favorite spell.

After reporting to the Hidden and finding out that he was some sort of a monster from the Underdark, the group stood by Jansen’s House, discussing an important matter. "I say we’d give him time with Lissa…" bellowed Valygar, "who knows, she might reconsider…" "It is very likely," agreed Kivan, "her husband sounds so ungnomishly cruel… But if you do not mind, I’d sneack inside, just to make sure, that the child is alright." That was a great idea and the friends went to the "Copper Coronet to wait for the stealthy ranger’s report. "You were good in combat, Aerie," Kelsey was saying merrily (Melirinda tripped) "but you should try using magic while fighting more…" "But it’s so difficult…so many things…happening at the same time…" ventured Aerie cautiously. "You stick with me, Aerie, and I will give you few tips…" promised Kelsey, "did I tell you I am highly impartial to blondes?" "Melirinda is blond…"


Kivan entered the tavern and waved to them. He was smiling and everyone gave a sigh of relief. Mindflayer or not, Hidden had done what he promised… After few toasts for the health of the little gnome, Melirinda suddenly jumped to her feet and punched herself into the forehead: "Haer Dalis!"

"Haer Dalis? What’s Haer Dalis?" wondered Aerie, seeing the companions to start getting to their feet and going for the exit. "Haer Dalis is an actor. Some wizard had kidnaped him, so we promised to look into it yesterday, " explained Melirinda briefly. "What a beautiful name!" exclaimed Aerie. Melirinda did not notice. But she often remembered that moment afterwards and wished that she had not remembered Raelis task. Under no circumstances should have Aerie met Haer Dalis.

#9 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 06:25 AM

8. Haer’Dalis

I would adorne you with every gem
that the depths of Toril have born…

Kivan Ashenbow

Melirinda gave a resentful sigh watching Valygar to move the heavy metal plate, blocking entrance to the sewers aside. Why, why should this particular mage live in the sewers? Everyone knows that mages live in tall towers full of luxurious things and fun traps. Though, without Jan around, it’s probably for the best that walking through innumerable traps was (hopefully) not included in today’s schedule.

"Melirinda," called Kivan quietly, "I need to ask you something." Melirinda sighed. No elf undertakes a sewer crawl, before complaining about it for half an hour. "I would like to take front-line if we are to fight," Kivan asked unexpectedly. "Why, Kivan? You are the best archer I have ever met…apart from Coran…" Kivan pressed his long cool finger over Melirinda’s lips. "Shhh… You do not want to ruin my reputation in the eyes of those who have not met Coran, do you? Melirinda, I find it difficult to aim. This cold makes my eyes watery. I missed more often than hit when we faced Gyth."

"And you think you’d do better with a sword, crazy elf? At least you are not likely to be killed while you’re sneezing, if you stay back. And this cold, how serious is it? Are you sure you won’t prefer to stay in the inn and sort of heal? You know, as in lay down and drink warm fluids? It is not forbidden for you to be sick, you, proud, silly…" Melirinda ran out of breath, because trying to yell quietly really tires one’s throat.

Kivan was laughing! "Melirinda, you attach various pieces back to Valygar’s body every other hour, you shrug away bone-crushing hits yourself and you want me to stay in bed because of a runny nose? " asked he incredulously. "I offer you a deal: you trade places with me tonight and after we are done with the mage, I will obey your every prescription…heck, you can put me to bed yourself if you wish!" Apparently, when elves blush, their ears turn a pleasant shade of pink. Kivan truly did not know what color were his ears as he let the last bit slip from his tongue. "Dark red? Purple? Bordeaux?" wondered he idly, trying hard to chase away the memory of Melirinda clad into revealing outfit last night.

To his relief, Melrinda against her custom to watch person she talks to, was intent on something to the left of him. He followed her glance, but saw nothing unusual. "If you insist… I will make sure that you will do what you have promised!" Melirinda sounded firm, as usual. She hoped, really hoped that keen-eared elf did not caught a hint of trembling in her voice, while she was coping with some inappropriate images his remark instilled in her mind.

Finally, Kivan and Melirinda followed everyone down a narrow, slimy stairs to the city’s ugly innards. "Say, Kelsey, " piped Aerie, "do adventurers go to…to…here very often?" Kelsey laughed a bit too loud, making couple of invisible beasts to start moving in the slime nearby, producing disgusting noises… "Often…" guessed Aerie and sobbed.

Valygar went ahead, to scout the way and the four of them had to stand around for a while awaiting his return. "Aerie," Melirinda decided that she had to distract Aerie before the tender avariel collapsed, "I will be staying back tonight if we have to fight the mage. Well, most probably we will not," quickly added she noticing that Aerie became plaer than milk, "but since the mage is clearly insane, he might try to fight us, so…" "Why do you think…he… is insane?" gasped Aerie. "Because he kidnapped an actor! Who in his right mind would kidnap a penniless actor in a city full of rich merchants and nobles, but a maniac?" "Oh, I see. It does seem strange…"agreed Aerie. "So why are you staying back Melirinda?"

Melirinda was thrilled that avariel was still standing, despite being in the sewers and starting to show some interest in group’s actions. The fact that she still have enough wits about her to support a simple conversation was an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise. Maybe she was an adventuring type after all? A half-hatched one? "See, Kivan is not feeling well enough and he decided that he’s better off front line…" Aerie’s eyes went wide with surprise: "I do not understand…if he feels sick, he should not be fighting at all…"

Kivan and Melirinda both sighed at that, Kivan resentfully and Melirinda with exasperation. "I do not understand his reasoning myself," Melirinda replied pointedly, "Maybe you can try to get an explanation from him later. As for the upcoming battle, I will try to watch you and give you some advice on using your sling and may be we can come up with couple spells you can cast to help us to free poor actor." Aerie smiled: "Thank you, Melirinda, I…appreciate that…"

Kelsey listened happily: "I am to hang around two magnificent girls? Kivan, you should practice your melee more vigorously, you know!" "He is good in melee as is, wizard. And please, do not get too distracted by the girls, will you?" Valygar was standing behind them, unseen in the shadows. "There are couple of crawlers, feasting of the scum we had killed during our last visit. Roger says hi… he thinks we should go through a secret door we spotted, but never entered… He thinks, he had seen some robed clown exiting and entering it," continued Valygar, as Kelsey searched frantically for an answer.

They walked carefully behind Valygar, stepping in his huge footprints, deep in the smelly mud, weapons at the ready. Aerie was so scared that she was unable to cry out at the site of huge, angry rats. She became nauseous when she considered what this beasts might be eating after the group passed by well-chewed up human bones. "Oh, can we go faster?" whimpered Aerie in Melirinda’s ear. "Going at Valygar’s speed is the safest pace, " whispered Melirinda and hold Aerie’s elbow to lend the avariel some moral support.

They stopped at what appeared to be just another slime-covered wall, but what Jan had told them to be a stone block hiding a secret entrance. Kivan, scanned the surface carefully, and then with a triumphant "Got it!" pushed a small cobblestone and watched his hand with disgust for it was now covered with green sticky substance. Upon completion of the examination, he sneezed unhappily, and Melirinda gritted her teeth: "You are so going to bed after that’s over!"

To their immense relieve, the quarters behind the secret door were more or less dry and could be even called clean (by a bachelor that is). Some pieces of furniture even had style. Kivan pulled a cover from a loveseat and wiped his hands on it. "I cannot wield a sword if my hands are slippery," said he apologetically to everyone. "Kivan, you most probably will end up killing the owner and you are apologizing for a stained rag? That what I call good manners!" exclaimed Kelsey lightheartedly.

The hall, long and narrow, twisted away and the first piece of action was quickly approaching. A mephit! One of those annoying little creatures! Melirinda took her sling and loaded a stone, noticing that Aerie mirrored her every move. Two bullets whistled in the air, slightly outrunning charging rangers. But mephits never come in one…so of course more of them were coming from around the corner. One of the little nasty beasts, breathed fire onto Kivan, another managed to cover Valygar with thick smoke cloud. Melirinda supressed the impulse to grab her club and get ahead, knowing that she could not leave the mages without cover. Katanas neatly cut the smoke puffing wonder into four equal sized pieces, and Kivan gave a final blow to his opponent, while the trio of casters downed the last mephit. The pass was clear for a moment.

They followed with care, thinking that the owner of playful mephits might be showing up any minute. And to Melirinda’s best knowledge, people do not take killing of such pets easily and do not listen to "but they attacked me and I just defended myself."


He was standing impassively, staring blankly into space. Melirinda had no doubts he was the actor they were seeking for. Thick layers of makeup, somewhat damaged, covered this male beauty’s face… The abundance of "rouge" and shades made Melirinda suspect that vivid silvery-blue color of the man’s hair was artificially enhanced as well. But she had no time to gaze at the actor. They must be away before the mage’s return if they lucked out and he was absent. "Haer’Dalis? We came to rescue you, let’s go!" DeGranier called softly.

"I serve the master.” The actor’s voice was flat and mindless.

Melirinda chuckled against her will: "See, Kivan, and you say I am a bad actress. He actually is a PROFESSIONAL." Kivan smiled, or at least she thought he smiled from under a large tissue. "I think, after all, we have to face the master himself. Let’s try the side passage"

Kivan and Melirinda were exiting the room, when Melirinda caught Kivan’s glance and voicelessly articulated: "Moon?" tracing a question mark in the air and pointing at the actor. Kivan shrugged his shoulders, and then slowly gave a negative nod. And mouthed a word Melirinda did not understand. Something like "tifing".


They found the "master" in a separate room, laughing hysterically. "You killed my mephits?" he chuckled and Melirinda sighed. The man was not just insane; he was an allegory of insanity. Suddenly he became serious and inquired: "Why did you come to my palace?’

Valygar took initiative. After all, mages were his family business so to speak. "We came to free the actor, you kidnapped. Surrender Haer’Dalis!"

"Ha-ha-ha…" offered the mage in return. "He is no actor, he is a thief! He had stolen MY gem…"

"We can compensate…" tried Melirinda, but it was too late. The mage began casting, calling upon few conjured beasts, invoking something large-scale and trying to put up a grand show of his power.

"Stoneskin", advised Kelsey to Aerie, building one for himself. Aerie nodded and casted. Kelsey was already chanting again, so Aerie, afraid to distract him, looked up to Melirinda…who was letting the insect swarm take flight from her outstretched palms towards the mage. Aerie hesitantly took up her sling and threw a bullet into the mage. Then another one, realizing that the opponent was finally vulnerable.

So far Valygar’s and Kivan’s hits on the mage were in vain, so they switched to his closest monstrous helpers, Valygar taking on a blazing elemental, and Kivan standing against a golem. Clay golem, realized Melirinda with horror, knowing that Kivan’s spear will leave but harmless scratches. But Kivan was experienced enough, and Flail of Ages was in his hand a moment later. Not very apt with wielding a flail, an agile elf still was able to get few hits in and the golem soon looked like a cracked muddy cake left by a dried out puddle. However, an ogre and a couple of skeletons came from behind the golem’s back.

"Undead, Aerie…" came a tip from Kelsey, who was now generously sending Crimson darts the fire elemental’s way. Aerie nodded and chanted, praying to her gods to get rid of the walking dead. To her delight, skeletons disintegrated at her command.

Almost simultaneously, the golem finally fell in front of Kivan, and when the dust settled, elf was knee deep in the broken pottery. An ogre charged happily, seeing that his way to the tiny elf was open now. "Ha", thought Melirinda, "you are so dead. This guy has special feelings for your kin, you know." Kivan threw the flail into charging monster’s face, broke free of the rubbish pile and met the ogre, spear at the ready.

The insect cloud thinned and furious mage chanted. Another elemental and a couple of goblins appeared around him. Melirinda scanned the newly summoned and left-over creatures and decided that two can play that game. She chanted and the companion’s friendly elemental appeared by Valygar, who gave an approval wave Melirinda’s way.

Meanwhile, the mage figured that his monsters were keeping Valygar and Kivan at bay, so the fireball flew towards the missile trio. Kelsey darted to one side, Melirinda and Aerie to another. Melirinda gave Aerie strong push on the small of her back, speeding the light avariel, then went diving headlong, trying to jump as far away as possible from the expanding ring of fire. The inferno caught her legs, and the druid tumbled to the floor, half-mad with pain and anger and started rolling, beating the flames down, and cursing under her breath.

Aerie’s healing spell came in time to reduce the burning and prevent Melirinda from loosing grip on her consciousness. She heard a very heavy body hitting the floor and Kivan’s battle cry, which this time was expanded to contain an elaborate curse. DeGranier figured that the ogre had just left this world. Up Melirinda went, still blinded by bright fires and charged furiously, club high in the air…and stumbled into someone friendly. The friendly obstacle held her tightly and said in the amazingly soft elven voice: "His body is quite a mess already, Melirinda, let’s leave at least something to bury." It took another few minutes and another of Aerie’s spells to bring Melirinda back to her senses. The battle was over, Valygar and friendly elemental just finishing off the last of the fiery summons.

"Let’s go see if our trophy got his wits back," suggested Melirinda after examining Valygar and healing few burns on his hands and face. "Here, good as new. Want a mirror, handsome?" Valygar patted Melirinda on the back in reply. Melirinda in turn addressed her sincere thanks to Aerie, noting that the avariel needed to be neither hinted, nor tipped on when it is the good time to heal. That was encouraging.

This time Haer’Dalis was not standing quietly in the middle of the room, he was pacing it anxiously, apparently unfamiliar with the surroundings. "I heard sounds of great battle, oh my brave raven, and I hoped that the one as valiant as to charge and defeat the evil mage will be noble enough to return to this sparrow his freedom," he greeted Melirinda with a flowery speech. Animated, Haer’Dalis looked even more exotic.

"We came to free you at Raelis bidding. But she did not mention any birds," Melirinda feigned ignorance, to tease the actor. "I think…he meant himself…" whispered Aerie to Melirinda. "The elven beauty is right, my raven…humble I am, a sparrow on the branches of the universe…"

"Now I understand," said Melirinda, hiding a smile. "So, humble sparrow, are you ready to get back to the branches of the universe or do you prefer staying in the sewers?"

"Open the cage door, my raven and we shall fly free… But there is a wheat grain we shall take with us back to the world…" "The gem, which you have allegedly stolen from the mage?" asked Kivan bluntly, substituting a loud sneeze for a question mark. "He…might have been lying…this mage. Melirinda said he was insane…" intervened Aeire. "Indeed, the gem belongs to the troupe and the mage took it from us," explained Haer’Dalis. "Thank you for trusting me, dear Lady. May I know your name?" "Aerie," whispered the elf and blushed up to the very tips of her ears.

Valygar’s voice came from the next room: "there is some kind of a chest here. I think, I can open it…" Then came a loud explosion. The companions rushed to the room, now full of flying debris and found Valygar on the floor, still alive, but rather stunned.

Melirinda, Aerie and Kivan all crowded around the ranger, healing him to the best of their ability. Kelsey opened up few potions and poured them into Valygar’s mouth. Finally, Valygar sat up and said apologetically: " I thought the traps would loose their enchantment with the mage’s death…"

They were interrupted by a triumphant yell of Haer’Dalis, who searched through what had remained of the safe box and now was holding big blue gem in his hand: "Here, now we can go back to Raelis…"

Melirinda looked hard at the actor and said: "You can go to Raelis. WE are going to the nearest inn. Valygar needs rest and Kivan is going to bed under my supervision… Common, let’s get out."

"Hey, Melirinda," said Kelsey as they moved towards the exit, "my boots of grounding, they are not really water-tight. I am afraid, I have my feet all wet, and when that happenes, I always get sore throat." Melirinda glared at the sorcerer angrily and he grumbled: "of course, of course I got ill because I was crawling dungeons! That does not count with you, does it? One can only get special treatment here if he catches his cold by sea bathing in the late fall…"

"The elf went for a swim in the sea at that time of the year?" wondered Haer’Dalis. "I…do not know…exactly…I am new. But I think Kivan was explaining Melirinda something about sea elves and fell down…" explained Aerie.

"You are a weird bunch," commented Haer’Dalis. "I like you. I will stay with you and then we go see Raelis all together. I do not want you to miss out on the reward, for as soon as I return the troupe will be going away."

"How far away?" asked Aerie sadly. "Far, my pretty butterfly, very far…"answered Haer’Dalis mysteriously, and Melirinda groaned at the cheap bravado of the bard.

But Melirinda did not have enough time to listen to the bard. "Yes, I find this story most amusing." Kelsey was panting, for both Kivan and he were supporting still weak Valygar as they moved through the Temple district. "Melirinda, would you be so kind to tell us more about this fascinating sea-elf life research you were performing? I think it is truly wonderful of you two to commit some time to science in our circumstances!"

"I will tell you the whole story, in every detail," parried Melirinda, "under one condition: you will trade us the tale of the indecent proposal you had received from Anomen…"

The sorcerer’s face became redder than his hair: "Under no circumstances, Melirinda!" Kivan gave Melirinda a subtle smile: "You scored, wise woman. But I think we’d have eventually to come up with some better explanation, than sea-elven tale. None but Aerie believes it."

#10 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 07:03 AM

9. What Aerie Said.

When the hopes sing like fanfairs…

from a song unknown on Faerun by Tsherbakov

Valygar was comfortably set for the night, if rather irritated by all the fuss around him and the companions wisely left his room. "Now to the second of our unfortunate rangers…" chuckled Kelsey and looked at Kivan. So did Aerie and Melirinda. The elf threw his arms out wide to his sides. "With your permission, I will just go to my room and sleep." "Good," Melirinda answered firmly, griped his elbow tightly and led him down the hall, "because I can see clearly that our sewer walk deteriorated your condition. You can hardly walk, elf. And I bet my club that you are feverish." Kivan smiled weakly, for the druid was right as usual. So much for trying to fool Melirinda!

She threw open the door to his room, but did not fully shut it behind them. "I see you still care a little bit about what others might think," commented Kivan coldly, pointing to the partly opened door. He was obviously not happy with the treatment.

Melirinda did not answer, busily blowing on the embers in a small brazier to bring them back to life. The flames finally appeared. She poured some water into a metal vessel, produced from the depths of her backpack and started adding some dried grasses from many small pouches at her belt to the water as it started to warm up. The invigorating smell of summer meadow in full bloom filled the room.

Kivan watched Melirinda…Melirinda’s back to be exact. She took particular care to face away from him and he smiled at her human modesty. No, she was not eager to be here, healer on a dubious mission. The elf felt tired and by some reason sad. Trying to ignore the door, Kivan got out of his clothes quickly and slid under the blankets.

They had been thru this ritual before, in the olden times, when they could not spare extra coin to afford separate rooms. Then it was a routine, a slight inconvenience. The female majority: Imoen, Branwen, Dynaheir and Melirinda simply commanded to him and Minsk when they can turn back and put off the lights. The whole show was for the benefit of the five humans, of course, who got so easily embaressed with the sight of each other’s body. In time they made Kivan slightly paranoid, and he did not know anymore if he could pull his cloak or shirt off without causing females and by some reason even Minsc and his hamster to blush and giggle and turn away.

"Kivan, are you decent?" Melirinda’s voice and that phrase plunged him even deeper into the memory and he relaxed. "Yes, Melirinda…you know, you reminded me the times before…" he could not quite come up with the definition of that "before", but it felt as lifetime ago and like happy times to the surprised elf. Melirinda understood nostalgia in his voice.

"Yes, I miss them too, "agreed the druid, "We might have been hard pressed, but we had fun and we stick to one another. I am glad that Branwen avoided our fate and I hope she is already back in Icewind Dale safely. I only wish I did not met Khalid and Jaheira after Branwen and you left, may be Khalid would live still. Dynaheir is dead, Imoen is in peril… Nothing is like before. Why did it all happen to us?"

"I still cannot believe that Dynaheir is dead," said Kivan quietly, "Minsk was so desperate to get to Irenicus, why did not you allow him to come along?" Melirinda sighed and tried to explain: "Because I have seen a very dear friend of mine, who stood, blood of his torturer coloring his blade. His face was empty and his eyes were ones of a dead man. No balance, no triumph, just nothing," she poured some wine into a tall goblet and mixed it up with her herbal brew. "Here, drink this. It will take care of your cold…and may be it will let you sleep peacefully for once."

Kivan took the warm goblet from her hands and took a cautious seep. "It is not bitter," smiled Melirinda. In silence, she watched him to finish the potion and took the goblet away. "Melirinda, I must ask you something?" Kivan get a hold of her hand and waited until she finally looked straight into his eyes, something she had not done very often now. "Melirinda you are right in not taking Minsk along, but what about yourself?"

Melirinda said thoughtfully: "I am on this chase to save Imoen, not because of the debt of pain I owe to Irenicus." Kivan’s eyes narrowed:" May be not you, but rest assured, Melirinda, I will pay Irenicus in full for what he had done to you, to Dynaheir, to Khalid." Melirinda shook her head: "Kivan, I never asked it from you, and I would not want you to drown in more hatred. I value your companionship, and I appreciate your willingness to fight my battles, but…" Kivan squeezed her hand lightly: "Your candor is appreciated."

Then, after a pause, he continued: "How can I not fight your battles, Melirinda, if you fight mine? I had no nightmares since that talk we had in Trademeet and I believe that I will never have them again, asleep or awake. The memories I cherish are with me, but the evil shade I invoked and in my folly cultivated in my heart is gone," he slowly lifted her palm to his face and kissed it. "Thank you, my friend."

"That’s why you had changed so," guessed Melirinda. "Changed?" Kivan seemed surprised. "Yes, changed," confirmed Melirinda. "I do not recognize you lately, you smile and you actually talk, using words other than "thank you" and the ones needed for brief descriptions of combat plans. I might be wrong, but I suspect you were even joking few times."

Kivan laughed: "I did not "change", that’s who I was and who I am, Melirinda." Melirinda feigned a concerned and upset look and stuttered: "I…will…try…to cope…It will be difficult…but I will…do my best to reacquaint with you, Kivan of Shilmista." Then, with a sudden carefree smile, he remebered so well, she added: "Welcome back to the world of living, elf." Melirinda sat by his side until he slowly drifted into sleep.

Melirinda got up quietly preparing to leave, and then she remembered something. She leaned over the elf, carefully brushed aside a dark wave of hair from his forehead, and lightly pressed her lips against the ranger’s temple. "Yes, feverish…" muttered she to herself, as if that explained anything. Then to her full astonishment, she felt like repeating it. Without thinking, she gently kissed the sleeping elf again. After that she returned to her room, chewing a lock of her hair, alternating curses with prayers to Sylvanus.

The night was growing long, but Melirinda was still sitting on her bed, watching the walls. She did not realize at first that whimpering sounds were coming from behind the doors. DeGranier jumped off the bed and pull the door open. Aerie was sitting by the threshold, crying. Melirinda get a hold on Aerie, dragged the elf inside her room and tried to make some sense out of her sobs. No explanation was forthcoming. "Aerie, please, talk to me…" pleaded Melirinda desperately, preparing to watch the crying avariel till the daybreak.

"Sorry…sorry to wake you up…but I wanted to talk to someone…"managed Aerie. Melirinda sighed in relief, seeing that communication was established. "I was not sleeping anyway, Aerie. What have happened to you?" said she calmly. "Why?" Aerie lifted her head and watched Melirinda with curiosity. She even stopped sobbing for a moment. "Why what?" asked puzzled Melirinda. "Why did not you sleep?" wondered the avariel.

"I had a bad dream" lied Melirinda. "But please, Aerie, please, tell me what’s wrong with you? Did anybody offend you? Are you homesick? Or just sad? Or?" Melirinda let the last "or" to hang in the air.

"Haer’Dalis…"started Aerie. Melirinda went for her club, but stopped mid-way. One could expect anything from Haer’Dalis, of course, but with Aerie’s sensitivity, it might have been just an inconsiderate word, not what she was thinking of. Melirinda did not prompt Aerie any more. They still had few more hours before the dawn, so she waited. "We…we spent some time together," said Aerie, "like a man and woman…you know." Melirinda felt sick. "Did he force you in any way?" asked she dryly. "No," came an immediate reply and Melirinda relaxed grip on her club.

"I just wanted to ask…"continued Aerie. "Well, I thought to talk to Kelsey, but then I thought you might know better. Because you had a lover, Anomen…" Aerie blushed and looked at Melirinda hesitantly. Melirinda poured water into her metal vessel and set it onto the fire for the second time that night. "Were these news announced by the Town Criers?" asked Melirinda. "No, Kelsey told me…"confessed Aerie. "Uh-hum," nodded Melirinda. "So what is it you wanted to ask?"

Aerie started sobbing again. "I do not know Haer’Dalis very well… and we…he said we cannot be together long, because they are leaving as soon as we give them the gem back. Did you know he was from another plane of existence?"

"No, Aerie, I did not. So you do not like the fact that you are not going to meet him again?" tried to guess Melirinda. "I do not know. I do not know if I like him really and I do not know if he likes me. I was wondering if I did something…wrong. I feel bad, Melirinda."

"Are you sick?" Melirinda immediately bit on her tongue. That will not show up in few hours. She angrily threw few more pinces of powedered herbs into the boiling water. "Not sick… I feel bad. It’s like they cut my wings off again… That’s what I meant to ask: do you always feel bad…afterwards?" Melirinda could not really answer Aerie’s question. She thought of the alternative: Aerie telling all that to Kelsey. Melirinda had to try.

"Aerie, I think if one feels bad afterwards that means it was not the right person, that’s all," said she calmly. "Wrong person… May be…oh, that’s terrible! I am so stupid!"

Melirinda gestured negatively: "You are not. Listen, when we first went to sewers, we met a man. An old man, called Sir Keldorn. He is a truly wise and goodly person, a paladin. He joined us. After a while, we happened to pass by his house and we stoped by. Keldorn wanted to see his wife, Lady Maria, more than anything in the world…but she did not want to see him. See, Aerie, Lady Maria was tired of Keldorn being always away, she thought he had forgotten their love… She took a lover," Melirinda interrupted her story and lifted her potion off the flames.

Aerie listened carefully, trying to figure out how Lady Maria’s affaires were connected to her heart troubles. Melirinda sniffed at her potion and poured it in a goblet. "Aerie, I do not know, but it seems to me that you have quite problematic relationship with Haer’Dalis, so you can drink this, if you are not prepared to deal with the long-term consequences." Aerie stared at Melirinda and finally understood: "A baby… I do not know…"

Melirinda fished out an empty potion bottle out of her pack and transferred the liquid from the goblet into it: "Here, I want you to have it. You think about it and decide if you want to use it or not." "Thank you, Melirinda… But what have happened to Keldorn?"

"He talked to the lover of his wife, Aerie. And than he realized that he erred gravely by neglecting his family. Keldorn resigned from the Order of Radiant Heart and from what I have heard Lady Maria and he went on their second honeymoon few days ago… See, they still loved each other… Do you think he is stupid, Aerie?"

"Oh, no! No, Melirinda of cause not! " exclaimed Aerie and it really touched Melirinda how the avariel took a story of some unknown paladin so close to her heart.

"No, he is not stupid. If an older and wiser person, really good person, like Sir Keldorn can make such a huge error in the matters of love, how come that you think young girls like you or me cannot? Love is difficult, Aerie, and intelligence does not prevent errors there," concluded Melirinda.

Aerie blushed and suddenly asked: "Melirinda, did you mean, that you made an error too…I mean with Anomen?"

"Yes," honestly said Melirinda, "I did." And with unusual sincerity she finally put into words what was eating her for days: " I fancy an unavailable man, Aerie, and I wanted to change it, so I turned to Anomen…and that was very selfish thing to do. An error…"
"You fancy an unavailable man? But I thought you liked Kivan!" pondered the so-called naïve avariel.

Melirinda stood for a moment with her mouth agape and then asked in a weak voice: "Let me guess…Kelsey told you that?" "No, no. Kelsey thinks you like him, just do not want to show it. " Melirinda felt that she is about to loose her mind and she definitely wanted to have a good woman-to-man talk with Kelsey, involving some alterations of the length of his tongue. However, she could never be angry with the troublesome sorcerer for long.

"I saw how you looked at him, that’s all," Aerie was explaining meanwhile. "today, when you said, he will fight up front because he has a cold… Like you were ready to cry." Looking at Kivan is obviously not a good idea, Melirinda made a mental note, if even Aerie could figure it out.

"You meant Kivan, did not you?" Aeire forgot all about Haer’Dalis and her own love troubles, she was so curious about Melirinda’s. "Why did you call him "unavailable"?"

Melirinda had to put an end to this conversation, before it gets out of hand: "Kivan has a woman he loves deeply." Aerie was totally hooked on the story just like she was on the tale about Keldorn a moment ago. May be even more so, since she knew Kivan: "Where is she? I never heard him to talk about her… Does she love him back?" "Kivan’s wife is dead. She was tortured, raped and killed in front of him. That’s why he’d not talk about her, Aerie…"

"How terrible!" Aerie was crying again. "Oh, Melirinda it’s so terrible. Oh, I wish Kivan and you… It would be so wonderful if he loves again… He is very, very nice person… May be he loves you too, Melirinda, you should ask him… May be you want me to ask?"

Melirinda felt scruples about letting Aerie into it. "Aerie, for the love of flight…gods…goodness…Faerun…Quayle…I beg you not to tell Kivan what we were talking about. And not to Kelsey." Then, just in case, she added: "And not to Valygar, Jan or Haer’Dalis either. Nobody. Please…."

Aerie looked very unhappy for a second, then she sighed and went for the door. "Wait, I’ll walk you to your room," offered Melirinda. While they walked down the hall, she finally managed to ask something, which attracted her attention in Aerie’s little speech about Kivan:"Why did you say if Kivan loves again? Elves, they love once and only once, do not they?"

"No, no" sighed Aerie. "Everyone is different in how she feels. We strive for it, but not everyone is so lucky as to meet his mate and live and die with him or her. We call it a bond… it’s the most beautiful thing, which can happen to you…full, complete union, when one cannot be separated from another. But very few achieve it…it’s like a gift from gods. I pray to meet a person I can bond to one day… "

Melirinda went back slowly, but stopped, returned and knocked on Aerie’s doors: "Aerie, it’s me, Melirinda… The thing you just said, well, about elves not necessarily loving once, does it apply to avariel elves in particular, to elves in general or to selected sub-races of elves? If the last is the case, does it apply to Sylvan elves?"

Aerie giggled and said: " I think…it generally applies to all races…" Melirinda groaned at Aerie’s untimely wittiness: "Please, Aerie, it is three in the morniong! Just tell me, that you do not know, if you do not… I will understand." Then the young naïve avariel Aerie told the daughter of a sage and the demi-god Melirinda DeGranier : "All elves, including Sylvan elves from Shilmista."


Next morning the companions met Raelis. The troupe gathered about their leader, and Raelis casted, opening the portal to another plane… The their surprise (quite unpleasant) a bunch of armed creatures appeared from the portal and arrested Raelis and the whole troupe for stepping on someone’s toes in the Galaxy far far away… Everything happened so fast, that they were unable to help the actors.

Stunned, Melirinda and her companions stood in front of the still shimmering portal, trying to figure out what to do next. "Why…why are we just standing?" pleaded Aerie…"They will lock up Haer’Dalis forever in some terrible prison…like a slave… Melirinda, we have to help them…" with that Aerie stepped thru the portal, before anyone could answer.

Melirinda found herself saying something she thought she’d say under no circumstances: "Well, I think we are to do what Aerie said…Let’s go get the actors out of wherever they are." For Melirinda DeGranier owed the avariel for a tiny glimpse of hope in her heart.

#11 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 26 April 2003 - 07:28 AM

10. The Poison.

Melirinda disliked going through magic portals of any kind. There was never a way of knowing what waits behind the shiny wall. The druid crouched, preparing for a hit, but it did not come. Instead, she landed rather softly on her feet. Good beginning. Slowly the blinding magical light dissipated. Melirinda looked back at her companions to make sure that they were all safely around her.

Aerie’s exited voice distracted Melirinda. The avariel was trying to argue with few jailors. At least Melirinda thought they were jailers, due to their quite somber looks and the evil grins which they welcomed Aerie’s explanations about "harmless" actors with.

Melirinda agreed with Aerie that the actors were punished excessively. Still she could understand that one might be upset if some play-writer would drag his private life out in the open. She would gladly club down anyone who’d do that to her.

Here the trail of Melirinda’s thoughts came to an abrupt conclusion, for the jailers finally had enough fun, teasing Aerie and lifted their weapons, preparing to cut the annoying elf down. Aerie squeaked and backed away, bumping against Valygar’s mighty frame. "Would not you rather play with someone of your own size, boys?" Melirinda stop breathing for a second, admiring the man. The ranger stood, indestructible, straight as an arrow, solid-good as the whole Order of Radiant Heart, but without its pompousness and snobbism.

"What did I do?" stuttered terrified Aerie. "You got us into a fight, Aerie. Now go stand by Kivan and Kelsey and prepare to fight!" answered Melirinda firmly, shield and club up and ready.

Meanwhile, more enemies teleported into the area, to support the first group. The druid noticed a weird humanoid with a snake tail – a yian-ti. Bad news, for many among the race were very capable casters. Melirinda immediately targeted the suspected mage. Quick glance around told her that this time they were overmatched. With only five of them facing almost twice as many opponents, she could not cast, she had to take left flank, while Valygar was holding back a group on the right. Melirinda and her friends could not retreat. The portal was one-way.

"Onward! Onward!" Melirinda was reciting it as a prayer, deflecting hits from a couple of human-looking fighters and trying to get to the mage bathed in a sphere of light. She blessed Kelsey’s chanting voice, and she smiled, when she heard Aerie repeating the words of the spell. There was a second mage among attackers, the one frying Valygar right now with a column of flame. She wished Aerie luck with her tough learning.

Melirinda’s hit finally connected on the yan-ti’s body, but in a second her triumphant battle cry turned into a wail of pain. A small cloaked figure materialized behind Melirinda’s back and stubbed the druid with a long dagger. The dagger’s tip moved through links of Melirinda’s beautiful chain, cutting her skin. Not deep enough to seriously hurt Melirinda, but deep enough to poison her blood stream. The thief laughed softly and moved to empty another vial into his mouth. A furious spear hit sent the vial flying from the thief’s hands, liquid spilling on the floor, mixing with his blood. With the last strength, the rogue clutched to the spear shaft, suddenly growing out of his throat. Kivan let go of his end of the spear, and the man fall down, convulsed few more times and then went still by the feet of the elven warrior.

Melirinda heard the body to fall behind her and then the most wonderful sound in the world: the one made by a vibrating bowstring. But Melirinda was feeling the poison coursing through her body. Her movements slowed, her hits became weaker. The mage finally fall, but Melirinda did not smile, her lips one tight line, her mouth fool of salty blood. Yet she bit through her lip again trying to stay awake for one more blow, for one more parry… The long blade joined in, forcing back one of Melirinda’s already battered opponents. Guided by an unexpectedly strong for such a slender being arm, the sword sliced through a plate, taking another life. With the last effort, through the slits of her shutting eyes Melirinda saw the fighter’s head to crack under her blow and she let go of her consciousness, seeing that she could do no more. The Blade of Roses rang hitting the floor, complaining to its owner, but he did not care, holding the dying maiden. Kivan gently put Melirinda on the floor and started a desperate search in her bag.

"Melirinda!" called he, angry that the druid apparently was quite messy. He spilled out the content of Melirinda’s bag on the floor, hoping to see the one vial he’d sell his soul for at that moment. Aerie came running, tears in her eyes: "I …think…I know the spell.."

"Than cast it!" and he added something in presumably elven, that the human companions did not understand, but it made Aerie turn a deep shade of red. She wiped off her tears and started casting in a trembling voice. Kivan finally found a blue vial. Valygar struggled to open Melirinda’s jaws and the liquid went into Melirinda’s mouth. Kivan got up and walked away, unable to look at lifeless girl on the yellow floor, stained with blood... He walked into a wall and stood there his eyes closed, and his ears full of the noise of yellow leaves, as he crawled through them towards a dead female.

Aerie was about to go after Kivan, but somebody gripped her elbow. "Leave him," commanded Kelsey, not smiling for once. Then he looked at Melirinda, whose eyelids started to tremble… He bent over the druid and whispered: "Common, girl!". Melirinda’s eyes opened and she saw three very concerned faces. She set up slowly, and gripped Kelsey’s outstretched hand. "I’d live…"said she weakly, getting up to her feet with the sorcerer’s help. "You go tell him that," and Kelsey pointed towards the elf. Melirinda walked unsteadily towards Kivan. She remembered what Aerie told her the night before and smiled: Kelsey apparently was quite able to keep his tongue to an appropriate length himself. That left Valygar and hopefully Kivan among those unsuspecting her madness. "Listen, Aerie, can you translate what Kivan said to you?" wondered Kelsey. "Kelsey, no…I…I do not think I should be able to repeat it in any language…" begged Aerie.

"Kivan…"called Melirinda gently, "I am sorry to interrupt you, but I am sort of alive and we must try to go on. Please, look at me…" Kivan did, and then suddenly embraced her so tightly, that she thought, she’d faint again. "The floor…the floor was yellow…" Melirinda, who remembered the vivid scene Kivan painted to her once, understood immediately. Deheriana must have been blond, thought Melirinda and looked into the elf’s velvet eyes. "Kivan, I do not know what to say…I wish I would not fall so stupidly, but…" A twisted smile appeared on Kivan’s face. "I am alright, Melrinda, I am not even a quarter as mad as you think me to be…" Melirinda grinned: "Wonderful. Let’s go then."

Valygar was talking to a small gnome and turned to Melirinda: "This fellow is saying that all of them do not act out of free will. They are thralls. If we can get to the controlling device and kill the thrall master we could release them…" Aerie’s eyes flashed with anger: "Thralls! They keep them in prison and they make them into slaves too! What an awful place! Melirinda, we must kill this master and kill every jailer here!" Melirinda and the rest stared at Aerie, but she was too agitated and run down the corridor.

"Stay away from the big pulsating thing on the floor, it looks like a trap of some kind …"cried Melirinda rushing behind the elf… Too late: Aerie was sucked into the void and Melirinda, without losing momentum jumped down, followed by Valygar, judging from the flowery language with which her follower described the mages and their devious traps as they were squeezed through a pulsating tube looking disgustingly similar to a giant worm. Three of them found themselves in a small room facing couple frustrated jinnies. The jinnies spend majority of their lives locked up somewhere, and since they are claustrophobic, that makes them ever frustrated, which in term makes everyone to want to lock them up… Terrible misunderstanding really. However, a couple of frustrated jinnies could do little against Valygar or Melirinda’s charge.

Back in the hall, Valygar said: "I think Kivan and me should scout ahead, so we won’t run into more surprises," Kivan nodded. The rangers were out of sight in mere seconds and the remaining trio sat down for a well-deserved break. Aerie tried to heal Melirinda further, but the druid firmly refused, pointing out that there are more battles to come and she is not for sleeping in the prison. Aerie could not sit still and finally whispered dramatically to Melirinda: "See, I was right! He likes you… " Melirinda massaged her temple and gave a quick glance at the sorcerer who seemed to be fully involved into cleaning a sleeve of his vivid lilac-colored robe. "Aerie, you are very wrong… He… It’s not me, it’s all about Deheriana…it’s always about Deheriana…" added she with sudden irritation. Aerie did not notice: "Deheriana? Why?" Melirinda felt that she has to explain to Aerie once and for all: "Kivan has a repeating nightmare, the memory of how he found his wife dead on yellow leaves. I reminded it to him." Aerie looked back, and agreed: "The floor is sort of yellow…" However the avariel did not seem too convinced.

To Melirinda’s relief the rangers returned. But the pair looked grim: "We’d have to kill some thralls to go through." Aerie unexpectedly volunteered: "Did you pass by them hiding in shadows?" "Yes," said Kivan, "but it was not easy. I wish we would not have to fight them, but they would guard their master until they fall dead."

Aerie hesitantly said: "I think…I can make three of us invisible… Then we can follow you past the thralls and to the master himself…" "May be," answered Valygar, "but some of them are mages and they might take our disguise off any second. So be careful and ready for a fight any minute."

Unfortunately, Valygar was right. However, being in the middle of the thrall’s group made the grim job of killing the enslaved people easier…if such a killing can be easy. "We will avenge you," quietly promised Melirinda to the dead bodies. Nothing stood between them and the master of the thralls now. Nothing but a big angry wyvern! However, at least two in the group have met the beasts before. "Remember how we hunted those with Coran?" asked Kivan happily. Melirinda nodded and laughed. Under no circumstances the wyvern shall survive.

#12 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 02:25 AM

11. Even Demi-Gods Can Be Wrong

“Jan, you should have seen that demon! It was 8 feet high, wing spread may be 6 feet, one gaze at you – and you are totally dead!” Kelsey was still excited about their last battle in the planar prison. Jan however was distraught and was putting in weak “Oooh, I see…”, “how exciting…” and “please, go on, Kelsey…” once in a while. The gnome’s heart was shuttered into the smallest, tiniest pieces, and Melirinda’s own heart went out for him. Lissa returned to her husband, which Valygar explained with “some dirty magical trick”, and for once, Melirinda was inclined to agree with the somber ranger.

“Jan is back and I remembered so vividly your argument with Anomen,” Kivan told her reflectivly. “My own kin is eager to label other races as inferior. Other races! I have met golden elves who would start in my presence a long discussion of whether they can consider me an elf,” sighed the ranger…

“Now long dead golden elves, I presume?” wondered Melirirnda. “No, of course not.” Kivan blushed: “I would not dare at that time to argue with a quessir… But dwarves…you won’t see me befriending dwarves, so am I no better than Anomen? Only I do not say it out loud.” Kivan was looking at Melirirnda inquisitively and she had to answer. “I cannot imagine you denying help to a desperate dwarven mother in need, Kivan.” He still was not convinced: “You are right, I won’t. But if I saw an ogre pleading for help…I am afraid, I would not be able to offer anything but death to her.”
Melirinda shrugged: “You might think that, Kivan, but I believe if there is an ogre in this world who deserves to be helped, and he’d happen to run into you, you would not be unjust.”

Kivan fixed on Melirinda the glance of his velvet eyes and said: “I shall not fail your faith in me…”

At that moment Immensvale came in sight. “Third time’s lucky!” laughed Melirinda, leading the group through the village and into the hills. “First let’s see this infamous cave!” As they approached, the sounds of an engagement touched their ears. With a battle cry, the group rushed in and almost collapsed when they saw the combatants: a group of village boys was bravely fighting some gibberlings. One look at Valygar easing his katana from the scabbard sent the petty monsters fleeing away.

The boys huddled altogether in a far corner of the cave, still full of adrenaline and sheepish pride at the first attempt at battle. “Get out of my sight!” said Melirinda to the boys and they run as if dozen wolves were chasing them. DeGranier almost heard Valygar’s and Kivan’s thoughts about her being completely irresponsible in buying the boys drink and weapons. Well, she probably could get her way out of a “serious talk” with Kivan, by flashing him an innocent smile, but she doubted that would work for Valygar. So she sat down on a chest conveniently located in the middle of the cave, propped her chin against her palm and prepared to listen. The chest moved. Melirinda’s eyes popped wide open as she watched from the floor. The “chest” straightened up and turned into a long legged, long armed creature, its features unremarkable, if existing. The creature made a tentative step towards the group and then jumped at Melirinda, pushing her back to the floor. But Melirirnda had her club out in time to greet the flying creature, and by the time it came into contact with the druid, couple arrows were protruding from its neck and side. Valygar was on top of the creature in a blink of an eye, hitting sidelong with Celestial Fury.

The stunned creature squeaked, and fell down on Melirinda, hard as wood, unable to move, huge yellow eyes rotating wildly. It was rather pitiful sight, and Melirinda was reluctant to kill the wretch. She fished out an empty bottle out of her pack, followed by an amazed: “How can you find anything in there so quickly, woman”? from Kivan. She replyed with dignity: “Because I keep my things in proper order, elf. It took me half-night yesterday to rearrange the whole thing! By the way, do you happen to know where are my pink panties? They were…of a sentimental value.” Kivan himself turned pink and wondered if he ever shall criticize the troublesome druid again. Melirinda filled the container with blood, for that was surely a mimik they had encountered and they were promised a reward for its bodily fluids by a grumpy wizard from Immensvale.

Next they went to investigate a reported appearances of a monster’s band. The band looked rather ragged, but still boasted few ogres and a number of smaller beasts in their midst. The band stood out in the open near the river, seemingly having a chat in a brutal, ugly sounding tongue, but she could bet that the chat was rather amiable. Upon seeing Melirinda and companions, ogres stopped their conversation, but did not charge violently, as usual. “Oh, what kind of ceremonies can be between old friends?” muttered Kivan, an arrow notched aready, face pale with disgust.

“Marduf. I am Marduf. Do not want to fight. Want to leave here. No bad to people,” said the most intelligent looking ogre. Melirinda licked her lips and asked cautiously: “You did not kill missing people?” Marduf bulked: “Not. Some my people missing too. Shades took them. Bad shades. Cannot fight shades, but we fight other monsters, we protect village.”

“And why would you do that?” Kivan’s voice was a tone higher than usual, the elf trembling like his bowstring with contained rage. “Tired of war. Want live like people. No killing. Trade. Quiet place….like it here. Will you say people in the village we’d want no bad?” asked the ogre regarding the elf with curiosity.

Valygar’s wide palm dropped on Kivan’s shoulder: ”Listen, pal, the village might benefit from this alliance and if they lie…we would not negotiate with them anymore.” It felt like hours passed before Kivan lowered his bow. “Do as you wish, Melirinda,” whispered he. “You are a demi-god after all.”

“I will talk to the mayor of Immensvale, “ said Melirinda firmly. “That’s all I can promise. It’s up to the people to decide if they want your presence on their land.” Melirinda hurried her companions away, not trusting Kivan’s calm. Ogres… She felt that she was going to hate them too soon, for what the mere sight of them did to the elf.

The stream glistened brightly in the afternoon sun, the birds chattering filled the air and it smelled of hay and peace. They were approaching the cabin of a local ranger, Merella, when the bliss felt as disguise to Melirinda. She sniffed at the air, smelling blood and feeling unnatural presence. Companions entered the small wooden cabin, empty and cold. They wandered the place, searching, trying to guess what happened to Merella. It was an easy search, for the place was scarcely furnished, showing ascetic tastes of its owner.

Both Kivan and Valygar looked around the cabin with such recognition and longing that Melirirnda smiled, despite their grim business. “I knew Merella. She is a valiant woman,” broke Valygar the silence. Melirinda wondered if there was more to that story. Corthala owned a cabin himself nearby and the rangers might have had a lot to talk about after a hunt together. Imagination quickly added more details and Melirinda did not doubt any more that Valygar was not as female unfriendly as she originally thought. “We will find Merella, do not despair, Valygar,” said she quietly.

Besides Valygar’s secret love the search had turned up some more information: a map left by Mazzy Fentana’s group and Merella’s journal, which Melirinda immediately gave to Valygar, slightly blushing. Valygar squinted at the druid. But he took Merella’s journal and leafed through it, finding the last records. “Some kind of shadows coming from the ancient temple ruins,” muttered Valygar. “Moreover, the map shows these very ruins “mused Kelsey “I think that’s our next destination…” Jan, who was sitting down on the floor the whole time begged: ”Please, not tonight. The sun is setting already and we had walked for hours on end. Can we stop and rest? Get some turnip tea or something?”

“Agreed, “ decide Melirinda. “We all are tired and should spend a night in Imminsvale before continuing on to these romantic ruins.” While they walked back, Kivan looked at the pre-dawn sky and stopped. “I would dearly like to watch the sunset … Melirinda, judging from your interest in stars, I think you would enjoy it too…want to join me?”

“So today’s research topic is astronomy. These two have wide circle of interests,” whispered Kelsey to Aerie, who giggled and added: ”mutual interests if you take my meaning.” Melirinda had only one thing to say to that. “Of course, Kivan. We will rejoin you in the inn shortly.” And she gave the whole grinning quartet a stern look, which made them all the merrier.

Kivan and Mlirinda picked the tallest hill and started climbing its rounded shoulders, knee-high in grass, stepping onto many herbs, squishing fragrance so strong that it made them almost dizzy. Or may be it was the heights, or something else in the air that night. Kivan extended his hand, helping Melirinda to get over a sandstone layer protruding from the side of the hill, and pulled her up, on the hill’s flat top. There they stood and the sky was around them. “If I go on the tip-toes, “ said Melirinda, “ I think I could touch the stars from here.” Kivan smiled: “We can see if you can…and I can always lift you up if tip-toeing won’t be enough.”

They sat down, admiring a swell of clouds in the west, turned into bastions of bronze, gold and copper by the sunlight breaking through it. The druid smiled, leaning back, taking off her helmet, letting her heavy braid to fall down to the grass. In a moment, she felt that Kivan lifted it and started undoing her hair.
She turned her head to see what he was up to, and the elf smiled and told her to watch the sunset. “You hair are so beautiful, it’s a pity to have them all wrapped like this. Let me try something different.” Melirinda pulled a comb and few leather strings out of her bag and gave it to the elf: “Here, be my guest.” She felt like the whole world was going crazy, but she loved it.

Melirinda tried to concentrate on the intricate play of colors and shades in the sky, but she could not be distracted from the movement of slender fingers, light as summer wind, tender as those clouds on the horizon and yet so strong. She saw the inside of his elbow, bruised by the endless hits of bowstring, and still showing scars left by Tazok’s tortures and she was overwhelmed by the necessity to take the pain away from him. Melirinda was almost crying, when he quietly said: “It’s done…” Then he gave her one more look and with an inspiration of an artist picked up a small blue flower and inserted it somewhere by her temple.

“I cannot see it, but I will look in the mirror as soon as we get back to the inn,” wishpered Melirinda trying to avoid looking at the elf. “I can be your mirror,” offered Kivan. “Look up, let me see…you have one five row braid over your forehead, and it branches onto six more, three going… “

“Stop it, stop it!” laughed Melirinda, “It is too complicated to describe in words.” “Well, if I could pull your ears a little bit longer you’d be very much like an elven maiden… In fact you remind me strongly…”

“Deheriana…” Melirinda did not mean to say it aloud.

“Shayleigh.” Kivan finished his sentence simultaneously and stared at Melirinda in amazement: “Why Deheriana? My wife is…” he stopped and re-started: “My wife was a proper Sylvan elf. Dark-haired, green-eyed. The custom of her family did not allow her to braid hair. Some royal blood thing, I never understood… Now, that shows that even demi-gods CAN be wrong sometime, Melirinda.“
“Who’s Shayleigh?” Melirinda honestly did not want it to sound sour.
“A friend,” said Kivan cautiously, sensing Melirinda’s discomfort. “A blond like you… Great fighter. Must be now right-hand to Galladel. You’d like her, I am sure of that. You have lot’s in common actually.”

Malirinda rose to her feet and smiled sadly: “Kivan, I think I am going back to the inn.” She was running downhill before the stunned ranger could even start to reply.

Aerie and Kelsey were still in the common room when Melirinda burst into the inn. Distraught as she was, the druid however noticed that Aerie was tipsy. Kelsey looked at Melirinda apologetically; mumbling some excuses that the avariel would not listen to his advice. Aerie was giggling staring at Melirinda. “Now, now…” she started very loudly, pointing at Melirinda,” now you cannot deny that he likes you!” her hick-up sounded just as triumphant as her words. Kelsey and Melirinda exchange a glance and Kelsey asked Aerie cautiously: ”Aerie, I am afraid I missed something. Yes, Mel looks like she returned from a prolonged stay at Evereska, but how is that connected with…you know whom?” Melirinda figured out that the talks about “you know whom” and herself did not stop with them escaping into the hills.

Aerie giggled for few minutes straight, and Kelsey firmly gripped the tiny avariels’ waist: “Let’s go, Aerie, you need rest!” “I am not tired,”ventured Aerie between giggles, “I wanna see Kivan… I wanna see what Melirinda did with his hair..”

Melirinda tried to help Kelsey: ”I did nothing to Kivan’s hair, Aerie, his hair are as the nature created them.”

That made Aerie crancky by some reason: “No, you could not do that Melirinda! You should have braided his hair…if you like him…and you do, I know that,” she sat down watching Melirinda’s eyes to go wide.

“Oh, you did not know…” Aerie giggled again. Kelsey lifted Aerie of the chair and put her across his shoulder. “That’s enough, Aerie, I am taking you back to your room.”
“Wait, “ begged Melirinda. “Aerie, what I did not know?”

“Elves only braid hair of those whom they love… it’s favorite pass-time of courting couples.” Kelsey started walking towards the rooms. Melirinda fell into the chair feeling infinitely stupid. Last Aerie’s replica she could hear did not improve her mood: “And before you’ve asked it very much applies to Sylvan elves from Shilmista!”

Melirinda scanned the room and her gaze stopped at the unfinished bottle of wine in front of her. Suddenly Aerie’s silly giggling state did not feel al that unattractive. When Kelsey returned, she found Melirinda seeping last drops of wine from the glass. “Oh, no, not you too!” wailed Kelsey and sized her up and down in a businesslike fashion. “I’d better call Valygar. You are the tall one.” Melrinda waved him to sit down. “I am no Aerie, I drunk wine before.”
“Really?” asked Kelsey doubtfully.
“Yes, I did not start my life as a druid, you know… Very difficult to become a druid in a locked up library… It came to me later, during our travels… I wanted to be a fighter when I was young.”
“Interesting… What are the troubles in the starry paradise? “ Kelsey’s curiosity spilled out.
Melirinda shrugged: ”How am I suppose to become an elven maiden?”
“I am sure you do not have to… Kiv understands, that you are a human,” reasoned Kelsey .

“How about that?” she pointed at her braided hair. “And how about a suggestion to pull my ears longer? How about comparing me against some elven girlfriends of old?” that last one was particulary bitter, but Kelsey was not looking at her any longer, interested in something behind her back. Then on a sudden whim, he started chanting.

Melirinda felt a spell to fall over her and the world rotated and became larger than a minute before… she looked at her hands and they were sturdy and large. She would have killed Kelsey, should he be available for a hit…but he was running away. Not fast enough for a well-aimed arrow though, that pinned sleeve of his lilac cloak to the nearest table. The wizard ripped the sleeve of his precious garment apart and jolted for the stairs, disappearing into the thin air. Magic, left unused for the whole day, was overflowing the sorcerer.

Melirinda turned to face a rather pale elf. “Let me guess, he turned me into a dwarf.”
Speechless, the ranger nodded. “Good night,” and Melirinda made the most dignified exit possible.

Kivan sat down and with a sigh poured the remainder of the wine into Melriinda’s glass and emptied it in one shot. ”Bad wine…” muttered the elf squinting. “We can always buy another bottle,” offered Kelsey, reappearing by the table.
“Tell me Kelsey, what in Nine Hells did I do wrong?” asked Kivan reflectively as they were approaching the middle of the next bottle.
“See, since you got yourself that Deheriana of yours 200 years ago, the times had changed,” reasoned Kelsey
“250…” Kivan’s ears turned red at the memory.
“Well, let it be 250. Want a deal? I'll tell you what I know about human women, if you'd trade me inside information on the elven ones.”

The next morning Jan and Valygar were surprised to find none of their companions in the hall. “She said at the sunrise… Do you think they had already left?” wondered Jan. Valygar only shrugged.

#13 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 02:41 AM

12. The Hangover.

Valygar and Jan for once had little disagreement on how they should spend their time waiting for theirs strangely absent companions. Jan lifted his face from the third helping of fried sausages and pancakes floating in a lake of syrup and sighed contentedly. Indeed, how often does a rogue enjoy a quiet morning like that? The gnome felt as secure by the massive ranger, as behind the walls of De’Arnise Keep with its bridge lifted. In fact way too secure…as if he was a little gnomling again and his mother took care of all his childhood problems and enemies.

“Valygar, did I ever tell you of momma Jansen?” started Jan his eyes watering at the pleasant memory. To his surprise Valygar turned to face him abruptly, and interrupted in a trembling voice: “Do I want a story about your mother, Jansen? How about I tell you about MY mother instead? She was a crazed wizard, married to Corthala attracted by the perspective to research our family’s arcane knowledge. She ignored me and she cared even less for my father. Then my father became sick and something clicked in her head. My mother’s desperate attempt to make things right eventually turned my father into a zombie and she joined him in undeath…”

Valygar looked at the terrified and unusually silent gnome, than jumped onto his feet and run out of the inn. The chair he was sitting on (and had to move out of his way) after a short flight struck the wall and shuddered into pieces. The door of the inn swung back and forth few times with a pitiful squeaking sound. “Like a sea bird in Athkatla’s docks,” murmured Jan to the tablecloth. Jan waited for another moment before daring to draw breath and look up from his plate.

His gaze stopped on Melirinda, walking down the stairs from the second floor. Jan started to smile, hoping that the solution of the problem was at hand, but the smile died at his lips. Something was very wrong with the druid. She stepped very carefully and spent a long moment at each stair as if to gather enough resolve to make next move. Her cloak was put on inside out and every item of her armor and clothes looked somewhat out of place. However, she apparently did not have a bad hair day. A neat single braid rested on her shoulder.

Melirinda finally made it to the table, downed a glass of water, which Valygar left untouched in his hasty retreat and asked Jan in a hoarse whisper: “Why did he stormed out like that?”

“Something about…” Jan saw Melirinda’s painful expression and her palms pressed against her ears and softened his voice to almost inaudible: “about his parents…his mother going berserk, turning his father into a mummy or something like that…” Melirinda massaged her temples and sighed. Why should it have happened that very morning? Valygar had told her this awful story once. Clearly, he was not in the best of moods, and she’d better find him as soon as possible. DeGranier asked Jan to get everybody herded together in the tavern while she’d go talk to Valygar.

Melirinda walked out of the tavern slowly, shielding her eyes against bright sunlight. At least she did not have to walk very far. Valygar, his eyes closed, sat on the grass across the road from the inn. Melirinda walked towards him and kneeled in front of the ranger. “Valygar…” called she softly. Valygar opened his eyes and faintly smiled to Melirinda. She sat by him then, and put her hand comfortingly on his: “I am sorry… Jan is such a trouble sometimes, but he meant no ill.” Valygar squeezed her fingers gently and answered: “It was not Jan’s fault… I was driven to that by my own bad blood. I’d apologize to Jan.”

That simple? Melirinda wished she could announce the matter closed and then she’d go to some quiet dark place…but she could not believe that the ranger’s outburst was a random thing. “Valygar, feel free to tell me to shut up anytime, but is that because of Merella? We would do every possible and impossible thing to get her out alive, but you know and I know that she is most probably long dead… I am so sorry Valygar…” Valygar nodded slowly. “Yes, I am almost sure she is. I’d pray if I did not forget how to, for her to live. “

“You were close? “ asked Melirinda cautiously.
“Merella was a friend. A wonderful woman and a true ranger. “ Valygar answered dryly. Then he snorted, watching a doubtful expression spread over Melirinda’s face. “Melirinda, is there anything you do not know? Are all demigods so darn sensitive?” Melirinda kept quiet. Valygar finally gave up and pulled on her braid: “A tough moment is over, Rind. You can stop staring at that grass blade. Once upon a time I loved Merella. It’s all in the past but I would prefer if we hurry up to the Temple. While I still have a hope to see her alive.”

Melirinda nodded affirmatively: “Yes. We are going without any further delay.” Her phrase was interrupted by Jan’s cough: “Ahem, Lady Melirinda, Valygar…”

Both lifted their heads and looked at Jan, Kelsey, Kivan and Aerie all stuck in the doorway of the inn. Kelsey’s cheekbones and nose stood out, highlighted by astoundingly bright red color. Kivan, au cotraire, looked as if he was trying to pass for a gray elf. Melirinda would never have imagined that his tanned skin could assume that particular shade. She remembered to slide her palm from Valygar’s but it was too late. Druid thought with dismay that yet another checkmark just appeared in Kivan’s black book. Then she finally concentrated on Aerie and forgot all about her own problems. Compare to Aerie the three of them were a picture prefect of blooming health.

“Aerie! For Sylvanus!” exclaimed Melirinda. At the sound of her high, loud voice Melirinda herself, Kelsey, Kivan and Aerie did all sorts of squinting, closing of theirs ears and falling down. After helping Aerie back to her feet men and the avariel finally separated themselves from the inn’s doorframe and joined Valygar and Melirinda.

“Well, I guess we are ready to go,” summarized the group’s brave and valiant leader faking enthusiasm and energy. Valygar gave her a suspicious look and then could not resist a comment: “What in Nine Hells is going on? I can hardly imagine any of you getting drunk ever, but for all four of you to do that together?”

Aerie could never resist telling the truth: “We all did it independently!” There was even some sort of pride in her voice. “Not entirely true, however,” mumbled Kelsey exchanging a glance with Kivan.

In silence the group walked down the main road to Athkatla, searching for an obscure trail shown on the Mazzy’s map, which would lead them to the old temple. Suddenly Kivan stopped and peered hard at the horizon. “What is it, elf?” asked Melirinda. “It’s a rider. I think, I know him. Can we wait for few moments? I…I had not met my countrymen for almost thirty years.”

Bemused by that demonstration of the elven eyesight, Melirinda did not speak, just glanced at Valygar. The ranger nodded stoically. “We’ll wait, Kivan” promised Melirinda softly.

The rider soon approached and indeed he was a Sylvan elf. He slowed his horse, noticing Kivan standing in the middle of the road and came to a full stop, with a loud and happy exclamation. Everyone, but Kivan, moved aside, allowing the two elves some privacy.
The elf gracefully left the saddle and quickly bowed to Kivan. “Kivan, son of Ectelion, I greet thee. Indeed a lucky chance sent me on my way and I am overjoyed at this chanced meeting. I wish to speak urgently to Deheriana.”

#14 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 03:51 PM

13. Accidental Meeting.

Silence was almost unbearable after the name fell so casually from Tinuvil’s tongue. Melirinda wondered what was going on in Kivan’s tormented soul. How she wanted to stand by him at that moment, holding him, shielding from the necessity to answer! Kivan’s voice was colorless when he finally replied: “Greetings to you, Tinuvil son of Sillandel. It grieves me to tell you that my wife will not be joining our conversation. Deheriana died.”

Aerie sobbed audibly and Tinuvil involuntary looked at the group. His curved brows slightly risen, indicating rather annoyance, then surprise. But he seemed to have no time to deal with avariel’s compassion. Tinuvil had more important agenda, then teaching the Aerie proper manners. “Our loss is great. We had felt that Deheriana might be no more, but then rumors connected you to a Bhaal child, some woman DeGranier (for Kivan’s sake Melirinda swallowed hysterical laugh and a burning desire to wave her hand at the hauty elf) and another name, Dynaheir the Mage, was mentioned. So we breathed easier, thinking that human bards were as usual deforming elven names…”

“Dynaheir was a human mage, who is not with us anymore either…alas, “ Kivan bowed his head in respect for the fallen companion.

Tinuvil pressed on: “The loss of Deheriana is even a greater tragedy in the light of the recent happenings in Shilmista than you can imagine, Kivan. She would be a fitting spiritual leader for her people in the time of sorrow and her gift for magic is so needed… Unfortunate it is that you led Deheriana to leave the Forest of Shadows and even more unfortunate is that Deheriana will not ever dance on Daione Dan again.”

Melirinda was steaming. The elf’s tone clearly indicated that Kivan apparently murdered Deheriana or at the very least kidnapped her. To her surprise Kivan paled, but remained speechless under the scrutinizing gaze of Tinuvil. The archer looked young and vulnerable, like she had never seen him before. Melirinda was too used to her friend Kivan who was sure of himself, capable and not giving a damn about what others may think – since the very day the met in Highhedge.

“Imoen! You will never get a better shot! Short bow is just not as good as the long one! Sure, it’s more convenient to carry… “

“Chicken! You are chickening out, Melirinda!”
“No, I am not! Alright, alright… See that dry branch on the tree? Let’s say - three arrows each. Let us see whose arrow will hit the mark first! Agreed?”

Imoen nods eagerly, then lifts her bow, determined as ever. Her arrow, however flies too low and falls on the ground among the underbrush. “By the way, the looser goes to collect all the arrows,” says Melirinda sweetly and pulls out her first arrow from the ground. She notched and pulled the string of her bow back to her ear. There she stood composed, her face motionless, thumb touching her chin, all ready when Imoen giggled.

The arrow flies, but Melirinda knows that the shot is spoiled. “Whatever you done that for?” but her anger is not long-lived, for from the midst of the tree crown, where her arrow just hit comes a melodious voice: “Would you kindly stop your…ahem…competition for a moment, ladies?”

Melirinda and Imoen watch in disbelieve a slender figure to slide down among the boughs. From the voice and the graceful ease of his descent he could only be an elf. He hand for a moment from a large horizontal branch about 10 feet above ground and then let go of it. To Melirinda’s relief he landed safely on his feet.

“An elf! Mel, just look at his eyes! The real, real elf…” Imoen had already forgotten all about arrows and bows, watching the approaching stranger with her mouth open. Melirinda was more cautious though, her hand clutching the hilt of her sword.

He was tall and very slender. Imoen’s tip was really quite unnessesary, for who could probably miss noticing those black eyes, strange almond-shaped eyes, which made him look mysterious and dangerous. However he held his hands wide, indicating that he is unarmed. Practically unarmed, since he had Melirinda’s arrow...in the fold of his cloak.

“I am sorry…” started Melirinda. Finally she recovered and tried a more appropriate sentence: “My good elf, I do apologize for…ahem…disturbing you in your…ahem…contemplations. Dare I hope that we did not hurt you?”

Imoen giggled: “WE? That is YOURS arrow in his cloak, Melirinda!” And the girl folded her arms across her chest indicating that she had nothing to do at all with shooting at the elf. Melirinda scowled at her dear helpful friend Imoen and finished quickly: “Would you accept an offer of a meal from us as a sign of …” she was not sure sign of what so she stoped in mid-sentence and waved her hand non-chalantly. Imoen’s curiosity however could not be stopped by the mere lack of appropriate wording: “What have you been doing up that tree? “

“Resting,” came an immediate if curt reply.

Imoen waited for a split second, but apparently the elf was done answering.

“I am Imoen, and the Miss High Speech is Melirinda. We are traveling to Nashkel. And yes, why won’t you eat something with us, you look sorta skinny… Though, Jaheira’s cooking tonight, so that won’t make you any bigger… What are you doing around here?”

“Hunting,” the elf bowed to both Melirinda and Imoen and introduced himself: “Kivan.”
“Does not sound like an elvish name… Aren’t they all long and all end with some –il or el?”
“No,” said the elf, called Kivan.

Then, before Imoen could digest that generous piece of elven lore and start thinking again, he continued: “Your kind invitation is gratefully accepted, ladies. If you wait until I retrieve my belongings I will join you.”

Kivan disappeared among the branches again and Imoen pulled Melirinda’s sleeve: “Why in Nine Hells he accepted? I mean he looked longingly at that tree all the time, like if he was a dog in need of a piss…” Melirinda smiled at her friend: “He is Sylvan, did not you notice? It’s an offence not to offer food in the wilderness to a stranger…or reject such an offer. And by the way, he might be hearing our every word.”

“So no matter what we’d end up dinning with him?” wondered Imoen not in the least embaressed. Melirinda only chuckled. “Let’s be grateful we did not kill or harmed him.” But Imoen wanted no part of it: “YOU, Melirirnda, you, not us!”

Kivan re-appeared by then a small pack on his shoulders, a sword at his belt and a long bow of amazing beauty in his hands. They started walking away, but he stopped and asked Melirinda: “What were you aiming for? Some particular leaf?”

Melirinda reddened and pointed at the dry branch. “This one? Hmm?” Kivan quickly lifted the bow up, and pulled back the string. “Aren’t you forgetting something, elf?” started Imoen, but a shiny arrow appeared against the bow for just a moment and then flew. Imoen rushed almost as fast to see the wondrous arrow and the branch, now lying on the ground, cut cleanly away.

Melirinda did not run. She looked at the archer with admiration and asked: “Say, Kivan, have you ever been to Nashkel?”

#15 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 06:02 PM

14. Bandits.

Kivan's glance stoped Melirinda, and returned her to reality. She was smiling she realized. It is a curse really, to be born a woman with a very expressive face. But strangely her curving lips did not seem to upset Kivan. His eyes shone under trembling eyelashes as he looked at Melirinda. Kivan straightened and looked back to Tinuvil.

"Quessir, nobody's grief is as deep as mine. If I was a god, a sand grain would not dare to hit Deheriana's fair face. If I was a god and knew in advance that vicious bandits shall overwhelm us during the daytime by a busy road, I shall talk Deheriana out of leaving home. But I am no god and I could not avert the tragedy, which had befallen us. All I could do is to fight for her until I had fallen and to avenge her death when my life returned to me. That I did."

Tinuvil appeared to be slightly amused by Kivan's words. He thought for a moment, then asked: "You say her loss was properly avenged?" "Yes. Every single best, which partook in her slaughter, fell by my hand and by hand of my comrades. Every single one." Kivan's eyes narrowed, and his face looked hollow for a moment.

"That is it," Melirinda suddenly realized, "that is the reason for him to be barren and removed for days and days. He kept the terrible memory of bandits torturing his wife and renewed it every day so he would not forget a single face, so his arrow will not miss its mark when the day comes. For twenty-six years he lived with every bandit who attacked them alive in his mind.”

Kivan, what were you hunting?” asked Melirinda breaking long silence as she sat by the elf, watching embers of their fire. Imoen was helping Jaheira to clean cooking gear that night, which most probably meant that they’d return from the river soaked wet and refusing to talk to each other. Khalid was asleep dreaming about warmer, cozier and safer places. The elf did not answer and Melirinda wondered if he heard at all.

“Bandits,” said he suddenly after a long pause.

“Oh!” Melirinda thought that she is adapting his unique way of conversing. “So you are a thrill-seeker? Or one of those good-doers, who spend their lives chasing evil?”
“Neither,” the reply came way quicker this time. Melirinda was puzzled. She was sure he is a good-doer… Bounty hunter then? Kivan felt her probing gaze and tried to switch the subject: “You said you are going to Nashkel, good lady. But I must say you are far from the road… Are you lost per chance?”

Melirinda toyed with the thought of saying to him, that yes, she is lost and needs an able guide…but instead she told him the truth. After all, even if she lied, Jaheira would destroy the whole plot as soon as she catches wind of it.

“My father died…was killed a few days ago… I could not yet bring myself to go and do something practical, like investigating Nashkel’s problems. I need some time before I can start living without him. I always feel more at peace with myself in the wild, so I asked my companions to wander a little,” she stoped thinking how stupid it all must sound and how stupid she must look crying, but the elf called Kivan, squeezes her elbow gently. She upturned her face towards him and for the first time her heart skiped a beat as she watched her own reflection in the charcoal orbs. “I understand…I offer my deepest condolences…” the undeniable warmth filled the elf’s voice.

Melirinda whispered: “My father told me to run when we were attacked. I listened to him and I lived. I understand, that he hopped to win the encounter, and I am no match to the powerful foes we had faced, but I feel guilty of obeying, of not staying by his side and..” she stoped again short of words to describe what it was exactly she was guilty of.

“…and living while he is no more. You hate those who keep on going while he is dead, and yet you are one of them,” finished Kivan for her solemnly. Melirinda shuddered and looked at him scared by the exactness of his assessment. Kivan touches her elbow again: “Bandits killed my wife.”

The phrase hanged unanswered and chill came between them, the sort of deadly chill which falls between two chanced road companions who just shared their life story because they had nothing to do, because they were together at the moment and because they hoped never to meet again. Yet a bond formed between the young human and sad elf, a rare thing to fell over two strangers trading a tale in front of the fire.

Imoen and Jaheira returned soaked wet and refusing to talk to each other. Jaheira slided under the blanket by Khalid’s side, who weakly protested the cold and wet touch of her body in his sleep, but then pulled his wife closer and laughed.

Kivan turned away and told Melirinda, that he’d walk the perimeter of the camp that night. For the first time Melirinda saw him to dissapear into the darkness in solitude. She felt so safe and so sad.

#16 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 06:45 PM

15. Reflections

If, during the course of your adventures, you happen to fall in love, then BEWARE! Your love interest will without exception be a very disturbed person, with plenty of serious issues that will force you into the role of therapist rather than lover…
Laufey and Ophidia, “The 20 Laws of Faerun”

Melirinda met Kivan only about a year ago, yet now she felt like she had known him as long as Imoen. Tinuvils’ laugh attracted the druid’s attention. “Good King Galladel? Kivan, you have not heard any of our news, did not you? Elbereth is an elf King of Shilmista now.”

Kivan smiled to Tinuvil: “Prince Elbereth was a fitting heir and I am proud to call him my new king. Did King Galladel follow his wife to Evermeet finally? He was going to do it ever since I remember myself.”
“No, Kivan,” Tinuvil sounded grave now. “King Galladel was slain in battle by the general who led the invading army. He fell valiantly defending Shilmista. And every two out of three of us had fallen.“ Tinuvil’s voice trailed off. “What?” the ranger’s shock was clearly written on his face. “Tinuvil, I have not heard any of that. What had happened?”
Tinuvil sighed and started grimly: “Two years after you left a cult of Talona secretly amassed great forces in the Snowflakes Mountains. They called their abode the Castle Trinity, for it united mages, priests and fighters who plotted to conquer the region and rule it in the name of the Lady of Poison. Their army, more than five thousand strong rolled down the mountain slopes like an avalanche and threatened to destroy Shilmista in its wake.”

Kivan paled: “Five thousand…That’s more than ten to one… Tinuvil, I am afraid to ask, yet I need to know: Do we still have a home?”
Tinuvil nodded: “Yes, we do, but we paid terrible price, Kivan.” He went on sarcastically: “At the first sightings of the monsters in Shilmista Prince Elbereth went to search advice and help from the Edificiant Library and Carradoon. He brought help with him: three humans and two dwarves.” Kivan’s glance was fixed on Tinuvil’s face, his eyes begging the older elf to go on with the story, however painful it might be.

Tinuvil obliged: “Wise King Galladel wanted to surrender Shilmista and lead his people to Evermeet. Yet the human priest, Cadderly seduced Elbereth into trying to rise the Trees of Shilmista to our help...” At this last statement, hope appeared in Kivan’s eyes and he asked excitedly: “The Shilmista’s Tree Guard? Did the Trees rise to fight our cause against the invaders as in the olden times?”

Tinuvil nodded: “We had won Shilmista, Kivan. But to allow King Elbereth to summon the Trees to our aid we had to hold the advancing force. That’s when King Galladel ordered a suicidal maneuver and had fallen. We had won in the end, but barely over a hundred of us lived to tell the tale. Which brings me to my present mission of carrying King’s invitation to any potential settlers to appear before the elf King of Shilmista. We need everyone if Shilmista is to survive.”

Kivan seemed to stop listening, then after a pause he asked: “Tell me Tinuvil, does Shayleigh live? “

Tinuvil sighed and replied: “Yes. The maiden’s talents had served us greatly and she is His Grace’s most trusted advisor at present.”
“Alladorn?” asked Kivan hopefully. “ The brave son of Evandil is departed,” said Tinuvil softly. “What about Kelderan?” “He had fallen…”
This sad question and answer game continued, but Melirinda did not listen. She got up and slowly walked away, trying to calm herself. Kivan was loosing almost everyone he held dear in a span of this short conversation. His beloved native land was still in danger and now, with Tazok dead there was only one course for the elf: to hurry back to Shilmista and to prove his loyalty to his new King. Melirinda understood that Kivan’s service to her was at its end, but she had to gain her composure if she was to say farewells and thank her wonderful companion and old friend properly at the upcoming parting.


All the portal cities have many things in common: the mixture of folks from all parts of Toril, sea birds circling in their endless patrol over narrow streets converging to the docks. The streets appear to be running uphill endlessly from the waves and the wind. The wind is special in the coastal places: chilly and heavy with the smell of salt and fish, wet and somehow knowing more of freedom then its continental counterpart... May be because it has the power to carry away or to destroy ships loaded with goods or warriors. Melirinda was attracted to Baldur’s Gate wind the moment she first felt its touch on her face.

Today however she presses the hood of her cloak to her cheek in a helpless gesture, uncharacteristic for her. The cloth helped little against the mist and spray of the rain, yet she gained a measure of comfort. Kivan tried to shield her against cold and blustery weather as they walked towards the city gates.

“So, it’s decided then? You are going to join the grove?” he asked softly.
“Yes. Jaheira had agreed to present me to the Great Druid. She and Khalid will travel with me. I do not think Imoen will leave my side either, even if she would have to stick with a bunch of gloomy hermits, as she calls druids. She said she’s gonna start studying magic.” Melirinda chuckled, for the sight of lively Imoen peering into yellowish books and scrolls day and night was amusing indeed. “I wonder for how long this infatuation with arcane will last.”

Kivan answered solemnly: “No longer then her last “romance”, I am afraid. That’s a pity, for Imoen is a very smart person, and I am always afraid that thieving would lead her into troubles… Well, here we are…”
Melirinda looked at the city gates they had exited and entered through so many times all together, but today Kivan was to leave alone. “Farewell, Kivan. Sylvanus bless thee,” the phrase felt artificial and meaningless to Melirinda, but she was at a loss of what to say. What could she say, after all?

“I am madly in love with you. Please, do not leave.”

Kivan smiled warmly and shook his head: “You need Sylvanus’s blessing more than me, Melirinda. I hope that you can come to terms with your terrible heritage.” The glance of his dark eyes showed sinceer concern when he notices Melirinda’s hand to loose the hold on the hood and slid upward to shield her eyes. The ranger could not stay passive. Melirinda, whom he watched to grow from a spirited girl to a warrior with a frightful speed of a human, was almost crushed under the Sarevok’s revelations. Kivan embraced Melirinda gently and whispered to her: “Please, do not let it to destroy you.”

Kivan released Melirinda, and stepped back. “I will never learn to say “good-buys”” smiled Melirinda, “Faerun is wide, but it might be that our roads would cross again. Until then - you take care of yourself, elf.” She turned around and walked away briskly.

Melirinda slowed her pace and casted a careful glance back. Seeing that he is gone, she returned to the Gate and the guard was happy to let the hero of Baldur’s Gate to enjoy the view from the City walls. Melirinda watched Kivan first to turn into a dark dot on the road and then to disappear from view.

“I am madly in love with you. Please, do not leave.”

Melirinda told herself that she should be happy that the troubled elf went home and apparently was about to find a measure of comfort there. But she grew accustomed to his antics, his incomplete sentences and his sometimes-overwhelming protectiveness over the year of travelling together. The last week made her to think about Kivan more than she had thought about any male other then Gorion.

At first she thought that Kivan took re-appearance of Tazok in Sarevok’s company rather well, as he rushed towards the half-ogre, yelling in frustration. But when the victoreous group moved away from the gory room, Kivan did not follow. Melirinda, eager to leave the place called for him, but Kivan did not respond. Something was wrong. Melirinda walked towards the elf and the blank expression on his face made her heart to turn cold. He stood there over Tazok’s dead body, and just stared.

Melirinda followed his glance and saw nothing unusual: Boo was rolling on the half-ogre’s bloody chest. Melirinda thought that Minsc’s upbringing and the adventuring lifestyle made Boo into a rather vicious hamster with a peculiar taste for bathing in fresh blood. She shivered, seeing Minsc walking by and picking up the hamster. “Boo, common, you have had enough fun already!” cooed Minsk at the aggressively squeaking rodent.
“Kivan…” said Melirinda softly, then louder, then she yelled his name. But his eyes were still empty. Melirinda shook him, and slapped his face: “Kivan, please, please say something! Yell, cry, fight me, anything!” Minsc attracted by Melirinda’s cruel treatment of the quiet elf, came closer and guessed that there was trouble. With his customary readiness to help he swung at Kivan. Melirinda jumped and hanged herself on the ranger’s arm, slowing it down before it could connect with Kivan’s cheek and break his neck.

“Minsc…I am afraid it’s not that simple… Can you carry him?” Melirinda asked her giant friend. “Carry the elf?” Minsk was surprised. “I’d look bad… Boo says I ‘d look in-dig-ni…”

“Boo is going to change his mind,” Melirinda said firmly, secretly wagging her fist at Boo. Minsk lent his ear to Boo again and nodded: “On second thought Boo thinks it’s rather nice… I’d carry Kivan.”

Two days passed and Kivan seemed to be lost to the world. Branwen has casted every healing spell she knew. Other priests only shook their heads. Dynaheir spoke of dark rituals performed in her mysterious land in just such cases, but she was not sure if it’s safe to do with someone of elven background. “This bond issues are difficult to resolve by human’s means,” she murmured foggily.

Melirinda was sitting by Kivan’s bed and despair was overflowing her. Kivan’s angular features became sharp, his body, so quick and agile was motionless, but the most frightening was his empty, mindless gaze.
Melirinda jumped up and paced the room. A crazy idea came to her. Crazy, but she was willing to try anything at that moment. “Kivan, “ whispered she in a trembling voice, “Kivan, that’s me, Deheriana…please wake up… I need your help… Please, Kivan…” She repeated this incantation, not caring about how immoral this impersonation might be. Melirinda could not see Kivan of Shilmista to die slowly in this unthinking, unfeeling state. Then she saw the ranger to shift and she stopped calling. Melirinda flew out of the room and knocked loudly at Branwen’s doors.
There was no finality in their parting in Baldur’s Gate. Melirinda was almost expecting it when she saw Kivan walking down the street in Athkatla, looking for her, disturbed by the rumor’s of the Bhaal’s child disappearance. He only shrugged his shoulders when she asked how he traced them to Athkatla. He felt it too, guessed Melirinda. It was different this time.

Melirinda found herself sitting by the side of a small lake. She must have wandered off farther away than she wanted in her dreamy state. She stared at the dark water, thinking that the imagination was playing a trick on her again. Kivan stood by her side. It took Melirinda a few moments to realize that it was a reflection, not another memory. She slowly turned to face her old friend, Kivan of Shilmista.

It was too bad, that Melirinda did not learn how to say “good-buy” since that windy day in Baldur’s Gate. “I am madly in love with you. Please, do not leave.”

#17 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 07:02 PM

16. Wreath of Shilmista.

Melirinda took in a deep breath and slowly navigated her way through the unsaid words: “Kivan, it filled me with a great sorrow to hear of misfortunes which had befallen your motherland. I understand that your desire is to reunite with your kin and I just wanted to say how much I had appreciated your company and your friendship…”

Kivan nodded impatiently and then to her amazement got a firm grip on her shoulders and forced her to move away from the lake. “Now, that’s better,” muttered the elf checking the distance between Melirinda and the shore. “What are you doing?” asked the confused druid. “Melirinda, you just have told me that I am about to leave. While I am deeply touched with your acknowledgement of my patriotism, your evident desire to get rid of me makes me to suspect that the appreciation bit of your little speech is not entirely sincere. I am not sure, if you will be all that interested in what I think about leaving…”

Melirinda stared at the ranger wondering what in Nine Hells he is talking about and why he is holding her in place. Since Melirinda offered no response, Kivan pressed on: “It has been my experience that every time I am trying to convey something important to you, you rush away to save someone, you faint, you drop me into the ocean or you simply run away. I am tired of it Melirinda.”

This time Melirinda managed a weak protest: “I fainted after you were done talking if I remember correctly.”

“Bad example,” the elf replied agreeably. “However, I hope you will not do it again. Ever. As for the rest I think I took appropriate measures. There is nobody needing to be rescued in the radius of three miles. If anyone would show up, Valygar promised to take care of it. You cannot hope to get to the lake quicker than me and I am going to hold you tight until I finish with what I have to say.”

The misfortunes he had faced had done him in finally. Melirinda shuddered: “Kivan, are you out of your mind?”

The ranger shrugged his shoulders: “I do not know any more, but, “ and his face lit up at that “but Kelsey’s saying it’s normal when dealing with human women.” Melirinda thought that may be it was SHE who was out of her mind and the whole thing was an intricate hallucination brought upon by her memories of the past. She had nightmares, which made by far more sense than that conversation. “Kelsey said what?” she asked faintly.

Kivan waved his hand dismayingly but quickly replaced it on Melirinda’s shoulders: “It’s not important what Kelsey said. Here is the deal: you listen to me without interrupting. I ask you a simple question. You answer it. Then I’d let you go. Agreed?”

She scanned Kivan’s face carefully, but it looked rather determined. There was some strange glimmer in his eyes, and Melirinda decided that she should agree to his demand. What’s the point of argueing with mad? “I shall listen to what you have to say and I will answer your question, elf,” promised Melirinda, “but can I sit down before that?”

“Sure…sure…It’s a great idea…Let’s sit down”. Kivan guided her to the ground and sat facing her. He took of a wreath made out of green leaves, which he was wearing, and put it on his knees. Kivan’s voice was soft and calm when he resumed talking: “Sometimes Melirinda words are difficult to find… It’s a tradition among my people in such cases to let the leaves talk instead… But I will have to translate the language of the leaves to you so I will be saying the words.

It does not make much sense I am afraid, but I do not know how to do it otherwise. I made this wreath from the words about you. The oaken leaves - because you are strong and do not yield to your enemies. The birch leaves - because you are gentle and understanding. The poplar leaves for you are proud and tall. The maple leaves because you are so beautiful… And the linden leaf, shaped as a heart, to tell you that the one who made the wreath loves you and asks for your heart in exchange…”

At least she had enough wits to ask him to sit down. Otherwise Melirinda'd injured herself in a fall. Kivan smiled shyly and asked: “Would you take my wreath, Melirinda?” She was enjoying the dream and she was afraid to wake up and miss the ending. “Melirinda…” pleaded Kivan, “you promised to answer…” “Sorry, this last phrase…I am confused by you using the third person. Can you repeat it?” Melirinda was now anxious to get the most out of the hallucination.

“I love you,” said Kivan touching her cheek. Then he repeated it in elven, in some loud tongue with decisive consonants, which Melirinda took to be dwarven and a gnome’s dialect, full of whispering sounds… Then he started a phrase in a melodic language, close to elven but with abrupt stops and mixed in harsh syllables, but interrupted himself with: “well, that’s too, but it’s not an exact translation. Melirinda?” Melirinda only smiled happily. Kivan sighed and put the wreath on her head. He waited for a moment, then he pulled the druid close and kissed her. The touch of his lips was so sudden and so real that Melirinda could not believe in it being a dream any longer. She traced the outline of his high cheekbone with trembling fingers and whispered: “I did not think you are so bold…” He smiled slyly: “Not at all… But the wreath of Shilmista lives while love binds two hearts. If you were indifferent to me, it would have withered and died the moment it touched you.”

Melirinda answered quietly: “You do not need some wreath to know that I love you, silly elf! I loved you the moment you handed me back that arrow and I would not stop loving you until I die,” and the druid wanted to take the wreath off, but Kivan stayed her hand. “Keep it Melirinda. It will protect you when I am not around, it will save you against a hit as a helmet would and it will make you stronger and wiser, if that’s at all possible… Our love is in it.”

“When you are not around?” A parting gift! That what itr was…

“Well, I wish I could stay by you every moment but sometimes…” Kivan started thoughtfully. “Are you going to Shilmista?” Melirinda found herself missing that laconic persona Kivan once was. “Eventually. And I dare to hope you’d come with me, my star… How can I be of any help to my King with my heart elsewhere? My first loyalty is to you, Melirinda. But speaking of Shilmista, we have to talk to Tinuvil. I promised him a reply after I have a word with you.”

Melirinda jumped to her feet: “What! You left Tinuvil with Valygar, Jan, Aerie and Kelsey without supervision? How can you be so lightheaded?”

Kivan chuckled: “I am an elf, my star, what else do you except? Besides, Tinuvil may be an old grouch, but not some beast who can harm others if left at large…”

Melirinda was not convinced: “Tinuvil has the quality of a man who can say to Jan that his nose is far too large, to Valygar that his enmity to magic users is unwarranted, to Aerie that it’s the wings that makes avariel into an avariel and to Kelsey that sorcery is a dark force which needs to be exterminated. None of our companions is known for patience and though I did not really like Tinuvil, I would not want him to be dead when we return.”

Kivan sighed and embraced her shoulders: “My star, there are so many things I’d rather be doing then talking to Tinuvil right now…” and he gave her a quick teasing kiss. Melirinda could not agree more.

#18 Guest_Domi_*

Posted 27 April 2003 - 07:20 PM

17. His Afternoon Off

They appeared hand in hand at the road side and to Melirinda’s relief, Tinuvil was sitting away from her four friends, all five looking anxious, but unharmed. The silence did not last long. As soon as Tinuvil saw Kivan and Melirinda he sprung up and yelled at Kivan in a voice high even for an elf:

“Are you mad, son of Ecthelion? How could you make a wreath of Shilmista for a human? For a Bhaal’s spawn? “ Kivan and Melirinda simultaneously got a grip on each other, fearing that one of them is going to charge Tinuvil. Kivan however answered with relative calm: “ I made the wreath for the one I love. That is the meaning and purpose of it. The wreath accepted our union and I do not see why should not you do the same.“

Tinuvil collected himself somewhat and asked sarcastically: “What’s next? Are you bringing that…that woman to Shilmista in Deheriana’s stead?”
“I hope that wherever I walk Melirinda walks by my side,” said Kivan firmly.
Tinuvil chewed on his lip as if trying to conceal his laughter: “I will make sure that the King gets the word of it. You will not be allowed to the Forest of Shadows.“
“King Elbereth alone decides whom to give his leave to enter Shilmista. I will obey his command.” Kivan’s voice was sharp and he bowed to Tinuvil, showing that conversation was at its end. But Tinuvil was not about to leave just yet.

“You are young fool, caught by a human woman. Their love is as short as their life and it lasts until the first gray hair! Some of them kill themselves, unable to see an elven lover unchanged in a short decade or two and that’s the best outcome. In ten years, Kivan, she’ll cry for a week and then she’ll ask you to leave, for she needs “to settle her life”. You will remember my words when she dumps you for some balding, fat merchant… You are such a fool!”

Melirinda wondered what have happened to the mannerism and politeness of the two elves. Kivan’s face was just as dangerous and furious as when he was facing Tazok and his voice was just as harsh when he replied: “I would be inclined more to listen to your advice, Tinuvil, if it was not so much alike the one you gave me 200 years ago, trying to convince me that Deheriana is not for me. Difference of age, difference of status, it will never work! Of course, you, on another hand were a perfect match, were you not? I remember your every word Tinuvil! And you know what’s funny? You almost convinced me then. Now you are apparently trying to save me from another misalliance? Am I now aiming too low?”

Tinuvil snorted: “Au contraire, son of Ecthelion. I am afraid you are always aiming too high. Royal blood was not enough for you? That’s why you are chasing a god’s blood? Even if she is a human and a daughter of the God of Murder?”

Valygar stood up, easing his katana in the scabbard. Aerie was crying, yet loading her sling with trembling hands and Kelsey looked like he was desperately trying to keep his mouth shut, but loosing his resolve.

“My father was not known for patience…” said Melirinda gravely “Go, while you can, Tinuvil.” The elf ignored her kind invitation. Tinuvil and Kivan hands were wrapping around the hilts of their swords.

Jan walked right between two boiling elves and stretched. Then he smiled to Tinuvil. And started at his customary speed: “Look elffy. Seems to me that you are worried that Kiv and Rind won’t hook up ‘cause the boy is elven and the girl is human? That’s confusing stuff of course. But you are fortunate to have me around. My aunty Martha was an author of few best-selling books on inter-racial relationships… The most famous of course was “The Interracial Marriages Made Simple: Arithmetic of Success!” Huge hit! They say half-elven population increased twice between first and second editions only. “

And Jan produced something which once might have been a book, but now was reduced to a collection of yellowed, half-damaged pages tied together with a yellow ribbon. He waved it menacingly at Tinuvil and continued: “I myself read the book ten times, while I was dating a friendly halfing lass.. Great legs, but small nose… Anyway the two keys to successful interracial relationship is:

a) relative age compatibility and
:) comparable remaining life expectancy.

Now with a) mmmgh, let’s see: according to the Table 1.12c and calculations performed based on an equation from Appendix 4, Schedule B, taking m variable to be equal 37 for Sylvan elf… Rind and Kiv are basically the same age!

Now with :) we are having more troubles, cause the boy won’t die for another 500 years and Rind will be gone in 60 or 70…alas. But! And here is where Appendix 17 is so important! The exceptions due to lifestyles! Hmm: healthy diet, old boring relatives, mother-in-law alive… Here it is! Adventurers! According to Schedule N, part 101, point 17.9, average adventurers’ life expectancy for both elf (no correction for Sylvan, it only says to multiply per 0.2 for drow…) and human is 12.684 years! So Kiv is overdue to die and it’s Melirinda who should be worrying about not outliving him! But that’s of course if they would not retire…If they would I need to use…

“What’s that?” moaned Tinuvil, his facial parts moving in opposite directions: jaw hanging low and brows moving up. His eyes lost elven almond shape, becoming rather rounded.

“Jan Jansen!” yelled the five companions in unison, watching the suffering elf. The silence fall for a second and then Aerie started giggling in her high, silver bell voice. Valygar barked out a laughter, Melirinda hang around Kivan’s neck, shaking vigorously, and Kelsey accidentally casted a small glowing rainbow around Tinuvil, before falling down to the ground. Jan frantically searched for some appendix.

The gnome pulled one of the pages and with a triumphant yell was about to continue, but Tinuvil run towards his horse, flew up into the saddle and soon only settling dust reminded about the elf’s presence.

Melirinda hoisted Jan high into the air and gave him a loud smooch. “Jan, you were incredible!” and she kissed the gnome again. Kivan took the rogue from Melirinda and put him on the ground. “You are not dumping me for this charming and well-educated gnome?” Jan turned red, but he seemed very happy: “That’s quite a girl you got yourself, Kivan…” he said, “But seriously, if I can only find Appendix 19…” Kivan leaned towards Jan: “Do not waste your time, Jan. Appendix 19 does not apply to Kivan of Shilmista, trust me.”

Kivan embraced Melirinda and started: “Whatever happens, my star…” but Valygar’s cough interrupted him.

“Here,” says Valygar, unrolling Mazzy’s map. “I figure we four can go ahead, and scout the area around the Temple Ruins. You two catch up with us a bit later today, how about that?”

Melirinda peered at the map. “Hmm,’ she said, “this looks like a cave. We shall meet you there in few hours. Valygar, do not do anything risky. If there are too much whatever it might be there, retreat, wait for us where the old road starts towards the Temple. And thank you, Valygar.”

Kivan and Melirinda watch their four companions to start for the Shadow Temple. “How come, I do not get afternoon off when I get a date?” complained Kelsey. “Maybe you have to date within the group to get the afternoon off? “ suggested Aerie. “Me and Valygar? No!” exclaimed Kelsey, “though I think that a rather attractive avariel …”

“They dumped us!” Melirinda could not take her concerned look away from the leaving comrades, until Kivan clapped her on the shoulder: “Melirinda, you can call me old-fashioned, but I am glad to be alone with you. Our companions are quite capable of spending few hours on their own… I, on another hand, beg for the attention of my fearless leader, Melirinda DeGranier.” He took Melirinda’s hand and led her back to Umar Hills. “Where are we going?” Melirinda asked. Kivan smiled and did not answer, moving into the woods. Melirinda could only follow.

To her surprise, they rather quickly got to Valygar’s cabin and Kivan opened his palm and showed her a key. “Valygar thought we might need it…” Melirinda scooped the key up…then she turned to Kivan and asked him gently: “What? We are not going to burst through the doors, or jump through a glimmering portal, or wait for Jan to break the lock? And the key is not even spattered with blood of the previous owner… I am scared Kivan…. It’s too unusual.”

“Precisely, my star. I thought it would be the most appropriate change of pace. Silence. No dead bodies. Valygar’s friends are hopefully gone. Our companions are hopefully on their way to the Shadow Temple. That leaves just you, me and a bunch of poppies on the white tablecloth,” laughed the elf.

“Valygar does not have a white tablecloth…” argued Melirinda.
“We shall see. After all, our friend is a noble,” suggested Kivan. Melirinda turned the key, pushed the door open and gasped. The inside of the cabin was filled with flowers. She looked back at smiling Kivan: “How?”

“Let’s just say it’s an “I am sorry” from one of our companions for turning you into a dwarf the other night. Do you enter of your own volition or do I carry you?”

Melirinda got a hold of his cloak and pulled him inside. Then she slid her fingers inside his hood and lowered it: “ If you only knew how often I dreamed of doing it…” The elf let the cloak fall to the floor, lifted Melirinda and was about to carry her towards the small bedroom, when he suddenly stopped, looked back over his shoulder and said:

“Domi! Would you mind?”

The above noted Domi answered: “No, not at all, please, go ahead…”
Kivan narrowed his charcoal eyes and whispered few words to Melirinda. The druid giggled.

And Domi was suddenly left with a black computer screen…which soon of course went blue and cheery yellow letters let Domi know that Windows were not shut down properly. Domi waited until the computer finally regained consciousness and firmly typed in the only two words remaining:


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