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Stories from the Attic


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Late to Class




Arabella shifted her head as a slight golden, yellow grew beyond her eyelids.  She exhaled softly, her coppery-curls cascading down, momentarily enshrouding Arabella in darkness.  However, this brief respite wasn't to last as a glass-shattering squeal pierced Arabella's ears, a lancet of electrical pain drilling deep into her head.


"I'm awake, I'm awake!" Arabella shouted as she quickly stood up, banging her knees on the bottom side of the desk, her mist-grey eyes widening at the sudden pain that shot through her legs.  


The ear piercing squeal continued unabated, and Arabella growled, one hand still rubbing her newly bruised knee, and cast a murderous glare at the source of the noise.  No wider than the palm of her hand, there was a circular object, made from solid oak.  Numbers were carefully engraved on the surface, filigreed with silver leaf telling the hour of the day, though the source of the scream was a small, manlike figure, spellbound to the wooden block, his upper arms pointing sky-high for the minute hand, while his legs pointed down at the six for the hour hand.   The reason for his scream was from the tiny spear that was pricking his left buttock, set to break the surface of his skin as soon desired time was reached.


Arabella removed the small spear, and the bound imp immediately quieted down, and she grumbled "Gods, six in the morning, whatever possessed me to get a class first thing in the morning."


Arabella stiffened and muttered, "Oh yes, that's right.  Grandmother, that's who.  Said I wouldn't get my inheritance unless I went on to university."


Twining her fingers and raising her hands overhead, Arabella stretched and snarled, "It took a week for me to wash off that mothball smell..."


Arabella stiffened as she slowly became aware of an acrid, if pungent odor.  Her gaze dropped back down to the clock, and she saw a small, brown pile underneath the imp.


"Oh no!" she swore, "the clock's running behind..."


The young woman darted into her closet, and she pulled out several garments, muttering as a small pile slowly grew, "No, can't wear this, I still haven't got the blood stains out...and this smells like fetid ilithid...bright pink with chartreuse stripes?"


Finally, though, the woman put together an ensemble that while it was far from the height of fashion at least wouldn't drive one blind.  Arabella moved back to her desk, the long purple robes trimmed with silver at least giving her ease of movement than the more traditional corset, blouse and skirt gave.


Arabella sighed as she looked down at the assembled papers, and thought, Damn it, fell asleep again.  I'm going to have to ask Professor Edwin for an extension on this assignment.  Ever since that incident with the Bare-Skin Rug, I would probably have an easier time asking a baatezu if he would be willing to part with his fingernails.


Arabella shook her head, and thought, Wake up girl, your going to be late as it is.  You can grab something to pick you up as you go to class.


The young woman searched the room until she saw a large, brown canvas bag in the corner and picked it up, stuffing her papers into it.  Arabella moved toward the door of her room, and stopped to cast a final glance at her room.


"Nope, that's everything.  At least I finished that paper on Ethics of Love Potions last week..." Arabella said to herself, and exited the room.




Arabella slid into a chair at the back of the small classroom, hoping her instructor hadn't seen her.  Taking a quick glance, the young woman saw that there was a small box already on her desk, and a deep croak reverberated from inside it.  Looking closer, Arabella saw two bulbous brown eyes staring back at her.


Oh no, I forgot today was the quiz! Arabella thought mournfully before a voice broke her concentration.


"Um, present ma'am?" Arabella said automatically.


A laugh swept through the class, and a stern, contralto voice said, "Behave class.  Mrs. Wycliffe, do you realize that this makes it the fifth time this semester you were late to my class?  One more absence, and I will be forced to drop your final grade by one full letter grade."


Arabella felt a bright warmth flush her cheeks, and she quietly said, "I'm sorry Professor de'Arnise.  I won't let it happen again, I promise."


"See that you don't," said the stern voice, and this time Arabella lifted her head to stare at her professor.  She took in the page-boy cut of the woman's vibrant red hair--Reduces risks of it catching fire a past lesson supplemented--and the soft, intelligent doe-brown eyes of the woman as she glanced at the class, the hourglass-shaped figure hardly hidden by Professor de'Arnise's voluminous robes.


Arabella had to suppress a chuckle as she saw that once more a large portion of the boys were staring raptly at the instructor, while a sizable portion of the females glared daggers at her.


Well, that's what you get for picking the youngest teacher to lead the Equinox rite, Arabella thought, Druids and their sky-clad rites.  I still think it was Dr. Cernd's way of staring at the co-eds.


"What we call magic is an energy that pervades everything.  Every rock, every plant, every animal..." Professor de'Arnise's words echoed in Arabella's mind, bringing her attention back to the present once more.


"As such, magic can be controlled, channeled, much like wind may be harnessed by the sails on a windmill to drive the large grindstones," Professor de'Arnise said, "Yes Dylan, you had a question?"


A young man rose, running a hand through his thick black hair, "Um, yes, Professor de'Arnise.  No offense, but we already had this in Remedial Spell-Crafting.  This is nothing new.  What, if anything, does this have with these frogs on our desk?"


Nalia arched an eyebrow, and replied, "Yes, Dylan, you have heard this several times before, but it is worth repeating until you can say it in your sleep.  Magic, when improperly used, can cause great havoc.   Now, you have had it reinforced time and again about how necessary it is to properly phrase your spells, to rigorously follow through the same ritualistic motions, to have the proper ingredients for one's spell."


Arabella nodded, remembering the endless strings of words, the never-ending lists of ingredients, and the seeming haphazard gestures required to cast her spells, each one different from the last.


Nalia continued, "What you will learn, though, is that all of these are just crutches, unnecessary in its own way."


A stunned whisper rippled through the crowd, and Dylan raised his hand once more, and stated, not waiting for Nalia to call on him, "Um, Professor de'Arnise, what do you mean unnecessary?"


Nalia grinned at the stunned reaction, as she proceeded with the lecture, "Consider, if you will, various spell-casters.  From the orc shaman waving is bone-rattle, grunting and swearing in his porcine tongue to the stately, formal affairs of the elf, speaking in tongues older than the rise of man, from the hedge-wizard needing eye of newt, and wing of bat to the capering gnomish prankster, speaking in endless babble.  All work magic, all can cast similar spells, and yet the end result is the only commonality among them.  The gestures, the words, the ingredients, all are focuses for your concentration.  Given enough strength of will, you can surpass the...limitations...commonly associated with spells.  Mix and match methods if you will, and theoretically, cast spells by will alone."


Nalia's lips quirked in a smile, "That is where the frogs come in.  By this point in your education, all of you have successfully passed the "Turning a Frog into Prince" spell.  Today, you shall re-cast that spell, but with one major difference.  You will not be using any magical reagents.  You are limited to gesture and word alone."


A hushed silence fell throughout the crowd at Nalia's pronouncement.  She chuckled, "It isn't as hard as it sounds.  Mrs. Wycliffe, since you were the last one to class, you will have the honors of first try."


Arabella blushed once more, but she responded, "Yes, Professor de'Arnise.  Um, what am I supposed to do without any reagents, though?"


Nalia smiled, "Very good question.  What you do, as hard as it may seem, is proceed through the spell as you normally would.  Remember those endless classes where we required to be able to tell various items by their texture, their smell, even their taste?"


Arabella grimaced, "Yes, sometimes I still wake up with the taste of gnoll bile on my lips."


"Very good," Nalia stated encouragingly, "Just let the memory rise to the fore in your mind, and grasp it as you normally would.  However, don't think twice about the fact you don't have the 'proper' ingredients.  Just imagine you do so.  Once you successfully grasp this fact, then you will find yourself able to substitute ingredients as you will, and if you are potent enough, not even needing them in hand to enact your magic.  So, Mrs. Wycliffe, show us how its done."


Nalia's lips quirked, "Or how its not done."


Arabella bit her tongue, not allowing Nalia's playful words to distract her as she stood up from her desk.  Hesitantly, the young woman reached in and grasped her frog, almost recoiling at the touch of its slimy skin on her hands.


Stop that, its just a frog... Arabella chided herself, putting the frog on the top of her desk.


Taking a deep breath, Arabella closed her eyes, her hands starting to weave before her, an eldritch utterance escaping her lips.  Her left hand dropped to where her ingredient satchel normally would be, but bearing Nalia's statement in the back of her mind, Arabella imagined the flake of human skin, the long thread of hair that would be needed to give structure to the final shape, and the silk cocoon symbolic of change itself.


Arabella slowly felt the magic take hold, and she exhaled as she was about ready to release the mystic forces under her control.  As Arabella felt the final flare of growing magic, she suddenly let out a loud yelp of pain when her leg suddenly cramped.


Reaching down to rub the tight muscle, a bright, white light momentarily filled the class, then disappeared as quickly as it appeared.  Arabella stumbled backward as the sound of splintering wood filled her ears, and a dull gray shape rose from the top of her desk to the top of the roof.


Once the last rippling black dots left her eyeballs, Arabella groaned as she saw a large, granite-grey column in the place where her desk formerly was.


"I believe the spell called for a handsome prince," Nalia's humor-laden voice said, 'Not a handsome plinth."


Arabella then felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and saw her instructor gazing reassuringly into her eyes.


"Don't worry about it," Nalia whispered, "I did the exact same thing my first time as well.  Heh, except earlier that day I had bit my tongue...don't try spell casting with a lisp..."

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As The Wheel Turns




And now, back to the further adventures of everyone's favorite Casanova...


Jaheira stirred on the bed, pulling the crimson covers close to her chest.  She felt a warm, protective warmth behind her, a strong muscular arm sliding over her silky skin.  The druid murmured with pleasure, pushing further into the encompassing embrace.  


"Hmm" she murmured dreamily, "You smell nice.  Just like lettuce and wood-chips."


Jaheira sighed pleasantly, as she felt a soft pair of lips brush along the back of her neck.


*Just like lettuce and woodchips* echoed through her mind.


Jaheira sat straight up in bed, her hands clutching desperately at the red blanket covering and a desperate gasp escaped her lips, "Calm down, calm down, it was just a dream."


As her ragged breathing slowly turned to normal, Jaheira felt a reassuring hand grasp hers.  Jaheira's head twisted, and she looked down into the soft brown eyes of her husband, his black hair looking as unrumpled as his earnest face.  His body unmarred except for a brace of scars along his muscular, lithe chest.  


Jaheira's eyes glowed delight as she picked up the man's hand, pressing it to her cheek, losing herself in its soft touch.


Khalid sat up in bed then, and pressed his forehead close to Jaheira's, and nibbled at her lips.


"Hmm, your so warm," Jaheira murmured, pressing in close, when she felt Khalid nuzzle the based of her neck.


A low moan escaped her lips, "Ooh, you never did that before Khalid..."


Jaheira closed her eyes, the warmth growing, Khalid's hairy palm catching her growing heat.


*Hairy palm?!?* Jaheira thought, and pushed away from her husband.  Her eyes narrowed in surprise and anger, and she snagged Khalid's hand by the wrist, twisting it and causing a notable expression of pain on his face.


"Who are you?!?" Jaheira screamed.


Khalid looked up with pleading eyes, opened his mouth, and answered with a pain-wracked, "Squeak?"


"Squeak!?!" Jaheira growled, putting a little more pressure on the appendage, and then she found herself grasping air as Khalid's form seemed to melt upon itself, oozing into a much smaller figure, until a brown and white figure, no larger than the span of Jaheira's palm lay on the bed.


A large, thunderous crack caught Jaheira's attention.  The druid raised an arm to protect her from flying pieces of wood, and there stood a petite elf, her blonde hair swirling around her face like a whirlwind, the spiral-like tattoo glowing a malevolent red, while a nimbus of blue-energy surrounded her fists.


"So, this is where you have been hiding yourself Boo.  Visiting your sister, my ass?" shouted the elf, and she slammed a fist into the side of the wall, and the whole room shook.


The elf then looked at Jaheira, and growled, "And you...you encouraged him all along, didn't you!"


Jaheira rolled from the bed, and rose from the knees, shouting, "No Aerie, it's not what you think!  He...he was Khalid, I swear it..."


Aerie took a deep breath, and she moved toward the bed, thumping it hard with her fist, and one leg of the frame buckled.


"Boo, you said I was the only one for you," she shouted, "You said the Polymorph Potion was for Jan!"


Meanwhile, a loud, defiant squeal sounded from beneath the covers of the bed, and there was a loud thud as Boo emerged from the other end, and he scampered along the floor, making his escape.

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Another piece from The Attic:  

Ties That Bind




Lyla hurried down the length of the alley, her feet barely making a sound as she padded down the cobblestones street.  Heavy foot-falls followed her retreat in a heavy, rhythmic advance.  Desperately, she looked behind her, but the only thing she saw was flickering shadows in the dim, lighted streets.  She danced back as the dark


Who are you looking at?


"Get away from me!" she screamed, pulling a gleaming rapier from under the folds of her cloak, "Leave me alone."


But you are alone never alone


"Just leave me alone," Lyla shrieked.


"Miss" issued a voice from deep within the alley.


Lyla whirled on her heels, keeping her rapier extended before her, and she saw an earnest young man in a clean, if simple white robe.  


He looked down at her in concern, and stated, "Miss, are you alright?  You look like you've seen a ghost."


Lyla's blue eyes fluttered and she said, "Ghost...how...how would...no, no you wouldn't know, would you.  You...are you real?  Of course, you are real.  You can't see them...but they can see you."


The young man drew himself up, and laid a gentle soothing hand on her shoulder, "Miss, please, come back with me to the temple.  The Reverend Father can help you, I promise it."


For a brief moment, Lyla looked into the man's earnest eyes, and felt some of the anxiety leave her.


"Oh...oh...okay..." she started to say, then screamed, "Look out, behind you!"


The young man turned around, and saw nothing, only feeling air where Lyla had been.  


"Miss, come back!" he shouted after the fleeing woman, his words dying on the cobblestones with her passage.


Now, that wasn't very polite sister


"Imoen, just...just leave me alone, please." Lyla begged, pressing up against a wall, trying to catch her breath.


Bah, I don't know why you waste your time with this puling weakling


"Sarevok..." shuddered Lyla, "You...you are dead.  Just like Imoen."


Oh, how perceptive of you dear sister.  Of course I am dead.  But I am not at peace.  None of us are at peace as long as you live.


Lyla shivered, "What do you mean at peace?"


The time of Bhaal is finished, sister.  The cycle is complete, but for one loose end.  The last of his brood to live.


"Leave me alone!" Lyla shouted out, "I already gave up the essence!  What more is there?!?"


The memories


"The...the what?" Lyla asked in confusion.


What our dear brother said in his own lengthy fashion is just that.  As long as the memory of the Bhaalspawn remains, so do we.  We can never rest.


"And...and what am I supposed to do about that?" Lyla.


End the memories.


"End...end the memories?" Lyla asked, "But that would mean..."


Yes, sister, it would be what you think.  Come, join us.  You will never be alone, I swear it.  It is so easy, just...let...go...


"No!"  Lyla shouted hoarsely, taking to her heels once more, and started to run...

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A Moment's Peace


Phelan slid out of the bed, taking care not to disturb the sleeping form next to him. He walked to the window, and threw open the curtains, enjoying the coolness of the morning air. Even the ache in his side seemed relatively dulled this morning.


"Probably never heal," he muttered to himself, his right hand absent-mindedly brushing the angry, red flesh.


Then he felt a great wave of shame course through him for no matter what else had happened, at least he was still alive. His mind blanched in remembrance of the final battle with Melissan, and the losses his friends sustained in her defeat.


"Minsc dead," Phelan whispered, "Jaheira slain. No one came out of it untouched."


He glanced at the bed, and smiled at the few strands of red hair that glinted like burnished copper in the morning light.


"Alright, I'm up," said an even voice from within the depths of the blankets, "But close that curtain already."


"Will do Nalia," Phelan smiled, and closed the curtains as the figure in the bed pushed the covers away, and sat up. He winced as a stray beam of light passed a hole in the curtain, and highlighted Nalia's left eye.


Nalia couldn't help but notice Phelan's brief stare, and she turned her head away from the offending light beam.


"I told you before, it's not your fault," Nalia softly said with a small timbre of anger.


Phelan sighed, "I know, but..."


Nalia rose from the bed, her foot stomping heavily on the ground, "Let's get one thing clear. I knew the risks before I went adventuring with you. And it's not like you haven't risked life and limb for me either."


Some tension slowly crept into her voice as she added, "I love you, but I won't accept someone by my side if they're only there because of an over-exaggerated sense of guilt."


Phelan stammered, "Nalia...it isn't like that...I mean..."


Nalia calmly allowed Phelan a few more minutes when she curtly said, "So what will it be, Phelan?"


Phelan took a deep breath, and replied, "Nalia, I won't lie to you. I can't help but feel responsible for your...your..."


"My blindness?" Nalia blandly offered.


"For your blindness," Phelan agreed, "But I can guarantee I'm with you because I love you, not because I feel I owe you."


"Good," Nalia firmly stated.


A few more minutes passed, when Nalia added, "So, what are you going to do now? What becomes...of us?"


Phelan limped slightly to a nearby chair, and slumped in its depths, "To be honest? I don't know. I guess I didn't expect to survive Melissan. Now that she's gone...I don't exactly have anything pressing on me. And I feel out of sorts. Whether it was back at Candlekeep, or Athkatla, I always knew what I had to do. One thing I can honestly say, having a bunch of homicidal maniacs going for your head definitely puts your choices in perspective. But now? I don't know. I wouldn't mind some peace and quiet though, that's for sure."


Phelan stared into Nalia's questioning brown eyes, losing himself in their depths momentarily, "I do know one thing. After all we've been through, I don't want us to part. But that also depends on what you want."


Nalia turned her head, and looked toward the curtains. She exhaled a couple of times before she said, "There is something I must attend to. You are more than welcome to come along, but if you don't...then this is good-bye. I have let my own selfish needs and desires take precedence for too long. I have to go back."


"Home?" Phelan asked, then clarified, "Your home I mean."


Nalia inclined her head slightly, "Yes. I've ran from my responsibilities for too long. I don't know what journey your life will take, Phelan, but if you choose to walk alongside mine, know that mine ends back at De'Arnise Keep. And you won't find the peace you necessarily crave, at least not for a while. Between the Roenalls and Cowled Wizards, and gods know who else, we've accumulated an impressive number of enemies."


Phelan's shoulders bunched, and whispered, "If you are trying to dissuade me, know that it isn't working too well. I will go where you go, if you will have me. Even if all our enemies conspire against us."


Then he sighed, "You know, it would be easier if you said 'yes'..."


Nalia's shook her head, "The answer is 'no', Phelan. No, I won't marry you. I can take you on as my leman, but I can't marry you. You aren't nobility, and the other families will look askance at our pairing anyways. If we were to formalize it, then it would just give them a chance to bring it to the courts. As long as it is kept...informal...then, though they may gossip about it, they are bound by their own traditions."


Phelan snarled then, and said, "And any children of such a pairing would be considered bastards."


Nalia closed her eyes as she nodded her head in agreement, "But the parent could at least let them inherit."


Phelan let his own surge of rage fade, as Nalia added, "It would even be different if you had some wealth to call your own. No matter what airs they put on, all the nobles of Athkatla are merchants at heart, and they wouldn't even bat an eye at such a pairing. Most of them have baser pedigrees. But what's the phrase? Blind to their own stink..."


Phelan grumbled, "For just a moment, I wish real life was like the sagas. We wouldn't have to worry about this, we could just pen, 'And they lived happily ever after.'"


Nalia looked away, as she said, "The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult."


She shook her head a final time, and burrowed back into the covers, "Whatever. The future will unfold as it will. As for me, I'm going to catch up on my sleep."

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