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Gate - Chapter 1
blades came together so hard they threw out a blue-white spark bright
enough to burn its gentle arc into Abdel's vision. The impact sent a shudder
through the heavy blade of his broadsword, but he ignored it and pushed
back in the direction of the attack. Abdel was strong enough and tall
enough to seriously unbalance his opponent. The man stumbled backward
two steps and brought his empty left hand up to keep from falling. Abdel
saw the opening and took full advantage of it, flashing his sword across
his opponent's open midsection and slicing deeply through chain mail,
flesh, and bone.
recognized two of the four men who were trying to kill him. The men were
sellswords-hired guards and thugs-just like Abdel. They had obviously
been paid, but by whom and for what reason, Abdel couldn't fathom. The
man Abdel had killed took ten or twenty seconds to realize he was dead.
He kept looking down at the deep gash that had nearly cut him in two.
Blood was everywhere, and there was a hint of the yellow-gray of entrails.
The expression on the man's face was nearly comical: surprised, pale,
and somehow disappointed. The look of it made Abdel's heart leap, and
he couldn't tell if it was from the horror or the pleasure of the sight.
The pause was enough, though, to allow another of the bandits to step
in and nearly gut him with one of the two small, sharp axes the mercenary
spun madly in both hands.
Abdel said as he skipped back half a step to avoid the second axe. "Long
He'd worked with this one before, a year ago, guarding a warehouse in
Athkatla that was storing something a very long and increasingly bizarre
parade of thieves were intent on stealing. Kamon's trademark was this
fast and furious, though not terribly exact, twin axe attack. A short,
stocky man, he was a fighter many less experienced opponents underestimated.
Anyone who'd been fighting as long as Abdel had, though, could tell by
the man's quick, crystal blue eyes that he was a smart and capable fighter.
"Abdel," Kamon said. "Sorry about your father."
was an old trick, older even than Gorion, who sometimes seemed to Abdel
to be the oldest man ever to walk the streets and trails of Faerūn. Abdel
could see his foster father out of the corner of his eye. Gorion was on
his feet, fighting, but as usual trying not to kill the bandit-who was
obviously not as considerate as the older man. The dark complexioned bandit
with the elaborately covered headscarf was coming at Gorion with a scimitar
too fast, too out of control. Gorion was able to keep him at bay with
his heavy oaken staff, but for how long?
let Kamon come in with his right-hand axe and caught it with his blade
just under the head. The broadsword's sharp edge cut into the axe handle,
and Abdel pulled up but not out, and the axe came out of Kamon's hand
so quickly it left a red burn on the bandit's palm. Kamon cursed and backed
up three quick steps. The loss of one of his weapons surprised him, caught
him off guard maybe, but Kamon was experienced enough to keep his eyes
open. The axe was still stuck on Abdel's blade.
knew he shouldn't stop to try to pull the axe off, but when he heard the
crunch of gravel behind him he did it anyway. He was hoping Kamon would
do the obvious thing, and Kamon obliged. The bandit came in fast with
the other axe, swinging low to cut his victim at the waist.
pulled his knees to his gut, keeping his sword across his chest to protect
him. His feet came off the ground, and he fell onto his backside at the
same time the big halberd blade came down from behind him. The crunch
of gravel was the heavy step of Eagus, the first of the bandits Abdel
had recognized when they first presented themselves on the road. Eagus
still bore the scar on his face from that bet he'd lost to Abdel in Julkoun
eight months ago. The memory made Abdel smile even as he was suddenly
drenched in thick, hot blood.
blow, meant for Abdel, had split Kamon's head in half from crown to chin.
Abdel was disappointed only because now he wouldn't be able to ask Kamon
if he ever found out what it was they'd been guarding in that warehouse.
curled in a ball, Abdel swung his feet up and brought his sword back,
the hand axe still stuck awkwardly to the blade. He was hoping to gut
Eagus from behind while the halberdier still had his weapon stuck in his
friend's head. Halfway up a burning pain drove the breath from Abdel's
lungs, and he instinctively dropped to his left.
fifth bandit, the one who had been hanging back, had fired a single crossbow
bolt into Abdel's right flank. Abdel tore it out, pulling some links loose
from his chain mail tunic and roaring at the pain. He made eye contact
with the crossbowman just long enough to send the man scurrying backward
in fear. The sellsword could only hope the crossbowman was scared enough
not to shoot him again. Abdel had more immediate problems.
swore as he worked at wriggling the blade of his halberd out of Kamon's
head. He had to stay close to the halberdier, but Abdel gave himself a
handful of seconds to check his father's progress. Gorion was holding
up well. He was letting his opponent tire himself out with one hopeless
lunge of a scimitar after another.
"We can go on like this forever, Calishite," Gorion said, guessing the
man's origin by his peculiar dress and choice of blade, "or long enough
for you to tell me who hired you and why."
grabbed Kamon's axe free of his sword, keeping track of Eagus's hurried
progress with one eye while keeping the other on his father. The Calishite
sellsword smiled, revealing a tarnished silver tooth, and said to Gorion,
"We were paid extra, sir, not to say. You can give us your ward, though,
and maybe live."
There was a sound as if someone had tossed a maidensthigh melon from a
guard tower, and Eagus's halberd was free. He swung the polearm up and
around, spraying Abdel and the road with more of Kamon's blood. Abdel
threw the axe, and Eagus dodged it easily. The throw wasn't meant to kill
but to force Eagus off balance, and Abdel knew there was only one way,
and one second, in which to test the success of this method.
came in fast, leaping really, his feet leaving the ground for a risky
half second. He speared at Eagus and felt his blade sink home through
a gap in the bandit's rusted armor before he tucked his feet back under
him. He meant to stand and drag his blade up through Eagus's guts to disembowel
him, but Eagus wasn't quite as off-balance as he could have been. The
bandit slipped gingerly off the tip of Abdel's blade. There was blood,
and Eagus was obviously in pain, but he fought on.
halberd came down hard again, and Abdel almost didn't have a chance to
get his sword up to block it. His broadsword blade bit deeply into the
thick wood of the halberd's pole, and this time it was Abdel who was disarmed.
Eagus, his yellow teeth showing through the brown and gray mass of his
ill-kept beard, had the advantage of leverage. Though the act of twisting
the long, heavy weapon out of Abdel's strong grasp obviously caused Eagus
pain, opening his wound yet wider, the sword came free of Abdel's grip.
allowed himself a coughing laugh when the broadsword fell from the halberd.
He wouldn't be as encumbered as Abdel had been, and he took full advantage
of it. Abdel could still hear the ringing of steel that meant his father
was yet engaged with the Calishite swordsman. He would have to fight Eagus
alone and without his sword.
maybe a bit fatigued now, maybe having lost too much blood, came in too
slowly, too clumsily, and Abdel was almost disappointed when he easily
batted the halberd away with his arm. The force of Abdel's blow meeting
Eagus's nearly broke the young sellsword's right forearm. It hurt, but
Abdel ignored the pain and kicked up with his left foot, slamming the
toe of his sturdy boot into Eagus's seeping wound.
shrieked and dropped, his knees falling out from under him like dry twigs.
Abdel pulled out the dagger Gorion had given him as a coming-of-age gift,
the one with the silver blade. He cut Eagus's throat, watching the man's
eyes as his life fled him. Abdel smiled at the sight, though he knew Gorion
wouldn't approve. That's when he realized Gorion was still fighting and
The crossbowman stepped out, dark eyes slitted against the midmorning
sun, padded leather vest creaking with every movement. His long red hair
fluttering greasily in the breeze. He aimed carefully at Gorion.
Abdel screamed out, "Fa-"
The crossbow released, and the heavy steel bolt shot through the air with
Embedding itself deeply into Gorion's eye.
Abdel knew, before Gorion's twitching body hit the gravel road, that the
only father he had ever known was dead.
filled his vision, a ringing filled his ears, there was the stinging taste
of copper in his mouth, and Abdel went mad. He ran at the Calishite swordsman
first, simply because he was the closer of the two surviving bandits.
Abdel's heavy silver dagger was out in front of him just swinging back
and forth as if he was working a field with it. The Calishite danced back
and brought his scimitar up.
was a clang of metal, and the Calishite pronounced the first syllable
of the name of some forgotten god as Abdel's sturdy blade slashed through
the finely wrought scimitar. Two thirds of the curved blade spun wildly
off into the brush at the side of the wide gravel road, and the Calishite
couldn't help but watch it spin away as he continued to back up and out
of the reach of the slashing dagger.
Calishite's foot dropped an inch and a half into a wagon wheel rut in
the road, and he fell backward, off balance, enough to be saved from the
next slash that might have taken his throat out. Growling in feral, incoherent
rage, Abdel came forward and slashed again. His arm vibrated from the
sudden resistance along the blade of the heavy dagger. The Calishite probably
saw his broken blade bounce once after it hit the ground before the world
spun and something wet and sticky splashed across his face. His severed
head might have lived long enough to experience that, but he was dead
before his head and his body hit the ground.
crossbowman didn't bother to wait long enough to curse or beg or be horrified.
He wasn't the smartest man on the Sword Coast, far from it, but he was
more than smart enough to know when to turn around and run for his life.
still wild with a murderous frenzy now wholly out of his control, chased
the man down and butchered him into a mound of bleeding meat. Finally
spent, the foster son of Gorion of Candlekeep collapsed onto a pile of
leather, gore, and crossbow parts, and he wept.
* * * *
had been selling his strong sword arm and experience up and down the Sword
Coast for years, and had spent the last tenday escorting a merchant caravan
from Baldur's Gate to the library at Candlekeep. The massive monastery
had been his boyhood home, the closest thing to a real home Abdel had
ever known. It was there that Gorion, a kind but stern monk, had raised
Abdel in the worship of Torm, god of the brave and the foolish, and had
tried to instill upon Abdel his own love of the written word and the history
and traditions of Faerūn.
had studied hard, but his mind wandered, and both he and his adopted father
soon came to realize that he would never live the life of a monk, cloistered
away copying the great texts, storing away the knowledge and experience
of others. Abdel sought his own knowledge, his own experience, and he
found it in the world outside the protective walls of Candlekeep.
seemed to frighten Gorion somehow, Abdel's need to fight, to kill, but
he seemed also to have some deeper understanding of it, as if he expected
it of his foundling son, though he could never really condone it.
Abdel looked nothing like this man who was not truly his father, and it
seemed to surprise no one who knew them well that they didn't think much
alike either. Where Gorion was thin of frame, bookish, and rigid of posture,
Abdel was powerfully muscled, with chiseled features and ink-black hair
he kept long to flow with the same fluid grace as his body. Abdel was
nearly a foot taller than his adopted father, almost seven feet tall,
and probably outweighed the monk threefold.
hadn't spoken much in the last several years, but when Abdel was offered
the spot on the caravan from Baldur's Gate, he jumped at the chance not
only because his purse was growing light from some lean times but because
he truly wanted to see his father again.
meeting had been oddly emotional from the moment Abdel stepped through
the gates of Candlekeep. Gorion was happy to see him. Maybe Abdel had
spent too much time with sellswords and hired killers, but it seemed to
him that Gorion was almost too happy to see him. They had talked of many
things that first evening. Gorion was always curious to hear Abdel's stories
of battles fought and won, of greedy merchants and marauding orcs, or
seaside taverns and the warrior's camaraderie. This night, though, Gorion
seemed detached, preoccupied, and nothing was more unlike Abdel's father.
The young sellsword got the feeling his father needed to tell him something.
as he was wont to do, simply asked his father what was on his mind. Gorion
had smiled and laughed.
" 'And hid his face amid a crown of stars?' " Gorion asked, quoting some
bard Abdel vaguely recognized.
"Staey of Evereska?"
"Pacys," Gorion corrected, "if memory serves."
Abdel only nodded, and Gorion asked him a simple question: "Will you come
with me somewhere?"
Abdel sighed deeply. "I can't stay, father, and you know I'll have no
more of your books and scrolls-"
"No, no," Gorion cut his son off with a heavy, worried laugh, "none of
that. I meant somewhere outside the confines of Candlekeep. A place called
the Friendly Arms."
had to laugh. Of course he'd passed through this legendary roadhouse on
more than one occasion. He'd gone there a few times to find work, or wine,
or women, and had never failed to find at least one of the three. What
his father might want there, he couldn't hazard a guess.
"There are two people there . . . people I must meet," Gorion said, "and
the road is treacherous."
"Is this something to do with my parents . . . my mother?" Abdel asked,
though he had no idea why, and even tried to stop the words as they passed
unbidden through his lips.
Gorion's reaction was the same as every time Abdel brought up the subject
of the mother and father he never knew. The old monk was pained by the
"No," Gorion said simply. Then there was a long, strained, awkward pause
before he said, "Not your . . . not your mother."
wanted to go to the Friendly Arms to meet some people who had some information
for him, that was all. Gorion's life had been centered around the gathering
of other people's information, so Abdel was hardly surprised by the request.
He agreed, of course, since he'd probably have wandered into the Friendly
Arms on his own anyway. Having his father along for company on the road
would be a pleasant change of pace.
the two of them walked out of Candlekeep together for the first time that
next morning, and they'd made it well past highsun of the third day out
of Candlekeep, following the wide, well-traveled Coast Way road, before
finding their way blocked by a band of cutthroats.
* * * *
rushed to the side of his fallen father at the first sudden sign of life.
It was a ragged, gurgling intake of breath, and Abdel crawled toward it
like a drowning man to a floating barrel. His wounded side sending brilliant
flashes of pain from his waist up to his neck and into the space behind
his eyes, Abdel fell to the ground more than sat. He tried to say "Father,"
or something else, but the sound stuck in his throat, lodged there painfully
until he thought the word itself would choke him.
father's one remaining eye wandered, searching blindly, and his left hand
fumbled in a pouch at his belt. His right hand was twitching with painful
spasms, clawing at gravel as if trying to push the pain away.
"Mine-" Gorion managed to say; just that one, clear word.
"Yes," Abdel breathed, his throat tightening again to cut off any more
words, and his eyes once more filling with tears at the sight of his bleeding,
it," Gorion said, again in an unbelievably clear voice. He said something
else then, something Abdel couldn't make out.
The old monk's hands came up, and Abdel blearily realized he was working
a spell. Gorion touched him roughly, the dying man's hand falling more
than reaching to the young sellsword's side. A wave of warmth washed over
Abdel's midsection, and the burning pain abated all at once. Gorion hissed
out a long, pained breath, and Abdel, the wound in his side now closed,
almost completely healed, said, "And now you."
Gorion didn't begin another casting. "Last one," the monk croaked out.
Abdel wanted to spit his anger at his foster father for wasting his single
"You're dying," was all he could say.
"Stop the war . . . I'm not-"
body shuddered with a wracking cough, and his left hand came up with a
sudden jerk that made Abdel flinch. Gorion was holding a tattered scrap
of parchment in his hand, and it tugged in the goosefeather-fletched quarrel
still protruding from his ruined eye. The parchment picked up some blood.
Abdel reached out to catch his father's hand, and Gorion let go of the
"I'm taking you back to Candlekeep," Abdel said, shifting noisily in the
gravel as he made to lift Gorion in his arms.
the monk grunted, stopping him. "No time. Leave me . . . come back for
me . . ."
Gorion's body was seized by a shuddering wave of pain, and Abdel sighed
at the sight of it.
"Your father-" then another cough. A single tear dropped from the only
eye that Gorion had left to cry with, and he managed to say, "Khalid,"
and, "Jahi-" before his last breath hissed away and his eye turned skyward.
cried over his father until Gorion's right hand stopped twitching. The
sellsword's hand brushed the parchment, and without thinking he took it
in his grip. He sat there for a long time on the road, surrounded by the
dead and the call of crows, until he could finally stand and begin to
prepare his father's grave.
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