Author Topic: NWN character bio: Zalamandra  (Read 1971 times)

Offline Kaz-Keith

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NWN character bio: Zalamandra
« on: March 11, 2009, 02:37:10 AM »
I like writing.  I liken it to when I was a little kid making up little towns and whatnot out of sand and mud and this and that and acting out little dramas that usually ended in the complete and total destruction of everything, and pretty much always in time for lunch.

As such, I like to pepper my backgrounds with wholly unnecessary plots and subcharacters and events that sort of point to an explanation of said backgrounds and the applicable character's motives for, well, existing.  It also kept me from having to answer too many emails asking who was a certain Forgotten Realms personage or what was the actual name of a certain creature I had alluded to.

Neverwinter Nights play sites were a great way for me to have my cake and write about it too.  Here is another character I, sadly, did not play to fruition:

The places and events that transpire in direct connection with Zalamandra occurred in-game at one point or another.  Because I write using my onsite gaming logfile as a resource, everything syncs up whether I am describing a battle or someone else's (not my own) actions.



Name: Zalamandra
Race: Fey'ri (Half Sun-Elf, Half Daemon)
Job: retainer for an unnamed trade consortium

Zalamandra stands just over five feet tall, and is a bit heavier in frame and movement than a true elf. Her beauty is marred by the odd greenish tint to her golden skin, and her hair is the dull color of freshly-spilt blood. She possesses great batlike wings that bear hooked claws, a tail that ends in a heavy spike of cartilage, and one of her legs is bestial with an extra joint, fine hairs, and a hoof.


Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: NWN character bio: Zalamandra
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2009, 02:41:00 AM »
"More wine, gentles?"

 The elf held the large and curiously-twisted bottle in one hand easily, though all present knew that the netherese vintages were very heavy, very potent, and very expensive.  Yaran seemed beyond the cares of coinstacks and winestocks, however, and pleasantly began refilling all the goblets that were held out in answer to his question.

 A grand tour of Yaran Tantamoon's estate had led them about all the afternoon long, culminating in the grand parlour where tall crystalline flutes filled with the cold dry wine awaited them.  They were a strange lot, brought together in commons for an even stranger purpose:  the far too tall and sinister-looking Vilurk, his equally narrow companion Ayo, their lovely host Yaran, the sour-faced dwarf Pell, a broad and many-scarred human woman who had not spoken a word to any of them so that none yet knew her name, and the always-smiling effervescent minstrel Saltarello.

 "Got no beer?"  Saltarello tittered like a lass as Yaran turned to the dwarf and gave him a sly wink.

 "I'll have a cask brought up from the servants' wing."

 Vilurk snorted loudly though Pell did not seem to hear nor care of the slight just offered him.  Still chuckling, the bard reached over and plucked the goblet from the dwarf's hand, swirling it grandly and leaning far back on the leather divan as their host gestured slightly to one of the servants who stood beyond the shadowy arras at one end of the parlour.  Behind them, the silent woman leaning against one wall shifted slightly and spoke, drawing all heads around to peer at her.

 "Let us see what you have for us, Yaran.  I am a far fair busy for such fussery."

 Not a few brows were raised at such temerity, though their elven host remained soft and smiling and nodding gently in her direction.

 "Of course, dear Thora, of course."

 Vilurk's scrawny neck made a loud pop as he and Ayo both snapped heads about to stare at the woman.  So this is the great slayer-on-the-moors, Thora Telmarch, he thought to himself.  As the reedy mage turned back to Yaran, he noticed the dwarf staring and probably thinking the same thing.  The elf raised his arms dramatically, the cream-colored sleeves of his tunic sweeping back and revealing slender and deeply tanned flesh.  Sun elves were noted for their exceptional beauty, and Yaran Tantamoon was no lesser of his kind.  He stood and spoke a single word before uncurling one long-fingered hand towards the nearest stone wall.

 All at once the fitted bricks and mortar brightened, flickered, and became transparent.

 Saltarello leaned forward giddily.

 As the parlour lamps dimmed themselves softly, only Vilurk's red-rimmed eyes remained bright and glowing with the magic he had enspelled himself with earlier on the tour.  Yaran moved quietly to join them, seating himself with slow grace and gesturing once more toward the glasslike brickwork.  Beyond was what must be part of the inner grounds, for the area was lit by the naked sky and featured a pair of large gnarled trees.  Perched atop one low bough, they saw her.

 "Ya gots us a pleasure lass?"

 No one laughed and Yaran did not turn to look at Pell as he replied.

 "My goodness no, master Granfaulke. The creature is far more than mere pleasurebits."

 Vilurk's eyes widened a good deal, for he knew what he was looking at.  The wizard's respect for Yaran grew mightily.

 "We look upon a fey'ri, gentles."  Saltarello's mouth opened to speak but Yaran's next words caused him to close it again. "Part of elven blood, and some of daemonic stock, this was one of the few fey'ri that was not yet claimed to a house."

 The sun elf's words, though plain, masked a true depth of which Vilurk and Ayo were already quite aware.

 "Rare as laughter in a boneyard, that."  Ayo's words held a tinge of awe.

 In truth the fey'ri that sat lazily across the tree branch, idly flipping through a slim leatherbound book and periodically glancing up quizzically, was rarer than that:  the daemonfey was bartered by her house to a wizard who dwelt near to Tantamoon Estate.  How she came to be present at Yaran's home and what befell her master was a secret that the sun elf kept tightly to himself.

 The fey'ri was a strange shade of green-gold, bearing batlike wings and a sharp-barbed tail that was curled over one thigh.  Her other leg, they could plainly see, was jointed like a beast's, furred-over and ending in a cloven hoof.

 Once again, Thora did not mince her words.

 "Of what worth is she to us?"

 Saltarello nodded silently, eyes focused tightly upon the fey'ri.

 "The creature will be entertaining our errands for us, as recent events dictate."  Yaran smiled thinly as two servants quietly entered the chamber and began setting out mugs of dark sharp-smelling stout.  Pell grunted as he stood and moved to fetch one.

 "of course, I will not speak for the Rundeen, though I will venture words for the others this consortium represents: profiteering along the borderlands hascaused much trouble of late.  Our endeavors to oust the orcs who have long held the hills nearby have not been in vain, for they no longer prey on the forest roads but have hidden themselves in the caves beneath."

 Vilurk turned his goblet about and about in hand, eyes thoughtful.

 "Our eyes are now turned back to the south, however, and toward the proclivities of the Zhentarim.  Hillsfar has made no effort to displace them from Hlontar nor Fort Kanthas, though I do not doubt their sincerity."  Someone snorted loudly.  "Regardless, this latest zeal of blackhelms and blackcloaks has made a mess of the seatrade.  Runners will not hazard the lanes near the coast, not with so many Zhentish galleys about, and the captains who will demand far too much coin for the berth."  The elf paused to sip from his own glass.

 "Bah. Zhents're hewn as easy as any."  Pell had plopped down upon his seat once more, and clung to a tankard happily.

 "The blackhelms are not our only worry, master Granfaulke."

 Vilurk nodded and everyone watched curiously as the glass wall slowly darkened back into stone once more.  "What of the wizard you mentioned?"

 Yaran's handsome face flickered darkly for a brief moment.

 As the parlour lamps slowly brightened, the elf set down his goblet and moved to one of the darkwood armoires that flanked one wall.  He opened it and rummaged about before carefully bringing forth a large reed basket covered with canvascloth.

 "This is the root of our moot, my gentles, and the true reason for our envoy."

 Dramatically, Yaran drew off the cloth.

 Within the basket lay a cage of thin bones, scorched black and with something nestled between them.

 "This... entered my estate wards and was felled by them."  Ayo wrinkled his narrow nose at the burnt odor which still hung over the grisly bit.  "This is all that remains of a great bat, all bones and Art.  The thing you see lodged within the breast is a message, I believe."

 The dwarf and Thora both moved close to look.

 "I scryed the flight of the thing all the way back towards Hlontar... arrow-straight t'was."  Vilurk and Saltarello exchanged arch glances.

 "Alokkair", they said simultaneously.

 Yaran nodded slowly, reaching delicately between the rib bones to withdraw the little thing inside.  He uncurled his hand to show them the pale bit of stone or wood...

 "My auguries and spells served me long to discover what this was, gentles:  it is a piece of horn.  Specifically, it is a remnant of a battle between dwellers of Hlontar and a being that was both mortal and daemon..."

  More than one pair of eyes turned to glance at the wall where, beyond, lay part of the estate inner grounds.

 "...we will send the fey'ri to learn of who or what this Arturus was, and why Alokkair would wish us to know of it."

 Ayo reached out to touch the bit of horn, though Vilurk made a loud sound in his throat that ended the idea.  Looking around at them all, Yaran reached into the sash at his waist and drew out a dark ring of iron, large enough to set about someone's neck.

 Upon it was etched a single word.

 "We will not, however, be sending her alone."

Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: NWN character bio: Zalamandra
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2009, 02:44:02 AM »
The hour was late in Hlontar, and the lamps were burning low.

"Was this what you'd wanted?"

The old man shuffling about before the row of dusty books was so startled that he fell back to their sturdy bindings and dropped the tomes he'd held to the floor.  Standing just inside the circle of pale light was the creature who had come to him the day prior.

"I... wh- what now?  Eh?"

Chuckling softly to herself, Zalamandra stepped forward and casually tossed a much-scarred book to him.  As the librarian let fall the remaining of his load to catch at it, he saw that its back was colored darkly with something.

The fey'ri eased herself onto the nearby counter, almost demure as she settled herself and whupped her wings once before furling them back at and angle that followed her slim elfin form. She leaned out and pursed her lips at the man in a mock frown.

"Not much mention of the lich."  The librarian swallowed tightly as he got to his feet, clutching the book and trying not to stare at her.

Zalamandra arched one brow and gestured idly at the rows of books standing beyond them with her curling tail.

"I assume there is even less of a mention in those?"

Overcoming his surprise and fear at last, the librarian managed a fierce scowl and slapped the book down tightly upon the counter.

Zalamandra chuckled.

"I'll have you know this be one of the finest houses of lore in this region, young... miss...", the old man's bushy eyebrows rose and fell with a moment of bewilderment, "...and... and-"

The fey'ri drew herself up fully and stood, her hoof making a small sharp echo.

"AND?"

The silky-looking wings whupped open once more as Zalamandra struck a fierceful pose, leaning on her bestial leg and letting her tail quiver and whip back and forth behind her as a riled serpent might.

The old man began to tremble.

"...and... and- and we- we thank you, miss...", he suddenly wagged the stained book she'd brought him out towards her, "...thank you for returning this to us as y- you... you said you w- would."

The corners of her mouth turned up the slightest.

"I believe, sir, you mentioned something about a reward?"

The librarian could only nod.


*     *     *


Slipping through the night-dark streets, the slim shadow paused at one shop's black window.

...the sound of running feet...  a pair of them... soled in leather or hide...

The shadow turned itself slightly, as if striving to hear better.

...the whisking hiss of a blade being dragged from its sheathe...

"Hurry!  Go!"

Now a bell began to ring through Hlontar, as slow and seeping as the moonlight fingers above the city which strove to claw themselves through the muddle of clouds and fog that had huddled themselves up along the shoreline as the night had fallen.

More running feet passed by, and more clipped shouts called out in the deep silence.

Zalamandra held her breath and half-crouch suddenly, as a statue, and a pair of black-cloaked guards stepped right out of the night near her.

"Give it then."

One of them nudged the other sharply in the ribs and the sloshing sound of a bottle being passed between them could be heard.

"The captain 'e sayin'?  Truth?"

Before replying, the sounds and stink of badly-steeped liquor gurgled.

"Aye'n... the captain.  Took 'er head clean off."

A light bobbed suddenly into view and the clop-clip-clop of a horse nearing sounded out.  Zalamandra shut her eyes so that they would not reflect it.

"Hoy now", a deeper voice called from afar, "You two get to post.  Now.  Don't you hear the tri-bell ringing?"

She held her breath for a long moment, well after the two guards had departed.

They would want to hear this, of all.

Zalamandra quickly made for the grand inn she'd been renting at, a highcoin dropper for one who wished to be noticed and seen and spoken on, for good or ill, for that was the purpose of sending such a one as her.

And Arkhöd.

No no no... musn't forget him.

She smiled to herself as she passed through the empty Moonsea tapfloor, the chairs all put up on tabletops and awaiting the floorwash mops.

As she climbed the stairs to where the rooms were laid, Zalamandra considered what she'd already seen and heard... and very little of it was about the lich or the damned half-demon.  One of the townsfolk, she did not know Rannen Fane's name but his scent was pleasant enough, had been calling folk to mount a ride of eyes and ears then... sending themselves to spy upon what she understood only vaguely to be a possible column of Zhentish soldiers making for Hlontar.  Oh, the others had stayed well away from her, strutting about in her less-than-clothes costume and unabashed appearance, but that man... he'd treated with her regardless...

At their bedchamber door, Zalamandra rapped once, then thrice.

Perhaps she'd seek him out once the guards had settled... after all, the lich's name -had- fallen from his mouth with familiarity...

The door creaked open a hair.

"You", the deep baritone beyond chastised, "are late."

She shoved mightily on the door, though hopelessly as Arkhöd's massive strength held it exactly to where he wished it regardless.

After a moment, he swung it open just enough for her to duck inside.

"We must speak", she muttered, curling her tail in after just as the door was shut and barred behind her.

As usual, Arkhöd's looming form dwarfed her own, forced her to lean back and peer upwards at his strange eyes.  The smell of blood hung about him, and drifted to her nose heavily from where Arkhöd had stacked the plates of his armor and the blade he kept, to large to keep sheathed.

His maw nearly shone as it opened slightly.

"Yes."


*     *     *


Of all times and all places, it was a poor moment that found Pell Granfaulke bored.

Normally a bit overinquisitive, for a dwarf, and rather more interested in touring local geological sites than sitting in moot, today would prove that boredom was certainly not the worst thing that he could be entertaining...

"Master Granfaulke, if you please."

Pell did not care for Yaran, though most thought it was because the gulf of indifference between elves and dwarves was legendary.  In truth, Pell did not care for spellcasters in general, and even less for those who claimed they did not use magic but used the 'mystic forces that reside within all beings of a higher bent'.

He snorted abruptly and Yaran frowned.

"Does my request insult you, master?"  The elf stared down at him, eyes flinty but mouth wearing that ever-present half-smile.

The dwarf shook his head and hopped down from the worn bench he'd occupied for far too long now.  Not bothering to answer, Pell marched boldly under the elf's arm and through the door beyond.

Yaran followed.

As they made their way into the chamber beyond, paneled in darkwood and set with curving stone benches that encircled a single frayed hemp floormat, the two figures already present looked up.

Pell stopped and stared, for he'd not seen Vilurk nor his clingabout Ayo without their cowls drawn up and dark... now, they had doffed their heavy robes for simple tunics and girdles of black leather, both of their heads shorn completely and enscribed with twisting dark tattoos that crept back beyond ear and nape to where he could not see.

"If you would not mind, master Granfaulke?"  Yaran gestured languidly toward a bench.

Now, finally, here in this small room, the true nature of their consortium grew clear to the dwarf.  Perhaps the forgemasters knew to what they'd sent their chief surveyor of trade, perhaps not...  He masked his sudden hesitation with a rather uncharacteristic chuckle.

"This gypsum?", he asked dryly as he climbed atop the bench and leaned forward.

"We require silence for this spell", Vilurk began, though Yaran's mere glance at the Red Wizard ended whatever it was he was about to say beyond.

"I am to speak with our emissaries, master Granfaulke, with Vilurk and Ayo's aid.  Your blood here and near should steady our working, so that mischance does not touch it."

Pell tried not to gasp aloud as the elf calmly drew a slim dagger from the sash at his waist and turned it about in hand.

"Wh- me blood..."

Ayo chuckled as Yaran turned suddenly, dropping to the floormat in cross-legged fashion and driving the knife half a blade deep into the floor.  A fat purple jewel glittered from the dagger's pommel, winked at Pell.

"Harpers are not in the habit of cutting their own harpstrings", Vilurk grinned as he said the old maxim, and Pell scowled sharply at him even as the elf held up one hand slowly to their voices and they fell silent.

They watched, some eager and one grudging, as Yaran leaned his head far back  so that he nearly stared straight upward.  The elf's pale locks fell away to one side, baring his sun-browned forehead and the tiny purple gem set in the flesh there.

Both of the jewels began to glow then, and Yaran's mouth moved silently as though he were speaking with someone that was very very far away.

Vilurk could feel Ayo's excitement at the elf's display, though his apprentice was always eager to see and experience new forms of magic.  This was a power of the mind, however, and rather far removed from runecastings and spellstiches...

He turned back to watch as their host continued to mindspeak with the fey'ri, somewhere in the farflung realms.

They were a strange lot, he'd thought afore and would again:  Red Wizards and Harpers, those of the Rundeen and the Iron Throne, not to say anything of the others.  The shadowy fringes of those groups... barest of threads that had been twisted together for a secret that only they truly knew.  Surely, it would mean death to them all, and not just an inconvenient loss of flesh and body, were they found out... but they'd been rather careful.  Now that he and Ayo knew the lass' identity, they could move forward confidently in the group's tasks, the last wisp of doubt they'd held against Thora Telmarch gone.

The Red Wizard watched as Yaran drew easily upon his mindpowers and coaxed stability from the shards of purple at brow and foot, the magic of the spell he and Ayo held between them, and the nearness of the dwarf's natural resistances.

After only a moment of watching the elf at work, he knew the cost of that bit of faerzess that Yaran wore and carried might well be its worth after all.

He concentrated on their spell, had added a bit of twists to it so that he could eavesdrop on the sun elf's thoughts... of course.  One had to protect one's investments.

Arkhöd's visage suddenly sprange into the wizard's mind, and from Vilurk's to Yaran's.

The two opened eyes simultaneously, meeting gazes through flickering purple.

It struck the Red Wizard suddenly just how easily the powers of his own casting had been crept back into Vilurk's thoughts and made them echo quietly back to Yaran, and all without his being made aware of it.  Yes, they were a strange lot and made a strange moot, all of them together.

The elf only smiled his strange half-smile.


Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: NWN character bio: Zalamandra
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2009, 02:57:45 AM »
"Perhaps he would have yielded more information had you been there to glower at him?"

They sat across sides of the small stubborn campfire, rising walls of rough canyon rock all around.  In the soft glow of the flames, Arkhöd's otherworldly eyes shone.

"Perhaps."  When his reply came, it was low and rumbling.

Zalamandra's tail curled and uncurled itself rapidly, a sure sign she was growing agitated... but not with her companion.  The fey'ri had performed her first task well, had even gotten some coins out of the old man for her trouble, but not anything more tangible regarding the lich Alokkair... and nothing at all regarding their true quarry: the half-demon Arturus.

"Perhaps", she said finally, looking at him, "We ought welcome our unwelcomes..."

Arkhöd shifted slightly, and then his great shaggy head snapped up and back as he stood.  In the distant dark, faint callings could be heard.  He turned to glare at the winged elfling, who had gained her feet as well and was already nocking an arrow.

"Perhaps I would have your superior hearing were I to eat those delicate ears of yours."

The fey'ri's quick smile flashed at him and the sounds of her companion's deep laughter wreathed them both as they prepared for battle.  They did not bother to kick dirt over the small fire, nor did they seek to hide themselves among the stony walls of the canyon.

They were not afraid of men, not -these- two.

As the first of them noisily crested the rise, led by a bright plume upon his helm, he saw the cause of the little firelight and stopped to stare.  The next one coming had a bit more wits to him, and turned back to shout.

"Zhent spies!"

Chuckling at the irony, Zalamandra watched as she allowed Arkhöd a first exchange, calmly waited as her huge companion lumbered out to meet them.

Not that she could have held him back.


*     *     *


"Zhent spy!"

Saltarello nearly dropped the wide-bodied lute he'd been holding as Ayo's accusation cried out from an otherwise empty chamber all about himself.  The bard smiled tightly and stood, glancing only a moment to where a set of leathers and a riding cloak were laid out upon his bed.  The broad crimson slashes of the 'Z' embroidered upon the latter fairly glowed in the lanternlights.

Chuckling, he set the instrument down gently and then spoke a single word.

As the bard's spell unraveled concealing magics in his bedchamber, the Red Wizard's apprentice was revealed clutching to a hand crossbow and glaring at Saltarello over its loaded bolt.

He chuckled again, and did not seem surprised in the least at the intrusion.

"So you care for disguises as I do?"  The bard reached out with one finger and set it upon the tip of the bolt, slowly turning the weapon aside.  "Well I might congratulate you on your own preference, did I know far less than I do of Thay's blood-colored custom."

Something in the too-thinly-veiled insult spoke to Ayo then, and the mage knew he had been foolish to try to follow Saltarello invisibly, to say nothing of brandishing physical threats.

After a moment, he scowled and shut his mouth tightly, spun about and marched out of the bedchamber.

Saltarello watched him go, let his eyes linger upon the trail of red silk as Ayo stormed out but quietly shut the chamber door behind himself.

After another moment, the bard laughed long and loud.

A shallow titter escaped from beneath the bed, then, followed by a naked arm that bore long twisting bladescars.

"Milady, you make a wondrous 'neath-bedruffle-companion, I must say."

The bard danced forward and bent at the waist gracefully to extend an arm to Thora Telmarch, who took it and pulled herself out and to her feet.  Her undergarments bore no dust at all for the experience, which spoke highly of Tantamoon Estate's quality.  Saltarello slid his hand in a gentle caress up the swordwoman's arm, jumped from scar to scar, and finally paused at the nape of her neck.

"Perhaps you ought wear that turned about... for now."

She did not look at her cloak but instead enclosed his hand within her own, dragged him into a rough embrace.

"Perhaps you ought have these off... for now."

A thin eyebrow arched at the large woman's forthrightness, and then rose even more as bardic finery was all but torn from flesh and thrown in pieces all about.

Yaran slid the tiny panel shut and held his laughter tight within his throat, the many years of his disciplined training nearly undone by the one amusing sight.  The elf slipped quietly back along the narrow corridor that wove between the chambers of the guest wing, where even the hidden places were paneled in fine darkwood.

He'd known he was taking chances, and rather fearful ones, culling together these roughshod folks... but he could not allow the truth to be known:  Yaran Tantamoon was an excellent judge of character, and it had nothing to do with the powers coiled within his mind.  He knew that his master would brook nothing but success from him, no matter what it was that was spoken to reassure him of anything else.

Yaran stopped suddenly in the secret hallway, a sharp sound coming to his delicate ear.

He turned calmly and made for the little door that led through to the pantry and the kitchens beyond.  Someone was ringing the gatebell, the one reserved for armed riders outside gates, not visitors or pleasant callers.  Behind him, there was a loud banging flurry, and Yaran easily imagined 'Saltytongue' and Thora Telmarch scrambling to reclothe themselves.

"'...amid woes and worries, even, doth sweet love arise...'", he sang the old verse softly to himself as he threaded his way through the larder, the words becoming a sprightly humming when he'd gotten to the stoneworked kitchen.  At the late hour, none was about save the tousle-haired choppingboy, and he looked up smartly from the piles of leeks and onions to stare.

"To the armory lad, and quickly."

Now the house was coming alive with sounds of folk dashing back and about upstairs and down, and someone had begun calling loudly for Yaran to show himself.

The handsome sun elf sighed softly and went to meet Vilurk before the man shouted himself too hoarse for spellcasting.


*     *     *


"What is there of value left, in all... that?"

Zalamandra peered intently, perched atop Arkhöd's massive shoulder and held in place by her companion's gigantic hand firmly to her naked hip.  Daemonfey though she was, even her eyes were no match, however, for those that glowed softly alongside.

"Something... dark.  Deep."

His voice was a gentle but terrible sound, like a rockfall just as it came down to greet you.

The fey'ri glanced down at Arkhöd, but the creature's face was impassive.  Unreadable.

As usual.

She fluttered her silky wings once, and slid down to the ground.  Even as her hands moved take up her bow and blade, Zalamandra's tail snaked up to tap sharply on the underside of the quiver low on her back.  An arrow popped itself up at the trick, and the fey'ri reached back to grab it and nock it.

"Something dark and deep, eh?  Sounds like a good place to have our morningfeast."

Already, she was padding lightly down the mountain berth, towards the massive city gates that once must have been grand but now led to a rambling ruin of a road.  The humans that had assailed them must have come from there, she mused.

Arkhöd watched his companion for a long breath.

To his gaze, the fey'ri seemed so careless and free... even he understood the unnatural pairing that had resulted in what she was, just as the Generals of his home had made him what he was.

Those terrible pale eyes flickered.

The city was not completely ruined, and parts of it were burning here and there.  Whatever had befallen it was still continuing.  Ongoing.  Possibly would go on and on.  The thought of enemies flinging themselves at each other endlessly caused him to tighten his grip upon the massive curving blade he favored, made the bunching of muscle along his arm cause the bracer there to give a loud and protesting sound.

Zalamandra turned back at the sound, saw him and gave him a ticklish smile.

Arkhöd went to meet her and tried to put thoughts of home from his mind.


*     *     *


Something had gone very wrong.

No, that was not a strong enough word for it.

Cataclysmic.

That's it.  Something had gone -cataclysmically- wrong.

"Am I boring you, master Tantamoon?"

Yaran's eyes took in the dark-helmed priest, coils of paralyzing energy holding the elf in an awkward half-dash of partly entering the chamber and partly looking shocked.  He'd been met in his own foyer by an armed party of Zhents, two of them holding Vilurk's arms to stillness while another held a curving blade to a dwarven throat.  Pell, for his part, looked mightily displeased.

After a brief introduction, Thora and Saltarello were joined to the little party.  The last, Ayo, was dragged in senseless and left moaning feebly upon the floor.

"I believe I asked you a question."

The elf shuddered once in the grip of the priest's spell, but his powers were not Art and could not undo what held him fast.

"N-no one... else... here", he managed.

None of them looked to where the estate household had been rounded up and summarily executed.  Thankfully, two of the Zhents stood blocking that corridor, and the bloody scene beyond.

The priest reached up and removed his helm, revealing graying hair and pleasant sea-green eyes.

"You do realize we gave no permission for this moot", he said calmly, slowly stepping in a lazy circle about the paralyzed elf, "And we certainly gave no authorization for emissaries to be dispatched to one of our holdings."

Yaran struggled silently against his bonds.

They held.

"When were you going to inform us of these events, that is what I wish to know."

The elf's eyes lit up and both Vilurk and Pell turned shocked eyes to see.

The priest had stopped before Thora Telmarch, who shrank away from the armored Zhent a hair or two.

Saltarello saw and snarled and spat.  "You- you blackhearted WH-"  The gauntleted hand that struck the bard left him both voiceless and bearing a terrible purple mark along his jawline.

Thora stood her ground.

"I was not prepared to make a report yet."  She grew visibly angrier with each word, and that made her bold.  "I was not expecting my liege to interrupt my mission, nor to shed blood in a house that held no enemy of mine."

"Ya picked a fine time t' grow a backbone fer dat arse o' yers!"  Pell Granfaulke had found his voice.

Vilurk's eyes narrowed, though he did not resist the hands that held him firmly in place.

"Indeed.  How many coins was it that bought that tongue of yours?"  The Red Wizard could not help but glance at Saltarello, how scowled through teary eyes but could not yet speak for the magic that had stolen his words.

The lull in hasty retorts and bitter words that followed then was not altogether natural.

The priest sensed something amiss, too late, and turned to bark something.

Darkness spiraled down from where it clung to the corners of the foyer ceiling, and not a few mouths screamed.  There was a terrible sound of fabric tearing... splitting... then a series of metallic ringings as though weapons were being slapped together.  The blackness was not pure, however, and in the hazy dimness the confusion-wrought-by-Art showed its work: zhent soldiers had run each other through with spear and sword, one headless and two dead but held up by weapons pinning them to lovely darkwood walls.  The last lay on the floor, curled about a blade stuck up from his middle.

A bright purple flash bloomed then, filling the foyer and sweeping the remaining darkness and haziness away.

Yaran leaned against something, saw it was a zhent pinioned upon spear, and stood up and off it.

"Y-gr... grg..."

The priest's pleasant eyes bugged as he struggled in the coils of what appeared to be a giant mauve tentacle, oozing something slick and slimy as it tightened and bulged about the Zhent's neck.

Something gave a sharp snap.

The sluggish tentacle curled forward, then reared back, flinging the lifeless priest into one of the large entry doors.

Vilurk had scrambled into a corner, near to Pell, and gibbered there.

"Ayo?!"

The tentacle writhed slowly amid the ruin of the Red Wizard's apprentice, shifting its bulk back down toward the gore and attaining a semblance of humankind.  Along the mauve pock-marked flesh where a head might have been, dimples indicating eyes and mouth sank in suddenly.

"The One Who Lurks thanks you for such a rousing playalong", it burbled weirdly, causing the fine hairs of those present to stand on end, "But the hour grows late for such amusements."

A dwarven curse sounded loudly then, for few things gave fear to the stout folk who delved the deeps than such creatures.

A second 'face' emerged to glare at Pell.

"This moot is ended", it burbled softly.

Yaran acted then, for foolishness or not, and ran a slim brown hand into the neck of his tunic to touch at the tiny silver emblem there.  The little harp-and-moon gave up its power to him, and dulled, and Yaran's eyes burst into purplish fire to match that of the gem now glowing above them.

Saltarello, too, turned and ran the stiletto he kept for emergencies just under Pell Granfaulke's arm, into the soft crease.  It pumped something far more deadly than any poison then, for the Calishite bard had been supplied with this particular weapon, just in case.  The dwarf screamed shrilly as negative energy shot through his broad chest, seizing his heart and making it dance.

The tentacle writhed then as a second will forced its way into the mind of the creature and contested there.

Vilurk shook his head slowly in denial of what had his apprentice had come to... had... birthed before them, and darted for the doors now stained with the zhent priest's life.  Something glinted softly in the air before him as he got one open, jammed suddenly on the black-armored corpse before it, and-

Thora Telmarch, slayer-on-the-moors and fabled mercenery swordwoman, hauled up hard on the metal garrote.  The ends bit sharply into Red Wizard flesh, and Vilurk was yanked up and back with a muffled shriek.  As she twisted and pulled, Thora snarled a curse upon the Red Wizard, vowing to at the least snuff him out before-

Wreathed in purple fire shot from eyes and brow, the giant tentacle writhed and moaned as Yaran tore at the innards of its intellect, noting dryly that the creature was not even all that bright.  The elf saw clearly that it had been planted into Ayo some time ago, a larval thing meant to grow and watch at the doings of a particular conjuror in distant Thay... it had been intrigued by Vilurk's modest double-dealings, however, and equally interested in the sun elf's psionic powers.

Yaran grinned as he stood facing the tentacle, savagely tearing at the thing's mind now.

Vilurk gave one final heave, trying in vain to say some fell word or other, one hand clawing at his throat, the other reaching vainly for the open door...

Thora reached down and plunged her shortblade deep into the Red Wizard's back, just in case.

Something glittered there, to the sun elf's third sight, like sunlight dappling a pond...

"No!" He managed to shout just as the tentacle bulged and shot for the woman, several faces opening upon that side of itself to simultaneously echo Yaran's intent.

The Red Wizard's last breath left him, arduously, and as it did some long-carried contingency sparked in one of the many pouches bundled in his girdle.

The estate detonated with a single massive blast, shearing through all three levels and the cellars below too.  Licks of fire rose to greet the dawn as burning wreckage began to rain down all across the countryside.  A farmer had been up early to draw from his well before the cows were milked, and so chanced to see the horizon light up as a second sun of purple light and orange fire blossomed from behind the hills.  He watched in awe as the swelling fires coughed and smoked and dimmed almost immediately...

A smoking bit of something slammed down into the earth before the farmer, part of it blackened and the rest of it glowing softly with heat.

He glanced up and saw that a piece of flaming roofing had landed atop the bales near the barn, and yellow flames danced upon it.  Cursing, the farmer tossed the bucket of water he held onto the bit before him and ran down to refill it at the well.

Smoking and hissing, the hot metal ring of iron showed part of a word, briefly.  The metal sang out in protest against the sudden cold dousing and then snapped.

Half-way across the realms, the iron ring's twin likewise twitched angrily a moment and then cracked with a shriek.


*     *     *


In the distance, against the backdrop of black mountains, the purling darkness began to split into orange and pink.  Two figures made there way along their base, down a ruined road that led back behind them into the trees.

Much toil and spoils had found them in the open streets of the city beyond, too much to wrangle out a clear outcome.  Both had been tested against high spells and fierce bladework, and both had survived to learn something by it.

"Dawn comes", Zalamandra said softly, gesturing with the bag of trinkets she'd gathered as they'd gone.

Arkhöd looked and saw.

He nodded.

"Perhaps we can sell thes-"  The fey'ri gave a little strangled shout then as the far and distant Art leashing her gave a little heave and shattered.

She staggered, breathless, and looked to her companion.

The massive lion-headed creature was bent over as well, hands nearly disappeared beneath his shaggy mane.  After a moment, Arkhöd righted himself.

His hands came away with pieces of jagged metal.

"Dawn comes", he said finally, his voice low and rumbling, "And it is a new day."

Zalamandra said nothing.

She knew the look of freedom when she saw it.



Offline Kaz-Keith

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Re: NWN character bio: Zalamandra
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2009, 03:12:23 AM »
It was quiet in the atrium.

Not the calming quiet that saw, say, a taproom during the hours before dawn, but rather the lulling peaceful quiet that stilled all else in a body... leaving one with naught but a certain clarity of mind and a grace otherwise unreachable for-

-for one of her bent.

The fey'ri sat in tilted repose, a slight figure solemn upon one of the corner benches in the atrium, the verdance rolling out and away in riots of color and petals and pleasant scents amid the gentle murmuring of the central fountain.

She was watched, of course, though the Sunite priestesses were careful to keep from disturbing her.

Deep in her reverie, Zalamandra allowed her consciousness to muse, toying with ideas and thoughts that she'd hoarded over the last few days while battlesharp sense commanded her mind.  Now, she idly wondered at whom it might be that would allow kobold vermin to lair so close to an active township, and to what end... ...an image of fierce Arkhöd peering down at her with concern dimming his strange blank eyes... ...what had become of master Tantamoon, now that his soothing voice no longer spoke within her mind...

A gentle fall of harpstring notes cascaded down upon her suddenly, pulling her gently from reverie into the actual, and Zalamandra slowly opened her eyes.

"Ah- apologies, miss, we were just rehearsing."

A trio of musicians had at some point arrived at the temple and were setting up instruments at the fore of the fountain.  A woman and a man stood near, while their third stood gawking at her with his mouth open.

"We are blessed to host nuptials for a local couple", a rose-robed priestess quickly informed her as she moved to take the shocked musician by the arm and turn him about to face the others.  She gave Zalamandra a quick smile and nodded to her.

"You are most welcome to remain, if you've a care to."

The fey'ri arose slowly, returning the priestess' smile with one of her own that was meant to be disarming but looked like a leer nonetheless.

"I fear I would be... distracting."  Wings whuffed open at that, and Zalamandra stretched the muscles along them and all across her back where reverie had stiffened them.  They all nodded to her for lack of words, and the fey'ri made her way out of the atrium, down the apse, and through the temple entry to the cobbled lanes outside.

For folk who had dealt with a half-demon regularly before now, they surely seem no less surprised to meet me... she thought to herself dryly.


*     *     *


"A bit more to the left."

Hands on hips, the slim figure watched as the two men, one youthful but older and one a lad, truly, turned the great burnished mirror in its twisted wooden frame a fraction further.

Laeral nodded and waved them off.

"Right... that'll do.  There are coldmeats and beer in the pantry for you.  My thanks, lads."

The two apprentices bowed low to the woman and headed out for repast, but all three knew that a diligent session of bookstudy lay ahead for them after and that the suggestion of beer meant only the two narrow cups set out for them, not the large-mouthed tankards that they drank wellwater from.

With the last mirror in place, Laeral stepped out the nearest doorway and called down the hallway.

After a brief moment, Thora Telmarch appeared to answer, a bath bristles in hand and a towel draped over one scar-lined shoulder.

Laeral laughed.

"You... you wish to wear that?  Still?"  She clasped one hand to her mouth and peered at her husband, who gave her a long sly wink and tried to look demure.

"I'll have you know I spent many a day crafting this, woman."  Thora paused to stare at herself in one of the mirrors across from her, hoisting one muscled thigh up and striking a pose in the doorway.

"I should miss this... not a trifle."

Laeral began to chortle loudly at that.  "I- ", she managed, after regaining herself, "I should miss my man!"

They stared at each other.

"And not a trifle!"

Both enjoyed the laughter that followed, until Thora opened her arms to gather Laeral within them and together headed to the bath.

Khelben Arunsun was no idle fool, not when it came to warm water and his lovely wife.

Indeed, he'd spent more than a few 'days' crafting the image that was Thora Telmarch, and not a few coins paying off bards and 'witnesses' to spread the tales of the slayer-on-the-moors, while actually donning the costume of spellwork himself to go out and hack a few trolls apart... just to give it that authentic flavor.  Yes, it was a favorite disguise that he'd put many an adventurous escapade into building, including a few more lurid and unpleasant moments: the last grasping play with a certain eager-tongued bard the foremost among them.

Much soap and splashing and laughter followed then, though the two apprentices feasting below on ham-and-mustard rolls and a secret second glass of beer wisely kept all trace of hearing from their faces and talk.


*     *     *


"Demon!"

Zalamandra kept moving down the street as one of the passersby stopped to point, stare, and shout that last.

More eyes turned to see, and someone made a hasty sign in the air before himself, as if to ward away the very image of her.

"Easy, Coal."

The fey'ri steered her mount to where a less-popular street ran out and alongside the lengths of harbor and fleet where daystench and constant gull-squawking kept all but the most hardy or deaf away.

Zalamandra eased the horse along with her bestial leg, the extra joints in it giving her an easier time of it.

Ahead, a pair of fishermen were just finishing loading a large and bobbing dinghy with piles of coiled netting.  One of them squinted at her a long moment while the other whistled heartily.  She could not keep the grin from her face as she plodded past them, one dragging off his wool cap to give her a polite nod while the whistler just stared lustily.  Even here, then, were some who did not fear her appearance.  Of course, they were but two... lonely men who plied empty waters all the day long and slept alone all the night through... but no matter.  She would accept both compliments equally.

Eventually she turned Coal up the final street, the one that the flintseller hawked at.  Behind that lad, along the stretch of narrow buildings there, stood a familiar figure.  Hulking and difficult to stare at overlong for all the darkness that drew one's eye, Arkhöd leaned easily against a shop brickface.  Near his shoulder, through one of the windowpanes beyond, a shopkeep appeared periodically to scowl and frown at what might be sending his custom away.

"You have rested."

The deep rumbling words were not a question but an observation.  The fey'ri nodded from her perch and gestured to the rising city gates in one direction.

"Shall we have a ride about the country?"

Arkhöd did not reply but instead moved to where a glassy-eyed tan mare stood posted and tied.  With a gentle hand that seemed completely incongruous to the lionlike mein, Zalamandra watched him prepare his mount for travel.


*     *     *


The office was dark, now, save for the glow of the many mirrors set in frames all around.  A circle of them, tall and broad and most now featuring a large and distorted face.

A beak-nosed balding man that had the unfortunate name Vulturis had just spoken.  Khelben sat crosslegged in the center of the mirrors, cowl raised and eyes thoughtful as he sat midair a few feet above the floor.  The minor Art he'd laid upon himself spun him to face the speaker as Vulturis repeated his question.

"Well?  Did your student survive the blast?"

Vulturis Povaal was as grasping as any other Red Wizard of his stripe, and the Blackstaff knew what he was really asking after.  Khelben stuck his hand forth and held it before Vulturis' mirror, opening fingers to reveal the tiny purple shard within.

"This survived", he said softly, before his spell spun him about again.

"What reaction will this cause with the Zhentarim?  The soldiers already at post?"  Weevay's eyes and mouth were lit by some casting of her own, but her mirror was otherwise softly spinning fog.  Khelben considered her query and finally answered after a long moment.

"It is reported by... an agent... that Hlontar's captain recently lost face with her unders, though unallied sources helped return her to herself."

Weevay scowled.  She did not appreciate the Blackstaff's ill humors.

"And that will aid, how?"

Now Khelben scowled.

"All here are quite aware of the Rundeen's shameless self-promotion in this debacle, lady", he said smartly, all trace of humor gone now.  "The captain's death and rebirth serve only as commentary on the narrative of their occupation.  It is rather obvious they are unwelcome... anymore."

Weevay opened her mouth to snarl something but their host was not yet finished.

"And before you give us any more of your 'wisdom' know you that the assassination of an accomplice, Iron Throne agent or no, has voided all trace of agreement we might have held."

A bearded visage in a mirror adjacent seemed to turn and stare at the chastised woman, but he only furrowed his bushy brows at her and did comment.

Inwardly, Khelben was furious that Saltarello had employed such a tactic, though it was the manner of Pell's death and the weapon provided to ensure it which served to sever the already strained and tenuous ties with the Calishiite organization.

The same Art that they'd all agreed to bear in order to moot now held Weevay from departing, and her face remained a twisted sneer as she realised she was unable to make a dramatic exit.

"What of the servants?"

Ah, finally some thoughtful questioning.  Khelben was spun about toward the pleasant looking agent who'd first brought Hlontar's difficulties to his attention.  Several of the mirrored faces looked to see, though none recognised the person other than their original moot.

"I fear they are no longer servants, but wander free.  With Yaran's demise, all of the bindings he'd served to create have gone with him, including that which tethered the fey'ri.  The other-"  Several of them glanced to Vulturis, not a few accusingly.  "-well... that remains to be seen."

"A bastard daemon and a Jarilith?  'Wander free?!'  This is a sorry end to a miserable beginning."

Khelben was spun to face the only mirror that was glowing brightly.  It featured, of course, the staunch and endlessly-prosaic Theerglond, agnostic follower of Oghma and agent of Candlekeep.  It had been his aid that had helped them most, of all.  Before he could speak, however, Thentis Granfaulke began.

"Mind yer words, bookseller, afore yer house gots reason to float a black banner", he snarled from behind his considerable beard.  "No 'un else lost'n a blood kin among all the fire... and cowardly pok'rs."  Weevay narrowed her eyes as the dwarf spoke that last bit.

"Gentlefolk, may I remind us all of why we are gathered and sorted."

Khelben was turned forcibly as others likewise moved to see.

The last of their number and the most solemn peered out from the glass, her lovely features made moreso by her dusky skin and framing silver locks.  Eilistraee had truly blessed her, more than one of them jealously thought.

"The two who now walk free are our best hope of gaining powerful notice... powerful eyes and hands that may serve to unseat the Zhentarim rule, might that nothing would."  Alishay was normally reserved in her words, but earnestness could not keep itself from them now.

"A better course, say I, is to wonder at the lurking enemy who was revealed."

Several of them stared at the half-drow openly, and Thentis seemed to hang on her words.  Khelben nodded thoughtfully, urging her to say on.

"Well understood is the one that revealed itself to our agents, though we have already ascertained that it was interested most in the powers Yaran Tantamoon possessed and in the attraction which the faerzess was emitting."

Her reddish eyes drifted down to Khelben's hand and the bit of purplish crystal there.

"Ghaunadaur beholds a small cult, some rebellious drow among them.  A formless and amorphous Being who commands no small number of oozes and other such creatures... we've had some truck of them at the shrine here, but I'd not seen such a powerful and well-hidden thing as that which- ah- the wizard's apprentice hosted."

Thentis was nodding while Vulturis kept his features impassive as he responded.

"What of the double-agent?  Is it too much to hope that some bit of her remains were salvaged?"

Now Theerglond scowled, for well he knew the tales and stories of Red Wizard magic used upon some bit of bone or other to call spirits back into thrall or... worse...

As Khelben was turned toward the Red Wizard, his face was unreadable.

"Nothing of Thora Telmarch remains", he intoned quietly.  "Nothing."

The Blackstaff glanced all about.

"Gentlefolk, our agents are destroyed and, with them, this endeavor."  Everyone peered out of their mirrors at the archmage, most of them knowing a final address when they heard one.

"The fey'ri and the tanarruk will come to what end they make for themselves.  We can only hope that the Black Network loses what foothold it's gained therein, pending interests notwithstanding."

Both Vulturis and Alishay nodded vigorously.

"However, I warn all parties present that acting upon the information gleaned during our previous activities might herald more than a rebuke from your fellows now watching.  As you are well aware of and by the terms we agreed upon, you've forfeited all tribute in this matter Lady Weevay.  To the rest of you, I say look for an uncolored rider bearing your payment in the next moon.  I go forward from here and leave this moot done and done, and I suggest you all do the same."

Even after the obvious end to their convene, several of the guests began calling loudly to each other, voicing threats or worse.

Khelben sighed and let the Art he'd held dwindle, and the mirrors all around grew dark.

He stared down at the little piece of faerzess in his hand.

"All well with the children, milord?"

Laeral's head poked into the study, saw that it was not smoking with battle nor ruin, noted that even the spellwards had not been tampered with by their chance and not-altogether-pleasant guests.

She stepped over to her man, bare feet padding upon the polished floor, and hopped into his lap with a giggle.  Khelben closed his fist and looked up into Laeral's eyes, noticing what a much more inviting face it was to gaze at than any of the others he'd just treated with.  She saw his look and knew much.

"Worry not, milord.  Hlontar borders on being a wildertown... of any place I might think, those two creatures should find their path within."

As usual, she'd known just what to say.


*     *     *


Birds were singing curious and bright when they emerged from the trees.

Zalamandra moved slowly, her newly-healed wing held braced by a leather belt.  Beside her, the great and shaggy Arkhöd was looking down the length of his blade with one large, pearlescent eye.

"Thank you... for the healing back there."

It had been a very near thing, for the minotaurs had surrounded them and easily battered through the fey'ri's defense to stomp her down and assail Arkhöd... but the massive tanarruk had bested them all, and alone, before gently seeing to his companion.  Her few words seemed far too small a payment for such.

"You shoot well", was all he said, the birds around them winging away in fright at his deep and unnerving voice.

Neither of them had spoken on their recent freedom, not knowing quite what to make of it nor wanting to care overmuch so that it might not be spoiled or taken away from them.  Instead, they'd gone hunting down a few vicious rumors from travelers saying bull-headed giants haunted the north roads.

As they walked back towards the city, a tiny figure made its way slowly toward them.

"What will you do... now?", she finally asked, looking up at Arkhöd sidelong.

The tanarruk was staring ahead, watching as the distant man grew closer.

He never did reply.

"Hello there", the man called cheerily when he was close enough to see them well and good, in all their daylit strangeness.  He did not seem at all bothered by their appearance.

"I am on my way to hunt", he said, nodding toward the trees beyond them.  "Would you like to join me or can I join you?"

Zalamandra slowly gave him a welcoming smile.  The man smelled curiously of something she would not have expected, noticed the forthright and confident way he carried himself.

"Oh... where are my manners?  I am Mallo Datson."

The fey'ri smiled again.

This time, she meant it.


 

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