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Venye

20 Flamerule 1372 (Evening)

I was...a little behind schedule. Not wanting to raise the concern of the red headed spitfire Thralia wanted me to "keep an eye on", I had hung back and wound up arriving almost a full hour after she did. Of course I had to report to Tordrin on everything I'd seen while I'd been in Everlund. I'd had to make myself pretty scarce and the wee kinswoman I followed as she changed from identity to identity was actually pretty fun to watch. Mushiness between the pretty boy and the spitfire? Not so much. After about an hour of briefing Tordrin, were joined by Miss Thralia herself, who was still cranky because she didn't get any from the lumbering half-orc.

With the way things are headed, I'm almost willing to bet it's going to be one big sex fest when we get to our gig in the woods, what with Tordrin's obvious excitement after hearing my report about the wee one and Jaden still mooning after Ariadne and that business between the spitfire and her pretty boy. Even my darling Falco and I might finally get some quality time together if we're lucky. But not Thralia, the poor dear. Though if it weren't illegal, Taeghen would be all too willing to oblige. Ew.

Falco greeted me with a tender kiss and a much needed backrub when I got to our room. It was at that point that it dawned on me. It was ten years ago today that I received a contract on the life of Eaerlraun Shadowlyn and my life changed forever.

***

My twin sister Miri and I were orphaned at the age of ninety. Well, I guess we were. The only parent who stayed around, our mother, a drow priestess of Eilistraee, was killed by an operative in the employ of Skullport's matron mother Kesra Tanor’Thal. My sister had already begun to show promise in her studies as a priestess herself and I shudder to think at the other options open to her at the time. Meanwhile, I had proven myself to be rather shiftless, but good at taking things that didn't belong to me and staying out of sight. When I was a child, I used to steal sweets, toys, sometimes a doll or two for Miri. As I got older, I moved on to liquor, halfling leaf and erotica. However I'd never stolen when the stakes were so high.

It was her future or mine, and though I justified it at the time (just this once, just so we can eat tonight), I knew the moment I cut my first purse that there would be no turning back for me. Miri got to study with Qilué Veladorn in the Promenade while I stalked the shadows of Skullport, sticking to pick pocketing at first to survive, but we couldn’t afford a roof over our heads with simple petty crime, so the crimes got bigger. By my estimation, I went on to rob every important business in Skullport, not to mention the slaver’s rackets, pirate ships and caravans taking loot to the Matron Mother.

The scar on my left cheek was earned from an ill-thought out plan to try my hand at the "gentleman robber" angle. In my young and awkward way, I tried to seduce a female drow mercenary out of a tribute being sent to the matron mother. I was slashed in the face for my clumsiness, but she never reported me. Instead, when she rose through the ranks of House Tanor’Thal, she used that scar to identify me and hire me for my first assassination contract.

I worked alone as much as possible and whether I worked alone or with others, I had masks, disguises, false identities; even Miri didn’t know the full extent of what I was doing. When she discovered a contract from the Dark Dagger, she was convinced for some time that I had become a follower of Vhaeraun. Vhaeraun’s thieves steal mainly for selfish gain, not me. At least that’s how I rationalized it at the time when I took the contract. Robbery alone could have paid for a modest living for my sister and I, but I longed to stretch my limbs, to really see what I was capable of.

As if in answer to my longing, assassination contracts slowly began trickling in, first and foremost from House Tanor’Thal. Most of the individuals had it coming, and I mollified myself into thinking that I was an agent for good, rubbing out that which was evil, making Skullport a better place. Plus, the assassinations paid more, which meant I could finally afford escorts at the numerous festhalls and Halfling weed to relax me when I had trouble sleeping. There was also the added benefit of becoming comfortable with the act of taking a life. After years of following trails and working for the right people, I finally secured a contract from the Dark Dagger to kill the mercenary who took my mother's life. In turn, I received a contract from House Tanor’Thal to kill the Dark Dagger agent who gave the order. I stole secrets from Salagor, Malakuth Tabuir and Grimmbold the Gith and sold them off, sowing chaos in my wake. After twenty-five years of working solely in Skullport, I caught the attention of a weakened Shadow Thieves Guild in Waterdeep proper, desperate to work their way back into prominence, as well as the Red Sashes, who were interested in hiring me on for vigilante work.

With the Shadow Thieves, I worked with members, though I retained my independent status. My most common partner was a young human up-and-comer named Alauneth Orrane. We worked well together and I would often marvel at her lack of scruples even as she was changing mine. I called her “The Black Viper” for her raven hair, ruthless efficiency, mastery of poisons and quick temper. The name stuck. Our partnership lasted for about two years and ended not only when I woke up in her bed with no memory of how I’d gotten there, but also to find that she had left for Baldur’s Gate. I was less worried about the possiblity that she had seduced me than that she had perhaps poisoned me, but as time goes by, I have found myself quite immune to any poison I have encountered and I have concluded that through whatever physical contact we had over time, she was slowly innoculating me for my own protection. She was gone for a year, and though she returned, we never worked as partners again. She rose up the ranks past me, and when her seniority was secured, she gifted me with a pair of slippers of shadowwalking after I turned down her offer to make me into a Shade.

I killed other members of the Shadow Thieves for the Red Sashes, as I believed most of them to be unworthy to live; and soon, through the Red Sashes, I received the strangest contract. I was to kill a renegade Harper named Eaerlraun Shadowlyn. A Harper, now that would be a challenge. I practically salivated at the thought of testing my skills against someone who might be my equal. Taking my time, savoring each moment, I tracked him through Waterdeep, watching and listening as he met with operatives and people in positions of power in both that city and in her dark shadow of Skullport. He was as eloquent in Dwarven and Drow Sign Language as he was in Common. He, like only too few others, was able to hide his thoughts from Salagor of the Secrets. I watched in awe as he defeated pirates at 3 to 1 odds in close combat, caught a member of the Dark Dagger about to pickpocket him and single-handedly negotiated the freedom of several slaves in Grimmbold the Gith's possession. Finally, the time drew near. He was staying at a room at the Deepfires Inn, the same place that Miri and I had made our home for some thirty years. Instinct and common sense told me not to "bring my work home with me", but I loved the sensation of danger, nay, of fear that coursed through my veins. It had been so, so long since I'd been afraid of anything or anyone.

I followed Eaerlraun undetected through the Citadel of the Bloody Hand into Harper's Hold and into his personal office. A single candle was lit; it was late, perhaps he was readying to sleep. No, I would not kill him in his sleep, I had to strike soon! I heard him mutter something under his breath and the heavy oak door behind me clicked five locks into place. Next, I heard the distinctive sound of steel unsheathing. But...he could not have known I was there. "Perhaps he is paranoid," I thought, "like any other man in his line of work." I drew closer, arcing my arm around him out of his peripheral vision and flicking my wrist so that my poisoned dagger would slash his throat quickly. In less than a second, his hand was on my wrist and I had dropped my blade due to one of his fingers manipulating my pressure points. He turned his head slightly and grinned devilishly in the candlelight. "Finally, you have come." he whispered. Panicked, I drew my rapier with my left hand; he followed suit by dropping my wrist and turning to me, one of his short swords already drawn in his left hand. We duelled; when I regained the feeling in my right hand, I switched the rapier to my dominant hand. As I began to gain advantage, he drew his other short sword and we began to make a shambles of his office. Harpers pounded at the door, but it seemed that not only had Eaerlraun intended to lock me inside with him, he had also magically locked his fellow Harpers out, so that they would not interfere. With two blades, he was even more formidable and I was not used to fights going on so long; I began to tire. Then he did the strangest thing. He quickly returned his blades to their scabbards and just as I thrust at him with my rapier, he caught my wrist again and banged it against the door until I dropped my sword. He then grabbed me by the shoulders and we tumbled to the ground. It all ended with him straddling me and holding my own discarded dagger against my throat.

Disgusted with my weakness, I spat, "Kill me!"

He chuckled softly. "If I kill you, who will look after Miri?"

I struggled underneath him. "What have you done with her?"

He flung my dagger across the room and it made a twanging sound as it stuck into the door. "What have I done with her? Fool, you're the one who has put your sister in danger! You've made a nice mess of things in Skullport, indeed, you seem to have made Skullport over in your own image. Disorganized, dangerous and underachiveing it's greatest potential. There are a lot of people that are very, very upset with you, Venye, and Qilué cannot protect Miri forever."

I moaned. All of this I had done to protect Miri and here this Harper was telling me that in the end I was dooming her by doing the very things I had started with the best of intentions.

He continued. "I can help you, Venye. I can help you and your sister live a better life, but you have to trust me." He grabbed my chin and made sure I was looking at him. "You're going to have to trust me."

"What...what do you want from me?" My eyes widened in amazement.

He got up to his feet and offered me his hand. "I want you...to keep doing what you do best, but you're going to have to do it my way if we're going to undo all the damage you've caused. Then...I might have more work for you. You'll be working for the side of good, Venye. I'll make sure you sister gets taken care of as well."

I thought about it; within moments, I took his hand and shook it in silent agreement. His word was as good as all the gold in Waterdeep and it has continued to be so ever since.

Comments

Just chiming in to say I've read this (of course). I like the post, and I really like the confrontation/recruitment bit at the end, even if the straddling bit is a bit...forward.
I like it; it's a nice set-up. The couple of phrases that are italicized--are they also bolded, or is that just the way this layout formats italicized text? Because it's a bit jarring.