Hey everyone out there! I'm not dead, just uninspired, hehe
Aegis sighed from the confines of her bed at the inn. Her head was pounding with the last remnants of her hangover, and her clothing was lightly splattered with blood. Her arms sported several bruises from where the bar fight had gone mildly in her disfavor.
"Your dad's here!" Imoen piped cheerily from where she was nursing a broken arm. "I'd know them footsteps anywhere!"
Aegis grimaced and looked weakly towards the door of her room, biting her lower lip. It didn't take a wizard to figure out that she'd screwed up. Badly. The very last thing she wanted was for Gorion to hear of her latest disaster.
But sure enough she could hear his soft voice, shadowed by the angry words of Ulraunt, Candlekeep's high librarian. Aegis moaned and squeezed her eyes together tightly. I'm sorry papa. She should have known Ultraunt would personally confront Gorion over this. Nasty uppity stiff-backed...
"Daww, cheer up!" Imoen laughed. "You know he can't stay mad at you! Now Winthrop, he's going to be mad at me for weeks!"
"That's the worst part," Aegis mumbled. "Winthrop yells at you, you duck your head, and you do some extra chores then you feel better. Gorion just stares at me, then I feel even more awful."
Imoen shrugged. She couldn't really understand Aegis's self-imposed guilt, but then, she also wasn't the one who'd started the bar fight. "Hehe, Ultraunt really doesn't like us! He says you're wild, unruly, and evidence a glaring disrespect for life!"
"Gee," Aegis mumbled, "he makes punching people sound so cunningly refined."
"Well you did almost light the inn on fire. Oh, and you stabbed that mean old dwarf!" Aegis sighed and blushed heavily, disappointed with herself. A gentle knock came at their door. "Come in!" Imoen said.
The door opened slowly and a very old wizard stepped quietly in. His hair was long and gray, and wisps of it hung in his face. Beneath that shower of hair, Imoen felt he had a very kindly old face- the face you might expect on your grandfather, or a priest. A grandfather, yeah, that's how she'd always seen the old man.
Aegis felt a little differently but then, this was the man who had changed her diapers as a small child. 'Father' was quite a suiting term from her point of view.
Quiet blue eyes shifted first to Imoen, and then to the incapacitated Aegis, who was trying her best to look dignified. They settled on the bedridden woman for a long moment before he stepped fully into the room.
Aegis winced. "Gorion, I-" she began, and then trailed off, unable to think of suitable words to explain her misbehavior. "I-I'm sorry," she finished lamely, and tried to melt into her covers and disappear.
The old wizard said nothing, leaning on his staff and contemplating her. After a long moment he came up and sat down on the side of her bed, and with an old weathered hand smoothed hair gently from her face. "I know," he murmured, and his quiet acceptance made Aegis feel all the worse- just as she'd predicted.
"I didn't mean for any of that to happen," she mumbled. "I sort of remember the dwarf touching my butt."
"He did!" Imoen seconded. "I watched! Aegis turned around and nearly punched his beard off- it was hilarious!"
Gorion actually smiled lightly. "Be that as it may," he told them both warmly (he shot Imoen an inclusive glance, lest she think he'd forgotten her), "you didn't need to hit him. Violence is not the best solution."
"He deserved it," Aegis grumbled.
"I believe you," he told her. "But that doesn't change the proper way to behave."
"I didn't mean to really hurt him-" she protested, looking up at the wizard's gentle face.
"But you did choose to drink all that you did," he countered, his voice still soft but suddenly sterner. "What you did while inebriated may not have been voluntarily, but you made the choice to drink."
Aegis grimaced and nodded. She'd heard this lecture before.
Gorion chuckled at the face she made. "You don't think I understand, my child? I may not approve of your habits, but I'm an old man and I've seen and done much in my time. I know you like to drink, and I know I can't stop you. I just wish you understood your own limitations." He gently tapped her nose. "I wish you didn't put yourself into situations where things like this can happen. Next time you want to go for that extra pint, think about how much I worry for you, mm?"
She nodded miserably. "I'm sorry," she repeated, and truly she was. Aegis had many vices to her name; from questionable drinking habits, to sticky fingers, to a penchant for brawling; but one thing she could never be accused of was a lack of love for her foster father. She hated nothing in the world quite so much as disappointing him. Whenever he spoke, she was utterly cowed.
Maybe that's why Ultraunt had started talking to Gorion instead of speaking with them, Imoen reflected. He might have figured that Gorion was the only person Aegis would listen to.
"Now," Gorion said gently, patting Aegis's arm and looking to incorporate Imoen in his next statements as well. "The two of you are in terrible trouble. First you'll need to help Winthrop clean up the inn again, and then there are some particularly unpleasant cattle related chores for you to complete." Both girls groaned. "As for the visiting dwarf," he looked back to Aegis, who winced, "Ulraunt is still deciding how to handle the situation. The priests were able to heal him quickly and no lasting harm was done, but bloodshed is not permitted in Candlekeep. Were you not my daughter, he would have already thrown you out of the city."
Aegis closed her eyes and tried to fall unconscious. It didn't work, of course. Gorion smiled at the expression on her face, and recalled the dwarf calling this the best tavern brawl he'd had in years. Despite this the old wizard felt it best not to encourage her mildly violent disposition; and Ulraunt, if not the dwarf, was furious.
"Get some rest," he told her. "Around noon Winthrop will come and retrieve the both of you for your chores. Now hold still and allow me to quickly heal your wounds. And Imoen, try not to use your arm for at least a day..."
Aegis was young still, only three years of age, but already rambunctious. He found her antics charming really. He would sit on the steps to their home and watch her chase after animals and play-fight imaginary dragons. He'd write letters or read, or perhaps go over a magic scroll or so. Imoen did have some magical potential. She'd usually gravitate towards him after awhile and ask him about what he was reading. If he was looking at a scroll, she'd spend hours staring at the magical runes, eyes wide in awe.
As for Aegis, he felt that her spirit was more suited towards the great outdoors.
It was a particularly pleasant fall afternoon. The sun was setting far in the west, and the shadows it cast were long. The leaves were just starting to turn from green to yellow and the day was pleasantly warm. He was reading a letter from a dear friend when suddenly an unpleasant yowling assaulted his ears.
He'd looked up to see Aegis straddling a large house cat, her hands wrapped around it's throat, slowly squeezing the life out of it. The cat was spasming frantically, it's sharp claws tearing up her arms, but Aegis just smiled, staring down at it, as if in a daze.
"Aegis!" he cried, jumping to his feet and sprinting for her. He grabbed her arms and tried to pull her free. "Aegis, no! No! Let go!"
She didn't listen at first, and what was the point of magically compelling her? Had all of his efforts been in vain? Was the blood of Bhaal so strong in her that she could fall victim to such temptations on the spur of a moment?
But then her hands loosened. She looked up at him hazily and the color drained from his face. She was smiling "Aegis!" he pleaded with her. "Why would you do such a thing?" He already knew the answer. She didn't have a choice.
"It's fun, daddy," she answered brightly, but her face fell as she noticed the curves of his mouth- frowning and drawn as if in suffering. She had yet to learn the meaning of mental anguish or disappointment. All she knew was that her father was upset.
"Aegis, no, that's horrible! How would you feel if you were this cat?" he whispered. "Please, let go!"
She blinked and then dropped the writhing animal. It landed with a thud and then bolted off, staggering slightly. She lifted her hands to his face, seeming heedless of the cuts that laced up and down her arms, of the blood she smeared on his robes, and her brows furrowed in concentration.
He grimaced and held her tightly to him, this beautiful and horrible child he had never found it within his heart to kill. The babe he had raised thus far as his own, his little Aegis, covered in blood.
She touched his face, the curves of his mouth, the pained wrinkles about his eyes."I don't understand," she mumbled. "Daddy, what's wrong?"
"Aegis," he whispered. "You love cats."
"They're pretty!" she agreed.
"You should always take care of the things you love, and ensure never to hurt them," he murmured, and tears formed in his eyes. "That way, they will always be there. How would you feel if you were that cat? I think you're pretty. How would you feel if I strangled you?"
She frowned. Moral compass askew, she could not see the connection between herself and the cat, or recognize that she had harmed something she cared for. Nevertheless, as an intelligent and otherwise well-adjusted child, she could see the pain in her foster father's eyes, and was disturbed by it.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," she told him. "I'm sorry. I wont every do it again. Please don't be sad."
He shivered and bundled her in a tight hug, and she hugged him back, worried and unhappy. She buried her face in his shoulder and hair.
"I love you Daddy," she mumbled. "I'm sorry."
Gorion's eyes opened and he sighed, sitting up in bed and rubbing his temples. That dream again. It wasn't his favorite dream in the world he had to admit, but he supposed he'd had far worse. Light filtered slowly through the windows of his room, and he surmised it was about time that he woke up anyway. He stretched and meditated for awhile, and then lit the candelabra that sat upon his nightstand.
He took his time in dressing himself, feet scuffing over the dark blue stone out of which most of Candlekeep had been constructed. A gentle breeze filtered through his room. The cool light of morning stood out brightly on his floor.
He left his room in robes and sandals, and peered in to Aegis'. The girl was sleeping like a baby, her arms wrapped around one of her pillows and her blankets in quite the state of disarray. The girl's bed was a veritable nest of kittens. A cat was perched on nearly ever part of her, and each and every one of them was sleeping. He smiled gently and paused to watch her for a moment, admiring her despite all her flaws, despite the bar fight, despite the injured dwarf, despite the terrible nightmare that lingered on the edge of his consciousness. Admired her as only a parent could.
"Oh my beautiful child," he murmured softly. "What a handful you are."