Legends of Belariath


Cold Comfort: Bad Boy For Life - Part 4

Did I mention that I was in a bad situation? I must have, for there is no way I could not have commented on the fact I was going into the Underdark, finding a lost ruined city, scouting it out with two groups of people whom essentially despised each other, and having the eagle-eye of the majordomo of the West Wind glaring over my shoulder. If I missed anything, it would have been the fact we first had to all go shopping as a team to find items suitable for the task, and then get a briefing on what we were to accomplish. There is also the discovery of a new site-to-site transferal incantation that struck my mind? and gave me a migraine for my troubles. Over all, I can safely say that my day was just about over before it began.

Oh, and someone kissed me. Not a random someone, either. This young woman had made it a point to kiss me, and I could not discover her true motives for it other than? chaos, really. Uuamytvosa for lack of something better to punctuate the fact she would be leading our ?merry marauders? into the UnderDark after having convinced me the half-devil Wliszan-Jeree was going to be doing it. Had it truly had been Wliszan-Jeree, I would have gladly called the entire thing a failure from the start and accepted whatever punishment the majordomo of the West Wind thought was appropriate. After all, why wait for a cold and worthless demise when you can have death served to you personally, fresh and hot? I cannot say with all confidence I felt Uuamytvosa was the best suited for this mission, but I knew damn well the half-devil was not. Some are meant to lead, other to follow. Wliszan-Jeree born to stay the hell out of my way if she knew what was good for her. There is not a doubt in my mind Uuamytvosa would have done more than merely kiss me, but she did not have the time to implement her full plan?yet.

Standing within the great three-storey workshop that is WeaponWorld, I looked at my traveling companions and growled. Noticing the note of displeasure, the dark elf whom I had finished my first tour of duty with in reconnaissance looked at me, then at my hands. Smirking, they pointed as I found my hands were already clenched as if holding a dagger or similar tool of devastation. Taking that as a sign, the other men whom I had first seen the ruins with followed suit with the dark elf and walked with me to the third floor, while the women stayed on the first floor? for now.

Evishka - the high elf from that plain known as Krynn I was never allowed to visit - was a cloak and dagger kind of girl, so I knew where she would head first. Fairly confident the women would be well occupied with their own acquisitions, my comrades and I went straight for the good stuff on the third floor. My expense account was never empty, given my hard work and deft translations of obscure texts. The others were not as fortunate as I, but we were in fairly good stead with the staff here. After all, the dwarf and one of the dark elf - Nosaes Ycnadnecsa I believe, the shortest one - did forging and design projects for them every so often.

Being the twisted sociopath I was, I immediately asked for those weapons recently forged which were off-balance or not up to the quality they preferred. Directed to a huge box of broken weapons and rusted blades, I chose a compilation of seven different ones, asking if they could be melted down and then molded into fighting sticks for me. The ogre at the floating smithy blinked twice, looking at me as if I lost my mind. Giving her a stern look, I then went on to choose other broken or twisted hunks of metals and stones, making weird requests for them as well. It took one quarter-turn of the hourglass to convince her what I was doing and why. Still, I needed to acquire the aid of two more part-time metallurgists and alchemists to properly express my motives.

While new weapons were being created for me, the rest of my associates were picking and choosing carefully from what was about. Going for the undecorated weapons, they made sure the blades sang in their fingertips, and sliced the air so cleanly water would bleed rubies. The dwarf, however, sought out a different approach: mining tools. Not just any mining tools either, these ones had all been enchanted to be extra deadly to both mountains and miscreants alike. If I did not know better, I would have sworn he had been saving them for a special occasion. (I do know better, however, and I remember him saying he was working on a few sets like the one he had just picked up a few months ago.)

The fourth floor was strictly magical weapons and tools of the trade. It was also where most of the enchantments were made. To be quite honest, I had never been to the fourth floor of the WeaponWorld before, and I had never had any desire to. Everything I personally required could be found on the second and third floor. It was much like going down the main street of a major city, and never going into a certain restaurant. Sure, I could have gone there, but what was the point? This day, however, my comrades were determined to find a few things there. Telling them I would meet them up there soon enough, I kept my attentions on the rods and staves being forged for me. Suddenly, I felt arms grab around my shoulders, and I was carted off and up the flight of stairs to the final floor.

Now, for those unused to magic, a place like this would feel overwhelming and awe-inspiring. For me, knowing most of these things had seen more blood than I had made me think thrice about the upcoming assignment. Rings of power, brass knuckles which had bolts of lightning emanate from their fronts, and a dagger which transformed into a halberd were some of the less interesting ?trinkets? found up here. At least one ?blood drinker? battle axe was in the stocks, a towering demonic shaft of bonewood with a blade made of mystically altered cold steel. That alone would have been enough to set off my internal alarms. Still, they had to go and examine a quarterstaff I know was possessed.

Heck, I put that bastard demon soul in there myself.

In my stunned reverie, I remembered finally WeaponWorld?s floors were at the very least the thickness from my foot to my kneecap of solid stone, reinforced with magical and rather interesting architectural tactics. In thinking of that, I recalled the rumour the place had a basement. And given Evishka?s lust for the first floor? my mind shivered twice over that. Basements and I had a history that went back quite a ways, and none of that history was any good as far as I was concerned. Let them find the items they required without our presence. It would be better for morale as far as I could see. The thought of Wliszan-Jeree with a whip was not one I cared to relish, especially a razorwhip of suffering?

Minutes turned into hours, and my comrades found all the weapons and armor they desired. I opted for simpler things - chain mail and bucklers would suit my needs. I need movement in order to be at full capability, and I had no wishes to be caught with my proverbial pants down. Actually, I would rather not be caught with any of my clothes missing in the place where we are going. Who knows what that magescript will say next? I know I for one surely do not. And if it states something about my person in a language I cannot read but my opponents can it could spell the end of me?

Heading back to the first floor, we found the women waiting for us. It appeared to me that we had not kept them waiting long, as they were still testing out the weight and balance of some of their new instruments. Our progression down the steps was distinctly more solemn than the vibrant bounding that had announced the ascension through WeaponWorld. My own tools had just been recently cooled and tinkered with. Such fast work had come at some cost however, yet I knew my debts would easily be caught up soon. Unless, of course, Rexington went and did more things which I would be expected to pay for.

Rexington. The bane of my existence in the service of my Liege Employer. He was my first and only partner I have ever possessed via contract since I started with my Employer so many moons ago. Until he does something directly to break that contract, I am stuck with him? and his debts. Most in the service of my Liege are part of a pair or group of people whom all share the same ?accounts.? The better one does, the better they all do, and vice versa. My problem is that the majordomo of the West Wind finds Rexington handsome and talented enough to stay my partner no matter what he does to harm my reputation or accounts. In other words, I would have to kill him myself in order to stop him from doing things and having ME have to pay for them. I have even voiced my consternation to my Liege directly ,but there is naught he can do about it as long as Rexington keeps producing.

Snarling as I reached the women last, I pushed past everyone, throwing open the doors and stormed outside. The guards looked like they were going to give me hassle for being so brusque, but a few quick words kept their pikestaff pavilion at bay. None could quite understand how my mood had slipped and fell down a well of fury, landing on a hard floor of pure vitriol. Then again, I was not going to tell them merely thinking about my lifelong ?partner? had done such a number on me. Let them figure it out. I - no, WE - still had to make it to ?Oghma?s Basement? and then to the meeting with the majordomo of the West Wind. Remembering -that- fact turned my face into a perma-scowl none working with me needed to witness for themselves.

I powered my way down the long avenues to Oghma?s Basement, occasionally flickering as my new spell for teleportation went into affect, seemingly at random. Unsurprisingly, I was there before all the others. There is something to be said for arriving early: you tend to have a better chance of preparing yourself for all kinds of foolishness and erroneous activity. I have always treasured solitude when it comes to setting up my post, no matter where it is I am going. That, and I do not seem to trust the skills of others when it comes to my personal wel-being - physical or otherwise.

Entering by myself, I went to the most obscure section of the great library first, knowing exactly what I would not find there: other people. If I were to compose myself enough to deal with the majordomo of the West Wind without major incident, I needed to be calm. Scanning through the great books, I tried to find a few older spells I had heard others make reference to, but came up with absolutely nothing. Disappointed in my ability to search, I went to the actual basement of the library, still hoping to discover some glimpse of an incantation made reference to in passing. Sure, it might have just been a myth, but confirmation in writing of that myth or legend was what I desired? and was denied. I could have cursed every single deity I had ever heard reference of at that moment, but I knew that would be a pointless endeavor. That, and disturbing the sanctity of the great library was not on my books for this day.

I could swear I heard the nattering of those women whom I would be assisting or assisted by on my next trip to those fallen elven ruins. Moving far from them, I went through the library some more, picking out various tomes covered in dust and cobwebs. Those were always the ones that had information I desired, so learning that cleaning cantrip had proved invaluable. (The fact the dust was always excellent for stealth and asphyxiation spells when contained properly was a huge bonus. I tended to drop by Oghma's Basement just for it thrice per week when at the compound.) Being fairly silent, I used my time to peer through some of the works I had just recently learned to translate correctly. Scripting down a few rather difficult and unpopular incantations, I made sure my inkwell did not spill or drip. Cleaning off nybauy`obe ink was a tedious and exhausting process even with the use of magic. It is one of the reasons I made it for myself quite a bit: it worked wonders for blinding opponents off-guard.

Hearing my associates call my name, I thought about simply teleporting clear out of the great library. Then I remembered a few things about Oghma's Basement - it was a semi-sentient structure, just like WeaponWorld was. As well, it only allowed incantations to be cast which would not disturb its sanctity or state of mind. Therefore, no fighting, no teleportation, and definitely no fire-based spells. The last person to try that found themselves in the body of a juvenile dragon for three weeks without the ability to fly without using spells or rituals. That was Rexington.

I would be mocking him about "wings for dinner" for three months to come.

Not worrying about the timing, I spent more time delving further into the archives. My internal clock was working overtime, trying to keep abreast of the passage of the day. Despite my personal arrogance, I had not forgotten about the meeting we were to have with my Liege Employer's most feared personnel. Needing to somehow scrape out the best of the damaged scrolls, I gently placed three fragile and creaking cases into my backpack as well. Having a fondness for the classics could be meddlesome at times.

Even though my own imagination had been responsible for a few incantation variations, I wanted tried and true sorceries available to me. Figuring I had just enough time left to make an impertinent appearance, I went back to the main level of the great library.

I allowed them to find me by the door, just standing there. With an arrogant smile and callous tone in my voice, I announced my presence to them. Uuamytvosa was the first to discover where I was, mainly because I had manoeuvred myself to be directly behind her without her notice. Some days, being an assassin comes into great usage. Jumping at least twice the length of her head in the hair, she spun to strike me in the shoulder with her fists - hard.

"You insolent, unhinged bastard!" she snarled softly. One would think she was not amused at my sudden arrival. "Do you have any clue how long we have been trying to find you? We had to get some of the librarians to find our spells for us, as the rest of us did not rush here. And some of us refuse to be late for the meeting with the majordomo. Perhaps you care not about your own hide -"

"Uuamytvosa, let us get something clear, here and now. I work for my Liege Employer. Not you, not the majordomo of the West Wind, and definitely -not- Wliszan-Jeree. You want me in your little dance troupe, you deal with me troublesome habits and all. Either that, or oust me now. I will go down by myself if I must, and carry out my Liege's requests in blessed solitude. I will NOT, however, be treated like a child, chattel, or some misfortunate bumpkin whom just had a pikestaff thrust into their hands and told they are a soldier. And I -know- you understand."

For the very first time since I met her, Uuamytvosa was speechless. Turning away from her and walking back through the stacks, I met up with the rest of those going back to the Underdark. Nodding quietly to them, I leaned against the archway of the doors. Uuamytvosa came down through the library much more subdued than before. Opening the doors silently, she led the procession out and down the walk towards the conference hall where the majordomo of the West Wind would be waiting. Looking over her scrolls, she did not glance in my direction even once.

I liked the new her a lot better.

On our way to the majordomo of the West Wind, some of the men I had previously spelunked into terror with approached me about the conversation I must have had with Uuamytvosa in the library stacks. Not surprisingly, the speculation swiftly turned to sexual endeavours and silence spells. I allowed them their fun for the first few minutes of the walk. After all, they needed something to take their minds off of the meeting we were to have shortly. When the speculation turned far more graphic than I prefered (or that I know the lady in question could have tolerated), I had to set things straight with them as well. Calling on all my background as an orator (that being next to none) as well as natural intimidation, I went through the entire incident with them. Needless to say, there were many disappointed faces in that crowd - mainly as there was no actual sex.

Although our past was set before us, when we reached the final destination of the day we marveled. The Sanctum of the majordomo of the West Wind was nothing to scoff at. Constructed to her specifications, it was not the most elaborate or luxurious of structures. In fact, it was not even the largest of the four Sanctums. What none of the other buildings did, however, was capture the essence of the being who ruled it by its pure physical being. One knew when they entered those hall doors to know fear and respect. That is, unless they were completely insane, another of the majordomos, completely blind, a visiting deity, or my Liege Employer himself.

I qualified as the first of those choices. Although I was not completely insane, she did not terrify me as much as she lorded over me. Fear was not as familiar to me as it was most other people. That, and my early experiences with various dangers in my youth inured me to her awesome aura. Still, I was not planning on crossing her any time soon, if ever. That required a degree of cretinism I was positive I had not reached.

Walking under the entrance archway, I felt that familiar tingle I always did. Most others crossed it off to fear and apprehension of dealing with the majordomo of the West Wind in person. I knew far better - it was a spell of detection permanently enchanted into the stones themselves. Carefully revised to send a trickle of fear and cold down the backs of those who waltzed into her personal realm, the majordomo of the West Wind had her impressions and images down to a science. Seeing how the rest of my companions were showing signs of worry, I decided to mirror their look in hopes of not startling them more. The hall down to the meeting room we were to use was chilled slightly , allowing us to see our own breath. Knowing there was more to this than one could see with the unaltered eye, I attuned myself to the place. Watching how the magic flowed through the eaves and pillars like blood was decidedly unnerving, but I let my mystical senses take over where my physical ones had failed. Seeign the spiraling towers of sorcery randomly spawn and vanish around some areas of the floor caused my step to "falter" and knock my allies from the path of the spirit scrying rotes. I was positive the majordomo of the West Wind would discover my feats and verbally berate me for my ingenuity later, but I cared not.

The doorway to her "Chambers of Subtlety" were anything but. Made from finely polished wood, the handles of the door were made from boiled and then fused umber hulk shells. A nice touch, especially if one knew what happened to the rest of the poor creature. (She most likely ate it raw.) Pressing my shoulders to the doors, they unsealed themselves like a self-opening letter. As they swung inwardly, I believed correctly the majordomo of the West Wind would be relaxing on the far side of the room. Her magnificence of form hid a sharpness of mind great enough to rival any general. A tactician's tactician, her reputation for detail and clarity was well earned. Maps of the area we were to traverse lay before her, with freshly inked passageways and numbers upon the edges. In no way did she expect this to fail, and it would be up to us victory would be hers - if victory was ever to be.

Motioning for us to all be seated, the great dragon servant reclined on a couch made for her elongated form. Wasting no time, she went through the main purposes of our decent, as well as the secondary goals. The dragon's mastery of the common trade tongues of human was far better than my own. It would put me to shame if it were not for the fact she was at the very least older than the lot of us combined. Given the pair of dark elves were each around two hundred years old, that would say quite a bit.

Not a single major dilemna did she not cover in the first two hours of that meeting. If it were not so serious, I would have called her paranoid. Having been down where she was describing, I wanted to say there were a few potential threats she was not covering. I said neither, not wanting to waste my breath.

Running through the possible dangers of our mission, she went through the numerous reasons why we had been chosen for an objective of this magnitude. All of us had a penchant for survival and at least two other talents which would serve us well - all but myself. I was there because of one thing - I had never failed my Liege Employer to date. This set me apart from the rest of those with me. Not that failure was so unacceptable in unreasonable circumstances, but that nothing had severed my ties with my final goal so badly I could not find the thread again... and choke someone to death with it. And Amaunator knew, this was going to be bloody no matter what we wanted to believe otherwise. Our goal was to minimize that, and hopefully make it back with our heads attached to our shoulders.

Finally, she reached the part about whom would lead us. Up until now, I thought what Uuamytvosa had stated was the truth merely by reputation. After all, she would have no reason to lie, now would she? Looking sideways at her, I caught her glancing at my own person - not a good sign. One would hope she had not been lying to us the entire time. If she had been...

"And the leader of this expedition will be Uuamytvosa," the powerful voice let roll from on high. "My choice for this was simple, and it remains final. Of you all, only she has the necessary training in leadership, underground adventuring, and survival you shall need to survive. I am sure she had notified you before this moment, but my decree forges my intent in blood and steel. If you wish to contest my choice, do not. It will avail you not, and waste precious energy more properly devoted to your assigned tasks. And Tophet... I know of your issues involving women. Despite your creation, I would believe you before all others here know of the importance of this plan succeeding. Your zealous efforts to achieve our Employer's goals are well noted, but this requires a fully integrated group effort. Remember this moment well, Tophet. For if you are the sole survivor of this mission, I will enquire as to why."

Bitch. Single me out in front of all the others, and literally tell them to take unnecessary risks as it will be up to ME to save their rotten behinds. My hands and outward visage remained perfectly calm as my eyes met hers. Any whom knew my eyes could see the internal rage warring against my common sense to be let loose to strike at her irrationally. A scaly eyebrow raised in my direction, as if waiting for my physical answer to manifest itself. Instead, I stood quietly, bowed once, and then left the room - without her express permission and consent. Going all the way back to my domicile without using a single incantation, I was glad I had remembered to pick up my backpack and satchels from the floor before I departed. I am sure they discussed a few other things after I left, but at that moment I cared not. All I wanted was to be left alone. For within eighteen turns of the hourglass, I would be upon Faerunian soil... and soon after beneath it.

Such a pity that was not to be, for I could have used the solitude...