Jump to content


Member Since 30 Apr 2000
Offline Last Active Nov 12 2018 08:57 PM

Topics I've Started

TnT 254: Gimme the Prize (series finale)

07 January 2017 - 05:37 PM

Hello everyone.


This is it. This is the final chapter of TnT. The story I started way back in 2001 now finally sees its completion. It's a weird feeling and, to be honest, there were times when I thought TnT would never be finished. But, here it is. The final chapter. I want to thank everyone who stuck with me over the years, old readers and new. It's been a wild ride.


Of course, I'm not done with Laska yet. I'm still posting updated chapters at fanfiction.net and I'm planning a series of vignettes which will serve as an epilogue for the main story as it will chronicle parts of Laska's life afterwards. Those will need some work yet, so look for those around February (yes, in this year or 'current year'  as the meme goes. :) )


Without further ado, I hope you'll enjoy the last chapter of TnT


Edit: And it turned out the chapter was too long to post. I'll just add a second post to this topic.



Tankards and Tempers

Chapter 254: Gimme the Prize


When Laska opened her eyes, she was no longer in the cathedral. Instead, she stood on a circular platform which was floating high above the cathedral. The bright green platform seemed to pulsate under her feet, as if it was alive and breathing. Three smaller platforms floated alongside the larger platform, a stream of white energy being siphoned in what seemed to be some sort of raised crystal platform in the middle, high enough to be out of reach.


Far above them, the gathered Bhaal essence turned over their heads in a deceptively calm manner. But looks were quite deceiving; the energy raged and thundered, eager for release. Laska no longer felt the pull on her spirit. Instead, she felt herself pulling the power towards her. It wanted to be with her. It wanted to be part of her so badly; To be whole again. Next to her, Sendai, Imoen and maybe even Sarevok were feeling the same thing. She could tell from their expressions.


However, it was hard to miss the elephant in the room; Melissan. She stood with her back to the party, quickly chanting. She wore a long brown robe and a feathered hood while a staff was attached to her back by manner of a series of belts. Most strikingly were two oversized metal gloves covering her hand and fore-arms. During her chant, Melissan raised her gloves high. The Bhaal essence reacted violently to it, sending arcs of green lighting from the maelstrom of power into the metal and into her body. Melissan let out an almost orgasmic scream as the power assimilated into her body. So far, the woman hadn't noticed her.


“Hey!” Laska called out. No reaction.


“HEY!” Laska tried again, this time after picking up a small stone and throwing at her. Melissan let out a slight gasp as the pebble hit the back of her head.


The woman spun around with fire in her eyes. “WHO DARES... Oh,” her eyes widened in surprise when she found the seven opponents standing there. “Oh my, this is so precious! You are all here to witness my ascension to godhood! Truly, a performer is nothing without an audience.”


“I'm not here to be entertained by you, Melissan!” Laska snarled. “This ends today!”


“This ends today?” Melissan threw her head back and let out a loud cackle. “Such a cliche. You are such a precious creature, little elf.”


Her gaze turned upward, to the gathered Bhaal essence. “Beautiful, isn't it? The Great Wheel, my former god named it. Ever turning. Such concentrated power in one place. Of course, it would be even grander if you hadn't messed up my plan and let the minor Bhaalspawn die along with the rest of Saradush. It would be time for you and Sendai to finally lay down your lives. Between the two of you, you account for almost one fourth of Bhaal's essence. But I think that is a problem that will solve itself soon, hm?”


“Melissan,” Laska called out. “We're here on behalf of the crown of Tethyr, on behalf of all the people who fell to your machinations. You're coming with us, either in chains or in a body-bag! But I really hope it's the latter.”


“If it is, you can carry it back to the palace,” Viconia muttered under her breath.


“Precious,” grinned Melissan. “And you've played your part so well, Laska Leafwalker. I know the Five would eventually descend on each other. It was inevitable. You've been the... problem solver I sought. There was no way I could lose. Either the Five killed you and then each other while freeing up your energy. Or you'd kill the Five and make their energy available to me.”


“Your ruse was clever, human,” Viconia nodded. “But are you sure you have all angles covered? You boast about your victory, yet we are here ready to tear you down!”


“Bah!” Melissan raised her chin in the air. “What can you do? I am becoming a Living God! Can you truly stand against me! I will crush you like bugs! I will tear you to shreds! I will become so exalted that the world will finally truly love me for the great artist I am!”


Jan glanced at Laska, turning his finger along the side of his head. “Cuckoo...” he muttered.


And you, little Sendai,” Melissan laughed. “I must congratulate you. I never expected you to be the Five's final survivor. Truth be told, you were always meant to die. You were my contingency if the Five were to turn upon me instead of each other. Your body contains enough essence for me to have gained the upper hand. It's ironic that lived when the others didn't. You… pathetic… whimpering… little… useless…”


A crack sounded as a small rock collided against Melissan's forehead. The ex-priestess was utterly stunned for a moment, until she brought up her metal gloves and let out an agonized cry. Unfortunately, the sharp metal of the gloves did further damage by cutting up her face on her cheeks.


Sendai stood defiantly, having thrown the stone. “I am not afraid of you anymore!” she shouted in a voice louder than the party has ever heard. “I want a life of my own! And you're not going to stand in my way any longer!”


“HAR HAR!” Korgan laughed. “Well done, lass!”


Viconia gave Sendai an appraising look. “Seems like our little weakling has found her spine.”


“Well done, sis!” Imoen raved.


By now, Sarevok had had enough. The hulking warrior took a step forward. “It's not going to work, you know?” he spoke calmly. “The power will not obey you. It never will. Even the little power you have absorbed struggles to escape you.”


“Lies!” snarled Melissan as she raised her staff high, only to have it struck by more green lighting. It surged through her, her eyes glowing bright green. “I AM A GOD!”


“Bhaal was a god too,” Laska challenged, pointing her sword at her. “More god than you are. And he certainly died.”


Melissan looked ready to jump down to confront them. She stood at the edge, smirking down at them, assured of her victory.


“Enough! DOOM AWAITS THEE… gurk!” A rage-filled battlecry caught in her throat and died on her lips as a bloody gurgle. Crimson fluid spurt from her mouth. In sheer disbelief and pain, Melissan looked down to see the bloodied tip of a serrated bajonet sticking out of her chest. Red, warm blood quickly started to spread out through her brown robe.


The party could only watch in stunned silence as a familiar huntress was stood behind the now dying Melissan. The huntress hooked an arm around Melissan's neck as the ex-priestess was already starting to go weak in the knees.


“Well, well, well...” sounded the huntress. “Look who we have here.”


“Illasera? I… I…” Melissan gasped, choking on the blood now dripping from her mouth. “This is... this is not...”


“Illasera?!” Laska blinked. “But you are...”


“Obviously not dead,” Viconia rolled her eyes.


“Tsk, tsk,” Illasera grinned, ignoring the bickering and posturing of the party below. This was her moment, something she'd been waiting for since meeting Melissan. They would not ruin this. “You were never meant to claim the power. You never could. Only a true child of Bhaal can claim it. It will never answer to you.”


“No. No, I am the puppet master! I am in control! It was I who set it in motion!” Melissan held out her arms to the sickeningly green energy revolving above her around an unseen pillar. Her expression went from determination to desperation. “No... No... it won't answer me. It won't heal my wound!”


Illasera pressed her cheek against that of Melissan, grinning a wicked toothy grin. “Ssssh. Sssshh. It'll all be over soon. I thank you for your efforts. But your role has been played out. It is time for the actress to take a bow and exit, stage left.”


Tears started to roll over Melissan's cheeks. “You can’t… you can’t just… No. Not... like this. Not like this!”


“Awww,” Illasera mock-pouted. “You are just… TEARING ME APART, Melissan!”


There was a flash of anger in her eyes when being mocked with the now infamous line from her ill-fated masterpiece of a play. But she knew it was over. Melissan cried out in agony when Illasera violently withdrew the bajonet and let it slide back into her crossbow. The ex-priestess slumped to her knees in utter defeat.


Illasera spoke calmly, her face grim. “On your way, then. Onward to oblivion.”


With inhuman speed and strength, Illasera grabbed Melissan by the robe and threw her into the air. Melissan's scream of terror was violently cut short the moment she touched the Great Wheel. Her body was instantly shredded and the Great Wheel turned blood red for a few seconds as every cell of her body was evenly spread out through the thunderous divine energy.


Finally, Illasera turned her ire on the party below. Those who would defy her. “And here we are, Laska. Child against Child, as it was always meant to be.”


“Give up, Illasera. It’s seven against one,” Laska shouted, her swords drawn.


A snarl broke through her porcelain mask. “HAH! Unlike you, I’ve made every effort to study the lore. I know how to manipulate every molecule of this place! I know how to wield the power of the Great Wheel! Though I agree, seven against one is rather unfair. Let’s even the odds.”


Illasera winked before she jerked her chin to one side. At that moment, the flapping of huge leathery wings was heard as a familiar dragon slowly rose towards the platform. Blinded in one eye, Draconis now quite resembled his father; more muscular than he used to be, with spikes jutting out of his flesh. The one-eyed dragon let his baleful eye roam over the platform, eager for revenge. “Enter the dragon!” Draconis roared, opening his maw to release a massive jet of flame.


The party dove in separate directions, with Imoen yelping and hurriedly raising up a magic shield to protect herself and Sendai from the searing dragonfire. Laska dove to one side, rolled over the ground and jumped to her feet swords in hand. The dragon, at least, had gotten much smarter. He hovered away from the platform, flapping his wings to stay in place where the party's stronger melee fighters couldn't get to him while getting ready to bathe the platform in flames once more.


A second jet of flame shot out at those who could get to him; the spellcasters and archers. Before Jan could get a shot in with his crossbow, he was forced to run to avoid having his arse set on fire. Draconis dropped more fire to keep them from retaliating, while an insane cackle could only mean one thing; Illasera had entered the fray.


Sarevok was the first to raise his sword to try to swipe at her. Illasera was took quick and too strong, however. With inhuman speed, she collided with him, sending him hurtling to the ground as if he were a piece of tissue paper. With crossbow in hand, she zipped across the battlefield harassing the fighters, toying with them before the kill.


Korgan let out a yell of frustration as the huntress either deftly sidestepped him, or parried his axe with the extended bajonet of her crossbow. “Stand still, ye bloody grasshopper!” Korgan roared, just before being treated to a crossbow stock to the face delivered with inhuman strength.


Meanwhile, Laska's ranged friends weren't doing much better. Even spread out, Draconis moved quickly and on this platform there was precious little in the way of cover. Jan, Imoen, Sendai and Viconia were too scattered to form a proper like of defense. Meanwhile, Illasera was making life difficult for everybody.


“She’s completely crazed!” yelled Sarevok as the huntress zipped back and forth between him and Laska, before eventually focusing his attention on the tattooed elf.


“You!” Illasera snarled as she slammed her bajonet onto Laska's crossed blades. “You cut off my fingers!”


“You seem to have gotten better!” Laska said as she felt the strain on her wrists from the force of the blow. Laska was no stranger to fighting strong opponents, but this was something else; Illasera seemed to move as a blur, and Laska found that parrying her attacks became increasingly difficult, both to deflect and to predict.


The tattooed elf let out a yelp when she felt a boot connect to her jaw. There was blood in her mouth when she was sent crashing into the floor, only rolling away from the serrrated bajonet at the last moment before Laska could become a permanent fixture to the platform.


Then, it was Viconia who struck first blood on Draconis. The drow took up a position near the center of the platform as a disk of destructive magical energy formed in her hand. Instantly the disk shoot towards the dragon, slicing through scales and embedding itself deep into the dragon's flesh. Draconis howled in pain and frantically looked around whom had injured him. Viconia, emboldened by her first strike, got ready to throw another one when she saw a glint from the corner of her eye.


Instinctively raising her shield saved her life; the drow was knocked backwards as a crossbow-bolt penetrated her shield, piercing the magical steel and knocking her down. Over the edge of her shield, she saw an enraged Illasera taking aim once more.


Laska came to the rescue, however. The elf let out a yell as she jumped into the air with both swords pointing downwards, hoping to land onto Illasera and impaling her from the back. Illasera was, unfortunately, way ahead of her. As the elf approached, the huntress swung around her axis and was prepared. Laska didn't even have time to yelp as Illasera treated her to a vicious uppercut while she was still in the air.


Laska let out a whimper as she was sent flying backwards and landed on her back, near one of the smaller platforms, where she lay groaning as she drifted in and out of consciousness.


Korgan suffered the same fate, being kicked right into Sarevok and sending both fighters into a heap.


However, those fighting the dragon were having considerably more luck, as Imoen had found out something crucial. “He's blind in one eye!” shouted the pink-haired mage. “Shoot him from his blind side!”


Imoen and her friends did just that. Sendai approached him from his blind side and hit him in the neck with a devastating spell which exploded against his scales. The dragon roared in agony and sought out the culprit, but to do so it had to turn his entire body in mid-air, giving the three friends an opening to attack him from the other side. Spells, bolts and arrows collided with Draconis' belly, causing blood to spew forth. The dragon roared and retaliated with fire, but due to lack of proper depth perception, his aim was way off and the jet of flame overshot Jan by a country mile.


“AH!” sounded Illasera as she was effectively singed. “WATCH IT, YOU IDIOT!”


“HELP ME, YOU FOOL!” Draconis roared. “Keep them off my back!”


“Oh, poo,” Jan laughed. “Trouble in paradise? Might I suggest couples counseling?”


Illasera let out a snarl as she pressed the attack. “BE QUIET, YOU HORRIBLE LITTLE MAN!”


Meanwhile, a groaning Laska forced her aching body to cooperate as she tried to get to her feet. Illasera had knocked her about something fierce and she knew she had to get back into the fight. She sensed something near; something which begged her to come closer and taste of it. Near her, between the larger and smaller platform, was a stream of greenish Bhaal essence. The tattooed elf understood now; the platform was a like a fountain of divine energy. The smaller platform collected the energy fallen out of the Great Wheel and funneled it back into the fountain of power through the central crystal.


The tattooed elf felt the power, it almost whispered in her head. And she knew she had to take it.


The elf crawled to the edge of the platform and lowered her hand to dip into the violent stream. Laska had to admit to herself that sticking her arm in potentially violent streams of divine power was probably not the smartest thing she had ever done, especially after witnessing what it had done to Melissan, but the moment her hand dipped into the power...


Power. Raw unadulterated power entered her body, sending little shocks through her as she shuddered from sheer orgasmic delight. This was a better buzz that Cormyrian firewhiskey. This was a bigger rush than the most dangerous fights she had ever been in. This was more pleasurable than the best sex she had ever had in her life. Pleasure, power and anger washed over her in equal measure as she was energized as no way before. She felt like she could take on the world and win. She felt as if she could tear Illasera apart with her bare hands! And that was exactly what she was going to do.


She moved as if time herself had slowed. Illasera's bolts looked as if they were moving with the speed of the average tortoise. Draconis' flapping wings almost stood still as the sails of a clipper. The words coming out of her friends' mouth sounded slowed. Illasera had no idea what awaited her. This time, the huntress wasn't fast enough.


Oh, Illasera did notice her. And she did fire a bolt at her. But it simple wouldn't do her any good. The bolt moved so slow that Laska simply threw a sword at it to knock it out of the air. She would tear her apart!


Laska rammed a fist into Illasera's jaw, sending the huntress flying backward. Immediately, the tattooed elf was upon her, straddling her and raining blow after blow upon her. Illasera tried to get her crossbow in, but screamed as Laska clamped a hand around her wrist and squeezed. With her free fist, she kept punching and punching. A sickening crack sounded as the huntress' nose and left eyesocket were cruelly broken.


Suddenly, Laska's power started to fade as the buzz was starting to wear off. A moment's hesitation was all Illasera needed to chuck the elf off her body. The huntress snarled as rivers of blood ran from her nose. Blinded by the pain, she jumped upwards, onto the center of the platform.


“DRACONIS!” shouted Illasera. “Stop her! Stop her from getting to the other platforms!”


“Ah!” Laska laughed at her. “So I need to get to the other platforms! Thanks for the helpful info!”


“AAAHHHH!” Illasera cried in denial when she started to raise her arms to draw more power from the Great Wheel. The tattooed elf knew that she was on the clock now; the moment Illasera was ready drawing the power, she'd have the upper hand again and Laska was now about to let that happen. She scooped up her swords and ran to the next platform.


Unfortunately, it was there that Draconis landed. Apparently having had enough of his own bad aim, Draconis decided to use a tactic which was sure to work. He extended his wings and started flapping forward vigorously. The hot Gehenna air was sent towards them as if it were a wall. Though Sarevok managed to stand his ground, the lighter elf was sent skidding over the platform towards the edge and managed to grab hold of a crease in the organically shaped floor.


The others weren't faring much better. Jan and Sendai had managed to duck behind the central pillar, while Viconia managed to grab hold of the stronger Sarevok's leg.


Korgan and Imoen were not so lucky and caught the full brunt of the wing buffet. Both of them were sent helplessly into the air, hurtling towards the edge. The moment she saw the cathedral below her, Imoen knew that she had been blown over the edge. If there was nothing for her to grab, this would be the end of her. So she started grabbing desperately for anything... anything that would keep her from falling to her death.


Her hand clamped around something coarse and greasy, like a really fat rope. Beggars couldn't be choosers, though, especially when hanging over the side of a cliff. Imoen clasped her bow to her back and got ready climb back up. When she looked towards the platform, she was both horrified and amused to see that she had firmly clasped her hand around Korgan's beard. The dwarf himself had grabbed hold of a spike jutting out from the side of the platform, while his free hand firmly held his beloved axe.


“Ye!” Korgan gasped. “Ye never be tellin' anyone 'bout this. Nay ever!”


Imoen stifled a giggle, but considered she wasn't in any position to complain.


When Viconia's head popped over the side of the platform, Imoen caught a moment of intense fear in her eyes; but when their eyes locked, fear made way for instant relief. That made Imoen smile, even in this insane situation; for Imoen knew that it was the closest Viconia would ever come to telling her she loved her without being asleep or drunk.


While Sarevok and Viconia were helping Korgan and Imoen back into the platform, Sendai and Jan stuck to the central pillar. Draconis eyes them, of course, but he couldn't breathe fire on them without harming Illasera. That was a tactical advantage both were eager to exploit.


“Any plans, your worship?” said Jan while raising his crossbow. “Or we could just needle it to death like uncle Slamis did with his bedbugs.”


“No,” said Sendai, as she eyed back and forth between Laska getting to her feet and Illasera above them still in a trance while drawing more power from the Great Wheel. “I think... I can draw power from this place too.”


The little drow narrowed her eyes as she raised her arms to the heavens. Almost instantly, the drow was raised from the ground as arching green lighting shot from the Bhaal essence above into her body. The energy swirled around her as Sendai whispered her spell. Of course, Draconis could recognize bad news when he saw it and tried to risk flaming Illasera alongside Sendai. Thankfully, Jan was quick to cast some protection of his own, shielding both himself and the casting Sendai.


The arcane words Sendai uttered were becoming more and more intense as power surged within and around her. Sendai's form darkened and glowed a bright red as she yelled out the final words.


Instantly, Draconis was bombarded with a combination of magical meteors, storms, lighting, acid and even a spell of horrid wilting. The entire platform shook and trembled from the sheer impact as the dragon roared in agony and denial.


“A contingency!” Jan nodded appreciatively. “Well done.”


“Only one... I... had...” Sendai gasped as she did her best to maintain the Bhaal-essence powered spells as long as possible.


Suddenly, a crossbow-bolt buried itself deeply into Sendai's chest. The tiny drow yelled out in surprise as the spells were interrupted and she fell to the ground on all fours, moaning in pain. Jan could only counter-attack to prevent the now invigorated Illasera from finishing her off. Though the gnome had no illusions as he well knew that the wound was mortal.


“SENDAI!” Imoen yelled out in denial.


Meanwhile, the dragon himself staggered and dazed from the impact of the spells. His wings were shattered, bloodied flesh hung from his limbs as most of his scales had been seared from his flesh. Most insultingly of all, the attack had cost him his other eye. Draconis groaned and staggered about.


“Get rid of this bum!” Korgan roared as he and Sarevok rushed towards the dragon and started hacking at his legs.


“Push him over the edge!” Sarevok said as Laska joined in. Together, they hacked at his legs to herd him towards the edge. Draconis, of course, tried resisting by randomly breathing fire or slashing his claws about, but it was too no avail.


Meanwhile, Viconia was tending to the fallen Sendai while Imoen and Jan were playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Illasera to keep the enraged huntress distracted long enough to give the others time to get rid of Draconis.


“HAH!” Jan said as he rushed around the battlefield under the effects of a haste spell. The nimble gnome was fleet of feet and quick of aim as Illasera's bolts missed their targets again and again. “Your aim is worse that Golodon the unmanned! And he was blind!”


“You will pay, gnome! Horrible little man!”


“Neener, neener, neener!” Imoen made a funny face before making Illasera's central platform shake with a spell of her own to throw her aim off further.


Back at the dragon, Laska, Sarevok and Korgan were combining their massive strength to give Draconis the final push. One leg went over and the dragon lost his footing. Draconis dug his claw into the platform as he struggled to get a grip on the platform. By now, all that was keeping him on the platform was that one claw. Laska and her friends shared a look. Two longswords, a greatsword and an axe bore down onto the dragon's toes.


After some creative nailclipping, the dragon slid over the edge, roaring as he did so. Laska and her friends looked over the edge just in time to see Draconis failing to fly with shredded wings. His heavy body crashed into the roof of the cathedral, sending stone and bone flying as he fell right through. Even this high up, the thud of his landing was easily heard. When the dust settled, they could see Draconis' broken and unmoving body lying on the stone floor of the cathedral.


That tattooed elf didn't hesitate and ran straight for the next small platform. She dove to the ground and quickly dipped her hand into the stream to absorb even more Bhaal essence.


Instant sensory overload!


She almost regretted standing up as she immediately went weak in the knees. The power washed over her in waves of unending pleasure. When the spots in front of her eyes faded, she became acutely aware that she was moaning in a rather embarrassingly sexual manner.


“Are you alright?” Sarevok asked.


“Hah,” Laska laughed to herself. “Other than that this Bhaal essence really makes me want to fuck someone, I'm fine.”


“Ugh,” Sarevok could barely mask his distaste. “Leave me alone. Korgan's right over there if you need to sate your urges.”


“Ey?” Korgan frowned.


There was no time for idle chit-chat. By now, an enraged Illasera had felt that Laska had drawn more power and raised her hands to the heavens once more. The energy from the Great Wheel started to churn right before bringing down tendrils of destructive force down upon the platform. Instinctively, Laska willed her own powers to shield her friends from the destructive onslaught. When the storm finally passed, Illasera look down upon them.


“Have you met the Yugoloth? The denizens of this plane?” Illasera grinned as she stood on top of the throne. “There's a Mezzoloth hive nearby. Don’t worry. They’d sure love to meet you!”


Instantly, dozens and dozens of jet black bipedal humanoid insects appeared on the platform. With glowing red eyes and gaping maws, thick chitinous hides and magical weapons in their four arms, the tall bugs looked like a true menace. And Illasera was summoning more and more and more.


Still fueled by the rage of Bhaal, Laska tore into them with both swords, sending bits of insect and insect limbs flying. Sarevok and Korgan weren't far behind, as especially Korgan was eager to finally sink his axe into something living. The bugs were fighting back, however, and were blocking Laska's approach to the final platform.


As the fight was raging on the other side of the platform, Viconia was hard at work on Sendai while Imoen shielded them from Illasera's attacks, as well as any Mezzoloth which dared to stray close to them.


Sendai lay on her back as she coughed up blood. The bolt was still sticking out of her chest as blood was slicking her robes.


“Vic?” Imoen dared asked right after she blasted a bug off the platform with a gust of wind.


The drow looked at her grimly. “She's not going to make it.”


“What?!” Imoen sniffed. “No. No! That's not fair. We've only just met her.”


“Life isn't fair,” said Viconia as Sendai coughed. The drow put her weapon to one side and drew a dagger from her belt.


“What are you doing?” Imoen demanded.


Viconia looked at her for a moment. “She's suffering,” said Viconia. “And we can't tarry here too long. I will end her pain and we will join the fight. If we linger here and lose the day, her death will mean nothing.”


Sendai shuddered, coughing up more blood as she muttered unintelligible words. With her final breath, she grabbed Viconia by the wrist, preventing the drow from cutting her jugular. Viconia gasped as tremendous power flowed into her from Sendai. Her healing magic increased in power tenfold. The drow knew what to do: she pressed both hands onto Sendai's chest and let the magic flow. The bolt was ejected from Sendai and landed on the platform with a satisfying clank. Torn muscle, shattered bone and ripped skin knitted together and closed. Sendai's unintelligible mumbling became clearer. “I want to live...” the small drow chanted. “I want to live. I want to live. I want to live. I want to live.”


Viconia grabbed her by the chin. “You are alive,” said the drow. “I am impressed by your will, young one.”


Sendai sat up, her robe still torn and bloody, but otherwise alive.


“Yay!” Imoen smiled and hugged her fiercely.


“Nice,” said Viconia. “Now how about we take out our anger on some bugs?”


“Illasera,” Sendai snarled. “I want to end her!”


“That's the spirit,” grinned Viconia.


By the time the three friends joined the fight, there were already countless black bug-like creatures on the platform, shrieking and chittering as they attacked anything in sight. Laska let out a yell as she tore into the chitinous horde, still strengthened by the power of Bhaal. She bisected one of the screeching bugs as she got closer and closer to the third and final pool, its slathering torso falling to the ground. By now, however, she was starting to feel the heat; Illasera was summoning more and more bug-men and they surrounded her at all sides. Laska let out a laugh as she twirled around her axis with her swords out like a ballerina of death. She sliced through limbs, torsos and heads with equal measure. But for for every bug fallen, there was always another one. Korgan, more near the back, was having a whale of a time chopping up the insects, spreading their goo all over the ground. Sarevok's laugh could be heard as he sliced his large sword through the horde like a reaper.


Piles and piles of dead bug-men lay on the ground. Or semi-dead, as the dying bugs' limbs kept slashing out after death.


“There's no end to them!” Imoen yelled out while she tossed a fireball into the horde. The bugs burned and writhed, but still moved. “She keeps summoning more!”


“When she’s summoning more bugmen, she’s not shooting at us,” Jan said just as a bolt landed at his feet. “Yipes. Now she's summoning and shooting. Curse women for being so good at multi-tasking! Curse them, I say!”


“Argh!” Viconia yelped as she deflected an insect's swipe with her shield and retaliated with with her flail. Her job was to protect the spellcasters, but it was getting increasingly difficult. “I'm surprised none of us are dead yet!”


“I'm not!” returned Sendai just as she bombarded the bugs with another swarm of meteorites. “She’s a hunter. Best from the shadows. These are no shadows and we know where she is because we can SEE her.”


“Point is moot!” Viconia retaliated. “They might be weaklings, but they'll eventually overrun us!”


Among the slathering horde, Korgan raised axe high as he was about to bury it into the skull of an offending bug-man, when a crossbow bolt slammed through his arm at the elbow. The dwarf let out a vile curse, quickly switched his axe to his other hand as his arm hung limply as his side. “I really be 'avin' enough of that bitch with the bleedin' crossbow!” Korgan yelled as he quite literally took the legs out from under the attacking bug-man.


For Laska, who was way ahead into the horde, the final small platform was in sight. And not a moment too soon. The bugs were all around her, slashing and cutting at her. Though Laska was strong and killed the mezzoloths by the dozens, her body was starting to feel the strain. A bloody cut on her cheek had blood running down her face. Her armor had been pieced in several places all over her body, leaving small, but aching and bleeding wounds. Laska was starting to pant as pushing through this horde cost more and more energy. Sure, the power of Bhaal coursed through her veins like never before, but these wounds and the increasing fatigue were a painful reminder that she wasn't invincible by a long shot.


But now that she was so near the final pool, she felt re-invigorated. She let out a scream from the depths of her lungs. A bug-man shrieked in her face, only to be grabbed by a mandible, pushed to the ground and getting its head crushed underneath a steel-toed boot for its trouble. All which stood between was a huge mezzoloth with a spear.


The bug twirled his spear and held it over his head, getting ready to impale his elven opponent. This turned out to be a mistake, as Laska made use of the opening to swing a sword into a low arc and slice the bug's gullet open. The elf kicked a bug who tried to attack her from behind in the face, while she dropped her sword and grabbed the dying mezzoloth by the arms. With her great strength, she hoisted the huge mezzoloth over her head, showering herself with mucky white insect-goo. “DOWN YOU GO!” Laska snarled as she heaved and threw the screaming mezzoloth over the edge of the platform to fall to his gooey high-altitude death below.


The tattooed elf didn't hesitate and shot forward, sliding over the now blooded platform to dip her hand in the stream between the two platforms.


An orgasmic scream sounded as more and more power leeched into her body. She hissed through clenched teeth as she fell to her knees and trembled. Vaguely aware of the hissing bug-man approaching her from behind, she felt impelled to do something about them before she could stab her in the back. Instantly, she let out another scream as a wave of power emanated from her. The power rushed through the bugs, killing most of them outright and sending the rest careening over the edge. Laska fell to all fours, panting quietly as most bugs on her side of the platform were now dead. From the screeches and the sounds of battle going on, the fight was far from over. But at least, she had a moment to recover.


And she really did need a moment to recover. By now, Laska had absorbed as much power as her body could handle without bursting at the seems. There was heavy breathing as she tried to center herself. The power was rebellious and she had reached the limit of her control.


She became aware of Viconia kneeling next to her among the piles of dead insects. Soothing healing magic went through her body, taking care of the worst of her wounds.


“Vico,” Laska muttered. “If you come any closer with that soft hair, shapely body and throaty voice of yours, I’m likely to throw you onto that pile of dead bugs, tear the armor and clothes from your body and fuck the tits off of you.”


Viconia frowned. “Just like that? During the fight? At least it would be an interesting experience,” she shrugged.


Viconia and Laska shared a look, then smiled together. Smiles turned into a laughter.


However, there moment was cut shot when a whizzing bolt slammed right into Viconia’s left side, piercing the armor and her flesh. A look of surprise crossed the drow's features, followed by a look of abject annoyance.


“Vico!” Laska yelled as the drow collapsed to her knees. The tattooed elf quickly dragged her behind a pile of dead bugs and propped her up. Viconia grunted in pain and treated herself to some soothing healing magic. “Nothing vital,” hissed the drow. “Looks worse than it is. I’ll be fine. Go get the bitch!”


Laska grimaced and touched Viconia's shoulder. The elf gathered her swords and step onto the pile of dead bugs. The huntress still stood on the raised dais at the center of the platform, taking pot-shots at her friends. “Enough,” Laska hissed. “ENOUGH! ILLASERA!”


That got the huntress' attention. Naturally, seeing Laska standing out in the open made her an enticing target. A shot was taken at her, but Laska angrily swatted the bolt out of the air with her swords.


“Fall! Fall!” Illasera demanded, utterly frustrated that her shots weren't connecting.


The tattooed elf snarled and jumped up, launching herself towards Illasera with swords out. Propelled by the power of Bhaal, she jumped higher, longer and faster than was possible.


Three bolts slammed into Laska's abdomen, piercing her armor and her body. But the berserking elf didn't even notice, much to Illasera's dismay. Right before she landed, she steered a sword into a vicious horizontal arc. Her target was the crossbow and the force of the blow knocked the crossbow out of Illasera's hand while the tip of the blade sliced through her armor and clipped her breast. The huntress staggered backwards as the elf landed, and swiped at her opponent's legs with her other sword. Illasera had her legs swept down from under her and toppled onto the platform below.


Laska jumped down after her as the crossbow skidded over the edge of the platform. An enraged Illasera snarled as she drew two long daggers from her belt.


By now, both Laska and Illasera had absorbed so much divine power that they were both glowing green and energy crackled around them. Both were bleeding. Both were enraged. Both were wounded animals circling each other.


Laska narrowed her eyes. “One will stand,” the tattooed elf stated. “One will fall.”


Illasera laughed. “Why throw away your life so recklessly?”


Laska smirked. “That's a question you should ask yourself, Illasera.”


The huntress let out a scream and rushed at Laska. Daggers clashed against swords as the two Bhaalspawn were locked in a fight to the death.


By now, most of the Mezzoloth were either finished off or were avoiding any further fights. The party regrouped and gathered near where Laska and Illasera were fighting. Imoen held on to Viconia as the injured drow limped next to her. All of them were haggard, tired and wounded. Sendai herself, not used to combat, looked ready to fall over.


“We should help her!” Imoen yelled.


“Nay!” Korgan protested. “This be Laska's fight!”


“Are you crazy?” Imoen hissed. “We need to do something.”


“We can do something!” Sarevok narrowed his eyes as a bug-man wandered dangerously close to where Laska was fighting. It was Jan who quickly dealt with him by clever use of an acid arrow to the knee.


“Yeah,” said Jan. “We can make sure it stays Laska's fight by keeping those bug-brains away from them.”


Totally focused on the fight, Illasera and Laska clashed blades, the impact so fierce that sparks came flying forth. With blades locked, Illasera and Laska grit their teeth as their muscles strained. “You are nothing!” Illasera spat at her. “While you were boozing and whoring your way through the sword coast, I was honing my skills.”


“That explains a lot,” Laska chuckled as she pumped her arms against the force Illasera was exerting. “You certainly act as if you've never had a moment of fun in your life!”


“Fun?! I live for the kill! Nothing less, nothing more!” Illasera returned and broke the lock. “I WILL BE THE LAST! I WILL CLAIM THE GODHOOD I HAVE EARNED!”


Laska was treated to a fierce slice to the cheek. The elf yelped and took a step back, giving the huntress the opportunity to punch against one of the bolts still sticking out of Laska's abdomen. The tattooed elf yelled in pain as the bolt was driven further into her sensitive flesh. However, she put the pain to good use. Now having found renewed focus, Laska made a fist around the hilt of her sword and punched Illasera into the face repeatedly. Illasera staggered back, giving the elf enough room to kick her steel boot right into the huntress' throat.


The huntress jumped back, coughing violently as blood came spurting from her mouth. “I still owed you this!” Laska rammed her fist into her jaw in a vicious uppercut, sending the huntress flying back. “SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT!”


The elf and huntress faced each other, swords and daggers out, snarling and panting. Bloody, hurt and staggering. It would be over soon, but from whom?


Both Laska and Illasera let out a yell as the both of them started to rush toward each other, both eager to land the killing blow. All their remaining divine power were poured into this final, deadly strike. Elf and huntress came closer and closer, only looking each other into eyes.


They met.


They struck.


Steel sliced through fresh and bone.


Both stood panting, bloodied, pained and surging with adrenalin with their backs to each other. Time was seemingly frozen, as an ominous silence fell over the battlefield.


Until a loud groan sounded.


Illasera first fell to her knees before tumbling onto her stomach as if she were a ragdoll. The once proud huntress lay moaning in a slowly expanding pool of crimson life-fluid.


The tattooed elf felt her chest and stomach, the point on her body where Illasera had aimed for. To her delight, she found that Illasera's Bhaalpower infused deathblow had not connected. Unfortunately, she also became acutely aware that there were three metal bolts sticking out of her body. For the first time, the elf started to feel the pain. She leaned against the pillar in the middle of the platform and propped herself up.


Laska looked over her shoulder and saw Illasera lying face-down in a pool of her own tainted blood. It was a point of pride to keep standing; it was over now. She was the victor. No more surprises. She placed her hand on her abdomen as blood gushed forth and seeped in and over her armor. In fact, she was starting to feel a bit cold and light-headed.


“Laska!” Imoen came rushing over. Both sisters embraced carefully as to avoid the bolts, while Laska started to wheeze.


“No,” Laska hissed as her friends tried to push her down. “Heal me standing up.”


“Stubborn fool!” Viconia hissed as she still held her smarting but healed side. “You've lost at least two pints of blood and I'll need to pull these bolts out of your body! Lie... down!”


“We won!” Sendai blinked. “I didn't think we'd win.”


“Don’t feel like a winner right now,” Laska muttered and suddenly grinned. “This is the first fight during which I've had an orgasm. Multiple, in fact.”


“First?” Jan laughed. “You're expecting more fights during which you'll have orgasms?”


“Hah!” Laska winked while hissing as Viconia was testing how deep the bolts had buried themselves into her body. “I bloody well hope so!”


“Priorities,” Sarevok rolled his golden eyes.


(Continued in second post)

TnT 253: Penultimate

31 December 2016 - 06:07 PM

Happy new year everyone. Last TnT of the year and the penultimate for the entire series. One more part to go.


Tankards and Tempers

Chapter 253: Penultimate


Much Viconia's delight, the palace had a sizable library to peruse. Her desire was mixed in wanting to pass the time and to learn more of the lands of Tethyr. Considering they were now landowners in this realm, it would be reasonable to learn the customs of the land to better exploit their new holdings. To that end, the drow had chosen several tomes to study and had put them on the table ready to peruse.


Unfortunately for her, she was not alone. A bored elf blew a load of air through her pursed lips, making a rather farty sound come forth. The drow cursed under her breath. “Haven't you got anything better to do?”


“Nah,” said Laska. “For some reason, queenie doesn't want us leaving the palace. Something about 'being on hand and ready' or somesuch. And here I was looking forward to drinking myself stupid.”


By now, Laska had found a book and was looking through it rather intrigued. Viconia could only conclude that it was a cookbook, since those were the only kind of books that suited Laska's short attention span. Suddenly, the elf grabbed a page, swiftly tore it out and stuffed it down her vest for safe-keeping.


“Do you often destroy your host's books?” Viconia said.


“Recipe for Thayvian nasi,” said Laska. “Say what you want about the red wizards, but they know how to cook a meal. And I think the recipe will go to waste here anyway. Did you see the layer of dust on that book?”


Viconia stared at Laska's chest and midriff. “Is it really worth risking a paper cut on your nipple for?”


Laska winked. “You tell me after I've fixed you up some Thayvian nasi to taste!”


By then, the door to the library flew open and in came a laughing Imoen and a roaring Korgan. The girl and the dwarf quickly slammed the door shut and pushed their bodies against it. A few seconds later, heavy pounding started. “You ruddy hooligans!” sounded the irate voice of Zaranda's bugbear steward. “Miscreants! Thugs! Wicked, putrid cowards!”


“HAR HAR HAR!” Korgan roared. “Ye nay be likin' yet new 'aircut?”


“But we spent so much time on it,” giggled Imoen. “I'm so hurt!”


“Thugs! Fiends! Layabouts!” shouted the bugbear.


Laska and Viconia shared a look while Korgan reached over to bolt the door shut. The bugbear continued to pound and pound, shouting rather polite curses. Viconia simply extended her arms. “Explain,” she demanded.


“We may or may not have given that bugbear a new haircut,” said Imoen.


“I may or may not 'ave been 'oldin' 'im to the ground while yon girlie 'ere gave 'im a new 'aircut,” Korgan laughed.


“Mission accomplished,” Imoen high-fived the dwarf. “I hope he likes his new mohawk.”


“I most assuredly do not!” sounded a muffled shout from the other side of the door.


“Ah,” Imoen sighed. “Been such a long time since we've pulled a prank like that.”


“Hooligans!” sounded from beyond the door. “How can brave heroes of the land act in such a manner?”


Imoen's smile faded and turned into a frown. “And that's the reason why.”


“Aye,” Korgan said as he slung his axe over his shoulder. “It be more fun to be more of an unknown. Donnae get me wrong, I like travelin' with ye lot. But fame be a harsh mistress.”


“Yeah,” said Imoen. “People suddenly hold us to standards. Great heroes don't do this, great heroes shouldn't do that. Well, great heroes are people too. Wouldn't it be nice to be an unknown again? Just disappear into the crowd?”


“Hah!” Viconia rolled her eyes. “You're just saying that because your fame makes it hard for you to pickpocket people.”


“That's besides the point!” Imoen protested. “It's a good point but it's still besides the point. Which is a different point from the other point and not my original point. Do you get the point?”


“I don't know,” said Viconia as she slammed her book shut. But now, the pounding was dying down as the bugbear was giving up. “I rather like my newfound fame. My name has grown. I am Viconia DeVir, hero of Athkatla and Tethyr. Landowner, wealthy and respected. I'd say it worked out well for me. Should I return to the great game of trading, this reputation with be a great asset... also, it'll prevent me from getting killed outright.”


Imoen put her finger to her lips. “Yeah, good idea. I like you alive, after all.”


“Heh, she kisses better when not dead, you mean?” Laska winked.


“Och, it all be moot,” Korgan snorted. “Best way to be gettin' rid of fame and reputation is to randomly axe someone in the street.”


“Uhm, I'll settle for prank,” said Imoen.


“Suit yerself,” said Korgan. “Where be Jan and Sarevok?”


“Last time I saw them they were playing some sort of chess game,” said Laska. “Not sure about the details, but it was some sort of gnomish variant. Instead of pawns, they had bleems and if two bleems reached the other side, you throw a turnip at your opponent's head. The turnip-cart can move to any place on the table, including underneath the board and the object of the game is to dominate the griffin. Not sure how it's played, but it has a two-hundred page rulebook.”


“HAR HAR!” said Korgan. “Ole Sarry be goaded into playin' that bloody game, right?”


“He looked about ready to flip the table,” Laska laughed.


By now, Imoen was looking out the window. The library tower had an impressive view over the courtyard and the city beyond, but now the pink-haired mage-thief was looking down after having opening the window. “Hey, guys,” Imoen called them over. “Something's happening outside.”


Soon enough, the four of them stood at the double windows, watching as a group of soldiers were dragging what looked like largest standing mirror in the world. The glass pane was easily seven meters tall and three meters wide, fastened into a gilded frame. More and more soldiers were gathering into the courtyard.


“Look, there's Sendai,” said Imoen. “What's she doing?”


Their newest sister was setting up a table with spell reagents, going at it with a pestle and cup after she had put down her spellbook. Just then, there was pounding at the door. “Lady Laska!” sounded the bugbear steward. “Queen Zaranda Star requests the presence of you and your hooligan minions! Please be armed, armoured and ready for combat.”


“Looks like no nasi tonight,” Laska said as she and the others shared a look before the tattooed elf went for the door and undid the bolt. Soon she was confronted with a very irate bugbear who now had the side of his head shaved and the rest of his hair magically enchanted to stand up straight. He looked like a cross between a gorilla and a rooster, and was obviously none too pleased about this. Laska could barely contain a snort, to which the bugbear took offense and stomped off in anger.


Laska and her friends, including Sarevok whom had apparently destroyed the gaming room in a fit or rage, met up and changed in record time. Fully armed and armored the party, with Jan hiding behind Laska for the most part, entered the courtyard to find a sizable army gathering. Most of the soldiers Laska had already met at the camp near Abazigal's lair; they looked grim and eager to put an end to the war by ending Melissan herself.


“Ah, there you are,” said queen Zaranda as she stood near Janis Tombelthen and Sendai. The small drow was hard at work preparing her spell. “Sendai and I have come to an agreement. Oh, Laska, I would need you to make a statement in favor of drow becoming free citizens of Tethyr.”


Laska blinked. “Uh, sure, why not?”


Sendai looked up from her work long enough to give the tattooed elf an appreciative smile. It wasn't too long before the drow had her nose in the book once more.


“What's with the mirror?” asked Laska.


“Sendai knows a spell which will allow any mirror to connect to another mirror in Melissan's base and form a magical portal,” said the queen. “Marshall Tombelthen will be leading the siege.”


Tombelthen nodded at Laska. “Lady Leafwalker,” he nodded. “Pleasure to be working with you and your party again.”


Marshall?” Imoen asked.


Yes,” the man spoke gruffly. “Marshall Tombelthen. Melchett has been forced into early retirement, much to the relief of our standing army.”


“As for the mirror,” said the queen. “We had this one in storage after it was confiscated from an evil duchess after an unfortunate incident involving her stepdaughter and a hunter.”


“Hm, yes,” said Jan. “That happens more often than you think. My wicked aunt Malificent Jansen had a mirror like this, you see. Every evening, she look into it and whisper 'mirror mirror on the wall, who has the biggest nose of all'. Now, wicked aunt had a witchy-poo nose that would make swamp hags jealous, but then my cousin Snow Jansen entered the picture. Big fat nose on that one, even a wart or two. Aunt Malificent was quite jealous, mind you.”


“Let me guess,” said Imoen. “She ran Snow out of the house and into the forest where she met seven dwarves who took her in. Then your aunt found out and sent her a poisoned apple. Then, she fell into a deep sleep and a prince came to kiss her awake. They married and lived happily ever after.”


“What?” Jan frowned. “That's the most ridiculous story I've ever heard! No, no, no, no, it didn't go like that at all. Aunt Malificent simply hired a couple of thugs to drop an anvil on cousin Snow's head while she was on her way to work. Caused quite a bit of scandal in the family, mind you.”


“Ahum, yes,” Tombelthen interrupted. “To return to the subject at hand. On the other side of that mirror will be a mountain-top fortress. Our scribes have been digging through the archives to find out more about it. Some five centuries ago, a paranoid duke had it built as his retreat for a supposed apocalyptic event. After his death, its remote location pretty much assured its abandonment. There is depressingly little information to be found on the place, but we won't be going in blind. Duchess Sendai has given us a rough layout of the fortress.”


Duchess Sendai?” Imoen smiled.


Sendai looked up from her work, seemingly a little embarrassed. “Uhm, it's, uhm, temporary... until we decide on a leader.”


“I'm impressed,” said Viconia as the other drow went back to work on her spell.


Tombelthen turned to face his men, as well as the gathered party. “Men,” he spoke. “Soon we'll step through that portal and we will end the war that has ravaged our fair Tethyr for the past seven months. There may be traps. There may be forces we don't know about yet. But when we step through that portal, we go there to end it. Laska Leafwalker and her party will join us. As will duchess Sendai. Together, we cannot fail! For Tethyr! For our queen!”


The soldiers let out an eager cheer.


“I wish I could go with you,” said Zaranda. “I have a bone to pick with Melissan.”


“Forgive me, your highness,” said Tombelthen. “But this I cannot allow. The danger involved is great. If you were to fall...”


If I were to fall...” Zaranda huffed, a little insulted that her skills were in doubt. “But I understand.”


“Tethyr will be worse off without you,” said Tombelthen.


Laska grinned. “Let us handle it! It's what you hired us for.”


Queen Zaranda nodded. “I suppose. Men,” she addressed the soldiers. “We want Melissan alive if possible, but if there's not other option, well... Before everything else, be safe and come back alive.”


The soldiers saluted in unison, just as Sendai quietly announced herself. “Uhm, I'm ready to cast the spell now.”


“Get ready, men!” Tombelthen ordered as the soldiers formed a triple-file, ready to march through the mirror.


Sendai strolled over to the mirror and reached a hand into the bowl to sprinkle a pinkish dust onto the mirror. The magic stuck to the surface of the glass, giving it a pink glow in the light of the sun. Sendai started to whisper as magic started to crackle around her. The moment she had performed the delicate hand movements, the mirror glowed brightly and then the surface of the glass started to swirl slowly. A few moments later, a deepening maelstrom signified the portal was active. Sendai swift took her position next to Laska and Imoen.


“Alright, men,” Tombelthen started. “The moment we're through, we'll set up a perimeter to guard our exit point. We will comb the fortress room by room, carefully securing the...”


“OCH! Enough of yer shite! ME AXE BE BLOODY READY!” Korgan roared and leapt into the mirror with axe in hand. Tombelthen was shocked, then turned to Laska who gave her a shrug.


“Oh for the love of... FOLLOW THAT DWARF!”




Once Laska emerged from the mirror, she found herself in a tall stone room with a large open window on the far edge of the room, near a corridor which led deeper into the complex. Laska became acutely aware of a few things while yelling soldiers followed her through the mirror. First, Korgan was way ahead, shouting obscenities due to the lack of anyone of bury his axe in... nothing strange there. Second, the intense cold and the thin air... considering how high up the mountains they were, that wasn't strange either.


What was strange however, was the intense pull on her. It was if someone had grabbed hold of her spirit with one hand and was yanking it, along with the rest of her, towards... somewhere deeper into the complex. Laska let out a brief cry and fell to her knees as she tried her utmost to resist the pull.


Whatever it was, it wanted her to come to it. Desperately.


The others didn't seem to be affected by it. The soldiers kept running past her to secure the room while Korgan swung his axe in rage.


“Oh, gods, my head feels like it's about to split open,” Imoen hissed as soon as she and Jan came through the mirror. “What is that?”


Laska's vision was starting to blur now. Sendai wasn't doing much better; the drow instantly fell to all fours and wretched up her breakfast. She rolled to her back and started wheezing. She heard Sarevok curse and bark some orders to Viconia and the army clerics. The clerics were upon the fallen Bhaalspawn sisters and let soothing magic flow into their minds. Laska instantly relaxed as the magic watched over her. The cleric, a burly female, helped her to her feet by grabbing her hand and pulling her up.


“What the hell...” Laska rasped while feeling her forehead.


“The magic will shield your mind for the time being,” said the cleric. Laska saw Viconia treating Imoen while Sarevok stood next to her.


“You felt the pull, right?” Sarevok smirked. “The more Bhaal essence inside of you, the stronger the pull. There is only a fraction of our weak little Imoen's essence within me, and I feel it too.”


Laska clutched her stomach for a moment. The nausea she had momentarily felt had been worse than when she encountered an undead and she had to fight to keep her breakfast down. “What is it?” Laska asked.


“Father,” snorted Sarevok. “Or rather... his essence. The essence wants to be whole again. It desperately wants you to come to it.”


Sarevok's gaze turned to Sendai, who lay upon the ground whimpering, even with her mind now shielded. “Looks like our little drow has even more Bhaal essence within her than you have.”


“Gods, did you feel that too?” Imoen asked as Viconia helped her to her feet.


“Yeah,” said Laska as he pointed towards the corridor. “It's somewhere over there.”


Sendai nodded, rubbing her head. “Melissan's office and the conference hall are in that direction. It's where the Five held council.”


It was now that Laska got a full look of the room. There were a series of mirrors gathered on a platform. Most of them were broken, with shards of glass spread everywhere. Beyond the room, the merciless cold mountain wind howled across the stone fortress. “What is this place?” Laska asked.


“A transport hub,” said Sendai. “It's the only way in and out of the fortress.”


“I believe that,” said Sarevok as he looked beyond the corridor and saw the mountains through the open window. “It must have taken extraordinary effort to build this place.”


“OY!” shouted Korgan. “Where is you lot tarryin' about? Let's be findin' some skulls to break!”





Much to Korgan's chagrin, the soldiers meticulously moved and secured the fortress room by room. Soon enough, it became clear that the fortress was completely deserted. A lot of the rooms in the fortress had never been restored and left in a state of collapse and decay. It was starting to look at if they had reached a dead end.


By now, the pull Laska had felt on her spirit had dulled by the clerical magic, but it was still there somewhat. They were getting closer to whatever was the cause of this. By now, the fifty-something soldiers occupying the fortress were starting to let their guard down somewhat. Laska tended to agree; if someone was here, they'd have been confronted by now.


Outside, the wind howled, sending a shiver down Laska's spine.


“What kind of person would chose to live here?” said Imoen.


“I know plenty of people who would love to live here,” said Jan. “It's the perfect storage place for perishables. My great-uncle Brain would love this fortress as a base for planning to take over the world. It's not like having his soul put into the body of a lab-mouse has in any way curbed his enthusiasm for diabolical schemes.”


“It's a good place to hide,” said Viconia. “Who ever comes here? It's not the kind of place one finds by chance.”


A female soldier yelled out that another room was cleared. It was a library this time, and it seemed as if it had been ransacked quite recently. The soldier leaned against the wall. “This place is creepy,” spoke the soldier as she addressed Laska. “It's like the people who were here were just going about their business and then suddenly disappeared. There's a cup of cold tea right next to a book on the table right over there.”


A battle-mage went into the library to check for any hidden traps or magics. The soldier waited outside next to the door. “I hope this isn't a dead end,” the soldier spoke dejectedly.


“Trust me,” said Laska as she started to feel the pull on her spirit increase slightly. “It's not.”


Sendai pointed forward as Tombelthen and his remaining men stepped into a long corridor leading into another section of the fortress. The corridor was actually a long open bridge leading to a separate tower of the fortress on another part of the mountain top.


“Over there is Melissan's office and private quarters,” Sendai said. “Try not to look down. It's... quite high.”


“Whatever's pulling on us,” Imoen gulped. “It's right behind that door.”


“I be 'avin' blue axehands!” snarled Korgan as he held his axe high. “Thar'd better be someone behind that bloody door!”


Tombelthen let his experts search the door for traps. After the expert gave his nod, Tombelthen ordered two soldiers with a portable battering ram to knock the door down. “This is the last room in the fortress we haven't searched and secured,” said the marshall. “Be ready for anything.”


The party and the soldiers shared a grim look and drew their weapons. The battering ram slammed into the heavy oaken door, near the lock. It didn't take long for the door to crack and shatter. The part of the door which contained the lock splintered, and the door itself flew open.


A usual, Korgan rushed in first... and swore loudly. At first, Laska thought Korgan swore because there was no one inside the room. When she and the soldiers entered, she rather swore herself at what she saw.


In the back of the room, which had been an office at one time, was a huge swirling purple maelstrom of a planar portal. It was as if reality had shattered and torn by brute force. Instantly, Laska knew that this was the thing which pulled on her spirit. The purple portal was having an adverse effect on the laws of physics. Small objects like pens, books and pieces of paper were floating in the room, while the portal itself had displaced the walls in such a way that the structure of the room was being compromised.


“What the hell...” Tombelthen whispered. “What is that?”


“A portal,” said Imoen. “Sendai, did you know this was here?”


“No,” replied Sendai. “Though it makes sense that Melissan had an escape route ready.”


Tombelthen sighed. “I suppose the only way forward is through that thing. Do you have any idea where it leads?”


Laska didn't hear any more words. Looking into the portal clouded her mind. Flashes of what lay beyond assaulted her mind. It was a place she had been before. It place she had come to know. Laska stepped forward, stretching an hand towards the swirling energies. “Gehenna,” she whispered. “It's a planar portal to Gehenna.”


“Gehenna?” Tombelthen blinked. “As in, the plane Gehenna?”


“More precisely,” said Sarevok. “The Throne of Bhaal. The old home of our Father.”


“This is a bit above my paygrade,” Tombelthen nodded grimly.


“You will not be effective there,” said Sarevok.


Laska nodded. “I tend to agree. We Bhaalspawn have power in that place.”


“Har!” Korgan smirked. “Maybe we be findin' beasties to kill there! I say we be goin' through.”


Laska put her hands on her hips. “We are,” she said. “Melissan is through there. Whatever destiny awaits us is through there. I will never let someone like Melissan decide our fates for us!”


“I am with you, sister,” said Sarevok. “Though I am no longer eligible for godhood, I have dedicated my life to this moment. I wish to see this through.”


“So am I!” Imoen raised her chin high. “I might just be a minor Bhaalspawn, but I'm no longer little Imoen from candlekeep. I'm ready to take destiny by the horns!”


Viconia, Jan and Korgan stood at the ready. “We're are coming as well,” said Viconia. “I haven't traveled with you for so long just to leave you to do this on your own.”


“I quite agree, your worship,” said Jan. “Honestly, I've come to think of you lot as family. Hell, I've spent as much time with you as I did with family. In fact, when I get back to Athkatla, I'm making you all honorary Jansens. Once I get all the paperwork done, you'll have access to all the amenities that entails. Such as a twenty percent discount on all turnip-purchases and a guaranteed chase by the guards whenever you get close to the city treasury.”


“We be goin' through yet?” Korgan sighed.


Sendai trembled slightly, but smiled as she turned her gaze to Laska and her friends. “I am coming too. All my life, I've been complacent. I've finally grown enough to make decisions for my own.”


“Laska,” started Tombelthen. “I would rather have us return to queen Zaranda to confer, but I see you are dead-set on going through with this. My soldiers and I will do our utmost to guard this place to make sure you have a way to return home when... whatever it is you will do in Gehenna.”


Laska smiled at her friends. “Okay,” she drew her blades and took a running start. “Let's go!”


Her body tingled as the energies of the portal touched her. Her form was yanked through and propelled at great speed towards Gehenna.





Laska yelped as she landed face-first into the fiery sands of Gehenna. Her body went from being intensely cold from being in the mountain fortress, to searing from the heat of the volcanic air. The tattooed elf recognized the location as Khalas, the uppermost layer of Gehenna. It was where her pocket-plane used to be and it was where Naraphim had met her several times.


“Naraphim?” Laska called out, hoping her balor benefactor would be there. But there was no reply. She rolled to her back, pumped her legs out and rather acrobatically got to her feet.


Behind her, her friends were being spewed out of the maelstrom in just as much as a heap as she had been. As her party complained about errant limbs, boots and several accidental gropes, Laska's eyes grew wide as she saw the spectacle in front of her. A massive cathedral rose before her, stupendously large and imposing. Its towers stretched into the fiery heavens much taller than should be structurally possible.


The tattooed elf stepped forward, in awe of the structure. Though it was made from stone, the majority of the imposing building had been adorned with skulls and bones; Thousands upon thousands of bones. Waterfalls of blood poured from an unseen source through gutters built into the slanted roofs of the structure to pool into massive lakes surrounding ir, giving the air a metallic tang.


The symbol of Bhaal, a skull surrounded by tears of blood, had been etched into the floor in front of the steps leading into the Throne of Blood. High above the most impossibly tall tower, a storm of greenish energy was circling in a great turning wheel. Instantly, she felt the pull again, but here in Gehenna, she was completely in control of herself. In fact, part of her wanted to pull the essence far above right into her.


“And this, dear sister,” said Sarevok. “Is the realm I wished to claim for myself.”


“It is rather imposing,” said Laska. “But it's not near any pubs.”


“Nice bit of real-estate,” said Jan. “Must be hell to get a proper cleaning staff up here, though. Imagine having to dust all those bones by yourself.”


“I don't want to think about it,” said Sendai. “It's rather hard work to make bone shine properly. Don't ask me how I know this.”


“Certainly impressive,” said Viconia.




Laska nodded towards the door. “I think Melissan is in there. In fact, I'm sure of it.”


They stepped through the door and into the imposing great hall. The ceiling was impossibly tall while more bones adorned the inside of the cathedral. The place was long abandoned, as it was bathed in dust. Endless murals and tapestries hanging from the walls each depicted a different way to murder. Disembowelment, poison, beheading, different forms of torture... death and murder in such ways not even the most demented soul in the Realms could think of. Slowly, the party made their way forward.


“Someone has been here before recently,” said Jan as he examined the long blood-red carpet leading to the back of the cathedral. “Look, tracks in the dust. I think our friend Melissan, judging by the shape of the boots.”


“Hey, where'd Vic go?” Imoen asked as they were walking onto the carpet towards the other other of the cathedral.


The others looked on incredulously when Viconia emerged from behind a pillar with a rolled up tapestry in her arms. Without saying a word, she took the party's bag of holding from Laska and let the tapestry slide inside. “What?” she said when she noticed the stunned look of the others. “I like that one!”


In about ten minutes, they reached the centerpiece of the great hall – the throne of bones. Fashioned entirely from skulls on a dais of ribs, the throne stood twenty meters tall with elaborate depictions of various forms of murder carved into the bone.


“Father's throne,” Sarevok spoke, the awe clear on his voice. “Here he plotted his schemes.”


“I think Bhaal had a lot of hang-ups,” said Imoen. “Stop calling him father.”


“Denial won't change reality, Imoen,” Sarevok spat back.


“Yes it will!” Imoen snapped. “Gorion was our father, not the madman who sat on that throne. And don't you even think about taking that thing, Vic!”


“Moot point,” said Viconia. “It won't fit in our house anyway.”


“Hm,” said Jan. “I don't see any stairs. How do we get up those towers we saw outside, I wonder? I should have brought a rope-ladder. I once used a rope-ladder to climb up a mountainside looking for the elusive iron butterfly. Sadly, I didn't find it, but I did find a couple of cool zinc flies.”


Laska rubbed her chin. “I... I think we go that way,” she said, pointing towards the large round chamber behind the throne.


“How do you know?” Imoen asked.


“I just do,” said Laska.


Together, the party started to walk around the ominous throne and into the round chamber. The floor of this round chamber was another sigil of Bhaal, and when they looked up, they saw it was actually one of the towers. The tallest one.


“What now?” Sendai asked.


“I... think,” Laska said, raising her hand as her will caused the Throne of Blood to respond to her command. The ground shook at the sigil dislodged itself from the floor with a jerky motion, causing the party to steady themselves after finding their footing. Through force of will, the sigil slowly started to rise.


It didn't take them long to notice that this tower was different from the rest of the cathedral. Not only did the stonework seem newer, but there was a distinct lack of bones adorning the wall. As the sigil they stood on crawled upwards, they could see that this entire tower was made up from a near endless amount of niches. Most of the niches contained nothing but a pile of dusty stone. A few, however, contained statues. These statues were of halflings, humans, elves and other creatures and were uncanny likenesses to whatever they were modeled after. So perfect were these statues, that they would be impossible to make with a mere chisel and a slab of marble. Behind the piles and the statues were stained-glass windows, through which the eerie light of Gehenna's skies poured in, bathing the entire tower in a blood-red glow.


“How many are there?” Imoen gasped.


“Thousands,” whispered Laska. “If not more.”


“What are they?” Sendai asked.


Sarevok let out a mocking laugh. “Our siblings,” he grinned. “These are... or were... our siblings.”


“Quite a family portrait,” said Jan. “Not as big as mine, but still impressive. Must have cost a pretty copper to have this done.”


As the platform continued to raise, Imoen got a good look at some of the statues that were still intact. “Look,” said Imoen as she pointed to the statue of a halfling wearing an apron. “I remember seeing that halfling in Saradush. Our statues must be around here too.”


“I wonder if I can find me in this tower,” said Laska as she started to look around while the platform kept rising. Though it was moving up rather slow, they still missed a few of the statues.


“Sendai! It's you!” wailed Imoen and practically dragged the drow to her stone likeness. And there she was; the stone Sendai looked as demure as she did in real life, clad in a wizard's robe and her hair pinned up.


“Uhm,” Sendai spoke softly. “You don't find this whole place incredibly disturbing?”


“It's me! It's me! It's me!” Imoen bounced up and down as she almost fell off the platform trying to get to it. Laska quickly grabbed her by the belt and yanked her back onto the platform before she could fall. Imoen's likeness bore a cheeky grin, clad in leather and looking ready to do a hair-flip. “It's so nice! Can we bring it home with us?”


Korgan elbowed Sendai in the side. “Best be takin' that as a 'no'. HAR!”


But Sendai's attention wasn't on the statues. “So many piles of rubble,” Sendai muttered. “So many dead siblings.”


“We were always meant to kill each other,” Sarevok said grimly. “It started long before the Bhaalspawn war. The day the Time of Troubles ended, the first Bhaalspawn started murdering one another. That four Bhaalspawn stand together now defies everything about Father’s plan.”


“Plenty are alive too,” said Laska.


“True,” said Sarevok. “At least a hundred minor Bhaalspawn in Saradush saved. They are anomalies. They are the lucky ones.”


The platform kept moving upwards, but seemed to be slowing slightly. “Hmpf,” Sarevok started. “You have power in this place. Why don't you will this platform up faster?”


Laska closed her eyes, quickly grimaced and shook her head. “Doesn't seem to be working.”


“Or perhaps your subconscious won't allow it,” returned Sarevok.


Laska bit her lip for a moment. “You may be right. I... I just realized something.”


“Well?” Jan asked. “Don't keep us in the dark, your Laska-ness.”


“This is it,” said Laska. “This is what all our travels have led to. What we've been working towards. It feels... strange. I've been on the road for nearly five years. I've known most of you for almost all that time.”


Imoen chuckled as she hugged Laska from behind. “Sisters together, always. Best adventurers ever. Remember when we first saw the Friendly Arm Inn? We thought it was the biggest building that could ever exist. And somehow we got lost even after we saw it looming in the distance.”


“Oh, yeah,” Laska laughed at her own foolishness. “I thought that path was a short-cut. Turns out it wasn't. And there were hobgoblins.””


“By the gods, the two of you were hopeless,” said Viconia, smiling to herself as she did so.


Laska frowned. “What are you talking about? We were very eager young adventurers.”


Viconia narrowed her eyes. “You managed to burn down our only tent while trying to make a fire… even though you had a tinderbox. Then there was the time when our friend Laska here chased a gibberling who made off with her breakfast in a half-naked state and ran straight into a marauding ogre. And let’s not forget that Imoen tried to pickpocket a bear!”


Imoen pouted. “I still say that bear was a druid. In fact, I’m sure of it.”


Viconia let out an exasperated sigh before narrowing her eyes and raising her voice slightly. “That’s a moot point! Druid in bear-form or a regular bear… it was a bear! What were you trying to lift from a creature without pockets? Its fur? Its fleas?”


“I, uh, did get its fleas, yeah,” Imoen muttered sheepishly.


“As Laska and I both found out later that evening!” Viconia snarled. “Do you realize how embarrassing it is to have to be de-loused at a temple?!”


“Ah, yeah,” Laska smiled to herself, itching her scalp a little per reflex. “Good memories.”


“Inept though you both were,” said Viconia, looking away. “You were the first surfacers to show me any modicum of respect and gave me a chance. My life is better for it, excessively infuriating though the both of you may be.”


“Aww,” Imoen wrapped her arms around Viconia’s waist and kissed her cheek. “I love you too, Vic!”


The drow didn’t protest, but accepted her fate with a slight smile.


“You know,” said Jan. “I often regale you with amazing stories about my wonderful family.”


“Amazing… wonderful…” Viconia muttered.


“I heard that, you cruel vixen!” Jan spoke with a twinkle in his eyes. “Anyways, after traveling with you, I now have so many amazing stories to tell about my own exploits too! Like, how I managed to end slavery in Athkatla by killing the slaver lords and taking their home for my own. Or like how I rescued my little sister from an evil magical asylum. Or how I started a revolution in the drow city Ust Natha and put my own drow lover on the throne! Or how I single-handedly broke the siege of Saradush by strangling the giant Yaga-Shura with my own bare hands!”


Laska frowned. “Uhhhm…”


“No, no,” Jan held up his hands. “No need to be shy. I will happy sign my autograph on whatever bodyparts you desire, Laska. No, no, no need to faint and swoon in the presence of a great hero like me. I’m just a normal person, just like you; Except I’m handsome and heroic! Now, let me regale you about the time when I stormed Watcher’s Keep and conquered the place in less than a minute.”


Korgan muttered something under his breath as he swung his axe over his shoulder. “Look, I nay be someone who barks about sentimental stuff. I will just be sayin’ this: travelin’ together has been fun, lass. Very, very fun. And if we be dyin’ today, it be a good death.”


Laska nodded, put her hand on his shoulder for a moment before both looked away.


“Sister,” said Sarevok. “My life has taken a strange path. One I never expected to take. But I... appreciate being a part of the resolution. I suppose I should... thank you. You had no reason to trust me, but you brought me along anyway. Whatever life brings, I welcome it.”


The tattooed elf looked at Sarevok and nodded. She realized that this admission couldn't have been easy for the proud Sarevok. A slightly awkward silence fell, until there was the thankful distraction of Laska's statue. It stood in a combat pose, a silent battle-cry on her mouth while she held two swords in hand. Unlike the others, she wore her casual vest and leather trousers instead of any armor.


“Ah, there I am,” Laska smirked. “Looking dapper as always.”


“With your tits hanging out,” Sarevok muttered. “As always.”


“Minsc and Dynaheir should be here for this,” said Laska with a melancholic tone, ignoring Sarevok's barb. “Keldorn too.”


“I know the thought of people leaving is a bit of a hang-up for you, Laska,” started Imoen. “But people do have their own lives. Dyna and Minsc went back home. Keldorn has his family.”


“My family is right here with me,” said Laska, a genuine smile crossing her tattooed features.


Sendai shuffled her feet, not looking at the party directly. “I never really had a family. But I’d like to have one.”


“Awww, so cute!” Imoen laughed as she glomped Sendai. “Can we keep her? Plleeeeaaasssseeee?”


As an embarrassed Sendai was trying to free herself, Sarevok crossed his arms. “I think it will be obvious what will happen. You will destroy Melissan. What will you do when your birthright becomes available to you. Will you accept or will you reject?”


Laska bit her lip upon hearing Sarevok's words. “You know, I haven't give it much thought.”


“Then you'd better start thinking,” Sarevok laced his words with slight anger. “You cannot keep putting it off.”


The tattooed elf smirked slightly. “Whatever happens... When this all is over, we should have a good old-fashioned pub-crawl! Eat, drink and be merry until we get chucked out and then just move on to the next pub. Darromar has some great places.”


Sarevok narrowed his eyes. “You are stalling, sister.”


“That be soundin’ like a plan!” Korgan roared his approval.


Viconia put a finger to her lips. “I think I might like to join you for that.”


“Aye,” said Jan. “Drunken celebrations are always great for my repertoire of tales.”


“Party!” cheered Imoen.


“And then, there will be more adventures”, said Laska. “There will always be more adventures.”


Finally they arrived at what seemed to be the top. The tattooed elf readied her weapons, slowly inhaled and exhaled, and then disappeared into a blinding flash of light.

TnT 252: Scalemail Bikini

26 December 2016 - 06:15 PM

Tankards and Tempers

Chapter 252: Scalemail Bikini


Darromar at night was a lovely place. Though not even nearly as big as Athkatla, there was always bustle and merriment to be had. Not that Laska was actually noticing much of the nightlife right now, as all her attention was lavished on Rose whom had come over to the capital after leaving Saradush.


As guests of honor, the couple had been given the most luxurious guestroom at the top of one of the towers of Faerntarn palace by order of the queen. The large round stone room was well adorned with tapestries and nice furniture, with the centerpiece being a huge four-poster bed with transparent satin drapes. Though they were planning to use the large bath at the side of the room together, for now the bed would do.


On the bed lay Rose, naked and munching on strawberries from a bowl while Laska was behind a dressing screen struggling with the clasp of her costume.


“Just so you know,” huffed Laska. “I will never go out in public like this! I'm only wearing this just for you!”


“I can't wait,” Rose's husky voice sounded from the bed, her arousal apparent.


“Gods, this thing is stupid...” Laska muttered. “And don't eat all the strawberries or I'll have nothing to slide over your skin and pop into your mouth.”


“Then don't keep me waiting!” Rose demanded.


With the clasp finally fastened, an increasingly uncomfortable Laska stepped out from behind the dressing screen in her full scale-mail bikini clad glory. Much to Rose's delight. Laska's breasts were trapped in a poorly padded scale-mail bra which was, unfortunately, a cup-size too small. The bottom part was even worse as the scale-mail briefs had sharp shards of metal far too close to the kind of sensitive bodyparts Laska didn't want to have sharp shards of metal anywhere near to. The back of the bottoms took the shape of a thong. Laska's long hair was loose to give her the look of a wild barbarian warrior woman. The sword in her hand finished the picture.


“I look... ridiculous,” Laska sighed.


“Quiet,” Rose demanded. “Now flex!”


Laska forced a smile and flexed enough to show off the feminine musculature of her abs and biceps. Naturally, Laska was rather proud of her body, but felt a bit weird about having it dressed up with a scalemail bikini. She suddenly grimaced and placed both her hands on her posterior.


“Hey,” Rose pouted. “Don't ruin the immersion.”


“Immersion?!” Laska snorted. “You're not the one with pieces of metal riding up your crack!”


“Oh, stop complaining and shake those tits about,” Rose grinned as she propped herself up on her pillow and smiled wickedly, waiting for the show to continue.


Laska let out an audible sigh and started to turn her upper body back and forth, causing her breasts to shake and bounce a little for Rose's titillation. “This is so degrading,” Laska muttered. “If I show up on the battlefield like this, I'll be dead when the first arrow is fired.”


“Hush and shake harder,” Rose demanded, her breath quickening. Apparently, her half-elven wife found this to be rather arousing for some inexplicable reason.


“Anything for love,” Laska chuckled and took on a few more action poses, waving her sword around, flexing some more and pretending to have slain a great beast while she shouted her victory for the heavens. But then it was Laska's turn to strike.


Without warning, the elf jumped right on top of the bed. A startled Rose couldn't get away quickly enough and found herself pinned down underneath Laska. “Aaah!” Rose screamed and giggled as the scalemail bikini pressed down on her warm naked skin. “Cold! Coldcoldcold!”


“Mrifk!” Laska grunted, her voice deep. “Mighty barbarian elf wants to zug-zug pretty wench!”


“Zug-zug me all night long, mighty barbarian elf,” Rose whispered softly while looking deep into Laska's dark eyes. The tattooed elf crushed her lips on hers, kissing her half-elven lover hungrily.


The tattooed elf got great enjoyment out of pleasuring the half-elf who writhed underneath her, though she was quite happy to finally lose the scale-mail bikini during their lovemaking. As the urge to fondle Laska's chest became greater than the urge to see her in a scale-mail bikini, Rose loosened the clasp with trembling hands. The metal garment was quickly discarded, landing on the wooden floor with a dull clank. Laska groaned in delight when the tight metal around her breasts was replaced with two soft kneading hands.


The lovers rolled around the sheets as Rose got it in her head to try to wrest control from her. Well, the very much stronger elf had something to say about that. Or rather, she silently kept pinning Rose down and silenced any protests with deep kisses.


Well and thoroughly spent, the still-panting and sweat-drenched lovers lay in each other's arms bathing in the light of the moon.


“Don't even think about throwing that scale-mail bikini away,” Rose muttered.


“From now on, I'll only wear that thing when it's your birthday,” Laska returned.


“Awwwww,” sounded a disappointed groan.


“You wear it. Just once,” said Laska. “You'll know what I'm talking about.”


“Complain, complain...” Rose chuckled.


“You know,” said Laska in between brushing her lips against Rose's. “I never asked how things ended with Chaelha.”


Rose let out a throaty chuckle. “Oh, well, after I spent the night with her she got a taste for it. Got more relaxed, more flirty. She’s got less of a stick up her arse.”


“Hah, good for her.”


“She’s got a betrothed now.”


“Oh? Anyone I know?”


Rose shifted to lay on her side while Laska looked her in the eye. “Laramie. I introduced them.”


Laska blinked. “Laramie? The vampire prostitute?”


“One and the same. They’re very much in love and getting married in Mirtul. They’re really cute together. Chaelha leaves flowers at her door and everything.”


Laska rolled to her back. “Bit of an odd couple,” she said.


Rose raised an eyebrow. “And we’re not?”


“Touche, I guess,” said Laska as the two started to drift off to blissful sleep.




It was still night when Rose's eyes fluttered open and found herself alone in bed. “Uhm, Laska?” she husked, her throat dry.


“Hm?” sounded from the window. The tattooed elf stood naked at the window, her hands resting on the windowsill as she watched over the city below. Rose took in the sight of her, standing there in the moonlight. She had really long and thick dark hair, now freed from her braid. It hung loose and cascaded over her shoulders, obscuring her entire back and buttocks. The gray skin on her limbs adorned by colorful tattoos and delicately pointed ears on the side of her head made Laska all too striking.


Rose slipped out of bed, her bare feet sliding over the wooden boards as she walked. When she reached her lover, she wrapped her arms around her waist let her arms slide over her abs. “What are you looking at?” she asked.


“The city,” said Laska. “All the lights and people down there. And the river. And the mountains beyond.”


Rose smiled as she pressed her cheek into the long soft dark hair. Though the torrents of hair kept Rose from running a trail of kisses over Laska's spine, which the tattooed elf really liked, Rose knew the next best thing. One hand slid downward across Laska's abs and quickly found her destinations. There was a sharp intake of breath from the elf as Rose started to treat her to slow and rhythmic strokes.


“I know,” Rose whispered as Laska's breath started to quicken. “You’re not someone who stays in one place long. You’re young, restless and adventurous. You’ll go out risk your life, enjoy yourself and touch the lives of others. I will never curb that side of you, but I will always be there when you come home.”


By now, Laska's quickening breath had transformed into a series of small exclaims. The half-elf smirked; she had a few tricks up her sleeve yet. Suddenly the elf hissed through her teeth and went weak in the knees, propping herself up against the windowsill as pleasure washed over her while Rose continued her merciless stroking.


However, the half-elf was unprepared for a quickly recovering Laska to suddenly spin around, grab her by the waist, throw her over her shoulder and carry her off to bed while she playfully pounded her fists against her back.


The plans of retaliation the tattooed elf had for her ran until morning when, under the covers, the couple were still enjoying the pleasure each other's company. The sun had fully risen by the time when Laska was still pinning down her half-elven wife while stroking her hair. By now, Rose was only too happy to be pinned as long as kissing and stroking was involved.


The couple's focus lay purely on each other until it became painfully obvious that someone else was in the room. Someone who was giggling. Two heads popped up from under the covers to find a smirking Imoen leaning on the foot-end of the bed while twirling a lockpick in her hand.


“Breakfast is on the table, you lazy bums,” said Imoen. “I came to get you. Also, next time you don't want to be disturbed, try barring the door instead of just locking it. Toodles!”


As Imoen left, the two lovers laughed and shared one final kiss. Rose spent a moment braiding Laska's hair for her as the elf sat in front of the mirror. Laska slipped into her leather trousers and vest and left for the breakfast table while Rose decided to lazy about a bit more.


By now, the lavish breakfast which had been served to the party had mostly been devoured, but the tattooed elf found some scraps left which were to her taste. “Where is Sendai?” asked Laska. “Is she not here?”


“Unlike you, the queen is rather smart and had her brought to a guestroom right above the guarded barracks on the other side of the castle,” said Sarevok. “Makes sense.”


“Och,” Korgan spat out a piece of bone from the chicken leg he was having. “We still be ‘avin’ no clue where to be findin’ that Melissan bint. If that drowsy knows somethin’, we should be beatin’ it out of her.”


Sarevok seemed thoughtful. “I think Sendai was her contingency plan. A Bhaal-essence battery, if you will. Of the Five, she’s objectively the weakest and most demure. If the others had turned against Melissan, all she had to do was to kill Sendai. She controls the throne of Bhaal. Sendai’s death would have given her more power to combat the other Five.”


“And now it's rather the other way around,” said Jan. “We've killed the others and the battery is still around.”


“Jury's still out on Illasera,” said Imoen. “If I were her, I'd have left Tethyr already. But she's not me, so I guess she's a bit of a wild card.”


Laska slammed her fist on the table. “All this nonsense because one gods-awful actress couldn’t handle a bit of criticism!”


Sarevok rubbed his chin. “No. Even without Melissan’s machinations there would have been war. Bhaalspawn were always meant to fight and kill each other. The weaker ones would be slaughtered by the more powerful ones, until the most powerful ones would have no one to fight but each other. The last one standing…”


“...would have become Bhaal’s new vessel,” Viconia finished. “No prize there. Your soul usurped by a dead god, your body its new husk. Some victory.”


“That was the plan,” said Laska. “But Naraphim said Bhaal’s preparations weren’t complete when he was killed by Cyric on Boarskar bridge. Bhaal’s essense remains, but the personality is gone.”


Sarevok laughed for a moment. A creepy, sinister laugh. “That is why the most powerful Bhaalspawn standing at the throne will claim the power! At this point, I’d rather have it be you than anyone else.”


Laska cocked her head sideways. “Ey? That’s a rather startling compliment.”


“You may be an undisciplined woman of low virtue and dubious intelligence, dear sister. But your prowess is undeniable, dullard though you may be.”


“Uhm, I’m sure there’s a compliment in there somewhere,” Laska said.


“Ah, that reminds me of my uncle Tourette Jansen,” said Jan. “He used insults as terms of endearment. When he called a woman a ‘fat pig’, it meant he thought she was beautiful. He grew up on a farm, you see, and the fattest pigs were constantly cleaned up and groomed for farmer’s mart contests. When he called someone a ‘filthy dog’ it meant that he really liked that person, because his best friend in the world while growing up was a street mongrel named Tuffy. When he called someone an ‘orcish shitstain’, it meant he admired your tenacity; he was a washer by trade, you see. And orcish shitstains were notoriously difficult to wash out of their underwear. Naturally, this lead to plenty of misunderstandings after which he ended up being chased through the high-street regular as clockwork. One day, he came across the most beautiful half-orcish woman he had ever seen. So he walked up to her and tried his best line on her. 'So, you filthy dog,' he started as he leaned on the table. 'You’re a fat pig and I think I’ve never seen bigger orcish shitstains than you'.”


Laska laughed. “Let me guess. The half-orc woman was offended and crushed him flatter than a pancake?”


“No! Turns out the half-orc woman liked gruff people and fell completely in love with him. They’re married now and live in Waterdeep with a small army of half-gnome, half-orc kids.”


Imoen chuckled as she poured herself another glass of milk. “A Jansen tale with a happy ending! Do wonders ever cease?”


Jan munched on a bit of turnip before continuing. “It isn’t always ironic tragedy and/or stupidity which besets my family, you know?”


By now, Rose had washed up and donned a suede pantsuit. The moment the half-elf stepped into the dining hall, she greeted the others and quickly sat down on Laska's lap. “Well, hi there,” said Laska as she fed her lover a spoon of strawberry yoghurt.


“Ugh, get a room,” Korgan rolled his eyes.


“They did,” said Imoen. “Don't send them there, or I'll have to fetch them again.”


By now, Rose grinned as she let the tips of her fingers slide over the back of Laska's ear. The elf's eyes grew wide, then closed as a blissful smile crossed her features. She cocked her head sideways a little to give Rose easier access. “Laska likes it when I stroke the back of her ears,” said Rose.


Viconia smirked. “Hah! Insert random bitch joke here.”


“No,” said Sarevok. “Too easy.”


“Dog idioms don’t really apply when Laska is purring like a cat,” said Jan as Laska let out an elongated low groan.


“Oy, Imoen. Can you make drowsy purr like that too?” Korgan asked.


Imoen pouted slightly. “I don't know. Vic never lets me touch her ears.”


“My ears are private,” the drow said resolutely.


That moment, queen-monarch Zaranda Star entered the dining hall to greet her guests of honor. Along with her stood an entourage of guards and her bugbear stewart. However, she took one look at the now purring elf with her lover sitting in her lap and had to take pause at that.


“S-should I come back later?” the queen asked.


“It's fine,” said Imoen. “I’ll tell Laska once she stops purring. Whenever that is.”


“HAR HAR!” Korgan roared. “They definitately be ‘avin’ a shag in that broomcloset later.”


Queen Zaranda let out a sigh. “Right... I just wanted to let you know that Sendai is being brought to the conference room soon. I think it’s best that I speak to her in private, but I’ll let you know the result.”


“Do you want me present?” asked Viconia. “I could give you some valuable insights about drow culture.”


Zaranda held up her hand. “Thank you for the offer, but I think I can handle this on my own.”


“Suit yourself,” Viconia shrugged while Laska kept blissfully purring.


As the queen left, Imoen started to inch closer to Viconia as the drow was enjoying a glass of orange juice. Closer and closer she came, until the sneaky mage-thief slowly started to raise her hand. Ever so silently and carefully, Imoen surrupticiously reached out to Viconia's exposed ear. So close now. So very close. Her fingertips had almost touch the dusky smooth skin of the back of Viconia's ear.


“DON'T!” Viconia hissed angrily without looking up from her breakfast.


“Awww,” Imoen quickly withdrew her fingers.


“No!” the drow pressed.






Imoen grumbled in disappointment and poured herself another glass of milk.




Laska's friend Viconia had sent ahead a message to Darromar by courier to let Zaranda know that they had captured, rather than killed, the last member of the Five still at large. When Zaranda learned that she would be facing off with one of the five Bhaalspawn in her very own keep, she had made preparations to secure the castle with all manner of soldiers in case she'd get loose. Gods knew, the Five had ravaged Tethyr enough for these precautions to be warranted.


But when the party actually arrived and she first lay her eyes on little Sendai, Zaranda had sent her soldiers back to their posts. And now, here in the conference room, where she found herself face to face with a small drow whose feet didn't even reach the ground of the chair she sat on, the queen sent her guards out of the conference room so they could talk more easily.


The woman in front of her was an enigma. Supposedly a wicked godspawn who led an army of drow mercenaries and part of a campaign against Tethyr set up by the wicked Amelyssan, and yet a demure and quiet person who kept her eyes downcast. This was not the fiery-eyed fanatic she was expecting.


Considering Sendai wasn't speaking, it fell upon Zaranda to start the conversation. “Five is considered an unlucky number in Tethyr. Never knew why, really. Could be because of an urban legend long forgotten. But when five gathered Bhaalspawn started their random attacks, well... let's just say that a lot of my people believed that doom had come for them.”


Sendai looked up for the first time. She gulped slightly and spoke up, her voice barely a whisper. “I know what you want,” she said.


“Oh?” Zaranda raised an eyebrow, amused by the drow's sudden directness. “Pray tell, Sendai, what do I want?”


“You want Melissan,” said Sendai. “You want to know where she is and how to get to her. I can provide that and only I can. I wish to trade this knowledge.”


Zaranda cocked her head sideways. “For your life? For your freedom?”


Sendai shook her head. “For my people. You want to stop Melissan. I have no love for her or her Five. I want assurances that my people will be safe and allowed to remain in the Enclave. I want them to become recognized as citizens of your lands, and afforded the same protection as any other citizen.” Sendai raised her chin and then, as if remembering where she was, cast her eyes downward. “If that’s alright, of course.”


“How do you know all this?” Zaranda crossed her arms and tried to not look so stern as to scare Sendai into submission.


Sendai spoke softly. “I, uhm, spoke to your cleaning staff. At length.”


Honestly, Zaranda wasn't expecting that particular answer at all. “My... cleaning staff?”


“Yes. Nobody notices them, but they see and hear everything that goes on in a palace like this. Back in the Underdark, when I was still in the employ of the House I served, I know exactly who was having an affair with whom, who was planning to assassinate whom, who was planning to backstab whom. When my house went to war with another house, I knew the entire plan of attack from start to finish. I was in the room sweeping, but the matron mother and her daughters never even paid me any heed,” Sendai said, cracking a brief smile.


Zaranda had to admit she was intrigued. “What did you do with this knowledge?”


The small drow twitched a bit. “Mostly… making sure I wasn’t the one who found the bodies. We might not be noticed, but we can be convenient scapegoats when the need arises.”


“So when you talked to my cleaning staff, what did you talk about?” asked the queen, eager to learn more.


“Current events. The war. But also about Tethyr, the lands, the people, the rulers. What I've heard I found rather appealing. The drow in the enclave are good and hard-working people who want to have a brighter future to look forward to. We have excellent craftmen and fine traders. We have recently made contact with the drow city of Ust Natha, a major trading hub in the underdark. I think our enclave has a lot to offer Tethyr, if you’d let us,” Sendai gave her a hopeful look.


The queen shook her head. “I can't believe my cleaning staff would be privy to such sensitive information.”


“Can you tell me a name of someone on your cleaning staff?” Sendai asked.


“Of course,” said Zaranda, narrowing her eyes. “There's... uhm... and there's.... well... I'm sure one of them is named Geralt.”


Sendai shook her head briefly, causing Zaranda to flush with embarrassment. “And,” Sendai pressed. “When's the last time you noticed someone cleaning?”


“Well, there was... uhm... Oh wait, no that was... I'm sure there...” Zaranda sighed heavily, covering her face with her hand for a moment. “Alright, Sendai, you've made your point,” she admitted.


The queen composed herself, but had to admit that Sendai had caught her off guard. “Back to the business at hand,” she said. “We all know about the drow's reputation. Yet, unlike the other Five, your drow were never involved with any raids and caused no casualties. You can only be held responsible for some minor thefts. You were even kind to your neighbors. That is curious.”


Sendai nodded. “I never let the mercenaries do anything so terrible as to invite reprisals.”


“What can you tell me about your mission. What was it Melissan wanted you to do?” Zaranda asked.


“My honest answer?” Sendai spoke. “I don't really know. I was the last member of the Five to be recruited. Honestly, I didn’t know why. One day, I was just polishing and sweeping floors, the next I was on the run fearing for my life. Melissan's offer made my dreams of becoming a wizard true. She never really paid me any mind after that. I was given the enclave with the order to make it grow. I think she intended the drow mercenaries to assist the other armies, but I was never actually given any orders by her. Don’t think I would have followed them anyway.”


The queen narrowed her eyes. “Why should I give you anything?” said the queen. “I have you here. I can simply lock you up in the dungeons until you decide to talk.”


“You could,” said Sendai, her expression uncertain. “But you will find me quite stubborn. And Melissan won't sit still while you wait.”


“That I believe,” Zaranda snorted. “I think you’re stronger than you realize.”


Sendai shook her head. “Others keep saying that. I don’t think I agree.”


“True citizenship for drow living underground,” Zaranda rubbed her chin. “That's going to be unusual. But citizenship means adhering to the laws of the land. You people will have to submit to our laws and our structure of government.”


“From what I've heard, that seems only fair,” Sendai nodded.


“That means taxes, yes, but also the benefits of protection from the army of Tethyr. A new duchy would be created and a local duke assigned. You must allow other races to live in the enclave if they wish to settle. We don't allow race-based discrimination in Tethyr. Not anymore. In short, the drow of the enclave will need to allow free travel and settlement of other Tethyrian citizens and adherence to Tethyrian law. No more hiding underneath the ground.”


Sendai nodded. “It might take a while for my people to trust yours.”


“If they're willing to try,” said Zaranda. “I am willing to give them a chance. Everybody deserves a chance. But there is one more problem.”


Sendai's face fell. “Which is?”


“Elves,” said Zaranda. “One fifth of Tethyrian citizens are elves. In my experiences, elves can be very open and forgiving, but on the other hand I know much about the distrust between elves and drow. They might balk at having drow living in their midst. Tethyr has had too much trouble with civil unrest for generations now and elves had it rather bad. I do not wish too antagonize our elven citizens too much.”


Sendai thought for a moment, and then she snapped her finger as an idea hit her. “Laska! Laska can endorse us! She’s honored as a true hero in Tethyr and her people listen to what she has to say. If I can convince her to give an endorsement…”


Zaranda smiled broadly. “Say no more. I've come to know her well enough to know that she will do so without question. It will go far to quell any unrest. That was good thinking, little Sendai.”


The drow kept her eyes downcast once again. “Thank you,” she whispered softly.


“Do you have a duke in mind?” asked Zaranda.


“Have your people look for the bartender of The Sotted Spider,” said Sendai. “He is a wise enough ruler to lead the enclave to a bright future.”


The queen raised an eyebrow. “You're not going to nominate yourself as duchess?”


Sendai shook her head. “No.”


Zaranda Star smiled at her and rose from her seat, motioning Sendai to do the same. The small drow hopped from her seat and slowly approached the queen. “Very well,” spoke Zaranda. “We are in agreement. The drow enclave will become a duchy of Tethyr, with all the duties and rights which come with that. Your people will submit yourself to the law and rule of the land and will be afforded protection. In return, you will lead us to the location of Amelyssan Wiseau. I will also throw in a full pardon for their leader, upon the death or arrest of Amelyssan Wiseau. And by that I mean you, Sendai. I will have all necessary paperwork drawn up for your inspection. Do we have a deal?”


The queen extended her hand. The small drow smiled, thinking this was the best possible outcome. Sendai eagerly took the queen's hand and shook it. “We are in agreement!” she practically beamed.


“One more thing,” said Zaranda. “We really need to think of a better name for Tethyr’s latest duchy than simply ‘drow enclave’.”


Sendai smiled briefly. “We’ll think of something nice.”


TnT 251: Can we keep her?

18 December 2016 - 09:27 PM

Bit of a short chapter this time around, but we're almost at the end. Three more (rather large) chapters incoming.


Tankards and Tempers

Chapter 251: Can we keep her?


Laska and Viconia joined Sendai as she was going to pack a few of her belongings for the trip to Darromar. The little drow had insisted on going to her quarters. Once there, she had packed a few things; her spellbook, her traveling cloak, a statuette of Eilistraee, among other things. Then, she wanted to visit a room near her own quarters.


She, Laska, Viconia and Diaytha entered the darkened room when on the comfortable bed lay an unconscious young drow male. Sendai knelt by the bed and ran her hand through his hair.


“Yazfryn,” said Diaytha, addressing Laska's questioning look. “My mistress' lover. He was assaulted by another male seeking her favor and was almost beaten to death.”


“Shit,” Laska hissed.


“The other male is now dead,” said Diaytha. “My mistress was not pleased. I healed his wounds as best he could, but...”


“You did well,” said Viconia as she examined Yazfryn. “The male has withdrawn into his own mind, perhaps for protection. He will have to come forth on his own.”


“Those were my findings as well,” said Diaytha.


Sendai spent a few moments with her fallen lover. “If he wakes up and I'm not here... please explain to him. I...”


“You'll see him again,” Laska pressed as she placed her hand on Sendai's shoulder. As Bhaalspawn siblings went, Laska found Sendai to be one of the more nicer ones. Imoen, bless her heart, was already discussing possible adoption. That led Laska to remind her sister that Sendai was a person and not a dress-up doll.


Sendai nodded and took a moment to kiss his forehead. “I'm ready to go,” said Sendai. Together and in silence, the four of them walked out of the great hall while Sendai donned her traveling cloak and strapped on her backpack. They met up with the rest of the party in the courtyard. Laska and Sendai took point and the rest followed immediately behind. Once they left the fortress and entered the village, they were confronted with a gathering of drow commoners, having found their courage now that they were sure that no more invaders were coming. Some were brandishing weapons and stood ready to defend their mistress.


Laska shared an uneasy look with her friends. Sure, they would be able to take them all on easily, even being so outnumbered. But it would be a complete bloodbath. Thankfully, it never came to that. Sendai stepped forward.


“Please, stand down,” the small drow spoke. “I am going with Laska and her friends of my own free will. I will be taken to Zaranda Star, the Matron Mother of the lands above. Doing so will keep you safe. I will make sure the humans' matron mother will do nothing to harm you. You will not lose the home you have toiled to make for yourselves here, I swear it. You... will do fine without me.”


There were cries of protests, curses and words of hatred. Most of them directed at Laska. In all honesty, Laska understood. Though her best friend was a drow, she was quite aware that the animosity between elves and drow ran deep and cold. And, right now, she was the wicked evil elf who was taking their beloved mistress away.


Sendai walked over to an elderly drow. “Alozvirr,” she said. “You are the wisest person I know. I want you to lead this community in my absence. Look out for the people and the enclave.”


Alozvirr straightened his back. “I... I am a mere bartender.”


Sendai smiled. “We both know you're more than that.”


The elderly drow bowed his head. “If that's your will, Mis... Sendai.”


“Diaytha,” said Sendai. “Take charge of the remaining priestesses and mercenaries. Your task is to protect the people. Guard all our access tunnels deeper into the Underdark to keep the beasts out. Only the caravans from Ust Natha get through.”


Diaytha nodded grimly as Sendai walked over to her and hugged her. Diaytha seemed awkward for a moment, then returned the embrace, closing her eyes. “Take care. Be safe, mistre... my friend,” stated Diathya.


Then, Sendai knelt and petted Larriaz. “You can't come with me. Not this time,” said Sendai. The spider seemed rather distressed by this. “You'll have to watch over Yazfryn. Can you do that for me?”


The spider seemed to chirp her agreement before she was on the receiving end of a hug. Then, Sendai rose to her feet and looked at the village and the villagers one more time. “I'm ready to leave,” she said.


“Okay,” said Laska. “It'll take a few days to reach Darromar.”


“We will travel during the day,” said Viconia. “I have ointment for your skin.”


Together, the party and Sendai left the drow enclave before and stepped into the burning light of the sun.





And so Sendai ended up riding on the cart the party had brought while Korgan snored in the back as he lay sprawled among the supplies. Though Sarevok had initially insisted that the capture drow's hands should be bound, but considered her so little a threat that it took very little argument to renege that request.


Sendai herself covered herself completely with her hooded cloak, even though the heat of the sun was unbearable. The ointment Viconia had provided she had smeared on her face and hands to protect herself from the light of the sun, and a great big blue dollop stained the skin around her nose. Thankfully, the party had brought plenty of water for her to drink.


She'd be lying to herself if she wasn't nervous about the upcoming meeting with the queen of these lands. If she was anything like the matrons of her homelands, her fate was already sealed. Then again, there was something the queen wanted from her, so she could bargain.


Sendai was playing out the conversation with queen Zaranda Star in her head when suddenly a horse pulled up alongside the cart and trotted along. Imoen smiled at her before she let loose. “HI! I'm Imoen! So, how old are you? Where are you from? Do you have any hobbies? What kind of music do you like? Do you have a favorite spell? Do you read romance novels? Do you have pets? Do you like pets? Have you ever seen a Wendersnaven? What's your favorite color? How do you get your hair so curly? What's your favorite food? Do you like cats? Do you like dogs? Yazfryn is cute, you gonna marry him? What do you think of the surface so far?”


Sendai blinked as she tried to process this information. “Uhm,” she stammered.


Laska rode her horse next to the other side of the cart. “Im, what are you doing?” she asked.


“I'm just getting to know our new sister!” Imoen raved. “She’s a lot nicer than the others.”


By now, Sendai started to avoid eye-contract, and rather nervously kept her eyes downcast.


“What’s the matter?” asked Imoen as she noticed.


“I, uhm, nothing,” Sendai stammered as she spoke with a small voice while stealing a few looks at the armored young elf riding next to her. “It’s just that… I’ve never been this close to a surface elf before.”


Laska smirked. “Well, I’m sure you’re suitably impressed.”


“You’re not what I expected,” said Sendai. “You seem nice and honorable, but… you're still the ancient enemy of my people. I don't really know what to make of you.”


“Don't worry,” said Laska. “I won't kill you in your sleep and dump your corpse in the river.”


Sendai gasped while Imoen facepalmed. “Yeah, that's a good way to reassure Sendai. Don't worry. Laska's can be bit of a dunce every so often.”


Laska huffed. “Well, Vico doesn't seem to have any complaints about me.”


“HAH!” Imoen chuckled.


“At least not anything related to me being an elf,” Laska narrowed her eyes.


Sendai looked over her shoulder to look in the direction where Viconia was riding. “She… she scares me. She’s like the nobles of the House I used to work for,” said Sendai.


“Vic?” Imoen asked.


“She looks down on me,” said Sendai.


“Vic looks down on a lot of people, us included,” Laska shrugged. “Don’t take it personally.”


“She’s a pussycat, really. But let her know if she gets too mean for your tastes and I'll have a chat with her,” said Imoen.


“Curious,” Sendai cocked her head. “She listens to you.”


Laska smirked. “I heard you two 'chatting' last night. You’ve found ways to make Vico purr with delight.”


Imoen giggled. “Hah. Only when she lets me.”


Sendai's eyebrows shot into her hairline. “Are you… together?”


“Yeah. Very much so. Very much in love,” Imoen said proudly.


Sendai frowned. “That's...unexpected. You aren’t normal people, are you?”


“Normal is overrated,” Laska stated proudly.


“I used to think so. I was never satisfied with my lot in life. I was a cleaning lady, a child of rape and thus a pariah. But after all that's happened, I’d love to just be normal again.”


Laska stared at her for a moment. “I don’t believe that. Not for one bit.”


A startled Sendai turned to her. “Huh? How...”


Laska smiled at her. “I saw how you acted back there. How you stood up for your people. How you addressed them. Like it or not, you’re a leader.”


“A natural one, even,” Imoen added.


Sendai shook her head. “No, I’m not.”


“Yes, you are!” Imoen pressed. “You need to learn your own strengths.”


“It would help if you’d be a little less mousy, though,” said Laska.


Imoen narrowed her eyes, fished an apple from her pouch and threw it at Laska as hard as she could.


“Ow!” said Laska as the apple collided with the side of her head. Before the apple could bounce away, the elf plucked it out of the air and brought it to her mouth to take a bite out of it.


“Laska, be nice!” Imoen demanded.


“What?” Laska said with her mouth full of munched apple. “It’s true!”


“Even if it’s true, it’s not nice to say it.”


Laska smirked. “Ah, Sendai. When we reach Darromar, you and I are going to paint the town red. I know a lot of elves there who love to party! Some drink and some merriment will loosen you right up. And you'll learn to like elves!”


“Yes,” said Imoen. “Sendai, you can look forward to waking up in the stable lying naked next to a centaur.”


Laska's eyes grew wide, then narrowed. “That only happened to me once! You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?”


Suddenly, Sendai let out a laugh, earning her some curious looks from Imoen and Laska. Sendai turned her head to both before speaking. “I... I rather like having sisters.”





The moment Melissan stared into the newly opened portal, she was overcome with terrible anxiety.


She had never been closer to achieving her goal. There's be so many hurdles, so many set-backs and so many disappointments.


But she would prevail. She was certain of it now. Her plan had had moderate success, but still, would it be enough?


'No,' she steeled herself. She had sacrificed too much to doubt herself now. Worse yet, it was only a matter of time before the traitor Sendai would lead the forces of Tethyr right to her doorstep. She had to move quickly.


Most of the minor Bhaalspawn were still alive and well in Saradush. Individually, these pathetic creatures had only very little divine essence, but together they represented a large chunk of Bhaal's essence. Laska Leafwalker and, most likely, the traitor Sendai, were still alive. The two of them represented two more large chunks of Bhaal essence.


But four of the Five lay day. And even before she had started to work on her plan, so many minor and greater Bhaalspawn had already started slaughtering each other as they had unwittingly sought out each other to fuel the flames of Bhaal's resurrection, as was their lot in life.


But Bhaal would never come back. No, from the ashes of a dead god, a new goddess would arise. Amelyssan Wiseau would never be mocked again: she, unlike her faithless critics, would take center stage for all of Toril to see. She would find eternity. She would find the recognition she craved.


She had schemed, she had researched and she had all the cards firmly in hand. All her life had led to this very moment.


Melissan stepped forward into the portal to take her to Gehenna. To Bhaal's former Realm.


There would be enough Bhaal essence to infuse herself with divinity.


There had to be.

TnT 250: Third Sister

11 December 2016 - 08:13 AM

Tankards and Tempers

Chapter 250: Third sister


After five days of travel to the Sulduskoon River, and three days of painstakingly combing the area along the riverbanks near confirmed drow sightings, fuses quickly ran short and tempers ran high. So far, the party had no luck actually tracking down the drow.


The most promising lead was a small village which had had contact with a drow raiding party. Khittix was putting his nose to work by walking ahead of the horses, scouring the side of the road for any scents. Though the spider's tracking skills were beyond reproach, even Khittix had his limits and had yet to pick up a scent. With the hot sun bearing down on the fully armored riders as they trotted over the road next to the river, Imoen had rolled out the map. “Okay, I think we're over here now. If we pass a village called 'Nine Ladies', we've gone too far.”


“Hey, Im,” said Laska as she wiped the sweat from her brow. “Got any more of those cone of cold spells?”


“Sure,” said Imoen. “Last one, though.”


“Give it to me,” Laska said as Imoen rode ahead, held her hand out and aimed towards Laska. Extreme cold lashed out and hit the elf's upper body. Her armor and little uncovered skin was soon covered with a thin layer of snow which quickly melted into cold water. “Ooooh, yeah... blisss...” Laska practically moaned.


Next to her, Sarevok grumbled. “Three days. Three days of nothing. These drow know how to hide.”


Korgan chuckled. “Or maybe drowsy’s fragrant armpits ‘ere be thowin’ off ‘is nose?”


Viconia narrowed her eyes in response. “I do not reek!” she hissed while holding the reigns of her horse. “Even so, my own pet can tell the difference between me and other drow.”


As if trying to prove a point, Khittix pressed his pincers closer to the road to try even harder. Meanwhile, Imoen rode next to Viconia while staring down Korgan. “You smell nice. You always smell nice.”


“Biased,” Sarevok replied.


Laska let out a labored groan. “Are we there yet?”


“You asked two minutes ago. Stop it!” Viconia demanded.


“This is boring! The landscape is boring, the river is boring, the trees are boring and you guys are boring! Jan, can’t you invent a drow detector or something?” Laska asked.


Jan, having chosen to ride a small yet tenacious donkey, rubbed his beard with one hand. “I could, but I’d need some ratchets, a large brass gear, a small silver sprocket, a miller's stone, a glass-blower's pipe, several pots and pans, a housing made from oaken wood, a couple of pinecones, a small dog named Barky, five buskers singing the Tethyrian anthem on a C-note, a drow hair, an earth elemental in jar, some whale blubber, the whisker of a manatee, a beer-bong, at least three croquet balls and a giant mechanical bird with a tragic backstory. When you get me all of those parts, I'll be able to make you a superb drow detector! But it’ll probably end up just pointing towards Viconia all the time, so we probably shouldn't bother.”


Viconia grumbled something about gnomes and potential punting distances. “And that is why we use Khittix instead. Still, the tales don't add up. Every 'raid' we've heard about had zero casualties. The village we passed had no populace harmed, and the drow only destroyed abandoned buildings. Usually, a drow raids finds your village? Your village is dead, your supplies are taken and once you've rebuilt, they do it all over again.”


“Nice people, those drow,” Imoen rolled her eyes.


“That's the whole point,” said Viconia. “We should be wary.”


Suddenly, for the first time in three days, Khittix let out a legitimately enthusiastic chirp, apparently having caught a scent. The spider jumped up, twisted in the air and landed on all eights. Khittix raised one leg, pointed to the forest and then shot off into the underbrush.


Sarevok grunted. “If that damn spider is off chasing a rabbit again, I’ll throw him in the river.”


“That was not a rabbit Khittix smelled,” said Viconia.


“Follow that spider!” Laska said as she dismounted. The horsed would not be able to follow them into the thick underbrush, so after tying them to a nearby tree, the party quickly followed Khittix into the forest. Much to the party's delight, the forest was dense and cool. Khittix led them to the forest for several minutes until they came to a clearing near the bottom of a cliffside. The terrain, being near the Starspire mountains, was rather hilly and strewn with a few smaller mountains. Near the cliffside and at the end of the clearing was what looked like a ranger's cabin.


“Yeah,” Imoen whispered. “Something is off here.”


“I get what you mean,” said Laska. “The state of the cabin suggests nobody is living here, just someone clearly is.”


Khittix stopped at the edge of the forest, and pointed one leg towards the hovel. The hovel itself looked like it had been abandoned for decades, but recently claimed and re-inhabited. That in itself certainly wasn't an impossibility, but the whole thing felt off.


“Fire's coming from the chimney,” said Jan. “But no firewood anywhere around the cabin.”


“Whoever lives here hasn't bothered to fix the holes in the roof either,” said Sarevok, while Viconia carefully placed her hood over her head.


“I guess we knock?” asked Laska.


“Let's not be rude or violent,” said Imoen. “It could just be a weird crazy hermit who lives here.”


“Ach, ye be no fun, Imoen,” Korgan grunted as he grabbed his axe.


Just as the party approached, the door to the cabin opened. Out stepped an odd looking elf wearing splint-mail armor and brandishing two swords. The elf was male and had his long hair tied back into a ponytail. He stepped forward and narrowed his eyes. “This is private property,” he spoke with an undefinable accent. “Please leave!”


Imoen scraped her throat. “Heya, I'm Imoen and we're lost travelers. Could you please tell us where we can find the road to Darromar?”


“No!” the elf narrowed his eyes. “Now leave! You are not welcome here! Especially you!”


The elf pointed at Laska and his face twisted in a mask of unadulterated rage.


“What?” Laska blinked. “What did I do?!”


“LEAVE!” the weird elf snarled and raised his swords.


By now, the party gathered to confer and stuck their heads together while the weird elf looked on from a distance. To make sure the elf's superior hearing wouldn't pick up on what they were saying, Imoen made sure to magically suppress their voices.


“What's up with that guy?” Laska said. “He acts like I ate his dog or something.”


“Why indeed?” said Viconia.


“I say we just kill 'im,” growled Korgan.


“What an odd accent,” Sarevok muttered. “It sounds familiar, but I can't place it.”


“Indeed,” said Viconia as she left the circle and started to approach the elf. “Time to end this farce.”


The elf raised a sword and pointed it towards her. “I told you to leave!”


Viconia said nothing. Instead, she brought her hands to her hood and slowly pulled it back, revealing herself to him as a drow. Instantly, the male elf gasped in horror, dropping one of his swords. Before the elf could recover, Viconia slammed her small shield against the side of his face. Blood and broken teeth flew from his face as the elf hurtled to the ground. “On your kneels, filth! Bow to your better!” Viconia snarled.


A flabbergasted Imoen rushed up to her lover. “Sune’s tits, Vic! What are you doing?!” Imoen exclaimed as the others rushed up. Khittix had joined them now too, hissing at the fallen elf.


Viconia performed the subtle hand movements of a spell which cancelled out any and all magic in the immediate area. This included the spell which disguised the drow as a hermit elven ranger.


“We’ve found the enclave. And our way into it,” Viconia grinned.


The male drow looked up at Viconia. “What kind of drow travels with our most hated enemy?!” he demanded. To which Viconia responded by treating him to a swift kick to the chin. She then turned to Laska when he was holding his chin and give her friend a wink. It took a second wink, more annoyed and overt, before the tattooed elf caught on to her meaning.


Laska grabbed the male drow by the neck and pushed him into the wall of the cabin. “Give him to me,” said Laska in her most menacing voice as she drew a dagger from her belt and pressed it against his belly. “I like the taste of drow liver best when it’s still raw and bloody!”


Viconia showed the male a slight grin. “Either you tell me what you know or I’ll give you to her. My friend Laska has ways of getting disobedient drow males to talk. And you won’t like it.”


Faced with potentially losing his liver to a hungry elf, the drow male sang a bird. After knocking him out and tying him up in the cabin, Laska and her friends made their way to the rock-face where the male said the entrance to the underground enclave was located. It was Jan who actually found the true entrance; his keen gnomish insight into engineering discovered that the entrance to the drow enclave was hidden by a mechanism rather than by magic. After pressing a sequence of buttons disguised a rocks, a door wide enough for a cart to drive through sank into the ground.


A small guard post was located right inside, occupied by three more drow watchmen. They were dispatched quickly; Korgan roared as he buried his axe into a drow's gullet while Sarevok severed another watchman's head right from his body with one cleave from his greatsword. Jan dispatched the last one with a crossbow bolt to the back of the head.


“Sure,” Laska huffed. “Don't leave any drow for your elven friend.”


“Be quicker then,” Korgan replied.


“At least the tunnel is nice and cool,” said Laska.


The tunnel had a slight inclination downward as it went down for only about fifty meters. Once they emerged from the tunnel, they were standing right in the drow enclave, to everyone's surprise. And it was a lovely place. The main cavern was tall, wide and irregularly shaped. Most of the dwellings had been built into the side of the cavern, with several rows of apartments more to the back. Larger buildings were located in the middle of the cavern, along with pastures where rothe and spiders dwelt, as well as patches of cultivated giant mushrooms. There was low bluish light in the cavern, from lichen spread evenly on the walls. The entire settlement had a series of paved road and several reservoirs of water gathered from the river as they were being magically filtered. The entrance they had come from led them near a marketplace where many drow were gathered. These drow were not armored or armed, but were wearing normal clothes. Men, women and children were mulling about while craftsmen were at work or selling wares. The whole enclave was a village bustling with activity.


“This place is... beautiful,” Imoen gasped.


“I was expecting a group of battle-hardened mercenaries armed to the teeth,” said Laska. “These are just... people.”


It was at that moment that one of the kids noticed the odd-looking newcomers. The boy had just pointed them out to his mother, when the young drow female let her basket drop and shrieked. More heads turns. The gathered drow commoners took one look at Laska and immediately started shouting and running, abandoning their wares and purchases to run into the village yelling warnings.


Word spread fast as the party pressed forward into the village, causing more of the drow to run off. Once they exited the marketplace, they passed a cute house, built right into the stone of the cavern. Around the house was a yard with stone enclosure, next to the house a small workshop with a potter's wheel. Two curious young drow girls rushed to the stone enclosure and leaned on it to see what all the fuss was about. Instantly, their father ran out to scoop the girls up and hurried inside the house. As the party passed, they were confronted by the mother of the family, clad in a grey dress as her long white hair hung loose. The woman was trembling, yet stood ready to defend her family with pitchfork in hand. It struck Laska how scared she looked, terrified even. Terrified of her.


The mother pointed the pitchfork at them as they passed. Once the female decided they were not going to invade their home, she quickly withdrew inside the house. The door fell shut followed sound of a heavy bar falling into place. A few moments later, all lights were killed.


This wasn't the only house this was happening. All the drow withdrew into their houses, closed and barred the door, then killed the lights. The entire vibrant village had become dead and lifeless in less than a minute.


“Who are these people?” Sarevok asked.


“Commoners who were exiled or outcasts for some reason. Refugees from the war Ardulace started in Ust Natha, perhaps,” said Viconia. “These were people who came here to start a new life. Perhaps this enclave was their last chance.”


“And we're here to end this enclave,” Jan frowned. “Kinda depressing when you think about it.”


“Sune,” Imoen shook her head. “This... this isn't right.”


“I... I... really don’t feel like a hero today,” Laska muttered. “Shit, this is their home!”


“Och, ye be squeamish,” said Korgan. “'ow about we just be findin' that Sendai, chop 'er 'ead off an' leave. It's not like them drowsies 'ere can't keep this village goin' after we be gone.”


“Right,” Laska spoke grimly. “I didn't become an adventurer to kick people out of their homes! Zaranda can fire me if she likes, but she'll have to make do with just the mercenaries and Sendai dealt with.”


“Likely,” Viconia said, pointing to the larger building located on a raised platform at the edge of the village. “She's in there. It looks to be a palace-fortress. Usually in these smaller outposts, the governess' mansion, the temple of Lolth and the military barracks share one building.”


“Let's go!” Sarevok roared, sword at the ready.


The party started to move towards the building in a trot, passing a few more houses before they ran up the pathway leading towards it. When they arrived they were utterly surprised to find the portcullis and the doors to the gate still wide open. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, the party ran right in. A few guards on the parapet noticed them and started to shout alarms inside, but before they could act, the six of them were already inside the compound.


The compound was a large training area, complete with a pen for military riding lizards. The beasts paid the newcomers no mind and kept munching on whatever cadaverous flesh they were eating. To the left was what seemed to be a barracks and to the left was the temple of Lolth. Straight ahead was the great hall and the governess' mansion. That had to be where they would find Sendai. Truth be told, they had no idea what to expect, as Sendai had to be the most enigmatic of the Five. But if the other four were any indication, she would be just as dangerous.


A few soldiers were in the courtyard, startled at the sudden arrival of the intruders. Instantly, they raised their weapons and were ready to confront them. Drow curses and yells resounded off the stones of the keep, while the doors of both the temple and the barracks were thrown open. Drow mercenaries and clerics came spewing forth.


Korgan roared and slammed his axe right into the gullet of an archer while he was fumbling with his crossbow, while Laska let out a cry and rushed towards a group of mercenaries. With both her swords, she easily parried attacks from all four at once, all the while deftly stepping out of their way when they attempted to counter-attack. Spells were starting to be flung back and forth, lighting up the darkened compound.


Yells of pain, terror and victory mixed with the sounds of battle. Laska slashed a sword across a drow's throat, twirled around her axis and kicked a priestess of Lolth right in the face with her steel boot. Blood spurted from her nose and mouth as she fell backwards. Laska dove forward, rolled to her feet and stabbed both swords outward, getting one drow in the neck and the other just above the groin. Yet more stood ready to face her. As an elf, she was the most popular target. She grinned; that suited her more than fine.


Jan and Imoen bombarded a group of mercenaries with magical death, setting them on fire. Sarevok let out a roar as she grabbed a screaming drow priestess by the hair and threw her right into one of her sisters, sending the both of them to the ground in a heap. By now, they started noticing that there were just as many drow combatants fleeing as there were fighting.


“Oy!” Korgan shouted after them. “Come back 'ere ta be slaughtered, ye bloody cowards!”


“Why the hell are they running? What are they saying?” Imoen yelled over the sounds of battle.


Viconia grunted as she slammed her shield into that of a priestess before hitting her in the face with the hilt of her flail. “We've caught them completely by surprise! They think we're the vanguard of a larger force.”


“Their disarray is a sign of poor leadership,” Sarevok yelled as he waved his greatsword through the courtyard like a scythe. Most of the mercenaries fled through the gate behind them, no doubt on the run to deeper into the Underdark. By now, a priestess wearing fancy looking armor and a headdress had emerged from the temple and was cursing and yelling at the fleeing soldiers.


“That's the high-priestess!” Viconia yelled. “Take her down before she rallies her forces!”


“On it!” Laska yelled as she jumped forward, pushed her way in between two clerics and sending them both to the ground. The high-priestess was startled and, before she could raise her whip, was treated to a vicious slash across her chest with one sword, before cutting her into the face with the other. The high-priestess' expression was one of utter surprise as her whip fell to her hand. She sank to her knees and then fell face-down onto the ground.


The high-priestess' fall sent the clerics and mercenaries still standing into further panic. Most of them dropped their weapons and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. A few moments later, the compound was deserted with the exception of those too wounded to flee. The party left them alone as they headed towards the door leading into the great hall.


“Well, this was easy,” said Jan. “Of course, after giants, an army of mercenaries and a boatload of dragons, I don't think a couple of drow could top that. Now, maybe if they were knife-wielding monkeys...”


“Quiet,” hissed Viconia. “Don't underestimate the drow. We have no idea what we'll find inside the... ”


Just as they were about to head towards the great hall, the double doors slowly started to open. Undoubtedly, it was by magical command as the doors had been secured by warding runes.


“Stop!” commanded a female voice coming from the inside of the great hall. The female spoke in heavily accented common, and was obscured by the darkness.


Viconia nodded grimly. “Be ready for anything. Remember, though her minions are bunglers, she is one of the Five.”


Laska stepped forward, ready to confront the evil ruler of this enclave.


What emerged from the darkness was a small female drow, a head shorter than Viconia. The woman bore a wizard's robe and brandished an adorned battle-staff. Though the robes were made to fit her, they still seemed to be too large to bear the person wearing them. She trembled as she held her staff and attempted to look menacing. This was Sendai.


Sendai didn’t look much like an evil drow matron with the blood of Bhaal running through her veins; in fact, she rather looked like a scared teenager ready to piss herself.


“I am Laska Leafwalker,” the tattooed elf spoke, swords in hand.


“I know of you,” replied Sendai. “I know of the wickedness of elves. I won't... I won't let you harm my people! I won't!”


The terror in her voice was obvious, as was her determination. Laska instantly felt that something was off here. She turned to look at her companions and saw them equally confused.


“You are a servant of Amellysan Wiseau, the Black-hearted?” Laska asked. “Like the others?”


Sendai seemed confused. “I don't know that person. But I know you. You kill Bhaalspawn and everyone else who gets in your path.”


Laska raised an eyebrow. “Who told you that?”


“The others,” said Sendai. Then, she pointed to several dead and dying mercenaries moaning on the ground. “And my own eyes. I won't allow you to kill me. There are people who need me! Yazfryn needs me! I will fight!”


Imoen raised her hand. “Uh, guys?” Imoen started. “I think we might need to confer again.”


“Curious,” Viconia raised an eyebrow. “A matron ruler who... cares about her people. How... novel.”


“Och, just be killin' the bint and be done with!”


Just then, something big jumped off the room and landed on all eights right next to Sendai. The giant spider whom had just arrived hissed and spat at the party.


“Giant Spider!” Sarevok announced.


“Sure, Sarevok Obvious,” Jan said as he aimed his crossbow. “I got it!”


A bolt streaked through the air and hit the giant spider in the thorax as the creature reared. The spider let out a shrill cry and fell backwards, ending up laying on its back as her legs started to fold inward.


Instantly, Sendai let her weapon fall to the ground. Her bravado forgotten, she rushed to the fallen spider and wrapped her arms around it. “LARRIAZ!” the small drow cried out her denial as she burst into tears. “NO! No, no, no, no, NO!”


Laska and the others looked on in stunned silence as the evil drow matron they had expected was crying like a little girl as she was cradling the dying spider.


“Uhm,” Jan muttered. “Does anyone else feel like a heel right about now?”


“Yeah,” Imoen muttered.


Laska sheathed both her swords. “Guys. Stand down. There's no threat here.”


Korgan and Sarevok reluctantly did so. Laska turned to Viconia, whom was looking at the spectacle as if her brain couldn't process what she was seeing. “Vico?” Laska asked. “Could you...”


“It's a spider, Laska,” the drow protested.


“Even so,” Laska replied. “What if it was Khittix?”


The drow let out a heavy sigh as she understood Laska's meaning and put away her flail. She strode over to where Sendai sat sobbing and knelt down next her.


“No!” Sendai spoke through a torrent of tears as she tried to protect the spider by shielding it with her body. “Leave us alone!”


“Be quiet and let me help!” Viconia demanded and roughly shoved the younger drow away. Sendai was about to jump her when a blue light emanated from Viconia's hand. Healing magic flowed from her body into the spider and the bolt was quickly pushed out of the carapace by the curative powers. A few moments later, the spider was standing on eight legs again, looking rather confused by her whole ordeal.


“Larriaz!” Sendai cried, tears of joy this time as she hugged the spider whom had been her only friend for such a long time.


“I think we're done here,” Laska said.


Just then, the high-priestess from before suddenly rose up. Bloodied and staggering, the snarling cleric had partially healed herself and positioned herself between Sendai and Laska, pushing Viconia away. “Away!” the high-priestess yelled as blood ran down the side of her head. “Mistress, flee! I shall hold them off!”


“Diaytha,” Sendai smiled and threw her arms around her. “I'm so glad you're still alive.”


“Mistress!” Diaytha snarled. “Flee! The elf will slaughter you! It's what elves do!”


Sendai turned to Laska. “No,” said Sendai. “I don't think she will. Stand down. Tell everyone to stand down and see to the wounded.”


Much to Diaytha's distress, Sendai walked over to Laska while Lariaz stood next to her, hissing slightly at the tattooed elf. “It's me you're here for,” said Sendai. “We are both Bhaalspawn... sisters, right? If I... surrender myself to you, will you spare my people?”


“Awww,” Imoen smiled. “Laska, can we keep her? She's so cute!”


Laska crossed her arms. “I... I wasn't really expecting things to go down this way when we infiltrated this enclave. I was expecting an army of enemies to defeat with you at the end of it. I wasn't expecting... innocent civilians and you being... nice,” Laska sighed. “Sometimes adventuring is incredibly complicated.”


“May I suggest,” Sarevok said. “Questioning her? I'm sure she'll have plenty of things to tell about Melissan.”


“Melissan!” Sendai nodded. “I have no love for her. I will tell you all you want to know.”


Laska nodded. “Alright,” said the elf. “I'll hand you over to our employer, queen-monarch Zaranda Star of Tethyr. She'll decide what to do with you.”


“Don't worry,” said Imoen. “She's pretty nice, actually.”


“Imoen,” Sarevok hissed. “Don't tell our prisoner that! We want to pressure her into telling us all she knows!”


“Ach,” Korgan shrugged. “I be killin' a few drowsies. I be satisfied.”


“Well, this is a fine turn of events,” said Jan. “Those evil drow we sought turned out to be nice. Interestingly enough, my uncle Arne Jansen had a bit of the opposite as of late. He has travelling through the forests of Tethyr when he came across a gathering of saucy wood-nymphs giggling and bathing in the forest. So, being a hot-blooded gnome, he quickly took off his clothes and joined them in the stream. The nymphs themselves weren't all that happy to be suddenly sharing a stream with a slightly overweight balding gnome and just as he was giving one particular nymph a complement because her breasts resembled a pair of turnips, they grabbed him by the limbs and started dragging him to a nearby swamp. After throwing him in the murky water and stomping off, he was beset by a slathering swamp hag! Now, this hag had the single most beautiful nose he had even seen and instantly asked for her hand in marriage. My cousins are rather nice, but their skin's a bit greenish, you see?”


Sendai blinked. “Is he... always like this?”


Laska shrugged. “Pretty much continuously.”


Skin Designed By Evanescence at IBSkin.com