Hello, everyone! This is the very first fanfiction story I've posted here. I originally posted it on my DeviantArt page, but I've decided to also post it here. This Baldur's Gate story is based on the most recently released Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition, a re-release of the classic Baldur's Gate game developed by Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog and Atari. I decided to write fanfictions of the Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition trilogy as an unofficial "Enhanced Edition" of the unpopular official novels of the Baldur's Gate trilogy, and because as a new fan of the Baldur's Gate series, I am beginning to see why this game is the most popular, legendary RPG ever known. The sequels of this fanfiction will also be based on the enhanced editions of Shadows of Amn and Throne of Bhaal.

None of the NPCs in this fan fiction belong to me except the main character of the story, who is based on my player character from my playthroughs of the game. I hope you enjoy the story! I know originally my story was a bit hard to read because of long paragraphs and such, but I've taken care of that problem and hopefully my story will be easier to read.

The only character that belongs to me is the protagonist of this story. The other characters are owned by BioWare, the developer of the original edition of Baldur's Gate, and the NPCs from the Enhanced Edition belong to Beamdog and Atari.

I hope you all enjoy my fan fiction!

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you..." -Friedrich Nietzsche

For years, the lands between Waterdeep to the north of Baldur's Gate and Amn to the south bordered on the west by the Great Ocean and the east by the Wood of Sharp Teeth have been called the "Empty Lands", due to its vast stretch of wilderness that people venture into to get from one town to another. The trips are known to be dangerous, hence the name "Sword Coast", because of grisly fates that befell travelers at the hands of orcs, trolls, hobgoblins, giant spiders, and worse threats like ghasts, worgs and ettercaps. All varieties of humanoid species live in the Sword Coast: humans, elves, halflings, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, and as of right now, at this very moment, Baldur's Gate and the neighboring towns in the Sword Coast are facing a crisis dubbed "The Iron Shortage Crisis", an incident where in every mine known for producing rich and pure iron for blacksmiths to craft into weapons and armor for sale isn't mining much iron like they used to, and the iron that they do mine is somehow tainted.

This tainted iron causes a sword, axe, or warhammer to break if handled too much a certain number of times, forcing the person who bought the sword, axe or body armor to return to the nearest store and spend more money on weapons and armor that will most likely break like the first ones purchased. The same goes for any tool made of iron. No one knows who is behind the iron crisis or why, but one thing for certain is that the armed factions in Baldur's Gate can scarcely keep themselves armed and the commoners are suffering all the more. Without iron they cannot mend their tools or purchase plows - and everyone knows that if they cannot farm or craft, they will starve in the winter. Some blame Amn for the chaos, others the trading cartels, and still others suspect even the Dukes of Baldur's Gate.

To make matters worse, bandit groups have begun targeting any traveler on the road to steal their money and armor made of iron, making traveling with a group in the wilderness highly recommended for travelers in the Sword Coast. One night in the city of Baldur's Gate, something amiss is taking place in a building belonging to the Iron Throne, an organization that has been operating in the Sword Coast for the past few decades, but regardless of that, very little is known of the Iron Throne's operations and the identity of its backers are also a mystery as well. the Iron Throne operates mostly through agents, low-level thugs and brigands who have only recently taken legitimate employment and entered into the service of the merchant roster. The Iron Throne constantly deny all involvement in any criminal acts by their agents and replaces them daily. However, recently, the veneer has been worn thin, because the Iron Throne has been suspected of assassinations of competition, extortion, thuggery, trading weapons to humanoid tribes, and trafficking in smokepowder, poison, and contraband.

There have also been frequent reports of conflicts between Iron Throne caravans and agents and those sponsored by the Zhentarim. The Iron Throne also has been recently banished for a year from acting within Cormyr, and many suspect them of expanding to new locales. The leader(s) of the Iron Throne are at present unknown and resisted all attempts to magically reveal their identities or intentions. Without official confirmation on the organization's leadership or goals, rumors run rampant about the Iron Throne. Some say that the Iron Throne members are secretly agents of the Zhentarim or of Cormyr, and that previous actions against those groups are only to hide their trail. some claim that a god is involved, such as Cyric or an even darker power. Other rumors point to undead beholders, expired deities, sentient lizards, or pale blue sea giants as the true leaders of the merchant company and the secret of its power. The truth remains to be seen.

During a dark, stormy night in Baldur's Gate on the roof of the Iron Throne building, a male human in body armor with a yellow colored cross on the chestplate, and wearing a helmet that completely obscured his face but has a horizontal slot that reveals his eyes, and has two blue and white striped horns on the sides of his helm pushed the wooden door opened and stumbled out into the cold, wet rooftop, closing the door behind him. He collapsed on his knees, using his hands to prop himself up from falling face flat on the wet stone floor, breathing heavily as if he had been chased by hellhounds for many hours and finally ditched them. He could hear and partially feel the raindrops pelting his armor and helmet as he tried to catch his breath.

However, unfortunately for this unidentified man, he is far from safe. Seconds after he arrived on the rooftop, the danger he is running from had caught up to him. The man turned his head around facing the door with his eyes wide in terror the moment he heard a loud grunt of exertion and the wooden door exploded open, flying towards him in splinters. Standing where the closed door once was is another man, who is dressed in very intimidating armor. He stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall, he wore heavy deathbringer armor with razors and spikes on the shoulder pads, even on the arms. His helmet is the most unsettling feature. His helmet has sharp edges like teeth, partially obscuring his face but revealing his bright yellow eyes, and his helmet has bigger, thicker horns than the other man's helmet which makes him look more demonic.

All in all, the appearance of the armored man who is apparently chasing the the other man looks like he is a demonic humanoid from the depths of Hell, especially with his glowing yellow eyes which have no iris and pupil. As if on cue, thunder and lightning crackled in the night sky as the armored man stood over the cowering man and the rain intensified a bit, his evil chuckle echoing in the cold air. The unidentified man slowly crawled backwards on his arms away from the armored man.

"N... No, you can't," he whimpered, already knowing well that the chances of sweet-talking or bribing the armored man won't save his life.

"I will be the last... and you will go first," The armored man said, concluding his sentence with another sinister chuckle and slowly advanced towards the other man.

The victimized man gasped softly in horror. He knows what I am...!

By now his back is against the short brick wall of the roof. There's no way he can crawl further away from the armored man, so he stood up and then had an idea that may intrigue the armored man, something that would prove to him that he's too useful to get rid of.

"Th- there are others. I can show you, please! Please!" The unidentified man stammered, unable to calm his frightened nerves, for he could clearly see that the armored man showed no signs that his interest is piqued.

He turned around to try to run for the other section of the roof, but unfortunately, his route is obscured by the thin iron bars surrounding the roof. He tried to pull them open, but unfortunately the bars aren't meant to be opened, all they did was rattle from his feeble attempt to pull them open. Having no other options, he turned around to face the armored man and immediately saw a clenched fist flying towards his head. The powerful right hook connected with his helmet, resulting in a loud clang. The unidentified man got knocked down and his helmet popped off his head and rolled on the cold stone floor. The man laid down at the armored man's feet, barely conscious from the powerful, unexpected punch from his attacker. He would have had a broken jaw at that moment had he not have been wearing his helmet, but either way, whether he wore a helmet or not doesn't matter. The unidentified man tried to regain full consciousness as he felt cold rain pelting his unprotected head and he tasted blood in his mouth.

He then felt himself being grabbed by the throat and being lifted up in the air. He gasped for air as he felt his windpipe being partially squeezed. The armored man continued chuckling evilly as he held the helpless man by his throat, he could practically taste the man's fear, and that made the armored man gloat even more. He smashed the man against the metal bars, breaking them wide open and holding him out over the edge of the roof. The armored man's victim felt his windpipe gradually being squeezed tighter, until he couldn't breathe anymore, and in a futile attempt, he banged his right fist weakly on the armored man's arm while desperately gasping for air. Then almost immediately, the armored man roughly tightened his grip on the man's throat, the larynx and other bones of his throat cracked loudly like tree branches snapping, damaging the trachea, and the victimized man tried to cry out in pain but the only sound that came out of his damaged throat was a pained gargling noise because of his blood bleeding into his ruptured windpipe from the cuts his broken neck bones created. He died with his eyes wide open in terror.

The armored man's yellow eyes narrowed, satisfied that his victim has finally expired. Then he threw the man's lifeless body down to the streets of Baldur's Gate down below. Many, many stories below. Fortunately very few citizens walk in the streets of Baldur's Gate at night, especially not in a stormy night like this, so no one witnessed the man's death. A few seconds after the man's body hit the concrete, his skin slowly turned gray and dissolved into small flakes, and the gentle wind blew some of the flakes away, leaving only his body armor and skeleton where he once was, and a fairly large pool of blood. The man's killer, the armored man in demonic armor chuckled and headed back inside the building, intent on finding the "others" that his victim was referring to.

1st day of Mirtul, The Year of The Banner (1368 DR)

Candlekeep, the citadel of learning stands on a volcanic crag, overlooking the vast sea known as the Sea of Swords. It is a many-towered fortress, once the home of the famous seer Alaundo, and it preserves his predictions along with all written records and learning of the Forgotten Realms that can be possibly assembled. Candlekeep is not exactly a place for tourists to visit, regardless that there is an inn, a shop, and a temple dedicated to Oghma, the god of knowledge. However, there are monks that also favor Gond, Deneir and Milil. The price for all travelers to enter Candlekeep proper is a book. Those wishing to examine any writing in the Keep's library must gift Candlekeep with a new tome of no less than 10,000 gold coins in value. Even if visitors gain entry into Candlekeep, they are allowed to stay for no more than 10 days. After the tenth day of their visit, they will be forced to leave.

Although most sources state that Candlekeep was the home of Alaundo the Seer, the keep actually predates him by 200 years, being founded in -200 DR. Alaundo arrived in Candlekeep in the year 75 DR to study the books there and his visions of the future made him popular. Rumor has it he saw his own demise and wanted to donate his records to Candlekeep before his death the following year. By 82 DR, when the Candlekeep sages discovered that Alaundo's visions of the future are indeed accurate, they were so deeply impressed that they assigned 30 monks to chant a never ending "Chant of Unfulfilled Prophecies". Ever since that year, Candlekeep has always assigned 30 monks to chant Alaundo's prophecies.

Inside Candlekeep, lives an orphan by the name of Ralis (pronounced "Ray-Liss"), a young male human who is 21 years old today, his birthday passed three months ago. He is 5'9 (1.73m) feet tall, a lean, healthy boy with brown hair, bright brown eyes, and smooth vanilla colored skin, having absolutely no traces of facial hair or body hair, and he has a face that shows not only honesty and admirable moral upbringing, but also the cunning and determination of a warrior deep inside him. For nearly 20 years, he has called Candlekeep his home, for it is secluded and highly regimented from the wilderness and towns of the Sword Coast and most of their issues.

Although he is an orphan, his guardian, a sage known as Gorion (pronounced "Go-Ryan") has been the only family he has known. For many years, Gorion has raised Ralis on many stories of heroes and monsters, lovers and infidels, battles and tragedies. Gorion himself is a man of thin build and strong, rigid posture despite being 60 years old. He is 6 feet tall (1.83m), a long, thick gray beard and his long gray hair is tied into a ponytail. The stories that Gorion told to his ward inspired Ralis to develop a dream of becoming an adventurer, travelling to distant lands, helping the helpless, solving conflicts, thwarting evil forces, and maybe finding a girlfriend in the process. Gorion's acquaintances have over the past few years trained Ralis in self defense combat.

The other sages of Candlekeep found it difficult to train him how to cast magic spells, but where he fails in being a mage, monk or cleric, he excels in being a fighter. Drawn to the clamor of a weapons forge at the age of 13, Ralis became very skilled in helping the Candlekeep guards with their work, and learning the basics of sword combat by Hull, Jondalar and the gatewarden of Candlekeep. He has also been trained on how to use longbows from Erik and Fuller, even though Fuller prefers to use crossbows. However, one of Candlekeep's guards, a female human named Lydia took Ralis under her wing and taught him the more advanced styles of sword combat.

Ralis is skilled in using bastard swords, especially using two with both hands. This training assured the possibility that one day he will leave Candlekeep and forge his own adventures, inspired by the heroes in the stories that Gorion has told him ever since his childhood, like Tristan Kendrick, Grunnarch the Red, the Knights of Myth Drannor, Drizzt Do'Urden and his Companions of the Hall and many other famous heroes. However, it soon dawned on Ralis that there's one story that Gorion has never told him: his heritage. Gorion only confirmed to Ralis that he is an orphan, and that the identity of his parents is a mystery that very few people know. A few days ago, Ralis grew more curious about his past, and had developed a growing suspicion that Gorion knows more about him than he cares to admit. Over the past few years, Ralis has gleaned something of his mother's tales from Gorion's vague allusions and from the words he uttered as he cries in his sleep. Based on the subtle details Ralis has gathered, his mother lived in Silverymoon and has been a close friend of Gorion for several seasons.

But Ralis has no memory of his mother, no memento or keepsake. The only possibility why is because she may have died after she gave birth to him. Perhaps the loss of one of his closest friends led Gorion to cloister himself within the narrow halls of Candlekeep and raise Ralis on his own. But much to Ralis's concern, Gorion has been growing more and more distant from Ralis, as if a serious matter weighs heavily on his heart. Ralis tried to ask Gorion what he knew about his past as gently and politely as possible, but unfortunately, Gorion still refuses to part with his knowledge of Ralis's heritage by either changing the subject or or not answering at all. Ralis felt concerned and disappointed at the same time, but he found comfort in the realization that Gorion is probably waiting for the best time to reveal his past. He is a wise sage, after all, he would never hide secrets from his ward... his foster son.

Today, this very morning, Ralis woke up, sat up in his bed and yawned, looking out the window at the vast wilderness of the Sword Coast from the 5th floor of Candlekeep's library.

"*sigh*, Another fine day," he said to himself with a smile.

He rolled out of bed, undressed out of his pajamas and dressed into his navy blue colored clothes. Ralis is feeling cheerful today, as usual.

"Ralis? Ralis, are you awake already?" A voice called from behind the door.

Ralis recognized the voice. It is Parda, one of the sages in Candlekeep and one of Gorion's closest friends, even to Ralis.

"Oh, Parda. *Yawn* Yes. Hold on a second," Ralis said as he fastened his sandals to his feet, then he approached the door and opened it, revealing Parda standing outside the room.

Parda is an elderly man in bright yellow colored monk garb. He has a large steely white beard and has this comforting aura about him that some, if not most of the monks have, the aura of a kindly wise man.

"Ralis, Gorion sent me to wake you. He needs you to to go to the bathhouse and clean everything, then go clean the temples of Oghma and Denir, return to the library and sweep the floors on the 2nd and 1st floor, and also to wash and dry the rugs as soon as possible," Parda informed Ralis.

Ralis blinked twice then shook his head. "Wait, usually Father comes to me personally and informs me of my chores. Why did he send you, Parda? That's rather odd, he has never sent you to inform me of my chores before..." Ralis said with a troubled frown.

"I know, it does seem unusual, but I'm sure he has his reasons. Run along now, child, your chores won't finish themselves," Parda said reassuringly.

Ralis grinned. "Of course!" He ran past Parda and headed down the stairs.

Parda watched him leave with a smile. "That child is so full of energy..." He said to himself.

Two hours and fourty-four minutes later, Ralis is now halfway done with sweeping the floors in the 1st floor of the library, saying "hello" and "good morning" to every acolyte monk and low ranked monk called "Seekers" who wear mauve colored robes walked by him (acolytes wear black robes). He also heard the 10 of the 30 chanting monks nearby, chanting a yet-to-be fulfilled prophecy of Alaundo about Bhaal, a god who died during the Avatar Crisis, an event that took place 10 years ago when all gods and goddesses were forced to become mortals. The chanting monks chant that Bhaal, the Lord of Murder will perish as a mortal, but his score of mortal progeny will live on and sow death and chaos all over Faerun. Ralis often wondered if those chanters ever get tired of chanting prophecies that haven't been fulfilled yet. He recalled back in 1359 DR, Alaundo's previous prophecy stated that in the Year of The Turret (1360 DR), a great host will arrive from the East like a plague of locusts. The monks of Candlekeep believed that the great host arriving from the East referred to the Grand Army of the Tuigan, a vast and formidable army led by Yamun Khahan that invaded the eastern regions of Faerun, but were defeated by an equally vast army assembled by the king of Cormyr, Azoun Obarskyr IV. Ralis was so busy sweeping the floor with his broom that he never heard Gorion's footsteps behind him.

"Child, stop what you're doing and listen to me," Gorion said, causing Ralis to gasp loudly in alarm while almost jumping out of his skin because Gorion has never interrupted him doing his chores before.

Ralis failed to grab the broomstick as he turned around to face Gorion, and the broomstick clattered on the floor.

"Father. What's wrong?" Ralis asked, his heart racing, then he bent down to pick up the broomstick into his hands again.

"There's no time to explain, Ralis. What I need you to do is go see Winthrop at the inn and buy a weapon and some armor," Gorion urgently said, handing Ralis 168 gold coins and forcing him to hand over the broomstick in exchange.

Ralis looked down at the coins in his hands, getting this odd feeling like he is suddenly being swept up in a typhoon without warning. He looked into Gorion's face.

"Why, Father? Are we in danger?" Ralis asked.

"I'll explain everything when you get back. I'll be waiting for you near the library's entrance. Go on, child, and hurry!" Gorion said.

Wasting no time with words, Ralis hurried on towards the exit of the library. He opened the door and headed outside.

The two water fountains on both sides of the long stairway and the other two water fountains ahead would have normally set Ralis's heart at ease, but he couldn't shake this feeling that something is terribly wrong and Gorion knows it. Ralis walked down the long stairway, then passed under the opening of the Keep's inner ground walls surrounding the library, entering the outer grounds of Candlekeep and headed north, passing by the storehouse. Reevor, a male dwarf who supervises imports in Candlekeep approached him.

"Ralis! RALIS!" He called.

Ralis tried hard to ignore Reevor and walk a little faster, but he is extremely persistent right now.

"Whatever it is that you want, Reevor, now is not the time," Ralis said dismissively, trying to continue walking to his destination with Reevor trying to keep up with him.

Reevor, being a dwarf, had a difficult time keeping up with Ralis's stride since his legs are short. Annoyed, Reevor ran ahead a few feet in front of Ralis and stopped in front of him, looking up at his face with a scowl.

"I thought I told you to clean out the rats in the storeroom yesterday. Didn't I tell you that, huh?" Reevor asked him, raising his voice.

Ralis sighed and made his eyes roll once. "Yes sir, thou did, but I got... sidetracked," he said.

Reevor sighed, holding his forehead with his right hand and mumbling in his native dwarf language before switching to Common.

"You're impossible... Well, since you didn't do it yesterday, hop to it! Get in there and exterminate those rats!" Reevor yelled.

"I wish I could, but I have no time, Gorion wants me to go to the shop and get equipped for travel, maybe, so I can't right now. Maybe later," Ralis walked by Reevor.

"By Moradin's hammer! Gorion this, Gorion that...!" Reevor yelled in frustration, stomping his left foot.

Ralis walked by several of Candlekeep's guards and citizens as he walked by the temple of Oghma, the Lord of Knowledge. Later he passed by the stables where a human named Dreppin cares for the livestock. Dreppin is about Ralis' height, has short, dirty blonde hair and wears a blue shirt and brown colored pantaloons.

"Morning, Dreppin," Ralis called.

"Morning, Ralis. Say, would you do me a favor?" Dreppin replied.

Ralis stopped walking away towards the inn and approached Dreppin.

"If I got time, which I'm not sure I have," Ralis replied.

"Ol' Nessa... She's fallen sick today..." Dreppin said forlornly as he petted Nessa, his most favorite cow on the head.

Nessa mooed weakly.

"Oh..." Ralis nodded slowly and sympathetically.

"There is an antidote for Nessa's sickness, but I don't have it, Hull does. could you get it from him, please?" Dreppin asked Ralis.

Hull is one of the gate warden's five underofficers, and one of Ralis's closest friends here in this citadel. He can be a little narcoleptic, but he is one of the most loyal soldiers in Candlekeep.

Ralis couldn't say no if the chore is that simple and takes little time to complete. However, before he could say "yes", a man approached from behind him and said: "Excuse me, could ye come with me for a second, please?" He asked Ralis.

Ralis wrinkled his nose because the man's shabby clothes smelled like they've been left with pigs in the mud for 3 days.

"... Sure. All right," Ralis slowly nodded.

"Good. Follow me. My house is this way," The man said.

He led Ralis to his house which is located in the area of Candlekeep where the poor residents live. The man invited Ralis to come inside his house and when Ralis stepped inside, the man closed the door behind him.

"All right. What is it that you want?" Ralis asked the man.

"I need to know this, but are ye the ward of Gorion?" The man asked Ralis.

"I am. How can I help you?" Ralis nodded.

The man grinned, showing his unclean, yellow teeth. "Oh, our encounter shall be quite simple for you," he said.

Ralis' gut began to tighten, a sign of imminent danger, but he didn't believe the signal... much.

"What are you talking about? Do you need a favor from me or not? I'm in a hurry," he said.

Unknown to Ralis, the man's name is Shank.

"Plainly put, it is my mission to end your life." Shank revealed a dagger from under his smelly, shabby clothes, and then Ralis realized that the tightening feeling in his gut was not an involuntary feeling at all.

"What?! Why?" Ralis demanded, backing slowly away from Shank, because he is completely unarmed.

"Your death will mean a little respect among my peers. So you see, you can do very little, except die!" Shank lunged at Ralis!

He dodged out of the way, moving left, but Shank reacted quickly to the dodge and slashed at Ralis, aiming for his head. The blade of Shank's dagger only managed to cut Ralis a few inches above his left eyebrow. Ralis yelled in pain and grabbed Shank's right arm so he won't attempt another slash. Shank tried hard to pull his right arm free, but Ralis held on tight and brought his knee up to Shank's abdomen, kneeing him in the gut 3 times. Shank's strength began to falter, but not enough for him to release his grip on his dagger. Ralis's only hope is to get Shank to release his dagger and use it against him. Ralis punched Shank two times with his right arm, but Shank retaliated by stomping on Ralis's right foot. Ralis yelled in pain, releasing his grip on Shank. Ralis, quickly realizing he made a terrible mistake fell back, and Shank attempted to pounce on him to drive his dagger into Ralis's throat or head, but he kicked him off. Ralis stood up quickly and looked around for something to use as a weapon.

He found an old wooden chair next to him and picked it up. By the time Shank got up on his feet, Ralis came charging at him and struck him hard with the chair. The impact was strong enough to stun Shank with so much pain, he dropped his dagger. Ralis kneed Shank in the gut again, punched him and then lunged for the dagger. Shank, although numb with pain struggled with Ralis to try to reach for the dagger. Fortunately, Ralis reached it first, and now that Shank's only weapon is in Ralis's hands, he has the upper hand now.

"I yield! I yield!" Shank yelled as he backed away from Ralis, and he stumbled into the chair that Ralis used to hit him on the floor, causing him to lose his footing and fall back.

Ralis took that as the opportunity to jump at Shank and drive his dagger into his heart. Shank, still in shock that he tripped on his own chair didn't expect that Ralis would jump at him until it was too late.

Before Shank knew it, Ralis buried the dagger's blade into his heart.

"Arrrghh..." Shank groaned, then his body grew still and lifeless.

Ralis stood up, glanced at the dagger stained in blood in his right hand, watching the small red drops fall down from the blade towards Shank's chest. His hand trembled. He killed a man. For the first time in his life, he killed a man...! Ralis had no idea what he is feeling right now when he looked at Shank's lifeless corpse, a pool of blood staining the fabric of his dirty tunic around the wound. He wasn't sure if it was fear or the adrenaline rush of excitement. But the important thing is that someone actually wanted to kill him. That fact is what truly frightened him.

Who wants me dead?! What is going on here?! Ralis wondered.

Shank was hired by someone to murder him, and it is likely that Shank isn't the only person hired to kill Ralis. He threw Shank's dagger away and exited the house.

Ralis stepped outside and left the area where the poor citizens of Candlekeep live, and encountered Parda, one of Candlekeep's scholars and Gorion's friends. He is an old man with a short gray beard and is one of the few scholars who wears bright yellow robes.

"Ralis, you cut yourself above the brow, there. What is wrong, child? Something in your eyes tell me that something is very wrong indeed," Parda said to Ralis in concern.

Ralis could barely meet Parda's eyes.

"Parda... There was a man back there, he smelled like the stables, and he... He tried to kill me. It was horrible..." Ralis muttered loud enough for Parda to hear.

"Then hurry, child. Equip yourself at the inn and go join Gorion. I had a feeling something like this might happen," Parda said.

"Wait, you... You knew, too?" Ralis asked.

"Gorion shared his worries with me. Go on, child, you'll be better prepared for anything once you buy what you need," Parda advised Ralis.

He nodded. "I will, Parda. I'm beginning to see that I may not be safe here," Ralis said before walking away.

He remembered that he was about to promise Dreppin that he would go see Hull and get some medicine for Nessa, but he already wasted enough time surviving an assassination attempt, Dreppin can find someone else to do the errand, hopefully. Just when Ralis could see Candlekeep's Inn several meters he was stopped by a woman named Phlydia, a 30 year old woman who is known to be absent minded among her peers, especially Ralis and Gorion, who know her personally. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, a short, pointy nose, thin lips, and wears a dress the same color as Ralis's clothes.

"Hello, Ralis," She greeted Ralis as she approached him.

"Oh, hello, Phlydia," Ralis returned the greeting.

"Pardon me for asking, but have you seen my book: "The Mystery of Halruaa" anywhere?" She aksed him.

Ralis stopped walking and looked at her with an incredulous expression. "You lost something? Again? Books are meant to be read in the library, you know!" Ralis exclaimed.

"Ralis, you know how I can't stand the constant shuffling of arthritic feet up in the library. So I thought I'd get some fresh air and read my book out here and... Oh, I hate being absent minded!" Phlydia whined.

That makes two of us... Ralis said in his thoughts. "Okay, look, if I stumble across it or anyone else who has, I'll let you know, but I can't make any guarantees, I'm in a hurry. Gorion wants me to be prepared for something," Ralis said, waving bye to Phlydia and continued moving towards the inn, leaving Phlydia standing there, wondering if she'll ever get her lost book back.

Ralis entered the inn and headed for the bar, looking at the clientele, which is mostly monks. Ralis personally knows the bartender, named Winthrop also. Winthrop is a middle aged male human with a bald head, and an nearly obese body. He has brown eyes, no facial hair and he has a Northern accent. Ralis's childhood friend, Imoen always calls Winthrop "Old Puffguts", because of his portly appearance and beer gut, much to Winthrop's disdain. He served a monk some ale before he noticed Ralis taking a seat at the bar.

"Well hello there, young one! Come to visit your old pal Winthrop, have ye? Well, don't forget the 5,000 gold piece book entrance fee as per Candlekeep custom, don'tcha know," Winthrop said to Ralis.

Normally people visiting Candlekeep would be outraged at that price, but Ralis knew that his friend is only yanking his chain. He shook his head and chuckled. "You always were the big kidder, Winthrop. That gets funnier nearly every time I hear it... Well, perhaps not quite so often."

Winthrop let out a hearty laugh and gave Ralis a friendly pat on the back. "Just havin' a bit o fun with ye, friend," He said.

He then put his right hand next to his lips, leaning towards Ralis across the counter, as if he doesn't want the monk he served a cup of ale to listen to what he has to say to Ralis, which is the exact reason why.

"Them monks may be walking about with poles in their nethers, but you know you're always welcome here. Gorion did well by you, he did. So, is there anything I can do for ya, some drinks, a room to sleep in or something to buy?" Winthrop said.

"Actually, I'm here to buy some armor and weapons," Ralis corrected him.

"That so? You don't want to rest in one of my hotel rooms? My hotel is clean as an elven arse," Winthrop said, scrubbing the counter with a clean white rag.

"It's not that at all. I'm just in a hurry. Gorion wants me to equip myself with any affordable weapon and armor," Ralis shook his head, smiling at Winthrop's comment about his inn being clean like an elf's rump. Ralis has known for some time that Winthrop has a fetish on female elves. Doesn't every man? They are very beautiful humanoids.

"I see. Well, we got all kinds of weapons here. Any kind yer looking for in particular?" Winthrop asked.

Ralis smirked. "You wouldn't happen to have a bastard sword on for sale, do you?"

"Aye, as a matter of fact, I do," Winthrop bent down almost out of sight under the bar and stood back up and placed a bastard sword on the counter.

Also known as a "Hand and a Half" sword, a combination of a longsword and a claymore, which makes it heavier than a natural longsword, the blade is 45 inches in length with a long handle.

"Excellent. Oh, and I want the hardest, cheapest armor you have," Ralis said.

"The hardest and cheapest armor, ye say? Then leather armor is what yer looking for," Winthrop said, bending down to get the armor from under the counter on his side and placed it on top of the Bastard Sword.

Ralis looked at the leather armor in uncertainty.

"... Don't let this armor fool ye, it may not be made of iron or metal, but its much harder than it looks. Both of these cost 17 gold pieces," Winthrop told Ralis.

"All right," Ralis dug into his pockets, counted the gold coins Gorion gave him and gave Winthrop the correct amount. "All right, young one, they're all yours," Winthrop said, satisfied.

Ralis put on the leather armor first. He learned that Winthrop was right, leather armor certainly is harder that it looks. As soon as he touched the hard, leathery surface of the armor plates, he could clearly see and feel how solid leather armor can be, it is almost as hard as a turtle's shell. After strapping on the leather armor to his body, Ralis put on the leather boots, gauntlets and greaves that came with the armor, attached the bastard sword to his belt, on the left side of his waist so he can pull it out with his right hand.

"Do you want a shield as well?" Winthrop asked Ralis.

"No, I'm fine."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Shields just slow you down. See you later, Winthrop, that is, if I'm not really going on a journey," Ralis said.

"Take care," Winthrop said, waving bye as Ralis left the inn.

Wearing leather armor and a bastard sword strapped to his waist in its scabbard, Ralis felt more stronger and confident than before. He felt so confident, in fact, he decided to take a shortcut through the the other area where the limited number of people who are not scholars or monks of Candlekeep stay, trying their best to make a decent living in a citadel where rules and regulations are so strictly enforced. Leaving Candlekeep and going out into the dangerous wilderness where wild dogs, wolves, bandits and gibberlings await is out of the question for Candlekeep's citizens, especially since Friendly Arm and Beregost, the closest towns to Candlekeep are nearly two days away, and Baldur's Gate is five days north from Candlekeep. Ralis passed by an old, shabby inn for the homeless when a 30 year old male human stepped outside from the building's entrance and spotted Ralis, but he didn't notice him.

"'Ere there," The man called out to Ralis. Ralis stopped walking and turned to face the man, who is named Carbos.

"Yes?" Ralis replied. Carbos stepped down the short stairs, approaching Ralis.

"You're Gorion's little whelp, aren't ya?"

Before Ralis could say "no" to confuse Carbos, he quickly said: "Yeah, you match the description. You don't look dangerous to me," Carbos said with a smug grin.

Ralis frowned. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean? Who I am is none of your business," he said curtly. He had the feeling Carbos is another hired man.

"I'll make it my business if 'n I please," Carbos shot back.

Ralis crossed his arms. He couldn't tell if Carbos is truly a foe yet.

"What do you want, then?" Ralis asked.

"Just thought I'd have me a look at you for myself, before I put a blade down your gullet!"

"I knew it! You're a hired assassin! Who sent you? Tell me!" Ralis demanded, drawing his sword as Carbos drew his dagger.

"I don't know who wants you dead, but someone seems to think you're trouble, so I'm gonna use your head for a ticket out o' the gutter! I'm just a little street trash hood, they say, but I'll show 'em!" Carbos charged at Ralis, but he simply dodged out of the way.

"Evaluate your odds first. I have a bastard sword, you have a dagger. What are the odds of you winning... street trash hood?" Ralis taunted Carbos.

He growled. "I'll crush your face, I will! Make you dead and done!" Carbos charged at him again, but Ralis made no attempt to attack Carbos, even though he had his sword drawn.

Ralis dodged again, but Carbos was ready for the dodge this time. He tried to stab Ralis in the gut, but Ralis used his left hand to grab Carbos's right wrist, and swiftly kicked him in the nether regions, causing him to curl into a fetal position, yelling and moaning in pain, holding his genitals and rolling back and forth.

"I don't want to fight you. Why are you doing this? You say someone thinks I'm trouble, but you don't know why? Can't you find it in your heart to let me go? The person who hired you may want me dead for evil reasons!" Ralis reasoned with Carbos.

It took a while for Carbos to speak under the intense jolts of pain.

"I don't care about the reasons! I just need the coins to make my life much easier!"

Ralis sighed. This man doesn't care about the morality of the person who hired him, all he cares about is the amounts of gold he'll be paid once the job is done.

"You're pitiful. I'll let you live, but don't try anything funny," Ralis said, sheathing his sword and walking away.

Carbos watched Ralis leave and when the pain of getting kicked in the nether began to subside completely, he grabbed his dagger off the ground and slowly crept up behind Ralis.

"You should've killed me, boy," He whispered with a smug grin.

Ralis sensed that Carbos is behind him, quickly drew his sword and turned around at the same time in a swift motion and stabbed Carbos in the chest. Carbos was about to pounce on Ralis but instead, he got impaled in the chest. Ralis pulled his sword out and Carbos collapsed dead like a dropped rag doll. After shaking the blood off his sword, Ralis walked away, now fully realizing that even though he is within the walls of Candlekeep, he is still not safe.

He could not understand it. Why would people like Shank and Carbos be willing to work for some unknown individual with unknown intentions? Riches? Power? Fame? It doesn't seem worth it at all. These thoughts made Ralis feel uneasy. Ralis saw Karan, another friendly scholar he knows besides Parda running towards him. Karan wears green clothing and he has no facial hair. He has been Ralis's tutor ever since Gorion had brought him to Candlekeep. Whenever Gorion was unavailable to tutor Ralis, Karan gladly accepted the responsibility in helping Ralis learn about as much of Faerun's lore as possible.

"I heard shouting, Ralis! Are you all right?" Karan asked Ralis.

"I'm fine, Karan, I'm fine, but, the man who tried to murder me over there... He's dead... He lunged at me with a knife. Oh, Karan, what is happening to this place?" Ralis asked Karan uneasily, thinking that maybe his best friends could turn on him for the sake of money and other trivial rewards.

"It's not this place, child, it's you they are after." Karan corrected him.

"But why? What did I do? I've done nothing to anyone!" Ralis exclaimed, nearly raising his voice.

"I know, I know, child. You've lived in Candlekeep under Gorion's tutelage for nearly 20 years. But what matters is you must see Gorion as quickly as you can,"

"I will. Thank you, Karan," Ralis ran past him, ready to return to Gorion now.

Near the front entrance of the library, between the two water fountains, Ralis met up with Imoen (pronounced "Em-oh-in") one of his childhood friends, who is also an orphan. Imoen is a human female who is a couple years younger than Ralis, she has short, red hair and brown eyes. Despite the fact she's nineteen or eighteen years old, she has the personality of an innocent, cheerful six year old girl, giving nicknames to some of the people she is friends with, like Winthrop, for example. She loves to listen to bedtime stories, she usually wants Gorion to tell her stories about trollops and plugtails. Ralis never begs Gorion to tell a bedtime story, but Imoen always asks, with a long "Pleeeeease?". Despite her childish nature, she's an expert at handling shortbows, trained by Erik.

"Heya, Ralis!" Imoen greeted Ralis.

"Hey, Imoen! What are you doing here?" Ralis replied.

"Just taking a break from my chores. I'm surprised that stuffy ol' Gorion let you away from your studies and chores. That ol' fiddle faddle. I snuck off too." Imoen admitted.

"You did?" Ralis asked in disbelief.

"Yep. Old Puffguts Winthrop was looking for me, but I've got all day to do his chores. You have time for a story today?" Imoen paused for a moment, and when she saw Ralis break eye contact with her, she immediately spoke again before he could open his mouth. "Never mind, I can tell you don't. What have ya been up to?" Imoen asked.

"Sorry, Imoen, but I am not to tell anyone about what I'm doing. I wasted enough time as it is. You shouldn't dawdle about either. Winthrop will want the beds turned down after you're done helping Dreppin in the stables," Ralis said, putting a friendly, comforting hand on Imoen's left shoulder.

Imoen rolled her eyes and sighed. "If you say so. You sure picked up a lot from old Gorion. He never tells it straight neither. Good luck on your trip- er, I mean good luck with... whatever it is you're doing," Imoen said.

Ralis blinked in surprise. "Wait! You know about my journey? Gorion said little to me and less to everyone else!" He exclaimed.

"Oh, I know. Old stick in the mud that he is, all worried about nothing, I'm sure. Better go now, you got a long way to travel...Not that I would know, especially since I didn't look at anything like Mr. G's private letters. Nope, not me, no sir. Better go now, bye-bye," Imoen hopped and skipped away.

Ralis shook his head as he watched Imoen leave. Behind her childish nature is a sneaky, mischievous woman.

Ralis then headed towards the library's entrance, where Gorion was waiting.

"Ahh, my child, I am glad you are here," Gorion said warmly, giving Ralis a hug.

"It's good to see you, Father," Ralis replied.

"I see you have leather armor and a bastard sword. I take it you're ready to... Child, you have a cut above your eyebrow! What happened?" Gorion asked in alarm.

"These two men... They were hired by someone to kill me. I had no choice but to defend myself..." Ralis said shamefully, hanging his head down.

"I understand, child. It can't be helped that you needed to defend yourself," Gorion put a gentle right hand on Ralis's shoulder.

"Father... What do these people want with me? What have I done to them?" Ralis asked.

"I'm sorry, my child, I don't have time to explain it here. It would be best if we left Candlekeep now. We mustn't tarry- Candlekeep is well protected but not invulnerable. Are you ready to depart?" Gorion asked Ralis.

"Yes, Father, I am," Ralis nodded.

"Good. We must go," Gorion said.

He led Ralis to the exit of Candlekeep, where the closed gates of Candlekeep are, guarded by 4 guards and a wizard named Amanther.

"Now Ralis, listen carefully. If you and I become separated, it's highly imperative that you make your way to the Friendly Arm Inn."

"Friendly Arm Inn?" Ralis repeated.

"Yes. There, you will meet Khalid and Jaheira. They have long been my friends, and you can trust them," Gorion instructed Ralis, his gray eyes focused intently on Ralis's face.

Ralis nodded.

"Now, stand in front of Amanther. He will cast a spell on you that will shield you from magical spells for a few hours," Gorion said.

Without saying a word, Ralis stepped in front of the mage, and Amanther began making strange hand gestures and motions, chanting odd words as a ball of arcane energy formed in front of him. Soon the ball of arcane energy exploded and the sparkles of light from the explosion showered around Ralis, creating an invisible, magical shield that will protect him for several hours before dissipating.

"All right. Let's go, child, we've no time to waste," Gorion urged Ralis.

Gorion signaled the guards to open the gate. The guards opened the gate and allowed Ralis and Gorion to walk out, entering the Court of Air, a small grove with a terraced rock garden. There are no buildings or houses in this part of Candlekeep, only gardens and trees. They made their way through the cobblestone courtyard making their way towards the final gate that leads outside of Candlekeep. The guards opened the gate and they finally stepped outside. However, unknown to them, as the Candlekeep guards were pushing the gate closed, Imoen, with a shortbow in her right hand and quiver strapped to her back containing twenty arrows, and nearly invisible and transparent as a ghost quietly sneaked out of Candlekeep behind Ralis and Gorion as well before the guards could manage to close the large gate.

Before following Gorion's lead into the forest, opting to stay off the road, Ralis looked over his shoulder and took one final look at Candlekeep, wondering will he ever return and see Imoen. Then he followed Gorion into the forest off the path. Many hours have passed from morning to evening, and it is now already nightfall. Gorion and Ralis continued walking through the wilderness instead of walking down the road for reasons Gorion kept to himself and never explained to Ralis. Both he and Gorion had no clue how long its been since they left Candlekeep, all they cared about is reaching their destination... however, Ralis felt exhausted from walking for so many hours without taking a break, especially after enduring the high humidity in the evening hours. Thanks to the cool night air, his sweating body under his leather body armor is cooling down, but he still felt the need to rest.

"Can't we rest here for a while, Father? I'm tired," Ralis panted, barely able to keep up the pace with Gorion.

Gorion stopped and turned to face Ralis. "No, child, we can't rest until we find shelter. It's not safe to rest in the middle of the wilderness," Gorion urged him.

Ralis summoned all the strength he had to keep walking even though his feet ached. "I understand, Father," Ralis nodded.

He and Gorion walked ahead about 300 meters until they reached an area where several stones are set in a large patch of grass-less brown soil. The stones are set in circular patterns, making 4 circles. the small circles are set horizontally, and the larger circles are set vertically. Ralis followed Gorion, looking at the stones which made circle patterns. This place must been a ritual ground for mages at some point... Ralis thought to himself.

"Let's hurry, child! The night can only get worse, so we must find shelter soon," Gorion said.

"Yes Father... But I need to know... What's so special about me?" Ralis asked.

"Don't worry, Ralis. I will explain everything as soon as there is time," Gorion promised Ralis.

As soon as Gorion and Ralis stepped into the middle of the abandoned ritual ground, Gorion stopped walking. Ralis was about to walk past him until Gorion held his right arm out, stopping Ralis.

"Wait! There is something wrong..." Gorion said aloud.

"What?" Ralis whispered.

"We are in an ambush. Prepare yourself!" Gorion said.

Ralis pulled his bastard sword out of its scabbard and looking around in an alert manner, but he couldn't see or hear a soul hiding anywhere behind the trees. If Gorion sensed gibberlings nearby, they should be able to see hundreds of glowing yellow eyes in the woods and hear dozens of ear-piercing shrieks. But all he heard is the gentle breeze of the wind against his ears. Ahead of Gorion and Ralis, a few figures stepped out from the darkness of the woods ahead. Two male ogres, two male human bandits, both armed with shortbows, one female human bandit who is about five feet tall (1.52m) with short black hair, and last but not least, the armored man clad in armor that makes him look like a demon warrior from Hell. When Ralis saw the armored man's yellow eyes shine from inside his helmet, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine. His instincts told him that armored man is powerful and evil to the core. The armored man chuckled in amusement, and Ralis's skin shivered.

"You are perceptive for an old man. You know why I'm here. Hand over your ward, and no one will be hurt. If you resist, it shall be a waste of your life," The armored man said assertively, pointing at Ralis.

Gorion scoffed. "You're a fool if you believe I would trust your benevolence. Step aside and you and your lackeys will be unhurt."

"I am sorry that you feel that way, old man," The armored man said with mock pity in his voice.

Then the armored man gave his allies a hand signal, gesturing them to attack Ralis and Gorion.

"Run, child! Run!" Gorion yelled at Ralis.

Wasting no time with objections, Ralis ran south as the armored man's archers open fired on Ralis, but each of their arrows never hit him as he ran for the woods. The female human bandit, who knows a magic spell or two casted a magical missile at Ralis, but the magical shield Amanther casted on him hours earlier in Candlekeep saved him from harm, the bright red sphere of arcane energy dissipated on contact with the magical shield before it could touch the young man's body.

Ralis soon reached the woods and the bandit archers and spellcaster had no choice but to focus on Gorion instead. The two ogres attempted to attack Gorion, but he casted a fire spell on the ogres, which caused their bodies to be engulfed in flames, and the ogres flailed in pain, shouting as the fire burned their flesh to death. Then Gorion casted an illusion spell called Mirror Image on himself, making 5 fake images of himself so that the bandit archers wouldn't know which one to shoot, Gorion himself, or his fake images. While the archers were firing at Gorion's false images, he chanted a spell that sent a fireball flying towards the archers, and the explosion from the fireball instantly burned them to death.

Ralis watched the battle from a safe distance while hiding behind a nearby tree. Gorion seems to have the upper hand in this fight even though he is outnumbered, only the armored man and the spellcasting female human are left standing. Before she could cast a spell on him, Gorion immobilized her using the Hold Person spell. The armored man slowly started to advance towards Gorion as he stood his ground, casting a petrifying spell on the armored man, but it didn't work, the armored man is still casually coming towards Gorion.

Surprised the spell didn't paralyze the armored man, Gorion tried casting another spell, sending a Chromatic Orb flying at the armored man, but the orb didn't damage the armored man at all! When the armored man got close enough to Gorion, he thrust forward with his sword, the blade pierced Gorion's chest, the tip of the blade protruding from his back stained with blood! Gorion's mouth dropped open when he realized that he had been done in and he groaned in pain weakly before passing away. Ralis gasped in horror at what he just saw. The armored man had delivered a fatal blow to Gorion! When the armored man pulled his sword out of Gorion's chest, Gorion sagged to the ground like a rag doll, laying on his back facing up the night sky. As soon as the armored man started laughing, Ralis was already running away, far away before the armored man could remember that Gorion's ward had escaped.

Ralis's mind is swimming with all kinds of emotions right now as he ran through the woods: Sadness... Rage... Fear... Mostly sadness and fear. He ran away deeper into the forest, fearing that the armored man and his only surviving ally will come hunting for him.

This is a dream... This is a dream... Please let this be a dream...! Ralis exclaimed in his mind.

He knew that this is not a dream, but still, he could not believe that Gorion's formidable magic spells weren't enough to defeat one man who apparently does not know or use any magical spells. Ralis tripped on a root of the tree and fell face-first into the mud.

"Ugghhh..." Ralis moaned softly as he slowly lifted his face up and wiped the mud off his face.

He stood up and brushed off as much mud as he could off his clothes and armor. He felt lost and confused. Traumatized by the death of his foster father, the only family he had, he didn't know which way is the Friendly Arm Inn. He considered heading back to Candlekeep, but remembered that Candlekeep enforces rather extremely strict entry customs. Without Gorion's influence, there is no way he will be able to return to Candlekeep without offering a book of high value.

Ralis sat down under the protective branches of a large tree about 40 feet southeast from where he stood, and sat down near the base of the tree as if it provided him the protection he needs. This is the worst night he has ever had. On top of that, he couldn't figure out why that armored man wanted Gorion to hand him over. Ralis had no idea who that armored man is, or why he wanted only him.

Why me? Why was he after me? "Damn it, Father, why couldn't you tell me sooner?" Ralis cursed between sobs.

And now, he's alone, lost, emotionally traumatized and doesn't know exactly where the Friendly Arm Inn is, and the only people he can trust to help him are behind the walls of a citadel that enforces very draconian entry rules. He has no choice but to go forward to the Friendly Arm Inn. But where is it? All Ralis could think about is finding a place to rest. He is certain that the armored man and woman won't find him in such a vast forest, so he drifted off to sleep at the base of the tree. Seven minutes later, he awoke in alarm suddenly upon hearing the sound of a wolf howling not too far away, and he gripped the handle of his bastard sword tightly, turning his head left and right, scanning the area for the nearby danger. The environment is still a little dark due to lack of sunlight, but thanks to the brightness of the moon and stars, they gave off enough light for Ralis to see the trees around him. He heard the wolf howl again, and he slowly rose up on his feet. His legs ached from being forced to stand erect, but he ignored the mild pain and kept quiet, waiting for any noise of incoming predators.

After the wolf's howling died down, Ralis heard a new noise. A horrific sound that sounded like a chorus of angry, growling dogs mixed with the mutters, grunts and shouts of insane men. In the back of his terror-stricken mind, Ralis had one idea of what monster it could be. Gibberlings. They are known to wander around the woods of the Sword Coast at night in large groups of maybe 20 or more. If they find him, there's no way in the Nine Hells he could fight them all alone! He crouched down at the base of the tree and rested his back against it, praying to the goddess Tymora for good luck because he will definitely need it. The shrieks and growls of the gibberlings sounded as if they are coming from the southeast, maybe a mile or less away.

Ralis heard the wolf howl again, but the howl got cut off abruptly, and now all he heard were the noises the gibberlings made. He assumed that the gibberlings ambushed the wolf, killed it and are feasting on its flesh. Ralis took some comfort in that, maybe they will walk away, having their hunger satisfied. To his relief, the muttering shrieks of the gibberlings slowly faded away until all he heard now were the chirping of crickets and the hoots of a distant owl. Calming his pounding heart, Ralis lay down on the cool ground and fell asleep, getting the feeling that maybe he is safe, maybe someone is watching over him somewhere.