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AnavielMember Since 09 Nov 2000
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Topics I've Started
28 January 2003 - 01:55 AM
Oh and since it's been awhile since I've posted the last part here's the story so far: Katora left Candlekeep with Gorion only to be ambushed by Sarevok... Gorion was killed, but Katora made it out alive. She joined up Imoen, Xzar, and Montaron and the three of them made there way to the Friendly Arm Inn where they met Khalid and Jahiera. That night Montaron got a brilliant idea..to kill Katora and claim the bounty after the Nashkel mines were taken care of. The party made their way to Beregost where the Monty caused some slight mischief. And meanwhile, Sarevok asked Yoshimo, who is secretly working for Irenicus, to deliver the bounty notices. Now we join the party on their way to Nashkel.
The fire crackled as its flame’s danced and sparks hung in the air like fireflies. She pulled the cloak tighter in wrapped her arms around her knees. The sun had long since faded and the heat of the day had given way to the cold of night. Nice of the hobgoblins to leave a campfire waiting for them, though having to remove their bodies made her stomach ill. She watched ashes flew into Montaron’s face as he poked at the fire with a stick. He grunted and sat back down.
Tomorrow they would reach Nashkel. Tomorrow they would meet with Berrun Ghastkill and begin investigating the iron shortage. Tomorrow could wait. She traced patterns in the dirt then wiped them away as soon as they were finished. She watched ashes flew into Montaron’s face as he poked at the fire with a stick. He grunted and sat back down. Khalid and Jaheira were off somewhere and Imoen had already fallen asleep. She envied Imoen’s knack for falling asleep anywhere. She remembered how Imoen would sometimes nod off during their lessons back in Candlekeep and chuckled a little. The monks used to get so mad and she’d have to listen to a long lecture about not falling asleep in class, which was thankfully more interesting than the lesson itself. She stood up. “I’m going on for a walk.”
Montaron smirked. “Good riddance to ye. Don’t go getting yourself killed.” The way the fire illuminated his face made him look menacing, like a phantom out of a horror story. She doubted that he actually cared if she got herself killed or not. He didn’t seem to care about much besides his own personal gain.
“Yes Monty, that would be such a tragic,” said Xzar as he looked up from his spell book. What was he scribbling in there now? More necromancy? Disturbing how he was so obsessed with death. He even carried a rotted old skull and used a finger bone as a bookmarker. An obsession with death would be appropriate for one who specialized in the necromantic arts. Her interests were more well rounded; she preferred to leave her options open to all schools of magic, focusing on one seem to beyond her ability.
She turned and left. The wind blew through her hair as she strolled down the long winding path. It was a clear night and a blank of stars hung in the sky. The full moon smiled down at her as she made her way up a hill. She took a deep breath, taking in the crisp clean air. As she reached the top of the hill, she saw Khalid and Jaheira standing there, talking. They did not notice her, so she stood behind them, listening to their conversation.
“I wonder why she trusts them so. They seem no better than the monsters we fight.” said Jaheira. There was no question as to who they were, but surely Xzar and Montaron could not be that bad. They had helped her out in the beginning after all.
“Now Jaheira, I’m sure she has r-reasons,” said Khalid.
“Yes but what good will they be when she gets a sword through her stomach. Think Khalid, what would Gorion say if he knew his daughters were traveling with…with….” Jaheira took a few steps forward and sighed. Gorion would frown on her traveling with Xzar and Montaron, but they had helped her. “I swear, sometimes her blind trust is more than I can take.”
“All we can do is try to p-protect her. L-Look after her like G-Gorion asked.”
“Her mother was too trusting and look where it got her, Khalid. Sometimes she reminds me so much of Alianna.” Gorion never talked about her mother. Only with careful prodding would he say anything, and even then it was never much. So Jaheira and Khalid had known her as well. “Gorion loved her, and she betrayed him,” Jahiera continued. Katora’s eyes widened, her father had never mentioned any betrayal.
“Now Jaheira, th-that wasn’t her fault. It was th-those..those nightmares.” Nightmares?
“I know, Khalid dearest,” said Jaheira. “Perhaps this is not the time to speak of such things.” Would there ever be a time?
Katora stepped forward. “You knew her?” Khalid and Jaheira spun around.
“What are you doing here child?” The glare Jaheira gave her could have frozen the abyss. Khalid stared at her with his mouth hanging open. “How long have you been standing there?”
“You knew her?”
Jaheira’s face took on a look of confusion, though it was obviously fake. “Knew who, child?” Khalid stayed silent. It was clear they were avoiding the subject, as Gorion had.
“You knew my mother. Who was she?”
“This is not the time for this conversation. And yes child, I knew your mother. Perhaps another time I will tell you about her, but this is not the time.” Gorion had said something similar before he died. He said he would explain everything.
“Why not now?”
“I told you child, this is not the time.”
They made the short, yet uneasy, walk back to where they had made camp. The whole way back, Jaheira didn’t so much as glance at her. She sat down in front of the campfire and watched it cackle and burn. At times it seemed to be laughing at her. Jaheira and Khalid were whispering, but this time she did not care to listen to their conversation. Occasionally they would glance at her, it made her wonder if she was the subject of the conversation. In Candlekeep, she had always been the monks’ favorite topic of conversation, and Imoen too even if she had never noticed. Of all times she had eavesdropped nothing they said about her was ever positive.
She took her spell book and scribed the few spells she had found a long the way. Gorion would have been proud to see her keeping up with her magical arts; he always liked the idea of her being a mage. Or at least he liked it better than her learning to wield a sword or shoot an arrow. It still seemed like a miracle that she had actually been able to convince him to let Jondalar train her. He seemed scared at the thought of her wielding a weapon.
Dawn came and the sun gazed down on her. She had fallen asleep on top of her spell book. The campfire was still burning, though it had died down during the night. Jaheira glared at her. “It’s about time you woke up, child,” she said. “We’ve much to do today.”
She sat up and stretched. Her body felt as though it had been stuck on a rack. “Fine. Fine. I’m up. Why do we have to get up so early?” She looked around. It seemed the rest of the party was already up. Imoen, cheery as usual, was playing a game of tic tac toe with Montaron. The halfling had a sour look on his face, as though he had just eaten a lemon. Apparently, Imoen was winning.
“Because the sooner we leave, the sooner we get to Nashkel.” What on Toril made her think she even cared about Nashkel? “And besides,” Jaheira continued, “Berrun Ghastkill is expecting us.” As if she cared about Berrun Ghastkill. It was hard to care about a town she had never been to, about people she had never met. But she agreed to help rid the town of its problems and Montaron would probably insert his blade into her back if she didn’t follow through.
She stood up and grabbed her things. “Alright,” she said, “Let’s go.” Time to set off on the road again. They turned down a winding rocky path. The trees cast shadows that looked liked demons from the bottom of the abyss. Beating down on them was the sun, the annoyingly bright sun. Storm clouds would have been more appropriate for her mood.
Skipping next to her was Imoen, smiling and cracking jokes all of which Katora had heard before, but the others appeared to find them funny. “Come on Kat, don’t tell me you lost your sense of humor,” Imoen said. Perhaps she had lost her sense of humor. There was a time when she would have cracked up laughing at her jokes. “You’re too serious, just like stuffy old…”
“Gorion.” She did not want to think of him. Ever since she had left candlekeep, ever since his death, she had been trying not to think of him. And Imoen had to bring him up.
Imoen slapped her on the back. “Hey, Kat, I’m sorry. I know it hurts. I miss him too.”
Katora shrugged. “Let’s just keep going,” she said. It was not the time yet to speak of him. Perhaps later, after she ran her sword through his murderer, she would mourn and grieve. But now on this infernal road was not time.
As they continued down the path, she spotted an old man meditating on a patch of grass.
He was bald and had a thick white beard. There were black circles around his eyes as though he had gone days without sleep. His thinness gave him the appearance of being nothing but skin tightly stretched over bones.
As they walked by, he jumped up and gasped. “Get outta my yard you hooligans! Kinda hard to be a hermit when people keep pestering for hints about the nature of existence. Read a book people! Portalbendarwinden does so command.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “My apologies. I’m sure you are only isolated because you wish to remain alone.”
“There is that. Oh, and my annoying personal habit.” The old man chuckled. “People don't mind advice when they're looking for it, but having someone around continually spouting proverbs and truisms really puts a damper on the picnic. It's worse than when the ants steal the cheese, if you know what I mean?” He laughed and ended up coughing and wheezing. Then he squinted at her at said, “Wow, you're really hard to look at.”
She took two steps back. “What do you mean ‘hard to look at’?” She got the feeling that he was not referring to her physical appearance.
He smiled, revealing his toothless grin. “A bit blunt I am at times, but I shall speak plain if you wish. I meant that your aura is hard to look at. It is exceptionally volatile. You are at odds with yourself in a most literal fashion. I've not seen another such as you, though I get the feeling that your type does not live exceptionally long. I would predict a violent end for you, but I can see nothing of your future. It would seem that your coin is on edge. Enough chatter, I have wasted too much of your time, and mine. Leave me.”
She turned and left with those words resounding in her mind. A violent end, she hoped it would not come to that. Perhaps it was well that her future remained shrouded; she was not sure if she wished to know of it.
10 December 2002 - 01:18 AM
I am almost home. As I peer through the looking glass, I gaze at the city, at the decrepit buildings with their missing shudders and roofs rotted with mold until they’re near collapse. Children splash in the mud, laughing. How I wish I could laugh. People scamper about like ants with beating down on them. There is nothing I would not give to be able to see the sun again. I have walked on the plane of Bytopia, swam in the Plane of Water, dodged demons in the Abyss and yet here I am trapped within this infernal sphere, in a body that is no longer mine. A fitting punishment, I suppose, to be trapped within myself, within a body possessed by a force that thrives on my ambitions. Perhaps in preventing its escape, I can redeem myself. I have had too much time to think, to regret.
My family sacrificed to fuel my obsession. I killed them, murdered them. Their blood has kept me alive for the past five hundred centuries. I can still hear their shrill screams, like banshees, as I stole their lives adding them to my own. But how else was I to complete my sphere with it’s silver out shell and careful mechanisms. The boiler room sits below me. It is a gathering place for fire elemental with bodies of crackling flame, for salamanders and mephits, even an efreeti makes his home there. Another room is frozen with icicles hanging from the ceiling like glass. Only the ice salamanders, snow trolls, and ice mephits that have claimed that room could ever find it hospitable. At one time I was their master. I experimented with them, used them to create protection for traveling the planes.
They thought I was insane to take on such a project. Perhaps I was and still am. I can see my family’s blood dripping from the ceiling, running in tear like streams down the walls. But I finished the sphere, even if I had to live off of stolen lives to use it. Then I encountered it as I traveled the planes, a force I was not equipped to deal with. It started as a voice pounding at the back of my head. Power, it whispered. Immortality, it whispered. Blood, it whispered. And I listened to it, indulged it. The force possessed me. Perhaps I brought it on myself through my foolish ambitions. But it does not see. I cannot let it escaped, even as I am trapped within myself. Does it even know that I exist, that I pull subtle strings to prevent its escape, to prevent it from divulging ever secret I built into this planar prison? To it I am dead, killed when it took control over me, when it became me. It laughs. I am nothing to it.
The door to the sphere has opened. I can sense him coming. Perhaps he, my descendant can put and end to it, to me. That would be justice, if there were such a thing. The end of a curse I created, of an evil that is I. The sphere is moving; it shakes and quivers. A mechanism I built long ago, but had forgotten about till now. The entity paces about the control panel, waiting for the door to flee open. I am anxious as well, but for reasons that are my own.
I smile, or would if I was in control. He has brought others. It watches and so do I. A half-elven druid walks behind him. She seems to enjoy voicing her displeasure. There is man in red dragon scale armor, the symbol of helm hung around his neck. It appears they are bickering about something. Do they even realize what danger they are in? In the shadows ahead of them, a rogue in dark leather armor searches for traps with his katana ready. There is a large bald man with tattoos on his face and a large sword strapped to his back. He feeds his hamster, seemingly oblivious to anything else. A half-elven girl with sandy colored hair and a sword at her side flips through a book. What is she, mage or warrior? Or both? There is darkness about her; something I can sense but cannot put my finger on. Then there is my descendant wearing armor that has been in the family for generations. He look scans his surroundings, his gaze like that of a hawk.
The door to the control room opens and they rush in. Arrows and blades all pointed at it, at me. “You!” it yells. “You are the ones who have caused the sphere to travel once again. Fools, I was close to escaping.” Its words are lemons on my tongue. They hurl their weapons and spells at me and I feel every wound, every cut, and every jolt of magic lightening as though I was control. My descendant slashes at me, blind rage behind his eyes. It is weakened, this my chance. Perhaps now I can regain control.
I blink. Who is that standing above me? My vision is blurry. It does not matter; the force is gone, or perhaps just suppressed hiding in my mind as I did. My head feels like it’s spinning and I have forgotten everything. “Where am I? That force that possessed me is gone?” My voice is weak and shaky
He glares at me and holds his katana to my throat. “Is this some manner of trick?” Do I look as though I have the strength for tricks, or the inclination?
“Who might you be?” I ask, squinting up at him. All I can make out is a pair of eyes and dark skin. “I can barely see you.”
“I am your descendant, Lavok,” he says, spitting my names as though trying to rid himself of a foul taste. “I am Valygar Corthala, and I will not allow you to take my body to extend your life. Since you yet live, I shall end it now!” The memories come back in a flood washing through my mind. Lavok, I remember that name. It was mine once. So this is how I shall end.
“Corthala? Yes, I remember now. I am dying, Valygar Corthala, of that you can be certain. Nothing would bring me greater relief.” I have lived too long, hurt too many. Three hundred years spent tormenting my family, two hundred trapped within myself. And for what? The sphere?
He steps back. No doubt I am not what he had expected. What ever stories he has heard, they most likely true. “I warn you necromancer,” he says, “I shall not be fooled.”
“Nor do I intend to fool you, young one. I have been imprisoned in my own mind by that strange force for half an eternity. Death would be a blessing.” A blessing that I have wished for since I encountered the force, yet it was denied to me.
Still my descendant looks skeptical. “Are you trying to tell me that you are not evil? That you are not the sorcerer who preyed upon his own family as a ghoul would, whose legacy has haunted my family always?” His words are true. I would change everything, had I the ability to role back the clocks of time.
“No, no, I am he. I am all those things and more. I have spent half an eternity keeping that force from prying the secrets of the sphere from my mind. I could not unleash it upon... my home.” Keeping in locked up was my redemption, my retribution. “Thank you for ending its existence.”
His tone remains harsh. “And this should redeem you for all you have done? I say it is a fitting punishment.” He is right on both accounts. Maybe I had only deluded myself to thinking I have been or could be redeemed.
“Indeed it is. I have had years of pain and anguish to regret what I have done. I can offer nothing but my sorrow if I have brought you pain.” I try to smile, but cannot. “If could call it all back, if could convince the man I once was that the sphere was a mission of pride doomed to failure.” But it was not a failure, though the price was too steep. I sigh. “But I cannot.” There is only thing I have a desire to do before I let go. “I would ask one thing of you, Valygar Corthala, although I know you have no reason to grant it to me.”
“I…I don’t ..” he stutters, unsure of what to make of me. I would be unsure of what to make of me. “What would you ask me?”
“I would wish to see the sky of my homeworld one final time. To be at peace, knowing that I have died in the place I was born so long ago I am dying...and I wish to die there. Under my own sun.” I smile. “In return...in return I shall tell you how to return the sphere to our own plane. I...I am glad that you entered the sphere when you did.” I tell him about the trap that had caused the sphere to travel when they entered, how I had tucked it away in the recesses of my mind.
He narrows his eyes. “This is not a trick?”
“It is no trick, my descendant. I have no strength left for tricks, nor any desire. I humbly beg it of you.” There was a time when the thought of begging sickened me, but I am not so proud any more.
“You are not the man I had expected, Lavok. I shall do as you ask,” he says. I tell him the way home, of the demon heart required to fuel the sphere. He nods. His expression remains unchanged. Perhaps he has no fear of demons, neither did I when I was young and foolish.
He and his party leave. I set the control and wait for the sphere to return home, to see my sky once more.
03 December 2002 - 01:32 AM
A cruel god made from iron, the city and all it’s people might as well have been insects beneath his blood-drenched feet. He would stomp, crumpling buildings beneath his feet and laugh as he listened to the sweet music of their screams. To have such power, it was more than he could hope for. To be the new Lord of Murder, to have people tremble in his wake. Such power should, would, belong to him, and no one else. He was the righteous hero slaying villains, the mercy killer putting people out of their misery, the assassin killing for hire, the serial killer stalking little children, monster, murderer.
Then a sharp object, a splinter, a thorn, stuck into heel and his iron shell shattered. He fell. He was ten years old again. The place was twisted, but still he recognized it as his former home. Melted clocks and a portrait of his mother with eyes that seemed to follow him, hung on the wall. A burn candle with a bright red flame sat on the table, dripping blood. A dim light came from the kitchen as candlelight danced on the walls. Singing, beautiful singing filled the hall, reminding him of nightingales, though he could not make out the song. A smooth, sweet melody, it could easily have been a love ballad. He hummed along as he drifted into the kitchen. The smell of wine and freshly picked roses lingered in the air. The tune took on a shrill hollow sound, which he found hauntingly beautiful. She stood in the kitchen, hold a rose and singing to herself. A trickle of blood ran down her finger as she pricked herself with a thorn.
She turned to him. There was nothing but emptiness behind her eyes. Her skin was pale, the color of the full moon hovering outside. Her lips moved, but he could not make out what she was saying. “Mother?” he said, his voice that of a ten year old. The haunting music continued to play as she spoke, pleaded. For what? Her lips kept moving, but he could not make out her words. No sound save for the song playing in the background, it reminded him of Siren, or perhaps a banshee. A dark silhouette appeared behind her, placing a rope around her neck. Her lips moved as he pulled the garrote tighter. It cut into her neck, and her figure became bloated. Still she pleaded, even if he could not hear what she was trying to say. It was clear she wanted him to save her. How could he save her? He could do nothing but stand and watch. She was already dead. All he felt, as her dead image faded away was chill going down his spine as though some had pored cold water down his back.
A cold sweat stung Sarevok’s eyes as he sat up. He took a deep breath. Tamoko slept peacefully next to him. She muttered something and rolled over as he lied back and starred up at the ceiling. Soft moonlight crept in through his windows. Another nightmare, another chance and again he could not save. What did it matter? Mother had been weak and a fool, though she still did not deserve her fate. And it was only a dream, a nightmare. ‘Father’ had warned him that he would share her fate, should he be unfaithful as she had been. But he was done fearing him. The threats were as hollow as the song in the dream.
Tamoko moved over and placed her head on his arm. How long had she been awake without his noticing? She looked up at him and said, “You think too much. Go back to sleep.”
“Perhaps, in a moment,” he said. He did not feel like sleeping. Instead he stood and gazed out the window. It was a clear night, lit by a full moon. Gorion’s little brat was still out there. Twice already his assassins failed to kill her. How was it that she survived? The fact that she was alive was an insult. The wolves should have feasted on her flesh. Would she be the thorn shattering his dreams? She had protection, well equipped traveling companions. But he should not be so concerned over a mere girl who at the moment was harmless. Better to kill a larva before it grows into a wasp. He turned around and went back to bed. There were still hours to dawn.
Beregost was quiet in the night, almost eerily so especially compared to business of the day. Xzar trailed next to him. The rest of fools slept peacefully at the jovial juggler. He needed a break from all those do-gooders. Montaron could care less about saving people, or protecting the innocent, or rescuing fluffy, pink bunnies and any other nice-nice thing that they’d be interested in doing. It churned his stomach. Blasted fools, didn’t they know that caring about such ting never accomplishes anything, and will leave them burned in the end. If they survived long enough perhaps they would learn. He did.
How many years had it been since Milleyna died? Thirty? No, more like forty? Perhaps it had been even more than that. She had been a sweet girl, his darling Milley. He met her one night in Luskan. At the time he had been a wanted criminal, a murderer, and that city seemed liked a place where he could blend in. It had seemed like love at first sight when they met, not that he believed in love. Milley had never loved him. They had been traveling south when she noticed the bounty notice. His darling fool had gotten the bright idea of taking for herself. She had almost succeeded too. He still remembered the surprised look on her face as he ran her through.
A man stood in front of the burning wizard, whistling an annoyingly happy tune. The fool paid not attention to his surroundings. A perfect mark, thought Montaron. “Psst..Xzar, distract him I try to lighten his purse.” The necromancer’s face lit up. This would be too easy. Montaron chuckled to himself as they strolled towards him.
“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but notice that spot on you shirt,” said Xzar. Perfect, as long as Xzar could keep him distracted. It was almost too easy. Montaron kept his fingers ready. Opportunity could knock at any moment.
“A spot? Where?” The man looked down, searching for a spot that didn’t exist. Montaron’s hand darted towards his coin purse. He took a dagger and sliced a hole in it, and enjoyed the sight of gold falling into his hand.
“There,” said Xzar, pointing to a spot on his shirt.
“I still don’t see it…” he looked down again, and then to his sides. “Hey what are you doing?” The man had spotted Monty standing behind him with his hand under his coin purse.
“Um…I just saw your money laying on the ground next to ye and thought I’d pick it up before ye walked away and forgot it.” Montaron swallowed. This man was truly a fool if he bought that line, but it was the best he could come up with.
“I think you were trying to pick pocket me,” he said.
Montaron drew his blade. “So what if we were?” At least this way he would walk away with some gold, even if he had to kill the man. Anything who whistled such an annoying song deserved no less.
The man tooked a few steps back. “N- no need for that really. If you’re that desperate, I’m looking for someone to do an easy job that pays even more than I have on me.”
Montaron squinted at him and tilted his head. What job could this boy possibly have to offer? He looked barely old enough to shave. “So ye do? What kinda job and what does it pay?”
“Let me explain. I'm Garrick and I work for Silke Rosena. She's the most skilled musician and actor along the Sword Coast; in fact, she's to play at the Duchal palace before the month's done. But...”
Montaron rolled his eyes. “Yes get on wit it. What is this job?”
“Um, right. Well she's been having some problems of late. Some thugs have been hired by Feldepost to hurt her bad, because she didn't perform at his inn when she was supposed to. You can't blame her for not showing up, what with a villain like Feldepost running the place. She needs mercenaries to protect her until she's ready to go to Baldur's Gate. She's willing to pay about three hundred gold. What do you say?
“And how just how long would we have to protect her for?” They didn’t have too much time to waste, they still had to get to Nashkel.
“Just a day at the most, I suppose she could pay you more if you had to protect her for longer…”
“Fine, fine. For three hundred gold ye have our services. Any more than that and let’s just say that gold can be very persuasive.”
Garrick smiled. “Good, in the morning meet us outside the Red Sheaf. I’ll introduce you to my mistress then.”
Montaron headed back to the inn, eager to tell the rest of the party about their new job. He waited downstairs for them to get. Pointless going back to sleep when morning was so close. At breakfast, he made the announcement. He had expected more objection, but to his surprise found none save for the skepticism of an irritable druid. But then she seemed to be skeptical of nearly everything.
“Oh?” she said, “What is the catch? Surely there has to be something else to it.” He pretended to look hurt. “With you there is always something, am I wrong?”
“N-now Jaheira, it seems honest enough. And we c-could use the gold,” said Khalid, her stuttering fool of a husband.
They walked to the Red Sheaf. Standing in front it was Garrick and women with a hood over her head, which he guessed had to be Garrick’s mistress Silke Rosena. As they approached, she pulled back her hood revealing her long black hair. Makeup covered her face like a mask and a gaudy but worthless necklace hung around her neck. “So Garrick, these are the only mercenaries you could find. I guess they'll have to do. She stared at them as if appraising their worth. “You do look to be worth about three hundred gold. That is what my little Garrick offered you, isn’t it?” Her mouth twisted into a smirk.
“I offered three hundred gold, just like you told me.”
“Well then, I assume that Garrick has explained what your duties are.” Her liquid voice matched her name. “You must simply dispose of the ruffians when they come to threaten me. They shouldn't be too hard to deal with, but I would advise you to strike fast. Whatever you do don't speak with them. One of them is a mage whose mystic words can sway even the most wise of men.”
They had not waited long when three cloaked men came walking towards them, but they looked more like merchants than ruffians and they appeared to be unarmed. Were these the men Silke feared? This would be the easiest three hundred he ever made. “Here they are now: Feldepost’s thugs. Strike when I tell you to.”
“Greetings Silke. We’re here as you’ve asked and we have the…”said one of the men. He had a confused look on his face. Obviously he wasn’t a ruffian, not that it mattered. Three hundred gold was three hundred gold no matter how it’s acquired.
“Don’t threaten me. I won’t be easy prey for you to beat on. I’ve brought friends.” She sounded rehearsed, like she had practiced that line a thousand time in front of the mirror. She pointed to party.
“What are you talking about? I’m here with the gem…” Montaron’s ears perked up. A gem? Probably valuable. He’d have to find a way to acquire it later.
“There will no weaseling out of this one.” She turned to the part. “Strike the down. Now!”
“Wait,” said Katora. Fool girl was going to ruin everything; he just knew it. She obviously had the intellect to match that blonde hair of hers. “I don’t know what you’re up to, but I don’t want any part of it.” Just splendid, he thought, there goes three hundred gold.
Silke looked startled for a moment. She scowled and glared at them. “Our deal is off. You’re probably too cowardly to be of any use in a fight anyway. I’ll deal with them, after I deal with you.”
The fight was over almost as soon as it begun. She chanted and waved her arms, giving Khalid an opportunity to plunge his sword into her chest. They breathed a sigh of relief as she collapsed on the ground. Montaron went to search her pockets and found four hundred gold. It was a profitable morning after all, even if the rest of the party wasn’t exactly in a good mood.
Katora glared at him, her gaze would have been better suited to a basilisk. “If you ever, ever, get us involved in something like this again I’ll…I’ll….Oh I don’t know what I’d do, but just do the rest of us a favor and don’t volunteer us for anything again, got it?” She spoke as though it was his fault they had been deceived. Not that it really mattered in the end. Silke was dead. They had their gold. Beyond that, he didn't care.
30 November 2002 - 11:30 PM
“Xzar and Montaron are a bit . . . odd.”
“I know dragons with feet like rabbits, ‘tis true I swear!” said Xzar. Strange how he’d say random things then go back to muttering. Dragon’s with feet like rabbits?
Imoen and Katora exchanged glances. “Anyway, they seem harmless enough, and there is safety in numbers,” said Katora, “and they did offer us that healing potion.”
“I don’t know Kat, they seem like mutton mongering riffraff to me,” said Imoen. Did they really have good intentions? Puffguts always said not to judge wine by its bottle. Maybe under the tattoos and dirt, they weren’t as bad as they appeared.
They made their way to the stone stairs leading to the inn. A man in dark black robes stood on the stairs with his hands crossed. “Hi friend. I've not seen you here before today. What brings you to the Friendly Arm?” the man asked in a cold dry voice. This couldn’t be the person they were supposed to meet.
“I’m here to meet some friends,” said Katora. Imoen nudged her. Trusting every stranger they meet didn’t seem like a good idea. Bad enough clown and midget had to come along.
“Oh, you must be whom I am to meet then. I will take you to your friends, but first I should be sure you are the correct person. Is your name Katora?”
“Yes, and you are…?”
“Perfect. You are indeed the person I seek,” said the man. His grin widened. “Hold still a moment, won't you?” The man cast a spell and in a moment there was not one, but five men, each with the same dark robes and smiling.
Imoen took a few steps back and readied her bow. The twang of a bow sounded as arrows struck an image, dispelling it. Xzar chanted and lauched a spell. Another image struck down. “I have become death, destroyer of worlds,” shouted Xzar.
A magic missle leaped from Katora’s fingertips.as the assassin launched a spell. She watched as Katora and Xzar turned and ran. Her hands trembled as she knocked an arrow. She pulled it back and launched it, hitting the last of the images.
The assassin’s face contorted in pain as he lost his footing and tumbled down the stairs. There was a heavy thud as his head hit the stone steps, followed by a crack of the neck. His body lay staring up at her. She looked down at him with her mouth wide open.
Montaron just chuckled to himself and wiped the blood off his sword. The halfling searched the assassin and a bounty notice. “Ye aren’t going all soft on me are ya?” She wondered how he could search the body with so little emotion.
“Me? Uh …nope, doesn’t affect me at all. Nope, not at all,” she said, trying to lie. “It’s just that I’ve never seen anyone die before, except the few monsters we’ve met on the way.”
“Well, ye better get used to it, kid. We’re going to see a lot more death on the road.” Katora and Xzar returned to the scene of the battle. “Looks like you made enemies already.” Montaron chuckled and he held up the bounty notice. Puffgut’s tales were never like this.
“Monty, give it to me. I want to read too!” said Xzar as he snatched the note out of Montaron’s hand. “Well, Monty, it seems like our friend here has quite the price on her head.”
“Let me read that,” Katora took the note from Xzar’s hands and read aloud. “It says ‘be it known to all those of evil intent, that a bounty has been placed upon the head of Katora, the foster child of Gorion. Last seen in the area of Candlekeep, this person is to be killed in quick order. Those returning with proof of the deed shall receive no less than two hundred coins of gold. As always, any that reveal these plans to the forces of law shall join the target in their fate.’”
A crowd was forming around the site of the scrimmage. Curious bystanders came to see what all the commotion was about. Inaudible babbles could be heard as the onlooker strained their neck to get a better look. “Move back. Nothing to see here people. Come on people move along, now,” said a guard as he pushed through the crowd. “What goes on here?”
“We were heading to Inn when this man attacked us. He was some sort of assassin,” replied Katora as she handed him the bounty notice.
“You must be Katora then?”
“Very well then, your story checks out. You are free to go.” They were halfway up the steps when the guard yelled, “Enjoy your stay!”
The party entered the Inn. It had the aroma of warm food and spirits. Imoen soon found herself humming a jovial tune as the party approached the bar.
Someone tapped Katora on the shoulder. They turned around to see a woman with light brown hair and classic half-elven features. Behind her stood a man with red hair. Both half-elves like Katora. “Good day friend! You are Katora, the child of Gorion, are you not? I recognize you from his letters,” said the woman.
“Yes, but who are…” replied Katora.
“Forgive my manners. I am Jaheira,” said the woman, “and this is Khalid, my husband.” she added pointing to the man behind her.
“G-good to know you,” said Khalid. He seemed uneasy, as if the slightest noise would make him jump out of skin. These were the friends Gorion mentioned. Funny, they weren’t the grand heroes she imagined.
Jaheira looked at her. “You must be Imoen. Gorion mentioned you in his letters as well, but I thought he was going to leave you in Candlekeep,” she said.
“He did but I followed them. Never let a friend down, I say.”
“Speaking of Gorion, where is he? We really should be speaking with him.”
“He’s dead. We were ambushed on the road. I got away. Gorion ...was not so lucky,” Katora said with a hint of sadness in her voice.
“He has p-passed then?” asked Khalid. Imoen and Katora nodded.
“Gorion often said that he worried for your safety, even at the expense of his own. He also wished that Khalid and I would become your guardians, if he should ever meet an untimely end. However, you are much older now, and the choice of your companions should be your own.”
“We could travel with you, until you get your l-lot in life.”
Montaron nudged his way in front of Imoen. “Excuse me ladies, but can we skip all the nice-nice talk, it’s making my stomach sick.” He grunted and muttered some obscene curses to himself.
Xzar flashed Montaron a cold look. “Now, now, Monty, lets not give our new ‘friends’ the wrong impression.” He turned to Khalid and Jaheira. “You really must excuse my associate here, he can get a little irritable at times. He is just anxious to get to Nashkel.”
“Oh, how rude of me. These are our new traveling companions, Xzar and Montaron,” Katora said with a chuckle, “they have been bugging Imoen and I to go to Nashkel ever since they joined the group. It is a miracle they agreed to coming here to look for you.”
“Indeed,” Jaheira said. “ Khalid and I are going there as well. There are rumors of strange things happening at the mine. No doubt you have heard of the iron shortage? You would do well to help us. It affects everyone, including you. We are to meet the mayor of the town, Berrun Ghastkill.”
“Can they come with us Kat? Please,” said Imoen. Any friend of Gorion was a friend of theirs. Khalid and Jaheira seemed nice, the kind she would want to travel with.
“Of course they can come Imm, Gorion would not have it any other way.”
“Good then. We should go as soon as you are ready,” replied Jaheira
“They look t-tired, perhaps we should get some rest before m-moving on,” said Khalid.
“That sounds like a good idea, huh, Kat,” Imoen noted the dark circle under her friend’s eyes. “Can we get some food too? I’m hungry,” she added noting the rumbling of her belly.
“Well, I am tired and, I do need to study my spells,” replied Katora. “Let’s stay here for the night and leave for Nashkel tomorrow morning. We can stop in Beregost along the way.”
That night the party rented one of the few rooms Bentley had left. The Friendly Arm Inn was unusually crowded with travelers too afraid to go on the road.The room they were given consisted of three beds, each big enough for two people. It smelled like freshly washed linen, and felt warm and cozy. They sat on their beds and prepared to go to sleep.
“I still don’t trust them Kat,” Imoen said discreetly pointing to Xzar and Montaron. They were too strange, even for her. Montaron had a violent streak a mile long, and Clown-Face Xzar was equally weird.
“They amuse me in the ‘what the hell is wrong with them sort of way’,” said Jaheira with a chuckle. “I would not trust them, if I were you.”
“Oh I’m sure they must have their good points too,” said Katora.
Montaron whispered something in Xzar’s ear. “Well, Monty it appears they do not trusts us,” Xzar said aloud.
“Not that they should. It’s not like we have given them a reason too,” Montaron chuckled. “Tell me girlie, how do ye know ye won’t wake up with my blade in your gullet?”
“Indeed halfling, she could ask you the same question,” Jaheira replied giving Katora a gentle nudge.
“Yes, Montaron. How do you know that I won’t murder you in your sleep?” Katora said. Montaron just sat there looking at her with his mouth gapping open. “I suppose, we will just have to trust each other,” she added when he did not answer her.
Montaron just grumbled to himself and got under the covers. “Sleep lightly task master,” he said, as the rest of them got ready to go to sleep.
“Kat, tell me a story, please,” said Imoen. Stories always seemed to help her get to sleep, and Katora used to tell the best of them.
“Not tonight, Imm. I’m not in the mood,” Katora said.
“I wish old Puffguts were here. He would tell me a story. Something about trollops or plugtails or…”
“Good night ladies,” came a voice from an irritated halfling in the next bed.
Imoen rolled over and tried to go to sleep. “Kat?”
“Do you miss Candlekeep?” Imoen waited for the answer but got none.
After only two days on the road she was feeling a bit homesick “Kat?”
Imoen looked over to see her friend sleeping. “Goodnight Kat,” she said as her head hit the pillow and she finally drifted off to sleep.
Montaron awoke at with an idea he could not shake. It stemmed from the bounty of two hundred gold coins that was on Katora’s head. Once planted it festered like a sore within his mind until it had taken control of all his conscious thoughts.
The halfling got out of bed and went over to Katora’s backpack. He searched for the bounty notice, careful not to wake the others. It was three in the morning and they would not take kindly to waking up to him rummaging through their belongings. He found the bounty notice, his golden ticket. Him and his partner would be at least two hundred gold coins richer, if they played their card right. Not that he cared about his partner.
The sound of snoring came from Xzar. Montaron walked over to where he was sleeping. He shook the wizard gently and whispered. “Get up! I must be speaking with ye!”
Xzar rolled over and muttered “Mommy, I don’t want to get up. The other kids make fun of me.”
“Get up, ye blasted wizard! Get up now!” Montaron whispered in a harsh tone.
“Wha-what Monty?” said the wizard as sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“I must be speaking with ye. Come on get up.”
“Now Monty?” Xzar buried his head in his pillow.
“Yes now before we wake the others.”
“Oh, if I must!”
The wizard got out of bed and the two of them went downstairs to first floor of the inn. Bentley, the gnome innkeeper, had stopped serving drinks an hour ago. By this time most of the patrons had gone to bed. Not surprisingly, a few drunks were still up. Some of them were passed out on their table. None were sober enough to overhear their conversation. Xzar and Montaron sat down in a secluded corner away from wandering eyes and ears.
Montaron put the bounty notice on the table. “Look at this, Xzar.”
“I do believe that is the bounty notice from the assassin, what of it?” responded the necromancer.
Montaron slapped him on the back of the head. “What are ye daft wizard? This is what I’m talking about!” He pointed to the spot where it said the size of the bounty “Think of the gold, Wizard! Think of the gold!”
Xzar gave a puzzled look and asked “What gold, Monty?”
“The gold we’re going get when we turn in the bounty.” The look on the necromancer’s face remained that of confusion. “Look, ye brain-dead wizard,” the halfling continued “the way I see it we can kill Katora and take the bounty for ourselves.”
“But Monty, where will we pick up our reward?”
“That’s the problem. I say we stick with her, and when we find out where to turn the bounty in, bam!” Montaron took an old dagger of his and jammed it into the table next to the note. “We put a blade through her gullet and claim our reward, ye in?”
“Montaron, I like the way your foul little mind works,” said the wizard with a wide grin. He chuckled. “Sure we shouldn’t do it now why we have the chance?”
“No not tonight. The bounties will only get higher…the longer we wait, the more money we get.”
30 November 2002 - 11:22 PM
Tamoko loved Sarevok, but he was certain that relationship could only end in disaster. He would have to convince her to leave Sarevok before he carried out his mission. She would never understand. It had been years since he left Kozakura, but Tamoko had been gone for longer. He had spent his first few weeks in the west, searching for her. Eventually he gave up and became a bounty hunter. There were less honorable ways to make a living, he was sure.
Looking up he spotted a seagull overhead, and watched it fly past. It had been on a night like this that had met Irenicus. As he walked through the slums of Athkatla one night, a woman with dark hair and pale skin approached him. “I have heard of you Yoshimo,” she said, “you are quite talented. I know someone who could use you, if you are interested.”
“So you’ve heard of me,” he said. A grin appeared on his face. “Do tell me where I can find this someone. I am always interested in potential employer.”
She nodded. “Good. My brother will be pleased. I shall take now if you wish.” She took him to the Promenade and then into a strange dungeon. It was there that he met Irenicus.
The man was powerful wizard that wore a mask that seemed to be made from living flesh. “Yoshimo, it is fortunate that you have come,” Irenicus said, “I have a task for you, one that I doubt you shall object to doing.”
“What is this task you speak of?” Yoshimo asked. He did not trust the man, but the same could have been said for many of his other employers. Still, there was something about the wizard that made his hairs stand.
The wizard stared at him with a chilling gaze. “It is something that I believe shall be mutually beneficial. You have a sister who has been missing for some time.” Yoshimo’s eyes widened. How could this man know about that? “Don’t look so surprised Yoshimo. You see your sister is involved with a man that I have interest in.”
“If she is happy with this man, than why should I to interfere?”
“This man, Sarevok, is a child of Bhaal and I have uses for him that are beyond your understanding. If you care about Tamoko’s honor, or that of your family, you will do this task for me. I can tell you now that she will likely die if she stays with him.”
“And you want me to kill this man?”
Irenicus shook his head. “No, Yoshimo. I want you to capture him and bring him. I have uses for him that are beyond your comprehension. You can either do this task willingly or otherwise I shall force you to do it. The choice is yours, though I think it would be to your benefit if you performed this task willingly…it would be less painful.”
It was clear that he had no choice. “Willingly, then.”
The sun shined in Katora’s eyes. She stared up at, and blinked. For a moment she wondered what she was doing outside instead of curled up on her bed. She smacked her head on a branch as she attempted to sit up. Not only was outside, she was no longer even in the walls of Candlekeep. As she went to sit up, her arm crumpled beneath her. She pulled it free, shifting her wait to the other arm. It was red and swollen. On her forearm was a patch charred flesh. A shame she had used the potion Firebead gave her after her fight with the assassin.
For a moment she wondered where Gorion was. The she remembered. Dead. The armored figure plunged his sword into his chest and she saw the body fall to the ground. She felt a tears swell in the corner of her eyes and blinked. No, it was useless crying. She would turn around and head back towards Candlekeep. They had to let her in, even without a tome. She lived there since before she could remember, as Gorion’s ward. But Gorion was dead. His body lay on the cold dirt in the middle of nowhere. The monks would never let her in without him. Not that it mattered anymore. Gorion was gone, what was left in Candlekeep for her now? It did not seem fair. But life is not fair, at least Gorion would have said.
If she remembered correctly, they had not gone off the road, and that had to lead to somewhere. She stood, using the tree for balance. Who would have thought a night sleeping on the ground would make her muscles ache so much? She glanced back. There was no telling if the armored figure, whoever he was, still stalked the woods looking for her. She missed Gorion, but did not want to join him anytime soon.
Katora jumped as she felt a tap her on the shoulder. “Relax Kat, it’s just me,” came a familiar, yet shaken voice. Imoen? What was she doing out here? “Are you alright? I saw Gorion and I thought you…” said Imoen. “I thought you were dead.”
“Imoen..I…What are you doing here? You should be safe back in Candlekeep with the monks. Not out here with me.” Katora could feel the tears swelling up again, but held them back. No, she wouldn’t cry. There would be time for that later.
“I couldn’t let you go alone now, could I? Kat, I knew something bad was going to happen out here. Please don’t be mad Kat. After reading that letter I had to follow you.” Mad at Imoen? No, it was just a shame Imoen brought herself into this. At she wouldn’t be alone; safety in numbers, even if that number was only two.
Imoen looked down. “Gorion might still have the letter. On his body I mean.” The letter? She had completely forgotten about it.
“We should see if he has…I mean see if it’s on his body.” Imoen nodded. Maybe it would tell her why this happened, why Gorion was killed, why she was here in the middle of who knows where. She couldn’t even go back to Candlekeep. The road was her home now.
They approached Gorion’s body. His robes were covered in dried blood. She stepped closer and kneeled down next to him. The armored figure, whoever he was, would pay for this. “I can’t do it, Imm. You see if he has the letter. I can’t.”
“But, Kat, I…”
She looked up at Imoen. “Please?”
“Alright, I suppose one of us has to look for it.” Imoen searched Gorion’s pockets and pulled a crinkled and blood stained letter. Imoen looked at it, then handed it to Katora.
My friend Gorion,
Please forgive the abruptness with which I now write, but time is short and there is much to be done. What we have long feared may soon come to pass, though not in the manner foretold, and certainly not in the proper time frame. As we both know, forecasting these events has proved increasingly difficult, leaving little option other than a leap of faith. We have done what we can for those in thy care, but the time nears when we must step back and let matters take what course they will. We have, perhaps, been a touch too sheltering to this point.
Despite my desire to remain neutral in this matter, I could not, in good conscience, let events proceed without some measure of warning. The other side will move very soon, and I urge thee to leave Candlekeep this very night, if possible. The darkness may seem equally threatening, but a moving target is much harder to hit, regardless of how sparse the cover. A fighting chance is all that can be asked for at this point
Should anything go awry, do not hesitate to seek aid from travelers along the way. I do not need to remind thee that it is a dangerous land, even without our current concerns, and a party is stronger than an individual in all respects. Should additional assistance be required, I understand that Jaheira and Khalid are currently at the Friendly Arm Inn. They know little of what has passed, but they are ever thy friends and will no doubt help however they can.
Luck be with us all.
I'm getting too old for this.
The letter explained nothing. It only confirmed her fear that this was all her fault. Gorion took her away from Candlekeep to protect her. His murder was after her. “Hand over your ward,” he had said. Perhaps she would have understood what he wanted with her, if Gorion had only given her an explanation. Whoever his murdered was, she would find him and she would slay him. But first, she needed an explanation. She needed to know why this happened. At least the letter gave her an idea on where to go next. Khalid and Jaheira, Gorion mentioned them when they were leaving Candlekeep. Perhaps it would be best to go to the Friendly Arm Inn and meet them there. Maybe they could explain why all this was happening.
They left Gorion’s body and headed back towards the road. Katora was thankful that Imoen had brought healing potions along. Her wound disappeared the moment she drank one. As they came near the road they met a stranger who was kind enough to point the way to the Friendly Arm Inn. The followed the road north and they had only turned a corner when they saw two more strangers. One was a mage with dark green robes who had tattoos on his face that reminded her of a clown. He muttered to himself as they walked closer. Next to him was a halfling in leather armor. Dirt was caked to face and he smelt as though he had spent many nights infront of a campfire.
“Two children wandering the wilderness. Surely you must be none to bright to be traveling these roads.” He looked as though he was trying to be serious, and was failing badly at it.
“Ye look a bit scuffed up too. A fine pair of troubles all you own,” said the halfling who seemed to find something amusing, though Katora could not tell what.
“Indeed. I can offer you healing potions, if you wish, as a token of good will.” The mage said as he reached in his pack.
“No thank you. I’m fine.”
The halfling raised his eyebrows. “Oh ye could’ve fooled me. Ye look as though you’ve been dragged through a ditch.” He was right. Her clothes and face were covered in dirt, and her snarled hair was tied back in a messy braid. And she was certain she didn’t smell any better than she looked.
The wizards voice was a falsetto. “I don’t think she trusts us Monty.”
The halfling grunted. “Xzar, I’ll not be insulted by this whelp.”
The expression on the wizards face went from flighty to serious. “Now Montaron, had I just been attacked I might be leery as well. So be it, I shall not heal you.” Imoen nudged her in the side and gave her a sharp glance.
Montaron shrugged, “Refuse, if ye wish.”
The wizard pursed his lips together and smiled, “Neither shall I hold you to a debt of honor for…slighting my good intentions, though your conscience may.” Katora wondered how she slighted his good intentions. She had not intended to. There was something strange about them, but she couldn’t figure out what it was.
“Just like all good people,” said the halfling.
“Perhaps as payment you would accompany us to Nashkel. It is a troubled area and my associate and I would like to investigate some disturbing rumors about the local mine. Some acquaintances of ours are very concerned about the iron shortage. Specifically where to lay blame to matter.” Even in Candlekeep there had been rumors of the iron shortage. She even remembered Hull complaining about how he had to by a new sword.
“We could always use another blade,” said the halfling. The men in front her seemed strange, but if they opposed the iron shortage then they couldn’t be all that bad.
“You would be useful, though I'll not hold you to it. We are to meet the mayor of the town, a man named Berrun Ghastkill, I believe.”
It wasn’t as though she had anything else to do. And the iron shortage intrigued her. What could cause iron to become so brittle and why anyone would want to cause an iron shortage in the first place? Imoen nudged her again and gave her a look that made it clear her sister did not want to travel with these two. “I’d go with you, but there is someone we need to meet first. Would you mind taking a side trip to the Friendly Armed Inn?”
“We’ve precious little time, but it is best to travel accompanied,”
“Aye, we’ll go wit ye. Ye owe us for our time though.”