Disclaimer: The recognizable settings in this fan fiction are property of the legal entity Wizards of the Coast (WotC). The setting, specifically that of Calimport, is used without permission but no material profit of any kind is being made from the following work. WotC reserves rights to Forgotten Realms material, but all of the characters and situations unique to this work of fan fiction are property of the writer. So there.

Foreword by WitchWolf

It all started out pretty innocently - I was doing my usual share of bitching about yet another gaping plot hole I needed fixed in my story, euphorbic was kind enough to listen and give tips. And, at one point, toss an idea she had for a character. I liked the outline so much, I bit and swallowed it all, bait, hook and the stick in tow.

What followed were the most furious six hours of email shooting I've ever had, during which the ideas were flying back and forth at dizzying speed. Day two, and we had pretty much everything nailed down, from physical to psychological aspects of the character, plus a fully done, detailed background as well. Day three, the first story came up and the moment I read it I realized that it was everything euphorbic and I talked about plus a ton on top.

Ever since, the stories kept coming, and I kept purring, proud of playing a small role of my own in all this. The credit's all euphorbic's; I just said a few good things at the right time.

Author's Note: The idea for these scenes was inspired by inside knowledge of Witchwolf's fic, The Clash of Shadows. It is important to note that the tone gets steadily darker and more twisted after the first installment.


shadow-s-pawn

The boy's dark fingers worked the upright sitar's strings with all the honesty his lips lacked. His left hand moved quickly over the sound box, plectrums finding the notes he wanted singularly or in unison. His right hand moved up and down the fret board, slender fingers nimbly pressing down at all the right points, timing in perfect union with his left.

Somewhere behind him skilled hands were hitting a drum's skin with professional accuracy, keeping pace. Though no chorus of hands was clapping in double time, the teahouse's cool interior resounded with the sound anyway. This was the doing of the drummer and was at a volume the boy found amazing. Bardic magic was in the air; it tingled at the bridge of his nose like the promise of a long lingering sneeze.

The music wove a frenetic pattern inside the house that seeped into the occupants' blood. The shadowed musician's head moved from side to side with the flow of music and the energy's sinuous movement. It never ceased to remind him of the snakes that sometimes slithered along his body when he danced.

The speed of the rhythm and overwhelming beauty gathered at the base of his spine, slowly climbing a ladder of vertebrae until he felt he could no longer contain the beauty. Opening his mouth, he let the feeling flow forth from his throat, given wondrous shape by his voice.

Shadash sang in a language only he knew. It was a language he spoke since childhood, one that came straight from his heart that no creature alive had heard before. According to the singer, it was a language of one from a race of one: the mysterious language of Shadash, known as Shadashite. When he sang in his personal language, he gave voice to the inner terrain of his long-shattered heart. Nobody sang about pain more eloquently than the young dancer that was one of the jewels in Dancer's Gate, a small district within Calimport's many subterranean teahouses that offered more than herbal infusions to dizzy the senses.

And who but a boy with mismatched eyes spawned of a dead-eyed whore, rented to Loviatarans in childhood, with no trust in his heart for anything but the most simple-minded creatures, could have more words for agony? He had a word for every shade and variation with all their subtleties. There was fallel, the sting of soapy water over chafed flesh. Or kaches the pain of muscles torn under impatient hands. The worst was sarmortpeth, the pain of a heart when a beloved feline caught and killed an equally beloved songbird. He preferred all other pain to the pain of the heart.

Shadash knew better than to sing solely of pain, for it drove his bardic mentor to heavier drinking. He was smart enough to learn from a drunk, but took more from the man when he was less inebriated. A falling down, mind altered drunk was problematic and not to Shadash's liking; unless it got the entertainer out of specific services he didn't prefer performing.

Before he took his musical mentor too far into despair, he turned from his personal tongue to that of Calishite and spun out defiant lyrics.

"When you held out your hands
mine did not complete the frame
they worried your threads,
bore delicate fires,
flew down my throat,

until my breast was glowing

When you held out your hands
I saw the hungry space
between your fingers,
stiffening my legs,

leaching my warmth,

until my corpse was frozen

When you held out your hands
I knew an itching in mine
a field of beige,
lattice of dark lines,
stinging red palm

until your cheek was matching"

The last notes of his voice lingered within the in the room before he opened first an eye of startlingly emerald green and then the more malevolent one of pale red. Shadash looked out of the shadowed depths into the noonday crowd that had escaped Calimport's blistering heat. In the underground establishment the air was much cooler; a welcome respite. A wide range of races of both genders sat within the teahouse, many were regulars that came for refreshments, but more came for the entertainment.

Fingers still dancing across his sitar, but now at a calmer pace, Shadash called out in the impishly defiant way that drew in his wealthy predators. "I won't hesitate to slap the face of anyone who tries to hold my hand."

Many people laughed at the obvious lie, for the regulars all knew that the dancers and musicians had a price. Exotic young Shadash, with his dark chocolate skin, mismatched eyes, and long list of entertaining skills was in the upper echelons of the middle-rung entertainment district.

He was an entertainer and without a patron to claim him exclusively, anyone could avail themselves to his private attention. As long as the house's price could be met. Many in the audience could meet that price, he noted, but it hardly mattered; Shadash was never without a patron for long.