The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 27byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This fanfic is based off the Neverwinter Nights community module by the name of "A Dance with Rogues" created by Valine. I fell in love with this story and felt compelled to write something that compliments it. This story contains explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Nicca, Ni'as, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
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Shiloh led Shander back to the Bear Pit and up through the levels until she reached Master Nathan's office. She smiled at Wesh and Warent before she stopped at the doorway. "I know you usually don't allow outsiders into the boss's office, but I ask that you let him pass with me. It's highly imperative."
Wesh flicked his eyes over her and then Shander before glancing over to Warent who nodded. "Consider it done."
She smiled, "Thank you."
"So what has improved your mood, slut?" Warent guffawed, "Did you make nice to Vico?"
"Hardly," Shiloh hissed. "Maybe you'd like to try again."
"Not on your life," he shot back, his lips curling in disgust.
She glared at him as a raw ache coursed through her. She couldn't believe he'd be so rude to her. Yes, they'd had a wondrous affair and had parted on good terms. Sure there had been some words spoken between them since then and not all of them had been nice. But what'd she done to deserve this? She knew she hadn't always been fair, but this was uncalled for. She looked him up and down. "What gives, Warent? Why are you so mean?"
"Ah, so the bitch can dish it, but she can't take it. Go on. You wouldn't want to keep the boss waiting."
Shiloh shook her head. Men! Who needed them? She groaned inwardly. Unfortunately, she did. Putting it out of her mind for the time being, she entered Master Nathan's office and smiled warmly at Timo. The big bear of a man smiled back. She approached Nathan confidently, knowing he had the final say in everything.
"What is the meaning of this, Shiloh?" He asked before she reached him.
She stopped in her tracks and dropped a curtsy. "Master Nathan," she started. "Forgive me for bringing someone else beyond the folds of the Family here, but I have good reason. I have a thing or two to confess and where you may not like it, I've managed to correct it on my own."
"What've you done this time, Shiloh? And what does it have to do with him?"
"First off, this is Shander."
"Shander Odgerman's my name." The young wizard extended his hand to Nathan, "Pleased to meet you."
Nathan nodded, taking stock in the wizard before turning his eyes back to Shiloh, "Explain."
"I'm getting there. You know I procured the rod of resurrection. I wanted it for a certain purpose. It wasn't to bring Caron back or even my parent's. No, the person I brought back to life was my half-sister, Shanna."
Recognition of the name flashed through Nathan's eyes. The look he gave pinned her to the spot she stood in, "Vico's Shanna?"
"Yes, Vico's Shanna. I told you about her... the illegitimate daughter of my father. I thought by bringing her back that it would make Vico happy since I seem to do such an awful job of it. This all happened before my last mission with Vico. I took him to her last night after our mission was complete after the talk in the office with you. He didn't seem as happy as I thought he'd be. So today I took her to see him and he acted as if he still didn't want to see her. So I forced him to. She's with him right now or at least I hope she still is. Well, before I took her to see him, she and I were out shopping. I had to buy things for her. We were accosted by a man named Mart. He wanted to paint a portrait of us. Shanna wanted to do it, so I agreed."
"You let someone paint you? Do you have any clue how dangerous that is?"
"Yes, I do, especially since the Dhorn burst in and confiscated the damn thing."
"You will get that painting back, young lady!" Nathan's eyes flashed and though he didn't raise his voice, she could feel his anger brewing beneath the surface of his cool exterior.
"I have managed to do that. I have it on me. That brings me to Shander. He's a wizard. He helped me get into the Dhorn Administration Building. I retrieved it, but someone heard me while I was in the cellars. So I went back to Shander's house to warn him, but I was too late. The Dhorn had got to him first. So I resurrected him. It was my fault, my stupidity that led to his demise so I had to correct it, but I couldn't leave him to deal with the Dhorn again in case they found out he was alive. So I brought him here. I thought we could hide him and keep him safe. I thought his skills as a wizard could be useful to the Family." Shiloh nearly pleaded with him.
"How many other strays are you going to bring to us?" Nathan asked, "Rhys, Nicca, Vico's little girlfriend, this wizard. You have to be careful, Shiloh. Someone is going to start to put two and two together and come up with the right conclusion of who you are."
"Rhys is completely loyal. Nicca is still a naive child and Shanna is besotted with Vico. She would never betray him. And Shander's death is on my hands. I had to right a wrong, not only for Shander, but for Vico too. Because I love him, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy. Even if it means giving him over to another woman he had feelings for." Shiloh replied as the flood of her emotions nearly overwhelmed her.
Nathan looked at Shiloh and then brought his gaze to Shander. "Were you a member of the Academy?"
"Yes, I'm a former student and had begun to do some teaching there before the Dhorn closed it. They have spent much time during the past several months harassing me, invading my laboratory and taking anything they deem 'dangerous'. I must've been careless in some of my excursions in their building to retrieve my things. They came to my house and tried to arrest me, but I wouldn't submit. I knew to be taken alive would be a fate worse than death, so I used some of my spells and tried to make an escape, but it did me no good. They had men who knew how to fight spell casters with them. I'm grateful for Shiloh's help and I thank you for your offer of safe harbor, but I do have somewhere I can go... somewhere safe. I have family in Sargoza."
"Can you magically get yourself there?" Shiloh turned to Shander and asked.
"Yes, I can. I do appreciate what you've done for me, the trust you've put in me by bringing me here. I won't betray your kindness or this place. I can easily see there is more than meets the eye going on with this restaurant. I shall give you a token which you can contact me, if needed. I'm in your debt, Shiloh." The wizard smiled at her, handing her a small crystal.
She responded in kind. "Awww shucks, and I was hoping you'd stay with me!" A giggle escaped her lips.
"It wouldn't be safe for either of us," he replied. "I won't forget you, pretty Shiloh."
She inclined her head gracefully at him. "Before you go, take the portrait with you to remember me by," she dug it out of her bag and handed it to him.
His smile widened. He couldn't believe she'd give him something so important to her that she'd risk life and limb breaking into the Dhorn Administration Building to retrieve. His breath caught in his throat and he leaned into her, placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Thank you, sweet Shiloh."
The painting disappeared into his pack, along with his other possessions. "Blessed be."
With a few sweeping hand motions and a few words, Shander disappeared from sight. He was gone... hopefully to safety far from Betancuria and the Dhorn.
Shiloh sighed and looked at Master Nathan who gave her a stern look. Her response was a timid smile. "What?"
"I would've preferred someone we trusted to keep that painting," he tersely reprimanded, "Considering the subject manner."
"I think it's safe. I don't think he'll betray me. It's sad to see him go." She looked wistfully at the spot he had been standing. "I liked him."
An auspicious cough came from outside the room and she frowned. Let them mock her. What did she really care?
"Was there anything else you needed, Shiloh?" Nathan asked.
She shook her head. "No, I'll be going now. I think a nap is in order. It's been an odd day," she shrugged her shoulders and fought the urge to seek out some pleasurable company.
"Might I remind you to lay low for a while? Check with Alfons to see if he has any jobs for you. Actually, I think Mando might be in need of a girl to do a job for him."
"As long as it has nothing to do with Dhorn officers, I don't mind. Actually I seem to remember meeting a paladin at the Thousand Steps Inn that needed someone to accompany him and his lady on a quest of sorts. Someone with our kind of skills. I may check there again to see if they have found anyone to go with them. Can you have Master Kelten find out some more information on them before I seek them out again?"
Nathan nodded, "Of course. Now good day, Shiloh."
She realized a dismissal when she heard one and curtsied before leaving. She playfully swatted Warent on the bottom as she passed by him. He laughed and grabbed hold of her, swirling her around before throwing her over his shoulder, returning the light love tap to her curvaceous backside. She giggled and tugged at his hair before he set her to her feet.
"Careful, Shiloh," he cocked an eyebrow at her. "One would think you're asking for trouble."
"Maybe I am," she winked and walked away. Leaving the Bear Pit behind, she returned to her apartment. A nice long hot bath sounded ever so good. It was no surprise to her that Shanna hadn't come back. She figured Vico would keep her all to himself from here on out. It did surprise her that he hadn't wanted to see Shanna. She wasn't sure what had caused him to act that way. She'd thought he'd be happy. She shrugged, who knew about Vico?
The heavy knock on the door startled her out of her rest. She had curled up on her couch with a book and had fallen asleep. Though the story in the book had captivated her, the burden of the day had taken its toll on her body and it demanded to be appeased. With a yawn, she sat up and stretched. The pounding sounded at the door again along with a muffled growl that sounded vaguely like Vico threatening to break it door if she didn't answer it soon. It must be him bringing Shanna back. It surprised her that he was bringing her back this soon. Had she been wrong in her thoughts that he'd welcome her back? Shiloh hated the thought that she'd been the one to blame. She hated to think that she'd brought pain to Shanna unnecessarily. It hadn't been her intention.
She quickly answered the door, pulling it open and glaring up into Vico's dark eyes, "Could you be any louder?"
An insolent grin crossed his face. "I wanted to be heard over the moans and groans I figured would be coming from your bedroom."
Shiloh rolled her eyes at him and looked past him to Shanna and to her surprise, Rhys. "I'd invite you in, Vico, but you aren't welcome here. Thanks for bringing Shanna home. Good night."
It was in that moment Shiloh's breath caught in her throat as she watched Vico embrace her sister so tenderly and bestow upon her a heart-breaking kiss. Shiloh had to look away. The sight was too much to bear as was the rosy glow of happiness that clung to Shanna's skin. Minutes passed before he ended it and whispered a fond good night. With a giggle, Shanna slipped past Vico and dashed up the stairs. He watched her go and scowled blackly at Shiloh. "Careful, birdie. I'll do as I please."
Rhys took that moment to clear his throat. "Am I welcome?" he asked as a smile flitted across his lips.
Shiloh bit her lip, cutting off a snide comment that sat upon the tip of her tongue. She remembered well what he had accused her of. She shrugged at him. "Perhaps as long as you apologize for what you said earlier. How dare you say that to me when you know that isn't true?"
"Which part?" He grinned at the spitting little kitten before him.
Shiloh hissed at him. "You know damn well which part. I am not a whore and I have never treated you as a substitute for anyone, let alone this asshole right here. Perhaps you should both get the hell out of my sight."
Vico burst out in laughter, "You said that to her? She knows no one could do for her what I do."
The slap came swiftly and sharply, connecting with Vico's cheek with a force that left him rubbing it blithely. Her eyes blazed red once again. "Cunt!" he spat angrily.
"Shiloh," Rhys spoke up. "I came here to apologize. You know I didn't mean that. I've never thought that of you. Am I forgiven?"
"Come in, we'll talk about this." She let him pass by her and heard his footsteps on the stairs leading up into the main living area of the apartment. "Go away, Vico. I don't have anything else to say to you and I'm not in the mood to fight with you."
He sneered at her before turning away from her. He took a few steps away towards the building's front door and stopped, looking back at her. "Don't presume that you think you know what will make me happy because your feeble attempts have been all wrong." And then he was gone.
Shiloh slumped against the frame of her door. Had he been referring to Shanna as well? She sighed heavily and headed back into the apartment. Perhaps she had made a mistake, but there was no way to undo it now. Shanna was alive and well with her future ahead of her.
Two sets of eyes met her as she entered the living room of her apartment. Shanna's were full of joy and happiness while Rhys's watched every move she made. "What?" Shiloh ground out. "I thought you'd come to say you were sorry, Rhys. Or was it just a pretty line?"
He shook his head. "It wasn't, and you know that, my sweet. I never meant to call you a whore, but I can see clearly what you're trying to hide. I'm on your side. I truly am. I've always been from the moment I first laid eyes on you, but you have to realize that he's not for you. No matter what he's made you feel in the past, he belongs to your sister. I know you know that. You've proved that by acting so selflessly by bringing her back, for him."
Shiloh nodded, looking away. "You're right, Rhys."
Shanna took that moment to speak up. "Vico told me everything. I had to know the whole truth, Shiloh. You left out so much. I figured you didn't want to hurt me, but as I told you, I'm not stupid. If bringing me back was some ploy to keep him in your life, then you have to know that's wrong. He doesn't play these kinds of games. I love him. I always have from the very first time I saw him. He and I had been together for a year before the Dhorn attack and he had just about fulfilled my every dream. But that was then. And this is now. He locked so many of his feelings up after that night. It took me a while to get past the many layers of his defensive bullshit, to get to the Vico I once knew. But I found him. And I mean to keep him."
"And I am happy for you, Shanna. That's what I wanted. I want him to be happy," Shiloh replied as she seemed intent to study the floor. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you everything. It's been hard for me over the past few months. I'm just tired of fighting with him."
Shanna's eyes swept over her sister's down-turned face. "There's still much that you aren't telling me even now. You brought me back and still you want him for yourself. Just admit it, Shiloh. You know you do. You can't stand it that he still wants me. And he does want me. He proved it to me just a little while ago and it was as beautiful as I remembered it. I could have stayed the night with him. He wanted me to stay the night, but I had to know, Shiloh. I had to see with my own eyes your reaction. And I tell you this, he is mine." The anger in her eyes enhanced the rosiness of her skin. "He is mine."
A deep sigh slipped from Shiloh's lips. "I know that. I failed at making him happy. For whatever it's worth, I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you with my silence."
Shanna's lips twitched. "You could at least look me in the eye."
Shiloh's head snapped up, her eyes betraying her words.
"You still want him for yourself," The younger girl accused. "For all your sweet sounding words, it's all just a pack of pretty lies. You can't stand it, can you? By the Gods, Shiloh, just admit it."
"Yes, I love him. Yes, I want him. And it feels like a knife in my heart that he doesn't feel the same way. Why I am not good enough?" All the hurt and rage she felt over his treatment of her came bursting out. "I would give him anything if he would just return what I feel. And I know he felt it. He told me so."
A muscle in Shanna's jaw ticked. "Yes, I know. He told me, too, but he admitted that sometimes he thought you were me, that he wished you were me and that's where those 'I love you's' came from. So you see, dear sister, you meant nothing to him more than an easy lay. Those were his words, not mine. He grew tired of you, but you wouldn't let it go. All the fighting, all the attempts to garner his attention. He simply saw you for what you were and he wasn't interested."
A sob escaped Shiloh's throat, and she sank to the floor. It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. He wouldn't be that cruel. She couldn't have been a substitute for Shanna. She turned her eyes to Rhys. "Did you know this? Is that why you said those words to me earlier?"
"I knew. I've known for a while. I heard things, things that you didn't. Whispers behind your back. Why do you think I encouraged you to stay away from him? I had hoped you'd figure it out on your own. He isn't right for you, Shiloh. He's just someone who is different from anything you've ever known and you're intrigued by that. Let it go. Give yourself some time to look around you and see that it's not all about giving your body to someone. Love is much more than that. You'll see."
She wiped her tears away. "I need to think and be alone. You are more than welcome to stay."
He shook his head. "Not tonight, Shiloh. We both know where we'd end up if I did and that's not going to help you. Plus I think Shanna wants to go back to Vico's."
"Yes, I do." She spoke the words with a confidence that burned Shiloh. Shanna had thoroughly staked her claim and they both knew it.
"Good night then." Shiloh found her feet and dashed into her bedroom, flinging herself onto the bed. It wasn't fair. He had loved her. She'd witnessed the raw emotion in his eyes the first time he'd whispered those words. The tears fell, streaming down her cheeks unchecked. It couldn't be true.
Surely the Gods would not be so cruel.
It was a few days before Shiloh emerged from her apartment with red-rimmed eyes and a resolve to put Vico in the past where he belonged. She hadn't seen hide nor hair of the blackguard or her sister ever since that night and assumed they were doing fine together. She needed to move on. It's for the best, she told herself over and over again. Returning to Master Nathan's office, she ignored Wesh and Warent as she walked by them, despite the fact they'd both spoken to her. She dropped a curtsy before Nathan, "Have you found anything out from Master Kelten about the paladin?" She wasn't about to beat around the bush.
"Yes, I have. They are still waiting for a certain someone to return to the inn because she told them weeks ago that she'd been interested in going with them. Did you forget?"
"I must have with everything else going on. I'll head over there now and speak to them. I just have one concern, though. The paladin gave me the case of the chills last time I encountered him. I didn't like the way he looked at me. I mean, he's a man of the church and he had a lady companion with him, but something about him felt very foul despite his fair demeanor. Is there anyone in the Family who could go with me perhaps? Just to help me keep the paladin at bay in case his intentions aren't all that goodly?"