The Frozen Cavern, Part 4

She’s…she’s like me.


Melissandre could barely hear what Maccath was saying, so taken was she with the wizard’s appearance. Truth to tell, the two women didn’t have much in common, physically: different skin tones, different curvature in their horns, different tail-shapes, different facial features…but that didn’t matter to Melissandre. She had never in her life seen another tiefling before, and was far too enamored with the idea to notice superficial differences.

All at once, Mel became aware of Zane‘s gaze, and bristled under it. ‘So nice to see you again.’ Yeah, sure. She had learned not too long ago how to conceal her true nature magically, the better to walk unhindered amongst the populace. She chose the image of a girl she had seen a lifetime ago when she was just an urchin on the streets of Amn; probably a minor noblewoman, getting asked to be in portraits, or used as a model for beautiful sculptures…so many nights, Mel had gone to sleep imagining what that life must be like…to be that beautiful. To have people smile and be nice to you, just to be near you…unfortunately she always woke up the next morning with the same devil-ish face staring back at her from the puddle she would use as a mirror.

That had changed. The more Melissandre wrote in her diary, the more magicks she learned. Some were outright spells (at least, insofar as she understood them), but others were like her ability to disguise herself, or see in absolute darkness. She no longer wrote in the battered old book she had had as an orphan before the fire; she had awoken one night to find a beautiful, black, leather-bound tome with red filligree right there beside her. She knew her friend must be responsible. She began using it as a journal herself. What’s more, she could sometimes scribble out ideas, and eventually they would sort of piece together like some sort of formula…so far, she’d been able to write formula for creating a shelter (she had been frustrated after another long and dangerous night on the road) and another to summon an owl. She named it ‘wizard’ but she knew it was really her friend.

Mel always wore the ‘pretty blonde face’ since she had mastered its form. She’d try another form every now and then, but it was a good default face; people reacted well to it. But when she saw Maccath, saw someone who was just like her…she dropped the illusion before she even knew what she was doing. She removed the Dragonmask, and just sat in front of Maccath, listening to her sorcerous voice, listening to her words…finally, someone who was happy to see her as she really was.

Not faking it like Zane, Melissandre thought. She immediately regretted it, then felt anger at the guilt she was feeling, so doubled down on the original thought. Why does he have to even bring it up at all?! It’s not like he ever showed any interest in me when I was walking around him with red skin and horns showing…it’s not like he even considered me as someone to make a life with, no! No, just off on adventure, with me as a ‘supporting cast’ for the adventures of Zane Sevenstrings, Greatest Bard of the Realms. I could die and as long as my role was replaced and filled, he probably couldn’t care less. Deep down, Melissandre knew that wasn’t entirely true, but she normally dealt with those feelings by writing in her diary and it would be rude to do that now, in front of Maccath.

She thought more about what in the Hells they were doing here. She hated being told what to do by, from what she’d seen so far, a bunch of older men who were to lazy or scared to get their hands dirty themselves. They reminded her just a little too much of the men with fetishes who would come by when she lived on the streets…noble bearing but dark hearts. The Cult was evil and had to be stopped; that much Mel was sure of. As much as she hated being told what to do by people with pretentious titles, she was quite certain she’d hate the tyranny of the Dragon Queen more. Still, it was more than that…every time she thought about it, it seemed especially important for Tiamat to not escape her prison…but she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. Stopping her tyranny was surely enough, wasn’t it?

Making sure not to meet Zane‘s eyes, she looked around at her new traveling companions. She missed Thororgrim and Serevinn. Just as she was getting to really know the dragonborn, he was gone. And the dwarf…she kind of liked the smell of his cigars, and the way he’d say the same catchphrases over and over again….reliable, even in the middle of some of the crazy situations they’d been in. The new cleric wasn’t very much like Thorogrim; there was something hidden about him, like he served more than just his god. The half–orc was an exercise in contradictions, something she was familiar with herself. Whatever else he was, she liked his cooking, something the street thief in her really appreciated. The gnome was…well, truth be told, kind of annoying. Like Zane, but without the charm she thought. She’d give him a chance, for sure; he probably has really good reasons for being the way he is, she considered. Still, the mouth and the attitude…hopefully that would change or she’d gain the patience to deal with it better.

That seemed unlikely. She was getting more impatient, if anything. Impatient with being told what to do all the time with no information given (Would it have killed anyone to let us know Maccath was a tiefling?!), impatient with how slow all the progress was; impatient with her friends (but not her Friend); angry over all the injustice she’d seen; angry over people just bullying others and taking what they want…she was getting angry, and despite all of the above, she wasn’t quite sure if it was just about that.

Truth of the matter was, she was angry about not knowing her place in the world, still, even after all she and her friends had accomplished. She was very angry about that indeed…

Author: Eric