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The Forgetful Bhaalspawn (coninuation of The Partridge Family)

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  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,141

    Trying something a bit different with this chapter. There's a lot going on behind the scenes so here's some snippets. And it's exciting, new people...

    Chapter 28

    Meanwhile In Athkatla

    Aerie had never seen the circus so busy and the Ringmaster had been talking about extending their stay in Athkatla when he had seen the crowds. Although there was a desire to be away from this city where three performers had been killed, the circus folk were practical enough to put that to one side. A good season meant that the lean winter months would be more comfortable and equipment could be renewed and new acts created. They had buried the three clowns that morning and all had attended the funeral but there was no time to mourn, never had the phrase "the show must go on" resonated more with her. And now she was about to face her own "performance" she thought as she caught sight of Anomen making his way towards her. Oh no, he was carrying flowers, this was going to be worse than she thought.

    "So you see, she said she was very sorry but..but...she had too much to do and couldn't waste anymore time at the circus."

    Aerie blushed at her ill choice of words as she saw the look of anger cross Anomen's face and she ducked her head down to hide her red cheeks.

    "And you say this was just ten minutes ago? And she couldn't wait to tell me herself?"

    "She...she...looked to...to...be..."Aerie's stutter worsened in the face of the hostility Anomen was directing at her.

    "Come on girl, out with it," Anomen prompted angrily. Then immediately regreted the words, this wasn't Aerie's fault and she looked as though she was about to cry. But he felt so humiliated, standing before her holding his bunch of flowers. He must have appeared so pathetic to her.

    "in a dreadful hurry," Aerie managed to blurt out the rest of the sentence then stood there miserably wringing her hands. She felt so sorry for him and he was so obviously disappointed by Maude's cancellation without any real explaination. But she had seen the unexpected look of fear and worry from Maude when she had tried to presuade her to wait and tell him herself and sensed there was something more than she had been told. It was the same haunted look she had seen after their escape from Kalah when she had spoken to her about being an adventurer.

    "I see," Anomen calmed himself, unwilling to to further take out his anger on her, "well thankyou Miss Aerie for letting me know. It's probably for the best, I am quite busy myself with my duties at the Order."

    He gave her a quick bow and then turned and started making his way through the crowds. She watched him go and then her heart gave a lurch as she observed him tossing the beautiful, scarlet flowers into the gutter as he walked away. Without thinking of her own shyness, she ran after him.

    "Anomen...wait..."

    He paused and turned back to her,

    "It wasn't like that, really it wasn't. She...she looked scared...I don't know why. But she looked like that before, after the circus. I don't know...but I think Maude might be in trouble...like...like she's trying to get away from something." Aerie stopped and shrugged hopelessly, unable to articulate how she had got the feeling that Maude was desperate to hide something.

    "Maude in trouble?" Anomen gave a short rueful laugh. "She's the most capable woman I have ever met. You must be mistaken...now if you will excuse me?"

    Aerie walked back slowly to the circus, well at least she had tried.

    Later in the Slums

    Lady Nalia De'Arniss made her way quickly and as unobtrusively as possible through the slums towards the Copper Coronet. Head down and her cloak pulled tight around her, she ignored the beggers at the gateway eventhough she would have normally stopped and distributed some coins. It really wasn't a journey she wanted to take at this time in the evening considering the amount of gold and gems she was carrying. But what choices was she left with? She had spent the whole day at the Goverment Offices and after, at the Radient Heart, trying to impress officials of the urgency of her need for help. Of course they had listened attentively to her pleas, the De'Arniss name still held some sway, but their response had been measured and cautious when she had told them the attack was from Trolls. Sick of listening to logistics and plans being made that would take weeks to implement, she had left in despair. Her father, aunt and the servants and guards trapped inside the keep didn't have weeks.

    She had only just managed to get out herself when they had come under attack from within the castle itself. She still had no idea where they had come from and there hadn't been time to find out. They had seemingly appeared at night inside the castle from nowhere. The alarm had been raised and everybody inside had tried to flee but there was no clear direction of where they should go. A few lucky ones had got out before the castle defences were sealed, but that still left a score of people trapped. Her father had taken control, ordering his men at arms to find anybody they could and get them to the ground floor store rooms and kitchens where at least they would have access to food and water. Ordering his men to fortify the doors, it was then that he had ordered Nalia to leave. In spite of her pleading to stand with him and help with the defense, he had told her to go. Telling her that she must get word out to Athkatla and bring a force to break the seige. So casting invisibility on herself she had slipped out past the hoards of trolls roaming the halls and corridors to the secret exit that took her through the thick walls. Ride to Athkatla and get help were his last words to her, and she had promised him that she would.

    She had found their contingent of guards gathered outside, unsure what to do as they were now shut out of the Keep. The attack had happened so unexpectedlly and so fast they hadn't had time to get inside before the great drawbridge had been raised. Years of peace had meant that usually the castle was open and the guards were stationed nearby but outside, ready to move into the Keep should an attack be signalled. But this attack had come from inside and they clearly had a leader who understood to seal the castle against anybody who would come from outside to oppose them. This had left them stranded outside and it was too small a force to attempt a seige. For hundreds of years the great Keep had served her family and held against invaders, and now those defences were stopping any help reaching those inside. Ordering them to stay put and offer what resistance they could, she had ridden for the city.

    An idea had begun to form as she had listened to the officials arguing about the amount of men needed and the seige machinery that would be required to breach the walls. De'Arniss Keep was famous for it's illustrious history of withstanding attack. But what if she could get fighters inside, through the entrance she had used to escape, and breach the defences from within? She had suggested this but her idea had been dismissed as unworkable. They would not risk their men being cut off from the main force and having to face unknown numbers of trolls. And so she had excused herself, determined to find mercenaries who would undertake her plan. She had been given the the bag of gold and jewels by her father and she knew he had meant it to be her legacy if everything else was lost. But she wouldn't allow that to happen and would spend it instead to save him.

    At last she reached the doors of the Copper Coronet, a building she had passed often on her way to distribute money at the Temple of Ilmater. Normally she hurried past and tried not to catch the attention of the drinkers, fighters, sellers, working girls and anybody else of low enough standing to frequent the Coronet. It was scandalous enough that a Lady like herself was in the slums at all and her aunt would have disowned her had she known of Nalia's charitable trips to the slums. Even her father, who had instilled in her a belief that all people were of worth, would not have approved. There was a big difference between indulging in charitable works based in the local village and farms where she was the daughter of their Lord, and the most disreputable area of a large city.

    But none of that mattered now she told herself firmly, the only thing that was important was finding people who would help her rescue her family and people. She would not judge them for their lifestyle choices, however awful, and if they aided her in this noble and righteous cause then it would prove their worth. As she pushed open the heavy doors the noise, smells and heat hit her as she stepped into the room and much like Ayla, she found herself overwhelmed. But Lady Nalia De'Arniss was determined and had the benefit of hundreds of years of being bred to rule. She straightened her shoulders and raised her chin and dared anybody to oppose her as she made her way to the bar.


    Elsewhere in the Copper Coronet

    "So Bessie, what do you say? She's a grand ship and I've a cosy little cabin where we won't be disturbed and a good bottle of wine to open."

    "Ooo Saemon, you do make it sound tempting." Bessie placed her hand high up on his thigh and leaned forwards better to show off her cleavage, "And it would be exciting to see that big mast of yours up close."

    Saemon roared with laughter and circled her waist and dragged her close to plant a kiss on her cheek,

    "Aye Bessie, you're a grand lass, that husband of yours doesn't appreciate you. Come on then, lets finish our drinks and get out of here".

    Saemon Havarian had caught sight of Bessie as they were unloading the ship down at the docks. The third time she had passed he had made sure that she knew he had noticed her and she responded by making sure he knew she was interested. Of course, they both knew where things were heading, but they had played the game of pretending otherwise, because both of them enjoyed it. So they had arranged to meet that evening at the Coronet "just for one quick drink" (as the Sea's Bounty was a little too close to where Bessie's husband worked at the Guildhall) and Saemon had worked his charm and Bessie had pretended to be won over.

    They downed the remains in their glasses, but as Saemon moved to help Bessie from her seat (oh he's such a gentleman and a ship's Captain as well Bessie thought to herself) they heard the loud noise of a chair being roughly pushed back and then a tall, young man barrelled into the back of him.

    "Hey, steady on lad, watch where you're going."

    The young man stood there swaying slightly and Bessie could see he was trying to focus on them.

    "Sorry...didn't see you...need to get to the bar...where...where's it gone?"

    He turned about searching for the elusive bar rather too quickly for his own good and jolted the table hard. Bessie let out a small shriek as she tried to stop the glasses falling on the floor and the young man swung back towards the noise and staggered a little.

    "My...my Lady...are you hurt?"

    "No, no, honestly not at all" Bessie answered quickly as she saw him lurching towards her and making a grab for her hand.

    "Now come on lad, that's enough. She's fine, look no harm done at all."

    The young man turned to Saemon and clapped his hand on his shoulder, partly to support himself,

    "That's very, very graci...graci...decent...decent of you. And your lady,...very, very decent...My lady allow me to apolo...apologise for disturbing you."

    He let go of Saemon's sholder and attempted a bow towards Bessie and Saemon had to grab him to stop him falling in her lap. Bessie giggled, then stood and gave him a quick curtsey. She was rarely addressed as My Lady (even if he was very drunk) and he was very handsom.

    "Oh that's alright love, no harm done."

    "You are too..too kind," and then he turned to Saemon who had managed to keep him on his feet.

    "Sorry, don't know your name?"

    "Saemon"

    "Right Sae...Saemon, I need to tell you something...something very, very important...come...come here."

    He gestured to Saemon eventhough he was barely standing a foot away and swayed towards him.

    "You're a very, very lucky man. No...no...listen to me," he put his finger to his lips to hush Saemon to stop him interrupting, "a very, lucky man. I thought I was lucky...but she didn't wait to tell me I wasn't...just left a message with that circus girl..."

    The young man stopped, seeming lost in his train of thought.

    "Well sorry to hear that Lad. But you know what they say, plenty more fish in the sea. What you need is a good lass...like my Bessie here." Saemon quickly added seeing the look of admiration and pity Bessie was currently directing at the young man.

    The young man reacted with a start,

    "No...no...not her, no fish like her...not a fish...flowers...she's like the flowers..you know...like the flowers...I had to throw them away."

    Saemon rolled his eyes at Bessie over his shoulder, this was going to take some time. Time he didn't want to waste dealing with a drunken, jilted young man when there was a pretty young woman wanting his attention.

    "Come on now, lad, maybe if we get you outside for a bit of fresh air things won't look so bad. Here, you just lean on me and I'll help get you to the door."

    Saemon hooked the man's arm round his shoulders (which was quite easy as he was taller than Saemon but he weighed enough to make him stagger) and with Bessie clearing the way thay managed to get him to the door. The fresh air did have an effect but perhaps not the one any of them wanted because he promptly staggered to the gutter and was very sick. Afterwards, having somewhat sobered up, much to Bessie and Saemon's relief, he insisted they leave him to recover after he had apologised about ten times for being so badly behaved and had assured them he would be alright. Leaving him leaning against the wall of the Coronet and wishing him the best, Saemon and Bessie made their way through warm night still giggling about how drunk he had been.

    "Saemon, did you mean it when you said I was a good lass and I was "your Bessie"?"

    They were walking arm in arm along the seafront towards the docks where Saemon's ship was moored when Bessie turned to him and asked the question.

    "Of course I did love, I wouldn't lie about something like that. You're the prettiest girl I've met in any of the ports I've sailed to. And when I get back after my next trip I'll bring you a present to prove it."

    "Oh Saemon will you?" she sighed and moved closer.

    And when she pulled him towards her and they shared a long, deep kiss, he almost believed what he had said.

    Earlier that day in the Graveyard

    Edwin Odesseiron surveyed the burning corpses with distaste. Well that was an unmitigated disaster he admitted to himself, though he would never have admitted it to anybody else. The stupid fools, all they had had to have done was follow his orders. But oh no, the simians were too stupid to even follow a simple plan. It had seemed to him so straightforward. The four Shadowthieves he had coerced and bribed to accompany him to the lower tombs, were reasonably capable he had thought. All they had to do was hold off any attackers and give him room to cast...simple.

    But at the first sign of any resistance, unfortunately in the shape of five very large and vicious spiders, they had catastrophically lost their nerve and panicked. The first to go down was Tom (or was it some other equally common name, he had never bothered to take notice) bitten and subsequently poisoned. Whereupon Dick, (his brother was it? no matter) abandoned his position and went to his aid and was stabbed from behind by the Sword Spider. Harry, who had already screamed like a girl when they first saw the spiders advancing on them, had watched in horror. And then tried to run...straight into the powerful and expertly placed jet of flame Edwin was directing at the spiders. The last of them (Jack?John?) had then turned on Edwin accusing him of murder and he had been forced to defend himself...with the jet of flame. Not that the useless lout would have been able to break his protections.

    (Why had they made this so difficult for him? She had never had any trouble getting people to do what she wanted even against their better judgement.)

    By the end of the fighting there were two burning humans flailing around, which admittedly did help by setting fire to the sword spider, leaving Edwin to finish off the other three who were still occupied with the brothers. The fifth spider showed a lot more sense than he would have credited a dumb animal (no that's not correct, arachnoid) and scuttled back along the passageway. Not far enough though, he could hear the gathered masses chittering away waiting for the flames to die down so they could attack en masse, it was time to get out of here. Not for the first time Edwin cursed the Red Wizards who had taken his spellbook, wands and enchanted equipment and left him so underpowered. He could have sorted out all of the gathered spiders with one spell if he had his full arsenal.

    Still swearing under his breath in Mulhorandi he made his way swiftly up the staircase leading to the graveyard. Now what was he going to do? This was a major set back to his plans and the scroll was just as unobtainable as ever. He'd have to gather enough money to employ some decent fighters and the Gods only knew how long that would take. Although Mae Var payed well and of course he was able to skim off some of the Guildhall's profits, but it wasn't as if he didn't need money for other things as well. Not least, replacing his stolen spells, (the Red Wizards called it confiscating the property of a traitor, as if he would ever betray Thay, the fools). Now he had the additional problem of covering up the loss of four Shadow Thieves, which Mae Var would not be at all happy about. Not that he cared for the feelings of the odious creep, but right now he couldn't afford to cross him.

    As he emerged into the bright sunlight, the absolute unfairness and impossibility of his position hit him and he had to clamp down hard on his desire to destroy a nearby statue with a stream of missiles. That was another thing, this Godforsaken cesspit of a city didn't even allow him to use his magic out in the open. He could still feel the power he had woven thrumming through his body, eager to be shaped and used again. At least he still had that he told himself, his affinity for magic and the sheer joy of using it (when he could). He just needed to be patient, one day he'd have enough power that nobody could tell him what to do...one day.


    Late at night in the prison

    Viconia DeVir shifted uneasily in her sleep on the pile of straw she lay on trying to get comfortable, which was difficult with her hands and legs manacled. The stiff, none too fresh stalks dug into her skin through the rough material of the sackcloth dress she was wearing and her hair was matted and filthy. Like an animal, she tried to curl up to keep warm and was jolted awake as the chains restraining her jerked her arms. She started shivering and tried to bury herself more in the straw but there wasn't enough and cursing softly under her breath, she tried to move to warm herself up.

    Of course she told herself, compared to how she would have been treated in her home city of Menzoberranzan, this cell could be considered "comfortable". Her treatment considered "kind", these soft and pathetic humans had no idea of the proper procedures for prisoners. Except for the cold and damp that permeated it, which for a high status Drow from the Underdark, was surely torture in itself. It didn't matter though, she had survived worse, much worse, she would endure.

  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,141

    Following on from the last chapter, this is what happened next, (not much else I can say really). Except that it would be nice to get some feedback on how the story is progressing.

    Chapter 29

    An Unexpected Respect

    Anomen leaned against the wall if the Copper Coronet trying to think through the haze that had enveloped his brain. His stomach was still churning and he had the feeling that unless he was very, very careful and walked very, very slowly, it might rebel on him again. He had to get home, that was it, he needed to get back to the Order. But when he looked at the road and considered how far it was, he realised how terribly thirsty he was and that he needed to get rid of the sour taste in his mouth. Perhaps he should wait a bit and let this fog clouding his thoughts lift, drink some water and after all he wasn't that drunk, especially as he had been sick. That man had been right, the fresh air had definitely helped and as long as he took it slowly, of course he could get to the bar and get some water.

    He was at that stage of drunkeness where you are aware that you are drunk but still foolishly believe that your thoughts are coherent and your actions entirely in your control. Which was a slight improvement on the earlier stage of being blissfully unaware that you are drunk at all and it's the world itself that is being difficult. He pushed himself off the wall and deliberately and carefully made his way back into the Coronet and then tried to thread his way through the scattered tables. Spying a way that looked clearer he made for it and then unsteadily made for the bar, along the rail that seperated the large cooking pits from the patrons. Eyes focused on his objective, he made good progress, only now and then bumping against the study rail. But then he met a blockage, something solid and unmoving at about waist height and felt liquid splashing down his trousers,

    "Dang and bloody blast it! Watch where yer goin' yer great lump o' shite. That's me ale you've made me spill and I'll have yer hide if you don't replace it."

    Anomen looked around for the voice accosting him and then down at the large stain spreading over his trousers. And found himself meeting the furious glare of a Dwarf with a extravagantly scarred face underneath a horned helmet.

    "What's that? Didn't see you down there, you should hold up a sign or something...why'd you throw beer on me?"

    "What, ye dare! Short jokes is it? I did'na throw me beer, you crashed into me. I reckon tis time I showed you a lesson in manners yer useless upstart."

    The Dwarf furiously shook his head at the brazen manner and the numerous rings threaded and plaited in his long beard and piercing his ears seemed to jangle in agreement. He was fully armoured and two large battle axes where strung across his back.

    "Now steady on, little chap, no need to get bent out of shape. I'll let you off ruining my trousers...just need to get to the bar."

    Anomen made to move along the rail towards the bar,

    "Ach, no ye don't. Not gonna let a prissy milksop get away with that. ("Little chap", the nerve on him.) 'Bout time you learnt some respect."

    Korgan moved away from the rail to give himself room to swing and pulled one of the axes from his back. This was going to be fun chopping this over priviledged posh boy down to size, he'd start with the legs. See how well he'd crawl without feet, killing could come later.

    Somewhere in the addled mess of Anomen's brain, a warning bell rang out. He was in trouble? The Dwarf wanted to fight? Almost shrugging at the absurdity of it, he reached for his mace...and found it missing.

    "Wait...wait a minute...got to get a mace...then we can fight...OK?...put it down somewhere...not sure..."

    He looked around hopefully as if he expected it to appear miraculously in mid air. The gruff, raised voice of the Dwarf had attracted a small crowd around them and they were looking forward to the bloodshed. The Dwarf was well known and few dared cross him. Bets were being laid on how long the Knight would last, opinion was about 3 minutes, long odds were being offered for more than five. A weapon was quickly found and passed through to the front. It's not that they wanted to see Anomen killed, the news of him dealing with Llynis had spread and their opinion of him was a lot more favourable than before. But a fight? that was too good to pass up.

    Now armed, Anomen took his place in the impromptu ring formed by the onlookers. Still too drunk to understand the real danger he was in, unshielded and unarmoured against a seasoned killer, he found himself worrying about hurting the little chap.

    "Umm, look here...are you sure you want to do this? If it's about the beer...well I'm sure they'll wash...no harm done."

    The Dwarf didn't answer, choosing instead to advance as he swung his axe with practised ease. Focused and deadly the time for talk was over as he circled his target. But before he was able to swing purposely at Anomen, who didn't look as if he had a hope of avoiding the bone shattering contact, a loud voice called out from the onlookers.

    "Stop this now, you want to fight, take it to the pits. You, Korgan, what have I told you about trying to kill my customers? This is your last warning, and don't think you'll get served anywhere else."

    Lehtinan, the owner of the Coronet, flanked by two of his guards, pushed his way through the crowd and stepped into the ring. It wasn't really the fight he was bothered about, more who was fighting. He knew that if the Knight was killed, as was likely, a lot of very unwelcome attention would arrive causing him a lot of problems. He was adept at keeping the authorities sweet, and he wasn't about to sacrifice that for a dwarf who suffered from a severe bloodlust and a Knight who couldn't hold his drink.

    "Now then, put your weapons down and move away. And that goes for the rest of you too," he added to the crowd. "This fight is over."

    The crowd started to move away grumbling quietly and refunding bets that had been placed. They might have been unhappy but they weren't about to argue with Lehtinan, Korgan wasn't the only one amongst them who would find it hard to get served anywhere else. Lehtinan watched them go then turned to the two would be fighters where the two guards had positioned themselves next to Korgan. Anomen had started wandering away already...he needed to find his mace.

    "Not going to ask what this was about, Korgan, not interested. But if you want to fight there's a woman at the bar, a Lady, looking for fighters and she's got gold, And you, Knight, what are you doing getting into fights? Buy him his beer and that's an end of it, I won't warn the two of you again."

    Leaving the guards still flanking Korgan as a precaution, Lehtinan called over one of the serving women who hurried over with a couple of pints and then headed back to the bar. Anomen abandoned his search for the missing mace, had he said something about a woman looking for fighters?

    Korgan considered his options, he could probably cut down both the guards and still kill the useless Knight, but where would that leave him? He wasn't stupid and the fact was he needed the Coronet. It was where he was able to pick up work, that Lady sounded promising and Lehtinan knew his reputation well enough not to mention her without being sure she could pay. Nah, better to stand down, the Knight could wait. He'd get his chance, at some point everybody ended up on their own on a quiet street at night.

    "Alright, alright, I'll put me axe away. There satisfied?" he grumbled at the two guards as he sheathed the weapon. "Now where's that beer, wasted too much time already on that useless longshanks. But I'll not drink with the likes of him."

    "Now Korgan, don't be like that," the maid said as she handed him his pint, for all his reputation he never gave the serving girls any trouble. "Anomen dealt with that child killer, would have thought you'd approve."

    "It was an accident...tried to arrest him but..."

    "Child killer?"

    "You know, the one who murdered that poor little halfling boy."

    "Hit him too hard...brains everywhere..." Anomen's stomach gave a lurch and he grabbed the other pint of ale and downed a good portion of it in an attempt to divert it's attention.

    Korgan mistook the action for celebration of a job well done and a show of bravado, burst out laughing and clapped him on the back.

    "Yer smashed his head open? Aye, I'll drink to that, can't abide them that hurt children. Looks like I had ye wrong, did'na think you'd have it in you. Come Lad, grab a seat and tell me how he died."

    On The Docks

    Saemon and Bessie parted, both of them breathing heavily.

    "Ahem...need to get to the ship...anymore of that and I'll have you bent over one of them barrels. Gods Bessie, you don't know what you're doing to me."

    Bessie giggled, she knew exactly what she was doing to him and had felt it when she had slipped her hand in his pants. Not that she was any less aroused. Her low cut blouse was barely still covering her breasts and she could still feel the sensations running through her nipples from his carresses through the thin material. He was right though, best to get somewhere they could enjoy themselves properly. But she enjoyed knowing how uncomfortable he would be walking and anticipation flared hot inside her.

    "C'mon then, let's not waste anymore time" she murmered in a low, husky voice that nearly caused Saemon to forget all about getting to his ship again. But he found he liked Bessie, more than he had thought when he'd first seen her, and wanted to impress her, treat her right.

    They hurried on side by side towards the docks, rounding the corner in the dark shadow of the tall watchtower that signalled to ships where the safe harbour lay. A sudden chill cut across them and Bessie shivered in her thin blouse and Saemon put his arm round her,

    "Not far now love, and then I'll make sure to warm you up," he whispered in her ear as he slid his arm down her back and gave her plump arse a squeeze. She gave a little sigh and pressed herself against him and once again he thought, just how far away is that bloody ship.

    A faint rustle of material and the sound of a low chuckle reached both of them and Saemon gasped and she felt him go rigid, staring ahead at something she couldn't see.

    "Saemon...Saemon," she nudged him but he didn't respond, "what's wrong...come on now you're scaring me..." Bessie looked around wildly and suddenly realised how dark it was.

    It seemed to jolt him out of whatever shock he was in because he turned to her roughly and seized her hand, squeezing it tightly.

    "Bessie, get out of here now, run to the nearest inn. Go on, quickly, don't ask questions..."

    "But Saemon, what about..."

    She didn't get any further as a woman's voice cut across,

    "Saemon Havarian, just the man I was hoping to see. Come now, haven't you got a greeting for an old friend."

    Bessie turned towards the voice and watched as a captivatingly beautiful woman stepped out of the shadows at the corner of the wall. She was pale, so pale that even in the dim light she could see her face and the contrasting blood red lips that were curved in a cold smile.

    "Saemon" she gave the hand clutching hers a shake, "what's going on, who's this woman and what does she want with you?"

    "Yes, Saemon, who is this woman, I don't think we have been introduced," the pale woman took a step towards them both and her smile grew wider as she held out her hand.

    "I'm Bodhi, Saemon and I go way back. And my aren't you a feisty one, so full of life and questions, quite delicious."

    Saemon still holding onto to Bessie's hand pulled her back,

    "She's got nothing to do with this Bodhi. She's just some bit of skirt I picked up, hardly know her name."

    "Saemon" Bessie exclaimed, and she tried to free her hand and he heard the hurt in her voice.

    Saemon took a step forward trying to angle himself between them. His voice took on a pleading tone,

    "Just let her go, she won't say anything, will you? Just let her go and then we can talk."

    Bodhi let out a short, mirthless laugh,

    "Chivalry Saemon, from you of all people? There's a suprise. Well I suppose if it will ensure your cooperation?"

    "Yes, Mistress Bodhi, of course, whatever I can help you with," he gave a quick bob of his head, almost a bow, and then dragged Bessie quickly backwards and away from her.

    "You heard her right? Go on then, get yourself somewhere where there's people, the Bounty's closest. I got business to attend to, the lady's rich, one of my contacts. Get out of here, I ain't got time for you now."

    Bessie didn't understand what was going on but she was sure something was wrong with this woman. She sensed his fear and urgency and it made her doubt what he had said about her, or how he was talking to her. And he still had hold of her hand.

    "Saemon, is everything alright? Shall I fetch the guard?"

    The sound of a disapproving hiss and footstep came from behind them.

    "Course it is, now you're just being silly, nowt the guard needs to be involved with. You know the score on the docks, you don't want to get me in trouble do you? Just gotta talk some business. Don't you worry, it's all part of being the captain of a sailing ship having to deal with important customers. You wouldn't want to see me lose my ship would you? Off you go, quickly now," he gave a hand a reassuring squeeze and then half pushed her on her way.

    She turned and headed for the Bounty still unconvinced, but she'd been born and raised on the docks and understood the meaning behind his words about the guard. Smuggling was part and parcel of life and she knew about the harsh punishments handed out when smugglers were caught. And the worse punishments handed out by the smugglers themselves. After a few steps, she started to run and tried to hold back the tears she felt forming.

    Saemon watched her start running then turned to Bodhi with an ingratiating look on his face,

    "So what can I do for you Mistress Bodhi? Looking to buy some of my cargo, of course you would have a preferential rate, business has been good lately."

    "Oh Saemon, you do amuse me, always trying to play the "Captain", she laughed and it sent a chill down his back.

    "Now what on Faerun do you possibly think I would need to buy from you? No, Saemon, I need passage, me and few friends wish to take a trip."

    "But I have commitments to meet and trade routes established. I can't just cancel and sail somewhere..."

    "You dare to try and refuse me?" she crossed the distance between them in the blink of an eye and fastened one long nailed hand around his neck forcing him onto his toes.

    "Have you forgotten how you became "Captain" in the first place?"

    He could smell the faint aroma of decay that clung to her skin and clothes underneath the perfume she was wearing and it scared him more than the vice like grip round his neck. Of course he hadn't forgotten that terrible voyage to Baldur's Gate serving as First Mate on the Galente. One by one the crew had started to disappear and when he discovered the crates in the hold and what they contained, he was given the choice. Serve Irenicus and Bodhi as Captain and get them to port or be the next to go.

    "No Mistress, " he choked out.

    She let him go and he stood there rubbing his neck to restore the feeling after the cold of her touch. There was nothing else to say.

    "Good, we sail tomorrow night...for Brynnlaw."

    "Brynnlaw?" he couldn't keep the note of surprise out of his voice.

    "Yes, Irenicus is there. I will have some servants of my own sailing with us to ensure that we are not...disturbed...they are very loyal," she didn't need to explain what she meant, he had seen the way men had been turned into glassy eyed, mindless thralls utterly enslaved to her will.

    "How long will the crossing take?"

    He thought quickly, "Five days if the winds are good, not more than a week though. But that's not the problem, Brynnlaw is run by pirates."

    "Well then, I'm sure you will fit right in Saemon. Or are you trying to be chivalrous again and are worried about my safety?" she laughed in that cold, mirthless way again. "Of course if you feel it is too dangerous for you, I'm sure we can come to some arrangement with a member of your crew. Somebody more aware of how dangerous a refusal could be."

    The threat was clear as he had really known all along, he had been kidding himself that there had ever been a choice or that he could talk his way out of it. Better he made the best of it if he could.

    "Now there's no need to be hasty. I'll get you to Brynnlaw. Though there will be expenses that will have to be met..."

    "Of course Saemon, I wouldn't dream of expecting a "ship's captain" like yourself to work for nothing," her voice dripped with sarcasm. "So until tomorrow then, I'll leave you to make the appropriate arrangements."

    Bohdi made to leave, then turned back as if she had remembered something,

    "Just one thing more, it might be an idea to employ a more casual crew, men who won't be missed..." and again there was that laugh that chilled him to the bone and she left him shivering on the dock.

  • UnderstandMouseMagicUnderstandMouseMagic Member Posts: 2,141

    A long chapter for me...and action packed! But also horrific and disturbing, you have been warned.

    Chapter 30

    Armour

    Reijek made some final adjustments to the armour on display in the centre of the shop. Stepping back to check everything was in place he couldn't help but admire his handiwork, it was really some of the best work he had completed. The black leather gleamed and appeared to swallow the shaft of dusty sunlight coming through the window he had unshuttered. Plain and unadorned as it was, the casual observer might have dismissed it. They wouldn't notice how silently it moved with the wearer or how difficult it was to focus on the outline in the shadows. How expert the stiching was or the strength of the seams. Nor the enchantments and protections he had cast on the leather that would shelter him from them.

    Now all he had to do was wait for her to arrive. She would enter the shop and see it on the dress form he had found amongst the discarded possesions of the former owner. She would be drawn to it by her longing for something lost that he had sensed when she had talked about her previous suit. She would think of nothing other than how attractive it would look on her. It was the perfect bait, he almost laughed at the thought of how simple possessing this vain woman was going to be in spite of her strength and her powerful sword. A rattle of the doorknob behind alerted him to her arrival and he arranged his outer face into a welcoming smile.

    "Come in, come in, you have arrived at just the right time, here, allow me to show you."

    He moved aside so that she had a clear view of the armour clad form and he watched as her eyes widened and she took a step towards it. But then she hesitated and he saw her unease as she turned to him,

    "But I thought you were only going to supply the leather and I would have to take it to an armourer? You can make leather armour yourself?"

    He quickly moved to reassure her, he had forgotten how suspicious she had been,

    "Of course, though it is not something I do so often as I have gotten older, the strain you know."

    He shrugged as if apologising for his age, then continued,

    "How else would I be able to prepare the skins? One must understand the purpose for which they are going to be used to condition them correctly."

    He watched as she only half accepted his explaination, he needed to be more persuasive.

    "And your evident appreciation of my work and the unusual request, well, sometimes the craftsman in me wants to show off his skill."

    A slight look of embarrassment, let her think she had found his weakness. It seemed to satisfy her initial suspicion, but another worry surfaced,

    "How much does it cost? I have enough for the leather alone, but I was not expecting having to pay for the completed armour yet."

    Ah, now this would be an easy objection to deflect without re arousing her suspicions.

    "I think you will find the price reasonable, I'm sure we can come to an arrangement whereby you pay the balance when you have the sufficient funds. My business is well established and it is not unusual for me to facilitate terms whereby costlier items can be purchased. I am, after all, a merchant whose priority is trade."

    He didn't have to fake the laugh that followed, contemptious of the thought that money was his concern. But she would accept his words as part of his sales pitch and his amusement as friendly encouragement for the sale. These humans were always so predictable. Just the last push to distract her so she wouldn't see the danger before it was too late.

    "Please do step nearer and take a closer look. I'm confident that you will find no better in Athkatla."

    She stepped forward to the maniquin and he shadowed her movement.

    "See how the double rows of stitching reinforce the joins so they will not fail. And the fastenings at the side for ease of use."

    He gestured around her from behind, pointing out the features. She reached forward and ran her pale hand down the stitching he had indicated and he sensed her appreciation. He was distracted for a moment by the contrast of skin against skin, but he needed to keep talking,

    "I have taken the liberty of casting some charms to protect and make the wearer less visible. Something I thought you might appreciate."

    He heard her murmer something like her thanks as she bent closer to examine the suit seemingly unaware of how close he was standing behind her.

    Now was his chance. Without hesitating he laid both his hands on her shoulders, gently as if he were her lover, and channeled the spell through him and then through his fingers into her. He revelled in the sense of power it gave him, this spell he had perfected over the years. Part paralysis and part domination, it rendered his victims immobile yet still regarding him as their adored master even as he flayed them while they still lived. For a moment he felt the echo of the long forgotten ecstasy that he had experienced as a still human man and then...

    The blast of rejection hit him and he was almost physically thrown backwards. The spell recoiled on him and he felt the power dissapating through his body numbing his senses and rendering him deaf and blind. In his head he could see a skull and then a voice boomed out so loud he thought his brain would explode,

    "NO"

    He staggered backwards clawing at his face trying to rid himself of this useless shell that would now trap him. But then she was on him and he felt the dagger pierce his outer skin as he retreated into himself and feigned death. His last thought before he stilled himself to wait for his chance to escape was to wonder what he had caught with his carefully baited trap.

    Ayla looked down at the old man lying crumpled on the floor. She wasn't entirely sure what had happened. She had felt something like a fog descending on her and the sensation of her will ebbing away. But then she had felt the answering surge from inside her rise, and suddenly everything snapped back into focus and she knew that she had been attacked. Killing him had been easy as he was weak and old, but it troubled her that she didn't know why she had had to. She remembered him coming from downstairs when she had first visited the shop and and she crept to the head of the stairs and listened out for any sounds that would alert her to others coming as they must have heard the noise of the brief skirmish. But she heard nothing and after a few minutes decided that he must have acted alone.

    A quick search of the upper room revealed nothing that gave her any clue to his actions, there was nothing there but the prepared leathers and hides she had already seen. She should just leave quickly and quietly, killing the tanner was something she did not want to draw attention to from the authorities. It would only be her word that he had attacked her as he carried no weapon and looked harmless and elderly. But the armour he had made tugged at her thoughts and she moved to inspect it again. It was really beautiful work and made to measure for herself and she needed a suit like this. Perhaps if she were to wear her clothes over it and as she had her cloak with her, she could get away from here without being noticed.

    She locked the door and then removed the suit from the dummy and moved to an alcove to change. There were two pieces, a pair of trousers and then the reinforced tunic. It was lighter than she expected and so maleable she could hardly believe it was leather. She could feel a slight tingle in her fingers from the enchantments that he had told her he had cast and when she drew up the troursers to fasten them, they seemed to settle against her skin. She pulled the laces tight to fasten them at the front but as she did so, the noise of ripping caused her to stop. Damn, had she ripped them already, that wasn't good, perhaps they weren't as well made as he had boasted.

    She felt over her backside and skewed around at the waist looking for a tear, but the leather was still smooth and unbroken. Shrugging to herself she donned the tunic, she must have imagined it. The tunic had double sections of leather overlaying each other to provide extra protection rather than the usual studs. High to the neck and and long sleeves that extended down her arm to below her elbow, leaving room to wear bracers. Of course it wouldn't compete with plate mail for protection, but clanking around had never seemed a good idea to her. Like the trousers, the suppleness made it easy to put on and again she felt the tingle of the enchantments. But as she fastened the ties at the side, again she heard a ripping sound but this time it was more prolonged.

    No, that she definitely didn't imagine, she needed to find out where it came from. Buckling her sword back on as a precaution, she silently edged forward towards the main area of the shop. The strange, slightly muffled sound reached her again and she moved quickly into the shadow cast by the wall and waited, hardly daring to breathe. More sounds and then she sensed movement, down on the floor, where she had left the body of the tanner.

    At first she couldn't understand what she was seeing but then she realised that his arms were moving. She watched in horrid fascination as they worked their way down the center of the torso. The skin of his hands was peeled back and flopped useless at the wrists, like discarded gloves. And the exposed finger bones were digging into the chest and stomach and ripping open the skin covering the ribs and breastbone. From the base of his neck and up along the side of his face she saw the skin already ripped apart and the sharp lines of his jawbone were visible. Methodically the hands worked their way down the body until they reached his groin, then with a lurch, what was contained in the now opened and peeled back skin, sat up.

    Ayla fought to contain her involuntary startled gasp and the thing swivled it's head in her direction. She recognised the milky blue eyes it turned on her as the tanners but now, without a face, without eyelids, the naked eyeballs stared with a particular intensity from the exposed skull. She froze and waited, but for some reason she didn't understand, it didn't make a move towards her. Instead it moved quickly to strip the remaining skin from it's arms and legs and then stood and ran across the floor to the stairs and disappeared down them.

    She let out the breath she hadn't realised she had been holding and mouthed the words "what the fuck" to relieve her tension. Now what to do? She should leave, of course she should leave and she returned to where she left her bag, clothes and bow. But what if it came back, but it had run from her, but that didn't mean anything, but she had killed it once, or so she thought, maybe she should go after it and have another go, it certainly wasn't something she wanted coming after her, and what was downstairs?, she hadn't heard anything but there could be more of them, perhaps she should check, then she could report it to the guard, the armour wouldn't matter now...

    The internal monologue continued and she hardly gave any thought to the fact that she had retrieved her old helmet from the bag she carried with her and strapped it on (wearing a battered, ancient, horned helmet on the streets of Athkatla was not something you did if you wanted to be unoticed) and picked up her bow and quiver and had strung them across her back. When she realised, she almost sighed, she was going to follow it downstairs wasn't she? Just a quick look to try and understand what was going on here...why didn't the sensible option hold as much appeal to her? Because it tried to hurt you came the answer, and she felt herself nodding in agreement.

    The stairs were steep and as she neared the bottom, the smell of rotting flesh and chemicals made it hard to breathe without gagging and she had to stop to control the urge. The filthy floor and walls were covered in black and brown stains and coupled with the smell, she had a horrible suspicion what was causing it. As she struggled to contain her nausea she noticed the thin trip wire strung across the floor where she would have stepped, she'd have to dismantle it before going on. Then the noise of something being dragged came from the far side of the room and she quickly crouched down against the steps and knocked an arrow in her bow.

    With a clear view of the area, she would get off a shot if anything approached but nothing did. The dragging noise continued and then she saw the thing she was after stand up from the side of a small bed carrying a bundle of pale material in it's arms. With a sideways shuffle around something she couldn't see, it made it's way to the other stairs leading down on the opposite side of the room. Near the top, it paused and looked around and saw her and the peeled, bony face gave the impression that it was grinning at her. Then it hopped over the edge and onto the second step before quickly disappearing.

    Not wanting to lose the creature, she started to make her way towards the the staircase, checking for more traps after dealing with the trip wire. She ignored the large barrels and chests along this side of the room. The old, dried stains were enough to warn her what she might find. There was another trip wire strung across the top of the stairs, so that's why it did that strange little hop. Here she could smell fresher air coming from the river and as she dealt with the trap strung across the stairs, voices reached her from the floor below. Hesitantly she edged down the steps until, when she bent down, she could see below the ceiling.

    "What do you mean we have to get out of here? The suit is not finished and we are waiting for our contact to supply the final ingrediant."

    She couldn't see anything but the feet and lower legs of the three men on the wooden dock below. Two were clad in black leggings and soft soled boots much like her own, thieves then? The third wore the long robe of a mage and from the arrogant tone of his voice seemed to be in charge. The creature was further away, close to the edge of the dock where a boat was moored.

    "You don't understand, she is not what she seems, she is powerful, a monster."

    The voice of the creature was different than before, quieter and the bones of it's jaw clicked as it spoke.

    "Ha, that's good coming from you."

    One of the men in leggings joked and the other joined in with the laughter.

    "Reijek, stop panicking, we need to deal with this intruder so you can complete your work. The Twisted Rune will not be at all happy should we leave a witness either. You two, stop sniggering and make yourselves useful."

    Ayla was already quickly turning on the narrow staircase to escape silently back up to the floor above. But the wood of the steps was worn and smooth and her foot slipped and she fell heavily onto her knee. She scrambled up the steps on all fours with pain exploding down her leg then limped across the floor and hid behind one of the large barrels before directing a heal into her knee. Of course they had heard her ungainly scramble up the stairs and she cursed herself for being so clumsy. But she still had the advantage, she was well concealed and she could shoot them as they appeared at the top of the stairs.

    Arrow knocked, she waited for their heads to appear but something seemed to have delayed them. Gods if she had realised they were going to be this slow she could have made it up the next staircase. She heard steps on the stairs and listened as they came closer. Nothing appeared but then the loud creak of a floorboard warned her they had reached the floor of this room and she ducked down quickly. A disembodied voice reached her in her hiding place,

    "So where's she gone then. Next floor?"

    "Nah, we would have heard her on the stairs, she's hiding somewhere. We'll have to search, here try that cupboard, I'll look under the bed."

    Invisible? The mage, of course the mage, that's what delayed them. She chanced a quick look from low down round the barrel, yep invisible she confirmed as she saw the cupboard door opening by itself. Damn she was in trouble, and the invisibility potion she could have used herself was upstairs in her bag. She'd have to run for it, and do it now while they were on the farside of the room.

    She was just about to launch herself out of her hiding place when the noise of wires snapping and bolts thudding into something stopped her. That and an anguished cry of pain followed by the noise of somebody falling.

    "Arghhh, me legs, me legs. Charlie, help me I'm bleeding.

    "What happened, what hit you?"

    "A trap, a bloody trap, why the fuck didn't Reijek say something? Can't see the damage but there's a lot of blood and it hurts something chronic. Gotta get downstairs and get help."

    "Wait a minute, hold up, gonna deal with this and then I'll help you, here, drink this."

    The noise of a bottle being unstoppered reached Ayla.

    "Charlie, it's still bleeding."

    "Look, just hang on here, put pressure on it or something. I gotta find that woman. You still got your knives? If you see her, throw em."

    So she still had two to deal with and she had no clear idea where either of them were. Only a vague recollection of where Reijek had dodged round something on the floor, so that must be where the legless one was. But if she tried shooting in that direction in the hope of hitting him, the other one would see her and he could come from anywhere. She had slumped against the barrel while they were talking and had heard the faint sound of liquid sloshing about. It gave her an idea. But what if she could see his footsteps?

    She braced her back against the large barrel then pushed against the wall with her legs. It was heavy, but the leverage was enough and with a resounding crash it toppled over and the contents and liquid gushed out across the floor. The moment she had felt it tipping, she had turned and bought up her bow. The noise had startled them both but "Charlie" had been quick to react and was already making his way towards the fallen barrel. She saw the splash of his steps and aimed about four foot higher, the distance wasn't far, it would be hard to miss. The arrow struck and she heard him curse and dodge sideways. But she followed the splashing and reloading quickly, she let off another arrow. This one stuck and the shaft and fletching sticking out of mid air gave her an even better target to aim for.

    He realised what had happened and tried to tug out the telltale arrow as he ran but she pinned him with another and then she was out and pulling her sword free as she went. The legless one started throwing his knives at her. But he must have been lying or half lying on the floor because his aim was bad. That coupled with the boots she was wearing meant she could ignore him for now.

    The other one was who she needed to stop, she needed to get close enough to use her sword before he cleared the liquid or pulled out the second arrow. As she closed on him she slashed blindly at the space around the arrow. There was no finess, just speed and attack. She felt her sword connect, then quickly reversed direction and delivered another blow to the same area and caught him again. She heard him grunt but she had no definite idea of where she had hit him. She saw the arrow suddenly drop down and realised he was trying to duck below and get under her guard. She swept down low and heard a clank as her sword connected with whatever he was using, and she followed through, sweeping his weapon to the side and away from her. She was close now but rather than hit what she couldn't see, she grabbed what she could see and thrust the arrow hard into the wound it had already made. She heard him fall back and pressed her advantage, slashing at where she thought was his chest and watching where blood was beginning to flow, until with a cry, he fell.

    She would have normally stabbed him or cut his throat to finish him quickly, but had to make do with stabbing blindly and hoping for the best. It wasn't something she enjoyed as he moaned and begged for mercy. But she couldn't stop, she couldn't risk leaving him alive. It was with a sense of relief that the body appeared signaling that he was dead. Now to deal with the other one and as he was already injured, thankfully it wouldn't be such a desperate scramble. She found the pool of blood where the trap had caught him and then saw the outline of him crawling away across the wet floor. He must have heard the painful death of his companion. She swapped back to her bow and finished him with arrows as he tried to escape, judging that was safer than approaching him. He died face down, still trying to get back to the stairs.

    Ayla turned away wearily as the adrenaline rush left her, she still didn't know why any of this had happened. There was something cold and disturbing about having to kill the two men when she hadn't even seen who they were apart from the lower half of their legs. She was spattered in blood and the room was filthy and stank even worse than before after she had tipped over the barrel. She realised she was standing in a pool of dirty water and she could feel it making it's way through her boots and she looked down in distaste. She hadn't had a chance to think about what was in the large barrel or really seen what had flopped out of it with the liquid and was now deposited on the filthy floor. But as she looked around her, the pieces of wet, treated skins began to form into a hideous reality.

    She backed away in revulsion when she began to recognise the pale flesh and crumpled shapes of arms and legs and flat, empty hands and feet for what they were. How many were there? Too many for her to fully comprehend the enormity of the evil she had stumbled into. She continued moving backwards, trying to distance herself from the horror surrounding her. Then felt herself step on something soft and slippery and instinctively, without wanting to, looked down and saw a mass of dark hair. Swallowing hard to contain her nausea, with a strange sense of compulsion she turned it over with the tip of her sword. The eyeless, distorted face, half obscured by long strands of wet hair, stared sightlessly at the ceiling, and with a jolt, Ayla realised it had belonged to a woman. Oh Gods, that would have been her if she wasn't a Bhaalspawn.


    N.B

    Just a few words about playing BG2.

    As I have mentioned before, I usually play the early parts as a solo character. Maybe because of that you have to pay a lot more attention (otherwise you get killed PDQ), especially the side quests. There is such a wealth of ideas and inventiveness in game which can be overlooked with the overarching "got to raise money and rescue Imoen" that I wanted to try and bring them out more. Hence spending so much time dealing with the "skinner quest" for instance and removing that compulsion to just keep going in a rush.

    Time for that later.

    Anyway, hope you are enjoying looking at some of the sidequests and incidental characters in more detail. I've always thought BG2 was spoilt a bit being the "perfect RPG" by putting in the time restraints of needing to get somewhere in a hurry.

    Of course I would love some feedback, it is hard to keep going when you have no idea whether people are with your interpretation of a well known story. Or even where you are going wrong.

    tbone1
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