End of a Journey

End of a Journey

Darvydia awoke early to a symphony of chirping of birds and insects. As she lingered in that place between dreams and reality, Darvydia mused at how the day would unfold. She opened her eyes and stared into the forest canopy for a few minutes before she stretched grandly and grabbed an overhead limb. Gracefully, Darvydia pulled herself up and then hung upside down from the limb to unfasten her hammock, allowing it and her cloak to drop to the ground. Grabbing her bag, lute, and staff, she shimmied down the tree. Darvydia wrapped her cloak around herself protectively to ward off the morning chill and approached the end of the forest. It was a grand day to end her journey.

As she reached a clearing, the sun embraced her petite frame. She allowed her red and green brocade cloak to fall loosely behind her as she walked. In the distance, the spires of Stormpoint Castle beckoned invitingly. Darvydia looked at the congregation of buildings clustered about the castle and wondered what kind of people and incredulous tales she would find within the city's walls.

She wasn't far from the edge of the city when a merchant stopped his cart to offer her a ride. The merchant was an interesting fellow. Wisps of gray hair peeked out of a skull cap and he was garbed in a disheveled mess of mismatched clothing. Absentmindedly, Darvydia twirled her locks of strawberry blond curls as she politely declined the offer. She wanted to absorb all of the sights and sounds of this land which necessitated an entrance on foot. Humming to herself, Darvydia walked on as the merchant's wagon passed her by and kicked up dust in its wake.

Shuffling her feet, Darvydia added a little dance to her step as she walked. She paused to brush the travel dust off her emerald green tunic and taupe leggings as she neared the gates to the city. The guards gave her a peculiar look as she passed them by, but she just waved and smiled. "Good morning, good morning" she called in a singsong voice as she entered Stormpoint.

Darvydia pondered: the casual observer probably assumes that I am a young boy. Chin length hair is not a common womanly trait here and I am considerably short compared to average women. Her 5'1" stature left her dwarfed by many of the adult passers by. As she proceeded into the city, Darvydia soaked in the sights and sounds of the city. A wide variety of people ambled within the walls of Stormpoint. Occasionally, she would receive a curious look from nearby spectators. Darvydia did not care; she loved being the center of attention.

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


As she proceeded into the city, Darvydia soaked in the sights and sounds of the city. A wide variety of people ambled within the walls of Stormpoint. Occasionally, she would receive a curious look from nearby spectators. Darvydia did not care; she loved being the center of attention.

'What an interesting city.' Darvydia thought. As she proceeded towards the center of town, Darvydia witnessed three children splashing around in large a fountain. The fountain frolicking did not last terribly long. A matronly figure hauled the children out by the scruffs of their shirts, and shook a finger at them warningly; the woman and the children continued down the road.

After the momentary distraction, Darvydia noticed an Inn. She entered and saw that there were a few people eating in the common room. 'I will have to make sure I can get a room here before I take the time to eat.' Darvydia briefly scanned the room and then briefly made eye contact with the innkeeper. He was a bald, older man. 'The innkeeper must have many stories to tell. I will have to catch him during a lull in work sometime.'

Darvydia approached the innkeeper. "Excuse me.....Hello, my name is Darvydia. How much for a room good sir?"

The innkeeper barely looked in her direction when he responded "The room prices range from two to four gold...It depends on what you are looking for Miss."

Darvydia smiled, winked, and placed two gold on the bar before responding "I think I will just go with the standard room for now. I have simple needs."

The innkeeper just grunted and slid a key towards her. "Up the back stairs...first door on the right."

Darvydia, took the key and turned toward the stairs. A young woman with orangish-blond hair and a very large feline approached. 'I wonder if that is a ghatta.' Darvydia had heard of ghattas but she had never thought that she would see one. She smiled and said hello to the pair.

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


((author's note: This occured before Dalia went to bed after her visit with Eowyn in "Seeking Adventure"))

The footsteps echoing up the stairs barely registered to Dalia, and Tobi didn't think to give the stranger a second look. As the woman passed, Dalia gave her a small nod and a weak smile of acknowledgement before finally managing to unlock her door. Passing through her door, the image of the woman rooted itself into the recesses of her brain, though she conciously didn't give her a second thought.

~Dalia Sorentine and Tobi~

The truth can kill you or set you free.


The woman and the ghatta did not appear to notice Darvydia as they passed. 'No matter, she probably didn't even hear me.' Darvydia continued onward to her stateroom. She bounded up the stairs and opened the first door on the right as the innkeeper instructed.

The room was small and tidy...Darvydia entered and closed the door behind her. She dropped her things unceremoniously on the cot and removed her cloak. Darvydia arched her back and stretched majestically. Turning towards her cot, Darvydia proceeded to empty the contents of her bag. 'There are a few trinkets in here that I would like to sell or trade.....now where did I put them?'

Darvydia located the items she was looking for and set them on the cot beside her cloak. She picked up an ornate pipe carved from elven witch wood and turned it in her hands: 'Hmmm a Troll peace pipe....who would ever thought that they used them.' Darvydia tucked the pipe in an inner fold of her cloak. She also tucked away the broach from Ogrevania, a dwarven battle horn, and a serpent pendent.

Practically doubled over in hunger, Darvydia went downstairs in search of food. She stopped in the Inn's common room for a bowl of soup. There were fewer people lingering now. 'This place must be lively in the evenings....I will just have to wait and see, I guess.' She left a couple of coppers on the table for the serving girl and returned to her room.

Darvydia turned and walked over to the window. "Hello, Stormpoint.....How are you today?" She heard a couple arguing in the room beside her. Darvydia giggled and leaned out the window. 'I could take the difficult way down.....Nah, not this time.' She re-gathered her lute and staff and left the room.

Humming to herself, Darvydia walked down Merchant's Row. There was a lot of reckless destruction here. She imagined someone running down the road shouting, "I burn you down; and you down; and don't worry, I will burn you down too." The unfortunate shopkeepers were still salvaging what they could from the rubble.

As she meandered down Merchant's Row, she came across an intriguing shop that escaped the random arsons. 'The Kuriosity Shoppe.....that looks like the place to sell or trade these trinkets.' She opened the door and stepped inside. A chime rang as she entered.

The shop was filled to the brim with a wide variety of oddities. An elven woman with long dark hair stepped out to greet her. "Hello, my name is Darvydia. How are you today?"

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Inside the Kuriousity Shoppe, Eowyn stood behind the counter, pouring over a leather bound volume. To the casual observer, she no doubt appeared to be balancing a ledger, but neither she, nor the quill pen in her hand, had moved for over an hour. Her eyes were distant as she stared down upon the book, lost in a world of thought that was suddenly interrupted by the chimes at the door. Moments later, she heard a slight ruffling and looked up from her book in time to see the ever-present bird alight from its perch in the rear of the shoppe and soar towards the long row of shelves.

Sighing, Eowyn waited for the inevitable shouting, squawking, and ruffling of feathers that occurred whenever the bird spotted a light-fingered "customer." When it didn't come, she arched a dark brow in surprise, knowing that it could mean only one of two things. Her curiosity piqued, she stepped from behind the counter and strode evenly towards the tall shelves where she had last seen the bird.

There, she discovered it was the latter of the two. Standing by a case of flutes, Eowyn saw what had attracted the bird's attention, a young elven woman with the dress and accouterments of a bard. The bird, being a creature of the woodlands with a natural affinity for elves, sat perched upon a shelf, a few feet away.

"Hello," the woman offered upon seeing her, "my name is Darvydia. How are you today?" She had lyrical voice, clear and true, and if Eowyn had any doubts of her profession they were now at rest.

"Anar kaluva tielyanna," Eowyn answered, greeting her in the ancient tongue of the elves. There was no direct translation into English, the closest perhaps being, "the sun shall shine upon your path." The elven language was a colorful one, rich in imagery and sound, and one which Eowyn often missed. The language was fading, however, and many of the young raised outside the elven lands no longer learned it. And so, when Darvydia didn't immediately reply, Eowyn smiled painfully and added in English, "My name is Eowyn, how can I help you?

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


"Anar kaluva tielyanna," The elven woman's clear captivating voice tickled her memory. Darvydia recognized the language as an elven dialect, but she could not quite grasp the meaning behind the words. The woman seemed disappointed that Darvydia did not comprehend and added in English, "My name is Eowyn, how can I help you?"

Darvydia smiled and bowed slightly. "Good day, Eowyn. I noticed your shop and decided to explore the plethora of curiosities that you had available." Reaching into the folds of her cloak, Darvydia withdrew the items that she had tucked away earlier. "I also have a few items that I am interested in bartering." One by one she held up the items for Eowyn to view. "This Troll peace pipe was used in the settlement of a monarchy dispute between two reigning families. I collected the broach from a widowed, Ogrevanian, admiral's wife in as payment for constructing chronicals of her husband feats. The dwarven battle horn was carried by the great Borchalinchink until an evil minion sent its familiar to snatch it out of his hands in the heat of battle; the horn was recovered, but Borchalinchink was slain during the diversion. And this serpent pendent was given to me by a travel weary mage; I shared my meal with him and he gave me the pendent in appreciation."

While Eowyn examined the items that were offered as barter, Darvydia decided to explore the aisles of the Kuriosity Shoppe. It was at this point that she had observed the dark avian voyeur atop the bookshelf. She walked up and down the aisles pausing from time to time to examine an item. There were books, trinkets, jewelry, tapestries, etc...Darvydia leisurely explored every aisle.

Darvydia finally found something that beckoned her close examination. Arranged neatly on a display were a wide variety of flutes. 'What a wondrous selection of instruments. I wonder...' Darvydia slowly traced her index finger across the first row of flutes and selected a black wooden flute with intricate carvings. "This is a beautiful instrument." She turned the instrument in her hands as she marveled and the artistry.

Slowly Darvydia brought the flute to her lips, closed her eyes, and allowed the music to flow through her. The flute's deep voice sweet and low voice tickled the melody as she played. Darvydia stopped playing and the tune resonated through her body for several more seconds. Sensing that others had joined her and Eowyn, she slowly opened her eyes. Several people had entered the store and were listening avidly to her play. "This is a beautiful instrument, Eowyn."

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Eowyn accepted the items Darvydia passed her and carried them to a nearby counter for inspection. Her examination was brief, for they were fine items and she knew she would take them, but she continued to look them over carefully, turning them this way and that, feeling their weight, and measuring their worth.

She continued at this charade all the while Darvydia played, appraising not the items in her hand, but the skill of the bard who gave them. Her talent was clear, far greater than Eowyn would have expected in one of her age, and the flute sang, rich and mellow as she played. Eowyn didn't recognize the tune, no doubt one of the bard's own creations, but there was something vaguely familiar about it, and without realizing it she found herself humming a quiet counterpoint. The tune attracted others as well, both within the store and without. They stood silent as Darvydia played, and smiled pleasantly when she finished, casually resuming their shopping.

When the last echoes of the song faded, Darvydia lowered the instrument, holding it loosely across her splayed fingers as she looked up at Eowyn. "This is a beautiful instrument, Eowyn."

"Yes, it is," Eowyn responded absently as she shifted her apparent attention from the items to the young woman who stood before her, "but I don't think it's for you." She left Darvydia with a puzzled look on her face and walked purposefully towards the rear of the shoppe and a large cabinet. Pausing before the cabinet, she took a single key from her sleeve and unlocked the heavy wooden door. The cabinet's hinges groaned tiredly as the door reluctantly opened to reveal a long, narrow box. Taking the box, Eowyn closed and locked the cabinet before tucking the key away once again and heading back towards Darvydia.

Once there, she placed the box on a counter and motioned the bard to her side. The young woman quickly complied and Eowyn opened the box and withdrew a simple flute, carved of a single piece of wood. She examined it briefly, then handed it to Darvydia, with a cryptic comment. "I think you may find that this more suits your talents." Sensing the skepticism rising in the bard's mind, she added, "Don't judge it by its appearance. The proof of any instrument lies in its sound.Play."

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1.37


Eowyn appeared distracted after Darvydia's brief composition on the delicate black flute. When Darvydia complimented the instrument, Eowyn simply agreed with her appraisal, then added, "but I don't think it's for you," almost as a second thought. Shrouded in a blanket of confusion, Darvydia watched as Eowyn turned and walked towards the back of the shoppe. She caught a stray curl snaking out from behind her ear and twirled it nervously.

'What does she mean when she says that she doesn't think the flute is for me.' Darvydia was caught off guard by Eowyn's blatant statement. 'I thought that the music flowed from it beautifully.' She turned the flute and traced the ornate patterns with her index finger. There was a carving of a large tree with women and children gathered with outstretched arms. 'Maybe I should have primed the flute with an elven tune...' Darvydia permitted her thoughts to wander. She had never been told that an instrument "wasn't for her." 'Did that mean that my abilities are not worthy of the exquisite craftsmanship of the flute?' She examined her slender, petite fingers. No one had ever questioned Darvydia's ability.

Hearing the approach of footfalls, Darvydia looked up. Eowyn was approaching with long narrow wooden box. She placed it on a nearby countertop and gestured Darvydia to come to her. Darvydia approached and watched with disappointment as Eowyn removed a simple wooden flute. Eowyn handed the flute over to Darvydia. "I think you may find that this more suits your talents."

Darvydia gently placed the ornate black flute on the counter and accepted the instrument with some hesitation.

Eowyn continued, "Don't judge it by its appearance. The proof of any instrument lies in its sound. Play."

Darvydia pursed her lips gently near the mouthpiece of the flute.Gazing at Eowyn skeptically, she started to play slowly and then picked up the pace. Closing her eyes, Darvydia allowed the music to envelop her as she wove a silvery elven tune of love and sorrow. Fleeting images danced across her sub-conscience and gained intensity as the composition acquired a life of its own. She was barely aware of her surroundings now. Her eyes were closed loosely and a faint, silvery elven voice tantalized her senses. Was the voice real? Or was it her imagination?

A great sadness crept into Darvydia's soul as the music carried her places that she had not traveled since she was young. A tear escaped and trickled down her cheek as she re-witnessed memories long forgotten as if she was hovering over a dramatization of her life. Darvydia became one with the music...... She began to see the threads of hope, elation and sorrow weave a regal tapestry that intertwined the lives of others with her own.

"Darvydia."

'Was there someone calling her?'

"Darvydia, you need to stop now. This isn't the time." Eowyn's hand slowly pushed the flute away from her mouth.

Darvydia blinked and lowered the flute. The last note lingered in the air as a distant echo. Darvydia cast her eyes about her. A sizable crowd had massed in the shoppe unbeknownst to her. There were men, women, and children; some were sobbing uncontrollably, and others stood stoically with tear-streaked faces. The sadness slowly wicked away and a smile crept across Darvydia's mouth. "I am sensing that this flute has a story behind it, Eowyn."

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


The flute sang, rich and sonorous, beneath the bard's skilled fingers, and Eowyn closed her eyes as the tune took shape. The tune was appealing to be sure, but it was the sound, the timbre of the instrument that touched the soul of the listener and pulled forth memories long forgotten and long buried in blissful sleep. As the bard continued, others in the shoppe drew closer and again more entered from the street, drawn to the sound and the bittersweet memories it raised within each of them. It held them all in silent captivation, and tears began to well in all who listened. Soon the sound gripped even the soul of its maker, and a single tear ran down the cheek of the bard.

Darvydia still played, however, weaving a rich tapestry of song and sorrow that threatened to overcome all who stood bewitched by the music of the flute. Pushing back a tear of her own with more than mild surprise, Eowyn attempted to stop the bard and break the spell within the song. She started by calling the bard's name, and when that was insufficient she pushed the flute away from her mouth.

As if awaking from a dream, Darvydia blinked and lowered the flute as the last note lingered in the air and joined the gentle peal of the chimes by the front door. When the sound had faded entirely, the listeners dispersed quietly, each wiping the tears from their eyes with silent embarrassment.

Slowly, the sorrow faded away, and a smile rose on the lips of the bard. "I am sensing that this flute has a story behind it, Eowyn."

Eowyn smiled in return, a small, distant smile, directed not at Darvydia, but rather suggesting a moment of introspection before changing to one of silent appraisal. A story, yes, the flute had a story as most things did should anyone bother to stop and reflect.

She already knew that the bard would take the flute, story or no, for she had played it and felt the power within, but she had inquired and for once, Eowyn decided to answer. "Yes, you're right. It's an old instrument, with a very old story. You might have heard of it," she added, her voice momentarily taking on a tone which suggested that the young woman would do well to be more in touch with her heritage, but the tone faded quickly as she remembered that her own past placed her in no position to judge the choices of others, "but you are perhaps too young." She motioned for Darvydia to follow her and led the bard around the corner to an alcove where two chairs rested on either side of a small oval table. The bard took a seat and Eowyn did the same. Looking sharply into the woman's eyes one final time, Eowyn drew a deep breath, and began her story.

"In the early ages, when the Silver Forest still stood in the realm of Men, unclaimed by the mists of the fey, there was a young man named, Malchais. He was a bard by trade, and had widely traveled the four lands, seeking tales of good and evil, courage and valor, justice and sacrifice with which to work his craft. He sought always the elusive story, the one which lay just beyond his grasp, and it kept him ever wandering; and though crowds gathered in firelit circles to hear his songs at every village and travel-worn hamlet, his search left him ever alone as each city faded from his sight and memory with his continuing quest.

And so it was that he was alone when he entered the elven woods west of the Elyrst River. Few mortals had passed their boundaries at this time, and the paths they held were not meant for the eyes of Man, for in this age the Elves knew little of Men, and trusted them less. Night fell quickly beneath the thick canopy of green, and Malchais took his rest by the wide roots of a juniper tree near a small glade, falling quickly victim to the comforting touch of Somnus, an old, but fickle patron of many a bard. But Somnus' touch was light on the bard this eve, and he stirred from his sleep while the moon still cast her silvery glow on the forest floor.

Half-rising from his bed in the crook of the tree, he held his breath and cast his eyes, for many a tale was told of the creatures of the wood; and though many of those tales were true and many still remain untold, the terror of which they spoke slept deep that night, undisturbed by the bard and not tasting his sudden fear. But in the dark light of the forest another figure stirred, and in the glade before him stood a young maiden, though whether she be elf, or dryad, or sprite, Malchais couldn't tell.

She was lithe of limb, but full of spirit which shone forth from her deep blue eyes, and her hair glittered like pale silver in the light of Isil's glow. Malchais was stricken instantly by her beauty, but when she began to sing, all her fairness paled in comparison to her voice. Her song was haunting, and though the words were unfamiliar, her voice and tune resounded deep within the bard calling forth memories long forgotten and some which never were. All that lived in the forest seemed to merge within her voice--the dulcet sound of the waters, the clear song of the birds, the gentle rustling of the trees, and other, older sounds never heard by Man. Clad in a gown of green that moved with the leaves as the warm night wind brushed past her, she was the very essence of the forest, and Malchais, as if bewitched, reached for his lute, adding his song to hers.

With the first echo of the strings she turned her head towards the juniper tree and smiled gently at the bard, but her song continued, growing, changing, and appearing, like the woods around her, to be without beginning or end. And so the night passed, until rosy-fingered dawn cast the first rays of morning though the boughs above them and Malchais' hand, subject to the weakness all flesh, failed him at last, falling from the lute with tire. And when the echo from the last string faded, she was gone, as suddenly as she had appeared, and though the bard searched for her, the forest kept close the secret of her going.

Bereft with her loss, Malchais collapsed with a weary emptiness next to the juniper tree, and wept bitterly. Gone was his need to find tales of courage and valor to work his craft, for he had found the story, the song, his heart had always sought, and through his own failing had lost her. Grief still held his heart within its unforgiving grasp when another of the forest's creatures approached--a satyr, half goat and half man, with all the cunning and vices of both. His footstep startled the grieving bard, but the creature sought to put him at rest,

"You have heard song of Nimrodyl," he said in a sad, yet comforting tone. So great was his sorrow that Malchais could not respond, and he stared at the satyr with pain-filled eyes. "She may return," the satyr's smooth voice added, lighting a spark of hope within the bard's soul, "but she will always flee when the song ends, for her heart is of the forest and you are not a part of it." The tender spark, small and newly born, faded with these words Malchais' spirit fell further into despair.

With a heavy sigh, the satyr placed a deft and sympathetic hand on the bard's shoulder, "Perhaps there is a way," he started, searching the other's eyes, feeding the spark once more, "perhaps, yes, there may be a way." Pausing only to fan the flame of his creation, the creature continued, "but it is costly."

"Anything," Malchais offered, at last able speak, "I'll pay anything to hear her song and win her heart."

He reached for his purse, but the satyr raised a single hand, "I am but a simple creature of the wood with little need or want for gold or silver."

"What then?" Malchais asked, his eagerness rising to quick impatience and naive trust, "You have but to name it."

The satyr studied him with a careful eye, taking in his measure and his gift, and when it looked that Malchais could stand no more, the creature spoke, "Your talent. I want your talent."

"My talent," Malchais asked, nearly laughing in surprise, "How can I give you my talent?"

"Never mind," the satyr answered, "Will you give it?"

Thinking the creature to be simple and confused, Malchais answered, "I will, but her, how do I . . ."

Again the satyr raised a single hand, cutting short the stricken bard, and with his other he reached into a pouch a pulled forth a simple wooden flute. "Take this," he spoke, "and when she returns and begins her song, you must play." Malchais reached quickly for the flute, his desire overcoming all doubt The wood was warm and smooth in his hand, and he raised it to his lips to play. "No!" the satyr said, stopping him yet again, "Do not play until she sings." Malchais nodded without speaking, staring wide-eyed at the flute within his hands. "When you have played and won her heart, I will return for my payment." The creature spoke no more, but left as he had come, leaving Malchais alone by the juniper tree to wait until nightfall, and the return of Nimrodyl.

And when the last colors of dusk faded from the sky and Isil cast her silvery glow once more across the forest floor, the forest maiden returned and began her song anew. It held all the sounds of the prior eve, a symphony of the earth, and Malchais stood transfixed as she sang, forgetting the flute, forgetting his wish, forgetting all but her voice and the ever-changing melody which wrapped around him like the gentle cloak of night. He would have stood, frozen in her spell till dawn peeked through the boughs once more, but a soft rustling within the brush drew him back from the song's evocation, and he remembered the flute. With trembling hand he raised it to his lips and gave his breath and spirit to the song of Nimrodyl.

She looked askance at him again and smiled a knowing smile as together they wove a melody of light and dark, of joy and sorrow, of earth and fire and water and air, as old as time itself. And as before, the song continued, growing, changing, and appearing, like the woods around them, to be without beginning or end. And if by song they could forestall the dawn, the night they shared would ne'er have ended, but Anar ever follows Isil in their journey cross the sky, and dawn came as it always must in its golden splendor. The song continued as the light inched across the forest floor, drawing ever closer to the two; and when it last it reached the bard and shone across his face the flute fell silent as he raised a hand against the glory of the sun.

When the last wooden echoes of the flute faded in the dawn, the song of Nimrodyl faded with them, and she fell softly to the forest floor, still as death. Her skin was warm beneath Malchais' hand, but her breath came no more and her song was gone. Malchais screamed in deepest pain, the beauty in his voice hidden beneath the peals of agony, and his warm tears fell against the cooling skin of Nimrodyl. He held her all throughout Anar's tiring journey and the soothing return of Isil, both their bodies growing stiff as his tears continued to fall on her paling cheek. He would have stayed with her forever, or until his own spirit left to join hers, but a soft rustling within the brush drew him back from his grief, and he remembered the flute and its maker.

He turned to face the sound, still cradling the silent form of Nimrodyl, and cried when he saw the satyr, his face a red purse of anger, "She is dead! She fell to the earth 'ere end of her song. She was the life of the forest. The spirit of the wood. How could you steal her soul? How could you let me steal her soul? Deceiver!"

A small and wicked smile twisted the satyr's lips as Malchais shouted, flush with rage. "A satyr never lies," the creature answered, "you have what you wished for. You wanted her heart. You have it. There," he said, pointing to the flute in Malchais' hand, "she is there."

Sickened with the realization of what he had wished, of what he done, Malchais fell silent in grief and shock, but the satyr's scheme was not yet finished, and he added with a heartless voice, "And now, my payment. Play." When Malchais did not stir, still frozen in his horror, the creature's eyes grew dark, and his voice feral, "Play!"

With trembling hand the bard raised the flute again to his lips. And again the sound was beautiful, rich and sonorous, as beneath his skillful fingers the voice of Nimrodyl sang within the instrument. He played until his breath gave out, and passed with his spirit into the flute. And when the last echo faded, he was gone--his heart and soul joined forever with that of Nimrodyl.

His dark trick completed, the satyr kept the flute for many years, playing with their stolen souls until at last his own was lost. After his passing, the flute fell into the hands of another, and another, and another. None could bear to keep it long, for the sorrow it held burned within the breast of any who played. But legend says that within the flute, the two await the one who can withstand the grief, the one who can allow them to finish their long lament and at last begin a new song."

Her tale at its end, shopkeeper paused in silence and took careful measure of the young bard before her. And when it looked that Darvydia could stand no more, Eowyn added, "But, it's only a story. If you really want the other flute . . . ."

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


When asked, Eowyn agreed there was a story behind the flute. She had suggested that Darvydia may have heard of it and then briefly glared at her sternly; Eowyn commented that perhaps she was too young to know the story and her stare softened. Darvydia dismissed the stern look from Eowyn. Most people that she had encountered thought of her as a very young woman of eighteen or nineteen; she was actually thirty years old by her calculations, but being an elf, Eowyn should have known this, and it prompted her to wonder about Eowyn's age. Darvydia would have been too young to share in such and epic tale while she was with her people; she was taken from her people while she was still a child.

Eowyn led Darvydia to an alcove and they settled down at a small oval table. Eowyn wove a long, sorrowful tale of love, deceit, and regret. Her voice softly painted a detailed picture and as the words ran together Darvydia could picture the events in her mind. The legend indicated that a conniving satyr trapped a bard and an exotic woman within the flute.

As the tale reached the end, Darvydia was still caught within the spell of the tale. She perched on the end of her seat and looked at Eowyn intently, not wanting the story to end.

After a pause Eowyn added, "But it's only a story... If you really want the other flute......"

Darvydia drew her mouth into a smile and said, "I would very much like this flute." Darvydia held the instrument protectively. "What may I give you in return?"

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Sneed rounded corner heading towards the Kuriousity Shoppe and almost collided into a huge crowd gathered in the front of the shoppe. "What the in the Nine......." he started to ask before a soft sad tune reached his ears and answered his question. "Humph! Magic!" Shaking his head in disapproval he began to make his way to the shoppe in by the time the 'entrancing' song came to a sudden stop. Now, he suddenly found himself in a struggle upstream as those gathered dispersed back to the business they had been about before falling under the thrall of whatever magic was about this afternoon.

Finally reaching the door, Sneed was able to enter the goal of his rare outing from the mansion. Age was catching up with the old sage, and as much as he enjoyed the walks in the city they were extremely tiring. Leaning on the door, he held it open for the last stragglers leaving the shoppe, and allowed himself to recover some of his strength. He also took this time to study the new stone griffins flanking the entryway of the shoppe. Another may have taken them for ordinary statues, but Sneed knew what they were. ~~Golems, and very well crafted at that. Something must have happened to make Eowyn employ them. Well, whatever it was, given the size and power of the two stone guardians, it was unlikely to be happening again~~

Musing on these thoughts the old sage made his way around the shop looking for Eowyn, stopping only to feed 'Raven', at least that's what Sneed had taken to calling the large black bird here since Eowyn has never named nor identified the species, a few of the spice crackers he always brought for him. The bird cawed appreciatively, and Sneed stoked him gently with his free hand, "Now, where is your mistress today, heh?" Finished with the last bits of the cracker, the bird took wing to an alcove nestled in the far wall, and Sneed followed, somewhat slower. Once there, he nodded towards Raven in appreciation, and turned to see Eowyn sitting by a small table with another woman.

She looked the same as she had when he had first met her and Calo all those years ago, and the same as she would look two hundred years from now. The time had not been so kind to Sneed, however, and he bore only slight resemblance to the young man of thirty he had been with the two elves had first crossed his path. She was telling a story, weaving another of her tales and, curious as always, Sneed paused to listen.

"In the early ages, when the Silver Forest still stood in the realm of Men, unclaimed by the mists of the fey................."

Sneed listened intently to the ancient myth Eowyn wove this day, his picture perfect memory catching all the details so as to record them on paper later.

"But it's only a story... If you really want the other flute......" The young woman seated across from her drew her mouth into a smile and said, "I would very much like this flute." Holding the instrument protectively she asked, "What may I give you in return?"

Not wanting to sulk in silence any longer, Sneed stepped fully into the alcove. "Probably not more then a few coppers or perhaps nothing at all would be my wager. She has a knack of getting items to the right people at the right time even if they do not know it. How are you today, Eowyn?"

Sneed

"What makes a Ranger? Well, different folk will tell you a lot of high and grand things,
but to me it seems the only crucial talent, the one we all have,is the ability to turn up
at the wrong time in a place where we are neither wanted nor expected,
and plunge right into whatever trouble's afoot......"


A rare and genuine smile lit Eowyn's face as the old sage entered the alcove. "Sneed," she began, rising and walking towards him. When she reached him she took his hands in hers and kissed him gently on the cheek as a daughter might greet her father, though their ages were far reversed, "with you here, I am well. Though if you keep giving away my merchandise I may have to close my doors in ruin." Her chastisement complete, she turned and introduced her old friend to her visitor.

She was always pleased to see Sneed, but saddened as well, for time had taken its toll on her friend; and though the vibrancy that she had always known still shone in his eyes, from time to time she thought she saw something else there as well--something she didn't entirely understand. She smiled, however, as she always did, and tried to hide her concern; and when the ranger had greeted the bard and returned his attention to Eowyn, she asked with a hint of friendly sarcasm, "What is it that tears you from your teachings and brings you to my shoppe?"

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


A bent old man stepped into view and answered Darvydia when she proffered acceptance of the flute. "Probably not more then a few coppers or perhaps nothing at all would be my wager. She has a knack of getting items to the right people at the right time even if they do not know it. How are you today, Eowyn?"

'My, he is an interesting fellow. I wonder how long he was eavesdropping.' The old man looked well seasoned but far from feeble. He strode with an air of confidence that commanded respect. Darvydia studiously observed Eowyn's reaction to the interloper.

A grin graced Eowyn's face as she rose to greet him, "Sneed," Eowyn took his hands and tenderly kissed him on the cheek suggesting a familial relationship, "With you here, I am well. Though if you keep giving away my merchandise I may have to close my doors in ruin."

Darvydia realized that Eowyn and Sneed were two old friends reuniting after a considerable span of time.Eowyn paused in her re-acquaintance with the old man to introduce him to Darvydia. 'A name speaks volumes of an individual's epic journey through life.' Darvydia smiled and gently set the flute on the table; she stood, firmly clasped Sneed's hand, and bowed slightly. "Pleasure to meet you, Sneed." Feeling like a third wheel, Darvydia politely excused herself, backed away from Eowyn and Sneed, and feigned an examination of the contents of a nearby shelf.

Eowyn continued her dialogue with Sneed reflecting the slight, friendly sarcasm in her voice, "What is it that takes you from your teachings and brings you to my shoppe?"

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Darvydia smiled and gently set the flute on the table; she stood, firmly clasped Sneed's hand, and bowed slightly. "Pleasure to meet you, Sneed."

Sneed accepted her hand and nodded in response, "The pleasure is mine, to meet a bard of you skill, milady. The music I heard as I entered was exquisite."

As the young bard wandered off through the maze of shelves and cabinets filling the shoppe, Sneed turned his attention back to Eowyn.

"What is it that tears you from your teachings and brings you to my shoppe?" she asked with that tone that left one wondering if they should be flattered or flustered.

Sneed was accustomed to it, however, and knew that she only reserved it for a select few. He nodded toward one of the vacant chairs in the alcove, and added, "Ironic that you should ask. I am hoping that you can teach me something."

Eowyn's lips curled in a wry smile as she took one of the chairs, "I have tried, you know."

"And you have had as much success as I have had with Calo," he answered, falling easily in their friendly banter.

"Truthfully," she quipped back in a level tone, "I must say that I am hard pressed to say which of you is the more stubborn."

Sneed sat heavily in the chair adjacent to Eowyn, and leaned his walking stick against a back wall. "Actually, we always thought that you were," he added, the look in his eyes matching the roguish spark in hers.

Eowyn smiled and laughed softly in response, a sound which was purely elven and reminiscent of the gentle babbling of a sunlit brook. It was the first Sneed had heard her laugh in a long time, and it pleased him that he was still able to draw such a reaction.

"Perhaps you're right," she said finally as the laugh faded, "At any rate, we've been down this road before. But, seriously, what is it that you wish to know?"

"Well," Sneed began, settling down into his chair, "I was reading the histories from Lord Ogrek that I requested, and I am disturbed by a glaring omission in them. They contain numerous comments of at least three kingdoms lying to the eastern border of his realm. But with the blasted ogres and their isolationist policies there's been little contact between Ogrekvannia and its neighbors. Two of them are not even named for heaven's sake. The third kingdom is known a little better--an Elven kingdom, named Khistawar. Apparently, there has been some minor commerce, trading, smuggling, pick your phrase, between this kingdom and some of the human settlements in Ogrekvannia, but these contacts have yielded little information beyond the basic resources and demands of the region. I know it's a long shot, but as you are elven, I was hoping that you might know something more substantial."

Sneed

"What makes a Ranger? Well, different folk will tell you a lot of high and grand things,
but to me it seems the only crucial talent, the one we all have,is the ability to turn up
at the wrong time in a place where we are neither wanted nor expected,
and plunge right into whatever trouble's afoot......"


Darvydia was wandering the shop, paying little attention to the snippets of conversation between Sneed and Eowyn. That is, until she heard Sneed mention the Elven kingdom.

"...an Elven kingdom, named Khistawar. Apparently, there has been some minor commerce, trading, smuggling, pick your phrase, between this kingdom and some of the human settlements in Ogrekvannia, but these contacts have yielded little information beyond the basic resources and demands of the region. I know it's a long shot, but as you are elven, I was hoping that you might know something more substantial."

Darvydia peered through the shelves at the odd pair. Sneed was gesturing passionately as he proceeded through his diatribe to Eowyn. 'Khistawar' she mused to herself. 'It's been a few years since I wandered across her borders. I wonder why he wants to know more of Khistawar.' She bit her upper lip and lingered behind a shelf full of metal bowls. Sneed wasn't painting a pretty picture of her homeland, and Darvydia's temper began to rise. 'He's making my people look like outlaws and renegades and smugglers! Pick your phrase?!'

Trying to stifle her immediate response, Darvydia backed into the shelf she was hiding behind and sent a small metal bowl tumbling to the ground. The bowl made a series of resonant clanks as it hit the floor; and in the silence eventually ensued after the mishap as Darvydia bent to retrieve the bowl. When she stood, she noticed that Eowyn was standing a few paces down the aisle, staring down with an expression Darvydia couldn't quite decipher.

Suddenly embarrassed, the bard scrambled for words, "I must apologize for interrupting you and Sneed," Darvydia began, handing the bowl to Eowyn, "but I couldn't help eavesdropping a little. I believe that I can answer some of Sneed's questions about Khistawar though." She firmly placed her hands on her hips. "You see... I am from Khistawar."

Darvydia's statement obviously caught the sage's attention, and he skirted around the corner to stand before her. "You don't say, young woman? I believe, if Eowyn agrees, that we have a way for you to earn that flute."

Unsure of where she stood with the shopkeeper, and not wanting to jeopardize her opportunity to secure the flute, Darvydia quickly answered Sneed with the silver tongue of a true bard, "Good Sir, you appear to be a very dynamic individual, seasoned with decades of adventure and experience. I am sure we can arrange a more suitable exchange for information. But, as it is, I prefer to keep all transactions separate. I'm sure that Eowyn and I will come to our own arrangement on that matter of the flute." She glanced quickly at Eowyn and hoped that the expression written across the woman's features was one of approval.

"Allright then, but please, take a seat and tell us about your homeland." Sneed began, gesturing to the three chairs which graced the alcove, certain that there had been only two a moment before.

"No, I believe that today is not the day to speak of these things." Darvydia answered, wringing her hands nervously. "But, I promise to share Khistawar's history at a later date of your choosing." Sneed appeared to be appeased by the proposed arrangement, and Darvydia allowed herself a mental sigh. "I imagine that you and Eowyn would like to continue your reaquaintance, however." Darvydia turned to Eowyn and continued, "And I do want to complete our flute transaction, Eowyn."

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man


Eowyn listened intently as Sneed explained the purpose of his visit, and hid her disappointment with a keen expression and a few well-placed nods. Aloof by nature and secretive by necessity, she had spent a lifetime distancing herself from others, as much for their safety as for her own. She should have been used to it by now, and indeed she was in many respects, but at times the self-imposed solitude that enshrouded her became too heavy a mantle to bear and she longed to lift it from her shoulders and step unburdened into the bustling streets of the city.

Though she could ill-afford such luxury at present, the desire grew stronger in the presence of those few individuals she called "friends." Two of these dwindling folk lived within the city she now called home, and formed in large part the reason for her coming, or so she thought. It therefore saddened her in some respect that she had seen so little of them since her entry into Stormpoint, and that when they had come their visits had been "business" in nature. Still, they were the only family she had known and if she could help them, she would.

Sneed needed information. It was something she generally had in great abundance, and in fact, had it been tangible it would often occupy at least a three quarters of her shoppe. It was one of her more unusual commodities and one in which she rarely trafficked, preferring instead to catalogue and maintain it for her own purposes; but the information Sneed sought was trivial at best, and she would gladly shared it with him. She had traveled through Khistawar on more than one occasion to be sure, for it reminded her of home--or, more precisely, that which she imagined her home to be like--and while she had never stayed long, she knew considerably more than Sneed or the accounts that he possessed. Considerably more.

She was about to begin when a heavy clanging sound rang out from the long row of shelves that formed the aisles of the shoppe. Rising quickly to her feet, more in irritation than alarm, she was suddenly aware that her young visitor was no longer in sight and she stepped swiftly in the direction of the sound. Though any items of potential danger were kept safely out of the reach of her browsing customers, something told the shoppekeeper that the young bard had a particular penchant for getting into trouble, and so she hurried, hoping to head-off any potential disaster Darvydia might have set into effect.

The bird, ever-attuned to attuned to its mistress' mind, soared to her side with the disruption and landed on Eowyn's shoulder just as she rounded the corner of the aisle from which the sound still echoed. Stepping noiselessly into the aisle, the shoppekeeper saw her young guest scooping a hammered silver bowl from the floor with one hand as she tried to keep two more from falling with her other. She raised a brow at the young woman's predicament, but didn't move to help. Darvydia had clearly been eavesdropping, a dangerous activity in Stormpoint, and one which was even more dangerous within the walls of the Kuriousity Shoppe.

Finally succeeding in retrieving the fallen bowl and steadying the other two, Darvydia, her face flush with embarrassment, rose from her tenuous position and handed the first to Eowyn. "I must apologize for interrupting you and Sneed," Darvydia began, her tone matching the soft shade of red that was rising in her cheeks, "but I couldn't help eavesdropping a little. I believe that I can answer some of Sneed's questions about Khistawar though. You see... I am from Khistawar."

"You don't say, young woman?" Sneed began with piqued curiosity as he too rounded the corner, "I believe, if Eowyn agrees, that we have a way for you to earn that flute.”

This last comment was clearly too much for Eowyn, and she looked sharply at the old sage. It was an expression he would have recognized and respected had he been looking in her direction, but his attention was now thoroughly centered on the young woman of increasingly dubious character who stood before them. Eowyn struggled not to roll her eyes at the familiar display. Though his body had aged, Sneed's mind remained as keen as ever, and once he was on the scent of an answer few things would turn him from the chase. It was a quality which Eowyn had found both endearing and annoying depending upon the circumstances of its appearance. This time she found it to be the latter.

Fortunately for Sneed, Darvydia retained more of her composure than one would have guessed and she quickly dissuaded the sage from such an exchange, explaining with all the eloquence and diplomacy of her trade that she preferred to keep her transactions separate. She then performed what to Eowyn's mind was a minor miracle, persuading Sneed to wait for a later day to hear the story he sought. Perhaps the girl had greater experience than her years suggested.

There was still the matter of the flute, however, and its price, a point which Darvydia raised again with equal subtlety. Eowyn studied the young woman again for a brief moment before responding. There was something about her. Something she couldn't quite put her finger on. The sensation was both annoying and intriguing, for most people who entered her shoppe were easily read and of little interest. But this one . . . . She put the matter aside. Whatever the girl was, she was not evil and was more likely to be friend than foe. That issue, at least, resolved, Eowyn set forth the terms of the exchange.

"First, as to the items you've brought, I'll take them." She tossed the bard a pouch of coins, the weight of which alone should have been sufficient to satisfy any figure the young woman would have named. "As for the flute," she paused, the corners of her mouth rising in a cryptic smile, "well, you must recognize that it is somewhat . . . unique. Still, you are meant to have it and I will give it to you. You must, however, agree to do something for me in exchange. I cannot name the cost now, but I will come to you later with my request. Are we in agreement?" She looked squarely into the bard's eyes as she finished, the last phrase carrying nothing to mark it as a question and leaving little room for discussion.

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Darvydia writhed in the moments of silence following her suggestion of the flute transaction as Eowyn's penetrating gaze seemed to delve into her soul. The piercing eyes of the black bird perched upon her shoulder suggested that the intelligence within the avian head was more than met the eye. She tortured herself with thoughts of a foiled acquisition due to her careless eavesdropping. 'I really screwed up this time.' She felt the heat of the redness on her face recede as the look in Eowyn's eyes slightly soften.

Squelching the stillness, Eowyn at last spoke to Darvydia. "First, as to the items you've brought, I'll take them." Eowyn tossed the her a sizable pouch of coins. Judging by the weight of the pouch, Eowyn was very generous in payment for the baubles that Darvydia had brought to her. Tucking the pouch into one of the inner folds of her cloak, Darvydia smiled graciously and thanked Eowyn.

"As for the flute," Eowyn paused, and little smile crept across her face, "well, you must recognize that it is somewhat . . . unique. Still, you are meant to have it and I will give it to you. You must, however, agree to do something for me in exchange. I cannot name the cost now, but I will come to you later with my request. Are we in agreement?" Eowyn's steadfast gaze was penetrating.

'This turned out better than I would have expected.' Darvydia, thought, careful not to break eye-contact with Eowyn. She smiled and responded to Eowyn in turn, "For that magnificent instrument... I am at your beck and call." Darvydia bowed slightly, and upon straightening she extended a curled hand to Eowyn. Opening the hand, she revealed an amber and gray striated stone. "This is a token of the debt that I owe to you."

Eowyn accepted the token and turned it over, examining the details etched into its sides. On one side of the token, Darvydia's family crest was carved with intricate detail. Curved along the bottom of the crest scrawled the words Eldrich of Olagwaith; Within the four quadrants of the crest were a stag, a tree, a bird, and a lute. Curved along the top of the crest were the words Gwynneth of Eirenoct.

Turning the token over, Eowyn revealed more etchings. There were a series of symbols and the name Darvydia scrawled across the center of the stone. The stone was a rare mineral obtained in trade from mountain pass far north of Khistawar.

As Eowyn examined the stone, Darvydia continued, "This token is a tradition with my family. It signifies that a debt is owed and must be repaid... even beyond deaths doors." Darvydia paused and withdrew the amulet from her shirt. "My family crest is engraved on the debt stone and the amulet I wear. The house of my birth will compensate you in the event of my death."

She had become accustomed to full-bred elves sneering down at her for being half-elven. And though Eowyn wasn't exactly warm, she had been kind. It was a refreshing change and gave her the hope that she might one day call Eowyn an ally and a friend. "You may find me at the Inn near the fountain.... If our business is concluded, I will take my leave and allow the two of you to converse in private."

Darvydia

"Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds."

Black Elk (1863-1950)
Oglala Sioux holy man



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