(A/N: Here's the sequel. Zippedy-doo-da. I'm telling you right now that this one might have the same fate as "Drow", cuz already I don't like it (keep in mind, when I say 'already', I'm writing chapter four). This one sux. I liked "Sacrifice", but this one… (hmmmm. I need a name for it) Anyways, the point of this is cuz I got a question. I'm reading Elminster: The Making of a Mage right now (that explains the origins of this random question). So, someone tell me this. Is Elminster immortal? Cuz he's been alive since befor Myth Drannor, and that was one hell of a long time ago. And what about Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun? He'd be pretty damn old, too, wouldn't he? Or is he a normal age? So, someone please explain these two guys to me, 'kay? Then maybe I'll put the next chapter up soon….)
By pure luck, Eckerd stumbled upon Pa'das and Korrieana. Pa'das was hugging her knees, rocking back and forth, and crying her heart out. Korrieana was next to her, crying baby wails into Soorefina's fur. The panther lay dejectedly next to Korrieana, only rising to stop her if she started to crawl away. Eckerd immediately knew something was wrong.
"What's wrong?" he cried, dashing across the clearing to her side. "Where's Jander?" She mumbled something unintelligible. "Talk so I can understand you, girl! Where is Jander?"
She gasped and started talking. "He sacrificed himself for us."
Eckerd interrupted. "Did you see them do it? And when?" He guessed it was something to do with the vampire hunters, and was right.
"No, I left before they could. It couldn't have been more than a couple minutes ago. He made them let me go, and made Sarrasor promise to leave me alone."
Eckerd wasn't listening. He was frantically mumbling and gesturing with his hands. He finally shouted an arcane word and clapped his hands together.
"Wha-" Pa'das said.
"I cast a shield around him that will protect him from both magical and physical attacks. Nor, hurry! Where did you leave him? I can't hold the shield for long! Tell me the whole story as we go."
Pa'das grabbed Korrieana and the four of them started to run. Pa'das talked while she was running, still sniffling. She didn't omit anything, well, except her feelings when she was kissing Jander.
"You're telling me you never noticed the looks her gave you when he thought no one was looking?" Eckerd was frankly amazed. He thought that anyone should have been able to see it.
"I guess I did see it, but ignored it." She grinned sheepishly. "You guys are more important to me than anything in the world. I wasn't going to throw that away. If he had made the first move, though…. We're almost there."
Eckerd laughed softly. "He had exactly the same feelings."
A small cottage came in sight. Eckerd raced inside, yelling over his shoulder, "Wait out here with Korrieana, or have Soorefina watch her."
But, Soorefina raced after Eckerd, telling Pa'das to stay with the baby.
* * * * *
Inside a windowless room, Jander faced his fate with a slight smile on his face. Peace was finally his at last. After a while, the fourth vampire hunter came into the room. The leader of the band of vampire hunters lifted his crossbow and fired the wooden quarrel soaked in holy water.
A strange feeling passed over Jander, and just before hitting him, the bolt fell to the ground. Jander stared at it, shocked. The vampire hunters and Sarrasor were no less surprised.
The smallest (although that wasn't saying much since he was twice the size of Pa'das) and most compassionate of the hunters, Josiah, reacted first, but in an unexpected way. He drew his sword with a hiss of steel. That was the only warning the others got. He quickly slapped the three of them on the back of the head with the flat of the blade. They crumpled to the floor. Sarrasor caught the flash of candlelight from the blade as it hissed free of its sheath, and dived for the back door. He ran out, disappearing quickly into the forest.
Jander still stood, frozen in shock. He found he was actually glad to be alive – well, undead. He had tasted the sweet taste of love for the first time in centuries, and found he wasn't ready to give up his undead life yet.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" the burly vampire hunter asked. "Go find that poor girl and tell her you're still alive. Hurry and get far away before these blokes wake up."
"Why…"" Jander blinked, stunned.
"I don't know why the quarrel hit you, you're lucky there. As to why I'm not doing anything, I make the distinction between vampires who are evil, and those who aren't. Unfortunately, most others don't, but I'm not above knocking out my partners if the chance presents itself to help one who doesn't deserve death."
"Thank you," Jander said, still shaken by his near escape. "And I'm sure Pa'das will thank you, too. And…" Jander stopped and a shadow crossed his face as he remembered that Eckerd was dead.
"I'm sorry about your other friend. I would have stopped it if I could've."
Jander just shook his head, brushing it off. He would grieve later. It was no fault of this one. In fact, Jander realized that he hadn't even played a part in the battle.
"What are you going to do now?" he asked Josiah.
"I can't very well continue on with these blokes now, can I?" Josiah laughed. "Maybe I'll go out and start my own band, where I'm the leader. Then I won't have to stand by helpless while vampires like you are murdered. For that's what it is," he said at the skeptical look that flickered across Jander's face, "murder. Not if you meet up with a truly evil vampire. That's certainly justifiable, but not one who doesn't hurt people." The vampire hunters at Josiah's feet were starting to stir. "I have to get out of here before they wake. I suggest you do the same."
Jander nodded his assent and headed for the front door. Josiah went for the back.
Eckerd burst in the front door as Soorefina burst through the back. She immediately leapt for Josiah, and Eckerd had a fireball at his fingertips.
"Hold!" Jander thundered. Eckerd froze, still holding the fireball, his fingers splayed and thumbs tip to tip. Soorefina and Josiah paused in their frantic wrestle across the floor.
"Soorefina get off him. And Eckerd, put out the fireball." Soorefina back away to Jander's side, still growling. The fireball in Eckerd's hands disappeared in a little puff of smoke.
"Thank you once again," Jander said to Josiah.
"No problem," Josiah replied, getting up and brushing himself off. "Loyal friends you have there."
"What would I do without them," Jander grinned. "'Twas a pleasure to have met you."
"Likewise," said Josiah and went out the back door.
"Let him go," Jander said quietly to his two friends, and then, almost to himself, "He saved me in here. You don't know how sweet life is until death is staring you in the face." Jander turned to Eckerd, grinning. "How is it that you are back from the dead, my friend?" They embraced each other warmly, both thanking the gods that the other was alive.
"I had my shield up. It staved off the cave-in of all the dirt until I was out. What of you? Did my long-distance shield work?"
"That's what it was! You saved my undead life, my friend. The quarrel just stopped and dropped to the floor. The vampire hunters stood there, shocked, until Josiah hit them with his sword." Eckerd embraced Jander again. When he backed away, Soorefina leapt on Jander. She drove him onto his back, and then lay on him, purring and licking his face.
"I'm glad to see you, too, Soorie." He hugged the great cat around his neck. "What about Pa'das?" he asked as Soorefina got off him and he stood up. "Did you find her? Or was it pure luck that lead you to me?"
"She's waiting outside for us." Eckerd dashed out the door, with Jander but a step behind.
"We got him!" Eckerd yelled. "Not even a fight and they're all down!" Pa'das let out a shout of joy at the news.
Put down Korrieana and go to him, Soorefina said as she dashed over to watch the babe.
Pa'das immediately did as Soorefina suggested. She raced over and threw herself into Jander's arms. He easily caught her, and swung her around in a circle. She covered his face with kisses, no less than he did hers. Eckerd smiled and went over to pick up Korrieana as she was crawling towards them.
"Jan'ner! Jan'ner!" she cried, struggling to get out of his arms. Neither Jander nor Pa'das heard her, to involved with each other.
Their lips chanced to meet, and locked there. They clutched each other close, as if they would never let go. Pa'das gasped for air a couple of times, barely breaking away to gulp the air. Tears of joy streamed down her face, leaving glistening trails down her cheeks to fall to her shirt.
Pa'das almost moaned in pleasure. Even in these almost frantic, crushing kisses, Jander was superb. Pa'das wished she could kiss even half as well, feeling in the back of her mind that she was gypping him on that, not good enough for him. But, that thought quickly flew away and she was lost in the moment again.
They finally became aware of their surroundings enough to hear Korrieana's cries, and they broke apart. Pa'das was left breathless and wishing for more. She noticed that Jander was, too (at least, he was wishing for more), and marveled at that.
Jander left her side and went to take Korrieana from Eckerd.
"Jan'ner! Jan'ner!" she cried joyfully.
Eckerd grinned at Jander as he handed Korrieana over. "That must have been the longest kiss in all the history of Faerûn."
Jander just grinned back at him as Korrieana covered his face with sloppy baby kisses. When she was finished, Jander kissed the top of her head.
"I'm glad to see you, too, little one," he told her. She giggled happily and nestled into his arms, content to stay there until eternity, or so it appeared. She babbled to him in happy baby talk. Jander grinned and nodded at everything she was saying, adding 'uh-huh's and 'really's in at random parts.
"We have to leave," he said to the others. "The men in there are going to regain consciousness soon." Korrieana still babbled on to him.
"They're not dead?!" Eckerd asked, shocked. He started for the cottage, ready to finish them off, but Jander stopped him.
"No, let them live. They will no doubt continue on to slay many more dangerous vampires."
"He's right," Pa'das said, even though she wanted to go in there and finish them off with her bare hands.
Eckerd shook his head and turned away. "The softest heart of anyone I've ever known," he said, mostly to himself. "Let's move then. Quick, before I lose control."
Jander glanced at the setting sun. "We should be far enough away by full dark, walking."
"I left everything in a clearing back a ways," Pa'das said. "I suppose that's as good a place to go as any." Jander and Eckerd readily agreed.
"Did you manage to save your pack, too?" he asked Eckerd.
Eckerd nodded. "It's with Pa'das' stuff. And yours."
They walked, three in a row. Jander carried Korrieana in the middle. Pa'das walked close beside him, Eckerd a little ways off on the other side. Still, not much farther away than Pa'das.
"I know this is a bit belated," she said to Eckerd, "but how are you still alive?"
Eckerd grinned and told his story, adding many fanciful embellishments.
"And how did you two manage to get out of there without any bloodshed?" she asked next.
Now it was Jander's turn to tell a story. As he told about Josiah, Pa'das nodded.
"Outside the door," she said when he was done, "he told me that if Sarrasor ever bugged me again, to come find him and he would deal with him."
"And what did you tell him?" Jander asked, curious.
"Basically, when the Nine Hells freeze over. But he seemed sincerely ashamed about what he and his friends were about to do."
"I got that sense, too," Jander said. "And he definitely proved it at the end."
"Thank the gods the two of you are alive," Pa'das whispered.
I am so sorry I was not close enough to help, Soorefina told her, bumping against her legs. I'll stay closer from now on.
'Twasn't your fault, so don't blame yourself. Something bad would have happened regardless. At least everyone is okay, and it all turned out well in the end.
Sure, sure. Whatever you say. But what if Jander had not been there for you? And what if Eckerd was not there for Jander? Maybe the whole thing would have been prevented if I had been there.
And maybe it wouldn't, and someone could have been killed.
Pa'das turned in exasperation to Jander and Eckerd. "Will you guys please help me convince her it wasn't her fault she was too far away to help?"
"What?" They blinked at her. Pa'das sighed in exasperation to herself. Sometimes she forgot that when she was talking with Soorefina, no one else could hear.
"She's blaming herself for not being there to protect me." Soorefina nodded, which looked funny since she was a huge, black panther, but no one laughed. They were used to things like that from her.
"It can't be your fault Soorie," Jander explained, "because it is mine. If it wasn't for me, Sarrasor never would have met up with the vampire hunters hunting me, and none of that would have happened. And I should have stayed with Pa'das, instead of going off tog et revenge on Eckerd's killers. So, it is really my fault, not yours."
"By the gods!" Pa'das yelled. "The two of you! It's nobody's fault, okay? No, wait, it's my fault. If I hadn't been such a fool to be taken in by Sarrasor's charm in the first place…"
Both Jander and Soorefina broke in at that point, vehemently protesting that statement. Eckerd smiled a little, knowing where Pa'das was heading with this, because she didn't really think it was her fault - that wasn't like her. Pa'das let the two of them go on for a few minutes, and then raised her voice over theirs.
"So if it's not my fault, then how can it be any more your fault, Jander, or yours, Soorie?"
The vampire and the cat stopped dead in their tracks and stared at her. Eckerd laughed.
"She has you both caught in her web of logic. You took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. So can you worm your way out of this one, either of you?"
They still stood in dumbfounded astonishment, looking at each other and then Pa'das. She had indeed caught them in a web woven so well there was no way out. As one, the vampire and the panther shrugged and started walking again. Pa'das smiled to herself. That had worked out neatly - they had both given up the stupid idea without much resistance. Eckerd smiled, too. That was a remarkably well-woven trap, and there was no way out of it. Jander and Soorefina dared not argue, for fear of making Pa'das actually think it was her fault. It was a beautiful trap.
Pa'das hesitated for a moment, by then slipped her hand inside Jander's. He jerked a little at her touch, and she was about to let go, but then his fingers curled around hers. Pa'das allowed a slight, satisfied smile to spread across her face, and saw Jander's sweet smile on his. This is what Pa'das had wanted for so lone - a relationship based on love and trust, not lust. She'd never had that before - not where the feeling was reciprocated. She had loved Sarrasor, but he had just lusted after her. Her old fears were starting to grow again, the ones that had kept her away from every other man she had even remotely liked, which wasn't many. What if Jander turned out the same? Pa'das tried to quell her fears, telling herself Jander was not like that, and would never do anything to hurt her. The horror and rage on his face whenever she told him something else Sarrasor had done proved that. But still… When she thought about what Sarrasor had put her through…she never wanted to go through that again.
"What's wrong?" Jander asked softly.
Pa'das looked at him, puzzled. How did he know…? She realized she was trembling slightly, not enough to be visible, but Jander, holding her hand, could feel it. She just shook her head. Jander didn't press her for once, and she was thankful for that. He squeezed her hand reassuringly, and Pa'das smiled up at him. It was ironic that the very person she was seeking reassurance from was the one she was afraid of.
Despite her ungrounded fears, Pa'das couldn't be happier. She loved Jander and he loved her, how could life be better? She and Korrieana were safe, Eckerd was alive, and Jander loved her! She sighed softly with happiness.
Jander had similar sentiments. How sweet love was, and even sweeter when it was returned! Ha glanced at Pa'das, a quick little glance, and smiled. He had never, not even in his wildest dreams, dreamed of this. His heart swelled with love. He could not put into words how much he loved Pa'das and how much he wanted to protect her from hurt.
Eckerd watched the two of them, two lovebirds. It made him happy to see his two friends finally together, after so long. It had been so obvious how much they loved each other, they were the only ones who did not see. Still, he had to admit to himself, he was a little jealous. But most of all, he was happy for his friends.