Previous Chapters are HERE .
Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken and something else happens to it instead. Events bearing some similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum are taking place simultaneously with this story, but off-screen.
Cromwell’s beard was trimmed shorter than was usual for a dwarf and was bound into a tight plait with golden bands. The singed ends of the hairs that protruded beyond the bands offered a clue as to why he had adopted that style. The heat of the forge could be felt even at the far end of his shop.
“Ye’ve done a braw job o’ skinning thot muckle beastie,” he praised. He tugged idly at the end of his beard and pondered. “There’s mair dragon scale there than ah’ve seen in mah life afore thae noo. Whit tae dae wi’ it, thot’s thae puzzle, hoo can ah get thae maist use oot o’ it?”
“Boots,” Anya said. Cromwell glowered at her.
“You are the master craftsman, and I would not presume to advise you,” Sorkatani said, “but our thoughts were that it could be used to reinforce our suits of enchanted leather armor. Also, we desire boots of dragon skin.”
“Ah’m nae a cobbler, young lassie,” Cromwell replied, “but ah ken one weel, a guid man, an’ ah’ll have a wee bit word in his ear.” He stared at the party one after the other, his eyes dwelling on their armor, and then he scrutinized the sets of leathers that they had laid out on one of his tables. “Ah, there’s some bonny wark there,” he said admiringly. “Ah’ll have tae gang canny nae tae spoil thae enchantments. Still, ah’m nae a maister for naethin’. Ah’ll dae it.” He smiled at Sorkatani. “Ah’ve heard o’ ye frae Taerom Fuiruim, thae Thunderhammer. Ye’re thae lass they call thae Perfect Warrior, is thot richt? He speakit weel o’ ye.”
“He is a fine craftsman and a good friend,” Sorkatani said. “It pleases me that he has spoken of me.”
“Whit happened tae thae suit o’ Ankheg armor thot he made for ye?” Cromwell asked.
“I was captured and imprisoned, and all my possessions taken,” Sorkatani explained. “I found some of them in the dungeon in which I was held, but that armor is gone.” She rapped her knuckles on the breastplate of the steel armor that she wore. “I took this from a fallen foe, and it may even exceed the Ankheg plate for strength, but its weight can be bothersome.”
“As is the weight of mine,” Viconia muttered.
“Weel, ah’ll see whit ah can dae for ye, lassie,” Cromwell told Sorkatani. He swung his gaze upon Viconia. “Ah nivver thocht ah’d see a drow in mah forge. There’s aye bad bluid betwixt thae drow an’ my ain fowk, ye ken. Auld matters of stolen artifacts an’ murdered dwarves thot are nae easy forgot.”
Viconia shrugged. “I was not born then, hargluk. My people stole items from the harglukkin during the Descent, yes, I know this. Of course we did. We wanted the best, after all.”
Cromwell stared at her for a moment longer and then gave a grunt of laughter. “Ye’ve a bonny tongue in yer heid for a drow, lassie. Ah’ll see whit ah can dae for ye.”
“How long will it take?” Spike asked. He didn’t want to be parted from the Armor of Deep Night for any longer than he could help, and was also nervous lest the dwarf’s alterations spoiled the look of the beautiful leather garment.
“Thot depends on hoo many laborers ah hire,” Cromwell said. “Ah dinnae suppose ye’d be willin’ tae help oot in thae forge yer ain selves? Nae, ah thocht not. Ah tell ye whit. Ye lave thot bonny piece wi’ me for a day an’ ah’ll dae thae reinforcin’. Ah’ll nae harm it, mannie, dinnae ye fash yersel. It’ll be a ten-day at thae least afore ah’ve got suits for aw o’ ye done, an’ thot’s if ye gi’ me thae coin for a full crew.” He raised a hand to his helmet and adjusted its position on his head. “Six thousand danter wud be aboot richt.”
“We have weapons and armor here that we do not use and plan to sell,” Sorkatani said. “Perhaps we could do a trade?”
“Ay, thot will dae verra weel,” Cromwell replied. “Ah’ll take these pieces as payment for thae labor, richt enough. Ah micht make a wee bit loss on thae deal, or ah micht nae. It’ll dae.”
Buffy was less interested in the armor than were most of the others and she grew bored with the discussion, especially as she found Cromwell’s accent almost impenetrable, and she wandered around the forge looking at the weapons for sale. She didn’t see anything that appealed to her, certainly not in the way that the Blade of Roses had, but once the deal was struck she asked Cromwell what he could produce in the way of special weapons.
“Ah’m nae an innovator,” Cromwell confessed. “Gi’ me a muckle weapon o’ thae past thot’s damaged an’ ah can dae a braw job o’ fixin’ it; but ah dinnae make thae things frae scratch, at least nae wi’oot thae plans.” He tugged at his beard. “Ye’ve got a couple o’ wee bits in amang yer stuff thot micht be worth a closer look. Thot bow-stave lookit verra much like thae wark o’ Gesen tae me. If it is, an’ ye can find one o’ his strings, ah can make a bonnie bit weapon indeed. Ah saw a scroll ah cud dae wi’ takin’ a closer look at, as weel.”
Buffy located the scroll in question and passed it to the dwarf. “Ay, thot’s it,” Cromwell nodded. “Thae scroll o’ Crom Faeyr. Instructions for hoo tae make thae Crom Faeyr war hammer. Aboot as muckle a weapon as can be.” He frowned as he read the scroll. “Ye need Gauntlets o’ Ogre Power, a Girdle o’ Frost Giant Strength, an’ thae Hammer o’ Thunderbolts. Ah dinnae think ye’ll find aw o’ thae things, ye mind; but if ye dae, ye come back tae me.”
“How come the dwarves all sound like they’re Scotch?” Dawn wondered, as they walked along the dockside towards the Harpers’ building.
“Scottish. Scotch is the drink,” Giles corrected her. “It is undoubtedly a side effect of the spell whereby we understand the language of this place.” He glanced around at the other members of the group. “Just as Viconia sounds vaguely Russian, as indeed does Jaheira, and Yoshimo sounds Japanese.”
“Sorkatani doesn’t,” Dawn commented. “Sound Japanese, that is. She sounds more, well, English than anything, I think. But she’s from the same country as Yoshimo, right?”
“Born there, Bit, but she was brought up in Candlekeep, and that’s just up the coast from here,” Spike joined in with an explanation. “Could ride there in a week... a few days, that is. That right, Tani?”
Sorkatani turned bleak eyes upon him. “I could, yes, but I would not be allowed inside. I am exiled forever. I can never go home any more.”
“Oh, that’s terrible,” Dawn commiserated.
Sorkatani gave her a half smile. “I grow maudlin. Forgive me. I should not be sad, for I made a home for myself in Baldur’s Gate, and I shall return there once Imoen is rescued. Your case is worse, I fear, for I know not how you can return to your world. I would help you if I could. Perhaps Elminster might have the power to return you. He was friend to Gorion, and I have met him a time or two, but he would never lift a finger to help me except with cryptic words. If we meet again I shall plead your case, but I can promise nothing. I am sorry.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” Dawn told her. “This place isn’t so bad. If we have to stay here, well, it isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe you could, like, show me around Baldur’s Gate.”
Sorkatani’s smile grew broad and her face lit up. Suddenly she looked very young. “That would be a pleasure, Dawn. We could ‘hang out’ – is that the right expression in your idiom?”
“Yeah, you got it right,” Dawn confirmed. She tilted her head to one side. “Uh, Sorkatani, how old are you?” She had tended to assume that Sorkatani was much the same age as was Buffy, but once in a while the Perfect Warrior seemed much younger.
“Seventeen,” Sorkatani replied, somewhat to Dawn’s surprise. “Nearly eighteen. I am not so much older than you, really. I was just your age when I fled from Candlekeep. Since then almost my whole life has been spent on the road, save for a few short months of peace in Baldur’s Gate after the death of Sarevok.” She sighed. “I have had to grow up fast. I hope that you are spared such experiences.”
“Hey, last year there was this, like, hell goddess looking to sacrifice me the whole time,” Dawn revealed. “This is totally a vacation compared to that.”
Sorkatani raised her eyebrows. “Then indeed we have something in common.”
Their conversation was interrupted as Jaheira emerged from the building ahead of them and approached at a fast walk. “Sorkatani,” she called. “It is good to see you. Did you get my message?”
“We did,” the Perfect Warrior confirmed. “We have only just returned to the city. Now that we are reunited our search for Tara can begin.”
Jaheira cast a glance back at her shoulder at the Harpers’ building. “My superior Galvarey wishes to interview both you and Buffy, but that can wait. Tara must come first. To the Graveyard District?”
“Later,” Sorkatani replied. “The invitation specified that we must go after nightfall. Right now there is a small matter that I must sort out for Yoshimo, and then I suggest that we go back to the Copper Coronet. There is much to talk about.”
The man was tall and handsome and wore gleaming armor and a silk-lined cloak. A mace hung from his belt. His hair was dark brown and brushed back from his forehead to display a lofty brow, his eyes were gray, and his skin was tanned. He had full lips, which were not hidden at all by the short beard that was shaved well back from his mouth, and his teeth gleamed white as he smiled.
Spike disliked him on sight even before the man spoke to Buffy.
“Fair lady,” the stranger addressed her, “what brings you to this cesspool of corruption?”
Buffy’s hand went up to her hair, she twined a strand around her finger for a moment, and then she rethought and lowered her hand to the pommel of the Blade of Roses to activate the enchantment that made her even more attractive. “Uh, hi,” she said. “Cesspool of corruption, huh? Hey, it’s a bar, yeah, but it’s not so bad. We’ve, like, freed the slaves and all that stuff. Hey, you should have seen it when Lehtinan was running the joint.”
“I had heard rumors of one who struck a mighty blow against the slave traders of the city,” the armored man said. “It is true, then? You must be a mighty force for righteousness and justice.”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly just me,” Buffy said. “There’s a whole bunch of us. But, yeah, I’m one of the two leaders.”
“Perchance I have found worthy companions,” the man went on. “I seek to be knighted in the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart and I must prove my worth. Have you, perhaps, need of a strong arm? I am Anomen, warrior priest of Helm. What is your name, my Lady?”
“Buffy,” she replied, “the Vampire Slayer.”
“Vampire Slayer?” Anomen’s eyes widened. “A mighty feat indeed to slay a vampire.”
“It’s kinda my job,” Buffy said. She looked over to the other side of the barroom, to where Sorkatani sat talking to Jaheira, and frowned. “I don’t know if we need another fighter. There’s getting to be a lot of us. Although, Mazzy went off to her home town to arrange funerals for her dead buddies, and Anath died, so maybe there might be a slot. Hey, did you say you’re a priest?”
“I did, my Lady,” Anomen confirmed.
“We’re short a cleric, with Tara missing,” Buffy mused. “Viconia was, like, totally drained after that last battle, and even with Jaheira back we could probably use the extra healing and stuff. Come on, I’ll introduce you to Sorkatani, and we’ll see if we’ve got room for you.”
Sorkatani greeted Anomen with stiff formality and a complete lack of any welcoming smile. When Buffy asked if there was room in the group for an additional cleric Sorkatani consulted with Viconia and Jaheira before replying.
“The healing duties for so many are a strain,” Viconia admitted. “I must needs allocate all my power to healing spells, with none remaining to cast spells of harm upon our enemies. I would welcome another hand to lighten the load, at least until Tara is rescued and returned to our company. What say you, treehugger?”
“My thoughts are the same as yours, drow harlot,” Jaheira agreed.
“Drow?” Anomen’s eyes narrowed and he stared at the veil that obscured Viconia’s face. “You associate with a creature of the blackest evil?”
Sorkatani’s eyes narrowed. “Viconia has been my true friend and companion through many months of bitter struggle, priest. Insult her not if you wish to join this company.”
“He didn’t mean anything by it,” Buffy said. “You didn’t, did you, Anomen? It’s just, hey, you know how people are about the drow in these parts. But he won’t say it again.” Her voice took on a hard edge. “You won’t, right?”
Anomen’s brow furrowed. “If you vouch for this, ah, woman,” he said with evident reluctance, “then I suppose that I could tolerate her.”
Sorkatani’s eyes remained cold. “It is more a question of whether or not she will tolerate you.”
“To call me ‘evil’ is hardly an insult in my eyes, jabbress,” Viconia reminded her. “If Buffy wishes this rivvil to join us I have no objection. As I said, I would welcome another to take a share of the healing duties.”
Willow was watching the interplay without taking part. She took note of Buffy’s attitude to Anomen, glanced across to where Spike was staring at the priest with an unmistakably hostile glower on his face, and realized why Viconia was so enthusiastic about the prospective new member of the group. “Hey, we don’t know anything about this guy,” she spoke up. “Sorry, Buffy, but we’ve got to be careful.”
“No problemo,” Buffy said airily. “Xander can check him out, right?”
“Yeah, sure, Buffster,” Xander agreed. He concentrated briefly. “Nope, no evil vibes whatsoever. Well, except from that dwarf over there, the one who’s such a big fan of Giles’ songs.”
“Hmm,” Giles mused. “Perhaps I should play him something by Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden?”
“Skulking about in graveyards by night, accepting a quest to return a toy bear to a ghost – bah! These are no tasks for a warrior. Out on the field, facing the enemy in open combat, that is how it should be,” Anomen rambled. “I remember last summer’s campaign by the Order against the Hillgnasher giants. A day of glory under the bright sun. I myself slew twenty of the beasts.”
“And he’s still got to prove himself?” Xander muttered to Spike. “Jeez, what do they expect in this Order? Should he have done it while riding on a unicycle and juggling live porcupines?”
Spike sniggered. “Bloke’s about as full of crap as a dozen elephants,” he commented.
Buffy hadn’t been listening to Anomen’s boastful reminiscences. “Hush, guys,” she ordered. “There’s something out there. A vamp.” She drew the Blade of Roses from its scabbard and then stood absolutely still, her head tilted to one side, listening.
Anomen gulped and took a step backwards. Spike moved forwards, silently as a ghost, and took up a position at Buffy’s side. Sorkatani frowned at Spike’s unheeding back and rested her thumb on the crossguard of Celestial Fury ready for an iaijutsu draw. Xander grinned and poised Azuredge for a throw.
“So, at long last you have responded to my invitation,” a soft and husky female voice purred from the darkness. “I was beginning to think that you would never come.”
“Your choice of meeting place is scarcely calculated to inspire confidence,” Sorkatani replied.
Buffy slipped out of the circle of torchlight and disappeared into the darkness, moving as silently as a shadow, followed closely by an equally silent Spike.
“There are a number of reasons why we must meet here, few of which need concern you,” the voice went on. “First, let me introduce myself. I am Bodhi. I have asked you here primarily because we are unlikely to be overheard.”
“Speak, then,” Sorkatani said. “Where is Tara? What have you done with her?”
“Nothing,” Bodhi replied, a hint of mocking laughter in her voice. “I have no interest in the curs that follow at your heels, god-child. Did they blame it upon me? A plot to set us against each other, perhaps. I want you to work for me. Why would I jeopardize that by abducting one of your followers?”
“The doppelganger that I slew said that you could tell us where Tara is, vampire,” Jaheira put in.
“And indeed I can,” Bodhi told her. Her voice suddenly sharpened. “Hold, Vampire Slayer! Come no closer, neither you nor your little pet, or I will simply run off and say nothing.”
“Tell us where Tara is,” Buffy demanded.
“Go back to your friends and then I will speak,” Bodhi said. “There must be a truce between us or this discussion will not take place at all.”
Buffy and Spike walked back to the rest of the group and stood glaring sullenly in Bodhi’s direction. “Okay, truce,” Buffy agreed, in a voice thick with resentment and distrust.
“Ah, yes, that is better. Very well. Your comrade is a prisoner of Lord Jierdan Firkraag in his fortress in the Windspear Hills. I tell you this as a gesture of good faith. Did you get such a gesture from Gaelen Bayle? I think not.”
“You are in opposition to Bayle?” Sorkatani asked.
“I am,” Bodhi confirmed. “I can get you to Spellhold, god-child. You can reach your missing … friend. For this service I ask only fifteen thousand danter. And that you perform some small services for me, yes, but Bayle will ask similar services too. And you would find his requests far harder to fulfill than you will mine.”
“You cannot treat with this foul and unnatural creature,” Anomen protested.
Sorkatani grimaced, raised her eyes towards the stars above, and spoke briefly and quietly to Viconia in the drow tongue. She raised her voice again and challenged Bodhi. “Let me guess. You control the guild that is fighting the Shadow Thieves, Bayle is one of the Shadow Thieves’ officers, and his task would be for me to kill you, as yours will be for me to kill him.”
“Clever, clever, god-child,” Bodhi said. “You are not precisely correct, but close enough. I want you to weaken the resources of the Shadow Thieves. There is a monopoly in this city and I intend to break it. They will not be easily destroyed but once a few key figures are disposed of the majority of their members will join with me. We will have broken the largest criminal organization south of Waterdeep.”
“The Shadow Thieves are indeed a blight upon our society,” Anomen mused.
“Broken, or merely assisted in a change of leadership?” Sorkatani shook her head. “I trust you not, vampire. Thank you for the information about Tara, although I am sure that you provide it for your own purposes, but I shall not ally with you.”
“Just because I am a vampire? And yet you have a vampire amongst you. Do you think that the Shadow Thieves can be trusted? How naive. They will betray you in an instant if they smell profit. You must know this. Reconsider, god-child. I can get you to Imoen.”
“So you claim. I would rather stick to the devil I know. I am an honorary member of the Shadow Thieves and count some of their number as friends. I will not betray them. I refuse your offer.”
“A vampire amongst us?” Anomen said incredulously. Everybody ignored him.
“So you would oppose me? That is … unfortunate. Very well, you may go. You have made an enemy here tonight and I will face you on my own terms when the inevitable time comes.”
“And then you will die,” Jaheira spoke confidently. “Many better than you have underestimated Sorkatani to their cost, and Buffy is not called the Vampire Slayer for nothing. You will rue the day of conflict when it comes, creature.”
“We shall see when next we meet.” Bodhi replied. “Take your little army with you when you seek out Firkraag, oh Perfect Warrior. You will need it. Farewell.”
“Do we let her go?” Willow asked. “I could set that whole area on fire, no problem.”
“It was a truce,” Sorkatani reminded her. “Let the vampire leave unhindered. For now.”
“She’s heading off real fast,” Buffy said. “Not like we could catch her anyway. Yeah, let’s call it quits for now, Will.”
“Okay,” Willow agreed. “At least we know where Tara is now.”
“We know where that vamp says that Tara is,” Buffy corrected her. “She might be lying. Trying to get us to fight somebody for no reason.”
“In that case would she not have said that Tara was held by the Shadow Thieves?” Yoshimo pointed out. “Lord Jierdan has a reputation in Athkatla as a man who rules his lands with an iron fist. Arrogant, perhaps cruel. He came to the Copper Coronet to enlist Sorkatani for some task or other and she did not have time to speak to him. He may have taken offense and abducted Tara as revenge, or to force us to serve him.”
“Lord Jierdan is a respected member of society,” Anomen interjected. “He may be completely innocent.”
“If he’s abducted Tara then he’s gonna be a respected pile of smoking embers,” Willow muttered.
Sorkatani put her hand on Willow’s shoulder and squeezed it gently before replying to Anomen. “Yes, he may be innocent, although somehow I doubt it, but I agree that we should not take precipitate action before we know the facts. We shall go forthwith to the Windspear Hills, with open minds, but also with all the force that we can muster. ”
“I’m good with that,” Buffy agreed. “Okay, we can’t go tonight, so we might as well go look for that kid’s toy bear. I vote that tomorrow we call in on the dwarf, pick up whatever bits of armor he’s got ready, and then head for the hills.”
There was a chorus of agreement from the party and they left the graveyard and headed back towards the city proper. Anomen took up a position at Buffy’s side as they walked. “Tell me, fair lady, how much do you know of my Order of the Most Radiant Heart?”
Buffy smiled at him. “Not enough, I guess,” she said.
Behind her Willow and Dawn exchanged an eye-roll. “They’re a bunch of pompous jerks?” Dawn suggested, keeping her voice down to a point at which she was sure that Buffy wouldn’t hear. Willow smothered a laugh.
“The man is a braggart and a fool, I think,” Sorkatani said to Spike, as Anomen lectured Buffy on the glorious achievements of the Radiant Heart. “Once Tara is restored to us there will be no place for him in our company.”
Spike looked glum. “Buffy’s got a soft spot for self-righteous pillocks with dark hair that sticks up. Bet she wants to keep the tosser around for a while.”
Viconia overheard his words and smiled.
“Ye’re a wee bit ower suin, but nae matter,” Cromwell said. “Ah’ll hae the Armor o’ Deep Nicht finished in a hauf hour or sae, an’ this set for a lassie in as lang agin.” He quirked his bushy eyebrows at Sorkatani and Viconia. “Ah’ve somethin’ a wee bit special in mind for ye twa bonnie lassies, an’ ah’ve nae made a start yet. A ten-day, like ah said.”
“So there is nothing ready now, but in an hour there will be two sets complete?” Sorkatani checked that she had understood him properly.
“Ay, thot’s richt, lassie,” Cromwell confirmed.
“It would make little sense to leave now, in that case,” Sorkatani said, her eyes on Willow.
“Yeah, I guess,” Willow agreed. “Hey, Buffy, there’s a room upstairs at the Sea’s Bounty Tavern where they’ve got actual coffee on sale. We could go get some to fill in the time, ‘kay? Just girls, right, there’s a few things I’d like to talk about.”
“Or we could call upon Galvarey at the Harper’s Hold,” Jaheira suggested. “It is close at hand, and if we get it over with then perhaps he will not meddle in our affairs in future.”
Buffy screwed up her mouth. “It all sounds too much like doing SATS to me. I’m so not in the mood for anything like that. Coffee sounds good.”
Sorkatani mirrored her grimace. “I am no more enthusiastic than are you, but I suppose I may as well get it over with. Very well, Jaheira, I shall go with you to your superior. I can spare him an hour. No more.”
“Buffy, that Anomen guy is a total jerk,” Willow pronounced judgment upon the man who appeared to be in contention for the role of the Slayer’s new boyfriend. “I just don’t get why you want him around.”
“Hey!” Buffy protested. “He’s cute. Real good looking, and he’s all with the ‘fair lady’ and stuff. What have you got against him?”
“Well, that line he was shooting about the twenty giants? So doesn’t stand up,” Willow said. “And hey, that story he told about cutting off the head of the orc chieftain? Hello, cleric, carries a mace not a sword, so he cut off the head exactly how?”
Buffy’s brow creased. “Okay, so maybe he talks a little big,” she conceded, “but hey, he’s just trying to impress me. He’s still cute.”
“He’s a wanker,” Dawn gave her opinion, and received a death glare from her sister in response.
“He is extremely handsome for a rivvil,” Viconia said. “A noble, too. His broad chest contains a beating heart, and his testicles no doubt produce fertile semen. What more could Buffy ask for in a man?”
Buffy glared at her because she had said ‘testicles’ and ‘semen’ in front of Dawn. Dawn glared at Viconia because she was speaking up for Anomen.
Willow rolled her eyes. “I know what you’re up to, abbil. Drop it, why don’t you?”
“Yeah, just ‘cause you want a free run at Spike,” Dawn backed Willow.
“So you two are against Anomen just ‘cause he isn’t Spike?” Buffy turned her glare upon her sister and her best friend. “Newsflash, people. Spike is a vampire. That isn’t gonna change, and that means I’m never going to be more than friends with him, no matter what. You can drop all the plotting on his behalf ‘cause it so isn’t going to work.”
“I’m against Anomen ‘cause he’s a jerk,” Willow said. “Come on, Buff, you must see it. Hey, even Sorkatani doesn’t like him, and she likes pretty much everybody. You wanna take up with a human guy? Fine. If it was, say, Minsc, I’d be all with the ‘go Buffy, jump his bones’. But Anomen? You can so do better than that.”
“Minsc? You’re kidding, right? He’s, like, everybody’s big brother. So not boyfriend material.”
“He’s tall and kinda good looking, well, ‘cept for being bald, and he’s funny, and he’s a real hero not a fake,” Willow said. “Okay, yeah, the brain damage thing and the talking to a hamster thing might be downers, but hey, if Minsc says he’s got your back, well, he’s got your back. Like Spike. When that vamp girl turned up you two just moved as a team without even thinking about it. I didn’t notice Anomen do anything other than moving back out of harm’s way.”
“He’s new, you can’t expect him to fit into the way we do things straight away,” Buffy defended the priest. “He’ll learn.”
“He’d better,” Willow said. “All he’s done so far is kinda put Xander right off the whole paladin thing. This Order of the Radiant Heart sounds like a whole bunch of jerks in armor with sticks up their asses. The ‘greatest force for righteousness and justice in all Faerûn’, huh? Well, if that’s so, how come so many people come to Sorkatani for help? She’s ten times as good as they are.”
“I fail to see the point of these questions,” Sorkatani complained. “What does it matter what I choose as my favorite color? I know that your main concern is my heritage.”
“I seek clues towards your ultimate intentions,” Galvarey revealed. “Yes, your heritage is of great concern to us. The Prophecies of Alaundo foretell disaster that might well be embodied in you.”
“I grew up in the building that was erected above Alaundo’s tomb,” Sorkatani reminded the Harper. “I have known his prophecies all my life. There is nothing in them that refers to me specifically. Has it occurred to you that it might be Sarevok who was the fulfillment of the ‘chaos shall be sown in his passage’ part of the prophecy of the Bhaalspawn? His passage, I stress, and hello? Girl here, in case you haven’t noticed.”
Galvarey frowned. “Your speech is strange,” he commented. “I am not sure that I followed your meaning.”
“Forgive me. The idiom of the other-worlders,” Sorkatani explained. “It is oddly infectious and I sometimes find myself falling into their patterns of speech. My point is that the prophecy specifies a man and I am a girl.” She took a sip from the cup of coffee that Galvarey had poured for her and grimaced at the bitter taste.
“Hah! She has you there,” Jaheira interjected.
“Please remain silent, Jaheira,” Galvarey said, scowling at her. “I dispute that interpretation. I have also heard the prophecy expressed as ‘chaos shall be sown by their passage’. It speaks of all of you, not just one, male or female. The Bhaalspawn are a force for chaos, it cannot be denied. Children of the god of violent death. How could it be otherwise?”
“I make my own destiny,” Sorkatani insisted. “Whatever my parentage, I am my own person. Gorion was the only father I ever knew and his teachings guide me at every turn.”
“Ah, yes, Gorion. The idealist who thought that he could circumvent the prophecy through education.” Galvarey shook his head. “A doomed project. I was against it from the start.”
Jaheira sniffed. “When Gorion adopted Sorkatani you were a mere callow youth who had just entered the service of the Harpers. You knew nothing of the decision.”
“Had I done so I would have advised against it,” Galvarey said. “Divine blood will out.”
“Certainly many people have tried to shed mine,” Sorkatani said.
“And failed, because you slew them. How many have you slain, Bhaalspawn?”
“Only those who forced my hand.” She drank again from her coffee. It was too bitter for her taste, but she knew that the drink was a rare and expensive import and felt that it would be impolite to complain.
“So many that you have lost count,” Galvarey said in somber tones. “Violence comes easily to you, does it not?”
“I have acquired a certain facility with weapons,” Sorkatani conceded, “but only that I might preserve my own life and the lives of my companions.” She lowered her empty cup to the table and frowned as she realized that her hand was trembling.
“And so many have died that you might live. You are a threat to the peace of the world, Bhaalspawn.”
“I like not the way this conversation is progressing,” Jaheira frowned. “An assessment, you said? This is more like an interrogation. A trial, even, with the judgment pre-determined.”
“Peace, Jaheira. I do but pose questions and scenarios,” Galvarey said. “This is an amicable discussion. Your friend is not on trial. Would you care for some more coffee, Sorkatani?” He did not raise his hand towards the coffee pot but instead lowered it below the level of his desk.
“I think not,” Sorkatani replied. She blinked, frowned, and blinked again. “It is more bitter than I had been led to believe. Less pleasant. The aftertaste is like a burning in … my … throat.” Her eyes widened. She clutched at her throat with a hand that was trembling uncontrollably.
Galvarey smiled. It was a cruel and rapacious smile and made him resemble a wolf. “That, my dear Bhaalspawn, is because your portion is laced heavily with an especially potent poison.” He brought up his hand from below the desk. It was holding a small crossbow and he leveled it at Jaheira. “Guards!” he shouted. An armored man and a woman wearing a katana rushed into the room, followed by a blue-robed mage who strode at a more leisurely pace. “Restrain Jaheira if she tries to intervene. Her loyalty in this matter is suspect.”
“You bastard!” Jaheira hissed.
Sorkatani tried to rise from her chair. She rose a few inches and then slumped back down. Beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. “Why?” she croaked.
“You are a menace to the Realms,” Galvarey said. “I am acting to remove that menace.”
“You are acting to increase your personal glory that you may make a claim for the position of Herald,” Jaheira accused. “Stop this madness! The antidote, I beg you! Or let me cast the spell of neutralization.” She stepped towards Sorkatani. One of the guards seized her arm in an iron grip and halted her in her tracks.
Galvarey gazed at Sorkatani and nodded in grim satisfaction. “The paralysis is already taking effect, I see. Within another couple of minutes you will lose the power of movement altogether, even of speech, and in twenty minutes you will be dead.”
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. I don’t know who currently owns the copyright to Bioware’s game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’, but it isn’t me, and characters and dialogue extracts are used without permission and with no intent to profit from their use.