Disclaimer: "Forgotten Realms: Baldur's Gate" belongs to Bioware, TSR, and Black Isle Studios. Lilliana is mine and situations that you don't recognize from the game are mine, all other material and inspiration for my material is under copyright by the above named. Additional Forgotten Realms material included in this story but not in the game belongs to Wizards of the Coast.
Greetings From The Author: There are some changes in the Forgotten Realms setting going into fourth edition that I despise and you will not see them here. This story was inspired by a third edition game and third edition stories. So you can consider any canon that takes place in the new fourth edition realms lore as nonexistent here. In addition, some of the royal elves in canon are called 'high elves' and since the Realmslore never supplied us with an explanation for what high elves are exactly, (at least nothing that I've come across yet) I've given you one here. So I hope no one comes along to beat me with any campaign books. :p
After playing the Baldur's Gate games until they had all but consumed my life I decided I needed to make my own epic. The prologue for this story is VERY old, I think I first started writing it five years ago or more and only in the past year have I started writing it in full. So you might notice some style changes from the prologue to the most recent chapter, but I've edited these previous ones so hopefully they read smooth. Also, a warning to those whose attention may stray, I write LONG chapters. Book length, however they are separated into subsections within each chapter, so hopefully that makes it easier for you to stop and remember where you left off.
I was inspired to write this, by real life and how one develops because of those around them. Lilliana is a gentle lady in every meaning of the words. She can't fight well at first and has little knowledge of the world that exists beyond the walls of Candlekeep and the books within it. In order to survive she will have to depend on others and only through their companionship and instruction will she be able to handle her dark destiny. She has very proper and oft times flowery dialogue and ways of thinking, so if you hate that, you might not like her but she is close to what I imagine a young lady raised in the cloistered grounds of a library would be like. They aren't 'all' amazons or spitfires. :p I'd like it if you stopped by anyway and maybe this story WILL be right up your alley. ;) It most certainly isn't verbatim from the games, or the published novels, but I do prefer to use more canon (pre-existing, official) characters instead of original characters, beyond the protagonist of course. However some canon roles for the non-player-characters (NPCs in the gaming world) are expanded to a large degree in this jolly little romp, so be prepared for that as well as some slight changes to the game mythos.
I hope I live up to your expectations! I welcome all reviews so don't be afraid to say "you stink!" or "kewl story!":p
Children of Bhaal Saga: Book One
---Tales of the Sword Coast---
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Eyes of a High Elf
Year: 1355, 17'th of Hammerfall
A tall wood elf walked through a dimly lit doorway of a home that constituted barely as a hovel. He shut the door behind him, keeping the drifts of snow from sneaking into the building. The main room was lit only by a fireplace that blazed for illumination that evening and warmth in the cold grip of winter. A raven haired child sat by it, drawing with a stick of charcoal on a piece of parchment. The girl looked up, a wisp of hair falling away from one of her pointed ears, and smiled at the elf who was just removing his snow dusted cloak.
"Hello Master Alieradon."
The half high-elf child's green eyes reflected the lick of flames from the hearth and for a moment the eerie reflection caught the wood elf off guard. He quickly composed himself.
"Hello Lilliana. What are you drawing, young lady?"
Charcoal had turned the girl's pale hand the color of soot. The rest of her arms were covered by an oversized tunic that was undoubtedly her foster father's.
"A dragon. Papa told me stories about them. This one is an evil black dragon, after I'm done with him I'm going to draw a good golden dragon. You can't have good without evil . . . right Master Alieradon?"
Sartonis smiled in spite of himself. "That is most certainly correct Lilliana. Where is your Father? I've come a long way to speak with him."
A gruff voice responded from the darkened kitchen before the child could answer. "Trying to meditate, but it seems the fates have conspired against me and brought you early."
The wood elf walked across the room as Lilliana went back to her drawing.
Gorion Avalon embraced his friend in a hug and brought Sartonis Alieradon into the kitchen with him. They sat at either ends of a small wooden table, a single candle on its surface, lighting up their faces. Neither one of them wanted to garner little Lilliana's attention and so when conversation began they made sure to measure their voices to rise barely above a whisper.
Sartonis spoke first. "I've never been good at idle conversation my friend. This I'm sure you know." He paused for a moment. "How long do you intend to live out here with the child? You can't run forever. Khelben seems to think . . .well despite his own problems with them he admits the Harpers may have some resources that the Moonstars do not. Perhaps you could take her back to them, surely if you explain . . ."
Gorion banged his fists on the table. "No! I will not have my daughter treated like some kind of aberration! Lilliana is seven years old and I already wasted two of her years on the Harpers. I am no longer a member of that organization for a reason, just as you aren't. They cannot be trusted, certainly not where the welfare of my child is concerned. Their solution . . . That bastard Galvarey's solution, was no better than having her buried alive!"
Sartonis sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead. "You know that as your friend I only want what is best for you and for the child. She is her sire's daughter, Gorion, and despite your best efforts you have no way of making sure that she doesn't become affected by the taint within her."
Lord Avalon prided himself on his calm demeanor and slowly he began to regain that, responding once again. "You have a son, Sartonis. Kivan is only one hundred and nineteen, an adolescent by elf measurement. Tell me, would you hand him over to the Harpers? Would you trust his welfare to anyone else?"
Sartonis took a moment to mull that over. "It's different . . . it's very different and you know that. My son is close approaching adult hood. Kivan will soon be married and I'm sure his life is going to be a simple one. There is nothing 'simple' about Lilliana. There is no telling what she will be able to do when she comes into her heritage and there is also no telling when that will be. Do you honestly believe that you can handle it on your own?"
Gorion smiled sadly. "Lilliana is all I have left, Sartonis. She is my world and I will protect her with my very life. The elven measurement of her heritage is very potent. Maybe it was because of who she was fathered by that the fey blood became stronger in her than her mother. . . I don't know . . . but it makes her different. Somehow it adds a delicacy to her demeanor that fights against anything else that may be there. I believe in that innocence; that I can keep her untainted. Despite all that she is still very much my child. I may have not sired her but she is mine now and I have to believe that it changes things for the better. Please understand that. I need you to believe that she can be saved from the blackness that possibly will come. . .without being denied a normal life."
Sartonis sighed again before nodding. "Very well my friend . . . but we must find somewhere safe for the both of you to go, so you can stop running every half moon. Moving from place to place isn't what I would call the 'normal life'."
Lilliana came into the kitchen, surprising both of them. The small candlelight in the room lit her face enough so that they could see she was smiling and holding her drawing out with both young (and quite filthy) hands. Sartonis exhaled in relief when it seemed that she hadn't heard them, though they had been near silent with the lack of volume.
"I'm done Papa! It's my bestest one too."
Gorion smiled adoringly at her and Sartonis could see how much he loved the girl. "'Best' Lilliana, 'bestest' isn't a word. Come here and let me see it better."
The half high-elf child dutifully took it to her father and waited shyly for him to inspect it.
Lord Avalon didn't have the heart to tell her that her black 'dragon' looked more like a dog, and that whether dragon or dog it had too many legs. "It's beautiful sweetheart. Go set it in the kitchen drawer and we'll see about having it laminated tomorrow if I can find the clear wax."
Year: 1356, 29'th of Ches
Spring brought with it the first true warmth that melted all but the most persistent mountain snow. The Sword Coast was beginning to pick up the pace of what would become a caravan covered landscape by the beginning of summer. Small wagons dotted the sides of the long stone and dirt roadway that snaked its way from a pass in the southern Cloudpeak Mountains up to the grand city of Baldur's Gate.
The Coast Way road was long and desolate, attacks by highway men were frequent. With only three small towns, one of which was a halfling village, there were long stretches of lone wilderness; left open to assault if one was unwary. Of course travelers also had to worry about the things lurking in the darkness of the many ruins casing the hills. The dangers of the road and the Sea of Swords that hugged the coast line were what gave the area its name. To its residents the lands were known as The Sword Coast.
A convoy of six covered wagons had made their way up from the iron mining town of Nashkel, carrying spices from the southern city of Athkatla. Their destination was the great Baldur's Gate, duke's chair of the region and trade center of the Coast Way at both its merchant leagues and the port authority. Home to the Flaming Fist brigade, the protectors of the Western Heartlands.
There were two that traveled in the group who had a different destination in mind. Gorion Avalon and his eight year old daughter, Lilliana, had gotten passage on the convoy at the town of Trademeet. Like Athkatla it was part of the southern region of Amn though far less populated. It had been a tiring journey but the human sage knew that it wouldn't be that much longer and their passage would be over.
They were just now nearing the town of Beregost and a glittering golden building, beset with statuary and artistic architecture, caught Lilliana's eye. "Papa! Papa! What's that?!" She called out excitedly and Gorion was worried he was going to have to grab her before she jumped out of the wagon.
One of the mercenaries hired to keep the caravan safe looked over from his spot on a chestnut colored bay and waved. The sage waved back and turned to his daughter. "That, Lilliana, is the Temple of the Morning Song, dedicated to Lathander if memory serves."
The girl smiled brightly in awe. "It's beautiful!"
Gorion grinned at her statement. "Indeed my child, indeed."
Since Lilliana was old enough to start speaking full sentences, she'd seemed to carry a special place for Lathander in her heart, for reasons that Gorion did not know. She had informed her father that when the sun was at its brightest was when the 'Morning Lord' could look down at them. Fair weather had marked their trip after they had moved past the Cloudpeak Mountains. Lilliana believed that the blue sky and bright sun shine were a sign that Lathander had blessed their journey and agreed with the destination. It was surely ironic that a child of her origins was beginning to develop into a servant of Lathander. Gorion welcomed that kind of irony, though he tried to instill his own faith in the god of knowledge and wisdom, Oghma, in his young daughter additionally.
"Can we go visit, Papa? Pleeeassseee?" Lilliana looked directly at her father, her eyes big and pleading.
"If the caravan decides to spend the night camped just outside Beregost then yes, perhaps we can go visit."
The young girl kissed her father on the cheek and hugged him fiercely, squealing in delight. "Oh thank you, Papa!" She returned to her perch by the window where she could view the temple from afar.
Gorion looked over at his daughter, taking the moment of quiet to study her features. Lilliana looked nothing like a half elf but far more like a full blooded high elf.
The high elves were the regal bloodline of the elven species. They had spent generation upon generation cloistered within elven cities where the royal families ruled on high. They had nearly become a race apart and even their looks could be differentiated from those of their cousins. Their features were quite obvious in Gorion's little Lilliana, even at her age. With her pale skin, jeweled toned irises, long fine hair, dainty pointed ears, and high cheekbones.
Her demeanor was what gave away the human half of her mother's genes but she had yet to show any sign of her birth father's blood. She was happy, eager to please, unwisely trusting and overwhelmingly compassionate. It was impossible to believe that there was any potential in her being for darkness. Gorion knew it was there but somehow Lilliana had maintained her innocence and it shone with sparkling clarity from the eyes of a high elf.
The little lady smiled at her father and came over to curl herself in his lap as she gazed out the open window frame of the wagon they were in. "Are we very close to our new home then Papa?"
He nodded, rolling up a scroll he had been reading and putting it away in a container made for such purposes. "It will not be long now. Are you excited?" The sage knew he didn't need to ask when Lilliana nodded her head emphatically.
"It is going to be very fun to live around other people."
She had said it with a child's honesty and meant no ill will by it but Gorion felt a pang of guilt at that statement. For most of her life she had been hidden away in solitude with him, making only brief trips to nearby towns and then only because Gorion was too worried to leave her in another's care when they needed something. Was he wrong to have kept her away from public? Would it have better served her to be exposed to the world? Even now the place that he had chosen to take his daughter was sheltered. It was a tourist attraction to be sure and brought in many noble visitors but inside its walls it kept out the evils of the region beyond them.
Lilliana looked right at him as if she had read his thoughts. "You look sad, what's wrong?"
Gorion forced a smile. "Oh nothing child, just thinking on some things. How would you fancy buying you a new book? I have been told that one of the inns here in Beregost has a store that carries tomes."
Lilliana was taught not only how to read, but how to read and speak in several different languages. Currently they were working on the dark elf tongue. Sartonis had thought it unnecessary for Lilliana to learn the language of the evil drow. Gorion had maintained that in her life his daughter would need to use a wide variety of tongues if she hoped to acquire more knowledge from life. The sage had hoped to find a primer on the language. He had heard of one written by a dark elf that had escaped to the surface and had learned common.
"Can we get one about Myth Drannor?" She was speaking of course of a settlement of ancient times, when many races got along far better than they did now.
Gorion smiled; perhaps he would get two books this day. "If we can find one I cannot see why not. Make sure you gather all your things Lilliana, we don't want to leave our items behind when we switch caravans tomorrow."
Candlekeep sat before them and Lilliana couldn't sit still despite her father's commands. Gorion was nervous himself, though certainly more composed than an eight year old. He ran his hands over the cover of a book he had received from Sartonis some time ago. It would be needed to gain entrance into Candlekeep, despite the fact that the High Keeper of the Tomes (the great library's version of a ruler) had been given several months notice of their arrival. The rather draconian entry rules that the keep employed during its creation were maintained in as stern a fashion today as they were at their inception. A book of value from any visitors, beyond the merchants that dropped off deliveries, was a requirement if one wanted to see more of Candlekeep than its gates.
Feldepost's Inn at Beregost had a wide collection of books and Gorion had purchased not only the two that he had hoped to find but several more, however none of them were of the outstanding worth that the book Sartonis had gifted him was. Soon its leather bound cover would be sitting amongst the shelves of Candlekeep's already extensive collection. Another book, hidden deep within Gorion's belongings and hidden within a larger tome, seemed to almost absorb the energy that Lilliana and Gorion's nervousness was giving off. The sage moved the pack away from himself, his gray eyes looking at it warily. It was certain that the skin bound Book of Chaos, which had been disguised to prevent its identification, would never see any shelf. He'd prefer to not have the unnatural thing at all but he knew that the visions of the future seen on its dark pages might prove necessary in the years ahead.
The merchant that had given them a ride from Beregost, down the Way of the Lion to Candlekeep, gave a shout from his perch and they could hear the horses snorting as the small covered wagon came to a stop.
"Marnin' watcher. Have a wee bit more than me shipment fer ye t'day." The aging deliveryman bellowed as Gorion lifted his daughter out of the wagon, their bags at their feet on the road way.
The gate warden, a tall and imposing man, raised an eyebrow at the merchant he apparently recognized. He looked around the portly man to the father/daughter pair behind him. His voice was gruff when addressing the driver but at the same time surprisingly gentle and well mannered. "Good morning yourself Mister Wilby. Visitors? I trust you informed them that unless they are delivering supplies, a donation is required to the High Ulraunt's library."
Lilliana raised one hand in a charming salute to the armored guard and made a practiced lady-like bow. The deep velvet blue of her traveling dress was showing signs of wear and dust at the bottom. "My father already knew about the donation good sir. We aren't visitors though. We intend to st . . ."
Gorion put a flat palm over his child's over exuberant mouth before she could reveal their intentions. When the petite girl realized that he wanted her to be silent she looked up at him sheepishly, one slippered toe digging in the dirt abashedly. The blonde sage removed his hand from Lilliana's mouth and also bowed in greeting before speaking to the gate warden. "I was infact aware of such a donation before Master Wilby kindly agreed to give us transportation here, though he certainly let me know it besides. In any case my daughter and I have a donation ready for your grand Candlekeep." He bent down and opened one of his bags, removing the book carefully from its protective cloth. The History of the Shadowlands was handed over to the guard who seemed to recognize its value immediately. Gorion was certain that most of the watchers of Candlekeep were trained to recognize literary worth, for if they weren't then such entry rules could be bypassed far easily than they were being enforced currently.
"Indeed. Candlekeep thanks you for a more generous donation than was necessary. Please come in . . . Mister Wilby, you know where to go."
The portly trader pulled his belt up as high as his ample belly would allow and nodded, leading his carriage through the now open entranceway without much fuss.
Cawing crows gave the two newcomers a not so friendly greeting before the gate warden handed them off to another. The man winked at little Lilliana as the pair met another watcher and went back outside as the gate closed behind him.
The officer that was to escort them was quite young and Gorion doubted if the brown haired youth was much older than one and twenty. He looked at Lilliana's semi-pointed ears and back at Gorion. "She's your kid?" He seemed disbelieving which amused the sage.
"Quite so. We would request an audience with your High Ulraunt, if you don't mind Master. . ?" Gorion trailed off waiting for the young guard to introduce himself.
After giving one more look to the half-elf child he favored the sage with a name. "Uh, Hull, just Hull. Why would you be going to see Ulraunt? You plan on negotiating a sale on some tomes or something?"
Gorion shook his head. "No Master Hull, we wish to speak to him concerning a more permanent residence. He is expecting us, I'm sure."
Hull looked taken aback. "Stay?! Here? You must joking . . . but I don't suppose you are when I think on it. Not too sure how that's going to go over. You don't look like a monk and we haven't ever had kids here except for the tots the tourists bring with them sometimes and they aren't ever let into the Great Library proper, too many valuables you know. None the less, enough hawking . . . if you say he's expecting you I'm guessing I should take you there."
A gurgling fountain sat nestled in a lovely spring garden, the aroma and the appearance soothing to a pair that had spent the majority of their life on the road. Lilliana was tossing pebbles into the water, giggling at the way they bounced, until she got a reproving look from Hull and put her arms behind her back. The garden opened up to a cobbled walkway that led to the golden carved front doors; entranceway to the greatest library on the face Faerûn.
Lilliana's eyes traveled up the length of the keep's face, growing wide as she finally reached the top. "Wow, it's so big Papa! You didn't say it was so large."
Hull huffed in some kind of amusement before addressing the pair. "I'll have to have some names."
Gorion nodded and introduced both himself and his daughter. "I am Sir Gorion Avalon and this little madame is Lady Lilliana Avalon, as stated before, my child."
The watcher nodded, satisfied with the answer but as Gorion and Lilliana made to enter the doors he held an arm out to block their path. "I'm afraid just you Sir Avalon, the kid will have to wait out here. I told you earlier that no children are allowed in the Great Library and unless I hear differently from Ulraunt himself I'm not going to risk my job on it."
Gorion nodded solemnly. "That is fine but she can't stay out here alone."
Lilliana almost bounced up and down, eager to prove that she could take care of herself. "I can so Papa! I can stay by myself, especially if you aren't going in there for long . . . please Papa. I want to sit in the garden and I won't go no where else. I promise! Please, please, please, please . . . Pleeeeaassseee!"
Gorion finally gave in. "Alright, but don't you dare wander off or you can forget about reading the Myth Drannor histories I got you any time soon."
Lilliana grinned from ear to ear, hugging her father's leg as he stood two steps above her. "Oh I won't wander off Papa. I really won't!"
Gorion smiled. "And Lilliana . . . " She looked up at him questioningly. "It's 'I won't go anywhere' not 'I won't go no where' remember?" The girl nodded as her father gave her one last smile and went inside the keep with the young Hull.
Without the watcher to keep her at bay she grabbed more loose pebbles from the walkway and sat at the edge of the fountain, happily skipping them across the surface of its small water pool. She jumped when one of the large crows they had seen earlier landed right beside her left hip and let out a loud 'CAW!' Normally Lilliana loved wildlife, including crows, but there was something off about this one and she could felt it . . . the wrongness of it tingled up her spine.
The bird stared at Lilliana, its eyes looking almost human but demonic in their inky blackness. In the back of her head the half high-elf could hear a faint whispering, but not gentle at all. Instead the whispering festered inside her mind, gaining intensity with the crow's stare and it felt like sanding stone against her brain. The whispering became words that she could understand and though they were only inside her skull, chipping away at it from within, she knew that the crow was causing them. 'My blood your blood my blood your blood my blood . . .'
Lilliana yelled, grabbing her skull. "Stop it! Stop it right now!" She screamed, taking a fistful of pebbles and throwing them at the crow. Instantly the whispering ceased as the black bird flew off, stopping at an edifice on the keep and cawing at her angrily before flying completely out of sight.
A tall woman that had been somewhere farther away in the garden came running, her deep brown hair coming loose from a haphazard bun, light blue robes swishing madly as she ran toward Lilliana. As the woman came closer she seemed focused on Lilliana but her eyes didn't lock on anything in particular. Her accent was heavy with a Sembian lilt. "My goodness child are you alright?! You sounded as if you were being attacked. . . I shall call the Watchers . . . "
Lilliana stopped her, shaking her head. "No, it was just a stupid crow. It scared me is all. Sorry milady. I didn't mean to worry you."
The tall woman smiled, still with her eyes unfocused and Lilliana realized that the brunette's blank stare was caused by blindness. "Oh no child, you need not be sorry. The crows have become a nuisance. We usually have hawks to pick them off before they get into the small vegetable gardens here but lately the crows outnumber the hawks at least six to one."
A pleasant mint fragrance came off the blind woman's blue and gold embroidered robes and Lilliana recognized the garb as that of a mage. The woman placed a hand outward for the young half high-elf to shake.
"Lady Phyldia Lauer, formerly of Sembia recently of Candlekeep, and you young miss?"
Lilliana shook the woman's hand with her own, lightly. "Lady Lilliana Avalon, formerly of . . . I don't know. I am hoping we can be recently of Candlekeep. My papa says we will be and he never lies. You live here all the time then? I didn't think anyone but monks stayed here and you are too pretty to be a monk. You're a mage aren't you?"
Phyldia looked embarrassed but nodded, an amused smile pulling up the corners of her lips. Children always had so many questions and often asked them all at once. She hadn't realized it until then but the Sembian mage rather missed children here at Candlekeep. "Indeed I am child, but I also am a practicing cleric of Oghma. Not that I'm dreadfully good at either profession but I get by. Tell me Lady Lilliana; how is it that you don't know where you're from and more importantly who is your father? I've heard the name 'Avalon' before."
Lilliana shied away, not as eager as before to look at the woman speaking to her. "Well . . . " She must have been skipping rocks longer than she thought, for her father calling her name saved her from answering what she thought was an embarrassing question. After all, what kind of people don't have a permanent home? "I'm over here Papa! I didn't go 'anywhere' just like I said."
Gorion noted how she stressed her word correction from earlier. "Yes you are right, you didn't go anywhere. It seems you've met a new neighbor. Good days greetings Madame. I am Sir Gorion Avalon. I take it you've already met my daughter?" He nodded his head in the direction of little Lilliana, who had suddenly become shy.
Phyldia held out her hand and introduced herself as Gorion did the same. The blind woman held a gentle smile on her face that reminded the sage briefly of his late wife. "We were just discussing where you lived before and why it is you have decided to stay here."
Unlike young Lilliana, Gorion was prepared for such questions. "Well I have been a traveling sage all these years and my daughter proved, at an early age, to be more than capable to be my assistant. As such we have done a lot of itinerating, a lot of studying. I can't place anywhere we've been for too long."
The mage made a face that told Gorion she didn't much like that idea, but then he had expected that kind of a reaction and was geared for his next response. The blind mage spoke first.
"No disrespect Sir Avalon, I have after all heard a great deal about you and your adventures in your youth, but a life on the road is nothing very fitting for a little lady such as this one." She motioned to Lilliana who was watching the interaction between the two adults with some unveiled interest.
How was it her Papa always knew what to say? Why couldn't she be like that?
"Indeed, on this I agree. My wife, rest her soul, would've objected in much the same manner as you have, Lady Lauer. It has helped my daughter's education and schooling is very important to me, but I must confess that I realize traveling for so long might not have been the best idea. So I have decided to make a home here, permanently. It might seem odd since I have already been informed that no children have taken residence here . . . ever, but what better place for Lilliana to learn and grow without worrying about the hazards of the world outside? She gets on very well with adults, so she won't be wanting for friends. Of that I am certain." Gorion informed the woman.
Phyldia nodded, smiling again, apparently pleased with that answer. S he shook Gorion's hand one more time before excusing herself. Kneeling down to what she guessed was the young girl's height she shook Lilliana's hand in turn. "Well met to you as well Lady Avalon. Fare thee well."
The eight year old half-elf returned the shake with vigor. "Oh yes! Fare thee well to you too Lady Lauer!" After the middle aged mage had retreated down the path Lilliana turned to her father, still quite happy. "Oh I like her a lot Papa! I hope everyone here is that nice!"
Gorion chuckled lightly. "My dearest, if only that was the case. I'm afraid the High Ulraunt is still undecided on the issue. He will, however, allow us to stay at the inn they have here." The sage left out that it had taken everything but a screaming match to get the stuffy High Keeper of the Tomes to agree to even that. Somehow, Ulraunt knew that there were those looking for Gorion and his daughter and he clearly didn't want any chance of trouble visiting his gates.
"There is an inn here? Wow! How big are the inner grounds?" Lilliana looked about her in awe, nearly disbelieving that she would finally have a home . . . and it was gigantic! No more little shacks and cramped wagons, always moving to different camps. Candlekeep was large, impressive, and almost alien to the child but soon it would be home.
"The grounds as a whole are fairly sprawling in size. Tomorrow perhaps we can get a tour. Don't worry too much Lilliana; I'm sure the High Ulraunt will come to a good decision."
Lilliana hugged her father snugly as they made their way to the Candlekeep Inn. "I'm not worried; after all it's my Papa that he was talking to. He has to come to a good decision after you talked to him." The child's adoration made Gorion's heart swell and he hugged her tighter.
Year: 1360, 17'th of Flamerule
"I don't wanna clean the stupid 'ole basement! It's dirty and . . . . and there's rats!" A short human girl was pouting, her arms crossed. Her strawberry blonde hair hung in short ringlets. It gave her an appearance that was far more docile than her demeanor. She stared up at the tall and rotund man before her, giving him dagger eyes with her sprightly spring green orbs.
Winthrop Voltaire was the owner of the Candlekeep Inn. At fifty three years old, he was unmarried and had no children. He didn't have the patience for the little lass but he had no one to blame for the situation but himself
Traveling back to Candlekeep from Baldur's Gate, Winthrop had come upon a caravan wreckage. The unmistakable arrows of hobgoblins marred its burning sides. Though none of the ugly creatures were there when Winthrop arrived. Cautiously he had climbed from his wagon, settling the horses, and gone to see if there were any survivors. The cries of a child caught his attention and it was underneath the blackened tarp of one of the attacked wagons that he found her.
Imoen was the only survivor and was unwilling to talk about it. Winthrop was lucky she even gave him her name. Without parents, or a home to speak of, the innkeeper had brought her back with him to Candlekeep. It wasn't really a place for children and little Imoen found plenty of ways to get into trouble.
That was nearly four months ago and he had yet to get his adopted charge to listen to him.
Winthrop had done what he thought was best by her. Even though she still hated to do chores, she had her head screwed on straight. After Winthrop had formally adopted her she also had become an important facet in the innkeepers life even if she could be more than a little light fingered; a habit he was trying to break her of.
Her pouting brought his musings to a halt and he glared down at her, hoping he looked stern and not constipated instead, like Imoen always told him he looked. " I don't have any rats! The basement is filthy because the little girl that was supposed to clean it has refused to do so three days in a row! If you'd have done as I asked it wouldn't be dirty."
The stubborn eleven year old still held her stance. Suddenly her cherubic face lit up in a huge smile and she bolted past Winthrop and for the door, where Gorion Avalon stood. She hugged his tall frame closely. "Sir Avalon! Is Lil here?!" She asked excitedly, looking past Gorion now and straining to see if she could spot her best friend.
Lord Avalon smiled down at the girl, patting her head and looked past her to see her adopted father looking a little worse for wear.
"Giving you a hard time again is she, Master Voltaire?" The sage asked already knowing the answer.
Winthrop nodded. "Does the sun rise in the east? Aye. She's a devil child to be sure."
Imoen wrinkled her nose and was about to tell 'ole' puff guts' that she was nothing of the sort. Lilliana's entrance changed her mind.
Both girls had been nigh inseparable since they met. No matter how much time they spent together they always seemed excited to see each other upon each meeting. Lilliana and Imoen had adopted themselves as sister and it seemed obvious to what depths their love for one another reached.
Gorion worried that the human girl might be giving his studious daughter some bad habits, but it was good for Lilliana to have a friend her own age, with Imoen only one year younger. Besides which Gorion thought Imoen was a good girl at heart, much like Lilliana. It also seemed that if there were trading of habits going on that Lilliana was giving Imoen some good habits. She had begun to teach the human girl to read, though at twelve she often had to enlist help with this endeavor from her father or one of the high readers.
"Papa said you might need some help cleaning the basement." Lilliana offered, her mousy voice barely making it over the din of the talking in the inn's common room.
Imoen made a disgruntled face. "But I don't wanna clean it!"
Lilliana smiled and put her arm around Imoen's neck in a very chummy fashion. "It'll be fun. We could find some neat things down there . . . like books! Plus if we clean it maybe Master Voltaire will let you go look for Slinks with me later. She's lost him again."
Slinks was the gray tabby cat of Lady Phyldia and both girls had a soft spot for the little fur ball.
The half high-elf looked up at both her father and Winthrop. The latter nodded.
"I suppose so. It'll be the only way to get her to do as she is asked anyway. Go on then!" The inn keeper shooed them away as he began a conversation with Gorion . "What's your secret? How in the Hells do you get her to be so all fired excited to do whatever chores you give her?"
Gorion smirked. "Oh, not everything I ask. I doubt she would be as excited if it didn't mean that getting it done gave her more time to spend with your daughter, Master Voltaire. She may seem well behaved but I assure you that my Lilliana has a habit of picking and choosing which rules she'd like to follow and which she believes need improvement. If her clerical vocation does not pan out, we could always look to politics." He laughed.
Lady Moirala Delryn slowly eased herself from the carriage, stepping velvet slippered feet onto Candlekeep's soil. She stopped moving for a moment to enjoy the feeling of the warm summer sun on her skin, brushing rich brown locks away from her face. It was nice to be here and the Amnian noblewoman could imagine that she was already feeling better.
She had an illness of the lungs and though the clerics of Helm had tried their hardest it seemed persistent. They had told her that a trip to the northlands, and cleaner air, might to do her some good. Her husband, Cor, was a Knight of the Order of the Most Radiant Heart, an ever faithful servant to Helm. At the moment he was serving the Order in a campaign to rid Amn of a goblin infestation. He couldn't accompany her and their two children on their vacation but she was alright with that.
It had been a long journey from their home city of Athkatla, but her seven year old daughter Moira and fourteen year old son Anomen had been fairly well behaved throughout most of it. Moirala had been the one to choose Candlekeep as their first destination to visit. Little Moira loved books and her brother liked to read them to her.
They bounded from the carriage, eager to stretch their legs.
"Mama! It's big!" Moira looked up at the library with wide blue eyes, her curly chestnut hair hanging around a doll like face.
Anomen snorted. "Well of course it is, Moira! Father said it would be big, though I don't know how he remembered through all his drinking!"
Moirala shot her son a dark gaze. "That's enough Anomen!" He started to say something again but the look from his mother stopped him. She hated chastising either of her children and she knew that sometimes Lord Cor did get into his cups but he was still a good man. Moirala wished that her husband and her son got along better.
"I want to go for a walk." The fourteen year old boy remarked to his mother, who nodded her consent.
"Alright, but don't get into any trouble. The books we donated offered us passage but not a free pass to cause problems. As it is, you two are only allowed inside because I've rented us private rooms. On your best behavior, Anomen. Now come here darling, your collar needs to be straightened." Moirala motioned her son over and he begrudgingly obliged her, rolling his eyes as she tidied him up to her satisfaction. 'How handsome he will be when he is grown! Just like his father!' Lady Delryn silently remarked as she looked at her first born. He was tall for his age and already his frame had gained some muscular bulk. It was all the work outs that the Order required him to be put through.
Anomen had been squiring with the same Order that his father was a member of, only it had been at Moirala's and not Cor's insistence. Lady Delryn didn't understand why her husband thought their son too delicate to handle the rigors of training but Moirala had never stopped trying and finally her husband gave in. She knew Anomen wanted to join and perhaps time with boys his own age would do him some good.
The shock of rich dark brown hair that crowned her beautiful boy's head was thick and unruly despite Moirala's best efforts to keep it neat. A thick tendril of loose hair was partially concealing his brow line but Moirala could still tell that right now his bright blue eyes, like those of his mother, were annoyed.
Moira was bouncing on her heels, anxious to get inside. "Mama!" She whined and Moirala reluctantly let her son go.
"Have fun exploring, darling!" She called after the retreating back of the hurrying Anomen.
"Yes, Mother." Was his brief reply as he disappeared behind a particularly thick gathering of blooms and statuary.
Anomen was glad to be away from his mother. As much as he loved her, she had a bad habit of coddling him. He messed up his collar again on purpose as he walked around the corner. The sound of two children caught his attention. His mother had told him that besides his sister and himself that there would probably be only adults at Candlekeep.
'Other kids, maybe some my own age!'
He ran to the sound, only to stop in his tracks when he found the two culprits. Girls! Anomen didn't like girls. They were nothing but a nuisance. Even little Moira was a troublesome handful. Though she was probably the tamest of any of the female children that lived in the upper class neighborhood of Athkatla. Some of the other boys that were training at the Order had begun to notice the noble daughters of the City of Coin, smiling at their beauty and playing at games to get their attention, but Anomen would do no such things. He had more important matters to attend to than gaining the frivolous attention of any girl.
"Slinks! Come on kitty; come down from there . . . please?" A petite red head was up in a tall willow tree that had grown close to the keep, her simple pink dress hiked up to her frilly bloomers, as she leaned precariously over the branches. She called out to a gray cat that was content to sit on the edge of an eave and ignore her.
There was another girl standing on the ground beneath the tree, cautioning her friend to be careful; the fabric of her clothing hanging from her short, scrawny and rather awkward frame. The one on the ground wore a gown of rich dark green silk but Anomen doubted that either of them were of the prestigious parenting that he was. Dismissing them as servant girls he began to wander away until one of them called out to him. 'Damn! I could've escaped!'
Her voice was so whispery that it was a wonder he heard her at all. "Hello. Who are you?" Came the query from the skinny brunette. The question was a simple one and her smile was inviting.
It was bad manners to ignore her so he had to answer. He cleared his throat, preparing his posture to be that of a nobleman and focused on his title. "Lord Anomen Delryn."
The red head hung from a tree branch by her legs to stare at him. "You're cute." She commented and just as quickly went back to her cat calling, not willing to be deterred in her quest to retrieve the wayward Slinks.
The brunette shrugged, apparently used to her friend climbing trees in addition to her flippant behavior. "That's Mistress Imoen Voltaire, my sister, and I'm Lady Lilliana Avalon." She placed a hand out for him to shake.
How odd. Girls curtseyed to boys and boys were supposed to bow to girls . . . not shake hands. That was something done between men. Didn't the girl know that? Probably up here in the north they didn't teach them such things. Still, she had called herself a 'Lady' that must mean that she was some sort of courtier. That meant he had to at least pretend to be nice to her.
Anomen shook her hand anyway, holding onto it after shaking it and raised it to his lips to kiss briefly. The knights at the Order always did that with his mother, though it disgusted him to watch such a display and even more so to do it himself. "Greetings Lady Avalon and Mistress Voltaire." He looked up into the tree but the other girl was obscured by the branches and thick leaves. How could the two girls be related? One was a red headed human and the other was a black haired elf; not to mention that the elf had introduced herself as Lady while her sister was introduced as Mistress. The inhabitants of the Western Heartlands were weird!
"Slinks likes to get on the roof, but he's been up there awhile and Lady Phyldia, that's his owner, wants him back. We were done with our chores so we went to go look for him. Now that we've found him we can't get him to come down. Imoen is better at climbing trees than me but Slinks just ignores her." Lilliana explained briefly, smiling shyly at the boy. 'Imoen is right, he is very cute and he kissed my hand!' "Are you any good at catching cats, Lord Delryn?" Lilliana asked, batting her eyelashes the way she had seen some of the visiting young ladies to Candlekeep do with the younger male readers.
His cheeks turned a light shade of pink and he looked away from the elven girl. "Well . . . I . . . I . . . I could try to retrieve this animal for you ,milady."
Imoen uttered an 'ouchie!' somewhere up in the branches as Lilliana nodded her head at the boy.
"I'd like that very much."
Anomen took off his blue brocade vest and rolled up the sleeves of his silk shirt. "Alright ladies, move aside. Lord Delryn is now upon the task." He announced as he began to climb up into the willow.
Imoen dropped down and looked up as the boy moved. He was even better than her! Lilliana was watching him with a big smile on her face, her eyes looking as if they were somewhere far away.
Imoen looked over at her, whispering. "What's your problem?"
The half high-elf sighed and whispered back, still keeping track of Anomen's movements. "He kissed my hand." An already wide smile grew bigger and she sighed again.
Her sister wrinkled her nose at the statement. "Gross!"
Nightfall had embraced the grounds of Candlekeep like a rich dark blanket around a sleeping child. Only a few lanterns lit the lawn around the entrance to the keep and the entrance to the inn. A bright candle was kept lit all night at the Temple of Oghma. In this darkness, two small figures were barely visible as they were perched on the shingles of the south west tower. Before them, the Sea of Sword was spread out, reflecting the sparkle of the sky above it. It was a clear night and the moon kept company with the many stars that shared its home. The two figures sitting under the moon were children and both of them were watching a meteor shower that was falling down somewhere very far from Candlekeep.
"Look at that one! It's huge!" The fourteen year old boy remarked, his blue eyes going wide with awe.
The twelve year old girl, that sat beside him, smiled. "It's too bad Imoen was sleeping, but we've had a lot of these lately. So she's not missing out on too much. Lady Phyldia says it's an omen that the gods are preparing some grand movement. Either way it's worth having my sister get mad at me for missing this if that means I didn't have to get her up. Imoen is grumpier than a bear if you wake her when she's really sleepy."
Anomen Delryn was wrapped in a cloak as he sat crossed legged on the roof of Candlekeep with Lilliana Avalon. Both of them were dressed in their night clothes, having snuck out of bed at nearly the same time. Anomen had gone to sneak into the kitchens to get something to eat when he bumped into the half high-elf. She had been on her way to the roof to watch a meteor shower that was supposed to take place tonight.
Tethtoril, one of the High Readers, had apparently spoken to an astrologer that frequently visited Candlekeep and told Lilliana's father about the shower; she had eavesdropped. Anomen had to make her promise to take him or he'd tell that she had gone up there and he knew she wasn't supposed to. She had agreed and after they had gone down to the kitchen to get some chocolates from the pantry, the two restless children had made their way out onto the roof.
Thusly, there they sat, watching a meteor shower together and the Amnian boy was actually enjoying himself immensely. Anomen didn't like to admit it but after spending a week at Candlekeep he had begun to think of Lilliana and her adopted sister Imoen as his friends, even if they were girls. They weren't like the girls at home and there weren't any other boys at Candlekeep to make fun of him because he was spending time with them. It was safe to like them. The human boy looked over at the one he'd been spending most of his time with. All the things he had been taught to believe were viewed so differently by her. She found happiness from the strangest of things and her upbeat nature was far too contagious for Anomen not to catch it.
In Athkatla's Government Quarter, it's richest area, there were no elf families and the Order only took in human squires. Anomen hadn't had many opportunities to become familiar with any kind of elves, half or otherwise. He'd been raised to believe they were delicate and fickle, unable to take anything seriously and lacking the strength needed in battle. Lilliana wasn't likely to become a great warrior, of her own admittance on the subject a few days past, but she wasn't fickle. She had an amazing inner strength and could stay focused on the same thing for days . . . she was wonderful. Right then she was watching the sky and Anomen reached out to touch the tip of one of her pointed ears.
Lilliana jerked at the unexpected touch and turned to look at her friend. "What are you doing?"
The human boy pulled away quickly, embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. I've never been this close to a half-elf before and I just wanted to know what your ears felt like."
Lilliana laughed. "They feel like ears of course!"
Anomen was put off by her laughter but he eased down and snickered along with her. "That was pretty stupid of me wasn't it?" He asked and Lilliana shook her head.
"No. Silly maybe, but not stupid."
Another large meteor fell down in a burst of blue, trailing flickers of light behind it. Their attention was drawn to it and they both watched with awe. Even though Lilliana had seen these before she still loved watching them as they lit up the sky. The sound of the wind, or the wildlife that was out at night, had been purposely cut off from her senses by her own will as she concentrated on watching the show of celestial beauty. So it was that she barely heard her friend when he spoke.
"Thank you for bringing me up here. Even though I did threaten to tell on you . . . thank you anyway. I wouldn't have really gotten you in trouble . . . I just didn't want to be left out." He was smiling at her when she finally tore her gaze away from the falling meteors.
She shrugged. "I know why you said you were going to tell on me . . . but that's alright. I like the company and I didn't have to worry about you waking up grumpy."
Anomen was still staring but after a long silence finally spoke again. "It may be Flamerule but it's still a little chilly. We can share my cloak if you want to."
Lilliana eyed him warily. "Are you sure?"
The boy nodded. "I'd be more than happy to share." He was thinking back on a conversation he'd had with the girl a little while back. She had remarked on how pretty his mother was and how she carried herself with such elegance. Anomen had told Lilliana that she was just as pretty but she had shook her head.
'No I'm not. I have ugly black hair, colorless skin and I'm as skinny as a scarecrow. In fact, I probably look like a scarecrow!' She'd laughed at herself then but Anomen disagreed with her.
'You're wrong about that milady. You know what I see? I see a healthy girl with ebony hair, ivory skin and pretty emerald eyes held in bands of brilliant silver. Besides you are only twelve. I bet when you are grown that you are going to be the most beautiful lady in Candlekeep!' He told her and she had smiled, laughing.
'Well that won't be too hard . . . because there are only three females that live here, and that's counting me too! Though already, Imoen is far prettier than me.'
Even if Lilliana Avalon wasn't as pretty as the girls in Athkatla, she was a lot nicer. "Lilliana?" He queried.
She answered with a simple "Mmm hmm?"
Anomen fidgeted in the nervousness of his next question. "Can I . . . Can I kiss you?"
The half high-elf's eyes widened in surprise but she nodded. "I guess you can. I've never been kissed before."
He had never kissed anyone either and he wasn't quite sure what to do, but he did know that he wanted to kiss her. He let instinct lead him. His eyes were open, blue staring into green, but as he got closer he closed them. At the first touch of her soft lips he wanted to jump back in shock at the alien feeling but he persisted, enjoying the smell of the chocolates on her breath.
So it was that on the roof of one of Candlekeep's spires under the light of the moon and the falling meteors that young Lady Avalon and Lord Delryn each had their very first kiss.
"Your move." Tethtoril called out, watching Gorion's confused face.
The sage curled his fist under his jaw and surveyed the board. "Ahh, yes I see." He moved his own piece as the two played chess together in the rare translations room.
Midday sun filtered through the painted windows, creating an odd play of colors on the smooth stone floors. The game was a weekly thing and it allowed the two aging humans some time to talk over the goings on at the keep.
"She's made friends with that Delryn boy, her and Imoen. It bothers me." Gorion commented as Tethtoril moved a knight and replied.
"You are thinking that the girls will grow too close to their new friend and be heart broken when he leaves? They've made friends before with the children of our visitors. They seem to both understand it cannot last forever."
Gorion smiled at his friend. "This is true, but I think it's different this time. Imoen will get over it quickly, I am certain, but Lilliana . . . with her I have my doubts. She gave him a braid of her hair yesterday to use as a book mark in one of the tomes Lady Delryn purchased. She tied it in gold ribbons and decorated it with gems. You really should have seen it. Lilliana usually just sticks to making jewelry."
Tethtoril grinned in triumph as he took Gorion's queen. "Aha! That makes three weeks in a row. Your skill is slipping."
Gorion shook his head, laughing heartily. "Either that or you are growing better with age."
Tethtoril shrugged as they both took a drink from their earthenware cups. "Which book did she get?" He asked and Gorion raised an eyebrow in thought.
"Fredyrck's Star Theory, I think. We had ten copies of that book and she had to trade Arabellum's Merchant Compendium for it. Ulraunt charged her twice as much as it's worth. I would've said something but he already had a beetle in his ale from the last time I gave a customer pricing advice."
It was Tethtoril's turn to be amused. "Well it only cost Ulraunt three hundred gold pieces for your 'advice'. Tell me, why does it bother you that she gave him a gift? After all, did the boy not give Lilliana a gem studded notebook just last week? Gift giving is common among children of their age."
Gorion thought that over, and Tethtoril was right. Lilliana especially liked to give things away. "Aye. He did. She told him about the training she has begun to undergo at the temple for her clerical vocation. He gave her the notebook to write her conjurations in. I think she's got him pondering about something similar for himself, though undoubtedly his passion would be in Helm's name, not Lathander's. Still their conversations together . . . I think she has a crush on him Tethtoril."
The Keeper of the Tomes burst out laughing, earning a quizzical stare from Gorion and any nearby readers as well. "Did you think that she would never make the transition into woman hood? My goodness, all young girls have a first crush somewhere in their formative years, usually much earlier than twelve. To have such is natural. It should be of no concern and besides she could do a lot worse. Imagine if she took a shine to one of the watchers here. Perhaps Hull, a man twice her age!"
Gorion's look of horror at that thought sent Tethtoril into another fit of laughter, which led to coughing. He composed himself and took another drink.
"Hmm. I don't know, I suppose that I had begun to believe that in Candlekeep certain things might not happen. Still, you are right and neither of them have done anything untoward to cause me any worry. I just hope she isn't hurt too badly when the Delryns have to leave tomorrow." Gorion stated as the game of chess continued.
Tethtoril smiled. "She is a good girl, she'll be fine. You raised her with a quality of character seldom seen in children her age and little Imoen is the same way. Both Lilliana and Imoen will be back to their regular impish selves by the end of next week. Come now, concentrate on our game, you are letting me win!"
"I wish I didn't have to go, you are my first real friend. I don't know if your sister will miss me much though." Anomen remarked, gazing off into the distance, where Imoen was busy trying to catch a frog that was escaping into the brush.
Lilliana laughed. "Well, Imoen is Imoen, but she will miss you too. She thinks of you as a friend, just as I do."
Anomen smiled sadly. "I doubt that. No one will ever think of me as a friend as much as you do. I'm going to miss you a lot Lilliana."
The half high-elf shared the sad smile and hugged the human boy tightly. "Well, you have my braid to remind you of me and I have your notebook to remind me of you. I shall keep it always."
Anomen perked up at that, but a memory wasn't the same. He sighed and hugged her back before pulling away. "This is good bye then."
Lilliana shook her head. "Maybe not. We could see each other again if the fates will it . . . I think we will."
Anomen's eyes brightened. "You do?! I mean, of course. Yes, we will see each other again. I . .. good bye Lady Avalon."
"Wait Anomen! I wanted to say thank you." Lilliana stopped him.
He looked confused. "For what?"
The half-elf leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "For being my friend. Have a safe journey Lord Delryn."
Imoen did make her way over to say good bye and hugged the Amnian boy, telling him that she too was glad to have met him.
Anomen Delryn left that morning holding a heavy heart. He hadn't expected to find so much happiness at Candlekeep, but now that they were leaving he found himself wishing he could stay there forever. The young boy opened the book his mother had bought him. He had requested it so he could learn more about meteor showers. Inside the crease was a small braid of Lilliana's black hair, held with a gold ribbon beset by multi-hued beads. The boy smiled and placed a hand over the cheek she had kissed. Anomen hoped that she was right about the fates for he very much wanted to see her again someday.