Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Categories

Axis & Allies 1942 Online is now available in Early Access! Buy it on Steam. The FAQ is available.
New Premium Module: Tyrants of the Moonsea! Read More
Attention, new and old users! Please read the new rules of conduct for the forums, and we hope you enjoy your stay!

BG Prequel: Moonlight Murder

NaveenNaveen Member Posts: 81
The idea behind this began as a writing exercise. I choose a video, scene or even just a screenshot from a video game and I try to “translate” it into prose; and then I add to it or modify whatever I think will make it better (background, more or less dialogue, etc). Like an “image really is worth 1000 words” exercise. Being a Baldur’s Gate fan the scene to choose is obvious: the intro. However, my interest wasn’t really just that, but to write the backstory to a –if you think about it- odd scene. What was that guy, armored (though apparently not battered) but without weapons, doing in the Iron Throne building, why is he fleeing up and not down? Does Sarevok sleepwalk in that thing or what? That’s what the story tries to describe and explain.

The title says it is a prequel because while thinking about it I began to think how to continue it. It is, after all, a crime scene and that demands a noir and hardboiled criminal investigation. I don’t think many people may be interested in a 1000 page walkthrough where I describe every tiny detail, but a bunch of short stories about what happened between the intro and the beginning of the game? That… perhaps. Also, it is called “Moonlight Murder” because “Murder in Baldur’s Gate” already exists as a D&D module, there is a moon, and I’m terrible with titles.

I’ve only changed one thing: the man doesn’t wear a helmet in my history. Everything that happens before the video is from my own imagination. The story is somewhat long (2700 words) so I’ve halved it so you don’t have to read it in one chunk. Criticism (better if they are about particular problems) about whatever you like, grammar, syntax, pacing, whatever, is encouraged.

--------------------------------------

Part 1.

Sidon of Darromar sat comfortably on the couch, sipping the thayan wine and leaning back, effortlessly posing as a man who had grown too fond of his reflection. He was fully armored except for a helmet, and his rough appearance stood out from the rest of the stylish candlelit room and its occupants. He was a warrior -had always been one-, a mercenary leader, and he delighted in showing it off.

The scion of a disgraced and once-mighty family, he’d had to endure as a child the humiliation and injustice of seeing his peers of a former lesser standing sneer at him. They had mocked and insulted him for the sins, treachery and failings of his progenitors as if they had been of his own doing. Even as a youngster his wrath had grown quickly (although in an unfocused and explosive way), directed to other children, to his family, and to himself. Years later, when he found a greater purpose, all that suffering only made the revelation of his true origins and birthright much sweeter.

By revealing the truth to him, the wandering old priest had liberated him from the shackles of his “father's" blood and its shame. The priest had not promised him empty illusions, phantoms and dreams of a long-lost past like the ones his mother had desperately embraced till his dying breath. No, he had only told him the truth, what he had always sensed as an unavoidable conviction. He had told him greatness was inside him, that it was destined for him. He didn't ask for anything in exchange, but he did want proof of his strength: a sacrifice.

Ten days after that, the body of the cruelest of his tormentors was found, his head dashed against the rocks of a waterfall. Nobody knew for certain, nobody could prove anything, but after that day Sidon wasn't mocked again.

"Candlekeep, you say?"

That had been asked by one of Rieltar's representatives and lieutenants. Diyab, if he remembered correctly, was his name. Sidon didn't actually care. They were all faceless and backstabbing bureaucrats from the Iron Throne mercantile guild.

"Yes, the fortress library," Sidon said. "it is isolated, the monks keep to themselves, and it should not be the source of any direct danger, but there lies the problem. By ignoring it now, it may grow into something more dangerous in the future, and then it could become an unassailable stronghold, a headquarter of sorts. The keep should be infiltrated before anyone realizes there is something amiss along The Coast Way."

The lieutenants showed a modicum of interest for the advice but didn't answer for a very long time.

"How do you propose to do that?" The same man asked at last. "You are a Tethyrian, you are far away from your kingdom and we are not sure you understand the difficulties involved in the plans you conceive so easely. In any event, we shall assume you want to be in charge of that hypothetical undertaking?"

"If that is what the Guild decides, yes. I'll be honored." Said Sidon. "My warriors and agents have been trained for this kind of operation. They are also more subtle in their methods than other more... unsavory mercenary groups."

His boast was met with amused interest though they knew he was right. However, it was not that difficult to be more subtle than The Chill or the Black Talons, one a gang of subhuman monsters, and the other a company of militarized highway robbers. The lieutenants then conversed a little among themselves.

Sidon wasn't only interested in the secrets Candlekeep hoarded. Alaundo's prophecies were there, but there was more to it than just that. They were, indeed, a necessary step to his vital ambition, but if he could also replace the Chill or Black Talons as Rieltar's principal enforcers... well, 'two dragons with one stone' as the halflings say. That influence would give him invaluable access to the Iron Throne's assets, leaders and to its imposing network of informers and agents. With all that at his disposal, he knew he would find his real family soon. But then, what would he do? The information he had discovered until then was, at best, flimsy and confusing, but he already suspected it had to end in bloodshed.

One of the lieutenants, a wiry old man, interrupted Sidon's musings."You know Candlekeep is not a place one can just enter and rob at one's pleasure." The man was Winski Perorate, a powerful gray eminence if the rumors Sidon had heard were true. Though exactly what was his function in the Iron Throne, nobody knew.

"I am aware of that." Said the offended mercenary leader. "Let me show you something."

With a haughty waving of his armored hand, Sidon called his secretary, Daan. The young and nervous man had been standing near the entrance, by the open door, holding the precious packet and trying to look as if he had not heard the whole conversation. He gave it to his master and then sat uncomfortably at his side. Sidon unwrapped the packed and showed its content, a brittle little book, to Winski. He read the curious title.

"<<Plants, herbs and mushrooms from the mysterious East. From Kara-Tur to Kozakura. A translation of the original oriental book>>? Ah, yes. Sarevok might like this one." Added the old man, mostly to himself.

For that commentary and for some reason Sidon didn't understand (nor cared), the other person in the room, a striking woman named Cythandria, glanced at Winski with patent and piercing hostility.

"It should work." Continued Winski, unaware or uninterested in the woman's reaction. "The sages and scholars of Candlekeep gather such odd books as if their lifes depended on it. From where did you get it? You know, I do not want to know." He said, realizing there were a few bloodstains on some pages. "We'd better clean this a bit. Now... you see, we may have a problem about your whole project."

Winski drummed on the table with his fingers and whispered something incomprehensible. Sidon felt a piercing and electrical pain behind his eyes, like a sudden and acute headache; he attributed it to that horrible wine and so many sleepless nights being haunted by nightmares. He repeatedly blinked, trying to dispel the foggy sensation in his mind.

He could not point it out, but something had changed in just an instant. For the first time, Sidon felt the darkness that surrounded him. He saw that only a lone candle lit the room, although he was sure there had been more when he had first entered. Behind him, rain pattered dolefully and rhythmically against the window panes, the sound only interrupted by the blinding light and thunder of a sudden storm.

Sidon put down the wine glass and, following old instincts, slowly drew his hand to his sword. His mind felt hazy and violent, as it had been in his younger days.

Winski squirmed in his chair. "We are sorry, but we can't approve this Candlekeep operation."

He heard those words, but they hardly made an impression on Sidon's dazed mind. His eyes were fixed beyond them, outside the room, at a figure visible through the open door. There, on a barely illuminated pedestal, stood an enormous suit of black armor; he did not remember having seen it before when he had entered the room that night or when he had called for Daan. It looked as though it had been crafted for a demon more than for men, and the firmness with which it stood hinted at some living presence inside it. He actually felt it. He felt a baleful thing gazing at him from inside the open jaw of its skull-like helmet.

He began to doubt his own senses. He closed his eyes and pressured his temples. To his dismay, the menacing armor suit was still there when he looked again, although less 'alive' and threatening than before. Sighing heavily, Sidon forced himself to look at Winski again and to resume the conversation.

"Why... why I'm not allowed to?" He managed to ask. "It will be a silent and precautionary operation. Spying, subversion, and disinformation will be the goal, that's..."

Winski raised one hand. "No, you do not understand. We would quickly accept your proposal if it had come from any other source. In fact, we'll probably put it into operation ourselves, but you will not enter Candlekeep. We are worried about your... ancestor and what you intend to do there. Also, you look very ill."

Sidon didn't even hear the last sentence. The realization they knew about his true family, and most likely about his intentions and why he had been trying to infiltrate the Iron Throne, awakened him from his stupor. Furious and desperate like a cornered animal, Sidon rose up from the couch and draw his sword, pointing aimlessly at them.

"What game are you playing?" Sidon screamed.

The three were all unfazed. Winsky smiled at him.

JuliusBorisov

Comments

  • NaveenNaveen Member Posts: 81
    Part 2

    "There is no game here, we are all friends." Said Winski, moving his fingers under the table in strange patterns and looking at him between the eyes. Cythandria was also doing similar movements and she mouthed every word the man was saying.

    "You are free to go." Continued the old man. "But you are not going to Candlekeep. It's too dangerous for you, imagine what could happen to you if they discover what you are. Leave this problem to us and we will inform you about our discoveries. Go home and don't worry, let your assistant help you. You have worked too much and you deserve resting."

    To Sidon, the last two sentences looked like the most sensible thing he had ever heard, and they appeared to him as a command of irresistible logic. True, they had discovered his secret but they didn't seem to care and were, after all, his friends. They were protecting him from potential threats. He had been foolish to even contemplate such a risky project, and he realized all would be better if they did the field work. Satisfied by his own reasoning and cunning, he sheathed his sword.

    "Then I think this is settled" Said Sidon, entirely unaware of the confusion inside his own mind. "Daan, let's go."

    Without saying anything or commenting the odd situation, the assistant rose up. Then, during a sudden flash of lightning, the mercenary leader saw the face of his assistant. Paler than usual, his eyes looked at him with uncommon intensity. His eyes were blue, or should have been because the right one was then yellow and its pupil writhed playfully and unnaturally.

    "What?" Asked Daan with a disarming smile, his eye turning instantaneously back to normal.

    Something burst inside Sidon's mind, something he had not felt since his first murder. Still working through the maze of what he then assumed had been drugs and infernal magics, his paranoid mind awakened into a twisted reality. He didn't know how or why but he had accepted a lot of rubbish during the whole conversation. Not only that, he had somehow agreed to hand over much of his responsibilities to his weak-willed assistant. Or to some fiend that looked like him.

    "What? We should be going, you need to rest..." Said again, a bit nervously this time.

    "Sorcery..." Muttered Sidon, his sanity beginning to slip. "After all we have shared... You lying creature! How long have you all being manipulating me?"

    He did not wait for an answer. Howling madly, Sidon drew his sword and rammed it into the chest of his companion. There was no flare of wiggly light nor a luminous sign, nothing to point at a curse dispelled or to allay his troubled mind. His life quickly fading, Daan's eyes looked at him, confused and scared as any mortal eyes. Panic-stricken and rambling, Sidon rushed out of the room, shoving everything that stood in his way. Nobody followed him.

    The haunted warrior had already left the room when a harrowing scene halted his flight. Looking down at him, the hulking black armor stepped from the pedestal and uttered a resounding burst of laughter. A sudden lightning dispelled the darkness and for an instant Sidon saw a humanoid face inside the helmet's maw. Then, dark once more, its eyes appeared, giving off a deep and unholy golden glow. Sensing his intentions, the thing sidestepped slowly and blocked Sidon's path. He stumbled and fell to the ground, but the creature stood there, just looking at him. He didn't have the time nor the lucidity to think about its reasons, he just fled in the opposite direction, being closely followed by the creature's mocking laughter.

    The armored Sidon of Darromar kept running. The clangor of his hurried flight resonated throughout the whole building. Searching for a way down to his men he found the stairs, but he did not find his soldiers but figures wearing his own smiling face. They drew their weapons -though they didn't attack him- and threatened him with them, cursing him with his own voice, saying things only his men would have known. The warrior fled from the nightmarish shapes and ran all the way up the stairs. Glancing back for an instant, he saw the armored thing running, getting closer. He went up -he didn't know for how many floors-, and sprinted almost to the point of collapse. At the top he found at last a rickety old door and opened it. He was on the roof of the Iron Throne building, without any visible escape and overlooking the whole city of Baldur's Gate.

    The rain had already stopped and only lightning, thunder, and the full moon were there to greet him. No other living being was near and the whole city was sleeping or hiding from the storm. The damp air helped him to free his mind from the horrors he had felt and seen inside, but his body gave in. He thought about his sword... but he had left it on his friend's chest. Exhausted and broken, he fell to his knees.

    A creaky thump sounded behind him. He looked back and the door burst open, shattered into pieces. In came the yellow-eyed demon, bending its figure so it could pass through the opening. The moonlight exposed its features and for the first time Sidon clearly saw there was a man inside the demonic armor. That did not give him solace nor hope.

    Cowering with fear as he had never felt, the mercenary leader dragged himself backward along the ground.

    "No... you can't." Begged Sidon, moving away from him.

    "I will be the last..." The armored man said with a booming voice, his glowing eyes standing out in the darkness. "And you will go first."

    Then Sidon understood. He had heard that sentence before, or at least something similar. In his feverish dreams the Voice had said the same, 'I will be the last... and they will go first.' He had never known who the voice was, nor what it meant, but he had foolishly assumed the 'I' was, somehow, himself. Now he knew that was not true.

    He also knew what his pursuer was. He knew he had been played. All the information he had gathered, they knew it already or, worse, he had given it to them. How long had his "assistant" been feeding them information? How many of his men, if they were still men, had been working for them?

    "There are others... I can show you! Please... Please!" He begged in a last attempt, although there was little he knew that his pursuer did not.

    Sidon's back touched a low wall and he pushed himself up against the grating. The man, for then he saw the man inside the iron maw and realized who he was, hit him in the face with his armored fist. When Sidon regained consciousness, his foe gripped him by the throat with one hand and lifted him from the floor. Then, he dashed his hapless body against the fence until it broke. He laughed mockingly, holding him over the city streets below.

    The mercenary tried to speak, to breath, to beg for his life, but couldn't do any of those things. He weakly hit and punched his murderer's arm, but that also proved futile. Of his own weight, his neck began to snap, but finally the armored being broke it with a crushing and quick grip. With a roaring cry, he threw the mangled corpse over the smashed railing and waited there long enough to see it crash against the cobbled street. A perfect sacrifice to prove his strength.

    Sidon had been the first, but there were many more to fall.
































    JuliusBorisov
  • NaveenNaveen Member Posts: 81
    This text is the proper prequel (its first chapter anyway). I have written it in the first person (like a remembrance), an odd choice for fantasy novels, and that creates a few curious jumping tenses, but I think nothing too jarring nor (I hope) erroneous. I forgot to say that I'm not a native English speaker.

    ____________________________

    Chapter 1.

    Norchapel air was hot and damp, a singularly cruel punishment after the sleepless and stormy night I had endured. I fled from shadow to shadow until I saw a food stand with a huge parasol. I hid under it for a short respite, but that didn't help much; not very surprising considering food was being cooked there. I got a handkerchief from my military vest -a memento of my more professional days- and furiously mopped my face and neck.

    “Sir, sir! Soldier, soldier!” Called a high-pitched voice close to me.

    It had come from the happy and well-fed female gnome working at the stand. Unlike everybody else she didn't seem to be about to melt, which was amazing considering her face was just above boiling cauldrons and frypans. Also, she had mistaken me for something I wasn’t anymore, but I didn’t correct her.

    "A fair fee for our friends and the fine folk from the Flaming Fist! Half price for two.” She said, waving at me the somethings-on-a-stick she was selling to passersby.

    I chuckled a little at that sales pitch, but I willingly fell for it and bought a pair of skewers.

    “Excuse, but Baledar’s house is over there, right?” I asked her, pointing in a random direction.

    At first she looked offended, as if I had assumed (in a way, I did) that because she was a gnome and short she had to know about every shorty in town. She quickly regained her usual smiling self and, in any event, hid any misgivings about me.

    “No, no. It’s over there.” She pointed at a house near the walls of Little Calimshan. “See that little fountain? Well, then take a left and follow the calishite wall. It’s the sixth house and the biggest one too. It also has a dog’s head by the door.”

    “A dog’s head?” I asked.

    “Yes. Not real, mind you. It’s a painting, like a… silhouette. It’s the symbol of his religion, or so I've been told.”

    “Interesting,” I said without lying since I didn't know much about my new potential client. “Is he some priest? What else do you know about him?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know, doesn’t seem like a typical priest to me and if he has a temple, it must be a little one. He mostly keeps to himself and rarely leaves the house. There are also many people by his house even late at night; he seems important for the halfling-folk around here. Although many of them, when they are waiting by his house, look sad.”

    “Sad? Like… beaten, anxious or mourning?”

    She looked at me, puzzled.

    "I mean, do they look like they have lost a fight, like they are about to lose one, or like they are mourning for their sons who have in fact died in a fight?"

    “Now that you mention it, sir... I'd say it is the last one."

    I nodded. At least that ruled out Baledar being some thug or common crime boss. Loan shark was still a possibility, though.

    "Is he in trouble?” Asked the gnome.

    “Certainly not.” I lied. Nobody ever needed me unless he was in trouble. “But we heard he may be able to help us with an investigation. Regardless, you have been very helpful. Here’s a tip for your kindness and excellent food."

    We said goodbye to each other, but I could almost sense her suspicious gaze drilling my neck. Or perhaps it was just the sun. In any case, I ignored it and gulped the chicken-looking food. Surprisingly, it was delicious, but it certainly wasn't chicken.

    Halflings are not known for being punctual or worrying much about such issues. As long as one doesn't rudely interrupt their lunch, it doesn't matter that much whether one arrives on time or two hours later. Therefore, I decided to stroll a bit and enjoy the view since, as a city-dweller baldurian, I had lived almost all my life in the city proper. The outskirts were by then still mysterious and mostly unknown to me, except for a few places I knew well for the raids I had done when I was with the Fists.

    The outskirts spread like a thin and hooked comet's tail, from the Basilisk Gate to the imposing Wyrm's Crossing above the Chiontar River. Longer than Baldur's Gate itself, it was (and still is) a place of taverns, inns, peddlers, merchants and con artists, all living thanks to the constant influx of people who had to pass through there to get to the city. Recent immigrants, those who could not afford the rising house prices, and the occasional reclusive noble also lived there.

    After an hour of wandering, haggling for useless junk I didn't need and didn't even buy, and then looking at some nice calishite dancers, I finally went to Baledar's house. As the gnome had said, there were many people near it. Most of them were wasting time at the benches, smoking, chatting and playing games, but a few were waiting to enter, forming a line near the door. 'Sad' was not the word I would have used to describe them, but it was true there was a certain gravitas about everything they did (even if just waiting).

    Of course, everybody looked at me as if I was an escaped zoo animal, and I realised I was the only non-halfling in the vicinity. I stood still, too self-conscious to move. I probably would have been more resolute even if I'd had to enter a troll's stinking cave.

    I assumed someone had seen my uneasiness because I was approached by two sturdy halflings. One of them gave me a surprisingly strong and painful handshake.

    "You must be Milo." The same one said while I stretched my crushed fingers. "Baledar is inside. You can enter, and mind the lintel." He said, pointing at my head and then at the door at Baledar's. They did not follow me.

    Bowing down, I entered the house, feeling helpless as if I had just entered the castle of an exotic, distant and all-powerful king. In fact, if someone had wanted to chop off my head, that would have been the ideal moment.

    JuliusBorisov
Sign In or Register to comment.