The caravan arrived into the city towards mid afternoon. The blazing heat of Lathanderâ€s light was baring down on him harder then it had in ages while farther north in the Nars. As the caravan traveled through he road along side, feeling the slight gait of his horse as he looked about. The city was large, especially by the sizes heâ€d seen of late, and the classes and separation was amazingly evident. At one moment heâ€d see disheveled commoners in nothing but rags and with hair caked in dust skittering about hoping to find a randomly dropped coin or perhaps an unaware noble. The next youâ€d see a finely groomed man in a garment worth more then the one before would have in his whole life. Behind him heâ€d be dragging along a slave or servant of some kind, typically carrying their purchases for the market, gods forbid a Thayan noble to have to bare his own load.
As they rode on into the center of the bustling metropolis he made his rounds, nodding and saying his goodbyes and handing the kid a small bag of coins to help on his hopes of finding his uncle. He chuckled slightly to himself and those hearing it mightâ€ve said it was a bitter chuckle, others that it mayâ€ve been one of relief. In either way he shook his head, trying to think if such a random act of kindness was simply a weakening of his resolve, of his training, or his life as this tool and the infiltration of his new life into his work or was it possibly just part of the faÃ§ade, of his character. He wasnâ€t sure, and after the small chuckle realized perhaps it was a question better left unanswered.
Looking around a bit he tried to decide exactly what his best course of action. He needed to track down his charge for one. That was going to be the hard part, if the woman was even alive that was. Hells, would he even be able to recognize her? Yes, he thought, and realized how foolish of a question that was. His memory has slipped some since leaving his job but still it was finely honed. Even more then that, ever since the start of the trip he began to relax into the familiar feeling, letting all the years of living and training as this machine he was go back over him once more. The skills came creeping back, the memory, the eye for detail.
Yes, he remembered her, though she would be a good bit older now. It had been over twenty years since he had saved that beautiful little girl as a favor for her father and mother, and now the little girl wishes to return the favor. But just the thought of that incident brought his mind back to his employer, if you could call it that. When he first saw her again after twenty years he was dumb struck. He always had joked she would grow up to be a beautiful stunning woman, and touched by Tymora, but he had never truly thought his path would pass with hers again. On the other hand, he knew, Lady Luck had an interesting sense of humor. He still couldnâ€t believe how taken he was by a woman he had known when she was but an infant, but yet he couldnâ€t help it. He mused a bit, realizing this must be the way elves feel when they may fall for a human lover.
Shaking his head roughly, brining him back out of his mind and into reality. â€œThis was not the time for musing on such pointless thingsâ€ he scolded himself mentally. He bit his lip slightly, reprimanding himself for the lack of discipline, but in his heart he was glad. Perhaps he may not be the professional he once was, but he realized that perhaps he has became much more human that he used to be as well. Either way he looked up and around, trying to gauge the situation when the simplest of answers hit him. When one needed information there was only one place to go, no matter what city.
He smiled broadly as he entered the inn, the Flaming Gullet, and over dramatically swept off his feathered hat to place it behind his back as he did an exaggerated bow to the first barmaid he saw. She gave a soft chuckle as his face was coming back up to bare with hers.
But he was looking past her, for this was all part of the game. His cold ice eyes scanned the room quickly as he made the bow, spotting those in the tavern. Two at the bar. A rather large bartender, middle aged, looks a bit flabby but walks with a bit of a hardness to him hinting at a possible adventurering life early on. A noble off near the fire chatting it up with two ladies, numerous glasses of wine around the table, seems like itâ€ll be an interesting night for them. A couple average patrons seated about. Your typical adventuring tight hiding away in the dark shady corner as always. Not to many here, but it was still early day. He gave a smirk, realizing this would be a fine place to at least get some beginning information, as he rose. And as his body rose and those darting eyes finished their scan he made certain to bring them back to center, for the next part of the game was on.
Coming back up his eyes locked on with the barmaids. Sixteen maybe, seventeen if sheâ€s lucky. Decent figure on her but nothing stunning, save for her large brown doe eyes. He concentrated on those as he gave a dashing smile that sent a small blush to the simple woman.
â€œI must say that it is a pleasure to have you as the first lady I meet since coming to this fare city. I couldnâ€t ask for a more beautiful lady to greet on arriving. Though all this travel has made my throat rather parched and my stomach a bit empty if you can understand madam. You wouldnâ€t happen to know where in this fine establishment I may be able to find a serving maid would you?â€ A simple bit of flattery, over the top and rather corny but strangely that seemed to work if you just needed a small bit of kindness. So many people in the world donâ€t get any kind of flattery, honest or fake, campy or normal, and so they take what they can get. He knew how such a common bar wench would take such language and words, knew it was all just part of the game, part of the lie. Yet for him, there was no feeling of guilt for giving the woman a false hope or perhaps lieing to her. From the moment he entered the bar, from the time he began this game, he was no longer himself. He was once more the machine, the tool, the one he was trained to be.
She smiled back to him, the blush rising largely. â€œWell..um..sir. I thank you for the kind words though Iâ€m not much of anything special you know. Iâ€m actually the serving maid in this bard to be fully truthful I am, so no need to be using such formal speech as madam for someone like myself sir. Though if youâ€d like I could get you that drink and meal. Rick in the back makes a great roast chicken and we got some wonderful taters in today. You go sit over there, Iâ€ll get you a drink in half a moment and the meal soon enough.â€ The whole time her voice was slightly fluttery, not quite sure what to say or react.
All this heâ€d seen before, he knew well. The hope in the eyes and the rise in the voice, the acts of kindness that will surely get her in trouble later for giving away such free food and drink, and the pain in her eyes later in the evening when she hopes heâ€ll stay and of course he canâ€t. All this he knew, and he pushed aside. Problems like that were normal, simple. He was taught that the pains of a day, a week, a month donâ€t matter. All pain will be gotten over, save for death, so hurt those you must to further your goals for they will forget it in no time.
He nodded his thanks, flashing another brilliant smile as he threw a few more simple compliments her way sending her skipping off to the back to procure his free roasted chicken and potatoes. He settled down into a seat towards the middle. Best seat in the house he always thought. He never did understand why so many adventurous types always wanted the dark shady corner. Calls all the attention to you and people naturally gravitate away. No, the middle is the best. The center of the bar, of the talk, of the action. A fine tuned ear can pick up each conversation, hear every rumor and tiding of afar that is spoken, and channel all in. Though in reality he had a few hours before his job picked up. Taverns are a nocturnal thing, and it was not till Seluneâ€s orb rose in the air that the game would begin once more. Till then he sat back waiting for his meal and conjuring a small rose under the table. The severing wench would be useful later tonight. Just a tool of a tool.
The candles and torches in the tavern lit up as the darkness of night started to drift in, as well as the numerous amount of patrons. He watched them all come in over his goblet of elven wine, the ice eyes studying each face. A few adventurerâ€s, some merchants or such, many commoners and a few typical tavern ruffians. He motioned the bar wench, molly, over. He gave a her hand a soft touch and motioned her down.
â€œMolly, I need you to do a favor for me. Its nothing to dangerous, but it could help greatly.â€ He whispered softly, gently biting along the rim of her ear just to assure her cooperation.
â€œOf courâ€¦mmâ€¦yes what would you need Zander. Iâ€ll help, even if it was dangerous Iâ€ll help.â€
â€œI know you would, but wouldnâ€t want to take the chance of getting such a charming lass like yourself hurt. Listen, Iâ€m here looking for a friend. Problem is I think he mayâ€ve gotten himself tied up in some problems with the Red Wizards in Thay or maybe some out abroad. Think you could just keep an open ear to the patrons tonight, let me know if you hear anything about such a thing.â€ Still keeping his voice low, eyes moving around at times, his tongue playing along her lobe. Not to much, needing to keep her attention, but playing her perfectly as heâ€s done so many times before. Machines do not know of guilt, or using others, they simply do as is needed.
â€œYes, I can do that. You hear all kinds of things when you serve people round here you do. No one takes much notice to a simple girl like me.â€ She said, slightly blushing and looking away at his touches.
â€œNonsense, theyâ€re just to blind to realize whatâ€s near them, but at least that will work to our advantage tonight. Now you should get going, there are a good bit of thirsty patrons about.â€ He gave her that same dashing smile, the whites of his teeth showing as she moved off back to her work.
The smile faded quickly, not completely but to a simple level. He kept his hat positioned nicely on his head but sat with his legs up on the table relaxed, giving him a slightly regal yet common look between the clothes and the position. His ears opened, listening, simply letting himself fall fully into the dance of the tavern.
Two tables away a couple was arguing. The woman had saw her lover kissing another woman on the street. He was telling her it was a misunderstanding, â€œit was just my, um, sister honey, youâ€re over reacting.â€ The woman wasnâ€t buying it, asking him why exactly he was sticking his tongue down his sisters throat. Interesting sisterâ€¦
Off in the corner the shady adventurer had now been joined by three other shady adventurers. Surprise surprise, they all had dark cloaks pulled up and were talking quietly. They were talking of a cave not to far, maybe a tendays away. Rumored to be the lair of a young red dragon, a pet of a local wizard. Of course they talked of stumbling in there after its gold and having the reputation of being dragon slayers, the pinnacle of adventurerâ€s. That shady corner would be filled by three other hapless, â€œmysteriousâ€, black cloaked travelers in a few tenday, once a dragon got a nice meal to sleep on.
A few tables away a few merchants talked low. If not for his highly trained ears of a bard he probably wouldnâ€t have heard their conversation. It was rumored a Zulkir was coming into the capital soon. Had some business he had to take care of. One of the merchants was hoping to possibly convince him to take his son to become a Red Wizard, the other was telling the man he may was well call forth a demon and barter his sons soul with it. Tuff words for a man in Thay, might have to keep a tab on that brown haired stocky dwarven merchant, could come in handy later.
All the time he simply sat, sipping quietly on the wine and listening. Enjoying the dance, feeling the exhilleration of once more playing this part, of doing the one thing that he truly feels comfortable doing. How easy it is to simply fall into the role set out for you. To be nothing more then what youâ€re told to be. No aspirations more then the goals set out for you. To do what you must, when you must, and move onto the next. No thinking, no pain, no hurt or emotions, just the job and the goals. However even as he realized how easy it was to slip back into it his heart beat against it, telling him to not fall back to fa-
â€œZander, I have something interesting for you.â€ The words interrupting his thoughts, breaking him away from them as she bent near him. A smile was on her face and she even managed to take the chance of a small kiss to his cheek. â€œIt seems that one of the Zulkirâ€s may be coming to town. Iâ€ve heard a few people talking about it. The head one they say of conjuration or transmutagen or some such thing. Never been good with all that magic talk and such, but thatâ€s a Red Wizard term isnâ€t it?â€
A thin smirk crossed his face. So the rumors of the Zulkir coming to town was right. He may be able to spin this into something good perhaps. Even if he can not find out information from the person perhaps slipping word of a renegade one to the Zulkir might at least cause a bit of mischief and problems for Maligor. Either way, that was secondary right now. He filed it away to the back of his head and patted Mollyâ€s hand, giving her a soft kiss on the neck then to the lips. â€œThat is indeed a Red Wizard term, thank you Molly. You mightâ€ve just helped me a lot by letting me know that.â€
She gave a big grin, her cheeks going rosey as she bent down low, moving right near his ear. â€œThereâ€s something else I would like to tell you, but I think perhaps it would be better said privately up in my room later tonight. Iâ€m in room six.â€
He gave her a smile and a nod, then simply set her on her way with a small movement of his hand along the curve of her backside. She went off with a smile, the heat rising in her body in anticipation. Sadly for Molly he would only be returning to the Flaming Gullet once more during his time in Thay, and the room he would be visiting would be four down from hers.
He was leaning back in his chair, enjoying the music of a bard that had recently arrived and the aroma of the tavern. He had what information he needed and continued to file away what he heard but was slowly letting the game end for the night, and simply relaxing. It was then that he heard a bit of commotion to his back left a bit. His head turned, eyes moving first. There he saw a small elven child from what the ears seemed, barely over seven human years old probably, arm deep in the pouch of one of the loud tavern brutes. The elf was tiny, her face and clothes covered with mud and grime, the tatters of her outfit barely covered her young body. Her black hair rolled down her black like the feathers of a raven, but in his blue eyesâ€¦no longer the cold eyes of the machine, not at the sight of this scene, but instead the cool eyes of a suicidal bardâ€¦all he saw was red hair on the elf.
The brutes hands were on the girl, grabbing and swinging her about. He was out of his chair now moving. He saw the thug grab her, yelling at her and motioning for his buddies. The saber was free from the scabbard and He was still moving forward. He watched the large man start to shove the girl under the table, laughing with his friends, demanding a bit of compensation as he was pulling a bit of the front of his pants down as a joke. That was when the brute felt the cold steel of a saber lift up his chin and pull him onto his tip toes, the razor edge of it against his adamâ€s apple as his two buddies looked over in suprirse as how fast the swashbuckler moved.
â€œBuddy this ainâ€t your business, get you damned sword off my throat.â€
â€œYouâ€re not in the right place to be making demands friend. Let go of the gi-â€œ His ears perked, sound of metal from the sheath from behind. He flicked his wrist, releasing the tight press against the throat and bring the saber up to slam flat blade against the first Brutes nose. He spun his body, bringing the saber around and down, swatting away the dagger thrust that was coming from behind. While in the spin his left hand slipped down, pulling forth the dirk and while coming up from his sheath the fine blade skipped against the inside of the dagger wielders arm, slicing a tendon causing him to cry in pain as the dagger fell out of his hand.
He knew he couldnâ€t kill these fools, would only get him in hot water. He needed to find a way to escape. He quickly looked to the little elf, motioning her to run while they were concentrating on him. He caught the brutes friend on the right, a short stocky man with a mace, out of the corner of his eye. The dirk went up, parrying the mace away as he lunged forward, slamming the hilt of the saber into the ridge of his nose, sending the stocky man tumbling back to the ground. He ducked then, spinning on his feet as the first brute came on once more. The thug swung wildly and over the ducking dualist and then felt a sting as the sabers flat smacked against his ass followed by an elbow to the back of his head as the swashbuckler rose. He saw the thugs other friend come now, sweeping low with a blade. Khopesh. Must be a Mulhurandi. No time to think though, He flipped back then causing the sweep to miss and landing on the table. Looking up he found his escape. Leaping up he grabbed onto the wooden chanaller above the table. The four thugs came on but not before he put himself into motion. Swinging his bodies weight he set the thing in motion, sending it closer to the banister allowing him to flip up and grab a hold, climbing up to the second floor. The four thugs were on the move though, heading up the stairs after him. He looked right, saw the doors on his side, and busted in. The hardness of the oak wood stung his shoulder as he connected but it buckled under the strike and he ran in.
The thugs barreled up the stairs and ran for the door, blood lust in their eyes. The original one in the lead as they made it through the open portal. Their eyes scanned the room but there was no sight of their pray. From a corner a man spoke up. Draped in red robes from head to toe with a dark hued skin, they realized the folly of running in here.
â€œCould you tell me why I have numerous twits bursting into my room when Iâ€m trying to rest! First the one goes bursting in and leaping out of my window and now you four bafoons come in here full of blood and sweat and befouling my room with your stench. Leave before I roast the hides of all four of you!â€
The four back off at this, the sight of the red wizard and the threat of the magic taking some of their bravado out. They headed back down, figuring their pray was long gone. The first one muttered, having missed out on the chance for some fun with a young whore and the killing of some pansy assed noble in his mind. Its to bad the four of them were a bit more intelligent. They wouldâ€ve realized there were no glass shards on the ground near the window, that it wasnâ€t even opened. They also wouldâ€ve realized no red wizard would lower himself to stay in such a sleezy bar as this.
The Red Robed man lowered the cowl of his robe, revealing a dull grey headband. He concentrated and the red robes shifted to the blue and gold, leather and cloth outfit and cape, and the headband to the wilding flamboyant feathered hat. He gave a small smirk as he tied a rope into the window and headed down. No, harming those four in this persona wasnâ€t good, nothing but problems would come from thatâ€¦
Later that night a beautiful woman entered the bar. She came in to find those same four thugs sitting at a table, nicely drunk with numerous flagons of ale all around. The large one had his bravado back from the liquid courage and was talking how he wouldâ€ve â€œkilled that noble pansy deadâ€ if he hadnâ€t ran in terror like he did. He then began talking about how heâ€d have to hunt down that elven child and get his repayment still. The woman walked up with a smile looking down.
â€œElven child. I would think a large strong man like yourself would want a woman that had a bit moreâ€¦experienceâ€¦to herâ€ She gave a wry smile, seductive as she traced a hand down along her body.
The drunken thugs eyes lit up a bit and he smirked, nodding in agreement. The woman chatted with him for a short time, though much time was not needed before they headed up to the rooms, room 102 to be exact. The thugs friends were having a good time, joking as his friend went up. That was until shortly after the door closed they heard a scream that would wake the dead from their rest, high pitched and full of agony.
They watched the woman move out of the room, a thin smirk on her face as she headed down the steps. The didnâ€t notice the twin daggers at her side, one of which dripping with blood. They didnâ€t hear the cries of their friend still upstairs. All they were aware of was the cold dead blue eyes regarding them from the ladies face, almost as if in warning, before she moved out of the bar.
They later discovered when they went to check on their friend that there would be one less brutish male able to add to the gene pool.
Part II: Troll Rot
She limps towards her prey, pulling a blade as she closes on his body. She is still on guard, but she doesn't see the thing's chest rising or falling. She plunges the slim blade into it's other eye… the yellow orb now staring lifelessly toward the sky. She takes the blade and snicks off it's bat-like ear. She strings it on her necklace and leaves the oldest one on the blackguard's chest.
Only then does she blink hard a few times. Her eyes will not clear. She squints at the gash at her leg. She sits down heavily and looks it over. There is a strange odor to it. She clambers over to his axe and sniffs the blade. There is a thick liquid on the edge. This is not good. The wound will not seal. She tries everything. The drink she buys from the god man in the town. The moss that her people use to staunch wounds. Nothing... the red flows slowly from her and the edges of the wound grey and fester before her eyes.
The beast may kill her yet. She needs help. She rummages through her back and pulls out a small wooden vile. She drinks the thich thick sap carefully. Her heart slows.. the treant sap will slow the poison. She need her pack brothers and sisters. They will know what to do.
It is like moving through a thick fog. Her concious thought slowly slip from her as her body continues. Each step pumps more of her life through the wound. Her instincts take over and she is near invisible as her pixie blood reacts to the danger and forces her body to hide. Day to night. Night to day.
Approaching the crevase that leads to the vale of the Wolves, she is in a walking trance. She does not see the Eastlander heretic until it is almost too late. His back to her, he watches the entrance to her home. He must die if she is to make it to her friend. Automatically she draws an arrow to her bow and lets fly. It pierces his leg in a scream. He spins and her second arrow ricoches off his shield. She throws her bow down as he rushes her. As she pulls her blade he screams out a word and she feels his dark lord crush her remaining strength. But he is distracted in the calling and her blade fits neatly in the center of his throat. They both fall.
Panting... she crawls to the crevase. Up the narrow path to the thich gate in the rock canyon. Darkness fills her eyes. She fumbles and finds the tooth. Slips it into the lock and the door creaks open. She moves without vision or thought. She hears voices, but she does not know them... or maybe... she does. Then nothing.
The two elven men speak in hushed tones. One with anger, the other... soothing.
Too be continued when I get home…