As he jumped a gap in his path, he felt that sharp pain on his right hip, signaling the dagger's puncture wound had ripped itself open yet again. He pressed his hand against the wound, but before he could apply and new bandage, he noticed a faint ringing in his ear, quickly growing louder and louder. Growing increasingly lightheaded, he lost his balance and his vision blurred and faded until there was only darkness.
Breathing heavily, his senses and mind cleared, and something was immediately evident: The halfling woman he held by the neck in a tight grip was one he never saw before. Her hair was black and her skin pale. He looked at the he dagger she had dropped. It was of decent craftsmanship but, much like her clothes and equipment, was otherwise unremarkable. He could sense no traces of magic in them whatsoever. Between a painful grimace and a look of sheer terror, the creature begged for mercy using the common tongue. - "Please Mister... I am sorry... I... I thought you a corpse. I beg of you, don't kill me!""Vash? No, Vesz'yraen!" - A familiar voice called to him. Her tone was as soft and tender as he remembered. He looked up to see the drow woman, glittering with what can only be described as moonlight - "Would you like an apple, Vesz'yraen?" - She asked with an extended hand towards him, holding the piece of fruit. She always did that.
With what can be described as contempt, he swatted her hand, sending the apple flying. Her face turned to sadness for him, yet her tone remained unchanged. - "Still clinging to your ways, I see? I had thought with enough time, you would see a better path. Don't pretend the words I spoke during our first meeting didn't touch you. I could see it in your eyes. Even now, after all this time, your pride still makes you turn away that which can save you in these difficult times." - She says pointing at the apple, but also implying a much deeper meaning.
"I have no time for your nonsense." - He scoffed at her.
The favored of the Dark Maiden didn't seem at all phased by his rebuke, and again attempted to reason with him. - "You shouldn't deny it. It's more of your nature than perhaps you realize. But I can only show you the way. It is you who must choose to walk it."
He averted his gaze, as if he didn't want to face her. - "For once, cease your insufferable preaching, woman. What I do is my choice... mine alone."
"Then why do you make the choices of an idiot, my friend?" - A different, yet also familiar male voice asked with obvious disappointment. Looking up he could see his mentor and friend. - "I brought you into the Jaelre and took you under my wing to show you a better way. You could have done well. Even take my place one day. But instead, you chose to be a fool! Pity."
Vesz'raen snapped back at his mentor in frustration. - "The Jaelre's inaction forced my hand! You found me, you took me to them under the promise we would take the fight below. I thought we shared a common goal, yet none of you lifted a finger. I suffered all your "more immediate matters"... I worked for things I couldn't care less about, for them... hoping they would finally get off their asses and do what we were meant to do! I would have painted the Underdark with the blood of spiders for what I was forced to endure. I, at least I tried something!"
The older weapons master chuckled at his response. - "Oh well... Nice try? What exactly did you think you could accomplish with your antics? Perhaps you thought the Jaelre would just rush to satisfy your misguided lust for revenge? That they would jeopardize everything they actually accomplished, and their long term plans catering to your foolish ideals? Your hatred blinds you Vash. You are not wrong about the spiders. But only you act with such recklessness and impatience which, along with your over inflated confidence, ultimately sealed your fate and, quite ironically I might add, ensured you ended up bedding one that stands for everything you hate so feverously"
The magical gem in Vesz'yraen's left eye socket erupted in a bright crimson glow as he felt the anger burning within him. - "It was not supposed to be that way! I hate her! I hate what she did to me!" - Vesz'yraen growled.
The older mentor shook his head at his words in silence as he faded into the featureless darkness behind him. Another replied instead. Her amused laughter echoed throughout the cave, chilling Vesz'yraen's very soul. Footsteps drew nearer accompanied by a distinct melodic, yet eerie humming. One hinting at absolute delight, and victorious satisfaction. - "Oh you give me far too much credit Vesz'yraen. And do you really hate me? I haven't forced you into anything you didn't already wanted now, have I?."
No word could escape his mouth. His left eye extinguished as his anger drowned in the turmoil of his conflicted feelings. She walked around him, moving seductively into his sight, her dress, as always, made to better evidence her sensuous form. Her eyes smiled wickedly as she sipped from the wine glass in her hand, kneeling next to him, cupping his cheek with her hand.
With all the defiance he could still muster, he met her azure gaze. - "Have you come to finish the task your goons failed at... miserably?"
She chuckled again, sliding her hand past his ear as if to stroke his hair, but instead, pulling it back violently, forcing his head to follow so she could whisper into his ear. - "No Vesz'yraen, there is nothing left to finish." - Her hand released his hair, and he turned to face her once more as she rose to her feet. - "Your resilience as seen to that you still live... one of the reasons I found you so compelling to begin with, but I got all I wanted from you, and now you are a but piece I removed from the board." - She contemptuously waved her hand at something behind his back as she turned and walked away. - "Even that insufferable abomination you are so fond of has no further use for you."
He slowly turned his head to see two tiny hands, one holding a dagger towards his throat, while the other moved to grab the Beljuril pendant around his neck. - "Your shocking display of idiocy and lack of good judgement as wasted my time. You have learned nothing! I shall take this back." - The little voice chastised him. It was obvious whose hands those were. For the first time moving against him with murderous intent. He feared it was too late for him, yet a sudden surge of adrenaline rushed through his body as his survival instincts kicked in. His left eye flared bright once more, and with a loud roar and explosive speed he spun around, grabbing her by the neck, violently slamming her tiny frame against the cave wall. The force of the impact took the wind out of her, causing her to lose her grip on the dagger, now laying on the ground.
He leaned closer, inspecting the little creature closely. She had no slave collar, markings, or anything else indicating ownership. The way she addressed him and the usage of common also felt weirdly out of place. Strange for what he suspected to be an escaped slave. Before he could figure out what to do with her, he noticed the small canteen at her hip, which he quickly snatched from her belt. With his attention now fully focused on the contents of the canteen, he released his hold on her. She fell to the ground with a thud and a whimper. After nearly emptying the contents of the canteen down his throat, turned around to see the tiny woman attempting to flee.
"Stop!" - His voice filled the tunnel, demanding her compliance. It was enough to stop her where she stood, slowly turning to face him with empty hands raised. She had made no attempts to attack him, despite his momentary distraction, the dagger remained where it fell. Still terrified, she again pleaded with him. - "I... I'm sorry, Mister. That is all the water I have. But take it... take whatever you want. It is all yours."
His head tilted slightly to the side. He was curious. - "Where did you come from?"
"Sshamath, Mister." - She replied promptly with nervous nodding.
"Alone?" - He asked to which she nodded vigorously.
He narrowed his eyes at her. She became even more stiff at his menacing gaze and growl. - "Don't lie to me!"
"Please, please, please, I am not lying!!! It is true!!!"
Despite his best efforts, he simply couldn't see any deception in her face. The woman was clearly terrified of him. With a deep sigh, looked back at the large cave ahead of him. It resembled a hollow hub of a wheel with many tunnels as spokes in all directions. He again turned to question her. - "This city... Sshamath. Which direction?"
She promptly raised her hand, trembling as she pointed the tunnel leading towards the city. - "Maybe two days march that way, Mister... OH! Water!!! There is a lake... not far. Only a few hours away along that tunnel."
He again considered the halfling woman carefully. A lot about her didn't add up. Despite the lack of marks of ownership, he was sure she was an escaped slave. Perhaps recently captured. Hadn't been broken yet. He entertained his theory about this halfling. She sought to escape bound servitude. Much like he did and still does. He softened at the notion that she could make it. It made his next decision easier. - "Even if unwittingly, you saved my life, and for that you may keep yours." - She recoiled with surprise as he tossed the canteen and kicked the dagger towards her, both now within her reach. - "Move silently, and stay out of sight. Avoid anything that moves, and any noises you hear. Go." - Her fear gave way to a mix of silent confusion and relief as he turned his back to walk away, she could swear she saw a hint of a smile.
The little one had not lied. He found the lake exactly where she said it would be. The very same cave was also host to a variety of mushrooms and other small creatures. It was hard to snuffer the nourishment he was able to find, but he was hardly in a position to be picky. A proper meal would await him Sshamath, and he was in a much better situation than before. With a small measure of strength regained, he opted to followed his own advice. Managing to avoid the dangers lurking in the tunnels, he soon reached the city limits safely.
Once more he seemed to have cheated death. An almost meaningless comfort as he had very little else to show for it except yet another failure, adding to an already impressive list. She, however, had been his worst by far. The mere thought of her angered him. The gem in his left eye socket pulsed with an increasingly brighter red glow. To think she was different than the other Matrons. To think turning her away from Lolth would be his personal insult to the Spider Queen. Yet worst of all, to have allowed himself to fall prey to her charms, to have feelings for her. He stopped as he felt his emotions reaching the tipping point. For good or ill, his anger had been a powerful driving force, but now was not the time. He pressed his hands against the tunnel wall and rammed a fist against stone. The blow released the pressure, the pain acted as a distraction, and what little will he could gather was enough to calm him for the time being.
Shortly after, he approached what looked like a guarded outpost, with a portal leading into the city. The guards paid little attention to him. An odd thing perhaps, yet he wasn't about to question what little good fortune came his way. Upon reaching the magical gate, he took a moment to observe the city that waited just beyond the threshold. With a deep breath, he stepped through.
The deafening sound of a bustling city greeted him. Between the noise, the paths and the crowd, the city itself seemed to nudge him towards a specific place. He soon turned a corner to find the Dark Weavings Bazaar. Never had his eyes seen such a sight. He saw hundreds, perhaps thousands of tents, each a different shop offering everything from simple goods to wondrous magical items from both near and far, of both the underdark and surface. But perhaps strangest of all was the diverse races, where the non drow walked seemingly as free individuals. A far cry from what he was used to. Perhaps his hallucinations had returned, colored by the years he spent on the surface. He rubbed his eyes and focused his mind, yet the strange sight persisted, and was far too much to fully grasp at the present moment. There would be time for answers later.
The couple of hours following his arrival were spent roaming the bazaar. The coin he had on him was enough to procure the herbs, potions and other curatives that would help him restore his still diminished strength, as well as an affordable inn where he could lay low and recover. For a tenday, he mostly remained inside the confines of the inn. Hardly anyone even took notice of him during that time, but the instincts developed in harsher places of the underdark, where being perceived weak usually spells one's doom, don't simply wear off over a couple of cycles. He bid his time, gathered his strength, and when his wounds had healed enough, he finally dared to venture out and discover this new and strange place he found himself in, and perhaps even begin anew.
//This point marks the end of the prologue to Vesz'yraens story in BGTSCC.