Disclaimer: I am an artist, writer, Gamer and a single Mother. I DO NOT create or produce games. I AM NOT BIOWARE. All Characters but Hope and her kids are NOT mine.
Chapter 1: The past always catches you.
It was a mild autumn afternoon as three men walked down the road that lead to the small village they had heard might hold the key to not only help solve a long time mystery but a long time pain for the three men. For twenty-five years, they had been on this quest, this mission, following the orders of their Lord. Searching for a sign, any sign, not wanting to give up the search and the hope of finding a sign or fail in the orders they had been given by their Lord, Commander'n'Chief and friend.
After the final battle, a few bodies were found; her lovers, the gnome's, the sorceress' and the traitor's but not one of the bodies was HER's. The ruins of the Illfan temple were searched extensively with no luck. The rest of her companions – with the exception of the missing warlock and the identified dead– had made it out of the ruins before they had crumbled. They were alive, distraught and shaken by what they had just partaken in and witnessed but alive nonetheless. This is what had led to the Lord of Neverwinter issuing the order. To find a clue, a trace, any sign of HER, to find her deceased or living body, but to find her! So at least in a small part her keep and Neverwinter's citizens could mourn and or celebrate her. They would know one way or the other; know what fate imposed on their unconventional reluctant hero and Knight Captain.
When the road rounded a bend and showed the men the small village down in the valley, they all stopped and took in the sight of this quiet little hamlet hidden away in the mare, yet so close to Neverwinter. They saw a dozen or so farms being worked in, the bustling small town square that had a few shops and a humble chapel on the other side of the square. Being autumn and the time for harvest, there were towers of hay bales, overflowing crops (ready to be eaten or sold) and the smell of ripe mead and wine ready to be drunk.
For the three men, the sight of such a village, especially during this time of year brought bittersweet memories flooding back to them of HER keep and village of the same time. They slowed to a stop and completely took it all in; the human in the greycloak uniform was the first to speak. "Hmm … It looks just like West Harbor at this time of year, look…" He pointed to the town square where people were setting up stalls and what looked like different competitions. "It even looks like they may be setting up for some kind of festival." As he spoke, he turned to the wood elf.
"It does indeed; if the rumors are true then it does not surprise me, she always did love the village life and spirit especially around the harvest cup time." The wood elf replied.
The Greycloak sergeant sighed. "I suppose we should go down there and find the magistrate… I do hope we find something this time."
"This is the best lead we have had in years and we won't know till we start asking questions." The Neverwinter Nine Human said to the Greycloak sergeant.
The three men started down the hill into the town, noticing workers in the fields, children playing around their homes, people going about their business as usual. As they walked through the square, they did not notice the people were stopping to look at them to wonder why such important looking people were walking through their town. Surely, they would not be here just for the Harvest Festival.
They stopped at what seemed to be a young half elven woman, though by looking at her closely they were not sure what the other half of her heritage was, she had amethyst eyes and her whole being seemed to be tinted in hues of blue. She was looking over a list on a board in the center of the square and did not notice them until the Neverwinter Nine member spoke, and asked where they would be able to find the magistrate of the town.
She tuned and gave them a wide welcoming smile that reminded the three men of HER. "You'll be after mum then. If you come to the shop, I'll see if I can find her for ya."
As the men followed her to the small shop that sat next to the morning lord's chapel, she told them from over her shoulder that her name was Amie. Just as she turned back to the front, she could have sworn an odd look came over one of the human's faces. The men saw that the shop was a general store that seemed to sell everything from arms and armor to magical items, divine and arcane to farm crops and homemade wine and mead. The men followed her over the threshold and into the store to meet with an unusual sight for the sword coast. Behind the counter was what looked like a male Hag-spawn writing on a piece of parchment but he seemed far more handsome than they had been lead to believe by stories about such beings and a young man that could only be his son?
The sound of the bell that hung over the door alerted the young man behind the counter to customers and he looked up to see the four men taking in their odd surroundings. "How may I help you gentlemen? He asked.
"Don't worry about it Cullum." The young woman named Amie said. The Greycloak sergeant and Neverwinter member, could be heard questioning the name of the young man behind the counter. "They're with me." She went behind the counter toward the where the Hag-spawn was working, "Dad…" catching his attention, "these men are looking for Mum. Do you know where she may be?" To the men, the young woman's colorings now made sense.
The Hag-spawn looked up from his work to see his daughter in front of him then turned and faced the four men in the store. As his eyes traveled over them, a small secretive smile crept onto his handsome features. "Yes… I do believe they are here seeking your mother but not for the reason they believe they are." He turned to his son, "Cullum, please go and fetch your mother from the chapel and your sister from the river trapping line. She should be nearing the lake. Explain that we have guests that require their immediate attention. But don't elaborate."
"Of course father, as you wish." He was just about to open the door when he turned back towards his father. "Why don't you want mum to know that our guests are from Neverwinter, Father?"
"Because I intend to enjoy her reaction Son, to our guests in its pure form," The Hag-spawn replied with a full-blown mischievous grin on his face." His son left through the door shaking his head with a rueful smile across his features, knowing that his father knew more than he was letting on and up to something. The Hag-spawn then faced the four men again. "My wife will be here shortly; while we wait, I'll show you through to the sitting room to have a seat. It's a long way to anywhere from this village so I'm sure you could all do with taking a rest from your travels."
"Thank you, kindly, yes it has been a long trip." The Neverwinter Nine member responded. "We are hoping to find information about our current assignment in this town."
"And we have plenty of information on many things, here in this town" The Hag-spawn said while smiling secretively. "But I do not believe that it is information you will find here. I also believe that I know who you three…" He gestured to the three men "are but I think we will wait for my wife to join us before introductions are made." He then gave the men another of his mischievous grin.
Just as the men were trying to make sense of what the Hag-spawn had said a young woman similar to the first walked into the sitting room. "Dad, Cullum said we had guests."
"That we do Shandra darling," He gestured to the three men on the opposite couch. "Would you and Amie please organize a tea service but also bring some of your mother's strong mead. As I think, we may need it."
"Of course father." The two young woman chorused, and as they turned to head to the kitchen to comply with their father's wishes, their eyes landed on the men again and gave them blinding smiles that reminded the men of HER for a second time. Just as the young women emerged from the kitchen, both carrying laden-down tea trays, the hag-spawn's son from earlier returned and came through to the house from the shop followed by a petite Drow woman.
The Drow woman did not notice the guests on the couch or their ashen white faces frozen in shock and disbelief at her appearance while she walked up to her husband. "Cullum said we had guests that you seemed quite … giddy about Love, when I tried to ask him who they were or where they were from he said that you looked like you knew but kept it to yourself."
The Hag-spawn's eyes glittered with mischief "I could be wrong my love but by the look on their faces right now I do not believe I am correct. It would seem that your past has come knocking." He said while he grinned handsomely at his wife and gestured to the other couch.
At that, the Drow woman spun on her heal to face three very white shocked expressions. She turned back to her husband and poked him gentley in the chest to emphisise each word she spoke. "You are a cruel man Gannayev-of-dreams, to me and our guests!" the woman said in mock irritation, laughing softly. "I suggest we get them something stronger than Tea, they look like they have just seen a ghost."
"Already done, my Love."
It was the elf, that came back to at least some of his senses first and as she turned back around to address her old friends, a pair of lithe but strong arms engulfed her, and then heard a long relieved sigh "Hope". Without a word the elf laid his head on top of hers and hugged her tightly, as if to make sure she was real, not an apparition but fully whole, alive and breathing. After what seemed like hours to the two, but were only mere minutes, the elf pulled slightly away to take a long look at his long lost foster daughter. "I… I thought…"
"I know father. I know, but it's not the case." Hope sighed contentedly into her father's embrace for another minute then extracted herself from him to look at the two men and laughed at their still shocked expressions. "So no hug you two, not even a hello, how ya been? Bevil, Navelle?" The two men chuckled a little constrictively but raised themselves off the couch and embraced their dear old friend one after the other.
"Amie hun, could you go and fetch Safia and Okku for me please. They should be here I think.
"Of course Mum" and Amie hurried out the door.
"I believe some introductions are in order my Love." Hope's Husband said
"Not quite yet, we will wait for the others, Love."
Just as she finished, Bevil was on his feet with his eyes swirling with anger, irritation, guilt and sadness. "For the past twenty-five years we have been searching for any sign of you, dead or alive. No body found, no sign of anything one way or the other! Now we find you here almost hidden in plain view of Neverwinter… Why Hope… why didn't you return or give us some sign you were alive. You could have at least let someone, anyone know that you were breathing and well! What happened!
At Bevils angry outburst, Cullum was on his feet in a defensive posture in front of his mother, Shandra was staring at Bevil in confusion and disbelief to do anything and Hope's Husband caught her before she fell to her knees weeping and took her back to the other couch.
"That is enough, Bevil. I'm sure Hope has her reasons and I think I may know some of them." Navelle said, trying to placate the other human. He had been looking around the homely intimate room since they first entered it; he had taken in all the small little details that made this room scream, "This is a home of love and understanding"
Slowly Bevil sat down leaning his elbows on his knees with his head in his hands. He looked over to where Hope had buried her head into her husband's shoulder "I… I'm sorry Hope. I shouldn't have shouted like that to you."
Navelle then continued "And now that we have found her; we have the opportunity to catch up on each other's lives" he then looked at Hope, who had sat up slightly in her husband's embrace and was staring at her hands in her lap guiltily.
Just as both Hope and Bevil started to calm, Amie was back with a human woman that looked like she was a red wizard of Thay and a enormous white bear, who's coat seemed to shimmer in a rainbow of colours. The new arrivals took note of thick tension and of Hope being cradled by her husband.
The woman rushed to hopes side. "Hope, are you ok, what's going on?"
But it was the Bear that answered after eyeing the men on the opposite couch to his friends. "It looks like our friends have some guests Safia." He then looked towards Hope's Husband. "What has happened Gannayev?"
Slowly the Had-spawn raised his head up of his wife's and replied to the Bear. "Emotion's are just running a little high I'm afraid. It would seem that Hope's past from the sword coast has found her." After seeing the change in the bear's tense stance to defensive, Gann chuckled. "Calm down Okku, there is no danger and Hope and I have been expecting it since we came back to the sword coast. We knew one day she would run into them or they would find her."
Okku slowly surveyed the room of people and on deciding that perhaps it would be best to see how this played out, he lay on the floor in front of the couch that was occupied by his friends. Safia was now sitting beside Hope, still with her arm around her.
"Are you going to be ok hope?" Safia said quietly
After one last sniffle, Hope raised her head and nodded to the room.
After a moment to gather herself and her thoughts, Hope said. "Kids…" Gaining their attention "This is 'Sir' Navelle. He was my superior, colleague and very good friend." Gesturing to the man in the Neverwinter Nine tunic. "Beside him is my oldest friend from me childhood Bevil and this…" Hope pointed to her foster father and said, "Is Daeghun Farlong, my foster father, your grandfather." Hope then introduced her guests to her family, Okku and Safia. "This is Gannayev, my husband and Amie who is 18, Shandra who is 19 and Cullum who is 21 our children. This lovely lady next to me is Safia, a red wizard of Thay and Okku here is a Bear god from Rashamen."
After everyone had acknowledged everyone else, Navelle spoke. "It is fortuitous timing that we have found you when we have, Hope. Up until a few months ago, we were only searching for a sign of you, any sign one way or the other so we would at least know what happened to you. But now an… 'issue' has arisen that we at least need your input into, if nothing else."
Before anything else was said, Shandra spoke up. "I don't mean to be rude, But what in the nine hells are you all talking about!"
The wood elf stared at the young woman for a moment with a considering gaze then turned to his daughter with comprehension and understanding. "They don't know, do they Daughter? Nothing at all, you haven't told your children anything of your past?" he let out a long-suffering sigh. "I would have thought that you would learn from my mistakes Daughter not make them anew."
When Hope heard her Father, she looked up at him with a small guilty smile. "I guess you raised me to much like yourself Father. They know a little, a… censored version of how Gann and I met, of where I grew up that I worked for Neverwinter for a time…"
"But nothing of who we truly are, or been, No." added Gann quietly.
Hope placed a hand on Gann's thigh in comfort. "Though tell me Father, just how do you tell your children that sort of tale when their younger, and how do you know they are old enough to comprehend, understand and accept such a tale and knowledge." Hope sighed and took a deep calming breath before continuing. "Though I guess now that you three have found me, I have left it too late."
"No Daughter, you have not. If you were to tell them now, you have not left it too late. I was the one that left it too late. I should have told you everything about your mother I knew about her life and her death before West Harbor was attacked or at least strait after it was. Before I sent you to Neverwinter, before your difficult and life changing journey even began… but I wasn't strong enough, I was selfish and I could not bring myself to trudge up those painful memories."
"Father, you had no idea what was going to happen, you couldn't have seen the future. Your guilt it unwarranted, as you have taught me, 'with past time comes wisdom.' You're seeing things in hindsight and what if's. It's not your fault how my life turned out. Moreover, if I hadn't had my 'injury' when I was an infant there is a good chance that I wouldn't be here now sitting with Gann and our children talking to you. It is because of my 'injury' that I met Gann. It is also, not your fault that my mother and Shayla died Father." She saw his guilt and skeptical face and smiled a comforting smile. "From what you did tell me of my mother and from the friends of hers that I have found through the years there was nothing you could have done. No matter what, both women would have tried to help everyone and anyone that needed it during that time and not even you could have stopped them or convinced them otherwise." She begged him to believe her and find some sort of peace, or comfort in her words. She, not under any circumstance held him responsible for how her life had gone after leaving the village and she certainly didn't blame him for it. "But you are right about telling the kids now that they are older." She looked at Gann to see his encouraging smile and then back to her father. "Heh, you were always right growing up and you are still right in your advice now Father. But this is going to take some time… it is a very long tale and even longer than you three believe it is."
With knowing mischievousness and curiosity in his eyes, a small grin formed on Bevil's face towards his childhood friend. "Yes it will take awhile to tell. I'm not surprised in the least that there is more to it than what we…" he gestured to Navelle, Daeghun and himself "believe there to be, like how the two of you met," lifting a cheeky curious brow towards Hope. "And what it had to do with your injury, am I correct?"
Hope giggled. "More than you know my friend, more than you know"
Navelle then spoke up. "Your children will need to know of your life before this village if they are going to understand why we need your help Hope."
"You mentioned you were going to need my help earlier, Navelle. I haven't been in the loop for a long time; I'm not sure how much help I can be."
Navelle then showed a very unfamiliar emotion on his features. Hope could have sworn that he looked at her with apprehension and the minutest bit of fare, as if what he needed to tell her she would react badly too.
"You may not know this but you are the highest decorated. You had already gained several during the last few months but afterwards you gain another half dozen or so for all that, you did for Neverwinter and the Sword Coast."
Hope stared at him not comprehending what he was saying. "No, I didn't know. But what does that have to do with why you have increased your efforts to find me in the last few months."
"Lord Alagondar is ill. He has been purposefully poisoned with something that we can't identify. The priests and mages of Neverwinter are investigating every avenue for a cure but they are beginning to run out of options. Half of the Nine are out searching leads for a cause and the other half have been called into our mission is finding you."
Suddenly Hope's face was white and her eyes grew wide with shock and disbelief but before Hope could question Navelle, Gann did. "But that still doesn't explain why you need Hope's help."
"NO!" Hope said a little more venomously than she meant. "You can't be serious? There is no way! That can't be right. Surly there is someone else… someone higher than I am, I wasn't even there for long, I'd only just gained the status! You, Cecile, Darmon or anyone else must be ranked higher."
Bevil looked upon His dearest friend with understanding and sympathy. "Hope, I know since you left the village you have felt that, little by little your control over your own life was striped from you. I remember, and I've just now realized that was probably one of the reasons for you not reappearing after the last time we saw you. Moreover, from the look on both you and your husbands' faces, you lost more of your control during the time that you het each other. Nevertheless, Navelle is telling the truth but there are options. Also don't forget the clerics are still intent on finding a cure for him."
"What's he getting at mum?" asked a very confused Cullum.
Hope ignored the question from her son and looked directly into Navels eyes. "Bevil said there are options, what options, Navelle?"
"You have the option of abdicating and passing it over to the next inline."
"Darmon. However, please Hope; hold off on any decisions now. I want you to seriously think this through and hear us out completely before you decide. Perhaps telling your children will help you gain some wisdom and perspective for either way." smiled Navelle. "They are going to need to know to understand the decision you make, no matter what it ends up being."
Cullum and the girls were starting to get frustrated with their confusion. "We still don't understand what is going on mum!" Cullum said with the irritation and frustration coming through loud and clear in his voice.
Hope turned to her children. "When the current Lord/Lady dies, the highest ranked member of the Neverwinter Nine takes the crown and become Lord or Lady."
Cullum was having difficulty comprehending what his mother had just divulged. Surely, she wasn't saying that SHE was a member and was the heist ranked. Shandra had her hand over her mouth is shock with her wide eyes trained on her mother but it was the youngest Aime who was in training to be a cleric of Lathander that asked the confirming question. "A… Are you saying that not only you are a member of the Neverwinter Nine, the elite guard of the crown but also its highest ranked officer?"
All Hope could do was nod to her children. She then took a calming breath. "That is what Navelle was telling me, yes." She looked over to Navelle, I'm going to need support and help to do this, I don't suppose you know the whereabouts of my old gang? I know of some who made it out and some who did not. I know that Bishop, Qara, Grobnar and…" stumbling over the next name initially. "Cas didn't make it." At the look of shock on the guest's faces, she explained. "I bumped into Ammon about a year after it happened and he said that he saw Grobnar's body laying crumpled over the constructs and that Cas was trying to hold open a door way for those who weren't dead to escape out of but saw it collapse over him after Sand got through. The other two… betrayed me."
"Everyone is at the keep except for Khelgar who is at the Ironfist clan hold" Everyone decided to make the keep or a village in the surrounding area their home." Bevil informed Hope.
Hope tuned to look at her husband. "Well you always told me that you would love to see the keep one day, looks like now seems like a good time. Are you two in?" She asked looking at Safia and Okku.
The great bear god stood and stretched before answering. "You know that I will follow you anywhere you go little one."
"and you Safia?"
"I've been with you this long my friend, I'll be with you." Safia said while they smiled and nodded to her friend.
"I believe we need to take a trip Love."
Hope you enjoyed reading it. Don't be afraid to leave a review, good or bad. I'm a fan of both :P