Author Topic: Life During Wartime  (Read 5279 times)

Offline Perdita

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Life During Wartime
« on: May 02, 2004, 08:40:49 PM »
Here is Chapter One of what is going to be a long story.  I hope you enjoy it enough to stick through to the end.  I’ve been working on this so long, that I’ve seen other stories with similar themes come and go.  Oh well.
I’ve put up a couple of other stories, but this one better reflects my usual writing style, for better or worse.  All comments are welcome, especially constructive criticism.
Thank you for reading.


  Life During Wartime : Perdita Waits Out the Siege of Saradush
A Baldur’s Gate II : Throne of Bhaal Adventure 
 

Chapter One

“Anomen, honey, wake up.  You’re having a nightmare.”  I shook him again, harder this time.  He was thrashing around in a cold sweat.  Suddenly he sat bolt upright and made a warding gesture.
     “Away, foul fiend.  I’ll not truck with your kind.”  Then he fell back down, muttering.
     “Hey, I’m supposed to be the drama queen here.”
     The room shook as another firebomb hit close by.  The bombardment of Saradush by the fire giants had continued all night.  Between the strikes and Anomen’s restlessness, I wasn’t getting a wink of sleep.
     I couldn’t let him keep me up all night.  I needed my beauty rest.  I stood next to the bed, trying to come up with a plan.  I picked up the ewer of wash water, then realized if I did that I’d have to sleep in a wet bed, too.  A spell, maybe.
     I put my hands palms together, and slid them across each other, while saying the words of Burning Hands.  Just a little warmth would be sure to get him awake. 
     I leaned over Anomen and put my flaming hands lightly on his shoulder.  Unfortunately, I guessed wrong, and got way too much heat.  He came awake and leaped away as if—well, as if burned.
     “Who attacks me?”  His eyes were angry, but at least he was free of the nightmare.
     I put my hands behind my back, but since I wasn’t wearing any clothes and my hands touched my own bare skin, that wasn’t a good idea.  Then I hid my hands in the bedclothes.  Maybe I could bluff my way out of this one.
     “Perdita, what is going on?”  Anomen had immediately sprung from bed.  He grasped the Flail of Ages and the Delryn family shield before putting on a stitch of clothes.  It was a delightful picture.
     “It’s nothing, honey.  Just some shrapnel from the fire giants.  Are you hurt?”  I would have gone to him, but I didn’t want him to see my hands.
     His stance relaxed, and I saw his gaze shift to the bed.  “My love, the bed is afire.”
     “Ack!”  I pulled my hands out of the sheets and jumped back, stumbling over our discarded clothes and one of my harps, and fell hard on my backside.  A wisp of smoke curled up from the bed.  Anomen tamped the fire out with his shield.  Anomen looked at me and my glowing hands, waiting for my explanation.  My familiar Bad Kitty stood next to him, also waiting for an explanation, indignation plain in the curve of his back and the switching of his tail.
     “It was that piece of shrapnel.  I was looking for it.  Thank the gods you got the fire out, honey.”
     “Have you tired of me so soon, my love, that you seek to incinerate me whilst I sleep?”  He reached out a hand and, grasping my arm above the wrist, he helped me to my feet.
     “I was just trying to wake you up.  You were having that nightmare again.”
     He scowled, but I knew he was afraid.  “Why must I suffer these phantoms?  When will I be released from their importuning?”
     “It was a traumatic experience for you, being turned into a vampire.  You can’t just brush that aside as if it was nothing.”
     “I was not completely transformed.”  He always made sure to add that.
     He wasn’t going to like what I had to say next, so I used unfair tactics.  My hands had cooled.  I put my arms around his waist—surprisingly slender for a man so large—and rubbed my cheek against his chest.  “Maybe it would help you to talk it out with someone.”
     “I talk to you, my love.”  His arms were around me and he kissed the top of my head.
     “Someone objective, someone who can step aside and see all sides of the problem.”
     “Did you have someone in mind?”
     His lips were moving down the side of my face.  Just as they met my mouth, I said, “Yes, I think it might help if you talked to Edwin—”
     He released me and backed away from me.  “That, that petty conjurer!  He’s—”
     “He’s a Necromancer, actually.”
     Anomen ignored my interruption.  “That pompous windbag.  That charlatan.  Perdita, why would you suggest such a thing?”
     “He’s so intelligent, and well-read.  I’m sure if there’s a cure for your, uh, your nightmares, he will have heard of it.”  I put my hands on his chest.  “Please, Annie sweetie, please at least say you’ll think about it.  I hate to see you tortured like this.”
     He covered my hands with his and kissed them.  “All right, if it is that important to you, I’ll at least think about it.  Now, let’s see what damage you’ve done to the bed.”
     The bedding was merely scorched.  Anomen turned back the sheets and grinned.  “Let us try a less destructive method to set the sheets aflame.”

#

     Later, I woke up to hear him getting dressed.  The flares from the fire giants’ missiles still glared against the night.
     “Where are you going, honey?”  As if I didn’t know.
      “I’m sorry, Perdita, I tried not to wake you.  I can’t sleep.  I’m going to the Temple.  I’ll be more useful there now than I will be tomorrow if I’ve spent a wakeful night tossing and turning.”
     He meant that damned Temple of Waukeen, where he was helping the priestess Farielle heal the wounded and care for the war refugees.  The beautiful blonde, blue-eyed priestess Farielle with a bust that looked like a mountain range compared to my foothills.
     “You’ll exhaust yourself, honey.  I could try a Sleep spell.”
     “You know how I feel about artificial sleep aids.”  He leaned over the bed and kissed me on the forehead.  “You get some sleep, my dear.  I’ll see you later.”  He drew the door closed gently behind him as if I was already asleep.
     Well, at least one of the things keeping me awake was taken care of.  Only, now I didn’t want that beauty rest quite so much.

#

     The sun woke me later when a chance ray made it through the smoke to enter my bedchamber.  We’d been here so long that I was learning to sleep through the bombardment.  Too long.  It was time to move on, but we had unfinished business before we could cross this burg off our to-do list.  Problem was, none of us seemed to know what the unfinished business was.
     I dressed and went downstairs to the common room to get some breakfast and/or lunch.  Sarevok and Valygar were at a table.  Valygar, usually so, well, dull, was talking animatedly to a bored-looking Sarevok.  I sat across from the Eyeless One next to Valygar.
     “If it takes twenty-four arrows from the Mana Bow kill one giant, and my rate of fire is two arrows a minute, that means I can…”
     I tuned him out.  Val could go on like this all day.  Rate of fire, severity of injury, it all made my head hurt.  “Where’s everyone at, guys?”
     Sarevok’s deep voice rumbled through my body.  “Korgan is playing nine-pins with the locals, and Edwin is trying to convince Lazarus to sell him a few scrolls.  I don’t think that I need tell you where Wonder Boy is.”
     “Yeah, I can guess.”  Oh, that voice.  Anomen gave it to me good, no complaint there, but Sarevok made me shiver.  Thank the gods he’d never made a move, or I was a goner.
     “What’s for breakfast, or lunch?”
     “They’ve run out of almost everything, but if you’re lucky, you might get some porridge.”
     I finally got the attention of the waitress, and she brought me a pint of ale and a bowl half-filled with a gray gluey substance.  I stuck my spoon in it, and the spoon stood straight up.  Sarevok’s reverberating laugh filled my ears.  “Oh, don’t worry about me.  You got something to eat.  Why should you care what I have.”  I flicked the spoon’s handle with a finger and it barely moved.  Sarevok laughed louder.  I shoved the bowl away and pulled my pint closer.  “We need to get out of here.”
     “Say the word, and we are gone.  We serve at your command.”
     “If it were that easy.  There’s something we have to do before we can leave.”
     Valygar said, “We can go to your pocket plane at any time.”
     My pocket plane was a little space in Hell that I had supposedly created unconsciously as a safe haven by the force of my will.  But if it came out of my head, why did it look like a decorator’s nightmare?  “But where from there?”  I sighed.  “We’re trapped between that hell-hole and this gods-forsaken pit.” And there wasn’t a decent place to shop between them.
     “What keeps us bound here, my lady?”  Sarevok often did that to me, calling me “my lady” in imitation of Anomen.  He knew it drove me crazy.  I stuck my tongue out at him.  “What task remains undone?”
     That was the problem, I wasn’t sure.  “We have to…”  This was ridiculous.  I was the leader—I couldn’t afford to sound unsure.  “The fire giants must be defeated.  We have to do that.”
     “We cannot defeat them while they have us pinned behind these walls.  Escape is imperative.”
     Gods, I wasn’t a general.  I wasn’t meant to plan battles, only to write songs about them.  The strain of all these decisions was wearing on me.  “Well, if you’re so smart, you figure out how to get us out of here.”  My voice sounded whiny in my own ears.
     “We have to go through Gromnir.  He is the one denying egress from the city.  If he is brought down, we will at least be able to get out and fight the fire giants hand-to-hand rather than this cowardly shooting from the parapet.”
     Valygar looked at Sarevok with something like awe.  “That’s an excellent strategy.  We’ll assemble the party and charge Gromnir’s castle immediately.”  I wasn’t the only one who had a crush on Sarevok.   I just hoped that Sarevok didn’t enjoy having a disciple again too much.
     “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I said, holding my hands up and trying to put the brakes on their rash plan.  “We can’t just storm the castle.  All of the soldiers and his other hired guns are inside.  We’d be cut down in a hot second.”
     Sarevok turned his face toward me.  As usual, his blank gaze unsettled me.  “You have the right of it, of course, Perdita.  We must have a more subtle plan.”
     “What—what did you have in mind?”  I swallowed past a lump in my throat that wasn’t made by the porridge.  I thought I knew where he was going.
     “We have heard rumors of secret passages.  Entrances through the barracks or the sewers.  These rumors are worth investigating.  If we could orchestrate a surprise attack—”
     “No, that won’t work.”
     He looked at me questioningly.  “Are you so certain?”
     I didn’t want to go through the sewers, that’s all I knew.  There was something there that I didn’t want to face, I was sure of it.  To go to the sewers was too big a risk.  “You don’t know what might be in those sewers.  There’s something down there.  Mind flayers, beholders, kobolds.”
     “I can do the reconnaissance,” Valygar offered.  “Then we’ll know what we face.”
     I shook my head.  “We should try to learn more before we scout.  Perhaps from the scroll seller, or others in the town.”
     “If we ask too many questions, even as mad as he is, Gromnir will be alerted to our intentions.”  Sarevok reached across the table and put his gloved hand over mine.  I suppressed a shudder at the touch.  His hand was warm—for some reason I had not expected it to be.  “This excessive caution is unlike you, Perdita.  We have easily defeated such foes in the past.  I have followed you out of admiration for your valor in battle.  What troubles you?”
     “I—I cannot say.”  I didn’t know myself.  I only knew I wasn’t about to go in that sewer.  “There’s no harm in waiting a little longer, is there?”
     Sarevok removed his hand from mine and stirred the toxic porridge with the spoon.  He lifted the spoon and the porridge glopped back into the bowl.  “It depends on how long you want to subsist on this fine provender.”

#
« Last Edit: June 13, 2004, 11:31:12 AM by Perdita »
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2004, 10:02:41 PM »
Chapter Two
     
I needed to get out of the closeness of the tavern.  Unfortunately, taking a stroll around town wasn’t exactly the safest thing to do, what with the incoming fire missiles.  I put up some fire protections and went anyway, for my daily visit to the one friend I’d made in the town.  The air was hot and heavy, burnt and stinking of sulfur.  Fiery shrapnel whistled through the sky. The thatch roofs had all been soaked with water to prevent them catching fire; still, some of the militia were assigned fire detail.  I stopped and stood in a doorway to watch, sheltered from the raining fire but no doubt in greater danger of falling masonry.
     In a way, this siege was my fault.  Not just mine, but the fault of all the Bhaalspawn quartered in the city.  I was a child of the dead god Bhaal, the Lord of Murder.  Me, and about a million other lost souls.  He’d been a busy guy.  Seems he didn’t like being dead, and planned to return, so he wanted to make sure there were plenty of vessels to choose from.  A deus ex machina named Melissan had gathered all the Bhaalspawn she could find and brought them to Saradush, to keep them safe, she said.  It seemed to me that her plan had some flaws, namely, that if someone wanted to take out all the Bhaalspawn, they were conveniently located in one handy container.
     I’d had personal dealings with only two other Bhaalspawn, that I knew of anyway.  I’d stopped my brother Sarevok from becoming the ruler of the Sword Coast.  I’d killed him, and now, devoid of the Bhaal essence, he fought at my side.  The other was another matter.
     Imoen, that goody-goody, we could have been friends, like sisters even.  We were both orphans, were age-mates, and found out later that we were in fact sisters, in the same way that Sarevok and I were siblings.  Instead we were rivals, for my foster father Gorion’s love and attention, for the boys who came to Candlekeep.  I thought that I’d seen the last of her when I left Candlekeep.  I told her I had to run back in for some personal things, wait right here.  Then I doubled back up through the woods around her, and I never saw her again until she woke me up in a cage in Chateau Irenicus.  I still haven’t figured that one out.  Later I was suckered into rescuing her when I went to cut Irenicus into little Irenicus pieces, but I told her she was losing her looks and convinced her she’d better take a rest while we got her soul back from the vampire Bodhi for her.  I was really afraid she’d try to take Anomen away from me, but I had him so sewed up by then I didn’t have anything to fear.  She’s probably still standing in the Copper Coronet waiting for us to come back.  Heh.

#

     Bridget opened her door at my knock.  “Oh, thank goodness it’s you.  I knew it was too early for my customers.  Come in, come in out of the fire.”
     I stepped into her cozy little house.  Everything was so neat.  I let Bad Kitty out of my pack and told him to behave.  He sniffed around the cottage then meowed at Bridget until she poured him a saucer of cream.
     “You don’t need to do that,” I told her.  “He’s not a real cat—he’s a familiar.  He doesn’t need to eat.”
     Bad Kitty glowered at me with a ferocity worthy of a tiger, and made a liar of me by lapping all the cream, then meticulously licking every drop from his whiskers and paws.
     Bridget pulled out a chair for me at her table.  “We all need the comfort of good food and good company.  I’ve got the tea ready.  Here, try some of these teacakes and tell me what you think.”
     She poured me tea and put a plate of cakes in front of me.  I greedily ate the first and more slowly nibbled a second with my tea.  They were delicious.  I told her so.
     “Thank you.  My mama was a baker.  She always wanted me to follow in her floury footsteps.  I just didn’t like to get up so early.”
     “I know what you mean.  How did you ever get the ingredients?”
     “I have some customers who remember me even when times are bad.  That mage Errard is a sweetheart.”  She sipped from her own cup of tea and then leaned forward.  “Tell me what all those men are like, the ones you travel with.  That big fighter in black—ooh, I’d take him on for free, I would.”
     “That’s my man, and I’ll thank you to stay away from him.”  I spoke more sharply than I’d intended.  The time Anomen was spending with Farielle made me see man-stealing hussies around every corner.
     “I didn’t mean the cleric—I know which one is yours.  I meant that dark ranger.  Yum.  He can sneak up on me anytime.”
     “Oh, sorry.  You mean Valygar.”  Anomen and Valygar both were armored in black.  I had Anomen too much on my mind.  “Valygar is somewhat—reserved.  He believes that he has tainted blood, and is wary of producing offspring.”
     I wasn’t sure why Valygar stayed with me.  He had a home in Athkatla and a summer house in the Umar Hills.  He wasn’t in it for the loot like Korgan, or magic power like Edwin.  He wasn’t bound to me like Sarevok, and he certainly wasn’t getting the fringe benefits Anomen was getting.  If I was him, I would have been planning what I was going to do that evening in Athkatla instead of standing on a parapet counting hits on targets.
     “Well, then, if he won’t give a respectable maiden a tumble or two, it’s me he needs to call on.  I’ll see to it there’s no unwanted little ‘uns.  Occupational knowledge, you know.  Another cup?”
     I held out my cup for her to refill.  “I’d pay double if you could get him in bed.  In my opinion, that’s just what he needs.”
     “So you never bedded him yerself?”
     “Just Anomen, and, um, well, that’s best forgotten.  I’ll just say that the reputation of Thayvian men is greatly exaggerated.
     “Gotcha.  He thinks he’s a gift from the gods.  Asked if I had discount rates.”  She shuddered.  “Them other two scare me to pieces, and I’m not easily put off.  I’m not a racist, but that dwarf, ugh.”
     “He kills for fun.  Steer clear of him.”  I turned my cup around and stared into it.  “You don’t think Sarevok—?”
     “Oh, my gods and goddesses, I’m sure I couldn’t handle him.”  I felt her gaze on me.  “You fancy him, don’t you?”
     “What?  Ee-yew, yuck, that’s sick!  He’s my brother, after all.  No, no.”
     “Well, that’s all right, then.”
     We talked of other things for a while.  When the cakes were gone and the tea was emptied, she offered to read my tea leaves.  I watched as she swished the leaves around the bottom of the cup, then inverted the cup over a platter.  She turned the cup back over and studied the brown spots clinging to the sides.
     “See that bit there?  The shape what looks like a ring?”
     I looked, but couldn’t make out anything.  I nodded anyway.
     “That’s good news for you.  Your man has something to give you.”  She winked at me.
     I was taken aback.  Did she mean Anomen was going to propose?  I never let myself think that far ahead.
     She examined the leaves some more.  “That other one, that you say is your brother.  He is, and he isn’t.  Hands off, honey, or it’s bad news all around.”
     “You can see all that from the tea leaves?”
     “There’s a certain latitude for interpretation.”
     “Can you see anything about Anomen’s sleeplessness?”
     “There’s something I can’t make out, something that threatens him.  Or, I can make it out, but I don’t know what it means.  He feels a pull, but he resists.  Keep him away from them sewers.”

#
     None of my guys were in the tavern’s common room.  It was midday; they would have been in for lunch, such as it was, and out again.  I went up to my room intending to practice some new songs I’d been working on, but I couldn’t keep from thinking about Bridget’s words.  Maybe if  I recorded some of my thoughts in my journal, that would help.  Let’s see, where was it?  I searched in my backpack.  No, that’s my fakebook.  No, list of spell ingredients.  Here, the wrinkled volume on the bottom.  Ick, no wonder my pocket plane imp always complained about the mess.  I opened to the last entry:

     Once again blamed for Imoen’s pickpocketing.  As if I was ever clumsy enough to get caught.  How does she arrange it?  Gorion sent me to my room without supper and with orders to “think about it.”  I’m thinking about it, all right--I’m thinking about how to blame her for my pickpocketing.  Not a total loss, as cute new acolyte from Beregost is going to sneak in with supper and Kara-Turanese volume of sexual practices.  Might even try some, but not go too far.  Unlike Miss Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt-In-Her-Mouth, am saving self for the right man.

I closed the journal.  I really should write in it more often. 
     My familiar came to rub his head against my leg.  I picked him up to scratch him behind his ears.  “What do you think, kitty?  What’s the matter with my Anomen?”  I buried my face in Bad Kitty’s fur, and tried not to cry.
     The door thudded open, and Anomen himself came in.  He looked about a hundred years old and was as gray as the porridge.  He paused on the threshold when he saw me, then came in the room and closed the door.
     “So, you’ve finally decided to come back.”
     He sighed.  “Do not start with me, Perdita.”  He took off his helm.  “I need to rest.”
     “Your days and nights are mixed up.  You should have let me help you sleep last night.”
     “I’ll sleep now, if that’s acceptable to you, my lady.”  The ‘my lady’ was delivered with  uncharacteristic sarcasm.
     “I’ve been sitting here for hours, worried sick about you.”
     “The Temple is but two steps away.  You could have come over and lent your assistance.  Your help would have been welcome; there is much to be done.”
     “But why do you have to do it all?”
     “We have cut a swath of destruction wherever we’ve gone—”
     “It's not my fault, it's all these people who keep coming after me.”
     “I know, much of it has been unavoidable.  That is why I welcome the opportunity to do some good.”  His gaze was soft on my face.  He reached his hand out toward my cheek, but dropped it to his side before he touched me.  “I could wish you felt the same, my dear.”
     “I do my part for the war effort.  I comforted one of the townspeople.”
     He gave me a look.  “Comparing beauty tips with the town harlot is hardly charity work.”
     I guessed that it wasn’t a good time to show him the apricot-pit scrub she’d given me.  “I wonder if you'd spend so much time at the temple if that priestess Farielle was a dwarf.”
     “I know that were it a clothier I would not need to beg your presence—or if Sarevok were there.”
     “What's that supposed to mean?”  I thought I'd been hiding that well.
     “You know what that means.”
     “Well, so, OK, so I'm slightly attracted to him, so what?  I'm not going to act on it.  This isn't about me—”
     “For a change.”
     “All right, yes, for a change.  This is about you not being able to sleep without nightmares.  This is about you overworking yourself and coming back at odd hours fatigued to death.  This is about you going away from me, and I can't stand it.”
     “For once, I am engaged in an enterprise that is as important in its own way as your quests, and that's what you can't stand.  You’re angry that I'm not at your beck and call.”
     “You make me sound terribly needy and self-absorbed.”
     He didn't reply, but stood with his shoulders hunched and his head down, half facing away from me.
     “That's what you think of me, isn't it?  If you hate me so much, why are you even with me?”  I sniffled.
     He sighed and straightened his shoulders, but he still didn't look at me.  “I love you, Perdita, but we are very different.”
     “Well, did you ever think, maybe you're not so perfect either.  Maybe there's things I don't like about you, too.”  His taut body, his gray eyes alive in his face, his adorable beard, his awesome body, his strength, his gentleness, even his arrogance, his totally hot body—the only thing I didn't like about him was this one coarse hair on his back.
     “It appears that I will get no rest here.  Perhaps I can get another room.  Even a cot in the temple will afford me more peace.”  He snatched up his helm and trod to the door.
     I couldn’t believe it.  He was just going to leave.  “Don’t you walk away from me, Sir Anomen Haughtypants Delryn!  We aren’t finished here!”
     “We are quite finished, my lady.  You may return to consorting with your whorish friends.  I have work to do.”  He put his hand on the door latch.
     Without allowing myself to think about what I was doing, I cast Grease.  Anomen lost his footing and slid to the floor.  He struggled to stand, his face a scowling mask.  Oh, I'd done it now.
     “You dare!  You dare to use your magic against me!”  Anomen scrabbled up from the floor and immediately cast back at me.
     I felt a Hold spell attempt to grip me, but I shook it off.  I was in it now, so I cast at him again.   I didn't want to hurt him, but I was mad.  I tried Horror—he was so cute when he panicked.  It had no effect.
     He overcame the effects of the Grease spell, and he strode across the room toward me.  Anyone else and I would have armed myself, but as it was I went into a Defensive Spin just in case.  He tried to grab me, but Bad Kitty leapt on his head.  It took him the duration of the Spin to get kitty's claws out of his scalp, then he came at me again.
     I'd never seen such fury on his face.  He fought evil with righteous anger, but he didn’t take it personally.  I made a dash for the door, but he caught my shoulders in an unbreakable grip.  Thanks to some enriching reading material, I was strong, but he was stronger.  He spun me to around, his hands clenching my shoulders.  I stared in his face.  He was breathing hard, his eyes blazing.  He raised a hand to me.  I cringed, and he grasped the neck of my elven chain, twisting the links in his fingers.
      “By Helm, woman, you are enough to—”  He groaned low in his throat.  His eyes raked over me.  I was breathing hard, too, afraid—and really turned on.
     “Your anger stirs my blood.”  His hand at my neck jerked me against him.  His lips crushed against mine.  I twisted my fingers in his hair, not letting him go.  My armor was off in a flash over my head.  His arm circled my neck, and he caught the fingers of the Gauntlets of Dexterity between his teeth to pull the glove off.  I stopped him.  “Leave them on, honey.”  As he lifted me up to wrap my legs around him, I hit the heel of my hand against the fastenings of his armor.
     “I thought we were going to get Cromwell to put on the quick-release buckles,” I said.
     He said something, but I could only make out the word “Cespenar,” as his face was buried between my breasts.  I got his armor off without much help from him as his mouth did wonderful things.  He threw me on the bed.  We then did the sort of things we usually did, but since we’d never had such a big argument before, we did a lot more of them, because we had more making up to do.  At last he rolled over on his back, and settled with his head on my chest.
     “Haughtypants?”
     “What can I say, sometimes inspiration fails.”
     I played with his hair.  It was getting too long, but was very sexy.  I kissed the top of his head.  His scalp smelled funky.  He wasn’t taking the time to get clean.  I’d have to arrange a bath for us.
     I thought back to first time I held him.  It was in the Five Flagons Inn.  I was worried how we were going to get enough money to pay Aran Linvale.  I was worried about the playhouse.  I was worried if Anomen still thought that drow bitch was ‘striking.’  Consequently I had drunk too deep from Samuel Thunderburp’s fine selection.  When Anomen asked if he could come to my room later, I was afraid that it was to give me a lecture on the virtues of temperance.  Instead, he made a pretty speech, and I took him to bed and made a man out of him.  Or something like that, I don’t really remember exactly.  But I think it was a good thing I was drunk, or he might have guessed that it wasn’t my first time.
     “Honey, I know we probably don’t need them, but we still have those vampire books somewhere.  Maybe there’s something in them that will help you with your nightmares.”  He didn’t answer.  “Honey?”  He was already asleep.  When I shoved him off of me he didn’t even stir.  He usually woke easily—I hoped he was merely tired.

#

« Last Edit: May 09, 2004, 10:05:44 PM by Perdita »
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2004, 11:24:11 PM »
Chapter Three
     
I left Anomen sleeping like the dead and found Edwin downstairs in a private room, smoking a water pipe.  “Where’s the guys?”
     “Korgan is in the back room with Volo.  They are trying to drink each other under the table.”
     Volo was a bard with an inflated opinion of his own renown, who claimed to be chronicling our adventures, but mostly just seemed to be trying to drain the tavern’s cellars.  “Then this’d be a good time to pick Volo for the Nashkel bar tab he owes us.”  I slumped into a chair next to him.  “Valygar and Sarevok?”
     “In the sweet spot on the parapet.  Valygar can’t keep away, and Sarevok has nothing better to do.”
     “Again?  We’re going to run out of ammo.”  I thought about the hundreds of Kuo-Toa arrows filling up our ammo belts, and the bows that needed no ammunition.  “No, I guess not.”
     I took out the gilt pocket mirror that Anomen had given me.  He’d had it enchanted to cast Mirror Image once a day.  What a sweetie.  I ran my hand through my hair. This lack of sleep was beginning to wear on me.  “Do I look hagged to you?”  Maybe I was scaring Anomen off.
     “You are as always a vision, Perdita.”  Edwin offered me a drag on his pipe.  I sampled it and passed it back.  He stared at me.  “I know that look.”
     “What look?”
     “The glow of the aftermath.  You are almost on fire.”
     I took another glance in the mirror.  Glow, huh?  Maybe.  “You never saw this look.”
     He snorted.  “How quickly you have swept your inconvenient past under the carpet.  I doubt that you have explained to Wonder Boy how you acquired your extensive knowledge of Thayvian sexual techniques.”
     “You forget, I grew up in Candlekeep.  It was nothing but library.  Those monks had some books you wouldn’t believe.”  At least that’s what I planned to tell Anomen if he ever asked, and it was mostly true.  “Besides, you overstate ‘extensive.’  And ‘sexual.’  And ‘techniques.’”
     “You and I,” he said, “we are like a couple who has been married too long.  Everything that was between us is gone.   Love, lust—”
     “Misguided juvenile infatuation.”
     “As I was saying, passion, even the pettiness, the arguments, the resentments—”
     “The rage at abandonment to a villain bent on destroying my soul.”
     “Must you interrupt?  But yes, even that, all are gone.  All that is left is a certain not uncomfortable familiarity.”
     There was some truth in what he said, much as I hated to admit it.  “And if you breathe a word of it to Anomen, I’ll kill you in a hot second.”
     He studied his nails, and casually said, “You couldn’t take me.  One Time Stop and I’d have my way with you.”
     “That’s if you could get the spell off before I removed your hands with my blades.”
     “Bah.  You are as pathetically delusional as all your fellows.  A bard learns a spell or two, and imagines that she is an archmage.  She manages to pick up a sword without cutting herself, and she thinks she is a master swordsman.”
     I stood and threw up a Stoneskin.  “All right, let’s go.”
     “Do not be ridiculous, Perdita.  I have no wish to humiliate you.”
     I used Anomen’s gift to cast Mirror Image then cast Blur for good measure.  I fired off a preemptory Pierce Magic then drew Angurvadal and the Blade of Roses.  I flourished them in a display of my skill.  “We’ll see who will do the humiliating.  Come on, you craven weasel.  On your feet.”
     “Really, Perdita, is this necessary?”  He stood and cast protections of his own.
     “I’m tired of you mages looking down your noses at us bards.  Which ear is your least favorite?”
     Edwin cast something, and I’m not exactly sure what happened, except next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor and Korgan was standing between us.
     “Och, Perdita, it's about time ye rid the world o’ this slimy bastard.”  He helped me to my feet.
     “Hold your tongue, dwarf,” Edwin said.  “I would have easily bested her if you hadn’t interfered.”
     “What are ye about, ye villain?  Perdita be our meal ticket.  Me purse be gorged from pickin’ up the leavin’s cast in her wake.”
     “She-she cast first!”  Edwin sputtered.  “I think I may defend myself.”
     Korgan drew his axe and held it to Edwin's throat.  “Think on this, then.  If she be cold on the ground, how do the rest of us get out o’ this stinkhole?  Do that infernal imp answer your call?”
     “No.”  Edwin covered his nose and mouth with his hands.  “Please, your breath is making me ill.”
     Korgan lowered his axe and stepped back from Edwin.
     “Thanks, Korgan,” I said, “but there was no need to defend me.  I had everything under control.”
      “I’m sure ye did, lassie.  Mayhap t’were one o’ yer illusions that ye were flat on yer backside.  But I enjoys havin’ a bit o’ fun with yon lily-livered dirt scraping.”  He thumped me on the back, nearly knocking me over.  “I’m off to join the locals in a spot o’ elf-baitin’—no offense to ye, lassie, but ye seem not even half an elf—but just gie a whoop if ye needs me axe agin’.”
      “That I’ll do.”  I watched him totter off, then I sheathed my swords.  Edwin pulled out my chair and gestured toward it with a sweep of his hand.  I shrugged and sat down.  “No hard feelings.”
     He resumed his chair.  “None indeed.”  He took a hit off his pipe.
     This was as good a time as any to ask Edwin if he would talk to Anomen.  Anomen’s sister was viciously murdered shortly after we met.  I urged him not to listen to his father’s drunken ravings as to who was to blame, because I was afraid Anomen would run off and not come back.  I still wasn’t sure if we’d made the right decision.  He talked to me after about his sister, and because I didn’t know what to say, I just listened, and that seemed to be enough.  Then maybe I’d sing him a song or two, about love and loss, with a little charm glamour thrown in.
     And I never told anyone this, and I never would, only Bad Kitty knew, I don’t think Anomen even knew himself, or if he did he never spoke of it, but sometimes he had nightmares about his childhood, and he’d cry, and I’d hold him until he slept again.  And that was before Bodhi really messed him up.
     I said to Edwin, “Speaking of Anomen—”
     “Not that I recall.”
     I glared at him.  “Speaking of Anomen, I have something I want to ask you.  He’s been having all these nightmares lately, about when he was a vampire.  I want to help him, but I don’t know how.”
     “What is it you think I can do for him?”
     “I think he needs to talk it out.  I’m too close to him.  I think there are things that he doesn’t want me to hear.  You’re the smartest one here—except for me, of course.  Maybe, if we could get him to talk to you, you could figure out what haunts him.”  I waited for Edwin’s answer.  “Well, will you do it?”
     He took another drag on his pipe and focused on the ceiling.  At last he said, “Why not.  There is little enough entertainment here, and it may prove—amusing.”
     I left Edwin at the table, but just as I exited the private room I was stopped by one of the tavern patrons.  He had a wild look in his eye.
     “Have you seen them?  You’ve seen them too, haven’t you?  I’m not crazy, am I?”
     I looked back at Edwin, but he was reclining in his chair, his eyes closed, smoke pouring from his nostrils.  He wasn’t going to be any help.  “Seen what?  What are you talking about?”
     “The vampires.  All the damn vampires.  This town is infested with them.  They came when the siege started.  They feed on death.”
     I was chilled to my bones.  This was what I feared—that Anomen’s dreams were not just dreams.  Yet this man seemed like a less than credible source.  “How can you be sure?  Do you have any proof?”
     He swung his head around wildly, as if fearing that a bloodsucker would fly out of the corner and attach itself to his neck right there.  “I’ve seen them.  They come to the Tavern at night and try to lure victims to their nest.”  Fear drove his voice into an unnaturally high register.  He bobbed his head.  “Forgive my manners, my lady.  I’m Peltje.”
      I nodded.  “Perdita, Bhaalspawn.”
     “Aren’t we all.”
     “Why do you think I’ve seen them?”
     “You have, I can tell you have.  You believe me, don’t you?”
     “I—I do believe you.  I haven’t seen them, but I believe you.”  Although I wasn’t sure that he wasn’t crazy anyway.  Vampires weren’t fun, but it struck me that with the siege and all, death by fire or starvation was a more immediate threat.  I wondered why he was so obsessed with them.  “What do you want from me?”
     “You are the most powerful of us.  We all know it.  We can sense the power in you.  If anyone can eliminate the vampires, it would be you.”
     He was right, I was the most powerful, and even if I thought getting rid of the vampires would be as effective as bailing a leaky boat, it appeared I had to do it for Anomen’s sake.  “All right, where are they, then?  Where is their nest?”
     “In the sewers.  There are two of them that come here at night.  They pretend to be courtesans, but if you agree to go with them, you don’t come back.”
     “The sewers, you say.”  I knew it.  Gods, I’d had my fill of crawling around in sewers.  After each subterranean excursion, I swore that I’d never go in a sewer again.  Rats, spiders, kobolds, ee-yew.
     “Some say there is a secret entrance.  I don’t know how to find it, but you could ask a native.  You’ll do something, won’t you?”  His anxious expression made me feel guilty that I had every intention of avoiding the task if I could.
     “We’ll see.”
     Ask a native, he said.  The tavern owner Pyrgam Aleson was certainly a native, and so talkative that I usually got too much information from him.  I approached him and got straight to the point.
     “Ready for your performance tonight, my dear?”
     “Perfectly.  I need to ask you about a few things first.”
     “With what may I help you?”
     “I’ve heard that there is a secret way into the sewers.  I figured that if anyone knew, it would be you.”  I gave him my most winning smile, the one that made Anomen my love slave.
     “The sewer entrances aren’t secret.  You can enter through the grates in the street.”
     “Oh.”  Was it that easy?  Pop down one of the grates, and there you are, in the middle of vampires.
     “But…the sewers will get you somewhere else.”
     “What do you mean?”
     “I can tell you for 1000 gold.”
     The smile wasn’t winning enough.  Then I remembered that it wasn’t exactly my smile that made Anomen my love slave.  “You can tell me if you want me to perform tonight.”
     “Haump.  Yes.  This town is riddled with secrets.  Perhaps there is somewhere else you need to find your way into?”
     What was he talking about?  “Um, no?”
     “A certain castle, perhaps?”  He jerked his head, I suppose in the direction of Gromnir’s castle.  It was of course the only one in town.
     “Castle?  What about a castle?  I was talking about the sewers.”
     He ostentatiously cleared his throat.  “I happened to overhear your discussion earlier.  There is something you must do before you may leave this town.  You can get into the castle through the abandoned jail.  Unfortunately, it has become a breeding ground for the undead—or so I hear from my great good friend Sister Farielle.  You might ask her if you want to know more.”
     “Thank you.”  We talked about what he’d done to publicize my performance that night, while I thought about what he said.  So I’d have to face Sister Farielle after all, unless another way could be found.
#
     Again I took the precaution of putting up all my fire protections, but didn’t go straight to Farielle in the temple.  My feet wound up on the castle battlements with Valygar and Sarevok.
     Valygar acknowledged my presence with a nod, but didn’t break his firing rhythm.  His arms drew the bow; his muscles bunched and released with the arrows.  It was fascinating viewing.
     “Perdita, would you like to try it?”
     I jumped at Sarevok’s voice close by.  He offered Firetooth to me, the crossbow he and I kept fighting over.  He had been loading it with Kuo-Toa bolts for their paralytic effect on top of the inherent fire damage of the bow.
     “Do the fire bolts even work against fire giants?”
     “My kills are even with his.”
     Valygar didn’t let his answer interfere with his motions.  “I keep telling him, he’s wrong.  Firetooth takes longer to load.”  He reeled off a long explanation of how his kill rate was highest.  As usual, I tuned Valygar out when he talked like that.  Sarevok moved behind Valygar where Valygar couldn’t see him and shook his head in denial.
     I loaded a Kuo-Toa bolt and cranked the bow.  Sarevok leaned into to me and pointed out my sightlines.  “Aim for that spot, to the right of the dead tree.”
     My hands shook with nervousness at him so near.
     “You have it, Perdita.  Fire!”
     I shot the bolt.
     “A hit!” Sarevok said.  I couldn’t see that far but I took his word for it.  I wasn’t sure if his empty eyes saw or he used some other sense.
     I loaded another bolt. Valygar had to be right.  It took me much longer to load and fire than it took him.  Sarevok, as if reading my thoughts, said, “You need fewer hits than Valygar.”
     I shot a few more then handed Firetooth back to him.  It was addictive.  If I didn’t quit, I’d be here all day.  “I want to talk to you for a second.”
     He inclined his head, and we moved away from Valygar the Killing Machine.
     “What is it you wish?”
     “I want to know what it’s like to be undead.”
     He threw back his head and laughed.  “Why do you consult me?  Do you think that I am undead?”
     “Well, sure, aren’t you?  I mean, I killed you, and…”
     He was standing so close to me, that even with the fire raining down around us, I could feel the heat from his body.
     “I was dead, but I am restored to life.  Fully restored.  I am as alive as you, Perdita.”  He opened the breastplate of his armor, took one of my hands in his leather-clad ones, and pressed it flat against his breast.  “Feel that.  Does that feel like a living heart to you?”
     His hands captured mine.  His heart thumped strongly in his chest.  I stared up into his blank eyes.  Not very dead, oh, my, not at all.  I snatched my hand away.  He laughed at my confusion and refastened his armor.
     “We could advance now on Gromnir and take his castle.  You and I could rule together as King and Queen, brother and sister.”
     I wasn’t sure how he meant that.  How dead was he?  “Look, here’s the thing,” I said.  “I know we aren’t related in any real sense.  If we had kids or something, it wouldn’t be as if they’d have two heads or five arms or anything.  Even if we were related like that, there are places like West Athkatla where that would be normal.  But it would be a really bad idea, if you know what I mean.  And I really love, uh…”  Gods, what was his name?
     “Anomen.”
     “Yes, I was going to say that.”
     “You need not worry, my lady.  I am not dead, but neither am I as consumed by the lusts of the flesh as once I was.  I am now content to play the role of the observer.  Watching the two of you has taught me that I have missed much in life.  There are satisfactions other than power.”
     “There are?  I mean, is that what you really think?”
     He laughed.  “This is your tale; mine is done.  But why this morbid curiosity?”
     I hadn’t confided in anyone else.  I could spar with Edwin, but I hadn’t been able to tell him my real concern.  These guys would follow me for their own reasons, they would die for me, but we weren’t friends.  I guess Anomen was my friend.  He told me I was his best friend, and to be nice, I told him the same thing, but there were some things I could never share with him.  If he knew some of the things I really thought and felt, he would hate me.
     But Sarevok was my brother.  Could I start to treat him that way, confide in him?  I’d felt so alone growing up in Candlekeep.  Neither elf nor human, neither mage nor fighter, cursed with the soul of a poet, I was out of place.
     “Anomen has been having nightmares of when he was a vampire.  I’m going to get Edwin to help him with the nightmares, but I’m afraid it’s more than that.”
     “What is your concern?”
     “I think he’s somehow falling under their spell again.”  My voice was choked.  I blinked so he wouldn’t see my tears.  “I think there are vampires in this town.”
     “Then our path is clear.  We must root them from their nests.  My sword is yours.”
     “I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  What if that doesn’t cure him?  What if—”  To my horror I started crying.  I was afraid Sarevok would laugh that laugh of his at me.
     He lifted my face with two fingers under my chin.  With his other hand, he brushed tears from my cheek.  In the light from the bombing they glistened red on his glove.
     “Find out what you need to do.  We will fight these vampires.”
     
     
     
« Last Edit: June 13, 2004, 11:32:45 AM by Perdita »
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2004, 08:33:03 PM »
Chapter Four
     
     I left Sarevok and wandered the streets without a plan.  I passed Bridget’s house, but the yellow brick next to her door meant that she was with a customer.  Now that I knew a Protection from Undead scroll wouldn’t give Sarevok a bad rash or anything, I thought I might scoop up any that Lazarus had in stock.  On the way back from Arcana Archives, I ran into a group of dwarves harassing a pathetic bunch of emaciated elves.  Korgan wasn’t among them—he must have tired of the sport.  I kept my head down and was past them when one of the elves called out to me.
     “Lady Perdita, won’t you help us?”
     How in the Nine Hells did she know my name?  Usually I didn’t mind when my fame preceded me, but not in a situation like this.  I stopped and turned.  “Um, I’m, uh, really in a rush—”
     The ugliest of an exceptionally ugly bunch of dwarves said, “We knows who ye are.  Just keep walking, miss, we’ve no quarrel with ye.”
     That was fine by me.  I nodded.  “Good day, then.”  I turned and took another step.
     Another dwarven voice said, “Yer human enough to cancel out that damned elven blood.  We’ll let ye live this day.”
     I stopped mid-stride and swung around.  “Let me live?  Would you care to rephrase that?”
     The first speaker cuffed the second.  “Ye couldna keep yer yap shut, could ya?”  The leader’s ugly face turned even uglier if that were possible.  “If ye wants t’ be counted wi’ these forest frolickin’ fops, we’ll be happy t’ oblige ye.”
     I drew my swords but one of the elves stepped between us.  “Please, my lady, we don’t want a fight.  We just need refuge.”
     Gods.  I was ready to switch sides.  They were all “forest frolickin’ fops.”  It was true I was half an elf, but, most of the time, I didn’t feel an elf, whatever that felt like.  I was raised among humans with human ideas of morality and culture.  My ear for music was better than other full humans, I was better at some other things, but I didn’t think like an elf.  They weren’t my people, anymore than Korgan’s friends were.
     She didn’t move out of my way.  I looked in her face, then at all the elves.  They were thin even for elves, starving.  Some were injured, burned or bruised.  They couldn’t fight the dwarves even if they wanted to.  The dwarves of course were enduring the same conditions but as they were hardier they could bear it longer.  They didn’t have a nasty bunch of bullies molesting them, either.  Bad Kitty stirred in my pack—he wanted me to help them.  I could take all the dwarves, no sweat, but what would that solve?  They’d be dead and the elves still in the street.
     I sheathed my swords.  “I’ll see what I can do.”
     The lead dwarf sneered.  “Ye are an elf indeed, lady, shyin’ away from a fight.  Turn and run.”
     First I tossed out a Web.  Then I threw a maze at the leader, and he was gone.  With his intelligence, it would be a long time before he found his way out of it.  To the rest I said, “If you want to see him again, these elves had better be unharmed when I get back.”  I wasn’t sure if they did want to see him again, but either way I figured they’d leave the elves alone.
     Now what was I going to do?  “I’ll ask around for a place for you,” I said, and scurried away before they could pin me down.
     Refuge.  Isn’t that what we all wanted?  A place safe from firebombs, bullies, and boyfriends who periodically turned into vampires.  Was that what was happening to Anomen?  I hadn’t let myself think it before.  Those elves would have to fend for themselves—I had to find out what was wrong with Anomen.  That Farielle had something to do with it, I was sure.  My next stop was the Temple of Waukeen.  I’d tell that Farielle to leave my man alone, that’s what I’d do.
     The Temple was dark and, except for the bombing, was quiet.  The windows had all been shattered although the glass was swept away.
     Wounded lay on pallets and whatever else served as beds, in rows on the floor.  An acolyte bent over one of the prone figures.  I waited until she saw me.  She came toward me, hiding her bloodstained hands in her robes.  “May I help you, miss?”
     “I need to see the Sister.”
     “I’m sorry, miss.  She’s resting.”
     “Tell her it’s important.”
     A look of fear passed across the acolyte’s face.  “I’m that sorry, miss, but I can’t disturb her.”  She looked over her shoulder and back to me, then leaned close.  “She doesn’t want to be disturbed from her rest for any reason, miss.  Not until nightfall.”  The last was said in a whisper.
     “Why—”  I caught myself whispering and cleared my throat.  “Why doesn’t she want to be awakened before nightfall?”
     She straightened and assumed a more normal expression, as if recollecting herself.  “I’m sure I don’t know as to the time, miss, but Sister Farielle has been working diligently to care for the injured and dispossessed.  She is at the point of exhaustion.”  Doubt fled across her face.  “I’m sure that’s all it is.”
     “Excuse me.”  Bad Kitty was making a ruckus in my pack, so I let him out.  “All right, what do you want now?”  He let me know in strident meows.
     I sighed and spoke to the acolyte.  “There’s a group of elves nearby that needs a place to stay.  Could I bring them here?”
     Her expression changed.  She was almost gleeful.  “Oh, yes, please do.”
     It was quickly accomplished.  The elves were pathetic even in their gratitude.  At least I wouldn’t have to look at their sorry faces in the tavern.  They would have put a damper on my upcoming performance for sure.
     Unwilling to go back to the Tavern where Anomen lay so motionless upstairs, I again sheltered myself in a doorway and watched the militia change shifts on the parapet.  The incoming fire was even heavier than usual.  A few foolish townspeople who were trying to go about their business had to run to avoid being hit.  I pushed away from the door and resigned myself to being shut-up in the tavern.  I’d gone no more than two steps when, at the foot of the staircase to Gromnir’s castle, a young boy ran up to me.  “Help me, help me, my father won’t get up.”
     Gods, what did I look like, the Good Amkethran?  What a day.
     The body of his father lay in a spot blacked by a blast.  I didn’t have to go nearer to tell that his father was dead.  What did the kid want me to do?  I wasn’t a healer.
     “Please, lady, please help my dad.”
     I looked down into the urchin’s face.  Another orphan.  I was an adult, and he expected me to solve his problem.  Maybe there was something I could do.  “Wait here.  I’ll be right back.”
     I ran back to my room and searched through the Bag of Holding for the Rod of Resurrection.  I didn’t need to be a healer to help his dad, because anyone could use it.  Anomen didn’t even hear me as I rummaged through the bag.  I ran back to the street.  The kid was still with his dad.
     “You’re too late, miss.  He’s dead.”  He wiped tears from his face with the back of his hand, leaving sooty streaks.
     “Stand aside.”  I pointed the Rod at the body and it worked on its own.  The body twitched, the man coughed and retched, but he was alive.
     “He’s going to need more healing.  We can take him to your home to rest or to the Temple.”
     “Please miss, I want to take him home.”
     He said his name was Tazit.  The boy and I together helped get his dad on his feet, and we supported him to their house.  I helped him get his father onto the bed.
     “Is there anyone here to look after the two of you?”
     “No, miss, since my mom was killed by the fire giants, it’s been just my Dad and me.”
     I’d let Bad Kitty out of my pack and he was sniffing around their small but neat cottage.  He leaped onto the work counter and knocked his paw against the containers.  He swung his head around and meowed loudly.
     “Empty, you say?”  What could I do?  Who had food in this town?  More than that, who could care for them?  I had pockets stuffed with gold, but what good was it?  Sitting by the  sickbed wasn’t something I excelled at. 
     Bad Kitty meowed again.  Under my breath I said, “What do you mean, I can’t just leave them.  Watch me.”  I took two steps to the door.  My familiar leaped down and stood in front of me, staring me down.  How in the Nine Hells had I gotten stuck with a familiar with a conscience?  Bad Kitty mewed insistently.  I smacked my head.  Of course—time can be bought from someone who offers it for sale.
     “You just sit tight here, kid.  I’ll send someone to help you.”
     Bad Kitty purred smugly.  I shook my finger at him.  “It’s going to be your fault if I turn into Nalia.  You’ll regret it when I give all your toys to the poor.”
     The yellow brick was gone from Bridget’s door.  She readily agreed to take care of Tazit and his father.  We settled on a good price, but I think she was glad to have something to do.  “Better than sitting here waiting for the siege to end,” she said.
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2004, 10:18:24 PM »
Chapter Five

I went back to our room to check on Anomen.  I hadn’t at all liked the way he’d looked when I’d come in earlier.  He was sleeping on his back with his hands folded across his chest as if he was an effigy of himself.  Again the room was rocked by a fireblast, but he didn’t stir.  Anomen was a soldier—he could go into a deep sleep anytime, anywhere—but always before, he had been instantly awake at the slightest unusual noise.  I sat on the edge of the bed and smoothed the sheets around him.  Bad Kitty leaped onto the other side of the bed and looked in Anomen’s still face, then up at me.
          “I know, this stillness is unnatural,” I said to my familiar.  I caressed Anomen’s folded hands.  His skin was cold.  I traced the line of his aristocratic nose with the tip of a finger, then bent over him and pressed my cheek against his.  His breathing was so shallow and slow that with each breath I was afraid there would not be another.  I stroked his beard and turned my head to look at his stone profile, but he was oblivious to my presence and it was damned uncomfortable, so I got up.
          I sat crossed-legged on the floor and upended the Bag of Holding.  Bad idea.  A mountain of junk grew before me.  I sorted through it—a pile of swords, a stack of shields, a forest of staffs (or is that staves?  I could never remember).  Wands, cloaks, boots.  So that’s where the Boots of Elvenkind were.  I pulled off my Boots of Speed and tossed them aside for the more fashionable boots, the same sage green as my armor.  I looked dead sexy in them, especially wearing only the boots.  Bad Kitty meowed at me.  “All right, so I lost my focus for a second.”  I went back to the pile of stuff.  The only book so far was Dradeel’s book of recipes.  Helpful if Anomen’s trouble was werewolves, maybe.  Humm, right now even that soup sounded good.  Bad Kitty swiped a paw at the page.  “OK, I’ll look at it later.”  Not that I ever cooked.  Keys of all description.  I sorted them by size and shape.  They’d make a nice charm bracelet.  I’d speak to Cespenar about it.  I’d picked up a particularly pretty one and was holding it next to my ear, looking at it in my pocket mirror to see if it would make an attractive earring, when Bad Kitty nudged my knee.  “Gods, you’re a slave driver, kitty.”
          I saw at a glance that the rest of the stuff was too small to be books.  “The damned books aren’t here.  I must have left them in the pocket plane.  Let’s go see Cespenar.”
          I picked up my familiar and did that thing that transported me instantly to the pocket plane.  I don’t know how it works, but it’s one of the things about being a Bhaalspawn that I really like.
          In the pocket plane, Cespenar was fussing around as usual.  When Bad Kitty saw him, kitty leaped from my arms and crept nearer to the imp, his body low to the ground, his tail twitching, as if stalking through grass.  Cespenar flew over to me, an eye on Bad Kitty.
          “Cespenar good butler, yes?”  He flew around me, wanting my attention.
          “Yes, Cespenar is a good butler.”  I tried to remember which of the storage cubicles I used for scrolls, letters, books, and such.  “Do you remember which box I put the vampire books in?”
          “Cespenar not knowing how to be opening boxes.”  He flew behind me as Bad Kitty crept closer.  He lifted my hat from my head, flew around with it, and replaced it backwards.  “Needs must I look through your belongings?”
          “Not today, Cespy, thanks.”  I adjusted my hat.  I didn’t have any new stuff for him to put something together for me, and didn’t have the time to listen to his recipes.  The first cubicle I tried held all the armor and weapons that I didn’t want to get rid of just yet, in case it might come in handy, even though we had better and newer.  The books wouldn’t be in here.  I tried another.
          Cespenar flew in front of my face.  “Look through your belongings, needs must I?” he asked again.
          Gods, he was persistent today.  I took off my pack.  “All right, knock yourself out.”
          Cespenar snatched the pack and flew off with it, stumbling at the weight.  He gurgled, “Ooh, yous a pat rack!”
          I’d found the right cubicle and was pulling out too many useless letters.  Why do I keep all this stuff?  When Cespenar remained silent instead of rattling off his recipes, it sunk in what he was doing.  I jumped up and lunged for my pack.  “Give that back to me!”  I’d remembered too late Cespenar’s sweet tooth and the delicious confections that Anomen had given me.
          “Cespenar good butler, yes?”
          “No!  Give me my pack, you sorry pseudo-dragon wannabe!”  We both tugged.  Cespenar beat his wings backward, the pack held tight in his claws, and I used all my weight as leverage, but his strength was surprising for such a scrawny guy.  Suddenly, he let go.  I fell backwards in what was starting to be today’s theme, but at least I had my pack.  I rummaged through it to be sure the aromatic Maztican delights were unharmed—but they weren’t there.
          “Cespenar!  You give those back to me!”  I shook my fist at him.  “How would you like a fireball up your ass, you overgrown thieving bat!”
          Cespenar clutched the precious bag of confections in his hind claws and, with his front paws, greedily shoved the morsels one after the other into his mouth.  “Ooh, yummy ones.”  He flew in eccentric loops around the cavern, ricocheting off the sides.  I couldn’t stand it—the little bugger was eating them all at once.  I rationed them, saving them for those certain times of the month when I really needed them or I’d go Slayer.
          Bad Kitty had slunk up one of the larger and more hideous statues decorating my pocket plane.  (That statue was just more proof that not a shred of my soul went into this place.  If it had, the statue would have looked a lot less like some goat-y, devil-y, satyr-y thing, and a lot more like Anomen—of course, it would have still been naked.)  Bad Kitty crouched on the end of one of the statue’s several outstretched arms, waiting for Cespenar to make a close approach.
          I tried to think of a spell that would bring the imp down without harming him or the candies.  I didn’t have Hold Monster memorized, since it didn’t seem to work on too many of the monsters we encountered lately.
          Cespenar’s flight became more erratic, and, when one of his loops brought him under my familiar’s perch, Bad Kitty leaped.  His claws hooked in Cespenar’s fragile-seeming wings.  Cespenar tried to shake kitty off, but kitty’s claws were so entangled that he couldn’t let go even if he’d wanted to.  Cespenar landed rather than allow Bad Kitty’s claws to shred his wings.
          The imp and the familiar rolled on the floor.  “What you think I be lookings like, The Rock?”  Cespenar’s usually high voice was all over the register, slurred and almost incoherent.  “Nice kitty, nice kitty.”  Cespenar to his credit appeared to be trying to get loose without hurting Bad Kitty, while not getting killed himself.  Kitty had no such concern, not that I was any longer privy to his thought processes.  He was in full-out feral mode.  His open mouth positioned and repositioned as tiny fangs attempted to gain purchase on Cespenar’s scaly neck to deliver the coup-de-grace.
          A little bag lay off to one side.
          I cast Improved Invisible on myself so Cespenar wouldn’t see where I was going, and dashed to the bag.  Two left, just two.  Anomen wouldn’t tell me, but I knew they’d taken most of his monthly allowance.  I wasn’t getting any more anytime soon.  I hoped Bad Kitty killed the imp.
          Cespenar somehow got free, and laboriously dragged himself through the air to a perch on the statue.  Bad Kitty’s eyes traced him with a single-minded stare.  He hunkered down to wait at the base of the statue.
          “Cespenar not be feelings so good.”
          “That’s your punishment for your greed.”
          “Why so cruel to good servant?  Cespenar want only to make shiny ones for gracious master.”  He spoiled his pathetic act when he hiccuped.  “Ooh, be excusings me.”
          “I’m not excusing you until you replace those candies you stole.”  I did feel sorry for him a little, so I tossed him a healing potion.  He snatched it from the air and downed it.  His mouth and claws were smeared brown.
          “Cespenar can no make tasty ones.  How ‘bout this?  Today only, one-time offer, Cespenar gladly make whatever master want, free of charge, as long as not snackies.”
          I didn’t have to think long.  Anomen was always giving me nice presents, and I wanted to give him something.  Maybe it would cheer him up.  “What about those special Bullets of Dispelling we discussed?”  Cespenar had wanted an exorbitant amount of gold for them.
          “Is you meaning the Bullets with magical signs?”
          “Yes, those are the ones.”
          “Bullets that go ‘whizzy’ when they fly through the air?”
          “Yes, that’s it.”
          “Sorries, no can do.  Too complica-, too hard.”  He hiccuped.  “Takes too much connect-, conseque-, concentra-, too much thinkings, and Cespenar head be hurtings.  Good master understands.”
          “Master understands that you gobbled all her candy.  Try.”
          Cespenar just moaned.
          Anomen would really like those Bullets, I knew it.  I thought hard.  “There are still two candies left.”
          “Cespenar feelings much better, like new maybe.  Okays, Cespenar can make spiffy bullets for generous master.  Just needs Unlimited Bag of Bullets, one Scroll of Dispel Magic, two Light Gems, and ten potions of Healing.”
          “Why do you need potions of Healing?”
          “Not for recipe, for Cespenar.”
          “You drive a hard bargain.”  I gave him all the components, plus the remaining Maztican delicacies.  He did his usual quick work and in a few moments he laid the Bullets before me.
          “Here you goes.  Nice set of stones for kind Master’s boyfriend.  Sees ya.”
          “Wait one second.  I want to try them first.”
          Cespenar obsequiously hovered as I found a sling in one the boxes and loaded it with a bullet, but he darted out of the way when I took aim at him.  “Cespenar not target practice dummy!  Is no kind of dummy!  Summons one of your own.”
          I had Carrion Summons memorized, so I cast that.  One hideous Carrion Crawler appeared, reared back, and finding no enemy, held its position.
          I launched the first bullet.  As it flew through the air, two tiny golden glyphs separated from the bullet, floated up into the air, and grew and grew, forming the crest of House Delryn and the insignia of the Order of the Radiant Heart.  When they were about eight feet across, they burned as if on fire before dissipating.  Nice.  Plus the bullet made a cool whizzing sound.
          I had the second bullet loaded and launched right after the first hit.  So it wasn’t until the second was on its way that I noticed the distinctive aroma of choclatl wafting back to me from the first hit.
          I finished the poor Carrion Crawler off before turning to Cespenar.  He simultaneously hovered and cringed.  “Good Master pleased with bullets, yes?  Pretty sparkly signs and whizzy noise as Master desired.  Sa-weet, yes, Master?”
          “What in the Nine Hells was that?  They aren’t supposed to have a smell.”
          “Takes it or leaves it.  No warranties on merchandise.  Sees ya, wouldn’t want to bees ya.”  He hiccuped again, and with lazy strokes flew off to wherever he hid, to sleep it off.
          Looks like I wouldn’t be getting a refund.  They would have to do.  I found the three books that I had come for, plus the elven holy water that Elhan had given me.  The holy water was supposed to have been used on Bodhi, but as it turned out we hadn’t needed it.  Maybe it would come in handy now.  I found Bad Kitty, who was napping after his excitement, and we went back to Saradush.
          We popped back into the street.  Gods, I couldn’t understand it, why didn’t we come back where we’d left from?  I dodged an incoming fire missile and dashed for the inn.  The bartender gave me a curious look.  He hadn’t seen me go out.
          In our room, I thoroughly perused the vampire books.  Well, I skimmed through them.  They were so big, but I’d have Edwin thoroughly peruse them.  Bad Kitty sat in my lap, his eyes tracking the turning pages as if he was reading, too.
          There was a ton of information on how to turn someone into a vampire, and how to turn them back once they were dead, but there wasn’t anything on prevention.
          I stroked Bad Kitty’s fur and he purred as I thought.  There were the usual methods, garlic necklaces and such.  Worth a try.  Where could I get garlic?
          I kissed Anomen’s cold cheek and kitty and I went back out.  The yellow brick wasn’t by Bridget’s door, but she wasn’t at home.  I tried the boy’s house and found her there.
          “Sure, you can have all the garlic you need.  Help yourself.”  She studied me for a moment.  “I’ll not ask what you want it for.  In my line of work, it’s best not to inquire too deeply into other people’s business.  But if you have any holy water, sprinkle it around the door and window sills while saying a blessing.  And take this.”  She lifted the chain of an amulet from around her neck and placed it over my head.  “This is a symbol holy to Waukeen; I had it blessed in the Temple.”
           I was touched.  “Thank you.”
          She hugged me and kissed my cheek.  “Pray to your gods if you have them.”
          “How are things going here?”
          “I think he’s doing well.  His color is better.  The pain is the worst thing, but I’m bathing him in some herbal tinctures, and I give him sips of a tea that’s good for pain.”
          The boy slept in the bed beside his father.  Bridget smoothed his hair from his face.  “The boy is a treasure, so sweet.  His dad isn’t half bad looking either.  A girl could do worse than to live this life.”
         
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2004, 11:39:15 AM »
Chapter Six
     
I smashed Bridget’s garlic with some of the holy water and rubbed it over all the thresholds, and sprinkled some around the room for good measure.  The room stank worse than Korgan’s breath, so I fired off a few of the choclatl bullets.  Unfortunately, the combination was not an improvement.  Although his cute nose wrinkled at the smell, Anomen never even moved.  Bad Kitty meowed in protest.  “Go outside if you don’t like it,” I told him, knowing that it was impossible for us to be that far apart.
     I planned my program for tonight.  I’d been working on some new songs of my own, but they weren’t going well.  My program was going to be some old standards, and some songs that if not new in Athkatla, were at least new in Saradush.  I ran through a few numbers then went downstairs.
     A cache of hoarded food had been uncovered by the guards and given to the tavern for distribution, so we had more than just porridge that evening, though not much more.  Thank the gods for that, though—Korgan had been casting a hungry eye at Bad Kitty.
     Anomen finally stirred from the bedroom at dusk.  He still looked awful, but not so tired.  His face was gaunt; I had not seen him so thin and drawn since—gods, since he had been Bodhi’s vampiric slave.  I think that he would have walked right past us if I had not risen and guided him to our table.
     “Honey, you look much better.  Rested,” I lied.  I patted his arms and chest, reassuring myself that he was here.
     “I cannot stay.  There is work to be done.”
     “Don’t you want something to eat?”
     “I have no appetite.  Food is as ashes in my mouth.”
     Ooh, that wasn’t good.  “I have some new songs to try out later.  I’d like you to be in the audience for me.”  I stood on tiptoe and kissed his ear, then tugged at his earring with my teeth.  I could usually get him to do anything after that.
     His eyes seemed to look inward.  I wasn’t sure if he even heard me.  I could sense him slipping away to somewhere beyond my grasp.  He also smelled faintly of garlic.  “Honey, Edwin is here.  You promised me that you’d talk to him.”  I pulled at his arm.  “Come on, let’s go somewhere more private.”
     “I don’t believe that I agreed to anything.”  Anomen looked to Edwin.
     Edwin said, “You might as well humor her, or you’ll never have any peace.”
     I pulled at his arm again.  “Come on, honey.  It won’t hurt.”
     He sighed.  “Oh, very well.  To where should we retire?”
     “Let’s go up to our room.  We’ll be private there.”
     In our room, I wasn’t surprised to see that the bed was made even more neatly than the maids did it up.  All my piles of stuff from the Bag of Holding were gone, I presumed put back in the Bag of Holding.  Anomen was something of a neat freak.  The smell of the garlic was even stronger, if possible.
     Edwin directed Anomen to lie on the bed, then he dragged the chair to the head of the bed and sat in it, where Anomen wouldn’t be able to see him without twisting around.  “Perdita, it would be best for you to leave us.”
     Anomen half sat up.  “And leave me to your mercy?  I think not.  I’ll not do it unless Perdita stays.”
     Edwin sighed.  “All right.  Perdita, dispose yourself as you will.”
     I sat cross-legged on the floor, Bad Kitty in my lap.  Was I crazy to think that Edwin could help Anomen?  Anything was worth trying, to bring my Anomen back to me.
     Edwin crossed his legs at the knee and opened a small notebook.  “Perdita has asked me to work with you to divine the portent of your dreams.  I have read of various techniques used to free an individual from past experiences that haunt them.  Please note that I have no experience in this.  I am here at Perdita’s behest, and am a novice as well as you are.  I will do my best to find my way among these conflicting approaches, and together perhaps one of them will yield a successful resolution.
     “Let us begin with what you say is the root of the problem.”
     “I did not say I have a problem.”
     “Let us go beyond that.  Why don’t we begin with a recounting of these disturbing dreams?”
     Anomen hesitated, then began.  “The vampires—they ask me to join them.”
     “Start with the beginning of the dream.  Where are you?  What is it you first see?”
     “I—I am in some dark tomb.  It is the tomb of a person of wealth and stature, not unlike the tombs we encountered in the graveyard in Athkatla, although not the same.”  He craned his head around, attempting to look at Edwin.  “Is this what you want?”
     “Yes, yes.”
     Anomen settled back into the bed, his fingers laced together and his hands crossed on his chest.
     “Why are you there?”
     “I—I don’t know.  I presume I am there to smite the evil vampires in their nests.”
     “You presume, but you are not sure?”
     Anomen nodded, then said, “Yes, that is correct.  At the start of the dream, I am unaware of the existence of the vampires.”
     Edwin recrossed his legs and made a note in his book.  “How do you feel?”
     “You mean, in the dream?”
     “No, how do you feel now, lying on the bed?  Of course in the dream, you idiotic monkey.”
     Anomen sat up and drew his mace.  “I’ll not tolerate such insults, wizard!  You shall feel my wrath!”
     “Edwin!”  I stood up and went to the bed, glaring over my shoulder at the mage.  “You don’t have to be such a prick.”  I sat beside Anomen and put my hands on his shoulders.  “Don’t mind him, sweetie.  He can’t help being a jerk.  Just let it go, for me.”  I pressed him back down on the bed.
     “For you, my dear, but one more such insult, and I will have his head.”  He allowed me to push him back into his recumbent position.  I went back to my seat on the floor and motioned to Edwin to resume.  He sighed, and turned a page in his notebook.
     “You are in the tomb.  What is it you feel?”
     “The air is heavy with foreboding.  The stench of evil emanates from within, so strong I am near overcome.”
     “You are mixing it up with the stench in this room.  Perdita, what have you done in here?”
     “Never mind that, get on with your questions,” I said.
     “What occurs next, Sir Anomen?”
     “I am standing there, armed as usual.  I am alone.”  Anomen paused.  He closed his eyes.  “They approach, first as a mist, then they assume solid form.”
     “How many appear?”
     “Usually three.  Sometimes fewer, not usually more.”
     “Are they male or female?”
     “Always women.”
     “What do they say to you?”
     “They tempt me to join them.”
     “With what do they tempt you?”
     “They offer—forgetfulness.”
     Edwin scribbled in his notebook.  “What is it about forgetfulness that entices you?”
     Anomen shifted his position on the bed.  “Everyone has events in their lives that provoke less than happy memories.”
     “That may be true, but we are talking about your life.  Please, what memories cause you pain?”
     Anomen raised up and his eyes sought mine.  “Perdita, I cannot answer such questions.”
     Edwin motioned for Anomen to lie back down.  “We will move on, then.  Perhaps another time.  How do you respond to the entreaties of the vampire women?”
     “I repulse them using all the powers that Helm has granted me.”
     “Go on.”
     “That is usually the end.  Then I wake up.”
     “Hmm.”  Edwin wrote for a time in his notebook.  “I will now try a series of questions from a different approach.”  Edwin consulted his notebook.  “Who are you?”
     “You know who I am.  What are you about?”
     “Please, answer.  Who are you?”
     Anomen’s chest puffed with pride.  “I am Sir Anomen Delryn, knight of the Order of the Radiant Heart.”
     “I ask again, and the answer this time must differ:  Who are you?”
     Anomen paused and a cute wrinkle appeared between his eyebrows.  “I am a cleric of Helm.”
     “What do you want?”
     Anomen did not think long.  “I want to spread righteousness throughout the realms.”
     “Why do you want it?”
     “Because—because…”  His gaze found mine.  His eyes showed his pain.  His hand clasped mine and his eyes didn’t leave my face as he answered, “Because then I can prove to my father that I am not worthless.”
     My hand squeezed his and I smiled encouragingly at him, though I wanted to cry.  Maybe at last he was facing his problems.
     Edwin wrote furiously.  “Let us now try a simple exercise that I have heard is effective.  I will say a word or phrase, and you will respond with whatever word or phrase comes to you.  Do you have any questions?”
     “Only, why am I submitting to this?”
     “That is not a valid response.  All right, now we will begin.  Green.”
     Anomen said, “Forest.”
     “Hunger.”
     “Thirst.”
     “Hmm.”  Edwin jotted in his book.  “Ink.”
     “Scribe.”
     “Cold.”
     “Tomb.”
     “Hmm.”  He scribbled again.  “Voyage.”
     “Seasick.”
     “Mother.”
     Anomen didn’t think long.  “Home.”
     “Hmm.  Despise.”
     “Evil.”
     “Woman.”
     Anomen hesitated, then said, “Pure, no—wanton, no—beautiful, no—beguiling, no—”
     “We will continue.  Brother.”
     “The Order.”
     Edwin made another notation in his book.  “Father.”
     There was a long pause, longer than any other.  At last Anomen sighed.  “Really, Perdita, is this necessary?”
     “Please address your comments only to me.  Otherwise we will have to clear the room.  Again, Father.”
     Anomen was silent for so long that I was afraid for him.  Finally he threw up his hands and said, “I have no response to make to you.”
     Edwin again wrote long.  “That is sufficient.  Allow me to take a moment to analyze your responses.”  Edwin studied his notes for several minutes, flipping pages, writing, and saying, “Ah ha!” to himself.
     I stood up from my uncomfortable position on the stone floor and went to the window over the bed.  I knelt on the bed next to Anomen and looked out at the fire lighting the sky.  Anomen reached out to stroke my arm, and caught up my hand.   I smiled down at him.  He tried to smile back at me, but his smile was strained.
     Edwin cleared his throat and motioned me off the bed.  “Sir Anomen, from your responses it is apparent that you have deep-seated issues stemming from your childhood.  Your hesitation and refusal to respond to several key words indicates this.  Your desire for forgetfulness manifested in the dream temptation is easily understood.  You have events from your childhood which you have attempted to repress, but, like the vampires materializing from the mist, they refuse to retreat.”
     “Interesting theory, wizard, but unfortunately you are completely mistaken.”  Anomen moved to leave.  “I think that we may conclude this farce.  I appreciate your concern, Perdita, but I am afraid that you have wasted your time.”
     “Please, I must be allowed to conclude, now that I have started.  I did not volunteer.  Perdita begged me to attempt this task.”
     Anomen looked at me and I nodded.  He settled on the bed again.  “All right, for Perdita.”
     “As I was saying, about your dream.  The vampires represent your own desire to suck your unpleasant memories from your mind.  The memories are of your ambivalent relationship with your father.  Your close relationship with your mother shows an unhealthy attachment, and has led you to complicated relations with women, as you struggle to reconcile your competing notions of woman as a nurturing mother and an immoral whore.”
     “Your assertions border on slander, wizard!”  Anomen sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.
     Edwin said, “We are not yet finished.  I must proceed with a series of questions that will enable us to examine these issues in depth.”
     I sat next to Anomen and took one of his hands in mine.  “Just a little longer, honey.  Please.”
     Anomen didn’t lay back down, but at least he stayed sitting next to me.  “I suppose I can bear with it a few more minutes, but just a few.”
     Edwin wrote some more.  “We are nearly finished.  I think we are making progress.”  He again consulted his notes.  “At what age did you stop wetting your bed?”
     “This is an outrage!  I never—” 
     “You continue to wet the bed.  Hmm.  How unfortunate for you, Perdita.  At what age did you start fantasizing about raping your mother and killing your father?”
     “I will no longer tolerate this charade.”  Anomen picked up his flail and shield on his way to the door.  He turned on his heel before he left and shook his flail at me.  “Do not even think of stopping me with a spell this time.”
     “Honey, aren’t you going to stay for my show?” I called to him.
     After the door banged closed behind him, Edwin raised an eyebrow at me,  “You cast a spell at him, too?”
     “It's been one of those days.”  My attempt to shrug it off wasn’t working.  I’d invested too much into believing this would make things better.  “I really believed you could help him, and you just made it worse.”  I started to cry.
     “Why should you worry over him?  He is a mere boy.”
     “Meaning what?  That I need real man like you?  Oh, please.  He’s my boyfriend.  He’s the most handsome, best, most wonderful person.  The question is, What does he want with me?  He came from a grand house—did you see that mansion?  He grew up with money, in the best society.  Look at me.  Just a bard.  Just an orphan bastard.  I don’t have his manners, his social skills.  I didn’t grow up hobnobbing with the rich.  I’m just a performer, just the talent.  I come in the servants entrance—he goes in the front door.”
     I couldn’t stop sobbing.  “I love him.  What does he see in me?”  I took out the handkerchief that Anomen had given me.  The dainty square was edged in spider silk-fine Calimshan lace and tone-on-tone embroidery of my initial.  It could cast Zone of Sweet Air once per day.
     But it wasn’t meant for actual hanky-type use.  Edwin produced a capacious handkerchief that was more suitable for the purpose.  “You are the closest thing to a god walking this earth.  What makes you think that you’re not good enough for him?”
     “Every time he goes to that temple, I’m afraid.  That Sister Farielle, she’s good, and she’s beautiful.  They have so much more in common.  They both wear shiny armor and carry maces and stuff.  I see it like it’s burned in the back of my eyes—the two of them kneeling together to pray, then they join hands, then their eyes meet, and they realize all that they have in common, then their lips meet, and Anomen says, ‘Perdita who?’”
     “You are cursed with too much imagination.”  When had he sat on the bed?  “Look at me.”
     I didn’t want to, but I felt compelled to obey.
     “You are graced with an elven beauty tempered with an earthy humanity.  You are a gifted artist.  Your song has made half-orcs sob in their ale.
     I smiled at the memory.  “That’s true, isn’t it?”
     “You take second place to no one.”
     When had his hand got on my knee?  It slid up my thigh.
     “Perdita, I do not try to change you or make you into something you are not.  Any man who looks elsewhere while having been granted your favors is a fool, and should be cut down.”
     Bad Kitty meowed for attention.  This was just getting good, so I ignored him.  Edwin was making remarkably good sense.  “Yes, cut down.”
     Edwin’s eyes held mine.  “You are a fascinating, vibrant woman.  You need to be appreciated for who you are.  Take off your armor.”
     Bad Kitty jumped into my lap and batted his paw at my chin.  I came to my senses.  Without thinking, in an instant I had a dagger out of my boot and at Edwin’s throat, and Angurvadal primed to slice off his family jewels.
     “You tried some kind of charm spell on me, didn’t you?”
     He held up his hands and backed off the bed.  “Can you blame me?  I would have made you forget your trials with Wonder Boy, then made you forget the forgetting.”
     “That was just really tacky.”
     “No hard feelings?”
     I sheathed my blades.  “Just don’t try it again.”  I plopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.  “What kind of questions were those anyway?  You’re a quack.”  My hopes that this would at least jar Anomen out of whatever held him had been rudely ripped away, and I didn’t have any more ideas.  “This was all your fault.  You were supposed to be objective, but you treated him as if he were hostile.”
     “If you wanted someone neutral, you should have kept Jaheira on.”
     I looked in his straight face and he blinked in innocence.  Then we both had a good laugh.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2004, 11:44:29 AM by Perdita »
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2004, 08:51:42 PM »
Chapter Seven
     
After chasing Edwin from the room, I picked up my harp and ran through a few songs again.  Then even though I didn’t feel up to it, I went downstairs for my performance.
     The crowd was a decent size, and why not?  No one had anything else to do or anywhere to go.  Pyrgam Aleson introduced me.  “And now, lords and ladies, knights and churls, dwarves and elves, townspeople and Bhaalspawn, The Tankard Tree is proud to present, in her exclusive Saradush engagement, from Candlekeep by way of Baldur’s Gate direct from Athkatla, the enchanting, the amazing, the incredible songstress, the one, the only, Perdita!”
     There was scattered applause.  Perdita’s All-Male Revue—minus one—occupied a table in the front, talking among themselves.  I was going to have to lay down the rules yet again.  Number One, scatter throughout the crowd; Number Two, act enthusiastic.  I shot a look at my troop and they took the hint with only a moment’s hesitation.  Their clapping and whistling made the crowd take notice that here was something out of the ordinary.  That was better.
     I took center stage and started on a rousing anthem that everyone knew, then segued into a popular song.  I played a mix of low- and up-key numbers, though without my usual patter. The response was warm, but it could have been better.  It was my fault; I just wasn’t at top form  tonight.
     “Here’s a new number that I know will soon become an old favorite.  I’d like to dedicate this to a very special person—even though he isn’t here.  I hope you enjoy.”
     I like the way your sparklin' earrings lay
     Against your skin so brown
     I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight
     With a billion stars all around

     By the last verse, I had the audience singing along with the chorus.  They called for a reprise. 
     I get this feelin' I may know you
     As a lover and friend
     But this voice keeps whisperin' in my other ear
     Tells me I may never see you again.

     It was hard to keep the tears out of my eyes as I thought of Anomen.  I kept looking to the door, kept hoping he would just walk in, just come back and say he was sorry, that he wanted to hear me perform, that I was the star in his night sky, or whatever.
     OK, at least the song had gone over well.  I was always unsure when debuting a new number.  Time to pull out all the stops.  I took out my hornpipe and played a melody high and sweet and mournful sad all at the same time.  Then I started to sing.
     Every night in my dreams
     I see you. I feel you.
     That is how I know you go on.

     In my dreams—and in all my waking hours, too—oh, my poor Ano.  Then the chorus:
     Near, far, wherever you are
     I believe that the heart does go on
     Once more you open the door
     And you're here in my heart
     And my heart will go on

     I closed my eyes, a tear squeezing out.  The room was still for a moment, then the applause started.  Whistling, foot-stamping, genuine spontaneous appreciation.  My guys didn’t even have to lead it.  Yeah, oh yeah, that’s why I do this.  Bad Kitty leapt onto the stage, rubbing against my boot and meowing loudly as if to share in the credit.
     I looked out at the audience to see the reaction.  The elves and dwarves who had been arguing before were thumping each other on the back in camaraderie.  Bridget had a sad smile, and her companion Errard was openly sobbing.
     Very satisfying.  This wasn’t even one of my enchanted harps, but it didn’t need to be.  The magic was in my voice.
     The crowd called for the song one more time, but I couldn’t do that again.  After that song, I was drained.  I joined my crew for a much-needed break.
     Korgan wiped a tear from his eye.  “Och, Perdita, ye’ve nay lost yer touch after all this time traipsin’ the dusty roads.  That sweet song puts this jaded dwarf in a right romantic mood.”  He got up and walked around the table to clap Valygar on the shoulder.  “Valygar, ’tis time to pop yer cherry.  The refugee women of this dung-heap be givin’ it away fer food.  Let’s snag us a couple each.  Har har.”
     Valygar recoiled from Korgan.  “That is one of the most repulsive suggestions I’ve yet heard from you.”
     “Besides, food will soon be more precious than gold if the siege continues much longer,” Edwin said.  “We cannot spare it to satisfy your base lusts.”
     Korgan jiggled the coin pouch at his belt.  “Gold we hae aplenty.”
     Sarevok grumbled, “Gentlemen, we should be congratulating Perdita on her sublime performance.”
     “And so I’ve done.  I’ll be off.  Ye wood-shanked geldings can sit here as ye please, but yonder I see a lassie hankerin’ fer me company.”  Korgan set off across the room toward a young woman who had been staring at him.  It’s hard not to stare at Korgan.  The whites of her eyes shone like those of a frightened deer, and as he approached, she bolted.
     Edwin stood.  “Wait up for me.  (In comparison to him, the ladies will find me even more irresistible.)”
     Valygar started his weapons talk.  Listening to him, I wondered again why he was here in Saradush instead of patrolling the Umar Hills, so I interrupted.  “Valygar, why did you join us?  Why do you stay with us?”  He frowned, so I continued.  “I mean, you have a nice home in Athkatla, and a cabin in the woods, and lots of money.  Is it the fighting?  What?”
     A smile spread across Valygar’s face.  I had never seen such a thing before.  He looked so much more relaxed, as if he wasn’t thinking about the next thing he was going to kill.  “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
     I leaned back and propped my feet on Korgan’s vacant chair.  “I’ve had to believe a lot of preposterous things since I left Candlekeep.”
     “All right, then.  It’s because of the good you do.”
     “What?”  I dropped my feet from the chair and sat up.  “I’m just trying to get by, chief.”
     “You banished the evil from the Umar Hills, you exterminated the vile cult of the Unseeing Eye, you prevented a villain from destroying Suldanessellar—should I go on?”
     “All that stuff…I didn’t do any of it on purpose.  It was just in the way to get enough gold for my passage to Brynnlaw.”
     “And today, you restored a father to his little boy, and saw to their comfort.”
     “Who told you about that?  Who’s been spreading tales behind my back?”  I looked from him to Sarevok and back.
     “Don’t you want your good deeds known?”
     “What about when I helped the thieves’ guild?  Wasn’t that a bad thing?”
     Sarevok said, “And in the course of helping the thieves, you eliminated the vampire threat in Athkatla.”
     I glared at them.  Valygar and Sarevok just smiled at me.  Bad Kitty jumped on my lap and added his two coppers.  I rubbed Bad Kitty behind his ears and held his face, then put my face close to his.  “I am not a goody-goody.  I’m a bad bad ass, I tell you.”  Bad Kitty licked my nose.
     Sarevok lifted his glass.  “To the baddest bad ass bard.”
     Valygar clinked his glass to Sarevok’s.  “In Saradush.”
     “At this table.”  Sarevok drank.
     “Very funny, guys.  You’ll sing a different tune when I decide I have too many fighters in my entourage.”
     Valygar set his glass down.  “Now let me ask you something.  Why did you ask me to join your group?  I can see why you replaced Viconia with Sarevok.  You already had a fine cleric—”
     “If in the flesh of a wretched human being,” Sarevok added.  “Plus you eliminated the competition.”
     Valygar nodded to Sarevok.  “Yes.  But when you asked me to join, I replaced a thief.  I can scout and backstab, but that left us without pure thief abilities.”
     “Well, by that time we didn’t really need a thief anymore.”  I put my feet back up on the chair and rubbed Bad Kitty’s fur.  “We have three people who can cast Knock, one Find Traps, and we can bash most locks.”
     Sarevok said, “Remind me of your reasoning the next time you ask me to disarm a trapped chest the hard way, Perdita.”
     “It wasn’t me you wanted,” Valygar said, “it was the thief you wanted rid of.  Your sister.  Why?”
     All these questions felt like a test.  Gods, I hated tests.  Gorion always asked me questions.  “Perdita, what position should your hands be in for Magic Missile?  Perdita, what components do you need for Web?  Perdita, do you have any idea what might have become of Winthrop’s silver snuffbox?”
     I could lie to Valygar, but he hadn’t lied to me, and he deserved better.  I thought over what I would say while kneading Bad Kitty in my lap.  “Imoen and I grew up together, but we were never friends.  We were always in competition.”  The worst thing she’d done was shortly before I had to leave Candlekeep.  There was a monk who came as a guard with a group of scholars from Kara Tura.  I had a tremendous crush on him—now that I think about it, something about him reminded me of Anomen.  Huh.  Anyway, he was all set to take me with him when he left, and I’d finally get out of Candlesleep.  Somehow Imoen had found out—I certainly hadn’t confided in her—and told Gorion.  I was locked in my room when the Kara Turanese contingent left.
     “Yet you rescued her from Spellhold, at considerable expense and risk.”
     “Somehow my revenge plan against Irenicus became mixed up with an Imoen rescue.  I’m not sure how that happened.  Then when Bodhi stole her soul, Imoen whined until I agreed to go after Bodhi and get it back.”  I wished I’d never listened to her, because that’s how the whole vampire trouble with Anomen got started.
     “That’s when you dropped her, after you restored her soul?”
     “Well, not exactly.  I told her she had better sit that one out, for her own good, you know.  So we went after Bodhi and I got Anomen back without her.  As far as I know, she’s still at the Copper Coronet.”
     “But you’re not sure where she is?”
     “I’ve had too much on my plate to go back and check, what with Irenicus making off with my soul, and all that hokey-pokey to get Anomen restored.  Why the concern?”
     “It has seemed odd to me that you would deliberately break with your sister after rescuing her.”
     “You of all people should understand that family relationships can be complicated.”
     Valygar didn’t have anything to say to that.  After all, he had killed his own mother.
     I stood.  “If you guys are through questioning my motives, I’ll be going.  It’s time for my encore.”
     I was careful not to wait too long and allow the mood to cool before I went up for my encore.  I played another set and wrapped up with a lively number, a popular song.  “Poor old Johnny Ray…”  People got up to stamp feet and wave their hands above their heads before I even got to the chorus.  “Toora loora toora loo rye aye …”  Bridget took Valygar’s hands and pulled him out of his seat.  It was hard to tell with his dark complexion, but I think he was blushing.  Still, he gamely danced with her.  Bridget caught my eye and winked at me.  Her dancing involved a lot of hip crashing.  Sarevok laughed out loud.
     Amid all the revelers, drunk with too much ale on too empty stomachs, two people sat in a corner aloof from the crowd.  Could these be Peltje’s courtesan vampires?  One of them caught my eye and motioned me to join them.  Why not.
     The female slid out of the bench and gave me room.  “Excellent performance.  If you’ll excuse me, I need to find someone more to my—taste.”  Her smile hid her teeth and did not spread to her eyes.
     The male patted the seat beside him.  “Sit down, do!  I’ve so looked forward to meeting you.”
     “You have?”
     “Of course.  The town is all just a-buzz with talk of you.”  He fluttered his slim hands in the air, I guess simulating a bee, and hummed “buzz, buzz.”  “Yes, the great Perdita, savior of the Sword Coast, destroyer of Sarevok—although I think I see that big hunk o’ love right over there,”  he pointed, his hand bent at the wrist and pinky extended.  “Your deeds just make me shiver.”  He demonstrated, hugging himself.
     My eyes narrowed.  “What is it you want?”  If I’d learned anything in my travels, it was that flattery had a price.  Besides, his manner was disturbing to me.  I’d never seen a man act so—unmanly.
     “Want?  Oh, my dear, there is nothing I want from you.  However, that handsome cleric of Helm who travels with you, that’s a different story.  I’d like to take a bite out of crime.”  He clicked his teeth.  The canines were long and pointed.
     “I don’t understand you.  You are a man, or were once, yet you speak as if—I cannot fathom this.”
     “ ‘There are more things in heaven and earth,’ my dear Perdita, ‘than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ ”  He clasped my hand between his as if I was his life-long confidant.  His touch could not have been more different from Sarevok’s than a fire salamander was from his icy cousin.  “What troubles you?  Share.”  He smiled again, and didn’t worry about hiding the teeth.
     I wiggled my hand free.  “What do you know of the inhabitants of the sewers?”
     He shook his head and tsked.  “Mustn’t speak ill of the dead.  Ask another question.”
     “What about Sister Farielle?  Has she caused Anomen’s affliction?”
     “The good priestess of Waukeen?  Healer of the sick, succorer of the homeless—”
     “Stealer of boyfriends.”  I put my hand over my mouth.  I hadn’t meant to say that out loud.
     “Are you atwitter about what they do together?”
     Images went through my mind again, though this time I thought that he put them there.  Anomen and Farielle, talking, healing, kissing, comparing manicures.
     “Is that your concern?  Let me reassure you, sweetie, you have nothing to worry about in that department.  Such as we are, we have no ‘gusto’ anymore.”  He drew quotes in the air around the word ‘gusto.’  “Undead from the neck up, alas.”  He giggled.  I stared.  I had never heard a man giggle before.  “All that belongs to the living.  No, sweetie, what you need to ask your man is what he had for lunch.”  He again clicked his teeth.  “Speak of the angel.  There’s your sweet boy right now.”
     I looked up to see Anomen cutting through the crowd.  He had seen me and was coming straight toward me.  I stood up.  “Nice talking with you.”
     “Take care.”  The vampire waggled his fingers in a ‘goodbye.’
     I moved to greet Anomen.  He took my hands in his and kissed me on the cheek, then whispered in my ear, “Let us go up to our room.”
     He held my hand as he parted the way through the crowd.  As we ascended the stairs, I heard the strains of a familiar tune, with an obviously amateur singer mangling the lyrics.  Aleson was trying out an amusement popular in Kara-Tura.  It was much cheaper than hiring a professional such as myself for a full show.  A local musician, little more than an amateur himself, would play the tune and sing harmony to a well-known song while a farmer or tradesman assumed the stage and imagined that they, too, could have been a bard if only they had the training, perseverance, time, and talent.  I doubted that the amusement would catch on.
     Anomen paused at the threshold to our room.  “Faugh!  The smell.”  He lifted his boot, but paused in mid-step, then backed up.  “I cannot enter the room whilst it is in such a state.”
     “I’ll air it out a bit, honey.”  I went in and threw open the windows, then used Edwin’s hanky to swipe at the doorsill.  “Come on, it’s all right now.”  I didn’t want to think about what his inability to enter the room implied.
     Anomen shut the door behind us and drew me into his arms.  “I could not bear to allow things to lie in such tatters between us, my love.”  He took off my hat and tossed it to the bed, his eyes never leaving mine.
     The sun had set, and it would have been full dark except for the moon and the firestrikes.  Anomen was so pale.  His cheeks were hollow, and his eyes bruised.  He moved to take me into his arms, then stopped.  “But what is this?”  His mailed fingers gingerly lifted the chain of the symbol holy to Waukeen and drew it over my head.  He was careful not to let the amulet touch any part of his body.  It landed on the bed beside my hat.  So much for Bridget’s attempt to protect me.  “If you want baubles, my dear, I can purchase them for you.”
     “I have a present for you, honey.  Look at this.”  I turned up his hand and laid the Bag of Bullets on his palm.  I was in fact pleased with my gift for Anomen.  I hoped he’d like it.  Maybe the choclatl effect would inspire him to save up for more candies for me.  “Do you want to try one now?  They do something special.”
     He barely looked at them, but tucked the pouch into his belt.  “Thank you, my dear.”  His hand cupped my face, then slid down to my neck.  “Your skin is so pale, translucent, like porcelain.”
     Damn straight.   It was hard to keep up my complexion with all that time on the road.  And he assumed my visits with Bridget were wasted.
     “Honey, I was thinking, you said that you had things you wanted to forget.”
     “I would forget all but this moment with you, my dearest love.”
     That really sounded good—wait one minute.  “Anomen, there are painful memories, but there are lots of things that we wouldn’t want to forget.”  I moved into the circle of his arms, as his hand remained on my neck.  “What about when we met, the first time we kissed—” I touched my lips lightly to his.  “The first time we made love.”
     “I remember it well.  You said that I was the best lover you ever had.”
     Argh.  So I’d blown my own cover.  “OK, maybe some forgetting is good…”
     “I can see the blood flowing beneath your skin.  So strong, I can hear it throb…”  In one second he’d be saying that my blood was so inviting.  His thumb brushed over the pulse in my neck.  I could feel my heart beating, in something like fear, but excitement, too.  He bent his head and his mouth followed the path of his thumb.  I suppressed a shudder.  It would solve nothing for me to take him to bed again.  His lips pressed against my skin and I felt his mouth open, then his tongue dart out to touch me.  I closed my eyes as desire coursed through me, and something else, a listlessness, a feeling of surrender.
     His mouth moved to mine.  I may have gently introduced Anomen to some specialized lovemaking techniques, but one thing I had never had to teach him was kissing.  Anomen was a natural-born kisser.  He had soft, luscious lips and he had known what to do with them from day one.  He drew my lower lip between his and gently sucked.  His teeth pinned my lip between them.  Was I imaging that the teeth were sharper than they had been?
     “Yes, Perdita, become one with me.”  His arms tightened around me in the full force of his tremendous strength.  I was scared by the totally weird way he was acting, and afraid that I would be unable to break away.  His eyes held mine, those eyes of changeable color that in the moonlight appeared gray.  I was unable to deny him anything.
     Would being a vampire be so bad?  I was already a night person—Anomen and I would be on the same schedule.  Never get old, never die.  I remembered what the vampire downstairs had said about ‘gusto’ and wondered if he was telling the truth.  I moved a hand down to Anomen’s codpiece, but he grasped my wrist before I made it to the goodies.  “Bestial gropings will soon be beneath us.  Let us instead share the true communion of souls in the sacred kiss.”
     He hadn’t minded being beneath me earlier today.  Eternal life without sex—that wasn’t a blessing, it was a curse.  As Anomen lowered his head to kiss my neck and his eyes no longer held mine, I was able to break free from his hold.  I backed away from him, stumbled, and in the confusion knocked my nose against his bent head.  I put my hand up to my nose, feeling my hot blood run through my fingers.
     His eyes held an unholy light when he saw—no, when he smelled—the blood.  “I will make it better.”  He cradled my hand in his two and, bringing it to his lips, kissed the blood from my fingers.  I had to use my other hand to staunch the flow from my nose.  This was creeping me out.  I tried to free my hand from his grip.  The sight of my blood on his lips turned my stomach, but more than that, it made me afraid.  My Ano, was he too far gone?  Did those witches already have him?
     “Anomen, don’t do that.  I have some water right here.”  I freed my hand from his ministrations and fumbled in my pack for a flask of water.  I grasped a vial, splashed a little on Edwin’s handkerchief, and dabbed at Anomen’s fingers.
     He yanked his hand from my touch and drew in his breath in a hiss.  “It burns!  Woman, what foul sorcery do you practice on me?”
     “It’s just water, honey, just…just holy water.”
     I don’t know what he did to me then, but I must have been unconscious for a while.  I had either passed out, or he used some new power to slip past me.  When I woke up sometime later, I was lying on the bed, arms crossed over my chest as Anomen’s had been.  It was still night, and Anomen was gone, again.  I sat up, shaking my head to clear out the fog, and Bad Kitty leapt up next to me.  I felt my neck, and was terrified to find among the old scars two new sore spots.  I took out my mirror to be sure.  What I saw in the mirror were two punctures, and worse—I only dimly saw myself.  My boyfriend was turning me into a vampire.
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2004, 08:11:58 PM »
Chapter Eight
     
It was time to take action.  I didn’t know where Anomen was now, but I knew who was responsible—Sister Farielle.  Icy-hearted bitch, I’d never liked her with her false pious act.  I armed myself with all the vampire-fighting equipment at my disposal—holy water, stakes, Protection from Undead spells, and Daystar.  Cespenar had modified Daystar to cast Sunray twice a day instead of once—now it was a truly formidable vampire-toaster.
     I paused in the tavern’s common room, wondering whether I should ask for help from my guys.  They were all having a good time, and I hated to interrupt their fun.  Volo had joined Korgan for another round of drinking.  Valygar was still dancing with Bridget—I’d never seen him so carefree.  Edwin was on stage mangling a popular song.  I could hear Sarevok’s laughter from where I stood across the room.  The male vampire spotted me and blew me a kiss.
     I could take Farielle on my own.  This was personal.
     “Come on, Bad Kitty, let’s get my man free from those vampires.”
     I put Bad Kitty in my pack and we crossed the street to the Temple of Waukeen.  Refugees still barracked on the floor, but even with the addition of the elves, it seemed to me that there were fewer than had been here before.  It struck me that maybe harboring refugees in a possible vampire stronghold might not have been the smartest thing I’d done recently—kind of like asking Cespenar to guard my chocolatl treats.
     The acolyte glided toward me.  In a sepulchral voice she said, “May I help you?”
     “I need to see your mistress.  Surely she must be up and about by now.  I won’t be put off again.”
     “Yes, she left instructions as to what I should do if you returned.”  The acolyte lost her subservient posture and threw off her hooded robe.  She bared new-grown fangs and attacked.
     As she lunged at me, I ran her through the heart with Daystar.  She collapsed, howling, to the floor, her fingers curled in on themselves as they tried to but couldn’t clutch at the blade.  She was still.  I drew Daystar from her lifeless and now very dead body.  An older vampire would have turned to mist and floated back to its resting place, but this was a fledgling.  An older vampire would also have had more fighting experience than this novice.  I doubted that the acolyte had ever killed anything more threatening than a water bug.  Evil isn’t necessarily tough.
     The refugees—those few who had taken notice of the fight—got up from their bedrolls and crowded the walls.  That wasn’t even most of them.  Whether they were sick, weak, or didn’t care anymore, my brief battle with the acolyte could have been a handshake for all they seemed to care.
     I gripped Daystar in one hand and Angurvadal in the other.  I had vials of the elven holy water ready at my belt.
     “Farielle!”  In my best stage manner, I pitched my voice to ring throughout the temple.  If she was on the premises, she’d hear me even if she was dead.  “Farielle, show yourself!”
     Sister Farielle soundlessly slid out of the shadows and stopped in front of me.
     “At last we meet face to face.  It is right that we meet—we have shared so much already.”
     I wanted to shake her.  Instead I said, “Where is Sir Anomen?”
     She shrugged one shoulder.  “You are having trouble keeping him under your thumb?  I could tell from our many…talks…that it was only a matter of time until your jealousy and selfishness would drive him away.”
     She was lying, pulling my fears from my mind, I told myself.  Anomen wouldn’t discuss me with this stranger.  We were too close for that.  I stepped toward her, Daystar pointed at her throat.  “Where is he?”
     “It is futile to seek him here.  Instead you should seek him where he thinks you will not go.”  She took a step back.
     “That’s why I’m here, isn’t it?”
     “I suppose.  You don’t seem an exceptionally pious type.  Unlike your  lover.  Ah, how sweet he is!  All that devotion, that purity of purpose, turned…  Those former priests make the most delicious converts.”  She backed up as she spoke.  I felt that she wasn’t retreating as much as manipulating me to where she wanted me, but I couldn’t yet see her plan.
     “You haven’t answered my question.  Where is Sir Anomen?”
     “You aren’t enjoying our little tete-a-tete?”  She bit her lower lip in a pout.  “I think it’s important for the two of us to get to know each other.  After all, when you finally join him—and you cannot fight it forever—we will be as sisters.”
     “I have all the sisters I need, thank you very much.  Are you going to tell me where he is, or should I just deal with you the way I dealt with your acolyte?”
     She laughed, throwing her head back.  Points of light caught in her golden hair, now dark in the gloom of the temple.  “You cannot dispatch me as easily.  But since you are so eager, I will tell you what you want to know.  Sir Anomen is with the others of our kind.  I believe he is impatient for you to join them, though I can’t say I see why.  I’ll even give you the key if you like.”  She took a ring of keys from her belt, and showed me a large black one.  “I have no need of it.  Locked doors are no longer an impediment to me.”
     The key was heavy in my hand.  What was her game?  “It’s a trap, isn’t it?  I’ll use this key, and be overwhelmed by your kin.”
     “My, we’re quick today.  But of course it’s a trap.  The question is, do you want your boy back badly enough to spring it?”  She stepped forward.  Her hand came out to touch my cheek.  I kept myself from flinching at her icy touch.
     My heart was beating fast.  I knew I could defend myself from Farielle, but vampires could strike faster than Korgan could drain a pint of ale.  I was afraid that my will would be taken away before I could kill her.
      “My guess is, you’ll do what it takes.  He’s an extraordinary man.”  She dropped her hand and sighed.  “I regret that I did not meet him before my change.”
     I pressed Daystar to her throat.  “I think you have the power to call him.  Bring him here to me, and I’ll spare your life, or whatever it is you have.”
     “My existence is not yours to give or take.”  Her voice didn’t waver as her form dissolved into a mist.  “Come to us in the cellars.”
     I slashed ineffectually at the mist, and splashed holy water at it.  Her laughter floated back to me.  One of the prone forms of the refugees said, “Watch it with that stuff.  It stings.”
     I let Bad Kitty out of my pack.  “What do you think?  What could I have done differently?”
     Bad Kitty meowed and rubbed my leg.
     “You’re right.  My main concern is Anomen.  I couldn’t kill her until I knew for sure where he was.”  I clutched the iron key in my hand.  “Let’s get the guys.  It’s time to move.”
     I went back to The Tankard Tree, at last with a sense of purpose.  It was simple—kill the vampires and bring back Anomen.  When he had been taken and turned by Bodhi, he had been killed in the battle for her stronghold.  It’d been a bitch to bring him back—scaring up those musty volumes, trudging back to those dull-as-dirt Umar hills, playing hopscotch in the temple to Amaunator.  Of course, it had been worth it, but if we could just keep him alive this time, we shouldn’t have to do all that.  Once Farielle the head vampire was dead, he should be released.  I hoped.
     On entering the tavern, I noticed that the vampire courtesans were gone from their corner.  No doubt they’d returned to their lair, which meant we’d have to fight them, too.  I caught Valygar’s sleeve as I passed him on the dance floor.  “Pow wow, backroom, now.”
     Bridget pouted, but Valygar I thought seemed relieved.  I caught Sarevok’s eye and gestured to the back, then pointed to Korgan and Edwin to indicate he should bring them, too.  He nodded and rose.  I could say that much for him—evil he may be, but he never questioned or hesitated.
     There were four people playing a card game around a table in the small room.  One of the men stood and said, “This is a private party.”
     “Yes, it is, and you’re not invited.  Out.”  I jerked a thumb back to the doorway and stood with a hand on the hilt of my sword.  Valygar stood beside me, his face holding less expression than the katana that had suddenly appeared in his hand.
     The man who’d spoken voiced one last protest as he followed his friends out of the door.  “Aleson will hear of this rough treatment!”  I had no doubt of that, but the chink of my coins in Aleson’s ears would drown any complaints.
     I motioned for my crew to sit, but I stood.  This way I was taller than the rest—usually I was only taller than Korgan.  Bad Kitty jumped on the table.  I waited until everyone was seated and I had their full attention.
     “Now is the time.  It is time for us to break the hold this city has on us.  It is time to storm the sewers and cleanse them of the vampires that there inhabit.”  Yeah, that was good.
     Edwin raised a hand.  “And why again is that our job?”
     I glared at him.  “It is our job because no one else can do it.  We are the only ones powerful enough to defeat them.”
     He shrugged.  “So let them overrun the town.  We can escape to your pocket plane and let them sort this mess out for themselves.”
     Valygar eyed Edwin with contempt.  “And whence from there, wizard?  That is a dead end.  Our escape lies somewhere in this town, be it through the walls or beneath them.”
     Korgan snorted.  “Dinnae look at me when ye say that, Ranger.  Mayhap me kin burrowed ‘neath the earth, but I’ll not toil so.  Though it sticks in me craw to say it, I agree with the wizard.  Let the townspeople deal wi’ it, o’ die trying.  Our way out is nae through the innards o’ this poxy town.  Storm the castle gates, Perdita, draw and quarter the tyrant Gromnir, and that would put paid to it.”
     Edwin said, “You forget, dwarf, we can not storm the gates.  They are too heavily fortified.  It must be the sewers if we are to do it, but I say don’t do it at all.”
     That was two adamant nays to one yea.  It would be impossible for me to force them if Sarevok went against me.  Well, maybe not impossible, but it’d be a lot harder to fight the vampires if we were fighting among ourselves.
     Sarevok’s chair creaked under his weight.  His deep voice slowly warmed up.  “Perdita is right.  If we are to escape this town, we have to defeat Gromnir.  The only way to him is through the sewers.  If that means vampires, so be it.  We will fight the vampires and on to Gromnir.”
     “That’s settled, then.  I got a key out of Farielle, so we just go in—”
     The legs of Korgan’s chair screeched against the floor.  “Nay, lassie, I’ll not be going.  You’ll find me here drinking with my good friend Volo when ye get back.”  He left for the common room.
     I watched his departure open-mouthed, stunned to silence.  Korgan shying away from a fight?  Recovering, I called to the rest, “Be right back,” and followed Korgan.
     All those stories bards tell, the heroic sagas—I’ve told them myself for coin—what they never say is how damn hard it is to have everyone depend on you.  Perdita, should we storm the front gates; Perdita, should we enter the crypt; Perdita, my boots are too tight.
     Korgan was already hunched over a mug at a corner table.  I yanked at the back of his chair to pull it out, but my gesture failed as I couldn’t make it budge.  “What’s this about, really?”
     I saw the sweat of fear on his face—or maybe it was just the sweat of drinking too much.  “I’ve no hankering to be runnin’ up against another den o’ vampires.”
     The little bastard.  He had less to fear than the rest of us.  His berserk ability kept him safe from their energy-draining attacks.  It was time to draw on my vaunted bardic charisma.
     I grasped his beard and jerked his head around to face me.  “Listen to me, you sorry sack of—of sack.  I know a curse that will cause every sip of beer, ale, wine, cider—any spirit—to have a foul and a bitter taste once it meets your lips.”
     I stared into his greedy, bloodshot eyes as he judged if I meant it.
     He smacked the flat of his hand on the table.  “We’ve sat idle long enough.  Time to hack apart some bloodsuckers.”
     “That’s the spirit.  I knew I could count on you.”  I released his beard, and he stroked it as if making sure it was all there.  We rejoined the others in the private room.
     “So, Korgan,” Sarevok boomed.  “You are joining our little tea party after all.”
     “The lassie is right persuasive.  Wouldn’t miss it for all the grog in Faerun.”
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2004, 06:44:49 PM »
Chapter Nine
     
The key clanged in the lock in spite of my caution.  My hands were sweating.  We’d used what protections we could, but without Anomen, we were bare of the usual Protection from Evil, Chaotic Commands, and others that only he as a cleric could cast.  The guys crowded close around me.  Edwin stood back, still putting up his protections.  When his voice died out, I pushed open the door.
     It was a sewer, all right.  Dirty, damp, smelly.  Rats skittered just at the edge of vision, and strands of spider webs clung to my face.  This part must be cut off from the mains, though, as the water at least wasn’t running through.
     I sent Valygar ahead to scout.  The vampires sniffed him out, and he ran back with two on his tail.  Korgan at my prodding went berserk, and hacked through the first one.  Valygar took down the second with Azure Edge, the incongruously-named rosy-hued axe that had the potential to kill undead instantly.  I sang my bard song to inspire them.
     The sewers were a maze of cells.  Rats scurried out of our way.  At each turn in the close quarters we met more of the vampires.  I continued to sing while Edwin cast spells to lower the magic resistance of the vampires.  Korgan, in his berserker state, sliced through them as if they were soft cheese.  Sarevok took one or two with his Deathbringer Assault as Valygar threw and caught the returning Azure Edge.  Vampires left and right exploded into dust, but we were taking a beating, too.  One of them got to Valygar before Sarevok could cut it down, and I could see him weakening before my eyes under the vampire’s energy-draining attack.  I wished for Anomen to be by my side more than ever.  With his array of undead-fighting spells and turn-undead ability, they wouldn’t have touched us.
     Mist crept along the floors and clung to our ankles.  The air was choked with the smell of undeath and the unnerving shrieks of the vampires we killed, but at least there were no kobolds.  I couldn’t stand those barking things.
     It was when Korgan’s berserk state ended that I decided I needed to enter the fray.
     I cast a few quick spells to enhance my fighting, then an offensive spin with Daystar in one hand and Angurvadul in the other, and I made short work of the vampire in front of me.
     “Yoo hoo, sweetie, over here.”  It was the vampire courtesan from the Tavern.  “Hi there, sweetie.  Loved our chat.  I hope you’ve come to join us, because I’d really hate to kill you.  We could use a bard among us.  These other chaps are so dead serious.”
     “Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested in a permanent gig.  I’d rather tour.”
     “Such a pity.  Your boyfriend would be so much more jolly with you here.”
     “I’ve come to take him back.”
     One hand on his hip, he waved a finger at me.  “Uh uh uh, afraid not, sweetie.  We’ll take you to our collective bosoms instead.”
     At that, he attacked me.  I jumped back and evaded his claws, then counterattacked.  He was much tougher than I expected, but a lucky thrust of Daystar caught him in the chest.  Before he exploded into dust, he had time to say, “ ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’ ”
     Valygar was faltering.  “Fall back!”  I shouted to him over the howls of the maddened vampires.  Would that Anomen was here to restore him.  Sarevok covered Valygar’s retreat, but he took a good blow, too.  At least Edwin was still untouched.
     I was elbow-deep in gore, freeing Daystar from one more dissolving body and ready to plunge it into another, when I heard my lover’s voice.
     “Perdita, at last you have come to me.  My love, put aside your sword and stand with me.  There is no need to struggle.”
     “You know I’m crazy about you, and I’d follow you anywhere, but this isn’t exactly my idea of a cozy little love nest.”
     He was across the room one minute and at my side the next.  “Where we are matters not, beloved, it is that we are joined as one.”
     I didn’t know about that.  It was hard to do any long-term planning, down the road and all, but it had struck me as a very good notion indeed that if I ever got him cured of all his childhood angst, I wouldn’t at all mind crashing in his big fancy family estate back in Athkatla.
     “That is home to me no more, my love.”
     Oh, shit, he could read my mind.  That would never do.  I had to get him un-vampired, and now.  That meant finding the head vampire and staking her.
     “Tell you what, I’ll consider it.  Just wait right here, honey.  I have to find Farielle.”
     “You mean to kill her.  I cannot allow that.”
     “No, not kill her exactly, just have a talk with her about this domination thing.”
     Anomen’s hands moved in the spell Hold Person.  At least he didn’t intend to hurt me.  I easily shook off the spell.  I was too powerful for it to affect me now.
     “Guys, keep him off me, but don’t hurt him, or your cut of the loot is docked.  I’m going to find Farielle and knock her noggin into the next tenday.”
     Korgan gripped Anomen’s arms to hold him, but Anomen was too strong, especially with his super vampire strength.  Sarevok threw a punch at him while Valygar nailed the last stray vampire.  Sarevok followed his right with a left.  “I’ve wanted to do this to the sanctimonious prig since he looked down that long nose at me the day we met.”
     “Be gentle!  He isn’t himself.”
     Edwin said, “Can’t we bruise him a little?”
     “Not if you value your Thayvian attributes.”
     Edwin cast Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere around Anomen.  A good choice.  Not only would Anomen be protected, we would be protected from him, but I was afraid that Edwin’s spell would run out before Farielle finally showed herself.
     A cloud of mist floated in and coalesced in front of us.  Farielle’s voice came out of it as the mist solidified.
     “I can do nothing with him.  He unaccountably prefers you.  I can’t see it.”  Her just-formed mouth turned down.  “If you don’t allow him to turn you, I’ll have to kill you, you know.  He won’t kill you—he still retains some will of his own.  We will break him of that eventually.  I won’t take you into our sisterhood myself—I’ve no desire to spend my immortality listening to you.  In fact, I think first I’ll rip out your throat to silence you before I kill you.”
     “You won’t get the chance, bitch!”  I had been saving Daystar and the power of its Sunray for her.  “Guys, get Anomen out of range—now!”  I parried Farielle’s attacks as the others dragged Anomen to the sewer entrance.  I landed a hit on her, but that was only because she had focused her attention elsewhere.  Korgan succumbed to her confusion spell, and hit out at his comrades.
     “Valygar, get Anomen away!  Sarevok, try to restrain Korgan.  Edwin, can you get free to cast?”
     Farielle’s lip curled in triumph.  “Your troops are failing.  You might as well lay down your sword.  You have not beaten us all.”
     A fledgling vampire, overlooked in a corner, flew at Sarevok, who paled before my eyes.  Sarevok had insane strength and stamina, but he was in danger of falling before the combined attack and keeping Korgan at bay without hurting him.  I downed a potion of speed and thrust my blade into the back of the fledgling.  That motion may have saved me, as Farielle’s threatened swipe at my throat caught my mailed shoulder instead.
     She howled.  “You’ve ruined my manicure.  You will pay now.”
     A quick glance over my shoulder at Anomen assured me that Edwin and Valygar had him at a safe distance.  Well, maybe not assured me, but he shouldn’t take too much damage and I couldn’t wait any longer.  I activated Daystar’s Sunray.  A brilliant beam of undead-killing might shot forth in a column of power.  Farielle screamed once and was no more.
     Just then Sarevok failed to not hurt Korgan, landing a blow that would have killed a lesser man—er, dwarf.  Korgan panicked and ran for the corner.  It didn’t matter now, since Anomen was safe.  He would heal all of us and restore Korgan’s courage, and we’d be good to go.
     Sarevok stood next to me, breathing hard.  “Are you all right?”
     “I should ask you that.  You took a couple of good hits.”
     “I hit the blue bottle a few times, too.”
     “Come on, let’s see if Anomen is back to normal.”
     “Not that that’s a good thing.”
     I shot him a dirty look.  He just grinned back.
     Anomen was still encased in the sphere.  “Eddie, why haven’t you dispelled it?”
     Edwin’s face showed a degree of uncertainty unusual for him.  “He does not appear to have been changed.”
     “That’s impossible.  Farielle is dead.”  I stepped as close to the sphere as I could.  Anomen floated inside, his face still an ashy gray.
     “Perdita.  There you are, my love.  Why have you done this to me?  Let me out—I promise that I won’t hurt you.”
     I backed away.  This nice-nice Anomen was not my man.
     The realization came hard but swift.  “Farielle wasn’t the head vampire.  There must be another.  On your guard, guys.  We’re not done yet.”  I slipped off my regenerative ring and put it on Valygar’s hand.  He needed it more than I did.  Sarevok helped himself to a few more blue bottles from the potion case he carried.  Edwin recast his stoneskins.  I resumed my Bardsong, but kept my swords free.  I motioned Sarevok to the front, closely followed by Valygar.  I blew Anomen a kiss, and we advanced further into the vampire enclave.  I broke my song to say, “I wonder who is left?  It must be a very powerful vampire indeed.”
     A dense mist flowed across the stone floor.  It pooled in front of us and swirled into a column.  I resumed my Bardsong, and I could feel my own resistances rising due to the power of my song.
     The vampiric mist resolved itself into an all-too-familiar form.  “Heya, it’s me, Imoen.”
     
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2004, 08:47:56 PM »
Chapter Ten
     
“What in the Nine Hells!”  Would I never be free of her?  “How in the name of all the gods do you come to be here?”
     “Melissan, of course.  She hauled in all the Bhaalspawn, ‘member?  You might want to think it’s all about you, but guess what, sis, it’s not.  I’m a child of Bhaal, too, as much as you are.”
     “But a vampire?  When did that happen?”
     “You got me back my soul, but it came from Bodhi with these huge strings attached.”  She spread her hands to demonstrate ‘huge,’ like a fisherman telling a tale.  “You never bothered to swing by the Copper Coronet and check up on your old pal.  Couldn’t spare a minute to say, ‘Heya, Imoen, how’s that soul working out for ya?  Is it still a vampire soul?’  No, you had to get back to traveling with your boyfriend.”
     “There was the small matter of my own soul to deal with.  I’m still not sure if it’s screwed on right.  I’ve been through Hell, literally.  Anyway, it’s not as if we were ever close or anything.”
     “I would have come back for you.”
     I knew she would have.
     Sarevok said, “Why is it that the villains always seem to anticipate your arrival?”
     I ignored him, but Imoen didn’t.  “Who’s the big guy?  Isn’t your knight enough for you?”
     “This is our brother Sarevok.”
     “I thought you killed him.”
     “He got better.  He’s on my team now.”
     “I’m not surprised.  You always went after the guys.  You took all my boyfriends back at Candlekeep.”
     “That’s the sword calling the knife sharp.  You’re the one who took all the guys I showed any interest in, and poisoned them against me.”
     “Sis, it was your own sweet personality at work.  I didn’t have to do anything but sympathize and hold their hand.”
     Valygar cleared his throat.  “I can believe that.”
     I glared at him.  “No one cares about this, Imoen.  It’s old business.”
     Sarevok shook his head.  “No, on the contrary, I find it fascinating.  Please continue.”
     “Hey, she’s the villain here.”  I punched my finger at Sarevok.  “You are not helping.”  Then I pointed at Valygar.  “And you are out of the troupe as soon as we get to the surface.”
     Valygar shrugged; since they’d all been thrown out several times, he didn’t take my threat seriously.
     “You’ll have to give back those custom boots, and you owe me for the armor upgrade.”
     Imoen said, “So petty,” and tsked.
     I hate being tsked at.
     “I’ve had enough of this.  Whatever passed between us, I’ll truly have no joy in killing you, but make no mistake about this—if you stand between me and a living, breathing, fully functional Anomen, you’re dead.”
     “But, silly sis, I’m already dead.”
     “Whatever.  Attack!”
     I sang my battle song.  Sarevok rushed Imoen and Valygar launched his axe.  Edwin, under instructions to protect Anomen, fired off Lower Magic Resistance spells from the back lines.
     Korgan had recovered himself, and that was a good thing, because as Sarevok sliced through the sudden fog where Imoen had stood, a new wave of vampires rushed us from all sides.  Overwhelmed, I abandoned my Bardsong for my two-handed offensive spin attack.  I was unable to track what everyone else was doing until finally the last vampire expired on the edge of my blade.
     Edwin still held Anomen in the Globe.  Valygar whimpered in a corner.  Sarevok needed more than a blue bottle or two.  And Korgan, who had again berserked without recovering from the last time, was held in Imoen’s grasp.  Korgan’s eyes rolled in fear.
     “Release him.  It’s me you want.”
     “Yes, it is you.  That’s why I attacked you through you boyfriend.  Perdita, consider.  We were both orphans.  We grew up together.  We have more in common than most true sisters.  We can be the sisters in death that we never were in life.”
     She relaxed her grip on Korgan some, but not enough.  I remembered that he’d wanted to stay in the tavern.  It was my fault he was caught.  He choked out, “Perdita, take me life wit’ yer own hand.  Dinnae let them turn me.”
     Could I put an arrow through Imoen’s throat before she killed Korgan?  Would an arrow in the throat even do anything to her?  Imoen was fresh, and we’d been through two waves of vampires.  I could feel that my energy was sapped.  Sarevok and Valygar couldn’t go on without healing and rest.  I needed Edwin to be sure Anomen got out of this if I didn’t.
     “Let him go—I’ll take his place.”
     Imoen tilted her head to one side, considering.  “Deal.  You’re the one I want.  Put your weapons down.”  She watched me lay my two swords and crossbow in a pile, then my short swords, then the axe I was learning to use.  “The dagger in your boot, too.”  I added it to the pile.  “Better put your harps there, too.”  Four harps went on the pile.  “Let’s go, sis.”
     She pushed Korgan aside and grasped my forearm with both hands, tugging me toward one of the cells.  “C’mon, sis, don’t dilly-dally.  Let’s do it right here.”  She impulsively hugged me.  I didn’t know what to do, so I just let her.  My arms stuck out at crazy angles.  I looked at the guys, and they seemed puzzled, too.
     “It won’t take much,” she said, letting me go.  “Your boyfriend already started the job.  By the way, you can keep Mr. Stuffed Shirt if you want.  I don’t like him at all.”
     “What’s wrong with Anomen?”
     “What isn’t wrong with him. He’s a huge pain in the neck.  He wasn’t here even one whole night, and he tried to get us to only feed on ‘bad’ people.  I ask you, why does he care now?”
     Anomen—good even when he was evil.
     “What do you see in him?  He’s so difficult.”
     “So am I, that’s why we suit.  He’s strong, and he’s handsome, and he loves me.”  I didn’t know what I’d do if he stopped.  I couldn’t bear it.
     “All he wants to do is whine about his father.  He claims he’s nearing a ‘breakthrough,’ whatever that is.  Do I look like I have time for that?”  She spread her hands and spun around in her domain.  “Although, now that you’ve killed all my little helpers, I guess I’ll have more free time.”  She picked up one of my instruments.  “Maybe I can learn to harp.”  She plucked a discordant note, then threw the harp down.   I winced as it sounded when it hit the floor.
     “That’s another thing—you could have been the best thief or mage, or both, ever seen, and you threw it away to pluck a harp.”
     Bards just get no respect.
     “Ooh, sis, I’ve waited so long!”  She took my hands in hers and jumped up and down.  “We can do so much stuff together!  We can hunt humans for blood, and fly as bats, and sleep in the same coffin, and…well, that’s about it.  But it will be so much fun!”
     She brushed my hair off my neck.  “After I suck out your blood, then you suck mine, and that’s how you change.”  Her finger traced a line down my neck, and I shivered.  “You always had such perfect skin.”  She laughed, then put her arms around me to hold me still.  She bent her head, and I felt the cold touch of her lips.  I could see the guys over her shoulder.  They were riveted in place, their eyes popping from their skulls.
     “What are you looking at?”
     They all looked away in different directions.  Edwin attempted to whistle a tune.  “Nothing, nothing.”
     I’d learned a thing or two from that Kara-Turanese monk before he left Candlekeep.  I knelt as if in submission, but really to achieve leverage.  I grasped Imoen’s arm, and she smiled as she thought I was acquiescing.  I tightened my grip, and in one smooth motion I tossed her over my shoulder.  She was up and off the ground in a flash, but I’d bought myself enough time to recover Daystar.
     She was madder than Bad Kitty in a bath.  “You promised!  You said you’d trade yourself for Korgan and the rest.  I kept my end of the deal.  Gorion would be ashamed of you, going back on your word like that.”
     “You don’t think he’d be a little upset that you’re a vampire and wanted to kill me?”
     “I never wanted to kill you!  I only wanted to be you!”
     I wrapped both hands around Daystar’s pommel and held the shining sword straight up in front of me.  “Renounce your vampirism, and I’ll spare your life.  We can make you human again if you let us.”  Probably.  Maybe.
     A sneer crossed her face.  “I am not weak.  I don’t need you to save me.  Maybe I want to be this way.”  She took a step toward me.  “You think you’re going to use Daystar on me, but you forgot, you used it once already, on that cow Farielle.”
     As she leapt toward me, I chanted the words that activated Daystar’s power, and as the plume of light blazed forth, I said, “I’ve had it improved.”
     Imoen screamed, then wailed pitiably, and I felt almost sorry.  She slumped in a heap, dead, but her body still intact.
     I ran to the bubble that trapped Anomen.  His face now had color.  “I demand that you release me immediately, wizard.”
     Yes, that was my honey.  Edwin freed him from the spell and retreated.  I ran to Anomen and threw my arms around him.  He caught me up in a hug that lifted me from the ground, and spun me around.
     “You’re back.  Oh, Anomen, thank the gods you’re back!”
     “Not the gods, my love.  ‘Twas your own efforts that won the day.”
     He squeezed me so close that I knew his gusto was restored as well as his color.  We were making up for lost kissing time when a cramp seized my stomach.  At the same time a headache like a lightning bolt burst through my head.  I clutched my head in my hands and bent over double.  Then both pains were gone as quickly as they’d come.  I looked for Bad Kitty, who was obediently waiting in the entry.  “Did you feel that, kitty?  What was it?”
     He didn’t answer me, but his eyes were wide like a kitten’s as his little pink triangle nose elongated into a scaly brownish-green snout.  His black fur rippled into scales.  He let out a frightened “meow” that turned into a squawk.  Tiny wings sprouted from his back, and grew until they were large enough to lift his body.  He tentatively flexed them, then flapped his new wings and hovered in front of my face.
     “Kitty, you’ve turned into a pseudodragon!  What’s happening to us?”  I held out my arms and he perched there, then I hugged him close.  “Poor Kitty!”
     Anomen laughed, the first real laugh I’d seen in a while.  It looked good on him.  He gathered us both into his arms.  “It’s you, my dear.  You’ve changed, as I changed during my test.  You’re a good girl now.”
     I stared at my other companions.  “How could this happen?  What did I do?”
     Valygar said, “As I was telling you earlier, it’s the good you do.”
     Sarevok said, “I imagine the turning point was when you offered yourself in place of Korgan.”
     “I won’t start doing random acts of kindness, will I?”
     “I think you already have.”
     “But I liked me the way I was.”
     Anomen kissed the top of my head.  “I love you however you are, but perhaps I will like you better this way.”
     This would take some thinking about.
     I walked back over to Imoen’s body.  She was still dead, but looked innocent and harmless.
     “What can we do about her?”
     Sarevok knelt and picked her up, cradling her in his arms.  “She is still our sister.”
     “Let’s get back to the tavern and rest up.  We can figure it out there.  We still have more fighting ahead of us.”
« Last Edit: July 14, 2004, 06:17:11 PM by Perdita »
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

Offline Perdita

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Re: Life During Wartime
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2004, 10:03:41 PM »
Epilogue—Several Tendays Later
     
Turned out that the way out of Saradush was through the sewers.  Once we cleared out the vampires, it was no great matter to head upstairs to take out Gromnir.
     Then we were able to get out of the city and handle Yaga Shura and the other fire giants, but the city itself was already lost.  Korgan wanted to watch it burn, but I had no stomach for it.  I thought of the friends I’d made, and hoped that somehow Bridget and the others got out.  Anomen put an arm around me and pulled me away from the sight.
     Anomen had been able to resurrect Imoen and restore her humanity.  He was so powerful now that it scared me.  After a period of recuperation, I hired a merchant we met in the Marching Mountains to escort Imoen back to Athkatla.  I realized that I didn’t have to be jealous of Imoen anymore.  Gorion wasn’t there for us to compete for his attention.  Maybe it wasn’t too late for us, but I had some other things to take care of first.
     Being a Bhaalspawn was like playing a game of King of the Hill.  There could only be one on top.  Whoever was left would inherit daddy’s seat among the gods.  I was the most powerful of the Bhaalspawn.  Eventually, I’d have to take down all the rest, that is, if I wanted to prevent the return of the rule of Murder.  That didn’t sound like a good thing, so I guess I wanted to prevent it, but it was going to be a lot of work.  I surely didn’t want to rule in Hell.  It was ugly, hot, and not a hairdresser in sight.
     For now I was content to stay in Amkethran.  I liked the desert town, with its dry desert air, the spicy food, the cute little houses made of mud and little else.  The food was so good I ate more than I usually did.  In fact, one day Anomen teased me that I was putting on weight.  He had a cold bed that night.
     The guys were in no hurry to leave, either.  Sarevok and Valygar practiced weaponry all day with the guards.  Edwin and Korgan were convinced that they’d spotted the scoundrel Saemon Havarian, who had almost got us killed twice with his betrayals.  They spent all their time hunting for signs of him, and plotting what they would do if they found him.
     I wondered if I’d have problems keeping my diverse group together since my change.  Edwin and Sarevok weren’t as reckless as Korgan, so I didn’t think they’d be a problem.  I’d looked the other way over Korgan’s worst excesses before, but now I didn’t think I could.
     Anomen had been super-attentive since his stint as a vampire.  He assured me repeatedly that he wouldn’t allow it to happen again.  Although he’d never admit it, I think that when he talked to Edwin, he was forced to face some of the worries that he kept buried.  He was talking to the cleric of Waukeen, a great guy who seemed to care about people, and I think he was working things out.  He seemed easier in his own skin.
     I’d started to write songs again.  That’s what I was doing one day when a knock sounded on the door.  I turned my page face down and said, “Come in.”
     Anomen entered and closed the door behind him.  His face was pale, and I thought he must have had an intense session with the cleric.  He cleared his throat and fidgeted, which was completely unlike him.  “My dear, I have something of importance to impart to you.”
     Oh my gods—he was going to break up with me.  Everything was going too smoothly, I should have realized something would go wrong.  That cleric, it was his doing.  He’d made Anomen think we weren’t right for each other.  I’d kill him.
     I stood up and tried to strike my most seductive pose.  I’d hold onto him any way I could.  “Something you forgot to impart to me last night?”
     He didn’t act as if he heard me.  He talked about what we meant to each other, and our uncertain future.  He was sweating.  I couldn’t hear what he said over the roaring in my ears.  I couldn’t stand it if he left me, after all we’d been through together.  Eventually, he stopped talking, and fished in his belt pocket for a small box, then he took my hand and set the box on my palm.  His hands were trembling.
     I took it.  “What is this?”
     “Open it.”
     Inside the carved wooden box was a ring.  It was unassuming, not at all the sort of thing I liked.  If he thought he could buy me off, he’d have to come up with a better kiss-off present than this.
     “It is my sister’s ring.  It is all I have left of her.  I’d like you to wear it, as a token of my love, as my wife.”
     “W-w-wife?”
     He took the ring from my hands and slipped it on my finger before my nerveless fingers dropped it.  “Will you say yes, my love?”
     “Yes, yes, I’ll marry you over and over again.”  I threw my arms around his neck and he kissed me until my toes vibrated.  “It’s because I’m good now, isn’t it?”  I looked up at him from under my lashes.  “I was always good.”
     “Mmm, yes, you were.  But it is more than that.  You have stood by me in dark times.  You have been a rock upon which I found anchor.  I want you beside me always.”
      We hugged some more.  I looked at the ring behind his back.  I decided that it was not small but dainty.  It looked well on my hand.  Something more ostentatious would have been vulgar.  It had been his sister’s and it was from Anomen, and I decided that it was perfect.
     He tugged my hair.  “I hope that you will not turn too good, my love.”
     I turned the ring to catch the light.  Very nice.  I wondered what it was worth.  I’d get it appraised right away.  He’d said something.  “What, honey?”
     “I said, I hope that you will not turn too good.”
     “No danger of that, sweetcheeks.”  I let him fold me in his arms and tasted his special kisses.  “Anyway, it’s about time you made an honest woman out of me.  I’m pregnant.”
     He put a hand on my stomach and said, “You’re—you’re going to have—”  His eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted dead.  I caught at him to break his fall so he wouldn’t knock his head on the hard floor.  I knelt on the floor next to him and fanned his face.
     “I’m sorry, honey, I was kidding!  Bad joke!  Wake up, honey.”  I dampened my hanky with tepid water and patted his face.
     At last he blinked and raised himself on his elbows.  “So you aren’t going to have a baby.”  Was that disappointment or relief in his voice?
     “You had me worried there, honey.  I guess I’d better never tell you that for real.”  The thought that he might not want to be a father wrenched a maternal bone in my body that I’d never suspected was there.
     “Oh, Perdita, it’s not that I don’t want children, just not yet.  When your quest is over, we will have time to think about a family.”
     That sounded like a very good idea.  I smiled at him.
     He pulled me down next to him, and we engaged in some heavy-duty kissing that was sure to lead to child-producing activities.  Bad Kitty flew around us, and lifted my hat off.  When I paid him no attention, he flew up in my face and made that meow-squawk that was all he make now.  He persisted until I couldn’t ignore him.  I moved Anomen’s head so he could kiss my now-bare shoulders.
     “What is it?  Your timing could be better, you know.”
     Bad Kitty squawked again.
     “What do you mean, I wasn’t kidding?”
     
The End
Ever wonder what an impulsive bard would do if she feared her boyfriend Anomen were turning back into a vampire?  No?  Well, read my new fanfic, Life During Wartime, and find out anyway.

 

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