Legends of Belariath


Air Purification V

"Within every sorcerer,

Lies the chance for power to grow.

In the heart of every wise cleric,

Remains the desire to know.

The thief's nimble ways indeed

Stem from their need for stealth.

But what about the warrior's goal?

Skill of arms intermingled with good health."

Unknown Bard

Two days.

A lot can happen in two days. A lot, or nothing at all, depending on whom you are and what you are doing. In my particular circumstance, both held true. Impossible, I think not. It all depends on how you look at events. Elminster was going to be in my line of sight within two days, and I still found myself too weak to walk on my own for longer than ten minutes within any given hour. My voice was back to its normal strength, and my eyes could grasp the subtle nuances of body language. So, in the aspect of dealing with the archmage my situation had not changed at all - I was at more of a disadvantage then when I first was shanghaied into this horrendous comedy of errors. This, I am sure, was not lost on any of those I was originally sent with. Many gave me glares of intimate satisfaction, firmly believing this was going to be the day I was finally to be punished for my numerous misdeeds. Not to say that I was not expecting a final confrontation with the Forces of Good myself, but I thought I would at least be able to stand against it without wheezing or suffering through a dehabilitating seizure half way through the event.

Two nights.

That is how many nights I spent with an elf in the same sleeping area as myself. The same elf, both times, might I add. Her innocence despite the terrible moments she spent in the captivity of the Zhentarim was both very shocking and disillusioning. When I awoke the first time she spent in my arms, my first thoughts were scattered, as my mind and body flashed back ten years to a similar situation, but then I was still a "student" bound to the whims of my "teachers." Her eyes flashed open at me, drawing me

back to reality, but the damage had already been done - it triggered a quake within that was moments ahead of the one I would normally be victim to, increasing the damage it wrought upon me. I spent three hours that day on the borderline of death, apparently, while many of those whom were loyal to the archmage's goals took bets on if I would survive the day.

Many, but not all of them.

A sporadic few actually came to my aid, having remembered being in the Keep itself, and my arms reaching out to pull them from oblivion... or to capture the necks of our common foes and twist them until they broke. A fever was next on the agenda, sending my internal temperature soaring so high my mage robes were stripped from me, and when we came across a cool creek, I was floated in it to bring my body's functions back down to earth. It was like someone was using magic of the health to strike me down, and succeeding without me being able to fight back. Next was a third seizure - the midday one. Normally the worse, it was making an attempt to better its own savage record, causing me to thrash about like a giant marlin struck with lightning while trying to reach shore after accidentally beaching itself. In short - I was an unholy mess. My hair was knotted about itself, with splinters of wood strewn through it. My eyes had changed in hue, from a brown/gold cross to a silver/mahogany blend with flecks of azure and topaz mixed in for flavor. My breathing was erratic and wheezing was the norm instead of gulps of air. Fingers clenched and released at air, just as a wooden stave was placed betwixt my jaws to keep me from biting off my own tongue. Held down to keep from injuring myself, I am sure I wrenched both arms out of their sockets completely, given the flavorful and descriptive information I was told when I finally came to.

Finally it all subsided, with my eyes rolling into the back of my head. My mouth was then freed of the wooden bit, and my body was held close by the elfmaiden whom had spent the majority of the night against it. Not knowing why I had looked at her with such panic in my eyes despite my telling her an abbreviated history of myself, she asked the dark elf - whom she had correctly identified as a personal friend - if he could tell me what had happened so horrible that she would have set off such a chain reaction. (Fortunately, they neglected to check the base of my neck. Most don't do to the huge mass of hair I possess - one of the reasons why I keep it long to begin with.) She had managed over the past few days, earn his respect, if not his trust. Before she could say anything however, his familiar - the deep dragon in the body of a dark elf with violet hair and darker hued eyes - took the opportunity from him. (She never did like me to begin with.) She in no short order let the little sylvan elf priestess in on one of the darker secrets of my existence - that of what some of my "training" had been for and how it was done. My friend looked upon his familiar with anger, but it was too late for that - the elf knew. The deep dragon in dark elf form shrugged once, saying that the elfmaiden DID want to know, and it couldn't be a real secret given the fact everyone knew I killed elves, so it went to follow they ought to know why. The elfmaiden's eyes turned to me again, and just held me close to her chest in my absence of consciousness, whispering a prayer to her goddess.

The prayer worked, but not without some serious consequences. My body healed itself, yes, but in doing so had to reset bones, pop joints quickly and brutally back into place, get blood running again - all of which yanked out the remaining moments of clarity I had from my mind as my slumped against hers, soaked in sweat, tears, cold freshwater, and humidity. The mosquitoes did not have a chance to assail my semi-mended body, however, as the young damsel (young in elven years, not human) used a few cantrips to keep me cool, dry, and pest free. Her devotion to the healing arts transcended anything I could easily recall - when I awoke, that is. And that did not happen for another full turn of the hourglass.

Staying awake for me was a commodity I had never appreciated until it was taken away from me. So was my physical health. Both had been considered automatic with every day I was still breathing without chains on my limbs. In the systemic chain of events that led me to this point, I had been proven so wrong it hurt to admit it - for that required heavy thinking which put strain on the back. When my eyes learned how to function again, I had missed two meals, been through a massive amount of physical stress, and my skin had changed tales on me because of it. Needless to say, pain was back in a way I could not remove readily or quickly. I was facing a campaign against my own body to fight the exquisite pains and aches away from my sorely beleaguered mind. As I regained full consciousness, my body curled into a ball, wracked with agony over having gone without proper food for that long, especially in my miserable condition. Understanding the movement instinctively, the elven lass called out for broth to be brought to me, as hot as I could stand in order to remove the deathgrip on my stomach. Once more, in the distant reaches of my thoughts, could I hear a voice saying I was going to get nursemaid again if I kept this up. I told it to shut up.

Unfortunately it came out verbally. Good thing it was in dark elf.

I was fed the broth with delicate hands. My body barely accepted any of it, considering it had to be forced through my lips and down my throat. The rough treatment went ignored in my conscious mind, as the pain was overwhelming and permeated the essence of my being. Starving oneself hurts no matter what people try to tell you. The steaming broth brought out the worse in be, that being internal agonies that left me in small belches, but it would be a long time coming that my body would be full and able to digest with any possible semblance of normality. Each spoonful was an invasion to my senses, making my eyes water with hair-pulling anguish. Being held in place just to consume sustenance did not bode well for my meeting with Elminster the next day. Of course, neither did the bruises, scrapes, headaches, nausea, and wrenched muscles, but by then I was far beyond caring about that. My time in Faerun was swift, and I took leave of my senses again for a time.

Waking again, it was past sunset, and the elfmaiden's smooth body was against mine, huddling for warmth under the blankets. Despite my feeling distinctly ill, my belly held its contents in well, until I was sure they were digested. Slowly rising, I could feel my legs wanting to give way, but I needed to void myself, and I damn sure was not doing that there in front of her. Staggering out of the wagon's back, I (with my robes which were conveniently folded up for me beside my head) found a spot and did my business, and found my way to a stream shortly after, washing myself up. I did not clue into what I was doing until at least an hour later, when a cry went up from far behind me. The camp had noticed I was missing, and there were shouts of my name going up into the air from those whom knew me well enough to believe I would answer them. Looking about, I figured out roughly how far from the camp I had gone, and the fact I had made it all this way under my own power encouraged me. Turning to the noises, I took in a deep breath to call my comrades to me.

Right about then, my legs gave way, sending me crashing to the ground. The yell, which would have been one of statement, was now one of pain. I had managed to gash up my right leg on the way down, and that pain reminded my body of the rest of the agony I was supposed to be in, evoking a much louder shriek of suffering from my body. Under normal circumstances, I would have been mortified to have done that, but as walking was sorely out of the question, as were most normal acts for me, I would save the shame for later. Rushing up to me was the dark elf, as always followed by his familiar in her dark elf form. Picking me up with supernaturally strong arms, she carted my half-dead and bleeding self -back- to the camp, not without berating me all the way for "worrying her master" and "upsetting that nice sylvan priestess" and a few other things. For a dragon, she was a real henpecking woman when she wanted to be.

Dumped unceremoniously inside the wagon again, I was bandaged by the priest, whom -also- nagged at me for getting the elven maiden worried enough to start praying... but there was a smirk to his face. That meant something was funny to him but could not possibly bode well for me. My instincts were right, as when the sylvan elf approached me I felt nothing but vibes of worry and rage coming from her. My ears were not the same for a week afterwards: never would I have believed one small elf whom dedicated her life to peace would have boxed my ears -and- berated me for an hour straight - then broke down, crawled into my lap, and cried herself to sleep. Three of Elminster's people whispered to me that if anything untoward happened to her during the night, they would remove my genitals. I calmly informed them they HAD been at least four times over. (That is an understatement, for it was truly ten.) They shut up and left, pale and withdrawn. Stupid human males. Always thinking with their peckers. Not even thinking they are in more danger from losing their throats...

I went to bed with a full stomach still, such was the broth's lasting power. I took the elfmaiden into my arms again, and tried to rest, but I could not. The robes were chafing my skin, or so it felt. I removed it finally, wearing now breeches and naught else. resting again down to bed, I took GOOD note that somehow the elf was awake... and in naught but a silken shift that left little to improper reverie. She looked at me, with a questioning look, as if she was the age she looked. Being the cold and heartless being I am, still I could not help but be moved by her glances. This was not some attempt at seduction before me - this was a child wanting help to sleep from her nightmares. My leg was bandaged, my body covered in bruises, my eyes circled with the need for rest, and she wanted ME as her comfort?

That settled one matter for me: she was completely insane.

I lay down first, and waited. She crawled in next to me, snuggling up as if I were some stuffed toy or plaything. Holding on to me tightly, she wriggled herself into a more restful position, taking one of my arms and draping it around herself. Smiling, she kissed my lips lightly, murmured "g'night Story Defender" and fell fast asleep. My arm caught the rough blanket and drew it over us, but my eyes could not find reason to close. They stayed open a while so my mind could wander and rage in silence. Here I was, effectively immobile, giving an ELF free access to my body. Had I fallen so low that I was back where I started? Did I truly manage to cost myself everything with that one incantation? The fear and hate gripped me so tight I felt the muscles in my neck tense, the blood streaming to my limbs as if priming to fight... but I knew I could not do anything. Then, the elfmaiden awoke slightly and turned to see my eyes.

"I... I am sorry, dark one," she began. "I must apologize for the pain I have caused you and your people. And... and I am sorry for what we surface elves have done to you." Before I had a chance to make an angry retort, she kissed my lips silent, stunning my outrage into an impasse with my want to know why she was saying this. "My life has been dedicated to saving the lives of others. When I met the Zhentarim, they were the first..." She choked a little at this point, obviously having trouble continuing. Whatever she was, she was -not- a coward. "... the first people I ever met whom I thought deserved killing. I knew it was only a matter of time before they... they tried to rape me. When you showed, I thought you were like those dark and shadowy knights young human girls always talk about, coming in to save the day, heedless of danger and despair. Instead, I find the man whom my whole native kingdom wants dead, and find you are nothing like the tales of you say. You do have something in you that is noble, no matter what you have removed from your soul. That - that is the Story I will say I met. And that is the Story who saved my life. I am no virgin, so if you needed such things from me as payment, I -"

"ENOUGH. I need not your... body. Just... Just cast a few quick rest incantations on me and get sleep. SLEEP, I say. No dalliances, no frisky nonsense, no playing `Where do you want to put your hand', no fondling, NOTHING. Unless, of course, you wish to sleep alone."

There. It was said, just before she could sink whatever freedom I still possessed in my fists into the soil the wagon rested on. Her eyes looked into mine, and I suddenly had a chilling realization that she could, if she wanted to, for me into sexual hijinx whether or not I defied her. There are times that one is out of their league and knows it. This was one of them. All I could do was pray that she got the message and did not try anything. One problem with being a former pleasure slave, as -well- as an assassin, is that your body reacts to your conditioning before you do. If she moved wrong, I could kill her... or worse. Well, worse as far as I myself was concerned. I had no intention of having sex again, especially not with another goddess-worshiping, waif-like, innocent-looking elf maiden.

(Before you ask that fateful question, I highly advise you to shut up and let me continue unimpeded. Any questions about -that- WILL get you killed. Thank you for your cooperation.)

She nodded quietly and waited. I rested by head back again, not having noticed the stiffness in my back until just then. That hurt. When her hair touched my bare chest, it tickled, but I dared not move, for fear she would go against her silent agreement not to try anything. Looking up, she moved to place her lips on my shoulder, then whispered into my ear that if it were not for the fact I hated elves, I would have ravaged her by now if I were simply like other men. She smiled at she continued, her fingers tracing a verse on my chest. As well as my dark and twisted soul hating elves, her whisper flowed, I also knew honour. And that, she finished with a flourish on my nipple, is why she trusted herself to my care. The hatred made me relatively immune to her physical charms, and my assassin's code would take care of any stray passions that were left. She then kissed my lips again, pressing soft breast into my chest, and snuggled against my loins with hers, her arms around me, her head on my shoulder.

That must have been the longest night of my life, barring waiting for execution. That, however, was also her fault, and will be discussed later. Still, falling to sleep was a struggle for repression of nightmares vs repression of memories. Slaying memories won out, and my night was filled with visions of a two hundred year old elf riding my dark shaft to euphoric oblivion, and my body enjoying every second of it. Never was I so glad I did not have prophetic dreams, for that one would have certainly inspired me hanging myself. The entire was that one dream, and I could feel myself commenting within the dream my body could not possibly bend in so many ways. She said the exact same thing, so close to my ear, I could have sworn that was the real her. I blinked twice, and it was morning. The sun was out, the birds were singing, the cooking fires were begun...

And there was an elf resting on my hips looking down at me with such a look of concern on her face I could have sworn I died and had gone to Purgatory.

Then I felt her breath on my hair, and remembered everything from the past few days... including the deal I had made with her last night. Preempting my next thoughts, the sylvan elf priestess places two fingers on my lips, whispering for me not to freak out or make sudden movements. She had apparently woken up a few moments before I did, and found herself resting so precariously on my lap, if we had moved I would have impaled her. As it was, she needed my assistance in moving, now that I could lift her off. I did, with all the care I could possibly muster, whispering in sylvan for her to get clothes on before someone checked on us. As I dressed myself properly, so did she, and we left the wagon together. It was the first time in a long while I had felt like myself, and I realized I must have slept through the first tremor of the day. That in itself was a good sign.

Having an audience outside the wagon waiting for us to step out of it was not. There were at least ten people standing there, all of them I had never seen before, and at least three had bows drawn on my. A quick look at them marked them for members of Knights of Myth Drannor - one of the many associations whom did not appreciate my existence. (Knocking one of them off of their horse using spells meant for one of their number will do that.) Immediately slapping me in irons, the carted me to a huge wooden cage and thrust me within it. Locking it shut, the largest one of them told me in no uncertain terms he would drive his sword through me if I started casting a spell. Looking blankly at them all, the priestess was at a total loss of what to do. When I cleared my throat, however, she fainted, completely certain I was going to die in front of her.

I had, in fact, planned to let the man murder me, thereby putting an indelible stain on their good name, and therefore on Elminster's. Watching the elfmaiden fall made me rethink my position, remembering I had to be alive when she was brought to him. Sighing quietly, I sat down in the wooden cage, plotting on how best to use the manacles around the human bastard's throat. My allies had been turned on that morning by the other party while they slept, and I saw that the drow had been roughed up somewhat, his familiar in magical chains. Angered, I yelled at the huge warrior before me that they were all cowards, striking at those whom helped them. Rattling my manacles in fury, I challenged him to face me in combat - he with all his stinking weapons and me just like this. Before he could answer, a cleric of Tymora shouted him away. Walking towards me, the cleric sighed, and informed me that neither the drow nor his "companion" - as they yet did know nothing of her true nature - would come quietly while I was about to be ambushed. As for his large comrade, he was the cousin of the man whom I jousted with a spell so many moons ago. Finally, he stated that it would not be long now before I faced final judgement, so if I wanted confession I could have it.

I smiled, and told him the only thing I confess to is not having killed the people who dared harm my allies... yet. He blanched, not expecting the pure vehemence in my voice. The cage was transported by horse to our final spot - the place where Elminster was waiting for us. And despite the fact noon hour was fast approaching, I was more ready for this encounter than I had been the first time. This time would be different.

This time, I was furious from the get-go.

Just as noon hour hit, we came to Elminster's current place of residence, however temporary it was. The tremor raced through my body, but did not give me outward shakes. Instead, it raked and scraped at every hollow point in my body, causing my skinscript to change by itself three times, and mauling my senses with a spiked warclub. My teeth chattered, and my palms were tight against the bars of the cage as I stood against them for support. My allies were all guarded against, and their items had been removed from their person - even keepsakes. When Elminster came into view, my eyes almost glistened from the blood fury that savaged my reasoning. All the pain, all the suffering, and all the madness I had gone through, I intended to let him receive, even if it killed me. And as I was sure it would, I was not concerning myself about the mess I was intending on making with the entrails of those whom got in my way.

Elminster came up to the cage and tapped at it with his pipe, blowing smoke into the air. "So, Story the Damned is caught and caged. Not exactly the way I was expecting to see you again, young man, but this will have to do. You seem to have allies here as well. From what I have heard on the magewinds, these people all helped with the rescue of the good lady who lays resting in the padded wagon, correct? And they arrived to assist you despite your being a known assassin and blackhearted fiend of a distinct order?"

Normally, I would have spat in his face, but he took the wise road and talked about my friends first. This got me to thinking there was a catch here, and in order to find it, I would have to play his game. He might be the most powerful mage I had personally dealt with inside of Faerun, but I would be a high elven swordsman if he was not still very much human. Just a nod did I give him, but the look in my eyes gave him all he needed to know. His low chuckle made me want to reach out and strangle him, but I'd never reach him in time before a spell or three of his went off. I knew, because I saw a group of demon worshiper try it before. No great loss they, and it was informative to boot.

"So, dark one, you have not only rescued the good lady, but you have also managed to create a band of adventurers behind the backs of some of this provinces finest defenders of Good. That is quite a talent there, young man. As well, you also, if I am hearing the tales correctly, cast a spell through some high level mystical bonds in order to save not just your own skin, but the lives of my personal friends. Also impressive, considering I myself taught that spell to the wizard who cast it on you." A harsh look was sent from Elminster to that one sorcerer whom I had never liked to begin with, and he cringed visibly -and- audibly. "Finally, you managed to survive the backlash from the incantation - a side effect to shattering the magic that I did not foresee, in fact - and stand before me now still primed to tear my throat out. Am I missing anything?"

"Yes - that you and your people are a horde of backstabbing, lying, thieving, whoring, yellow-bellied, red-handed demon-fucking cowards if you think you can get away with what you have done to my allies - ESPECIALLY THE DROW! He fought harder than any THREE of your cravenous treehumping stump-smokers did throughout every last fight with the Zhentarim, and this is how you repay him. Fat lot of -Good- you really are, Elminster. I'll see you in hell, along with the rest of the defilers of the Word." I turned my back on him, callously.

Now, I would not advise anyone do this to a high level mage with enough backup to raze a town to cinders. In fact, do not this to anyone with enough backup to raze a small town to cinders. My ploy, however, worked. Elminster's beard had not been singed, but his honour had. Quickly, I could hear his commands call out for the release of my allies, and for them to all be healed and their items restored to them immediately. Some of the more zealous members of the crusade for Truth and Justice put up a weak cry, but given the looks on their faces, the stern glower the must have received from Elminster ruined their resolve. I was certain that a fireball the size of the drow's dragon familiar was going to descend on me in any minute, but I was assured of my own personal victory. I had gotten Elminster to do MY wishes, no matter what the sentiment was behind that. I would die a happy man, if I knew what that meant.

Finally, the priestess came out from the padden wagon she had apparently been transferred to since she fell away from consciousness. Running to me in my cage, she stuck out her hand to mine, grasping it. To Elminster she let fly the brief tale concerning all her dealing with me since she met me from the first moment - more than ten whole years previous. At that moment, I recalled her face, though before it had been hidden in my hazy memory of my time as a "demonsreiche." I was relieved when I realized all she said was in elven, then I recalled exactly how many elves there were in listening distance. My eyes grew cold, as I heard the entire speech from beginning to end, knowing how this was going to end. All I could think of was that my day was not going to end, but an even longer quest lay before me, and twice as deadly as this one...

The elfmaiden then unlocked my cage and allowed me to step forward. "Under the powers of all that is Good and Just, do all here bear witness." My allies stopped what they were doing - mainly getting their things back - to see what was going on here. Those whom hated me paused from the rest of their activities to take note of what promised to be something they had never seen before. Elminster himself took a few steps away from us, because he wanted to see if she would go through with the ritual or not.

"Under the eyes of the benevolent sun and the radiant moon, do all here become part of record. You, Story, have been charged in absentia with the criminal offences of: murder most foul, regicide, seven separate accounts of manslaughter, the slaying of nobility in three provinces, four counts of desecration of a temple, numerous assaults upon the officers of Law and Order in six towns... and one charge of illegal gambling. You have been found guilty. And now, you will be taken to await your final ruling, which at least four of your severe crimes against my people you will be punishable by death and devastation."

Just when you think you know a person, they are related to someone you killed you can barely remember the name of. Not to say it always happens like that, but some days it goes to show that no good deed - in this case, saving the life of the elfmaiden truly goes unpunished.