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Fateful Choice


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Pádraig sat uneasily on his throne.  For a moment, he looked down at it, the black marble only broken up with blood-red veins.  Pádraig concentrated momentarily, before the throne changed color, the black becoming white, and the crimson to gray.  


Cushion... Pádraig thought, feeling a shifting underneath him as he rose another couple inches when a magnificent purple pillow manifested underneath him, complete with gold trim.


"Much better..." Pádraig said to himself.


"Did you say something, Pádraig?" said a brusque, but throaty voice, the steel of command in it.


Pádraig smiled down at Viconia, admitted to himself her royal purple and burnished-red armor gave her a certain sartorial edge, her fine alabaster hair pinned up into a tight bun, while a scarlet cloak finished her ensemble.   Pádraig slowly followed Viconia's generous figure down to her sable boots, before he noticed Viconia's left hand lazily drifted down to the large mace hanging by small metallic chain from a stud on her belt.


Face it, you just like to stare at her...besides, you already have one lady awaiting you later today stated the accusing voice in the back of his mind, and he felt a bit of guilt drift across his mind.


"Not really, Viconia, just talking to myself.  So, how fare you during this day?" he asked.


"Day...night...how can anyone tell..." she said, good humor crossing her severe expression, "One day its raining blood, the next the stones are wailing for vengeance."


Pádraig nodded, "Kept you up, did it?"


Viconia's cobalt-blue eyes danced, and she answered, "Well, dread master, unlike you, I am still quiet mortal..."


Pádraig blushed, and he said, "I will see to it.  So, anything out of the ordinary I should attend too?"


Viconia smiled, though there was no humor in it, and said, "Xendronen the Night-reaper and Kallista Grimheart have returned, Pádraig.  They've been waiting for the better part of an hour now..."


Pádraig nodded, and replied, "Very well, send them on in."


No sooner were the words out of Pádraig's mouth than the ground rumbled, and the green carpet that ran from the foot of Pádraig's throne down a series of five steps, suddenly expanded, moving down to a far door at the end.  With a clang, the doors swung open, and two figures strode forward, one a massive, red being standing lumbered forward, while behind him, only about half his size, was a more feminine figure, and she advanced forward at a much slower pace.


The greater of the two figures was a vaguely humanoid form with a muscular, incarnadine body kneeled at the foot of the green carpet before it climbed the steps that led to Pádraig's throne.  The balor's massive wings enfolded around his body, giving the impression that he was even larger than he already was.  The balor's thick, black claws left an imprint on the ground, and his glowing silver eyes gave little indication to the tanari's emotional state.


"Sire," the balor purred.


"Arise Xendronen..." Pádraig commanded.


The great balor arose, started to speak, when Pádraig shook his head, put up a hand, and said, "Wait."


The other entrant slowly made her way to the foot of Pádraig's throne several minutes later.  She swayed on her feet, the cuts and scrapes, not to mention the rents in her black bat-wings failed to detract from her beauty.  Her exquisite features were marred by the grimace of pain she showed with every step she took, the succubus' long, blonde hair in great disarray.


"Kneel Kallista..." Xendronen bellowed.


The succubus nodded, and started to abase herself when Pádraig shook his head, and said, "No, Kallista."


"Sire?" Xendronen asked incredulously.


Pádraig stared down at the balor, and the tanar'ri turned his face away, as Pádraig said, "Who rules here, Xendronen?"


The balor grunted, and mumbled something under his breath.


Pádraig felt his anger grow, and he stood up, and the ground rumbled in accord with his irritation.  Kallista fell, a slight shriek escaping her lips while Xendronen fell to one knee.


"Who rules here, Xendronen?" Pádraig asked once more.


"You do...sire..." the balor said, albeit grudgingly.


Pádraig saw the succubus struggle to rise up, and he tilted his toward Viconia, and ordered "Help her up, please."


Viconia shook her head in disbelief, but moved, and hooked one hand under Kallista's disbelief.  The succubus looked up in surprise at the drow, and then at Pádraig, but there was also a grateful look on her face.


"Very well.  Since we're here, let's get on with it.  Xendronen, Kallista, give me your reports please..." Pádraig said as he looked at the back of his hand, "Kallista, you first."


"S...sire...sire...we were expected..." Kallista said, a fresh trail of blood slowly streaked down her face from Pádraig's earlier display of power, "They...they were waiting for us...I...think...that there was a spy in our ranks, but I don't see how that is possible.  I...I know that I vetted for each member...I...I will bear the responsibility..."


There was a hardy laugh that escaped Xendronen, and the balor interrupted, "I succeeded where this pathetic whimpering failed.  We successfully infiltrated the drow city, as you requested, and managed to turn a few, but significant and powerful individuals to the worship of Shar.  Lolth...was...furious...in her response.  You were right, sire, that it wouldn't require much to tweak the Spider Queen's nose...and make it appear another was responsible..."


"Good..." Pádraig said, as he sat back on his throne, steepling his fingers together.


Pádraig continued to sit on his throne for a few more minutes, gathered and ordered his thoughts, and then replied, "There is one thing, I need to ask Xendronen."


"Sire?" the balor asked.


"Why are you claiming credit for this...success...when I know perfectly well you did no ounce of work, only bellowing at your subordinates to get it finished.  How many tanar'ri were lost in this...endeavor...Viconia?" Pádraig questioned.


Viconia pursed her lips, "Two, Pádraig...as well as thirty mortals..."


The balor growled, "Lies...all lies..."


Pádraig gave Xendronen a feral smile, as he said, "That's a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it my...vassal.  The reason your assignment succeeded was due to the work of your underlings.  It certainly wasn't through any personal...interaction...on your part.  Hmm...what to do, what to do..."


Viconia glanced at the balor, and replied, "We need someone to muck out the nightmares' stable Pádraig."


"Excellent suggestion, Viconia, excellent suggestion.  Maybe a thousand years behind the pitchfork will teach you to take more personal care in your work..." Pádraig said.


A great roar arose from Xendronen, and he howled with the force of a hurricane, "You...are demoting me?  I will not bear this insult any longer."


Xendronen approached the throne, a great obsidian sword suddenly appeared in his hand, and he bellowed, "You've gone to far godling..."


Pádraig just smiled at the balor, though, his sky-gray eyes twinkled at the tanar'ri's advance, the balor's breeze having pushed his jet-black hair into disarray. The balor momentarily paused at Pádraig's smile, but then advanced forward once more, sword raised high.


The air shimmered as Pádraig suddenly held a length of chain in his hands, a weighted end swung limply from his left hand, while his right hand held a steel rod with a nasty, emerald-colored, curved blade on the end.  


Pádraig saw a large shadow descending on him, when he threw himself to the right, and swung the weighted at the balor's feet.  The chain drew tight, and the balor crashed to the earth.


"I don't believe you have tasted the edge of Soul-Cutter..." Pádraig murmured, and advanced toward the balor.


"Sire, mercy...please..." the balor babbled when Pádraig lifted his arm high, the blue glinted dangerously in the overhead light.


"Pathetic..." Pádraig drawled, swung down, and buried the blade in the balor's skull.  For a moment, Xendronen looked surprised, then his body slowly turned gray, as if the very color was being sucked from it.  Once all the color was drained, then the flesh started to flake off, small gray particles suspended in the air.


Pádraig then turned his gaze on Kallista, and noticed she had her face buried deep into Viconia's shoulder.


"Kallista..." Pádraig said gently.


"S...s...sire?" the succubus stammered.


"You are being promoted. You are now my Outrider.  Go heal yourself, and take some leave..." Pádraig replied.


This time Kallista turned her gaze on Pádraig, shock on her face, and she asked, "Sire...I don't understand.  I failed...why am I being promoted?"


Pádraig smiled warmly, "Failure happens to the best of us at times.  I...know...what transpired.  You did the best you could.  It wasn't your fault other...deities...tipped their hand.  You did an admirable job in retreating, in bringing your...underlings out.  I don't punish for honest failure, remember that.  There is no blame attached to you."


Kallista looked up in wonder at Viconia, then back at Pádraig, and the drow growled, "Go...you heard Pádraig.  If he says there is no...onus...then there is no blame..."


Kallista smiled, and there was a shimmer of light, as she slowly teleported from Pádraig's now empty throne room.  


"So, do you think she knows she was set up, that we were the ones behind the...hint...as to her group's location?" Viconia asked.


"She may suspect it, though its not likely." Pádraig answered.


"Still seems like a lot of trouble to go through..." Viconia said.


Pádraig shrugged, "Maybe it is, but I would prefer someone who can think on their feet, who is loyal than blind, unthinking obedience...or those who seek to create their own fief under my banner...and at my expense."

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Pádraig stared at the glowing ball, floating as it was two feet above the pedestal, arms crossed on his chest, a soft blue light illuminated the otherwise dark room.  Pádraig's eyes glowed blue in resonance with the incandescent orb.  He leaned in closer, and his hearted wrenched at seeing a small group of people within the confines of the sphere, while he cocked his head to better catch the voices emitted by the ball.


His eyes focused on a young woman whose hair was red, almost pink, wearing a subdued green cloak over a simple, but tasteful red cambric shirt and tan as she said, "Jaheira, do you ever wonder...about Pádraig I mean...it was his destiny, I guess..."


His eyes crossed to a muscular woman just an inch taller than the red-head, her long dark blonde hair pleated with beads, her ears more angular than Pádraig's own, but not quite coming to a tip like her elven forebear, her human heritage giving an earthy beauty to the Fair Folk's ethereal splendour.  She glanced over at the other woman, and replied, "It doesn't matter what I think, the deed is now done with.  Maybe he will find his heart's desire, but honestly, there is little either you or I can do about it.  All I know is that if Gorion were alive today, I wouldn't know what to say to him."


"What would Gorion say?" said a voice from the entrance to Pádraig's viewing chamber.  


Pádraig turned his head, though as a god, there was little reason too, but human mannerisms were ingrained with him, in the very fiber of his being and probably would be until the time he died..


There will be a day when even the gods die... he thought sardonically.


"What would Gorion say, Viconia?  Most likely he would be very disappointed, but frankly, I don't give a damn what he would say..." Pádraig answered.


Viconia's eyes widened, "You never spoke of Gorion this way before.  Why the change in attitude?"


Pádraig shrugged, and said, "That was before the truth was revealed to me."


Viconia cocked her head, and said, "Truth?"


"Gorion.  He may have had the best of intentions.  He did raise me after all, and saved my life at the cost of his own with Sarevok, but he manipulated my life while he was alive, and with his teachings still fresh in my mind, from beyond the grave.... Pádraig said, "All this could have been forgiven, since children are a reflection of their parents' teachings, influences...no, the final straw was his lie."


"Manipulation?  That is an odd thing to say for one who would be...considered...good..." Viconia prodded.


"Well, as I said, its obvious that a child is a reflection of his parents, though whether that image becomes twisted and perverted, or remains true to the source depends on his own decisions, on the other influences in life." Pádraig clarified, "But with the solar, all of his...manipulations...came into focus..."


Viconia tilted her head in agreement, "Ah, I see what you mean..."


Pádraig shook his head up and down in agreement, as continued, "Remember, there was to arise one Child of Bhaal who would face his brethren in combat, and if he was successful, then that would be the salvation of Faerun from even greater devastation."


"I'm with you so far, but I don't see where this is going..." Viconia confessed.


Pádraig sighed, and he ran a hand through his hair, as he replied, "I'm sorry, I've run this through my mind that I forget this is the first you heard of it.  Very well, with his actions, Gorion set events in motion to counter the other problems he knew was sure to arise, correct?"


Viconia spoke, "Yes, that stands to reason..."


Pádraig's self-control slightly slipped, "But he never told me any of this.  None, zip, nothing.  I knew that I was special, that there was something different, but he wouldn't elaborate on it, not at all.  He used me, Viconia.  He rescued a Bhaalspawn, knowing the prophecies all to well, preparing me for the day I would have to face my brethren.  I was like a giant boulder at the top of a hill, poised to go smashing into the town below, and Gorion was the lever that set me in motion."


Viconia cocked her head, and then motioned it in agreement, "Hmm...in that light...yes, that is very calculating.  Cunning I would expect of a Matron Mother, not one of the iblith..."


Pádraig looked back into the glowing ball before him, "Exactly.  He might have loved me in his own way, but he was definitely willing to risk me very life to bring that future to pass.  Rather cold-blooded if you ask me.  You know what the worst of it is, though?"


"What would that be?" Viconia asked, her hand putting a stray hair back in place.


"He had a back up..." Pádraig hissed, and jabbed his hand toward the glowing orb, over the image of Imoen, and momentarily, a breeze blew her astray in the same position where his hand moved.


"He didn't tell me of my sister.  If I was to fall, then she would take my place." Pádraig growled.


"So, tell me, am I supposed to quietly accept that?" Pádraig roared, his hurt having twisted his face with emotional pain.


Viconia stood stock-still, and assessed whether to speak or not when Pádraig was in this kind of mood, and decided that this time it was best for her to be silent.


"For the longest time...it was just me and Gorion...at least he had the decency to tell me that he wasn't my real father.  You know how I yearned to have a real family?  Someone...I could just call my own?  That no matter what else happened, I would have a home, people who loved me?  At least I could delude myself that he loved me.  After all, he chose me when he could have left me an orphan." Pádraig whispered.


"But then Irenicus..." Viconia offered.


"Yes, Irenicus.  The proud recipient of elvish justice.  Imagine, finding out that Imoen was my sister while he was busy tearing my very soul from my body.  Interesting is it not, though, that while he was pure evil...he was entirely truthful?" Pádraig said, and allowed his gaze to rest back on Imoen.


"You love her...don't you?" Viconia asked, her teeth drew blood as she bit her lip.


"Yes...as my sister..." Pádraig answered, "And its funny, with all my power, I can't do much to help her...not without announcing my presence.  Heh, and yet my...worshippers...clamor for more and more, little realizing that it's a precarious balance.  I expend more power on the Prime Material Plane, I expose myself to the machinations of my enemies.  I hoard my power, then I lose the faith of my worshippers..."


Viconia, replied, "Hence the plots..."


Pádraig smiled, "Hence the plots...of course, I would be completely lost without you.  I don't have the deviousness you have...and for that I thank you..."


Viconia gazed into his face, and replied, "Any drow could do what I do.  If nothing else, Lolth is a good...motivator...in making one learn the ways of treachery, of the feint within the misdirection...with the prize being one's life.  You...you are different, though.  You give...trust."


Pádraig blushed under Viconia's assessment, "But sometimes you trust too much."


Pádraig shrugged, though he also smiled, as he remembered how him and Viconia have been on this ground before, "But that's how I achieve my results."


Both turned to stare at the globe, and Viconia replied, "They're walking into an ambush.  A well concealed one at that...even Jaheira would be hard pressed to fault their wood lore..."


Pádraig responded, "Yes, you are correct."


Pádraig closed his eyes, and Viconia waited in the silence, her attention focused on the orb, when suddenly, a large wild turkey burst through the bushes from one side, and entered another bush, and a loud, steady stream of curses broke out as Jaheira and Imoen prepared for battle, the errant bird giving them a few precious seconds to prepare...

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Pádraig and Viconia watched the scene unfold before them in the glowing orb.  With the extra warning, though, the hidden opposition stood little chance between Jaheira and Imoen.  Jaheira right hand brandished a gleaming scimitar, the small runes etched along the surface of the blade glowing red, while her left hand waggled in silence.  Suddenly, there were even more screams at the bushes started to contract, and trees lumbered forward from their resting places to attack the hidden men.  Imoen, meanwhile took a step backward, and chanted in a deeper voice.  Swirls of white light manifested, and two large trolls were gated in.  Under her direction, she pointed at the bushes, and they trod forward as well, and the night's silence was shattered as the ground was stained red with blood, and the shrieks of the dying rose over the other sounds of the forest.


"Funny, about that bird..." Imoen said as she pushed a stray hair away from her face.


"Bah, one of the ambushers got careless, and disturbed it." Jaheira said.  She kept her eyes peeled for any further trouble, but advanced forward.


Pádraig and Viconia turned away from the glowing orb, and Viconia said, "Seems they didn't even need your help."


Pádraig nodded, and added, "Most likely not, but I like to keep a close on them, if I can..."


He sighed, as he added, "But I can't focus all my attention on them..."


Viconia stopped, and Pádraig turned around.  He saw that she was deep in thought, so he didn't press her until she spoke, "Kallista is recuperating, correct?  Why not have her watch the proceedings.  She doesn't need to do anything more special than watch, and it would help her feel that even when wounded, she is valued."


Pádraig stopped, though through her suggestion, and then smiled, "That is a good idea, Viconia.  A very good idea.  I don't know why I didn't think of it."


Viconia shrugged, and replied, "I've noticed you have been doing that a lot lately.  Some of the simplest solutions elude you...like with a sentry...and yet other times, you spook even me, for you seem to know what someone is going to say, before you say it.  I mean, you just happened to know that something was going to happen to Jaheira and Imoen long before "


Pádraig paused, and then said, "Now that you put it like that, you're right.  But why do you think that is so?"


Viconia laughed, "That is very easy, Pádraig.  You are a god, yes?  Well, your body...your awareness is slowly transcending human awareness.  Take Jaheira and Imoen...you always worry about them..."


"No I don't..." Pádraig retorted.


Viconia glared at him, and he quieted down as she continued, "As well as some of our other mutual...acquaintances.  Well, there is a part of your..divinity...if you will, that, sensing your concern about them, keeps a close watch on them.  Thus, when they get in trouble, or need assistance, you go see what is happening, even if you choose to act..."


Understanding fills Pádraig's face, and he said, "I knew there is a reason I chose you for my seneschal..."


Viconia's face hardened, "I have been meaning to ask you...just why did you choose me?  I understand the...intervention...you gave...when Lolth's assassins were on my trail, but why summon me to your side?"


Pádraig's head looked down at the ground, and for a moment, he looked less like a new deity, and more like a young teenaged-boy.  Then he took a deep breath, and said, "I would have thought that was obvious Viconia...my...feelings..."


Viconia's face blanked, and then she spoke, "Pádraig...no...if that is the only reason...then it demeans...us both..."


Pádraig's face scowled then, and he rumbled, "At least give me some more credit than that Viconia.  Damn it, don't you see, that you remind me what it means to be human?"


Viconia, surprised by this non-sequitur, responded, "Human?"


Pádraig nodded, "Yes, human.  Look...many of the gods and goddesses were human once, right?"


Viconia grinned, "Or drow..."


Pádraig wiped his brow, and shared her smile, "Or drow, or gnome...I guess I should have said 'mortal'.  Anyways, the point is that at some point it seems the gods...forget what it is to be human.  They become so wrapped up in their schemes, in their agendas, sometimes little else affects their interest.  Look at my father.  He thought of nothing of siring hundreds of children, seeding them with his essence...that he never noticed the viper at his breast..."


Viconia whispered, "Melissan..."


"Yes, Melissan...talk about arrogance.  Bhaal never considered, not once, that he could be toppled by a mortal...and yet, him, Myrkul, and Bane had all sought to defeat Jergal for his power...when they were mortal themselves." Pádraig said.


The two walked out of the room, and Viconia opined, "You have been giving this a lot of thought, haven't you?"


Pádraig hesitated, then said, "Yes, I have...it has been on my mind a lot lately.  You have heard the phrase getting into a rut?  Well, imagine how deep that furrow would be after a thousand years...or more?  Its no wonder that the elven gods, for example, are slowly retreating.  They had their way for so many years...and almost overnight, at least from their perspective...humans arrived...and their gods."


Viconia murmured, "I don't know if I agree completely, but it is certainly something to contemplate..."


Pádraig laughed, "Well, that's something else the gods don't tell you about..."


Viconia glanced, "I don't follow you."


Pádraig stated, "What do you do if you have eternity at your feet?  Or time so long it might as well be eternal?  Remember that rut we spoke of?  Well, think of the boredom that sets in.  I can see why the various gods contest with each other...not so much from ideals, though that plays a factor, but because they are honestly bored.  And who else can relate to you, but another god?  So, to stop the ennui, they start taking up sides, and what have you, and competing against them, mortals as their playthings...and the successes and failures as just a way of keeping score..."


Viconia snorted, "That is a rather cynical viewpoint..."


Pádraig smiled, "But it works for me...ah, here we are...I have a surprise for you, Viconia..."


The two stopped before a thick oak door, blocking an entrance hewn roughly into the wall.  There on the door was a rather bulbous head.  Its eyes flared open, and Viconia took a small step back from surprise, and then she bent in for a closer work.  It was the head of a gnome, somehow still alive, with a great iron ring clenched between its teeth that acted as a door knocker.  The hair from each ear was neatly trimmed, and it the whole thing reeked of turnips.


"Jan?" Viconia said, a trill creeping up in her voice, "So this is where he went to...this...this is my surprise?  Why, thank you!"


Pádraig warmed to her pleased voice, and he said, "I'm glad you like it, though I'm afraid it doesn't match the decor to well.  No, your surprise is behind this door..."


Viconia glanced at Pádraig, and said, "Well, don't keep me waiting..."


Pádraig nodded, and then more seriously added, "I...think you will like this, but...I need you to keep your calm..."


"Why is that?" Viconia asked as Pádraig pulled on the iron ring, and the door opened wide, revealing a spiraling stair case in the wall.  He entered the dark room, and small spheres of light appeared around his head and Viconia's.  Piteous wails echoed along the passage way, and Viconia gave a surprised stare at Pádraig.


"Follow me..." Pádraig said, and took the steps two at a time.


"Of course, iblith..." Viconia muttered, but followed him just the same.


After about five minutes of travel, they came to a large, flat floor, and Viconia's eyes opened wide when she saw a figure in the center of the room, bound with a series of chains to large circles imbedded into the ground.  The figure itself stood ten feet tall in its entirety, the upper five feet of it a handsome, male drow, though his face was contorted in pain.  Below the waist was the bulbous body of a large, black widow spider, its red dots glinting malevolently in the light.


"Valas..." Viconia whispered, and took a step toward the captured drider.  Then she turned and faced Pádraig.  Tears freely ran down her face, and Viconia's hand went for her mace.


"Bastard..." she howled, "You...this is worse than anything the Matron Mothers did to me..." and advanced on Pádraig.


"Damn it..." Pádraig shouted, and Viconia found her feet glued to the floor, "I didn't bring you here to cause you pain...I brought you here to heal it...watch..."


Pádraig advanced on the drider, and his body started to glow with a glistening red, that of fresh blood, and a wind arose in the enclosed chamber.  Valas shied away, quivering at this display of Pádraig's power, but it did him little good as the Bhaalspawn grasped one leg and with a might wrench, tossed a spidery appendage to the side.  As he removed legs, and then chunks of flesh, Pádraig's hands glowed as well, and where they passed, the spider's form was removed without blood or other damage to the drider.  Once the arachnid form started to become just so much meat, Viconia glimpsed the emergence of a body from within the bulk, sculpting the flesh until there stood a handsome, if bewildered naked male drow before Pádraig.


"The...pain...the nightmares..." the voice rasped, "they're gone..."


Valas looked up into Pádraig's face, "But...how...these..."


Pádraig smiled, and laid a hand on the drow's face, and the dark elf slumped to the ground in a deep slumber.  As the male's snores slowly filled the chamber, Viconia found she could move once more.


"How...when..." she asked, confused.


"While Xendronen and Kallista were contesting with Lolth's forces, I had a third...detachment...capture your brother..." Pádraig said quietly.


He pointed at the drow on the floor, and Pádraig added, "Attend to him...I...I can only change his shape...his mind...I am not as adept as my godly cousins.  One wrong...tweaking of the mind, and he would mentally be five years of age..."


Viconia, her face once more composed, started to croak, "Pádraig...I..."


Pádraig shook his head, and headed up the stairs, "Don't say anymore Viconia...I understand..." and much to his bewilderment, he found that he could...he understood the disbelief...the warming...the gratefulness...and the fear Viconia felt during his recent display of power.

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Pádraig walked down the pathway, and allowed his thoughts to drift.  He started to hum a song that was always his favorite.  For the moment, the song drove the feelings of loneliness away from him, as he came to stop before a solid wall of rock.  He gave it a solid rap of his knuckles.


"I wasn't quite truthful Viconia..." Pádraig whispered to himself, "There was one last betrayal by Gorion...the one betrayal I couldn't forgive."


Pádraig concentrated on the rock wall, his will gathered, and felt a warm breeze caress his face as a small opening appeared in the rock wall.  Yellow light touched Pádraig's face, and for another precious moment, he enjoyed the warmth.  Pádraig closed his eyes, and he smelled rose and lilac in the air.


"Milord, are you just going to stand out there?" said a deep, sultry feminine voice, a purr in the back of her throat that sent chills down his spine.


Pádraig smiled, and responded, "I'm coming...mother..." and he stepped through the rocky opening.  Pádraig turned around once more, and with a wave of his hand, the rock reappeared.


At least I can have a few moments of peace... he thought, as he walked into a large room, an area that was twice as large as the Promenade back in Athkatla.  Pádraig glanced around the room, and saw green as far as the eye could see, but the softly varying shades were broken up by a riot of color from various flowers.  


"Are you enjoying the view, milord?" said the source of the voice, and Pádraig finally looked in her direction.  


He smiled as he saw an elegantly dressed woman, her regal face crowned by a scarlet hair, her emerald eyes stared fondly at Pádraig.  A smile brightened her face, and Pádraig felt himself go weak in the knees.


"Teasing me again?" he squeaked, as he noticed that her luxuriant purple robes, filigreed with silver and gold, were loosened so that she could sit comfortably as she dangled her feet in the gurgling stream, the woman's black slippers lying off to the side.


The woman potted a spot by her side, and grinned, "Of course...so, tell me, how did Viconia like your...gift..."


Pádraig sighed, and whispered, "I don't know.  With her, its very hard to tell.  At first...she grew angry..."


"Angry?" said the woman, "Why would that be?"


Pádraig blushed, and replied, "I...I didn't give her much time to prepare.  I kinda sprung it out of nowhere.  If I had thought matters through, I would have healed him before reuniting Viconia with Valas..."


"Poor, poor Pádraig..." the woman tutted gently, "Yes, that's what you should have done.  I would be frightened as well...but why angry?"


Pádraig let his shoulders slump, "I can only chalk it up to the reputation of the taint.  Even if she...felt...what I feel for her, I can't help it if the fear of the taint manifests itself in her mind..."


The woman nodded, and gently stroked his shoulder, "Give it time...she will come around..."


Pádraig laughed bitterly, "That is one thing I don't lack at the moment...time..."


As he lowered his toes into the cool water, and continued, "I just wish there was something more I could do..."


The woman inclined her head in agreement, and said, "Well, Pádraig, you certainly didn't set yourself an easy task.  All you can do is build up the trust between you and Viconia..."


Pádraig smiled, as he gazed as the small goldfish nibbled at his toes, "Yeah, but sometimes I wish there was a handbook on how to romance a drow.  I know its not easy for her, since she was raised that females are superior to males.  It's not like treating her like I would a human would work.  I remember the first time I gave her some flowers.  She just snorted and tossed them in my face, asking, 'Do you take me for some kind of cow?  Flowers are for grazers...'"


The woman chuckled, "That would put a damper on a romantic mood, yes."


Pádraig shrugged, "And what do you give a drow to say I love you?  Especially one who turns her nose up at you..."


The woman stared into the water, and said, "Well, I have no clue.  But...and I gave this some thought...shouldn't you tell her...about me?"


Pádraig nodded, "I was thinking about that on the way up, actually.  Do you mind...if I introduce the both of you?"


The woman laughed, "Of course not.  What did I just get done saying..."


Pádraig's face reddened, "Uh...right..."


Pádraig cleared his throat, and looked up into the air, and spoke, the air shimmering as he spoke, "Viconia...can you spare a moment?  There is someone I would like you to meet."


A few seconds passed and Viconia's voice filtered back, "Certainly, Pádraig.  Valas is resting peacefully.  Tell me where you are, and I shall be there shortly."


Pádraig grinned at the empty air, "Don't worry about it, I will take care of it myself..."


Another few seconds passed, and then Viconia's voice said, "As you will..."


The air shimmered, the greenery momentarily turning yellow, when Viconia stood before Pádraig and the woman.


"So, this...iblith...is the person you wished me to meet?" Viconia stated, a hint of jealousy, and surprise at her jealousy with this unknown woman.


"Yes, Viconia...may I present to you...Alianna...." Pádraig said, "Mother...this is Viconia."

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"Mother?" Viconia ask, surprised, then her eyes narrowed, "This is where you would go at odd hours of the night, isn't it?"


"Sometimes..." Pádraig answered evenly, and rubbed the back of his neck with the flat of his palm.  Then he smiled as he realized that Viconia had taken notice of his movements.


"But...why?" Viconia questioned, "I...don't understand..."


Alianna rose, a smirk on her face, "I shall leave the two of you alone..." and made her way to another portion of the garden to give Viconia and Pádraig privacy.


Pádraig looked at his hand, and beckoned Viconia to take a seat on the rock beside him.


Viconia's eyes glared at Pádraig, and she asked once more, "Why?"  


Her face glanced at the entire garden around her, and she continued, her voice clouded with anger, and even a bit of hurt, "This is all for her, isn't it?"


Pádraig swallowed a deep breath of air, and he nodded, "Yes, this...garden is for Mother.  In fact, she has her own separate quarters, her own servants.  This is her favorite place.  She says it reminds her of her home, when she was alive..."


Viconia sat down on the ground by Pádraig's side, ignoring the rock he patted.  A quiet fury contorted her face, as she asked, "I am getting tired of your evasions, iblith...answer my question."


Pádraig couldn't help but smile at Viconia's response, but then his face grew serious once more, as he stated, "You may...or may not know this.  When I was growing up, Gorion said that my mother was killed shortly after I was born..."


Viconia nodded, "Yes, I think you mentioned something of this sort back after we first met, when you saved me from the Flaming Fist."


Pádraig ran his fingers through the rich loam on the ground, and continued, "Yeah, I did.  Anyways, long before all this crap with Bhaal started to invade my dreams and such, I sometimes entertained dreams that Gorion was my father.  I mean, he admitted to knowing my mother, and even being her lover at one time..."


Pádraig chuckled dryly, "So, that didn't mean it was beyond the realm of possibility that he was my father...just that he wasn't sure..."


Viconia snorted, "You humans and this obsession on family...loyalty.  That still doesn't explain this obsession about your mother though.  And what about your father?"


Pádraig shrugged, and he said, "I can't really say that with my own experience that you would be wrong, Viconia; about families that is, but still...I dreamed about what my mother would be like."


Pádraig pulled his cool toes from the water, and drew his legs up to his chest, "Me and Imoen...we...you have to realize that there weren't very many children at Candlekeep anyways.  So, we naturally became...friends..."


Viconia barked, "Don't lie to me, Pádraig.  I could tell that you were attracted to her from the first time we met..."


Pádraig laughed, "Funny, Imoen accused me of being attracted to Dynaheir as well.  Is it so hard to believe that even then, Viconia, I was attracted to you?  Of course, it isn't like you gave me the time of day.  You were grateful I saved you from the Flaming Fist..."


"And when you saved me in Amn..." Viconia added quietly, "But tell me, why didn't you press your...suit...if you truly desired me?  I owed you two rescues...I would have sated your lusts for recompense.  I don't like being beholden to anyone..."


Pádraig shook his head, "Is it so hard to accept that I wanted a partner?  I...never thought you owed me anything.  You aided me on my quests, and we fought side by side...there were times I would have failed without your aid.  As far as I'm concerned, we are even..."


Viconia, "Maybe we are...I can see where you would believe that.  However, let's get back to the topic at hand.  Why is your...mother here?"


Pádraig looked at the water once more, his feet being dried by the breeze contained in the chamber.


"Well, Gorion lied about what happened to her.  You were there, when the Solar summoned up her shade..." Pádraig said.


Viconia agreed, "Yes, he did.  But from his perspective, it would look like he was protecting you..."


Pádraig sighed, "Or it was just another deception.  The final one on a long string of them..."


Viconia whispered, "But your mother said that you were to be a sacrifice for Bhaal, yes?"


Pádraig replied, "Yes...she did.  By that point, though, I wasn't trusting the Solar though either."


Viconia responded, "I can understand that actually.  Here you face test after test, fighting reflections of yourself, past foes, everything, and for what?"


Pádraig kicked the water with a foot, and he said, "Exactly.  The Solar only showed me what she wanted to show me, wanted me to hear only what I wanted to hear.  I had questions, so many questions to ask Gorion, to ask Alianna, but could I?  No.  So I did the only thing I could do when I felt like I was stampeded.."


"So that is why you made choices to spite the Solar..." Viconia said, understanding reaching over her fair face, "I thought it was quite odd of you to be so contrary...so cold to her questions, and yet remain so...human...to the rest of us."


Pádraig rose from his spot, and gathered his shoes in one hand.  He extended his hand toward Viconia, but she snarled and swatted it away.  He chuckled, and continued to speak, "Yes.  I don't like feeling chained, and that's what I did.  I'm sure the Solar had good reasons for her...direction...just as Gorion did, but if so, they misused their power."


Pádraig's face looked haunted, "Do you remember Saradush?"


Viconia nodded, and she said, "Yes, it was the first tribute to your magnificence..."


Pádraig chuckled, "You can take the drow out of the Underworld...but you can't take the Underworld out of the drow?"


He grew serious, and added, "It was also an abattoir.  My brothers and sisters, slain, all so that Bhaal's essence could be collected by Melissan, but it didn't have to be...I...we could have saved them.  After all, if Imoen could give up her essence, just as I was offered to do, then certainly they could have as well.  Maybe some wouldn't give up their power, but I would be willing to wager that a good majority would have..."


Viconia closed her eyes, "Yes.  Most of those we met in Saradush seemed to possess a...lesser amount of Bhaal's taint.  From their mewling, it was obvious they didn't wish for the power...I was surprised, abbil, when I heard you take on Bhaal's power..."


Pádraig shrugged, "It was a close thing, Viconia.  However, if me and Imoen could give up our power, then so could my siblings.  My brothers and sisters...all dead.  All because I couldn't get a straight answer from that damn Solar.  She might say that I was testing myself, but tell me, who was directing my steps?  Either was Melissan, or the Solar..."


Viconia cocked her head, "Pádraig, I'm afraid I don't follow you."


Pádraig ran his hand through his hair, and said, "The plane could transport us, Viconia.  It pulled us out of Saradush.  From there, we had to travel to the Marching Mountains to steal Yaga-Sura's heart, and then give it to that foul witch in the Mir Woods."


Viconia grunted, "Yes.  It was one of the more objectionable trips of our journey...and it consumed unbelievable time, especially as were stuck on foot."  


Pádraig smiled coldly, "That is my point.  Would it have been so hard to transport us to Mountains...or the Woods...without all that precious time?  If we had just got there one day earlier, we could have saved some of the inhabitants from the slaughter.  Instead, Yaga-Sura had already breached the walls...playing right into Melissan's hands.  Sure, I had no clue where to go...but I would be willing to bet the Solar did."


Viconia ran a hand along the length of her jaw, and for a moment, Pádraig stood in awe of her magnificent figure, when she said, "Okay, but how are you so certain that there was any other option than death for your..siblings?"


Pádraig shook his head sadly, "Because I am a god.  I know, that sounds conceited, but its the truth.  You have to realize that the future isn't writ in stone.  Almost anything and everything is possible..."


He paused, and extended his hands, and a small ball of blue color appeared.  Looking into it, Viconia saw the figures of Jaheira and Imoen within.  


"Let's use this...situation...as an example...the moment we just saw with Imoen and Jaheira." Pádraig said, "Now, even the most powerful diviner would have known that they were in a crisis...but he wouldn't know just what action they would take."


Pádraig touches the orb, with a finger, and said, "For example, what if Imoen and Jaheira slipped into the bushes?  Then they would have spotted the ambushers..."  Pádraig then raised his finger, and a red color followed his digit's path, until there was a red orb where the two women were scrambling into the bush.


Pádraig then placed his finger back upon the blue orb, and said, "Or, they walked right into the ambush..." and moved his finger parallel to the red line, but below it, creating a yellow line.  At the end, there was a yellow orb, this one showed Imoen and Jaheira dead, dozens of crossbow bolts imbedded in their bodies.


"Or, a more remote case, maybe someone else was following on another side of the path...and they're screams alerted the girls..." Pádraig continued, and he drew a green, though thinner line in the air towards the end.


"The possibilities are almost endless than others," Pádraig stated, "I mean, there is a chance that an earthquake would happen as well, and swallow them whole.  In this infinitude, though, there are courses of action that are more probable than others.  But even that changes with other intervention.  Bhaal foresaw his death, in almost all the futures he foresaw, so he initiated a plan to resurrect himself...of course, as I said earlier, he didn't plan on Melissan betraying him..."


Viconia stared at the glowing colors before her, and she asked, "Then why...intervene...with Jaheira and Imoen?"


Pádraig clapped his hands, and the glowing balls and the colorful trails shimmered away, "Because I don't like taking chances with my friends' lives..."


Viconia snorted, "You realize that your meddling is just what you accused Gorion and the Solar of doing."


Pádraig grinned softly, "I never said I was perfect."


Viconia nodded, and said, exasperatedly, "But what does this have to do with your mother?"


Pádraig replied evenly, "The Solar pulled her strings like a puppet.  I had a limited amount of time to speak with her, and almost all of it was at the Solar's directive.  You remember what...mother said...she was impregnated...with a child, one that would bear Bhaal's essence..."


"And at the proper time, you would be sacrificed..." Viconia added, "I remember that well.  I recall that you were...disconsolate...after that."


"Of course...my mother admitted that she wanted to kill me.  Maybe you are used to family slaying each other for promotion, at the whim of a mad god, but I wasn't..." Pádraig said, and then continued, "I spent a lot of time thinking about it.  Sleepless nights, as you said.  But, slowly an answer started to unfold.  This was when I first suspected of Gorion...and not just Gorion, but the Solar of manipulating me as well.  I had questions I wanted to ask my mother, but I didn't even have that option.  Between that...and the deaths of my brothers and sisters, I slowly started to change.  The anger, the betrayal...it rankled.  


Then...it became obvious...Gorion knew.  He knew where the children were located, he knew what was going to happen.  But how?  If the best diviners in the Realms couldn't find it, how did he know?"


Viconia hissed, "Someone told him..."


Pádraig smiled, "Exactly.  Someone told him.  Someone who was on the inside...someone who didn't want to see her child die."


Viconia's eyes widened, "Your mother?"


Pádraig clenched his fists, "My mother, indeed..."


Viconia, gave a measured gaze at the wooded landscape, "So...you ascended...to find your mother?"


Pádraig blushed, but stood his ground, "Yes...and more...to find out the truth.  It was obvious that I wouldn't get it out from the Solar, and without divine power, Gorion and mother were beyond my reach..."


Viconia nodded, "And Gorion...he wasn't in the Abyss..."


Pádraig sighed, "No, he is one of the higher Planes."


Anger flared on Pádraig's face again, "He is beyond my questions..."


Viconia interrupted, "But your mother..."


Pádraig calmed down, "Mother was here in the Abyss..."


Viconia simply nodded, and silence filled the glade.  The only sound was the breeze on the branches of the trees, and the gurgling of the stream...

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Viconia stared into Pádraig's eyes, and said, "So...you ascended...to see...your mother?"


Pádraig blushed, but nodded, "Well, there was a few other reasons, but yes...I guess you could say that..."


Viconia stood silently, then she started to giggle.  She grabbed her sides, as the giggle turned into soft laugh, and much of the harshness left Viconia's face.  Pádraig smiled gingerly as about the only time he saw her that carefree was in her sleep...and even that, but rarely.


Soon enough, though, Viconia's laughter ended, and her face took on a more serious look, and she said, "But that leaves a few other questions, though..."


Pádraig nodded, and replied, "I...think I can anticipate what you are going to ask...but...if you want to ask my mother herself, you may."


Pádraig blushed, as he related, "I...kinda told mother all about you.  She was very interested on meeting you, just that there was hardly any good time to introduce the two of you."


Viconia nodded, and closed her eyes for another few seconds as she relayed, "How will I know she is telling the truth?"


Pádraig smiled gingerly, "Viconia, in my domain, unless I allow it...or choose otherwise...none can lie to me."


Viconia's eyes snapped open at this admission, anger once more filled her face, and she snarled, "And me?  Am I some kind of open book to you?"


Pádraig growled, and he said, "Damn it Viconia, that’s not what I mean!" and the earth rumbled around his feet, as his anger grew, then subsided as quickly as it appeared, and Pádraig’s face turned red.


Pádraig stared earnestly into Viconia’s face, and he whispered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t…â€Â


Viconia’s eyes just bore into his with her iron will and she said, “I don’t want to hear your apology.  You didn’t mean it, but still it happened.â€Â


Pádraig unhappily replied, “Yes…it still happened…I…Viconia, I have never red your mind, searched your emotions.  I trust you to much to do such a thing.â€Â


Pádraig sighed, “After all, what would we have if you don’t trust me?  But I guess…â€Â


Viconia cleared her throat, and said, “Pádraig, we will discuss this later.  Summon your mother…â€Â


Pádraig nodded, and spoke in a loud voice, “Mother, would you care to join us?  Viconia would like to ask some questions of you.â€Â


There was a brief pause when another voice said, “Alright my son, I will be with you in just a moment.â€Â


A few minutes passed when the regal woman stepped from the bushes, her face slightly smeared red as she finished the wild grapes she was eating.  She walked over and stood before the drow, then gave a fairly credible curtsy, and said, “I’m finally pleased to meet you.  Pádraig has told me so much about you…most of it flattering I assure you…â€Â


Viconia’s eyes opened wide, and then she shook her head, as she said, “Pádraig…sometimes is full of surprises.â€Â


Alianna laughed, “Indeed he is.â€Â


Viconia’s features deepened as the tone of this woman was much different than the rather…harsh…speech of the shade summoned by the Solar.  She moved over to Pádraig and said aloud, “I would like a few minutes…with your mother…†and then whispered, “If…she lies, will I be able to tell…â€Â


Pádraig smiled, and replied softly, “Yes…if she lies, you will know…â€Â


Viconia nodded, and gave Pádraig’s shoulder a squeeze, “Very well…give me a few minutes with your mother…â€Â


Pádraig shrugged, “Very well…†and walked into the underbrush, whistling.  As he moved, Viconia noticed that he didn’t even leave any tracks on the ground.  


Once Viconia was sure Pádraig was away, she looked once more at Alianna.  Alianna smiled in her direction, and said, “Well, if you have something to say it, dear, then say it.  I imagine this is as awkward for me as it is for you…meeting the mother of your beau…â€Â


Viconia’s nostrils flared, “Pádraig is not my beau…â€Â


Alianna laughed, and shook her head, “You might say that, you might even believe it, but I saw how your eyes followed him as he left.  I saw the proprietary gleam in your eyes when you first appeared and stared at me.  I assure you, dear drow, that you have nothing to fear from me.  Your claim on my son is quite safe…if you move to solidify it.â€Â


Viconia growled, “And what would you know about claims?  You were going to sacrifice Pádraig for some sick resurrection.  Tell me, how is that any different from what the Spider-Queen would do?â€Â


Alianna looked into Viconia’s fierce face, and said, “You are right, there isn’t much difference between what Bhaal planned to do, and what Lolth requires…â€Â


Viconia hissed, “Don’t speak her name…to do so may draw her attention here…â€Â


Alianna laughed, “I assure you, you are quite safe.  Maybe you didn’t realize it, but Pádraig faked your demise back on the Prime Material Plane…â€Â


Viconia’s eyes widened, “He…did…what?â€Â


Alianna smiled gently, “My son may be bit slow-footed around women, but he is not a bad conspirator.  You were dying, remember, after the ambush.  Pádraig rescued you, and left a…duplicate…body behind.  Lolth never suspected a thing…and with your death, Shar lost interest as well.â€Â


Viconia pursed her lips, “So that’s why neither of them tried to find me…â€Â


Alianna bobbed her head, “As far as they are concerned, you are dead.  Truth be known, it also helps that they have other matters to attend to.â€Â


Viconia shrugged, “But that still doesn’t clear you from the fact that you were going to kill your son.â€Â


Alianna sighed, and said, “I…already made my peace with Pádraig.  The…Solar…didn’t allow me to tell the whole story.  Yes, Pádraig and all the other Bhaal children were supposed to be sacrificed, so that their father could live once more.  I…became one of Bhaal’s acolytes early on, after my family was slain by bandits.  I had swore that I wouldn’t allow others to feel what I did.  I honestly thought I could use Bhaal’s power for my own ends.  But…Bhaal was more insidious.  Soon, I was striking out not just as bandits, but those who supported them.  After all, if their families harbored them, innocent though the families might be…then they were just as bad.  And if the families were bad, what about the towns, the villages that protected those who gave safe-harbor for such fugitives.  It wasn’t as large a step as others might think to where I didn’t give a damn who I struck down…â€Â


Viconia asked, “So what made you change your mind?  I know…that even now, all these years after the Underdark, I can still feel hear the screams of the sacrifices in my ears, abbil.â€Â


Alianna dipped her head, “We are not much different you and I, then.  No, what happened…is Pádraig himself.  When…when I was chosen to bear Bhaal’s essence, I was excited, thrilled, one of the select few Handmaidens of the Dark God.  But…when he was born, I looked into his innocent eyes, and I lost myself in them.  Here…here was a part of me, whole, pure…and he was supposed to die.â€Â


Viconia closed her eyes, and stated, “And so you sought to save him.  Why…didn’t you tell any of this back when you first saw Pádraig?â€Â


Alianna grimaced, “Because I wasn’t allowed to.  I was only allowed to answer what the Solar wanted me to answer.  I couldn’t have lied, even if I wanted to…and I was prevented from expanding further on the truth.â€Â


Viconia replied, “That…conversation…did have the feeling of being planned before hand.â€Â


Alianna ran a hand through her long hair, and said, “Tell me about it.  Even now I haven’t told him it was Gorion that drove the knife between my shoulder blades…â€Â


“Gorion?†Viconia uttered, surprised, “Really?  From what I heard, he wasn’t capable of such acts.  Wait, you sound like you knew him from before…â€Â


Alianna walked along to the edge of the small stream, “Gorion and I were…we grew up in the same village.  He was the headman’s son.  His father scrimped and saved to get his son educated.  Early on…Gorion…and me…well, his father threatened to throw Gorion out if he continued to associate with me.  Still, we managed to remain friends…and then Gorion went off to Candlekeep.  When Pádraig was born, there was only one person I knew, still alive, who might be able to save us…so…I used a spell, one used to induce night terrors in our victims…â€Â


Viconia queried, “Night terrors?â€Â


Alianna grimly smiled, “Not all our murders were done with garrotte, poison, or blade.  Some of the ones, when stealth was required…let’s just say that not all those who die in their sleep, did so…peacefully…anyways, I was able to relate where the temple was located, and I…begged for his aid.â€Â


Viconia continued, “And so Gorion came…â€Â


Alianna agreed, “Yes, he came.  And he almost didn’t have enough people.  In the smoke and ensuing battle, I tried to stagger for the exit, when I felt a sharp, cold chill slide into my back.  As I fell, I saw Gorion there…surprise on his face, and he dropped his blade.  Pádraig bears enough guilt, whether justified or not, that I don’t want to burden him with another load.  Especially, when in this case, it was more of an action caused in the heat of battle…rather than deliberate murder.â€Â


Viconia paused thoughtfully, “And that is how Gorion rescued Pádraig and the others.â€Â


Alianna said, “Yes, though there was a consequence of his actions.  Many children were slain there, releasing a great amount of Bhaal’s essence…enough so, that the only other incident to release as much was the fall of Saradush.  Enough of his power was released, that Bhaal started to stir in the blood of his other children…â€Â


Viconia growled, “Such as in Sarevok…â€Â


“Indeed…†continued Alianna, “As well as Pádraig.  Sometimes, I wonder, how many surviving children would have pushed away from the evil of Bhaal’s heritage, if his voice had remained quiet.â€Â


Silence filled the glade, and both women fidgeted slightly, when Alianna stated, “He loves you, you know.  He admires your strength, your endurance, your self-confidence…and your cunning, as well as your sense of humor…â€Â


Viconia snorted, “Humor?â€Â


Alianna laughed, “Well, he admitted it was more of the gallows variety, but he saw it there…but he does care for you.â€Â


Viconia sighed, “I know…and…I care for him too…but I don’t see how there can be a future between us.  He is growing into his power, and soon, he will outstrip concern, even for me…â€Â


Alianna shook her head, “That…doesn’t have to be…but I think you should talk with him.  He may surprise you…â€Â


With that Alianna turned on her heels, and left Viconia in the glad alone once more.


Viconia blinked steadily at the greenery, and swore, “Too much color…its almost garish…† 


Then she bit her lip, felt the blood pleasantly well, and spat it onto the ground.  


“Pádraig…†Viconia addressed the air, “You can return now…we have to talk…â€Â


The air shimmered, and the earnest young man appeared before her.  A look of concern crossed his face, as he asked, “Is everything alright Viconia?â€Â


Viconia inclined her head slightly, “Yes…for the moment, it is.  No…what I have to say…well, its been something that’s been bothering me since I’ve been here.  It’s about us.â€Â


Pádraig laughed, “What us?  You made it fairly clear that there is no future between us.  I…admit…I sometimes push it, to see if you changed your mind, but your responses have been fairly consistent.  If you want me to simply shut up about the mess entirely, then I will.â€Â


Viconia looked ahead, “True, I have said as much…but I won’t deny that I…care…for you…â€Â


Pádraig’s face widened in surprise, “You…care…for me?â€Â


Viconia turned around, snarled, and jabbed a finger into his chest, “Alright, I love you.  Is that what you wanted to hear?â€Â


Then she deflated as the sudden urge of anger left her, and she continued, “But it would never work…and I am not going to spend the next millennia brooding about what might have been…I…I need to leave, once Valas gets better.â€Â


Pádraig crossed his arms over his chest, “And why wouldn’t it work?â€Â


Viconia gazed gently into his face, as she said, “We came from two different worlds, ibblith.  My world is one of submission and domination.  I…remember when we first met…how…small you seemed.  And I remember how you grew into your power, not letting it control you like it did your brother Sarevok.  I mocked you for being cowardly, but internally, I was amazed at the strength you wielded to resist it.  Then…you ascended.  You are a god, I am…mortal…there is too much between us to make it work.  So, it is best if I leave.â€Â


Pádraig, slightly overwhelmed by her admission, babbled, “Where…will you go?  What will you do?â€Â


Viconia slumped, “I don’t know, but I can’t stay here forever…â€Â


Pádraig regained control of himself, and said, “I…I can cover your trail…for a bit of time.  Lolth isn’t stupid.  Once she detects Valas’…departure…if she hasn’t already, she will figure some game is afoot, and I am the likeliest suspect.  I can exert some of my power to prevent her from following you, but she is still stronger than I am on the Prime Material Plane…for the moment anyways.â€Â


Viconia nodded, “That will have to do…â€Â


Pádraig exhaled, feeling the sadness well in him at Viconia’s leaving, when he blurted, “Unless…â€Â


“Unless what?†Viconia asked imperiously, not allowing herself to release even the tiniest amount of emotion…

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Pádraig kicked the dust at his feet, and said, "I...when...if you had..."


Viconia whirled around, and looked Pádraig dead in the eye, "Out with it..."


"I...was going to share my power with you..." Pádraig replied.


Viconia laughed bitterly, "You already do that now..."


Pádraig interrupted, exasperation thick in his voice, "Will you give me more than two seconds to continue what I was going to say?"


Viconia stood there solidly, then motioned for Pádraig to continue speaking.


"Maybe share...was the wrong word..." Pádraig  whispered, "I...wanted to exalt you, to give you as much power as I posses...to be...my equal..."


Viconia stood there dumbfounded, then she hesitantly said, "Equal?  You really mean that, don't you?  Not as your concubine, or conquest, but as your...partner?"


Pádraig  nodded, swallowed a large gulp of air, and continued, "Yes, I do.  I...want you to be my...lover, equal...not my subordinate..."


Viconia continued to stand there mutely, and Pádraig shrugged, "But I made a hash of things.  I tried to earn your confidence, to earn...but I don't know anymore.  If I used my power to find out how to truly please you, then that would be violating the woman...I love...and yet I don't want to let you go...whatever, I give up...you decide what you want, and I will try to do what I can for you.  I'm...done..."


Pádraig turned around, and went back to the small stream, and rested on the banks once more.


Funny, if I grasped what I truly wanted...then I would have nothing at all...it would be as ash in my mouth... he thought.


Pádraig cocked his head, as he heard Viconia approach, determination on her face, as she asked, "One simple question Pádraig:  Is it possible?  I don't mean about your sincerity...about your sharing your power.  I thought...Ao, wasn't that his name...determined who would be a god or not..."


Pádraig nodded, and said, "That is true...if you are talking about creating a new god or goddess out of nothing.  However...there is nothing against voluntarily relinquishing one's power...and imbuing it in another.  The goddess Siamorphe did that...when the previous incarnation was male..."


Viconia frowned, "Sia...who?  Never mind...but wouldn't you...would be weakening yourself, then, wouldn't you?  Just for me?"


Pádraig smiled, "I guess...you can see it that way.  I don't think it would be that much of a sacrifice myself.  One...can always gain more power.  It isn't easy, but it can be done..."


Viconia paused, and she laid a strong hand on Pádraig's wrist, his skin thrilling at her touch, "Then...what is needed to do this, Pádraig?"


Pádraig glanced deeply into Viconia's eyes, "Are you sure about this?  Once we start...we can't stop..."


Viconia smiled, the first time Pádraig remember Viconia ever smiled gently at him, and she softly replied "Yes...I'm sure..."


Pádraig grinned "If you're certain..."


Viconia smirked, "I am still here, aren't I?"


Pádraig blushed, "Yes...yes...you are..."


Viconia's eyes met Pádraig's once more, and she exhaled, "So what must we do...love?"


Pádraig's blushed deepened, and he said, "We must remove...all adornments...all clothing...we have to be skyclad..."


Viconia shrugged, and she started to squirm, but stopped and asked, "Can you remove the silver from my hair?  I can't quite reach it..."


Pádraig nodded, and he walked behind the drow woman, and pressed in close to work the finely wrought, dwarf-crafted clasps that bound her pure white hair.


"Snow angel..." he murmured.


"What was that?" Viconia asked.


Pádraig felt relief that Viconia couldn't see his flush deepen, if that was at all possible.  He cleared his throat, and said, "Your hair...it reminded me of days when me and Imoen would make snow angels.  I..."


Pádraig stepped back, dropping the last of her hair ornaments.  Great, just great...you finally...earn her trust...and one slip of the tongue...you ruin it... he thought.


Viconia pulled her arms together, tensing momentarily, then the tension eased, "It...is alright.  I am still...unaccustomed to your...endearments.  But they aren't...disliked..."  


She turned around, her hair billowed out around her like a silver halo, and she gifted Pádraig with a wan smile, "Will you help me with the clasps and the buckles?"


Pádraig would have dithered at Viconia's request, but she spoke once more, "Attend me.  You can ogle me later..."


Pádraig snapped to attention, and started to unclasp her armor from behind, when Viconia remarked, "Besides, one would think you got enough of an eyeful from your peeping...I could tell it was time for my bath by whether the bushes rustled or not...."


Pádraig suddenly started to cough, and then let out a yelp as he dropped Viconia's cuirass.  Viconia chuckled, as she kept facing forward.  Eventually, Pádraig stopped swearing as he felt the bones realign in his foot, sending cool relief through his body.  Then his eyes looked closer on her skin, and Pádraig asked, "Who did this to you?"


"Who did what?" Viconia asked, curiosity filling her voice.


"This..." Pádraig whispered angrily, tracing a lattice work of dark scars with his finger, only noticeable up close with his very face in the small of her back, his warm breath sending an electrical chill down Viconia's spine.


"The Matron Mothers..." Viconia simply stated, "Before I...fled...they were quite...lenient..."


"Lenient?!?  Viconia, I swear...that we shall gain vengeance on them...that they would harm...AAARRRGGGHHH!" Pádraig swung away, and a red nimbus of rage surrounded his body, the stench of clotted blood and bloated meat wafting off of him, and for a brief moment, Viconia was reminded of the caverns of her home, before a shower of rock brought her back to her senses.


"Pádraig...stop!" she shouted, as the Bhaalspawn raised a hand, and thrust it down into the earth, and a shower of grass, dirt and rock exploded in a circle around him.


"Vic...Viconia...Vie?" Pádraig stammered, his red-glazed eyes resuming their emerald-green hue, "Viconia...I'm..."


Viconia crossed her arms over her exposed breasts, and she snapped, "What just happened?  I'm touched that you felt the need to...avenge...me...but I'm capable of caring for myself?  And what happens...if you turn your anger against me?  What then?"


Pádraig slumped to the ground, and mumbled, "No...never...it won't happen...and I won't...allow it..."


Viconia walked up to him, and stood to his side, the bottom of her garb grazing Pádraig on the forehead and she queried, "And why is that?  How are you so sure...you...won't turn on me?"


Pádraig swallowed hard, "The ritual...I will have to use my true name..."


Viconia squinted down at the prone form, "But I already know your name..."


Pádraig vigorously shook his head, "No...you don't understand.  When I work my...magic...I will be changing my name...my true name...I call myself Pádraig, you call yourself Viconia, but these are just...identifiers.  Our true names are much greater, more hidden...when I cast my magic, I shall change my very name itself.  When I give you my power...there will be certain...qualifiers..."


Viconia hissed, "What kind of qualifiers?"


Pádraig bowed his head, "The...greatest one...the one I plan...is that I will be unable to bring harm to you..."


Viconia's eyes flared, as she stumbled back, "But...what if I turn on you?  You couldn't..."


Pádraig nodded, "I wouldn't be able to stop you...but I don't..."


Viconia pressed two fingers on his lips and she said, "No."


Bafflement crossed Pádraig's face, "No?"


"No, don't bind your will to mine.  Work your...magic, make us equal...but I don't want a servant..."  Viconia smiled, "I don't want to be your mother for all eternity...we will just have to consider...alternatives...if we grow angry with one another.  Now get up, and let's finish this ritual.  I don't want to catch my death of cold out here..."


Pádraig nodded, and he said, "Very well...finish undressing...and lie on the ground..."


Viconia quizzically cocked her head, but did as Pádraig bade, setting aside the last of her armor and gear, making sure she was bereft of rings and other jewelry, and sat cross-legged on the grass.  Viconia noticed then that Pádraig was naked himself, and when he saw her glancing at his nakedness, he said, "Both of us have to be


She saw Pádraig grab a branch, and make a perfect circle around her.  Then he made another circle, before starting to inscribe sigils within the boundary of both circles.  With each marking, Viconia noticed that the symbol glowed, and at each cardinal point, Pádraig seemed to step outside of himself.  Each person at each point was a perfect replica, and each started to chant in a discordant tongue, separate flares of color enshrouding each one.  At the last cardinal point, one more Pádraig stepped out of the mass, but unlike the others surrounding her, this one seemed almost...normal.  He advanced on Viconia, and sat down beside her.  He whispered into her ear, "Follow my lead...love..." and twined one hand around hers, and gently indicated for her to lay on the grass.


Pádraig placed his other hand on the dip of Viconia's waist. He raised his heavy eyelids with an effort, and saw two penetrating blue eyes staring back at him.  Viconia's dusky skin absorbed the light, giving it a midnight sheen, her now loose hair falling in alabaster waves. Viconia was on her side, facing him, her head propped up on one arm. A little smile, teasing and coy, played about her lips.


Pádraig blinked foggily and started to say something, but before he could get a word out, the woman with the deep cobalt blue eyes covered his mouth with two slim fingers tipped with the dainty curves of sharp nails.


His hand was still on her hip, feeling the smooth reality of her. She clasped his wrist and gently drew his hand higher, arching her body with sensual feline grace as she did so. As his palm passed over her ribcage, Pádraig felt a vibration thrumming in her, and he heard her hiss with pleasure when he at last cupped the firm swell of her breast.


Pádraig couldn't tell if he was awake or dreaming. He wasn't sure if he even wanted to. If it was a dream, it was the most vivid he'd ever had. Pádraig  could feel the texture of Viconia's nipple stiffening against the palm of his hand, could smell the clean scent of her long white hair as she leaned toward him.


Her eyes never left his.  She nipped him on the jaw-line with quick, sharp teeth.

When she finally did kiss him, she did so with a demureness that went contrary to the bold way she held his hand trapped against her breast.  Pádraig couldn't help responding, but when he tried to slip his tongue into her mouth, she drew away. Her smile chided him – oh, no, you naughty boy.


Twenty long years, never with a woman, all came rushing up to him, so it was no surprise that all of a sudden he was erect to the point of nearly physical pain


Viconia brought his captive hand to her mouth. She nipped at his fingertips the way she'd nipped his chin, and then licked his fingers.  A delicious prickly shiver went through him as the supple coarseness of her tongue rasped wetly against his skin. He glimpsed the glint of her teeth. Her eyes glowed with mischief and affection as she watched his reaction.


Pádraig reached out with his other hand, sinking his fingers into her thick white hair.  With a swift and agile movement, Viconia swung her body over his and lowered herself onto him.  Her weight was at once solid and light, her legs extended straight between his splayed ones so that her pelvis rested atop his. The pressure on him was wonderfully maddening. He instinctively raised his hips, grinding close to him.


She cuddled on him, her long-fingered hands kneading rhythmically on his chest, nails nicking him in pinprick sharpness. As she kneaded, she also worked her way downward. Sternum. Stomach. Navel.


He petted her head, her back, her smooth but athletic ebon arms.  Viconia darted in and ran her soft, gentle tongue along his stomach, and then even further south as he felt the pressure build up within him.  


Just as he was about to explode, Viconia stopped, and kissed him along the lips, allowing his need to subside momentarily.  Then she straddled him, and began to rock back and forth as Pádraig's hips rose to meet hers.  At one point pressed down against him, and he felt her heart pound against his, her breast to his chest.  Suddenly, Pádraig felt his groin clench, and at that moment, he rose to capture Viconia's lips in his, and in that moment, Viconia's eyes flared with light, as the last of the chanting grew to its highest crescendo, and she shuddered, and Viconia screamed as her body felt the exaltation fill her all to human frame...it felt like every part of her body was engulfed by a hellish inferno fire while at the same time she felt an arctic tempest course through her body, feeling like it was contracting on itself...she felt like she was in pain for eternity...and then all was peaceful as darkness claimed her...


Viconia woke to the sounds of soft snores near her.  She tried to move, only to find a long arm wrapped around her.  She smiled as she looked into Pádraig's face...and then she remembered what happened at the moment of her climax, and took her fist, and slammed it hard into his gut.


Pádraig woke, wheezing for breath as his arm left her and he gasped, "Why...did you..."


"Why...didn't...you...warn...me..." she howled, "Just what the hell happened anyways..."


Pádraig cast his head aside, and said, "I...should have...but...how do you describe pain?  Very simply, it was the essence of the gods...infusing your body...changing...it...I...went through it...I'm sorry..."


Viconia's face softened, as she lay back onto the grass by his side, and whispered, "I forgive...this time..."


She draped her arm over his prone body, and as she pressed her firm breast into his back, her heart beat once more matching his, her breath rising and falling in synchronicity with his, she asked, "Since when do gods' snore?"

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