Greetings, fellow readers and writers of fanfiction!
What you are about to read is the first fanfiction story I have ever posted on this or any other website. It is also the first in a trilogy of stories I have planned. I can't say what inspired it. I just had a general idea of it floating around in my head for a while and then I just started writing it. I suppose I just wanted to play around with Bishop, try my hand at writing such a complex and challenging character. I have also been wanting to write a drow character.
A few small warnings: This is an Alternate Universe. The original story has been told and I don't see any reason why it needs to be told over and over again. Besides, I like experimenting with What Ifs. This story has nothing to do with the original plotline. You will notice that the story starts off with a bit of silly humor. This decreases with the story's progression. Though the lack of humor in later chapters wasn't intentional, I rather like how it fades as the story becomes more serious. The humor is still there, but in bits and pieces, scattered about.
A note on reviews: I appreciate them immensely. I would ask that you be specific on what you like and don't like. Constructive criticism is most welcome. I don't appreciate pointless and heinous flames. They will be used as toilet paper...you know, because flames are very absorbent.
Finally, the disclaimer: I, Sharo, have taken the liberty to borrow the ranger Bishop from Obsidian, BioWare, etc, etc. I DO NOT own him(but have the right to wish I did) or most of the locations and such mentioned in this story. What I do own is Jaelyn Sharpshadow, Quince Bramblebrow, and a handful of other characters, and one island.
Now, without further ado...
One More Makes Three
Jaelyn Sharpshadow eyed the next applicant with a sullen cast to her features, which were hidden in the shadowed depths of her cowl.
It was necessary to hide her face from the public. She was drow, and due to their long and unappealing history of evil and bloodshed, they were not welcome in society. The fact that she was only half drow didn't matter to the hundreds of pitch-fork wielding, sword-plying mobs that have run her out of the towns, villages, hamlets, and other assorted places of gathered and domesticated humanoids along the Sword Coast. In short, no one liked her.
That's why she became a ranger. The wilderness didn't seem to be as judgmental and close-minded as the more civilized places. Jaelyn found it to be quite ironic, actually. Besides, being an outcast your entire life, you came to appreciate the solitude and the fact that animals couldn't talk or curse or spit or hurl arrows, bolts and random blunt and sharp objects in your general direction.
During her travels in the south, she'd come across a halfling rogue named Quince Bramblebrow, who'd been fleeing the local authorities. He'd stolen a treasure map from one of his superiors in the Shadow Thief organization and was on the run.
Apparently his theft had stirred up the entire city of Amn, for when she first set eyes on the halfling, he had nearly the entire city guard and every Shadow Thief in the vicinity charging after him.
To this day, she had no idea why she did it, but she helped Quince escape his pursuers. She hid him in a cave and when they were sure the stubbornly persistent and dangerous looking men were gone, the halfling thanked her by insisting that she accompany him on his adventure to explore his new-found-or more appropriately, stolen-treasure map. Jaelyn had declined, given the fact that her hood had been pulled over her head at the time, keeping her nerfarious heritage unknown to the halfling. But Quince was not one to take no for an answer and when she had finally revealed herself to him, she was surprised that he wasn't. That was, Quince didn't seem to care that she was drow and had further commented that she had 'exotic beauty'.
It was the first time anyone had not outright shunned her. She liked the halfling; she had a feeling they were going to get on well.
That encounter had been over two months ago. Now they were companions, looking to hire on at least one more professional adventurer to accompany them on Quin's treasure map quest.
It was why they were in Port Llast at the Alliance Arms Inn. It was the perfect location to start looking, between two major cities; Neverwinter to the south and Luskan to the north. Adventurerers were passing in and out of the port constantly; they were bound to find someone interested in joining them.
Their current applicant was an old, hunched over man with a long, gray beard and a bald head freckled with age spots. He was the reason Jaelyn was suddenly in a bad mood.
"You're kidding, right?" she said to the man, who blinked his rheumy, pale blue eyes at her.
"Say again? Ye'll have to speak up, lass. My hearing ain't what it used to be." he replied, leaning across the table and cocking his 'good' ear at them.
"You understand we are looking for professional adventurers, right?"
"Indeed." the old man replied, confidently as he drew himself up only to have his back give out. He doubled over with a grimace and then looked up at them with a forced grin. "Was known quite well in my day! I've come to sign on with ya."
"But you're older than Faerun." Quince remarked from his seat beside Jaelyn. "You'll probably die walking out the front door of this inn!"
Jaelyn elbowed him. "Easy, Quin."
Quince glanced at her and spread his hands as if he couldn't help the words that came out of his mouth.
"What? It's true." he said and then looked back at the offended geriatric. "Shuffle off, grandpa. We've no time to waste on your pathetic attempts to relive your younger days. You're old; get over it."
"Why, I never!" the old man shouted, banging a gnarled, spotted and profusely veined hand on the table. "You younguns are gettin' more rude every day."
He tried to raise himself up proudly again, failed and wobbled off toward the exit.
Unfortunately, the moment the old man reached the door, it swung open in a violent manner, sending his small, fragile frame against the wall with a small thud. He slid down it, unconscious. No one bothered with him, though many looked up to wonder what had caused the faint noise and laughed briefly or simply went back to drinking their ale, uninterested. Men falling in bars was nothing to get excited about.
Quin grinned inanely. "Well, his troubles are over."
Jaelyn hit him in the side again with her elbow. "That was unnecessary."
From the open door stepped a seething, gruff-looking man and a wrathful, tired-looking half-elf woman. They argued colorfully with each other and loud enough to draw the attention of almost everyone in the common room who were sober-and conscious-enough to take an interest.
"The next time you pull something like that, I'm going to leave you to the Luskans, you stupid wench!" said the man.
"Oh, please do." replied the half-elf woman, venomously. "They would make much better company than you!"
They parted ways, the half-elf slapping some gold coins on the counter in front of the gawking inn owner before storming her way up the stairs. The gruff man scowled in her direction, scoffed and then stomped angrily over to bar, demanding ale and lots of it.
Jaelyn and Quin exchanged a look, both of them raising a brow and shrugging in unison to the disruptive outburst.
"They probably made the mistake of getting married." Quin remarked and stood from his seat to approach the bar, but he found himself hampered by something hanging onto his cloak.
It was a half-drow.
Jaelyn pulled him back into his spot. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm going to go see if that man is a possible candidate for our adventuring team."
"I'd rather you didn't."
"Because I didn't like the way he was talking to that woman."
"You don't know why he was talking to her like that. Maybe he had a good reason."
"There's no reason why he should've been calling her a wench."
"People say things when they're angry. Now, let go." Quin demanded while trying to jerk his cloak out of her grasp.
Jaelyn tightened her grip.
"He's a ranger." she pointed out, as if it were some kind of offensive, contagious disease instead of a class of person.
"And? So are you."
"Exactly. We don't need another one."
"Come on, Jae Bird." Quin replied. "What's another ranger if not another adventurer?"
"Fine." Jaelyn conceded. "But don't blame me if that uncouth fellow clobbers you. Oh, and for the love of all that is sacred in this existence, don't call me Jae Bird."
Quin laughed. "Why not? It's cute."
"Not to me."
"Whatever you say, Jae Bird."
He laughed again when she swatted at him and missed as he moved out of her reach.
Quince ambled up to the bar, parking himself on a stool beside the scruffy, unkempt man. The halfling whistled a tune and slapped the wooden counter with his hands in a random, off-beat rhythm that didn't match the song and was irritating beyond words.
"Hey, barkeep! Another round for my friend here!" he announced after a moment, slapping said man on the back in a good-natured fashion.
The barkeep nodded in his direction and the man beside Quin growled out his irritation with the halfling.
The ranger's honey-hued eyes shot over to Quince with an expression on his rough visage that was cold, hard, and thoroughly unpleasant and menacing.
Quin offered a friendly, if not a somewhat dumb-looking, grin.
The man's words slapped it off.
"Shove off, you worthless half-man."
Offended, Quince frowned. "Hey, there's no reason why this has to get ugly. I was just trying to be nice."
"Yeah? I didn't ask for your company." the man snapped. "Go stand on the other side of the room before I send you across it myself."
"Oh, yeah? I'd like to see you try!" Quince shouted, standing up on his stool, holding his fists out and shaking them threateningly at the man. "Come on, bastard! I'll knock your block off!"
The inn-flies eyed the scene with curiosity. It wasn't everyday they saw a halfling trying to fight a man twice his size and with so much confidence and gusto in spite of the certainty of the end results.
The man turned a bit in his seat to look up at Quince, a slow, nasty grin coming across is rugged, angular features.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Does it look like I'm kidding? Come on, damn you! Let's go!"
The ranger shrugged. "Suit yourself."
A dagger was suddenly in his hand, a move so guileful and swift that no eye could have possibly followed it, except perhaps the ranger's own. He swung the dagger out at Quin, but there was another in the room that was just as quick if not quicker than the ranger.
Jaelyn's slender, gloved finger's wrapped around the ranger's arm in a vise grip, stilling his hand and blade an inch from Quin's face.
The halfling's eyes were wide as they darted between the man and Jaelyn.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." she warned in a deceptively lilting, sweet voice.
The man's golden eyes shifted to her, narrowing hatefully. "Yeah? And what are you going to do abo-"
His words died in his throat as he felt the emphatic point of a blade sticking him in the back of the neck.
The man jerked his hand in her grasp, trying to break it.
Jaelyn pressed her dagger deeper, nearly drawing blood while at the same time she twisted the man's wrist.
"I'll let you go." she said calmly. "Once you drop that blade from my friend's face."
"Not a chance." he growled.
"I don't see that you have a choice."
Before she had a chance to react, the man bowed his head forward away from her blade and jerked his arm hard to the side, making her ram into her halfling friend.
Quince flailed backward over the bar with a cry and Jaelyn's stomach was forced into the edge of the bar while her legs got tangled in Quin's stool.
"Ow..." came a painful moan behind the bar. "My head..."
The room was suddenly more crowded as people from outside came in to investigate the clamor from the inn, despite the fact that the noise had only happened seconds ago and lasted seconds less, yet it seemed the beginning din of a tavern brawl had the infallible magic to summon passive spectators from miles around. They were all standing in a circle around the bar, gawking and some were even placing bets on the outcome of the brawl. Jaelyn heard over the general hubbub one professional gambler discussing the odds. She didn't care much for her chances.
The ranger tried to snatch at her from behind, but Jaelyn ducked his grabbing hands and dived away into a somersault, rising up near the circle of onlookers, who grinned at her. One man crudely suggested that she remove her leather armor, which didn't seem wise to her.
She immediately grabbed at a stool when her opponent advanced on her, half of a sneer on his face, and swung it at him.
He jumped back, the seat of the stool swishing within an inch of his stomach. Jaelyn's swing had come too hard and she overbalanced herself, stumbling into the group of people and dropping her 'weapon'. Their hands on her back, she found herself suddenly thrust back into the brawl with no choice in the matter.
"No, no, no..." she said under her breath as she sailed toward the man.
She decided to use this to her advantage and cocked her fist, aiming it for his face when that forward thrust she'd been so kindly given from the crowd came to its end.
Unfortunately, the man had enough sense to duck and her fist instead smashed into the stone pillar in the room, sending white hot pain through her hand and up into her arm.
Jaelyn let out a very unladylike curse, drawing a few gasps from the observers. She held her hand against her stomach and stomped around in circles, swearing, as if it were enough to alleviate the pain.
The man was eyeing her with a raised brow and with a bit of impatience on his face.
"Are you done?"
She shook her hand with a grimace. "A moment, please. Damn, that hurt!"
Jaelyn flexed her fingers, curled them in a fist and then faced her opponent. "All right, now I'm done."
The golden-eyed ranger came at her again, but with his dagger this time.
"Jae!" Quin cried from behind the bar, in an upward stance now. "Think fast!"
She had a brief second to look over at Quin as he flicked a chef's knife in her direction. Then she was fortunate enough to have another split second to dodge both Quin's thrown knife and the dagger coming in at her from the man.
Quin's knife sailed close to her face and clanged against the stone pillar in the room. The ranger's dagger swished in the air above her head.
"Damn you, Quin!" she cried as she threw a fist into the man's stomach, causing her hand more pain.
"Sorry! I thought you could catch that." Quin shouted at her sheepishly.
Jaelyn danced away from a thrust. "A thrown knife? Don't be an imbecile!"
"I said I was sorry."
Jaelyn dodged one more attack from the man, but this time his knife caught her hood and took it back. He jerked the knife away and stared at her.
The room fell as silent as a graveyard and Jaelyn suddenly felt exposed.
She drew a hand over her head to find that her hood was no longer covering her. Her despised heritage was on display for all to see.
Everyone in the inn that was conscious stared at her in alarm and surprise that transitioned into anger and hate at a remarkable pace. Quin and her opponent were the only ones that didn't seem as alarmed as everyone else.
"A drow!" someone in the congregation gasped in horror.
A serving girl shrieked and fainted.
That was all that was needed for the patrons and passersby to turn into an angry mob.
"Kill all of them!"
"Yeah, kill her friend, too!"
"And the ranger! Get the ranger!"
"I dunno. I don't like 'im!"
"Good enough for me. Let's get 'em!"
Jaelyn looked through the onlookers-turned-angry-mob, swallowing hard as they closed in on her, each of them brandishing some form of weapon, or some random object that could be used as one. She noted one man armed with a plate and another with a menacing-looking flagon. Then she noted the ranger backing away from the mob toward her.
Quin was beside her, his rapier out.
"This doesn't look good, Jae Bird."
"If I'm to die, Quin, I'd prefer doing so without hearing you call me that. Any ideas how to get out of this?"
"I wouldn't be asking if I did."
They both looked toward the ranger expectantly, who glanced between them with a frown.
"What in the Nine Hells are you looking at me for? I'm not the one that got us into this."
"No, but if you got an idea, you can be the one to get us out of it." Jaelyn replied.
The man scoffed. "I don't give a damn what happens to either of you."
"I fail to see how that matters when we're all in this together, like it or not." she shot back, angrily.
The man was saying something, but she was no longer listening as an object in the seething mob before them caught her attention. A pipe. What's more, a smoking pipe.
Her eyes brightened as the proverbial lightbulb flickered to life over her head. "I got it!"
Jaelyn grabbed at the pouch on Quin's belt, opening it and rummaging around for something.
"Hey! Watch it, that tickles!"
She pulled out a small vial of some kind of milky liquid that was as pure white as her hair.
"Shield your eyes." she told them and then tossed the vial onto the ground, squeezing her eyes shut as it broke and a sudden bright flash blinded the crowd. Smoke began to fill the room from where the vial had landed.
The gathered mob gasped and cried out in shock, some of them pulling their hands over their eyes and others stumbling blindly around, coughing.
"I can't see!" Jaelyn heard someone shout in a panic and then there was a notably ominous thud as that frantic person walked face first into a wall.
Jaelyn grabbed up a stool and tossed it through the window behind the bar before any of the mob could gather themselves and break through the smoke.
"Move your asses." she said over her shoulder to the two males, one she called friend and the other she was violently acquainted with.
Jaelyn climbed through the broken window into the afternoon light, Quin and the ranger following behind her.
She turned to them as they made it out of the inn and opened her mouth to say something when she was interrupted by another dooming cry of "Drow!"
She glanced over her shoulder to see a group of armed men charging at them.
"Arrrrrrgggg!" Jaelyn cried in passionate frustration.
"This would be a good time to run!" Quin added helpfully.
Without further ado, the trio darted through the town toward its gates, pursued stubbornly by a small troop of local guards.
They were three miles out of Port Llast when Jaelyn glanced over her shoulder to see that their pursuers had finally given up and gone home.
"They're gone." she announced, coming to a halt.
She leaned over on her knees to catch her breath, her hair a white waterfall over one shoulder.
Quin and the ranger were also taking a breather. The halfling fell back without grace onto the leaf-carpeted ground, panting. The man was leaning back against a tree with his arms crossed at his chest, considering the drow with casual interest. He didn't even look winded.
"Are you always this popular wherever you go?" he inquired, smartly.
Jaelyn lifted her head and glared at him.
"Shut...up." she said through gulps of air, making the man smirk.
Quin sat up and looked up at him with a humorous grin. "She's only popular whenever she goes."
Jaelyn kicked him in the thigh.
When Jaelyn's breath finally caught up with her, she straightened and regarded the man with mild interest.
"You didn't seem surprised when you found out what I was."
He shrugged. "That's 'cause I don't really care."
Jaelyn blinked. "I don't know whether to be offended or touched."
"I don't really care."
The man pushed himself away from the tree and began heading out into the woods, as if nothing had even happened. Jaelyn watched him go, having no desire whatsoever to stop him.
Quin, however, did.
"Hey, wait a minute!"
The man sighed and turned to the halfling, eyeing him with an impatient look. "What do you want?"
"Well, you see-"
"Damn you, Quin." Jaelyn cut him off, sticking her hands on her hips. "I thought we talked about this?"
"Did we? I don't think so, at least I don't remember in any case." lied Quin with that inane grin, and then he turned back to the man. "Well, you see, my friend and I are looking for another adventurer to join us. Interested?"
"No." the man replied and stalked away.
"There's gold involved." Quin called after him.
'Gold' seemed to be this man's magic word, for it caused him to pause in his stride and look back over his shoulder with a slight narrowing of his eyes.
"Lots of it."
The ranger faced him fully, arms crossed. "How much is a lot?"
"More than you can shake a stick at."
"I don't shake sticks at gold." the man replied. "I spend it, and I have a lot of expenses."
"Trust me, where we're going, there will be more gold than you can count and wallow in. You'll be richer than a Pasha."
A slow, greedy grin came across the man's face. "All right, you've talked me into it. But I warn you, half-man, you'll be dead sorry if you don't follow through on the gold."
"Hey, I may not be known for much, but I am known to keep my word."
"I don't know," Jaelyn spoke up, her mouth turning upward in something that resembled a smile. The drow wasn't used to smiling and when she did attempt it, it felt strange and uncomfortable, as if her mouth were being wrenched apart with hooks. "I'll bet they'll remember you in Amn."
Quin smiled widely. "Without a doubt. I do hope ol' Malar Claw doesn't send any of his men after us."
Jaelyn rose one elegant, thin, snow-white brow. "Malar Claw?"
"Yeah, he was my commander, the one I stole the map from. A tough man for his age. Had a hand that was disfigured and spotted, looked oddly like Malar's claw. Some actually think he's the god's chosen one; he's bloodthirsty enough to be, but I always assumed Malar was a nature god, not a thievery god. I don't think Mask would approve of that."
"Malar is a nature god." said Jaelyn. " He's known by many names, such as the Beastlord, the Savage Hunter, and the Black-blooded Pard."
"You a Malarite?" asked the ranger, eyeing her again with that curious look.
She sent a disgusted look back his way. "Absolutely not. Malar dishonors the sanctity of hunting and tracking, as do his followers. They hunt and kill out of blood-lust, not out of necessity, and they defile their prey. Merely saying that god's name makes me want to vomit."
"A simple no would've sufficed." he replied in a tone dripping with sarcasm.
She rolled her eyes. "And before you even say it, I don't worship Lolth, either."
The man rose a brow. "When did I show an interest in your choice of religion? Oh, that's right, I didn't."
Jaelyn frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. "There's no need in being a jerk."
Quin grinned as he looked between the two.
"I haven't seen personalities clash like this in a long time." he remarked in an oddly cheerful tone. "This is going to be a great adventure. I can just feel it, like magic in the air! We need to find a bard."
"No." said Jaelyn, firmly. "I have a feeling we've picked up enough trouble with this one." She jerked her thumb in the ranger's direction. "A bard will only be more trouble."
"But we need someone to write about our adventures!"
"Do it yourself. You can write, can't you?"
"Why, yes, but I don't have a way with words. Not like you, in any case."
Jaelyn shrugged. "I don't know how to write, though."
"Why am I not surprised?" commented the ranger. "That requires intelligence, something you seem to be lack-"
"Shut your damn mouth!" Jaelyn snapped at him. "Some of us weren't given the luxury of education. I've only been taught the things I need to know to survive and I learned those by experience alone."
"So have I, but I know how to write."
"Anyway!" Quin piped, trying to change the subject. "We haven't even been introduced yet, and since we're all going to be traveling together for a while, I think it would be proper, or at the very least necessary. We need to know what to call each other, you know. My name's Quince Bramblebrow, but you can call me Quin. And yours?"
Since the halfling was already aware of Jaelyn's name, his question had been directed at the male ranger.
"Bishop." he replied in a tone that reminded the drow of dark, creepy alleyways full of ominous, stalking shadows and daggers glinting in the moonlight before they're driven home in some poor soul's back. It made the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
"No family name?" the halfling inquired.
The ranger frowned and shrugged on the subject.
"Oh. Well, nice to meet you, then!"
"What a stupid name!" Jaelyn added, ignoring that creepy feeling. "Dear gods, whoever named you obviously didn't like you."
The ranger-now known as Bishop-shot her a furious look.
"At least I'm not a drow."
The comment wiped the grin off Jaelyn's face, turning it into something that would've made demons flee back into the Abyss in terror with their spiny, enflamed tails between their legs, which would undoubtedly hurt quite a bit.
She named this particular unpleasant thing her Inner Drow. It were these vicious moments when she felt most in touch with her darker roots.
"Half-drow." she corrected with a sneer. "And better to be a drow than to be you with that stupid name!"
"And that's Jaelyn Sharpshadow." Quin chimed in, helpfully. "She's really nice once you get to know her."
"Well," Quin continued, slapping his hands together in an eager manner. "Now that we've got this business of introductions out of the way, what say we look at this map!"
Jaelyn gathered close behind Quin, staring at him in astonishment. "You haven't even looked at that map yet?"
"I have." replied the halfling. "But you two haven't."
"Well, let's have a look, then."
Quin pulled a rolled up parchment from his pack and spread it out on a nearby boulder. The map showed a portion of the Sword Coast on the whole right edge of the parchment, a whole lot of water in between and then a few islands dotting the blue expanse here and there. One particular island had been marked with a dark red 'X'.
"X marks the spot, they say. I suppose Malar Claw's treasure is there." said Quin. "You know, I even heard a rumor that there's another treasure map buried with this treasure. Wouldn't that be something?"
"So, where are we going, then, Quin?" asked Jaelyn.
"To an island six hundred miles southwest of Uttersea. It doesn't even have a name. How exciting!" The halfling grinned. "Let's see, if I calculate this right, the island should be...twelve hundred miles of sea travel if, say, we sailed from Neverwinter. Well, anywhere along the coast, really."
"Great." groused Bishop in annoyance. "A thousand miles across the Trackless Sea in some rickety boat, no doubt. Can't wait."
"But well worth the trip, I'm sure! It must be worth it. Malar Claw sold a great deal of his belongings to purchase this map, even a few high-prized cortesans as well. It came from some exotic looking man. He looked well-traveled and had an accent I've never heard before."
"You've failed to consider one problem, Quin. We don't have a boat." Jaelyn pointed out.
"I know a guy who owns one." the halfling replied, smiling. "And luckily for us, he just happens to be in the neighborhood. His vessel has been docked in Neverwinter for a tenday now."
Quin's smile widened and his blue eyes took on a strange glitter that made Jaelyn want to step back away from him. Sometimes she wondered very seriously if this halfling was mad.
"This must be what people refer to as 'fate'." he continued. "You see, we are supposed to do this, we're supposed to find this treasure! All of us!"
"Fate doesn't always end well." commented Bishop.
"Oddly, I was going to say that." Jaelyn added.
"Yeah, but I was quicker."
"If I recall, you weren't at the inn." Jaelyn shot back.
"Care for a rematch?"
"You're not worthy enough to test my prowess."
"Not worthy? Of some little whip-thin dark elf that thinks she's a hotshot? I think I have a pretty good chance."
Jaelyn sneered at him and turned away.
"That's what I thought." the ranger remarked smartly at her back.
A split second later, he found himself painfully wedged up against the trunk of a tree, one of Jaelyn's hands holding him in place by his throat while her other held the keen edge of a dagger beneath his chin. He was more than a little surprised...and a bit aroused. He'd only seen dark elves once and only in a book, and they never had appealed to him. However, it seemed Lolth-or whatever god or goddess had accidentally knocked over a bottle of ink and maliciousness into the clay that would shape the drow-had granted this one nice, soft features, though they were currently tight and contorted. Her skin was dark, but not as dark as most drow skin was. It was a gray color, a little darker than the shade of slate. Her snow-white hair was long, spilling wildly over her shoulders and reaching nearly to the small of her back and she had thick bangs that obscured the left side of her face. Her eyes are what really caught his attention. Unlike most drow, whose eyes were usually pale yellow, pink, purple or red, hers were green, a pale green that he had trouble describing, for there was nothing to compare them to. He struggled to sort through the confusion of descriptive words in the back of his skull and then decided to just pick the closest two he could find: milky emerald. They were rather disappointing candidates for the job.
She also had the features typical of any elven race-almond-shaped eyes, pointed ears, elegant and thin eyebrows, and the slim, straight frame but hers were put together in a wild, exotic order, which made him wonder if she had some wood elf in her bloodline somewhere. She was beautiful, no doubt, but her figure was disappointing, for Bishop was one who happened to enjoy a full, shapely figure on a woman. Not to say that he liked round women, but just those with some meat on their bones and where the plump settled into the right places, particularly the breasts, behind and hips. Further disappointing was the fact that she almost had no chest to speak of and he had a brief, horrific moment to wonder if this drow was truly female or not, and then he promptly kicked the idea out of his head. She had to be. That squeaky, high-pitched voice could only belong to a woman.
She was slightly taller than your average drow, though she still only reached to about his chest and he stood at a proud, manly six feet. Her shortness was why a grin suddenly came over his face, even though she held to his Adam's apple a knife so sharp it could've split a strand of hair down the middle.
Temptation perched on his shoulder and whispered encouragingly in his ear.
You could easily give her a knee, right under the chin, said Temptation. Go on. Do it. It'll feel good.
Ah, ah, reprimanded Common Sense, wagging a finger at him. Do that and no doubt that half-man will stick a knife in you.
Common Sense is right, you know. I'd listen if I were you, came Logic's opinion. Besides, if you stay on her good side, she'll most likely reward you. Perhaps in more ways than one?
The ranger's eyes brightened at the idea.
Temptation was metaphorically flicked away into a small, dark and confined area of his consciousness labeled Useless Emotional Crap, where it sat sulkily between Love and Compassion.
"Jae!" cried the halfling in shock. "Don't kill our new comrade!"
"Why not?" the drow growled, never taking her eyes away from the ranger's. "I think I'd rather enjoy it."
"No, you wouldn't. You're not cold-blooded, Jae. Now let Bishop go. No doubt his bulk is hurting that poor tree." Quin said, eyeing the large pine the ranger was pinned to.
Jaelyn conceded to reason and released her stranglehold on the man's neck, stepping back and looking at the halfling a few feet away.
"Don't be ridiculous, Quin. Trees don't feel anything." she insisted.
The halfling's blue eyes went wide, nearly taking up the whole area of his face. "How can you say that? You're a ranger! Trees should be living beings in your eyes and I should think hurting them would be blasphemous."
Jaelyn lifted a brow. "That's a druid you're speaking of, Quin."
"See, that's where you start losing me. What exactly is the difference between a druid and a ranger?"
"Druids are linked spiritually with nature. Some rangers have a bond with nature, like me, but a good deal of us are simply attracted to the untamed and the unknown. Some want to protect it, some want to control and conquer it, and others wish to understand and immulate it."
"Why'd you choose to be a ranger?"
Jaelyn looked thoughtful for a long moment, rubbing at her chin with gloved fingers and then she shrugged. "It was never a choice. It's just who I am."
Bishop glanced at her in surprise. If anyone had been adept at seeing past his masterfully fashioned mask of inexpressiveness, they might have seen understanding.
Quin, on the other hand, was lost to that idea.
"How can it not be a choice?" he demanded with a confused twist in his brow. "It's like a job, right?"
"For me it's more than a job or a class, or however else you want to put it." she said and then sighed. "You're going to make me have to explain it to you, aren't you?"
Quin grinned that stupid grin and nodded.
"Fine," she said. "But first, don't you think we should be heading for Neverwinter now? I'm not exactly thrilled with seeing the city for obvious reasons, but I still think it would be a good idea to get there as soon as possible. I'm sure your friend isn't going to be in town forever."
"Right. Well, you can tell us about it on the way."
"I'll tell it when I'm good and ready." she snapped defensively, making Quin put his hands up in his own defense.
"What did I say?"
When she didn't reply, he looked to Bishop, as if he had the answer. The ranger merely rolled his eyes.
The two rangers began walking in a southerly direction through the thick brush and bramble, their steps equally silent as if they were treading on air. Quin stood there for a moment in confusion.
"You have to bend your legs and move them if you want to get anywhere, Quin." Jaelyn called back to him over her shoulder.
Actually, it seemed all it took was her voice to propel him forward.
"Hey!" he cried, running after them, which wasn't easy because all the grass, weeds, and groundcover nearly came up over his chest, where as with the other two it only came up to their knees. "Wait for me!"
It wasn't easy living in a world built for tall folk.
Bishop's pride as a ranger and a man had taken a serious beating towards the end of the day, and Pride was currently cursing bitterly and licking its wounds.
He scowled at the drow, who stood over the corpse of a decent-sized deer, smiling back at him in full smug mode, not even having the decency to conceal it.
This was why women should be forced to stick to cooking, cleaning, raising children, and mending clothes-women things-for there was a good chance that if they tried men things, they actually might be better at it than men were, which was currently the case and why his Ego was curled up in the fetal position beside Pride, sucking its thumb.
He had his hand behind his back, hiding the one small rabbit he had accidentally flushed out of its burrow while trying to find something for them all to eat. He had then chased it down two miles until it finally just keeled over and died, probably of a heart attack. When he inspected his 'kill', he did note that it was rather old. It wasn't one of his more poignant hunts, to be sure, but it would do for dinner and no one had to know how he'd 'hunted' it.
He was on his way back to their camp when he came upon the drow and the halfling, standing over the dead deer.
Quin seemed pleased to see him, his eyes bright and cheery when he noticed he was standing there.
"Oh, there you are!" he said in an excited voice. "You should've seen it! The most exciting thing I've ever seen in my life!"
Bishop had frowned at him in irritation. "What're you on about, half-man?"
"Well, I was coming to find one of you, because you both were taking a long time and I was wondering if something had happened." the halfling began. "So, I came out here. I heard a 'shhhhh' sound from one of the trees and looked up to see Jaelyn here sitting up among the branches. Quite puzzled was I, but I understood once she pointed down the slope there and I saw the deer. No sooner had I looked at it, when Jaelyn shot her bow. That arrow traveled all the way down there and struck the deer right there!" He jabbed a finger between his eyes. "I still don't know how she did it! Quite amazing!"
Bishop hated to admit it, but it really was impressive as he considered the distance between where the halfling had pointed to indicate where the deer was and then which tree she had been perched in. It was a good two hundred yards apart. The drow must have keen eyes and an excellent aim to have shot that far.
It's a big target, he reminded himself. Let's see her hit a rabbit at that distance.
Technically, you didn't kill the rabbit, pointed out an annoying little voice in his head. It died of natural causes. Though admittedly, if you hadn't chased it as you did, it might not have had that heart attack.
"Oh, shut up." he grumbled, shaking his head.
"Huh?" Quin glanced at him in confusion. "What'd you say?"
"I didn't say anything." Bishop lied. "Well? What're you waiting for? Pick up that carcass and get moving. I'm starved."
They were only capable of dining on a small portion of the deer, leaving a good size of it left over, which Jaelyn stared at regretfully.
"What're we going to do with the rest of it?" she wondered aloud. "It's wrong not to make use of all of the animal. The gods frown upon wastrels, you know. Especially the nature gods."
Quin was laying flat on his back, sleepily, next to the campfire and watching the stars wheel over head. The ranger was reclining on a convenient nearby boulder, hands clasped together behind his head.
"Leave it be." he said. "There's plenty of things in these woods that'll make use of it. Circle of life and all that." He waved a dismissive hand in the air.
Jaelyn looked over at him through the top flickering flames of the campfire, which startled him a little when he met her gaze. Her eyes seemed to absorb the brightness of the fire and gave them a strange shine. She looked quite evil, actually. The fire created eerie shadows across her face, giving him the impression that she was sneering at him, which she in fact was not.
Things were much different on the other side of the campfire, where Jaelyn was admiring the glow of the fire on his face, the way it smoothed out his rough features and made him look ten years younger. She almost dared to say that it gave him a boyish look, though she couldn't imagine him as a boy. She actually considered asking him if he ever was one.
Jaelyn had never had any interest in the opposite sex, more over for the fact that she didn't understand attraction or love and all the rest of it. Long ago, she had conceded to the fact that she would never know love in that way because no one in all the world cared for her kind; she would never be accepted.
That was why she was thoroughly horrified when a roguish thought sneaked through the gates of her consciousness and began wreaking havoc.
He's really good-looking.
The thought echoed loudly in the quiet, peaceful confines of her mind, where such out-of-place and world-altering thoughts had never set foot before.
She became aware that the thought was alone there; nothing rose up in outrage to send it out the door, because nothing within her knew what to do. The part of her that had been taught by her adoptive father knew that her throughts were natural, but the inexperienced part of her was cowering in a corner, confused and uncertain.
Jaelyn's eyes widened a bit. She cleared her throat nervously when his bright golden eyes tried to search her, curious as to why she was looking at him like that. She found herself quite interested in the burning embers at the bottom of the fire and she kept her sight glued to it, too afraid that he might pick up on that thought in her mind. The gods knew it was almost loud enough to be heard. It stubbornly refused to give up and go away.
Thankfully, Quince sat up and looked at her with a small smile.
"You owe us a story."
Relief draped itself over her and whispered soft comforts in her ear.
She loved that damn halfling.
"Yes. Remember? Choices, rangers and all that?"
"Oh, right." she said with a nod. "You wanted to know why I became a ranger."
He nodded eagerly. "Do tell."
Jaelyn was unsure if she actually could tell the tale. She'd never told it to anyone before, mostly because there had never been anyone to tell it to, unless she was fond of telling her story to the trees, rocks, or animals. Sure, they were all good listeners, but they were terribly impassive. It would never be the same as telling it to another humanoid, she knew that. Even if that humanoid didn't quite understand what she'd gone through, there would be a small part of them that sympathized. Maybe.
"Well, it all started when I was born." she paused, turning her gaze upward to the stars, thoughtfully. "You know, 'cause that's what happens when you're born, everything starts. Anyway, my adoptive father said I had been born to a wood elf in some humble, unimportant village that's dead and gone now-"
"What about your real parents?"
Jaelyn sighed. "I'm getting to that. Stop interrupting."
"Sorry. Go on."
"I was too young to remember my parents. My adoptive father said my real father was never in the picture and my mother...well, she didn't want me after I was born. She tried to drown me in the river outside the village. Lucky for me it didn't work. I floated down stream, screaming at the top of my lungs when someone finally came upon me. It just happened to be a dragon."
"A dragon?" blurted Quin, his eyes wide. "Surely it meant to eat you!"
Jaelyn shrugged. "He didn't. In fact, he adopted and raised me."
This seemed to pique her fellow ranger's interest, for he suddenly sat up from his slumped position and stared at her with a risen brow. "You were raised by a dragon?"
She nodded. "Several, actually. A small clan of song dragons. The Vakavsavala clan, or in the Common tongue, the Dirgevoice."
Both males were staring at her, one in complete awe and one with his brow still arched, yet both were genuinely surprised by her ability to speak the Draconian name as she had; though, really, they shouldn't have since she was raised by dragons.
"The strange part about it is that at the same time I was being born, a dragon of the clan was hatching from its egg. Weilsung, the leader of the clan, was the one who found me and saw me as some kind of sign. He took me in and raised me. Lucky for me, Weilsung was very wise and intelligent. He knew many languages, even Drow and Common, but my native tongue was Draconian. It had to be. If I didn't know Draconian, then I would never be able to speak with the rest of the clan, my family."
She paused to moisten her voice and then continued.
"Remember the dragon that was being hatched the same time I was being born? It was fate's doing, or so Weilsung believed. As Eklishazlavak-or Elegy to non-Draconian speakers-and I grew into maturity together, we had always had a strange bond that awed the clan. We could speak to each other without exchanging words, we felt what the other felt and once when I fell out of the cave and broke my arm, Elegy suffered the same injury as well. The clan thought it was a strange coincidence, but Weilsung didn't. He said we were bonded spiritually. Whatever happened to one happened to the other. Weilsung claimed that a bond like that can only be formed if two dragons of the same clan were hatched at the same moment."
"But you're not a dragon." pointed out Quin.
Jaelyn shrugged. "Apparently, it's in my blood somewhere. Weilsung said he could hear it in me when he found me in the river. My terrible crying held in it the song of the Vakavsavala clan."
"So, you're drow, wood elf, and dragonkin?" asked Bishop, incredulously.
Jaelyn shrugged. "I can't say for sure, since I never knew either of my birth parents. Anyway, so I grew up with the clan in their secret mountain home. I'd tell you where if it wasn't forbidden to outsiders. Elegy and I were constantly together, roaming the mountains and forests of our home. I loved the exploring more than anything. There was something about the land that called to me and the more time I spent in it, the stronger that call became. Over the years, I began showing signs of some kind of connection to nature. It's...hard to explain it, but being in the wilds felt right. It was a feeling that went right down to my bones. I knew I belonged there. Of course, to survive in that home, Weilsung taught me how to hunt the humanoid way. Dragon hunting is very different from our way of hunting. There was no way I could've survived on it, mostly because I can't fly and would probably get sick from eating too much raw meat. I watched Weilsung hunt once. It wasn't a pretty sight.
"In any case, Weilsung, as I said before, was very knowledgeable about the two-legged races, so he taught me the ways of the ranger. With my new skills, I began exploring farther and farther from home until one day I looked back and wondered if it was time I went out on my own. A part of me had never really felt I belonged with the dragon clan, even if they were the only family I had. I told Weilsung my plans to leave when I returned. I think mostly I wanted to understand the world beyond that cavern, to see the cities I'd heard so much about in Weilsung's tales. That very night, I packed my things to go."
"Weren't you at all sad to be leaving?" Quin inquired.
Jaelyn smiled vaguely. "Of course, but it was something I needed to do. For years, I looked down from those mountains and saw those sprawling cities and wondered. Were any of my kind out there? What were these cities? What were the people like? Weilsung had told many stories about great battles fought by the humans and elves and dwarves over kingdoms and cities. He even told me of the drow of the Underdark, but those tales had always been dark and full of blood.
"When I set out on my new adventure, Elegy was at my side. And though I protested, he refused to stay with the clan. I suppose it was meant to be so; we are truly bonded. Anyway, my adventures did not turn out so well. City after city, I was shunned, run off at knife-point, cursed, and spat at. Once, I asked why they were trying to attack me and do you know what their answer was?"
"You're drow?" Bishop supplied.
Jaelyn smiled, a bitter twist to her mouth and nodded. "Exactly what they said, word for word. It made absolutely no sense to me how the entire world could despise one race. It seemed pointless, really. As I understand it, there aren't many drow, anyway and they all live underground, so why should they hate a race that's hardly ever seen or heard from? Surely they can't cause the surface that much trouble."
"Usually when they are seen or heard from, it's only for a quick moment before they return to their dark hole, leaving a good many corpses in their wake." said the ranger. "The drow hate us just as much as we hate them."
"The drow were forced into exile, into a world of darkness, where death and doom lurks around every corner." Jaelyn said, grimly. "I'd say the drow have plenty to be angry about."
The ranger shrugged. "It's ancient history."
"Is it?" Jaelyn asked. "If it truly was just that, why would my mother, a wood elf, have tried to drown me as an infant? Why would people still shun my kind?"
"Maybe mother didn't want a child to begin with." said Bishop, callously. "And do I really have to point out again the fact that your kind comes storming up from the ground to slaughter us surface folk without hesitation?"
"It doesn't matter!" Jaelyn shouted in frustration. "I'm not them! I'm not even from the Underdark, yet every where I go, people think I'm there to pillage, rape and slaughter."
"If it makes you feel any better," Quin spoke up. "I don't really care about what race you are. I think you're a nice person."
Jaelyn smiled down at the halfling. "Thanks, Quin."
"It doesn't really matter to me, either." Bishop added. "But that's only because I hate everyone equally."
Frowning, Jaelyn grabbed a burning twig from the fire and threw it at him. It landed harmlessly near his leg, its faint glow extinguishing almost immediately.
The ranger snorted and then grinned. "Typical drow. Attack someone for no reason at all."
"Watch it!" she cried. "Or next time it'll be a log and it'll be aimed for your head, which shouldn't be hard to hit given its enormous size."
"That's not the only thing enormous on me, darling." he suggested with a smirk.
Jaelyn rolled her eyes. "Ugh. Swine."