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Phoenixes and Shadows (Fanfic)

CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
edited November 2013 in Fan Creations
I keep wanting to write a story taking characters through the events of Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. But, despite planning and considering many small plot twists and changes, I’m afraid I do find it very hard to maintain my interest in telling what is still essentially the same story everyone already knows from the games.

So, as far as Baldur’s Gate fic goes, I’ll carry on writing short stories depicting oriiginal adventures of the characters. And due to demand, might do some more Back to Reality and Wings. And speaking of Wings, this first new episode I’ve written is more or less a sequel to it, so may contain some spoilers since that story isn’t yet finished. Still, nothing too shocking. It’s loosely based on how I would liked a proper quest for Aerie to have gone in the game.

Most of stories revolve around the adventures of Imoen as a new guildmistress in Athkatla, although lots of NPC's pop up and I plan to have stories that center on several of them. First though, some background info:

Most of Shadows of Amn played out more or less as it does in the game, with the default party of Bhaalspawn, Imoen, Jaheira, Minsc and Yoshimo, who were soon joined by Aerie, with the final party slot kept for all the other NPC's to rotate around in. But after defeating Irenicus, Imoen decided to step out of the shadow of her sibling and returned to Athkatla with Minsc and Aerie to take over the guild.

Meanwhile, in Baldur's Gate, Eldoth Kron seemed to have suddenly come into some money. The young Umberlant, Tenya, whose time in the Sea Queen's house seemed to have taken a turn for the worse (the exact details of what happened in there are still known only to her), happened to be seeking Imoen when she accidentally discovered that Eldoth had sold out all of his former companions, who were now in Amn. The bard then infuriated her enough that she decided to spare his life, and instead deliver him to the people he had betrayed. With the help of Skie Silvershield, who was now starting to see what an abusive, manipulative piece of slime Eldoth really was, they recruited several other old companions (the ones whose wherabouts aren't already explained or known in the games) to keep Eldoth from escaping while they transported him south.

By the time they arrived, Imoen had already been rescued from Spellhold and the Bhaalspawn were on their way to face Bodhi. Eldoth did manage to escape shortly after, but was soon found again and, cornered and desperate, threw himself from a cliff.

And that more or less brings us up to the present, with this story collection set sort of inbetween SoA and ToB.

Post edited by Coutelier on
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  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    edited June 2013
    Phoenix, Part One

    ~*~


    Another glorious morning in the city of coin. The sun was up, with it’s rays breaking through the fluffy white clouds like a picture of heaven. The birds were up too, calling, guiding and singing their songs, and so was Aerie. Not singing, exactly, but humming. She could hum very well. And the reason for her happy hum was that she’d had the best night’s sleep since… well, since she could remember. Also, she had helped rescue Imoen, defeat Irenicus and save a whole city from destruction, and in the process come to realise something about herself that she may have occasionally suspected before, but for some reason had never been able to accept; that she was actually a quite good witch.

    There was a definite spring in her step, blonde hair bouncing as she skipped down the stairs of Imoen’s Guild. But upon reaching the first landing, she stopped, her pointed elven ears standing up as she looked about. There was Skie Silvershield, leaning by the window at the end of the hall. Aerie thought she’d heard sobbing.

    “Are you okay?” The elf asked, approaching softly.

    Skie turned to face her, lower lip folded and red rings clearly visible under her eyes. “No, Aerie. I am not okay,” she informed the blonde. “I am the complete opposite of okay. I’m worthless.”

    Aerie shook her head and arched an eyebrow. “I… don’t believe anyone is worthless. W-why would you think that?”

    “You know, I used to have men lined up for me. Well… my father lined them up for me. I’m sure most of them just wanted to inherit his land and money when he died, but at least some I think were actually good and decent people,” the duke’s daughter sighed as she reminisced. “Those were the ones I always thought were too safe… too boring.”

    Of course; this was about Eldoth, again. “We all… make mistakes,” Aerie tried to assure her.

    “Eldoth was more than just a mistake… it was sheer stupidity. Could you have fallen for a man like that?”

    “I don’t know,” Aerie answered honestly. She supposed toward the end of her time in the circus, when she’d been always restless and wanted nothing more than to leave that place behind, she supposed if the wrong person had come along and offered her a hand then, then she might have taken it without asking too many questions. “Maybe…”

    But Skie didn’t seem to believe the elf, if she was even really listening at all. “Imoen always said he was slimy… that he had slime oozing out of every pore in his skin. Why couldn’t I see that?”

    “You… thought you were in love?”

    “I… I knew he was bad. I guess I thought that was exciting, and that maybe I could change him somehow. All stupid, childish fantasies. And now, I have nothing. And no one wants me.”

    “Oh… t-that’s not true. We’re all happy that you’ve decided to stay here these last few months… a-and eaten all of our olives…”

    “Sorry… I suppose I have been a burden…”

    “N-no,” Aerie sighed. The elf only had her own limited amount of experience to draw from, but it occurred to her then that perhaps it was useful here. “Look, I-I thought I was worthless, once… when they cut off my wings. If Quayle hadn’t taken me in, t-then I’d have probably just been thrown in a ditch and left there to die. But, even if you’ve lost everything, you can get better again and make a new life for yourself.”

    “So, you’re saying to keep moving forward?”

    “I… suppose.”

    “I don’t know… maybe you’re right,” Skie said, shaking herself. “Oh, listen to me go on; like some poor lost puppy in need of love and attention.”

    Aerie smiled, sweetly. “It’s alright.”

    The brunette stared through the window, her eyes coming to focus on some object in the middle distance. “What about that dock worker who comes in sometimes? The one with the curls… he seems nice.”

    The elf, a little puzzled by the sudden turn, went to the window and followed Skie’s stare. “Leo?”

    “Leo,” Skie sighed. “He’s rather cute, isn’t he?”

    “He’s very nice,” Aerie agreed. Then when she read the expression on the human woman’s face, she couldn’t help but smile. “Oh, but… I-I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I-I mean that… look more closely. A-at the way he’s holding hands with that blacksmith. Greg, I believe is his name…”

    “Oh,” Skie sagged slightly. “I didn’t spot that either… I am useless…” Her head hung for a moment, but then suddenly lifted back up. “What about Renal Bloodscalp? He’s single, right?”

    Aerie looked disgusted. “You really need a lot of help… a-anyway, you don’t need a man to make you feel good.”

    “How would you know?”

    “I… just think you’ll only really start to feel better about yourself when you start to do things on your own,” Aerie explained, then repeated the last few lines of the conversation over again in her head. “I… hope that’s not misinterpreted. I-I mean you should follow your own goals.”

    “I know, but… I don’t have any goals. The only thing I cared about was Eldoth… and now he’s gone, and ruined my entire life in the process.”

    “Don’t… d-don’t dwell so much on the past. I-I know it’s impossible to ever forget where you’ve been, but think of all the places you can go if you choose to.”

    “Where can I go?”

    “A-as I understand it, had you stayed where you were, you would have been forced, eventually, to marry, a-and to allow your husband to keep you and take over running all your business and property. But now… you can do whatever you want. I-Imoen said you were interested in history… maybe you could be an archaeologist?”

    Skie scoffed. “Me? Digging through dirt and dusting off ancient stone tablets? I…” she paused suddenly, tilting her head. “No… no, it’s silly…”

    “It doesn’t have to be that; it could be anything. Maybe… m-maybe you could start your own business, and work to get back the things you had before.”

    “I… no, you… you have to know a lot to do things like that. And be very smart. And I’m… I’m not smart. I’m dumb. Dumber than a big dumb dog that was voted dumbest dog on show, when three of the other dogs competing were dead and stuffed.”

    Aerie sighed a little resignedly. “I’m sorry… I-I think I’ve said just about all I can. It’s up to you; you can carry on berating yourself, or you can at least try to do something else. You say Eldoth caused you to lose everything, but… I think, if you keep letting the memory of him dominate your entire life, then you’ll never regain anything. You’ll have let him win.”



    Moments later, Aerie was down the next flight of stairs, through the kitchen, and found Imoen having breakfast in the dining room.

    “Morning Aerrers,” the redhead said without looking up. Imoen claimed she could identify every one of her friends by the sound of their footsteps. Minsc had big, heavy steps, of course… Aerie’s was a soft padding. But then, Imoen had also once claimed that pound for pound, she was stronger than Shar-Teel. When the warrior woman found out, she made Aerie shrink her so that she could then set the redhead right.

    As the avariel sat down, Imoen continued to prod a sticky green blob on her plate with a fork. “What do you suppose that is?”

    Aerie peered at the blob, examining it from several different angles. “It’s… some kind of vegetable?”

    “I knew it… that cook’s trying to kill me! He knows I’m allergic to vegetables…”

    “It’s green… so, maybe it’s good for you…”

    “Think so? Would you eat an Orc?”

    “No… t-that would be wrong on so many levels…”

    “So not everything green is good for you, is it?”

    “I… guess not,” Aerie lowered herself across the table, so that she could see Imoen’s face. “You look tired.”

    Imoen looked around to make sure the room was otherwise, then leant forward and spoke to her friend in a hushed tone. “I… had a dream last night.”

    “Oh… was it… was it about Bhaal?”

    “No… no rivers of blood or anything like that. I dreamt I was attacked by a swarm of thousands of little pieces of paper that kept cutting my skin, and then surrounded and smothered me… then I woke up and realised that it wasn’t a dream. Running a guild is more complicated than I thought.”

    Aerie stared at her for a moment. It was hard to look at Imoen and not just see a young woman much like herself, if a little more laid back and carefree, or had been. But Imoen’s brother had been quite honest about who he was when she’d joined him to rescue her; a child of Bhaal. Of course, he hadn’t realised that the girl he’d grown up around was also a child of the ex-God of murder. And as for Aerie, she’d never thought much about it. She’d just wanted so badly to escape from the circus, and they were just people, people who had helped her. That was how she saw them, at least until actually being on the dead God’s plane made the whole thing start to seem more real…

    But that was something to worry about another time. She trusted that Imoen was a good person, basically. Someone who always tried and wanted to do the right thing.

    “How so?” The elf asked.

    “Gotta keep track of all the money coming in and going out. Make sure there’s always enough to pay Renal Bloodscalp his rent, and buy our food and equipment… and it turns out I have to actually pay all the people who work for me.”

    “Really?” Aerie arched an eyebrow. “You’ve… never paid me anything…”

    “Sure I have, kid. I just… I keep your share of the money safe for you.”

    “Okay… could I see it, at least?”

    “Now why would you need to see it? Don’t you trust me?”

    “I… suppose,” although when it came to money or anything shiny, Aerie wasn’t sure how far she would trust Imoen.

    “Then don’t worry about it; I’m just looking out for ya,” Imoen said, taking a bite of her breakfast which she immediately spat out again. “Pfeh… on top of everything else, the food here is awful.”

    Obviously another thing that would have to wait a little while… “I-I thought you going to get a new cook?”

    “I was… but, how do you even do stuff like that? Where do you go, who do talk to? I don’t know.”

    “It… sounds like you need help…”

    “You know anything about running a guild?”

    “No. Nothing.”

    “Didn’t think so,” Imoen said, rubbing her temples. “I tried asking Nalia about it, but she’s always too busy. ‘Sides, I think she’s still mad about her race horse… which is silly, right? I’m not responsible for nature.”

    “No, but… y-you were responsible for turning it into a mouse…”

    “I was gonna turn it back… if that owl hadn’t eaten it… anyway, that thing was beast; it would have probably killed her, eventually. I saved her life.”

    “Maybe,” Aerie sighed. She realised there wasn’t much point in arguing about it now; Imoen had had a long time to think up justifications for what she’d done. But, maybe she could help solve a few other problems, now. “W-why don’t you ask Skie to help run the place?”

    Imoen arched a brow. “Skie?”

    “Her family owned and ran several businesses, didn’t they? I’m sure she could help.”

    “Hm… I don’t know, kid. She’s done nothing but mope around these last few months… you really think she could take on a big job like this? It’s a lotta ‘sponsibility.”

    “I think… I-I think it’s important for her to feel useful, and wanted.”

    “And why’s that matter to you?”

    “I’m just trying to help someone… both of you, really.”

    Imoen leant back a little, making a pyramid with her hands as she looked across at the elf. “Alright,” she sighed, “I’ll ask her. But remember; if Renal Bloodscalp decides to have us all murdered for not paying rent, it’ll be your fault.”

    “Thank you,” Aerie grinned happily. “Um… a-about my money…”

    “Told you; it’s safe.”

    “C-could I at least see it?”

    “Why would you need to see it? Thought you said you trusted me.”

    “I’m just curious to know how much I have…”

    “Got that written down on a bit of paper upstairs… might be lost in the pile though. Take a while to find it…”

    “What… w-what if I do want to take some of it?”

    “Now what would you need money for?”

    “Books, spell components, new boots…”

    “I can get you all that.”

    “I-I’d rather be able to do it myself…”

    “Aerie… kid. You are someone who knows the value of everything, but the price of nothing. There are a lot of greedy merchants out there who can talk and talk rings around you, ‘til you give in and hand it all over for a magic turnip or something…”

    Aerie folded her arms, huffing a little, then mumblrd, “I… can’t help feeling something similar may already be happening…”

    “Aww… look,” Imoen reached out and patted the elf on the shoulder. “Don’t be so sensitive. You know how much I love ‘ya, really. That’s why I’m protecting you. “

    “I… don’t want to be protected all the time. I want to learn to do things myself.”

    “And you will,” Imoen seemed to think for a moment. “For now, why don’t you help me by going down the road to the smithy. Cromwell’s supposed to have some knives ready for us, so you can just pick ‘em up and bring ‘em back here.”

    Aerie blinked. “T-the smithy?”

    “Yes.”

    “Hm… b-by myself?”

    “Yes. You can do that, right?”

    “I-I…” the elf hesitated a moment, but then pulled herself up straight. “Yes… I can do that.”

    “Good. Then I trust you. Now, it’s already paid for, so all you’ve gotta do is show him this bit of paper and tell him I sent you.”

    “Okay.”

    “Just relax, kid; he’s a good fella.”

    “Okay. I… I’ll go right away,” the elf said, taking the receipt and standing up.

    Imoen called again, when her friend was halfway across the room. “Aerie…”

    “Y-yes?”

    “The front door is that way.”



    It was a simple task, and for the most part went exactly as Imoen had said. It had taken Aerie a minute to actually step inside the forge once she got there, and then another minute before anyone noticed her and asked if she needed any help. But after that, she just showed them the paper and got the knives.

    But, she was afraid she might have come across as rude when she hurriedly thanked the dwarf then rushed to leave. She hadn’t meant to, of course. It was just… the sight of all those red hot blades with steam hissing off them… it stirred things in her stomach, and her memory. She thought maybe she should apologise, but that would mean having to go back inside… but then, maybe she was worried about nothing. She would just have to wait and see. Cromwell was a ‘good fella’, but she didn’t know him well enough to want to explain that she’d once been dragged from a cage to a place where men were heating their blades in order to cut her wings from her.

    It seemed lately she’d been very good at giving advice, but not so good at following it. But you couldn’t just forget where you’d been.

    Sighing, she pushed herself away from the wall in order to make the short journey back to the guild. She should, perhaps, have opened her eyes first and avoided the collision.

    “I-I’m sorry, sir!” She stammered after she fell. She expected an angry reply, ‘why the hell don’t you look where you’re going’, or something along those lines. And for once at least, it would have been justified since it really was her fault that they fell. But instead, she heard her name.

    “Aerie,” the man said. Surprised, she looked up. He was already standing again, the young man. Brown hair, a little dirty and unshaven. She didn’t think she had ever met him before.

    “Eh… e-excuse me?”

    “Your name is Aerie,” he told her. His face seemed to have a little twitch. Several little twitches in face.

    She thought about how to answer. In stories she’d read, the reply was often ‘depends on who’s asking’. But, assuming that many other people had read the same stories, she couldn’t see how such an answer did anything other than confirm you were who you were accused of being.

    “Do I… know you?” She asked instead. There seemed little sense in denying anything.

    The man shook his head. “No… you don’t. But, I have information for you. Information you might find interesting.”

    “Information for me?” Aerie shook her head. “You… you must mean for Imoen, o-or Jaheira, maybe. I can pass it along…”

    “Share it with your friends if you like, but the information is for you. Do you see that ship that arrived yesterday? The one flying the flag of Baldur’s Gate?”

    Aerie turned her head toward the dock just enough to see it, and keep one eye on the stranger. “Yes.”

    “You should take a look at what’s on board.”

    “Why?”

    “Like I said; I think you might find it interesting.”

    “Okay,” the elf nodded. She took her eye off him for a second in order to gather the bags she’d dropped. “W-who…” but then he was gone, of course. It wasn’t a whole lot of information, was it? Much as Aerie appreciated the need to build suspense, surely in real life mysterious strangers could just say what was there before disappearing into thin air.

    But then as she started to take very slow, very small steps back to the guild, she thought that maybe it was all the information she needed. She was sure she had never met that man, but anyone would only need to know a little of her past to guess where her sympathies might lie. She also remembered Nalia talking about a new treaty between Baldur’s Gate and Amn that the noblewoman wasn’t happy with; it meant that ships from the northern city were no longer allowed to be searched by the guards here. Which would provide various types of unscrupulous people perfect cover… on the other hand, this stranger might be expecting her to go tell the others, using her to lure everyone into some kind of trap. Or maybe all this pondering was completely pointless, as there was only one way she would ever know for sure.

    She decided, eventually, that maybe she didn’t have to go back to the guild right away. She could do a few other things on her own. Of course, she wouldn’t be so foolhardy as to try and storm the ship herself… but there was no harm in just looking around it and listening for clues. Before she knew it, she was stood by the ramp.

    There didn’t seem to be much out of the ordinary. Sailors tying ropes, workers carrying crates on board… but then, she wasn’t really expecting to see anything outside. By casting invisibility on herself, she might be able to slip on board with no one noticing. But if the spell wore off while she was still on board, or if there were wards against illusions…

    “Who are you?” She heard a woman ask.

    Aerie spun about to answer… then stopped. Her blood went cold as her eyes widened. It was another elven woman that confronted, although a lot older than Aerie. The avariel knew that, because she had met the exact same woman before, when she was still a child. The black hair with the red band and that long, dark bow… she remembered them all too well.

    “Have you no tongue?” The woman pressed, stepping closer. “I asked who you were…”

    Even without the needlessly confrontational tone, Aerie’s body was tense. Thoughts of finally being able to exact some measure of revenge or justice after so many years flashed through her head… she was no longer a child; she had the power now to defend herself, and was more than capable of inflicting harm as well. But she remembered what others had taught her. The woman was presumably a part of the crew of this ship; a battle with so many people would be very destructive, and almost certainly attract the attention of the guards and cowled wizards. No; she had to go back to the others, and tell them.

    “I-I… I’m no one, ma’am,” Aerie answered. The woman stepped even closer. The blonde found it very hard to keep meeting her gaze.

    “Have I seen you somewhere before?” The woman asked. She might have sensed Aerie’s surprise and recognition. If she knew that Aerie knew she was a slaver, she would never let the blonde leave. But then, although the woman had stayed the same, Aerie had grown and changed a lot since they’d encountered each other. There was still a good chance she could get away without causing too much of a scene.

    “I don’t think so, ma’am.”

    “Are you certain? You look familiar, somehow.”

    “Fairly certain,” Aerie glanced about nervously. “Erm… I-I seem to be somewhat lost. This isn’t the ship I’m looking for…”

    “I would not have thought so, no.”

    In Aerie’s favour, she guessed the woman probably wouldn’t want to attract much attention here either, considering what was likely being concealed below deck. “I… I guess I’ll ask those guards for help. E-excuse me…”

    The woman stepped aside, allowing her to pass. But she kept watching Aerie, until the avariel had disappeared. One time Aerie looked back, she was sure she saw the woman with her hand in her quiver… fortunately, she thought better of it.

    Had she been able to place the blonde, Aerie wouldn’t know… at least, not until she returned after dark. And she fully planned to return. The blonde rested, catching her breath near the guild, a twitch in her side reminding her of the arrow that had brought her crashing down to earth.

    Post edited by Coutelier on
  • MalicronMalicron Member Posts: 629
    Always a good day when you post, @Coutelier.

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    Part Two. I don't know if many people actually read fics on here, but obviously it's on fanfiction.net as well, and also posted on Im & Aer on Tumblr.

    Phoenix, Part Two

    ~*~


    “No… no I got it… just got to turn it here… there ya go,” Imoen peered through a pair of goggles kindly donated to her guild by Jan Jansen; it was one of the few things he’d donated that she’d managed to make work. Through the lenses she saw… a ship. Sailors and workers moving around, but nothing she wasn’t now used to seeing every day, living so close to the docks. “Looks pretty ordinary,” she commented. “How can you be sure there are slaves on board?”

    Aerie required no aid. Even from the roof of the guild, the avariel could see every pit, every scar on every face around the ship… including hers. “I know.”

    “But how do you know? Sorry Aerrers, but… we need a little more proof than just the word of some mysterious stranger, who from what I can tell was really kinda vague…”

    The blonde conceded the point. It was hard to keep on looking, but even when she closed her eyes, all she was that day again. She’d heard the screaming and shouting, and looked down at the most horrific and chaotic scene she’d ever witnessed until that point. Wagons were on fire, men and women lying dead or unconscious, children crying… then the boy, running and screaming and crying. For him it must have seemed like a nightmare come true, as the thick snow made it impossible for him to run while the armoured figures with their clubs and nets rapidly closed in. And then she’d dived in, without even thinking. She lifted the boy. He struggled, frightened and confused, not understanding the language she spoke… but still, they were slowly getting away, until the arrow struck…

    “I-I recognised one of them,” Aerie explained.

    Imoen turned toward her, lifting the goggles back, pushing up her hair. “One of the slavers?” She asked, mildly surprised.

    “T-the elven woman,” the blonde nodded, “she was one of those who captured me.” The boy had continued to run, managing to reach the trees, disappearing into the deep woods. As her own vision faded, she remembered thinking what a beautiful contrast it was, the pure white snow and her own red blood… and then she was there, the dark haired elven woman, standing over her still holding the bow.

    “Guess I never thought… I mean, it was such a long time ago…”

    “Not for an elf. She hasn’t aged at all. On the other hand, I was a child then… helpless… a-and different in other ways, so I don’t think she recognised me.”

    “Do you know her name?”

    “N-no.” Aerie kept remembering back then, when she came too after a jolt. She was in a cage on the back of a wagon. There were men riding horses around her, whooping and hollering at each other… they actually seemed happy. But she couldn’t understand their words. She kept calling out, demanding, pleading and then begging that they let her go. It seemed they couldn’t understand her words either. Eventually, they all looked at the elf with the red bands in her hair and on her arms.

    At the time Aerie couldn’t understand, but they asked her, ‘what’s she saying?’ And she just sneered and said, ‘just the usual.’

    As the sun had set that day, Aerie looked back, choking as she pressed her arm out through the bars reaching out for the mountains… they just kept getting further and further away, and then were gone…

    She shook herself, trying to stay focused on the present. Imoen was still looking at her, waiting for a little further elaboration. “The… the only name I remember from back then is Praxis,” she explained. “He was in charge of… o-of processing the new slaves, as he put it. Really what he did was try to traumatise them into conformity, or until their bodies or their minds broke. But she worked for him… it was her arrow that brought me down.”

    “Still… it was a long time ago, kid. You don’t know what she might be doing now…”

    “Imoen, y-you can’t believe…?!”

    “Relax… I’m on your side. But, I gotta be ‘sponsible now and think about all the consequences and possibilities.”

    “She was… she was quite keen to keep me away from the ship. They’ve got to be hiding something on board…”

    “Alright; we’ll check it out.”

    “T-thank you, Imoen.”

    “Tonight. When it gets dark.”

    “But there might be people…!”

    “Yes, there might. And if that’s the case, there might also be a lot of guards, traps, and other protection. You might be keen on getting into Valhalla, but me? I plan on only dying once, in my sleep, when I’m a hundred and twenty. Plus you won’t help anyone if you go and get yourself killed.”

    “I… I’m sorry,” Aerie sighed. Her body had remained tense since she’d encountered the woman. “You’re right… I just…”

    “I know… it’s personal. That’s why it’s important you rest and… keep a level head, okay?”

    “I will try.”



    The wait was unbearable, but eventually night came and a very small group made it’s way to the dock. Between them, Imoen and Aerie provided considerable magical artillery. Imoen could also handle any locks and traps they might find, while Aerie could provide protection and healing if anyone was hurt. Then, they brought along the mighty ranger Minsc; although stealth missions weren’t exactly the big bald man’s forte.

    “So, where is this scoundrel who stole Aerie from her home?” He asked loudly while the trio crouched behind crates. “Minsc and Boo shall tear the eyes from their skulls and force them down their throat, so they may see the evil insides!” The little hamster in his pouch squeaked in approval.

    Aerie however, winced slightly. Minsc was very sweet, in a way, but she hardly needed him to hide behind. Or at least, as she’d spent the day fidgeting restlessly, she’d grown to feel more and more that she had the confront the woman herself… the woman who had struck her once, when her crying got to loud, when Aerie was a child and unable to fight back. Nothing else would seem right… or as satisfying…

    “Try to use your indoor voice, Minsc,” Imoen whispered, “we don’t want ‘em to know we’re here… yet.”

    “Of course! Minsc will be as silent as the lobster that lies in wait for the man to expose himself in shallow water, and then snaps off his evil man things!”

    “Great.”

    “Something is happening,” Aerie said.

    It was the clip-clap of horse hoaves. A cart stopped close to the ship, almost right in front of their hiding place. Several men came down the ramp to greet the driver, and the elven woman. They exchanged a few words, and then all of them went to back of the cart, unlocking the large double doors.

    Moments later, the men dragged someone out. A human… no; it was hard to see in the dark, but the man had a greenish hue to his skin, and small tusks. He was a half-orc… there was a whole family of them, joined together in chains. One of the children started to cry out, only to be smacked harshly by one of the slavers. The biggest half-orc then roared and tried to charge at the slaver who had struck, but the chains held him back somewhat… then the elven woman stepped behind, clubbing him firmly on the back of the skull.

    Aerie gritted her teeth, her hand clawed as it started to fill with magical energy… Imoen put a gentle hand on her, shaking her red hair.

    “You might get ‘em killed,” she whispered.

    Again… Imoen was right, Aerie realised. She had to try and keep a level head through this. First sign of trouble, the slavers would probably kill any slaves they had… she just had to be patient, and stealthy. Wait for the right time.

    More slavers came down the ramp, to help carry the semi-conscious half-orc on board. After a time, the cart went away, and just two slavers were left guarding the ramp. The rest had disappeared below deck.

    “Alright,” Imoen whispered, “Aerie, you distract them. Minsc and I’ll sneak around the sides and take ‘em out.”

    “Right,” the elf nodded affirmatively. “Wait… h-how do I distract them?”

    “I don’t know. Just… use your feminine wiles.”

    “Right,” Aerie nodded again. Imoen had barely moved when the elf tugged on her again. “How… h-how do I do that?”

    “Just… talk to them. Pretend you’re lost… or sing, or dance… anything. Just get their attention.”

    “Okay.”

    A moment later, Aerie tentatively approached. The two leather armoured guards eyed her hungrily as she started to draw near.

    “You lost, little girl?” One of them asked. “Whatd’ya want?”

    “Um… I… I-I was wondering if… if either of you had an opinion on facticity and transcendence?”

    They glared at her. “What fool game is this? You trying to wind us up?”

    “N-no! I-it’s just an interesting book I read recently, a-and I wanted to ask other people about it. See… ‘facticity’ is how the rest of the world sees you. H-height, gender, skin color, social class… t-that sort of thing. But, y-you don’t think any of those things really define who are, do you? You can transcend it. I mean… y-you don’t think of yourselves as just hired goons, do you?”

    “Ain’t nothing wrong with being a hired goon. It’s a steady job in a profession that goes back thousands of years.”

    “But… y-you can be so much more!” Aerie pleaded, but it fell on deaf ears, or at least ears that were connected to a brain that was unconscious. Minsc clubbed one, while Imoen delivered a powerful sleep spell to the other. “Or… m-maybe not…”

    Imoen glared at the elf, her jaw hanging. “Facticity and transcendence?”

    “I… distracted them. D-didn’t I?”

    “Okay… when we’re done here, I think we’re gonna have to practice this scenario more back at the guild.”

    “I don’t see what you’re mad about… I mean, I-I think they were actually starting to become interested…”

    “Let’s just go…”

    “When they come round, m-maybe they’ll start to think more about what the world has to offer…”

    “Let’s go!”



    It seemed most of the actual crew of the ship were taking their leave on shore; there were only guards left on board. Imoen and Aerie both used spells to conceal themselves, and Minsc. There were a few close calls, one time when Minsc had to choke out a guard from behind to prevent the others from being detected, but eventually they made it right down to very belly of the ship. It was there they found the cage, and the half-orc family… there seemed to be no other slaves on board.

    The children recoiled at the sight of Aerie, clinging close to each other as she knelt outside the bars.”

    “It’s okay,” she assured them, putting a finger to her lips. “We’re here to help…”

    The huge male pressed himself against the cage, the leathery skin on face furrowed deeply. “Help?” He said with a deep grumble. “How?”

    “By getting you outta here, of course!” Imoen explained.

    “Then what?”

    “We’ll… think of something…” The redhead bent over, examining the lock. “I don’t suppose you know where the key is?”

    “Amra…” he slurred and growled. The other’s looked at him quizzically. “Pointy ears… dark hair… lot of red…”

    Imoen arched an eyebrow, turning to Aerie. “Gotta name…”

    “What difference does it make?” The blonde shook her head, looking at the lock. “Can’t you pick it?”

    “Maybe… but it’s complicated. It’ll take a while… and I can’t use magic on it either. It’s protected so it’ll just melt if I try…”

    Naturally, it was at that moment that bells started ringing all around the ship. “They… must have found one of the unconscious guards… you’d better get started…”

    “Okay… five minutes, okay? Just gimme five minutes…”

    Once the alarm had sounded, this was naturally the first place every slaver on the ship ran to. As the first group came down the stairwell at one end of the deck, Minsc heaved his broadsword and charged into them, a huge swipe cutting one clean in two.

    But there was another stairwell, and another group came rushing down, this time with crossbows loaded and ready to fire. They took aim at Minsc, even as he was entangled with a number of their own comrades… but then a big raccoon suddenly leapt in front of them.

    The bolts embedded themselves into Aerie’s shield. The avariel had kept herself low behind it, but slowly stood, her blue eyes burning fiercely at the attackers. With a word, her shield shone, expelling all the impacted objects and sending them flying back from where they had come.

    More kept swarming down both sets of stairs. Minsc was holding them back at one. Aerie launched a small, searing missile from each of her fingertips, bringing down a few who came down the other… but not enough. They kept coming at her, and she had nowhere to retreat, so she lifted her mace and started swinging. One attacked managed to get behind, and take a swing of his own… to his surprise, the club just rebounded as if it had struck solid stone… which wasn’t far from the truth. The elf’s entire skin had turned grey, her eyes shining even brighter as she petitioned the gods for speed and strength.

    A metallic smell filled the air as Aerie’s magic lashed and burned and punched holes through her foes. After about three minutes, her stoneskin gave out, and her skin returned to its normal pink colour and softness, but by then it seemed things were under control at her end. Imoen was still working on the lock, and Minsc still engaged with slavers pouring down the well he guarded the bottom of. She was going to help, but then she head, “I do remember you…”

    Spinning back again on her heel, Aerie saw the elven woman, Amra, slowly descending. “How could I forget?” She smirked. “Without you, who knows? Maybe we’d still be working for those other low lives, and none of Praxis’ plan would ever have become possible…”

    “Praxis…” Aerie repeated like it had a bad taste.

    Amra held her smirk, now standing just a few feet, scrutinizing the smaller elf. “The years haven’t been so kind to you, I see… all grown up now, but… you seem to have lost a little something there, on your back. I’m surprised anyone would want to keep you.”

    Aerie held the woman’s gaze, her white knuckles tightening around her mace’s grip. “What plan?” She demanded.

    “Really? After all this time is that all you have to ask me? You know… I seem to remember that you bit me. Several times… of course, you’re hardly the only one, but perhaps I still owe you.”

    It was true; the day after her capture, Aerie had still been in the cart. The men seemed to grow annoyed at her, and Amra had opened the cage door to silence her. That was when Aerie bit her hand… only to be thrown on the ground again and kicked several times.

    The avariel shook her head. “Y-you treat people like animals, you shouldn’t be surprised if they start to act like that.”

    “True. But, once an animal has tasted freedom it’s almost impossible to retrain. So, I suppose… I’ll have to put you down…”

    But Aerie struck first, rushing forward and bashing her with the face of her shield, sending the dark haired elf sprawling back against the side of the ship.

    “What plan?” The avariel demanded again. “Where is Praxis?”

    Amra pinched her nose, blinking away some of the cobwebs. “Not one for chat, are you? Very well…”

    She kicked out, striking Aerie in the knee and rapidly rolling to the side as the blonde’s mace came down. The avariel spun after her, deflecting the sword swipe that came with her shield and swinging back again with the mace… but Amra was as fast as anyone Aerie had ever seen, seeming to sidestep the strike with ease, and then with her free hand caught the blonde’s wrist, lifted it, and delivered a solid kick under the shield to the belly.

    Aerie fell back, but kept rolling with the momentum, managing to land on her feet. Amra leapt and fell on her, landing again on Aerie’s shield, which the blonde was able to use to hold her foe at bay long enough some more magical protection around her skin… this time in the form of a bright shimmering glow over her skin. Not as impenetrable as stone, but as good as any suit of armour. Aerie then pushed back, throwing an orb from her mace. But again, Amra was much faster than she anticipated.

    Amra spun in close again, striking at the blonde. Although Aerie’s shield was proving too strong a wall for her to break, Aerie was equally frustrated as the slaver dodged and sidestepped all her attempts to hit back. To make matters worse, she seemed to show no signs of tiring.

    Finally, Aerie seemed to get a break. Amra lunged forward, and this time the blonde sidestepped, catching her foes sword arm between her body and her shield, then twisting around the slaver, disarming her and then swinging at her head. Amra managed to pull herself free and fall back in time to avoid it. Now she had an advantage, Aerie kept pushing, following after and swinging with shield, delivering a blow to the side of the other elf’s head… she must have some magical protection of her own, or it would have surely killed her. Instead, although stunned, Amra fell back more to recover.

    “So… you’ve learnt a few, tricks, hm?” Amra sneered, wiping a bit of blood from her lip.

    Aerie took a moment to try and catch her own breath. “I’m not a child anymore… you can’t just beat and kick me into complying to your will.”

    “Really, girl… I’ve lived over two hundred years. I’ve seen more battles than you’ve had dates, I’ll wager… you really think there’s anything you’ve got that I can’t handle?”

    Aerie glared intensely at this… this woman. She had stolen the avariel from her home, her people, her family… caused her to lose everything, her whole identity, her whole life… and there she was grinning, smirking… acting like it was all just a game!

    Groaning, Aerie charged ahead, summoning every bit of strength she could. But once again, Amra was much faster than her, falling back, avoiding the blows, until eventually she caught the blonde’s wrist again, and spinning around delivered an elbow to back of the avariel’s head. Staggering back, panting, Aerie didn’t manage get her shield up in time to block a fist that landed right between her eyes.

    Her vision blurred, flame lashed out from Aerie’s mace, but struck nothing but barrels. She had no idea where Amra was until she felt the woman’s knee in her belly, then her hair tugged back and an arm coiled tightly around her throat. Aerie dropped her mace, clawing desperately to free herself… but then a sharp pain in her side and blood dripping to the floor… several more stabs, and finally Amra released her and let her fall.

    Groaning and turning on her back, Aerie lifted her hand from her side and saw it dyed red. The pain was searing, burning all along one side of her body. But, the wounds were already closing due to protections she had prepared earlier in the day.

    “Now… that is a good trick,” Amra scoffed, “’Course… all it means is, I get to beat you more…”

    She tried to stomp on Aerie’s head, but the avariel moved in time, rolling again to her feet. Amra ducked under another swing from the shield, the only weapon Aerie had left, and again struck back with several hard punches. Staggering again, Aerie tried to punch back… but her body seemed to move so slowly… Amra caught her arm, delivered several elbows to Aerie’s head, before twisting the arm around the back of her opponent and again started to choke.

    Not only was Amra much faster, she was much stronger as well. Aerie tried desperately to break free, but it was futile… soon, all her energy seemed to completely drain away and her limbs fell limp at her sides. Her body just had nothing left to fight with.

    Amra lifted the avariel and slammed her to the ground, before retrieving her sword. Once again, Aerie found herself looking up at this woman, tears around her eyes as a blade pointed menacingly at her, and she was utterly helpless.

    The slaver sneered, “you are still a child…”

    The dark haired lifted the sword, preparing for the killing blow, and Aerie was in no shape or position to argue. The half-orcs were however.

    Amra turned her head in response to a roar, and the huge male fell on her, biting into her arm. She managed to pull herself away and with an angry snarl of her own, retreated.

    “No!” Imoen called out as the male was about to pursue. “We still have to fight our way off this tub, so it’s best that everyone stay together,” she said, then turned her attention to supine elf. “Aerie… are you okay?” The redhead asked, kneeling beside her.

    “No… n-not really…”

    “Where does it hurt?”

    “E-everywhere…” the blonde closed her eyes, wincing. Most of the slavers had already been killed, probably… Amra would probably flee and report to Praxis. Maybe Aerie should have tried to get more information from her, but… maybe it was just as well. Clearly Aerie wasn’t ready… yet. “I… I-I’ll manage. Just help me up.”

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    Slightly shorter chapter here. After this, I’ll take a little break from Aerie’s quest and maybe focus a little more lightheartedly on one of the other characters.

    Phoenix, Part Three

    ~*~


    The remaining slavers had indeed scattered, vanishing into the corners and dark alleys of the city. Upon returning safely to the guild, Imoen arranged for a little tip to be surreptitiously left on the desk of one Lieutenant Aegisfield; by morning, guards would be crawling all over the ship and asking deep, searching questions of all the crew.

    It seemed a lot effort to go to just to transport one family, but since there were few places in the city that would welcome half-orcs, Imoen let them rest in the guild and decided to leave any questions until morning, when they were a little less likely to be grumpy. They all needed rest anyway, but sleep just wasn’t coming for at least one member of the group.

    Still sore, Aerie sat at the end of her bed, knees up to her chest, replaying the fight with Amra over and over again. As an avariel, her eyes were somewhat more sensitive to movement than others; she could see every twitch in Amra’s muscles as she drew back her fist and swung it, could slow it down ten times and note every detail… but still, the blonde’s body just reacted too slow to do anything about it. She was watching a nightmare even though she wasn’t asleep.

    The avariel remained up half the night wondering if she could have done anything differently. She had spent a lot of energy fighting the other slavers, but still… Amra was so much faster, so much stronger, and had over a hundred years more skill and experience. The more Aerie thought about it, the deeper her heart sank. Already physically exhausted because of the day’s events, the things her body was telling her eventually managed to break through some of the cloud in her head, and sleep finally came. But it brought no comfort.

    She was a child again. It was dark; too dark and cold even for her infravision. There was no in the room but her; no other warmth. Just her, bound by rope to a chair that was nailed firmly into the wall and floor. And the dripping. Across the room was a small pipe protruding high up on the wall, constantly dripping into a bucket below.

    Of course, she had tried to break free. She had pulled and pushed and tried to shake the rope from her. All it achieved was leaving bleeding burns on her arms. So having exhausted all those options, all she could do was sit and wait and try to think. All she could think of was home, her mother, and what she must be going through.

    At first, the drip-drip-dripping of the pipe didn’t really bother her. But hours passed, and as the only sound she could hear, it seemed to grow louder, becoming like the steady beating of a drum.

    She tried to ignore it, to concentrate on something else, but there was nothing else. Trying to think of home, to be held in mother’s arms, soft white wings closing protectively around her… drip…

    She renewed her struggle to break free… make it stop… the beating inside her head… make it stop… within a minute she had exhausted herself again, her head slumped as she sobbed uncontrollably.

    And then, a creak, and a tiny slither of light crept into the room. A door opened, and three silhouettes marched in. Two adults and one child; a girl, about twelve or thirteen… about the same size as Aerie, then.

    “You understand why you had to be punished?” The man said. Aerie winced, the light hurting her eyes as she tried to look up. “You continue to bite the hands that feed you, and that’s just… that’s not nice.” He leant over her, wearing a loose smile. Aerie had never heard of a half-elf then, but he was one, his ears just slightly betraying his elven heritage although mostly they were hidden beneath his feathered brown hair. He had a small stud on his chin that he kept touching.

    “Oh,” he stood up and looked at the pipe. “Is that bothering you?” Aerie didn’t see exactly what he did; he twisted something and the dripping stopped. He then swept by her, yawning and stretching. “I think she’s learnt her lesson… untie her.”

    The elven woman let her knife hover in front of the blonde girl for a few seconds, before cutting the rope and then shoving her roughly toward the man, who was now leaning with his arms folded against some shutters. The other girl they’d come in with padded toward him, and then he pointed to a stool in the far corner to which she went and sat, then waited, staring sorrowfully through one eye at the bedraggled avariel. The other eye was covered in scar tissue. Aerie knew the girl; she often brought bread and water to the slaves in their cells and cages, and was one of the few other slaves who spoke elven. She had tried to comfort Aerie when she’d first arrived here, advise her on how to survive through all this… of course, Aerie hadn’t yet heeded all that advice. Still, she was the closest thing the avariel had to a friend here.

    “Play,” the man said. The girl hesitated and he turned his head, nose twitching angrily as he stared hard at her. “It would be a shame if you went completely blind, wouldn’t it? Play.”

    Again looking back to the blonde, the girl sighed sadly, before pressing a small flute to her lips.

    “That’s nice,” the man said, closing his eyes and swaying slightly. “Makes me think of summer…”

    Aerie struggled to walk, her legs stiff and swollen, but the elven woman kept prodding her forward. The man, who she had heard the others call Praxis, pushed away from the shutters, and then with both his arms flung them open. Aerie stopped, recoiling and curling away at first as the bright light suddenly hit her eyes. But then, it was if the sun’s warmth touched her feathers and her wings naturally responded by starting to spread. She found herself standing in front of the huge window, staring out at trees and hills, and the sky… it been so long. She could easily have fit through, but of course, she knew something had to be wrong…

    “Go ahead,” Praxis said, flapping his hand. “Fly away, if you want to. There’s nothing stopping you.” She turned and looked suspiciously at him, knowing it had to be some kind of trick.

    He rolled his eyes. “Well… apart from the archers on the walls and those towers over there. Still, if you’re fast and lucky and get really high, you might just get by them before they even know what’s going on.”

    Aerie squinted with one eye. It was true… if she got out the window and gained enough height, any archer that spotted her might just think she was a bird. She didn’t trust Praxis… but it was a chance, at least. She shouldn’t be wasting time thinking about it. Yet… something was holding her down…

    “Of course, do you even know where you are?” Praxis grinned. “Which way is home from here? Hmm? You don’t know, do you?”

    Heart rapidly sinking, Aerie realised that she didn’t. After the wagon, they had put her on ship, below deck… she had no idea for how many days or in which direction they’d been travelling…

    “I can tell you, home’s a pretty long way away,” Praxis told her. “Very unlikely you’d make it back on your own. Maybe there’s someone you could ask for help, maybe… but you have no idea, do you? No idea what’s between here and there. How could you possibly know who to trust? How do you know you won’t just scare anyone you meet, like you scared that boy… hmmm?”

    She… she didn’t. She could still barely speak a few words of common herself; not enough to begin to explain to anyone who she was or what had happened… her body jolted as the shutters slammed shut.

    “So you see,” Praxis continued, “you’re stuck here. Perhaps not for very much longer; buyers have been contacted and will be coming from far and wide to look you over… you’ll probably be sold to a wizard who will dissect you for their experiments… but even so, we would really like it if you were on your best behaviour. The important thing to bear in mind is, there are only two ways of leaving…”

    There was a large, plain, heavy wooden desk. Praxis sat behind it, leaning forward with his fingertips touching each other. “Clara… stop playing…” he instructed. The one eyed girl lowered her flute. “Now come here…”

    Hesitantly, the girl padded across, standing by his side. He turned his head, saying, “you’ve been a naughty girl, haven’t you?”

    Stunned, she started to shake her head. “N-no, sir. I don’t under…” she stopped, her eye wide as Praxis’ hand snapped out, clamping around her small throat. She immediately started to gag. On the other side of the desk, Aerie moved to try and help her, but hadn’t taken a single step before the elven woman grabbed her arms from behind, holding her firmly in place too despite her struggles.

    “Sneaking a little extra food to your friends, hmmm?” Praxis tutted. “Personally, I would have let it go. But, the boss found out and she’s far more of a stickler to the rules than I am. So, I’m really terribly sorry…” he let her go. But still, she kept gagging and gargling as blood poured through the hole in her throat left by a spike in his palm. Aerie screamed, trying with she could to get to her, but it was still futile. Slowly, the girl slumped to her knees and fell forward, the last of her life fading from her.

    Praxis leant forward once more, staring at the teary eyed avariel as he smiled. “That was one way…”

    Aerie gritted her teeth, staring back. “Amin…” she said, gritting her teeth as the elven woman started to pull her away. “… ndengin llie…”

    Grinning more widely, he slowly stood, his arms outstretched as if inviting her to try and take his heart from his chest. The girl screamed frustratedly, but still could not break the grip she was in as she was slowly dragged back to her cell.



    “Gorn, that’s the dad, didn’t really know a whole lot more,” Imoen yawned as she, Aerie and Skie, sat around a table having breakfast the next morning. Skie was poring over sheets with columns of numbers on them. “He said they were from a tribe somewhere to the east, and were been taken to work in some sort of mine. They were going to pick up others before getting there, but that’s all he’d been able to discern from them. He didn’t where it was or what they were digging for.”

    Aerie heard her words, but was staring intently at a cup. Not really at the cup; she was thinking back again. Praxis, the girl… she had tried to make herself forget. When she had talked it over with Uncle Quayle, they had agreed that she couldn’t them dominate her life anymore; she had to carry on living for herself, helping others when she could, so that no one else suffered like she had. But now, knowing that he was still out there… but not knowing where…

    “Aerrers?” Imoen snapped her fingers in front of the blonde. “You okay?” The elf nodded slowly. “You know, if you wanna…”

    “We’ve got to make some cuts,” Skie announced suddenly. “Do you really need to buy so many cookies?”

    “Yes. Yes we do,” Imoen nodded affirmatively. “Renal’s always sending thieves over to be trained. The promise of a cookie if they’re good is the only thing that keeps ‘em from robbing everything.”

    “Well… why did you order all these animal hooves? What in the world was that for?”

    Aerie sighed again, trying to focus on the present. “Y-you use them to make jelly,” she explained.

    “We’ve never had jelly…”

    “Well,” Imoen fidgeted a bit, “it was a… a present I sent to the Noble Order of the Radiant Heart, when they got their new swimming pool… it was a one off.”

    “Okay. What about custard? Do we need this much custard?”

    “Cutting the custard is not an option.”

    Skie shook her head. “Look, our profit margins are razor thin here. If you won’t cut anything, then we’re going to need more income from somewhere.”

    “Any ideas?”

    “I’m guessing you don’t really want to rob people, even though it’s a thieves guild,” Skie balled her hand under her mouth, tapping her cheek with one finger. “There is that shop at the front… that’s never really making any money.”

    “Well, that’s because it is just a front…”

    “Still, no reason why It shouldn’t be profitable,” Skie was already standing up, gathering her documents. “Let me look around, see if I can think of any ideas…”

    “Hey,” Imoen said, smiling across at Aerie who was still not fully here. “You were right, kid. At least, I hope she knows what she’s doing. But how are you doing?”

    “I-I… I was,” Aerie sighed. “I lost.” She shrugged. “When I saw her the first time, I-I started to imagine it was going to be revenge and justice, but… I wasn’t ready…”

    “We’ve all lost fights before,” the redhead leant across, putting a hand on Aerie’s shoulder. “Listen… d’ya think if you’d killed her, you’d have felt better at all?”

    “I… I-I don’t know…”

    “Trust me,” Imoen said with a lopsided grin. “You wouldn’t have. I mean… there’d have been a moment when you felt really good ‘bout yourself. But after the rush of battle is gone… you’re just empty again. You realize no-one’s been brought back to life, none of the injustice has been undone. All that stuff about catharsis, it’s just… buffleheaded.”

    Aerie looked back at her friend, and saw the sadness hidden behind her smile. “You’ve… been through it. Twice…”

    “And both times were the same.”

    The elf had talked about it before, with Quayle, and read several books on the subject. Slowly, she nodded. “I… I-I know you’re right. But… there is a man… Praxis…”

    “You mentioned him before.”

    “He… h-he used to torture, and kill people… and he didn’t care. They were less than animals to him. I-I don’t know what he’s doing now, but… I-I know a lot of people have suffered, and will keep suffering because of him.”

    “Maybe. But, unless your mysterious stranger comes back, we haven’t any more leads…”

    “Yes,” Aerie nodded and slowly stood, “I-I hope it’s not too soon.”

    The elf started heading to where her spell books and scrolls were kept, and maybe stop to hit the heads off a few practice dummies on the way. But Imoen was still a little confused.

    “Why’s that?” She asked.

    “Because… next time… I want to be ready.”

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    edited July 2013
    Well, I said we’d take a break from Aerie’s drama with the slavers and focus on something a little more light hearted, and for the most part this is. It’s a more comedic piece about every ones favorite twelve year old Umberlant in the game, Tenya!

    Child of Her Time
    ~*~
    Part One


    Early morning in the dock district. The sun was coming up, and the many sellers and market stall vendors were also coming out of whatever holes they huddled the night in to proudly display their wares for the day. There were flower sellers and fishmongers and bakers and square jawed women with arms like hammers and yokes carrying buckets of fresh milk. Grocers and butchers and ironmongers and gift sellers, and one small boy trying to sell the morning itself to people; everyone just ignored him, because he clearly wasn’t right in the head. And then there was the sweet stall.

    The old gnome who owned it nervously laid out his trays of gingerbread and other delicacies from all over Faerun and beyond. Wiping his brow when he was done, he didn’t dare call out to any of the passing crowds like other vendors; he’d already had to move his stall three times this month because of her… no, instead, he hoped to just catch the eye of a few passers by and hopefully break even. Sure enough, a small crowd started to gather, sampling the delights…

    But then, just as he thought things might actually go well this morning, his heart suddenly tightened in his chest. Once he again, he saw that dreadful staff bobbing over the heads of his customers, getting closer and closer…

    The staff belonged to a tweenage girl, or possibly in her very early teens, marching through the crowd with her chin up and her black bob of hair parting in the breeze. “Stand aside!” She demanded, her staff cracking on the cobbles with every step. People would turn to look at her, and upon seeing the blue and green of her tunic and the symbol of Umberlee, goddess of the seas, on a badge on her belt, immediately parted for her, bowing their heads reverently and fearfully.

    One woman however, an obviously noble lady with poufy hair and dress and a sickly white powdered face, was so enamoured with the stalls delights that she failed to turn or apparently even hear the girl approach.

    The priestess screwed up her face. “You!” She spat, tapping the lady on the shoulder with her staff. “I said, get out of my way!”

    “Oh, my,” the lady slowly turned, looking down disapprovingly at the girl. “What a very rude young lady you are…”

    The girl tilted her head, jaw agape as if scarcely believing how stupid this person was. But then, she closed her eyes tightly and smiled sweetly. “Oh… I… I am sorry,” she said, pawing a little. “Silly me forgot the magic word…”

    “Indeed you did! Manners are very important for a young girl to learn…”

    “Lady… would you kindly stand aside,” the girl said nicely, taking a deep sigh before glaring intensely through her dark eyes and roaring, “NOW!”

    The noblewoman recoiled and gasped. “Why… I! Do you know who I am, girl?!”

    The priestess again tilted her head, arching an eyebrow. “No. Do you know who I am?”

    “I… no…”

    “Well, then… allow me to introduce myself,” the young priestess bowed. “I, am Tenya Thermidor, and you, are in my spot. Now move!” Tenya started batting the woman, not too roughly, across the side with her staff, until finally she gave way and retreated.

    The sweet stall owner grinned and sweated nervously. “Oh… o-oh no,” he theatrically gasped. “These… these have all been ruined by the heat. I’ll just have to pack them away… they’ve all gone bad…”

    “Wait!” Tenya held her staff just millimetres in front of the gnome’s nose. “I’ll be the judge,” she said, swiping some gingerbread and munching off a leg. “Hmmm… seems good to me.”

    “Oh… really,” the gnome sagged helplessly.

    “I’ll take some of those, and that, and those, and all of those… put them all in that man’s basket and then give it to me.”

    “Will… will you being paying for them today, by any chance?”

    Tenya furrowed her brow, one eye twitching.

    “No, no… of course not! Forgive my impertinence… of course, it would be my honour to present them as a gift to a holy servant of the bitch queen…”

    “And it’s my honour to have them,” Tenya beamed. “Now hurry it up… I don’t have all day.”

    Somewhat resentfully, the stall keeper did as instructed, packing the sweets into the basket that ‘the man’ didn’t hesitate to hand over, although he had to empty it of his groceries first. Once satisfied that she had enough to last the day, Tenya took the basket under one arm and spun away on her heel. But then she ran into a wall that hadn’t been there before… a soft wall though. It didn’t hurt her very much.

    The priestess looked up into the grey eyes of one of the very people in all Athkatla not afraid of her or of Umberlee. Red haired Imoen was a demigoddess herself, apparently… you wouldn’t think it to look at her. Tenya was confident that one day she would be taller than Imoen, but for now she was still the one who had to tilt her head back to look at her.

    “You shouldn’t just take things,” the redhead scolded, her arms crossed.

    “Really?” Tenya arched a brow again. “That’s… an interesting piece of jewellery in your hand there. I suppose you just happened to find it? Dangling out of a hole in someone’s clothes, no doubt…”

    Imoen’s cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. “That’s… that’s different! I don’t just take it from right in front of people, and… anyway, I was gonna to put it back…”

    “Hm-hmm,” Tenya yawned. “Fascinating though it is to be lectured on not taking things by a thief, I’m afraid I have plans for the day. All this candy to eat, for one thing…”

    The priestess brushed by the redhead, who was unable to formulate a good response in the timeframe. “You… you’ll be sick if you eat all that!” Was all she managed as Tenya bounced away. Imoen looked back to the sweet seller, shrugging helplessly. She considered the jewellery for a second, but then sighed and tossed him a bag of coins from her belt before taking off after the girl. “You have to share!”



    “Seriously, Ten…” Imoen sighed and rubbed her forehead, now walking alongside the girl as they were getting near the guild.

    Tenya had become a source of near constant frustration for her since she’d shown up with Skie to deliver Eldoth to face punishment for his betrayal. She thought she was good with people, but she really struggled to understand Tenya at all. The girl had had a weird upbringing, living in a cottage alone with her mother who, from what Imoen had gathered, wasn’t very nice at all, not even to her own daughter. She supposed being alone all her life was what made it hard for Tenya to fit in, even with other Umberlants in the city of Baldur’s Gate, and that was why she’d sought Imoen… she was probably the only other person Tenya had any sort of relationship with, although they’d only met a few times before. Imoen had always tried to be nice and sympathetic; after all, she was just a kid, and wasn’t her fault her mother never taught her very well. There was the rare occasion when Tenya was almost nice and helpful to her or some of the others… but most of the time, she just tried to bully and threaten people, and everything seemed to make her angry. Imoen wanted to help, but she hadn’t figured out a way to get through to the girl.

    “Look,” the redhead sighed again. “I know it seems easy for you to get all the stuff you want, because we’re on the coast and carrying the symbol of Umberlee means most the folk here are scared of ya. But, y’know… sometimes people can get so scared of someone, that they… well, you remember what happened to your…”

    Imoen froze, her lip trembling slightly as Tenya shot her the fiercest glare to date. But then, the girl softened, slowly lowering her head and turning away. So, it seemed she was actually listening, which was good.

    “Just saying,” Imoen continued, “it does pay to be nice sometimes. And wouldn’t you rather people just helped you because they liked you?”

    The priestess just hmphed, quickening her pace toward the guild while Imoen shook her head. She had, on occasion, considered finding another place or temple that would take Tenya in, where maybe there were people better qualified to teach her. But, she couldn’t think of any place that would have her. Besides, it would have felt like a betrayal, especially after all the effort Ten had gone to ensure Eldoth faced justice. And for whatever reason, she seemed to trust Imoen and the others. And she wasn’t all that bad, really…

    “Out of my way, you smelly, drunk, bearded clichés!” Tenya cried, swatting a group of dwarves from her path. “Go to your tavern and sing about gold, or something…”

    Okay, so… she was pretty bad…

    “Imoen!” A face jumped into the picture in front of the redhead. Imoen had never really noticed how round Skie’s head was before. “Thank the god’s you’re here… I have to show you something.”

    “What is it?” The redhead, thinking it had to be some kind of emergency.

    “Just look!” Skie pointed down the road at the guild.

    Imoen looked. It was about four storeys high, with a basement (and much more room underneath, although that was a secret). Most of the other buildings on the street were divided into separate apartments owned by different people, but the guild building was all theirs. On the outside though, they were varly indistinguishable, made of wood and plaster and some stone. “I… just see the street…” she shrugged.

    “Exactly!” Skie slammed her fist down on her palm. “There are people walking by, not even noticing that there’s a shop there.”

    “Well… the shop just used to sell fenced goods, so I guess they weren’t keen to draw attention to it.”

    “All that’s going to change. I’ve arranged meetings with several suppliers.”

    “Uh… meetings?” Imoen was imagining being stuck in a room with a bunch of stuffy suits talking endlessly about costs and margins… there was no way she’d be able to get through that without blowing a raspberry or two. “You… might have asked me about that first…”

    “Don’t worry about it; leave the negotiations to me. I saw my father in business meetings lots of times, so I know what to do. It would be good if we had some exclusive products too, so I’m going to talk to your friend Jan and a few other inventors…”

    Now Imoen definitely could not survive that… although she was kind of morbidly curious to see what talking to Jan Jansen did to Skie…

    “But, it’ll all be for naught if we don’t advertise ourselves!” The duke’s daughter continued. “We’ve got to open up the front of the store with bigger doors and windows, so that people will see the goods on display as they pass. And, we need a sign.”

    “A sign?”

    “Yes!” Skie leant across her, picking up a large, heavy book from a bench. “I’ve already had a few ideas… take a look!”

    “Er… ye’re really putting yourself into all this, aintcha?”

    Skie grinned widely, her eyes shimmering. “Of course! I’m so happy you’ve given me an opportunity to prove myself again!”

    “Uh-huh,” the redhead flicked through some of the brunette’s drawings. “Imoen Incorporated?”

    “Naturally, you’re in charge, still; wouldn’t people getting the wrong idea about that!”

    “Well, the name’s okay, I guess,” Imoen peered more closely, rotating the book a bit; Skie really wasn’t much of an artist. “Is… that my face on the sign, winking?”

    “Is… something wrong?” Skie blinked in surprise, then pouted, “Oh no… you don’t like it, do you?”

    “No, i-it’s… well, to be honest, it would be kinda weird to come home every day and see me…”

    “So you don’t like any of them?”

    “I’m… not sure,” Imoen said. To be honest, she couldn’t tell what most of the drawings were. “I mean… I think there’s the start of some good ideas here, but,” then it hit her; a way out of this conversation. “Hey… maybe you should ask Aerie to help ya. She’s quite good at drawing and stuff…”

    “Aerie?” Skie thought. “Hmmm… I suppose. Maybe we could incorporate wings into the logos design… or a raccoon. Or a raccoon with wings… no one else in the city has a winged raccoon for a sign… I don’t think so anyway… I’ll check that out…”

    “Great!” Imoen forced a smile. “Well… I see you got everything under control, so guess I’ll just leave it all up to you…”

    “Wait!” Skie said forcefully. “There are a few other things as well…”

    Now Imoen was getting a headache.



    Meanwhile, Tenya had not gone back inside the guild. Instead, she had just walked a little further down the road, finding a bench from which she could watch the ships and the ocean as they came in, and went out again. Umberlee was her mother now, and it was calming sometimes to watch her rhythm and hear her voice.

    And yet, she wondered sometimes if Umberlee really cared for her any more than her earth mother had. It wasn’t Umberlee who ever put an arm around her when she was sad… that was Imoen, or Aerie, or even Skie. She paced around sometimes when any of them were gone, and her heart knotted when she thought they might not come back. Could it be she actually liked them? She’d never liked anyone before. She’d spent most of her life alone with her mother, whom she was always trying, and failing, to please… but she never, ever liked her, and she was sure the feeling was mutual. And as she looked over Umberlee’s domain, she realised that no matter how hard she tried, there will be depths there and mysteries that would be forever locked to her…

    Bah… how could she like Imoen? She was silly and weak and if mother had still been alive she would have beaten the grinning idiot senseless and sent her on her way, just like she did everyone; friends would just use you and make you weak as well. That was what she said, and the thing about Tenya’s earth mother was that she was always right. Even when rational thought indicated that she might be wrong, she would convince you otherwise. But… Imoen had pleased her, and she was a daughter of Bhaal… those were definitely the only reasons Tenya hung around her. Just keeping an eye on her, for Umberlee. Definitely.

    She heard some light footfalls coming down the path behind her, a person and a panting dog, both running. She paid it no mind, and just put another sweet in her mouth when an elbow hit the back of her head and it went flying onto the pier below.

    Tenya instantly spun up, face red with anger. “Are you blind!” She screeched. But then she actually saw the person who had knocked her; a curly haired blond boy, a little younger than her, with a Labrador on a leash. His colourless eyes and his whole body shifted about furtively, as if unsure where she was. “Oh…”

    “I-I’m sorry miss,” he stammered.

    Tenya was also furtive, totally unsure of what to say or do next. Usually it was easy to blame and get angry at another person for anything, but in this case he definitely couldn’t have seen her. “It’s… fine,” she said, crossing her arms. “Why… why were you running?”

    “Just some boys.”

    “Some… boys?”

    “Yeah, you know… they throw stuff and call me names sometimes.”

    Tenya blinked. “Why?” She asked; they weren’t proving themselves strong by throwing stuff at someone who obviously couldn’t see.

    The boy shrugged. “I don’t know… and I hate to impose, miss… but can you see if they’re still after me?”

    “It’s hardly imposing,” she shrugged and glanced. “I don’t see anyone at the moment.”

    “Ah, good; maybe they’ve given up for the day.”

    “This happens every day?”

    “Oh yeah. But don’t worry; I’m used to it. And Chesterton here has gotten me out of some pretty tough scrapes,” he said. The dog yelped, wagging his tail.

    Tenya didn’t really like dogs. Horrible, smelly, flea bitten things… a lobster would have been better. She could probably train one. She narrowed her eyes, hoping it understood that this was a warning not to try and lick her, and turned back to the blind boy. “Were you born with no sight?”

    “Yep; been blind since the day I were born,” he chuckled nervously. “It’s alright though; I guess ‘cos I don’t really know what I’m missing.”

    “I…” Tenya opened and closed her mouth a few times. Finally, she sagged and said, “I’m sorry…”

    “Nah; don’t worry. I’m used to these questions. Must be weird, huh? Most people would have been to see a priest or healer, eh?”

    “Well, if you were born like that and it’s your natural state, there’s not much a priest can do.”

    “Ey… that’s right. You know a lot about it…”

    “Well, of course I do, I,” Tenya paused. He… couldn’t see. He didn’t know she was a priestess of Umberlee… he wasn’t scared of her. Maybe she could learn some things from him that she couldn’t learn from anyone else. “I… have a relative with the same condition. A distant relative… I don’t see them very often.”

    “Aw… I’m sorry to hear that. And sorry I bumped into you… what’s your name?”

    “Tenya. Tenya Thermidor,” she answered automatically.

    “Tenya… that’s nice. You sound really nice, too.”

    The umberlant’s eyes were as wide as they’d ever been. “I… I do?”

    “Yeah,” he laughed. “I’m Tom. Tom Thomas. My folks aren’t very imaginative.”

    “No… I,” Tenya flushed, gazing everywhere until her eyes rested on her sweet basket. She supposed it wasn’t out of character for Umberlee to be generous, sometimes… “Here,” she said, holding out her hand to the boy. “Take this.”

    “What’s this?”

    “Just some gingerbread.”

    “Oh, no… I-I couldn’t take that off you…”

    “No; I-I have lots. I’ll be sick if I eat it all myself, so,” she kept getting redder, and then snapped, “just take it before I change my mind!”

    “Er… oh… okay. Thank you. You really are nice.”

    “I…” shining red now, and making little circles with her toe. But her body was feeling tense, as she had no idea what to do next, since she’d made so few friends before.

    Fortunately, relief came in the form of three boys, all quite well off and upper class judging by the way they were dressed and their wigs. “Over here!” One cried. “I’ve found him!”

    “Uh-oh,” Tom heard. “Guess I’d better go… c’mon boy…”

    “No!” Tenya blocked him with her arm. “You don’t have to run,” she said, turning her head toward the bullies, her eyes locking onto them like a predator locking onto her prey. “Let me take care of them…” she said, thumping her fist.



    “If all goes to plan,” Skie yammered on, “I expect our profits may go up a further two hundred per cent in that case. We may be able to open another branch in Trademeet, or perhaps even in Baldur’s Gate, and there’s always franchising…”

    Imoen had no idea what she was talking about. She just kept pinching the bridge of her nose to stay awake, and hoped that soon it would end. For her, relief came in the form of loud screaming and crying further up the road.

    “Oh no,” Skie gasped, hand covering her mouth. “It looks like Tenya’s gotten into a fight…”

    Indeed, Tenya and knocked down two boys who were curled up on the ground crying, and had pinned the largest to the ground, punching him repeatedly in the face while another child watched.

    Imoen breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the gods,” she muttered. Skie shot her a strange look. “Er, I mean… we’d better go and break it up then, hadn’t we?”

    Another woman, presumably one of the downed boy’s parents, made it to the scene just a little before them, yanking Tenya up by the hair from the bleeding and sobbing.

    “You again!” The obviously noble bred woman growled. “How dare you hurt my poor boys!”

    Tenya winced, then snarled. “Your boys are pathetic.”

    The woman pulled back her arm, as if to slap her. “Hey!” Imoen stepped in, catching the wrist before it had begun to swing. “Really, lady… not a good idea.”

    Still angry, the woman pulled herself away and then Imoen stepped in front of Tenya, her arms over her chest. The noble managed to compose herself enough to ‘hmph’ and then say, “you should keep that brat of yours under control.”

    Imoen’s jaw fell out. “Wait… my brat? She’s… she’s not mine. I mean, I’d have had to have been… I’m not that old, okay? She just lives with us.”

    “But you are her legal guardian? She’s your responsibility?”

    “I,” Imoen sighed; there was no time for lengthy explanations. “Yeah… I guess. Fine; she’s mine.”

    The woman glared suspiciously for a moment, before fanning herself. “Well then; I suggest you teach her some manners. A good caning could probably teach her a thing or two. But I suppose I shouldn’t expect too much from your kind.”

    “My… kind?” The redhead glared. “Well… I suggest that it’s none of your business how I decide to punish her.”

    “Which will be not at all, I expect; common folk just don’t know how to be responsible.”

    “I’m ‘sponsible!” Imoen declared, thumbing herself. “But how do we know it weren’t your brats that started the fight?” She didn’t really think that was very likely, but something about this woman just reminded her of a pig. Actually, that was unkind; she liked pigs.

    But the woman seemed to almost feint at the suggestion. “My boys are angels!” She insisted, patting them while they smiled innocently. “They would never do a thing like that!”

    “Look, all I’m saying is, we don’t know anything about what happened yet…”

    “Oh, I know. You’re barely more than a girl yourself. It’s clear you are in way over your tiny, tiny head.”

    “Two tinys, huh?” Imoen rubbed her chin. It was clear this woman was just utterly convinced that she had spawned genuine angels, and had no intention of being reasonable. Therefore, she wouldn’t be reasonable either. “Well, that’s fine. At least my kid can beat up any of your kids. And she just did, so… ha!”

    Tenya tugged on her ‘guardian’s’ tunic. “Imoen…” she hissed.

    “No, not now, Ten; grownups are talking.”

    “Come along boys,” the woman said, shepherding. “These ruffians have no idea of the proper way to conduct themselves.” One of the boys stuck his tongue out as they left.

    A minute later, it dawned on Imoen that maybe she could have conducted herself better. But it was easier to blame someone else. She pulled on her hair, stamped her own foot, and growled at Tenya. “Y-y-you! Why are you always doing this to me? I welcome you in, let you stay in my guild under my roof… but do you ever even try to be good? No! I’ve had just about enough missy!”

    Tenya stood her ground, hands on her hips and leaning forward, pouting. “Those boys did start the fight!” She insisted.

    “Really? You expect me to believe that? I know you too well!”

    Skie tentatively attempted to intervene. “Er… Imoen?”

    The redhead hissed, “what?!”

    “I’ve been around Tenya more than you and, yes, she has a lot of flaws in her character, but I really don’t think she’s a liar.”

    “You cannot be serious…”

    “It’s true!” The priestess kept furiously insisting. “They were picking on this other boy… just ask him yourself!”

    Imoen looked across at the boy, who was obviously blind, and his dog. Damn… maybe she was really telling the truth…

    “Er… Tenya?” The curly haired boy asked nervously. “Who is this?”

    “Oh,” the priestess paused, putting a finger to her chin. “She’s, er… my sister! Yes, my older sister.”

    “Sister?” Imoen arched a brow.

    Tenya swung about, waving her fist under the redhead’s nose, hissing, ‘”you play along, or so help me, I’ll…”

    Imoen batted the fist away, shaking her head and silently mouthing to Skie, ‘not a liar, huh?’ The duke’s daughter just replied with a crooked grin and sheepish shrug.

    “I mean, sure thing little sis; I’ll ask the boy,” the redhead sighed and went over to him. “So… is what she said true? Were those boys picking on ya?”

    “Oh… yes,” he nodded nervously. “Everything she said is true, ma’am. I was running and accidently knocked into your sister, but then they shortly after caught up and she… she protected me.”

    “Tenya… protected you?” Maybe Imoen had fallen asleep. She pinced her nose again to make sure.

    “Oh, yes… your sister is very kind and very brave.”

    Maybe she needed to hit herself on the head with a plank of wood or something… Imoen just couldn’t believe what she was hearing. But, unbelievable as it seemed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, she had to somehow accept it as the truth.

    “You see?” Tenya folded her arms, and turned her nose up triumphantly.

    “Okay… you didn’t start the fight,” Imoen sighed. “But… ya still behaved badly this morning, and yer attitude has gotta change, missy, so we’re going straight back home. Now. And you, kid… you gotta a home to go to?”

    “Oh… y-yes, ma’am,” the blond blind boy nodded. “My parents will be waiting for me…”

    “Well, you get along then. And as for you,” she turned and pulled Tenya by the ear, “ye’re not going anywhere for the rest of the week. I’m gonna make sure there’s someone keeping an eye on you at all times from now on…and grab that basket; I paid for all of that..."

    Post edited by Coutelier on
  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    Apologies for the long absence. Lots of gaming I've had to catch up with; some of it from twenty years ago, since I've been in a move and while moving stuff, found my old Sega Megadrive (Genesis in the US). Had to find a compatible plug and SCART connection, but amazingly it all still worked.

    Anyway, this chapter is a bit of filler really; it sets up a few things that will be gotten back to later.

    Child of Her Time
    ~*~
    Part Two


    Upon returning to the guild, Imoen proceeded to take what seemed like hours delivering some long boring lecture. Tenya had heart it all in bits and pieces before, but this time Imoen was, apparently, serious. The redhead emphasised how serious she was by donning her serious cap… which was a flat cap with long donkey ears hanging on the sides.

    Although fuming at the knowledge that she had actually tried to be nice and do the right thing for a change, but was still getting yelled at for it, the young priestess said little throughout the whole diatribe. Just nodded her head and went with the occasional ‘uh-huh’ to make it seem like she was actually listening. She understood enough anyway. Imoen was adamant that Tenya could no longer just do as she pleased… If she wished to stay here, she would have to start obeying some of Imoen’s rules, whatever those could be. Never do any work and always ignore trespassing signs, was her best guess.

    But the main point was that for the foreseeable future, Tenya would always be supervised by one of the supposed adults. Although it pained her to do so, she realised that far greater pain awaited her should she have to return to the water queen’s house, and so she acquiesced… for now.

    “Just why are you here?” Imoen sighed.

    Tenya shook as if awoken from a dream. She felt a sting in her knuckle, and found her fingers rather stiff, shockwaves going up her arm when she tried to move them. She realised have grazed and bruised her knuckles on the ground during the fight, or on the boys face. She tucked it under her other arm and tilted her dark eyes toward the bhaalspawn. “What?”

    “I know most folk know when they’ve met me, that they’ll never find anything to feel the big ol’Imoen shaped hole left in their lives when I’m gone. But, last time I saw you, in Baldur’s Gate, you said we were all pathetic and weak and that you wouldn’t tolerate our vile presence ever again… so, why’d you come all this way?”

    Yes; mother, earth-mother, and the others at the temple, would definitely not have tolerated any of Imoen’s babbling. But the sea queen saw, as she did, that she was important… perhaps useful. “It… was decided,” the young umberlant answered.

    “What was decided? By who?”

    “Mother,” Tenya started to answer in a more sing song voice, “and I. Your actions angered Talos, and, considering what you are, we thought it would be prudent to keep an eye on you.”

    Imoen responded to that with a quirky smile. “Really? Umberlee’s worried about little ol’me? I must remember to send her a thank you card… y’know, for all the times my sea voyages have gone so smoothly…”

    “Well… there are such things as just bad luck and bad weather. And if you’d had me with you, perhaps…”

    “Ten,” the redhead held up a finger to try and hush the girl. “I know you’re… not exactly like other children. You’re powerful. But, like it or not, you are a child.” Imoen proceeded to pace a little, her ears swaying as scratched at the corner of her mouth with her thumbnail, before turning back to the umberlant. “Remember… remember when we first met. You said you thought Umberlee had given you her anger…”

    “Yes. What of it?”

    “It’s just… see, gods can give you magic and power. But, strength and anger, and any other feelings you may have… I think those all have to come from you.”

    Tenya snorted. Of course Imoen didn’t understand; how could she? “You should be pleased. You wanted to be ‘sponsible’”, she said, imitating Imoen’s habit of deliberately mispronouncing a word to make herself sound somehow even more stupid than she already appeared to be.

    “Not exactly what I had in mind… I mean, yeh just forced yerself in. I never expected to see you again, yet alone decide you were gonna live here…”

    “Course not,” Tenya slowly turned on her heel, lowering her head slightly and fixing her dark eyes up on Imoen. “Tell me; all those people you think you’ve helped through your adventures… do you ever go back and check on any of them?”

    “I…”

    “You haven’t,” the girl said, grinding her jaw. “No… when you’re done, using them, you always just leave and never look back. That’s how it works, isn’t it? You never see what happens after. The repercussions for what you’ve done, the… the people who are punished…”

    The outer corners of Imoen’s eyes lowered and softened, “Ten… is that… were you…”

    The girl hissed, “you are such an idiot,” and then stormed toward the door. She never made it through. When the door opened, she found her path blocked by another. Another equally as surprised as her, but it was Tenya who backed away a little.

    Much about the avariel, Aerie, was a mystery to her. Imoen had always been a childish rogue. Skie a vain, foolish, round headed buffoon. Minsc, Shar-Teel, and most others she had met were just total imbeciles, their minds and motivations pathetically simplistic. But Aerie… she looked like, well, a fairy. When Tenya did hear her speak, she often sounded like one of the virgin maids in one of the disgusting novels Skie liked to read. And yet, there were the mud and blood stains on her tunic and shield. On her mace and in her usually fair hair too.

    “Hey Aerrers,” Imoen smiled, folding her arms as she inspected the elf. “Did you win the war?”

    “I-I…” Aerie started, but then her eyes shifted from the redhead to Tenya. “Excuse me,” she bowed, before navigating her way around the girl to speak more closely to her friend. “I feel I’m… not really learning anything new from battling illusions.”

    “Well, you have being at it pretty much nonstop the last tenday. Maybe you should take a break… you can always summon up another few regiments of trolls tomorrow.”

    “Per… perhaps,” Aerie nodded slowly, turning away and placing her shield and weapon down. Then she lifted her head, looking back at the priestess, as if she’d felt the child gazing at her. “Um… what’s… what’s happening out here?”

    Imoen sighed, “oh, Ten got into a fight with some boys,” she explained.

    “I see,” the elfling said, suddenly stepping toward the girl. “Are… are you hurt?”

    “I’m fine,” Tenya answered sternly.

    “What about your hand?”

    “It’s fine,” but Aerie was already kneeling, taking the girl’s hand to examine.

    “Let me see,” she said.

    “I said it was fine. I just grazed it.”

    “You know,” the avariel sighed. “hiding pain doesn’t make it go away. It… i-it can come back when you don’t expect, and be far worse than before. You can… you can trust me on this,” the elf smiled sweetly, and then after looking, passed her own hand just over the bruised knuckle. “There… now it’s fine.”

    Tenya looked curiously at the elf for moment. It really did seem to please her to help someone, even in a way so small. It was pretty stupid. She pulled her hand away, saying, “I could have done that myself… I would have.”

    “You didn’t have to.”

    Again, a curious glare. No… Tenya found herself stepping back. No… learning to rely on such as these, or on anyone, that would make her become weak. She would let it go this time, since it had already been done. But not again. And anyway, what Aerie had done… that wasn’t really kindness, was it? No; the avariel just did that the same way a bird builds a nest. It wasn’t something she thought about; she just did it. Or maybe that was kindness… it didn’t matter. None of them really wanted her here. But that was fine; no one had ever really wanted her.

    The elf turned back to Imoen. “What was the fight about?”

    The redhead shrugged. “About another boy, apparently.”

    “Ohh,” Aerie took a deep breath, her already wide eyes widening even more, “I see. I… is there some kind of talk you’re supposed to have. I’m afraid I was… detained. That whole part of my life pretty much passed me by, s-so I don’t see how I could be any more useful here…”

    “You think that’s bad?” Imoen giggled. “When I was thirteen, I had Puffguts try to explain to me ‘bout boys. I’ve seen giants and dragons and other worlds, but really… that was the weirdest and most uncomfortable moment in my life.” The redhead started to lower her voice, “’Im’, he said. ‘Yer old enough now that boys, they… they might start to look different to before. Or they might start trying to touch yer arse… and you’d better smack ‘em around good if they do that. But, see, when a man and a woman do care bout each other, they… they have this special hug. Or, well, you might prefer hugging other women, and that’s really okay too…”

    Tenya, whose jaw had been agape, started to wildly wave her arms. “Stop! What in the hells are you talking about it”

    “Well, Ten… I guess it is time you started to learn about these things…”

    “It was not like that! The boy was blind and I took pity on him. That is all,” the girl growled in frustration, and started stomping back to the door.”

    “Hey!” Imoen called. Tenya, just inside the doorframe, turned to face her. “Don’t you go far now; I’m gonna have some jobs for you to do.”

    “What jobs?”

    “I’ll think of some,” the redhead beamed. Tenya ‘hmphed’, and then left.

    Aerie arched an eyebrow. “Jobs? Is… is something else wrong?”

    The thief shook her head. “Just that I’m not letting her do as she pleases anymore. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but that girl really does need a leash put on her. I mean… figuratively speaking. At first, anyway…”

    “I see… and, incidentally, w-why are you wearing a donkey on your head?”

    “Because I mean it this time, Aerie. I’m serious. This is my serious hat.”

    “Okay,” Aerie said with a small smile. “Are you okay? You… do seem a little bit tense. It’s… strange, for you…”

    “It’s just… all sorts of niggly wiggly little things,” Imoen sighed, reaching up and pulling the hat down off her head. “Those boys didn’t put up much of a fight.”

    “Which is lucky, for them, I suppose.”

    “Yep. If Tenya had used any of her real power she could have killed them. Maybe not really meaning to, but… she gets so angry. And I can’t always tell why.”

    “But she didn’t… did she?”

    “No… but next time? I’m not sure I can always control her. And it… may be that I have, on occasion, helped myself to stuff that wasn’t, strictly speaking, free merchandise… anyway, she sure won’t listen to me trying to tell her right from wrong.”

    “You are a good person, Imoen… e-even if you do have trouble understanding the notion of property…”

    “I just think the world would be nicer if everyone shared all their shiny things.”

    “Indeed. And Tenya is intelligent, in some ways. In others, not so much. I-I don’t think she understands all the things she feels, but she obviously does believe that you can help her…”

    “I used to believe my bed could fly. Just believing something doesn’t make it true.”

    “No, but… y-you could make it true, if you try and learn enough…”

    “S’pose I could… yeah,” Imoen smiled, leaning over and giving her friend a small hug. “Thanks kid. And, as for the hat here… there was a crate of things out front when we came in. I think Skie’s started to move out all the stuff Mae’var and his thieves left down in the cellar… at least I think that’s what she said she was doing… I kinda got distracted by the roundness of her face and didn’t really listen… but, if you’ve gotten all you needed to out yer system, then maybe you and the biter out there can go and help her sort through all of it anyway.”

    “What will you be doing?”

    “Oh, I… I’m just gonna take myself for a little walk. Well, I might be a little while. I know you’ll all really miss me the instant I’m gone, but leave it ‘til it gets dark ‘fore you start really panicking, okay?”

    “Um… you really shouldn’t go out alone. There are so many people who’d like to hurt, or your brother, or any of Bhaal’s children.”

    “I’ll be fine. I’ll keep my head down.”

    “At least take Minsc with you. Besides, i-it doesn’t do him much good to be stuck here all day either… I think he could do with a walk as well.”

    “Okay Aerie, fine; for you. I’ll get his scoop.”



    Skie felt very uneasy. She didn’t know why at first, until she turned her head and found Tenya much, much too close…

    “Why… why are looking at me like that?” She asked.

    The girl continued to scrutinise the young woman, her lips popping slightly when she answered, ‘it’s… really round…”

    Skie’s spine tingled. “What is?”

    “Your head,” the girl leant back. “I was wondering, if I cut it off, would it bounce?”

    The brunette’s mouth closed and opened a few times, and she looked to Aerie, the only other person present, for some kind of support. The elf repeated the same motion with her mouth, before stuttering, “it… i-it is a little bit round…”

    Tenya seemed to smile a little triumphantly at that, while Skie shook her head. “This is ridiculous,” she head, “it’s a normal roundness for a head.”

    “No,” the umberlant sighed, “it’s definitely more round than that. Perhaps one of your great grandparents was a turnip? It would explain a lot…”

    “Tenya, why must you always be so confrontational? Can’t you at least try to act like a normal child… you know, pretend?”

    Tenya snorted, and apparently already bored of Skie, she too looked at Aerie. “Alright,” she said with a malicious smile. “Maybe I’ll go out, and visit the circus… go and stare and gawp at all the freaks. That is the kind of thing normal children do, is it not?”

    The avariel was stood over a box of various types of jewels, sifting through it all. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. “Children… can’t know any better.”

    “Besides,” Skie said, “you’re not going anywhere until we’ve catalogued all this junk.”

    The umberlant glared irritably at the several crates, that they’d only begun opening. Inside each was usually lots of smaller boxes filled with just garbage… she couldn’t see why it was so important to know exactly what garbage was in what.

    Her glare drifted to Skie, and she asked with some menace, “how, exactly, would you stop me from leaving?”

    “She wouldn’t,” it was Aerie who answered. The elf’s eyes shot toward the girl briefly as she smiled. “I would.”

    The girl continued to glare, examining the elfling closely before she stated, “you would never dare lay your hands on me.”

    “No… I-I wouldn’t,” Aerie admitted.

    “As I thought; pathetic. Well … I suppose I’ll be seeing you both later, then. Do try to have fun without me…”

    Tenya’s triumph was extremely short lived. Although there was no breeze or gust, before she could reach the door, it slammed shut in front of her. She didn’t bother to reach for the handle; she knew it would not open. She knew why as well, and glared angrily at the avariel.

    “I am sorry,” Aerie sighed, “but, I-I’m afraid made it very clear that you weren’t allowed to leave, a-at least not we’re finished here. Then I suppose I can let you go.”

    “You’re at least as powerful as she is,” the girl attempted, “why do you always let her tell you what to do?”

    “I… I-I don’t know,” the elf shrugged. “It’s a job, I suppose. Speaking of which, you should get back to yours… you will not succeed at manipulating me.”

    “Come on, Tenya,” Skie smiled, “it’s not so bad. And the sooner you get back to work, the sooner you’ll be finished.”

    “Worthless cliché,” the girl muttered, flinging open the lid of another box.

    “Actually, I think that was more of a truism. See, that’s a statement that’s so obviously true that it doesn’t need to be…” Skie found herself trailing and turning away as she noticed the girl’s dark eyes piercing and boring into her skin. “… dosen’t need to be said,” she gulped.

    Tenya glanced back at her box. “It’s… just some old books.”

    Aerie dropped the jewels she’d been looking at. “Books?”

    “They’re not spell books or anything; just ordinary books. I doubt they’re valuable.”

    “B-but books are always valuable,” the elf had appeared beside Tenya, already starting to flick through the pages of one of the tomes. “Ollie Histor…”

    “Who’s that?”

    Skie rolled her eyes back, as if looking for the information on the back of her own skull. “Oh… I know. He was a gnomish philosopher who lived hundreds of years ago. He used to hide himself in barrels and other places and then pop up when people weren’t expecting to ask them questions.”

    “That sounds irritating.”

    “People back then thought so too… they made up some tax evasion charge and had him sent to prison, where he was placed in solitary confinement for almost fifty years.”

    “Apparently, he was still able to write.”

    “All the time he was in prison he just spent working on inventions and ideas, and when he came out he wrote lots of books about all kinds of things… magic, mathematics, biology…”

    “But they’re not worth anything?”

    “Well… these books are obviously copies, so… no, in monetary terms at least, they’re not valuable.”

    Aerie looked up from the pages, pursing her lips. “It… is strange…”

    “What is?” Skie asked.

    “It’s just that… these were taken from Mae’Var’s personal belongings,” the elf explained. Mae’Var was the criminal who had ran this guild, before Renal Bloodscalp of the Shadow Thieves began to suspect him of treachery and ordered him removed, then gave the building to the bhaalspawn. “He never… never struck me as someone who cared much about philosophy…”

    Tenya grinned, “sounds like I would have liked him, then. Now can we hurry up and get back to the rest of this junk?”

    The avariel shot her a disapproving look, which quickly softened as she started to sigh. “Tenya… h-haven’t you ever wondered, or, a-asked yourself questions about the world?”

    “What, like, what the hell am I doing here?”

    “Well… yes.”

    “No.”

    “What about questions like… w-why is the world the way it is? Why are there so many different types of animal? Do we need so many bugs and creepy crawlies?”

    Tenya crossed her arms, nodding at the blonde. “Is this the kind of thing you thought about when you were imprisoned?”

    “S-sometimes,” Aerie smiled, softly. “And, a-about onions… I remember thinking a lot about onions, for some reason. I-I think there was someone who used to peel some near me and I thought about the number of skins they have and who decides that… and, I-I suppose it isn’t really that important. I would like to keep these books though, i-if that’s okay.”

    Skie shrugged. “Go ahead. Like I said, we couldn’t sell them for anything and it’s not like Mae’Var will object.”

    Aerie nodded, carefully putting aside the box of books and then returning to the jewels. They seemed to be all just ordinary jewels with no magical properties, and of little interest to her. Tenya however, did not open another box, at least not immediately. Instead, she sidled up beside the elf and again looked curiously. After a moment, Aerie looked like wise back at her.

    “Um… y-yes?” The elf asked.

    “Only the gods could know the answers to those questions,” the girl stated.

    The blonde slightly shrugged her small shoulders. “Maybe.”

    “So why ask?”

    Aerie had to think about that for a moment, before she slowly began to answer, “it… m-might be impossible, but in seeking answers we may stumble upon other things that we can know. Besides… you can never know anything until you try.”

    “Is that… another truism?”

    The elf answered her with another gentle smile and shrug.

    Tenya slowly shook her hear, murmuring, “mother said that knowledge for its own sake was worthless…”

    “D-do you mean your real… your earth-mother, or Umberlee?” Aerie sighed. “I get confused… I-I think sometimes, you do as well.”

    It was as if Tenya’s eyes flared, like a star exploding inside them, for a moment… but it quickly dispersed as she jerked herself away again.

    “Ten,” Aerie sighed, “you know… m-my Uncle, Quayle… he loved the circus. He enjoyed making people happy. But I… I never saw it that way. But I owed him my life, so… e-even though I knew it was hurting me to stay there, I wanted to make him happy so I never told him how I wanted to leave. It took Kalah to make us both see…”

    The girl froze, her back to the elf. “Did… did ‘Uncle’ Quayle ever hold your head under water, pulling it up just short of drowning, and repeating ten times then locking you in the cellar, all because you’d dropped a plate?”

    “I-I…” Aerie’s mouth hung open a moment, as she turned away sadly. “No…”

    “Then stop wasting your breath, elf. We have nothing in common.”

    “Perhaps we don’t. But I… I would still like to help you, if I at all can.”

    “You can help me, and yourself, by shutting up now.”

    The young umberlant returned to her boxes and began going through them again. She figured she might as well just get it over with so she could get out of here.

    Skie leant over to her. “Tenya, I think all Aerie is saying is that… you have to live your own life, not…”

    “Ahhah!” The girl suddenly held her fingers up by her ears.

    “I mean…”

    “Poo-poo.”

    “Listen…”

    “No! I am just going to talk over both of you now, so just stop… okay?”

    The two adults shared a resigned sigh, and each went back to work. “Okay…”

    ***

    NEXT TIME:

    Imoen is out on a walk!

    Tenya goes out to play!

    Aerie reads a book!

    And other thrills await...

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    edited November 2013
    Quite a bit more talking... but don't worry; next time there's going to be some action.

    Child of Her Time
    ~*~
    Part Three


    “What am I do with her, Minsc?” Imoen asked, while keeping a brisk pace through the worn old streets. “I mean… I’d feel bad sending her away, but she…” the redhead’s hand clawed by the side of her face for a moment, “she makes it so hard for me to like her…”

    The huge bald, tattooed ranger was about to respond, but Imoen kept pressing forward. “I do feel sorry about what happened to her with her mother and the fishermen n’all, but… c’mon, it’s not like, say, Aerie hasn’t had a tough life as well. She’s been kidnapped, tortured, imprisioned, humiliated… like I have, too. But, she’s still good… she remembers she’s not a beast. Skie has made some really bad choices with her life, but she doesn’t just get angry about them. But Ten… she’s just perpetually angry. At everything, and everyone… including me, even though I’ve always been nice to her. Like, I get her presents… remember I got her those drums? She said she liked music, so I got her drums,” Minsc sagely nodded, while Imoen huffed and blew away a loose strand of hair. “I don’t know Minsc… maybe… maybe she’s just evil? Like Bodhi, or Hexxat, or something…”

    Finally, Minsc was able to interject, “little Tenya is not a vampire…”

    “No, Minsc,” the redhead nodded, her face hardening again. “She’s worse than any vampire… vampires never keep me awake all night by drumming outside my door… they got other things they need to do at night.”

    “A child can be… angry,” the ranger answered, and the hamster, Boo, seemed to twitch in agreement. “A child can be a bully. But, a child cannot be evil…”

    “You sure?” Imoen paused, arching an eyebrow. “It’s just, sometimes I think evil people are just childish, in a way. Like they’ve never grown up. They see something they want, and they just decide to grab it and not think about if it hurts anyone else, and… don’t look at me like that! I always put everything back where I find it. Well… most of the time I do. Anyway, this isn’t about me. This is about Tenya… obviously, none of us want to hurt a little girl, not even an evil little girl… if she is evil,” she sighed. “Skie, and Aerie, and now even you… you all keep defending her, like you think she’s just gonna grow out of being a little monster.”

    “It is the responsibility of adults to teach, and set an example.”

    “Well… what if I’m just not a good teacher?”

    “Hm… you taught Aerie to smile… truly smile. Not just a sad smile, always.”

    Imoen nodded, biting her lip. “Yeah… that’s my only success so far though, and even that seems not to have taken like I’d hoped sometimes. But it’s different, anyway; Aerie wants to learn. Tenya…”

    “… does not know what she wants. You ask her, she gets mad. She cannot answer because she does not know,” a very affirmative twitch from Boo.

    “I s’pose,” Imoen visibly softened, although her shoulders sagged. “Maybe, she really was just standing up for that boy. And she hasn’t threatened to kill me or feed me slowly to her sea snails yet today, so… I guess that’s progress. But, maybe it’s not just Ten I’m upset about. Maybe it’s… everything. I came here because I wanted to start being my own person and not just… my brother’s sidekick. But now, I got her testing me, Aerie wanting to go after all the slavers, and if I hear another word from Skie about ‘margins’ and ‘valuations’ and ‘wholesale’, I think I’ll just scream. I don’t know how he did it; I don’t know he managed to handle all this kind of stuff at once… I guess, despite everything, I wish he was here, deciding everything again…”

    “But, that would defeat the purpose, would it not? Minsc remembers you expressing to him your desire to prove you had a will and personality, and not just tagging along and getting in the way all the time.”
    The young thief tilted her head, one eye slightly closed. “Yeah… thanks, for that, Minsc. Thanks for reminding me.”

    “Of course!” Minsc beamed brightly. “Little Imoen is always welcome!”

    “It doesn’t actually help my confidence much at all though…”

    “Perhaps,” he thought long and hard, “perhaps… you just need to learn as well? Change is always challenging, at first.”

    “Well… that helps a little. Now I think I may not be a completely lost cause… not if other folk have gone through the same challenges and come out alright, right? That is what you’re saying?”

    He thought long and hard. “Hmmm… yes.”

    “Thanks,” she answered, and kept walking.

    “Minsc would like to know where we are going… so far we seem to have walked round and round several times and Boo is getting dizzy.”

    “Don’t really know, Minsc. We’ll find out when we get there.”

    --

    After a couple of hours of sorting through trash, Aerie’s posture softened somewhat. Even though it went against what Imoen had instructed, the elf decided that Tenya had helped enough and that it wasn’t fair to keep the girl locked indoors all day. She let her go. Of course, Tenya had known that would happen all along; Aerie was powerful, but no matter how tough she tried to act, in the end she always proved soft. She was not like mother; mother would have tied her down and then probably wandered off and forgot about her…

    That didn’t matter. What mattered was that she was free to wander once more. Imoen and Aerie did not fear her, but outside, all the commoners and peasants and other superstitious idiot many of whose lives depended on the sea believed that she could control the weather, guarantee calm waters or turn away a storm, all with a word in mother’s ear, provided they pleased her, of course. As it should be; they should all cower and kowtow to her and beg forgiveness for… she, didn’t really know what for… whatever they had done. They were bound to have done something wrong. In her experience as an Umberlant, it was impossible not to.

    And yet… she found it no longer appealed. It was… too easy, and not as much fun as it had been before. She hoped… wondered, if that boy was still around.

    In fact, he hadn’t gone far at all. Well, she assumed he must have gone somewhere and then come back this way. She doubted he would have been sat back on that bench waiting for her all this time.

    As she approached, the dumb mutt… Chesterton, he had called it… let out a quiet yelp and the boy’s head twitched toward her.

    “Is that you?” He asked. “Tenya?”

    She tilted her head, curiously. “How did you know?”

    He laughed. “Well, didn’t you know? When you’re blind, you get special powers. Like a third eye that lets you see all around, and even through walls sometimes! You don’t wanna know what the man and woman in that house are doing…”

    “No… I expect I do not,” she answered, pursing her lips as she sat down. Of course, if any part of that was true, he would be as afraid of her as everyone else. “That… was a lie, wasn’t it?”

    The smile on his face shrank a little. “Yeah,” he nodded. “That was a lie. It was a lie my mom used to tell me.”

    Now Tenya was confused. “Why?”

    “I don’t know,” Tom shrugged. “She used to think it would cheer me up sometimes, I suppose. It’s what mom’s do, isn’t it?”

    Now, more confused than ever. “It… i-it is?”

    “Well… sure it is. What, your mom never told you a lie to cheer you up?”

    She tried to think back and remember a moment, but… there wasn’t one. “She… never cheered me up. If I cried, she would just slap me until I stopped.”

    Now it was turn to be confused. “I… why?”

    “She hated tears,” Tenya shrugged, as if it was the most perfectly normal thing. “She wanted me to be strong. Strong enough to fight for… “ she almost let slip the name of her new mother. But she didn’t want to tell him; not yet. She didn’t know what Umberlee wanted, but she felt she was owed a little indulgence, wasn’t she? “She wanted me to fight.”

    “What… what about your dad?”

    “I never met him. He left a long time ago. Mother said it was my fault he did because I was weak and I cried too much, but it all happened before I was old enough to remember, so…”

    “Damn. No wonder you’re so tough… those boys never stood a chance, did they?”

    “No, they did not,” she let herself smile. It felt of kind of good to hear herself being praised like that.

    “Still… that’s pretty messed up.”

    “Hm… hadn’t really thought about it. I suppose it is. Yes.”

    “You said ‘hated’. So, does that mean…”

    “She died,” Tenya nodded abruptly. “She died over a year ago.”

    “You must have hated her.”

    She tried. She tried to remember everything that woman had done to her, all the contempt, and hate, and disappointment she’d shown. And yet, “no… I… I never could…” she had to stop remembering. There was no point to it. Her earth mother was gone. She was a child of Umberlee now. “You… never answered my question.”

    “Question?”

    “How you knew it was me.”

    “Oh… it was your smell. You smell like roses. It’s perfume, I think. Like what ladies wear?”

    “Skie’s… yes. I borrowed some of hers this morning. I think it’s what’s making my eyes water…” why had she said that? That was stupid. He couldn’t see.

    “It’s a very strong smell. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

    He knew, didn’t he? He knew there had been a tear… well, it didn’t seem to matter. He wasn’t going to tell anyone, was he? No. Who would he tell, anyway? He didn’t know who she really was, and she still had a lot of curiosity.

    “What’s it like?” She asked. “Not being able to see?”

    He snortled nervously. He must be used to being asked this question, the same way Aerie was used by now to being asked about her wings. Of course, being used to it didn’t mean he had to like it… she was about to say it didn’t matter, but he started to talk, “I just… I don’t really know how to describe it. I just… I’ve been blind all my life. It’s what I’m used to. I mean, don’t you ever play games like, murder in the dark, or something?”

    “I’ve done that,” she shrugged. “I didn’t realise it was a game…”

    “Heh… you… you’re funny. That was a joke, right?”

    “Imoen says I’ve no sense of humour,” but that was a lie. Imoen knew full well that Tenya had a sense of humour, it was just that Tenya’s brand of humour didn’t usually go over very well with her. Probably because it often resulted with the redhead sporting one or two bruises.

    “Imoen… your sister?”

    Oh, yes; she’d forgotten about that. “Um… yes.”

    “Who isn’t really your sister, is she?”

    “How did you…”

    “It’s your voices… different accents. Why’d you lie?”

    “I… don’t know. I suppose I just wanted to seem normal at the time.”

    “Yeah, well, you didn’t quite pull that off, if you don’t mind me saying…”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You seemed a bit… awkward. Like you weren’t really used to talking to someone.”

    “I’m used to talking! I-I talk to lots of people… It’s Aerie who is the socially awkward one. Me, I’m never afraid to walk into a room full of people I don’t know. If they annoy me or try anything I’ll just knock all their teeth out.”

    “Who’s Aerie?”

    “She’s another person I live with now. Her, and Imoen, and Skie, and Minsc… a few others who come and go, like Nalia and Shar-Teel. Neera drops in occasionally… really does drop in. Viconia lives in the graveyard.”

    “That’s a bit strange.”

    “She is a strange person. And she’s almost as mean as I am.”

    “I don’t think you seem all that mean. I mean, you rescued me…”

    That comment seemed to stun Tenya, slightly; like a bee had hit her on the nose. Not she’d helped him; she knew she had done that for reasons she herself wasn’t sure of. Maybe some Imoen and Aerie and the others relentless crusade to help those weaker than them, although it was hard to believe such people existed, was having some sort of bad influence on her. But, she just knew, it wasn’t true.

    “You… you’re wrong,” she said. “I have hurt people… really hurt them. And I’ve wanted to hurt them more… Imoen managed to stop it so it never came to that. Although I wanted to really hurt her too, once… I guess she stopped me again. And then she left.”

    “But you found her again?”

    “I had no choice. The others never really wanted me there, and after I was punished for helping Imoen it all just got worse… I had to leave. Imoen had said she would help me if I needed her, but when I looked she wasn’t there. I had to come all the way here, and,” she suddenly. The words she had just said repeated themselves, and at first they didn’t make sense to her. It was Umberlee… that was what she had said to herself back then. But… that wasn’t the whole truth, was it? She had wanted to go. She couldn’t stand those other girls and the priestesses all conspiring about her behind her back. And had always just been mother and her before. And the bowl… that had been the only thing her earth mother had ever trusted her with. And she almost lost it. But the most confusing thing to her was, “why am I telling you all this?”

    “Don’t know,” Tom hunched and lowered his shoulders. “To be honest, most if it don’t make a lick of sense to me. But, I guess it must be something you’ve needed to say. And I’ve been listening so I’ll tell you what I think… Tenya; you ain’t bad. You’re just sad.”

    The priestess wondered if this was how Aerie had once felt. Some people, including herself, sometimes chided Aerie for the way she went on about her wings… but, that was a lie. In truth, it was the thing the avariel hardly ever talked about. People could ask her, and she would give short answers which showed that she didn’t really want to talk about it. But maybe she just needed to say something more to someone who would listen. Tenya felt a little bad for her now… she couldn’t really hate her for any of that stuff anymore. Although, making her feel bad was enough reason for her to start hating the elf all over again.

    She realised, she’d been silent too long. The boy was still sat there, the dog just lying on the ground panting now, and it all seemed a bit awkward. He didn’t really know who she was… how could he? But, he was trying to be nice which in the circumstances could be forgiven.

    And she noticed something else, as she looked out over the glittering ocean, she felt strangely still. She could still hear all the voices and bustle of city life, but like they were in another time, another world. She wasn’t tense at all… it was weird. She didn’t like it.

    “Does it… make you sad?” She asked. “Not being able to see?”

    “Sometimes. Sometimes I hear people say ‘look at that thing, it’s amazing’ or ‘isn’t that beautiful’, and I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. The worst thing is, I’d like to be able to read books and stories by myself, but I always need someone else to read them for me.”

    “I’m… sorry,” she believed that was the appropriate response. It seemed so, as he then shrugged.

    “Ah… you get used to it. I like coming here though, and listening to all the gulls and the waves. It’s nice.”

    “Yes,” she agreed. It often helped calm her a little, although never as much as now. They spent a long moment, just listening.

    And then he asked, “do you know how to read?”

    “Yes,” mother had often made her read out tenets or prayers to Umberlee. Imoen, Aerie and Skie all read lots as well. Skie’s books were all disgusting, terrible and sick… she didn’t know why people would want to do stuff like that to each other. Aerie’s books were eclectic; she pretty much just liked to read everything she could find. The books Imoen kept were mostly about magic, although she also read Aerie’s diary a lot and left little helpful notes and corrections in the margins. Sometimes the two of them had whole conversations in there, even though they actually saw each other every day… still, it was the only part of Aerie’s diary that was any fun for Tenya to read.

    “Well, then… I hope it’s rude to ask, but could you…?” Of course, he had a book with him. A small, tattered one. She took it to have a look. It seemed to be a collection of short stories.

    She sighed, “I suppose it’s not too much of an imposition just now. Where do I start?”

    “Just open it anywhere.”

    “Hm,” she did as he asked, finding the start of one of the stories, and started to read beginning with the title. “’The Crow and The Raven – A crow was jealous of the raven…’ since when do birds become jealous?”
    “It’s a story, Tenya…”

    “It’s stupid. And then it says ‘because the raven was considered a bird of omen and always attracted the attention of men, who noted by his flight the good or evil course of future events.’ Since when do birds care what men think of them?”

    Tom laughed, shaking his head. “It’s-a-story, Tenya.”

    “It’s not believable. Eating, mating and laying eggs; that’s all birds care about. They’re not aware that any humans decide to attribute to them powers of prophecy. They’re barely aware of humans.”

    “Can you just read?”

    “Fine,” she relented. “’One day, seeing some travellers approaching, the crow flew up into a tree and perching itself on the branches cawed as loudly as it could.’ Most likely it just saw them and started calling out to warn other crows. But, ‘the travellers’, because they were imbeciles who believed a bird might know something about the future, ‘turned towards the sound and wondered what it foreboded, when one of them said to his companion, ‘Let us proceed on our journey, my friend, for it is only the caw of a crow, and her cry, you know, is no omen.’’ Yes, because if it was a raven, it would have made perfect sense to stop and listen to whatever insights it had about nest making or whatever…”

    “Is that it? Is that the story?”

    “That’s it. It’s only one page. I’ll tear it out if you like…”

    “I thought it was a good story.”

    “Really? I didn’t realise you were mad as well.”

    “Think about it; the crow was pretending to be something it wasn’t. And all it did was make itself look silly.”

    “You think… that I’m the crow?”

    “What do you think? That’s the point of fables; you’re supposed to think about it.”

    “If you weren’t already blind, I’d think you should have your eyes examined.”

    “Why don’t you keep the book? You might like some of the tales, if you give them a chance. You may even learn something.”

    Tenya strongly suspected that most the tales would just infuriate her. She was curious to see what depths the depravity sank to. Still… although she was used to taking things from people, they rarely volunteered anything. She felt somehow obligated now to return something… “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to give you.”

    “It’s alright.”

    It wasn’t alright. She thought hard about what she had that she could give him, what he would like… and then it hit her. She had Aerie. Not literally give Aerie to him of course, although… no. It was what the elf could do.

    “Will you be around later?” She asked, standing. “There… may be something I can get for you after all.”

    “Not here. Do you know where the Radiant Heart is?”

    “Yes,” the headquarters of the paladins. Not exactly her favourite place to visit; the knights tended to give her evil looks because of the symbol she wore.

    “I’ll be hanging around by the entrance in a few hours. My dad works there.”

    “Is he…?”

    “Nah. He’s just a cook.”

    “Alright… I will meet you there.”

    --

    Skie and Aerie were inside the shop. Aerie at the counter, poring over one of the books they’d found, while Skie was stacking some shelves.

    “What did you do in the circus?” The brunette asked idly as Tenya entered. “I mean, when you weren’t in your cage…”

    Aerie glanced up, a little surprised, but then answered, “Oh… this and that. I helped set things up, take them down… a-and there was a lot of poop.”

    “Poop?”

    “A lot of it. Do you know how much an elephant poops in a day?”

    “Not really…”

    “Three hundred pounds. O-or as much as,” she sighed, and glanced at the girl who had come in. “Imagine that, Tenya; that’s like pooping out a whole me, and Skie, and Imoen, every day… and someone had to clean that up. Guess who was lucky enough to get that job… what do you think of that?”

    Tenya rolled her eyes. “That either you weigh less than you seem to, or you are being very generous about how much Skie weighs…”

    Skie snorted. “One of these days, Ten, I’m going to have enough.”

    “You’ve already had too much. That was what I implied by what I said. And anyway, I am not here to speak to you.”

    “Aerie?” Skie asked. Tenya nodded. “Well, your luck just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?”

    The elf wore a tight little smile, as she asked, “yes, Tenya. What is it I can do for you?”

    The umberlant paced a little, her fingers joined together, as she tried to think of the best way to approach. In the end, she decided to start by being subtle. “Your wings,” she stated, “why couldn’t you fix them?”
    The elf squinted her eyes, tilting her head. “I-I…”

    “Oh… you’re not going to cry, are you? It was just a question.”

    “No… I-I’m never upset or offended by curiosity, if that’s what this is. I’m just curious why you would ask about that…”

    “Because I’m curious.”

    “Truly. Well, it’s… very complicated. You see, a-an avariel’s wings aren’t exactly a natural part of them… according to our stories, they were a gift from the goddess a long time ago… but ordinary healing magics won’t work to restore them if they’re lost. There are other things that further complicate matters as well, like all the time that’s passed. But, in truth, I stopped trying to find a way quite a while ago.”

    “Why?”

    “That’s complicated as well. But… some of thieves Renal Bloodscalp sends here sometimes call me the ‘wingless wonder’. Hm… I guess, that’s who I’ve become.”

    “But, if you found a way, if I said I could just give you your wings back, you would like that, right?”

    “I…” Aerie looked off into space for a moment. “I don’t know. It’s just… having just gotten used to being the way I am, to undergo another change… it’s a little bit frightening. Besides, if I just flew off, I’d no longer have the pleasure of talking to you.”

    Those were all very good points. Change was always a little frightening. She wondered if maybe she should just come up with another idea instead. But, “it’s wrong.”

    “What is?”

    “How the gods would let you use your power to heal a liar or a murderer… but they won’t let you fix yourself. Or help someone who was just born different to everyone else.”

    “Oh… I suspected that you weren’t really interested in me. This is about that boy… t-the one you said was blind?”

    Tenya’s eyes shot toward the elf, then she bit her lip and nodded.

    “You’re right. It isn’t fair. I won’t pretend to know anything of their reasons… I’m just grateful for all those I can help.”

    “So, is there nothing you could do?”

    “I take it he was born with no sight?” Aerie asked, and Tenya nodded affirmatively. “Then normal healing wouldn’t enable him to see…”

    “I knew that. What about other magic? What about a wish?”

    “No… never wish for anything. Djinn always try to trick you, as they hate being enslaved by magic… a-and I can’t say I really blame them.”

    Tenya kicked in frustration. “There must be something…”

    “I suppose… a polymorph or transformation might allow him to see…”

    “I don’t want him turned into a chicken. I…” Tenya paused.

    “You like him. Obviously. Although surprising…” Aerie started to pace a little herself, and then leant down and pulled a tube, a scroll case, out from under the counter. “Magic can be made to only target parts of the body,” she said, undoing the lid and unrolling a scroll across the table.

    “What’s that?”

    “Infravision… i-it’s useless to me of course, as I have it naturally, but… with a little adjustment, might help your friend…”

    “But… would it let him see normally?”

    Aerie smiled. “With… a little adjustment. I think so… yes.”

    “Could… could you do it now?”

    “I can start,” the elf sighed. “But it will take a while… a-and the change wouldn’t be permanent unless I place the magic inside an item, like a ring or necklace.”

    “Well, that’s no problem, is it? There’s all that old jewellery downstairs.”

    “Yes… but that will take at least a few days to accomplish.”

    Tenya was disappointed. She thought Aerie would just wave a wand and chant something and that would fix everything… she supposed she should have known things were never really that simple. “But… you’ll start?”

    “If that’s what you want. But, Ten… is that what he wants? If he’s been blind his whole life, then this is a huge change. He might not want it.”

    “I think he does, but… I’ve not asked him yet,” the girl admitted. “I wanted to know if you could help him, first.”

    “I understand. But you should.”

    “I’m going to… soon,” Tenya said, and went on inside. There was time for her to change her clothes and wash off this perfume; it was clearly affecting the way she thought.

    In the meantime, Skie quietly sidled up to beside the elf. “Um, Aerie… is any of this going to cost us anything?”

    “I… I don’t think so,” the blonde answered. “I mean, I think we already have all the things I’ll need.”

    “Hmmm… okay then. Carry on.”

    Post edited by Coutelier on
  • MoczoMoczo Member Posts: 230
    “Oh… t-that’s not true. We’re all happy that you’ve decided to stay here these last few months… a-and eaten all of our olives…”

    In the running for 'best Aerie line ever'.

  • MoczoMoczo Member Posts: 230
    And I like the admission in the most recent portion that everyone just reads Aerie's diary for fun and she is totally fine with it. That is VERY Aerie.

    ... Hee hee. Very Aerie.

  • CoutelierCoutelier Member Posts: 1,240
    Moczo said:

    And I like the admission in the most recent portion that everyone just reads Aerie's diary for fun and she is totally fine with it. That is VERY Aerie.

    ... Hee hee. Very Aerie.

    I think she's just accepted that there's nothing she can to do stop them; Imoen will always find it wherever she hides it. I think it all started off in a short story I wrote that was just Aerie writing a diary with Imoen scribbling notes in the margins... long, long time ago. I'll see if I can track it down and maybe post some of the older shorts.

  • MoczoMoczo Member Posts: 230
    If she really objected, she would stop writing a diary, not use it as an impromptu IM client with Imoen. XD

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