Since Then…

The following took place between the last battle and the next morning…

Morpheus was sitting alone in the corner of the taproom with an odd expression on his face when Omarlyn approached.

“Copper for your thoughts, my friend.”

The monk stirred. “I was reflecting upon our current ‘working situation,’ Omarlyn. We have never found ourselves in a group like this before, have we?”

The dark thief sat next to the Shadar-Kai, joining him in his scanning of the room. Bartholomew had already emptied one barrel and was trying to tap another. Gerrick was alongside him, futilely attempting to slow the cleric’s drinking down. Austerean was making sarcastic comments to the dwarf, knowing full well there was no stopping Bartholomew.

Omarlyn grinned. “No, I can honestly say we have not.”

“There is something about them,” Morpheus continued, more animatedly now. “We have been in professional companies before…”

“Ha! I hope you are not saying these men make a professional company!”

“No, certainly not. And in the past, you and I have found a lack of professionalism annoying in such a group, but with these men…”

“I think I know what you mean. The genuine camaraderie and friendship they share makes them more efficient on the battlefield then many of the professional companies we have been a part of,” finished Omarlyn.

“Exactly. For instance, that one,” said Morpheus, pointing to the cleric. “I do not think there is a single man or group I could not eventually overcome if that man is at my back.”

“We have never been in a company with such a dedicated healer, that is to be certain,” responded Omarlyn. “As for the dwarf, he heedlessly engages the enemy so that you and I can do what we do best. Assassinations have never been easier; he keeps them so busy I have stabbed them to death three times before they know what has happened.”

“If only he weren’t so loud.”

“Yes, if only he weren’t so loud.”

“Well, the elf is as silent as you or me, to be certain. That kind we have worked with before, many times.”

“This is true. Yet, there is a difference there as well. These men are…good.”

A thin-lipped smile spread on the thief’s face. “Yes…we certainly have not had much experience with that before.”

Morpheus nodded sagely, missing the sarcasm. “It is the nature of our work, I suppose. I confess, it is not altogether unpleasant. I find myself hoping new orders do not come.”

“Careful, Morpheus; it almost sounds like you think these men might lead you on a road to redemption,” teased Omarlyn.

It was Morpheus‘ turn to tightly smile. “Perhaps…and why not? I feel I have done more good with them then in any of the previous missions we have been sent on.”

“Why, Morpheus…if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you were speaking with genuine affection. Does this include the shade?”

The glass Morpheus had been holding suddenly shattered in his hand. The keen ears of the elf picked up the sound and Austerean looked over; when he saw there was no danger and no money involved, he returned to teasing the dwarf, who was more exasperated than ever.

Omarlyn was not impressed. “I can’t believe you, of all people, are prejudiced in this way. You yourself are an outcast from Gloomwrought; you hardly need to maintain the bigotry your people have for shades…”

“It is not bigotry, I assure you,” Morpheus interrupted. “It is…personal.”

Omarlyn sighed. “You know, if you plan on redemption and truly feel adventuring with these men is the way to do it, keeping secrets is hardly helpful to the process.”

Morpheus glared at Omarlyn.

“And THAT is the look you give me when I say something you already know to be true,” continued Omarlyn, still unimpressed.

Morpheus considered his words and seemed to internally concede the point. “Very well, you are right, on all counts. Remember, though, that I am not the only one with a secret here, old friend.”

The thief smiled. “True enough, as you say. But Morpheus, ‘old friend,’ you know my secret. I don’t know yours. None of us do. All we know is you want to kill the shade…”

“NO! I cannot! He must…” Morpheus caught himself, but it was too late. All eyes were on their corner now, including Legion‘s. The shade and shadar-kai shared an uneasy glance before Morpheus broke away.

The monk leaned down and whispered “Gather them together here after we know the Shade has retired for the evening. I do not want him here when I address you.”

It was late at night when the members of Collateral Damage rejoined in the taproom. As Morpheus had requested, Legion was not amongst them.

“Thank you for coming, companions. I feel I must come clean and let you know exactly the nature of the man who has recently joined our ranks.”

Gerrick grunted, shoved the drunken priest off his shoulder and took on a disapproving tone. “I confess Morpheus, when I found out where yer from, I hadda bite back some prejudices I mighta had. Had a lotta practice at it, mind ye, from working with two half-orcs before, TWO of ’em, if ye can imagine. And you proved yerself loyal in a fight; you can tell a lot about a man by fighting alongside him. But this one…”

Morpheus nodded. “You are wise to be suspicious of him, Gerrick. My own people are born the true scions of the Shadowfell, but all who are shades have become so through dark rituals, and Legion is no exception.”

“So you knew him before he became a shade?” queried Austerean.

“No. Legion is old…how old I am not exactly certain. But perhaps even older than you.”

“Did you know him before your exile?” asked Omarlyn.

“Yes…he is, in fact, the cause of it.”

“Exshile?! Why wereyouexshiled?” mumbled Bart.

Morpheus sat down, and his eyes took on a faraway look. Omarlyn had been at death’s door many a time with Morpheus and he had never seen his friend like this before. “For my people, there is no greater gift from The Final Judge than that of ‘The Sight.’ It is only the women who receive it, and so our witches are held in the highest esteem. My great aunt was one of the most powerful witches we Shadar-Kai have ever known. Upon her death, she now serves in the court of The Final Judge.”

Gerrick looked questioningly at Bartholomew. “Kelemvor,” the priest answered.

“Since our witches do not bear progeny, their gifts are typically passed on to the eldest niece; in this case my mother. Or, rather, she expected it to be so. After waiting for her to achieve the age of majority, she was tested for the sight…it was inconclusive. For years, she thought she would eventually be gifted…but that time never came. When she realized as an adult she would never manifest the Sight, she married my father and bore his children. She never fully recovered, however, remaining melancholy all her days until eventually she killed herself.”

The four men in the room exchanged concerned glances with each other, but Morpheus seemed not to notice.

“As for the shade, ‘Legion‘ is not his real name…it is the name given to him by his master, whose identity I know not. We encountered each other when he came to our home, hoping to obtain an audience with my great aunt. We did not appreciate his presence in our home, as we Shadar-Kai bear much righteous anger towards shades. Nevertheless, my father was intrigued enough to ask why he should want such a thing. He claimed that his divinations led him to us, that a witch of our family would know the ritual necessary to reverse the magic done to become a shade.”

“You think he means to return to being human?” Austerean asked.

“I cannot know that his origin is human, to be honest,” responded the monk. “But it seems likely.”

“Wha’ happenedthen?” slurred Bart.

Morpheus‘ eyes took on a hard look. “My father could arrange no such meeting; my great aunt was beyond us now. But Legion would not be denied. He believed my father was merely being difficult and needed persuasion. He framed my father, making it look like he was in collaboration with a particularly vicious group of shades known as They Who Sit Above in Shadow. He threatened to reveal to all of Gloomwrought these false ties unless my father got him an audience with my great aunt…”

“He tried. When he appeared before the Final Judge, I am sure he was not found wanting for his effort. But the task was simply beyond him. When he eventually returned, no further ahead then he was, the shade went berserk. He seemed equal parts rage, fear and desperation; his wrath was vicious. He cruelly made my father’s ties with Those Who Sit Above in Shadow public knowledge to all of Glomwrought then captured my younger sister’s soul in an artefact not unlike the one we have seen him using. He swore to never let her die and pass on to her destiny unless we get him the audience he needs. Then he vanished.”

Omarlyn was shocked. Though he knew Morpheus was an exile from Gloomwrought, the capital city within the Shadowfell, he never knew why.

“My father became a pariah,” the monk continued. “No one would speak with us, trade with us or have any contact. The strain of having lost his wife, his daughter and all know the framing…it was too much for him. I came home from the monastery one day to find my father hanging from the rafters. With no one to turn to, and all thinking I am in league with shades, I left the Shadowfell. I wandered for a while until I met a kindred spirit. We joined the same organization and have been on many adventures since,” he finished, with a nod to Omarlyn.

“So, ye were taken something by surprise to see him standing there that day as our ‘necrotic consultant.'” offered Gerrick.

“Yes…that night I snuck into his room, prepared to kill him for all the agony he has brought upon me and mine. But he is a cunning creature, I will give him that. And, I think, a desperate one. Each person’s ritual to become infused with shadow is different, so it is difficult to catalogue beyond mere generalizations. But I suspect there is something to Legion‘s he was not aware of…I believe whatever it is, it is the cause for him wanting to break free from his former master’s influence.”

“How do you know this?” asked Austerean, somewhat concerned about how casually Morpheus outlined his plan to assassinate someone they needed the very next day.

“He was expecting me. He remains as desperate as ever to meet the witch of our clan, and I believe it is for good reason, though naturally he would not share the details. He says his former master has the artefact holding my sister’s soul. He swears he will help retrieve it if I can arrange for him to meet my great aunt, that he might reverse his ritual…”

With restrained emotion, Morpheus continued. “You cannot understand…for my people, the only thing that matters is the proper passing on of the soul after mortal death. For my sister to be forever denied that…is an abomination. Legion knows this. He knows I must therefore do anything and everything to make his desire reality…”

“My companions…I cannot allow this man to die. If he dies, my sister is forever lost in the most literal meaning possible. Either I somehow penetrate the Final Judge’s Citadel to achieve consultation with my great aunt, or retrieve the location of my sister’s soul. This creature is the key to my sister’s freedom. I therefore must ask a favour of you all: Please allow him to continue to adventure with us until such a time as I know enough to free my sister.” Looking directly at Bartholomew, Morpheus continued “Please keep him alive long enough for this to happen.”

Bartholomew burped in agreement. Gerrick slapped him in the back of the head.

“There is one more thing,” Morpheus whispered, bowing his head. “Should I fall in battle…”

When he raised himself up again, all emotion was gone, the candid and open Shadar-Kai gone, leaving only the Morpheus Omarlyn had known for years. His voice was flat and deadly.

“…kill him immediately, that I may pursue and hound him throughout the afterlife.”

Austerean broke the shocked silence with standard irreverence. “As you wish!”

Author: Neil