Welcome to this online fiction site! Here you can read the short stories inspired by the game "Baldur's Gate II - The Shadows of Amn." This is unofficial site and it is not associated by any means with Interplay, Bioware or TSR Inc. No material from this site can be reproduced for any commercial use and any noncommercial use must be authorized by Laufey.
"NO! I won't wear it! I won't I won't I won't!" The small boy was rapidly turning a bright red in the face as he worked himself towards a full-blown hysteric fit. Under an unruly mop of black hair his dark eyes favoured his mother with a rebellious glare.
"Don't be silly, Edwin dear", his mother said, patiently pulling the robe back down over his struggling form. "You look absolutely darling. See for yourself!" A graceful gesture with her jewel-bedecked hand indicated the silver mirror on the wall and Edwin stared at his own reflection in mute horror.
The offensive article of clothing that he had vainly tried to be rid of was a robe, much like the one a Red Wizard would wear, except much smaller. Another major difference was that it wasn't red, but a garish yellow. Heavy lace decorated both collar and cuffs, and there were embroidered green snakes all over the sleeves. It was a robe that could only have been dreamt up on the deepest layer of the Abyss, sent to the Prime Material Plane to inflict boundless agony upon the soul of any child unlucky enough to be forced into it.
"I look stupid!", Edwin wailed despairingly.
"Nonsense. You look very smart. And you want to make a good impression when your Uncle Homen comes to visit next week, now don't you?"
"Not buts. You will wear that robe and be properly grateful for it, do you understand me?" Edwin tried to gauge the situation. Alas, his mother had that flinty look in her eyes that he recognised all too well.
"Yes, Mother", he sighed in defeat.
"That's a good boy. Now then. Just a little bit more lace around the collar I think. Perhaps some gold trimmings." Elvira Odesseiron turned to the sartorial slaves who were kneeling respectfully on the floor awaiting her commands, her son temporarily forgotten.
Edwin took the opportunity to wallow in self-pity. He really hated that robe. It made him look like one of those ridiculous Kara-Turan dolls his mother was so fond of collecting. At least there was nobody except the slaves around at the moment to see him wear it, especially not
"Pardon my intrusion, Mistress. I should like to borrow young Master Edwin for a moment if it is not too inconvenient. It is almost time for his lessons." Edwin grimaced. While the tone of voice was perfectly respectful, he could almost feel the amusement radiating from his tutor, Vadrak Dekaras. The man had once again managed to not so much enter the room as materialise soundlessly inside it.
"Oh, I suppose so", Elvira said, sounding a bit startled. "We should be able to manage without him for now." She turned to give her son a brief pat on the bottom. "Now run along, dear, and mind your teacher." She returned to her discussion with the slaves, once again oblivious to her immediate surroundings.
Dekaras made a courtly bow, his black cloak elegantly brushing the floor, and then walked out the door. Edwin was the only one to see the teacher's thin lips twitch with repressed laughter, something that added further to his own sense of mortification and made his cheeks feel as if they were on fire. He hurried along after his tutor as fast as he could, careful not to trip over the silly robe.
Dekaras made no further comment until he had closed the school room door firmly behind him. Then he carefully scrutinised the colourful apparition facing him, his piercing black eyes giving no hint as to his thoughts. "Very flamboyant, boy", he said dryly, looking at Edwin along his long and pointed nose. "Trying to resemble a peacock, are we?"
Edwin said nothing. The thought that had popped unbidden into his head was that being a peacock was hardly any worse than looking like a giant crow. Somehow he doubted that Dekaras would be appreciative of that particular witty comeback.
The tutor shook his head as he realised that no answer was forthcoming. "Back to business!", he snapped. "Let us see whether you have other things than clothes on your mind, though I sincerely doubt it. Now, yesterday we were discussing the proper intonations of several basic cantrips. Perhaps some of them have even managed to get stuck inside that rounded protrusion that you care to call a head. I want you to read them out in order of importance." Dekaras gave his pupil a slow wink. "But first I think you should go and get changed", he said. "I would not want you to be distracted by thoughts of your own magnificence and splendour after all."
Edwin's eyes lit up with relief and gratitude, and he immediately hurried towards the door. After a short while he returned from his own room. Having left the hated robe behind he was now more comfortably attired in a dark green tunic and matching pants, and it felt extremely good to be able to move his legs properly. The lesson, however, did not go well. Edwin's mind was still on the disgusting robe, and on the fact that he would be forced to wear it for an entire day when his uncle came to visit next week. Even worse, there would be great heaps of dressed-up adults present, and he knew that he would be proudly displayed like a trained pet. If he was really, really unlucky some of the ladies would pinch his cheek and make 'oooh' noises. He really hated when they did that.
So it was not surprising that Edwin spent most of the lesson staring vaguely into empty space, now and then blurting out some hideously, blatantly erroneous answer to one of his teacher's questions. "Enough!", Dekaras finally pronounced and tapped his black cane impatiently against the floor. "You have obviously ignored your homework altogether. How very disappointing. I had thought you might have at least made the effort to remember that the monster you were supposed to read up on was vampires, not werewolves. Please remember in the future that while they both bite, only vampires suck." The tutor smiled ominously. "Since you have ignored your task the first time, you shall have the opportunity to further devote yourself to the subject", he said. Dekaras was leaning across the study table now, and his long, pale index finger pointed threateningly at Edwin's nose. "You will read those same ten pages again tonight", he said in an even voice, "plus an additional ten. Furthermore, since you have not been paying attention to a single word I have been saying so far, we shall try a different method of motivating you. Tomorrow you will be given a written test instead. Perhaps that will teach you to listen when spoken to." With that the teacher rose and started writing down the pages of the assignment on the enchanted noteboard hanging on the wall.
"But what about the Game?", Edwin said. "You said we could play Wizard in the Dungeon tonight! I've thought of some really tricky ways to use a Cloudkill spell, I wanted to show you that. You promised!"
"That, my boy, was before you told me that vampires give birth to eight to ten live cubs a year. No, I believe you will benefit more from a quiet evening with your books."
Edwin made a very ugly face behind his tutor's black-cloaked back, finishing it off by sticking out his tongue.
"And", Dekaras added without missing a beat or even turning around, "with that particular little display of bad temper you have just earned yourself a detention for being impolite to your poor old teacher. I shall let you know what it will be tomorrow morning, after I have gone over your test."
"But ", Edwin tried.
Dekaras turned around to face him, one eyebrow raised in a look of mild surprise. "Are you still here?", he said. "I would get going if I were you, boy. You have a lot of reading to catch up with."
Edwin hung his head dejectedly. "I'm sorry, teacher Dekaras", he said in a very small voice. "I did my homework, really I did."
Dekaras gave him a long, hard look. The boy was struggling hard to seem collected, but his distress was obvious and genuine. "Then why were you not paying attention?", he asked in a gentler voice. "What have you been up to all morning with that head of yours? It has certainly not been involved with the hideous statements that have been leaping from your mouth like frogs."
Edwin giggled at this thought, his woes temporarily forgotten.
"Ah, I see", Dekaras said. "It is comforting to know that despite my failing to impart the knowledge of the ages I am still able to amuse a six-year-old. Now tell me what's wrong boy, before I'm forced to nail your ears to the wall and whip it out of you."
"It's the robe", Edwin said readily enough, responding to the tone of voice rather than the words. "Wow, can you really nail someone's ears to the wall?"
"Yes, you can. Don't change the subject. What about the robe?"
"It's ugly", Edwin said in a voice heavy with gloom. He scrunched up his nose in disgust before he went on. "It's too heavy to play in", he continued, "and it makes me look really stupid."
"I don't see why Mother wants me to wear it", Edwin said. "And besides, I'm six-and-a-half, not just six. Six years olds are just babies."
"Of course they are", Dekaras said, his face carefully neutral. "As for your Mother, she only wants you to look your best. Unfortunately, in Thay that means looking like a Red Wizard. And while there is much to be said for wizardry, the dresscode is hardly enviable."
"Oh", Edwin said, his brow furrowed with concentration. Then he looked at his teacher again. "Why do wizards have to wear robes?", he asked. "They make it so you can't run, and they have no pockets, and they make it look like you're wearing a dress. No one wants to wear a dress."
"Except girls, of course."
"Oh, girls!", Edwin said, sounding like he had just stepped in a dog turd. "That's different. But when I grow up and get to be a real wizard I'll never wear one."
"A robe. Or a dress. I'll never ever wear one, and nobody will be able to make me. So there!"
"You fail to grasp the point", Dekaras explained patiently. "There is a purpose to the robes. They are official uniform, formal dress like a guardsman's helmet or a king's crown. As long as you wear the red robes people will instantly recognise you for what you are, and you will be admired, respected or at least feared wherever you go. If you don't wear them some common street thug will probably try to rob you as soon as he lays eyes on you, and if you are very unfortunate you may even get killed by him. In the robes of the Art even the most bumbling of hedgewizards is a possible Elminster. They are your insurance. Remember that."
The sudden eager glow in the boy's eyes was faintly alarming. "Yes, teacher", he said impatiently. "May I be excused now?"
"You may", Dekaras said, wondering if perhaps he had made a mistake this time. Then he shrugged slightly as Edwin ran out of the school room. No, he believed he had done the right thing. The boy had needed someone to confide in and someone to explain matters to him in a way that he could understand. Not that there was much that boy couldn't understand if he really wanted to. Very gifted, for one so young. Of course Dekaras would never dream of saying so, as the only child of one of the oldest families of Pyarados the lad was already likely to be spoiled rotten before he turned ten.
For a Thayvian city Pyarados was highly cosmopolitan. Those adventuring parties that dared travel in Thay usually passed through here sooner or later to renew their supplies before entering the mountains, and the city's merchants took outrageous advantage of that fact by cheating them blind. The citizens were not unused to seeing strange creatures walk the streets, people who were armed and dangerous, sometimes nonhumans. This day however, they were faced with something a bit different. Young Edwin Odesseiron proudly walked through the bustling streets, giving all passers-by his best haughty look. He realised that his tutor had been correct. The fact that he was properly dressed certainly seemed to make people view him with a sense of awe. The red velvet curtain he had filched in the dining hall made an excellent wizard robe, once he had cut a hole out for his head and tied the piece of cloth around his waist with what had previously been the golden curtain cord. So this was what it was like to be a Red Wizard! Everyone he met noticed his approach, many of them smiling and laughing and looking very friendly. Edwin gave some of them a few gracious nods in return. Sneaking out of the Odesseiron Mansion hadn't been easy, but he had finally found a pair of empty delivery crates that had contained sweetmeats for the upcoming party, and they had helped him scale the garden wall. Ever since then he had been playing at being an adventurer, pretending to be a powerful Red Wizard in charge of an expedition into dangerous territory.
That thought gave Edwin another idea. So far he had been keeping relatively close to home, but what good was it being an adventurer if you didn't roam far beyond the confines of the Inner City? So he determinably set off again, heading into streets where he had never been before. Before long he had left the parks and mansions far behind him, along with the well dressed people around the administrative buildings.
These streets were narrow and dirty, no longer paved with rocks
but merely tightly packed dirt. At first there were sounds. The incensed barking
of hungry dogs. Drunken laughter drifting out of a tavern. People quarrelling,
shouting at each other at the top of their voices.
More time passed. Now the street was silent, and the silence was not a good one. The air was starting to feel chill, and Edwin suddenly realised that the shadows had been steadily lengthening during the past hour and that the sun was about to set. He had been so caught up in pretending to be a Great Wizard that he hadn't noticed how long he had actually been gone, and now he felt a growing sense of unease. Somebody was bound to have missed him by now, and if they found out about him sneaking out of the mansion he would be in big trouble. Though perhaps not in as big a trouble as he would be if his parents discovered the missing curtain. Suddenly it didn't look much like a wizard's robe at all, just like a dirty red rag that proved him guilty of theft and vandalism.
"I'd better hurry", Edwin said to himself and started to turn back. Then he stopped. To his horror he discovered that he had no idea of where he was, much less how to get back. He was lost, lost in the Outer City where gangs of thieves and murderers roamed the night and the only law was that of the street. By now it was really dark, and he also started to notice just how tired and hungry he actually was. The mighty 'Red Wizard' bit his lower lip and tried to choke back the tears that threatened to overcome him.
"Well, well, what have we here?" As if on cue three fairly large men stepped out of an intersecting alley. They were filthy with dirt and grime, their clothes were tattered rags and their hair greasy and unkempt. One of them had a face covered with disgusting bloated boils, and he was the one who had spoken. The other two ruffians stood a step behind them, so he was obviously their leader. All of them were wearing dangerous looking short swords.
"I am Edwin Odesseiron", Edwin said and tried to imitate his tutor's most imperious tone of voice. "You may call me 'Sir'."
The bandit struck his own forehead with his palm and turned to his fellows in mock contrition. "It talks!", he exclaimed. "I guess it's a powerful Wizard then, not a dressed up monkey like we first thought."
"Me, I figure it's just a kid", a second bandit said with an evil grin. "A rich kid by the looks of it."
"Could be", the spotty one said. Then he turned to Edwin. "Now listen up, 'Sir'", he said. "This is how it's going to be. Tell us where you live, and then we'll let your folks purchase you back if they want to cough up the money. Or else we'll just take you straight to the slave market and sell you there instead. There's a good market for little kids."
"You can't do that!", Edwin gasped. "I'll tell on you!"
"No, in fact you won't, 'Sir'. Not if we cut out your cheeky little tongue first, see." The bandit grinned nastily and brandished his sword.
Edwin stared at him in shock and mortal terror. Pampered as he had been ever since he first saw the light of day no one had ever treated him this way. It came to him that the adventuring game had become dangerously real and that the peril he was in was all but illusionary.
I'm going to die, his mind screamed in soundless dread. Nobody knows where I am. They're going to kill me! Why, why did I ever sneak outside on my own? If they don't kill me, teacher Dekaras will.
And then the sudden thought of his tutor sparked a desperate idea in the boy's frenzied mind. The cantrips they had been going over this morning. One of them he had been forced to repeat so many times that he was actually able to remember the words, and the accompanying gestures were very simple. Of course he wasn't supposed to actually do magic on his own until he got older, but under the circumstances he thought he would be excused.
"Luminis elevatorium!", Edwin screamed at the top of his voice and made a gesture as if tossing something at the bandit leader's face. A flash of brilliant white light emerged from his palm, making his entire skin tingle, and he saw the bandit scream and clutch his eyes. The other two anxiously approached their leader and Edwin took the opportunity to dash away into the alley. Halfway down the alley he paused and quickly turned around. The bandit was still down.
"Hah!", Edwin shouted triumphantly. "Fear me!" Then he started to run, immediately tripped on his makeshift robe and fell flat on his belly. Gasping and wheezing he frantically tried to get to his feet, but he could hardly breathe, much less stand. Behind him he could hear the sound of running footsteps and knew that the bandits had recovered from his ploy. He closed his eyes in defeat and waited for the first sword to run him through.
"So sorry to interrupt you, gentlemen", a blessedly familiar sarcastic voice spoke right behind the trembling boy. "But I do believe that boy should have been in bed long ago, and we wouldn't want his mother to get upset, now would we?" Dekaras was standing over Edwin's prone body, leaning on his black cane as calmly as if he had been on a walk in the park, and he looked at the three ruffians as if they were three particularly blatant syntax errors. "I am, of course, assuming you to be familiar with the term 'mother'", he said. "Possibly you simply oozed into being from under some slimy rock in the sewers. If not, I am pleased that you have given me this opportunity to provide my pupil with a practical demonstration of why human beings never should mate with their own siblings."
It took the bandits a moment to work their way through this contemptuous comment on their ancestry, and when they finally did they screamed with rage and rushed the thin, black-cloaked man, short swords waving like windmills. Dekaras simply stood there motionless until his opponents were almost upon him. Then he moved, very, very quickly. A sweep of the cane knocked the legs out from under the closest bandit and made him drop heavily to the ground like a sack of flour. An expertly landed blow hit the second one over the neck with a sick, crunching sound and a swift kick connected with the chin of the third one to knock him flat on his back. And then Dekaras was standing there again as if he had never moved at all. Two of the bandits were moaning quietly. The one who had recieved the blow to the neck neither moved nor made a single sound. His head was bent at a highly unnatural angle.
Dekaras gave them all a cursory inspection, then pressed an almost invisible button on his cane to allow a foot-long blade to silently slide out. It was so thin it could hardly be seen from the side and it looked extremely sharp.
"Shut your eyes, boy", Dekaras ordered. "You are not ready for this particular lesson just yet." Edwin hastily obeyed. He heard the teacher's quiet footsteps move towards the fallen bandits. Then there were a pair of soft thuds, and the moaning stopped. A moment later he felt his tutor's hands on his shoulders and was pulled to his feet. "Talk to me, boy", Dekaras said. Though the shadows more or less masked his features there was a distinct edge to his voice. "Are you hurt?"
Edwin examined himself. There were no obvious holes in his body and all the important bits and parts seemed to still be intact. He shook his head.
"Good. That is good to hear. Then you should be perfectly able to deal with this!" Before Edwin knew it those claw-like fingers were digging painfully into his shoulders and he was being shaken like a dog shakes a dead rat.
"Have you any idea", Dekaras growled, "just how many hours I have been combing the slums for your own miserable little self? Five! Five entire hours spent searching for a thoughtless brat! I've been forced to dispose of so many muggers, cut-throats and general lowlife that I've left a trail of bodies from here to Execution Square. I'm exhausted, I'm starving, and I've been worried sick." He paused to clear his throat, sounding slightly embarrassed. "Your parents", he said. "I meant to say that your parents have been worried sick, of course. Yes. Of course they have. And well they should. Why, if I hadn't been there to spot that light you would likely be dead by now." He fully intended to carry on with his scolding when he suddenly noticed something. The boy seemed very quiet, nothing like his ordinary self. And then he saw that Edwin was crying, shaking with soundless sobs while tears streamed down his dirty face.
"I just wanted to be a Great Wizard, like you said", Edwin sobbed. "I thought red robes would help make people like me. You said they would!"
Dekaras sighed, then picked the crying child up with surprisingly gentle arms and started walking back towards the Inner City, his black cloak flaring out behind him like wings. "Not necessarily like", he explained. "Respect or fear, certainly, but not until you get old enough to wear some real red robes. Red is only permitted on fully qualified wizards here in Thay, you should know that by now."
Edwin sniffled into his teacher's shoulder as he digested this. He had begun to relax a bit from his ordeal, being carried like this. The tutor really was very strong for a man that tall and thin and his gait was smooth. "Teacher Dekaras?", Edwin asked.
"You're not a Wizard, are you?"
"Of course not."
"But everybody is always very polite to you. I bet nobody forces you to wear clothes you don't want to."
"And that, boy, is today's second lesson. While formal uniforms can be excellent to help establish your professional reputation, it's very dangerous to pretend to be something you cannot live up to, as you have already noticed. On the other hand, some people already have enough of a quiet reputation in our own circles that we have no need for outward fame. When you are the best at what you do, then you will always be appreciated for your skills and not your clothes. And I am one of the best at what I do."
"Teaching?", Edwin asked.
Teaching, bodyguarding, being the Odesseirons' and Pyarados' most feared assassin, Dekaras thought. "Yes, teaching", was what he said in a firm, no-nonsense voice. "And as your teacher, please allow me to be the first to remind you that you still owe me a detention along with the punishment your parents will want you to receive for this night's little escapade. In fact, I believe I have just thought of something eminently suitable to satisfy them."
"Oh", Edwin said, hanging his head. "I suppose they noticed the curtain too?"
"They certainly did, and your Mother was very unhappy with you. So I believe that she will be amenable when I suggest to her that perhaps you are not quite mature enough for formal parties just yet, and that you should not be allowed to join the upcoming event next week but be given some extra lessons instead."
Edwin hardly dared believe his ears. "No yellow robe?", he asked hesitantly.
"No robe at all, yellow or any other colour. The scare you just had should be enough of a punishment for your mischief that you do not repeat it any time soon. I think we need not subject you to that additional misery." The teacher smiled a thin smile. "Besides", he said, "I never have been partial to bright colours and that one was particularly vomit-inducing. For the sake of my mental health I do not intend for it to be worn any time soon."
"Oh, thank you, thank you so much!", Edwin cried out and briefly hugged his tutor, then blushed with embarrassment.
"Hmmph", Dekaras said. "Do not thank me quite yet, boy. There is still that detention, remember?"
"Quite so. You will spend the coming week with a map of the city, learning every street and alley by heart, and when you do I fully intend to test your knowledge. You will probably beg and whine and curse my name, but there will be no quarter given and no free time until you have learnt your lesson. Once I am through with you then you will be able to find your way back home from any location in Pyarados blindfolded. I have no intention of letting you get yourself lost again." The teacher smiled again. "Or I may just decide to keep you on a leash and collar instead", he said. "Whatever you prefer. And now we really should hurry home. It is already long past the designated bedtime for Red Wizards."
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Last modified on February 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Laufey. All rights reserved.