Notes: I haven't written fanfiction in so long that I forgot how to get into my own account (I share this with my brother, so he had to remind me of what my own password is. Sigh.)
Anyhow, don't be disappointed if I tend to insult one character over another... they'll all get their turns. Oh, and I've found it helps if you draw a little diagram. I would include one but I highly doubt would let me.
And I don't own Neverwinter Nights 2 in the sense that I'm making money off it. I own it in the sense I've beaten it twice (both times as a paladin-hybrid of some kind... what's wrong with me?)
PS: This is just for fun. Go ahead and tell me things like what you would like to see in the future, and sure, go ahead and give me some crit, but don't take it too seriously, because I'm not :)
"So, this is what vanity gets you. The girl won't wear a helmet – insists on wearing that stupid feathered cap, of all things – and now she's sporting what I'm sure is a very fashionable head wound."
"Hush, Sand. You're one to talk of vanity."
Grace forced her eyes open, and the moment she did she wished she hadn't.
Her companions were all alive, which was a cause for joy, but they were all caved in in a very small circle with no exit and the crushing weight of an ancient Illefarn temple surrounding them. They were separated from the rocks by a thin, red-glowing magical net of some kind, which was simultaneously providing light. Neeshka was leaning against her on one side, her tail twitching every once in awhile, and Grobnar was on the other, hurriedly looking through his pack for something.
Grace hesitantly raised her hand and pressed a finger to the source of her disorienting pain – a huge gash filled with small pebbles and dust was across the right side of her scalp, the red of her blood making her already-red hair darker.
Sand was about to respond to Elanee (no doubt the response would be appropriately witty and sarcastic) when Ammon Jerro spoke up, "And so the great knight captain has awoken. Welcome to what can only be one of the hells." Indeed, the warlock looked like he was being tormented.
The world seemed fuzzy to Grace and she struggled to find some sort of response to that, but found that the words weren't forming. She could comprehend what Ammon had just said, but speaking back seemed to be beyond her.
"Know that I lack the capacity to heal you at this time, kalach-cha," Zhjaeve intoned from across the "room". She was sitting between Ammon Jerro (who looked thrilled) and Elanee. "I and the other healers have spent our energies in healing those wounds which would prove most fatal."
Grace nodded dimly.
"So you're going to have to explain to me, most noble leader," Sand began from his position between Casavir and Qara, "why exactly you risked life and limb to save the little girl here, who clearly would not do the same for you." Sand looked at Qara fondly – not because of any sort of personal affection, but because Sand had apparently spent most of the time they'd been trapped binding Qara's hands behind her back and gagging her in very elaborate knots that even Neeshka would have had a hard time getting out of, much less Qara. The sorceress in question was awake, her eyes narrowed into slits as she glared down everyone. Sand was not daunted.
Grace tried to find the words. Because you forgive too easily, was the first thing that came to mind, but oddly enough it wasn't in her voice – it was in Bishop's.
Grace allowed herself to breathe at what proved to be a most inopportune moment.
"Ah, the proverbial fire," Sand took the time to comment brightly before he followed the others in a mad dash for the exit. The Chamber of the King of Shadows was ominously beginning to rumble…
Grace, too, sprinted, although not towards the exit – she ran towards the unconscious form of Qara, who had what seemed like days earlier betrayed Grace and sided with the former Guardian of Illefarn. "What are ye doin', lass?" Khelgar demanded, he and Casavir remaining behind to wait for their leader. Neeshka, feverish due to the Garius' geas, was slung over Khelgar's back, her feet and tail dragging on the ground. "I didn't kill the pyro so ye could try 'n save her!"
"She's not dead!" Grace called back, kneeling beside the unconscious sorceress and, bracing her, standing up. When Khelgar had attacked her, Qara's magical defenses had activated just in time to prevent the blow from caving her skull in, for better or for worse. Grace had noticed during the ensuing battle the near-imperceptible rising and falling of Qara's chest.
"Well, I can fix that-"
"I have a headache bad enough to qualify as a hell in itself," Neeshka muttered from Khelgar's back, just loud enough that the aasimar had to strain her ears to hear her over the falling debris around the chamber, "So do me a favor and shut the hell up, Khelgar."
Khelgar clearly wasn't sure how to respond to the tiefling's use of his actual name (as opposed to the six hundred or so insulting nicknames she had for him), so after a moment of silence he muttered a half-hearted, "Bloody paladins," before following the others.
The debris falling from the ceiling was beginning to change from dust to chunks of rock. "Let's get out of here," Grace tersely said to Casavir, shuffling by him as fast as possible while supporting the weight of Qara. Normally Grace wouldn't have had too much of a problem carrying the frail magic user, but after slaying three Shadow Reavers (one of which almost slew her) and sixteen Kings of Shadow, Grace was exhausted, completely out of spells and was covered in numerous cuts and gashes, a prominent one on her right thigh, where one of the Kings had managed to slice through her (brand new) armor and hit the skin. Casavir wordlessly took Qara from her, slinging her over his back like Khelgar had Neeshka. The two ran from the room, Grace ignoring the pain in her leg, and the two narrowly avoided the chamber's collapse.
Grace was thankful that Casavir had forgiven her for not letting him kill Bishop. "Thank you."
That was when the entire building collapsed.
Grobnar had found whatever it was he was looking for, but as he opened his mouth to speak he stopped suddenly, looking at something located between him and Khelgar. He was going to speak about that but Casavir cut in, speaking for Grace, "She cannot speak, Sand. Her head wound is too great."
"We warned her about that hat…" Khelgar muttered.
"Khelgar!" Neeshka snapped, her tail twitching, "Stop saying things like that!"
Good ol' Neeshka, can always count on her… Grace thought dimly.
"What? That hat was just not combat friendly, and we all knew it! What kind of warrior wears a felt hat into hand-to-hand combat?"
"Oh, that's not what she means. We all know the stupid hat was a bad choice of combat wardrobe. Her point was that you're going to make that insufferable elf's head even bigger if you keep agreeing with him," Ammon said.
"I am too sufferable," Sand huffed.
"Too late," Elanee chimed in, "Sand's head reached critical mass months ago."
"Yeah, it couldn't even fit into Grace's absurd, suicidally indefensible hat!" Neeshka said. She seemed to be sounding better, although not by much.
"Regardless of cause," Casavir burst in, "the fact remains that Lady Grace cannot speak."
"Since you're an expert at speaking for her, why don't you just go ahead and tell me her motivations?" Sand grated.
"Oh my," Grobnar said.
"My lady is a virtuous, noble woman," Casavir declared, "who is forgiving of her enemies." Qara rolled her eyes. Grace smiled weakly. As much as he was mocked, Casavir made an excellent self-esteem booster.
"So you're saying it was – what were your words, noble and virtuous to let Bishop walk out?" Sand replied slyly, clearly enjoying himself. He seemed to be the only one.
"Oh, no. That was stupid." Grace was amazed at Casavir's bluntness.
"There are-" Grobnar began again.
"You shouldn't have slept with him," Neeshka mumbled from beside her, her head resting on her shoulder, "Made him uppity." Grace started running her fingers through her friend's hair in an effort to soothe her pain. She also agreed – about him being uppity, not about their night together.
"The ranger probably got caved in too, although killing him ourselves would have been much more satisfying," Ammon pointed out gruffly.
"If I might interject-" Elanee began.
"Oh, me too!" Grobnar said cheerfully, not seeming at all offended that no one was letting him talk.
"Ye just noticed that there aren't any plants in here or somethin'?" Khelgar interrupted her.
Elanee sighed. "Yes, Khelgar, that was my main concern. No – how exactly have the rocks not crushed us yet? I was merely intrigued as to how we all live. I have noticed the force-field around us and am thankful that it is providing light, but I wonder where it came from."
Sand and Ammon Jerro raised their hands and went on to explain (well, Sand explained) how the two used what very little magical energies they had left to form a shield. Qara once again rolled her eyes and said something from behind her gag. Sand hit her on the back of the head.
"Excuse me-" Grobnar began again. Grace looked at him and Grobnar noticed this, continuing excitedly, "There are feet next to me!"
Someone screamed, a high-pitched girlish shriek.
Everyone looked at Sand.
"What?" he said brusquely, staring at his robes ashamedly.
"For a second there, I thought a six-year old Halfling schoolgirl had somehow snuck in here…" Ammon commented.
"Well, I just happen to have a natural soprano. I can't be blamed for a combination of surprise and a wonderful, bell-like singing voice," Sand claimed.
"I've heard you sing. It sounds a little bit less like a 'bell' and more like a 'goose'…" Elanee mentioned.
"Ye would know all about gooses," Khelgar muttered.
"So he sings like poultry, screams like a girl, talks like a jerk… is he some sort of odd Chimera?" Neeshka inquired.
Qara started laughing as effectively as someone gagged could and Sand hit her on the back of the head.
"How didn't I notice those?" Khelgar asked, bringing everyone's attention back to the mysterious feet. The feet were located between him and Grobnar. The feet were adorned with a large pair of leather boots.
A deathly silence filled the "room." "Thank the gods," Ammon muttered.
"What should we do with them?" Elanee asked of her compatriots. "It's highly unlikely that the person or undead that those boots are attached to would still be alive."
As if to challenge the druid's assertion, one of the feet twitched.
Grobnar backed up until he was sitting on Grace's lap. "It's another zombie!" the gnome declared. "And, my goodness, I am awfully sick of zombies!"
Khelgar went to pull out his ceremonial war hammer (something Grace didn't understand – the dwarf was a fist-using monk and, beforehand, had been something of a killing machine with a waraxe, so why he insisted on using the hammer was beyond her), nearly bashing Qara's head in due to the lack of space. The sorceress ducked out of the way and the hammer hit the rubble behind her.
Khelgar froze, as did everyone in the room. Those worshiping of the gods were praying to their respective deities. When nothing happened, Ammon roared, "Idiot dwarf, put that damn thing away!"
"But if it's an undead, I'm gonna have to kill it, and since the hammer's already out anyhow…"
"Put it away!"
"But… but I want to hammer…"
"Put it away!"
"But if I put it away, I won't be able to swing it…"
"PUT IT AWAY!"
"Aw, all right… knew there was a reason that I didn't like you."
"Other than him killing Shandra, leading us on a wild goose chase to his evil haven, imprisoning numerous devils and demons for his own nefarious purposes, his abrasive attitude, his odd tattoo and how we were all on the same side but he never bothered to tell us?" Grobnar chimed in cheerfully.
"Well, there is that…" Khelgar admitted.
"You had better hope that by the time the full extent of my powers come back I forget what you just said, gnome," Ammon growled.
"If that happens, then I would have to wonder if maybe you weren't hit on the head as well! After all, if in a day's time you forget an entire conversation, then obviously something is wrong with your memory! But, speaking of forgetting, I almost forgot about the vicious undead that is sitting next to me. What should we do with it?"
There was more silence. "Know that we ought to drag it in here and kill it. Were we to leave it where it is, it might move too much and cause instability, making our small enclave cave in," Zhjaeve suggested. It occurred to Grace just how many of her party members could talk about impending doom and being crushed beneath tons of rock and be so blasé about it.
"But were we to drag it in," Elanee turned to look at the githzerai next to her, "the disruption of the dislodging might cause a cave-in in itself."
Sand nudged Casavir in the arm. "Go ahead, paladin, we all know you want to chime in."
"Thus we are in a predicament," he said, "for leaving the undead abomination could cause the cave-in which we wish to avoid, yet attempting to slay the creature could cause that which we most dread."
Qara protested to further conversation with a very loud groan, actively struggling against her bonds. Sand hit her on the back of the head.
"I could just break its foot," Khelgar suggested.
"And what would that do?" Elanee asked him.
He shrugged. "It would be fun!"
"We already know that we need to know what we know, y'know?" Neeshka cut her off.
Grace sighed. As much as she liked most of the members of her group, they really were terrible at decision-making. She waved at Khelgar to get his attention then mimed out pulling the feet into the room. Using up too much energy, she closed her eyes and rested her cheek on the top of Neeshka's head.
Khelgar shrugged and, the rest of the group accepting Grace's word as final, grabbed the feet and, with a quick tug, pulled the body of the feet into the circle.
Bishop looked around from his position of lying in the middle. "And this is awkward," was all he could come up with.
Bishop quickly slid himself so his back was up against the magic shield and the rubble, just like the others. He was between Grobnar and Khelgar (like his feet before him), his face riddled with rock and dust and covered with cuts and bruises. His stubble had done a decent job of protecting the lower half of his face, or at least disguising any damage done to it.
"So," Ammon Jerro began, looking rather amused at Bishop's presence, "ranger, for all of your prattling on about killing sheep, how does it feel to finally be in the sheep's shoes?"
"If you kill me, I'll die," Bishop began, looking nervous and like he didn't quite believe what he was saying, "and frankly, it'd be better than being stuck in here with all of you."
"Point," Ammon admitted begrudgingly.
"Know that if we were to kill the traitor outright, his decaying corpse would give this small space a most unpleasant scent," Zhjaeve pointed it. It was news to Grace that the githzerai even had a nose. It was hard to tell with the veil.
"This place already lacks fresh air," Elanee agreed, "so let's not make it worse."
"I find myself agreeing," Sand said disdainfully, "although watching the paladin here finally get to kill the ranger would be some high-quality entertainment."
In an impressive move, the paladin in question reached over, grabbed Grobnar and switched places with him, planting himself between his injured lady love and the betrayer ranger. Grace wanted to point out just how catchy calling him "Betrayer Ranger" was but still couldn't make her mouth listen.
Sand and Ammon had identical expressions of disdain on their faces at the newfound presence of Grobnar between them, but the gnome himself didn't seem to notice this.
"Ay, yer lucky the others don't want ye dead, and that Baldie won't let me use me hammer, or else I'd be killin' you and the annoying whelp of a whiney sorceress! And I would be laughin'!" Khelgar informed Bishop.
"He needs to stop forgetting he's a monk," Neeshka pointed out, more to Grace than to anyone else. She had to agree.
Qara protested behind her gag in what could clearly be translated into "I'm not whiney," and Sand hit her on the back of the head.
"This is refreshing," the elf said cheerfully, "I'm so used to dominating people with my razor-sharp wit that I've forgotten how fun it is to do so physically. And you're making it all the more enjoyable, my dear," he said to Qara, "so by all means, keep trying to talk behind that gag."
Bishop decided to ignore Casavir's assertion of testosterone by ignoring him. "What happened to you?" he asked of Grace, pointing to the right side of his head.
"Ro-" Grace's moment of being so excited that she could make a word was ruined when Casavir spoke:
"I don't think so, betrayer. You are not allowed to talk to her – you are not worthy."
"Well what do you know," Grobnar excitedly, "That would make him a betrayer ranger! Isn't that awfully catchy!"
Grace did her best to look offended until Sand snapped, "That is the most moronic thing you have ever said. … except for the Wendersnaven, but that goes without question." Then she felt better.
"Rock," Grace said.
Everyone looked at her.
"And it speaks!" Jerro said with sarcastic enthusiasm.
"Speaking in such simple words… You are a paladin, aren't you." Grace glared at Sand.
"Go to hell," she said cheerfully. Sand gave her a nod of approval.
"Uncouth for a paladin, but you can be forgiven, I'm sure."
"She can," Casavir asserted.
"Now that I've gotten one question answered, perhaps someone wouldn't mind telling me," Bishop began sardonically, "how Princess Qara survived turning traitor. Figured she would be the first to kick the bucket."
Qara squealed a retort and Sand hit her on the back of the head. "Next time I'll do it and knock her out," Khelgar offered.
"No, no, that won't be necessary. She's harmless enough and amusing like this. Now, then, ranger, she's alive because Captain Charity over there decided not to let her die. But, Bishop-" Sand appeared intrigued, "you left – once again, thanks to Captain Charity – before Qara switched sides. How, pray tell, would you have known about it, hmm?"
Silence fell in the "room."
"Yeah, so?" Bishop grumbled, crossing his arms and staring intently at his boots.
"You didn't go far, did you?" Elanee said, smiling – not out of amusement, but because she seemed pleased.
Neeshka giggled. "Guess his whole 'I would die for you' speech wasn't an exaggeration." She poked Grace in the side. Grace was thankful the red glow of the magic field was disguising her blush.
"I could have made it happen," Casavir grumbled.
"No way," Bishop retorted.
"That whole thing was just funny," Khelgar chuckled.
"Shut up, dwarf!" Bishop snapped, clearly uncomfortable.
"'Oh, Grace'" the dwarf began, putting on a high voice, apparently mimicking Bishop (and making him female), "'even though all ye've done since we met was threaten ta kill me for being an ass to ye and everyone we met-'"
"'and even though,'" Neeshka continued, doing a decent impersonation of Bishop's gruff voice, "'I just finished betraying you twice for reasons that are basically 'I hate your uncle-''"
"'I looooooove ye!'"
"'I would have diiiiiiiieeeed for you!'"
"The best part," Ammon chimed in, clearly enjoying the way the conversation had gone, "was the 'but you always sided with the paladin!' bit, as if he somehow forgot she is a paladin."
"I noticed that," Elanee said cheerfully.
"And I was clearly the better choice to side with," Casavir interjected.
"And," Grobnar began, no malice in his intent, "I thought it was awfully unintelligent of him-"
"Grobnar, if you keep talking, you'll become the world's most annoying pincushion!"
"Brave of you to insult the one member of our troupe who you could probably kill," Sand said jovially. "But go ahead and tell us your observation, Grobnar."
"I thought it was odd that Bishop would confess that he was spying on Grace, when it was not a guarantee that she would die there! As if betraying her wasn't enough, he also rubbed salt in the wound, so to speak, by pointing out that he watched her on the ramparts with Casavir…"
Both paladins were now glaring at Bishop, recalling that declaration as well. "Now am I allowed to kill him?"
She hit him on the upper arm, her hand hitting his plate mail. She nursed her hand against her chest, frowning. Casavir nobly took it and started rubbing it.
Sand hit Qara on the back of the head. Over her muffled protestations, he cheerfully said, "That is how you do it."
"Were I to heal the kalacha-cha," Zhjaeve voiced wearily, "I would require rest."
"I'm sure. After all, you've never healed anyone before..." Neeshka muttered.
"What? I'm just saying it like it is! Whenever we're in a battle, you start casting 'bless' or some other useless crap six hundred times while we're all getting lopped to pieces! And then, when we try to tell you to heal us, you just babble something about 'knowing your effective powers' and do the exact same thing in the next fight!"
"Know, Neeshka, that I understand the most effective uses of my powers and…"
"THAT! That, there! That's what you say!" Neeshka said, waving her finger accusingly. "I hate that!"
"I realize tempers are flaring, but we should try not to tear each other's heads off." Casavir looked to Grace before continuing, "Unless I have permission to smite the betrayer?"
Grace gave him a patronizing shake of her head.
"You'll come around. Once we all get some sleep and heal up, everything will look much better, I'm sure."
Instantly Sand and Ammon Jerro looked as if they had some sort of mutual constipation. "Right, about that…"
The rest of the team looked at the two mages. "There's a bit of a catch-22 associated with this barrier we have constructed. You see, the longer we stay awake, the weaker the barrier becomes…"
"… but were we to fall asleep, the barrier would collapse completely," Jerro finished.
Silence once again settled into the group.
"Perhaps," Elanee broke it, "half of us could sleep and the others could keep Ammon and Sand awake?"
"Make them keep each other awake," Bishop grumbled.
"I wanna sleep," Neeshka whined.
"My lady requires her rest," Casavir spoke up.
"Since when did you buy her?" Bishop grumbled again. Casavir chose to ignore him. Khelgar, however, did not. Apparently he was feeling left out by not being allowed to smack anyone, because he took the opportunity to plant his fist firmly into Bishop's kidney.
"So the healers and the injured sleep," Elanee said, ignoring the evil ranger's writhing in pain, "and the others stay awake?"
Grace nodded, closing her eyes and leaning against her knight. Unfortunately, he was still wearing plate-mail and her head still had a gash on the right side, so she leaned the other way onto Neeshka, who was still leaning on her.
It didn't take long for her to fall asleep.