Notes: Latin lyrics are from Wikipedia, errors are their fault. English translation at the end of the chapter.***Os iusti meditabitur sapientiam
Et lingua eius loquetur iudicium
Beatus vir qui suffert tentationem
Quoniam cum probatus fuerit
Accipiet coronam vitae
Kyrie, fons bonitatis
Kyrie, Ignis Divine, Eleison
O quam sancta, quam serena
Quam benigna, quam amoena
Esse virgo creditur
O quam sancta, quam serena
Quam benigna, quam amoena
O castitatis lilium
The look on his face was worth it. Months of training which could better be described as torture, all so that she could kill meaninglessly for his people’s entertainment… was worth it. The shock and surprise on his face that she could have cut through the chains which bound her at any time, but it was so delicious that she felt compelled to shock him some more.
She first cut through his swords, then his arm and then his legs. He began to cry out, but it was choked off by one of her vectors closing around his throat and lifting him into the air. Bringing him up to eye-level, she spoke, “I just wanted to thank you, ‘Master,’” she said, tonelessly, “I wouldn’t have been able to escape without this sword you gave me.”
His remaining arm lashed out at her, a dagger clutched in it, but he was just out of reach. She ignored the useless flailing, and continued, “But you knew one day I would try to escape, you must have planned an epic battle for yourself in your mind… anything for greater glory, isn’t that right? Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Never… escape…Lolth…take…” he managed to gasp out.
She’d had enough, “Are you suffering? Don’t worry, I’m not a monster like you. I’ll make it stop.”
She squeezed with her vector, and his head popped off from his body, plopping down beside it in the pool of blood which had collected in the chamber. Unbidden, her mind brought up images of the first time she escaped from a heavily defended compound. It really was eerily similar to her current predicament. She looked down at Dabun’s corpse, and felt some slight remorse that she had allowed herself to fall back on old habits. She still planned on killing every Drow she could find in the Freth compound, but she decided then and there to always kill as cleanly and quickly as possible. She was no monster, after all.
Barely conscious of the fact, she began to hum the same tune to herself as she had when she escaped the first time, the tune to a piece of music she had thought was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. She walked, slowly, pausing only to tear her cell door from its hinges, before beginning the slow methodical destruction of House Freth. ***
They heard the screams, and they came. Most humanoid creatures in the Realms and beyond shared a common trait, curiosity. The Drow were drawn to conflict, and loved nothing more than to see a death, except perhaps causing it themselves. So when one House marched to war against another in their society, there was always a crowd watching from a safe distance. There might not be any ‘witnesses,’ but there were always watchers.
The screaming, clashing of steel, muffled explosions and impact of bodies tossed from windows certainly sounded like a war, but the gathered crowd simply couldn’t see who dared to attack the mighty House Freth. Perhaps the attackers had made themselves invisible, they mused, which would indicate access to powerful magic indeed if they could mask an entire army.
Their curiosity was soon satisfied, though perhaps not to their liking, when the screams finally died down after a few hours. Shortly thereafter, the entire cavern reverberated with an immense crash. The noise came again, and again, and again… eventually the mob noticed the infamous black gate of House Freth, made of pure Adamantite, had begun to buckle in the center. After many minutes, and with a great screech of tortured metal, the gate gave way and swung wide.
If the gathered crowd knew that the small figure calmly and slowly walking out of the deathly silent compound would soon pass into a minor legend among their people, they would perhaps not have stayed rooted to the spot, eager to see what would happen next.
For her part, Lucy was trying her best not to swear violently. She’d discovered something else about this dimension which she had never even considered, while she could easily stop even the most heavily enchanted sword, arrow or other projectile with her vectors, even the most basic of magic spells passed through them like they weren’t even there. Her left arm hung limply at her side, scorched and swollen from a near miss with a fireball, and that was after she’d drank the sole healing potion she had been able to find.
She knew it would take a while for the city’s government, such as it was, to send someone official to investigate the disturbance. They usually waited long enough for the battle to finish either way. Her slow pace had been foolish in retrospect; while it had heightened their terror, it had also given the whole city time to become aware that something was occurring. She would have to move faster than she had ever felt the need to before. A few dozen guards armed with guns in a research facility, a hundred or so guards armed with swords and crossbows in a Drow compound; they were much the same. An entire city, with thousands and thousands of well armed and well trained individuals was another thing entirely.
An arrow whizzed past her, narrowly missing her. It had come from behind her, and she swore softly. In wide open spaces it was easy for an enemy to surround her, and she could only stop an attack if she saw it coming. She had wasted enough time. The tunnel was on the other side of the city from where she was, and even then it had a long and winding path up the side of the cavern as its only access point. She had a better idea.
The crowd gasped in surprise as she suddenly launched into the air, leaping several hundred feet closer to the tunnel before landing with a crash, seemingly unharmed. If any of them were close enough, they would be able to see both take-off and landing points had deep hand-shaped impressions pressed into the rock. Her next leap carried her into a busier section of the city.
An armed Drow hesitantly raised his crossbow and was immediately decapitated. A merchant tried to block her path, or perhaps he was trying to run away, to her it didn’t matter; she clubbed him out of the way, sending him screaming to land somewhere in the distance. Another leap, and she cursed her luck, brought her right into a marching column of soldiers heading for the disturbance.
She only needed two vectors to land, so she used her remaining two to clear a landing area for herself, swatting several soldiers aside like flies. She didn’t give them time to react once she landed, and set to work immediately. She grabbed one by the neck, breaking it with a twist, and brought him in close to her back to use as a shield. Her rear safe, she used another vector and scythed around herself in a circle, turning with it to make sure she kept on target, and decapitated or partially so everything directly around her. She then only noticed one of those damned clerics in the middle of casting a spell.
She had not noticed the lone female among the large group of male soldiers and she quickly hurled one of the bodies at her with such speed it killed the priestess on impact. All of this had happened in only a few seconds, and even the highly trained soldiers were staggering at the destruction. Lucy took this as her cue, and leapt again, but took two corpses with her, which she hurled into the next column of soldiers as soon as she landed. Most of them dodged, but it served its purpose as a distraction and she continued with one final leap.
When she landed this time, she was on the path, and halfway up the cavern wall. With no time to waste, she used her vectors, climbing up the sheer rock surface. Whenever there wasn’t a handhold, she simply slammed her vector into the rock and used the resulting hole to grip. She drew Demon Edge as she landed, and immediately got to work. The garrison on the entrance to the tunnel was huge, and she needed to get by them.
She threw herself at the gate, cleaving with her sword that which even her vectors couldn’t get to in time. The air was a blur of steel and fire as the mages and clerics rained down spells on her location, not caring if they hit the soldiers. Even with all her vectors blocking at once, some blows got through. A cut to a leg rendered it useless, and she was forced to use one of her vectors to support her weight. An arrow thudded into her left arm, rendering it even more useless, but for every wound she received she killed at least five of the soldiers trying to surround her.
She noticed that some of them were carrying miniature crossbows, and instantly killed them. While the poison-tipped mini bolts were not as common in this Drow city, she did not want to fall so close to her goal to something as insidious as that. She continued her murderous work, ducking and weaving through any gap she could find in the throng, using her vectors to power her through short leaps or launching her forward when she needed to, and so she stayed one step ahead of the wizards and clerics, still madly raining down destruction on their own people to try and reach her.
They were on a raised platform against the gate itself, which allowed them to also hurl spells at an enemy besieging the gate. Curiously the platform was quite flimsy in comparison to the heavy gate. An idea formed, which she soon got an opportunity to put into practice. Eventually there was a lull in the fighting, even the bravest of the soldiers were hesitating now, and she used the seconds she was given to full effect. Balancing on one leg for a moment, she used all four her vectors to hurl bodies as hard as she possibly could at the platform.
A few mages were knocked off by a near miss, but the rest of the bodies had the intended effect on the weak construction and the whole thing collapsed with a crash. Now that it was safe to approach the gate without being fried by lightning, she quickly dispatched the few guards who dared approach her, and leapt over to the gate. As expected, they didn’t open the entire thing every time for even the smaller patrols they would need to send out, but used a smaller gate built into the larger. She easily broke the bolts and opened it.
And then she was through, she was free…
The shock of it almost did what blood loss and extreme pain from her wounds had failed to do and she staggered before regaining her composure. She could hear them now, instead of only hearing the clashing of weapons and the screams of the dying. Shouts of fear and confusion, she was surprised at what they called her… Demon. Hah! What did these creatures see when they looked in the mirror, she wondered. She heard some sounds of pursuit, but they were too slow for her. By the time they opened the gate with a pursuit force, she was long gone.***
She settled into a rhythm with her jumps, not too high as the ceiling was quite low, and never too far ahead as the tunnel, which indeed showed no signs of the forks and branches she knew she would see if she looked behind her, curved gently. She only came across a single Drow patrol, which she easily killed, and some disgusting beast which tried to attack her. She almost ignored it, the heavily armored beast was incredibly slow, but paused to kill it anyway.
One thing she had not expected was just how long the tunnel was. She felt like she had been travelling for almost a day, and since she had never used her vectors that much before, she was starting to develop a splitting headache in addition to her other pains. When she finally collapsed to rest, she thought she wouldn’t be able to go on. Her pounding head, dizziness from the slow but steady flow of blood from the deep gash on her leg and the wounds on her arm from the spell and the arrow, all hammered down on her. She cursed herself for a fool then, and used the time to tear a piece of cloth from her tunic to bind the wound on her leg. The bleeding slowed dramatically, and she cursed again. If she’d stopped sooner she might not be so weak that she doubted she could take on a single Drow patrol like she had several hours ago.
She rested for a few minutes, before growing paranoia and an itching between her shoulders drove her to her feet once more. She felt something odd, and realized that in her haste to escape, she hadn’t even done anything about the arrow protruding from her arm. She pulled at it, ignoring the pain it caused her, but even her good arm felt weak and rubbery from carrying Demon Edge and all she accomplished was to intensify the bleeding. She swore again, and tore another piece of her tunic off for a bandage.
Soon, she was off once again, the headache had not really subsided at all during the rest and her leg was starting to feel numb. She wondered if she died here, if those beings, who were they again? If they would give her another chance, another life… like in a videogame! She remembered videogames, vaguely. Sometimes the children of a house she had decided to take from them would have some, and she would try to play.
She never really enjoyed it then, it seemed too childish, but suddenly she felt like she wanted to do nothing else. Something that had never happened to her before, came about then; her vectors sputtered out. She crashed to the stone floor, driving the arrow in her arm all the way through in a spray of blood. She cried out in pain, grateful for the sudden clarity it brought. Her leg was completely numb now, and she couldn’t stand anymore even with the help of a vector.
She looked up, not knowing what she would see, and was shocked to see an opening leading to an impossibly bright light only a few hundred feet away. The clarity from the pain of her fall was reinforced by a sudden surge of hope. She concentrated, and though it felt like her head wanted to explode, her vectors reappeared. She found even them to be weakened, though and needed to use all four at once just to leap even half the distance she was used to. She threw herself at the entrance, there was no graceful gliding as in the Drow city. Each time she landed she heard the cracking of the rock as her vectors slammed down uncontrollably like a drunkard’s feet.
Then, after what felt like an eternity, her final leap carried her to just outside the entrance of the cave.
She was immediately blinded by the light of the sun. Two years of gloom and shadow had weakened her eyes; the pain was immense and made all the worse by the throbbing in her skull, throbbing which she only now realized was centered around her horns. She had a more immediate problem though, as even with her eyes clenched shut, her ears were working fine, and they could hear the sounds of many people around her.
Well done, she thought to herself, maybe you should have found out if there was another garrison at the other end before you killed a few hundred of them and then escaped. However, death failed to materialize, and after a while she wondered if maybe Demon Edge had anything to do with her current blindness, and lacking the strength to lift the sword to put it into its scabbard, she simply dropped it.
If it helped her eyesight, she felt no difference, but one effect was immediate. The whispers around her took on a relieved tone, and she tensed as she heard someone approaching her, slowly as if whoever it was, was afraid to startle her. Tears from the stinging sun poured out of her eyes, and she felt vaguely embarrassed. If whoever was walking towards her said anything about crying, she mused, she was going to slice him in half with a vector even if it made her own head explode.
She felt a shadow fall over her, and managed to force one of her eyes open now that it wasn’t in direct sunlight. She looked around at the blurry figure in front of her, and the even blurrier details of the group she had surprised and snorted.
“If someone told me,” she rasped, her voice brittle and dry from lack of moisture, “that one day I’d be glad to see humans… I would have killed them for lying to me.”
It was about then that she collapsed. ***
The first thing that she noticed was the arguing. Shortly after that was the fact her entire body was aching. With long practice she forced herself to ignore the pain, and tried to get as much info as she could without letting on that she was awake. She was in a soft bed, and it sounded like she was indoors. The only noises that sounded like people were coming from the two arguing, or at least, one of them was arguing while another answered in non-committal grunts.
“Damn it all, Sarevok!” The girl whispered angrily, “You fell asleep while it was your turn to watch her, why can’t you see that it’s a problem?”
This was clearly too much for Sarevok, and he exploded, “She was half dead when we found her!” he roared, “She can’t possibly escape in her condition!”
“You piss-eyed moron! She’s not a prisoner! What if something went wrong with her wounds that we missed? We can’t afford any healing potions because of Aerie and Darius needing to pay the dragon and Jaheira is a good healer but she’s no cleric of Ilmater. Why are you such a jerk?” she shrilled, punctuated by what sounded like, for all intents and purposes, a hand smacking against a bald head.
The silence was heavy.
“You just hit me,” he growled, obviously having trouble coming to terms with the idea.
Y-Yeah? So what if I did?” she said, defiance edging out the worry in her tone.
“You little bitch, I am going to cut off your arms and legs, swap them around, sew them back on and have you raised just so I can have a good laugh before I finally put you out of my misery.”
“I’d like to see you try you half-ogre!”
Lucy heard chairs being pushed back, and idly wondered if she could even try to escape with her vectors, but even thinking about them brought on a faint echo of her headache. As it was, escaping wasn’t necessary, as a third player entered the conversation, her voice was calm and authoritive with a hint of an accent giving her an exotic tone.
“That is quite enough, both of you. I will not have Darius returning from what might just be an opportunity to meet his wife’s parents and family and finding his siblings have dismembered each other. Sarevok, stay awake when it is time for your watch, regardless of what you are supposed to watch. Imoen, fetch some water, our patient is awake and has been for some time.”
She could feel their eyes on her now, and she swore. Or at least, she tried to, but found she couldn’t even open her mouth from the dryness. Some dribbled water and careful swallowing later solved that problem.
The light from the single candle in the room made it seem unnaturally bright to her light starved eyes, but it was bearable this time and she forced herself to stare at it until her eyes finally adjusted. For the first time she saw her rescuers, and didn’t know what to make of them, Sarevok was easy to spot; huge, tall, bald and with faintly yellow glowing eyes.
The young girl reminded her of Nana, the other Diclonius she had spent some time with in Kouta’s home before her death, but with a much more worldly air about her. Her name was Imoen if she remembered. The third woman was striking and quite beautiful, and clearly not human. So this is what a surface-elf looked like, Lucy mused, she was neither rabid nor ugly which meant it was just another lie she had heard from the Drow.
“I’m so sorry you had to hear that,” Imoen bubbled, clearly excited for some reason, “I’m Imoen, that’s my half-brother Sarevok and the ice queen at the door is Jaheira. Minsc, Theresa and James, our other friends, are busy checking out that tunnel you popped out of. What’s your name?”
“Sl-,” she started, before stopping herself, “I’m Lu-,” she tried again, but stopped once more. Odd… she had almost called herself Slave out of habit, but two years ago in that cell when she’d called herself Lucy… that wasn’t actually her name either. It was what those damned human scientists had insisted on calling her, whether she liked it or not. No, maybe it was finally time to get working on that second chance thing, starting with her name. Maybe this time it would stick.
“My name is Kaede.”***Epilogue***
It was odd how fast she got over being wary of these people. Perhaps it was the way they treated her, but she always knew what to expect when interacting with them, never needing to worry that they would suddenly turn on her. It was… calming, nice even. She hadn’t felt like this since that day long ago when Kouta had taken her to the zoo.
She forced a smile off her face, remembering the uncommon interest Jaheira had taken when, for a lack of anything else to talk about with that chatterbox Imoen and being unable to leave the bed, she had mentioned she liked looking at strange animals. Swearing them to secrecy, she then actually changed into all manner of wild animals! Imoen had seen most of them before, but gasped along with Kaede. She never mentioned the incident to them again, but she stopped snapping at them afterwards when they came to check on her progress.
Which was coming along nicely. She was sitting in a comfortable chair outside, enjoying the cool mountain air to be found in the tiny little village which had become their impromptu vacation spot ever since Darius and Aerie had sent back word that their search for Aerie’s long lost home had been successful. Kaede almost squealed like a girl when a damned flying elf
had landed to deliver the message.
For their part, the villagers were frankly ecstatic that a large group of legendary heroes had decided to stop by their normally poorly defended village. They flipped out and threw a huge feast when Theresa and the others returned to mention that they had used their magic to collapse as much of the cave as possible.
Kaede hoped the cavern at the other end did too.
That was a few nights ago, and her eyes had finally adjusted to the point that she could go outside during the day. At the moment, Sarevok and James were sparring in the village square. To say she was impressed would be an understatement, she doubted she would be able to take Sarevok in the arena without her vectors, but James was a monster. His sword, huge as it was, moved so fast she couldn’t see it.
In fact, all of them completely outclassed her in some way; Jaheira with her druidic abilities, Imoen’s magic and Theresa… well she hadn’t seen what Theresa could do yet but the mere fact that she could see with her eyes covered was more than a little disturbing. All-in-all she was just slightly in awe of them. She’d finally told them the story of how she’d escaped last night, leaving out her vectors of course, she might need another advantage here with these people, but she knew they didn’t feel awed at what she’d done. They couldn’t, and she would respect them less if they did.
Respect, now she was respecting humans. Next thing you know she would be enjoying their company.
She caught the motion in the corner of her eye; James and Sarevok’s session had gotten a little heated, and in the ensuing flurry of blows, James had managed to disarm Sarevok with such speed and strength that his colossal sword was hurtling like a spear directly towards Imoen. Kaede reacted before she even knew she was going to, slamming two of her vectors into the ground next to her and propelling herself towards the trouble. She got there just ahead of the sword, deep impressions from her vectors in the hard soil the only evidence of the sudden events.
Well, that and the floating sword hanging in the air, its tip only an inch from Imoen’s face, held by one of her invisible hands. Yet she wasn’t even looking at the sword, but was looking at Kaede, herself apparently floating, still being unable to move quickly with her injured leg.
It wasn’t just Imoen though, Kaede quickly realized, it was everyone that was staring at her, and her exposed powers. So much for a hidden advantage then, what was she thinking?
“Wow, uhm… thanks!” Imoen gasped.
Kaede looked into her pale and sweating face, and couldn’t explain what she saw there. So much for a hidden advantage…
“You’re welcome.”***The End, For Now…***The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom,
And his tongue shall speak judgment.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation,
For when he has been tried,
He shall receive the crown of life.
O Lord, fountain of goodness
O Lord, o Divine Fire, have mercy!
O how sacred, how fair,
How kind, how delightful
The maiden is believed to be.
O how sacred, how fair,
How kind, how delightful,
O lily of chastity.