This Is Why We Fight
A HotU fanfic
Author's note: This somewhat disjointed collection of snippets came from a couple of inspirations:
My ponderings regarding Valen's title as 'general of Lith My'athar's armies', his supposed age, and his training as a weaponmaster and a soldier in the Blood Wars. In other words: much older and vastly more experienced in the ways of bloodshed than any youngish human player character (probably even considering playing with the same PC through NWN, SotU and HotU like me).
The hilarity when I realized that said PC of mine, Special Errant Envoy Plenipotentiary of His Exalted Highness the Primarch of Torm Adele Welters, would now be forced to work with a tiefling. Giggity-giggle.
The difference between a set military structure (I assumed that was what Valen was familiar with and what Lith My'athar's armies were organized on), and an independent paladin errant, specializing in going to places and solving problems for the good of it all. In modern terms, can a four-star veteran army general work with a hotshot MI-6 agent?
For all the reasons stemming from the above, conversations from the game are heavily paraphrased: I intended to remain close to their nature instead of being slave to their words.
This was fun, especially after those two met and started talking in my head. Hope someone else enjoys it too!
"Yes, Master Scalesinger?"
"Deekin's head hurt."
"Feeling's mutual," Adele Welters mutters; her head is still spinning, and the conviction that wizards absolutely, under no circumstances whatsoever should be trusted rapidly becomes the second most important thing she learned in the past few weeks.
Especially mad wizards with a penchant of high-pitched giggles, talking in rhymes and creating their own clones.
And teleporting people who just freed them from kidnapping drow after placing enchantments of said rescuers…
She lets her instincts take over, honed into precision by years of rigorous training and adherence to The Code. Coiling up from the ground and feeling the reassuring weight of her armor around her, she backs up so she feels the solid pressure of a wall behind her, sword drawn and held in front of her, tip towards the ground: the Door of Duty. The first words of invocation in her lips for strength, Adele is ready to spring at anything that comes at her…
Where in the Nine Hells did that mad wizard teleport us?
And where's that drow?
"Deekin, light!" she hisses towards the kobold, hoping that he actually listens this time: she doesn't use his first name very often. "A small one, please," she adds after brief consideration, and is relieved to see the tiny and controlled warm flame floating up from the little bard's upstretched palm.
And in its wake…she sees.
Adele never swears, despite the long years spent with soldiers, even including that brief stint on behalf of the Primarch of Torm smuggling slaves out of Luskan, but she can now barely contain something decidedly unpleasant slipping out between her clenched teeth as she looks around her.
"Master Scalesinger?" She settles on that, gesturing to her companion sharply. "To me. Now."
"What it is, Boss?" Deekin scuttles over, head tilted questioningly to a side. Adele winces: sometimes the kobold's blessed ignorance towards most of his surroundings is rather a curse. "Can't be baddies: they would have jumped on us by now, and Boss would have gotten them all smited to death…Smoted? Smitten?" His sentence trails off as the kobold considers the possibilities.
Adele concentrates on slowing her breathing as she studies the intricate carvings of the walls stretching up around them.
This does not look good.
And I can't see Nathyrra at all. Adele wonders, briefly, if this is another of Halaster's tricks: leaving the drow woman, the third member of their little party behind while sending her and Deekin to… well, wherever they are now, or whether there is something much more sinister behind her sudden absence.
And given what she sees on those walls, she is inclined to believe the second possibility more and more. She shakes her head, swiping a few pale strands of hair out of her eyes; she is glad to feel that her helmet's guard-chains held and it is reassuringly pressed into her back.
"If I remember my third-year novice course 'Religions of Darkness' correctly…" she starts, tapping her chin in thought.
"And you always do, Boss," Deekin inserts smoothly. Adele shakes her head.
"Not now, Master Scalesinger, if you please. You can sing about my infallible memory, peerless judgment and flawless execution of duty later. Now we must dedicate ourselves to solving the pressing problem of seemingly being dropped in the middle of a Lolth-temple's side room."
Deekin makes a sound that is halfway between a squeak and a hiss.
"Yes, I know." Adele sighs. "But those carvings are unmistakable, I'm afraid, even though judging by the crates here; this place is merely used for storage right now. And, given who our adversary is according to Master Halaster, this does not bode well."
"But…" Deekin slowly slides down along the wall until he is sitting on the floor, slightly trembling scaly hands in his lap. "That means a lot of angry drow, right?"
"Any chance we can run?" Deekin asks hopefully.
"Doubtful." Adele shakes her head. "I certainly can't…I wouldn't see further than my nose without your light, even if it wasn't against my oath." She taps her chin, considers Deekin carefully. "You might be able to hide somewhere and then…"
"Deekin would never leave Boss." The little kobold squeaks out quickly. "Otherwise how would everyone in Waterdeep know about Boss' heroic deeds in Undermountain and beyond, even…"
"Of course, Master Scalesinger." Adele interrupts her companion again: even though she grew immensely fond of him during their previous adventures, spending some time away from him and back between her brothers and sisters means that she has to get used to the kobold all over again, and it is…difficult. "Now, if you please, let us devote ourselves to discovering what lies below that door there. Most importantly, I would really like to find out where Nathyrra disappeared to." She rotates her shoulder, still holding her blade slightly out to the side: it is strangely silent so far, but Adele certainly doesn't mind a little bit of…
"Well, that was…unpleasant." Enserric declares exactly at that point: the sentient sword has a penchant of spouting declarations exactly at the wrong time; very much like Deekin, in fact. Adele, like before, considers the possibility that she is burdened by both as a special test of faith from Torm…but surely, the Lord of Duty does not have such warped sense of humor.
And I'm still thinking that after five years of serving as the Special Errant Envoy of the Order of the Golden Lion the Lord of Duty doesn't think of me as a very, very useful errand girl-combined-with-entertainer…
"Lovely of you to notice," she answers Enserric, noting that the blade's normal strong blue light seems to be paler. "Are you all right?"
"You mean, after that particularly violent teleporting spell, during which, as any competent magical theory book would tell you, you are sucked into a negative dimension, disassembled into your tiniest components until you're nothing but pure energy, then reassembled at your entry point and violently ejected, the excess force needed clearly taken from your own stores so you are…" The sword flickers again. "Ugh, I'd so throw up now, if I were still corporeal."
"Yes, no doubt." Adele says curtly, cutting Deekin off before he can even attempt an answer. She decides to simply do what usually works: stick to the curt necessities as she was taught by her first teachers in the sprawling citadel of Torm in Tantras. Spend your efforts on your deeds, not your words: thus the Duty will be fulfilled. "Two priorities: find Nathyrra and establish location, if you don't mind. Now, the best way …"
She gets that far when the door of the room opens. The hallway beyond is barely lit with an odd orange glow, and bathes the silhouette of a man standing in the doorway in a sinister light.
Adele's eyes narrow. There is something… but just as her eyes adjust and she realizes what it is she faces, she already feels the pinpricks of her divine magic awakening. If the horns and the swishing tail wouldn't be a giveaway, the taint of the Lower Planes surrounds the man like an infernal or abyssal aura unseen to the mortal eye, but clear as day to her trained senses.
A half-breed. In a drow temple. Splendid.
Almost at the same time, the figure at the door lifts his right hand, and Adele realizes that the taint is the least thing she has to worry about.
That is the largest one-handed warflail she'd ever seen.
"You shall not have the Seer, intruders!" he growls, stepping forward with liquid grace. Adele's reflexes take over again, successfully circumventing her brain that even now is trying to analyze the situation. Her body moves, shifting her balance to sidestep the expected blow of the warflail, accounting for the curve of the backswing. She sends Enserric on a curt, violent thrust towards the outsider's ribs at the same time, hoping to find the opening amongst the interlocking plates of his armor there without overextending…
It's that or a direct Smite, and I am still too groggy for that. Not to mention I can't get too close because dear Torm, he is tall!
She misses; he is fast as well, apparently. He twists almost in time with Enserric's inward move; the longsword makes a surprised 'oomph' sound as it glances off the man's backplate. Adele avoids the flail, true, but it catches the edge of her cloak as the outsider sweeps it back in a backhanded, odd arc. She ducks, knees almost on the floor, yanks on the fabric, hoping the magic in it was strong enough to hold the weave together, then whirls around and comes up with Enserric in a high guard, ready to sweep down…
"Valen, stop!" That is Nathyrra's voice, clear and high; she appears from behind the outsider, arms raised, white hair in disarray. "She's no danger…"
"She's an intruder!" The man turns, weapon still at the ready, still fully intent of springing on Adele at any moment, it is clear.
She also waits: the reappearance of her guide is at least partially a positive development on this mad day.
And with every breath I can gather more of my powers back for that smite should I need it, she thinks as she allows her breathing to slow back to the prescribed pattern necessary to summon the god's energies to be unleashed on Evil.
"She is our Savior!" Nathyrra dances around the man's large form: a lithe and lethal shadow, almost vibrating from tension. "She is the one the Seer saw… she is the one I was sent to find. We were separated by the mad mage's magics…" She tilts her head to one side. " Usstan joros, Malla Qu'el'saruk."
Adele has no idea what that means, but it certainly has its effect. She decides there and then that Nathyrra is, after all, all right. That flail is huge, and the man wielding it possesses agility and grace besides being strong: their brief exchange already told her it would have been a brutal fight with her powers all exhausted and spent.
"Ol'zhah dubo, abbil," the outsider growls, letting his arm finally relax so that the warflail falls to his side." Jhal ji tlu ol. " He inclines his head towards Nathyrra: the orange glow of the corridor glints at two sharply curved horns. "You will forgive me, then, if I don't tarry any longer. Take her to the Seer: I have other business to attend to now that I know that our Savior is here."
Those last words drip venom as he throws a side glance towards Adele. He looks utterly lethal, angry… and tired, Adele realizes looking into those unusually clear blue eyes; almost, if not more exhausted than she herself. All angular features, tightly pressed lips, long locks the color of fire... She blinks as one of her powers suddenly wakes, curling a tendril of energy almost unselfconsciously out towards the outsider, like every holy warrior worth his or her salt would when facing one of those…
"Damnation and hellfire, Nathyrra!" The outsider almost explodes as he whirls around again, one gloved hand, blissfully empty of weapon, pointing accusingly at Adele. "Is she really a paladin? Has the Seer lost her mind at last?"
"I would like to think I've retained my faculties even though many in this city might think otherwise." A woman's voice, deep, resonant and full of amusement: it stops the outsider right on his tracks. Adele just stares, as both the outsider and Nathyrra bows deeply, giving way to a tall female drow in resplendent white-and-silver silks swirling around her like veils of moonlight. "Although if you think me mad, dear Valen, we might as well invite the armies of the Valsharess in…" she continues, tilting her head as she looks up at the man who towers over even her.
"Forgive me, Seer." There is no emotion on the outsider's face but his pale cheeks definitely turn the color of embarrassment. Adele watches, hardly believing her eyes, as he goes on a knee in front of the frail woman. "I spoke out of desperation and…"
"There's no need." The woman called The Seer touches a slender, elegant hand to the man's cheek as gently as a beam of moonlight. "In fact, I would worry about you had you never expressed doubts about me: please rise." Her deep violet eyes find Adele and a gentle smile opens on her face almost immediately. "But come now. Our guest must think we're being discourteous…"
"Especially since someone just couldn't stop hitting first and asking questions later…" inserts Nathyrra with some acid in her voice, watching the outsider getting on his feet and wincing at the well-placed shot. "Mother Seer, this is Adele Welters, who amongst those dwelling aboveground holds the title Special Errant Envoy Plenipotentiary to the Primarch of the god Torm."
"The Loyal Fury." The other drow woman nods. "That is how her god is known to mine… Most fitting for our needs indeed." She inclines her head towards Adele and beckons with one silk-gloved hand. "Come now, child; you probably are tired and in need of refreshments and some much-needed explanations. I can provide both, and an apology about your reception in our abode here: rest assured had I known about your coming, I'd have prepared a more fitting welcome. Let me, however, greet you now in the city of Lith My'athar. I am known as The Seer to my people, as the Lady of the Dance sees fit to gift me with dreams that come true and light dreams in people's hearts." She indicates the two standing by her: Adele is struck by her manners and mode of speech, calling into memory short days spent in some of the most sophisticated courts of Faerun. "Nathyrra you already know: she serves as my eyes and ears in Lith My'athar and beyond. And, I believe, you, or at least your sword, are already acquainted with Valen Shadowbreath as well …" The Seer's smile is decidedly mischievous there, Adele decides, and is grateful for the scarcity of light in her corner hiding her own blush.
~ Yes indeed, with him, and his flail. ~ Enserric's voice is sour in her head. ~ Curse it; even I've never seen someone being so fast with a weapon like that.~
The Seer's next sentence, however, makes her gulp and feel as if she is on the edge of a gaping chasm. "He's the general of Lith My'athar's armies and my right arm between the darkness of the Valsharess and our people."
What? Adele stares: the outsider does indeed, have some kind of wide sash across his shimmering green breastplate but she could hardly have…
She bites her lip and discreetly raps on Enserric's sheath: the sentient sword snickers almost loud enough for everyone to hear. His thoughts echo clearly in her mind.
~Well there, Special Envoy Plenipotentiary… you really, really messed up this time. Congratulations. Committing diplomatic faux pas the first instant after arriving to what obviously is headquarters of allied forces against the very enemy you're supposed to fight. Talk about embodying the stereotype of pigheaded paladins, judging everyone without thinking… ~
Adele feels her body go rigid, unselfconsciously snapping into attention as if she is standing in front of the Grand Master himself. One hand still on Enserric's hilt, she clicks her heels together and executes the best salute since her novitiate days.
"General, sir!" She enunciates clearly, sending a quiet prayer to Torm to either stop the nightmare or please forgive her whatever transgression she committed that caused him to drop her into this joke. "My blade was out first: please do forgive me. I had no idea…"
"At least you have manners," the man growls. Adele shivers as he regards her with eyes cold as ice chips from one of the Northern glaciers. "That will, no doubt, come handy when the Valsharess' armies descend upon us. You can have pretty speeches from the battlements." He nods curtly. "Seer: I am not a man of words—if you forgive me, instead of chitchatting, I would rather go and look after the troops so they are ready for our new commander." With heavy cloak swirling, Lith My'athar's general turns and strolls out of the chamber, over six feet of barely contained violence and lethality.
"And there he goes again." Nathyrra announces into the momentary silence that follows, accompanied by the Seer's shaking of her head. "Going to sulk, no doubt. " The drow sighs, and smiles at Adele. "And now that we successfully confused the Hells out of you, my sweet paladin, let us go and find you something to drink and eat, and a soft cushion to sit for you and your companion: there's much to discuss." She leans closer and confides in a low voice. "Don't worry about our good general. As they say on the surface so aptly: he barks a lot, but doesn't bite." She winks. "Or so I hear, anyway."