Author Topic: Mask of the Exile  (Read 2306 times)

Offline Kulyok

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Mask of the Exile
« on: March 01, 2009, 01:15:45 PM »
"You are Irenicus. And all that awaits you is death."
"We shall see, my former love. We shall see !"
Ellesime and Irenicus, "Baldur's Gate: Shadows of Amn."

***

The Queen's palace was unusually quiet. Other than the monotone murmur of the fountains, there was no sound. No birds singing, no sounds of laughter coming from a regular feast, no annoying petitioners at the exuberant halls Stai Sil'lana was accustomed to visiting.

She looked out of the window. The Tree looked beautiful in any light, but this day the beauty was eerie, unwonted. The golden leaves fell, spinning in the air, not desiring to come down because there was no wind. Instead of a natural pale green the daylight was the colour of blood, and there were particles of dust dancing in the rays of light, something she was shocked to see. The very air of Suldanesselar was polluted.

Several days ago the meteor rain raged in the city, sweeping away the talans into oblivion, severing branches and cutting off whole sections of the city. But the palace was unscathed. Not a single statue was damaged, and the walls of light green marble remained untainted. Ellesime knows how to stay away, Stai thought bitterly. She is the cause and effect of everything, and yet she conceals herself in her private chambers, refusing to do anything. When she drags herself out at last, I fear his fate will be grave indeed.

She stopped at the door. "Chapel of Restoration". A fitting name. Chapel of Preservation, more like. There were no guards. There was no point.

The figure that was lying on the bed, head in the pillow, looked normal at first glance. The body was covered with a blanket, silvery white hair hanging loosely. Then she noticed that the hand, hanging out from under the blankets, was black and misshapen, and half of the fingers were missing. The hands... the only instrument of the magician. She blanched. Not that he'd need them anymore.

"What do you need here, girl ?"

The voice of her former teacher sounded so vividly real and unchanged that she turned around instinctively, half hoping to see him alive and well again, the familiar sneer on his face. Then she recollected the past events and smiled wryly. Hoping was no longer an option.

"I'm... I don't know myself why I'm here. To see if I can... no." Stai was aware that she was babbling, but she couldn't stop. "I couldn't... I just had to come. To know why all of that happened, if anything."

"You know it perfectly well, mageling. I will not have you here gloating at my failure. If you had at least a morsel of worth, you would stay away." There was a bitter chuckle. " Ah, I but I would certainly see you again at my execution. You and my other friends, enjoying the view. She would enjoy it as well, I'm sure."

"I will not." There was dark fire in her eyes now. "The Tree meant much to me, I can never forget that. But," she inhaled sharply, "the ties between the master and the pupil are inseverable. I'll do all I can to help you escape, if need be." Her own voice sounded false, even to her.

The figure in the bed moved. Stai knew exactly what happened to him, but still it had taken all her resolve not to recoil. A confused rush of voices stormed through her mind. The palace guards saw an explosion... Never had the time to get out of the fire, so both of my girls died... Burned like a torch, he did, his face was smoldering like a grill... Only the eyes were left, and nobody knew who he was...

"You know nothing of what you speak, girl. Your puny magic will not get you past the palace, and I haven't got the strength for the simplest of spells ! The power was mine to command and now," he chuckled again, "there is only death. And She will triumph again." He sank back to the pillows. Obviously the simplest of efforts was causing him pain.

She was ashamed of suggesting that, but she couldn't stand the thought of what happens if she didn't. The whole city, looking at his humiliation... Nobody deserves this. Death, yes, but not this. "There's something I've made during these days. It... can help." Averting her eyes, she extended her hand. A small rolled-up object lay in there.

"By the Nine Hells, girl, you could also bring me the some finer garments while you're at it ! Perhaps I should expect the executioner to show up next with a promise to sharpen the weapon, no ?" His laughter was hysterical. "I almost wish to live again. Almost. But my unfortunate sister and Her divine Majesty had made sure I don't."

The girl stayed silent, waiting for him to finish. Her hand trembled. At last he calmed down, the head lolling helplessly against the pillow. "You are more resourceful than I have thought. Yes, to die in shame, to let them see this... you have guessed right, girl."

"The Mercykillers say every man should be hung, even if he didn't do anything, because he would eventually," Stai smiled weakly. "Forgive me, Master. I'll leave the city as soon as I am able."

"Oh, I doubt you will." The cold satisfaction in his voice made her wince. "Ellesime will come to her senses soon. I doubt whether she would allow those she considers my confidants to go free."

Stai stood up. Her eyes closed as she tried to recite the poem all citizens of Suldanesselar knew by heart:

"From Corellan, all began. Rillifane grew
From the branches of Rillifane the Water flowed,
Granting life to the Tree
Suldanesselar owes all to the Tree."

She stopped at the doorway, her face grim. "Ellesime was never mentioned there. The divine blood does not grant divine wisdom, and I should know." The Bhaalspawn babies who were driven out of the city, her own friend, Alianna, who was forced to become an exile for life... No. She won't scare me into hiding. "I don't know what she intends to do, but once she makes a wrong move, I swear, some day I'll get her for that. Good... goodbye, Master Joneleth." She swiftly turned and left.

***


"...Three days later Ellesime announced her judgement. My 'sister' and I were brought to the temple of Rillifane by magical means. The lackeys never wanted to touch us. Obviously they still considered me a danger. Fools ! My condition was worsening with every hour, and if not for my 'punishment', I doubt I would be writing these words now.

No doubt Ellesime wanted me to be humiliated as well as tortured, but she was sorely disappointed on the matter. I was determined not to give her the pleasure, and as I recall the look in her eyes back then, I had succeeded. Joneleth she knew is dead, his face shattered behind the mask. From now on I am Irenicus, and that is only word of Espruar that would ever defile my tongue."

Excerpt from the journal of Jon Irenicus.