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Old 07-24-2008
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Nights in Neverwinter - The Memories of Cazen

I'm asleep.

I know as much because of my surroundings. The place I stand? It doesn't exist anymore...hasn't existed for some time. I sigh, as the memories play out in front of my eyes like the entertaining illusions of the Gnomish Wizards. I'm only six summers in the city of Neverwinter, and father's home from his travels. Mother's sent me to bed without dinner, again, because of some mischief I and the other children got into. The eldest of our gang, Vori, he taught me to pick a lock with stray fragments of iron.

He said I was good at it...like I was a natural, or something. Then, Ned dared me to pick the locks of a local wizard's shop in the docks...I think they call him Dirt or something. That pointy-eared Wizard had the door warded, though. The Watch returned me to mom. "Well, whatta ya 'spect me ta do about it, Estellana?" My father's brows were furrowed in frustration. "Y'know what dey say: Boys is boys." My mother offered him an icy glare, "It's boys will be boys," she corrected him, "and breaking and entering is a little too serious for childish antics."

Mom was an educated woman, though she was low-born. My grandmother worked for an old hedge-wizard who was fond of mother when she was a child. He taught her to read, write, and some minor...cantrips, I believe they're called. Dad sighed at her words. "Ye'r right, Estellana," he issued in a defeated tone, "so's wot y' wan' me ta do?" Mother sighed, "Perhaps it's time Cazen saw the world..." she admitted. Dad's eyes lit up, "Y'mean...take 'im wit' me on da Caravan, next trip?" Mother offered a sad smile and nodded. Father was delighted.

I was afraid.
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Cazen - A guy who "knows a guy..."
- Nights in Neverwinter (Cazen History)
- Back on the Street

Thrice-Cursed Ruslan - An outcast among outcasts
- Tales of a Foolish Brother (Ruslan History)

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Old 07-25-2008
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Nights in Neverwinter - The Memories of Cazen

So here I am, again. It seems my past catches up with me in the only place it can: my dreams. But, at least a dream can not hurt you. Well, physically, anyway.

I remember this day, well.

"'ey love! We're back!" Dad always greeted mother in that booming basso of his. Not two steps behind him was I, carrying some various sundries and the bag of gold collected as payment. It had been nearly seven months since our return and this was my sixth year traveling the Sword Coast with my father. Over the last six years, father and I would travel to Waterdeep, Triboar, Longsaddle, and many little hamlets and villages, in between. We even went to the city of Luskan and as far north as Mirabar, from which you could see the Spine mountains, looming in the distance, big as Gods and almost a fearsome.

The path of the trading caravan was varied, and treacherous. But father proved himself an expert driver and, when bandits tried to waylay the merchants, he fought along side their personal entourages or guards when the rest of the caravan drivers hid among the shipments they'd had their horses hauling around. Mother didn't immediately respond to father's words. In fact, home had an eerie quietness to it. "Estellana?" dad called again as I shut the door behind us. When no answer came, father began to search through the house, and I began a thorough search of my own. We turned up nothing. Mother was gone.

Father went to the Watch to report her missing, but they laughed, saying "If ya'd been home tendin' to yer wife 'stead of haulin' 'round rich folk's junk, ye'd still 'ave 'er, eh?" I began an investigation of my own. Oddly enough, the neighbors said they'd seen no visitor, nor had mother spoke of any infidelities. Looking around the house, it didn't look long deserted. I would've wagered that my mother was present in this place at no less then a week's time before. It was odd...almost as if some God had reached out of the sky and plucked her from where she stood. Nothing seemed out of place.

Something was wrong...and I thought I knew just where to look.

"Hey Vori..." I found him posted against the wall, smoking a cigarette. He was a lad almost in his twenties, now, and he cut a dashing figure, with his close-cropped sand-colored hair and almost-matching eyes. "'ey lot! Look 'oo it is!" He chuckled and grasped my head in the crook of his arm, digging his knuckle in. When I'd finally freed myself, I saw there were a few more familiar faces. I recognized the half-orc as Kuggor. When last I saw him, he'd been almost man-sized. Now, he towered above the fully-grown Vori. He had his hair stylishly matted in what I believe they call "dread-locks." I noticed Ned was missing.

"What happened to Ned?" I asked, rubbing the raw skin of my scalp. Vori snorted and spat angrily, "Bloody fool got 'imself pinched by the watch..." I shook my head, "Aye?" I found myself falling into the habit of speaking, again, like a street urchin. Vori nodded, "Tried ta work over som' merchant...fool." "Work-over?" I wasn't familiar with that term. "Yeh...y'know, tried to roll 'im?" That term I knew...he'd tried to mug hum. Vori made some kind of odd motion with his hand and Kuggor and the couple others began laughing, as if he'd said something funny. A shadow crept, and I noted that a Watchman had passed.

Vori looked at me. "Ye b'in gon a ver' long time, Caz. The Watch 'as taken ta' simpin' us out fer no'ting. We's use dis cant, now." I was confused, "Cant?" Kuggor noded, "Aye," he said, his voice somewhere between a growl and a soar-throat, "Signs wit' hands...like trackers in da woods." He grinned, showing his tusks. Vori chuckled, pointing to Kuggor, "Ol' Kug dere fancies himself a hunter...closest 'e's e'er been ta da Wilds tis da Carnival wot brings fierce beasts o' da wilds!" The other three I did not yet know laughed. "So, Caz, com' home ta join our gang, eh?" I frowned, "Nah...I's come to ye fer som' 'elp."

Vori laughed. "Eh? Wot is and why should we?" I sighed, "'elp me find me mum, an' I'll pay you." The mirth of the gang suddenly drained from all, as they lowered their head. I dug deeper, "You know what happened to her, don't you?" Vori looked up at me, shame in his eyes. He was a consumate liar...but I could always tell. "'ey, look, Caz...som' free advice, neh?" Vori shook his head at me, "Let that'un be. Trouble ye don' want...trust me." At the warning, I couldn't help myself. I lost it. My mother. I grasped Vori by his first fronts with one hand and drew my concealed dagger with the other. Quick as anything, my blade was at his throat.

The other gang members started, and were about to rush me when Vori spoke up, "Don't!" Kuggor growled, "Let'em alone, or I'll call the Watch." My face turned into a bitter mask, but I knew what would happen if they caught me like this. I let Vori go and sheathed my blade. To my surprise, there was no reprisal. Vori walked over to Kuggor and, almost as quick as I am, pulled his blade to Kuggor's throat. "Wot I tell ya' 'bout snitches, eh?" Kuggor made a sound that could've been a whimper. "Ye motherless bastard, no'un likes a tattle-tale." His eyes never left Kuggor's eyes as the blade was hidden, again. He turned to me.

"Y' got guts, Caz...always 'ave, despite y' fancy yerself a coward." he smiled, "But dat don' change no'ting. Yer mum's in da han's of a jen-u-wine Shadow Thief." He shakes his head, "You? Me? All o' us? We're no ready fer dat kind'a misery. Sorry 'bout yer mum, Caz..." They all left.

I looked to the night sky and prayed to Helm to watch over my mother until I could find her and set he free.
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Cazen - A guy who "knows a guy..."
- Nights in Neverwinter (Cazen History)
- Back on the Street

Thrice-Cursed Ruslan - An outcast among outcasts
- Tales of a Foolish Brother (Ruslan History)

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Old 07-27-2008
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I struggle to understand why I am plagued by these dreams.

The alchemical substances Veront gave me, mixed with multiple factors, not to mention being the puppet of a vampire worked to splinter my mind, not very long ago. I followed around that crazy Hin, Sessitara, under the impression that she was some sort of Priestess.

Perhaps these dreams are simply my mind's way of healing itself: going back to a point in time when everything was simple...

"And maybe the Followers of Bane will start championing the cause of freedom."

The thought brought me to chuckle as I laid down for my evening's rest. And, as sure as I am telling you this now, my dreams began to turn to the past. There I was, with only minimal information and one solid lead as to where my mother was. A Shadow Thief. I had no idea what that was, so I began to ask around. The response I got? A bunch of people making holy gestures and telling me to go on about my business. Finally, I was beginning to get somewhere...but it cost me. Gold? Nay, I say to you: my dignity. I finally had to ask the Watch. They told me they were a made-up story about a guild of thieves that operated independently and in organized cells all over Faerun. One of the watchmen seemed to be a believer, though. That's enough for a child.

The Watch Commander told me I should go talk to this elf Wizard named Sand. Why did that name sound so familiar? When I found his shop, I remembered why...he was the reason mother sent me away, in the first place. No...that's not fair. I was the reason, I told myself. Sand was just the rope I used to hang myself. When I worked up the courage, I entered his shop...only this time, I used the front door. A young in appearance (but who can really tell?) bespectacled elf looked up at me from the counter. "I'm surprised you came in through the front door this time," he said in this Gods-awful condescending tone, "I saw you standing around outside, casing my shop. Thought of breaking in again?"

Everything inside of me wanted to turn around and walk out, my head hung in shame. I was the victim of a furious blush of embarrassment. "I need your help..." I said softly. Sand smiled viciously and lowered his spectacles, "What's that, boy? I don't think I heard you correctly." "I need your help, Master Sand." I tried to say it with some dignity, but it sounded whiny and ineffectual. Essentially, the same way I felt. He closed a book that I had not seen him reading and came from behind the counter. He was fairly tall for an elf and possessed of the same grace and wise appearance that all of them had. "And why should I help someone who, less then a decade ago, saw fit to break in to my shop?"

"Please, Master Sand," I begged, "I was but an ignorant child when I-" He cut me off by saying, "And I don't see that you've changed. Now leave immediately, before I summon the Watch." I was afraid...and angry. I was absolutely overwhelmed by so many emotions that I did something I will forever be ashamed of...I fell to my knees and began to sob. "...p...p...please...m...m...Master Sand..." He looked at me, pure derision present within his glare, but he said nothing further. I decided to plead my case. "Your...You're the only one who can help me..." Sand sneered, disgust evident in his countenance, but he nodded and motioned for me to continue. "I've recently..." I sniffled, "been told my mother is the captive of a Shadow Thief. The Watch Commander told me you know something of them and you may be able to-"

Again, he cut me off, "Yes...something. Want my advice, boy? If your mother truly has become the captive of a Shadow Thief, she belongs to them. Nothing you do will save her, and you will only get yourself killed trying, if you are lucky. And if you are not, you will get yourself killed and her and maybe even some others. Let it go, boy." He pinched and massaged the bridge of his nose, "Now remove yourself from my shop, or I will be calling the city sweeper to sweep your ashes from my doorstep." I left Sand's shop, feeling powerless and utterly without hope. Where were the Gods, now, when I truly needed them? When mother needed them? I had less then a day left to save mother before father, and presumably I, would leave with the Caravan, again. I had to do something!

I spent the rest of the daylight scouring the streets of Neverwinter, questioning those I knew I could and bartering for information with those I didn't know. By the time the sun had well set, I knew nothing more then when I began. I swore oath after oath after oath as I wandered aimlessly for more then an hour before I began to head home. In the morning, father would be ready to go, and I would have to be as well. With my mind occupied with so many thoughts, I never saw it coming. Something was thrown over my head and my nostrils filled with this pungent, sickly-sweet odor, somewhere between week-old piss, perfectly ripe apples, and vanilla.

As in my memories I lost consciousness, in reality, I regained it. I woke, gasping for air to find myself in Sundren at the inn room I had rented for the night. As I sat up, my breath coming in ragged gasps, I realized, for the first time, what I thought I needed to do...

"I have to go home."
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Cazen - A guy who "knows a guy..."
- Nights in Neverwinter (Cazen History)
- Back on the Street

Thrice-Cursed Ruslan - An outcast among outcasts
- Tales of a Foolish Brother (Ruslan History)

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Old 07-28-2008
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I felt guilty about asking Daelus to be some kind of messenger for me, but the opportunity to leave Sundren and head back to Neverwinter had arisen suddenly, and I wished to waste no more time before leaving, lest the opportunity vanish as suddenly as it appeared. Still, I wish I had told everyone in person that I was leaving for some time. I wonder if everything will be alright while I'm gone? I wonder if everything will be the same when I return? As I lay there in my below deck quarters, the ship sailing along toward it's destination of the Sword Coast, I began to slip again into the realms of dreams.

I remembered waking up in a dimly lit room, a nasty, hacking cough issuing, presumably from whatever alchemical substance had been used to sedate me to begin with. I look at the ground and saw a note. You've been injected with a potent poison that is, as you read this, already coursing it's way through your veins. Ahead of you is a door, and on the other side is a maze, which I've built to test the limits of your talents and abilities. Survive the maze, and you will return to a room with the antidote and some of the answers you seek. Fail, and you will worry about your mother, or indeed anything else, no longer.

I looked up from the letter, feeling like I couldn't breathe. I marshaled my fear and forced myself to calm down. Perhaps the author was lying about the poison. Then again, what if they were not? In that moment, I felt like curling into a ball on the floor and just waiting to die. I was a failure...and mother was going to die for it. No. I wouldn't lay down and die. It may be too late, but I would be damned to every lair of the Abyss if I would just lay down and wait to die. I stood, another wracking cough bringing the taste of blood. I guess they were serious about the poison. To the door I went and pushed it open to reveal the maze.

As I stepped through the door, a dim illumination was issued from overhead. I proceeded along the maze, keeping my eyes sharp for any peculiarity. When I reached a certain point, I stopped. I'd spotted a trip-wire that was all but invisible in the poor lighting. Looking both ways, I noticed grooves in the walls about waist high. Taking to my knees and elbows, I carefully removed my dagger and was making to whisper a silent pray that I still had it, but the prayer died on my lips. The Gods had done me no favors worth thanking them for. Taking one of the various pieces of scrap metal that I keep for lock-picks, I cut the trip wire and began tying it off.

Almost immediately, two blades issued from the grooves in the wall. Anyone who walked through that trip wire would find themselves half the man they used to be when those blades activated. I secured the trap, crawling beneath the blades and continuing on, ever more slightly cautious then before. The next trap, I missed entirely, and just barely avoided. Apparently, the mechanic had installed some kind of pressure plates on the floor. Upon stepping upon them, spears thrust down toward me from the ceiling. I just barely managed to dodge them, even being light on my feet and agile as an elf like I am.

Finally, I encountered a sheer surface that rose approximately twelve feet upward. At first, I attempted to jump, but I came nowhere close to the ledge above. Then, I set to place a hand and foot on each wall to climb while holding myself up, but the space between was too great for me to reach. I studied the obstacle carefully, aware of the wracking, persistent cough that forced blood into my mouth every few minutes. I finally decided to place my hands on one wall and my feet on the other and attempt to climb, length-wise. It was a foolish decision, what with my weakening state and the unsettling cough, but I managed to climb the entire length.

When I was finally at the top, I turned to face a curious device.

A statue of a beautiful woman with her arms out-stretched, palms to the Heavens was before me. On a small plate at her feet was seven gold coins. I picked up the coins and examined them. Just standard, legal tender. I then examined the statue and found a passage written in Draconic upon her.

Before you stands a greedy mistress,
hands poised to receive her fare.
Render unto her what is her due,
and she will see you away from here.

To her left, pay one coin
for every sin she doth enact.
To her right, pay one coin
for every virtue she doth enact.

Riddles always were a frustration to me. Mother insisted that learn them. She said they encouraged me to "think things through, logically." I found them to be a tedious exercise, but in this moment, I was glad that I was forced to learn them. A greedy mistress is guilty of two sins: greed and adultery. In her left hand, I placed two coins. I couldn't name off her virtues, but I was willing to bet there were five of them, so I placed five coins in her right hand. I heard something click and the statue, and the ground it was mounted on began to slide back, revealing stairs downward.

As I descended the stairs, lights came up and I was in a sparsely decorated room, with a table that had two vials on it. One of them contained a blue-tinged fluid and the other a green-tinged fluid. "One of those is the antidote..." said a man who was suddenly there. He wasn't tall, but neither was he short. He wasn't fat, but neither was he slim. He was neither ugly nor handsome, not striking in any way. "I give you the chance to choose...but choose wisely, for while one is a cure, the other is death." He sneered at him, "So that's it then? That's all you'll tell me?"
He smiled at me in a way that made me want to punch him in the mouth and said no more.

I appraised the two vials very carefully for nearly five minutes before I turned to him and announced, "I choose neither." He raised an eyebrow at me, "You would welcome death, then?" I shook my head at him, "Never...but I do not make decisions without fully considering the consequences." I coughed again, spewing more bloody sputum from within, "I haven't the slightest clue which is which, so it's safer just to assume I'll die anyway." He looked at me a moment longer and finally shrugged taking the blue substance. He popped the top, and handed it to me and I drank deeply and greedily. Suddenly, I felt the cough die in my chest.

"I promised you answers if you made it through the maze...but at this moment, I'm going to give you the opportunity to not have them. Ignorance is bliss, I'm told." He looked at me for confirmation and I stared back at him, annoyance in my eyes. Again, he shrugged, "Suit yourself. Pull up a chair." He motioned toward a chair in the corner and I, reluctantly, took a seat in it. "I'm sure by now you've figured out I am the man you were looking for. What you probably haven't figured out is why I took your mother in the first place..."

I said nothing, letting my angry glare do the talking for me. "Truth be told, I was hired by your father." I bolted from my seat and came at him with my make-shift dagger, stopping the blade at his throat, "You lie!" He seemed unperturbed by being held at knife-point, which only served to heighten my rage. He looked down and I followed his gaze. Hovering above my heart, pressed firmly into my jerkin was the blade of his dagger. It was a finely crafted and elegant thing, made for dispatching enemies, whereas mine was a shank, hastily fashioned from a spare piece of iron. "Your blade leaves me and mine will leave you," he stated matter-of-factly, "and the answers will continue."

For a moment, I thought about cutting his throat and trusting myself to get away fast enough to escape danger. But I then recalled how I'd never seen him draw a blade or even noticed it was present until he had made it known to me. Grudgingly, I withdrew my dagger from his throat, and he did the same of his blade. "As I said, your father hired me to kill your mother. She had been..." he sneered as he said the next word, "unfaithful to him. In return for my services, he agreed to give you to me, as an apprentice." I couldn't believe this. How could father betray mother like that? How could be betray us like that?

"Now come along, Cazen...we've much work to do before you are ready." He opened another, unseen door and led me from the maze into another. When he spoke those words, I didn't dare ask what he meant by ready nor exactly what was I supposed to be getting ready for. I just felt betrayed and abandoned by everything and everyone. Finally, I spoke up. "What's your name?" He stopped and turned to me and looked down at me with an expression of disgust. Then, as if flipping a coin, his expression became one of a jovial man upon the street, "You may call me Zorza." "Zorza." I said, aloud. My enemy's name was Zorza.
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Cazen - A guy who "knows a guy..."
- Nights in Neverwinter (Cazen History)
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Thrice-Cursed Ruslan - An outcast among outcasts
- Tales of a Foolish Brother (Ruslan History)

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Old 07-29-2008
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The Port City-State of Neverwinter.

Some people call it "the Jewel of the North" or "the City of Skilled Hands." By reputation, some people called it "the most civilized and cosmopolitan city in all of Faerun." Obviously, they never visited the area where I spent most of my childhood. Strolling down the streets of Beggar's Nest, I noticed how much things had changed. Mainly that it was the middle of the night, and I'd yet to be accosted by a single thief. After the plague, the city had undergone a very thorough "urban renewal", sponsored mostly by some of the generous deep-pockets in Blacklake District.

Why did those normally covetous, money-hoarding misers start being philanthropic? Well, because Lord Nasher said so. Or so the rumors went.

Arriving at my first home which (amazingly) hadn't seemed to have changed that much, from the outside. A few new patch-work boards, nailed here and there to cover holes that had worn in the walls were all that had reminded me that 18 years had passed since I lived here, and 4 had passed since I stood here. Approaching the door, I knocked, giving a few sharp raps. Standing there a moment, I gave thought to my next action and reached within my jerkin, taking out the symbol of Tymora. Looking down to the double-coin, I planted a kiss upon it for luck. "Lady Luck be with me." From within my wrist slid my pick.

With a quick jiggle of the piece of iron within the lock, the door clicked open, and the pick was tucked away. Removing a small oil-can from a pouch on my belt, I oiled the hinges. Squeaky hinges had landed a many-a thief in the Hold of the Watch. Carefully, the door opened for me. With alacrity and no little amount of stealth, I closed it behind me, tucking my mask over my face and my hood over my head. To the stairs I crept, leading to the second floor, and knocked twice, softly, on the third one. A resounding echo led me to smile. I opened it to find an empty space. Having left a bag of two hundred gold there to deter anyone who might discover this spot from inquiring further, I was fairly certain my other treasures were safe. I took out my dagger and pressed it between the crack in the top right hand corner.

Jiggling the blade until I heard a single click, I repeated the action to the bottom left hand corner. The bottom of the space sprang open, revealing an old journal with several brown-with-age blood stains on it's leather cover and a piece of silk with something wrapped inside. Parting the silk, inspecting the disposition of the ring within, I re-wrapped it and placed it in my courier bag, along with the journal. My dagger was sheathed, as I returned the hollow step to it's original configuration. Quietly, I crept to the door when I heard, "What'cha doin?" Turning toward the voice, I saw a little girl at the foot of the stairs, holding a hand-sown stuff animal. I went closer to her and knelt. "I used to live here, when I was about your age."

She looked confused, but unafraid, mostly still half-asleep. "But why're ye 'ere now?" I couldn't think of a satisfactory answer, so reaching down to my belt, I removed a bag of gold coins. They jingled in front of her as I held them up. "Where are your parents?" She eyed the bag, "Ma's workin'...she's a courtesan or sum-such...wot's a courtesan? She tells me she keeps folk company." Smiling softly and somewhat sadly, I just nodded. "She's a friend to those that have none." "And dey pay 'er?" I nodded. She smiled at me, "W'en I grow up, I wanna be a courtesan." I winced at that and shook my head at her, "I don't think your ma would like that." I set the bag at her feet, "Take that and put it away. And, for the sake of Tymora, don't be a courtesan."

She half-nodded, taking the bag of coins. "Dis is heavy...lotsa coins?" I nodded to her, "100 at least." "a hunnerd?" she smiled from ear to ear. "Aye...but don't tell nobody..." She ran a finger over sealed lips and extended her pinky...some things never change. I locked pinkies with her, remembering the oath from my childhood. The girl had crept her way back upstairs and I had left, my breath finally returning to me as I stepped out on the front steps. I made a religious gesture and thanked Tymora for my good fortune before I made my way to the local Inn for the night. As I slipped away into the darkness of sleep, the dreams came once more.

It's four years from that day. I learned my father had been unable to keep his obligation for payment to Zorza, so he had to be taken care of. I took the assignment, myself. Zorza smiled sadistically as he gave me specific instruction. "Do it fast, boy. Have no words with him." I nodded. "I've nothing to say to the bastard." And there I was, standing upon a roof-top in Neverwinter as he drove the front wagon, leading the familiar caravan back to it's place of origin. I unslung my bow and knocked an arrow, awaiting the perfect moment.

When I saw his face, he looked so conflicted. The bastard couldn't have more then a good year left in him. He looked as if he'd grown sick. Probably nerves from knowing he lost his wife and his only son. I drew the bow string back quietly, steadying my shot." With a twang, the poison-tipped missile whistled and struck true. I'd sunk the arrow in his heart. He turned to me, tracing the path of the arrow back to me. I stood up where he could clearly see me, lowered my hood and mask, so he could see.

When he saw me, he stumbled forward, as if he could close the height distance between us simply walking. He looked up to me, tear streaking down his cheeks, "W...why...m'...son...?" He collapsed to the ground as blood pooled in his mouth and flooded to the cobble-stones. My sharp eyes could see that his chest had stopped moving. I returned my mask and hood and fled upon the agreed upon escape route. When I leaped to the ground from lower rooftop, I could feel the tears streaking my own cheek. Why did I feel so guilty, when he was the one that brought this on himself?

I awoke in my room in the Inn in Beggar's Nest. It was little more then a flop house, but my eyes were wet with tears from crying in my sleep. "Father...if only I'd had known..." I continued to weep until the sun rose.
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[You may notice I've edited certain sections that came before. This is my first semi-serious writing effort in the first person narrative, so I amended a few things I thought could be change. A great author, I am not. Maybe a serialized one? This story has only maybe three more posts left. I hope you've enjoyed looking into the complicated past of this pansy-ass thus far, and will continue to do so. All the kudos I've received have been appreciated.]

I've never understood how those men of the forest (Rangers) can do what they do.

They look a tracks in the mud, broken twigs, matted bushes, then sniff the air, listen carefully, and before you know it, they have you exactly where you need to be. To be honest, I'm terrible with directions and prone to become lost. Especially in caves and forest, where everything looks exactly the same to me. I'm a child of the cobblestone jungle.

That being said, do you have any idea how difficult it can be to find a person in a city of almost 24,000 that doesn't want to be found? It's down-right heart-breaking. So here's me, Cazen Kross, hitting-up and shaking-down ever rum-pot, dip, charlatan, and ten-copper whore in the entirety of the Docks, looking for Ami.

I keep hearing the name Moire in casual conversation with like-minded fellows...and I'm, quite honestly, less then impressed with everything I hear attached to that name. I was considering paying her a visit, just to see how good she really is at the business, when I heard that some hot-shot Harborman recently hooked up with the Watch and has been giving her all kinds of Hell.

I can't say I'm disappointed.

But back to Ami. My memories return to the day Zorza decided I needed some motivation...

"This is your new partner." Zorza presented no alternatives and was of an appearance that he would accept no arguments regarding this decision. So I held my tongue, forced myself to nod solemnly, and extended a hand to shake hers or kiss it or something. Ami looked at my hand like I had just offered her a bulbous, slime-oozing tentacle. My mother raised me never to hit a lady, but in all honest, I think I would've blacked her pretty green eyes then, if I thought Zorza would let me. So I withdrew the offered hand and just gave her a nod and a smile. "Shoc." I muttered to myself. For some reason, mother had insisted I learn the language of the Goblins. At that moment, I was pleased to know a language that neither of them knew.

Zorza shook his head, "You're both acting like children. If I needed children, I would take a wife and seed them, myself." He wore that familiar sneer with gusto, "Now, if you're both quite done flirting, I have some assignments that need to be done. And since they're too complicated for any one person, you two will be working together." Before we could either open our mouthes to disagree, he gave us a dread glare that silenced any voice of dissension that may have risen within us. So, because Zorza commanded, we obeyed...and actually managed to work together, despite our mutual distrust and disgust, of one another.

We were both young; myself still a fresh 16 summers and she, nearly 14. Together, we'd shake-down store owners, break-in to fancy homes in the Blacklake District, offer negotiations to other gangs, and just generally do any shite-work Zorza didn't feel like doing, himself. But we stayed busy, and soon learned that our skills were complimentary. While we both tended toward the finesse aspect, I was better at the talk-game, picking locks, and just being over-all knowledgeable. She was better at the dirty work (meaning bloody work), springing traps, and putting the fear of the Gods in...whoever. But as for the sneaking? We were both aces.

So it's no surprise then that, eventually with us spending all the quality time together, we fell in love. Well, first it wasn't love...it was another four letter L-word (and I don't mean "luck"). That's when things got complicated. Before, when something would happen to one of us, we'd be worried about our own self and leave the other to get themselves out of the mess. This was a good thing, because we're both independent. Only now that the love-bug had bitten us, we started to become a little co-dependent. In my opinion, we began to rely on each other too much...but Zorza didn't see it that way.

"I want you to kill Ami."

The look of disbelief I must've given Zorza apparently shocked him as well. For when he looked back at me, his own well-guarded demeanor betrayed a moment of surprise before he could effectively pretend to not be shocked by me. "Well? Don't you want to know why? When?" I said nothing, still staring at him. Zorza didn't have much in the way of a sense of humor, so I knew this was serious business. I couldn't help but wonder: What happens if I refuse? I looked down to the floor and said in an even tone, "That's...unfortunate." My eyes returned to his, "When?" Zorza offered me that sadistic smile that I'd come to know so well, "Tonight."

Back in the present, I shook the memories from my mind and continued my search. Gathering information about someone that purposely spreads misinformation about themselves is tricky...but I got lucky. One of her old chums slipped up and gave away she was still in the Docks, and that left only a handful of places she could be. Systematically, I checked each of them until I finally came to Luven's Flop House, just east of that dive, The Sunken Flagon. I tried to pick the lock, but apparently, someone had seen fit to install one of those Gnomish "ever-locks." Quite pricey for a run-down ol' shack on the Docks.

Slipping around to the back, I found a loose window. It was booby-trapped with a noise-maker, but I found that fairly simple to disable. I oiled the edges of the window, keeping in mind I would need to replenish my oil-can before I returned to Sundren. With all the agility of an elven dancer, I slipped through the window, taking a moment to close it behind me. I turned around...and found myself staring down the bolt of a hand-crossbow. I chuckled nervously, "Good evening, Ami..." The shorter, tanned-skin beauty with raven hair and sea-green eyes held the weapon steady, "What do you want, Cazen?"

I sighed, "I've come for absolution."
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Ami smirked at me, "Have you?" Her finger tightened on the trigger, and I barely had time to dodge the bolt, thank Tymora for my amazing reflexes, and draw a dagger of my own to parry the swipe she took at me with a wicked black-metal shiv. To my surprise, it cleaved the steel of my own twain. Adamantine. I had nothing in my possession strong enough to dance with an adamantine dagger. What do you do when you can't surmount the weapon? You surmount the wielder. So I opted for something I knew would neutralize Ami, as I dodged and danced about her stabs and swipes.

She manages to tag me with a few well-placed swipes, and I learned through experience why adamantine is such a feared metal. The thin chain-shirt I sometimes wear beneath my clothes was sundered as easily as the threads of my outer wear, and were I not possessed of an amazing reflexes, well, what would've followed? Flesh? Muscle? Bone? All three? Knowing my innards were no match for something that cut through steel so easily, I grabbed a small pouch from my bag and flung it, with expert precision, directly into her face, and backed away, quickly. The pouch exploded and filled the air closest to her with a fine dust.

Ami was about to strike again when she began coughing. Suddenly, she was overcome by wracking coughs that caused her to fall to her knees. Ami was taking the shade of a purplish-red , lacking the oxygen necessary for us all. As I was confident the powdered capsicum extract had done it's job, I approached her. "Seems to me you're having a little difficulty breathing, Ami..." I kicked the adamantine dagger away from her grasp. She gripped my legs with both arms and began trying to look up to me. "I'll make you a deal," I said plainly, "if you agree, you can release my pants legs. The deal is we talk, like two civilized people..."

She immediately released my pants legs, and I smiled. Reaching into my courier bag, I removed the proper reagent to deactivate the common eye-tearing reaction: plain, preserved cow milk. Sitting it to the side, I took out a small sack that I had coated with a common component of the cacao plant (which they derive chocolate from). "Cover your mouth and nose with this and breath deep." She did so and I could see the cough subsiding. Next, I took out a small spoon and pried open her eyes, dripping a little of the preserved milk into them.

Ami fell over on hands and knees, blinking repeatedly as the milk, assisted by her body heat, drew the particles of capsicum from her eyes. She looked to be crying a brownish milky substance for a moment before the irritation began to subside. I took a rag and my water pouch, carefully cleaning the remaining particles from her face, so as to not have her contaminate herself, again. It almost seemed a loving gesture and, in truth, I had done so before, many times.

In those days, our relationship was quite different...

It was time...Night had fallen and Zorza's order to kill Ami weighed heavy on my conscience. You have to understand, Zorza was like a father to me, in the absence of my original father and mother. When first I joined him, we left Neverwinter and traveled all over Faerun together, him teaching me the skills of the trade. Though we had come to back to Neverwinter my 16th summer (and, subsequently, brought Ami into our travels), we didn't stay long. Traveling together, the three of us continued to trek all over Faerun.

When the order had come for me to kill Ami, I was 20, and Ami, 17. We had been in a small hamlet somewhere near Amnwater. We had just left Amn proper, two days before. "Take her to that barn, closest to the way we came in. Do it, and leave her for the pigs." He said this to me as we folded our many clothes, used for disguises, and tucked them away into his bag of holding. I nodded, solemnly, never breaking stride in my duties. "She has betrayed us." he said with a tone of finality.

I shook off the memories and, putting away my rag, looked to Ami. She seemed to be physically righted, so I sighed and pulled up a chair for her. She got to her feet and refused to sit, so we stood, sizing each other up. "Same old bastard..." she said to me, "Using poisons." I frowned, "I didn't want to hurt you--" "Just like four years ago, right!?" she spat, angrily. I held up my hands, defensively. "I deserve that--" "You deserve a blade to the balls so that your treacherous seed might never be spread!" I closed my eyes and counted to five, opening them and locking with hers.

"You know what would've happened," I said, "It would be both of us dead, now." She smiled, mirthlessly and looked away, "So I'm supposed to thank you for, what, saving my miserable life? Talos' scorn, Cazen! I am dead, inside! Do you know what it's like, knowing that I'll never be a mother?!"

My thoughts return to that night, in the barn. I had lured her there with promises of activities we didn't feel comfortable engaging in with Zorza asleep in the next room. "We must be quick about it!" she said as I closed the door and she pressed me into them, her lips literally slamming into mind, her tongue finding my own in a passionate lock. I wrapped my arms around her waist and kissed with as much passion as she had met me with. Pushing off from the wall, I led her to floor as she began to unbuckle my jerkin.

One of my hands had strayed to my trouser, seeming as if I reached to untie the draw-string. Instead, I with drew the concealed dagger that she must've confused with another steel-like part of my anatomy. Taking the blade, covertly, I readied it at her stomach. A stomach wound bleeds long, and I didn't want her dead, immediately. She would have time to think about her death and lament betraying me and Zorza, after all we had done for her. She pulled away from our kiss and looked up into my eyes, "I love you, Cazen Kross."

I almost paused...but I did not. The blade slammed into her and she struggled against my weight, trying to throw me off. My blade darted into her again, and again. Three stabs. I took the blade, cleaning it off on her dress as she held her wounds and looked to me. "W-why...Caz...Cazen?" I tucked the blade into it's sheath, looking down at her. "How could you, you bitch?!" I threw my arms up in the air, "How could you betray Zorza and I?!" She shook her head, tears coming to her eyes, "I...didn't..." I kicked her in the gut, "You lying bitch!" She rolled into the fetal position, sobbing.

I turned my back on her. "He's been like a father to us both, Ami! Damn you to all Nine Hells for your treachery!" I turned to her and she stared at me, her sobbing dead in her throat. "He lied to you..." she said in a whisper. "What?!" I grabbed her by the shirt and almost punched her in the face until she said the next words in a screeching scream, "He lied about your father!" I stilled my hand, looking at her and she tried to stop the bleeding with one hand, shield herself with another, and keep from crying. "...he lied, Cazen..."

I don't know why I stopped, but I did. Something about the way she said it rang true to me. I looked into her eyes, saddened. "Why?" She closed her eyes and looked away. She held her hands to her wounds, holding back all kinds of tears and misery. Finally, she spoke to me. "It wasn't your father that hired him...it was your mother. She's still alive, Cazen..." I looked at her in disbelief and considered slitting her throat, until she said the next words. "That's why he ordered me dead, Cazen...because I knew." At this point, her words made a strange sense to me.

I looked down at her, and cried. She cried, as well. "At...l-l-l-least...I can die...w-with a c...clear...conscience..." She lost her spark and I mourned over her, until I remember the temple of Chauntea I had seen just on the outskirts. I picked up her body and walked to the temple, a trail of blood for those who would follow. I didn't care...I had done her a great wrong, and I would see it amended. When I reached the temple, I kicked the door open and marched toward the altar. The Priestess came from the back wielding a staff until she saw that I held her. She swept the things from the altar and motioned me forward.

Placing her, tenderly, lovingly on the altar, the Priestess began to look her over and check her. She shook her head, "I...I can't...do anything for her, sir." I took the Priestess by the shoulders and shook her with great force, "You will save her, or it will cost you your life!" She broke away from, frightened by my demeanor and made a holy gesture toward me. I grabbed her hands and clasp them together in my own. Falling to my knees, I begged, "Please!" Tears rolling down my face, I bowed my head and cried, "...please save her..." I said in almost a whisper.

At that time, I don't know if I was talking to the Priestess, or Chauntea, but a strange discomfort came over me. The feeling I get when I'm about to receive news I don't want. The Priestess, probably in her early thirties and having lived never knowing the touch of a man, looked down to me with sadness in her eyes and grudgingly nodded. She pulled away and went to Ami, opening her dress and seeing to the wounds. She gasped, a frown coming to her lips. "If I bring her back, she will never bear a child...the damage to her is so..."

I cried, again. I don't know why, but I did. And I nodded to her. "Save her...please." And she did.

Ami remained unconscious, and I insured no one would know of Ami's presence, and asked she be helped to reach Neverwinter. The Temple of Chauntea received a generous donation...

With that, I left to kill my Master.
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"Ami..." I said, my own voice sounding weak and ineffectual, as I looked at the girl who, moments ago, came very close to killing me. Now, she was reduced to a mess, palms obscuring her face, sobs wracking her body. I sighed and decided there was no further reason to be here. As I turned to leave, I heard a distinct whistle and this time, my reflexes did not save me from the bolt that buried itself in my lower back. A kidney shot was the most painful and diabolical back-stab a thief could use. I turned to her, a smile struggling to my face, "Well...honor among thieves, huh?"

There was a satisfied smile on her angelic face. "The problem is, Cazen, you're no real thief. You've never been a real thief. You're too busy trying to save everyone to see opportunity, and when opportunity knocks, you're slow to take advantage of it."

In the heat of the moment, the memories continue...

I oiled the hinges of the door to where Zorza slept. He always, purposely, chose a room with squeaky hinges, because most people do not take the time to dab a little lubricant between the interlocking parts. I slide my dagger in at the points where his trap was set. I had studied that trap so many times in my training, I could deactivate it with my eyes closed. It was a simple noise-maker that would alert Zorza to intruders. The windows were set with them as well. As I felt the trap deactivate, I slowly pushed the door open.

Beneath the covers of the bed, as always, Zorza slept soundly. This bastard who had murdered my father and concealed from me that my mother was not only alive, but responsible for it. That treacherous whore! She was probably remarried to some rich fool, living the high-life while father was dead and I spent all of my time training to be some thief's errand boy. I drew several throwing daggers and with precision born of endless training, I flung each of them into the mass on the bed.

Then, to my horror, I noticed there was no blood. Rushing to the bed, the covers were flung away to reveal pillows that formed a convincing simulacrum of a sleeping body. Then I heard a whistle and felt a sharp pain in the back of my shoulder. Reaching back, I yanked away a bolt, and already, I could smell the poison on the bloody tip. I turned to look for the source and saw Zorza standing there, in his gear, as if he'd been expecting me. There was no smirk of satisfaction nor any indicator that he felt anything, just the cold professionalism of what he was.

I stumbled toward him, though what I intended to do if I had reached him, I do not know. The toxin was already coursing through my veins and every step felt like I was walking in tar. He shook his head at me, "Should've just done the job, Cazen." He looked upon me like a disappointed father and then, the darkness rushed me from all sides, and I was no longer conscious.

It's funny...

When you think you're dead, you make all sorts of promises to yourself that you have no ability to keep. Luckily, I wasn't dead. I awoke sometime later. Though at the time I had no recollection of how long, it was three days. For three days, I was kept sedated until we could reach this place. As I rose from the elegant bed on which I slept, I wondered if I had died and some God or Goddess had taken pity on me, and not just slabbed me into the Wall, more mortar for other souls. When I looked out the window and realized I was in the Blacklake District, it didn't take me long to figure out I wasn't dead.

From the view outside, I surmised that I knew where I was. Indeed, I have delivered parchments and scrolls to this place, quite often. I never asked questions, in those days, I just figured that someone important lived here...someone I was better off not knowing about. I was half-right. Opening the door, I stepped from the room and someone dressed as a servant said, "Ah, you're awake. The Mistress will be pleased. Follow me..." And he lead me through a maze of twists and turns and down a flight of stairs to what appeared to be a grand library. "Wait here." And having told me this, the servant was gone.

I perused the library, casually. It had several ancient text upon which I had not enough study in Draconic to decipher even the title. As I approached the desk, I spied a golden letter opener, sharp as a barber's razor and made it disappear into my sleeve. As I turned away from the desk and began perusing again, the doors opened and my jaw dropped. There was mother, elegantly appointed in the height of the fashion of the time. She smiled at me, so lovingly, "Cazen...my son." With that, I wanted to run to her, to embrace her, as any child would his long lost mother.

But the betrayal was still fresh in my mind, "Why did you do it?" Tears threatened to well in my eyes and my voice almost cracked. She looked upon me with such an expression of motherly concern, "Why, for you, of course. My dear boy, don't you understand?" I didn't. I couldn't comprehend any of those, and I told her as much. She giggled with genuine mirth, "Oh, my short-sighted boy...did you really think a poor girl, living in Beggar's Nest, could be so well educated? Especially that ridiculous story of being the ward of a hedge wizard in my youth. Roman, I expected that to fool, being the brainless wastrel that he is..." she seemed to stop as if she had accidentally swore an oath, "...was."

I looked upon her with absolute incredulity. "He was your husband...and my father!" She smiled a secret smile, "Hardly either. He was a good-hearted man, the perfect cover for me to live in the Nest and ensure that you had the training necessary." "Necessary for what, exactly?" I asked. "Why, to succeed me, of course. You see, Cazen, I'm what you might call a..." she looked to be thinking carefully, "ringleader." Cazen had heard that word tossed about before...usually to mean someone who led a gang. She shook her head. "I've got a present for you." She called out something in a harsh voice that I was able to determine as the Goblin tongue and then interpret, roughly, as "Bring him."

Moments later, two burly hobgoblins entered through the same double-door that mother and I had. Each of them had one arm of Zorza, and he looked to be pretty badly beaten. Bringing me a box with an elegantly designed fighting dagger, mother (who was now shorter then I) looked up into my eyes. "Cazen, I want you to kill him." I took the dagger from the box and stalked toward Zorza with a zeal I never knew I had. When I came upon him, I placed the dagger to his throat, "You lied to me..." It was so easy, all I had to do was pushed. But he looked up to me with those cold, almost dead eyes. He didn't beg for his life or do anything...it was what it was. I was about to murder an unarmed, defenseless man. And, in a strange way, a man who had been a father to me for eight years, previous.

I shook my head, "No." Mother came from seemingly nowhere and snatched the blade from my hand. In the same motion, shall slipped it through his shirt, between a couple of ribs, and into Zorza's heart. His eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. In less then three minutes later, he slumped dead in the embrace of two hobgoblin. She said "Dump him in the docks." to the hobgoblins. A moment later a man with a hardened appearance, complimented by knife-fighting scars, came in. "Lady Estellana." he smiled and took a bow. Mother smiled back to him, "Dispense with the formalities, Wise. I'd like you to meet my son, Cazen. Cazen, this is Wise." He offered his hand to Cazen, "I've heard many excellent things about you, as your training progressed, boy. I look forward to seeing you in action."

In that moment, I had decided that there was nothing I could do. For the next three years, I was the perfect son of a ring-leader, continuing my thief's training and doing whatever errand mother asked. I came to learn that she raised me in the Beggar's Nest so I would understand what the "straight and narrow" life was like. Also, she said the thug boys I ran with as a child were better teachers of larcenous arts then any instructor she could have provided. Finally, the trips abroad with father were to build my resolve and strength, as all the lifting and carrying and other activities involved in caravan driving are hard, muscle-building work.
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Finally, three years later, my day had come. For various reasons, mother had to send away half of the forces of her estate to assist Wise in some endeavor of his. We sat alone, in the grand dining room, eating our dinner. It was there that I formulated a rather simple plot...I'd kill her and leave. We were in the library after our meal and she had taken down her journal from the bookcase and began to pen an entry, as she did, every night. "Mother, I wanted to thank you...for all you've done for me." She looked up at me, her spectacles just below the bridge of her nose, with a soft smile. "Hmm? Oh, yes, of course, dear." I came around the desk and wrapped my arms around her in a tender embrace. She embraced me as well.

Three years ago, I had taken a letter opener from her desk. It was the perfect concealed weapon to tuck in one's sleeve and in that moment, I let it slide into my hands. I struck, introducing it into mother's kidney. She clinched and her breath caught in her throat. I slid it out and with another steady push, let it slide into the other kidney. She lacked the strength to even scream and slithered out of my arms and to the floor, her hands sliding to her lower back and coming away bloody.

She laughed as she coughed up blood, "Well done, Cazen...now you're the ring-leader..." I looked down on her solemnly and shook my head. "All I ever wanted was to have a normal, happy childhood, mother. I wanted to grow-up with a loving family, get an honest job, and raise a family of my own. I never cared if I was poor or rich, so long as I had the chance..." She looked at me with hatred and utter disgust in her eyes, "I should've never..." she coughed a gout of blood again, reaching up and taking her journal in a bloodied hand, "you were corrupted by Roman's weakness..." Her eyes fluttered and closed, "...not...your...real..." She died, whatever her final words were dying with her.

I took the wedding ring from her ring-finger. She had kept it, though I know not why, as her marriage to my father was a complete sham. I was about to turn and leave when I looked back to the journal. I don't know why I did it, but I picked it up and began walking out of the library when I encountered Wise. He looked to me and to mother and shook his head. "I suppose you're the leader now? Without even being properly inducted?" I sighed, "No Wise. I don't care anything for this life." Wise nodded, "I see. Then might I make a suggestion?" I shrugged to him, "Sure...go ahead." "I will tell the my Masters that you and your mother were killed by a traitor, and then, I will give the traitor to them." I looked upon him, "Won't they ask about my body?" Wise chuckled, deviously, "They have no idea what you look like. I'm sure your body will turn up."

"And where am I to go, now?" I asked. Wise gave a slight shrug, "I heard of a place to near the Spine of the World. A Thayan merchant group has established a presence there, and plenty of work is to be found on the frontier..." he smiled, devilishly, "honest and otherwise." I nodded, "And why are you being so helpful?" I asked, naively. "With you and your mother dead, new opportunities have arisen for people with less questions and more pliable egos." That sickened me, but for all I cared, Wise could have it. I left then. I returned to the place that was my home as a child and spent the night there. It was deserted and had been recently used by squatters. The next day, I set to work rigging my hiding place in the staircase. There, I left the journal and the ring, wrapped in a piece of silk. I vowed to return for them, someday, when I was ready for the truth.

Back in the present, I should be dead. But I'm not. It was then that I realized Ami had missed my kidneys...but no reason to let her know that. I slumped to the floor, doing my best to appear weaker then I actually was. She retrieved the adamantine dagger from where I kicked her earlier and stalked toward me, "I'm going to take your manhood before you die, Cazen Kross...just like you stole my--" As she taunted me, I had secreted my hand into my courier's bag and grasped a mild irritant in my hand. My skin itched, but I marshaled my will and dealt with it. When she came closed enough, I flung the powder into her face and immediately her eyes shut.

She screamed and drove at me with the dagger, but fortunately, this time my reflexes saved me. I went to the front door and kicked it open from the inside. This caused the bolt in my back to give me no small measure of agony, but I'd deal with that when I had time. The poor wooden frame buckled and the door was dislodged and held by the gnomish ever-lock only. But with no solid foundation, it easily slid aside and I made my escape.

Later, after I had carefully removed the bolt and patched the shallow wound (that's the problem with hand crossbows...no power behind them), I boarded a ship bound for Port Avanthyr. Mother's journal was written in a cypher that took me half of the trip to unravel. The rest of the trip was spent tirelessly pouring over every entry. It turns out that the journal she kept was a document of important moments in my life. If my mother had not been such a treacherous, conniving wretch, it would've been endearing.

Finally, I came upon something I had not known: Roman Kross was not my original birth father.

I had been through too much to let this bother me, though it did merit investigation, some day. And as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I was concerned. But it didn't matter. Roman Kross was a truer father to me then I deserved and I had repaid him by killing him. I prayed to Tymora that I would be lucky enough to receive Roman's forgiveness. When I came upon Port Avanthyr, the guard approached me as he did all coming from the Sea Sword, "Ah, Cazen...Kross, right?" Roman Kross was not my father, and though he treated me as a son, I killed him for the trouble. I would no longer dishonor him by wearing his name. That decision made, I looked the guard in the eyes and solemnly stated...

"Just Cazen."

FIN

[I hope you enjoyed this peek into Cazen's past. There are many more stories to tell, but I look forward to actually participating in the stories that happen in the Sundren module, and not writing out the stories that happen when I disappear IRL and Cazen takes an impromptu trip back home to explain the disappearence. See you in the world, peoples. And for those you that didn't notice, there are two new entries...I couldn't fit it all into one with the text limit. ;-)]
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Cazen - A guy who "knows a guy..."
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- Tales of a Foolish Brother (Ruslan History)

Last edited by Jai_V; 11-12-2013 at 08:42 AM.
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