DISCLAIMER: The Forgotten Realms aren't mine. Otherwise none of my stories would ever be Jossed. As it is…
SPOILERS: Are generously scattered throughout.
WARNINGS: All over the place. Sex and violence. Mental and physical disturbance. Angst and biased narration (please keep in mind that I don't necessarily agree with the characters).
AUTHOR'S NOTES: While looking over my writerly progression, I realized I'd never written a high school AU - at least, not one that had ever seen the light of day. This obviously needed to be remedied. Granted, this isn't technically AU (or set in high school, for that matter), but it may as well be AU and it's probably going to be one in the very near future what with the Spellplague, et al.
So if you take pleasure (guilty or not) in divine shenanigans, blank slates, pseudo-existential moral conundrums, reincarnation fics, future fics, urban fantasy, and/or trying-to-be-clever naming schemes, or even if you don't, come on in. This may just be the place for you.
We have sworn to avenge what has befallen our god and his fellows, to be sure, but vengeance must wait until we have determined who or what we are to avenge them upon. Given present circumstances, this may take some time.
- Arliannis of Hoar, Fateful Hand of Doom, 1603 DR
(Gloved hand, two-faced coin)
1 Mirtul, 2600 DR
Theris heard the shot as he was coming down the hall. Seconds later, he found the apartment door. He listened for a few longer for context and, finding none, slipped Miss Tanthul's key into the lock.
The lights inside were off – drow had few reasons to have them on besides the convenience of guests – but the window was clear, and Theris could make out the figure on the right as he stepped in. He dove sideways in a rehearsed maneuver, expecting imminent gunfire or stabbing, but the face illuminated by the light from the hallway was certainly not the one he had studied and once he saw the blood on the floor he realized that he'd been beaten to it.
The presumable beater in question stared back. If it weren't for the gun dangling from his hand, and if it weren't for his ashen face, he might have been part of any adolescent crowd in a movie theater or chucking chakrams in the park. An elf, Theris figured, and though he was probably far older in objective years, by elven standards he looked to be a good chunk younger. In the back of Theris's head, things began to click together.
The elf spoke first, voice flat. "Do I know you?"
"Never seen you before," said Theris. "Not in this life, at least." He stood in front of another door, Theris saw now, probably into the bedroom or bathroom. Theris reached back and shut the front door behind him, pressing the switch on the electric torch in his hand.
The gun continued to dangle. "Oh," he said – he was clearly taken aback by Theris's last statement, but didn't seem particularly confused as he probably would have if Theris's intuition was wrong. "You're like me, then?"
Theris nodded. "Is he in there?"
"Kren Auzkovyn. The Second Snake." He added with a bite in his voice that was probably uncalled for but present regardless, glancing around the rest of the room as he spoke, "That's the one that lives here, in case you didn't happen to catch his name." He saw now that most of the glass was knocked out of the window, which would account for the other's entry point. Theris also noted what looked like a small bar in the far corner. He currently stood next to a sleek chair, one of several clustered around a coffee table with a shooting-star inlay.
"I… I think… yes. He locked himself in. I don't think he's dead yet." The elf tipped his head sideways. "It'll take a while to bleed out where I got him. That's what I'm hearing. It's not used to this." He glanced down at the gun, tightening his grip. "It's better with a bow. Are you here for… for the same thing, then?"
"Probably. I guess you'll want my name." He held out his free hand. "Theris Frost."
Judging from the look on his face he hadn't thought he wanted it, but he placed his own hand palm down over Theris's. Theris barely felt it through the glove.
"The cameras are taken care of," Theris prompted, though somehow he doubted that was the problem.
He swallowed. "Rilashan Ilithaine."
Theris took another, unnecessary look at the table, moving the torch over it. From here, it looked like good quality, maybe an antique – by human standards, anyway. That was what he'd expect from Auzkovyn, who cultivated the image of a sophisticated successor to the original Serpent of Waterdeep. That one had been an elf too.
He heard a sharp intake of breath and turned to see Ilithaine staring at the table, muttering in what was presumably Elven. On noticing Theris's change of focus, he shifted to Common. "That drow. He dared to have that… to show that…as though he were…"
Theris swept the torch over the inlay again. There was nothing particularly offensive about the asymmetrical star that he could see. "This is an elf thing, isn't it?"
"Far be it from me to be ethnocentric, but next to everything else he's done a table design seems like small potatoes."
Ilithaine looked strangely relieved. "Everything else?"
"The drugs, to start," said Theris, feeling his lip twist. But maybe he'd done something else to Ilithaine, maybe it was just that Ilithaine's particular power let him track down Auzkovyn but didn't let him know Auzkovyn's name let alone the rest of his crimes. "Then there's the bribery, the blackmail, the disappearances, the open murders. Personally, I'm here for Caron Moondown. Is he carrying? Weapons, anything?"
"He had a blade, but he dropped it." He indicated the switchblade in question; the torch beam lit it up lying among the bloodstains. "Might be he's got another, though, or he's picked up something else in the bathroom."
Theris stooped and picked up the blade, turning it about in his gloved fingers. "Might be. Does that door swing in or out?"
He blinked. "In."
"Right, then." He took what he'd read was the efficient position, back when he'd thought of being in the police, and after a time Ilithaine mimicked him. Before tucking away the blade and the torch, Theris glimpsed his face again and noticed anew the way Rilashan Ilithaine bit his lip, his numb voice (with the notable exception of the indignation over Auzkovyn's choice of decor). Theris had to wonder if he'd be in the same state himself if he'd happened to arrive earlier.
"On three?" Ilithaine murmured suddenly. There was something new in his tone now, something savage rushing beneath the surface. Theris nodded, then wondered if Ilithaine had seen it in the dark. In any case, Ilithaine began to count soon after – in Elven again, but Theris guessed his progress by the intonation and rammed himself into the door at the same time.
The door went down far more easily than it ever had in Theris's late-night ruminations, and as he burst inside he lifted and stomped one foot as he had practiced. The resulting boom resonated in the confined space, overlapping with the sound of the gunshot. Even as his lagging thought processes reflected on the probable state of his sanity given that he was expecting such a mad thing to work, the figure of Kren Auzkovyn slumped against the counter with his hands to his ears, letting his gun clatter to the floor.
Theris hurriedly reached into Ilithaine's forward path. It wasn't particularly effective, but it did slow Ilithaine enough for him to back off and turn to Theris after what sounded like kicking the gun away. "Something you've got to do?"
"You could say that," said Theris. He reached for the bathroom light, fumbled the dial to full strength, and glanced back at the door lintel, now cracked by a bullet, before returning his attention to Auzkovyn.
Auzkovyn groaned, eyes closed. His black skin seemed now more of a dark gray. He had shifted his hands from his ears to his bare torso, where blood seeped from between his fingers. Beneath his hands, Theris could make out what looked like a wadded pajama top. His eyes flicked open, pupils constricting, and just as quickly flicked shut. Theris bent down, reached into the back of his head, and went with the flow. "The Marl Venkyr whiskey for you, right?"
Auzkovyn could certainly recognize his own idiosyncratic mockery of the dying. His eyes opened again, wide and red as the puddles on the tiles. Ilithaine had kicked the gun through one of said puddles, Theris saw now, and it had fetched up against the shower door after leaving red streaks in its wake.
"Ilithaine," said Theris, "did you see the bar back there?" He wondered idly what Ilithaine's reaction would be if the Second Snake happened to stock elverquisst or Evereskan Clearwater.
He delved into his pocket and offered Ilithaine the plastic-wrapped packet of tissues. "Would you get the man a glass of it? Or," he said to Auzkovyn, "would you rather something else for the occasion?"
"Venkyr's fine," Auzkovyn grit out. His eyes had closed again, his legs drawn up.
"You didn't ask Caron, as far as anyone knows," said Theris. "Then again, she's eleven. That wouldn't have been proper. The only thing she's old enough for is a hit-and-run."
Ilithaine had taken a handful of tissues, and now they crumpled in his hand as he repeated, "Eleven? You said Moondown? Was she-"
"One of her great-something grandparents was a half-elf. Her father told me that once."
This time Ilithaine's Elven mutterings no longer qualified as mutterings by any stretch of the imagination. In his rapid fire of words Theris's mind caught several phrases – N'Tel'Quess, Tel'Quess, dhaerow, Erevan, capped off with an enraged cry. At this volume Theris was able to cross-reference the cry with his memories of subtitled Drannor films and come up with a translation – "You dared – you dare!"
Auzkovyn was actually glaring at Ilithaine now, even as he clutched at his wounds. He choked out a reply, which Theris gathered ran something along the lines of "So did Elaith Craulnober."
Ilithaine lunged. Theris leapt up and seized his arms, though he could not have said exactly why. He propelled Ilithaine toward the door, gasping "Could you please get the Venkyr?"
After a few wrenching seconds, Ilithaine slumped and looked back, biting his lip again. "Sure. Sure." He slipped out of Theris's grip and then out of the bathroom, shoving the broken door aside.
Theris returned his attention to Auzkovyn. "She hasn't woken up yet. Gory Jake, now – he woke up, and he was very accommodating. So was Officer Dundragon. Seems he didn't think running over a little girl to get to her father was something he could overlook like he did dealing Lady. They told me about your little courtesy for those of age. Thought I might as well return the favor."
"Officer Moondown, as you know him." He added, "A confession isn't necessary, but you haven't much to lose by making one, and it could be better for you in the long run."
Auzkovyn said nothing for a time, and Theris felt gripped by abrupt suppositions – what if he hadn't been behind it? Unlikely in the extreme, he knew – Sam Moondown had been gathering evidence against his operations. The driver had been one of his known cronies. Everything pointed the same direction. But what if – what if… and if so, then what? If he didn't do it and he didn't die why then Theris had just exposed Jake and Dundragon…
Auzkovyn murmured, "When are you going to snuff me?"
"You haven't had your last drink yet." He thought he could hear Ilithaine pouring it now.
"Should I thank you?"
"That's not necessary. It's your whiskey."
Silence. "So what's she to you?"
She's Sam's daughter, is what she is.
"She's an innocent."
"Innocent. What – ah! Ah!" His hands jerked from the wound, then slammed back. "– what're you doing to Shar?"
"Shar? Ah. That Shar. I've nothing planned." This was truthful enough; Shardax Telenna didn't appear nearly as deeply involved as his lover. He might be out for blood when he got the news, as was his right, but he'd have to find out whose blood first. That was where knowing Grace Tanthul came in handy.
His face twisted. "I… I want your word you or your nutjob friend won't go barging in on him of a night." He stiffened, curling up somewhat; he obviously knew very well how poor a bargaining position he had. "For whatever your word's worth. I can't do comparison shopping, can I?"
"It's worth more than yours, and I'll give it you for myself. As for my colleague, I'm sure we can work something out, but it may be a good idea not to be too loud about him just yet."
"Fine. Yes. That… that nutjob's going to do it anyway, I figure. Might as well die for something besides buying a table that clashes with my skin… don't you think?" He groaned again. "For that, I should have picked up a damn moonblade at least. Anyway. This Cara."
"Caron. I told him to paint the sidewalk. Paint the sidewalk with her. With his youngest. Moondown has three more, right? Plenty of chances to change his mind. You're not one of them, are you?"
"No." He turned halfway and called, "Ilithaine? We may be a while." Lowering his voice, he whispered as he turned back, "Now about Shardax."
"What about Shar?"
"I'm thinking that you're very quick to own up. Don't you think?"
"What – what are you talking about? Didn't you say –"
"Right. I said. But I can't help but be a doubter. Given your relationship, I'm thinking maybe he did it for you."
"Maybe he did it, and you're covering-"
"No –" Auzkovyn's cry as he tried to stand transmuted into an outright scream of pain as he fell back down. His feet made spastic movements against the tile. Theris flinched; his ears weren't elven, but he heard an answering cry from outside, thin and half-choked. Ilithaine? "I did it! I did it, isn't that what you wanted? I confessed, all right? Fucking execute me and get it over with!"
Theris tilted his head as something else came forward. Yes, of course. He produced the switchblade, tugging the glove on his other hand to expose part of his wrist. He pressed that spot of bare skin against Auzkovyn's damp forehead, closing his eyes as he called up this second ability.
"Gods, not Shar. Not Shar."
"You tried to kill Caron Moondown."
Yes. That was it. He could feel probability shift as it would if the accusation was true, sending Auzkovyn to a poetic fate that he would be meeting quite shortly.
But then, whispered another crowd of suppositions, if Theris was hallucinating he'd feel probability shifting as he damn well wanted it to shift. I didn't hallucinate the boom, he thought. I didn't hallucinate the thunder. I may be a fledgling serial killer, but if I am I'm a magical one. He deserves it even without Caron.
"Please. Not Shar."
"No, not him," he said, readjusting his glove and pocketing the blade. "I'm sorry. I should have thought of doing that before I worried you about it." He wondered what Ilithaine would think he'd done to make Auzkovyn scream.
Ilithaine came in when called, a filled wineglass in hand. He'd wrapped the tissues around the stem, and Theris slipped them off as he passed the glass to Auzkovyn. Auzkovyn downed the whiskey and dropped the glass to shatter on the tile before clapping his hand back to the wound. His eyes were glassy. He seemed to moan with each breath.
Theris took out the switchblade again and flicked it open. "May your god prove more merciful than us."
It took longer and was messier than Theris had imagined it would be.
"Miss Tanthul knows the super," he was explaining blocks away. "She's someone like us, and she took his key for long enough to have it duplicated." The key stayed in his pocket for now, until he could find a good dump point. "She also took care of the security cameras. And she found out that he'd be in early this morning, to get ready to meet… someone." He generally liked his word good, and it seemed to him that a good way to stop Ilithaine going after Auzkovyn's lover was to stop him knowing of said lover's existence let alone species. "Do you want me to introduce you?"
Afterward, Ilithaine's voice had gone entirely wispy. "If you like."
The sun was rising by now. "I've been there," he said, pointing toward the diner on the corner, because it seemed like something to say. "My treat."
Ilithaine nodded near-imperceptibly. "What do you know about your…" He put a hand to his heart. "You know?"
"Mine is Assuran," said Theris. "Or at least an Assuran complex. It's all consistent with the mythology. The thunder, for instance. How about yours? I'm rusty on the elven ones. All I can think of right now is Corellon Larethian."
"I wouldn't be surprised if you'd never heard of mine," Ilithaine whispered. "I'm not sure-sure it's that one yet, mind, but I can't think what else. It was minor to start with, and it's not exactly talked about these days. 's socially unacceptable."
Theris could guess why.
"It doesn't want me to smile."
"I don't think it'll be a problem."