Author's Foreword:
I apologise in advance for any stupid humour that has leaked into this. I know I have an odd sense of humour, but I find I just can't help myself sometimes (smiles)

Spoilers: Some spoilers for Chapter Five of BGII: Shadows of Amn. I wouldn't really say there were that many.


The Essence and Nature of Attraction

All was silent in the svirfneblin encampment as Graeth stared into the pitch blackness that stretched endlessly out before him. The friendly race of deep gnomes had been kind in allowing them lodging without demanding payment. Graeth and his companions' destruction of the Pit Demon had been much welcomed, although it was obvious their hosts were less than comfortable with the drow disguises they were 'obliged' to conceal themselves in.

It was still amazing to realise that his eyes were now capable of piercing the previously impenetrable darkness and seeing everything as clearly –if not clearer– as day.

Admittedly, the infravision had confused him for several minutes to begin with (mainly as his brain tried to orient itself to the way everything was illuminated with different colours according to its temperature), but he –and the rest of his group– had quickly adapted to their new bodies. Which was just as well, seeing as it was the only way to enter into the drow city of Ust Natha, without being attacked on sight.

It didn't mean they were all happy about it though.

Aerie was repulsed by the fact she'd become something she so reviled and had spent the first several minutes of the change praying to Baevar, then to almost the entire elven and gnomish pantheons. Although exactly what the wingless avariel expected to them to do about it was beyond Graeth's understanding.

Minsc had been perfectly fine with the transformation –until he'd noticed Boo had been changed from an adorable (giant miniature space) hamster into a pocket–sized and extremely hairy, spider. The inarticulate bellow of rage following this discovery had resonated throughout the whole of Adalon's cavern and managed to shake a few rocks loose from its ceiling. Needless to say, the silver dragon had not been amused with the berserker.

Jahiera had simply sighed heavily, resigned to her fate, but still eyed Adalon as though desperate to lecture her on the unnaturalness of the spell cast (as she later declared) and the imbalance it created in the natural order. To everyone's great relief however, the half–elf druid kept quiet, though it was obvious it took no small effort on her part.

Imoen on the other hand, was absolutely delighted by becoming drow and maintained the –as far as Graeth could see– completely groundless belief that her bust size had increased. He had, however, drawn the line when the argument had gotten so heated (and childish) that Imoen demanded he 'feel for himself' and simply given up trying to convince her otherwise. Some things just weren't worth being proven right.

On the edge of the precipice where he now stood, Graeth shuddered at the memory of Imoen chasing him around the cavern squealing for him to; 'have a good squeeze'.

Yes, winning arguments with your foster sister sometimes was really not worth it.

For a few moments, Graeth simply stood leaning against a stalactite beside him and gazed across the vast expanse of Underdark, a faintly amused smile dancing on his lips. He knew he was stalling, avoiding the topic which had haunted his every unoccupied moment for the past fortnight, but Graeth couldn't bring himself to destroy the momentary calm he had achieved. Such instances were few and far between after all.

With a conscious effort, he turned his attention back to his surroundings. Though rarely was aware of such things, even Graeth could not help but feel awed by the dangerous beauty imbuing the Underdark. It was a place full of frightening, overwhelming and extraordinary things and one with horrors beyond most surface–dwellers wildest nightmares. If Graeth had spent half as much time in his youth in Candlekeep studying –as Gorian wanted him to– as he had in the practice yards, he would have known that the word he was searching for to describe the new world he'd rashly entered was 'paradoxical'. A terrifyingly wonderful mass of contradictions.

Holding out his new hands before him for examination, Graeth had to repress the reflexive flinch of surprise as he was greeted with the sight of smooth, ebony–dark tapered fingers and palms.

Looking in a mirror earlier had almost knocked him off his feet and only the familiarity of his blood–red eyes staring back had kept him grounded.

A shock of long, silky white hair. Flawless, ebony–dark skin. Delicately curved ears. A straight, aquiline nose. And the rest of his face...by the blood of his dead father, he had been...

Handsome.

It was a terrible, nightmarish dream come true.

(Freak)

Was this what he would have looked like if he had been born a drow elf?

Was it complete fabrication from Adalon's mind?

Or was he simply wearing one of the dead drow patrol's faces?

He didn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

(Monster)

Graeth felt his fingers twitch violently, as though itching to choke something and he allowed them to curl into tight fists, slamming one in the rock beside him.

(Beast)

The resulting stab of pain was welcome.

Pain he understood. (It's not as though it has feelings.)

Pity he understood. (Twice damned, poor mite…as if being Bhaalspawn wasn't enough of a burden to bear…)

Fear he understood. (Kill the abomination! Its presence will only bring chaos and suffering–)

Disgust he understood. (…mama, what is that? Why is its face all wronged?)

Hatred he understood. (You should never have been born. Your very existence is blasphemy against the Gods, your every breath a sin–!)

Having people stare at him with...lust in their eyes as if he was...attractive…desirable…that, that he did not understand.

Only one person had ever looked at him like that before. And she had only been taunting, him, toying with his restraint to see if she could make him snap. It had only been a game, as he had discovered when he finally responded and tried to make a clumsy overture towards her.

Graeth flinched as he recalled the painful moment when the dark beauty had seemingly responded; leaning towards him until their breath mingled, –hot, wet– tantalising, teasing him, before laughing in his face and scornfully shoving him away, mocking him in a mixture of her native tongue and Common.

(–stupid, rutting dog, you think I would lower myself to sleep with one such as you? A spineless, simpering wael? You are nothing more than a yeunn excuse for a–)

There had been more.

Much more.

The humiliation of the incident was burned into his very brain, somehow hurting more than any cruel jest or insult levelled at him before ever had. He could still see Jahiera giving him that look that said, plainer than words 'foolish boy, what did you expect?'. He could still hear the drunken laughter of the tavern patrons, jeering at the stupid monster who'd dared approach someone so out of his league she may as well have been on one of the Outer Planes. He could still feel Imoen's pitying gaze resting on him from across the room, having born witness to the entire fiasco.

Graeth sighed bitterly. He should have known better really. Why else would someone like her flirt seriously with him? She was beautiful, intelligent, strong, brave, resourceful…A complete bitch at times, it was true but nevertheless…He should have realised that their talks had obviously meant something different to her…but he'd been so sure.

The tentative way she would approach him –no one else– and reveal private facets of her life.

The falsely innocent way she brushed her body against his as they marched or sat together.

The way her hot, sultry gaze would pierce his for long moments before she smirked and trailed cool fingers over his biceps, digging her nails in almost agonizingly…

The painfully arousing way her lips lightly caressed his earlobe as she whispered advice to him.

Wouldn't anyone have misunderstood that?

"Viconia…" He whispered, tasted the name on his new tongue. It sounded different somehow. More exotic. More forbidden. Or maybe that was just the way he perceived her. "Vi–co–ni–ah…" He enunciated, this time more carefully, listening to the way his mouth formed each syllable. It annoyed him that in this, his new body still had the advantage over his own in its ability to clearly and distinctly form words; something he had trouble with and was often mocked over. Though those who did however, only did so once. Since leaving Candlekeep he'd found he had little patience or restraint for petty bullies. A broken nose or two was enough to convince most people that trying to torment Graeth was a foolish –if not potentially fatal– mistake.

"Yes Graeth?" A husky drawl inquired from behind him, sounding amused.

"What in th–?!" Graeth jerked violently in shock. Unfortunately, this caused him to lose balance, stumbling against the stalactite he had been leaning against and –arms wind milling madly– topple face first into the chasm below.

Or that's what his mind was telling him would have happened if he'd been back in his own body. Truly, he reflected dryly, the imagination must be a gift of the gods.

As it was, his drow reflexes saved him by only allowing a twitch of surprise to escape before whirling him around, with his scimitar drawn and somehow raised, to face the intruder. If he ignored the fact he'd been so badly startled in the first place, this body wasn't half bad. The thought pissed him off even more.

"A bit late for that I think Graeth, as well as unnecessary. If I had been set on murder, you'd already be a cooling corpse."

And with that, the figure stepped out of the shadows, revealing a tall, stunningly attractive drow female, a yellow cloak clasped around her shoulders. Yes, she was definitely amused.

"Viconia." Graeth silently cursed himself to the Abyss and back. "I didn't–" he broke off, not wanting to sound inane 'I didn't hear you' –it was bloody obvious he hadn't. "–recognise you." Graeth finished, forcing a (fake) smile at the woman and lowering his weapon. "I still haven't got used to the way everyone looks now…" Despite already being drow, Viconia did not look like her normal self. Apparently Adalon had decided that due to Viconia's already 'infamous' escape from the Underdark and the longevity of drow memory, it was better not to tempt the Gods by leaving Viconia's appearance unaltered.

While still incredibly beautiful, Graeth couldn't stop himself from yearning to see her natural form.

Viconia snorted, tossing her mane of silvery white hair over one shoulder. "It matters not, Graeth. You should always be on your guard. In the Underdark, death comes just as quickly from a dagger in the back as the front. There is no safety here, despite what these gnomes would have you think. And even an unperceptive male such as yourself should have been aware of my approach –I wasn't trying to conceal myself." Her tone was disdainful and irritated, as though deeply resenting having to remind Graeth of this, but underneath he thought –for a fleeting moment before reality set in– that there might have been an edge of concern behind her annoyance.

"I know." He said, finally sheathing his scimitar –with a tad more force than was strictly necessary– and wishfully thinking of his two–handed sword that was now too awkwardly balanced for his new build to handle, despite the inhuman strength he still possessed. "I know." This was the first time Viconia had approached him since her open rejection. He wasn't sure why she had now. A part of him wished he had never tried to proposition her. It had been a ridiculously foolhardy idea. Amazing what a good idea a few (dozen) tankards of mead had made it seem. He was never drinking again for the rest of his natural life.

An uneasy silence followed.

"What do you want?" Graeth blurted out at last, a lot more tersely than he would have liked. Apparently his 'delicate' sense of tact had survived the transition to the body. Which was a great pity.

Viconia's grey eyes narrowed, flashing with offence. "You have nothing I could possibly want –or need– presumptuous fool." She spat, spinning around to stalk off.

Graeth forgot his injured pride and heart. It wasn't Viconia's fault he had misread the signs. It wasn't her fault she wasn't attracted to him. And it certainly wasn't her fault he had tried to (as Imoen would say) 'put the moves on her'.

"Viconia– wait." Graeth shot forward, placing himself between the haughty woman and the balcony entrance. "Please." The withering look she gave him told Graeth that he had better make whatever he was about to say good. Very good. "I…I'm sorry." He winced at the inadequacy of his words. Obviously being a dark elf hadn't immediately imparted any 'silvery tongue'. "For everything." He raked a distracted hand through his silky locks and continued. "I shouldn't have been such a fool." He tried a grin, momentarily disconcerted by the alien sensation as he did so. It wasn't painful…merely different. Viconia no longer looked aggravated, but her face was still a haughty mask, hiding whatever emotions she was feeling.

"I really thought that you–" Graeth broke off, unable to fully voice his thought, "it doesn't matter. You cleared that mistake up for me pretty sharpish." Glancing hopefully over at Viconia revealed nothing –except a tiny furrow in the drow's brow that pulled her thin white eyebrows together. She looked almost…surprised? Graeth wished he had Imoen's gift for gauging facial expressions. The whole group refused to play any card games with her. "I shouldn't have tried to push myself on you. Or get hur –angry– when you…rejected me." He allowed himself a little pride at the way he'd managed to keep his voice completely level and not let any of his heartache leak out. "Or take that out on you now. I will do better, I swear it." Graeth waited, hoping that at least he would be able to salvage the curious friendship he had enjoyed with Viconia. He truly lo– cared for her.

A complex mix of emotions had broken through Viconia's indifferent façade, leaving her looking torn, uncertain…and oddly vulnerable. The alien exterior of the unfamiliar drow suddenly melted away, allowing Graeth to catch a brief glimpse of the real Viconia, the one she kept protected from the rest of the world. She had never looked more beautiful.

"Graeth…" She began, her voice…remorseful? Graeth's heart sunk to the bottom of his boots and huddled there, completely miserable. Viconia paused, frowning as she glanced warily around. Raising her arms into the air, her eyes slid shut as she uttered a prayer to Shar. A strange popping sensation filled his ears and Graeth furrowed his brow in confusion at the cleric. "Silence Sphere." She said, naming the cloaking spell she'd just cast. "I would rather not alert the whole Underdark to our business if I can possibly help it. These svirfneblin have an unhealthy enough interest in our affairs as it is." Her tone was bitingly sarcastic, but even Graeth could tell it was a shield to help her recollect her defences.

There was another, longer pause as Viconia looked away, biting her lip pensively. She seemed at a loss as to how to continue.

"I…I feel I must…apologise." The words came awkwardly and despite their simplicity, Graeth found he had trouble understanding them above the wildly rising hope in his chest. "I am…unused to interaction with surface dwellers." Her cloudy grey eyes met his, sending a ripple through his body at the earnest emotion held in them. "It is not easy for me to forget my upbringing and its…inherent prejudices." Viconia sighed, looking away as she folded finely muscled arms over her chest. "Especially with regards to males. They are seen as inferior in drow culture…and it is hard for me to remember that this is not always the case." Her sour face left no doubt that it was the case, more often than not.

In the short time they had been in the Underdark, Graeth had been witness to the viciously sadistic drow matriarchy in which males treated little better than chattel. He had been shaken to know how close he had come to a similar fate, only the desperate lack of fighting muscle within the city saving him and the rest of his party from slavery. Relatively safe again within the protective territory of the svirfneblin made Graeth realise just how lucky they were.

"But that is not fair to you…I…am truly sorry for my treatment of you. You are perhaps the only surface dweller to always have treated me fairly. Even trusting me to guard your back when you had no reason to." Viconia's nose wrinkled in disapproval at the memory of faith –or as she had so often called it; weakness– Graeth had shown in her.

Graeth blinked, amazed that Viconia –Viconia!– had apologised to him. And sounded like she had actually meant it. "Viconia I…" He began slowly, entirely uncertain of how he was meant to reply. "I suppose…it's understandable. I know how hard it can be to…fight against your nature." An understatement at best considering his heritage, but Graeth still managed a small, but real, smile for her and was surprised to see her exhale a little, as though relieved. "But I really need you to stop taunting me like that…it…" Graeth scowled at the pain that accompanied the memory, "it isn't something a friend would do...no matter the reason."

For the first time, Viconia looked confused. "What?"

"Stop pretending you're attracted to me." Graeth growled, anger and humiliation warring with each other as he was forced to voice the root of his anguish. Voices, past and present, swirled through his brain; mocking, laughing and sneering at him.

"Pretend–?" If possible, Viconia looked even more confused.

Emotion swelled within Graeth and abruptly snapped. The hurt, the rage, the loneliness he had combated everyday of his life rushed forth, fuelled by his heartache. In the depths of being, the gaping void where once his soul had dwelt, a shadow uncurled –roused from its slumber by the wash of raw emotion. It began to whisper quietly, its sibilant desires sinking into Graeth's unconscious as the rest merely bided its time, awaiting the chance to break free from the binding shackles of conscious thought.

(killthedrowbitchshestillkillthinkscanplaykilldon'tlet–)

"Do you really think me stupid?!" He shouted, desperately missing his own voice, deep and guttural as it was –and perfect for disguising emotion. "I understand! You're a beautiful, intelligent, and damned attractive drow! I'm an ugly, stupid, half–breed orc! You have men and women willing to have you bed them at every town we pass through, even as they hate and fear you! Me? I'm lucky if a drunken whore gives me a second glance before running for her life! You don't have to make sure I 'know my place', Viconia –I can never forget it! The whole of Faerun delights in constantly shoving my face in it!" A fist slammed again into the abused rock face with crushing force. "But I would never have offended you with my affections if I hadn't been led to believe you welcomed them!" Graeth glared angrily into the vast Underdark behind Viconia, avoiding looking directly at the woman. He didn't know what would happen if he did. Probably try to kiss her. And die from a stab wound to the heart before even getting close, knowing her deadly reflexes.

(noonemocksyouteachherfearteachherpainrendbitetearflesh)

"Graeth I–" Viconia began, but Graeth continued, deaf to her words.

"I can deal with it all, Viconia! All of it! I just can't…" He paused, his red eyes blazing as his voice dropped to a harsh whisper. "…I can't handle you shoving it my face at every opportunity as well. Holding yourself in front of me like I actually have a chance…and then slapping me down like a worthless cur when I try to take it…"

(bloodhotsweetnownownowdoitnowhurtbiteKILLNOW)

Graeth violently wrenched himself away from Viconia, gasping as a wave of pure, unadulterated hatred surged through his veins; the dark legacy of murder and death from a dead god. The barely discernable murmuring in his ear had risen to a bellow and now thundered through his skull, demanding blood, pain and death. He fell to his knees, hands clasping over his ears in a futile attempt to block out the voice.

"Graeth?"

A voice, his own and yet not his own, tore through his head, crushing his will beneath its own and trying to secure obedience.

(KILLKILLKILL)

Graeth roared in pain, his drow throat struggling to cope with the purely orcish sound. A crimson veil was beginning creep across his vision, tingeing everything red with blood.

"Graeth!"

A small part of him was frightened of the change, of hurting his friends, exposing them all, but most of all –hurting Viconia. The Slayer, the very avatar of the dead god Bhaal, could not be contained. It could not be controlled. And it could not be stopped.

"Vi…co…ni…a…" Graeth rasped out with the last of the clarity in his mind. "…run."

Instead of the pounding footsteps heading away from him that he'd dimly expected, Graeth was surprised by an impact to his head which rocked it violently to one side. Almost instantly, the red haze cleared from his eyes, cleansed by the stinging–sharp pain, before it faded to a lingering throbbing ache. Dazedly, he reached up and touched his cheek, still confused by the abrupt silence in his head. Graeth swallowed down on the icy fear burning his throat as he realised what had almost transpired.

Apparently the Slayer could be stopped.

"…raeth? Graeth, you miserable son of drider! Answer me now, or I swear by the Nightsinger I will strike you down where you cower, miserable worm!"

She says the sweetest things…

Graeth's muddled brain recognised Viconia's snarling and turned his head in its direction.

"Vi…conia?" He said, shaking himself to try and focus. "Are you alright? Did I… hurt you?"

He was rewarded with another, if possible, even harder slap. Graeth thought he heard his teeth rattle together in his skull.

"I–I'll take that as a yes?" Graeth muttered, wincing and gingerly cupping his cheek to shield it from further harm. He grimaced as he tasted the metallic tang of his own blood. Reflexively licking his lips, he realised that the lower one had been split open.

Expecting another blow as he was, Graeth was bewildered to find his abused face being taken firmly, but gently in Viconia's soft hands and critically examined. Then the drow leant forwards, lightly pressing her lips to his cheek as she mouthed another prayer to Shar. Slowly the burning mark left by her hand faded, erased by the cool magic transmitted through the contact. A single finger ghosted over his mouth, sealing the ugly cut. Gradually, the faint blue, which signalled the use of healing magic, grew fainter and finally disappeared as the last of the pain did.

Graeth's eyes fluttered open, the first indication that he'd actually closed them and found himself meeting Viconia's penetrating gaze. He wasn't good at reading people's faces or guessing at their emotions, but Graeth could swear that the look in Viconia's eyes was almost…soft. It lasted only a fraction of a second, before a veil fell back over her eyes, hiding any traces of the emotions from sight.

"Foolish male." The beautiful drow breathed after a moment, stroking a finger over the corner of his mouth. Somewhere in the back of his mind it registered that that was where one of his tusks usually was. "Did I not tell you that I would not hesitate to strike you down if you lost control like that again?"

"And yet I'm still breathing." Graeth replied, cocking his head to one side. With Viconia, words –especially harsh words– often conflicted with her body language and actions. That observation was what had mostly made her rejection of him all the more puzzling. She had rejected him both physically and verbally. "Thank you."

Viconia's steel grey eyes hardened. "Self preservation Graeth, nothing more. You are the best chance this rag–tag band of fools has of getting out of my homeland–" the word 'homeland' was spat out as though it tasted foul, "–alive."

Some small voice that unnervingly sounded a lot like Imoen piped up, urging him onto speak the words he would have never normally. "That's not the whole truth, is it." It wasn't phrased as a question. Viconia glared silently for a moment.

"Do not flatter yourself, male." Graeth almost smiled at the weak 'insult', inwardly marvelling at how calm he felt now that he'd purged himself of the repressed festering emotions. It was just a pity he couldn't have managed it without almost tearing Viconia into bite–sized pieces.

"Calling me 'male' doesn't offend me." This time Graeth did smile and leant back on his palms to take in the nonplussed expression on Viconia's face. "Just be honest with me –and yourself– for once, Viconia." Graeth's blood–red eyes pinned her in place, refusing to allow any escape or evasion. "Tell me I was wrong; that you were never and will never be attracted to me. Tell me…tell me that you don't want me." Graeth clenched his jaw, unconsciously bracing himself for the possibility of further rejection. He didn't know what had spurred him on to push Viconia like this. Something told him he was going to seriously regret doing so.

"Graeth, I…I tried to apologise to you before…but somehow you misunderstood. I–" A look of deep frustration crossed Viconia's face as words failed the usually articulate woman.

Then –to Graeth's great surprise– she darted forwards, capturing his lips with her own; passionately forcing her way inside and conquering his mouth. Graeth's eyes widened to comical proportions and for a moment he was almost too confused and afraid to respond. But luckily for him, instinct forcibly took over, shoving rational thought out the window and allowing him to respond fervently. As his ardour rose, Graeth found himself taking matters further; wrapping both arms around Viconia's waist and pulling her snugly against his body.

She fit perfectly.

The innocent thought shattered his lust–filled haze as effectively as a bucket of ice–cold water and made him break the kiss, panting lightly as he struggled to get his ragged breathing under control. He studiously avoided Viconia's smug look of satisfaction.

This was not his body.

(Hideous beast)

(Monster)

(Freak)

People, be they halflings, humans, dwarves, gnomes or elves found him repulsive, monstrous. Full orcs found him weak, too human. He just could not win.

Sallow, unhealthy–looking skin, twin tusks which sprouted from inside his lower jaw, a flattened, almost porcine nose dominating his face, lank, unruly blond hair (defying all attempts at taming it), a pair of jagged perversions of elven ears coming off the sides of his head and –of course– narrow, blood red eyes, all added up to someo– something, people rightly labelled as monstrous.

Graeth was used to people cowering away as he approached, not looking like they wanted to devour him on the spot. Viconia couldn't be attracted to him. It was only this form she found pleasing.

"Viconia, wait." Graeth managed as she pressed closer, moving her mouth down; nipping and biting at the sensitive flesh of his neck. Nimble fingers slipped underneath his shirt, stroking and scratching at his abdomen and lower back. A low groan of pleasure escaped him. "Viconia."

"Do not fear, my passion." Graeth couldn't help but bask in the warmth of the (for once) affectionate petname, "I know you are strong enough to withstand the full force of drow ardour…"

Graeth swallowed –hard– as Viconia's sultry purr caressed his ears and tried to focus –yet again. "No…I can't…I can't do this."

"Come Graeth, such a flaccid display of coyness does nothing to flatter a virile warrior such as yourself." Viconia chided, fingers digging painfully hard into his flesh. "Apprehension betrays the courageous soul your body houses." Graeth winced –partly in pain, partly at the accusation of cowardice (his inexperience with women was the least of his concerns at present).

Something told him this was not going to end well.

"That's not why." He pulled back and this time Viconia allowed him the distance, her eyes narrowing dangerously. Almost involuntarily, Graeth's hand reached out, caressing the softness of Viconia's cheek in a gesture of comfort. Viconia stared at him in confused disbelief, shying back at first, before cautiously leaning back to accept the touch. "I want you Viconia." Graeth smiled slightly and laughed at the understatement. "I mean…I burn for you. Your beauty sets me on fire…I ache to touch you –feel your skin on mine…I can't stop thinking about it–you." Graeth trailed off for a second in a reverie, before rousing himself with difficulty, feeling his cheeks grow warm. And was met with one of the smuggest smiles he had ever witnessed on another person's face.

"Oh?" Viconia purred, her eyes hooded and dangerous. "So the mighty Graeth changes his tune and openly admits to his weakness in lusting after Viconia, hmmm?"

Graeth did not smile. Instead, he reached out and –giving Viconia enough time to understand what he was doing– took her smaller hands in his. Her face registered startlement for a moment, before narrowing in calculation as she stared at his serious expression, but still allowed the liberty. "You always knew I wanted you, Viconia." Graeth stated. "But I don't think you want me. Not really." He gently squeezed her hands. "I believe you want me as a drow." Graeth flashed a self–deprecating smile. "Hells, I'd do me as a drow." It was quite disturbing, to him at least, how feminine his dark elf form was. "But that's not enough, not for me." Viconia's mouth opened and Graeth silenced her with a single finger across her lips. She looked so surprised and plain outraged, that Graeth had to hold back a smirk. The urge quickly vanished as Viconia bit him hard enough to draw blood. "Let–me–talk–" Graeth gritted out painfully, not removing his finger until he saw the dark elf roll her eyes and then condescendingly incline her head, still looking indignant. Wincing, he saw Viconia had left two bleeding puncture marks. The wicked grin she shot him as she –with almost obscene enjoyment– licked blood from her lips made Graeth catch his breath. Suddenly his wounded finger throbbed in a completely different way.

Oh Gods.

It was almost a full minute before he could speak again.

"I–you don't really find me attractive." What exactly had been his argument again? No, no. Viconia was just trying to distract him, he couldn't let her succeed. "In case you had forgotten, I'm a half–orc." Graeth lifted one of Viconia's hands to his face and guided it in tracing the corner of his mouth where his prominent tusks usually sprouted forth from. "I'm monstrous." He moved her surprisingly gentle touch to his nose, "I'm ugly." Graeth released her hands and was taken aback when Viconia didn't immediately remove them. "But…even though I know it's impossible…I still want to be wanted for me, not this illusion."

Viconia stared at him in silence, her face an impenetrable mask. A flash of some emotion flickered in her grey eyes, gone too quickly for him to guess at. "Graeth…Just when I think you possibly be any more pathetic, you prove me resoundingly wrong." Graeth stared at her, too shocked to feel wounded by the utter contempt in her voice. "You have the brute strength." Her hands slid down his biceps, squeezing firmly and reminding him that Adalon had given his drow form less musculature. "You have the divine blood of the god of murder." Viconia's gaze fell to his sluggishly bleeding digit. "You even have the brain of a–" Viconia faltered a fraction, changing whatever adjective she'd been about to use. "–passable tactician." A hard tap against his skull punctuated the statement. "Yet you insist on ignoring all of these attributes –all of your power– and mewling like an insipid whelp." Viconia gave an unladylike snort as she pushed away his head and rose to her feet, tone still harsh. "Perhaps I have been foolish in thinking you would be a worthy enough man to receive my attentions. That stuttering half–breed belonging to the tree–hugger would have been a more suitable choice than you." Remembering Viconia's voluble disgust for Khalid, Graeth grit his teeth. Viconia noticed and gave a scathing laugh. "How can you expect anyone to be attracted to you, if you do not first see anything attractive in yourself? If you reject their interest when presented, simply because you doubt your own worth?" Viconia tossed her ivory mane over one shoulder derisively and turned to stalk off.

Graeth sat in stunned silence, his mind in complete turmoil.

Viconia…she…really did find him attractive. He…he was an utter idiot.

"If you finally decide to stop emasculating and completely shaming your warrior blood, I might deign to…re–evaluate your worth as my lover." A shiver went up Graeth's spine at the delicious emphasis she placed on 're–evaluate'. With a final, almost negligent twist of her wrist (which Graeth assumed was to end the silence spell), Viconia sauntered through the stone archway leading inside. Her hips were swaying in a deliberately provocative manner that made his mouth go dry. She was such a damned tease. And he loved it.

"Oh, and Graeth?" Viconia drawled, tossing the words over her shoulder as she disappeared from view. "I am not a patient woman. Do not take too long."

Graeth couldn't help it.

He smiled.


Author's Afterword:
This was originally a question which occurred to me while playing BGII. Why is Viconia the only npc who romances male half-orcs and, come to that, why is she attracted to them in the first place? Because the romance dialogue is race-general, this issue –which I admit to be fascinated by– is never broached. I think this is a pity, but I know there's only so much Bioware could fit into the game.

This one-shot I suppose tries to fill this gap, in a way, but I think it also focuses more on the emotional insecurities of a man who cannot see his own merits because he is blinded by his supposed shortcomings. Not an uncommon thing in real life really.

I hope I've held true to Viconia's character here; she is a difficult person to write because there is a danger of over-exaggerating her cruelty or going too much the other way and making her a complete softie. As Jahiera would no doubt say; "we must protect the balance". I hope I have succeeded.

Below I have included a list of explanations and translations, simply because the first person I showed it to had no idea what half the stuff I was talking about was. If you're browsing this category though, I assume you probably know it all already, but read as you feel appropriate.

Drow translations:

yeunn – pathetic
waele – stupid/fool

Deities mentioned:

Baervan Wildwanderer – Gnomish patron forests, travel, and nature. Sacred animal is the raccoon. Probably is regularly picked on by the other gods. Seriously, I doubt anyone cares…

Bhaal – Dead god, slain by Cyric. Ironically used to be the god of murder; especially favouring ritual murder. His avatar was known as the Slayer, a creature of pure murderous intent (noticing a recurring theme here). Symbol was a grinning skull on a disc with twelve tears (supposedly shed by those of the victims' families/friends etc.) circling anti-clockwise.

Cyric – Also known as 'the Prince of Lies', 'Cyric the Mad' or 'the Black Sun'. Originally a mortal but attained Godhood during the Time of Troubles by slaying various Gods and Goddesses and receiving their powers. Currently God of murder, lies, deception, illusion, strife and intrigue. His symbol is a white jawless skull on black or purple sunburst. He is universally disliked (and feared) by other gods and goddesses, Cyric never has allies per se, he sees everyone else as tools.

Lloth (drow pronunciation) – Sometimes pronounced Lolth by surfacers. Also known as the 'Queen of the Demonweb Pits'. Goddess of chaos, darkness, drow, evil, destruction, spiders and trickery. Her symbol is a black spider with the head of a female drow.

Shar – Known also as Nightsinger by her followers. Goddess of darkness, night, loss, forgetfulness, caverns and dungeons. Her symbol is a black disk with a border of deep purple.

Bestiary:

Adalon – A silver dragon set to guard the elven temple above Ust Natha and marking the exit of the Underdark. Has issues with seeing anything smaller than her as equal – often leading to great friction in her interactions with mortals. Like she cares. Can transform into a human female form and, it is speculated, others at will. Currently she is expecting a litter of three dragonets. Aw.

Driders – Half-drow, half-spider monsters, sometimes magically created by the priestesses of Lloth or yochol as a punishment to wayward drow. The upper half of the drow i.e. the abdomen is kept intact whilst the lower half is that of a squat, giant spider. They are capable of spellcasting and make formidable warriors.

Slayer (The) – The avatar of Bhaal used in the Time of Troubles. Some children of murder are also able to assume this form. It appears as a red skinned beetle-like creature with long, spiked appendages and its razor claws cause magical damage. It cannot talk, only emitting high-pitched screeches and roars. Whilst in this state, any Child of murder is completely taken over by the desire to slaughter all in its path and will stop at nothing to do so. Unless control is learnt, this state can be triggered by fluctuations in emotion, most notably anger or irritation, no matter how minor.

Svirfneblin – Also known as 'deep gnomes'. Appearance-wise, these friendly Underdark dwellers look very similar to their surface cousins except for the fact they have little or no hair. They have the ability to listen to earth and stone (but not to speak to it). Additionally, the deep gnomes have a very basic form of telepathy with one another, allowing them to exchange general ideas (for example, alerting others to danger).

Yochlol – Demonic servants of Lloth. They are regularly summoned by the Queen of Spider's priestesses to witness sacrifices in the name of Lloth. Revered (and feared) by the drow priestesses who summon them. And everyone else, if they know what's good for them.