As I'm working on a mod at the moment to expand Aerie in BG2 with more dialogue and a quest, currently writing as I playthrough the game, I also started writing some fanfic.
Set in the future, Aerie, while trying to help a young woman, recalls the events of her life and those of the woman's ancestors:Chapter One:
Tonight’s ‘battle’, for want of a better word, Sunugug would claim his one thousandth victim. Nine hundred and ninety nine peons had fallen to his blade, and for each of them the half-orc had kept an ear as a memento. Some of the older ones, at the bottom of the bag, obviously were starting to stink. But nevertheless the rest of the camp let out a hearty, albeit fearfully compliant, cheer as he held them aloft and roared.
In contrast, this was to be Talyn’s first raid. The young human woman had smeared black paint across her face. Up the ridge of her nose, around her eyes, ending in tips by her temples. It was supposed to resemble the outstretched wings of a bird, because… well, her given name happened to be very close in spelling to the word talon. All the other bandits had their own markings, deliberate quirks, or plumages on their helms that they hoped made them stand out as individuals in battle and earn a reputation. Like the late Bunny Bill, who insisted on wearing slippers made of bunny skin into battle, before he slipped on one of the ears and landed on a peasant’s pitch-fork. Still, not everyone in the rest of society appreciated that there was a great deal of creativity and even artistry involved in banditry.
In any case, having done that to herself, Talyn spent the rest of the afternoon fretting, anxiously awaiting the call from the scouts spying the road from the tree line. She paced about the camp, swinging her arms, trying to stay loose, occasionally unbuckling the staps of her armor then redoing them to make sure they were tight. She grimaced slightly as she overheard Sunugug chuckle how he hoped his thousandth would be some prissy elf he could snap like a twig and rip the guts out of… it had been suggested, due to her looks, that she might have had some elven blood in her ancestry. If she did, it was only a little. Her ears hardly pointed at all. Certainly not enough that the enormous half-orc might in the heat of battle mistake her for a tree-hugger. She hoped.
Of course, there might not even be a battle at all. The caravaneers might surrender and hand over their goods as soon as they saw the bandits, because that’s what any sane, reasonable person would do. It was just stuff, after all. Wasn’t worth anyone’s life. Not that she wanted that to happen, of course… obviously, she was hoping for a good heart racing fight. But surely, that had to be just how it went sometimes, and what could you do? Slaughter them anyway, she supposed… but then, how would you get your reputation? Had to leave some people alive, didn’t you?
She had done well in the fights the bandits arranged among themselves for their own entertainment, but she was aware she wouldn’t be fully accepted by them until she had tested her mettle in actual battle. Drawn blood. She hoped it would be an actual fight rather than some cowering commoner… but, fine. If there was anyone stupid enough not to run they surely deserved to be put down. That was what she told herself.
Night had fallen when the horns sounded, and every bandit in the camp dropped their skulls, tankards, and whatever else they’d been playing with and rushed into the forest. Sunugug took the lead, the huge half-orc pumping a mighty fist into the air at the tree line, several lieutenant relaying the order to wait to the rest of the band.
Talyn’s heart was already racing, and it seemed to take hours before finally wagon’s trundled over the hill and began to wind their way down. She counted three wagons, and maybe half a dozen men on horseback around them… hired guards, no doubt. Didn’t seem like much of a challenge for their thirty strong gang, unless there were others inside the wagons. She peered as the first one rolled past her position, hoping to catch inside, which she did. There were… crap… there was a family on board. Children.
Well, that was that, then. They had to surrender, didn’t they? No one would be fool enough to risk their own child’s life trying to be brave… just don’t be bloody stupid…
From then on, everything happened extremely fast. Sunugug roared and thrust his sword arm forward, the bandits stampeding out of the trees, Talyn carried along with them. The wagons stopped and, to her dismay, the mercenaries turned drawing their weapons while those driving the wagons let go of the reins and trained crossbows on the coming horde. They were going to fight. Stupid. So, fine. Whatever happened to them next was their own bloody stupid fault. She drew her own short sword and screamed, running straight toward the nearest mercenary. She never got close. None of them did.
A wall of fire burst in front of her. On one side the mercenary’s horse whinnied, and on the other Talyn was blown back by the sudden blast of hot air. On her back, stunned, she blinked as her followed the streak of flame that had suddenly appeared between the bandits and their would-be victims. In the sky in the distance she was sure she saw a spark rising rapidly high above the field, then beginning to circle back round… but then she was distracted by various whistles and hisses, not of the flames in front of her, followed by moans and screams of her comrades as a strange metallic smell began to fill the air. She turned just as more magic missiles shot through the flames, perforating the armor of the bandit nearest to her.
A short distance away, some of the band had formed a circle, fighting the heat and ash as their eyes desperately sought their attacker. Another bandit, also flat on his back, just stared up at the sky. His eyes suddenly went wide in terror, just a second or two before a fireball exploded over him.
Above… they were being attacked from the skies! Talyn rolled herself to her feet and looked up, not catching sight of anything. She did see that through the flame wall, the members of the caravan were just as confused as the bandits, although no spells had been thrown their way. No chance that they had arranged any of this, Talyn reasoned. This much magic definitely could not be hired cheap, and was way, way overkill for what they were – just a gang of thugs looking for some action and easy money.
Talyn had thought this was what she wanted. To be in a gang, that is. Not the crimson fiery death. She had just wanted to be accepted somewhere. Belong to a group. And maybe let out some of the anger and aggression she’d accumulated over the seventeen years of her life. This… none of this was what she had expected at all.
A soft but firm feminine voice suddenly spoke in her ear, “your grand-mother would be so disappointed in you…”
With a startled yelp, Talyn spun and leapt back from the grey cloaked figure. It was, well, definitely female. Not very tall – just a little over five feet. Her facial features were, for now, hidden by her hood, Talyn only able to see a small mouth and chin as the warm orange glow of the flames flickered around her.
The young would-be bandit blinked in fear and confusion. “Er… what?”
“Please,” the cloaked figure said, slowly raising out an arm, “I don’t want to force you, but this path… I know you can do better than this.”
That didn’t clear anything up. Who the hell was this person and what the hell did she think she knew about her? Talyn shook her head, turned, and started to run.
The cloaked figure let out a barely audible sigh, but before she could pursue some of the other bandits noticed her. Bolts and arrows flew in her direction… they were caught in some hidden field, orbited around her, and flew back along the trajectory they had came. Only one of the bandits who had unleashed managed to duck in time. Others then came at her with melee weapons. Most were left scorched and blistered by the magical energies that leapt from the woman’s fingertips. One managed to reach her, taking a wild swing with his club which missed, although as she leant back to avoid the blow, her hood fell off. Talyn turned to see a blonde haired elf whose cobalt blue eyes seemed to burn with steely determination.
The bandit near to the elf fell, sparks of electricity coursing through his body. All of the remaining had started fleeing back into the woods. Talyn made to go after them, but then a bird of flame fell from the sky raining fire down on them. The young woman was blasted back again, and again was on her back. She propped herself on her elbows and looked for the phoenix. All she saw was the elf strolling toward her…
But, there was one bandit left who hadn’t fled - Sunugug. The huge half-orc had spotted the elf now as well. Roaring and beating his chest with one hand, while holding a two handed sword aloft with the other, the huge half-orc began to slowly build momentum and then charge. The elf turned to face him, the blue flames in her eyes showing no sign of fading. Indeed, she started to step toward him, a mace materializing in her hand as she started to run and then, just as they were close enough that Sunugug’s sword was about to cleave down through her, she suddenly flashed into a burst of supernatural speed, leaping to the side and around him while swinging her mace. She caught the half-orcs and he staggered back, although only slightly. He roared and swung again, but again she was too fast, rolling under it and then striking him on the back of his knees. Sunugug screamed and limped back, his eyes now bulging with rage…
No, Talyn realized as she watched the fight, it wasn’t rage. The half-orc bellowed and swung wildly again and again, desperate to make contact with the magically enhanced elf. This was panic. The nine hundred and ninety nine victims he had claimed before now had all been commoners, peasants, even slaves, people ill prepared or ill equipped to fight back. No-one had ever hurt him like this before and now, for the first, he realized he might lose. That he was not, in fact, immortal. And that fear prompted all these ill-judged and poorly calculated attacks as he sought to end the threat as quickly as possible.
The half-orc's blade came down again, taking a good chunk out of the ground but missing the elf entirely. Her mace then struck his arm, which bent and contorted with a sickening crack. He roared once more, falling to his knees. He slowly lifted his head, tears streaming down his face as he… he laughed. Perhaps it was just the sight of the one who had defeated him… a little blonde-haired elven woman probably less than a third his size.
The elf regarded him sorrowfully for a second, then whispered, “find peace.” The whole top of his head then disappeared in an instant as the mace smashed through it.
And now, Talyn was alone, still on her back, dazed, confused, long since abandoned by any of her gang who were left. It was only when the elf’s eyes fell on her again that she was jerked into motion. Again she ran, and again the elf sighed.
This time, Talyn didn’t stop to look back. She willed her legs to keep pumping faster and faster, although it never felt like enough. This felt like a bad dream. She was well away from the flames by now, but the moon light was bright enough that she could clearly see the trees in front of her. The woods still seemed like her best chance of escape. But, as a shadow passed above her, she remembered – the first attacks had been from above. She trotted, somewhat resignedly, to halt, her eyes drifted up to where the elf now floated in front of her, a pair of blue, transluscent wings spread either side of the blonde.
“Give me a break!” Talyn screeched tearfully, pulling at her own red hair as the elf’s feet gently touched the ground and the wings disappeared. The young human reached down, grabbing a handful of dirt and flinging it. “Who are you?! What do you want?!”
The blonde tilted her head to one side, beginning to speak slowly, calmly. “I’m… a friend.”
“What?” Talyn sneered. “I don’t know you, lady.”
“No… well, perhaps that isn’t right,” the elf pondered, pursing her lips. “I… made a promise to my friends, a long time ago, that I would watch over their families after they were gone.”
“And what the hells has that got to with me?” Talyn snorted, as if the answer wasn’t obvious. “I don’t have a family. I grew up alone, learnt to pick pockets soon as I could waddle and, you know what? I’ve been doing pretty damn by myself, without any flying yellow tarts poking their noses in. So if that’s all, think I’ll be on my way now…”
“That isn’t true,” the elf answered sternly. She then sighed, lowering her head a little. “None of it is. I… I’m sorry. I should have been here to help you sooner, but I… I was caught up in things. It’s no excuse, I know, but… it’s how it was. But,” she looked up again. She looked different now from how she had in the battle. The determination was still there but now it was hopeful rather than fierce. “I’m here now, and I want to help.”
Exasperated, Talyn snarled. She spoke loud and slow so that hopefully this time her message would be understood. “I – don’t – care. I don’t care who you are, who your friends were, or who you think I am. I just want to be left alone.”
The blonde’s eyes narrowed sadly. “Alone to do what? Join another bandit group and prey on innocent travellers? I’m afraid regardless of anything else, I cannot allow that.”
“Well, one, it’s none of your business, and two, there are such things as innocents in this world,” Talyn scoffed with typical teenage arrogance.
Now the elf just looked disappointed. “Well, one, since I or any other person I know could be targeted by you or your friends it rather is my business, and two, even if it were true that everyone else in the world were as bad or worse, it’s still no excuse for you to act like a… a jerk.”
A small smile began to creep onto Talyn’s face. A few moments ago she had actually been terrified of this, who now away from the flames she could see was just a typical very pale, pasty, fair-haired elfling and worse than that, a goody-two shoes. Even with all the magical power at her disposal, the blonde wasn’t going to raise a finger to Talyn, who for some reason she had decided she wanted to help. All of which meant, she could pretty much just walk away.
“Whatever girl,” Talyn smirked and waved dismissively. “Whatever promise you made a long time ago, that has nothing to do with me. So I’ll leave you to live your life, and I’ll live mine. Got it? Good.”
The fair elf frowned as the young woman brushed by her. “You think I won’t hurt you?” She said, sagging and then sighing, “you… you’re right. I wouldn’t.”
Talyn grinned and swaggered. Good girls were such push overs… but then she eeped and jumped back as a pillar of flame fell down striking the ground of her. The fire bird swooshed over head, perching itself in a high up branch and fixing the human with a predatory glare.
“Oh,” the elf murmured, “but he might…”
The blonde didn’t give Talyn any time to recover from her shock. She produced a cube from under her cloak, which she rolled along the ground like a dice. When it came to rest the sides split open, spreading themselves out along the ground then growing in size. The elf then twisted Talyn’s arm behind her back and forced the woman into the centre of the box. It wasn’t painful, but it was a firm, the elf having a strength she clearly could not have possessed naturally. The elf then raised her free fore arm, offering it as a perch for the phoenix who immediately flapped onto it. And with that, the sides of the cube raised themselves into the air, closing above and swallowing the trio.