Summary: A knight, a wychlaran, a conversation, and lots of books. Candlekeep. One shot.
All of a sudden, Ajantis was very tired; his head spun with the effort of keeping it upright on his own neck, and the weighting of his beloved armour pained him. He allowed himself to sink heavily upon the ground. It was the loss of blood, he thought, his mind slow-paced and exhausted. Wounds both to thigh and stomach, and his ability to use the healing power of Helm had not measured to the task. Purple cloth was drawn tightly around his thigh in a makeshift bandage that was already soaked with blood; he had done it himself for modesty's sake, but no less well than any other for the teachings of the Order that he could not have forgotten with hands that moved even half as quickly as his own at this stage. The bodies lay before him, silver-blooded, grey-skinned, twisted into dying and false shapes; books had fallen around him. The nearest title was Baizean Conjugations of Magnitudinous Likelihood, mauve-covered and beyond his knowledge. He placed a hand across his brow. Surely someone would come to unlock them in short time enough. Or when he gathered the strength himself he would struggle with the door. Or his companion would think of something of use. Surely, Ajantis thought, the others had succeeded against tribulations of their own. Or so he thought that he wished to think.
His companion remained upright despite her own heavy efforts in the battle. To herself she said muttered words of Such a grievous waste, or chidingly, To desecrate these treasures is almost greater insult than the attack upon our lives, or regretfully, Wouldst that I could do more for thee than this, poor one, but I can only place trust that thy caretakers know more of the arts of preservation than I. And more caressing terms, as she struggled to place the debris to approximate its former position, relieving it insofar as she was able of the blood and fluid and smoke that stained: Thou art a precious one, art thou not, I can see that thou art thick and fat and delicious beyond the most delightful of pomegranates; or I see from thy look that thou promise much, that had I only the time I should bury myself in thy warm bounties for days; or Thou mayst be wounded but thou shall be good as new, dear one, for there is much of joy within thee... Ajantis was not sure whether Dynaheir could be described as talking to long-awaited meal, lover, or spoiled child at half of the books she picked up. Eventually he coughed loudly.
"Thou wish my ear, squire Ilvastarr?" The lady of Rashemen straightened, a book covered by blue velvet and stained by doppelganger blood within her hands.
He was tonguetied, Ajantis felt; he had not a bard's smooth nightingale's throat nor the easy overly honeyed courtesies that could fall from the mouths of some of his noble peers. "Is there no way that your magics could set us free?" he said at last; and then felt still more guilty, for he himself sat indolently upon the ground whilst the lady's porphyran robes were torn to bandage him. Dynaheir's hands and arms were burned and blackened by the evil spells of the enemy, her face smoke-stained by the same and even her throat hoarsened. No openings to the fresh and healthful air were present in this small part of the fortress of Candlekeep; no passage away but by the thick door sealed by those who had lured the two of them here, to their own undoing but no less a feeling that he and the wychlaran were trapped.
"I can cast no spell against it," she said, and looked slightly ashamed of that, her hands crossing each other and her head dipping down. She had fought hard and she had fought with great strength and resolve, Ajantis thought. Her quarterstaff alone could be matched by few squires he had known whether in the Waterdeep chapter or in the Athkatla halls, and she did not surrender. Dynaheir gave the lie to all Amnian sayings upon mages of a lazy, effeminate and predatory aspect.
"I did not mean such," Ajantis said, trying hastily to effect all good manners by courtesy. "I know that mages such as you have strong scruples in any case against those spells that may be used to infringe the rightful properties of others..."
Dynaheir brushed smoke from the cover of the relatively undamaged book she now held, and efficiently stacked it with others she had attempted to rescue, in no doubt some sort of order of cataloguing that mages and librarians understood as if by instinct. Ajantis knew that books were most often ordered by subject, or sometimes by the name of the author in smaller collections, but in his studies as a squire simply read past titles until at last he came to the particular tome required. Sometimes also one simply examined the most apparently well-read, on which at times other squires had committed vandalisms within the margins. He at least did not have to reproach his conscience for crimes Dynaheir would no doubt consider most severe. She looked across at him, her dark brown braids dusty and bloodied across her shoulders. "I do know such spells," she spoke mildly. "Within mine own land our resources are little, and thus theft is considered grave treachery; but yet my sisters are taught to unlock foreign chains for fear of capture, for freedom of gaoled slaves. For all that I would not wish the spell of common usage, I would willingly cast from scroll or memory had I resource." Briefly, she raised a hand to her forehead; her nails were trimmed to plain neatness, her fingers strong and clean. A tiredness lay behind her eyes, though again she bent to the floor for further misplaced volumes, taking up the books with care.
He had not expected such an answer from her. "I have seen much evil upon our travels," Ajantis said. "I am taught that the means of purging evil must be considered in conjunction with the ends of it. That there is no sense in attempting to end evil if we are to condone it."
Dynaheir used another strip of her robes to soak up a bloodstain, to clean the embossed leather cover of a black-coloured book. Alaundo's Chessentan Prophecies, he read in golden lettering. The old prophecies of Alaundo. One of the reasons why he and the wychlaran were present in this place. "The folly of the fanatical is not to know the reason why. The Red Wizard pursued me for the grudges of our eastern homeland, knowing not even the reasons of my travel." She continued her speech, rather hastily. "Circumstances affect the truth of decisions. To gain understanding of a person; to learn further of—subtleties and difference; whatever thy choices, squire Ilvastarr, I know that thou intend to consider carefully the will of thy deity."
To gain understanding of a person. Ajantis looked at her, searchingly; he thought that he had heard slight hesitation within her speech. "The illusionist is one of them," he said. He felt awkward to bring it to the open, but he would rather that than to treat a conversation as shadow-boxing he did not fully understand. "Helm requires vigilance; it is natural to be vigilant for such a father and such a prophetic doom," he said.
"A Child of Bhaal, but he is human also," Dynaheir said fiercely; her eyes snapped brown fire like dark coals. "Prophecies must bear investigation. Tell me, what evils have you sensed within him? 'Tis not upon the mere grounds of his aid to me; I own he is flawed as all mortals; but he is far from evil."
"Little to none I have sensed," Ajantis said, "and I chose to follow him though his and his companions' first response to my words was mockery." The mouth of the wychlaran moved as if she wished to interject, but he had more that he wished to speak although he did not wish to be discourteous to her. "But the divination we are granted from divine grace is naturally through human eyes. I see evil in many places we have journeyed across, but I...have less of the skill of it than others of my Order, who are able to see with more subtlety or at least have a greater ability to speak of it so. For me it has the seeming of blood-reddened trails and thorns that riddle through a shape. Even Helmites do not see all in the same way." As regarded Tormtars, or rather the Tormtar he knew most, Ajantis remembered, Lord Keldorn Firecam's renowned abilities for the detection of evil magic and the older knight's long-worked-upon giftings to guess when some vile illusion or enchantment might be affecting them; he had not those, though since he had not pursued the path of the inquisitor Helm in all his wisdom would not have given those particular prayers to him.
Dynaheir drew her lips together; as ever the thoughts came quickly to her mind to speak, though she had civilly allowed him to finish. "Thou speak of divination. I seek if what is foretold is true, and the reasons for it. It is said by some that the arts of futuretelling are the most outwardly weak of schools, for the ways are uncertain and the possibilities unclear; and at the same time the inward knowledge of divination is unbreakable and invincible as the fates themselves. Those who scorn it may ever lack knowledge of either themselves or the future. Our seers follow Savras the servant of the Hidden One to search for truth; to damage not the realm by knowing the truth, and to damage not the person."
The wychlaran spoke...perhaps overly long and with circumlocution, Ajantis thought.
"Alaundo was a wise man, but I have come to believe that no foreseeing can have the full end of the tale," Dynaheir said. "Of all that can happen; of all that can be altered by the good. Of choice of acceptance. Fate is incomplete and I have come to believe... There are causes and there are righteous choices. There is still a chance, squire Ilvastarr; a chance remains for the both of us. The principles of mine own country are rooted in the common welfare of our people. The principles of thine Order are of treatment with dignity of all. Though the spirits of Rashemi earth do not speak in this land and though thine own Watcher does not reach down his own hands to direct..."
She spoke almost sacrilegiously. He was a paladin of Helm, Ajantis thought; it was true enough that he did not hear voices explicitly guiding him, but the Watcher's presence remained with him. His very sight was proof of that.
"He must be treated as any other human, surely," Dynaheir spoke. "I would stand not behind him, but beside him; I would stand and fight onward. We both truly see good in him, do we not? Even as the future is afire as the rising blaze of a touchwood speeding red and golden strands that consume all they touch; even as the future of a darkened glass has the black veil removed from its surface and a sun's clearest light shining forth upon all our faces. I will remain by him and by Minsc until the fates show the truth. Beyond that if I may. For..."
Her gaze had turned into the distance of the library walls rather than directly at his face; Ajantis wondered of what she spoke, and then saw it in her eyes. That he lost his voice to speak against.
"For to act against him would betray a comrade," he said. "We have all journeyed together; we are bound by the sacred bonds of honour! Against all these dopplegangers and murderers I have sworn already that my faith shall be held true!"
It was vehement; he did not wish the lady to continue with her strains of thoughts, as if he would intrude upon something that made him deeply lacking in comfort. But he thought about it, and he had also spoken in truth.
"Thou hast spoken well as I have spoken in overmuch words, good knight," Dynaheir said. A trace of crimson seemed to lurk within her dark cheeks. As stiffly as a gnomish automaton she looked down at the present book within her hand, and slowly jerked it to its place upon the shelves. "I thank thee for it and request thy discretion upon...certain thoughts that may have passed within thy mind."
"My lady, the advice oft given to knights is that upon the passing of our Tests we are made free to speak of the future; and once free 'tis best to do so in sure time," Ajantis said. "For myself; it is not advice so far I have needed."
Dynaheir bent to yet another book upon the ground. "Friendships in this land have been rare to me, and I value each."
Ajantis pressed a hand to his wound once more, since the bloodstain had grown slightly upon the scarf. But it clotted and began to heal; in time he would be fit to fight. When they were found.
"...And thou..." Dynaheir whispered once more to the bindings of a book. Her long fingers gently and somehow avariciously stroked its plump black spine.
Then came the knocking on the door once more. With the cry that the beady nose of Boo had sniffed them out, and with the intrusion of a mirror image halfway through the door before any fingers moved upon the lock; they both came to the sure knowledge that their friends were safe and well, and joined them for the moment of reunion.