Author: Hey there, AD&D team. Jim'Van here, coming live to you with a brand new fic for the NWN2 game, focusing on my favorite character and a thorough internal examination of her character.

Chinh: As my glorious boss here cannot seem to pull a thorough examination of a girl any other way…

Author: Ugghh, I thought she had run out of spliffs. Anyway, enjoy the fic. I think some of you may enjoy reading about a male PC for a change…


Neeshka

Chapter 1: The Great Scam

Tail for brains? Goat-girl? Horn-head? Don't they ever stop coming?

I didn't exactly ask for these curled lumps of bone sticking out my temples you know, nor the forked tail that's actually been pretty handy from time to time for pointing when I have my hands full. Nor did I ask for the red eyes or the mottled tone of my skin.

So why is it always, demon, demon, demon?

I'm fully aware of the mischief my people have caused in the past (having caused more than a respectable share of it myself) and yes, I know that tieflings have been responsible for a lot of trouble along the Coast. But hasn't everyone? I mean humans were responsible for a good deal of it too! Did you ever think of that? The dwarves too like that ol' rumblebelly across the bar.

Tieflings are mortal and sentient just like everyone else, and no two tieflings are the same, which most other people tend to forget whenever these cursed lumps on my head stick out just a bit too far from under my hood…

Oh, I admit, I've met the occasional sweetie who showed 'understanding' to me, only to have him turn on me with a dumb old-fashioned 'it-was-goat-girl' expression on his face whenever anything started to go wrong. I guess I might see a little less of that now, though, as dear Leldon is no longer with us…and because my current 'partner', would probably be the last living entity to curse one like me.

For Veltan Vilito, too, is a tiefling. A tiefling warrior and general goody goody two-shoes who protects me and calls me his 'little sister'. He's such a bore at times with all his rant about 'duty' and 'honor'…gah, sometimes as bad as that dumb paladin…

But I know I could do a lot worse in the partner department (hence the aforementioned slug-brain, Leldon, currently sleeping with the worms six feet under). It's unusual for tieflings to help each other, but from the moment that Veltan saved my life outside Fort Locke, I knew there was someone I could trust in the world, one person who would show me kindness. Soon after I joined him, we became the best of friends and he started calling me 'little sister' because I was a tiefling, the only other tiefling he had ever seen. I don't hate it when he calls me that, but sometimes it leads on to a feeling of…attachment…I'm not sure I wanted to have.

It's always been me…just me…moving from place to place and disappearing from whatever associate I have with no trace and no regret left behind. But with Veltan Vilito, and his amazing (and quite confusing) 'destiny' that later came to light in the battle with the githyanki, I simply knew it was something I couldn't even consider anymore. I would stay and help my big brother to the end.

So here I am now, in Duncan Farlong's Sunken Flagon, sitting at the fireplace with a tankard in one hand, with Khelgar sitting on my left and running off his big mouth again, and that obnoxious ranger on my right, glaring in my direction and fingering his knife. I'm happy I have my own handy.


"So then I told 'im: ye pompous old elven fool! I'll rip those oversized ears of yours off and cook 'em fer supper!"

"What a fascinating turn your memory road seems to have taken, Khelgar…" came Sand's icy voice from behind.

"Ye still here, Sand?" Khelgar said, chuckling, as the elf wizard strode over to us.

"Your head must be so full of ale you lost your sense of smell, dwarf. After all, who couldn't smell that elf for half a mile?"

"Heh, for once I think I agree with ye, ranger."

Oh, brother. I can't decide which attempt at a joke is lamer.

I looked back over my shoulder to see the others. Shandra, Grobnar and Elanee were sitting and talking with Duncan at the bar. Qara was sitting huffily at the opposite end, her arms crossed and glaring angrily at all of us, especially Sand. Casavir the paladin had gone to visit an old acquaintance…or so he said. But Veltan was nowhere to be seen. I remembered that he had gone back into his room to rest. The battle with Lorne Starling had really burned him up, in the head as well as in the body.

I knew for a fact, even that if I was the only one aware enough of Vilito's true being to notice, that being accused of murder by those he considered allies and then having to kill one of his fellow Harbormen had really upset him, and the older brother of his best friend no less.

I stood up. I wasn't going to stay here any longer and listen to the dwarf's banter. Checking that my knife was still there at my belt, I turned and strode over to the other ladies and the gnome. "Have you checked on Veltan? I think he needs us now?"

They looked at me in surprise. Shandra and Elanee, I knew, both cared for the male tiefling (Elanee perhaps very much so), but they assumed the tough-talking half-demon stereotype kept Vilito from feeling remorse. How I hate that!

Shandra looked over her shoulder at the door to his quarters. "I don't know, Neeshka. Do you think he really does want to see us right now? He seems to be pretty tired."

I shrugged and said brightly. "Hey, what kind of allies would we be if we ignored him?"

Elanee looked at me slowly. "He shares your heritage, Neeshka…" Her voice was quiet and slow, as if she was choosing her words carefully to avoid upsetting me. "Do your kind really care about that?"

"I do rather believe that while Sir Veltan may not seem as insensitive as most tieflings are believed to be, Lady Neeshka." Grobnar chimed in brightly. "He has generally not endured our company well when he is upset or tired…"

I didn't answer. Their problem if they were delusional about my kind. And if they didn't understand what a headache their continual bickering gave my big brother (yeah, hypocrite, aren't I?). I walked to his door and pulled it open, aware of the eyes of the three following me.

"Veltan…?" I asked quietly, easing inside and closing the door behind me.

He didn't hear me of course. The silver-haired tiefling was blissfully unaware of all the Realms at the moment. He was lost in sleep, lying in the large bed Duncan had given his 'nephew'.

Vilito lay there, still in his clothes, snoring quietly, with his equipment gathered at the foot of the bed. In the heavy iron armor and wearing the twin blades on his back, he looked like the stereotypical hell-born soldier (complete with horns and tail), but right now he looked like a bit of a joke. He was wearing only the dirty white tunic and blue pants he wore under his armor, complete with rust-splotches from rainy days and red stains from old wounds. I had once asked him why he never washed them, and he explained that Harbormen's clothes took a week to get dry usually, and quite often served as a breeding ground for swamp insects while doing so.

So the cleanest way was not to wash them at all. That had to be the stupidest thing I'd ever heard.

His clothing was at odds with his dark brown skin and silver hair, with the pair of long horns that jutted backwards out of his temples along his hair-streaks. The horns weren't noticeable when his long mane was running backwards, as they were lost in the hair, but it was still obvious that Veltan was a tiefling because of the red eyes and the darker patches of brown mottling his forehead, one of them cloven in half by an old scar over his right eyebrow.

Then I noticed I was just standing there lost in my own thoughts and staring down at my big brother's face. Then I suddenly noticed he had stopped snoring.

Without moving, he opened one crimson eye and gazed at me.

"Oh, it's you, Neeshka…" His voice was full, with only the trace of a demonic growl in it. "I'm glad I woke up before you got too close. I still keep a knife under my pillow, you know…"

I smiled. "More paranoia, Veltan? You know I'm too quick for you to cut my throat anyway. I wouldn't have been in any danger."

Vilito grinned at me. "Maybe, maybe not. Keep pushing me and maybe we'll find the truth of that matter, little sister." He groaned and heaved himself up on his pillows. "How long have I been asleep?"

"About three hours…" I said, shrugging. "So what'll we do now?"

Veltan sighed, hugging his knees and looking down onto his bed. "I need to go to West Harbor. Break the bad news to Retta and Bevil…"

"Bevil?" I asked. "You mean the other Harborman Elanee told me about?"

He nodded. "Right. My best friend."

"But you let Lorne go…"

"And how long do you think Garius will let him live after his failure?"

I couldn't fault his reasoning there. Veltan may have seemed like a big hulking brute, but he was far from stupid, and his idea certainly matched what we had heard about Garius so far.

Still, whatever came of it, Veltan was alright, and that miserable little Luskan tart Torio was left to her master's mercy. I could still remember how much I had to restrain myself from drawing my rapier when I heard that little bitch accusing my big brother in Nasher's court. It was possibly only Casavir and Elanee's looks of warning that stopped Khelgar, Qara and me from tearing the place up.

"Sis?" Veltan waved his hand in front of my face and I started. "Heh, I never caught you lost like that before, Neeshka. What's the matter?"

"Veltan…" I said, sitting heavily next to him. "Why do you put up with it all? All the hell-spawned politics I mean! We don't need to put ourselves at the heel of Nasher, or Garius, or anyone anymore!"

He nodded. "You may be right, Neeshka…Sometimes I wonder just what the heck we're doing…"

That surprised me. I was expecting a whole load of Casavir-esque garbage.

Veltan sat up further and punched me on the shoulder. "But if you keep going with me, I may just tell you all about it one of these days…"

I grinned at him, as he seemed to be trying to lighten my mood. "And I hope you'll give me more than answers, Vilito."

He smiled; he knew I was inviting him to play cards.

"My undying gratitude?"

"Nope."

"My collection of Voldun's Best Vintage?"

"Tempting. But uh-uh."

"My used drawers?"

"Blech! No way!"

"My eternal love and passions?"

"N...-what?!"

He chuckled, and decided to drop the game before I got steamed. "Bright gold and shiny jewels?"

I calmed down. "Exactly."

Still, I decided to get him back a little for teasing me like that.

I stretched, pushed him down onto his pillows and fell down next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. I grinned to myself and whispered in a deep voice. "Still, if you want to tell me about it later, Vilito…I'm already here, so I guess I'll just camp out with you until you're ready."

Veltan stared at me, suddenly looking uncomfortable, unsure whether I meant it or whether I were merely yanking his tail again. I decided to take it one step further. I snuggled up close to him, drawing circles on his collarbone in the process, and purred into his ear.

"And maybe I'll make a real man out of you in the process, big brother…"

Surprised, Veltan's deep red eyes went wild and he tried to pull away. I was having fun now, so I scooted closer to him, leaned over his chest and said in a sing-song voice. "What's the matter? Big, strong tiefling swordsman afraid of little old me? Ha! Are you worried you might actually enjoy it or something, Veltan?!"

He suddenly wrapped his arms around me and grinned, all nervousness vanishing, and then I understood the dirty pervert had been fronting all along. "Enjoying it isn't something I exactly doubt, Neeshka…" he said in a low voice that made me feel hot around the ears. "But I don't think that the others will have a thing or two to say about us camping out in the same bed…"

And he let me go, smiling wolfishly, and I shot up out of the bed and onto my feet, glaring at him but with a smirk on my face anyway. "Round one to you, big brother, but I'll get you back. Just you wait and see…"

And I turned with a red face and left Veltan to sleep as his bloody chuckling followed me all the way back to the bar.


Since then, I tried to stay away from him. I was just too embarrassed about my backfired prank to even speak to him. And Veltan seemed to be wise to my feelings, and he didn't say a word to me for a while, though I caught him smiling apologetically once or twice.

Two days later…I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"You…love me?"

Qara's jaw was hanging open stupidly as she stared at Veltan. She looked absolutely stunned. And even more so were us, we all couldn't believe what our leader had just announced in the middle of the Sunken Flagon.

Veltan smiled, his fangs jutting only so slightly. "Yes, I do, Qara. You didn't think I'd let those brats from the Academy get their grubby paws on you, did you? The woman I love?"

At that, Qara straightened up, a mad gleam appearing in her eye. "I always knew the man I loved would never do that!"

I felt like banging my head against the wall. What in the hells was Veltan doing?! You could practically hear and feel the groans rippling through the room at Qara's sudden announcement.

The fiercely brave, but very naïve human girl smiled, thinking we were rumbling approval!

"And, I'll never leave your side, my love."

More groans.

Veltan smiled again and turned, but Qara caught his arm. Her eyes were wide and pleading. "Please say it again, dem-…er, Veltan!"

Groans so loud it sounded like the Flagons' foundations breaking.

"I love you, Qara."

"I love you too, Veltan."

I felt like spewing my guts all over the floor. Qara squeezed his arm tighter.

"And our love will…last forever?"

"Of course it will."

Qara smiled, detached herself from the male tiefling, turned, and pranced off with sparkles in her eyes and a childish grin on her face, probably to skip around and fantasize about her new 'boyfriend' outside the Flagon.

I looked around at my comrades. I could see shock and disbelief on the faces of Khelgar, Duncan, and Sand, disgust on the faces of Bishop and Shandra, complete disapproval on Casavir, and a bit of polite incredulity on Grobnar. But worst of all was Elanee. Her face was the color of a ripe tomato and her fingers were curling and uncurling around her blade, obviously itching to slash Veltan to pieces. I could see her eternally-calm-tree-worshipper poker face starting to crack.

I admit: I wasn't exactly happy myself. Did Veltan realize what he had just done?

Sand stepped forward and asked the question we had all obviously been dying to ask.

"Excuse me, Vilito, but what in the hells did you just do?"

Veltan looked at Sand grimly, all trace of his warm smile gone. "Don't rub it in, Sand. I already feel bad enough about it…"

"Do you realize what you've done?! And more importantly, what that girl will try to do when she finds out you lied?"

Veltan waved his hand dismissively. "I'll take care of it when I have to, Sand, but for now, at least we have that sorceress' loyalty. No more whining or complaining from her."

Casavir frowned at my brother deeply. "Such a lie will have serious consequences, Vilito. As well as her anger, it is likely that the girl will emerge from the ordeal scarred and traumatized."

Bishop grinned. "I think she's scarred enough already, paladin…and I think the only trauma will be when that girl wakes up in his bed after a gallon of mead…and all the trauma will likely be our glorious leader's, I think."

Veltan, Casavir, and…Elanee all growled at the ranger, who smirked lecherously and turned back to the bar.

The druidess advanced menacingly on the tiefling, who took two steps back and held up his arms. Too late. Elanee slapped him hard. So hard I felt my own cheek twinge in sympathy for his.

"What have you done to that poor girl?! Now maybe she will never know true love!" she said loudly, beating on him. I could practically hear the chuckles from Khelgar on my right.

"Ouch! Elanee…I, ow! I did it to…ow…stop her from causing so much, ow, trouble."

"You shouldn't play with a young girl's heart like that!" Elanee screamed, all of her calm druid demeanor evaporating. "No woman deserves to be manipulated so cruelly!"

"Oh, jealous are we, Elanee?" I found myself saying before I could stop myself.

The wood elf turned on me, furious, and then her face suddenly took on a lighter shade of red as her expression shifted. She was suddenly aware that her little tantrum had given away her poker face and everyone, even Casavir, was smiling at her, the room's bleak mood dissipating as quickly as it came.

She looked at Veltan, who returned the gaze levelly, and without another word she turned and stamped off to the next room, slamming the door behind her.

Shandra stood up, obviously trying not to laugh at Elanee's embarrassment, but her expression shifted back to serious and she scolded our leader. "You know, that may have taken the fight out of Qara for now, Veltan…but you still shouldn't have done it! I mean what if she suddenly wants you to act like her boyfriend instead of just talking like one?"

Veltan sighed wearily, and turned to look at the door. And his uncle Duncan answered for him.

"You're right, lass. But to be honest, I think Qara really doesn't know exactly how a lover is supposed to act. She's lived a very sheltered life within the Academy's walls, you know, and high society families don't generally let their pretty daughters get out much. My kin here's playin' a dangerous game, aye! But it's only dangerous if the lass out there ever decides to wise up and change the rules…"

Sand snorted. "How many tankards have you had, Duncan? It seems that for once in your life you could almost make sense." The moon elf's face seemed to have lost its shock and gone back to that stupid arrogant look. "You are aware, of course, Vilito, just how dangerous that girl is. If she ever finds out you lied, it will fall to you to deal with her. I, for one, am not going to clean up this mess." And he turned and left the room.

I sighed. Veltan had a good idea to get Qara under control, however immoral, and after some time, the downside probably wouldn't matter anyway if the little sorceress ever grew up, but I still didn't like it. Qara was arrogant, naïve, and sometimes just downright annoying, but even she didn't deserve a first 'love' that way.

I sighed and my tail drooped to the ground. Because of my demon blood, well…it wasn't worth thinking about really, but perhaps the only boyfriend I'd ever have would be blind, deaf, and dumb (in both senses of the word).

"Heh, well, it looks like romance is in the air this evenin', eh?" Khelgar chuckled, turning back to his tankard and staring at me in a joking way. "Care to join me fer a 'romantic' drink or two, fiendling? That's how we start a good relationship in my clan – over a drink!"

I snorted at him. "I could use your head as my ale stand, Stumpy! But how about Grobnar? He's probably more your type."

"Lady Neeshka, I do rather believe that I have a song or two to lift up the romantic mood!" Grobnar bubbled. "But maybe I should sing it for the ladies in attendance. Khelgar would perhaps appreciate a female companion for this song…"

Bishop slid back from the bar, wiping the last traces of ale foam from his whiskers with the back of his hand. "I'm going to get some sleep before I throw up…"

"That's the best idea you've had all evening, Bishop." Casavir muttered. Bishop ignored that and left the room.

Veltan stood there for a minute, before he decided to forget whatever was on his mind and sat at the bar. Sal passed him an ale, which he accepted gratefully and drained in one gulp. I turned back to my usual place by the fire, and I was vaguely aware of the others saying their good nights and slipping away.


I suddenly felt a prodding on my shoulder. "Sis?"

I started, realizing I had fallen asleep in my chair. Veltan was standing on my right. A quick glance around told me it was after midnight, and everyone else was gone. The bar was empty except for us.

"Oh hey, big brother…" I said lamely, stretching and letting out an enormous yawn. "Where's your little love gone?"

Veltan suddenly scowled, and I grinned at him. "You don't have to front with me, Veltan. No one knows you better than me. I know that lying to Qara like that really made you feel rotten."

"Thanks ever so much!" he growled, obviously embarrassed.

"You're welcome." I stood up and stretched again. "I'm going to bed."

"Please don't go just yet…" he said, laying his hand on my shoulder. "We need to talk, Neeshka."

I turned, confused. "What's up?"

"Now that we're alone, I'm sorry about the other night…"

"…Forget about it, Veltan…"

"And…Qara…do you think I did the right thing?"

"No, you didn't. Sure that wasn't the right thing, brother. But I guess it was something useful."

"Heh, you're a lot of encouragement." He was finally giving me that genuine smile.

I smiled back. "Why, thank you. And you're such a hopeless romantic. So I'd say you're just about the perfect man for our little sorceress…"

He mock-snarled at me, and grabbed me roughly. I gave an overzealous, sarcastic squeal of fright and began struggling.

Why was it that our talks always ended in these little games?

And this is, believe it or not, where our story became interesting.

He suddenly let me go, turning pale in the light of the fire. I looked at him in surprise. What was he suddenly looking so upset about?

He looked away from me, and then started muttering to himself under his breath, holding up his hands before his face.

Then he approached me, and took my right hand in his left, gently, as if he was afraid he might crush it. Then he reached up and stroked my cheek with his other, still muttering so low I couldn't make out what he was saying. I stared at him. What was he doing?

Then he embraced me, pulling me to him and holding me against his chest. I didn't try to resist him, but I confess I was really confused. I should have known what he was up to, looking back on it now, but at that time, I was just thinking about why he was doing this, and why I felt so confused.

I felt and heard his heart beating inside his chest, with the unmistakable chill that I knew was the silver shard resting against it. I'm not sure why, but the beating of the heart seemed to calm me and let go of my doubt and confusion. After a few moments, I was leaning contentedly against him and starting to drift off again.

Then the front door to the Flagon suddenly started to creak open. I started and quickly pulled away from Veltan just before Qara came in. She had been outside all this time? Just daydreaming in the alleyway?

She gazed curiously at us. It suddenly struck me that this must look like a strange scene to her. Her "boyfriend" and another woman alone in the deserted and dark bar room, looking straight at her and not saying a word. I quickly stepped away from Veltan and walked out to my room, feeling the heat creep into my face.


And after that, I stayed away from him completely. I didn't stay in the same room when Veltan was there. I didn't let him in when he tried to come see me in my room. He shouted apologies through the door, but I didn't listen.

His plan with Qara was actually working. Like an innocent girl, Qara was now all smiles for everyone, prancing around and humming as she scrubbed the Flagon's tables and talking cheerfully with Duncan or Sal behind the bar. She was even being less obnoxious to Sand, who was becoming continually frustrated with all his failed attempts to restart their verbal duels. I had long had a feeling that Sand had actually enjoyed trading wits and insults with the sorceress.

It didn't bother me that Veltan had done that to me. What bothered me was that I got really, really got dreamy about it. I often found myself caught unawares by Stumpy when he was practically screaming demon insults at me, and all I was thinking about was those arms around me…those long, warm arms…and the beating heart…no, no! I started doing it again!

"Neeshka!" I finally heard Duncan screaming in my ear. "Veltan's back!"

"Huh?" I jumped out of my lapse and looked sheepishly at Duncan's unshaven face. "Ah…thanks, Uncle Duncan…what? He's back? When did he leave?!"

Duncan groaned enormously, slapping his forehead. "Wake up, will you, lass?! You've been dreaming all week and now you start calling me Uncle Duncan?! My kin went back to West Harbor last night! He's outside now."

I started. Veltan had gone back to West Harbor, and I hadn't known? Something was really wrong with me.

Yeah, something was wrong all right. At that moment, the door swung open, and in walked my big brother, with a growl on his face that could probably have bent steel.

And I could see why.

Qara was straddling his back, her legs around his waist and her head nestled into the back of his neck, smiling dreamily with her eyes closed. I felt like puking. Suddenly, I was very, very happy that I had missed this journey to West Harbor.

"Oh, honey!" Qara said in a happy, sing-song voice that made me want to strangle her and then myself. "Your father seemed so happy for us."

Veltan's eyebrow twitched and he ground his teeth together. I swear his red eyes were glowing.

"Don't you remember, sweetie? He said 'I hope you know what you're doing.' See? Your father wants you to treat me right! Like the wonderful girl I am!"

That did it. I had to get out of there before I threw up into the fireplace and set the Flagon on fire. Grabbing my tankard, I practically ran to get away from the "happy couple", but I was suddenly aware of Duncan's voice again.

"Wait a second, lass. Look at this."

I stopped and turned. Qara had been dropped into an armchair, and she was looking at Vilito, confused. With what looked like an enormous effort, the tiefling sighed and smiled at her. "That's enough for now, Qara. I'm tired. Let me go rest a little."

"But Veltan, I wanted to talk with you so much!"

"I'm tired, Qara. Tomorrow, alright?"

Qara looked down, pouting like a little girl. Suddenly it looked like she was thinking about something. Her eyes started to dart around wildly and her face started to turn red as she put one fingernail in her mouth and chewed nervously. For as long as I live, I swear I'll never forget the look on her face at that moment! The spoiled, pansy little girl who blew up at all her companions was actually shy about something.

"V-v-veltan…?" she stuttered nervously as I started to hold my gut. He looked down at her. "Er…um…could I have a…er…you know, kiss before you go?"

I stopped my silent laughter. My stomach must've done a somersault and I turned to walk away, crawl into a hole and die. But Duncan grabbed my elbow. "This is the part where you step in and put a stop to things, Neeshka…"

I turned and looked incredulously at him. But then I was aware of Qara puckering up and closing her eyes before my brother could answer her. Veltan was suddenly looking at us imploringly.

Groaning, and asking myself why I was doing this, I marched over to Vilito, grabbed his arm and said brightly "Hey, big brother! Don't forget about your little sister! Come on! Tell me all about your adventure!"

Qara's eyes flew open and she glared at me. "What adventure, fiendling?! We just went back to his village!" That snide, snippy tone of hers we had all started to miss was back as I was breaking up her moment. At that, I started to howl with laughter inside at the little witch's indignation.

"And can't you see your 'big brother' and me are busy?!"

I bent down to her chair, and before she could do anything, I planted a kiss on her forehead. "See? Nothing lost!" And I turned tail (literally) and ran with Veltan in tow. A fireball exploded over my shoulder on the wall and I could hear the sorceress' vehement bellowing all the way back to my room.

Veltan looked back for a moment, smiling toothily. "She does know some nasty swear words…"


He paced up and down in my room. "She's driving me insane, little sister. Now she's just clinging to me like a kitten."

I waved one finger in his face. All of my anxiousness about him seemed to have vanished after tonight's incident. "Oh no no, Vilito! You came up with this idea to control Qara, now you've gotta deal with it!"

He snarled at me. "I'm being serious, Neeshka! This little charade is becoming more trouble than it's worth. I'm fairly sure that even Casavir must be getting tired of the new Qara…"

That was definitely true. Qara had been unbearable before, but now being all tame and sweet and clingy, she was becoming even more of a nuisance. She had once done everything in her power to take as little from the rest of us as possible, and turn her nose up at our attempts to befriend her. While her attitude was by no means pleasant, it was at least not a serious problem. But now she was all girly and bubbly on Veltan, she was turning into a second shadow for my brother and he could barely get around her to act like the leader we all expected him to be. Casavir had been leaving the room quickly whenever the 'happy couple' entered, and even Bishop seemed to be gnashing his teeth over the show, though he had been making vulgar jokes about it behind Veltan's back up until now.

I sighed. "You should let her go, Veltan…easily."

Veltan nodded. "Agreed, but then she'd just go back to being the sullen brat we knew before. Still, that's better than now. I really underestimated the change that my 'confession' would make in her…"

I chuckled darkly. "From one end of the Hells to the other, eh brother?"

He smiled thinly and grabbed my shoulder. "My thanks, Neeshka. Get some sleep. We have a big day tomorrow."


Qara grinned to herself as she crept along the corridor towards Veltan's room, still clad in her nightshirt. She did get so cold and lonely in her own, small room in the Flagon. Dumb Old Duncan, as she called him in her own mind, had practically stuffed her in the broom cupboard for a makeshift quarters after her first arrival in the Flagon. Qara had hated it then and she hated it now. Her beloved Veltan, whom she had privately been taken with since she saw him the first (though she had deceived everyone), would of course be kind enough to let her curl up against him in the master bedroom tonight.

Qara giggled quietly and blushed through her freckles as she wondered if Veltan might try to take steps with her. If that happened, she'd slap him…just a little tap of course…and tell him she wasn't ready for that yet, and then she'd…

Creak…

Qara froze and turned in a half-crouch, raising her fingers to ready a fire burst at any foe, but relaxed slightly as she saw that it was only Bishop peering through a crack in the door to his room. One of his amber eyes glared down at her, shaded partially by the gloom in the corridor. She noticed he was still wearing his leathers and carrying his bow. She caught a flicker for moment in his eye, as if he was trying to decide whether or not to just snap the door shut on her or whether to step outside, and then he slowly eased the door open further and stepped out, staring at her.

Qara colored slightly as she became aware that she was only wearing her plain nightshirt still, and that her long, thin legs were fully in the ranger's view, white and unblemished from years beneath robes. She could see his eyes roaming over her and the hint of a lascivious smirk creeping over his face, and she snarled and raised her hand again, beginning to gather her energy.

Bishop raised one hand in a placating gesture. "Whoa there, little sorceress. Easy. I'm not doing anything." His voice was calm and level, and Qara felt an overwhelming urge to smack that hideous smirk off Bishop's face. "What did you think I was going to do anyway, Qara? What hideous idea entered that dirty little mind of yours?" Bishop chuckled quietly, obviously enjoying the stuttering and spluttering position he had put Qara in.

"None of your damn business!" Qara huffed, standing up and turning away from him.

Qara could not see Bishop's face, but she was certain the slimeball was still smirking. "Hold on a moment, little kitten. I think you might want to rethink that plan of yours…I don't really think that our demon-spawned leader might appreciate your company tonight…"

Qara stopped. "What?! How did you know where I was going?"

Bishop growled lowly and raised his hand again. "By the Hells, girl, keep your voice down!"

Qara blushed again, just realizing she had just spoken aloud. Bishop sighed. "It didn't take much to figure it out, girl. You're out here, in that shirt, on your own, sneaking to that bedroom over there. Anyway girl, take my advice and stay away from that fool tiefling for now."

Qara whirled on him, her eyes blazing. "Don't call him a fool! If you could possibly be any more obnoxious, Bishop…"

The ranger waved his hand dismissively. "Heard all that before, little kitten. Now just shut up and listen!"

Qara puffed out her cheeks, her finger twitching to blast this impertinent creep, so much like those bloody windbag Academy instructors, right into oblivion. Bishop noticed her tension and sighed again. "I'm trying to do you a favor, girl!"

She slowly relaxed, and the ranger spoke up again. "Have you thought about how you've changed since you found your "true love" in there?" Bishop snorted, gesturing to the far door. "Look at yourself, girl! You're driving us all mad with this disgusting, simpering little girl act."

If it was possible, Qara would have swelled to twice her size right there and then. She raised her arm again, and Bishop quickly said "Only the truth, Qara. Are you strong?"

"Of course I'm strong!" Qara whispered fiercely, remembering not to shout just in time.

"Then what do you need him for?!" Bishop whispered fiercely, pointing to Veltan's door again. "Have you thought about any future with him either, sorceress? What if he decides he's had enough of you? You ever think of that?!"

Qara froze. She hadn't considered that. What if Veltan did become tired of her? "Then I'll blast him into…"

"Will you now, Qara?" Bishop smirked triumphantly. "Then I ask you again: what do you need him for? Are you planning to marry him? A demon?"

His voice was level, but it nevertheless shot streaks of red over Qara's face. "Well…no…I…"

"Exactly!" Bishop whispered in an even more triumphant tone. "And not only that, but haven't you noticed how fond of that tiefling all the other women amongst our so-called companions are? Like his 'little sister'? Or that worthless farm girl? Or the druidess?! Oh yes, the druidess wants him bad!" He grinned viciously.

Qara straightened up and glared at him, her face turning white with fury, before she stomped back past him and off to her broom cupboard.

Bishop smiled to himself in satisfaction at the success of his ploy and went back into his room, his door closing with a dry snap.


It was a while before I rose that morning, groaning as the sunlight hit my eyes through the open window. I really hated sunny mornings. Not enough work opportunities. It was no secret that all us tieflings preferred the dark of night, and tiefling rogues in general. As I dressed and headed towards the bar, I noticed that Qara was sitting huffily on one of the tables with her old scowl plastered across her face.

Odd, I thought. I noticed that everyone else was looking at her curiously, wondering what had suddenly brought back the old steel-bending glare. Duncan looked worried, and Sand was standing next to him with one eyebrow raised and a searching expression on his face as he gazed at his hated rival. Casavir and Shandra were watching her levelly and not saying a word. Elanee and Grobnar were whispering to each other lowly. Khelgar was probably still asleep, bless his rumbling snoring thunderstorms, and Bishop was nowhere to be seen.

At just that moment, Veltan entered, stretching and giving a fanged grin at us, his loyal companions. "Good morning, my friends. I…"

But that was as far as he got. Qara had risen and crossed the room in two strides. She stood face-to-face with Veltan who cringed slightly, as if anticipating something was bothering his "girlfriend".

Qara just stared at him for a moment, without saying anything and with no expression crossing her face, before she said: "It's not going to work, Veltan. You're just not man enough for me." And with that, she abruptly turned on her heel and stalked from the room to get her cleaning supplies.

Everyone, even Elanee, just stood there for a moment, gaping with their mouths hanging open, before the whole bar erupted into laughter. Shandra howled and rapped smartly on the tabletop with her knuckles and even Casavir had an amused smile on his face.

Grobnar giggled insanely on top of the table, no doubt already concocting a brilliant comedy song for the occasion, as Duncan approached his nephew, chuckling. "If you need a shoulder to cry on after losing your lady love, Veltan, then Uncle Duncan's is right here!"

Veltan growled. "Very funny, Uncle Duncan! Is anyone going to explain to me just why in the hells that just happened?"

"Credit that to me." said a deep, familiar voice as Bishop entered the bar room. "I set our little sorceress straight last night, Vilito…"

"You didn't!" Veltan glared at him, evidently thinking Bishop had spilled the beans on the whole scam.

Bishop chuckled darkly and ran his hand through his hair. "No, I didn't. But I did remind her just how popular half-demons are with the ladies…"

Everyone stared at the ranger before laughter overtook the room again. I wondered if it was physically possible to bust a gut laughing as I leaned on a table for support, and even Sand joined in. I turned out that Bishop, of all people, had devised a way to end this little scam gone out of control without any curses thrown or fireballs flying!

At that point, the door opened, and a bleary-eyed Khelgar peered into the room, took in the sight of all of us laughing our rear ends off, and then slipped back in again, closing the door. I swear I could hear him muttering "crazy" on the other side.

After a while, Veltan stopped chuckling and said "Many thanks, Bishop. I wasn't sure what I was going to do…"

Bishop sneered. "Hey, I wasn't doing it for you, Vilito! That little brat was driving me crazy! I swear if I heard her say "Veltiekins" one more time I'd throw all the good quality ale out of my stomach."

Renewed laughter and screams of "Veltiekins!" all around the room. Veltan apparently didn't think it was funny this time though. His face glowed and he screamed "SHUT UP!" which of course only made us all laugh even harder.

After a moment, Duncan raised his hand. "Perhaps a little breakfast will help us all to get over this heartbreaking tragedy, my friends…"


Dear old sulky Qara was back, glaring at us all from the corner as we sipped our drinks and celebrated over another militia triumph in the city after we gutted another smuggling operation in Blacklake. Not without a little side profit of course, as some of the militia funds provided stayed in our packs. But, looking back on it now, that probably wasn't really what we were celebrating. I think we were just celebrating the end of Veltan and Qara's 'relationship'.

I hit the ale hard as I had taken a few solid hits in the battle, and everyone kept urging me to take it easy, but as our celebration wore on I'm sure my movement became increasingly unsteady, my tail was swaying from side to side, and I was having trouble talking right. Even ol' Stumpy was shouting at me to slow down a little, and I responded only with a mouthful of slurred curses and mumbled insults.

Eventually, I must have collapsed on the floor, because next thing I knew, my big brother was carrying me on his back through the Flagon. "Hells! I told you to lay off, Neeshka!"

"Shurrup.." I mumbled as he kicked open the door to my room. He marched to my bed, turned around, and lowered me gently onto the bed. I slumped gracelessly back onto my pillow as Veltan straightened and looked down at me. I could tell he was thinking that, after my blood loss and hasty healing, I would probably wake up with a massive hangover that I might even need magical aid to get over.

He stepped over to the door, shut it, cutting off the firelight into my room, and walked back to me, sticking out a finger to prod one of my horns firmly, teasing me. "Little sister, you've really got to watch it. I know you work hard, but…"

"Urrh…shurrup, Velllbinn…"

He rolled his eyes and sat down next to me. "Yeesh! You're swimming in grog! You can't even talk right! Maybe I should get Elanee to look at you…"

He stood up, but I only just managed to lift up my hand and grab his wrist. "Waiit urrh minnit…"

He stopped, looking down at me, and sat down again. The full moon was shining through the window and casting a silvery light through my room. I could only see some of his features in the darkened room.

"Youu jussht remember, Vellltan…don' make shat misshtake again!"

"Mistake?"

"Qaarrra…" The room was spinning and I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open. "Don' let herrr be yerrr shhhweeetheart again!" I said it louder than I probably should have done.

Veltan was grinning now, finding my drunken speech more amusing than I care to remember. "Don't worry, Sis. I won't. Now why don't you sleep off all that grog and…"

He was cut off right there and then. I had pushed myself up and wrapped my arms around him. "Goood brrrotherr!"

He stared at me with those crimson orbs as I gazed at my reflection in them and tightened my grip around him.

"Warrrmm." I gurgled contentedly before I pressed my lips against his. I think he froze, but I have no idea what he did after that. Hells, I had no idea what happened after any of that. I collapsed in drunken stupor.


Author: Chapter 1 done. Please read and review. Chinh, make yourself useful.

Chinh: Coming up next! Crossroad Keep, Ammon Jerro, and Neeshka's doubts over spilled blood! Love you all readers!