Abe’s story was an attempt for me to wax lyrical about plots that were playing out on the Neverwinter Nights Persistent Server. Abe was an NPC. It gave me a chance to present the narrative from a different point of view, but to again include my characters where necessary. Unen was a particular wayward player character, who was the catalyst for this trilogy.
Gertrud was a rotund and cheerful lady, going about her business in Port Cruces always with a whistle upon her lips. She was content with her life, after a harsh upbringing as a child in a household with 14 others, she was often neglected, often left to her own devices to find entertainment and amusement in simple things. Her outlook on life was one of appreciation. Everything that happened to her was usually moulded into a positive experience one way or another. She was wed to a strong man named Abe, he was a stocky well built fellow, who used to be able to carve up an oak tree with a small hand axe, and the fire would be blazing for a month. Time had been kind to Gertrud, since her thirtieth season she really hadn’t aged at all outwardly, except for the foxglove daub she used to cover her grey hair, it gave it a purple sheen that she liked. A graceful colour. A stately shade so that she could jolly along in life and expect a smiling respect from the people she met.
One morning whilst out selling her basket woven items to anyone who would consider them, she was sidetracked into a long conversation about removing sap stains from thick cotton garments with her two friends, Edin and Marig. During this domestic discussion, Gert was astonished when she felt a cool breeze pass by behind her. It was almost like one of old farmer Deans Cows had sneezed but silently, behind her. She shivered out loud and although the other ladies were aware of it, they both shrugged at the odd gesture Gert had just involuntarily performed. The cloth cleaning cackling continued. Gert had never been much of a spiritual girl, she’d always seen nature as nature with no hidden spiritual basis behind it. “Cows were Cows” she always used to say. But if she ever did toy with the idea that there were forces beyond her control, she would chat the Cows saying to put paid to any fears that might arise. Magic was for Mages, washing and cooking her husbands tea was for old Gerty. This breath of dark wind that shook her so, had sown a seed of doubt in her mind. Uneasy, she tried to listen hard to the ongoing conversation, but the seed was growing, fast and strong. She could feel the small shoot of fear climbing in her body. A flower of panic. That was about to bloom, fear that spread its petals over her face and made her scream into the plants bud of hate. Gert’s panic allowed her to almost slow time down, as if every lip movement of Edin’s was a lifetimes drawl. No sooner had she spotted the flash of light from Marig’s expensive gold tooth (something of a luxury for Commoners in these parts) than she felt something clasp her hair, her beautiful purple locks, something tugged hard on her hair. She wheeled around to see what was caught in her hair, and she saw nothing. But her hair was being tugged hard now, so much so that it knocked her off balance, falling to the floor, trying to arch her back like a good turned Lunas bow, she fell to the floor all crooked.
Looking up, with her chin resting on the hard stone paving, she saw the hidden darkness, she saw it using the laws of nature to lay open the hatred that lurked around these parts. The hatred that has her held tightly by a clump of her hair. The water in the gully, splashed about at regular intervals, making foot size impressions, with a crown of a splash, moving around her, moving around them all. She could just see Edin’s lifeless eyes blink their last blink as the blood trickled out of her mouth and bled into the water, pink as carnations. She caught sight of her Abe, running so fast towards her as if he would collapse any second, his eyes were bulging wide, like the lids were peeled back so far he’d lost them. His tender mustachioed mouth was gaping open and a loud bellow was filling the atmosphere around him. He’d seen something terrible. He’d witnessed something so horrible that his eyes would remain stretched open for all eternity. Gerty felt a fumble in the arch of her back, like someone was pressing down hard, and she was pulled tighter as the necklace was ripped from her neck. A warm shaft of fluid spilled over her back and down the sides, she felt an odd queasiness as a dagger was plunged into her back, it clanged on the stone floor as it exited her stomach. She knew she’d seen the hidden danger that was lurking in the background of everyday life, she knew for that she must pay with her life. She knew she loved Abe more than anything this world could offer her, and sleepy, she now knew the darkness. She prayed for some peace and some light….
Abe had seen his wife murdered in front of him. Her attacker was shrouded in magic that gave him no substance. Abe had seen this nebulous thief drag his wife to the ground, the shadows had tugged at her hair, and then plunged something into her, something sharp, something fatal. He was beyond control, as he approached her limp body he tore a limb from a local bench, it would make a basic cudgel, normally he would never have had the strength to dismember a town seat, but he was riding a wave of desperation, the surf of adrenalin, at this point in time he could do anything his body mustered. Except save his wife. Like a dervish possessed he twirled around her body, as if performing a rite of passage with a piece of gnarled and splintered wood. He was making a vain attempt at striking the veiled terror that had run his wife through. His tears were distributed evenly in a circle, almost anointing the ground where she lay. Her deathbed was stone, hard, cold and unforgiving. He was the priest administering the last rites. He was the husband, broken inside, longing for her touch again, waiting for her smile to make everything seem all right. As his metabolism slowed and his energy seeped into the cracks in the paving slabs, he slowly withered, like a beanstalk in the sun, with a heavy pod. His final slump was one of extreme gentleness, as he enveloped her body with his. Drive the sword again, he pleaded with Amon. Take me with her, I want to go with her. His age crept up on him whilst he was unaware. He wanted to die so badly, his heart was already a shattered vase, his soul ached to be with his wife again.
After what seemed like an eternity of sorrow, someone must’ve pulled Abe off her, and cleared up and sorted him out, because he awoke from his grief ridden stupor in his house, with other town folk milling about organising things, clearing things up and generally nattering away with each other in some strange language Abe didn’t understand. The language appeared to be casual speak, not fear encrusted hatred of all things living, especially all things transparent. He waited for it to all go quiet and he vowed he would find the one who did this to him. As old as he was, he would live to see his wife’s assailant be brought to justice. Even if it meant absorbing arcane magic himself to remain on this world.
Abe could hardly get on with life again, he just existed. His thoughts constantly on that day, and the proceedings. When news reached him of a strange man in custody of one of the local clerics over at Lunas, he was empowered to get dressed and go out and see this mans face, see if he could recognise the shape of his features and match those against the mouldings of air on that fateful day. He travelled like a balloon on the hottest air. Swift and with an agenda. He approached Lunas with the posture of a hungry animal.
With tears of hate welling up inside him, he approached a group of citizens encircling a wiry elf in dark clothing. He recognised Sister Ann Bright, the cleric, as she poured scorn and accusation down on this dark traveller, he recognised Fade Moonbow, an elven ranger girl who seemed to always be at Sister Ann’s side and he recognised Aahz an oddly built man with raw power in his gate. The robe Aahz wore seemed strangely big and effeminate for his completely manly build. But still it added an air of righteousness to him. As he studied the darkened elf he could see the flare of hate encircle his head like a halo of fire. He could almost taste the blood of his wife melting over his tongue. The size of the offender seemed appropriate, the hooded face, with protruding features almost made him retch up bile as he fit the pointed features to the space in his memory where the transparent killer had been. When he found out that this man had his wife’s necklace on his possession, Abe was fuelled from within, as a spark of bloodlust lit his bonfire of hatred. This man, whose tongue danced around excuses and whose lies exuded from him like a green suffocating mist, this man, killed his wife, for that he was certain.
Before anyone had noticed Abe was lunging forward with the power of a forest bear, his fingers would crush this demons windpipe before he would utter another lie. Before he would silently kill again for trinkets and baubles. The blood in his veins on his forehead, pounded out a war dance for Abe to follow, like a child after the smell of Woodland taffy. He would engorge himself in this mans blood, like that child in the sugary sickly sweetness. A strike to the mans head was all he could muster before Fade and Aahz stepped in and restrained them both. The dark clad elf shrugged it off, like he’d seen much worse. Abe’s age rapidly threw a shroud of tiredness around him, he could hardly breathe, he was so bitter the air could not feed his hatred with enough oxygen to carry on. With his body empty like that of a flannel wrung dry, he bowed his head, and he cried for all the times with his wife, he will never have again. It was time to wait for the judge to arrive. This elf would be tried in a court of law.
The trial of Unen
Fade was summoned to a place she had seen before, yet knew not where it existed. The courtroom smelled of oaken floorboards and antiseptic magic. Gathered before her was a motley crue of adventurers and townsfolk. There was rushed jury assembled across the floor, consisting of Grant Welter, Seril Tylnessa, Vurag and Bugdush Kibird. Alongside Fade was Aahz and Abe, an old commoner who seemed to have eyes that dealt pain with their looks. Sweetblade escorted everyone in, and she held the defendant, an elven man of unknown origin called Unen Zyrustafer. The judge was a Cruces Guard of high ranking, who would sometimes step in as relief judge. The trial began with Abe’s lament, how he saw this man attack his wife, kill and rob her, and then attack several other commoners. He was quite clearly in a very distressed state, tears would roll down his face and then dry off to the intense heat of his anger as it burnt his skin the colour of fresh blood. Fade felt for this man deeply, he was an old man with few years left, yet those last years would be filled with loss and torment and grief. A sad end to a short human life. The judge asked pertinent questions and interjected when the cloaked elf tried to explain himself out of turn.
Abe recanted how he’d been clearing his old adventuring equipment out of his house and had emptied a vial of old potion into his mouth to see what it tasted like, to see if he could recall his adventurers spirit. This vial held an arcane fluid that could alter the eyesight of its taker and make invisible slightly less so. Little did he know it would be so crucial to his identification of his wife’s murderer. He was attracted at first by the disassociated splashes happening around the town’s water gullies. A hint of intruder setting the hackles on his neck alive with motion and dread. He saw Unen cajole the Belen guards who descended upon the town, leading them forward from his dissipated state. He’d seen him over his wife, stripping her amulet from her half cocked neck. If he was twenty years younger he would have simply ripped the mans throat out and would have asked for immediate execution for himself. Fade noticed his tired eyes, tired of seeing over and over again the death of his most treasured companion. Briefly his eyes shut, as if to block out the pain and embrace the void. Fade patted him on his back in a feeble attempt to comfort him and also to let him know he’d done the right thing, this was a task for justice and she knew Amon would not let evil prevail here.
Next to speak was Unen himself, a sly wily fox of an elf, shrouded in black hood and bound leather body. At night, you could almost believe he would be invisible without the need for any magical assistance. Unen addressed the court as he would another vagabond on the highway, with malice and covert cunning. He explained that he was in the forest area because he’d been chased by some adventurers from Castle Hyde. They’d attempted to detect evil within him using a magical spell and he feared for his life. Utilising his powers of slight of hand and illusion he was able to slip into the shadows of the forest like a snake slithering through the toes of its prey. Whilst ducking in the shadows, he’d heard a commotion around the entrance of Port Cruces, there seemed to be Belen guards heading that way, with blood on their minds. He followed as he was naturally curious. Inside the town he saw the slaughter of the commoners, and he picked his way through the bloodied streets, stumbling upon a lady strewn out on the pavement. As he tumbled slightly he saw a flash of gold in the pink bloodied water below. He picked it up. It was a fine amulet if he ever saw one. He was admiring the beauty of such a piece, when he turned and saw a man crazed running towards him with was seemed to be a wooden club of some sort. The man was howling like a moonstruck wolf. Immediately Unen fled for the comfort and anonymity of the forest. In the panic, another man attacked Unen, unexpectedly. This man turned out to be Kristof. Yet more events unfolded and Vurag took Kristofs attack to be the cause of this slaughter, so Vurag joined in the melee. Confusion ensued. Unen scrabbled out as best he could. He still had the amulet in his possession. It was simply a mistake. He was there at the wrong time, with the wrong intentions and now he had to prove his innocence. Fade struggled with the dark elf’s story, something about his ways seemed to leak deceit through the pores of his very pale skin. Like this was familiar territory for him, like he was used to such interrogation.
Fade had been given Sister Ann Brights notebook of events, and was there as proxy to tell the facts that her holiness had written down. Sister Ann’s character could not be brought into question, Amon smiled upon her and she would always honour the truth. Fade mentioned that Unen had shouted comments across the city streets after the attack was over. He’d said that the “slaughter at the Port was a success”, he’d taunted Vurag with “look at your peasants now Vurag” and finally he’d closed the taunt with “that was for you”. Unen tried to deny these comments, and then wormed them around his finger like they were string. He said he was just commenting on how it seemed the slaughter at the port had been successful, and that he was in outrage that Vurag’s peasants had been murdered so viciously. There was a gleam in his eye as he held the jurors gaze and played with them like a magician does a coloured knotted scarf.
Unen was led out of the court, after much consternation at one point Unen being reprimanded by the Judge for disrespect. The juror’s had to make up their mind. They’d been given all there was.
Fade knew he was guilty. Her elven senses hadn’t let her down in so many years, but the Human court would not allow such intuition to become the basis for a court case. The comments seemed too spiteful, he’d been seen by the bodies picking them clean like a vulture pecking the last strips of flesh from the ribcage. He used the powers of darkness to shift through the city unnoticed and he reaped the golden medallions he knew he could sell as ill gotten gain. Fade was sure he was guilty. The other jurors bashed the decision around the room like a drunken fist fight. Declaring the verdict seem to prompt the other jurors to place their hearts where the facts led them. Unen was found guilty of the charge of murder by 6 of the people attending, to 1 against. The one protestor, Seril, proceeded vehemently to called the court a sham, and lit up a torch in defiance of the majority decision. Short of contempt of court, the Judge calmed the situation and arranged the punishment. It was deemed that 7000 gold pieces be paid by Unen to the families of those who have lost their loved ones. It was also deemed that he lose the ability to progress in the monastery where he gained his monk training for at least one season. Reducing his skills by a seasons progress in one foul swoop.
Unen was returned to the courthouse and upon hearing the verdict of guilty and his punishment, he proclaimed that there was only one option left to him. “Japanese suicide”. Fade couldn’t not source what the word “Japanese” meant, but it seemed to describe a culture of some sort, perhaps a Belenese sub culture? She knew exactly what suicide meant, and she did not want his blood on these sacred floors, in front of Sweetblade and the judge, so she braced herself to restrain Unen if she could. It looked like Unen was fumbling for what seemed to be a potion of some sort from his hidden waist pouch, but then he lunged forward and struck the Judge across the chest with a martial blow. The judge reeled backwards in shock, having little time to raise his sword. For that moment, if Unen had been quicker of mind, he could have laid waste to at least two or three of the people in that court before anyone would react to stop him. Fade reached behind her, and unsheathed both vile rapiers, if Unen was going to attack, she would be ready to protect Sweetblade at least. Vurag spun his Great Axe into swinging position, and Seril unguarded his sword. In a few short blows the darkened man was slumped in a pool of defiant blood. Thick, yet evasive, it trickled through the cracks in the flooring. Still he was trying to escape. His corpse was removed swiftly, and he was resurrected somewhere far away from the town of Port Cruces. His punishment served.
Abe collapsed in a heap, and sobbed. No matter what has befallen that mysterious sneak, he could never bring back his Gerty. His life was over. A time of waiting to die was upon him. As the jurors left the chamber, Fade picked up a small piece of rag from the floor, it was a cutting from Unens dark tunic. Through the fibres in her fingers she could feel the torment of that elf. He had been raised as a monk, with Amon in his heart. Yet there was a dark side to his nature, a side that longed to hide away, translucent as dragonfly wings. He was in a constant battle between monk and stealthy thief. Perhaps an assassin in the making? She crumpled the cloth and tossed it into the fire. The light of the flame exorcising the cloth from its evil past. She hoped this trial would do the same for the one they call Unen Zyrustafer.