This is a joint venture of Kaana Moonshadow and myself. We had lots of fun writing it and hope you have as much fun reading.
We don't own Bishop, but we sure as hell wish we did.
I just realized ff dot net somehow mucked up the layout of my older stories - I'll try and fix that, but it will take some time. In the meantime, please excuse the mess.
Bishop sat back on his chair, outwardly relaxed, but his brain working feverishly. To gain time, he lifted his tankard and took a long swig from his ale.
He threw his opponent an amused glance while he in fact tried to make out the face under the hood.
"And what makes you think I would be interested in an assignment like that? After all, it's completely illegal – and just plain wrong." He did his best to give his voice a sincere tone. The time he had cared about right or wrong was long past – if he ever had. He could not really remember.
"Oh, come on", the man opposite of him said. "I'm not new at this business. I did my homework, and I know that what I ask is hardly the worst thing you have done."
"That so?", Bishop asked low and menacingly. "And may I ask where you got that information?"
"No, you might not", the man answered. "Let's just say I have my sources. And I'd like to keep them. All you need to know is that this is no trap. Honestly, you have amassed so much crimes that anyone recognising you could just have you arrested without giving himself that much trouble."
"Not here. Did nothing wrong hereabouts."
"Wanna start?" With these words, the man put an impressively large pouch on the table. It jingled promisingly in the process.
Bishop eyed the pouch, but made no move to take it. "Better put that away, else we might get the kind of attention you probably don't seek."
The pouch vanished under the table. "5000 gold pieces. The same after the deed is done."
Bishop forced his face to stay expressionless. "That's quite the sum."
His opponent nodded. "After my research, I know you're worth it. You're the one to get the job done, no qualms, no hesitation, no questions."
Bishop threw him a long glance. "Take off the hood."
The man shook his head. "No."
"I don't do business with people who won't show their face."
"My face has nothing to do with it. You don't need to see it."
Bishop shrugged and motioned to get up. "Then find someone else to do the job. Good luck."
"Wait." The man sighed, and removed his hood. "We want you for the job."
Bishop settled back in his chair, repressing a smile. His mysterious would-be employer was starting to make mistakes. First, he had admitted they were desperate to sign him on. That gave him a lot of leverage. Second, he had admitted he was not alone in this.
Interesting. Maybe he was just an intermediary?
He certainly looked the part. In his forties, black hair streaked with grey, thin moustache and shifty dark eyes. Just the kind of man to do the dirty work for others. Or hire someone else to do it.
"10.000 in advance. The same afterwards", he said calmly.
His opponent gasped, losing some of his cool. "That's outrageous!"
Bishop shrugged. "I'm expensive."
"No way my... I'm going to pay this!"
Again, Bishop had to repress a smile. Nice botch. So it was only an intermediary.
Relaxed, he took another swig of his ale. "The price is not negotiable. Pay, or leave. Your call."
The man gritted his teeth, and Bishop could see him thinking quickly. "Fine", he said at last. "But if there are problems, you'll be sorry."
Bishop smiled thinly. "There won't be any problems, rest assured of that. Now, details."
The man leaned over the table and dropped his voice some. Bishop snorted. As if anyone in this dump of an inn paid the least attention to them. Most of the clientele was already drunk as pigs or had their eyes glued to the displayed goods of the cheap whores who frequented the establishment.
"Her name is Liliana de Lavrans. Lily for short. She has long blond hair and blue eyes. She and a group of friends will make an excursion to the cliffs north of Waterdeep in two days. They will stay the night and return the next day. They will be hard to miss, there won't be another group of rich teenagers around. You will make sure Liliana will vanish during the trip. Mind that it has to look like an accident, though. That point is very important. If anyone doubts it was an accident, you will see nothing of the second batch of money."
Bishop shrugged. "Fair enough."
"You will wait until you can get to her alone. Then you will throw her over the cliffs. If the fall does not kill her, she will drown. Make certain there are no marks whatsoever on her that indicate violence! As soon as the body has been found and the death declared an accident, you will have earned the rest of your money. I will leave a message here when and where to meet me. Questions?"
"Just one. Do you know what will happen if you try to cheat in any way?" Bishop let his cold gaze linger on the other man's face and had the pleasure of seeing a small bead of sweat running down his temple.
"Are you threatening me?" The other one did his best to sound tough.
"Oh, yes", Bishop said softly. "I really am."
"This is unacceptable!" The other man made to get up from his chair.
"Oh, sit down and don't get all blustery on me", Bishop said sharply. "You want me and we both know it. So stop wasting time with stupid games. Just play it straight and make sure I have no reason to be angry with you afterwards. Like not paying up. Or trying to rat me out. Do nothing stupid, and all will be happy. Except Liliana, of course, but you can't please everyone."
"All right", the man gritted out. "Come back tomorrow and I will have the money ready. Go now."
Bishop grinned at him and drained his tankard. "See, I knew we would get along just fine. Pleasure to do business with you." With that, he threw some coins on the table. "Ale's on me." He turned and left the inn.
Outside, he drew a deep breath and tried to get the stink of the inn out of his nostrils. How he hated cities, especially large ones like Waterdeep. Too many people, too little space, and the smell was always offending, even outside. But they also offered opportunities one did just not find out in the woods.
Like his new assignment. Twenty thousand gold pieces were nothing to sneeze at. Especially for so little work. Throwing a girl down some cliffs? Child's play.
But first, he would find out about his employer. That information might come in handy later.
He went round the inn and positioned himself in the shadows, so he could observe the back entrance of the inn. He knew that kind of man – he would wait for some time and then leave through the back and think himself clever in the process. Amateur.
And sure enough, after maybe half an hour, a hooded figure left the inn and anxiously looked around. Bishop snickered soundlessly. So predictable.
He followed the man through the dark alleys and had to admit he made a nice effort to shake possible shadows. He dodged left and right into other alleys, circling round, and turned quite often to see if someone was following him. But Bishop could see his shoulders tensing each time before he whirled around and easily ducked into the shadows in time.
After going in circles for some time, the man obviously was convinced no one followed him and went straight home. Bishop watched as he entered a small, well kept house in a fairly clean street. He memorised the address and went to the inn he had rented a room in. Not a bad evening, all in all.
Two days later, Bishop took a deep breath, feeling like he'd just escaped from a mouldy prison. It felt so good to be out of the city again. The clean, crisp air, the sun on his face, the tranquillity of the woods. No people, no buildings, no stink, no racket. Bishop really wondered how people endured living like that all the time. Just like cattle. Which, in truth, was just what they were. Cattle, with no other purpose than catering to the needs of some lord or other. Stupid, mindless, content. Nothing but sheep.
Gods, he was glad to be away. But he had to admit his stay had been worth it. Travelling with Riana had put a fair amount of money in his pockets, but even that had not been limitless. He could use some new coin.
Thinking of Riana, he felt the familiar stab of mixed pain and anger, the old wound still festering, the ache still eating away at him after all this time.
She had not even seen him. All the time they had travelled together, she never had seen him. Not him. Not the man. The only thing she saw had been the ranger. The tracker. The archer. Never the man. As a man, he had not even existed for her.
She was too blinded by the halo of that fool of a paladin to see Bishop. Not like he wanted to be seen. She had not even noticed the way Bishop's eyes were always following her, hungrily, because her own eyes were fixed on her holy warrior. And Bishop could only watch as the paladin got all that he himself wanted so badly, all that he hungered for. Her smiles, her kisses, her body. Her love.
How he had hated her for it. How he had craved her nonetheless. Like a fever burning in him, burning him up until he thought nothing but ashes would be left behind. Burning his pride, his will, his sense of self.
He'd never before felt anything like it. Never had come so close to losing himself. Betraying her had been an act of self defence, really. A desperate move, trying to survive, to kill that tidal wave of hate and desire that threatened to drown him. But in the end, he could not fight against her. He remembered her clear eyes, looking at him at last, and the expression of pity in them. Pity! For him!
And she had forgiven him. It still made him want to break into hysterical laughter. It was not her forgiveness that he wanted. She could keep that and stick it where the sun never shone. Forgiveness!
The only thing he had wanted from her was to look at him like she had looked at the paladin. To see that fire there, burning for him.
But in the end, he had to admit to himself that she never would look at him like that. Never. The pain had been too much to bear. He simply could not stay and watch her be happy with the paladin any longer. Not without going insane. And he wanted to pay her back for the pain she made him feel. Wanted to make her sorry.
So he had betrayed her, and convinced himself he would be glad to kill her when she confronted Garius. But standing there, her clear gaze trained on him, no anger there, no hurt, just that cursed expression of pity on her face – he could not do it.
So he had simply left. Looked at her for the last time, then forced himself to turn around and leave. There had been no way back to her side, he knew he had burned those bridges thoroughly, but he could not fight her either. Plus, Garius had been really pissing him off, so it was only right the bastard should try and fight his own battles for once.
Bishop had left her behind, facing Garius – and it had been the last thing anyone had ever heard from her. The King of Shadows had not risen, so she must have stopped him, but none of the companions had ever returned.
Bishop had not been able to stand the uncertainty. Cursing himself for his weakness, he had still travelled back to see if he could find any trace of her. But the place had caved in, collapsed completely. He could find no way in. And that meant she and the others could not have found any way out.
Even if they had survived the collapse of the structure, they would have starved or suffocated by now.
He had had to face the truth: The Knight Captain had to be dead. The pain was even worse than the realisation that he would never have her. It took him months to get back on his feet.
And he still missed her. Still dreamed about her.
Still wanted her.
Still hated her.
Cursing silently, he shoved the thoughts away and looked out for a good place to camp for the night. The group of spoiled brats should not arrive before tomorrow. Still time to scout the surroundings. It always paid to know the grounds. Plus, he had no doubt he would hear them in time. People like that always made a lot of noise.
And it did pay to explore the grounds. Bishop found a small hut, in fairly good repair. It seemed to be abandoned, but it obviously had an interesting history – judging from the chains let into one of the walls. They even were still operable, lock and key and everything. Someone had been kept prisoner here, that much was sure.
He shrugged. Whoever that had been was long gone. No use in thinking about it. He would stay the night, and the next day go back to the cliffs and wait for his assignment to arrive. He would wait for an opportunity, shove the girl over the edge of the cliff into the churning sea below, and make it back to Waterdeep to collect the rest of his money. And his employer would do good to pay up, else he would wish someone would just have thrown him off a cliff.
After a good night's rest, Bishop woke early. He lay awake for some time, staring up into the surprisingly intact roof of the hut, thinking about his future. Thinking about what he was going to do today.
He snorted and smiled grimly at himself. He sure had come far. When Riana had picked him up, he had been scum. Something one scraped from the bottom of a barrel. Never expecting to be something other than scum.
But then she had come along, and she had lifted him up. For a short time, he had been someone else. Had been part of a group, had belonged somewhere. Had had something to fight for. Had been given the opportunity to make something out of his life. Of course, he had cocked it up, like he always did.
And now, he was back to being scum again. Murdering a girl for money. Admittedly, it was a lot of money, but it still was a long way to fall from the near-hero he had been.
On the other hand, heroes had a certain tendency to die young. Or vanish without a trace, like her. So maybe, it had been the right choice. He might be scum. Was scum. But at least, he was still alive.
Shoving those useless thoughts away, he got up and inspected the well in front of the hut. To his surprise, it was still functional. Even the bucket was still dangling at the end of the rope. The hut could not have been abandoned for long.
Bishop pulled up a bucket full of water and tested it carefully. It smelled and tasted fresh. He drank and used the rest to wash himself, then made his way back to the cliffs.
He could hear shouting and laughing from miles away. Early, were they? Well, all the better. He hated waiting around. Cautiously, he neared the group, taking care to stay hidden in the undergrowth. He could not see them yet, but he heard them just fine.
He stopped and slipped behind the broad trunk of a tree when he heard steps approaching.
"Now, what was it you wanted to show me?", a young man said.
"Nothing", a girl's voice answered. Nice voice it was, too, soft and melodic and with just a hint of a seductive undercurrent. Briefly Bishop wondered what the owner might look like. "I just wanted to spend some time alone with you."
"But, love… that's hardly appropriate, don't you think?", the man's voice answered.
"Appropriate?" The indignation was thick in her voice. "Cedric, we haven't seen each other for weeks, with you being so busy with your negotiations with the Moonshae trading delegation, and that's all you can think about right now?"
Bishop snickered silently. What did she expect from someone called Cedric? Anyone with that name had to be a pansy.
"I'm just thinking of your reputation, love."
Exactly the thing a guy named Cedric would be thinking about. Wimp.
"After all, we will be married in a couple of weeks, and then we will have all the time alone that we want.", the man continued, talking in a soothing voice like trying to appease a child.
"You did not think like that the night down by the lake, when you visited me while my parents and Damian were out!" She did not sound mollified at all.
"Lily, love, we were alone, then! That was different. What if they follow us? See us?"
Lily? So this was his target. And she was about to be married. Very interesting. And hardly a coincidence. But it seemed like he really would be doing her a favour, ending her existence now – at least she would be spared decades shackled to the side of that wimp.
"But as you said", she answered, "we will be married soon. So what can be wrong with a few kisses?". Her voice got low and sultry with the last words, Bishop could hear cloth slipping over cloth and thought she must have moved up to Cedric.
There was a long pause, and then he said, his voice slightly strangled: "Love, please, this is neither the right time nor place for things like this."
There was no reply from her. After a few seconds, Cedric's voice came again. "Love, I promise, you will see the truth of that in time, and then you will thank me. We should go back now."
"Fine!", she said, obviously pouting. "If you must. I will stay here."
Cedric sighed. "As you wish. Have it your way, then, Liliana. You can follow when you have realised that I have done the right thing." Bishop heard him turn and start to leave.
Lily gave a frustrated little squeal and Bishop heard something ricocheting from a tree. Seemed like Lily was less than happy with her white bread of a fiancée and threw something after him.
Bishop snickered again. Cedric should be thankful to him, too. He obviously was no match for Lily's temper. The girl would have made his life hell.
Well, time to get to his job. An opportunity like this would not come again. Bishop stepped round the tree he had been hiding behind, careful not to make any sound – and stopped in his tracks. She was standing there, looking into the direction Cedric had vanished, her back turned to Bishop. She wore a blue velvet dress and had long blond hair, trailing down her back like he had been told.
He stood, staring at the silvery tresses, flowing down in soft waves, lightly blowing in the breeze. His stomach clenched.
That hair... more silver than blond, flowing all the way down to her waist… so familiar. Bishop could not stop a soft, hissing noise from escaping him as he exhaled sharply.
The girl turned and he stared into the face that had haunted his dreams for so long. His knees went weak, and he had to steady himself against the tree next to him, to keep from falling down.
"Riana", he whispered, his heart starting to beat painfully in his chest.
Dumbfounded, he could only stand and stare at her, and slowly, he noticed the differences. She was younger than Riana, by several years. Her face was a bit rounder, still the last remnants of puppy fat left, her lips fuller and her eyes slightly larger, but they had the same deep violet colour as hers had been. The long, silver blond hair, the slight figure, even the same arch to her eyebrows...
She was like a younger, more innocent version of Riana.
And she opened her mouth to scream.
Instinctively, he jumped forward and his hands went round her throat, squeezing, to keep her silent. She struggled, proving to be surprisingly strong, scratching at his arms, and he kept squeezing, because he could not afford to let go now.
After an eternity, her movements stilled and she lost consciousness. Breathing heavily, Bishop let go and let her glide to the ground. Purple bruises were already forming around her neck. He stood, staring down at her, into the face that once had been his whole world, and felt the old pain rise fresh as the morning.