Throne of Bhaal Novelization
Abdel leaped from his horse once he reached the tents and ramshackle mud buildings of Amkethran. He ripped the cowl from his body--he wanted nothing to slow him down when he faced Balthazar. The sight of a naked, seven-foot-tall, heavily muscled man drenched in dried blood and wielding a heavy broadsword in one hand and a cruel, rune covered dagger in the other sent the few people he encountered scurrying for cover.
The great iron doors of the monastery were barred against him, but Abdel ripped them from their hinges. With each death of the Five he had become stronger ancd more powerful, growing ever closer to his father's immortal existence. Abdel believed he now had the strength to smash right through the marble walls if necessary.
He stepped through the torn gates and was immediately attacked by an army of the monastery's guardians. The warrior monks fought without weapons, delivering lightning-fast kicks to his knees, punching their fists in a blur at his throat, driving their knees to his groin. Their attacks ould have shattered the bones of any mortal.
Abdel shrugged off the blows as meaningless. He slashed out with his sword and Sendai's dagger, driving the monks back as they dodged his cuts and stabs or fell injured to the ground. But he didn't follow up his initial attacks. His efforts were merely meant to cut a path through the mob. The deaths of these mindless followers of Balthazar were inconsequential to Abdel, and pursuing the injured to finish them off would only cost him precious time.
Had he wished for slaughter, it would have been a simple task to unleash the Ravager on his enemies. But the demon lusted only for indiscriminate death, it cared nothing for Abdel's desire for revenge. If Abdel set the Ravager free now, Balthazar might escape unnoticed in the ensuing carnage. So Abdel quelled the rising fire of his father's evil, and he pressed on with grim, passionless determination.
The monks threw themselves at him, willing--even eager--to sacrifice themselves to halt his progress, but their adversary was immune to their fists and feet. Despite their overwhelming numbers and despite the fact that Abdel couldn't even be bothered to kill them, they were unable to slow his relentless advance toward the tall tower in the center of the compound.
Somehow Abdel knew Balthazar was inside the tower. He could sense the taint of Bhaal on his quarry glowing like a beacon, calling to the evil taint within his own soul. He continued to swat away the pestering gnats who rained blow after blow down on his invulnerable body, his eyes focused intently on the tower's heavily guarded entrance.
Two figures emerged from the door, their arms weaving strange patterns in the air and their voices chanting unfamiliar sounds that rang out above the din of battle. These mages were sent to stop him where the warriors had failed. The crush of humanity surrounding Abdel fell back, anxious to avoid the effects of the spells about to be unleashed upon him.
Fire erupted all around him, the flames engulfing his body. Lightning flashed down from the sky to split his skull. Clouds of noxious fumes obscured his vision. Walls of ice materialized before him. Enchanted arrows appeared from nowhere to unerringly strike his body, splashing corrosive acid across his skin wherever they hit.
Abdels stride never faltered. The magic of Abazigal had nearly ended his existence, but with the death of the half-dragon and the drow Sendai, Abdel had evolved yet again. The magically summoned elements of the mages were as ineffective as the physical blows of the warrior monks. Abdel was an unstoppable messenger of death.
The mages stepped aside, and a single, black-skinned figure stood in the tower's entrance. Like Abdel, this man was naked--though it was difficult to tell. His ebony skin was covered head to toe in tattoos. The colors and designs seemed to shift andwrithe beneath the man's dark flesh, as if the symbols were alive with power. Though nearly a foot shorter than Abdel, the tattooed man's body similarly rippled with knotted, corded muscle. The tattooed man called out, "Stop! This is not your battle."
Bowing respectfully, the warrior monks and mages alike stopped back and cleared a path for Abdel to approach. Not even caring if it was a trap, Abdel rushed at the black-skinned man, certain he was none other than Balthazar.
The man disappeared inside the door, and Abdel followed. As he leaped across the threshold he heard the horrible shriek of stone being warped and twisted. Glancing back over his should, Abdel wasn't surprised to find the door had been magically sealed behind him, the rock of the tower walls closing over the opening. He turned his attention back the tower's interior. At the far end was a steep staircase leading to the second floor, but otherwise the first floor was empty. It resembled an arena, or perhaps a training ring. In the center of this circle stood the black-skinned Balthazar.
"This must end here," the monk said, his voice neither threatening nor afraid. "This must end now."
Abdel couldn't have agreed more.
Abdel rushed the monk. Balthazar waited until his enemy was nearly on him, then turned to the side. His left hand slapped the tip of the thrusting broadsword down and away from his body. His right frearms smacked the wrist of Abdel's left hand, redirecting the path of Sendai's dagger as it sliced down from above. His leg shot out, tripping Abdel's feet so that the charging sellsword's momentum carried hi stumbling past Balthazar to slam into the hard stone of the far wall.
Unharmed but burning with angry embarrassment at his foolishly ineffective attack, Abdel spun around to face his opponent once more. Balthazar still stood in the very center of the room, casually awaiting Abdel's next move.
"You do understand why your death must come to pass?" he asked nonchalantly.
"I know you want to bring Bhaal back to life, but that's not why I'm here."
With that Abdel rushed forward again, crouching low and keeping his feet wide, bringing his center of gravity close to the ground. This time the monk wouldn't be able to redirect his momentum with a simple twist of his body.
Baltazar also crouched down, then sprang up into the air as Abdel approached, flipping and twisting abouve the head of his surprised opponent. Balthazar's left heel cauht Abdel in the back of his skull, momentarily stunning him. The monk's right foot delivered a stiff kick in the middle of Abdel's back, sending him sprawling face down on the hard floor.
Abdel flopped on his stomach gasping for breath. His head and back stung from Balthazar's kicks--he could already feel his body beginning to swell and bruise from the vicious blows. Unlike the army of monks he had wadded through in the courtyard, Balthazar was able to inflict real injury.
It was the tattoos, Abdel realized. Like the runes on the weapons of the other members of the Five, the designs and symbols covering the arms and legs of Balthazar gave him the power to harm Abdel's body. Knowing he was vulnerable forced Abdel to change tactics. He would have to approach with more caution. Slowly Abdel rose and turned to face the monk again.
Balthazar had landed nimbly on his feet after his gravity-defying maneuver and stood once again in the center of the room. He continued the conversation as if nothing had happened.
"I have no intention of bringing Bhaal back to life," the monk explained. "The evil of Bhaal must be purged form Faerûn forever, Abdel. His taint must be wiped from the face of Abeir-toril. That is why you must die."
The sound of Abdel's bitter laugh echoes off the stone walls encircling them. "I know you are one of the Five! You hunted your own Bhaalspawn kin so that you might use their essence to resurrect our father!"
"I was one of the Five," Balthazar admitted as Abdel cautiously approached, his twin blades weaving hypnotic patterns through the air, "though I never shared their vision. They wanted to bring Bhaal back, and I want to ensure he stays dead forever. Killing those who shared our tainted blood was common to both their end and mine, so I aided them in the hunting of the Bhaalspawn. But all along I inteded to betray them at the end, Abdel."
Abdel was barely even listening to the lies spilling from his enemy's mouth. He wouldn't let words distract him from the task at hand. If the monk wanted to jabber away while the sellsword inched ever closer, Abdel would let him speak--until he silenced Balthazar by slicing his throat.
Although he rarely fought with a weapon in each hand, Abdel knew how to use twin blades to maximize his offensive advantage. He led with a series of high offensive thrusts and slashed from the broadsword, designed to drive the monk back and throw him off balance. He'd follow up by stabbing the dagger in toward his foe's kidney, forcing him to turn away from the tiny blade--and right into the heavy edge of the broadsword cutting down from the other side.
Something went wrong, Balthazar did not retreat beneath the first savage assault. He parried the sword with his bare left hand, turning his wrist so that the palm met the flat of the blade and deflected its arc harmlessly away. Abdel's second thrust was similarly met and turned aside. In desperation he tried to bring the dagger up, but a stiff kick from Balthazar's leg caught him in the elbow and knocked the knife from his numb grasp.
Balthazar ducked down and away from what Abdel had expected to be the finishing blow, letting the heavy broadsword slice harmlessly through the air less than an inch above his head. Before Abdel could reverse the momentum of his attack he was doubled over by a knee slamming into his groin. An instant later he was straightened up s the knee slammed into his chin.
Blinded by stars of pain, Abdel never saw the rapid flurry of punches to his midsection, though he did feel several of his ribs crack in quick succession. He felt a pair of firm hands wrap themselves around his wrist and heave on his arm, and Abdel was hurled through the air to land hard on his back.
"As long as even a single drop of Bhaal-tainted blood courses through living veins, there is a chance someone will find a way to bring Bhaal back to life," Balthazar calmly explained, not even breathing heavily after their confrontation. "Like all the other Bhaalspawn, you have the taint of Bhaal within you, and you must be killed for the good of the world.
The ceiling slowly came into focus as Abdel's vision cleared. His left hand was paralyzed. He couldn't even clench his fingers into a fist. Every breath brought agonizing pain as his cracked rib cage was forced to expand and contract. He coughed and choked as a trickle of blood crawled up his throat. He could feel his body struggling to restore itself, fighting to overcome the powerful sorcery contained in every punch and kick Balthazar delivered. His body was healing--slowly.
"What about you?" Abdel croaked, stalling for time. "You are also a Bhaalspawn. Must you die for your tainted blood?"
"I have learned to control the evil within me, Abdel," Balthazar replied. "The markings on my body contain my vile essence with powerful magics. I have devoted my entire life to mastering the mental discipline that enables me to keep Bhaal's fury caged within my body and soul. But as long as I live," the monk continued, "there will be those who would seek to release what I have worked so hard to imprison The chances of them succeeding are infinitesimal, but even that risk is too great. Once you are dead, Abdel, I also must die. We are the last two. With your death and my ritual suicide we will forever free the world from the threat of Bhaal's return.
The bones in Abdel's chest were mending. He could feel sensation and strength returning to the fingers of his left hand. Throughout the savage beating he had manged to hand on to his broadsword, but he still needed a few more seconds.
"You're mad, Balthazar."
"that is an inevitable consequence of who and what we both are," the monk said. "Bhaal's essece brings madness and death. No matter how we try and avoid it, no matter our intentions, we cannot help but manifest the darkest of our father's traits. And all those around us suffer."
His body was whole once more, but Abdel did not leap up to attack right away. Something in Balthazar's words rang true. Had not Abdel always been a harbinger of death and suffering? How many men and women had he slain in his career as a blde for hire? Hundreds? Thousands?
There were those who sought to turn him away from a life of bloodshed.Those who loved him despite his violent nature. Gorion, Jaheira, and what had become of them? Dead like Imoen, and like Sarevok, like everyone hecame in contact with.
"is there no way to rid ourselves of Bhaal's taint?" Abdel asked, praying Balthazar would give him an answer that offered even the faintest glimmer of hope before he ended the monk's existence.
"The curse of out father cannot be avoided." Balthazar's voice was somber, even regretful "Many of our kin simply submitted to Bhaal's foulness and let the essence consume them. Sarevok was once one of those. The other members of the Five were also of that kind. Others tried to resist the Lord of Murder's darkness, as you or I have done. But we are doomed to failure. Despite our efforts, death follows in our wake. Our footsteps are left in a trail of blood, Abdel. Even I, with all my training, have not been able to resist the killing urges of Bhaal."
The implications of Balthazar's words were too much for Abdel to bear. If the monk was right, Jaheira's death was his fault. His unholy heritage had doomed her from the start. Abdel wouldn't accept that. He couldn't. How could he avenge her death if he was the one to blame?
He clung to his vengeance like a drowning man to a rope tossed from the shore. It was all he had left, the only thing that could fill the emptiness inside. The Five had killed Jaheira, not he, and the Five would pay.
Abdel leaped to his feet, struggling to keep the inferno inside from overwhelming him. He didn't want to release the Ravager. Not unless he had to. He wanted the pleasure of killing Balthazar himself. This time Abdel came in slowly, giving his opponent a wide berth as he circled. In their first confrontations Abdel had been the aggressor. Each time he had lunged in Balhaar had countered by using the big sellsword's aggressiveness and momentum against him.
Abdel was about to turn the tables on his enemy, taking away his advantage. This time, Abdel would wait for the monk to make the first move. For several long second Abdel held his ground, staying well out of range. Waiting, hoping to lure his opponent in.
Balthazar took the offensive. The monk came straight at him, moving fast. He came in low, trying to sweep Abdel's legs out from under him. Abdel leaped back and brought his sword chopping down with both hands to cleave Balthazar's skull. The monk was already gone, twisting and spinning clear of the blade.
Abdel tried to retreat and reset himself. Balthazar had moved in too close for him to use his eapon effectively. The monk pressed forward, refusing to give Abdel the space he needed. A fit to the jaw, an elbow to the throat, a pinning roundhouse kick to the temple and Abdel collapsed groggily to one knee. A knee to the face, and Abdel's nose exploded in a bloody geyser.
He thrust out blindly with his broadsword, hoping to get lucky. Balthazar seized his wrist, braced Abdel's arm and snapped t backward at the elbow, shattering the joint. Abdel screamed in pain and tried to roll clear. He came to his feet just in time to feel Balthazar's foot driving through the side of his knee, dislocating it and ripping the ligaments and tendons from the bone now protruding beneath Abdel's thigh.
Balthazar stepped back, leaving his crippled opponent writhing on the floor. "Even now I relish the pain I am inflicted," he said, almost by way of apology. "We cannot deny what we are Abdel, no matter how hard we try. I suppose that is why Bhaal's Anointed recruited you to eliminate the Five. No matter which side eventually triumphed, Bhaal's evilwould still reign supreme in the victor's soul. When all this is over, Bhaal's Anointed can use that evil to resurrect the Lord of Murder."
Abdel shook his head, trying to ignore the all consuming agony of his two mangled limbs while he struggled to follow the words of Balthazar. "Bhaal's Anointed?" he asked, gritting his teeth against the pain.
The monk gave him a sympathetic smile. "You have no idea, do you? You are a pawn, Abdel. A puppet on a string. Melissan has been manipulating you this whole time."