Disclaimer: If I owned NWN I likely wouldn't bother writing silly fanfics about it. I'd be making money. Enough said. ;)
Right, this is just a one-shot that I felt inspired to write tonight. Strangely enough, my inspiration came from reading Wolf-Kin's "Siege of Neverwinter" (which is damn good, by the way – you should read it, people!) It has nothing to do with my story, but it did remind me of the OC and then I remembered one quest in particular. And I wondered, what would happen if for the PC, that quest was something personal. Hope you like it.
Oh, and for those of you who don't know (and shame on you for it!), the opening and the closing lyrics are from Iron Maiden's "The Fugitive"
Venom In His Soul
"Always looking 'round me
Forever looking back
I'll always be a target for attack
I am a fugitive being hunted down
"Murderer!" the human roared, spinning around and trying to locate the elusive elf.
Wyvern shook his head and grinned to himself. This shouldn't take long. Stupid bounty hunter. Did he really think he could catch him? Here, in the middle of the wood, where he was on his own turf?
His nostrils widened, the sweet air of the forest filling his lungs with mixed odors of falling late summer leaves, resin and unmistakable smell of a bear fur somewhere in the distance. The smell of the wild… The smell of freedom. Never, never shall he be confined within four stone walls again. Never shall the so-called civilization clasp his wrists in its cold, iron shackles and take him away into prison of darkness and stone…
"I know you're here, murderer! Show yourself!" the human roared again.
Wyvern made a face. As if it wasn't enough that the fool was desperate for his blood, but did he really have to crush and stomp every last bush that happened to grow here? He snorted derisively. So much for humans in the forest.
He notched an arrow and pulled back deeper into the foliage. Now, if only the human would stand still for just a second so he can put an arrow through his chest.
"Come out, damn you! Come out and face me!"
Oh, for the love of gods! Wyvern almost snickered out loud. The idiot ran off in a completely opposite direction. Should I feel insulted now? Can't they send someone with at least a half o' brain after me? Ah, here he comes again.
"Where are you, you coward!"
Right here, dimwit. Right here. Just a little closer… That's right. Now, just stand where you are… Wyvern grinned again. The stupid human almost stepped into him. Blind as a mole. And about as smart. By the woods! How did these idiots ever manage to catch him in the first place? Oh, yes – the ranger. A human ranger.
Wyvern's face went sour. What was it that that traitorous bastard rambled about? Innocents? Vengeance taken too far? Right! And what they did to him was all right, huh? What they did to his father… and his mother. That wasn't taking it too far, was it? Hah, of course not. Not in the eyes of a human.
But he showed him mercy in the end. Oh, yes. Ten lightless years of mercy! Wyvern squeezed his bow tightly. Damnable human bastard! As if he, a ranger, didn't know what the confinement would be to him!
Murderer? Yes, that's what they called him. A slayer. A madman. A killer on the loose… To be chained away for good. And did anyone bother to mention what they did? Did anyone ever bothered to chain those who did him injustice? He scoffed derisively. Of course they didn't. They turned the true murderers into victims. Their crimes didn't matter to them.
"You can't hide from me forever, Wyvern! I'll find you, no matter in what hole you crawl into! …Just like Kalan did!"
Kalan! Wasn't that the name of the human ranger? What the hell did this clumsy, stumbling fool have to do with him?
"Oh yes! I know all about you, murderer! Kalan told me everything! You hear me!"
Wyvern's head shot up. So, this was no ordinary bounty hunter after all. It was one of Kalan's stock. Curse you, human! You want to drag me back in chains again! His eyes turned into slits. No! The Bulwark prison will not see him again.
The human grabbed his sword in both steel-gloved hands and planted his legs firmly beneath him. Wyvern pulled back the string and let fly. You should've trained the whelp better, Kalan.
"Agh!" The arrow dug deeply into the human's shoulder. The human spun about in the direction it came from. "Ha! Now I know where you are, you bastard!" he shouted triumphantly and charged.
Damn! Why did he have to turn the moment before the arrow struck! Quick as a lizard darting into the hole in the rock, Wyvern slid out of his hiding place and off to the side into another one, barely seconds before the human crashed in.
Good. Here, in the thick, thorny bushes, the human, with his bastard sword and his size will be in disadvantage. Swiftly, Wyvern notched another one and let fly. There was no way he would miss this time. At range this short, the human was as good as dead already. …And good riddance to him.
"Rargh!" The human put his hands in front of his head, the arrow bouncing off his large gauntlet and, instead of going straight through his eye, merely catching his cheek before whistling harmlessly off into the wood. "Now you're mine, killer!" hollered the human and swung the sword in Wyvern's direction.
Damn you, human! Why don't you just die? Wyvern jumped back and away from the advancing sword. No use trying to fire another one now. With a low growl, he dropped his bow and pulled out his blades instead. Very well, if that's how you want to play. Let's see how good can you swing that overgrown thing in this thick bush.
"I've been waiting for fifteen years for this, murderer!" the human roared as he attacked.
Wyvern went into a semi-crouch. What the hell is this fool shouting about? The human swung his big sword wildly, but the weapon caught a low branch and the human nearly lost his grip on it. Wyvern parried the awkward strike deftly with his dirk and launched a counter-attack. His scimitar caught the human in the ribs, but didn't do much damage. Curse whoever thought of enforcing leather armors with steel plates!
Not yet. But soon. Wyvern brought his scimitar high, blocking another wide-arced attack and circled around the doomed human waiting for the opportune moment to drive his dirk deep into the vulnerable spot where the armor and the shoulder pad met.
The human sensed what he was about to do, however, and spun about just before he got the chance to drive his blade home. Wyvern jumped back, away from the incoming sword and then, instead of pressing on with attack, continued to back away towards the spot where he dropped his bow. Let the human tire. Let him loose his strength and, if he's in luck, his sword as well. Then, he can finish him off from a safe distance with an arrow or two.
"Oh no, you wont!" the human roared and charged after him. That's right, boy. Keep coming. There's a nice, big knot of roots just where you're about to step…
Wyvern smirked smugly. Told you. Then again… maybe I forgot. Still smirking, he crouched down and reached for his bow, not taking his eyes off the human who still struggled trying not to fall.
"This need not end in blood, Kalan's whelp," he said calmly, his bow in hand and arrow notched and ready
"Oh, but it does, murderer," the human growled, finally getting back on his feet. Wyvern shrugged and planted an arrow into the human's chest.
Damn! Did I already curse the one who made that armor?
"I'll get you yet, you fiend!" the human shouted and ripped the arrow out. There was unmistakable hatred in his eyes, Wyvern noted.
"Be on your way human, and leave me to my own..." he told him, though he didn't believe for a second that the human would actually do it. Predictably, the human grasped his sword tightly and began to swing. Wyvern notched another arrow. All right. Be it your way then. This time, he aimed for the head.
"Why did you kill them, you monster!"
The human's roar caught Wyvern off guard and he missed his head by a whisker.
Wyvern ran few steps backwards and behind a tree, where the human couldn't reach him so easily. He pulled out another arrow. What's your problem, boy?
"What did they ever do to you!"
It was more a cry of anguish then a battle cry. Wyvern breathed in sharply and gritted his teeth in anger.
"You know damn well what," he growled and took aim.
"That's not an excuse!" the human yelled ducking away from the arrow.
Oh, isn't it! Wyvern felt old rage and pain rising up inside him. He fired another arrow off-handedly, not bothering to aim and skidded behind another tree and away from the charging human.
"Isn't it?" he shouted and prepared another arrow. "My father's death, my mother's rape! That's nothing, human!"
"And what did my mother had to do with it, Wyvern!" the human yelled back. "Or my sisters!"
The human changed the direction of his wild charge, swung his sword low and nicked his arm just as he was about to fire. Wyvern rolled back and once more, reached for his blades, his face now contorted with outrage.
"Why did you kill them too, you murderous psycho!" the human screamed into his face and brought his sword up from the side. "They were innocent!"
"There are no innocents!" Wyvern roared and launched himself into attack, his fury now matching the human's in full.
"Is that so!" the human countered, both his words and his blades. "You avenged your family's blood – you innocent family blood with the blood of my own, you slayer! With innocent blood!"
"Obviously, I missed one." Wyvern roared and parried. "A mistake."
"The biggest you ever made," the human growled back. Wyvern barely managed to parry his next attack. The next one, he failed to block. Blood sprayed from his side.
"My sister begged you for mercy!" The human scored another hit. Wyvern jumped back into thicker bushes. Tears flowed down the human's face.
"My mother watched them die! Her own children! Innocent children!" The human charged on, but Wyvern already moved even further away and beneath the low branches again. There were no innocents! They were the children of a murderer… of a rapist! His flesh and blood! …And so was this boy!
"They deserved to die!" he growled. The human's sword whistled harmlessly above his head and once more, caught the branches.
"No more then your own, Wyvern!" screamed the human and, with a twist of his hand, reversed the grip on his blade.
Next second, Wyvern screamed and jumped to the side. Apparently, the human realized he won't accomplish much swinging his sword here and, instead of attacking normally, he sent his sword flying straight into him. The huge weapon went spinning through the air and only swift reflexes saved Wyvern from taking it fully into his chest.
"This is for my mother, you bastard!" the human screamed.
Wyvern felt the air leaving his lungs as the human slammed into him. He smashed against a tree. He tried to bring his dirk up and stab, but he never made it. Steel gauntlet slammed furiously into his face. Another hit caught him in the ribs, kicking out even what little air he had left. His vision blurred. The human kept driving the steel gauntlets into him relentlessly. He felt his legs giving in under him. He slipped down, but the human grabbed him by the throat, hoisted him up and slammed him against the tree once more.
"She died in my hands, Wyvern," he heard the whisper in his ear. "My mother died in my hands. …I was only three."
The human pulled him away, spun him about and slammed his face against the tree again. Barely conscious, Wyvern went down. This time, the human let him fall, even pushed him, his knee pressing hard against his back.
"Fifteen years," he heard the human's voice, bitter and pained. "Fifteen years, I waited to see the face of the one who murdered them."
Wyvern's head jerked back as the human pulled him by the hair, nearly snapping his neck. He gasped for breath.
"And now… You're going to pay."
A flash of white light appeared in front of his eyes, the sharp, searing pain erupted at the base of his ear. He didn't even know if he screamed or just tried to. A gust of blood poured down his face. His mouth filled with grass and mud. The pressure on his back lifted. He begun to cough.
Off to the side, as if through the fog, he saw the human bending down, picking his sword and sheathing it across his back. Wyvern begun to struggle to up on his knees. When at last he succeeded, the human was already walking away. He clutched his ear… the place where his ear was, that is and stared at the departing human in shock and disbelief.
"You… You're letting me live, human?"
"Obviously," the human answered without looking back.
The human stopped and turned around. His lower lip trembled and his face was streaked with tears, yet the hatred and rage in his eyes were gone.
"I grew up hating you, Wyvern," he said quietly. "Hating you for what you've done… And hating my father for what he'd done. I grew up hating you both. But it's over now. For me, at least, it's over." The human went silent for moment.
"You went too far, Wyvern… And you sank too low. You stained your hands with innocent blood. You stained your soul with it, too. You became no better then my father was." The human made another pause.
"Your death will not bring my loved ones back, will not erase fifteen years I spent without them and won't brighten up the lifetime I have yet to go… alone." The human lowered his head. A tear rolled out of his eye.
"I grew up hating you, Wyvern, but above all, I grew up not to be like you. I won't bind myself into this endless circle of rage and hatred… and pain. It has to stop somewhere. Why not stop it here? So go your own way now. No bounty hunters will be on your trail any more." The human's voice became barely a whisper. "Go your way, murderer… And may you find peace someday… Just as I did."
And with that, the human turned and left. Wyvern watched him go, his face covered with blood.
"Unlike yourself, Wyvern," the human added as he disappeared from his sight, "I can forgive."
And Wyvern watched him go, his heart filled with pain.
Port Llast, Mercenary barracks
Kendrack observed the young man in front of him. Kieran McGuire, the hero of Neverwinter. The lad surely didn't look very heroic right now. His coppery hair fell across his face, bloodstains and mud marked his clothing and his deep hazel eyes were dark and weary.
"And so," Kendrack said flipping a tattooed and still bloody elven ear in his hand, "the notorious Wyvern's no more."
Kieran just nodded grimly and turned to leave.
"Wait, lad. Here, take it."
Kieran looked at the small pouch Kendrack held. "No. No need for that," he muttered. Kendrack looked at the tormented youngster sympathetically.
"Aye, I know this was personal for you, lad. But still, have it. You earned it."
Reluctantly, Kieran took the pouch and headed for the door. Daelan waited for him.
"Come on, friend. I think you need a drink," the half-orc told him and led him out.
Later on, as they were sitting in the Alliance Arm Inn, Daelan put down his ale and looked at him incredulously.
"You let him live, Kieran? Why?"
The young man smiled tiredly. "Because killing him would not bring me peace. It would only bring the bitter bile vengeance always leaves in it's wake. And I don't want to live as a bitter man, Daelan. I want to be free. Free of hatred, free of rage and free of my fathers shadow once and for all." Kieran leaned closer to the half-orc. "I don't want to be like him, Daelan. I want to be able to forgive and move on. I want to be in peace."
Daelan looked at him carefully. "And are you in peace now, Kieran?"
Kieran smiled and nodded. "Yes… Yes, I think I am. At last… I'm in peace."
Daelan returned the smile and patted the young man on the shoulder. Yes, Kieran indeed found his peace. And may they all do, once.
Deep in the heart of a forest, a lone, one-eared elf stood silently and stared at the two graves in front of him. Perhaps I did go too far. Not that anyone could tell there were there, for there were no tombstones, no markings whatsoever that the earthly remains of two elves rested there, but one elf knew they were there, and that was enough. Perhaps, I did sink too low He stood there for what seemed like a small eternity, a single tear rolling out of his eye.. I hope you will forgive me.
"Goodbye," he said quietly, picked up his backpack and slowly, went away, leaving the graves behind him… for good.
about a year later…
A small fire flickered in the darkness. The hooded figure begun to stir it, but then heard the sound of footsteps in the snow coming his way. Leaving the fire alone, he absentmindedly reached for his bow. First the kobolds, then the gnolls, then a kobold again… It sure is crowdy here tonight.
Few moments later, he released the grip on the weapon. It was no kobold or gnoll that came his way. It was a human girl, short-haired and small in stature, The short sword that hung awkwardly at her belt surely posed no threat. I wonder what does she want. And just what is she doing here in these hills, all alone and with a blizzard about to come?
"Hello," the girl said, wrapping her cloak about her tightly. Not very protective in this wind, is it now?
"I was wondering," she continued, taking the nod from the figure as a sign of greeting, "have you seen any kobolds passing here recently?"
The figure shrugged. More then I cared to, girl.
"Do you speak at all?" she asked curiously. "And who are you, anyway?"
No one you should know about, kid. "I am… Ferran. A ranger. I… hunt here."
"What do you hunt?"
Ghosts. "A beast."
"What sort of beast?"
You are a curious one, aren't you? "It's called… a Shadow Heart."
The girl frowned. "Never heard of it." Of course not, silly. I just made it up. "What kind of a beast is that?"
You're looking at it, stupid. "Dangerous. And elusive."
The girl gave this some thought. "Oh. Well I've never heard of anyone being attacked by it in these parts." No kidding. "Why do you hunt it?"
You'd like to know, wouldn't you? "It's… a magical creature. I need it's... uhm, horns."
The girl cocked her head, clearly believing this Shadow Heart thing less and less. "What for? A trophy?"
No, to cure the ill wife I don't have! "Yes… No…" the figure waved his hands dismissively. "Whatever. And just what are you doing here, young one?"
The girl shrugged. "Hunting kobolds. So… seen any here?" Kobold hunter? You? You must be joking!
"Yes, I've seen some." Will you go away now?
"Where?" No. I thought you wouldn't.
"Some went to the north. A smaller group went into those crypts there… one got out and headed for the village." That enough kobolds for you?
"So," the girl mumbled to herself, "those little bastards split up? Oh well," she sighed, "I guess I'll try my luck with the crypt first." Well, that will be trying your luck, all right. "It's closest… and surely it won't be this cold inside."
Getting only another shrug from the figure, the girl spun on her heel and headed towards the crypt. The hooded figure watched her as she went. You're going to get killed, girl, you know that? In a haunted elven crypt, the kobolds will be the least of your troubles… Oh, damn it!
After a while, the hood of the cloak went down, revealing an elven face, but it's good looks marred by a long scar that marked a place where ear once was. Everything has to and somewhere. The fire flickered one last time and died. I suppose everything has to start somewhere, too. Sighing deeply, Wyvern picked up his belongings, grabbed his bow and moved after the girl. So why not start it here?
"I am a fugitive, but I gotta clear my name…"