In The Shadow of Zero

Chapter I Part I

They say people will do anything if sufficiently desperate.

At the time, I had never felt that statement could be any more true.

Hiding in a tiny natural cavern in the Underdark I considered what had brought me to this conclusion.

Greed mostly, and some impulse control problems. Well… maybe the other way around, but I felt it had largely been greed that had brought me there.

I wasn't that old, or that strong. Not really. I could do a number of things, and I knew a lot more than most of my kin did at my age. A legacy of my first life as a human before I reincarnated into this crazy death world I had thought fiction so long before…

My name was… is Levethix'Moxt. It translates roughly to 'Little wizard'. I always wondered how mother knew to name me that… Did she sense something in me?

I was magi, a magus fresh into their sixth circle of power. Though that was more a technicality, I still didn't know any spells beyond the fifth. The power was there, but I didn't have any means to channel it yet.

It was an impressive accomplishment by some standards, but also pathetic compared to others. I had been studying magic for the better part of a century, first from the scraps salvaged from my inheritance, then through a more formal education, and finally out of tomes and secrets uncovered. A few of them even developed by my own hand. A good fifty years off and on of effort… a lot of mage's never managed to reach this level of ability.

I'd known others who surpassed it months into beginning their studies.

Still the slow path typically worked for me. I was a member of one of the longer lived races, and typically wasn't much one for adventure. I could afford to take my time… or at least I thought I did.

Life is rarely easy for any of the Darastrix'vis. Yes, you get nifty abilities powers out of it not the least of which was inherent magical talent. Yes you don't really have to worry that much about retirement, and if you lived long enough, you could get pretty powerful.

But that was the trick to it. The vast majority of us didn't make it to adulthood, and a lot of those who did rarely survived long once they were discovered. Only the eldest and strongest could travel with real impunity. Surfacing too early was a quick way to get a lance through your chest, and your skin, organs, and blood harvested for reagents.

Or an army on your tail…

I stilled as one of my alarm spells went off, sending a warning tone in my head. They were getting closer…

I was being pursued by drow. No, not one drow, though there were a few particular names I was dreading with a passion. No, not a group of drow, though again there were a couple of the parties currently out for my hide that I'd really rather avoid. I was being hunted by a lot of drow.

That might have something to do with the mass slave escape I had spontaneously started, but more likely it had to do with the pilfered spell book currently sitting in my handy haversack.

I mean really… just… the spell book of a wizard of that caliber… a tome with that much arcane knowledge… just laying right there on the library table? Could anyone blame me?

Reconsidering the matter I suppose that yes, yes they could.

So long story short, I had a good half of Menzoberranzan's court and hedge wizards after me. This was of course independent of as much of House Baenre, as their head boy could shanghai. I was also pretty sure that the prick had managed to get at the very least a senior detachment or two of Bregan D'aerthe to hunt me and my loot down. I was gods damned near certain I had passed by one of Jarlaxle's boys back before someone had managed to rip away my disguise with a well timed abjuration spell.

Bahamut's Breath I was screwed…

As it was, I was cold, I was tired, and I was depleted of the vast majority of my magic. My gear had mostly been rendered useless when I was clipped by said 'Disjunction'. My mind was on fire from the strain of rapid fire spell craft, every single upper level spell slot I had in me was depleted, and the gnawing guilt and worry over the fate of the slaves I had turned lose in the middle of my escape as a distraction was chewing at my conscience.

Logically… I'd probably done them all a favor. If they were willing to run in the first place, then the responsibility technically fell on them to survive trying to pull it off, and I was incidentally giving them pretty much the biggest distraction to hit since the fall of house Do'Urden… I had made no promises…

The fact remained however, that even if I had given them the chance to escape the city, I had still left them to fend for themselves. More than most, I knew the dangers of this place… and just how long there odds were of escaping to the surface.

Still, better for the both of us that our hunters be forced to split their efforts, but using them like that still tasted bitter in my mouth.

Another Alarm tripped… damn it, where they homing in on them or something? I had an anti-Scrying spell up.

Not that I'd likely have to worry too much about that for that much longer. Whichever team was coming for me right now was getting closer. The urge to drop my required disguise and go down fighting was a strong one… not as much as the desire to flee for my life admittedly, but when you get backed into a corner like this, you look at all the options you have.

Damn it! I wasn't some grand adventurer looking to be a legend! What in the nine hells was I doing down here? I should have just teleported the moment I took the book.

Final alarm tripped. They were in sprinting range… this cave was a dead end, and every teleportation trick I had was used up, I barely had enough power left for a 'silent image' and something told me that trying it wouldn't do me much good…

I was running out of options…

And then a new one opened up right in front of me.


A glowing green portal of a type I had never seen before formed up before me, and a strong compulsion to step into it came with it. I blinked for a moment, and considered for a second what my choices really were.

Mysterious summons from an unknown source. Horrible death from renowned torture experts feared throughout the realms… huh, tricky.

They say people will do anything if sufficiently desperate.

At the time, had never felt that statement could be any more true.

It could have been a trap, the entire thing one large scheme leading to this point. The Realms, the Underdark in particular had no shortage of chessmasters capable of such a stunt. It was a gamble between the unknown, or a fight I wasn't sure I could win.

I jumped through the gate.

Chapter I Part II

The trip through the gate itself was kinda wonky, it wasn't the normal step though point A, arrive at point B. There was a delay, a travel period which reminded me far too much of that one program I saw back in my first life… what was it again… sungate? Anyway it didn't really matter, I was in a swirling vortex shooting out across a distance I couldn't properly register or conceive.

When I burst free on the other side I found myself heaped on the ground and suffering the worse vertigo I'd had the misfortune of experiencing since I'd first figured out dimensional travel. I was lucky I had been running on an empty stomach as it was. The nausea was minimal, but I doubt I would be walking until I could fully register which way was up.

The first thing I registered was smoke… ok, that was… not good. Not particularly bad, I still had enough power to shield myself from fire… barely… for a little while anyway…

The smoke wasn't hot though, and as it began to clear I noted both healthy grass in my proximity, and several indistinct figures out past the cloud of dust.

I started calling power for a moment, then stopped, no real point to it, I was not in good condition to fight anyone capable of pumping out a spell like that. Diplomacy then.

I was making out voices now… barely, it took a few seconds for the words to translate in my head, the tongues spell I'd long since had enchanted into myself sorting out what was apparently something very new to it. At least I could feel the thing was still intact, my innate resistance must have helped shield it from the earlier counter spell.

" a zero!" A voice called out fallowed by a feminine laugh.

"Professor!" Another female voice sounded, closer this time, I could just make out… "Let me try a…" the voice stopped cold as bright pink eyes met my dull burgundy ones.

Alright, stop. Logic time.

A portal had shown up out of nowhere in front of me. It had included a rather potent compulsion to walk through it. Standard MO for experimental summoning, someone here held the title of 'professor' and only one of the still clearing shapes was of adult size and proportion… a magic lesson? Some sort of academy?

I could work with this…

Perhaps a small show of power? When summoned it helped to impress the summoner, or so I'd been told, it made one seem useful, while reminding them foremost that you had a will of your own.

Silent Spell: Prestidigitation I flicked my wrist and a light breeze picked up, helping clear away the remaining smoke, simultaneously sweeping though my hair, and loose outer robes, giving me that dramatic windswept look that only a true ham could pull off.

I broke the ice. "Thou has summoned this one?" I questioned using a more archaic form. Again work the drama, they might have no idea I'm on my last legs. Need to play up the whole strange creature called from a far off land deal. Additionally it'd be easier for the tongues spell to pick up on. Why it helps I'm not sure, but I am most definitely certain that it does.

I'm not doing this just for the novelty of it all, honest.

"E-e-e-e-e-el-el." The summoner, a small human girl I noted, taking in her features in a brisk once over. Long pink hair, pink eyes… maybe she'd been playing with a rod of wonder and got caught in the backlash? Her clothing consisted of, simple but fine dress shoes, a short yet modest skirt, simple white button up shirt, and ether a robe or cape clasped together with a fine bronze broach. A wand was in her hand, but she didn't seem to recall that fact. All in all, she seemed your typical young wizard in training, and either way she seemed… terrified, her pupils had shrunken into pinpricks, she was shaking like a leaf, and her skin was deathly pale.

Did she realize what she had called? Maybe the portal was an opened ended summoning and they forgot to lay a preventative binding?

Further out I could see other students, the men dressed in slacks rather than skirts, likewise terrified out of their wits. A few had taken defensive postures, the small blue haired one with the staff in particular gave off a strong vibe of prepared power.

But not the strongest.

A balding man, again bearing a simple wood staff stood ready near by the paralyzed pink haired girl. He held a seemingly relaxed posture… I didn't buy it for a minute. The last time I'd seen a magi carry themselves like that had been when I watched one of my old teachers kick the crap out of a death sladdi that had broken loose from the summoning labs.

Considering our current circumstances, this did not exactly set me at ease.

His eyes matched mine while he held place in that ever so casually dangerous way, waiting for me to make a move.

So I didn't. I was [i]Not[/i] ready to fight a group of magi, students or not, and certainly not ready to fight whoever this guy was, every inch of his posture was of restrained violence.

I didn't doubt for a second who'd walk away if we came to blows, not with me transformed and already beaten half to death.

"Ms Vallière." He stated very calmly, ready to dive between her and I in a moment.

I looked from him back to the girl.

She gulped under the strain of my eyes.

I carefully softened my expression. "You have summoned me?" I asked again. "Might I ask why?" Right, everyone here was apparently scared shitless… so I actually did have the situation under control. At least until someone snapped and attacked.

My eyes flickered to the blue haired girl in the distance, then a redhead who looked now ready to fight, though with obvious resignation and fear. So far no one seemed ready to make a move.

Alright… good… let's try and keep it that way.

"Y-yes… Um… uh… well…" the pink haired girl gulped and seemed about ready to faint.

"Perhaps I could explain?" the elder man interjected.

I looked at him. "Please do so. It isn't that I mind being called up like this. You actually caught me in the middle of a situation I'd have much rather avoided." Not exactly information I wanted to give up, but at the same time I needed to ease tensions a bit before someone had a heart attack.

"It's an elf, she called an elf. How did she call an elf?" a blond boy kept muttering a bit further back in the main group. I spared him a glance and he froze right up.

I could get used to thi- No, bad, no darkside for you. I mentally slapped myself, and looked back at the Teacher. "Perhaps we could discuss this at a different time? Or a more suitable location? I'm quite willing to wait." I offered, had I let my aura of terror free or something? It didn't feel like it…

"Perhaps that would be for the best." The man gratefully agreed, he hadn't lowered his guard at all, but I could see some obvious relief settle into his eyes. He looked to the girl, still frozen in place. "Ms Vallière?"

"Uh-right! Yes of c-course" she breathed out fast looking right at me like I was ready to eat her.

Well so much for first impressions…

Chapter I part III

The three of us parted from the group, as apparently my summoning was either the last or only to be done in whatever the exercise was.

Crossing the large courtyard to enter the largest of the three visible towers, I took time to study the situation.

I had been summoned… or rather there had been a summoning, with the rather unexpected result of me. This was good given the situation back where I was at the start of this mess.

The summoner in question seemed to be a relatively inexperienced student, the location a school… but that just didn't mesh well with what had brought me here. That spell was more akin to a gate then anything, at the very least some form of higher level dimensional calling, fifth circle minimal.

But if the normal student here was capable of something like that then why on earth would they be so worried over a single drow elf?

I was getting more and more questions as time passed, no answers yet ether.

Still, one thing was bugging me more than most.

I eyed the girl for a moment as we started up the tower. "You don't see Drow often do you?" I questioned. I had my disguise working against me on this one… but I was starting to suspect it wasn't the way I originally thought it would. That one kid had panicked over an 'elf' not a drow, an elf.

"Drow?" she asked confused for a moment. No stutter this time, better.

That nailed it. I wasn't in The Forgotten Realms anymore… which meant I could be anywhere on the other side of the deep ethereal.

Well that was… actually that might not be too bad. The Realms kinda sucked for people who had the ambition to say… not be brutally killed by some horrific monster.

At the same time this place might be even worse…

"Drow elves." I stated politely to the teacher, I think I was still putting off a bit of accent. "You're… all acting a little strange." Though not for the reasons they thought. "I wasn't quite expecting this kind of a reception when I stepped through that portal." I mused.

"Oh?" he asked carefully. "Done this before?"

"Not on this end." I admitted, switching to a more casual air, noting that 'Ms Vallière', was paying rather close attention. "I've dabbled with summoning, mostly the basics, but-"

"You're a mage!" the pink haired girl squeaked out, wide eyed as any of the calm she managed to gather fled her.

I blinked. "Yes..? Is that a problem?" I questioned.

"of course the elf's a mage." She muttered, looking away. Still I think she was getting the idea that I wasn't about to go on a spontaneous killing spree.

I raised an eyebrow at that, and looked to the professor. "Is there anything particularly odd about being a mage here? I believed this to be an academy of magic…"

"It is." The man replied quickly. "You'll have to forgive Ms Vallière, this really has been quite the day for her."

I quirked a lip. "I know the feeling…" looking over at the girl I offered a full smile. "In truth as I said, you've actually done me something of a service. I suppose I am in your debt." I mused offhandedly.

She almost choked on that.

We reached the entrance to the main tower, and I held my place. "Alright, we are well away from your students, and to my knowledge I've done nothing to provoke you. You've never heard of drow, but everyone's quite obviously terrified of me. So outside of your apparent fear of the elven species in general, the only conclusion that I can take from this is that you have summoned me a great distance, quite possibly by accident. I would like to know why." I wasn't about to just let myself be led to where they wanted to take me as things stood, and the odds had shifted significantly towards my favor if I needed to make a break for it. I needed answers.

Vallière froze in place, but outside of shaking seemed to actually be doing better this time about then our initial meeting.

I'd be impressed… provided I knew why the heck everyone was so utterly terrified to begin with! I looked to the older man for answers.

"Ah." The man stated carefully. "First… you must understand that this was not anyone's intent." He stated carefully.

I raised an eyebrow. "Well it certainly was mine to leave the situation you pulled me from… I'm not angry at all, just very confused. Where I come from humans and elves have rather good relations." For the most part, and outside of Drow elves anyway. "You do not know what at Drow is, but at the same time you very easily identified me as an elf," falsely "So I would be very grateful if someone could let me know what exactly is going on." I let some of my nervousness shine through, adding a bit of authenticity to my words.

That seemed to do the trick a lot for the girl, as she eased up, though it seemed to backfire slightly for the man, as he tensed for a split second.

"Ah." He said pointedly.

"I was trying to summon a familiar." The girl's voice broke out as she looked at me. She was nervous, but had seemed to master that, a fierce look flickered in her eyes, and for a moment I was actually blown away by the sheer [i]presence[/i] she radiated. It was actually unnerving. For all her fear before she was now ready to stand. "Instead I got you." She summed up simply.

I blinked at that. The transformation had been rather sudden, and a strange curiosity in the back of my mind wondered what this girl would be like when she completed her training.

"Of course, no offense was meant by this, the spell normally brings forth some animal or other unintelligent creature." The man stated assured, while quickly stepping into a position better placed to dart between the girl and I. Slick, still I was beginning to dread the level of social engineering I was going to have to do.

I paused and mused on it rubbing my chin, and lamenting the lack of elves ability to grow facial hair as I did.

By all inclinations this was a well off academy, the girl herself seemed capable, and there was a precedent to such things… in addition if this land Was as distant to my home as I believed it to be then it may hold access to entirely new branches of arcane research…

I fought down the urge to salivate at the thought of it. I readdressed the girl. "I would have terms of course."

"What?" the girl let out suddenly surprised at my apparent acceptance.

"What!" her teacher a tad more so.

"To being your familiar." I stated as if nothing in particular was happening. "Just to confirm notes. A familiar is some sort of creature which is connected to a magus though magic, that serves as a companion and aid, yes?" I asked quickly.

It wouldn't do to agree to this only to find out that there form of 'familiar' ended up mind some sort of puppet or guardian spirit. I was willing to trade time and service for safety and a few luxuries, but that kind of thing might require a bit more of a sacrifice on my part then I was willing to give.

The teacher nodded slowly. "A bit of a simplification, but basically yes."

I looked back to Louise. "Well in all honestly… I do owe you a favor, and provided you are willing to be reasonable about this, and I can maintain my own personal projects, I would be willing to accept the role." I offered candidly. "I'm not much of a fighter, but I feel I could likely offer you much…"

Chapter I Part IV

We continued to travel as I listed off a few basic services I was capable of, "Mostly I'm an arcane researcher, though I do some work in other fields. If you need a tutor, I have some experience as a mentor, though I'm unfamiliar with the local styles and disciplines." I offered.

"A researcher?" The teacher interjected, suddenly interested.

I nodded. "I'm somewhat a, travelling scholar. I'm actually considered to be quite accomplished for my age." I boasted in as humble a tone as I could manage.

"Really? I've dabbled a bit myself with field research, though I pride myself as a teacher and inventor foremost." He replied in a much similar tone, I almost relaxed… until I noted he was still very much prepared to blast my head from my shoulders given the wrong move.

Scary guy, I did not want to see how two of us would stack up in any sort of duel. Even if I out muscled him in raw power, I'd seen enough warriors to know the difference between myself and someone who actually knew what they were doing in a fight. Still, I held the casual act. This was far from the first time I'd talked shop with someone who could probably wipe the floor with me.

Rather far from the lest pleasant of those moments ether. "An Inventor? You do enchantment work or strictly mundane tinkering?" I'd dabbled in both, having only recently mastered the fine art of ring crafting, though my 'alchemy' was considered to be far more impressive.

"Oh a little of both, mostly I'm working on mechanical devices, though I have experimented with trying to expand on magic fueled machines. Magic's a rather handy short cut as ether a catalyst or driving force behind more complex machinery, you could get a far more efficient result then trying a purely mechanical or magical approach." I think for a moment he lost himself in his little speech, it certainly was impassioned.

I found myself impressed, and didn't hold back on vocalizing it. "Innovative. I think I've seen a few things along those lines in the past…" I started up.

"Really?" the balding man seemed surprised.

"Ah-hem!" the only female of our group made herself known. "Maybe we can get back to you being my familiar?" she asked me pointedly.

I blinked. "Oh, right, yes my apologies." I lifted a hand in a placating gesture, realizing I'd gotten off track again.

The other man again seemed a bit sheepish. Apparently we were more alike then I originally assumed.

Fully turning to the young Lady I presented my case. "As I said, I have a wide verity of skills, mostly in the academic fields-"

"We'll work that out later." She cut in. "but you'll actually do this?" she asked in a hopeful voice.

I lifted a digit warningly, "So long as things are kept reasonable." I intoned. "I'm a sentient, sapient, being, with my own goals and motivations. I'll work on my own projects often, though I will keep close in case you have need of me. While reasonable requests of me are of course fine, I won't follow any orders that violate my own sense of morals or pride to any significant extent without very good reason. I have means to snap most enchantments and have gotten rather good at it over my life. If you push me too far I will stop you." I let a flicker of my frightful presence slip through.

She shivered slightly. "And… what would be a breach of your pride?" she questioned. Out of the corner of my eye I registered the older man again ready to step in.

I shrugged and pulled back tightly on my aura of fear. It wouldn't do for her to faint after all. "I'm pretty lax, just don't bug me if I'm in the middle of delicate work, that one's mostly for your own safety mind you. Respect that no means no, and don't try and command me to do something utterly trivial if I see no interest in it… Basically just keep in mind that a familiar is a 'companion' not a 'servant.'" I listed off my rather short set of terms one at a time. "We might rework the ground rules a bit later if something seems to be causing problems." I added quickly. It wouldn't do to be without some sort of escape clause in this admittedly very general verbal contract.

She frowned though it seemed to be more out of disappointment then anger. "That… seams very reasonable." She agreed.

I held up the finger again. "Don't be so glum. I think you'll find me quite useful, even if I might not be as readily available as most partners." I smirked slightly.

We finally came to the end of the stairs, and I noted a woman with long deep green hair sitting at a desk, diligently going over stack after stack of paperwork at a pace that actually left me somewhat impressed.

Given the large oaken door a bit behind her and to the side, I estimated this to be the 'Headmaster's' secretary.

She looked up at us for a moment, put on a smile, and then froze in place as her eyes locked on me, recognition setting in… but oddly not fear. A moment after the shock had run through she swiftly put on a good mask of suppressed terror, but it wasn't genuine.

Interesting… I'd have to look into that later.

"Professor Colbert!" she exclaimed, startled.

"Ms. Longueville." He greeted with a nod. "As you can see we have a guest. Is the Headmaster available?" if anything his tenseness seemed to shoot up slightly. Had he noticed what I had? Or was there perhaps a different reason behind his actions?

"I-I believe he is available…" she stated not taking eyes off of me.

I fought down to the urge to smirk and wink. It'd been some time since an attractive woman stared so intensely at me. If it wasn't for all the apparent secrets and intrigue that I was already beginning to sense laid beneath the surface of all this…

Ah… hormones, even as a King Serpent I couldn't escape their grasp.

Why humanoids remained sexually attractive to something with as decidedly alien in comparative physiology as myself, always confused me on a purely academic level. Even to this day, I have no idea how in the nine hells my species developed the odd tendency to produce viable offspring with anything intelligent enough to hold a conversation with. I understood the mechanics easily enough, the ability to warp reality with your mind really helped along with that aspect.

But why on earth did we desire to breed with things so drastically different from us?

I chalked it up to a drunken kegger happening up in the divine realms back when Io and the rest were still putting us puny pseudo-mortals together. Lords and Ladies knew it made far more sense that way.

"Excellent!" 'Colbert' stated with a broad smile, subtly attempting to calm the woman.

Hum, he didn't realize then… good to know.

The balding man led us through the door, something a bit strange to me given he'd not had his back to me since we'd met out on the field. I took it as a good sign.

When I entered, my young would be master fallowing after I took stock of my surroundings. Books, knick knacks, the stereotypical selection of items for an accomplished wizard within his tower. All fairly normal, the man himself sitting behind a fine mahogany desk was a more interesting sight.

Young. Or at least, not as old as I had assumed he'd appear. His lean features lent themselves to a man well past his prime, but with a decade or two to go before infirmary had true claim on him. Even his gray hair still had a little color le…

Wait, what?

I couldn't help but blurt out what I was thinking. "What's the deal with your bangs?"

Chapter I Part V

I studied his face again, and the sight did not change. I was tempted to try and dispel the thing before me, some part of my mind demanding that it had to be some sort of illusion.

His bangs, his beard… they had apparently somehow… fused… for lack of a better term.

The front locks of his hair swooped down into the traditional overgrowth of a senior human mage, fusing into a single definite point.

It was on this point that the true beard rested, the two layering like some sort of layered abomination against nature and the gods. The entire thing framed his features in such a way as to appear as if he was projecting his face from some sort of mind numbing eldritch beard/bang monstrosity.

I mean seriously what the hell was that!

"Familiar!" A loud high pitched voice screamed out in embarrassment.

"No seriously." I stated just… looking at the thing in a sort of horrified awe. "How the hell did you do that? With magic right? It had to be with magic." I nodded, rationalizing the eldritch sight before me.

He who wore the elder beard, stroked the thing as he eyeballed me in turn.

"What are you saying!" The girl called again, and with great effort I turned my gaze away from the facial hair of many roots.

Meeting her eyes I pointed back at the overbeard. "I'm sorry but look at that thing!" I looked back at the old man, who I noted seemed mostly amused at my acknowledgement of his bizarrely epic haircut.

"Are you crazy! You can't just say something like that out loud!" She yelled out at me, Colbert looked torn between agreeing with her or busting his gut to keep from laughing.

I blinked. "Huh?" Over a century of social experience, a fairly clear past life as one, and I still didn't fully get humans.

"It's rude and inconsiderate! You don't just say that people look weird right to their faces!" she ranted pointedly as if scolding a small child.

Given I had a little over half a dozen decades on her the experience was actually rather novel.

"How was I to know that?" I defended hastily, doing my best to placate my potential employer. "This culture is still alien to me. The first thing anyone did when I got here is point how I differed from the norm. For all I knew it was some odd custom in this land." It was a paper thin defense that I'd normally have slapped myself over using.

However given the sudden flush on her face, it seems she actually bought it.

I reasoned by the old saying, if it was stupid and it worked, then it wasn't stupid. I pressed my advantage while I had it. "Truly, I apologize if I gave any offense." I offered to the bemused headmaster. "I've only recently arrived and am still very much ignorant of the local way of things." I nodded solemnly, wondering how the hell I just pulled that off.

He nodded in kind. "Forgiven. If I might ask just who are you, and your purpose here? It's been some time since Tristan Academy has hosted an elf." He paused. "If that is indeed what you are." He added.

I quirked a lip, this guy was quick. "My name is Levethix'Moxt, and I've been given the impression that the local elves are rather different from what I'm used to…" not the most skilled evasion, but better than earlier, I was going to have to get back into practice verbally sparing with humans. For all that drow viewed themselves as subtle, they were rather spoiled by always being able to assume that their opponent was waiting for the chance to backstab them. "As to my presence, I am apparently to serve as young Miss Vallière's familiar, given my understanding of the ritual's nature."

He nodded. "A familiar?" he replied interestedly. "Then you were summoned here."

Colbert took over. "Yes, although Miss Vallière has yet to complete the ritual. I was hoping you could assist us in the negotiations, Headmaster Osmond." He added readily.

I eyed the man, doubting severely that had been his original intent. I wasn't sure if his reasoning was political or simply hoping to bring me away from the vulnerable children while rendering the senior mage ready if I should prove violent. I couldn't truly fault him for either reasoning, but all this paranoia was seriously starting to aggravate my survival instincts.

Idly I wondered if I could get away with scanning the room for magical traps, then discarded the idea. Casting while conversing was tricky enough, and doing so while I was down to the bare dregs of power would only make it more difficult… that divination was the school I tended to do the most poorly in only added to the matter.

"Negotiations?" The elder man, 'Osmond', asked.

"I have a few basic terms before allowing any sort of binding to be placed on me." I replied looking over at the pink haired girl in the seat not far from me.

She seemed to slump miserably at that, though she put on a good show of holding her chin high.

I felt a rather paternal feeling surge up within me at that… if nothing else I could score some points here with a future partner. "Though the arrangement in itself is not at all disagreeable. Miss Vallière certainly seems capable enough, and I'm certain I can benefit from such a bargain."

That seemed to perk her up some, and I felt the warm glow of good karma. Take that suppressed malice and evil!

"Hum… this is certainly a strange case. I do not believe I've ever heard of a familiar negotiating the terms of their service before." He stated, though there was no objection to his voice.

"Excellent." I stated. "We've already discussed the general terms. What has me more interested now is the fine details, where I'll be staying, general access to areas and services, citizenry issues. The paperwork by and large…"

The old man seemed to slump in the face as I listed off requests, apparently he hadn't hired that green haired woman only for her figure.

Chapter I Part VI

Hammering down the nuts and bolts of my extended stay at the Tristan Academy of Magic didn't actually take too long. While there wasn't a direct precedent, there had been students who had vassals of varying types serve under them in their stay at the place of learning. The relationship was not exact, but it was enough to get most of the legal issues out of the way.

It came down basically, to this. As familiar and servant to the young Miss Vallière, I was in effect an extension of herself as a legal entity. Any action I took, either positive, or negative, would reflect directly upon herself. The subtle message given however, was also a dangerous one. If I was of the same legal entity as my 'would be' master, any action committed by my master would by definition would only be 'inflicted' on herself. Certainly it would be considered 'unsightly', but she'd have a lot of wiggle room for abuse.

Such was typical of any master to a servant in far more of the civilizations I'd known then not…

Still that wasn't honestly too big an issue, given that if things did end up going south, I would likely end up fleeing the country, or assuming a new identity within it. Legality had rarely been a large concern with me. I followed protocols as far as they functioned, but you didn't survive in a world like Toril without being willing to bend the rules here and there.

And the girl honestly seemed nice enough… There was a hidden steel within her yes, but I didn't see her unleashing it lightly.

"It sounds fair enough." I mused, and looked at curiously light pink eyes opposite mine. How they reminded me of other times… "Basically you provide me with lodgings, food, and other basic necessities, while also acting as my patron in legal matters." In truth finding lodgings wouldn't be too hard for me, nor would keeping myself fed prove any real challenge. That foothold into the citizenry however, was going to be vital. Without it I was nothing but a foreigner within this land, and that could mean a lot of things…

It could be as simple as a lack of basic rights, likely restrictions on where I could find any sort of employment.

It could potentially mean that I'd be hunted down and killed as an outsider, and potential threat.

As things stood, I did not know this land, I didn't know its people, its culture, numbers, what tools were in common use, or what magics were commonly used. I had strength, and by the morning I'd have access to a lot of tricks I'd wager they hadn't seen before ether, but you didn't live to see your second century by taking unnecessary chances…

Osmond interjected. The old man had mostly been playing ball in keeping me up to date on how everything would related to my presence within his school. "Much of that budget has already been arranged by Miss Vallière's tuition."

The pink haired girl nodded, "And in return you aid me in anyway you can." She replied.

Hardly fair really, but she did inadventedly save my life… besides it had been some time since I'd taken on a student, and I could almost feel the potential in this young girl before me.

I quirked a lip at the thought of fully exploring it… or at least seeing how far I could wake it up. "Then let us not waste any more time. There is some ritual to this I would imagine?" I asked seriously.

"Ah!" she blushed, "Maybe we can work out a few more details?" She asked, blushing like a nervous school girl… which was fitting given she essentially was one.

Still, that confused me a bit. She was very fast to try and establish the relations, why hesitate to follow through?

"Now Miss Vallière," The Old man started. "there is no need to hold back. I'm sure you can handle the rest as it comes along." I didn't quite like the look in his eye, it reminded me a bit too much of one of my own after 'liberating' the spellbook that got me into this mess to begin with.

Her face went beet red, "but, that's mean I'd have to..!"

Colbert seemed a bit embarrassed… but he also was fighting down a smile of his own. "It Is tradition."

I was thoroughly confused at this point. The girl (really I had to learn her name, I had already indirectly given mine, and we would apparently be working together in the future), was obviously embarrassed. Was this one of those naked ceremonies invented by some hormonal teenager or something?

Not that I'd ever used magic like that! No not at all! I hadn't even peaked at that student authored, unpublished, little blue book hidden under the third south western shelf of the tower library at all!

Distracted by my musings I barely noticed the girl rise up and approach me. Eyes snapping to her, I likewise stood and looked at her with a curious eyebrow.

Her blush only seemed to deepen. Drawing out her wand, I resisted the urge to flinch. Every person I'd seen here had ether a wand or staff. I could only assume that they were implements, rather than the variety I was more used to.

Waving the item over my head I felt relief surge over me, right, I wasn't going to be blown up then, good.

She finally introduced herself to me by her full name. "My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière." She intoned.

Ah, it was one of those spells… Interesting. The invocation of one's name could do a lot of things in magic.

She continued. "Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; bless this humble being," I felt the buildup of power more than sensed it in any other way.

That was odd… the entire spell was being carried out much more like clerical magics then any arcane art I'd seen used before... Wait, what was that about humble?

"-and make him my familiar!" she finished, then leaned in and kissed me. She pulled away a moment later blush even deeper than before.

I… had not been expecting that.

Nor had I expected the searingly, mind numbing Pain that would promptly flare up on my left hand.

I didn't cry out, I didn't pass out, but I did grit my teeth and grimace visibly as I brought my hand, clenched tight in a futile effort to minimize the damage dealt by whatever was burning it, up to my face.

A green tracery was burning into place through the back of it, giving off slight amounts of smoke as it seared flesh in precise and intricate detail. It finished in moments, and I glared up at the assemblage before me, loosing a bit of my aura of terror as I did. I twisted the hand around to face them. "You could have warned me about this." I spoke calmly, already reining in the potent fear effect.

'Louise' flinched slightly from her spot. "I um… I didn't know it would do that?" she tried experimentally.

I sighed. "Right… look it's been a long day, how about we call it one?" I questioned.

She agreed pursing her lips slightly as she seemed to think on things.

And then that paternal feeling struck again. I sighed. "Come on. We can talk as we go." I offered. "I'd like to get to know this girl who is my master." I gave one of my best smiles as I did.

That seemed to resolve whatever was bothering her, and she smiled back up at me hesitantly, "Alright." She agreed.

You know… maybe this familiar thing wouldn't be so bad.

Chapter I Part VII

In spite of my offer most of the trip down the halls was actually silent. There was a suspiciously small number of students in the hallways, which in my experience meant that either someone was throwing an epic kegger, or some form of generalized major project was soon to be due, and everyone was busy working on it.

Considering this was a magus tower… possibly both.

Eventually I spoke up. Yes I was tired, yes I really just wanted to get to a place to lie down and quiet the dull throbbing in my mind, but first impressions were important. I needed to strike the irons of this relationship while they were still hot. "So, how long have you studied magic?" I questioned.

"How long?" she asked, surprised by the sudden words. It took a few moments to break off from her thoughts. "Since I could lift a wand… before I could walk." She stated with a mixture of confusion and pride.

I raised my eyes visibly impressed. Well that explained how a young girl like her could pull of a spell like that. Training focused so early in the developmental years rarely failed to pay off. "Family trade then?" I questioned aloud, seeking confirmation.

That seemed to set her on the defensive a bit. "Of course! I am a noble after all." She assured, though to whom seemed to be in doubt.

I blinked at that. Then requested clarification "All your nobles are magi?"

"Nobility comes from magic." She responded in the automatic lecturing tone that could only came from cultural indoctrination.

"Interesting…" I mused. "A magiocracy then." I nodded slowly to myself stroking my chin, and again lamenting the lack of a good stylish goatee… I'd need to read up on the local elves to see if I could get away with altering my spell to provide one.

"Magiocracy?" she asked in confusion.

"Social standing determined by magical ability, often blended to ether a meritocracy, or monarchy, highlighting ether personal talent or ones bloodline." I explained simply, shifting into 'lecture' mode. "I've seen it done a few times, a few times well, other times rather poorly. How long has the local system been in place?"

"Six thousand years. Work poorly, how would that be?" she asked. "Nobles are naturally more capable then those without magic, we can accomplish more, and as such should logically be the ones who lead."

"Direct and indirect power are different things… and you'd be very surprised about what can be done without magic." I countered. "Then again I don't know how the local magics work, there might be aspects to it present that do not exist in my own disciplines." I admitted.

We came to a door and stopped. "Disciplines? Magic is magic!" she seemed a bit frustrated.

"That it is… but it's use and applications can vary a great deal." I countered. "I knew of well over a dozen different ways to master the arcane arts in my homeland, I myself use a blend of three of the more popular styles." Like I said, being what I am might be hard, but there are some nice fringe benefits

"Different ways to use magic?" she questioned, a confused and hopeful tone in her voice.

"You might have noticed I use no wand or staff, as far as I've seen everyone here has one… you need them to use magic with your method do you not?" I questioned.

She blinked, then her eyes widened. "You don't? You don't! I mean yes, yes we do!" she stated looking up at me breath coming fast as something big seemed to wash over her.

And here I thought I got excited at the concept of learning new magic… Still, from her words I could determine they had only one major school of arcane use. This could indeed be very big to her if we shared hobbies.

"And yet I do not." I reminded her, and then looked at the door. "Shall we continue inside?" I requested.

"Oh Right!" she opened it up and ushered me in quickly, shutting it behind her and looking back at me. "Tell me more!"

I glanced over the room; one bed, a nice make, the mattress looked expensive, by the look of it, my guess was some form of coil spring cushioning. A fine, dark finished, Victorian styled set of dresser sat against the wall nearby, with an equally fine stationery of similar, but not identical design, carved of a lighter wood on the adjacent wall, sanding near the door. There was a large open window looking out to a wild field and lake, the tree line springing to life only a short distance past. The walls were mostly bare and without trappings, though there was a fine rug on the ground. All in all, the entire thing had a warm lived in feel to it. This little room was a home to my master.

Well it was, outside of the pile of hay put out beside the bed that most likely was to serve as my resting place of course.

I looked at the pile, sighed, and reminded myself that my young master had intended to call some dumb beast, not a sentient who was used to sleeping in fine style. I'd actually sleep on better more often than not even before I'd figured out how to alter my shape with magic.

Looking back at her, I noted that she was a bit embarrassed, eyes glancing at the pile of hay. At the same time she did not seem willing to drop the conversation. She looked down at me, the tall mattress giving her a slight height advantage over the two inches I normally held over her. When the hell had she gotten up on that thing?

"Well?" She demanded again

I waved a hand to her bed, walking over and taking the stool from her stationary set, to set it in front of the mattress.

She was sitting down facing me before I'd even gotten fully down on the stool. "Well!" she seemed ready to burst.

"Settle down a little." I ordered her, noting the rune work again on the back of my hand as I held out my hand to placate her. Hmm, definitely needed to study that in further depths soon. "Right. This is going to be a long one, what do you want to know first? Drawing methods? Schools of use? Differing philosophies, or methodologies?" best start off with the basics after all.

From the wide eyed look of total incomprehension I could already tell this was going to be a long night…

Chapter I Part VIII

"Right." I sighed again and rubbed my forehead. "Of course, you have no other disciplines to compare to, couldn't be easy could it?" I asked. "I'll just do them in order then. Drawing methods are simple enough for basic theory, they are by in large, the method by which a person accumulates the magic they use." I started.

She blinked. "What?"

I nodded. "I'm not sure how you do it here, but where I come from there are three main ways to draw in magic, well technically two and a half." I stated with a slight grimace. "Those who draw power from within themselves, and those who draw power from an outside source." I started. "The half part comes from the second method. There are again two real schools there, one is to draw power in general from the world and shape it yourself, and the other is to pull readily made spells directly from some sort of symbiotic entity."

I could practically see the question marks forming over her head, she opened her mouth a few times, closed it, then motioned me to continue face set in a serious studious look.

I almost grinned, it was rare to find a student who would know when to simply listen to what was being said.

"That last type are known primarily as divine magic users." I began my lecture. "It's an interesting take on magic use, the caster itself doesn't form the spells, instead they pact with some major outside force. Normally some form of patron deity, though some channel from other forces, like the celestial realms in general, or nature itself." I listed off. "In truth there really more a sort of empowered champion than a true spellcaster. Nevertheless it's an effective form of magic use, and not to be underestimated. By their very nature divine casters can pull off certain tricks that more conventional magic would be hard pressed to match. Though equally in turn, due to the standardization of their skill set divine magic tends to lack in terms of flexibility, and of course, there is the small issue of all their power being borrowed." I replied with as minimal smugness as I could. "Because the magic doesn't come from them, isn't formed by them, a cleric will not always know how their magic Works, and if they should ever have a crisis of faith, or go against the code imposed by their patron, they can say goodbye to every fringe benefit they previously enjoyed." I grimaced imaging the concept of it. "Though I imagine they could later reapply all the skills they learned to forging a bond to a new patron later."

I leaned back, mindful at the lack of any support and very much aware of how long I had been awake. "All in all, it's a unique form of magic use, not really my style. I don't like the concept of being directed by the whims of some grand powerful being just for the scraps off their plate. Call me arrogant but I'd rather get by on my own power, or that of an equal partner." I looked pointedly to her at that.

She nodded, apparently not registering the subtle hint. "Deities?"

"Gods." I clarified.

She frowned. "There is only one god."

I smirked slightly. "I knew a few priests who'd disagree with you. Nonetheless maybe I should clarify. A deity as I understand the term is an incredibly powerful spiritual being that holds sway over souls. They gain power though mortal worshippers, the more numerous and powerful, the better, and in turn watch over their spirits when they depart, and occasional step in to aid." I explained. "This isn't theory mind you, this is proven fact… at least where I come from." I added, noting she was about to augment the point. "There could very well be only one god here… it certainly wouldn't be the first time a singular deity held monopoly over a realm."

She calmed down a bit, but still frowned at that. "How can you be sure?"

I looked at her for a moment, debated telling her… then decided it was a bit too personal to share this early on. "Trust me when I say I am." I sighed.

Straightening up again, I looked to her, and noted that while she was frowning slightly now, she was still listening attentively, good. "Right. Next up are the arcane arts. Firstly there are prepared spellcasters. Magi of this type of discipline are interesting in that they are not born, chosen, or made into what they are, they are taught. Though they have no magic of their own, through careful study, meticulous research, and dangerous experimentation, they have learned how to emulate the supernatural effects of numerous creatures. The best of them often even use their gained understanding into the nature of magic and the world around them to shape entirely new spells, unseen anywhere else." I commented. "It's a very demanding method. You have to learn how to open yourself up to things that people are frankly not really meant to realize, how to harness the power of the world, and contain it within yourself until the time comes that you are ready to unleash it. Years of study are often needed to get beyond the basics, and it takes some time before the effort invested starts producing results beyond what more mundane means will allow, but it's worth it, Louise. It is worth it." I stated passionately.

The girl rocked in place at the use of her name, flushing slightly.

A curious reaction… yet another thing for me to look into later.

I continued. "A fully accomplished wizard is a force to be reckoned with. They know the secrets of the universe, and through them, how to bend it to their will. The things I've seen them do…" I shook my head, then chuckled. "As you can tell from my rather obvious bias… this is a discipline I've drawn from a bit, and one of the one's I'd best be able to teach you in." I informed her plainly.

Slowly she nodded "Anyone can use it?" she asked softly.

"With enough effort yes. You might not thrive in it, and likely would do better with your current skill set, but if you wish to dabble, I could show you what I know." I answered.

"Right…" she replied looking distant for a moment. "Right. And the last method?" she asked.

"Ah!" I stated. "This is the one I suspect you might be from. Magic here runs in bloodlines right? It's inherited?" I questioned.

She nodded. "Magic comes from nobility, just as nobility comes from magic." She replied, again in that obviously preprogrammed manner.

I muttered under my breath, "Sjek ergriff throdenilt'vis..." I looked back up at her, noting the questioning look on her face. "Anywhere where was I? Ah right, the second method of arcane casting. Spontaneous casting." I grinned. "A spontaneous caster is basically what a prepared one emulates. What a Wizard learns through study, a sorcerer knows by instinct. Magic runs through your blood, and using it is basically as natural as breathing. You were probably blowing up random things when you were upset, setting fires by accident, or moving things without meaning to."

She blushed and seemed to be trying to sink into herself.

I chuckled. "Don't feel too bad. I could tell you some stories about me when I was younger." I informed her. A little camaraderie in the face of embarrassment tended to help form bonds after all.

"A spontaneous caster has power all their own." I started. "Through impulse and will, they shape in moments what a prepared caster takes minutes to carefully put together. They simply 'get' magic on a deeper level than most people do. The downside to this is that because the process is instinctive, they again don't fully understand what they're doing intellectually. It takes more effort to learn new spells, and an embarrassing amount of individuals put it off entirely to 'it's magic' and leave it at that." I shook my head in disgust. "Those with the gift of it have a lot of potential, but honestly there are too many easy outs with it, it's a rare mage who both has innate power, and works to fully understand how to use it." One I proudly counted myself amongst. "But those few who do… well they really are something else." I stated. "I personally aspire to walk this path, and have made it to the fifth level of that standard." I informed her.

She seemed a bit taken back. "Fifth… pentagon magic?" she asked eyes wide.

"Pentagon?" I questioned, and then shook my head lightly. "We rank out magic in circles. I'm a mage of the fifth circle. I'll get into the later. What do you want to hear about next?"

She took a breath, and I saw a slight smile cross her face. "fifth circle… Right! Alright tell me about the… 'Schools' you called them?" She asked. "And the other parts. I want to hear it all." She added eagerly.

I eyed the window. The sun had set in the time of my lecture. "Alright… but only a little more. We have plenty of time to get to the rest."

If only I had known then what I did now.

Chapter I Part IX

Fighting down a yawn, I eyed the mark on the back of my hand again. Gandalfr. The left hand of god… I really needed to take a better look at this thing once I got the chance. "Alright, schools of magic… basically they are general ways to class what a spell is designed to do, and to an extent how they work. There are eight major schools, and a number of sub specializations within them.

The first of them is Abjuration; which is mostly defensive spells, things like barriers, wards, and magics designed to break enchantments or bind an attacker. Spells in this school tend to cross over a bit with conjuration for more solid, longer term defenses, or evocation for a defense that has a bit of bite to it."

Louise nodded though she frowned. "I get how conjuration would work; it's making things with magic right? but what's evocation?"

I smirked. "Fun stuff, but let me do this in order alright?" getting a nod I continued. "Right, Next up's Conjuration; like you said, basically making stuff out of nothing. This is one of the trickier magics and tends to be rather power intensive. The stuff you shape tends to ether brake down pretty fast, or take a lot of effort to pull together. There are four well known sub groups. Creation; which is mostly making simple things, tools or items when you didn't have the chance to get them elsewhere. Creation's important because it's the bases of the other three parts, which are summoning, calling, and healing."

She blinked at that. "Healing? Isn't that water magic? I thought conjuring was mostly Earth magic." she asked.

I raised an eyebrow. "Water? Earth?" I asked, and then clued in. "AH! Let me guess, your spell school is polarized by elements?" I questioned, eager for new knowledge.

She nodded. "Yes, the five elements, Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, and the lost element of Void." The recited from memory.

"Woari'relgim?" I muttered, "Interesting… I know a couple styles like that; the Wu'Jen arts are based heavily on the first four of those. My magic isn't… hum, our styles might be more different then I thought. I think maybe I should research into the local system of spell casting before I continue." I admitted.

"What! No no no! Please!" she surged up off her bed and was almost on top of me in a moment. "Please teach me!"

I blinked a few times arching my neck back to avoid a repeat of our binding ritual. "Uh… I… will?" I stated experimentally.

She looked me hard in the eye, for a moment, the value of my word.

I was never more glad that someone didn't actually know me that well.

Placing hands on her arms and pushing her gently back, I explained. "I just think it might be smarter to know what I'm working with locally before I try and explain everything." I stated slowly as if the little girl was going to eat me if I slipped up.

She frowned. "I don't see why it's so important. Just tell me the general details and we can compare how they work later!" she proposed, leaning back but remaining standing.

Resisting the urge to sigh, I rose up and reclaimed my minuscule high advantage, unwilling to just let her lord over me. "Preconceptions can be a problem in the long term, I need to know the difference so you don't end up confused when I name one thing, and you think another. It could prove dangerous if you try something I talked about without fully grasping the difference between our respective methods of magic use." I lectured.

"I wouldn't blow things up!" She defended, flushing deeply. Her voice rather defensive for one so 'confident.'

"You might." I warned, and then noted it seemed to make her even more upset. "And if you did, it'd be my fault." I added. "Just give me a day or two to get up to speed on the basics. All I'd need to learn is the terms and a bit of the mechanics, then I promise you I could likely come up with a much more easily understood lesson plan…" I shook my head. "Aren't we getting a bit ahead of things to begin with? There's no rush at all, and in the long term it'll take you some time to learn how to use my type of magic anyway. [i]If[/i] you even decide it's worth studying my style of magic use, in comparison to your own means."

She bit her lip on that and looked down, something I'd said was badly upsetting her, and I couldn't help but feel a spike of guilt in the knowledge that I had somehow invoked it.

"Fine." She stated breathing out in bitter acceptance. "But you better work hard on this." She demanded.

I raised an eye brow to her. "That was the intent… regardless it's getting rather late. Perhaps it is for the best that we turn in. Tomorrow will likely be a busy day after all." I reminded.

She nodded, and stepped back to her bed, shedding her outer cloak as she did so.

I eyed my own 'bed' with a sort of grim acceptance, recalling the lovely silk and gold weave bedroll I had left back at my apartment in Menzoberranzan. Likely long looted by now.

I sighed. Still better then someone looting my hide. I could always commission another, even if most of my rather modest 'horde' was likely scrapped up by scavengers of one sort or another. I still had a good bit of gold on me, and more importantly, my spellbooks. I could rebuild given time, and at the moment I was in the ideal place to do so.

With that slightly more optimistic mindset, I rose up to make use of the offered pile of hay. It wasn't much, but I'd rested on worse in harder times past…

Then a piece of cloth hit me in the face.

Jerking slightly I reached up and pulled the white fabric from my head, taking a moment to recognize the shirt as my new master's.

I looked at the shirt in confusion, blinked, looked up, and promptly twisted my face away, proving that yes indeed a drow can blush if sufficiently prompted. "W-what do you think you're doing!" I demanded.

Chapter I Part X

She turned to face me, or at least I think she did. I had my back to her as fast as I could spin around. Regardless I certainly heard her well enough. "Going to bed?" She answered slowly. I got the impression that she just might be questioning my sanity at the time.

I twitched. "You could warn a guy!" I responded exasperatedly. "I mean, Bahamut's Breath, we've known each other less than half a day!" I added in, face sternly directed at the wall.

"Warn you about what?" She seemed honestly confused, and my sensitive elfin hearing (well technically somewhat muted elfin hearing), detected a few more articles of cloth hitting the floor before the faint whine of hinges moving roughly in the location of her wardrobe.

I twitched again, joy…

"I'm not sure the customs here, but with few exceptions young girls do not just strip down in front of a strange man they've just met!" I replied, quite thoroughly embarrassed. The fact I had recently stayed at a place where young women regularly [i]did[/i] was beside the point. Those were drow, and to drow women being nude was not that different than a human man walking around shirtless. A bit uncouth, and perhaps a sign of vulnerability that was rather brazen in such an, ahem, 'competitive' culture, but not something exactly unthinkable.

Then again, also like men walking around shirtless, a lot of the really powerful ones did it just to show off that they could. That they didn't need any such protections… but those were the highest up's and I was getting of topic again…

Such acts from a young human woman however… tended to leave a rather different impression.

"What?" she asked and the sounds of movements stopped.

"Don't get me wrong!" I added in. "Really, I'm rather flattered, but isn't this a bit… forward?" I questioned awkwardly.

"Wh-Wha-What!" she stammered.

"I mean, honestly it wouldn't be the first time I've been in this situation, I've even been on the other side once or twice, but really shouldn't we at least try and keep things professional to begin with?" I questioned, fondly recalling a rather embarrassing memory of my first real confession nearly half a century ago. Ah, Lady Moonstride, You taught me so many things… though you broke my heart in the end. Back then I was naught but a young fool really, not truly aware of what forces I was playing with… in any sense on how you viewed it.

"Y-You!" she stuttered in disbelief and shock. Ah, perhaps I should clarify a little? I didn't want to give the wrong impression after all.

"It was some time ago of course." I explained. "And it didn't really work out that well." That was understating things… Thinking of that time always brought forth within me a strong sense of wistful melancholy. Things had been so different then.

"But I didn't mean-!" came the voice behind me, flushed with embarrassment and one other emotion… I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was very familiar…

Might want to wrap things up then… I didn't want her to feel rejected at all after all, this sort of thing could affect someone for life! "So I think this time a much slower approach might be the wiser course." I nodded to myself. "After all, it wouldn't do to potentially damage our still budding relationship with one another by acting too hastily. I mean we don't even know if we could grow to like one another in such a fashion yet!" I added hastily. "S-"

I was cut off by a thwack to the head with some sort of semi-blunt implement. I didn't really have the time to identify it as small hands were shoved into my back and started pushing me out of the door.

"Pervert! I didn't mean any of that!" she yelled out. Shoving me clear from the door, before I could do much more then twist my head back to see her tomato red face enveloped completely in the emotions of embarrassment and anger.

"Wha-?" I started in confusion.

"Why would I ever even think of doing something like that with you!" she yelled, pushing me again as she cut me off before I could get a word out, or for that matter, regain my balance.

Tripping at the edge of the door frame I twisted around mid step, and fell out onto the hall, landing right on my tailbone.

Wincing at the sudden pain, I looked up to the girl, now clad in a rather fetching silk nightdress, as she towered down at me like a vicious pink haired overlord. "Now reall-" I started again, before I was interrupted mid sentence.

"You are my familiar!" She remonstrated. "A companion to aid me in everything I do in life! Changing with you in the room means nothing more than changing in front of my sister!"

I winced. "I didn-"

"You can sleep outside tonight!" she finished off then shut the door, locking it with a loud obvious sound.

I looked up at the door for a few moments, blinked, and sighed. "Well… that could have gone better."

Getting back up, I rubbed some feeling back into my lower end. Well that wasn't very reasonable of her…

I raked a hand though my hair and shook my head. A hundred plus years of dealing with them and I still didn't get women.

I sighed again, only for it to morph into a yawn partway, and remind me I had been awake for well over twenty-four hours now. It seemed it was time to try and hunt down a place of rest, as my lovely lodgings on the pile of hay had apparently been cancelled on me.

Sniffing the air idly I locked onto the ever familiar scent of musty old books… might as well kill two birds with one stone. I was curious as to how the local magics worked after all… and I needed to do a lot of homework on this place in general; culture, politics, technology, and history.

To say nothing of why in the nine hells everyone was so scared of elves of all things.

So a night in the library it was… I could have leaped with joy.

Well honestly it wasn't that bad. Research was far from a chore… and I'd pulled all nighters more than once in the past...

Now if only I could find myself a sandwich…

(Chapter I Ends)

Authors Note: Well there is the first bit of the rewrite… the second chapter's a bit over halfway through.

Sorry for the redo, I just feel I wrote myself into a corner in the original, so I'm trying it again. I hope to be caught up sometime within the next two months.

Sorry for any missed formatting conversions!