Part 1: Wheels of Prophecy
"You are indeed family. No other could have lived to oppose me in person." - Sarevok Anchev, at the Temple of Bhaal beneath Baldur's Gate.
Athkatla. The City of Coin. The shining gem, the crown jewel of the Amnish lands, a hub of trading and activity that promised wealth and fortune and a thousand other pleasures, illegal or legal. From a distance or maybe from the skies above, it looked every bit as glamorous as the stories made it out to be. Towering with ornate buildings, thick walls that surrounded the whole of the city and a never-ending bustle of people going about their lives within, it could be mistaken as something far more than it really was. For deep down, the shining diamond, the beautiful woman, the beautiful marble-work... it was rotten. A lump of coal, a half-dead whore, dust in the wind. Every day, lives were bought and sold like goods at market while thieves and wizards ran the government, in truth if not in name. True to it's name, in the City of Coin, everything had a price. Everything.
Not to say there weren't good people living there. Good men and women who tried their best to remain untouched by the corruption and the deceit that leeched the life from everyone else who made their residence within the city walls. The Temples were loyal to the faithful who followed after them, and nobody would dare question the virtues, the incorruptibility of the Order of the Radiant Heart. Perhaps that was why the Order made their headquarters within the city- an attempt to balance out the darkness, to prove that there were those the city could not buy, could not touch.
That night, the city would once again attempt to prove the Order wrong.
In a cobblestone alleyway surrounded on both sides by towering buildings, the high-class structures of the Slums showing as the Bridge District slowly took shape, there was a battle, if it could be called that, taking place. Shadows flashed across the walls showing the afterimages of men fighting, of men dying. Grunts echoed out of the alleyway along with the sounds of metal striking metal, and flesh hitting the ground as the lifeblood of far too many was spilled into the cracks and crevices of the ground, seeping below and into the foundations of the City of Coin. Any onlooker might've been horrified by the one-sided affair- five men and women gathered together in a semi-circle, surrounded by the bodies and corpses of those who had attacked them that night. More were surrounding them, still trying to bring them down... but judging from the looks of annoyance each of the defenders bore, the fight was little challenge.
In the moonlight, the half-shadowed features of a youthful woman were illuminated, her pink hair a deep red. The scars on her face marred the youth and innocence that should have flowed naturally from her... innocence that hadn't quite all been there since her experiences in the asylum known as Spellhold. She let a tight smile cross her face as she raised her bow again, loosing an arrow that struck one of their opponents in the arm, pinning him to the wall he had been creeping by. Ignoring his screams, she glanced behind her and spoke with a cheery nonchalance, "I'm kinda beginning to feel sorry for these guys. They're in way over their head..."
As if in reply, the druid with chestnut hair and emerald eyes leapt out from their miniature defensive formation, using the spear she held to act as a vault, sending her flying into another would-be attacker foot-first. Teeth flew from his mouth along with a jet of blood as he hit the ground, unmoving for the moment and probably for several hours afterward. All things considered, he was lucky to get off so easy. "It is not these ruffians that warrant our concern. We do not have the time for this."
"She's right- and we're not going to make it in time if this keeps up. Minsc- you think you can clear a path for us?" the other half-elf among them, a sorcerer in slate gray robes with a long quarterstaff glanced at the mammoth of a man who had just finished fighting off another two thugs. The ranger grinned, nodding at their leader before lowering his shoulder and charging toward the exit of the alleyway, where the paths opened up into the Bridge District proper.
Any who had thought to halt their escape route had not counted on facing a full-on charge by a seven-foot tower of muscle wielding a gleaming Githyanki blade. It wasn't long before they had broken out into the clear, their only pursuit a half-hearted volley of crossbow bolts that were nowhere near to hitting any of them. The blonde-haired elf, her petite frame hiding the massive powers she commanded, spared a glance behind them as they kept moving as quickly as they dared, not wanting to miss their target in the dark. "Who do you think they were? Surely not the Shadow Thieves..."
"No... Linvail can't afford to lose men like that, especially since they're still rebuilding from the guild war. My guess, some rival guild trying to take advantage of the Shadow Thieves' weakened state thinking they could make a reputation by killing us. Granted, I just made that up on the spot, so take it as you will." the sorcerer said, flashing a grin at the elf behind him as he attempted to keep his breath, the five still racing toward the center of the District. The house couldn't be much further now...
"Your detective skills are astounding, Greywulf." Jaheira's wry tones, not quite as acerbic as she might've been in years past, spoke to her concern over the situation they were still facing. The Saviors of Suldenesselar: Greywulf, Imoen, Minsc, Jaheira, Aerie. Their adventures in the elven city were somehow already known outside the elven home, a fact that aggravated those within to no end. Still, none of it mattered right then. All that mattered was the life of one man- and the course it would take if they didn't stop him from the path he was walking.
"Damn it..." Imoen swore quietly as they reached the building they sought. Taller and grander than any other structure in the District, this house, nay, this mansion spoke to the affluence and power that the owner must have enjoyed. Power and affluence that would do him absolutely no good, now. It hadn't helped the two guards outside the door who were now lying on the ground, their skulls caved in with a mace, undoubtedly. It was his weapon of choice, after all.
As they ran closer, the sounds of battle could be heard echoing from the door, still ajar and letting a slit of light pour from inside. Battle- perhaps he hadn't reached his target yet? The five of them exchanged glances for a moment before charging the door-
Inside the dining hall of the mansion, two men struggled for dominance, each one completely and totally indwelt with hatred for the other. There was no quarter, no sympathy, no nobility. One of them was a man with his best years behind him, gray beginning to show at his temples, marring the brown with its dull flow. He was holding his side with pain, and it was obvious that he had suffered several glancing blows from his opponent in the fight thus far. The dining table was completely splintered, broken in two and the chairs surrounding in broken into dozens of pieces. It was like a whirlwind had been through the room- the older man's opponent snarled another challenge, charging behind the shield bearing his family's crest and his mace raised high. "For my father! For my sister! For your evil, Saerk, you will die this day!"
Saerk Farrahd barely blocked the downswing of the mace with his own blade, but he chose the wrong angle to deflect it; the mace's enchanted head cracked the steel of the sword, and a second swing shattered it completely. He looked at the broken hilt in his hand with despair, backing away as the knight drove him to the wall, raising his mace in victorious fury, ready to crush his skull completely-
Anomen Delryn shuddered with the effort it took him to avoid killing the man before him that very moment, though he did not turn to see the five who stood behind him. He knew who they were. It was their guidance, their aid that had brought him to this point. That had brought him into the ranks of the Order. Their guidance that had let this man before him get away with killing his sister, then his father.
"I know what you will say to me, and I tell you now that I can no longer let this pass. What Saerk has done cannot, will not be forgiven! The blood of my family is on his head!" Anomen spat, his handsome features twisted by rage.
"This isn't the Way of the Order. You know that. You took a vow-" Greywulf started, but the young knight cut him off with a shout of pained fury.
"And Helm forgive me, those vows mean nothing to me now! Will the law bring my family back to me? My vows are bitter ashes in my mouth- I would give them all up to feel this man taste vengeance for what has done! Tell me you would not do the same!" Anomen cried out, still keeping his mace trained on Saerk, still refusing to turn his gaze, as though the man would vanish into thin air should he let him out of his sight for the briefest of moments.
"Yes... Minsc would do the same." the big ranger spoke up, his features full of worry and concern. "But Minsc is not a knight... and Minsc's desire for vengeance is why he could not be. That is why you are different. You must make choices that we cannot."
"Don't you understand?!" Anomen half-pleaded, half-shouted. "I cannot simply let this pass! As a knight I am sworn to uphold the law, but as a son... my duty as a son demands blood, revenge! The rage inside me will accept nothing less!"
Jaheira opened her mouth to speak, but Greywulf raised a hand, shaking his head with finality. Anomen had always faced problems with his anger, with the rage inside of him. They'd helped him overcome much of it over the past few months... but it couldn't always be this way. They couldn't always pull him back from the abyss that his inner demons pushed him to. He exhaled, then spoke once more. "We won't stop you, Anomen. Just ask yourself once more. Is this... is this revenge, really what you want?"
Anomen did not even pause to answer. "Yes. With all my heart, I want this man dead."
Greywulf nodded; that was it then- "It's not what Keldorn what have wanted."
Aerie's voice was like a gentle whisper in a thunderstorm- she continued quietly, the conflicted knight listening without speaking. "You knew him better than we did... and you know what he would have done. What he would have told you if he was still here."
Nobody made a sound, the only noise being that of Saerk's pained breathing. Anomen shut his eyes tightly, pulling his gaze away from Saerk for the first time. "He wouldn't have done this. He would've told me I was better... better than the rage-filled monster I've become. All I ever wanted was to be half the knight he was. To live up to just a hint of the path he tried to set for me as a mentor, as a friend... Helm take me, I cannot bear this!"
Anomen screamed a cry to the heavens and swung his mace as hard as he could manage. Saerk cringed in anticipation of the blow- the weapon crunched into the wall beside his head, Anomen yanking it back immediately and turning on his heel, refusing to look at the murderer behind him any further. His eyes were red and his face tight with emotion... but the anger, the rage, was once more under control. Once more in check. He passed by the five who had come to his aid, stopping briefly to meet their silently approving gazes. "You... all of you, have saved me once more. I must go back to the Order Hall and tell Sir Ryan Trawl of what happened here- I have still killed men in an unjust manner and I must atone for that. If the Order decides to banish me for these deaths... then so be it."
"We'll come and see you when it's all over." Aerie smiled gently as she put her hand on his shoulder pauldron. He looked into her eyes, and for the first time in a while, a smile crossed his bearded features, if a weak one.
Anomen Delryn departed, leaving behind broken furniture and a broken man- the sound of his footsteps slowly echoed into the distance as he made the trek back to the Order Hall. Saerk groaned and attempted to stagger forward, holding his side in pain- Minsc slammed him back into the wall, a meaty fist hitting him in the same location as Anomen had struck him during their short battle. He screamed in pain while Jaheira leaned forward, speaking in low, deadly tones. "Be very thankful that Anomen chose the path he did. If it were up to us, you would not survive to see the sun rise this morn. As it stands, I would not be surprised if the city guards will be making a visit here sometime soon. Very soon."
Jaheira pulled away, her eyes still glaring daggers of venom at the corrupt murderer- the five of them began filing out, Saerk snarling a curse and managing a half-strangled shout after them, "Do you know who I am?! Do you think that I c-can be bullied around by some inbred mercenaries? W-who do you think you are?!!"
Imoen was the last one to leave- she turned, grinning ever so sweetly before leaning over to snatch a particularly shiny ring that had been under glass, since shattered in the battle, on a table by the door out. "You really don't want to know."