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.
Spirits Of Winter Solstice part 1
Five nights before Winter Solstice…
His toes were cold. Young Edwin Odesseiron sighed sleepily and tried to burrow deeper under the covers. Snuggling up closer to his stuffed bear, a huge black animal with glowing red garnets for eyes, pearly white fangs and the somewhat incongruous name 'Mr Bobo', he attempted to recapture the nice dream he had been having. There had been flying horses and bushes growing candy-canes, he could remember that much. Alas, the dream eluded him as the sound coming from outside the window penetrated his sleepy thoughts. Actually it wasn't so much a sound as an absence of sound. The world seemed strangely silent, muffled and muted.
Edwin yawned and got out of bed, shivering a little in his thin nightshirt as he did so. His room was strangely cold and the floor was freezing. Rubbing his eyes he padded over to the window and looked outside. The sight that met his surprised eyes was enough to instantly shock him wide awake.
The world was white. There was no other word for it. The gardens outside that had been the customary muted brown of winter only last night were now covered in soft, white - stuff. Great heaps of it covered everything, making bushes and hedges look like looming clouds. The sky was a steely gray color, and more of the white stuff was falling from above, making Edwin almost dizzy as he looked up to see thousands of whirling, star-like little bits of it come spinning down. Edwin's mouth gaped open with horror and incomprehension. Then he screamed like a banshee and ran out the door to get some help.
As Edwin burst into the Great Parlor, red-cheeked and panting, he was relieved to see that he need look no further for protection. His mother was sitting on one of the great couches, examining some spell scrolls, now and then marking something down on a sheet of parchment. Elvira Odesseiron was an attractive, if slightly intimidating woman, with a striking face and a voluptuous figure, and the fact that she was frowning irritably at her notes did nothing to lessen the effect. Her red robes looked a bit thicker than usual though, and the neckline was higher than was her custom.
"I can't believe this", she muttered to herself. "As if I weren't busy enough already…" Then she looked up to see her terrified son. "Edwin?", she asked. "What on earth is the matter, dear?"
"Out-outside!", Edwin stammered. "Something…something really weird is happening! White heaps of…of white gooey, yucky stuff!"
"Or, as less imaginative minds tend to call it, snow." This second voice smoothly floated out of the shadows on the other side of the room, causing Edwin's head to instantly whip around. As usual he hadn't spotted his teacher until it was already too late to make a favorable impression. Vadrak Dekaras, the Odesseiron House assassin and tutor gave his student a cursory glance before stalking over to the window. Black eyes glared balefully at the whirling snowflakes.
"Snow", the assassin said in a voice of utter loathing. "I hate snow. And while I certainly didn't relocate to Thay because of the clement weather, I always thought of it as a fringe benefit."
"Well, at least you're used to it", Elvira said without looking up, twirling the end of her black braid between her fingers.
"Yes, Mistress", Dekaras said. "It is also possible to get used to a tapeworm. That doesn't mean you need grow especially fond of it."
"But what is it?", Edwin complained.
"Frozen water", Dekaras explained, pacing back and forth and still glaring out the window. "When the air grows cold enough the rain turns into snow before reaching the ground. Now, Thay is usually too warm for that sort of thing, and the Red Wizards have webs of spells in place to further control the weather. That is why the crops are so good."
"Uh-huh", Edwin said, his mind starting to drift.
"However", Dekaras went on, giving him a sharp look, "the spells need to be continuously maintained. Right now the new Tharchion decided that the power used for that could be better utilized to enhance his upcoming Winter Solstice ball. Add the cold winds coming out of Rasheman at this time of year and this is the sad result."
"It's not dangerous", Elvira told her son. "You may even come to like it. In fact, I think your teacher should take you for a walk. Until you get a chance to investigate the snow a little I think you won't be able to get any serious work done."
"True enough", Dekaras said. "I suppose there is nothing like a practical demonstration to drive home the destruction inherent in cold magic. And I have a couple of things to attend to anyway. Since the snow is showing no sign of stopping any time soon we might as well get going now rather than later." He turned to his student again, raising an eyebrow. "It might be a good idea to put on some more appropriate clothes first, boy", he said. "Getting saddled with frostbite is not the best way to begin the holiday season."
An hour later Edwin had gotten over his initial apprehension at the strange and unusual weather. He was trudging through the snow quite happily, now and then stopping to examine it more closely. The only downside was the clothes his mother had forced him to wear. The warm robe was all right, as were the fur-lined boots and the mittens, but he thought the huge red woolen cap with his name embroidered on it in yellow letters was a bit too much. It kept slipping down over his eyes so that he constantly had to adjust it.
"This is really fun!", he said brightly. "I wish it would snow more often!"
"We'll see how you feel about that when it reaches your armpits", Dekaras said dryly. The assassin stalked through the snow like a hunting wolf, glaring at the drifts as if they had committed some horrible personal affront. He had abandoned his customary black cloak for a thicker winter variant, lined with fur and with a really deep cowl that he had pulled up against the biting wind. Only the tip of his long nose was visible, and maybe that was just as well. Judging by the tone of his voice he wasn't exactly pleased. "Or when it turns to slush, for that matter. Or when the slush freezes over night and makes walking down the street a death-defying feat of bravery. Oh, the joys of the season are many, I quite agree."
Edwin didn't answer immediately as he was busy trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue. "Where are we going, anyway?" he asked. He could feel rather than see his tutor's feigned look of surprise under the cowl.
"You surprise me, boy", was the answer. "I seem to recall that one of the more contrived customs of Winter Solstice is the exchanging of hideously expensive and mostly unnecessary gifts. All to the greedy delight of the merchants, I might add. In fact, your Mother handed me a certain list along with what seemed to be the greater part of the family fortune. And since I will be unable to get any proper work done in this weather I thought we might as well get it out of the way."
"My Solstice List!" Edwin squealed delightedly. "Did you read it? Did you? Did you?"
"I checked it, yes", Dekaras said. "Twice in fact. I needed to make certain I wasn't imagining things. Now let me see if I remember it correctly… Ah, yes. Item One: A Baby Dragon. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we already go through all this pet business with that monkey?"
"But dragons are neat!" Edwin explained. "And I would keep it in my room, honestly."
"Assuming the dragon left you one. Item Two: The entire collection of Famous Curses cards. Care to enlighten me on the subject?"
"Oh, those are great!", Edwin said, almost bouncing along. "You buy these cards, see, and each one has a Famous Curse on it. Only you don't know which cards are in the package you buy, so you need to buy plenty to get them all. And then you play this game where you use the curses against each other, and you can trade them with your friends and…"
"And there are how many exactly?"
Edwin thought about this for a moment. "I think it's up to seven-hundred now", he hesitated. "But they make new ones all the time so it's a bit hard to say for sure."
"I see", the assassin said. "And imagine that those manufacturers would probably consider my chosen profession an evil one. The world never ceases to amaze me. Item Three: A Baby Brother or Sister." Dekaras lowered his voice to a soft hiss, threatening enough to strike fear into the hearts of grown men. "And how exactly did you expect me to procure that particular item?" he asked.
"Um, I'm not sure", Edwin apologized. "Mother wouldn't tell me where babies do come from, but she said I might as well put it down anyway. In case you had a bright idea, she said."
"Oh, I'm having several, but none of them suitable for children. Let's move on to Item Four, shall we? A wand of Monster Summoning. Something tells me your Mother did not read that part of the list. The answer is no. Emphatically so."
"And you had better not pout or cry about it or we're going straight home. You're not getting anything that's likely to get you maimed or killed. Now, then. Item Five: A Pointy Hat." Dekaras gave Edwin a suspicious look. "That's it?" he asked. "A pointy hat?"
"You don't intend me to fetch it from the head of some murderous undead wizard on the other side of the world?"
"No. Just a pointy hat. The red kind with glittery stars on, like Magical Mr Mongoose wears."
Edwin looked a little embarrassed at this. "He's on the Crystal Ball Transmissions every week", he explained. "It's a show for children. He's really cool, he sings and dances and there's storytelling. He has a sidekick called Hammy the Hamster who's rather fat and stupid, and…"
"And he's a mongoose", Dekaras said, his voice curiously hollow. "Truly, there's no business like show business. Are these hats available in toy stores everywhere at a price affordable to anyone willing to part with their house and most of their belongings?"
"Well, yes. How did you know?"
The assassin chuckled morosely at this. "Just a hunch, boy", he said. "Just a hunch." He walked on, muttering something to himself that sounded suspiciously like 'Spirit of Winter Solstice! Bah! Humbug!' "Oh, by the way", Dekaras remarked a couple of minutes later. "Your Mother wanted you to have this." He handed Edwin a small purse that jingled merrily like a multitude of small bells. "It's an advance on your pocket-money", he said. "In case you want to get any Solstice gifts of your own. Or you could just spend it on candy, I suppose."
Edwin thought this over for a moment. Then he sighed. His Mother's hints were usually best obeyed. "What do you think she'd like?" he asked.
"Oh, anything. She won't be expecting you to get her anything really expensive. I would advice against buying her Famous Curses cards in the hopes of expanding your own collection though."
"I guess so", Edwin admitted with some reluctance. "And Father?"
There was the faintest hint of a smile from the depths of the black cowl. "It is difficult to say for certain as his interests are so…flexible. My suggestion is to keep it nice and safe. No mention of lethal weapons, dangerous pastimes or noisy musical instruments, and we should all be able to survive the holiday. Still, you never know. Last year your Mother gave him that book on last century Rashemani knitwear, remember?"
Edwin did, and shuddered at the thought. Galen Odesseiron's approach to hobbies was to dive into them head first, without first checking the bottom of the figurative lake for rocks, sharks or giant man-eating leeches. The harmless knitwear book had inspired him into knitting a full-scale replica of a Cornugon, which he had subsequently accidentally animated. It had been a full week before Edwin could go to sleep without a nightlight. "I'll get him something really, really dull", he promised.
"Teacher Dekaras?" Edwin asked, pushing his woolen cap out of his eyes once again. "What do you wish for Winter Solstice?"
"Me?" The assassin slowed his steps and turned to regard the boy with what seemed like genuine surprise. "You certainly oughtn't to spend your funds on me. Why ever do you ask?"
"Well…" Edwin hesitated. "I just thought there had to be something. Everybody wants something don't they?"
"Maybe. But what we want isn't necessarily something that can be bought. Important things tend to be like that." Dekaras shrugged. "Never mind", he said. "I appreciate the thought, but I suggest you spend the money elsewhere. I will be absent anyway, as per usual."
"But you're never around on Winter Solstice!" Edwin pouted. "Don't you want to celebrate Solstice Day at home for once?"
Dekaras stopped suddenly enough that Edwin almost ran into him. Then he turned around and bent down to look the boy straight in the eyes. "I see I need to clarify a minor point or two", he said. "I will only do so only once, so listen carefully. Winter Solstice has its fair share of grand parties, but traditionally it is a family holiday. A celebration of the small family unit so to speak."
"And need I remind you that I happen to be employed by your parents for certain business purposes, and thus am not part of said family unit? There are certain proprieties that need to be observed. We wouldn't want people to talk." The last was said with a faint introspective sneer. Edwin didn't give up that easily however.
"But", he said, "I'm sure that if I asked Mother…"
"Enough!" The word was uttered calmly enough, and without outward emotion. But as Edwin stared into his tutor's black eyes he got the impression of a cold iron door slamming shut behind them, and he instinctively obeyed.
"You will not bring this subject up again", Dekaras said after a few seconds, "to her or to anyone else, unless you fancy starting the next year with a full week of detention for willful disobedience." He straightened and turned around. "I do appreciate your intentions", he said. "But this is the way things have to be. And it isn't as if I will be pining away in the streets. I will be spending Solstice at the Guild as always, and they have an excellent cook. In fact, why don't we walk over there right now? I need to drop something off anyway and you can assure yourself that my accommodations will be adequate." The last was said with a certain amount of irony, but the coldness was gone, Edwin was relieved to notice. And he very much wanted to take a closer look inside the Assassins Guild. He nodded.
"Very well", Dekaras said. "To the Ravens Nest then."
Please email the author with all your questions and comments
Last modified on , March 2 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Laufey. All rights reserved.