“Can I buy you a drink?” asked a greasy haired man standing beside the table Viconia had claimed for herself.
“She has a drink, you idiot!” another man with bad teeth said as he pushed the first aside to be closer to the Drow. “Now step out of the way Dirk, what this lady wants to do is dance?”
“Who you calling an idiot?” Dirk asked, angrily pushing back. “You’re the idiot the Rokk! There’s no music!”
“She and I can make our own music, can’t we my dark beauty?” Rokk said with a suggestive wink and a hideous smile.
“You couldn’t make music with a band of paid harlots let alone this fine…” Dirk began hotly, but stopped when Viconia cleared her throat and held up her empty glass.
“What? Oh!” Dirk said excitedly, as he remembered his original goal. After thrusting the empty wine glass at a passing serving girl with orders for a refill, the man smirked at his brother and sat down at the table.
“Would you like anything else?” Rokk asked hopefully, from where he still stood. “Anything at all my beauty, you just name it.”
“Back off Rokk!” Dirk snarled, “She took my offer first, now beat it!”
“Not a chance big brother!” Rokk said coldly and sat down opposite his sibling. “This one is worth fighting for!”
“How charming.” Viconia said, speaking for the first time and offering a practiced smile. “I trust those are not just empty words meant to entice me.”
“I could never lie to a woman.” Rokk said with a sincerity to match Viconia’s smile. “Just tell me my beauty, what I can do to please you.”
“Rokk I’m gonna split your thick skull!” Dirk said angrily,
“You males flatter me with all this… enthusiasm.” Viconia said, still with same smile. “But you forget that I am Drow, and my race knows secrets beyond any fantasies of which you surfacers could dream. What I have in mind will afford both of you an equal opportunity to… please me.”
“Both?” the two men repeated together, each looking uncomfortably at the other.
“Why not?” someone jeeringly prompted from the crowd of patrons which had been watching the brother’s pursuit of the beautiful Drow all evening. “You said you’d do anything.”
“Shut up!” Rokk snarled, glancing around uneasily.
“What… what would we have to do?” Dirk asked nervously.
Viconia looked passionately at each of the brothers in turn, then stood and slowly leaned forward, smiling inwardly as their eyes went to revealing neckline of her cleric’s robe. Taking one of each brother’s hands in hers, she drew them all together at the center of the table and spoke in her most suggestive and sultry tone. “To assure me of your devotion and worth, I will require some… arousing entertainment before participating myself, now… amuse me.” the Drow then withdrew back to her seat leaving the brothers holding nothing but each others hand. Dirk and Rokk looked at each other in shock and quickly snatched their hands away as though they were burned.
“That’s sick!” Rokk exclaimed nearly falling over his chair as he stood.
“You twisted Drow!” Dirk swore, as he also stumbled to get away. “We… we’re not like that!”
The two brothers other words of protest were then drowned out by a loud course of jeers and comments from the crowd of patrons.
“Whoohoo! The Love brothers lost another one!”
“No wonder the two of them still live together!”
“I thought that was just a rumor.”
The brothers’ now red faced with embarrassment and anger glared at the crowd, and then looked at one another. With only a nod of agreement passing between them, they turned back towards Viconia and began to reach for their weapons. But before they could draw steel, the brother’s swords clattered to the floor as their belts were cut from behind. Dirk and Rokk spun around to find a woman with close cropped red hair standing behind them, her own curved sword held casually in her hand.
“Shove off boys.” the woman said, “You know the Thunderburp’s don’t abide any fighting in here except the kind done with words, and the darkskin has already beat you bloody on that count.”
“Belle!” Rokk snarled, “You sorry excuse for a sailor, mind your own business!”
“Yeah, you damned sea witch! This is between us at that…” Dirk said as he started to bend down to retrieve his sword.
“Leave the blade where it is boy, or this ‘sea witch’ will drag you outside and cut off more than your belt.” Belle threatened, leveling her cutlass at the man.
A tense silence had fallen across the gathered crowd as this confrontation took place, but was broken when Viconia, who had remained sitting calmly, raised a slender hand and snapped her fingers. “Serving girl.” the Drow called with the quiet confidence of someone that expected to be obeyed. “Where is my drink?”
The crowd, Belle, and even the brothers looked at the Drow with wonder, and then roared with approving laughter. With rueful smiles and good natured slaps on the back, the fight was soon forgotten, and the brothers were allowed to pick up their swords before moving off into the crowd in hopes of easier conquests.
After sheathing her own sword Belle moved to stand in front of Viconia’s table. “Now then, before you think I was being nice. I’ve got two things to say, first you owe me a drink for the rescue, and second you’re sitting at my table.” Receiving not even a glance of recognition from the Drow, Belle placed both hands flat on the table and leaned forward for emphasis. “I said you’re sitting at my table.”
“No, you are leaning on my table.” Viconia said allowing a hint of danger into her voice. “Now I suggest you remove your hands… before I do.”
“Ha! So there is a fire burning under all that frost! Good! Now I can I respect you!” Belle said laughing. Taking a chair she reversed it and sat down opposite the Drow before offering a work calloused hand in greeting. “What’s your name darkskin?”
“Viconia.” the Drow said not bothering to shake the woman’s hand. “From your garb and the conversation, I take it you are a sea-farer?”
“I’m Captain of ‘The Belle of the Ocean’ fastest cargo ship on the Sword Coast.” the red haired woman said proudly, “We’ve been together so long most folks just taken to calling me Belle as well.”
“And have you traveled extensively?” Viconia questioned.
“You name the place and I’m likely to have seen it, or at least know where to look, but what’s that to you…” Belle asked, and then reached her own conclusion before Viconia could reply. “Looking to book passage are you? Perhaps to some place a little more welcoming to your kind?”
“No, I have learned there is no welcome place on the surface world for a Drow, therefore I intend to make my own.” Viconia said evenly. “My only interest in you, is for my abbil… ‘my friend’ in your inelegant common tongue. He is searching for a lost companion, a female.”
“Where did he lose her?” Belle asked, “If it was at sea, then he might as well kiss her arse goodbye. What Umberlee takes beneath the waves she keeps.”
“Pathetic sea gods are of little concern to the likes of us, now cease your prattling and I shall tell you what is.” Viconia said coldly. “The female in question was taken by this city’s Cowled Wizards to their prison for deviant mages. Spellhold I believe it is called.”
Belle let out a quiet whistle. “That’s no easy task there, I’ve heard tell that place is off limits to all but a special few.”
“And you are not one of the chosen?” Viconia said dismissively and started to leave. “Then you are useless to me.”
“Don’t get your sails in a knot woman!” Belle said hastily, “Just because I don’t go there myself doesn’t mean certain… arrangements can’t be made, provided the price is right.”
“That is what is wished to hear.” Viconia said approvingly, “Do this you will receive the sum of…”
“I’ll set the price darkskin.” Belle interrupted. “This may take some time, but I’ll find you when I have the information, and you can be doubly sure that it’ll cost you.”
“My abbil will see that you are paid.” Viconia promised, “His missing companion is all that is important to him… at the moment.”
“But not to you?” Belle asked with a knowing look, “Tell me darkskin, what’s this ‘abbil’ of yours going to give you in return for his lost friend.”
Viconia smiled in such a manner that Belle could not tell if it was meant to be genuine or coldly calculated, and then left the table with only one word.
“I wish that I could say that it was me… that I was strong enough to fight off the dark essence inside, but I wasn’t.” Jover said regretfully. “The Bhaal part of me was screaming for murder… it didn’t just want to kill something, if that was all it needed Viconia was right there in front of me. It wanted murder, I didn’t know the difference back then, but over time I’ve learned my Bhaal essence feeds on the anger, the rage, the… pleasure that comes from taking the life of someone you hate.”
Seeing Jaheira flinch involuntarily, the fighter paused to squeeze the druid’s hand and smile reassuringly. “Remember, this is all in the past Jaheira, sitting here with you… I… well… hurting you is the last thing I would ever want to do.”
“I know.” the druid answered, offering a small smile in return. “It is still a difficult thing to hear… and to accept.”
“You should try it from in here.” Jover said lightly as he tapped the side of his head. “You know how I joke about all the voices I hear? Well, that night was the first time I really experienced it. Besides Bhaal, who was by far the most dominate, Shar still had a small presence in my mind, whispering promises of help. And buried beneath all that was me, or what was left of me, trapped like drowning man. It was such a helpless feeling, not being able to control my own actions. I could feel my body turn away from Vic and start walking back to camp, my fist clenching the hilt of my sword, it was like… I can’t describe it other than to say it’s not something I would wish on anyone.” the fighter’s smile had faded away as he spoke of the dark memories, but reappeared as Jaheira returned the reassuring hand squeeze to encourage him.
“But to answer your question.” Jover continued, “What stopped me that night was Viconia, her connection with me through Shar allowed her to know what exactly what was happening. At first she tried to help me by using her cleric powers, prayer’s meant to hold me, fortify my willpower, dominate me… none of it worked, so she went back to the basics.” The fighter leaned sideways and lifted his shirt to reveal a scar between two upper ribs on his left side.
“She tried to kill you…” Jaheira breathed as she examined the long healed dagger wound near his heart.
“If Vic wanted me dead I wouldn’t be here, and she wouldn’t have healed me afterward.” Jover said calmly. “Viconia did the only thing she could to stop me, to stop Bhaal... and I’m glad she did, if I had started killing that night…” the fighter’s voice trailed off, and the two friends were quiet for a time, each lost in their own thoughts of what would have happened.
“If… after that… if you were again in control of yourself why did you run away?” Jaheira asked breaking the silence, “Did you not think of how leaving that way hurt your friends? Imoen cried for the first week that you were gone, and cursed you like a dwarf for the second. And my Khalid was beside himself with worry that the Drow had spirited you away to some cruel fate.”
“What about you?” Jover asked, lightly. “Any tears for my being gone.”
“Tears?! For a man who lived only to aggravate me? Hardly!” Jaheira said with anger before catching herself and smiling wryly at the fighter’s taunt. “I will admit to being a bit concerned…but only for Imoen and Khalid’s sake.”
“I … I’ll regret hurting them till the day I’m dust, but after Vic healed me it was all I could do to hold the Bhaal part of me inside. If I had seen Khalid or you then….” Jover stopped abruptly. “I left because I didn’t want to murder anyone… I know we have to kill sometimes, but the taking of life, any life...”
“Must never become something that we take only pleasure from.” Jaheira finished approvingly. “It appears you were educated from the same book that I once studied. That you remembered this in your disturbed state, and choose to leave shows how well Gorion raised you.”
“A boy couldn’t ask for a better father, bless him.” Jover said, smiling once again until he saw Jaheira’s eyes grow wide in shock.
“By Silvanus!” the druid exclaimed.
“What?! What’s wrong?!” Jover asked every nerve suddenly on edge.
“I just realized… I owe my life to that… Drow!” Jaheira said aghast.
“Heh, heh! What ever you do, don’t go trying to thank her for it, Viconia wouldn’t appreciate the reminder any more than you.” Jover said laughing as he relaxed once more. “Besides her motives that night had nothing to do with anyone but me and her.”
“Yes.” Jaheira said in an irritated tone, “I recall how quickly she became… close to you after we rescued her from that solider.”
“I rescued her.” Jover corrected, “You and Khalid were off hunting, and Immy was asleep when Vic came stumbling into our camp.”
“That explains only why she would feel some loyalty to you.” Jaheira said, “Your own… attachment to such a coldhearted and vindictive being as her, remains a mystery to me.”
“I’m not blind to her faults Jaheira, I know Viconia can be cruel, but that’s how she was raised. Some of the things she’s told me of her life in the Underdark make my Bhaal nightmares seem tame by comparison.” Jover said. “That’s also why she was able to help me during the month we spent away from the group. Vic knows what it’s like to be hunted simply because you exist, and she knows how to deal with the darkness within.”
“That is because she embraces it, and revels in the misery she creates.” Jaheira said coldly. “As you said yourself the Drow is her own woman, to resume your… to have her as your consort will only…”
“Consort?” Jover repeated, “I haven’t ‘consorted’ with anyone since… well, it was before I learned what I was. What gave you…”
“Everything!” the druid interrupted with a shout. “The two of you shared a tent after your return and what that Drow said to me made it explicitly clear you and she were…” Jaheira stopped speaking as she saw Jover trying to hide the mirth her words were now causing him. Taking a tight hold of his shirt collar in both hands, she pulled his face near hers and spoke in a clipped tone. “What Is So Blasted Amusing?!”
“Oh gods… please don’t get angry again…, please.” Jover pleaded, unable to keep from grinning as his sides twitched with barely suppressed laughter. “You’ve been very understanding so far… and I’d forgotten about this part of...”
“Tell Me!” Jaheira ordered, giving the fighter a shake.
“Think about it Jaheira, when I came back to the group I didn’t want to murder you anymore, but I was still mad at you.” Jover said, with nervous laughter as he awaited the druid’s reaction. “And you know what they say about paybacks.”
As Jaheira’s mind placed all of these new events in their proper order, the druid realized that she had been played for a fool on a grander scale than she would have ever believed possible. Her expression shifting from anger to disbelief and back again, she tightened her grip on Jover’s shirt and roughly shoved the fighter backward pinning him on the bed.
“You and that Drow! Your entire relationship was a lie!... And Imoen! You told her of your heritage as well didn’t you!” Jaheira accused, as she saw the entirety of the prank that had been performed, and glared even more angrily after the fighter’s affirmative nod. “All of those months filled with her questions and seemingly innocent comments that I was forced to fend off, to protect what I believed was still the secret of your birth!”
“Carefully planned just to drive you crazy.” Jover confirmed, wishing that he could stop himself from grinning up at the furious druid, who was now kneeling over him. “Immy was peeved at you for lying to me, and Vic..., well Viconia likes to play with people’s heads, especially yours, and… and you did lie to me first.”
“Of all the contemptible… deceitful… manipulative… low down… dirty tricks!” Jaheira said loudly and shook the fighter with each word, never seeing the door that opened behind her.
“I thought I heard sweet words of endearment.” Viconia said as she entered. “Speak on half-breed, your seductive tone is almost making me homesick.”
“Get out!” Jaheira snarled over her shoulder as she continued to throttle Jover. “I shall deal with you later Drow!”
Viconia only smiled at the threat and walked to the foot of the bed for a closer view. “You will not find me as submissive as this pitiful jaluk, but I look forward to your attempt.”
“Then you shall have it now!” Jaheira said, as she released the fighter and tensed to leap at Viconia, but was stopped short as Jover managed to catch her by the wrists.
“Ladies please…” Jover began as he struggled trying to sit up and maintain his hold on the thrashing druid. His efforts to rise however were quickly stopped when Jaheira placed her knee against his chest and forcefully pushed him back down.
“Jover! Jover!” Aerie exclaimed as she rushed into the room and skidded to a stop near Viconia. The Avariel’s mouth fell open as she looked at Jover and Jaheira entangled on the bed, then at the Drow casually watching them. “W..what’s going on?”
“An adult… situation, now take your guard dog and run along girl.” Viconia said in an amused tone, as she saw Minsc’s huge form fill the doorway.
“I.. I’m not a girl! I.. I’m a woman!” Aerie said with all the pride she possessed. “J..just as much as either of you!”
Viconia and Jaheira were both about to answer that challenge when Korgan pushed past Minsc’s legs. “Out o the way ye bleedin’ giant.” the dwarf said as he entered and took in the scene. “Damnation longlimb tell tha’ tree hugger to let ye up! I got us another job on the line and yer gonna like this one. It’s…”
“No! M..my mine’s more important!” Aerie interrupted loudly in a desperate bid to be heard. “It’s for m..my uncle Quayle! Oh, Jover we have t..to help his friend!”
“All right I…” Jover said as he tried to peer around the irate druid that was now half-sitting on his chest.
“You be silent!” Jaheira hissed, pushing down harder on the fighter. Then, wrenching her hands free the druid pointed at the door and spoke to the others in her most commanding voice. “OUT! Jover will attend to your concerns in the morning, but tonight he is mine! Now leave or I will personally see that each of you regret it… if you live!”
Minsc turned quickly and left without speaking, followed by Korgan muttering curses about pushy tree huggers. Aerie was next to leave, but only after a reluctant glance at Jover and a pause near the door to say a heartfelt goodnight to the fighter that pointedly ignored the druid and Drow, who were left staring at one another.
“Well done half-breed.” Viconia said, clapping her hands in mocking applause. “Truly, a performance worthy of any Matron Mother, the way you made them cower…”
“Viconia.” Jover interrupted, but wisely did not try to move this time. “Tomorrow... please?”
“Ah abbil, what am I to do with you? You know the effect your gentle tongue has always had on my… will, yet you would allow this elg’caress to shame me.” Viconia said coolly, as she considered the thought, then with a quick swirl of her cleric’s robes and white hair moved gracefully to the door. “I shall allow the insult to pass… this time, but only because a night with the mongrel will serve to remind you of the finer things you once experienced.”
After the door had shut once more, the only sound heard for some time was the quiet drumming of Jaheira’s fingers on her knee which was still very near Jover’s throat. The fighter found himself watching those fingers apprehensively as he waited for whatever the druid would say or do to him.
“Are you certain nothing took place between you and that Drow?” Jaheira asked tersely, shifting her position on his chest to lean over and look the fighter directly in his eyes.
“I’m pretty sure I would remember that.” Jover said far too lightly and immediately regretted it as he saw the druid’s anger begin to build once more. “No Jaheira, there’s been nothing between Viconia and me except friendship.” he added quickly. “I’ll tell her tomorrow that the game is over and that you know everything.”
“You will do no such thing!” Jaheira ordered, as she slid off Jover’s chest to sit at his side. “If that Drow is still intent on making me miserable, then I shall gladly return the favor and this time you shall assist me.”
“I shall?” Jover asked uncertain what he had been volunteered for, and received a glare from the druid in answer.
“I mean, yes. Yes I shall!” the fighter corrected himself with a smile at Jaheira.
“Much better, and see that you remember that phrase.” Jaheira said, as she stood and offered Jover her hand. “Now come, I believe you said something about being hungry and if we are to make this cursed group you have assembled work, we shall both need all our strength.”
“You’re forgiving me? Jover asked looking uncertainly at the druid’s outstretched hand. “Just like that?”
“Do you not trust me?” Jaheira asked challengingly, as she arched a delicate eyebrow.
“Completely.” Jover answered without hesitation, and clasping her hand stood quickly.
“Which proves that some fools never learn.” Jaheira said, flashing a wolfish grin as she squeezed Jover’s hand hard enough to make the fighter wince. “Remember your words about ‘paybacks’ my foolish man, and know that your time will come… after the Drow.”
“And people say you haven’t got a sense of humor.” Jover teased with a warm smile.
With a matching smile of her own Jaheira started to release his hand and turn away, only to be surprised when Jover kept holding her hand and then pulled her a step closer. As she faced him once again she saw the fighter pause to look deeply into her green eyes before speaking.
“Jaheira, I want you to know that I’m sorry… for everything.” Jover said sincerely, as he used his free hand to smooth the druid’s hair, which had become tangled during their struggle. “And if you want Viconia to leave... or any of the others, then that’s how it’ll be. You’re the one I… that I… that I depend on. And that is the truth.”
“I… despite my words… I… also… I find you to be… dependable as well.” Jaheira said haltingly, deeply affected by the honest emotion shining in the fighter's eyes. Quickly looking away from Jover’s gaze she pulled her hand free of his now gentle grasp and focused instead on straightening his mangled shirt collar. “Though this talk has been difficult, I believe that now with all of our deceptions out in the open, we are much stronger for it. I… I mean our friendship is…”
“I understood you.” Jover said smiling that Jaheira’s nervousness matched his own. “Maybe for the first time… we can both understand.” offering his arm to the druid, he led her towards the door. “Let's go downstairs 'friend', I’ll buy us dinner and we’ll sample some of the Five Flagon’s famous collection.”
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