Summary: A hapless Bhaalspawn gets a partial analysis of her nature. Xzar/Generic Female Charname. Written for a Livejournal prompt.
Note: Kinkmeme prompt but not all that kinky. PG, even. oldschoolbwkink. livejournal. com.
The Copper Coronet was quiet this time of night.
"You're death incarnate. That's very interesting."
Xzar watched her on the bed, taking up her right hand in both of his.
"I always wondered why the blood samples I found from you in Nashkel turned to ashes. I thought Monty or your sister were fooling about with my experiments—again. One has to keep things uncontaminated." His touch was light and balanced, the fingertips half callused. There was a lingering wax burn on his left forefinger.
"Sarevok was dust," she said. He'd hung the mage robes empty over a chair, but wore tunic and trousers and boots still, the pillow behind his back and long legs spread across the former Madame Nin's most prized bed. The sheets and headboard were both a faded pink. It was heart shaped, or at least what people generally assumed was heart shaped.
"Your blood is different. Very different." He bent his head over her hand, her wrist; he eyed the upperside of the blue veins close under her skin. He lifted her hand slightly, and the sleeve of her dressing-gown fell away from her bare arm below.
"Stays around for a day or two, which is usually after I clean the bloodstains anyway," she said.
Death incarnate...and what else am I? Lonely, perhaps.
"Sustained by your life," Xzar said. His hands were still light across her, the same quick sure touch he used for any delicate spell components, and his gaze was intent across her skin. There was a time he'd mended a broken bone in that arm, numbing her first with a ghoul's touch, smoothing shards into exactly the right places like a jigsaw puzzle. He worked slowly along the outside of her arm; he'd come soon to the first marks of Irenicus' knives.
They'd meet the mage soon, perhaps. She shivered, though the lamps were warm and the light strong.
Xzar's finger traced a long whitened mark. "First a shallow cut, then a deeper overlaying it exactly, twice over. Precise work. He must have reached down to your bones in the end."
He did. I remember that much. He made me fear.
"But you don't need to repeat that," she said, trying to sound firm.
I have to know about what I am. That's all very true.
"Too crude," he said, fingers spidering across her skin, setting aside the loose sleeve. "You slice into a dead organism because the facts of it are settled. Doing the same to a live thing is inherently unsettling; the knowledge won't be very helpful. If he was trying to break you, he failed." For a moment his green eyes met her glance. He released the sleeve of the black dressing-gown, and reached up to shake the material down from her shoulders instead. He studied her detachedly, looking at Bhaalspawn rather than bare skin. Irenicus had burned her shoulders, dark dots over her clavicle and down toward her breasts.
Some kinds of corpses bruise easily after death, and don't get me started on how quickly some zombies fall apart, she remembered him saying once, with wild wide gesture with his hands. Especially elves. Their flesh is easily spoiled. His touch was light and assured, far lighter than Irenicus, the tips of fingers brushing slow and painlessly over the old marks close to her bones.
"Your clavicle is fused. It dates you as slightly older than you are. It's the first bone to begin to form, but the last to finish." She sat up; the hand travelled across her back. "Jugular and carotid," the necromancer whispered, face close to her neck. He lifted the mass of her hair, placing it over her left shoulder. Warm breath spidered across the back of her neck.
We're both alive.
Her back; the surface of her bones. For the first time his touch sent pain through her nerves, and immediately Xzar lifted his hand until she could barely feel the tips of fingers ghosting on her skin, faint as human breath.
"He fractured your right scapula and only that," he said.
This wasn't a good idea, she thought numbly. I remember Irenicus all too well.
"Normally you don't see that without accompaniment by many other injuries. It's a sturdy bone and well protected. Carting accidents, usually, or blunt force wielded by ogres or giants or the like," Xzar said. "Did he wish to show how precisely his spells could reach? You healed it quickly afterward, but not quite precisely."
I don't remember what it was. I was face down on the table. I couldn't see. There was only the pain. I didn't even...
"I didn't think about it," she said.
"Then that explains it—rough instinct—blood instinct—the Bhaal in you is crude. The essence must lack a proper mind. You have that," he said. She turned her head to stare at him, as if that were a compliment; but he only met her eyes for a brief moment. "Suppose he wanted your base instincts and the power that lies there."
The smell of blood from his knives.
"And if he brings Bhaal's power out of me?" she said.
"You might be more terrible than you are," Xzar said, his hands now light along the curve of her spine. She had her share of scars there and elsewhere from battles, from Irenicus; she refused to feel shamed by them. "Death is called destroyer of worlds for everything dies. Stay the kingdom of tyranny through lifting your hand, or slay the tyrant and let the bones be built into a white tower. Beyond the tower something else flaps its wings. He who is called Destroyer bears another name beyond the stars..." He had begun to speak quickly, agitated and mad; but he calmed his voice.
"I should be talking about your supernumary cervical rib," he added, turning once more to her front and drawing a line above her chest. "Twenty-five instead of twenty-four. The dark path of the mazelike intersection of the moon and the sun rules you, whereas twenty-four is ruled by the star of the morning."
She might have been raised in a library, but she was no innocent; but she was uncomfortably warm as his touch dipped lower to the swell of her breasts, though Jaheira had healed her there plenty of times and the necromancer's expression was as detached as ever. It was all a bit confusing.
She'd be pretty fast to say that Gorion wouldn't exactly approve of this.
She and Khalid were dead in Irenicus' dungeons. Everyone died. Often sooner if they travelled with a Child of Bhaal. She hadn't gone against the Harpers except as much as she'd needed to for him.
"Divination by rib count?" she said. The Zhent looked up at her.
"If you're building a tower of bones, every extra counts," he said cryptically. "Does the blood change pumping through your heart, daughter of Bhaal?"
His left hand limned along her skin as the dressing gown's fabric dropped to her waist, and his fingertips paused over her heart. "I can feel how quickly it sends the fresh blood through your arteries. A slightly fast beat, I think—let me listen. I can't feel any strange murmurs." He cocked his head to the left as if his training could make him hear through his fingertips, closing his eyes. She was entirely calm, she told herself. Xzar waited serenely, an odd expression on him; more usually he was animated with fierce energy, snapping spells and speaking mad precepts to any who cared to listen.
New spells and new discoveries always fascinated him. Xzar's eyes snapped open and stared at her; she'd wondered what his intensity might be like if to a person in the absolute focus of his wild gaze, all his strange imagination and wonders.
"Faster than usual mortal," he said. "Is a natural span a hundred hundred thousand heartbeats? Slower hearts live longer, but their time beats out more dully. A small skittering mouse lives faster than a sea turtle, but inside they perceive the same blood-beats—
"And the elves cheat," he added sulkily. "You have the same as everyone—a lifespan before death. Use it quickly to seek the spells that matter."
Call me living chaos.
"It's not fair if I'm...half-naked and you're still dressed," she said, making no attempt to close the dressing-gown. Her hair hung down, long enough to cover her left nipple.
"So it isn't. But do you want me to...? Would this do?" Xzar said, unfastening the cloth ties on his patched tunic. There were further trails of tattoos that marked his chest, but he didn't shrug the garment off his shoulders. "Blood can be imagined to be life, though I'd go with flashing lightning impulses in the brain myself. They say the first vampires were created by Netherese who drained all the blood out of captive souls and then tried to put it back into their veins—but the creatures were never the same afterwards. Your hand?" he asked, frenetic on a mage's distraction. She offered him her right.
"If I can divine in...light," he went on. "There are stronger blood vessels—carotid, femoral—but it's more vulnerable at the wrist—"
Irenicus spoke of vulnerability. The coldness of that brought her back. Xzar's spell conjured strange bright light, too strong to directly glance at.
"I'm trying to see," he said quickly. "Live blood—where it courses below the blue tint of the skin layers—there's no such thing as the vena amoris per se, but there are veins from finger traced back to heart—"
She saw her skin reddened and translucent behind the light, and felt a steady touch holding her hand.
"I think I see...blood and iron surging to take in breath. It turns to ash in short time; it passes stronger than it should—small wonder your heart beats well. Fascinating," Xzar said, and lowered her hand and put out the strange light. She blinked, for after it the lamplights were dull and dark. "You're very fascinating." He leaned toward her, restoring her arm to her side.
"Kiss me?" she suggested; that seemed to startle him. He paused, raising an eyebrow, and she wondered if she was a fool.
"Well," Xzar said, watching her with sharp fey eyes. "You saved my life." He raised his left hand, slowly, and touched the side of her lips as if he meant only to do that. Then he traced down a nerve on her chin she hadn't known she had, tingling and thrumming with life, and his mouth replaced the first touch.
She felt her blood stirred deep, a spell-warm hand on her thigh. She returned the thrill of the instinct in full measure; he kissed back, careful touches setting fires in her veins. Then they drew apart. Xzar's glance was almost uncertain. He tried a crooked smile past the markings on his face.
"You don't...like touching people?" she said, breathing deliberately calm.
Aerie, that's quite enough out of you! she'd told the avariel girl. It's entirely my business whom I stay with. And you can jolly well pass on to Dynaheir that I don't care for her commentary either, should she be inclined to make some—
"Sometimes," he said simply. "I am mad—I was cracked—I have not all the parts in my head. I remember waiting for you in the cold lair of the shadow dragon. I remember nearly drowning in the Nashkel underground waters—all sorts of things. Like fire dancing above a deep dark well. Or like an eggshell and a wing. That doesn't make any sense, does it? The better, then; the sibyl's voice is mad for the sake of colours invisible to the eye. I see the threads that sing to you."
"The Weave. Are there traces of Irenicus?" she asked, iron in her voice to wrench his words elsewhere. "I want nothing of him upon me when we travel."
"Nothing but the companions wrested from his dungeon," Xzar said, glancing at an abstract point somewhere behind her right ear. "A shadow-slipper has no stains of being a slave. A foretelling that he must; that we must—"
"Of course we must," she said. She noticed that the hand on her thigh had shifted, and now he brushed the numb silvered scar that marked the chunk Sarevok had sliced from her leg.
Confront Irenicus and slay him as I did the one who would have been a god.
"And then if you give in to the power in your veins—" Xzar said with a sudden intensity, a harsh glint in his green eyes. "You may gain the wielding of that sword and lose yourself. Take that as a true-divined seeing.
"But we go to an asylum. I would lose myself far away from it," he said. His shoulders slumped and he shook his head as if he found himself lost. "I wouldn't go if it weren't for you. No, I wouldn't go at all."
"Do you trust me? Or is it fear?" she said, and remembered an assassin with a poisoned dagger and the weeping over the small halfling body.
"I feared for Montaron. I missed him and the home I thought I had here. And I trust you enough...enough to sleep with you."
Oh. He means it literally, she noticed, and waited for the lamp wicks to burn themselves out. The necromancer's hand grasped her shoulder in rest, as if his nightmares wanted something to hold; and Madame Nin's faded, tacky pink sheet surrounded him. Without the tattoos he might look young and almost innocent in sleep.
Imoen would suggest dyeing his hair pink or drawing things on him, she thought, and tried to draw her mind to the sister to sail to on the morrow.