Summary: BG1. An evil bard is evil. Not the standard evil bard.
Warnings: EverSoEvil!Garrick. Highly expository.
A/N: I was inspired to write this by contrasting Garrick's biography and canonical objections to thievery with the fact he ends up a better pickpocket than Eldoth (considering their Dexterity). I feel really bad about it! *hugs poor Garrick*
Nobody heard much of the Dale Wind Troubadors these days. It was only natural that a travelling troupe forever on the move might not be heard from for months at a time; when it became years at a time, it was also only natural that it would be assumed that the troupe had simply dissipated under the stresses of personal differences, and that the name was now open to be claimed by any who wished to trade upon the reputation.
There was one, however, who knew most intimately. The Dale Wind Troubadors had served a most useful, temporary purpose. A means to an end. The greatest thieves--in volume of gold, not in sum of membership, and carefully and distantly courteous to the Shadow Thieves and other guilds--upon the Sword Coast. Garrick was grateful they had made him rich. Some of the money had gone to be squandered on gambling, and much more on magical components; he hardly begrudged it. Money meant little compared to great power.
Garrick, the apprentice they turned to whenever a costume needed stitching. It certainly was not his fault if a leading actor was humiliated by an on-stage costume failure; Garrick would only be ordered to fix it after the event. Garrick, the bit-part player they requested whenever one would fall sick. He could never be connected with the fact that sometimes certain sicknesses happened even when there were no other cases in the area. Garrick, the part-time cook who never put in too much or too little spice. It was obvious that any stomach upsets were caused by hitherto unknown allergies, and never any of the chefs. Garrick, among the crowds and falling quiet when they began to watch the principal act; Garrick, whose purse was ever full at the end of the night. Curly-haired young Garrick was a safe fancy for maidens too young to admire the saturnine leading men; Garrick was never to blame for lovesickness, nor other strange illnesses.
Boredom is deathly, pleasantly warm. Boredom stiffens the fingers to inaction, paralyzes the arms, settles a comfortable weight in the stomach, withers the vocal chords, and at last putrefies the brain for time everlasting. There is always a time for shifting colours; for moving on.
Forty-seven deaths in one night, in a distant and isolated part of an eastern plain the troupe travelled through. A--terrible mistake in cookery. Marvellous dark components to cast a divination scroll of great power. He soared above unearthly-coloured clouds to seek his future, sliding below starlights; below an ever-expanding cosmos. That path which shall grant me the most power, Garrick asked that night. Galaxies spun about him in quick-accelerating vortex. The spell's deathly power was strong: the murder of forty-one bards with some magical prowess, six servants and rogues for good measure. He begged for their magic to aid the scroll, and screaming voices spelled the name shining before him. Silke Rosena.
Greed asked for more. A second sentence of inevitable, bright future: You will meet the child of a god if you travel with Silke Rosena. The power of murders spilled red through his soul. Blood rushed to his face, falling from his eyelids and blinding him with a scarlet film. He fell from space like an iron lodestone irresistibly pulled to earth, sparking white-hot flames in the speed of his descent.
Silke Rosena was a mediocre spellcaster, a poor liar, a poor thief, and when on stage the most beautiful thespian and musician on the Sword Coast. (These things were extremely difficult to quantify; her fame, however, did not exist for nothing. Garrick would have admitted he had nothing to do with her present bout of ill-luck.) He absorbed the ballads she had to teach him; uncomplainingly did her laundry and cooking; accompanied her in song; and pretended to be a bumbling magical novice to her grand tuition.
The images of Silke Rosena could float before his eyes still, if he chose to reminisce. He respected theatrical talent, if not so much as darker powers. Silke's long sheets of pale hair flowing purposefully down the lines of her back; the way she quirked a supple wrist in a halfway come-hither to spellbind all the audience; her silver voice holding the final note of Seven Swans Dancing for minutes, perfect and sure and steady: Silke Rosena. The path to future power.
They came to Beregost. The scent of power lay on the breeze like the whiff of greenery on the first day of spring. Little Garrick, hire me some mercenaries, will you? A jewel theft Garrick had no hand in; Silke's bright plan to order gems from merchants and have mercenaries murder the men before she had to pay. After all, there were huge gambling debts owed (in which Garrick had had a--vicarious--hand; subtly encouraging others to risk their fortunes and disaster was almost as entertaining as doing so himself).
The clock's pendulum struck thunderously and shook the heavens; dark and rushing clouds flew together. Garrick knew exactly which mercenaries he would hire. They came to him; they murdered Silke for her crime; and they were his forever. (I guess she had it coming; you can't be evil like her and expect to get away with it! So callous; it succeeded in ensnaring his party.)
A chaotic group indeed. Garrick had chosen carefully, to create the quick and easy splinters between them. At first: the pink-haired sister, the half-elf Harpers, the Zhentarim. Pink-Hair: Too annoying. Harpers: Infantilely righteous. Zhents: an insane wizard was more liability than strength. No. The first replacement was Xan: the instant after defeating Mulahey, dismiss the pink one and take instead the vulnerable enchanter, frail in his paranoia to all the good parts in Garrick's stories. Leave the pink sister down at the bottom of the mine with the kobolds; nobody would care. For the second: better Zhents than Harpers. Dismiss the Harpers for the irritatingly muscled simpleton; put up with the quest to rescue the weak Witch; accidentally fail to notice the Red Wizard's slight push over the bridge on the day of their return to town. Exciting moment, that, when the Rashemi ranger ran the Red Wizard through and yet was so brutally struck down himself, by a disease spell that must surely have been cast in his enemy's final moments. Garrick always had enjoyed the instant plague spell scrolls.
Casting and binding. Tendrils of smoky magic reaching out, unseen to all but him, their fine atoms slaying. To do a quiet murder was lovely.
Time for recruitment. In the basilisk forest stood a man-hating lunatic: the perfect new team member. It cost a mild haste spell to allow Montaron to hit her kneecaps enough to get her to surrender, but eventually she agreed to join them. A maiden dressed in white and all with her were murdered; a gnome small and twisted perished in the teeth of his own monster.
Divinations revealed red glows to him; a magnificent colour. Planning and scheming was a quick-thinking bard's trademark; the appetite for flowering bloodflows, he adored in others. Spinning, dazzling red, cascading through the hearts of his chosen.
To speak of the godchild and party leader herself, on the long road through the bandit camp and onward. A cleric and mage both, Greyshroud by name and greyer in clothing than the other elf of certain affiliation, formerly devoted to research of paired divine and arcane power and their boundaries in her library fortress. Such a pretense of academic neutrality and disregard. Such power Garrick had seen revealed by divination spells. He led her into the bandit camp that he had made sure to spell-find the location of; and there they slew every last one of the bandits. Harmless Garrick the bard, singing the songs of blood. Fierce Shar-Teel and the Zhents more than delighted to indulge in slaughter. Pathetic enchanter not objecting to the mass grave; only bandits, after all. Young researcher entangling, firing magical missiles, and punishing by sling. Harmless Garrick gathering necromantic spell components from the corpses.
White bones cast tangled bloody spells. White bones within textured flesh killed. In soft and insinuating dreams, the dead and those murdered called in voices like cringing iron gates. Garrick was a chain binding others to the depths of the earth; a conquering bird seizing his dominion.
Cloakwood. And in place of meddlesome Zhents (oh dear--a most unfortunate allergy discovered in the mad wizard, one that would see both he and the halfling assuredly dead in the space of three days) an appropriate soul to complement their merry band. Greedy Eldoth, descending into the darkness of the mines. 'Twas not for Garrick to mention it was in places like this he felt most comfortable; instead, they committed another mass slaughter, destroying all remaining guards via release of the plug. At last to the city and their final member: Eldoth's manipulated doxy.
Dazzling treasures, in the house of Silvershield; the tear necklace of Laeral, shining like the moon; chests of diamonds and pearls; a lingering kiss with the proud and giggling stepmother, clinging and sentimental as cold syrup that refused to be wiped away. Mirror: was it she more beautiful than her husband's foolish daughter? He delighted in fragile, cruel insecurity.
Such a party he had engineered, Garrick reflected. Shar-Teel the Man-Slayer; elven Xan the Greycloak; cold Eldoth of bestial cunning; human Skie the naive; none content. The only moment when Xan had ever seemed happy being the time Eldoth had been wounded badly by a doppleganger. (Yes, a mere doppleganger. The other bard's boasts about armies of ogres and gnolls were exactly that.) Eldoth digging his grave in a second direction by telling Shar-Teel to get to the kitchen, to which she responded in a predictable manner. Skie and her tearing between Eldoth and Garrick himself, the love triangle. Greyshroud the spawn of Bhaal: attempting to remain above the fray in her intellectual cloud, failing dismally. Sooner or later the fractures would rend. More fault lines here, Garrick reflected, than even between Zhents and Harpers, and with no secret organization but the handsome young (for he was still young, if not quite so much as he looked) bard to blame. Did nobody wonder why a nice young bard had fallen into bad company twice in a row, why a bard so opposed to stealing had skill easily sufficient to filch the trade for a Tome of Understanding, why strife and dissension and murder followed his group without rest? Completing the murder of the other Bhaalspawn had been glorious; and now it was simply a matter of time.
An empty suit of armour crumbling to powder, bright yellow fading like dust from a pinned butterfly; it satisfied that more divisive battles would follow.
Xan would summon creatures to help Shar-Teel (who wouldn't need them, but the thought counted) rip out Eldoth's spine and wear it as a helmet plume. Then, following their victory--the pair of them would implode against each other, law and bloodshed being poles apart. That left pretty little Skie--pretty little Skie with plenty of money--and She, the one touched by a god's power...yes, the Silvershield resources could aid the godchild to her destiny, Skie herself could conveniently pass on during the process, and leave him as the new god's most favoured companion, Her Chosen...after all, a talented spellcaster given a deity's aid would certainly number in the great Powers of the Realms. His versatility in spells and song and crossbow and thieving gave him true power, and a god would aid him to supreme magic...or (what a strange idea) he could steal the woman's soul and claim her divine powers for himself...no, that was a stupid plan...
"Garrick? Wake up, Garrick!" He felt himself slowly returning to consciousness at the whim of a high, flutelike voice. That cheese last night. He should have realized he never slept well after eating it. "Garrick, you looked like you were having a nightmare! I guess it's my turn on watch."
"Thank you, Skie," he said earnestly. If she had not wakened him, he hated to think about what sarcasm their leader would have vented if they had been attacked. Skie. The most beautiful lady in the world, to him. If only she would notice. A soft, flowery scent floated in the air. "Is that a new perfume?"
"Yes. Do you like it?"
"It's beautiful," he said. "Would you care to hear my music, Skie?"
"Of course! I'd love to hear your music, Garrick."
A soft ballad, so as not to wake the rest of the party, sung in the gentle break of a new day with a kind and fair maid sitting near. He felt himself almost falling into Skie's shining hazel eyes.
It was a shame, really, that they didn't quite notice the attacking vampires in time, but there wasn't much they could have done anyway.