An Enjoyable Partnership: A Tale of Two Mages
Nalia danced around the courtyard of her Keep, locked in combat with Edwin, fighting for her life, fighting for his. She had an advantage, she realised: her staff gave her a reach and versatility the dagger lacked. She would win this fight, she would. But… what then?
Feredain pressed forward suddenly, her knife swiping at the air, forcing Nalia back step by step. She held up her staff as if it was a shield, trying to fool the creature into attacking it, not her. It didn’t work, of course. Feredain suddenly struck, and the blade cleaved Nalia’s staff into two neat halves. She was left holding a short stick of useless wood. She stumbled backwards in shock, and tripped over something, falling to land painfully on her back. It was Valygar’s leg. She scrambled to get up, but Feredain’s long, borrowed fingers were around her throat, keeping her down. Her other hand was drawn back, holding the dagger. Nalia looked at the steel tip, the sharp steel- shining, clean and deadly. Her whole view seemed to narrow to that single point. She was not afraid. She refused to be afraid. If her life had brought her here, so be it. She had died before- this time, it would be for good. She saw Feredain’s arm start to descend, the point striking towards her heart.
“Oh no you don’t!”
A metal plated arm grabbed Feredain round the neck, and yanked her back. Andorel held the struggling mage tightly, and turned pleadingly to Nalia.
“Can you please tell me what’s going on?”
“She didn’t vaporise you?”
Andorel shrugged. “Nah. Everyone else is still out cold, though. Seems I woke up first.”
Nalia stood up slowly, aching all over from the long fight. The decision. At the end, she had to decide. Live, or die? Did she want to be merciful, and what was the merciful decision? She closed her eyes tiredly. There was no right- only two wrongs to choose between. And the choice was hers. She gulped.
Feredain squirmed in Andorel’s grasp, but couldn’t get free. Andorel raised his sword to her throat, and she went still. A bitter smirk played around her lips.
“Another death? This is nothing to me.” She said, then suddenly spasmed so violently Andorel dropped his sword in surprise. “She wants you to kill me!” The creature said, in a suddenly desperate and terrified voice.
“What?” Nalia said, frowning in bafflement.
“She wants you to kill me!” Feredain said, her voice shrill. “She came back for revenge. Silence! Or what? What exactly could you threaten me with that you have not already done? You should not wish to know, Odesseiron. You wanted Nalia to kill me. No! Yes! To take your vengeance for you. You didn’t want to win! I wish only to live. No, you came to start this fight. You tried to take over Nalia first, didn’t you? You wanted to take her over, and then use her to kill me, and then take her life too. That is irrelevant. You don’t wish to live, you just want to finish your revenge.” The creature’s voice warbled high and low as it spoke to itself, locked in argument. “You have failed, aasimar, like you did in life. Accept your fate. I shall never accept my Father’s punishment. He was too lenient. You know nothing, Odesseiron…” Edwin shuddered again, writhing in Andorel’s astonished grasp.
Nalia quickly grabbed half of her staff up from the floor and hit Feredain/Edwin over the head with a sharp thud. He slumped in Andorel’s arms. Nalia breathed out in relief. Andorel lowered the unconscious mage to the ground.
“I knew Eddie was always a bit nutty, but…” Andorel shook his head sorrowfully. “What we do now?” He asked.
“I…I don’t know.” She admitted, then looked up at Andorel. “How did you wake up so quickly from that blast? How come you’re not…” Nalia gestured at the sad little piles of ash. “…like them?”
“Dunno.” He said, scratching his nose. “Good thing I did, though, huh?”
I have lost.
Nalia stood up in startlement and looked around. The voice seemed to come out of the air right by her head, but she couldn’t see any source. Edwin still lay utterly still on the cobbles, a purple bruise creeping across his shaven head.
See it all, de’Arnise. See my world.
Agony. Loss. Blood. Despair. Bleakness. Nalia shuddered as the emotions pulsed through her, sent from outside. Death and pain.
“I see it.” Nalia said, blinking back tears at the desolate vision.
If you have any compassion, free me- Sister of my soul.
“Free you?” Nalia shouted, astounded. “You’ve tried to kill us both several times, you’ve…you’ve tortured Edwin, and you expect mercy?”
Andorel looked around curiously. “Who are you talking to?”
No. I hope for it.
“No.” Nalia said reluctantly. “How can I let you go, when you’ll just come back and, um, haunt us?”
You have my word. I shall never torment you again.
“Your word? That’s all? I can’t trust you!”
The feeling of bleakness increased, threatening to overwhelm Nalia. My word is all I have left.
Nalia bit her lip. A short eternity passed. “Alright. I’ll let you go…wherever you mean to go. I guess…I guess everyone deserves a second chance,” She added, thoughtfully, “I do.”
“What? Where? Me?” Andorel said, twisting around in surprise, trying to find the voice.
You are the son of an evil God. I am only a celestial. You survived- my powers do not work against you. We are antagonists to each other, and you are more powerful than I.
“What’s an antagonist?” Andorel asked blankly.
Your blood will free me. The voice said, with a touch of exasperation. Give me sweet oblivion, Bhaalspawn.
“Oh, for Gods’ sake, Andorel!” Nalia snapped, and grabbed Andorel’s hand. She picked up Edwin’s dagger from the ground where it had fallen, and nicked the half-orc’s finger.
“Hey, that hurt!”
A little drop of russet brown blood formed a bead on the end of Andorel’s callused finger. Nalia moved his hand over Edwin’s mouth, and the little brown pearl dribbled onto her lips.
“You’ve…you’ve got brown blood!”
Feredain suddenly arched her back, and gasped. It was a sigh of both relief and pain. She slumped back onto the cobbles and went limp. A grey mist arose from Edwin’s body, briefly forming a thin, feminine figure. It seemed to turn and look sadly at Nalia and Andorel, and then it dissipated, wings flapping slowly, evaporating like a cloud on a hot day.
Andorel leaned closely over Edwin. “Well, he’s breathing.” He remarked.
Nalia sighed in relief. “Good.”
“Now can you tell me what in the Nine Hells that was all about?” He demanded.
Nalia sighed again. “Later.”
“Erm, excuse me?”
Nalia and Andorel looked up at the robed figure hovering uncertainly on the drawbridge.
“Am I too late?” Thaddeus asked, looking in puzzlement at the six unconscious figures scattered around the courtyard.
Edwin woke up slowly, keeping his eyes closed. His head throbbed as if someone had hit it very hard, he felt as dizzy as if he had been drugged, and his mouth tasted truly foul. What had happened?
“Ah, we’re awake, are we?” An annoyingly cheerful voice said. Edwin opened his eyes briefly, then closed them again in resignation.
“Not you again! (He is stalking me, I know it.)”
“Nice to see you too, Edwin. How are we feeling?” Thaddeus asked, picking up Edwin’s wrist gently and taking his pulse. Edwin batted his hand away irritatedly.
“Who is ‘we’, exactly? The last time I counted, there was only one of me. I value my mathematical ability (and my sanity).”
“Well, um, from what Miss Nalia said…”
“I, er, think you’d better talk to her about it.” Thaddeus said, getting up from the chair at the side of his bed. “Nalia? He’s awake! I’d better go and see how the other five patients are doing. They’re awake now, but still a bit dazed, I think. A few restore spells should make them all better.”
Edwin hauled himself upright, surprised at how weak he felt. His head spun. An after effect of the Curse of Apathy, some sort of relapse? He mused. Must be.
Not exactly, ‘Dwin.
Nalia bounded into the room and ran over to the bedside, fiercely hugging the surprised wizard.
“What are you doing, idiot girl?”
She released him, and looked anxiously into his eyes. Can you hear me?
“Of course I can!” Edwin snapped. “Unfortunately.”
She looked upwards briefly. “Thank Ilmater! I wasn’t sure…I thought maybe…” She swallowed. “I’m so glad you’re ok.”
Edwin rubbed his aching head. “What happened?”
Nalia bit her lip thoughtfully. “Um, how much do you remember?”
Edwin frowned in puzzlement. “We had just come back to the Keep.” His frown deepened. “I received a Howler from my family, and then…there was a dream…something about power…ah...then I woke up here with an overly emotional girl draping herself all over me.”
Nalia’s eyes went wide. “That’s all you remember?”
“I believe so.”
“Don’t you even remember the Ball, when we…” Nalia stopped suddenly and blushed.
“Um, nothing.” Nalia swallowing slightly. No doubt we’ll make up for lost time- eventually.
What lost time? Edwin demanded.
“I think…” Nalia said slowly. “That this will take some time to explain.”
“What will?” Edwin asked, sounding slightly annoyed this time, in a way that was delightfully familiar to Nalia.
Nalia took a deep breath. “Let me tell you a tale- a tale of two mages…”
Nalia sat in her wooden chair in the mage lab, and watched Edwin write. His white quill pen moved slowly and meticulously across the parchment, covering it in neat copperplate handwriting. Stacked by the side of him were a couple of sheets of paper covered over and over with the same sentence written 200 times.
Dear Family and Master Dekaras, (Edwin wrote)
I must apologise for not writing sooner and explaining my situation. I felt that letting you know I was alive and well would jeopardize your safety as well as mine. I hope you realise that it was necessary for you to act naturally at that time. I am sorry I caused you so much pain, and… (Edwin gritted his teeth, but continued) I admit that maybe I made an error in judgement.
Edwin stopped, and steepled his hands in thought. How could he explain his current situation?
I am now living in what passes for a noble manor here, the Keep de’Arnise. The lady of the manor, Nalia de’Arnise, is a fellow mage and we have found our magical skills knit together particularly well. (There. That would do. He couldn’t tell them about the accident with the familiar scrolls- he couldn’t bare the thought of Teacher Dekaras being sarcastic about it.) I have increased in skill greatly since I left Thay. I am now capable of casting many high level spells, such as Horrid Wilting. They came in very useful in defeating Feredain, although it was an altered Animate Dead spell that ultimately killed her…
The door of the mage lab banged open. Andorel marched in, followed by his party.
“Hey there Nalia, Eddie.”
Nalia looked up and smiled. “Hello.”
“We just thought we’d come and say goodbye, type of thing.” Andorel said, oddly hesitant all of a sudden. He looked down and fiddled with his sword hilt nervously.
“I feel we must thank you for your hospitality, my Lady, even though ‘twas not us you were actually housing.” Anomen said diffidently.
“Ah, it was, um, my pleasure, I’m sure.” She assured him. “How are you all feeling now?”
“We feel ready to go and fight Evil once again, yes Sir!” Minsc boomed happily. “The funny ghost is gone, and we have other places to go and be heroes!”
…Things have been… (Edwin paused. He couldn’t very well write ‘I was possessed by an evil celestial spirit and tried to kill everyone’, could he?) …busy here recently…
“Priest Thaddeus has declared us fit and well, and we must away to other climes and places.” Keldorn remarked. “I have even finally defeated that wretched cold.”
Valygar blew his nose loudly. “Yeb, but you gabe id to me!”
“My apologies, my friend. Colds go where they see fit- we do not control them.”
“I hope you feel better soon, Valygar.” Nalia assured him. “So, where are you going now?”
“Well, we’ve gathered our cash, so we’re off to rescue my sister.” Andorel looked hesitant. “We’ll be a gone a long time. I don’t even know if we’ll ever come back this way again. I guess…this is goodbye.”
“Um, I suppose so.” Nalia said, hiding her relief. “I hope you find her.”
“Oh, we will, I’m sure of it. Well, goodbye.” Andorel said, sticking out a callused hand. Nalia shook it gingerly.
“Goodbye, and good luck.” Nalia said. “Edwin?”
“What?” Edwin asked, not looking up from his writing.
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”
“Why should I say that? (How do you spell ‘receive’? I can never remember.)”
“They’re all leaving!”
“Oh.” He muttered, and bent back over his parchment.
Nalia rolled her eyes in resignation. The party left, closing the door behind them. Unheard by Nalia, Andorel turned back after the rest of the adventurers had walked off.
“Goodbye, little Nalia.” He whispered, and then sniffed and blinked. He wiped his nose on his hand, and then hurried off after the others.
Inside the mage lab, Nalia cleared her throat. “How’s the letter going?” Nalia asked Edwin.
“It would go faster without these interruptions.”
…All in all, I am happy here. Although my life in Amn is not as luxurious as the life of a Red Wizard, it is comfortable. (Edwin stared thoughtfully at the arms of his grey silk mage robe. He hadn’t wanted to change back to red, for some reason. However, he had altered the simple design of the robe Feredain had designed, embellishing the black velvet with ornate and rather tasteless silver embroidery.) I hope you are all well in Thay.
Your loving son,
Edwin paused after putting his first name on the parchment, deep in thought.
“You really ought to change your surname.” Nalia remarked, idly biting a fingernail.
“Hmm.” Edwin said thoughtfully. “I suppose it may be an idea, but what to change it do?” He tried to run his hand through his hair, but stopped in irritation when his fingers encountered short stubble. It would take a long time for his beard and hair to grow back. That was, perhaps, the most annoying aspect of this entire affair.
“Well,” Nalia said, swallowing hard and suddenly nervous. “There’s always de’Arnise.”
Edwin turned and smiled sardonically at her. “Now you’re being ridiculous…”