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His Daughter

Guest Asmodyan

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Guest Asmodyan



(23 Eleint, Year 1368 in Dale Reckoning)


We ran. I was tired, sweaty and bloody. The world narrower to what I could see through the eye-slit left by my visor and almost ceased to exist... almost. What was left of it was the glimpses of the long hall in the Ducal Palace in the capital City of Baldur’s Gate. The torches burned brightly and I could see men in amour and women in complicate dresses on the tapestries. All men were mighty and shiny in their cloth-of-gold plates and all women had faces as white as pearls of the deep sea.


I chuckled imagining a tapestry, depicting my companions and myself. The poor maker would have run out of crimson thread many a time before finishing it. Half of Khalid’s face was a mess of burned and bleeding flesh, and the man was lucky to have both of his dark eyes opened. His wife cringed every time she caught a look at it and glared at me, who sternly forbade healing. Jaheira knew I was right, and still she glared at me. The sleeve of her leather tunic was crimson too and I could see a few stripes of it on her right calf. As for Minsc, I almost never seen the true color his dented plate. The man used every part of his body in combat, and consequently his amour was stained from gorget to boots with the dark dried blood.


But I did not come here to model for a tapestry. I came to kill my brother. I came to stop the war. I came to become a kinslayer.


The girl appeared from around the corner, dragging a toy almost as big as herself behind, on the tiled floors. She was no older than five. For a moment I thought it was just another doppelganger, but the expression of bewilderment in the child’s eyes was too genuine. I saw many children and some of them in precarious circumstances: dying of disease, lost in a forest full of monsters, enslaved... yet my heart went out for the girl in the hall. Maybe it was because her hair, braided into many thin snakes and tied with golden bands and her dark red dress embroidered with a snarling dragon fitting her small frame so neatly contrasted too strongly with the pain in her almond-shaped eyes.


Unthinking, I stopped, leaned over and patted her on the head. Was I hoping that it will comfort her? She looked up at me, a bear of a man in bloodied armor, towering over her and her mouth opened wide in a soundless scream. Then a maid rushed from a side room, took the girl by her shoulders and pulled her inside, beyond the curtains, as if a velvet curtain could protect anybody from me. I went further, taking in and memorizing the girl turning her head to throw another look over her shoulder at me, before she disappeared behind the waving fabric, a shaky curtsy her nanny managed... and I noted with satisfaction that the child never cried.


I came here to save the little girl, her nanny and the whole city along with them. I was in prison before, and the commoners fled before me. They will understand soon enough who is their true enemy. Still, their fear tasted worse than bile on my tongue. I almost spit it out when I threw open the oaken doors behind which Sarevok was about to be pronounced a Grand Duke of Baldur’s Gate in place of the man he killed.

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(15th Myrtul, Year 1378 in Dale Reckoning)


Unlee sat quietly watching a thin piece of rice paper, an inkpot and her brush. Master Lunu ordered her to spend the morning in contemplation of her duties. She was to record her thoughts and illustrate them with a drawing consisting of 13 lines. Master Lunu was indeed angry with Unlee when he saw her playing with a dagger from her uncle’s collection to give her such a challenging assignment.


Unlee sighed and started writing: "A girl of a noble family sees her duty in honoring her father and her mother..." She stopped. That was what Master Lunu envisioned her doing, no doubt. Unless he expected her to surprise him with a poetic version of the same lines. She bit the end of her brush. Master Lunu was not a gentle-born girl. How come he knew of her duties so much?


Unlee sighed again. It was such an inopportune day for thinking. Maybe she would do better drawing?


One jagged line for the cheek, another for the stubborn chin, four - to show her brows and the arrowheads of her eyes. Two more lines for gracious neck and one for straight nose, and three for the smiling lips. Two more lines left... and she did not even start drawing her father. She pulled another sheet of rice paper from the wooden tube, looking over her shoulder like a thief, and crumped the first one in her hand. Then Unlee gave an angry snort. Her parents were meant to be together, and it did not matter if it took a thousand lines!


Unlee draw her mother again, and to her delight Tamoko Tanami turned out much like the beautiful picture of her on the silken screen in Unlee’s room. Only Tamoko there was dressed in silks and Unlee draw as she rememberer her mother last time - wearing padded shirt and leather breaches. She added a curved sword at Tamoko’s side.

Katana. A blade that will never break. Both of their family katanas were now gone, taken away by the stranger who killed her mother and by her uncle Yoshimo. Unlee wanted to draw Yoshimo as well, her kindly uncle who saved her and brought her here, to Kara-Tur from the awful City of Baldur’s Gate where she was born.


Unlee did not know him until the day he came into the cell, where she and her nanny were kept and carried her away. She hated the cell in Baldur’s Gate, hated the stares of the gaolers who brought her food, and she hated the frowns of the nobles who came to look at her, shrugged their shoulders, and went away saying nothing. Some of these nobles Unlee saw chatting amicably with her father before. Unlee never regretted seeing one of them laying face down on the staircase in the red puddle, and she never understood why her nanny cried and looked at Yoshimo scornfully. How could nanny not like Yoshimo with his easy smile and smooth way of talking? Unlee missed Yoshimo so very much ever since he left for the far away Faerun again.


But she would draw her father before drawing Yoshimo. Unlee squinted her eyes, trying to look into the past, to see the face of her father. Carefully she draw a hard, yet young face and a neck protected by the gorget. It was difficult to remember how many spikes decorated her father’s armour and she added as many as she could. Her father was a strong man. He held his winged helmet at his left elbow and he propped himself easily at his huge two-handed sword.


Suddenly Unlee realized that her drawing reminded her the somber statues she had seen at the graves in Faerun. The Lord and his Lady, ready to rest in peace, fully arrayed to face the eternity. Unlee squealed, and then a shade fell over her. Master Lunu came to check on her progress.


He looked at the drawing and frowned. Unlee bit her lip. Indeed, the drawing was too crowded, had too many unnecessary details and her mother’s smile was too much like a scowl and not serene at all. Unlee quickly snatched the inkpot and poured all it contents onto the paper. The thick dark puddle covered her father and her mother. Unlee noticed absently that the black spot covered her father’s sword last.

“Now you cannot count the lines, Master Lunu,†Unlee said and raised her chin defiantly.


“What... What was it?†Master Lunu’s face is very old, and his wrinkles deepened when he was cross.


“It was my family,†Unlee replied simply.


“And this is, “ she pointed on the still liquid ink, “This is blood.â€Â


“You will redo your assignment,†Master Lunu said coldly. “Thirteen lines and no more.â€Â

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(1st Kythorn, Year 1378 in Dale Reckoning)


Hermenn sat on a thick log of a pine tree, breathing in the bitter smell of resign and smoke, breaking dry branches into smaller pieces in his strong hands and throwing them underneath a large charred chunk of wood. Hot patches of redness still glinted menacingly on its side under a layer of papery ash, and he knew that if he would place enough kindling under it and blow in some air the flames will take. He sighed. He did not want to get up and bring the flames to life. He saw too many things destroyed recently, to be willing to turn the log into ashes. Yet he was cold. He was too cold.


Jaheira came by, wrapped into a blanket, which dragged behind her like a trail. Her face was still soft and puffy from sleep.


“It is my turn to watch,†she said hoarsely, and tightened her grip on the blanket.


“Are you cold?†Hermenn asked, looking past her head into the sky which was turning colors. “The color of the sky just before the morning dawn is the same as that of a sea in the evening dusk. Why is that?â€Â


Jaheira sniffed... or tried to, only it became a yawn. “That’s because the sea reflects the sky, and the morning dawn is little different than the evening one. They are all equals in the great circle of life... Why are you smiling?†Her green eyes almost glowered.


“Because I like the sense of belonging. Recently, I started to believe that I will never be anything but a child of Bhaal, and his name will always precede mine. Even after I surrendered Bhaal's essence. If the sea, the sky and the dawns are so different, distant and even frightening sometimes, and still they belong to one world, then surely I, a smaller element of murder might be embraced by the world... or by a woman.†He looked at her before he could do anything about the plea he knew was in his eyes.


She understood and she shook her head. “I cannot...â€Â


Hermenn pressed his hands against his temples. “You cannot console me. We do not belong to each-other. I know it and I do not ask for it. But still, I would feel much better if at least I could say it out loud...â€Â




“I love you.â€Â


Jaheira chewed her lips, watching Hermenn with a helpless expression. He did not like her to be helpless, but he did not like to be helpless either, and the feeling he denied himself rendered him almost incapable of talking to her. Now, when the words were real and out of his mind, Hermenn felt whole and sane again.


Hermenn got up, towering over the slight half-elf. “You are still cold,†he said softly, “let me start the fire up...â€Â


“Again?†Jaheira asked. He nodded. Again. For her he would turn the log into ashes... no, not into ashes. Into flames.

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(1st Kythorn, Year 1378 in Dale Reckoning)


Master Lunu was right. Doing a trivial task, while utilizing the minimal means did bring the mind into the orderly state. Unlee looked at the drawing of her mother, which Master Lunu told her to place on the wall, she would be facing when she studies. Thirteen perfect lines. Because Unlee could not use more, Tamoko wore an airy smile, which her daughter did not recognize. However disturbing that was, Unlee liked the picture to be so close to her. It reminded about the puzzle Unlee finally solved while drawing. The answer was so simple and so logical that Unlee could not understand how she did not see through the transparent lies before. Maybe she should try to put her mind into the orderly state more often and listen to her heart less.


"Your move?" Master Lunu prodded. Unlee slowly lifted a carved piece off the checkered board and then she placed it back.


"I’ve lost, Master Lunu. The continuation of the game will be a waste of time." Master Lunu always taught her to be greedy about it. The old man nodded.


"Indeed, Unlee. A good general never fights a lost battle. Remember that."


Unlee inclined her head in acquiescence, but only for a brief moment. Master Lunu with his sharp orderly mind must have known the answer to her puzzle for the past ten years. She knew it for two weeks. It was possible that during their discussions he saw that Unlee found the solution, and now he was trying to influence her reaction to it.


“Life,†Unlee said, watching Master Lunu carefully, “does not play by the rules. Some battles must be fought till the last man standing. It is not unwise to hope for a miracle, as hope gives miraculous strength.â€Â


“Unlee, you will include General’s Yonito’s essays in your next weeks reading. It is rare that a girl of a noble family takes interest in the warfare, but every interest should be supplemented with an extensive study on the subject,†Master Lunu intoned.


Unlee smiled privately. General Yonito was famous for his musings on the art of losing a war. She has already skimmed through his books, but they were among those which made her mind to come to the conclusions exactly opposite to the ones, the author wanted the reader to reach. Maybe it was because she was a half-blood, not a true Kara-Turian and maybe it was because every time someone wanted to give her an order, anger raised from the bottom of her heart.


“Of course, Master Lunu. I will start immediately upon my return from the market.â€Â


Master Lunu frowned. “Again, I should advise you against those trips. Mistress Aiomi is quite capable of purchasing supplies, and your presence is not necessary.â€Â


Unlee waved him off. “Mistress Aiomi is not the Lady of the Mansion. I am. And how I am to rule the household if I do not even know how much fish and rice cost?â€Â

Master Lunu sighed. He recognized the quote from Dalani-Yo, the most praised authority on the matters of governing the estate and a trusted advisor to Emperor Koshu. Master Lunu will have to think now how to counter this one.


Meanwhile Unlee went to find Mistress Aiomi and a cloak of blue silk embroidered with plum-colored non-existing flowers.



“What is going on?†Unlee asked when the carriage came to a sudden halt. They just entered the outskirts of the small town and Unlee could not have imagined that enough people would have gathered here to impede the carriage’s movement on the market day. Mistress Aiomi’s round face was showing an obvious surprise, but it was nothing compare to the way her eyes budged and her jaw fell open, when Unlee opened the curtains and jumped out. She immediately saw what caused Shamu to stop the carriage.


A few paces away a slight man fought with three of the emperor’s soldiers. Unlee knew that your mind registers the time differently depending on your pastime, but she was sure, that it took the man no more than three heartbeats to thrust his sword through the heart of one of the soldiers, render another one blind, by slashing his left-hand dagger across the soldier’s forehead. The agile warrior, however, took a hit from the third attacker’s mace. Unlee expected the man to fall, but he kept his footing and gave generously back for what he had received. The mace parried the sword blade a few times, but with every strike it become just a little bit slower, and a little bit weaker. The sword finally broke through and a vicious cut found the soldier’s neck. The man broke away from the falling body and ran limping toward Unlee.


Suddenly, she realized that Shamu, Mistress Aiomi and herself were the only people left on the street.

Everyone else has disappeared at the first sight of the drawn swords. It was a very quiet town, and people did not like to mingle with the Emperor’s business. Besides, it was the market day...


To Unlee’s surprise all the four participants stayed very quiet during the fight, letting out no more than grunts or puffs in addition to ringing steel. But the noise was there. The shouts, the hooves, the commands. There must have been more soldiers chasing after the man, but so far they were obscured behind the bend of the street.


Unlee motioned the champion toward the carriage, ripped the cloak of her shoulders and threw it to him. Without hesitation the man dived inside, and Unlee chuckled at the gasp Mistress Aiomi produced. Herself, she kneeled in the middle of the street as if ready to retch... The excitement always made her to go pale, and she was pretty sure that her face was by now whiter than the sheets on her bed.


A few more soldiers poured from behind the corner... Unlee wept loudly, and pointed down the street, beyond the town’s boundary, into the rolling foothills. The soldiers cursed and ran past Unlee, paying her or the carriage only as much attention as was necessary not to trip over them. They served the Emperor, and the distress of a minor noble was not worth losing your head over, if Emperor’s orders were not carried out.


“To the market, Shamu,†Unlee ordered firmly as she climbed back into the carriage.


The man stared at her with his dark, tilted eyes from under the cowl of her blue silk cloak. “A wise choice, little one. If the river’s waters change their course one can be sure that someone built a dam upstream.†Unlee inclined her head in acknowledgment, but did not answer. She knew that the soldiers would come back after their chase proved fruitless. Mistress Aiomi sniffed in disapproval.


“You saved their lives, girl. Not mine.†His face was angular and narrow with pointed cheekbones – he was not a true blood of Kara-Tur either, Unlee thought. Half-blood, just like her, Unlee, or maybe even a quarter or less.


Unlee smiled. “I am Unlee Anchev and I have a service I wish you to perform for me. Give me a name, so I can address you properly.â€Â


“Yoshimo,†the man replied too quickly.


“Well... Yoshimo,†Unlee said calmly, ignoring that the stranger used her uncle’s name, “we are going to the market now. Myself and Mistress Aiomi will do some shopping, and then we will return back to my estate. You can stay in the carriage and return with us to discuss the service I have in mind for you, or you can slip away while the carriage stands by the market square. It will not be difficult to the man of your skill.â€Â


Unlee almost laughed seeing the hope in Mistress Aiomi’s eyes. She clearly did not like Yoshimo’s company. Amusingly, Mistress Aiomi also never liked Unlee’s uncle of the same name. Unlee liked both well enough and she thought it another piece of a puzzle falling into a place that the rogue chose to name himself Yoshimo. He will return to the estate with Unlee, and he will serve her.


Two weeks ago she finally solved the puzzle. She was sure now that her uncle Yoshimo returned to Faerun not to seek the remains of his sister Tamoko. After all, he could have stolen Tamoko’s body along with Unlee and Mistress Aiomi when he broke into the Ducal Palace. He went back to find the murderer and to avenge his sister. That he still did not return, after ten years, meant two things. Firstly, that he was dead from the hands of the same man who killed Unlee’s farther and Unlee’s mother, and secondly that it was left to Unlee to fight this battle.

Simple. Logical.


Master Lunu can tell her as often as he wished that the battle was lost, but Unlee was not about to give up on her dream to take the heart of the man who killed all of her family.


Strangely, every time she imagined Hermenn of Candlekeep, he took on features of a soldier she saw on the night her father was murdered in the Ducal Palace in Baldur’s Gate. Unlee remembered the dented plate and the smears of blood on it and blue eyes, so deceptively kind, that they made Unlee feel safe for a few hours.


Unlee even fall asleep in Mistress Aiomi’s arms after meeting him... and was waken by the soldiers, who came to carry her off to the dungeons, laughing about Sarevok Anchev’s death. Unlee almost wished that this very man was Hermenn of Candlekeep, the legendary hero who killed her parents. She would be very happy to trick him into trusting her, into a happy sleep... to kill him when he wakes.

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(24th Eleint, Year 1378 in Dale Reckoning)


The leaves were ankle-deep, much of them still yellow, but deeper, closer to the ground they already turned brown. The aroma hanging in the crisp air was pleasant however, as it always is with the leaves killed by early autumn’s frosts. Khalreshaar is a goodly goddess, and her time cannot be marred by the horrors of rot and decay.


The golden layer whispered and cracked under the foot of the two half-elves as they made their way toward a small barrow, were the leaves laid thicker, hoarded by the wind.


Jaheira dropped the hood of her cloak down to her shoulders and her untamed hair fell lose on her face, and down her back. The gentle sun ray touched a few strands, eager as always to make Jaheira’s locks reddish. Hermenn sighed. He should not be envying the slanting light, not here, not now. He kneeled by Jaheira’s side and took her hands, made into a graceful little thing by the gloves. They prayed for the long-lost Gorion, and before Hermenn knew, he added Khalid as well. Khalid never was buried, his resting place being a pile of rubble. At least he had many comrades on the journey to the afterlife, all of them the victims of Jonoleth the Elven, who became known to the world as Jon Irenicus.


Eleven years passed since Gorion died, two filled with despair and blood, and the other eight quiet and slow.

Hermenn’s task was reduced now from caring for the destiny of the pantheon and attempts to stop the wars to guarding a small village from an occasional orc. He had not fletched any new arrows in the last three months, yet his quiver was full enough.


Jaheira’s visit and this journey together to Baldur’s Gate brought excitement into his life, yet it put his soul in such a turmoil that he could barely sleep ever since he found the druid waiting patiently in his cabin. As one week turned into two and three, Hermenn grew frightful of Jaheira’s leaving.


Forgive me, Khalid, for what I am about to do.


Hermenn hold the stir-up when Jaheira mounted, even if there was no need, and she did not fail to comment sharply on that. Hermenn smiled - and led her horse, whistling for his own loyal mount, Run, to follow. Jaheira simmered and argued that she did not need a stable boy, and he laughed, and laughed and laughed. It was not the stable boy’s job he was after.


When they finally got back to the road, Hermenn mounted Run, and they rode side by side, now in silence.


The fire in the common room of the Friendly Arm Inn was just as Hermenn remembered it, hot and welcoming. And the ale was just the same, thick and dark, a testimony to the art of the master dwarf. Yet Hermenn barely touched his, watching Jaheira. His heart pounded.


Some commotion and noise came from the outside and Jaheira turned her head in the direction of the door. Hermenn forgot to breathe.


A young, fair-haired half-elf in a too small leather jerkin with the brassy bands sewn onto it almost fell through the doors, a bewildered expression clear on his face. A girl with bright-red hair, laughing hysterically followed on his heels, caught his hand and whispered something into his ear. The two made their way to the counter.

“Imoen...†Jaheira mouthed and turned to look at Hermenn. “What is going on?â€Â


“Something about you is familiar, child. Your manner reminds me of a sage I know, by the name of Gorion,†Hermenn told to the fair half-elf. And, turning to Jaheira he added unsteadily: “Jaheira, dear, do you think this lad may just be Gorion’s ward we are waiting for?†he licked his lips to taste this “dearâ€Â


Jaheira gasped for air, but replied steadily. She spoiled the game only a little by addressing herself to him, to Hermenn, instead of the fair-haired half-elf.


“Good day friend! You are the child of Gorion, are you not? I recognize you from his letters, for he writes of you often. Forgive my manners; I am Jaheira and this is...â€Â


Her voice dropped to whisper at Gorion’s name, and Hermenn thought she would not make it past the lump in her throat, but she did. Jaheira, the most fearless woman he knew finished in a loud and clear voice.


“This is Hermenn, my husband.â€Â


Hermenn always wanted to marry in the Friendly Arm’s Inn Temple. Imoen and Haer’Dalis stood witness to the ceremony. Galena Mirrowshade smiled. “I do so love them, fall weddings. The winter ones are consolation, the spring ones are rush, the summer ones are passion, but the fall ones - they are ripe and wise.â€Â


Hermenn nodded. This fall marriage was all of it and many more besides.

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(29th Eleint, Year 1378 in Dale Reckoning)


She waited for three long months for Yoshimo to come back. Yes, it was wise that he did not hide at her lands just then, with Emeperor’s guards searching far and wide for him. Neither she doubted his word, but she was becoming bad at waiting. Now, he was back and he was testing her. Was not it what she had always wanted?


Unlee took another cautious step, trying not to fall off the tree brunch as an over-ripe persimmon. Or to look down.


The girl started her morning by running thrice around her estates, and small as they were, she was nearly exhausted by the time Yoshimo invented another challenge. As the day progressed she danced for him and bent her body into a dozen awkward shapes. Finally he led her toward the pine tree boarding the neatly arranged rock garden and ordered her to climb a long knotted branch, which ran parallel to the ground. When Unlee did, he said: “Walk†and Unlee walked. Yoshimo’s katana on her hip felt much heavier now than when he first made her to put it on, yet if she welcomed anything in her half-desperate, half-fearful state it was its weight.


“Unsheathe the katana...†Yoshimo ordered, and when he saw her slowing her progress along the branch he commanded: “Keep moving!†She did, though it almost costed her balance.


“Drop it.â€Â


Unlee obeyed, letting go of the katana, though not without a sigh. She liked how the leather of the grip felt in her palms.


“Fall down,†for the first time during the whole day Unlee hesitated. Something hit her ankle. A stone. She embraced herself and jumped down; the drop was no more than twice her height, yet the needles and smaller branches gave her slaps and scratches. Unlee did not hit the ground. Yoshimo caught her and made her stand.


“You are too old,†he announced the judgement finally shaking his head.


Unlee gasped. How many years did the man have on her? Ten? Yoshimo looked younger, holding her like that, though his face lost boyish smoothness, the change which comes with maturity. Still, he was handsome, she supposed and as approachable as any man she knew.


“I am fifteen,†she replied defensively, “and you said before that it might not be too late.â€Â


Yoshimo licked his lips and sat down on the ground crossing his lanky legs under him.


“One is either born kensai or learns to be a kensai in his early childhood. Fifteen might not be too late to start training for someone who was born a kensai. You were not.â€Â

Unlee swallowed hard. Then she felt a familiar wave of anger to wash over her. “You hurried me from the sunrise til now only to tell me that I won’t do?â€Â


Yoshimo’s face grew stern: “I did nothing unnecessary. You are agile enough, you are strong enough and you are quick enough. I should have been overjoyed to take you as my pupil, for my skill would not have been wasted, but multiplied in you. Yet there was something I could not quite put my finger on, and I had to test you again and again to find out what it was, that was not right. I finally know what it is.â€Â


“So what is my flaw?†Unlee demanded stubbornly. She would know next time...


Yoshimo smoothed his already perfectly arranged hair, and told slowly: “You allowed a feeling or a person to stand between you and your sword. Your passion runs beyond the blade. Now, that is a treat rarely seen in those who are warrior-born, but you possess it, and it is strong. It will get you killed, no matter how skillful you would become.â€Â


Then the kensai’s face became thoughtful. “Some masters wrote that such a thing can be overcome with time, but they reach no agreement on as to how to do it. Master Hu-Sen believed that full abstinence and ascetic lifestyle will eventuate in the extermination of all feelings and desires of a flawed student, while Mistress Shai-Min objected that there is a danger of the desire breaking through the training and destroying the effort. Her opinion was that such student should engage into an exploration of passions and desires and indulge herself to the point when they are felt with less intensity. A true kensai is a warrior who can feel and who can fight without creating a conflict in his soul.â€Â


Unlee listened carefully and then said: “Teach me.â€Â


Yoshimo sighed: “You might as well say “kill meâ€Â.â€Â


“Kill me,†Unlee echoed.


Yoshimo bowed to her: “As you wish, Mistress Unlee. You youth demands that Master Hu-Sen’s method was tried, as there are passions and desires no proper man should push the girl to explore too early; so do not expect that you training will be as easy as it went today. Go sleep now, and I will meet with you an hour before dawn tomorrow to teach you how to eat and to breathe.â€Â


Unlee obeyed. She squinted at the lowering sun and thought that it was a good thing for her to retire early if she will have to wake before the first light.


Master Lunu waited on a bamboo bench in front of the house. Of course he pretended to read a yellowed scroll, but his eyes wandered away from the rice paper. Unlee did not school her face well enough, overwhelmed by the joy of her accomplishment, so Master Luno saw what have passed between Yoshimo and her from Unlee’s expression.


“Mistress Unlee,†he said quietly, and for the first time in her life Unlee detected anxiety on his features and in his voice, “Nothing that was created was created to be resolved with swords.â€Â


Unlee bowed to Master Lunu with great care and respect. She envied those who did not carry swords, but she knew she was not one of them. The blood of her parents and of those who came before them, crushed against her temples like waves of the stormy sea against the shore cliffs.

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(1st Mythrul, Year 1380 in Dale Reckoning)


“Do not go,†Hermenn croaked at last while holding out the walking staff to her. Jaheira cringed: “I wish you did not do it every time, my love. You live in peace in your Umar Hills but the wide world still calls on me.â€Â


Hermenn nodded, but as she went out of the doors he closed his eyes, not willing to feel alone for another moment or two. He never voiced his gravest concern about these partings, for he knew that Jaheira would wave it away as grisly fly. It would not matter for another hundred years, he thought. It will be then that the thirty-year difference in their age will become apparent. It will be then when he will be left to while his days in solitude.


For now he had to be content with what time she spent in Umar Hills and live while she was gone. Sighing he started honing a wide heavy spearhead. They were going to hunt a boar with old Hab next morn.

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(20st Mythrul, Year 1380 in Dale Reckoning)


“She will be coming this way in an hour. We cannot delay it any longer,†Unlee said.


Yoshimo lifted his head: “I think we can delay losing our honor indefinitely.â€Â


Unlee looked at him curiously: “I will not lose my honor by avenging my family.†She heard from Yoshimo about honor and duty almost as often as she did from Master Lunu. Yet by what she knew he fell from grace, for the Emperor’s soldiers would not give a chase without a cause. She never asked in the two years that he was tutoring her. Maybe she wanted to have the same respect fro him as she had for Master Lunu, and it would have been difficult if Yoshimo turned out to be a common bandit sentenced to hanging at a market square.


“My father lost his own life, a wife and a brother-in-law to this man. He killed his own brother, so he and his wife will have to die by my hand to even the score.†Yoshimo looked into Unlee’s face and found not a trace of emotion. Was not that what he taught her? Coldly, he slapped Unlee across her tanned cheek and cherry-red lips; the girl did not flinch. His stomach tightened against beating an unarmed... she sensed his hesitation and hissed: “Coward...â€Â


It would be so easy to leave that mad slip of a girl to her vengeance, to walk away... Yoshimo even started walking, when she yelled after him: “It’s not like you have not done it before! What’s wrong this time?†He froze in his steps. She believed him a murderer. Worst, she thought him a thug who robbed, killed, rapped... all he taught her she thought lies, because she would not believe it out of his mouth. He wasted two years of his life and his heart on raising a viper.


And he thought that Unlee Anchev, a half-blood knew his heart, if she did not guess his circumstances. That day when this girl, so lovely to look at, threw a cloak at him and offered to shelter him from the pursuit, he thought it the fate’s working. A cloak after all was coated with the flowers of the mountain almonds he loved so much and secretly thought to be his symbol. That day he swore to serve her, and to obey her.


He swallowed the dark disappointment and did what she asked of him. A blow after blow he rained methodically on her in defiance of all he had learned over years of training and readings. She rolled on the ground in front of him twitching but silent, ripping apart her clothes, smothering blood when she thought that it did not look natural enough. Unlee was not satisfied until there was not a single unbruised spot left on her. He breathed out in relief that it was finally over and that he was free of the necessity to raise and lower his hands. At least Unlee did not hold a sway over him any more, she could not have hurt him further.


He was mistaken.

Unlee reached for him and caught his arm... An apology, he thought. She finally understood that she was wrong about me. Through her bleeding, broken lips Unlee whispered: “Would a roadside scam be satisfied with just beating and robbing a young girl?â€Â


He looked at her as if she was a viper indeed. Then he went to his knees by her: “No... not that, please.†The black eyes flickered with surprise. Could she have known how often he dreamed of it in the past year when they traveled together? He never imagined that it would be offered to him in an afterthought, as something unimportant. In a bitter fit of self mockery he lowered himself by the woman he almost worshiped a day ago. Her determination, her purity, her stubbornness... it all was still there and no less admirable, than yesterday, but she tumbled over it to fall into the bottomless pit of dishonor. Or was she carrying hers and only despoiling his? It was too difficult of a question.


Yoshimo’s fingers almost as numb as his soul, it took him a few minutes to rip the already tattered white skirts. The rest took him even less time. He heard soldiers bragging in the taverns of the pleasures of taking maimed and bloodied and screaming women. His was only bruised, but he doubted that this minute difference made him to thoroughly abhor the experience which others seemed to enjoy. He almost laughed when he thought that his trained body did not fail him in this task.


He carried Unlee to the roadside and left her there - a hip of bleeding flesh, dirtied clothes and self-satisfied smile on her face, that looked scary in combination with a black eye.


He hid himself, preparing to play the last part of his role in this endless drama. Sure steps disturbed the quietness under the forest canopy. Yoshimo knew that a grimace of pain had replaced the smile at Unlee’s face. His lover moaned by the road side. A coarse, throaty woman’s voice exclaimed angrily and then spoke something out, soothingly.


Yoshimo raised, showing himself. The woman kneeling by Unlee turned, glared at him and started a chant, that no doubt was intended to obliterate him for what crimes he had done in her opinion. Unlee’s sure hand drove a point of a dagger between her breasts interrupting the ancient spell of the forest. The half-elven woman chocked on her own blood, stared accusingly at the girl who hit her and then toppled over. Yoshimo walked over and helped Unlee to get back to her feet. She was shaking, but he could not say if that was with fear or with the excitement of her first kill. He could not bring himself to ask, but just stood there and stared at the stiffening body of the red-head woman and into her glazing green eyes. He realized that he had hoped against hope that Unlee would relent.


“How are you going to get to your uncle?†he managed faintly at last. “I have heard that he is a formidable warrior and playing the same trick...â€Â


Unlee smiled widely, triumphantly: “O, but I think you have just showed me how to get to my uncle. You were so... unsteady afterwards...†she planted a scratchy kiss on his lips. Her own were encrusted in dried blood. Yoshimo pushed her away and said slowly:


“I was born on the wrong side of the sheets to an Emperor’s daughter. Alas, the man who fathered me was a foreigner and unfit to wed the heir of the throne. While he was rumored to have escaped Kara-Tur with his life, he’d not step on this soil ever again... My mother was told that a child was still-born by her father. Emperors do not lie, Unlee. So when the small oversight of my continuing existence was uncovered, it had to be corrected by any means possible. Now, if you excuse me, I have a father to find, and you have an uncle to kill.â€Â


Then he abandoned a girl whom he swore to protect. For who would begrudge a rapist and a bandit an oathbreaking?

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(29th Mythrul, Year 1380 in Dale Reckoning)


She was not coming back this time. And she will never leave me again. I threw another glance at the body covered by a green shroud on top of the funeral pyre.


Jaheira, the source of my joy, the spring of my life, why have you been so stubborn? Why did you have to go on these lonely long journeys without me? Now you lay there, atop of the pyre, and your chest is opened by a bandit’s blade. You chose to go so that this blade can touch you so cruelly, and you could have had my hands caressing you instead. If you stayed home for once.


Then I heard someone crying louder than myself.


A woman, dressed all in black, was weeping and shuddering. Then she collapsed. When nobody can help you, go and help someone. That’s what Gorion told me once. Maybe he learned it after he killed my mother?


I lifted a limp, lifeless body off the ground and threw back the veil from her face. She was young, no more than twenty, and even fainted, with color bleeding off her face, and her eyes shut, she looked beautiful. I stood there, holding her in my hands, and watched the flames to leap up and to consume Jaheira’s dead body. The sparks that might have once been her hair or her flesh flew up into the skies above the Umar Hills, brighter than the stars.


I almost smiled when I heard the girl in black breathe. The strange sensation of gladness spread through me, and I knew that I would be taking the woman back to my house. Even if only to find out why Jaheira’s death affected her so. But maybe not only for this. I felt a pang of guilt for being enamored with a woman at the foot of my wife’s funeral pyre, but the joy of life has a strange way of seeping through grief, like a fresh grass growing on a grave. Besides, something in the face of the girl made me think that I have met her before, that I have known her for many years, almost as long as I knew Jaheira.


The girl came back to her senses slowly, while I was pouring wine and herbal brews into her and into myself. She talked of her family Jaheira saved during one of her ventures and I cried because I knew so little of my wife’s doings. We shed many tears together that night, because Jaheira was dead and because the world was so cold. I lit the candles to warm it up a bit and to make it a bit lighter. She poured more wine into tall glasses to make it a bit sweeter. Then she kissed my lips to make it more forgiving.


I woke when the pale light came through the room’s tall windows. I searched for Jaheira for a moment, than I remembered that she would not be there. The girl was not there. And I could not remember if I asked her name. I sit up on the bed and saw her donning her black clothes in the corner of the room.


“What is your name?†I asked groggily.


She laughed instead of answering, shook her head, and many thin black braids shifted about, rustling, like uncoiling snakes. For a moment a genuine expression of bewilderment appeared in her dark almond-shaped eyes and then it changed to joy.


Her movements were so quick and I was so tired of life that I did not block the flying knife. It cut through my throat. It dug into my flesh, went through the bone and impaled itself deep in the oaken headboard of my bed. I could feel it vibrating, shivering... a tail of a small devious beast.


I should have guessed who she was... That toy she dragged behind her in the Ducal Palace in the capital City of Baldur’s Gate was a knight in black amour... And that precise, cruel cut which stopped Jaheira’s heart... Only those with Bhaal’s blood in their veins know how to kill like that.


She did not come to mourn Jaheira. She came to kill her uncle. She came to become a kinslayer. She came to kill the one who murdered both of her parents. And it was too late to ask her name or to tell her that it was all in vain... too late... I died.

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(1st Mythrul, Year 1383 in Dale Reckoning)


When you are used to walking, leagues on foot do not scare you. After a while you stop noticing the even rhythm of your own footfalls and the dust twirling in your wake. Some watch curiously and hungrily the countryside they pass, and some retreat into themselves feeding of their own memories. I am a beast of that last type. Ten years is a long time, and sometimes I feel surprised that I still am not done with thinking about my past.


But one hazy morning, standing at a road fork, were a smaller trail leads into the bluish hills, I could not form but one thought: “It is over at lastâ€Â. Soon, I will put down the weight of the ashes of a woman I loved into the ground and off my shoulders, and I would be haunted by memories of a woman who seduced me into abandoning her and a child of my own body for the promise of fire and blood. The pine trees clinging to the slopes, the bamboo shootings whispering to the wind, a narrow stream in the roadside ditch under an arched bridge with its railings painted red and black, and the rising white sun... Yoshimo had found a place of ultimate peace to raise my daughter. I doubted that it was what he had in mind - the well being of my daughter. It was that this place was near impossible to find. For ten years I was undoing the knots, following the false trails and escaping the snares that this man left. I was lucky that so many of them were made to catch my brother, not myself, who was left for dead. Even Yoshimo with his devious mind could not have envisioned that Hermenn with his inexhaustible mercy and patience would release me into the world of living once more and allow me to go on my quest unhindered. Yoshimo’s enemies stayed dead. He made sure of it.


I came to respect my brother, even envy his odd ways. Even now I have no other word to describe him than a soft-hearted fool, yet, it is either that gods love fool, or indeed his is the only way to win. The other thing is, that where I was divided by passions and desires, he was a whole man, even in his love to that loud-mouthed and ill-tempered woman who never wanted it. For his sake I hope she is well.


A moment came when I realized that if I stand on the roadside any longer, I would become a statue... so I crossed the bridge and I walked towards the house where Yoshimo hid my daughter.


Thankfully I saw Unlee before meeting with him.


She sat under a pine tree by a rock garden, reading a scroll - a spitting image of Tamoko. My voice shook when I called her by name and it was so quiet, that I coughed and tried again. There was no need. Her head jerked upright and her eyes widened as she recognized me. I did not dare to hope she would. She was only five when we parted.


“Father...†she said, “o, father...â€Â


And then she backed away from me, whiter than the scroll that fell on the ground from her long fingers. The horror in her eyes cut me deeper than any sword. She was afraid of me, I thought, cursing Yoshimo.


As kindly as possible I tried to win her trust: “Your uncle Yoshimo must have told you of the man I used to be, Unlee, a selfish, mad, arrogant man and a killer. But I have changed. But if you do not feel safe, please go bring Yoshimo out and he will protect you while we talk. Tell him - I brought Tamoko’s ashes to burry in her own land and to ask his forgiveness. “ I hoped that was enough to lure Yoshimo out and buy his permission to talk to Unlee.


“Uncle Yoshimo is dead,†Unlee said quietly. “You did not know? Hemenn killed him!â€Â


And before I could react to this revelation, she added in a small voice: “And I killed Hermenn.â€Â


My daughter was quicker than her mother and someone has trained her well. I caught a glimpse of sun on the edge of the blade before my hands ripped it away from hers, but her gut was already opened, and life extinguished in her eyes. I needed a priest, I thought desperately, I needed a god, I needed...


A door opened to my wailing and a bent figure in a white clothes stepped outside. It was not Yoshimo. The old man pressed his wrinkly shaking hands to his face to hide his tears or maybe to stop looking at the limp corpse in my hands.


“You are a cursed man,†he muttered. As if I did not know.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The End~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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