Chapter 29 found Buffy outmatched by the black market merchant, Ungarion. Nevertheless, she emerged with a pair of powerful detect life rings that she considers well-worth the considerable price. treydog-
I'm so pleased that you mentioned everything I was trying to do here. Buffy is all about loyalties to individuals, not organizations. If she does something for her guild, it is because of loyalty to the individual friend who asks, not loyalty to 'the guild'. Therefore, threat of being 'kicked out of her guild' did not carry the leverage perhaps Ungarion thought it might.
This will be important as it relates to that gate at Kvatch. Whatever she does will be driven by deep emotional ties to a very real individual, not 'the Empire' or some 'illegitimate heir' she has never met, or even the 'city of Kvatch'. She sees her world as individuals, not groups or organizations. mALX-
'Buffy at her most Buffiness.' Oh my, we can think of no higher compliment! Thank you so much. hazmick-
Thank you. Buffy used one of the three black soul gems she created to enchant Slayer. She just surrendered the other two to Ungarion. I believe by the time she may actually need another grand soul, minotaur lords (whose grand souls conveniently fit inside Azura's Star) will walk Nirn. So, I don't think we need worry about her going all necro on us. SubRosa-
Thank you. I'm so glad Ungarion came across as I hoped he would!Destri-
Thank you. I so appreciate your observations. Yes, Buffy was clearly outmatched here; yet, I am proud of the few bright sparks she displayed. She will get better at verbal dueling. Zalphon-
Aww. Thanks Z!Rider-
Thank you for the beautiful support! Buffy will listen to Julian. That Oblivion Gate she saw scares her badly. Why won't the darn Legion close it? Surely no one could expect a skinny elf to try? Yet. . . she can't quite forget about the effect being up there had on her. . . and she did promise to go back - someday. Foxy-
Wow! That you are singing 'What a girl wants, what a girl needs', combined with liking Ungarion, means I have succeeded on all counts! I quite like him as well. Another appearance? Absolutely! The likeable old scoundrel will cause some trouble for the distant archery tournament. All-
As Buffy's new detect life rings join Slayer and Azura's Star in her inventory, it marks a milestone. She now carries all the trinkets a self-respecting mystic archer needs to survive. Of course, it will take our material girl another eight or so episodes (and several Daedra Lords) to realize it is courage, brains and skill - not more trinkets - that she needs.
In the meantime, we will jump to another storyline as Buffy negotiates a dark fork in her path. She has often seemed quick to creatively rationalize or justify her actions. How far she is willing to flirt with the lethal aspects of her nature is the subject of our next miniseries, consisting of four episodes. We call it 'Dancing with Darkness'.
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30 Dancing with Darkness, Part 1- Vengeance
The sun was well below the walls of Chorrol now, as I patiently waited for full darkness. I was behind The Gray Mare tavern preparing my equipment. This was going to be a one shot, instant kill. I could ill-afford for my arrow to leave enough breath in Earana's body for her to cry out. All my equipment had been chosen for this very purpose.
The black tunic blouse and darkened buckskins I wore would attract the shadows of concealment.
My primary bow, Slayer, was safely stored at the stables, along with my quiver, Superian's saddlebags and tack. From the hidden depths of my magic bag, I now slid out the full length of another grummite bow staff and strung it with a silk bowstring. The weapon had been especially enchanted for this purpose. It would drain Earana's life and add several types of damage - all in massive amounts, but only for a brief moment. The bow's single powerful charge had been easy to enchant with merely the life force of a mudcrab - I only intended to shoot it once.
I had to sell several enchanted items, and craft many potions to afford the single arrow I carried. Ungarion didn't reveal his source, and I didn't ask. It was one of two I had purchased. Its mate had been sacrificed to the Bravil archery target. I had wanted to ensure I was able to account for the extra weight of the arrow and precise twist to the fletching that allowed it to rotate in flight for increased long range accuracy. The black and reddish-gold magic arrow was perfectly straight and immensely powerful.
The thick liquid I now drizzled over the tip of my arrow came from a vial I had found in the knapsack of a bandit. It would ultimately do less damage than the poisons I could make, but had been chosen because it would release its full toxic effect instantly instead of over many seconds.
Finally, there was the spell I had recently created at the University for this occasion. Casting it would temporarily enhance my skills and abilities with a bow.
Everything was ready as the darkness of night slowly settled over Chorrol.
The decision to kill Earana was. . . complicated.
Given the confrontation between us that had marked my Chorrol guild recommendation, I fully believed she would kill me if given the chance. Each time I had subsequently visited Chorrol, the rogue mage's insults had made her lethal intentions clear - restrained only by the presence of the city guard. I feared Earana would prevail in a fair fight. I was merely influencing the inevitable towards my favor. Or so I tried to tell myself.
The truth however was perhaps simpler and darker. I hated Earana for threatening me, and I hated myself for being intimidated by her. I wasn't sure if what I was about to do was driven by cowardice, vengeance or preemptive self-defense. Likely, all of these things.
Stepping out from behind The Gray Mare, I could see the flickering lamps that lined the street up to the Great Oak. It was now dark enough to remain unseen.
Chorrol erupted with several pink glows as I slipped on the pair of rings that could detect life signs. I lifted my fist and released a spell that would extend my range across the entire city.
My attention was focused on the solitary glow near the Great Oak. From studying her movements over several days, I knew this was Earana. She would be alone for a few minutes while the guard made his predictable rounds.
I moved several paces to the spot I had chosen for its unobstructed view of my target area. After casting the spell to boost my abilities, I nocked the deadly, poisoned arrow and brought it to bear.
This was long range all right. I enhanced my focus, and pulled the Altmer into view. The wind was calm. No high obstacles would prevent the considerable aiming offset above her head that I would need. I was still unseen and wrapped in shadowy darkness. There were no nearby glows to see the arrow or hear the twang that my bowstring would release into the quiet night.
"Goodbye, Earana," I whispered.
At a well-practiced point in my breathing cycle, I paused. The fluid sequence that followed was the result of muscle memories developed through years of bow hunting. The bowstring came back to my ear, the arrow's tip found its final aim point well above Earana's head, and the fingers of my right hand that restrained the arrow uncurled.
The missile disappeared into the darkness of a high arc that would carry it across the city. After what seemed a breathless eternity, Earana was knocked from her feet. The pink glow quickly faded.
I very briefly had an ominous feeling - as if my actions had been observed by forces unknown. No time to think about that now Buffy. I quietly moved along the east wall to quickly offset myself from the line of flight my arrow had traveled.
A few minutes later, I emerged from behind a large boulder. Wearing a blue and green dress now, I carried no bow. It had taken several spells to completely disintegrate Earana's murder weapon.
I walked over to join a growing number of onlookers by the Great Oak.
My arrow was buried almost to its fletching in Earana's chest, and an expanding area of blood was darkening her green silk blouse. A guard, who had just arrived, was kneeling over the body. "There's been a murder! Did anyone see anything?" Those of us in the small group that had gathered, silently shook our heads in response. A pair of additional guards arrived and received orders from the one examining Earana. "Given the body's position, we have no idea where that arrow came from. Tell the gate posts to seal the entire city. I'll wait for Captain Bittneld to show up - I know he'll want this arrow as evidence." The two guards ran for the gates.
I seated myself on a bench under the Great Oak and smoothed my skirt. It had worked. All of it, just as planned. Sealing the city was fine by me; I had no intention of escaping. There was neither bow, quiver nor arrows in my possession. By volunteering to deliver some routine guild paperwork to the Chorrol chapter, I had the perfect cover. Within a couple days, Teekeeus would complete the roster of conjuration spells offered for sale by the Chorrol guild, and give me the forms for return to the University.
By now, the captain of the guard had arrived and more of his men were combing the city for an assassin. Several mages had gathered on the steps of the nearby guild, where I would spend the night. Tomorrow, I would walk the beautiful streets of Chorrol without fear of Earana.
Despite the considerable range, my arrow had not only found the Altmer, it had struck very nearly the center of her chest. I was proud of my skills. In fact I found using them for such a challenge downright exhilarating. I wasn't exactly happy about killing Earana though. Oh, I fully believed my survival had required this act of preemption. . . so why didn't I feel better about it?
I was still wrestling with this when I crawled into bed that night in the Chorrol guild. "Acadian, what's wrong with me? I'm so confused." He had been strangely quiet, as if trying to sort out my actions himself. A paladin would surely know about the things that were troubling me. "Can you help me?" I closed my eyes and opened my mind to him. Humility. Righteousness. Protect the weak. Honor.
"What does all that have to do with me?" I scoffed. "There are no people who live by those things!"
The rebuke from Acadian came without hesitation, as he forced an image into my mind.
I remembered the incident - a wolf had surprised me long ago. Before I could draw my bow, the beast had closed the distance between us and leapt. The dark gray sanctuary of a heavy shield suddenly intercepted the wolf in midair. With one decisive thrust from a long sword, the animal was dead. The Legion soldier simply stated, "We're here to serve, citizen." Just as quickly he was gone.
Before I had time to fully reflect on this, another image formed. The scene was a memory that had been forever branded into my consciousness. Captain Savlian Matius was charging a Deadra as it emerged from the Oblivion Gate at Kvatch. He was selflessly risking his life to protect the survivors of his city, his men, and . . . even me.
I squirmed, feeling very small. I knew I could never be a paladin or soldier, but maybe I wasn't completely hopeless. "Acadian, you're right about humility. My skills are largely thanks to Daenlin and Boderi. I will try to be more humble. Honor and righteousness? I'm not sure I fully understand. I know I'm loyal to my friends and will fiercely defend them. I would lay down my life for Kud-Ei, City Swimmer, Daenlin, Superian or any of my friends. You know that. Doesn't that count for something?" I waited.
It did indeed.
"Protect the weak?" I continued. "But I am
the weak! I need to kill to protect me
. Look, I'm pretty fragile, as you well know. I'm also quite poor at defending myself when surprised or confronted at close range." I recalled several instances of barely surviving such encounters, and shuddered. "If I do the 'honorable' thing and wait for someone like Earana to attack first, I'll be dead. Then what would happen to you and Superian?"
By now, I was sitting up in bed. "In order to survive, I need to sometimes preemptively kill a known threat. Can you understand that? Would you let Earana live, and force me to timidly avoid the city of Chorrol? Or walk in fear, never knowing when I might fall to a fireball or lightning bolt? Don't you remember in Anvil, how that rogue mage, Caminalda, almost killed me with a single ice spell? Would you never seek out and destroy an enemy while they are plotting against you in their lair?" I closed my eyes again.
I sensed uncertainty, as the paladin pondered my basket of questions. Then acceptance.
"Thank you Acadian, for understanding." I sighed with relief. "I know my confused thinking is foreign to someone who is strong, brave and familiar with the ways of blades and steel. It's different when you're small and weak though. I may attack without warning from the shadows like a coward, but I'm alive. I really can't think of anyone else I can talk to about such things." I smiled grimly. "I can just see my friend Ardaline dropping her potions right on the floor of the Bravil guild if I asked her opinion about killing Earana."
I felt much better, and hopped out of bed before my thoughts could leave my head. Digging through my pack, I produced my journal supplies. Dipping quill into inkpot, I wrote:
'Sometimes it's necessary to kill someone if I'm convinced they're likely to harm me or my friends. I'm just not built for toe-to-toe fighting; if striking first, even from the shadows is what it takes to survive, so be it.'
Putting my journal away, I returned to bed. As I rolled over seeking sleep, I remembered that feeling I had earlier in the day. 'Observed by forces unknown?' What's that
about, Buffy? I had no idea, but the heavy mantle of exhaustion was more pressing at the moment. I was sure I would sleep rather soundly - well, you know, for a murderess.
* * *From Buffy's scrapbook: Screenshot
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~ Author's Note: ~
One additional combat multiplier Buffy used in her game for this assassination was switching from a bow to a dagger while her arrow was in flight. The damage multiplier for a sneak attack is based upon the type of weapon equipped when the arrow hits
, not when it is launched. This allowed Buffy to enjoy a 6x melee damage multiplier instead of the normal 3x bow multiplier. Although she detailed this in BF 1.0, its logic defies even Buffy's impressive ability to rationalize, so we dropped it from BF 2.0. In keeping with the 'how to' minor aspect of her stories however, we opted to retain mention of it as a footnote. Here is the UESP wiki
link that details this cumbersome quirk that can occasionally be useful for very long, planned shots.This post has been edited by Acadian: Sep 21 2010, 02:38 PM