The Moonblade

The Moonblade

"A Land Unknown"

The night unfolded turning the sapphire sky to black. Stars were sprinkled across the heavens like far-flung jewels and the crescent moon hung low just over the horizon. The soothing melody of water tripping over stones filled the clearing and muted the sounds of night creatures preparing to hunt.

Gyndeene sat cross-legged before the small campfire wondering what tomorrow would bring. She peered into the orange flames hoping for answers. Sighing softly, her eyes turned to the boy who slept soundly on the other side of the fire. His cloak was wrapped tightly around his slender frame and his head was cushioned against his riding saddle. A shock of dark hair lay across his broad forehead making him appear very young and vulnerable.

Josh, she thought, how far we have come. A smile turned her lips upward.  The three years she and Josh had been together had passed quickly. She would always wonder why he had decided to ride with her. At one time, his dreams were filled with the sea, but those dreams changed when she saved his life.

The woman shook her head. She would never forget the look of terror on Josh's face as he clung bravely to the broken spar. Her smile turned into a frown. The plan she had was a good one, but it hadn't quite worked the way she'd wanted. This, however, was another tale altogether. It didn't matter that much anyway; she was just happy that he was here. For without him, the loneliness would have been too much to bear.

Beowulf's soft snort brought her to her feet. Gyndeene melted into the trees surrounding the small clearing and waited as her eyes adjusted to the total blackness of the woods. She slipped from tree to tree until she was beside the small stream. She smiled for the intruders were a pair of deer drinking their fill from the pure water of the stream. Satisfied no one else was about, she returned to the fire.

After their sojourn at sea, Gyn and Josh had returned to RhyDin. She had looked for her old guildmates and friends, but too much time had passed. She finally gave up her search and decided to make the long trip to see her beloved Kamelot. That was when her quest had started. Her remembrance of that night was as strong as the odor of thick, black coffee, and she recalled it easily.

The moon had been full and was at mid heaven when the man slipped into their camp. She had drawn her blade so sure that the man had intended harm.  How surprised she had been when he held his clenched fist toward her and then slowly opened his long fingers one by one, the elven sign for peace and lowered his hood.

Silver hair fell abundantly down his back and the contours of his face were as sharp as the dagger in her belt. His skin, drawn tightly over his high cheekbones, had the luminescence of a pearl. But it was his eyes that held her attention; polished amber that seemed to pierce her very soul.

"G'eve Gyndeene of Aquilar."

She nodded in reply wondering how he knew her name.  "G'eve, sir, but I don't think we've met before. How it is that ye know of me."

His thin lips curled back in what might have passed as a smile. "I know all about ye, perhaps too much. I am Sa'lin Kintinith, Knight to Mother Laumari, Queen of Sarenalon."

Disbelief fell like raindrops down her face. This could not be for high elves did not seek out half-breeds such as she. What was it he really wanted? What was he after? She lowered her long lashes over her eyes trying to sort the matter out. She had never met a high elf in her life, and she was sure it did not bode well for her now that one had appeared.

"What is it ye want of me, Sa'lin Kintinith?"

His look was disdainful as he replied, "Personally, nothing, but I have been commanded by the Queen to seek you out to make a request." His slender eyebrow arched as he studied her and then said in a low tone. "It is possible ye blood is pure."

Her pulses raced and she shook her head whispering."Nay, I am N'tel'Quess; my father is human." Her turquoise eyes flashed at him defiantly. "And I am proud of that fact."

Sa'lin's countenance did not change. "Can you be so sure of that, Gyndeene. You do not even know who your parents are. You were raised in a fishing village by a human woman, but, that does not mean you are a breed. However, I'm not here to discuss your heritage. I carry a request from the Queen."

The fine hairs on the back of her neck tingled. "What do you mean? I dinna know ye Queen. What could she possible wish of me?"

"My Queen knows much, Gyndeene. She wishes you to find and reclaim the Moonblade of Lord Everclear."

A short gasp left her stiff lips and fear pierced her heart like an arrow.  "What do ye mean? The sword is at Kamelot and could not be removed by anyone but Karrinth. So this is a moot request unless it was Karrinth himself who removed the blade."

"Tsk, tsk, tsk. You've been gone too long from Kamelot, my dear. Trust me, the sword no longer stands guard over that edifice. It has been removed by Darkelden in your absence."

"That is not possible."

"All is possible with Darkelden; a dark wizard with too much power. He has the sword in his possession."

Gydeene's thoughts flowed like a turgid river and the words fell from her lips slowly. "I find this hard to believe. Certainly, if this Darkelden had drawn the blade from the sheath of marble, he would have died."

Sa'lin was growing bored with the conversation.  Only a foolish and impertinent woman would question him so.  Searching for patience, he spoke to her as if to a child.

"What I say is the truth, Gyndeene. We do not know how he accomplished this feat, but he has, and he has taken the Moonblade to Stormport, where he resides. Because of your connection with Lord Everclear, you or he must be the one to regain the sword.”

"I see," she said still not understanding any of this. "But what of Karrinth? It is his sword."

"Lord Everclear is not be found and therefore the task becomes yours. It is imperative that you find and take back the sword.  Will you honor this request?"

She couldn't believe she was shaking her head in assent. How could she possibly get the sword back from a wizard, a very powerful one at that. Though she had magic, it was not strong and would do very little good against an archmage. She stared into the high elf's eyes.

"I'm no match for Darkelden. Just how am I to do this? Besides, I'm not too sure I wish to. Aye, the Moonblade was the protectorate of Kamelot, but if what you say is true, then surely Kamelot has fallen and my duty lies there. So tell me why should I retrieve the sword for your Queen?"

Once again, Sa'lin smiled.

"Kamelot has fallen and risen many times. Right now your duty is to retrieve the sword.  Once done, then and only then will Kamelot rise to its former glory. So you do this not only for my Queen, but for Kamelot. Come now, the night passes with every moment we speak, and by the break of day, you must learn all you can about Darkelden."



The smell of cooking side pork filled the air. Long strips hung over the fire dripping globules of fat and every now and again a flame would grab one of the luscious morsels, crackling and popping as it did.

Gyndeene moaned softly and resisted waking, but the delicious scent of bacon ticked the fine hairs of her nose and made her mouth water. She opened one eye slowly and then another, stretching out her cramped limbs as she did so. Sitting up, she glanced about the campsite with narrowed eyes.

A cheery voice called out, "G'morn Gynne. Did ye sleep well?"

A frown crossed her brow; gods how she hated the mornings lately. "Aye, well enough, Josh. And ye?"

"Slept like a babe, Gynne."

"Aye, so I observed." Never one to go long without a smile, her lips turned upward and she gratefully accepted the cup of coffee he handed her. "Thank ye, Josh. Ye know how I be before I've had my first cup."

The slim lad laughed knowing she did not expect a reply. He watched the woman from out of the corner of his eye. This trip had been a hard one. It was a fool's errand they were on; likely, they'd both get killed, if not something worse.

He had tried to dissuade her, but when she got something in her mind, she was more stubborn than a dwarf. He chuckled to himself. She wouldn't like that comparison at all. "Ye'd best be gittin ye girly things done, Gynne, cause the grits are almost done."

Gyndeene nodded and ruffled through her pack for a clean tunic. She made her way to the swiftly running stream and finding cover quickly washed and dressed. Grumbles left her lips. Gee, what I wouldn't do for a tub of hot water. She looked forward to spending a few nights in an inn that offered a few creature comforts.

Quickly, braiding her long, tawny hair into a single plait, she returned to the campfire. Josh handed her a plate and she smiled her thanks. Her mind was busy formulating a plan for when they reached Stormport. She made quick work of breakfast and poured herself another cup of coffee before reaching for a slim leather case.

Carefully sliding a thin parchment from the case, the woman laid it flat on the ground studying it. She'd been lucky having purchased a map of Stormport from a passing peddler. Wondering out loud, she said, "I hope this map is accurate." She pulled out another rolled sheet of parchment and laid it along side the map.

The high elf had provided her with a list of places to seek out. Her long finger slid down the names one by one: Stormport Castle, Digerian Mansion, and The Kuriousity Shoppe. She had added a few places to the list herself: the docks, the library, and the gypsy encampment. Hopefully, one of these sources would produce knowledge of Darkelden.

Her brow wrinkled in concentration. She wondered if they had a guild for thieves; they always knew everything going on in a city and their eyes were not only on your purse, but also on the pulse of the city itself. If anyone knew of Darkelden, they would.

Josh had the horses packed and sat astride his stocky mountain pony waiting patiently for her to mount. Sliding the parchments back in the case, Gyndeene slipped it into her pack and slung it over Beowulf's back. She tightened her belt around her slim waist and slipped her dagger into her boot.

In one swift movement, the woman mounted the fractious black warhorse. "Okay, Josh, let's find out what awaits us in Stormport."



The heavy sky was pregnant with raindrops just waiting to be birthed. A loud crack of thunder rippled through the late afternoon sky and a bolt of lightening followed heavy on its heels.

Gyndeene steadied her horse and signaled to Josh to stop. They had rode into the outskirts of the city a few hours earlier and had wound their way through the streets seeking an Inn.

She slid off her horse. Laboring too long, the sky relented loosing a burst of large, pelting rain on the weary travelers. Raising her voice, she called to Josh. "I'll try this tavern and see if'n the barkeep can recommend a nearby inn. Ye take the horses and seek a stable nearby. Meet me back here as soon as ye can."

Josh nodded in assent. "Will do Gynne. Ye be careful now, ye hear."

"Aye, I shall, besides I'm always careful."

"I dinna think so, Gynne." His laughter followed her into the inn.

The tall woman pulled the wide brim of her hat down, concealing her face. She took in the tavern at a glance. Nice, she thought, well kept and neat . Certainly, Eventide was an above average tavern. Patrons sat at tables talking and drinking their favorite libation while a plump barmaid scurried about. Gyndeene approached the bar cautiously and was surprised to see a dwarven barkeep.

A blustery fellow he appeared to be. And she wondered how he was able to stand over the bar; all the dwarves she knew were quite short. Roly-poly in appearance, he had all the grace of a fairie in flight as his short stubby fingers wove gracefully through the motions of filling orders the barmaid called out. A bulbous nose dominated his face. Dark eyes peered at her suspiciously.

"New in Stormport?"

"Aye, sir, that I am."

"What is it ye be needin?"

"A honeymead will do fine." Her turquoise eyes sparkled and she smiled at him. "I also am in need an inn for the night. Do ye know of such?"

"Suppose I do," he responded.

Gyndeene sighed softly. This might be difficult. He slid a glass of honeymead her way. She pulled some coins from her pouch and laid them on the bar. She sipped her drink wondering how to worm the name of an inn from him.
"Good honeymead."

"Aye, the best."

Gyndeene nodded hoping the name of an inn would be forthcoming. Patience, she thought, patience. A patron having noted her delicate features seemed to be enjoying the conversation. He leaned over and in a deep voice, said, "Try the Hound's Tooth or Martha's Keep."

The dwarf gave the man a supercilious look and shook his head. Strange he thought how some just can't mind their own business. He clicked his tongue. "Nay, won't do."
The patron drew back frowning. The barkeep's dark eyes stared at Gyndeene and he growled. "The Sleepy Mermaid be what ye're looking for."

Bewilderment crossed her face as she noted the exchange and hoped one of these inns was closed by. She took another sip of her honeymead and tried another smile on the dwarf. "Be this inn nearby."

"Aye, down this street. Can't miss it."

"Thank ye. Have a good eve." She raised a hand in salute to the dwarf and turned making her way from the tavern just as Josh burst in the door.

"Raining cats and dragons outside, Gynne. Find an inn?"

"Aye, I believe so," she smiled, "and it is right down the street."



Bang Bang Bang

The noise reverberated through the room like a drummer's cadence.

Bang Bang Bang

Gyndeene moaned and pulled a plump pillow over her head.

Psssst. Psssst. Psssst. "Hey, Gynne, wake up. T'is I Josh."

Gyndeene moaned again as she thought, "Of course, who else t'would be dumb enough to pound on my door at such an ungodly hour." Taking the pillow in both hands, she heaved it with all her strength at the door only to watch it slide harmlessly to the floor.

Bang Bang Bang

"Gynne, get up."

Grrrrrrr…she gritted her teeth together as she slid out of bed. Grabbing her breeches, she tucked her long shift into the waist and crossed the room in three steps.

Bang Bang Bang

Enough was enough. "Josh, if'n ye pound on that door one more time, I'll skewer ye on the end of my sword."

Lifting the latch high, the woman yanked the door open. Josh caught off balance almost fell into the room. He looked at his mistress and knew better than to laugh. Her curls hung in ribbons around her shoulders and stuck out at odd angles. Her shift was half hanging out of her breeches and her feet were bare. Thunder clouds rode upon her brow, warning of a storm about to break.

"What are ye doing up at such an ungodly hour Josh. I should've left ye hanging from that yardarm."

Josh slowly removed his knit cap and looked down at the floor. "Sorry, Gynne, but I thought there was something ye needed to know."

A slender eyebrow shot up. "Aye, and what is it that is so important that it couldn't wait for a few hours?"

The young boy met her flashing eyes, obviously troubled. "Gynne, I dinna know how ta tell ye this, but we're in the wrong city."

The woman looked at him blankly. "And what do ye mean by that remark? Of course, we're in the right city."

He shook his head slowly. "Naw, we're not. We're in a place called Stormpoint. I've been down by the docks asking about a few things, discreet like ye told me." He frowned. "Didn't find out much, but that we're in a city called Stormpoint and that much I know fur sure."

Gyndeene's mind raced. She grabbed her pack and removed the leather case. She unfolded the map none too gently and strode to the single window. Pulling aside the curtain, she held the map up against the glass. She squinted against the bright light and traced the name printed on the map with a slender finger.

A curse left her lips. "Darn, this map has been smudged and the ink has run." Her lips turned down and she whispered, "I suppose it could say Stormpoint." Her thoughts were interrupted by another knock on the door. Totally exasperated, she yelled. "Now who can that be."

In two steps, she was at the door and almost pulled it off its hinges. A young girl took a step backward; her eyes were wide with dismay as she looked at the half-dressed woman. In her hands, she held a wooden tray holding a pot and a cup.

She stuttered, "Ah, ah, hummmm, Mil, Milady, I was, ah, I was told ta bring this, ah, to ye." She held out the tray like a shield in front of her trying to put as much distance as possible between herself and the woman.

Gyndeene's lips finally turned up in a wide smile. "I'm sorry, lass, didn't mean ta startle ye." She dug in her breeches and handed the girl a coin. "I thank ye for being so kind." She took the tray and went to close the door when she stopped suddenly. "Lass, I need ta ask ye a question. Can ye tell me what city we are in?"

Holding the coin in her hand tightly, the girl smiled back thinking this woman a bit daft. "Aye, I can…ye are in Stormpoint." Gyndeene sighed deeply and handed the girl another coin before shutting the door. Frowning until her brows touched, she walked back to the table. "Well, that's that. Now what?"

Josh held back a laugh. T'wasn't too many times he'd seen his mistress at a loss. "See, Gynne, I knew ye shouldn't have trusted the map from that peddler. Ye paid good coin for naught."

Gyndeene poured herself a generous cup of black coffee and sipped the hot brew before replying. "Perhaps, Josh, but I'm sure we're in the right place. I followed the high elf's instruction down to the letter." Her good nature returned after a sip of her favorite brew. "Now we have ta get a new map and see if we can find out where this Darkelden lives."

The boy shook his head and sighed. "And how are ye gonna do that?"

"First, of all, I'm gonna get a map we can trust." She spread the peddler's parchment out on the table and smiled. "I'm going to the library. Surely, I'll be able to get what I need there. I'm also going to do a little reading and brush up on some history. When I leave there, I'll know a bit more about Stormpoint."

She turned her eyes on her friend. "And you, Josh, are gonna do some more looking about the city and see what ye can find out. We'll meet back at the docks in a few hours. Any suggestions where?"

Josh laughed. "Yeppers, I'll meet ye at the Skull and Crossbones." He stood and made his way to the door, turning at the last minute, he looked at Gyn innocently. "And, Gyn, really ye should do something about ye hair?" Before she could reply, he slipped out the door and closed it softly.



The gentle thud of her steps was masked by the laughter that rang out from between her lips. Silver shook her head, her long strands shimmering with the moonlight's caress. Ty, the man next to her, chuckled before shaking his own head and absently tugging at his large, hoop earring.

"Aye, Cap'n, aye. Ye said it best."

Silver clapped a hand on the man's shoulder before lowering her hands back to her side. She turned her gaze towards the large pirate, a crooked smile dimpling her cheeks in childish mischeif. "Ye were the one who somehow managed to cheat out those sailors. What did you expect? Did ye think they were going to jump into a chorus line of happiness for you?"

"I won fair 'n'square, Cap'n. It just helped they sat in front of the bar mirror." Ty issued a great, bellowing chuckle before winding down the path and into the alleyway.

Silver laughed once again, her gaze turning from the man at her side to the shadows in the alleyway. One was never careful enough with those that dwelled in the docks. Theifs and pickpockets alike would take their chance with anyone that dared to wander down their territory.

"Skull 'n'Crossbones. Best crowd in the docks, Cap'n - at least to gamble with. Good lookin' wenches too." Ty winked teasingly to the lady captain at his side. A strangely forged friendship, he had learned she was not one to be reckoned with when she gave him a black eye and a bloody nose. His crew became a bit rowdy with some of hers, and in turn, the Captain had received hell for it. Ty chuckled at the memory before sliding an arm around the woman.

"Are you callin' me a wench? Ya know, I can break yer nose." Silver sent an elbow into his ribs, causing him to wince and drop his arm from around her shoulders. The tavern's sounds soon infiltrated the air with racious laughter and the sounds of a plethora of conversations.

A slight movement to the left caught Silver's eye. Two figures were walking down the street, somewhat cautiously, as if searching for a certain place. She issued Ty inside before peering once more down the road. Something seemed strangely familiar about the taller person. From the slender build, she guessed it was a woman. Something tugged at Silver's mind, forcing her memory to flip upside down and inside out. The way she walked, the build, the way the moonlight gave hints as to her facial features. Silver laced blues pierced the shadows as she dared to call out.

"Need any help there, stranger?"



Gyndeene dressed with care, tucking her soft white lawn shirt into her tight buff breeches. She pulled on her matching Elven boots and wrapped her belt of turquoise around her slender waist.

Her eyes sparkled as she quickly French-braided her thick, tawny curls into a long plait, which she twisted around her head and fastened with dragon clips. Sighing, she took a deep breath and knew she was ready as ever to meet the challenges that lay ahead.

The woman slipped one dagger into her boot and another into the belt at her waist. She pulled a dark, wide-brimmed, leather hat low over her eyes and taking a cloak of the same color, she slipped it over her shoulders.

She picked up her leather case and casting a final glance over her shoulder at the small room, she moved into the hallway closing the door softly behind her.

Making her way through the Inn and out on to the street, she studied the map and headed in the general direction of the library. The day was overcast and rather dark, but it suited Gyn's mood.

She noted the prosperous stores along the way and stopped to study "The Kuriousity Shop." She was eager to meet the owner of the shop, but knew she didn't have time to tarry now. It was important to find out everything she could about Stormpoint and the mage she sought, Darkelden.

Following the winding streets, her face grew as dark as the sky. Her eyes narrowed as she thought, if the library is not up ahead, I shall find and skin that peddler alive. Just as the thought whispered through her mind, she stepped out into a fine village square.

The beauty of the square took her breath away. In the middle, stood a large fountain filling the square with the sound of water tumbling through the maze at the center of the basin.

To one side of the fountain, stood a hauntingly beautiful church. Directly across the square stood a stately building, which Gyn hoped was the library. Without delay, she walked to the building and up the wide span of stairs.

Pushing the door open, she was amazed at the size of the interior. Tall wooden shelves lifted almost to the ceiling filled with rows and rows of books. The smell of dried ink on paper tickled her nose as she pushed forward looking for the librarian.

It seemed to Gyn that she had walked through miles and miles of books and had not managed to find one living soul. Frustrated, she turned a corner too sharply and knocked a stack of books off a shelf. Embarrassed, she quickly picked up the books and returned then in a neat row.

She glanced around and to her amazement was a woman sitting at a desk in a far corner. The woman was eyeing her suspiciously.

Gyndeene quickly pulled the hat from her head and marched over to the desk. "Miss?" But the woman seemed to ignore her as she continued writing away on a parchment. Gyn's temper began to flare. "Miss, can you…"

Shssssssssss. Gyn could feel the warmth rise to her cheeks. What was wrong with this woman? Was she deaf. Raising her voice another octave, she said, "Ma'am, can you?" Shssssssssssssss was all she got in response. Almost shouting, Gyn replied to the Shsssss.

Finally, the prim young woman stood, glaring at the offending female. She whispered, "Don't you know where you are at?

Gyndeene's temper blew like a too tight lid off a boiling pot. "Of course, I know where I'm at. Do you?"

The woman frowned deeply and whispered. "You are in a library where you need to keep your voice down, way down."

Once again, Gyndeene felt her face turn cherry red and she whispered back, "I'm sorry, but I need help. Of course, I know I'm in a library, but there doesn't appear to be anyone here to disturb."

The librarian stared at the tall woman with open hostility and whispered, "That's beside the point. It doesn't matter. Now what is it that you want?"

Feeling quite chastised, Gyn whispered, "I need a book with the map of Stormpoint, an accurate map, and all the information you have on the history of this city."

The woman moved slowly around the desk. "Follow me please." She led Gyndeene to a large table and indicated she should sit. Gyn slipped off her cloak and waited apprehensively. She had a feeling the librarian was about to get even with her.

Turning on her charm, Gydneene smiled as the librarian returned and handed her a small book. Gyn whispered, "Thank you." Quickly, opening the book, she was delighted with the detailed maps the book held.

Taking a parchment from her leather case, she quickly began sketching out a map of the city. Deep in concentration, she did not notice the young woman returned to the table again and again with piles of books.

Sighing with satisfaction, Gyn smiled as she closed the book, knowing at last that she had a true map of the city. Her eyes widen with surprise, and then dismay filled her heart. The entire end of the table was filled with books.

Gyn almost choked as the prim young woman returned and added another pile to the stack of books. She began to open her mouth and shut it promptly as the librarian smiled and whispered, "There, these should give you the information you seek."

Disheartened, Gyn knew she would be there most of the day if not into the night. Taking one of the books, she began to thumb through it.

The librarian smiled her first genuine smile as she thought,"There, that should keep her quiet for a long time." Holding that thought, she made her way back to her desk.



Peeking over the top of a large, and regrettably musty, book, Kit watched the exchange between the two women with amusement, thankful for even a brief distraction.

"Miss I need help."

"Don't you know where you are at?

A smile tugged playfully at the corners of her mouth and Kit tried not to giggle as the stranger inadvertently goaded the overly prim librarian into yet another of the fits of peskiness for which the woman was so justly famous. It was a dangerous thing to do—not in that was likely to resort in physical harm, as the librarian was scarcely an imposing figure, but her somewhat dour disposition almost invariably resulted in a reciprocal, and far more intentional, act of vexation to the instigator of her moods. This time, it came in the form of burying the hapless stranger beneath a veritable mountain of books, ostensibly in the name of helpfulness. The smile on the librarian's face as she walked away, however, an equal mixture of glee and spite, made clear that assistance was not her primary motivation.

Had the exchange between the two been nothing more than that, Kit would have ignored the women and returned to her studies. She still had three more chapters to read before returning to the guild and, for some reason she had yet to determine, Quaralyn had an unerring knack for seeing through even her best excuses when she failed to complete her assignments. She sighed and ran her fingers over the tattered edges of the book. It wasn't that Kit didn't want to learn, but she hated being exiled to the library while the rest of the team was out scouting for information. To be sure, the library contained much information itself, but she sincerely doubted it was of the sort likely to prove useful to the guild. Something in the exchange she had just witnessed, however, told her that she might just have been mistaken on that point.

It wasn't often that library visitors requested maps and information on the city's history. In fact, Kit couldn't ever remember such a request, and she suspected that the purpose of the woman's search might be of interest to the guild. If nothing else, it would provide her with a moment's break and a chance to stretch her legs, which had grown cramped from being curled beneath her.

Her course now set, Kit closed her book and hopped down from her chair, drawing a stern look from the librarian as her feet hit the wooden floor with a slight "thump." Resisting the urge to stick out her tongue at the woman, Kit ignored her as best she could and stepped with half-manufactured shyness over to the stranger's table. Stopping only a few feet away, she twisted from side to side with the untamable energy of youth, and waited for the stranger to notice her.


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


`It is dark, very dark. The stormclouds and rain cover both the moon and the stars nicely. No guards at the gate, a friendly place.' So thought the drow, as she walked through the gates to the city of Stormpoint. Her boots are simple, worn leather and muddy. Her cloak a dark green that tends to fade into the shadows of leaves. Nothing about her exept for her skin and the drow-runed blade she wears in its sheath across her back shows her heratige. This is why she wears a large hooded cloak, pulled to shadow her face. And why the doeskin gloves come up to her elbows. Her sword is bundled in oilskin, and slung tied tightly to hide its origins. She has made sure her race would not be recognised, for time has taught her caution. Entering the city she walks past the gypsy camp and into the town center. Looking at the monument she smirks, speaking aloud in bitterness, "Aye rare it is. Would that people actually believed in them." She holds out a small piece of wood, it has a single strand of golden hair strung across the small square. As she watches, then strand of hair glows along one side. She turns untill the glow stood at one end of the hair. Looking up, she noted it pointing at the library. She placed the wood back into her pocket then walked to the library, wiping her feet as she entered.

Jahdren Ue Danradi


Gyn bit her lip. She had only been in the library but a short time and already realized what a difficult and boring task this was. Her eyes stared at the page without seeing it. She was on her third volume and nothing. `Oh well, at least I have a good map of the city.' She had no intention of going through the stack of books piled high at the end of the table. Besides, she reasoned, she was to meet Josh at the Skull & Crossbones soon. Maybe he had had better luck than she.

A strange feeling that someone was watching her prompted her to raise her eyes from the page. Peering at her with unconcealed curiosity was a child. For a heartbeat, their eyes locked, and in that moment, Gyndeene found herself staring into violet eyes. She gasped. Red curly locks tumbled over the child's shoulders and rosebud lips turned upward in a pout. The name Siggi stuck in her throat. This could not be her daughter; she knew that and closed her eyes tightly to shut out the vision. She let them open slowly; a long sigh escaped her stiff lips. The vision was gone and within her heart she felt emptiness.

The unknown child continued to stare at her. Gyndeene stood gathering her composure around her like a cloak. She smiled invitingly at the little one, wondering how she had happened to find her way into the library. She grabbed a pile of books and made her way around the table. Kneeling down in front of her, she whispered, "Good day child, are ye lost?"

Gyndeene Trevianeu of Aquilar


The woman wore a look of exasperation on her brow as she poured over the open tomb before her. She'd taken few notes on her reading, but had sketched a detailed map of the city and its surrounding regions. Kit couldn't discern anything else of interest in the woman's research, and so she shifted to the woman's features, committing her appearance to memory ... long tawny hair, elven features .... she thought she was doing fairly well, well enough to make up for nearly getting caught by the owner of the Raven, well enough to be allowed on scouting expeditions again.

Her newborn confidence gave rise to a small flight of fancy as she imagined herself reporting back to Quaralyn with the information she'd gathered. The stranger must be in search of something important . . . something of possible value to the guild . . . and she would be the one who found her . . . the one who first pointed her out to the guild . . . the one who made the score! The silent dreams grew grander and grander until the woman's sudden movement grabbed Kit's attention and jerked her sharply back to reality. The woman was looking at her, was moving towards her, was speaking to her.

"Good day child, are ye lost?"

Even before the words fell from the woman's lips, Kit realized that she'd made a mistake. She hadn't really thought about what she would say once she had the stranger's attention, and she now found herself at a loss for words. Oh well, she sighed to herself, it was important to learn how to think on her feet, wasn't it? Seizing on the first obvious characteristic she could reasonably have noticed from her table, she spoke with wide eyes and a voice brimming with curiosity.

"Are you an elf? I've never seen an elf before."


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


As she crosses the threshold of the library to enter, she pauses for a moment in thought. From the response of the glow Sasha knew that the one she hunted was near. Memories of far and long ago pass through her mind.

"Hello little one. May I help you?" spoke the tall elven warrior.

The dragon stood up on its legs, looking up at her. To a youngling such as her, a creature only 3 feet at the shoulder standing upright, the elf WAS tall. "I am lost. Where am I?"

The elf blinked down at her, "Well, if you would like I have a place you can rest. There is no need for dragon hunters to bother one so young" spoke the elf, glancing at the badly mangled corpse lying on the inn's wooden floor. "Perhaps it best that you not be here when the guardsmen arrive to see your handiwork."

"Come," the elven woman gestured," I have a place you can rest and we can tend those wounds..." And so the dragon followed her home. Her scales glimmered blue in even the faint light outside, the glints had the deep blue of a sapphire.

Memories of another place glimmer as well. Images of training and pain, glory of the kill, the fear of the sacrifice. Brutality at a young age, both taken and delivered, created a blade sharp and cutting. Strong, and precise. Deadly and merciless. Such is the training given to all drow. Jahdren spent more time in the warriors' school than the clerics learnings. She was to be not just a priestess of Lolth, but a deadly warrior to her cause. Memories of hunting young sapphire dragons, and the coveted single kill of one of them stands as a shining achievement. After all, dragons are cunning, and deadly.

More images, of fighting Gyndeene. Images of slaying. Of giving souls to her dark goddess. Of slaying those who sought her life. Of the long hunt for the elf-woman Gyndeene. The warm pleasure in the feeling that the long hunt is at last ... almost finished. She momentarily bends her head as she caresses the length of the black sword she carries. "Yes, my grand one. She is near, so too is your partner. I will once again be the twin swords terror."

Shashathana Ue Danradi


The smile froze on Gyndeene's lips. Only her white knuckles tightly gripping the books she held belied her turmoil. Outraged, the raw nerve demanded a tart reply to the child's question. `Aye, and they eat little humans like ye for the eventide meal." Gyndeene stifled the thought as she rose stiffly and studied the child carefully. She turned abruptly and walked to the end of the table. Her mind a jumble of thoughts as she asked herself why she let this upset her so. After all, she was half Elven. Perhaps it was because she was raised by a surrogate mother, a human surrogate mother, that she so closely identified with her human side. She frowned and push these thoughts away. Nodding her head in assent, her gaze returned to the child. In a low voice, scarcely above a whisper, she said, "Aye, I'm Elven." Returning her attention to the books, she fumbled through a stack. `This child was more than she appeared to be,' Gyndeene's intuition shouted. 'For what child of her age would ask such a question.' Gyn's lips once again turned upward. Perhaps she should get to know the child better. Sometimes children were a fountain of information, and such information could aid her in her quest for the MoonBlade.

Gyn's heart skipped a beat. She glanced causally around the room but saw nothing amiss. Something had changed; she could feel it, but whatever it was remained hidden from her. Fingering the books, one slid, falling off the table and landing squarely on her foot. She bit the inside of her lip hard to stifle a curse that would surely have roused the ire of the librarian. Bending over to take the offending book off her foot, Gyn's eyes widen as she lifted the book back up to the table. One word stood out; Darkelden. All was forgotten as her eyes scanned the page seeking knowledge of the evil wizard. The jubilation she felt was brief. Little was said other than powerful magic could be obtained from the fortress Darkelden. She turned the pages, reading quickly, but there was nothing more to be found. Her sore foot forgotten, she carried the book back to her pack. As tempted as she was to take the book, she knew that the librarian would probably search her before she left or in some uncanny way know that she had lifted the book. Setting it back on the table reluctantly, she scribbled a few notes in her journal. She slipped back into her cloak and pulled her hat low over her eyes. With one last look around the room, she stopped suddenly. `Ayeeee, the child.' What was she to do with the child?



A moment to reflect, and then she placed the tips of her fingers lightly aginst the door. It would not do to go into danger unknowing. Sending her senses beyond the portal with a thought, she then recoiled. No fewer than five life forces were in there, three of them very powerful. An eyeblink later she steps back from the door. Glancing about to be sure none watched she made a high power-charged leap to the top of the library. From here, she would watch to see who exited. There was too much unknown power inside the library, even if the surface elf Gyndeene was one of them, to risk exposure. The darkness her ally, she watches patiently.

Sashathana Ue Danradi


Sasha takes a moment to reflect, then realizes something odd... During the probe, the fifth person she detected had not been in the library. Muttering to herself she takes off across the roof leaping down in the direction of the docks. After all, a personality strong enough to be detected this far away, it needs investigating.

Peering around the area near the docks, she once again allows her mind's eye to wander around. She leaves the shadows, allowing her hood to fall. "Well, fancy meeting you here, thief."

The young man leaped in the air, starting wildly,

The drow's hand claps over his mouth, her other hand deforming as the fingers lengthen to encircle his hands like strands of rope. "Quiet" she hissed, "I am Jahdren. remember me now?" The frightened young man's eyes opened wider as she removed the hand over his mouth, "Methought me da' were tell'n stories! You do exist!" "Your..." a chuckle came out of her mouth "Of course.. you would be Jak's son. Walk with me a bit and talk to me, Son of Jak." She released his hands, fingers becoming normal once again. "Well, first, me name's Kordd..." he begins, knowing that to run from a drow is likely death or worse, he tells his story and follows Sasha.

Following that elusive sense of where the other was, Sasha listened to Kordd. In view ahead of her, a man and a woman. Her nose caught scent of someone she knew.

"Need any help there stranger?"

"Kordd, go home. Now. I will find you later," mutters Sasha, motioning the young man away. Now it gets interesting. Not only is Gyndeene here somewhere, but she has found Silver as well... "Yes, I do believe you can help me." Sasha smiles in expectation, Silver was Gyndeene's second in command all those years ago.

Sashathana Ue Danradi


Kit's eyes widened in stunned silence as the woman's previously kind expression sharpened into one that would tan leather. 'Ouch, she's a crabby one,' the child thought as she puzzled through the reaction. None of the elves she knew had ever behaved that way, but then again, she hadn't known any of them particularly well. Had she said something offensive? She didn't think so. How could it hurt to ask people about themselves? 'Grown ups are strange,' she thought to herself, and was about to call her investigations to an end on that note when one of the voluminous tomes that lay scattered about the table fell from its place and landed upon the woman's foot.

Kit's first thought was that it served the woman right. Her second thought was that the stranger was actually lucky that the book had fallen on her foot rather than the floor. The librarian, though not of imposing stature, was a force to be reckoned with where the well-being of her books was concerned, and had been known to toss visitors of much greater size and skill out onto the streets when sufficiently provoked. In fact, it was odd that she hadn't yet responded to the incident, and Kit had just turned round to see if the great guardian of knowledge had noticed the event when her third thought kicked in. Her newfound companion had grown strangely silent.

Bringing her attention back to the newcomer, Kit found her back at the table, pouring over the offending volume, her face alit with victorious curiosity. Kit made out what she could of the pages, but her vantage point rendered the text upside down. She did, however, memorize the name and appearance of the book for later reference before the woman closed the cover and gathered her belongings.

Drat, she was leaving, and Kit knew little more than she had before. Some scouting expedition this turned out to be. She pouted, partly in self-disappointment and partly from not knowing what to do next. Should she follow the woman? Stay behind and read the book? Or just go back the guild and sulk in her room? With no certain course, the young child simply stood undecided on the quiet wooden floors of the library, hoping without assurance, that an option would present itself.


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Silver's brow arched as she waited quietly. Apparently the two had some business to discuss, and just as she was about to turn and enter the tavern, one of the figures stalked off. The Lady Captain waited a moment to see if she would get a response, and she did.

"Yes I do believe you can help me."

Silver paused, narrowed her eyes slightly, and looked past the darkness of night towards the figure again. Yes, it was a woman. Her first assumption was right, and proven by the feminine undertone of the voice. A hint of ... amusement? Was she smiling?

Silver descended the two steps she climbed before pausing, and using what light crept past the dirt-covered windows of the tavern, she peered again through the hood of the cloak. The voice was familiar. The facial features, from what she saw, struck some ancient memory in her mind.

"Sasha...?" The name escaped her lips before she could even stop it. She was thinking out loud again. She had only met the woman once, maybe a handful of times at best, but she might be right about this. "By the Goddess above, it's been ages!" The Lady Captain laughed, crossing the road to extend a hand, lowering her voice. "What in the blazes brought you here?"



Gyndeene gazed down at the little girl ashamed that she had been so abrupt. Leaning slightly forward, her whisper rang with sincerity. "I'm sorry little one if'n I was a bit sharp. I was just taken back with ye question. I hope ye'll forgive my rudeness." Having apologized, Gyn raised her hand in farewell and made her way out of the library.

She took a deep breath and was glad to be out in the open again. Gyndeene winced as her throbbing foot communicated pain to her brain. Shaking it off, she set off at a brisk pace in the general direction of the docks. She noticed little as she hurried down winding streets, stopping only a moment here and there to get her bearings. She turned a corner and saw a tall mast peeking over the top of a thatched roof. `Aye,' she thought, 'I'm almost there.'

The smell of fish touched her nostrils as she stepped out onto the street bordering the docks. Several ships sat at anchor while a few were tied stoutly to study piles as sailors and laborers unloaded their goods into various wagons and carts. Taking in the hustle and bustle around her, her lips broke into a smile. Here, everything seemed so simple. A place for everything and everything in its place. It was a hard life, but there was a code of honor here. Not to say, that they were not a rough bunch who would fight at the drop of a hat, but they were loyal. She laughed out loud at her thoughts. "Aye, she said to no one in particular, "this is the life" knowing that few here would agree with her.

Still laughing, Gyndeene wove her way along the walk to a stout building bearing a colorful Skull and Crossbones flag. Taking one last look over her shoulder, she pushed the door open and stepped inside. The tavern was brightly lit with lanterns and the air was stiff with the smell of strong ale, perspiration and burning tobacco. A few burly sailors stood at the long bar drinking tankards of ale while others sat in groups around wood-hewn tables talking and drinking. Her mouth watered slightly as she caught the scent of fish stew bubbling over a hot fire.

Josh sat alone at a corner table by the fireplace. He had a peculiar look on his face as he waved to her. Smiling triumphantly, she limped over to join him. "Well, Josh, I did it. I know where Darkelden might be."

Gyndeene Trevianeu of Aquilar


"Sasha...?" The name escaped Silver's lips before she could even stop it. She was thinking out loud again. She had only met the woman once, maybe a handful of times at best, but she might be right about this. "By the Goddess above, it's been ages!" The Lady Captain laughed, crossing the road to extend a hand, lowering her voice. "What in the blazes brought you here?"

"Gyndeene Trevianeu of Aquilar," replied Sasha grimly. "Come, let us talk in the darkness of this tavern." She pulls her hood up over her head, "I am unsure how drow are treated around here."

Turning into the tavern, Sasha makes her way to a table. Once there, she removes her sword. Silver was a bit startled, the Sasha she remembered was polite, and spoke more cheerfully. Silver's face only showed her thoughts in a raised eyebrow as she walked into the tavern, turned the nearest chair around and sat, arms crossed over the back of the chair as she waited for an explanation. She also recalled that Sasha's skin was fair as well.

Keeping her voice low, Sasha begins speaking. "I am following a vision I had not too long ago. During the search I have made to find Gyndeene, I have sometimes found hints of another object I seek. The other sword. I do believe you know this one." The drow carefully unwraps the sword enough to draw the hilt into sight. The hilt is jet black and heavily runed steel with absolutely no enchantments. The runes are in the language of the drow.

"Usually, I ignore the hints, for my search for Gyndeene is more important. The vision ... it showed Gyndeene holding the other sword, or caressing it. I am unsure which. And it sits next to the Moonsword. It seems that I will find both in the same place."

Leaning back in her chair, watching the tavern, she awaits Silver's reaction to the story.

Sashathana Ue Danradi


Gyndeene gazed down at the little girl ashamed that she had been so abrupt. Leaning slightly forward, her whisper rang with sincerity. "I'm sorry little one if'n I was a bit sharp. I was just taken back with ye question. I hope ye'll forgive my rudeness." Having apologized, Gyn raised her hand in farewell and made her way out of the library.

Kit frowned as she watched the woman leave. That hadn't gone at all well. She hadn't really learned what the woman was up to. She hadn't even learned her name. A heavy sigh escaped her lips and her frown deepened into a self-indulgent pout that didn't help her any. The woman had gone and so had her chance of gleaning any more information from her. There was nothing to do about it, she rationed as she scuffed her small foot against the floor. It didn't help either, but only drew another stern look from the librarian. This time, Kit did stick out her tongue.

She didn't wait to see the librarian's response, but instead shambled back to her own table and the tattered and musty book that awaited her there. She knew she should just finish her reading and head back to the guild. It was only ... ugh, she remembered suddenly ... it was three more chapters ... three more chapters of material as dry as the brittle tome that contained it. Her steps grew heavier as she contemplated the chore. What was she going to learn from the book anyway ... especially given her current mood? And it would still be there later. She could finish it anytime. Oh sure, Quaralyn might be a bit cross with her, but then again she might be too busy with Striker to even notice.

Her pace slowed as new thoughts ran swiftly through her mind, skipping over her conscience without so much as a second glance. She could follow the stranger, see where she went, learn why she was in town. The woman didn't have that much of a head start on her. She should be able to find her ... if she hurried ... if she was clever.

Stopping only to grab a few stray scraps of parchment left by a previous visitor at the stranger's table, Kit scampered from the library and out into the bustling city streets. There was no sign of the woman, but there were plenty of people who may have seen her. Grabbing the nearest adult, Kit asked quickly, "Did you just see a tall woman with light brown hair wearing a white shirt go by? She left some stuff in the library ..." she trailed off and proffered a small handful of papers and a plaintiff expression. A moment later she was racing off in the direction given, a mischievous grin lighting her eyes. Strangers in Stormpoint always drew attention. It wasn't too hard to track them, and few people in the city gave any consideration to the motivations of a child.

She had to employ her deception a few more times before she caught up with the woman, or at least, caught up with her current location ... a colorful, if not entirely respectable, tavern with the moniker "Skull and Crossbones." It posed a slight problem. Establishments of that sort generally didn't generally cater to lone children and she'd thus be somewhat out of place within the smoke-filled common room. Hiding within the shadows of a cross-street, she pouted and kicked at a small stone by her foot as she considered her next move.

She could sneak in the back door of the tavern and .... no, that was foolish. Maybe if she went in and pretended that she was looking for a parent ... no, that wouldn't work. What if ..... her thought was interrupted by the sound of a familiarly whistled tune and the corresponding approach of a lanky figure coming from the direction of the docks. She smiled. Fortune, it seemed, was favoring her today.

"Rorec," she hissed from her tiny sliver of concealment, "Rorec."

The figure stopped in his tracks, casting his eyes about the surrounding streets before settling on the darkened alley Kit currently occupied and then narrowing on her slight form. "Kit?" the man rasped, more in curious recognition, "what in blazes are you doing out here?"

"I'm looking for something, but I don't have time to explain," she answered. "I . . . uh . . . need a favor. Can you help?"


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Gyndeene sat down wondering about the look on Josh's face; for a moment a trace of fear had shown in his eyes.

"Josh, whatever is wrong? Ye look like ye've seen a ghost?"

He leaned forward talking in whispered tones, "Well, Gynne, not yet but perhaps soon." He frowned. "And why be ye limping?"

"Oh, tis, nothing, Josh. I dropped a book on my foot, but it was pure luck that I did. I've found out where Darkelden is?"

"Aye, well ye have not heard the least of it yet. I be talkin to a couple of sailors. Their advice was stay away from Darkelden unless ye wish ta be pushin up daisies. He be vera powerful and as wicked as he is powerful."

"Come on, Josh, don't count us out yet. There are ways of getting around wicked and powerful."

"Well, I dinna know for sure bout that. Would rather avoid it meself."

A rather bedraggled barmaid interrupted their conversation. "Anyth'ng for ye miss?"

"Aye, a couple of bowls of that fish stew that smells so good and a couple of tankards of ale."

"Aye, Miss. Be right back."

"Now, Josh, if our planning is good and if'n we are forewarned about the pits Darkelden will dig, dinna ye think we kin keep from falling in?"

His brow darkened and his lips hardened into a straight line. "I'd be thinkin we'd best avoid Darkelden's pits by staying right 'ere. Let that old Elven blimp get the sword back for the Queenie hisself."

"Tis ye choice, but I be headin for Ogrekvania as soon as I get supplies. I dinna think we've time ta waste as the sooner we git this done, the better I'll feel." Her eyes hardened as she stared at Josh. "An trust me, I'll do it somehow."

Knowing he could not talk her out of anything when she got that look in her eyes, he relented. A snort left his lips. "Go without me…why who'd protect ye and make ye coffee in the morning ifn I wasn't there?"

She let her gratitude show as she reached out and grasp his hand. "I know, Josh, I know."

Gyndeene Trevianeu of Aguilar


Gyndeene slipped off her cloak...the tavern was warm. She was worried...the news she received from Josh was not very reassuring. She had ordered fish stew and honeymead from the barmaid and was waiting for it to come. Gyndeene glanced around the room, sighing softly. She knew that it was going to be difficult to get the Moonblade back, but just how difficult , she could not never have guessed. For a moment, she wished she were back in RhyDin.

The bitterness of the cold air was left behind as she followed Sasha into the warmth of the tavern. It was somewhat quiet here and Silver could see why this place was chosen. A slow intake of breath was inhaled with the musty scent of candle wax, polish and ale, but she seemed to hold her breath as Sasha stepped aside. A familiar figure sat at a table a few yards away, and the Lady Captain's eyes widened for a brief second.

Gyndeene looked back at Josh for a minute and then felt a draft of cool air. Josh was staring at the door and her gaze followed his. Her face turned white and she felt thought it must be a dream. She stood slowly, feeling that her eyes were deceiving her. It could not be possible that Silver was here; Gyndeene shook her head and closed her eyes, but when she opened them, the image remained. Slowly she took a step forward, afraid that the image would fade the closer she got. Her steps quickened. "Silver, tis it really you?"

A smile crept across Silver's lips as she watched Gyndeene's reaction. "Evenin' Gyndeene." The distance between them was quickly closed as the two met in a huge hug. "Aye, it is me. But what are you doing here?"

Gyndeene hugged tightly, afraid that if she loosened her hold her long-time friend would disappear. "Gods, Silver are you a sight." She laughed. "And I might ask the same of you, but right now there isn't anywhere I'd rather be."

"I was not planning on seeing you! This is such a wonderful surprise!" A million questions flooded her mind, all ready to spill out at any moment. It took great restraint for her not to squeeze the life out of Gyndeene. "How are you, Gyn?"

A slight frown crossed Gyndeene's brow. "Well it seems that I am on an impossible quest, Silver, to retrieve Karrinth's Moonblade." Gyndeene laughed once more. "Oh my, I can hardly breath! I am well, and ye my friend? You are as beautiful as ever..." She took a step back to take a better look at her old friend. "Ye look in good health. My gods it has been such a long time! What brings you to Stormpoint."

"Oh, the years have been all right, though not as kind as you make them out. I retired from Knighthood a while ago and took to the sea full time." Silver explained, laughing quietly. "You look wonderful, though your eyes still do not hide anything." A slight frown creased her cheeks. "I have missed you, but I feel these are not good circumstances that we meet under."

Gyndeene blinked in surprise at Silver's words. "Ye have left the Knighthood?" A smile slashed across her face. "And ye have taken ta the sea... I envy ye." She sighed and nodded. "Aye, what you said is true; however, under any circumstances just being able to see you again is worth it."

Silver laughed again. "Envy me? You should come with me if you envy me. It is not as glamourous as you think but fun."

"Aye, that I know...but the sea has always held allure for me...but somehow I seem to keep my feet pretty well planted in the earth."

"I still cannot believe it is you. Gods, I have missed you, Gyn!"

Gyndeene laughed and stepped in to hug Silver again. "Aye, and I ye."

Silver laughed again, poking a finger at Gyndeene. "To find me? I'm always floating around. Tis you who disappeared!"

Gyndeene seemed to sadden a bit and a small sigh parted her lips. "Aye, that be the truth...much has happened to me. I was on my way back to Kamelot , but that came to naught, and now I find myself here..." The brief instant of sorrow was quickly replaced by the joy she felt in seeing her old friend. "But I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now."

"Aye, neither can I. I feel as if I could spend months never sleeping just to talk to you about everything, to listen to you and find out how you have been and what has kept you away for so long. It is a blessing to see you again." Silver's eyes sparkled with a life that had gone so long unseen. "Perhaps we should have a tankard or two and talk about this quest of yours. I am afraid I'm going to be very attached to you now, since I found you again." She laughed. "It is as if a part of me came back." She gently placed a hand on Gyndeene's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. "Whatever it is that plagues you, I will help."

Gyndeene laughed with her and a shiver ran up her spine. "I too feel the same." The joy she felt bubbled over at seeing her friend and the worries of a few minutes ago seemed trivial. Another shiver ran up her spine and slowly her eyes went to the cloaked person standing at Silver's side. Her eyes searched for the face hidden deep inside the green hood. Letting her senses flow, she knew this person was very special to her. She held back unable to believe that what she felt was true. Another friend here in Stormpoint? How could this be? A tear slowly trickled down her cheek as she prayed it was so.

Gyndeene and Silver


Quite startled to see Gyndeene with absolutely no warning, Sasha panicked, thinking 'she can't see me like this, I don't want to have to kill her!' Using her natural gifts of psionics, she reshaped her body into that of a pale young human, making sure no trace of a drow showed. Racial hatreds were NOT something to take chances about. Sasha had been almost killed many times, even by friends when she had forgotten this before.

As Gyndeene's eyes looked inside of the hood, she felt the last of the changes slip into place. Letting loose a low purr of delight, she smiled and spoke "Greetings, Mother. You have led me a merry chase." She pulled down the hood of the cloak, hoping Silver would play along with the change. She curtsied, "My abilities have led me here, but I did not expect to see you here. Where is the moonblade?" She smiled grimly, "Kamelot has not been the same without it."

Sashathana Ue Danradi


In a dark room, very poorly lit, the man who wasn't there peered deeply into his scrying bowl. Even the light of a candle would interfere with the use of this magic, so even the door was sealed shut and not the least crack allowed light into this room. The bowl shimmered faintly as the images appeared. Tall gates, a wharf, a church, a library... the images stilled at the library and the mage breathed softly. He peered intently into the image, watching events unfold. When the child wandered away, he gestured and mumbled a small spell causing a book to fall open to a specific page. He smiled as the book slammed into a foot. "It has begun... "

Satisfied with his effots, he passed a hand over the bowl, causing the image to fade away. By long practice, he placed a lid on the bowl, snapped down the edges, and placed the bowl in a box. After the box was covered by a heavy piece of felt, he sighed, lighting a single candle. "I must tell my thralls to prepare the way. It is amazing what you can do when you find a reletively intellegent ogre."
B He left the room. Hanging from the beam above the table that held the bowl was a glimmering sword. It glowed with an inner light, a pale light.."

Sashathana Ue Danradi

'Visions of the Hunt'


The wizard paused slightly outside of the room, muttering arcane glyphs in an ancient tounge. After all, there was no telling when a pet may become inquisitive. It's just so hard to pry them out of their holes when they find the results of a little curiosity. He teleported himself with a wave, sitting back into his seat where another wave of his hand called forward one who was waiting. "Well, I need you to find something for me. Contact the thieves guild, find out what that child knows. I will pay extra for a personal interview." He waved the man away impatiently. "Oh, and tell them she is safe. I prefer my reports honest, and unenchanted. She will come to no harm. It is not she I wish to bespell." The man bowed, leaving with alacrity. It would be a cold trip tonight, and wet. But not as cold as the wizard's wrath, nor as wet as a bleeding remnant of what was once a man would be. Besides, the wizard paid well.

Sashathana Ue Danradi

'Visions of the Hunt'


It had been stroke of amazing fortune for Kit that she had found Rorec when she did.  She realized, of course, that her plan wasn't the best, but at least it would allow her to enter the tavern where her quarry had gone and to remain there hopefully long enough to learn something of interest.  At any rate, even if it didn't work it was more fun than sitting in the library beneath a pile of musty old books.  She wrinkled her nose at the thought as she followed Rorec into the Skull and Crossbones tavern, hoping that the woman was still there.

Inside, the tavern was warm, yet poorly lit, perhaps due to the haze of smoke that hung gauzelike over the room.  She held her breath and tried not to cough as she followed Rorec behind the counter where he spoke briefly with the barkeep.  He gestured once at Kit as he spoke, prompting the keep to examine her with a weary expression before sighing and nodding. 

"Ta," Rorec finally said, slapping the keep on the shoulder.  "She'll give ya no trouble."  I''ll be back soon as I can."

Kit watched him go, a small pout lingering on her face after the door swung shut behind him.  The keep wore a similar expression, but for different reasons.  Clearly unaccustomed to children, he looked painfully at odds as to what to do with his small charge and was thus relieved when she plopped down in an out of the way corner of the tavern and began to amuse herself with a game of jacks.  He gave a small nod of mingled satisfaction and relief before resuming his duties at the bar.

Kit, meanwhile, continued her game, dropping the small ball which bounced silently as she plucked first one, and then two jacks from the floor.  If any were watching her, they would have noticed that she was quite good at the game.  They would have to have been looking very close indeed, however, to notice that the jacks were just a bit more substantial than their usual counterparts.  More importantly, perhaps, no amount of scrutiny could reveal that the reason for the puckish grin that curled one corner of her small mouth as she scooped a handful of jacks was not her luck at the game, but was rather the fact that she was in an ideal position to overhear the conversation now taking place between the woman she had followed and her two new companions.


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Josh watched the scene with suspicion. `Who were these long lost friends?' Where he was from, friends did not appear out of the blue. His scalp tingled in warning. His glance took in the hooded figure standing to the one side of his mistress, but he could not make out the person beneath the deep cowl of the heavy green material. His hand slipped to his waist. Fingers closed around the dagger in his belt. `This is just the type of thing Darkelden would do to protect the misbegotten sword.'

Josh shook his head and was momentarily distracted as the barmaid removed two bowels of stew from her tray and set them on the table. Her lips stretched in a tight line of disapproval as she watched the lad's fixed concentration on the women standing a bit from the table. "Men,' she thought, `all of the same ilk whether lads or gaffers; put a pretty woman in the room and all other thoughts fled like leaves before an autumn wind.'

Ignoring her, Josh once again studied the tall blond in sailor's garb. He was hard pressed to believe that this beautiful woman could have been conjured up by Darkelden; now, the other one was more likely a fiend sent by the powerful wizard to do his mistress harm. He frowned deeply, trying to penetrate the cloaked figure. Little did he know that even if he could see beneath the hood, he would know nothing more than he did now.

THUNK, THUNK. Startled, Josh looked up at the barmaid who slammed the mugs on the table unceremoniously.

He stood slowly wishing he had the magic at hand to turn her into the toad that she was. "What's ye problem woman. Canna ye be more careful?"

The barmaid stared back defiantly.

"Will ye be payin for ye fare t'day or t'morrow. I dinna 'ave all day ta stand here while ye oogle them women."

A slow blush rose on the young man's face as he pulled some coins from his pouch and tossed them on the tray, smiling to himself as several fell to the floor.

"Be gone with ye woman and leave me be, Canna ye see I'm busy."

Stooping quickly, she retrieved the coins and without a backward glance scurried away. As she disappeared into the bowels of the tavern, she chuckled knowing the lad had paid twice as much as he should have. Satisfied, she slipped the extra coins in her pocket.

Josh sat back down slowly as he watched Gynne and her friends approach the table. He was not looking forward to meeting these friends. He may only be a lad, but he was not a dullard; they would be watched closely, very closely. Just one false step, one false move and he would protect his mistress with his life.

* * * * * * *

"Shasha, words fail me, but my heart has felt joy that has long been missin. Gyndeene placed her hands on her friend's shoulders. "Tis been way ta long my friend. I dinna ever think ta see ya again."

Pulling her friend to her, she hugged her tightly and whispered, "Thank ye for searchin me out. The task of finding and taking the sword back to Kamelot rests easier on my mind now that both you and Silver are here."

Releasing her friend, she nodded first at Sasha and then at Silver. "T'will be a vera dangerous venture for all involved. Come let us sit so I can tell ye the strange events leading me ta Stormpoint." Walking to the table, Gyndeene smiled at the young man sitting there. "Josh, this is Silver and Sasha, two of the best friends anyone could ever wish for. They are here to help us get theMoonBlade back."

Remembering his manners, he stood and nodded curtly to the strangers. Trying hard to hide the distrust he felt, he moved from the table to find them seats, praying that his mistress knew what she was doing.



Within the maze of grave markers that rested within the shadow of the church, the sleeper stirred. The city was busy, busier than the sleeper had seen it in some time, and it created just the tiniest speck of curiosity in the sleeper's vaporous mind. It had tried to ignore it and to let the apathy take sway once again, but though it had started small and gnat-like, the curiosity soon grew to a gnawing hunger that drove the wraith from its rest. Rising from its sepulcher, the sleeper drifted through the walls encircling the necropolis it now called home and ventured out into the city of life beyond.

The weather was warmer than the sleeper remembered it, not that it could sense the change itself, but the citizens it passed as it floated aimlessly through the streets were no longer wrapped in layers of heavy cloaks and their walks were less hurried. The wraith followed a few of them, but soon lost interest as most seemed to be about on routine errands. The sleeper gave a mental sigh as it followed the citizen it was currently trailing into a tavern. It hadn't bothered to note the tavern's name. What was the point? They were all largely the same.

Inside, the tavern's current clientele seemed to be enjoying the offered fare. In fact, several of them seemed to have enjoyed it a bit too much, their faces glazed with a distant expression of spirit- induced contentment. There was a time when the sleeper would have pitied them, but now it was envy that stirred in its ethereal heart. Even an artificial peace such as this was beyond its lonely grasp. Bitter, the wraith turned its gaze from them, eager to find diversion elsewhere. It didn't take long.

Tucked away in one corner of the tavern, a young girl sat cross- legged on the floor playing a child's game with a deft hand. What the hell was a child doing here? Had things changed so much during the specter's long slumber that children now patronized establishments such as this? The sleeper looked around, but saw no other's of the girl's age. She was an aberration then? The sleeper hoped so. Though the tavern was calm at the moment, it was still no place for one so young of years. The sleeper thus appointed itself the girl's guardian for the duration of her stay and hovered over her, keeping a silent watch.

The girl took no notice of the wraith, for indeed there was nothing notice, and continued her youthful amusement, unaware that death hung heavily over her. The sleeper watched her play until it grew tired of the repetitive motions of the game, and then let its gaze continue about the tavern. As it did, it realized something odd.

Across the room, a small group of people was gathered ...... two women, a young boy, and a cloak-wrapped figure. It was this last which drew the wraith's attention. No other within the tavern was so dressed. Indeed, while some without on the streets had worn lightweight coverings, all within had removed them; and even if this particular one was touched by some chill that left the others unmolested, of what warmth was the hood that draped over the figure's head and which hid its features in shadow.

Its curiosity now stirred anew, the wraith rose from its young charge and drifted over to the strange figure and its companions, suddenly keen to learn of their business.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


Josh left the table quickly as if he feared catching some strange sickness from the strangers. He tried hard to pull the frown from his face and replace it with one of a person without a care in the world. He swaggered through the now-crowded tavern and made his way to the bar, ordering a mug of ale. He set some coins on the bar and nodded to the barkeep as he picked up the foaming mug and then sipped the strong brew slowly. He slowly searched the tavern for a group of sailors, successfully spotting a likely group sitting not far from him.

Picking up his mug, he walked casually to their table. "Good day, mates." His nose wrinkled slightly. Judging by the smell, they had just hit port. The biggest and broadest of the sailors eyed him curiously, wondering what this young lad wanted. "Aye, and a good day to ye." He waited as a hush fell over the other sailors. Josh nodded to a passing barmaid quite happy to see that it was someone other than the one who had served him earlier and ordered a round for the sailors. He turned his eyes back to the leader.

"Ye been in port long then?" The sailor not forgetting his earlier thought nodded. "Aye, this mornin. T's good ta be on land once again. What ship ye be from?" His eyes tried to penetrate any subterfuge beyond the young face and decided the lad was safe. "Join us for a bit." Anyway, anyone that was willing to refill their mugs was welcome at their table.

Pulling up a stool, Josh's face was a mask of longing. "I've been a landlubber for way too long and am looking fer a ship ta join up with." His face brightened and he continued, I've `eard the Siren be looking for a good mate. Ever `ear of the ship?" A knowing look passed among the men as they all began speaking at once. Josh chuckled to himself as the leader took control and he threw a thunderous look around the table. "Aye,that I `ave lad. Actually, ye be talkin about the Starstruck Siren, I think." Josh nodded eagerly, as he hoped to learn more about the ship that one of Gynne's so-called friends just happened to be the captain of. He lowered his eyes to the rim of his mug and decided to jump in with both feet. "Aye, but I've `eard the captain be a woman, and I dinna be sure `hat I be wishin to sail with a woman at sea, specially one that fancies herself the captain."

His eyes looked to the leader and he did not have wait too long for a reply as the table burst into life eager to answer his question. The leader nodded and took a long draw from his mug, trying to hid a wide grin that split his face from side to side. "Aye, youngin, ye `ave a lot ta learn. That be Captain Silver if'n I not be mistakin. She be a `ard taskmaster, ta be sure. But she be a true captin of the seas, or so I've `eard. Takes no draw from anyone and fights like a true warrior. She brooks no back talk from anyone and kin be quick ta draw her sword. She runs her ship tight and lean, woman or no. Ye could do worse, lad." "Aye, it may be what I'm lookin for. Still takin orders from a woman . . ."

One by one, the sailors broke into a raucous laughter. The leaded nodded once again in Josh's direction and repeated, "Lad ye gotta lot ta learn. Few men on the seas could better her. She be a fair one and would cover ye back when needed. Ye could do much, much worse," as he used the back of his hand across his mouth, "and ye be in luck." "Ay, and how that be?" "She be sittin over in the corner there with a lady as comely as she." He pointed toward Gynne and her friends. "'Here be ye Captin Silver; the one with the long blond locks and the huge sword at her side." Josh glanced quickly in the direction the man's short stubby fingers pointed and his brows raised in surprise. "Aye, see what'cha mean. So, that be Captin Silver." "Aye, lad, in the flesh. But dinna be disappointed. I `ear she be very picky on who she chooses to crew her ship, but take a chance lad, who knows?"

Josh nodded and smiled. "Aye, that I might. So where ye be from?" "Here and there, lad, here and there." "Will ye be in port long?" "Aye a fortnight or as long as it takes to unload goods and get stores." "I see. And where will ye be headed?" "Well, lad, not sure yet, but around where the fishin be good." The others in the group picked up the conversation thread and talked among themselves as Josh ordered another round. Taking a chance, Josh wondered if they knew anything of Ogrekvannia and decided to delve the depths of their knowledge of the lands about Stormpoint. "Did ya ever sail the waters of Ogrekvannia?"

The leathery skin of the sailor took on a warning look. "Not much, lad, other than the pickins be slim in those waters. Me captain be smart. Dinna wish ta lose his ship. We stay away far away from where magic seems ta touch the waves and ye be doin the same. Dead sailors tell na tales, mate, none it all. Take me advice…dinna sail those waters or travel those lands."

Josh's face flushed, whether from the strong drink or from the knowledge that his mistress would soon have him traveling those very lands. "Aye, I understand ye too well." Knowing there was little more to be gained from sitting with the group of raunchy sailors, he nodded his thanks to the man and stood. "Good day ta all and good sailin." He picked up his half empty mug and once again looked about the room for a someone that perhaps could tell him more about this land of Ogrekvannia. Smiling his thanks once again, he moved from the table and through a crowd of revelers, stopping suddenly as he spied a small urchin playing a game or some sort in one corner of the tavern. He wondered to himself why her eyes were more on his mistress's table and than on her game. Taking his time, he made his way to the corner where she was sitting. Easing his long legs beneath him, he sat down beside her and smiled his best smile, "G'd day lass and what be the game ye be playin there?"



Gyndeene's turquoise eyes were veiled and her thoughts jumbled. Josh's disapproval was evident, but she was unable to put all the pieces of why together. She knew he disapproved of her quest for the Moonblade. She also knew he had taken an immediate dislike to the high elf who was but a messenger, and, now, it seemed, he distrusted her friends as well. She knew that his disapproval was fired by the flames of fear--the fear that she might never again return to Kamelot much less retrieve the Moonblade.

Pushing these troubling thoughts aside, she turned to the task at hand. As she pondered the enormity of what she had become involved in, an overpowering sense of foreboding penetrated her being and the cold fingers of death gently probed her heart. Troubled, she glanced over her shoulder, but the moment passed, and she began the strange tale of how she had come to Stormpoint.

She told of the unexpected appearance of the high elf and the even stranger request that he bore from his queen—finding and returning the Moonblade to Kamelot. The fact that little was known about how or why the blade had been taken troubled her greatly, but at least, the who had been answered. Evidently, a strong and powerful wizard known as Darkelden had claimed the blade as his own. Further attempts to get answers to the why had been brushed aside and her questions remained unanswered.

Gyndeene paused a moment as she withdrew papers from her pack and laid them on the table. Pointing to the rough map she had drawn, she said, "I believe this may be where the wizard resides—Darkendale. I understand from what I have read that the lands surrounding Darkendale are every bit as dangerous and unpredictable as Darkendale itself. There seems there would be little hope in getting help from anyone within those borders." She shook her head and sighed. "We need to know about this place and its inhabitants before we venture forth. That, I am afraid, will be a quest in itself. My question is, can we do this?"

She sipped her honeymead as she waited for a reply from her friends. As she waited, the feeling of being watched grew stronger. Her long fingers stroked the dragon scale talisman she wore about her neck. She struggled to find the key that would unlock the memory of mindspeak. Finding the memory in her mind, she turned the key in the lock. The tumblers fell into place and the door opened.

Welcome one from beyond. Are ye a stranger or a friend? Do you wander about the gray land alone? What do you seek from us? I am Gyndeene of Aquilar and I offer you my friendship.

Gyndeene of Aquilar


The sleeper hovered silently over the three strangers, seeking to learn what it might from them while still keeping watch over the young girl. It grew momentarily distracted when someone approached the child and joined her on the floor. The newcomer was little older than the girl, however, and seemed to offer no real threat. Hence, the sleeper did not react, but continued its focus on the other three, intently studying the one whose face lay hidden within the shadows of a cowl.

They were speaking of a journey, an appointed task to reclaim something called a Moonblade. Was it a weapon? It sounded as if it was. It made the sleeper uneasy, as did the further tales of wizards and the land they sought to enter. Darkendale. Had the wraith the ability to do so, it would have spat at the utterance of the name. Roiling in a sea of death-clouded memory, the specter stopped hearing the words of the speaker, its newfound senses obscured by its own unexpected churning. It might have continued like this for days had not a clear beacon of light suddenly broken through the haze of its cathexis

Welcome one from beyond. Are ye a stranger or a friend? Do you wander about the gray land alone? What do you seek from us? I am Gyndeene of Aquilar and I offer you my friendship.

The sleeper snapped with a violent jolt. The woman, the one who had been speaking to her companions, was now speaking to it. It wasn't possible. Long had the sleeper drifted through the coastal city and long had its presence gone unnoticed. Only one had been able to directly communicate with it before, and the sleeper was still struggling to overcome its distrust of that one and all of her ilk. How was this new one then, able to sense and address it?

Curious yet wary, the sleeper floated towards this woman, the one who called herself Gyndeene of Aquilar. The name had no meaning to the wraith, but as it drew closer, her appearance did, causing the wraith to stir in unease once more. This one was elven as well. No, not entirely elven, the wraith realized with an involuntary shudder of revulsion. She was part human. Sickened, the sleeper nearly left her and her companions to their fate, but in that small portion of its reason still left to it, the spirit remembered that much had changed since it had worn flesh, and that the elven woman it had encountered before did not bear the trappings of evil it had long associated with her kind. Perhaps they were no longer servants of the darkness. Perhaps they were no longer enemies. Perhaps the world it knew was gone.

Overwhelmed once more by its state, the wraith heaved nonexistent sigh. The woman had offered friendship. The sleeper was honor bound to accept until she proved false. It lacked, however, the ability to communicate as the woman had, for words and speech still slipped through its vaporous fingers with cruel mockery. It therefore communicated in the only way it now knew, sending images to the woman and hoping she would decipher their meaning ...... an open hand; a delicate white bird; and a curious combination of a lance, a double-bladed axe, and an enormous mace.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


Kit continued to scoop jacks absentmindedly from the floor while listening to the woman and her companions. The woman she had followed from the library, the one who the others called Gyn, appeared to be in charge, as she was doing most of the talking.

"I believe this may be where the wizard resides—Darkendale. I understand from what I have read that the lands surrounding Darkendale are every bit as dangerous . . ."

Kit's ears strained as her hand dropped the wooden ball once again, eager to learn more of the trio's plans. What were they up to? Who was this wizard? It sounded like information in which the guild would be interested if not for its own sake, then as a possible source of secondary profit. Though she'd brought in a few tidy sums and matters of interest as part of her team, Kit had never managed a large score on her own before, mostly because she wasn't supposed to be acting unsupervised. If she could just hear a bit more, she might change that. So intent was she on her goal and Gyn's words, that she nearly jumped out of her skin when she was suddenly joined on the floor by a boy who looked to be a few years older than herself.

"G'd day lass and what be the game ye be playin there?"

'Drat!' She thought silently as her jack-filled hand closed around the wooden ball, 'and they were just getting to the good stuff.' Her mood changed, however, when she looked more closely at her new companion. Kit had seen him with Gyn, and had watched as she'd introduced him to the others ... Silver and Sasha. Had he noticed her eavesdropping, or was he just curious? She didn't have time to decide.

"Jacks," she began innocently in response to his question, "Wanna play?"


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Gyndeene smiled at her friend and nodded in Josh's direction. "T'would seem he be otherwise engaged, Sasha. Hopefully, he be working himself out of his snit. T'would seem he is a bit suspicious of you and Silver." She signed. "He is a young'un and has much to learn, but he is right about one thing—this Darkelden is a vera dangerous opponent." Glancing at the pouch, Gyn was not surprised at the wealth it held. "Sasha you are too kind and too generous." Taking one of the black gloved hands in hers, she squeezed gently. "I'm so happy you are here. We must plan wisely for once we lave Stormpoint, our opportunity to do so may be limited. More importantly, we need information and your generosity will go far in convincing someone to tell us more about this unknown land."

Releasing the gloved hand, she sipped her honeymead wondering where they could find such information. She shrugged a slender shoulder and glanced at Silver who seemed lost in a world of her own.

"I have hopes that the proprietor of the Kuriousity Shoppe might be of help, but I'm uncertain if a visit to the Shoppe will be fruitful. It all remains to be seen I fear. We must get you settled at the inn, and then perhaps after a good meal, we can lay out a plan."

She turned her attention to the now cold fish stew, her hunger momentarily blunted by the enormity of the task before them. Pushing the unappetizing bowl away, she munched on a hard piece of bread torn from a small loaf. Her eyes drifted to her young friend as he left the group of sailors he had been talking to. They followed him across the room and widened in surprise as she watched him join a young girl sitting not far from their table. Startled, she realized that this was the girl she had encountered in the library. Who was she and why was she here? Biting her lip, she explored the possibilities. Was it only the curiosity of a child about the Elven kind or was there a more devious reason for her appearance?

Interrupted by images that floated through her mind, Gyn was intrigued by what she saw—an open hand, a small white bird and what appeared to be a weapon; one of the like she had never seen before. It was a very unusual weapon and appeared to be a lance, a double-bladed axe and a large mace. `Was this a message from the spirit hovering nearby? Could the sender not communicate in language and instead was trying to send a message through these images?

Her fingers once again stroked the dragon scale talisman hoping the wisdom of the dragon would unveil their meaning. `An open hand—was this in reply to my offer of friendship? The delicate white bird—a symbol of peace? Confusion flooded her mind. The weapon made no sense. She did not know its meaning. The double-bladed axe reminded Gyn of a weapon her friend Gnort had carried of Dwarvin kind. The lance was mostly used by foot soldiers and the mace reminded her of a weapon carried by an ogre. Was this a clue as to what the spirit had once been? Could she convey images back to the being?

Wrapping her fingers tightly around the talisman, she projected the image of the open hand with another hand clasping it firmly. Putting forth another hand, she watched the fragile bird land without fear. More complex, however, was the weapon, and she turned to mindspeak.

'Of your weapon I am unsure. Does this represent who you are or does it mean you are a warrior also? Is this a weapon you lost?' Gyn thought for a moment and continued. 'I far away. I have come to Stormpoint to reclaim a sword that was stolen from my home. A sword given by a friend to protect my family and friends from evil. I wish no injury or hurt to anyone. I only wish to reclaim the sword and return it to its resting place. I fear that the one who stole the sword is evil and our task will not be an easy one.'

Closing her eyes, she formed a mental picture of the beautiful Elven sword. A moment of sadness touched her as she thought of Karrinth and his generosity and her love for him. The thought of an evil wizard possessing this sword almost unmanned her and a flash of anger burned as bright and hot as a blaze fed dry wood. The image was so real, she was unable to stop herself from reaching out to touch the Moonstone embedded in the hilt--as she did so, a powerful blue light surrounded the blade. Her heart was troubled as she felt the ancestors of the sword calling to her. Emotions surfaced and teardrops framed her long lashes. Her soul felt torn asunder for she knew she would never again see the Elf she had loved. Sadness covered her like a shroud and her tears fell.

"Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt."
There are tears shed for things even here and mortality touches the heart.

Virgil 70-19 BC: Aeneid

Gyndeene of Aquilar


The sleeper listened to the woman as she spoke with her friend and watched her carefully she considered the images she had received. Both recognition and confoundment registered on her features, suggesting at least a partial success. In partial satisfaction, therefore, the wraith hazarded another look at the child. She still seemed safe, happily engaged in game and perhaps conversation with her newfound friend. Content on this matter, the sleeper thus returned its attention to the woman just in time to see her wrap her fingers around a talisman that hung from her neck. As she did so, images began to swirl and coalesce in the remnants of the wraith's 'mind.' Images which corresponded with those it had sent.

The first two visions clearly indicated understanding from the woman, and birthed some measure of sympathy in the wraith for the difficulty in communication it no doubt created. Guessing at pictures wasn't the easiest way to converse, but as the wraith could do no more, it would have to suffice. It wished, however, that it could convey the fact that though it could not speak words as she had, it could understand them. It drew itself into an ethereal ball of thought as it considered the matter, finding its concern at least temporarily addressed when the woman began to 'speak' once more.

'Of your weapon I am unsure. Does this represent who you are or does it mean you are a warrior also? Is this a weapon you lost?'

The sleeper longed to exhale a deep breath, but sadly, could not do so. The woman had not understood, but she could hardly be expected to. Many years had passed and much had been forgotten. It was not surprising that, in a world where humans mingled freely with elves, the image held no meaning for the woman. It wasn't all that important of a point, the spirit decided as it listened to the rest of the woman's 'words,' learning that she sought to reclaim a weapon of personal import. Great emotion was attached to both this weapon and her quest, and much of it denoted a concern for the safety of others. This sleeper was surprised, not having expected to find such nobility in one of her kind. Clearly, the wraith had much to learn, much that perhaps it could discover by aiding this woman on her search. It didn't know how much help it could truly offer, but it would give that support which it could.

Decided, the wraith debated how best to convey this idea. It discarded a few options as hopelessly vague before it settled on what it deemed the image most likely to be understood. Focusing on the woman, it crafted an image of her leaving the city followed by a nebulous shroud of haze. The wraith didn't look like this, or at least, it didn't think it did; but it knew no better way to depict itself, aside from a walking skeleton, perhaps, which might have conveyed unintended meanings. Following this image, it drew another. This time of the woman holding the sword she sought, again accompanied by the vaporous form. The sleeper hoped it would be sufficient.

Though committed to this course, the spirit's curiosity regarding the cloaked one, the one called Sasha, still remained; and it decided to 'ask' the woman about her, calling forth an image of the cloak- wrapped stranger. How to convey curiosity though? The wraith pictured and sent a simplistic punctuation mark. It seemed somehow insufficient, prompting the wraith to consider other options afterwards. Curious? Curiosity? Without warning the wraith was struck by a sudden flash of inspiration unrelated to its question about the woman's companion, but inspired by the woman's previous words to her. Again, it conveyed to the woman the image of the lance, the mace, and the axe. This time, however, it followed that image with one of the sign which hung beside the door of the Kuriousity Shoppe, hoping that the owner might recognize what the woman could not.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


Her lips quirked as she 'peeked' at the conversation. ~Why don't you ask me yourself?~ Outwardly, she placed the bag on the table, closing it and turning towards Silver. Her eyes glanced directly at the sleeper, the sapphire blue glint of them slitting for a moment. That reptilian flash the only hint for the moment that she was not what she appeared.

Mindspeaking again ~I am elven~I am dragon~ The dual voices blended into one image, one an elf dark as night and fair as day, the other a dragon in its full splendor and glory, glinting with its sapphire brilliance.

Her eyes continued to Silver's face, eyes normal and smiling. "Captain, have you a need for a ratcatcher on your ship? It seems I will be staying here to aid Gyndeene." The smile became warm. "I know a good cat who would love to prowl your pride and joy this eve."



Josh hid a grin as the small girl spoke to him. "Jacks. Wanna play?" Shaking his head, "Nay, Poppet, me finger be too large and me movements too slow."

His mind worked quickly. He felt a bond with this little one. He too once had needed to live by his wits. He also knew she watched Gyn; thereby, she knew he was connected to Gyn. 'Drat,' he thought, 't'would be better if'n she knew me only as a stranger, but, then, maybe not." He needed to know what lie behind the innocent façade; was this just a child's curiosity of a stranger in Stormpoint or was it something more. He doubted she had ties with Darkelden.

'I shall play her game.' He chuckled remembering playing cats cradle as a child. 'Let's see if she kin play this game.' He could ill afford to let one string slip or cross in the wrong direction. He studied the jacks. "So, Poppet, do ya usually play ye game in a tavern or do ye wait on someone?"

"The game," he said, "is never lost till won."
George Crabb, 1819



Silver was indeed lost in a world of her own as she settled back recounting the Moonblade she had once seen. It was a long time ago, in Kamelot, a place that held a very special place in her heart. It was the first place she could truly call home when she arrived here. Just the thought of the people and the splendor of the place brought a pang of pain slithering through her veins.

She vaguely heard Gyndeene's voice again, mentioning the proprietor of the Kuriousity Shop before a voice was ingrained in her head. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she glanced quickly around the table before her gaze settled on the hooded figure. She searched the shadows of the hood, catching the briefest of flashes, before Sasha began to talk aloud.

"Captain, have you a need for a ratcatcher on your ship? It seems I will be staying here to aid Gyndeene. I know a good cat who would love to prowl your pride and joy this eve."

Silver allowed a hint of a grin to play on her lips. "Aye, I do believe I could use one. Glad to have you aboard." She winked before settling her gaze again on Gyndeene. She felt something hovering, something near, but she realized the voice in her head a moment ago was Sasha's. However, it was not Sasha that was making her skin tingle ever so slightly. Silver cast a glance towards the loud, drunk man before rolling her eyes slightly and turning back to Gyn.

"Aye, it does seem Josh is wary of me but I'm hoping that should pass. Did you mention the Kuriousity Shop?" A brow arched curiously as she sipped her ale and looked at Gyndeene over the rim.

Gyndeene nodded, smiling at her friend. "Aye, I did, but I dinna know much about the proprietor." She wondered if Silver was aware of the Spirit who was hovering near. She frowned thinking of Josh...."Josh will soon get over his snit...and once he knows that ye are the real thing...a Captain of the seas...he will be lost.

Yes, she was aware. She kept her senses alert as she continued. "I know the proprietor, from other dealings. I will go with you if you'd like, to the shop. Do you have need of the *Siren *?"

Gyndeene shook her head slowly as she looked over the map on the table. "I dinna think so, Silver. Looks as if Darkelden's lands are rather landlocked, although it would speed out journey." A slender eyebrow rose. "Aye, ye know the owner of the Kuriousity Shoppe?"

Silver nodded and took a sip of her drink. Setting the mug back down, she leaned over slightly to glance at the map. She was familiar with most places along the coast, as she had docked in numerous ports for business transactions. She pointed a finger to a port near the northern coast. "I can dock off land there, and we can rowboat to shore. It might make it faster." Pausing, she looked up at Gyndeene. "Aye, I do know her." Acquaintance was more like it, but at least it was helpful. She smiled and settled back in her chair.

Gyn nodded as she continued to study the map. "I wonder how long it would take us to go overland and how much resistance we might meet..." She bit her lip..."I just dinna know how friendly the locals will be to strangers traveling through the lands...Her brow furrows..."I thought perhaps that it might be best if we traveled north to the border of Stormpoint and set up a camp there...What do you think?"

Silver nodded and looked at the map again, her brow crinkling as she looked at the land. "I think it should be alright. I would like to look at the map and compare with one I have….as well as talk to you and the owner of the Shoppe about this as well. She'd be very helpful in telling us the best way to get where we have to go." She relaxed a bit, and nodded once more. "When exactly do we leave?"

Gyn glanced over at Sasha..."What do ye think, Sasha? I'm unsure when we will be able to leave. It t'is vera important to get more information and I think that ye are right, Silver, we might get useful information from the proprietor of the Shoppe. At least hopefully. Also, wonder ifn we kin find others who can enlighten ye think we should post a notice somewhere offering a reward for more information on Ogrekvannia? And just how helpful do you think the proprietor of the Shoppe be? Do you think she will be interested in a stranger's plight?"

Silver shook her head and looked at Gyndeene. "No, posting anything asking for information regarding Ogrekvannia could get us into a lot of hot water with folks around here. That wouldn't exactly attract the type of people we should deal with."

She sat back, sipping her ale again in quiet thought. "I think we should visit the Shoppe tomorrow and see what we learn. I do think she'd be helpful." She paused, nodding in thought. She had dealt with Eowyn on a few occasions and respected the woman. She only hoped it was reciprocated. "Then it might be a good time to consider when we should begin traveling." She nodded, looking from Gyndeene to Sasha, silently seeking an approval of the plan.

Gyndeene smiled, "As give good counsel, Sil."

Gyndeene and Silver


"Nay, Poppet, me fingers be too large and me movements too slow."

She looked quizzically at his fingers as he spoke, finding them to be larger than hers, but certainly not too large to play. Even Rhyskall had played jacks with her once or twice, and his rough- calloused hands were far larger than this boy's.

"So, Poppet," he continued before she had a chance to press him further on the game, "do ya usually play ye game in a tavern or do ye wait on someone?"

"I'm waiting for Uncle Rory," she replied, and resumed bouncing the small wooden ball as she spoke. The noise it made as it hit was drowned out by the surrounding sounds of the tavern .... clattering dishes, a thick mix of voices, the harried footsteps of the serving women, and dozens of other less identifiable noises. "He's gonna buy me a spinner if . . . " she paused, as if trying to remember exact words, "if I play quiet and don't cause a fuss." Satisfied with her recollection, she dropped the ball again and scooped another handful of jacks. She repeated the process a more few times before offering a profound opinion. "This floor's good .... it's all even and there aren't many cracks. Not like at the library. You can't play there, you know."

When her new companion didn't offer any counter opinion, she continued with another drop and scoop, "We were there earlier today." Having successfully finished a round of three's, Kit gathered all the jacks in her small hands and allowed them to cascade to the ground once more, their tiny clatterings drowned by the panoply of sound around them as well. When they came to rest, she studied them for a moment, then, apparently content with their dispersal, she progressed to four's.

Like their predecessors, the fours posed little challenge to Kit's nimble fingers and she easily scooped two sets before she paused to point at Gyndeene with those same small digits. "She was there too. She's awful pretty. Is she an elf?" The ball fell and rose again before disappearing with another handful of jacks. "I've never seen an elf before. I've seen an ogre though," she added proudly, "and even . . ." she caught the ball with another set of jacks and held them in tight silence, looking quietly about the tavern before leaning closer to Josh and continuing in a whisper, "and even vampires."

This last statement appeared to bring with it memories oft-wished forgotten, and she remained both still and silent for several seconds thereafter ere she spoke again. "There are scary things here, you know? You and her aren't really looking for a wizard, are you?"


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


~Why don't you ask me yourself?~

The voice rang through the hollows the sleeper's mind. Another one. Another speaker. Another who possessed this strange curse, for truly it could be nothing else. Disoriented by the new voice, the wraith cast about in search of its owner, finding it to belong to a pair of cold blue eyes that peered from the darkness of the stranger's cloak. This one, then, could see its message as well? Fixated, the specter drifted closer to the cowled figure, drawn by the eyes and the words that spilled forth from the darkness within.

~I am elven~I am dragon~

The wraith roiled with the new words, its fixation dashed upon the sharp-edged stones of revulsion. Images assaulted it as well .... images the wraith found too horrid to consider. Dark elves? Dragons? No. The sleeper withdrew into itself, pulling far away from the cloaked one. No, this was too much. Much may have changed while it slept, but this ...... this was not possible. It was abomination.

Tossed like jetsam within its maelstrom of intangibility, the swirling mist of thought and recollection left the strange trio of women and swept back over the girl. She still appeared safe, merrily playing her child's game and rambling her simple musings. The wraith would keep watch over her while what remained of its mind percolated in ageless confusion. Churning in contemplation, the sleeper studied the girl's small hand as it first cast and then collected bits of metal from the floor. Casting and collecting, giving and taking, reaping and sowing, the same cyclical process that repeated endlessly upon itself. A process in which the wraith should no longer be part, and yet it was, it thought as it continued to float above the child ...... the dead keeping watch over the living. It paused with this last cogitation, sickened in its own dreadful vigil. The dead keeping watch over the living.

The morbid dichotomy struck the wraith painfully, goading it, forcing it to rise higher above the child lest it drift too close and its chill touch fall across her frail mortal flesh. She was too young to know death, too young to feel its dread cold grasp; and the sleeper was too long passed to remember the colors of youth. Neither should be here, within this tavern, and yet both were.

The dead keeping watch over the living. Another abomination. Another impossibility. Another realization.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


~abomination, Indeed, watcher. I gather from your words, you are elven. I agree.~

Listening to the words of her companions she nodded, "I agree. Information is good. Mayhaps you would like to speak with an acquaintance of mine, The son of a man I knew named Jak. Korrd is a local who owes me. Between him and the Kuriousity Shoppe, we should have enough information to make our plans." She turned and seemed to sniff the air, her hood falling back across her shoulders. "Speaking of information.. "

~An abomination happened to me. And yes, it was a drow work. Ask me not, simply accept a victim of their nature, a plaything of their game of death and pain~

She turned and motioned towards the children playing with jacks, "I sensed these two at the same time I sensed you in the library, be they with you? If they be not, mayhap you should find out why they followed ye here."

~I am free of them, but still bear the scars form their vile deeds.~ ~I have but one question for thy morality, is one who repudiates drow society truly a dark elf?~



Josh watched the ball bounce up and down as though mesmerized by its actions. His mind, however, was elsewhere. It was not that he did not trust this small child for he had once been there. A child of the streets at the mercy of all. He did not remember his mother or father for they have vanished long before he could walk. He remembered dimly the halls of an orphanage and then the streets where his next meal depended upon what he could steal. T'was not an easy life to be sure.

Perhaps his luck changed the day he tried to lift a sea captain's pouch. Caught in the act, the sea captain decided the young one would perhaps do well on his ship, and Josh's life changed. Though the captain was stern, Josh learned much and worked hard, for it was the first real home that he had ever had. He became a cabin boy, trying hard to impress the captain who had in a way befriended him.

He glanced at the girl as she gathered first three sets and then four as she played the game waiting for his answer. Perhaps the best way to play his game was to lay it all out. Anything that he would say about Gynne was well known and Gyn was an open book about her life. He took a deep breath and started the tale of Gyndeene.

"Aye, Gyndeene is an elf, but she is much more than that. She is also human, but she be the best part of both. She saved my life, ye know. She risked it all just to save the life of a cabin boy." He shook his head. "Canna believe it yet ta day that anyone would do that fer me."

He paused a moment. "Ever after, I have traveled with Gynne. We were on her way to her home—Kamelot, when she received a message that a valuable sword had been taken. It was given into her care by a good friend, an Elven friend. Hence, that is why we are in Stormpoint; to retrieve the sword. He lowered his voice. "It has been said that the sword was taken by a dark and powerful wizard hereabouts." He looked at her expectantly. "Do ye know of such a wizard?"



The confusion and revulsion spilled over Gyndeene like a huge wave breaking hard upon the sand. She felt the bile rise in her throat and choked. At last she understood. The spirit during its lifetime had suffered too under the auspices of the drow and no doubt dragons. She had heard stories of such times when the world was turned upside down by evil. She knew in her heart that the spirit could not understand the changes that had wrought the world since then and that drow not only wove their web about innocents, but also their own. The spirit would not understand how Sasha had been taken as a fledgling and molded and forced to do their evil work. Nor would the spirit understand how Sasha had fought and finally won her freedom from the dark.

She knew it mattered not as the spirit's mind was clouded and its terror great, but she knew she must try. The being was no longer close as the cold had faded, but Gyn felt sure it was still about the tavern. She would try sending forth a message, perhaps her last.

Please dinna be afraid. There is nothing here that will hurt you but your own fear. The cloaked one has suffered greatly at the hands of the dark elves through no fault of her own. She was taken but when she was a fledgling and forced into the darkness of their evil. But, never did she give up hope, never did she give up her fight to gain her freedom from those horrors, and at last, her opportunity came and she broke forth.

Gyndeene swallowed hard and continued.

Though ye may not believe it, not all drow are evil; certainly, they are dark but they seek to protect their families as we do. Sasha is nay evil. She is my friend and a friend of all those who seek to smash the evil that surrounds us. There be nay more I can say; ye either judge for yeself or not at all. I have great sorrow for ye grief and suffering, but yet there is little I can do. It would seem ye path goes yet another way and I understand. May the Goddess guide ye footsteps and may ye at last find the peace ye deserve.

Gyn's foot throbbed and she could feel the swelling push against the restraining leather of her boot. She stood slowly and pulled her cloak around her. Smiling at her friends, she said, "T'is time we depart this place and find our inn for we have much to speak of and much to plan for. Come let us leave this smoky place. I have a strong yearning for the taste of fresh air upon my face."

Gyndeene of Aquilar


From its miasmic well of despair and disgust, the wraith struggled to find the apathy to which it had previously clung. Images . . . so many images flooded its own unraveling mind . . . images of the past . . . images of the present . . . images of the unknown, all spinning and colliding in a great grey kaleidoscope of unbridled motion. It was through this cacophony of light and dark that the sleeper heard the words of the two women it had left. They seemed small and distant; and the sleeper struggled to wrap bits of itself around them lest they drift beyond its reach.

They both spoke of something called "drow." The word held no meaning for the sleeper, but the raw emotion which flooded their words suggested that whatever or whoever the drow was, it was steeped in evil. Fear and anger, however, were not the only emotional attendants to the women's words. There were others . . . too many for the wraith to hold in its draining sieve of senses. But of those present, the sleeper could recognize compassion, loyalty . . . and . . . . The wraith struggled. What was it? It was warm and truthful and so many other fragments of thought and feeling. It had a name, this enigmatic thing the that sleeper sought to recall. The sleeper knew the thing had a name, but its mind was too severely taxed to remember.

Exhausted, the wraith began to dissipate, tendrils of its nothingness thinning into further void. Knowing, however, that it could not sleep again from this new awakening, the wraith neither panicked nor warmed; but rather, from this weary, state sent the same images to the elven woman it had before. It would follow her. It would aid her as it could. It would . . . trust her.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


She stopped playing while he spoke, listening instead to his tale. His feelings for the woman seemed genuine and true, and they nearly overwhelmed the young listener in their intensity. The woman, Gyndeene, had risked much for the boy and had gained his fierce loyalty in return. Though it was beyond Kit's own ability to express, it was within her ability to understand. She too had been the recipient of certain kindnesses she could not repay, and she realized now that she had, at times, taken those kindnesses for granted in a way that her current companion had not. The realization left her with a commingled sensation of gratitude and guilt, and she wasn't sure what to say or do about either. Fortunately, she didn't have to figure it out at the moment, for the boy's story continued.

They were looking for a sword that had been taken from the woman -- a valuable sword. How valuable? Kit wondered. Valuable just to them, or to anyone? Probably the former, but maybe the latter. And it was taken by a dark wizard they believed to be nearby. Did she know of such a wizard? Her young mind spun in thought. There were plenty of wizards in the city and its surrounding areas. The High Justice was reputed to be knowledgeable in the craft, and some of the gypsies were rumored to wield magic as well. She thought some more. Some said there was a witch dwelling in the woods, and that there was something odd going on around the church. And then there was the owner of the Kuriosity Shoppe, whose grim talents had earned a spot on the guild's proc list. She shared these names and personae with the boy, but concluded by adding that none of them were known to have done anything particularly evil as of late.

Wizards? Hmmm. She continued to mull. The guild had a few in their employ, she thought, but the only one she knew was Galyn. He certainly wasn't evil, though he was a lech. Kit didn't know what this meant, but she'd heard Jaryssa say it on a number of occasions, so it must be true. Her small brow suddenly furrowed. Galyn might know about wizards in the area. After all, wasn't it part of his job to keep track of such things? She thought it was ... or at least, it should be. Truthfully, she wasn't sure, but it was worth a shot and she thought she could get him to talk. How would she explain it to the boy though? Eager to capitalize on her idea, she seized on the easiest option.

"Uncle Ror has a friend who might know more. He always talks about wizards and stuff. I can ask him, if you want."


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Gyndeene shivered slightly as she glanced at her friends and once again started receiving images. "Silver, Sasha, we're staying at the Mermaid Inn. I shall go forward and make arrangements for ye both, although Silver, ye may prefer staying about the Siren." Gyn was unsure of exactly what her friend's plans were. "We can always meet up later to discuss the best way to proceed. I hope ta be on the road as soon as possible, three days at the most. That should give us enough time to get supplies and make inquiries."

She frowned. "Perhaps we may be lucky and can find a guide who would be willing to take us to the borders of Darkelden's land. Perhaps there be a ranger about who would help us, although most of them keep vera much to themselves. If not, perhaps the proprietor of the Kuriousity Shop will be helpful as to just what we be facin. I fear I've tarried here too long." She smiled at her friends. "Ye, Sasha, can perhaps let this person ye think may be helpful know we are willing to pay for any information he can give us, and I shall talk to the innkeeper and see what I can find out from him, as innkeepers usually have a great deal of knowledge about many things."

She pulled her cloak tighter and glanced over at Josh who was still in deep conversation with the girl child. She smiled as she thought how alike the two were. Picking up her pack, she slipped it over her shoulder and made her way through the now crowded tavern. As she reached the doorway, images began tumbling over in her mind. A picture of she and her friends followed by a hazy shroud came to her along with the pictures of the fragile white bird and an extended open hand.

She nodded and a lopsided grin flashed across her face. T'would seem the spirit had decided to join them. This was good for perhaps during the journey the being would also find answers to questions of those things that had disturbed its sleep and it would at last find peace. She needed to seek out the proprietor of the Kuriousity Shoppe not only to see if she could provide them with more information about Darkelden, but also to ask about the unusual weapon she had seen in her mind that belonged to the being.

Gyndeene pushed the door open and stepped into a swirling mist. The day had slowly slipped away and darkness had fallen. She was unsure if the spirit followed, but once again tried to communicate with the being. She formed the image of the being following her and her friends, hoping that this would convey that she understood. Forming simple words, she sent a message in mindspeak. {I am happy that ye join us. Ye need not be fearful of my friends for they are of good heart.} Several questions flooded her mind, but she pushed them aside and decided to ask only those questions that would help form a friendship with the spirit.

{Ye, of course, must have a name. Do ye recall what ye were called when ye walked the land? Of course, ifn ye dinna, then perhaps ye can send me of an image of what ye would like ta be called. Also, we must get ye a room at the inn for I canna bear to have ye return to a place that be most likely cold and drafty. Dinna worry about what I shall tell the innkeeper for I shall think of something. Ye are part of us now and I canna bear to think ye be without creature comforts. If there be something ye require or would like, please let me know and I shall do the best I kin to find it for ye.}

Gyn made her way carefully through the twisted streets as she waited for a response from the being. Though the mist that touched her face was cold and damp, she felt a warmth surrounding her heart. T'was a good omen. Her quest indeed would be a difficult one, but knowing her friends were with her gave her great hope that they would get the Moonblade back.

Gyndeene of Aquilar


Josh listened to the small child and smiled. He was sure she like him belonged to a guild of some sort; probably a thieves guild as he himself once had. His thoughts were broken as he watched Gynne rise from the table and pull on her cloak. He frowned deeply as he watched her make her way through the tavern by herself; her friends still at the table. He did not like the idea of her returning to the inn by herself as he was sure by now darkness had fallen.

Turning his attention back to the child, he said, "Aye, t'would be vera helpful if ye might find out something about this Dark Blade person, but I want ye ta be vera, vera careful for I want no harm to come to ye, do ye understand?" He gazed into her eyes and hesitated for he did not wish to put her in harm's way and this wizard being a nasty one would have no problem with causing hurt to a child. Shaking his head, his voice was but a whisper. "Ye must be vera careful, do ye understand? Perhaps it wouldn't be wise for ye to ask such questions for I dinna trust this dark one much."

Josh's face darkened as he imagined the unspeakable things a wizard could do and wondered again at his ploy to ask for the child's help. Leaning in closer, he spoke again softly, "Ye must be vera careful, do ye understand and if'n ye questions cause concern, ye must not pursue them. I dinna want ye ta get inta any trouble." He glanced over his shoulder just in time to see Gyndeene slip out into the night. "I must be going now, but ye take care, ye hear? My name is Josh and I am staying at the Mermaid. If'n ye have any trouble at all, get ta the inn in all haste, okay?"

Standing, he smiled down at the small girl. "Now, do ye understand what I've said. Dinna put yeself in any danger."



With a smile Sasha turned to Silver. "I believe it is time for me to leave. I will meet you either on your ship, or the Inn. Don't worry, I'll find you."

She waved good-bye as she walked out of the door. Once in the dark alleyway near the tavern, the cloak dropped to the ground, swords and all falling about an empty place where she used to be. Colors shifting into grey patches and slate, the three foot long lizard placed a talon on one item after another. At that touch, the items faded away. The grey and slate colored lizard scooted out of the alleyway, tongue flicking to taste the scents in the air. Yes, she went this way. Now to follow.

Slitted blue eyes glimmer in the night as the lizard follows one loved.

Sashathana Ue Danradi


Silver watched and listened to Gyndeene, nodding every now and then. Her directions made sense and she smiled, sipping the last of her ale. She noted Josh with the small girl and then turned as Sasha spoke.

"Aye, tis fine. There is always room aboard for ye.." She paused, reaching into her pocket to pull out a small token. Silver reached across the table and slipped it into Sasha's hand. "In case I am nay there, just give the crew this. They'll let ya pass." She smiled before rising, placing her empty mug on the table.

The lady captain slipped out into the night, noting the mists rolling in foreshadowing a coming storm. Silver webbed blues narrowed slightly as she slid her gaze towards the right, and then the left, noting the fading of a single lone woman.

She knew she would be questioned later, perhaps by Josh if he was lurking around, but Gyndeene was too close a friend to allow her to wander alone. Silver blended into the shadows, staying far enough away that she could see her but not crowd her. The streets winded and twisted now and then, and Silver glanced over a shoulder, figuring she was following Gyndeene and the untrusting Josh was following her.

Silver stepped out into the street, glancing up at the fading moonlight that was slowly being covered by the rolling clouds. She gently cleared her throat. "Gyn..." Silver grinned, shrugging and waving a hand. "Figured I'd join you. Too anxious to sleep."



She was kind, this Gyndeene, whom the wraith now followed. She thought of others, even of others who bore no similarity to herself. The sleeper hadn't expected such kindnesses from anyone, least of all from one of this blood. So much was different. Perhaps then, change was the only constant -- a great immutable mutator that survived only through its own demise and rebirth -- transforming evolving, becoming, being -- an endless, ungraspable now that held all that was, is, and will be within the liquid fingers of an ever-varying grasp. Perhaps . . . the sleeper mused, wrapped in the clinging fog of so much uncertainty, so much darkness, so many questions . . . perhaps.

'Ye, of course, must have a name. Do ye recall what ye were called when ye walked the land? '

It was the hybrid's, Gyndeene's, voice. It was another question. But the wraith had heard this one before and the gears turned faster this time. Name. Description . . . . appellation . . . designation. Designation. Yes, the sleeper had been asked this before and had tugged insistently for some time at the stray bits of thread that hung from the question, hoping to unravel it and find therein an answer. The cloth, however, had held fast, leaving the wraith with nothing more than a vaporous handful of string torn loose from its source, no longer part of the weave. Time had failed to remedy this, leaving the sleeper unaided in its quest and unable to either mend the fabric or grasp hold of it anew. The wraith thus still found it strange that a loosely formed cloud of thought and memory should have a name. But the woman was likely correct. The wraith likely would have had a name at one time, wouldn't it? The question echoed through the emptiness of its asker, mocking it in endless, jeering reverberations and reveling in its cruel defeat. The sleeper heaved beneath the miasmic taunt. If it had a name, it was currently beyond the tenebrous limits of its recollection.

'Of course, ifn ye dinna, then perhaps ye can send me of an image of what ye would like ta be called.' It was Gyndeene's voice again, slicing through the thickening walls of self-pity.

What it would liked to be called . . . what it would like to be called. A new name? A new and self-given title for a new and unwanted birth? What did it want to be called aside from the one thing it wanted to be . . . dead? The sleeper thinned, knowing that such an epithet wouldn't be an appealing choice. What then? And how to convey it? The semblance of focus it had managed to cull thus far was ebbing, and the wraith was beginning to blur. It had taxed itself too greatly during its encounter with the woman and her friends, and it felt itself dissipating and blending into the night air . . . one more shade within a city of shadow. What would it like to be called? Why not what it was? Wraith.

It knew no way to express this. It could find no image it could impart. It was spreading so thin and needed nearly all of its center to follow the woman. It would have to rely on her to understand the closest concept it could remember -- an intertwined circle of twig and green -- a curious mixture of the living with the dead. It wasn't precise, but it was all the wraith could manage, and the very effort of it tired the sleeper to such an extent that it faded even further. Thought and reason slipped quietly away from the failing spirit, leaving only fog-clouded senses to guide it as it shadowed the woman to a place it had forgotten. Somewhere, seemingly far away, it could hear her speaking again.

'Also, we must get ye a room at the inn for I canna bear to have ye return to a place that be most likely cold and drafty . . . . Ye are part of us now and I canna bear to think ye be without creature comforts.'

Formless and without substance, the sleeper had little need of such comforts, and in its current state it couldn't quite understand what the woman was saying. Her words, however, sounded kind, and her "voice," caring. Thus, wrapped in her dulcet tones, the steadily ebbing wraith followed the woman through a night that seemed not quite as dark as before.


"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"

Edgar Allan Poe
"The Premature Burial" (1850)


Standing, Josh smiled down at the small girl. "Now, do ye understand what I've said. Dinna put yeself in any danger."

Kit nodded slowly in response. "Yes, be careful."

Be careful. Of course she'd be careful. She was always careful, well, nearly always; well, nearly always as of late. Anyway, she'd be careful this time. If Josh was to be believed, the wizard he was after was very powerful and equally dangerous; and everyone knew you had to be careful around people like that.

Her resolution made, she waved good-bye to Josh as he left, then waited for Rorec to return. She waited for one hour, then two, and still there was no sign of the gangly thief who'd served as her rouse. Darn it all! She was going to land in a heap of trouble if she didn't make it back to the guild soon; but if Josh, Gyn, or any of their friends saw her leaving alone it would erase any belief they may have had about her story. She stewed while time ticked by, hour after late hour slipping like clockwork from present to past until the last patron had left the tavern. Soon thereafter, the staff began to leave as well, filtering out one by one as they finished their tasks until only the keep and one serving maid remained. Neither spoke to the girl, but both made occasional glances in her direction as they busied about, completing the final labors necessary for closing. Each wondered the same thing, but chose not to ask the unspoken question save with their eyes. Finally, it was the woman who acted.

Finished with her last chore, the serving maid hung her apron on a split peg in the kitchen where it would wait limply until donned tomorrow. She sighed, wishing that all tasks were so easily accomplished, then left the kitchen and returned to the main room. The wooden doors that concealed the kitchen from the patrons swung back and forth behind her until they came to a final and noiseless rest just as she herself reached the young girl. She found her still sitting on the floor, her arms wrapped about her knees as she waited for the return of a man who clearly wasn't coming.

Bowing slightly to bring her face closer to Kit's, the woman tried to be consoling. "'E must've been held somewhere, pet." Her round face was marked with years, crow's feet stretching from the corners of her eyes in a kind and pleasant manner. It was the face of one who had known many years and managed to have few regrets. "Come with me. I'll see ya home." She extended a hand and a comforting smile to the young girl.

If Kit could have thought of a way to say no, she would have, but she was tired and grumpy and she lacked the necessary experience to still spin a quick yet believable yarn. She thus placed her small hand in the woman's hand, finding it calloused from work and weakened from age. The touch was comforting nevertheless, as was her offer of company. The last time Kit had wandered the streets alone after dark she'd found herself the subject of a vampiric squabble. It was not something she wished to repeat. She wasn't sure that the woman could offer much in the way of protection were something to happen, but maybe simply the presence of another would keep unwelcome strangers at bay.

The woman shouted a quick goodnight to the keep, who shouted something muffled from a back storage room, then led Kit out the front door and into the street beyond. It was dark, as Kit had known it would be, and though a heavy mist was creeping its way through the city, it was not yet cold, but merely dank.

"Which way, pet?" The woman asked, looking down her young charge.

Kit pointed to the left with her free hand, her tiny fingers looking thin and fragile in the pale light. "That way."

She continued to guide the woman this way and that through the lower part of the city until they stopped before a seemingly tired yetl serviceable building that had little to distinguish it from any of the other flagging residences lining the ill-lit street. Inside however, no family awaited the return of a young child, for unlike its neighbors it was not a home to any of Stormpoint's meeker citizens, but was instead one of the many safe-houses held by the guild. They were used for a variety of functions, none of them legal, and they were changed with frequent efficiency. This particular house hadn't been used in some time, which was one of the reason's Kit picked it. More importantly, however, it also placed her in an area of the city she knew quite well and from which she could easily and quickly return to the guild proper.

Thanking the woman with a not entirely feigned hug of gratefulness, Kit ran up the handful of steps to the door. It was unlocked, as it always was, to those who knew the trick of opening it, and Kit wasted no time in giving a final word of thanks to her escort and entering the shelter of the house. Inside, the structure was dark and sparsely furnished. Shutters were tightly closed over the windows, preventing prying eyes from peering within; but a variety of options existed to afford those already within a clear view of the street. Unfortunately, Kit was too small to make use of them. And so she waited quietly inside, giving her kindly chaperon time to distance herself from the building lest she see her small charge scurrying back out into the night on proverbial cat's paws. Fifteen minutes should be plenty of time.

Settling down onto the floor, she leaned back against the hough-hewn wall and thought about Gyndeene, Josh, and their quest. How was she going to gain their trust? How was she going to ask Galyn about the wizard? She considered various possibilities, letting their images play out in her mind, tweaking them slightly as they progressed and trying to decide between them. None of them seemed particularly likely to succeed. She yawned as she pondered another tactic, but discarded it as well. Maybe she'd be able to think of something later, when she wasn't so tired. Outside, it began to rain, and thick droplets of water landed with steady plunks on the roof of the safe-house. Inside, Kit didn't notice as she laid curled upon the bare wooden floor, fast asleep.


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"

Gyn slowed a moment to rest her sore foot. As she had traveled inward, the mist had cleared and the moon tried to peek through rolling clouds. Weak images filled her mind of a branch with green leaves woven together. Try as she might, Gyn could not find an answer to her question. Was this the being's name? If so, exactly what did it mean. A branch, green leaves perhaps representative of peace, like an olive branch, or did the branch represent something that was not alive. Concentrating on the image, Gyn walked slowly through the streets once more. If this then represented life, the leaves, and death, a branch no longer connected to a tree, what then other than life and death woven together did this mean.

Puzzled, Gyn held that image unable to translate the meaning into a name. Perhaps, the being could not recall the name it went by when it walked among the living and this was a representation of itself; a being that was long dead but yet lived. She struggled with this image as suggestions arose from the depths of her mind. Shade, but that really did not fit the picture. She blushed at her next though. A vampire, one who was dead yet lived. Tired, she was about to give up for nothing came to mind. It was obvious that the spirit was also tiring for the image was but fleeting. She felt a moment of shame, hoping that she had done nothing to tax the spirit beyond its bond. Perhaps, like she, the spirit was merely tired and overextended.

A brief smile broke as she made a turn knowing that she was close to the Mermaid Inn. Perhaps once she had something hot to eat and had released her foot from the tortuous boot, she could think better, but her mind was tenacious and would not let go of the image sent by the being as it loosed a flood of names, each one being rejected by Gyn. Ghost, sleeper, dreamer, awake but asleep, sleep walker, wraith. She shook her head in disgust being unable to find the meaning of the branch and the leaves. Then a rather presumptuous though struck her. 'Since I canna find the meaning, perhaps I can come up with a name that would befit such a one. Something that would rather represent the branch and leaves. I dinna like Olive Branch as it makes the spirit sound rather like a stick.'

Like a lightening bolt, it struck her, 'I shall call the being Willow, for a Willow sways to and fro in a graceful dance, although it can be seen for its beauty and the spirit canna, I think this would be a good name. If'n the spirit does not like it, then we'll keep trying to find an appropriate name.' Stopping again, she closed her eyes tightly and projected forth the image of a beautiful willow tree with its leaves dancing in the wind. {I must beg your pardon for I am unsure what name you have tried to portray with the branch intertwined with leaves, and those names I can think of surely do not do you justice. Therefore, with ye permission, I shall call ye Willow, for that is what ye remind me of. A thing of beauty shifting in the mists of time with grace and strength. Perhaps when I speak with the proprietor of the Kuriousity Shop, she will be able to shed further light on this for me, but until then I shall call ye Willow."

Pleased with herself, Gyn stopped again as she heard her name called out. Glancing over her shoulder, her friend Silver was almost upon her. "Why, Silver, once again I am happy ta see ye. It would please me much if ye would break bread with me and have something warm to drink to take off the chill of the eve." Together they made they way into the inn. Gyn apologized saying she would meet Silver in the common room as she had go up to her room for a second, but would return quickly. Watching her friend proceed into the common room, she smiled at the innkeeper and explained to him that she would require two extra rooms for friends who had joined her unexpectedly. Paying him in good stead, he handed her two keys. Also, she requested to sup in the common room with something warm to drink. He nodded his understanding as she made her way up to her room.

Looking at the keys, she was pleased to see that one of the rooms was next to hers. She opened the door and quickly lit a small oil lamp. The room was clean and warm and there was a small bed that looked very inviting. She laid the key on a chest and sent forth the message to her spirit friend. {Willow this will be ye room until we leave Stormpoint for Darkelden. I know ye canna appreciate the comforts it offers, but should ye perhaps imagine that ye can, I believe it will give ye leave to regain ye strength. Since ye won't be needin a key, I shall leave it upon this chest.}

She made her way quickly to her room and slipped off her boots replacing them with a soft pair or leather slippers. She then slipped off her pack and her cloak and made her way once more to the lower level of the inn. She joined her friend in the common room, happy to see a fresh loaf of bread and bowls of hot soup. "Well, Silver, perhaps we should try to do some planning. As ye know, I'm not of the patient type. I hope that tomorrow we kin gather our supplies and buy some pack animals to use on our trip to Ogrekvania." Her brows knit together as she continued. "I know that I'm a bit optimistic, but I'm hoping that perhaps we kin find a ranger to guide us on our journey, at least, to the boundaries of Darkelden. Also, there be a gypsy camp not far from here. Who knows, but perhaps one of their people have knowledge of the country and would be willing to lead us there." Slicing a piece of the bread with her dagger, she dipped it into the soup and continued thinking about their upcoming quest to retrieve the Moonblade, hoping that it would not be in vain.

Gyndeene of Aquilar

Silver smiled as she saw Gyndeene turn. Hearing her words made Silver's stomach rumble, realizing she had not yet eaten since noon. "Aye, Gyn, I'd be happy to sit and eat with you."

Silver's steps fell gently into stride with Gyndeene's, the silence somehow comforting. She absently allowed a small smile to creep on her lips. It was always the same with Gyndeene. There never needed to be constant talk, or politeness. The two women were shockingly different but nearly the same, both feisty and stubborn, but where Gyndeene was more open to being caring and kind, Silver usually kept her emotions bottled up. It was only with Gyndeene that the Lady Captain was fully at ease.

She followed Gyn inside, nodding as her friend went up to her room. Silver took a seat near the window, glancing out over the moonlit streets of Stormpoint. It never ceased to fail that eventually her and Gyn would be pulled into some sort of adventure, whether self created or for a reason.

Clearing her throat, Silver smiled at Gyn's approach and the warm stew and cider the barmaid set on the table. Breaking a piece of bread, she dipped it in the stew, listening to Gyndeene.

"Aye, planning sounds wonderful. Since we have food as a distraction, patience shouldn't be a problem." She grinned, stuffing the bread in her mouth. "Tomorrow morning I'll probably go visit the shopkeeper Eowyn while you visit your contact. Perhaps around lunch time we can share news and layout more of a road map."

Silver dipped another hunk of bread in her soup before glancing up at Gyndeene. "I would like to go to the gypsy camp as well." A slight hint of a grin dimpled a cheek as her eyes flashed. Silver was always fond of gypsies.



The steady blanket of rain had fallen upon the city all evening in a feeble attempt to wash clean streets darkened with more than mere physical stain. It didn't work. Torrents of rain had swept the tempest city from time immemorial, and still the stain clung. One more evening of sky-mourned tears thus did little to lessen the ancient mark. The rhythmic falling of the drops upon an ill-patched roof was enough, however, to lull one small thief into the waiting arms of sleep and to cradle her there throughout the night's passing. And so she slept, blissfully unaware of all that passed while night held the city once more within its darksome grasp.

When morning came, chasing away the shroud of darkness and pushing back the brimming clouds with playful golden beams, it thus found the young girl still peacefully adrift in the land of nod. The sun chided her, squeezing thin fingers of light through unseen apertures of her shelter. They had crept first across the floor, moving slowly and with silent mirth, but the girl didn't move until they fell puckishly across her face. More asleep than awake, the child raised a small hand to her face, trying to push the mischievous rays away from her sleep-filled eyes. But the rays were not so easily dismissed and they continued to dance across her face, tugging at her eyelids with impish glee until her eyes finally opened with a slow squint.

Tired and newly sore from her inadvertent choice of bedding, Kit lifted her back from the floor and rubbed her eyes with two tiny fists. Looking around the barren room in which she found herself, it took her a moment to remember where she was and why she was there. It took her considerably less time, however, to realize that she was in serious trouble. Quaralyn was going to tan her hide for being out all night. Panic-stricken, she sprang to her feet, all traces of sleep now gone, and raced out of the safe-house and into the day. Such was her haste that she slipped on the rain-drenched steps abutting the house and fell into puddle at the base, sending sprays of water high into the air before they fell upon her cringing form.

'Great!' She thought miserably as she pulled herself from the rippling pool. 'Late and wet.' How was she going to explain this?

Back on her feet, she began to run as fast as she could toward the guild, running through smaller puddles and leaping across larger ones with a mixture of agility and pain. To the few residents who dotted the streets at the early hour, she looked much like any child at play, skittering without care or thought through the waking maze of the city. Wrapped in their own chores and woes, they couldn't see her fret-filled eyes or the mass of worry that rode upon her small but aching back as she splashed onward.

'Think.' She kept repeating to herself. 'Think. You've got to think of something.'

She thought of many things as her legs plodded ever-closer to the guild. Unfortunately, they all ended with Quaralyn tossing her off the burglary team, or worse, sending her to see Striker. She shuddered with a not irrational fear of the guildmaster. If she had been being reasonable, she would have realized that both outcomes were unlikely. Though Quaralyn was exactingly strict in regard to Kit's activities and whereabouts, she'd never given Kit reason to believe that her position on the team was in jeopardy; and nothing in the woman's character suggested that she'd turn anyone, least of all Kit, over to Striker. Quite to the contrary, time and again her actions indicated that she preferred to deal with problems herself. But Kit was far from being reasonable as she rounded the final corner and passed through the darkened portal that led home.

It took several more minutes of running before she neared the outer reaches of the guild's hold, and she tried to use this time to gather her wits. She'd only managed partial success when a hand reached from the dank shadows and latched hold of her arm. Jerked to a sudden stop, she gave one shrill shriek as the owner of the hand, dressed in rags and looking like one three-days dead, shambled from the shadows and spoke with a rough slur.

"'Ere now! Got the devil on yer tail, 'av ye?" As if to punctuate his question he pulled her round and pushed his gin-soaked face close to hers. He wreaked of alcohol and other less pleasant odors, and though his features were blurred and grimed, his eyes fixed sharply on the child within his grasp. They sharpened further, tightening and then widening as recognition took hold and his assumed mien melted away. "Kit? What in blazes are you doin' runnin' about like that? Torkul said you blew past him like yer britches were afire." His grip on her arm relaxed and the keen glare of his eyes turned to a look of concern. "Shades child, yer near soakin' wet."

She hadn't seen Torkul, but then again, if he was standing as first or even second sentry, she wasn't supposed to. "Sorry, Coran," she began, trying to catch her breath while her mind continued to race. "I forgot . . . I had lessons . . . . an I didn't . . . wanna be late. . . . Fell in . . . a puddle." She gave him a lopsided grin between heavy breaths, hoping that he'd buy it.

He did.

"Well, keep yer wits about ya next time and remember the sign. If ye'd been older ya might've ended up with a blade in yer back, runnin' in like that." It wasn't an idle threat. Guild security was deadly serious.

She nodded, sobered by his warning but glad all the same that he'd accepted her story. "I will," she promised. "Tell Torkul I'm sorry?"

"Course. Now, on with ya. Get dried up an to yer lessons." He shook his head as he watched her race off, then sent a signal to the fore and aft sentries, letting them know to stand down.

For her part, Kit managed to make it back to her quarters without running into anyone else, a fact for which she was exceedingly grateful. She was only of only a handful of children in the guild to be granted her own room. Most others of her age resided in common quarters under the watchful gaze of several masters. Kit knew the privilege was due to the fact that she'd been selected for a team, but she'd never really known why she'd been selected in the first place. Whatever the reason, within her prized room drawers sprung open and clothing flew therefrom as she changed from her sodden garb in a quick frenzy. Less than two minutes later she was dashing back out of her quarters and heading toward Quaralyn's, having finally decided what she would say when she arrived.

Kit had visited Quaralyn's quarters several times, but the trip always made her a bit nervous. It wasn't that she didn't like her leader, though she currently feared the reprimand she was sure to receive, but was rather that Quaralyn's rank meant that she lodged in a section of the guild frequented by people who, quite frankly, frightened the girl. The guild's chief protection enforcer, a man with a disturbing penchant for hobbling, had quarters nearby, as did the current weapon's expert, who derived a bit too much satisfaction from the way a well-tempered blade sliced through flesh. But the most unnerving aspect was the fact that it wasn't all that unusual to see the guildmaster himself in the area, particularly since recent events seemed to have secured Quaralyn's position at his right hand. Kit didn't quite understand why this was so, especially when the two seemed to despise one another as much as they did, but knew better than to ask questions. Fortunately, however, she reached Quaralyn's room without meeting any of the figures she so feared, rapped her small and shaking knuckles against the door, and waited.

There was no answer. Was she asleep? No, it was too early to be asleep. Kit knocked again, and still there was no answer. Maybe she hadn't returned from her regular evening rounds yet. Maybe she was checking on the rest of the team. Maybe . . . Kit's stomach sank . . . maybe she was out looking for her. Deciding that she definitely wasn't in her quarters, and knowing that she had to find the woman regardless of the consequences, Kit set off in search of someone who might know her whereabouts.

She decided to start with Rhyskall, the broad-shouldered warrior who'd joined the guild when battle robbed him of an eye and two fingers from his sword hand. Despite his hulking form and occasionally grim demeanor, Kit had always found him a good companion. He'd pulled her out of more than a few scrapes, she knew. What she didn't know was how many scrapes he'd kept her from getting into to start with. Her search for her stalwart protector, however, yielded no more fruit than had her quest for Quaralyn. She'd found only similarly vacant quarters and an unhelpful silence in all his usual haunts.

Where was everyone? She sighed and scuffed her small foot against the floor in frustration before deciding on her next course. When she finally up it, it took her in a decidedly different direction from the one she'd been following, leading her to a remote and specially shielded portion of the complex where the guild's burgeoning mages practiced their art. None of them possessed any tremendous power, largely because the rigors and responsibilities of guild life left insufficient time to hone their arcane skills to such a fine point. Jobs requiring talents of a more "sophisticated" nature were thus contracted out to a select group of individuals who had proven their ability both to perform and to remain silent. It was satisfactory and profitable arrangement for all concerned. Kit had never been involved in any scheme requiring the use of a "hired wand," as she liked to think of them, and the only mage she had much contact with was Galyn.

A partial exception to the rule, Galyn wielded a bit more power than most of his conjurous companions, having spent several years as an independent mage before entering the guild. Kit didn't know all the details, but she did know he owed the guild a substantial sum of money and was working off his debt directly. He didn't seem to mind his situation, however, and in fact she'd heard Jaryssa remark on several occasions that he seemed to be adding to his debt as fast as he worked it off. Truth be known, at his current rate of accumulation, it was doubtful that Galyn would ever leave the guild, but he found it a fair exchange to be able to feed some of his more expensive appetites.

As she neared the mages' compound, Kit's nose was assaulted by mixture of noxious smells. She wrinkled it in disgust, wondering how it was possible for magic to smell this bad. Her question was soon answered when she heard a familiar voice making a panicked cry.

"Wait! Nau tha' one! That's . . . ."

If the speaker finished his sentence, his words were utterly lost in the resulting explosion that sent clouds of even more foul-smelling smoke pouring out into the corridor where Kit was standing. She coughed and tried to back away from the billowing mass as the room's former occupants spilled out, doubled over and coughing themselves.

"Bloody 'ell, Lucian! Wha' were ye thinkin'?" spit out a tall, tousle-haired figure who'd just managed to regain his breath. "Ye canna mix antimony with phosphorus like tha'! We're lucky ye dinna blow us all ta blazes!"

A young man, apparently Lucian, shrunk beneath the reproach and managed to cough out an embarrassed apology. "I'm sorry, Galyn. I'll . . . I'll clean it up."

"Oh no ya won'," responded the still fuming mage. "Yer naut goin near tha' lab again fer a least a week, an then only if ya show me y'ave memorized yer bloody properties!"

A few snickers began to intersperse among the remaining coughs, the rest of the group finding either Lucian's mistake or the resulting tirade to be humorous.

"Oh yah. Laugh like a bunch o' bleedin' hyenas, why don' ya? Ye were nex to 'im, Kastor, an I dinna see you tryin' to stop 'im!" The mage gave them a disgusted look as he waved them off with stain- blotched hands. "Away with ya, all o' ya! Git on to Grier! Yer 'is problem now!"

Chastised, but still stifling snickers beneath their coughs, the gaggle of apprenti shuffled off down the corridor and finally out of the sight of the seriously vexed mage. It was only after they were gone that he noticed the small and spindly figure of his visitor amidst the dissipating clouds of fume.

"Well, look wha ta cat dragged in! Ya picked a grand day to visit, Kitten." His tone still had a bit of fire left, but a large amount of good-natured teasing had crept its way in as well. "I tell ye, they canna . . . " his voice trailed off as he considered a less colorful way to finish his sentence, ". . . cast a cantrip wi'out creatin' a mess! I dinna know why I ever agreed ta train tha' miserable lot."

Kit assumed a painfully innocent expression as she chirped in response. "Because Striker told you to?"

"Ah, there ye go agin." He placed a hand over his heart. "All sass 'n no sympathy." She was, of course, correct. The guildmaster had directed the mage to train the group, and the mage dared not to disobey. He'd seen what had happened to those who did. Well, he'd seen part of them anyway . . . enough to know that he preferred to remain compliant, breathing, and wholly intact. He suppressed a shudder from the sudden chill that rippled down his spine. "Well, since yer here, I could use a hand cleanin' up this mess."

The fetid smell of moments ago had largely faded with the smoke, leaving at least the outer corridor tolerable. Kit was less certain about the lab itself. "You sure it's ok in there?"

Galyn looked positively offended by the question. "A course I'm sure. When 'ave ya known me to be wrong?"

She put a small hand on her hip and tilted her head to one side with an expression of wry disbelief.

"Okay, okay, aside from tha' time," he amended quickly. "Besides," he continued with a slight tease to his voice, "if ya don't come in, ye can't get yer gift."

Her ears perked with his last statement and her prior stance and expression were replaced by their more inquisitive counterparts. "Gift? You've got something for me?"

"Aye," Galyn nodded, "just finished with it 'fore Lucian decided ta treat us all to tha' fireworks display. Come on, I'll show ya."

Curiosity now pulsing through her tiny veins, Kit followed the wizard into the lab, eager to discover exactly what her gift was. Not surprisingly, the lab was disaster. While the great plumes of black smoke no longer filled the room, they had left their telltale residue over nearly all the equipment and furnishings. In addition, in their coughing haste to leave the room, the apprenti had knocked over several vials and jars of various colored liquids which now pooled on the floor amidst shards of glass, forcing Kit to hop from one clear spot to the next in order to cross the room.

Deciding that no gift the mage could have concocted was worth the effort of cleaning the mess, Kit tried to worm out of it. "Galyn, this is gonna take forever, and I gotta report to Quaralyn. Have you seen her?"

Galyn, already at work righting an overturned table, didn't look back while he answered. "No, Kitten, can' say as I 'ave. But ya needna bother lookin' for 'er," he added, seeing her prepare to make an excuse to leave from the corner of his eye. "She an Rhyskall left ta city las' night. On a mission er somethin'. Neither would say. But I think they'll be gone awhile. Took a lot o' equipment with 'em."

Kit breathed a mental sigh of relief, the tension she'd been carrying in her small shoulders relaxing until she stood slightly slumped in the midst of the debris. Galyn, mistaking her expression for one of disappointment, tried to cheer her up.

"Awww, come now. It's nae that bad. Ye still got me to pal around with and . . . . bloody 'ell." A shard of glass crunched beneath his foot, eliciting another look of vexation as he struggled to keep his tongue in check. "Fetch those brooms over there, will ya?"

Kit turned her head in the direction of his pointing finger and saw two brooms leaning lazily against a relatively clean wall. Picking her path, she hopped across the glass-strewn floor until she reached them. Had they been lighter, or she stronger, she would have tossed them back to Galyn, but as it was she was forced to continue leaping from one spot to the next. She was far less awkward than most children her age, but the distances were great and she had yet to acquire all the grace her older teammates possessed. Still, she managed to reach the mage without falling and without puncturing either of her feet. She handed Galyn one of the brooms and began to use the other herself, deciding she might as well stay and see what Galyn knew about Josh's mage.

"Both of 'em, if ya please," Galyn said, reaching for her broom with his left hand while holding the other in his right.

Surprised, but not arguing, Kit handed him the other broom as well, wondering how on earth he planned to use them simultaneously. Her question was answered when a few seconds later both brooms began skittering about the room on their own, sweeping glass, liquid, and ash into a fairly neat pile for later disposal. Their subsequent quarrelsome antics brought an irrepressible smile to Kit's face as she began to wash those vials which Galyn had identified as "safe."

"Neat trick, but I don't think they like each other very much." As if to voice its agreement, one of the brooms took a swing at the other, prompting the second broom to respond in kind.

Looking up from an irreparably charred book, Galyn snapped at the pair, "There'll be none o' that, ya 'ear me! Ye two 're behavin' like a pair o' whisks!"

The duo paid no attention, however, and instead continued to beat and parry each other, coming dangerously close to knocking more items onto floor beneath them. Kit giggled, unable to hide her amusement, but Galyn frowned, clearly displeased at the notion of being ignored by a pair of cleaning implements. This time, though, he decided to try a different approach.

"I 'ear ta apprenti be needin a new broom in their quarters."

Instantly, the brooms froze in their tracks, stood straight at attention, and then resumed their previous cleaning duties with speedy efficiency. Galyn smiled and nodded at Kit, "Ya see, it's all a matter a findin' ta right incentive. Oh, speakin' o' incentive . . ." he stopped save the hopelessly lost book, pulled something from his pocket, and held out his hand to Kit. "'Ere ya go. Ta gift I was tellin' ya about."

Kit rolled her eyes in disbelief. His hand was completely empty. "Funny, Galyn, real funny."

He could see she was about to leave and moved quickly to stop her. "Nae Kitten, it's for you. Go on. Take it."

"Galyn, there's nothing there!"

"Ah," the mage replied, "isn't there? Just cause ya can't see somethin' doesna mean it's not there. Yer maker gave ya four other senses for a reason. Now go on, take it."

Skeptical, but curious, Kit sighed and looked crossly at the mage, but she did reach her small hand out toward his open palm, giving an audible gasp when her fingers brushed across something solid and warm.

Galyn smiled. "Go on, it won't bite."

Somewhat emboldened by his words, she wrapped her fingers around the invisible object and lifted it from his hand, being careful not to drop it. It was round, well, not so much round as circular . . . circular and hollow.

"It's a ring!" she cried, excited to have figured it out.

"Aye, it's a ring," the mage smiled at her excitement. "Go ahead and put it on."

With all the eagerness of a child her age, Kit slid the unseen ring onto one of her tiny fingers, feeling a thrill of exhilaration as she wondered what would happen. She didn't feel any different. She looked down at her hands. She didn't look any different. Puzzled, she finally voiced her question, "What does it do?"

"That," Galyn answered, completely full of himself, "you'll have to figure out on your own."

"Oh, come on, Galyn. What does it do?" He didn't respond, and she thus pressed further. "At least give me a hint!"

The mage, however, remained both smiling and tightlipped as he returned to the task of cleaning the lab.

"Oh all right, be that way!" She pouted as she continued to wash the remainder of the vials in silence. 'What does it do?' she wondered. She still couldn't see the ring, and still felt no different. Well, that wasn't entirely true. She did feel slightly annoyed at Galyn for not telling her. Maybe if she kept asking him, she could pester him into giving an answer. She wondered, then remembered she had another question for him.

When she finished with her job of washing, she sidled across the now swept floor to where Galyn stood, pouring bits of powder back into illegibly marked jars. She'd asked if there was anything further she could do, and when he responded no, she sat cross-legged on a chair and kept him company while he continued to busy about the lab. Not wanting to come right out and ask about Josh's wizard, she spent several minutes asking idle questions and sharing in bits of guild gossip. True to the saying of little pitchers having big ears, Kit was often a wealth of information in this regard, though she wasn't entirely aware of it, and Galyn was more than willing to trade a few of the rumors he'd heard in exchange for those she knew. It was thus that she learned that Roric had been picked up by the watch last night, explaining why he hadn't returned for her. She let her anger against him die. He may have been stupid for getting caught, but at least he didn't leave her on his own accord. She learned a few other trivial stories, but guild gossip could only last so long, and when her well had finally run dry, Kit decided to ask her true question.

Idly walking her fingers across an arm of her chair while Galyn was locking scrolls away in a corner cupboard, Kit asked, "Have you heard anything about a wizard named Darkelden?"

All sound and movement in the roomed ceased as if time itself stood in frozen silence. Even the brooms stood quiet before they skittered across the room and tried to lock themselves in a storage closet. Not understanding, Kit raised her eyes and turned them toward the mage. His face had paled, as if all blood had been drained from it, and his hands shook ever-so-slightly as he tried to regain his composure. Finding it finally, he left the cupboard and moved purposefully toward Kit, kneeling before her chair and gripping both her shoulders with tight hands as his eyes bored into her.

"Where did ye 'ear tha name?"

His voice sounded as she'd never heard it before, hoarse and tight, and it gave Kit a sudden chill. She tried to play it off nonchalantly, shrugging as she replied, "Some street urchins. They were tellin' tales. One of them said he'd been to north country and seen someone called Darkelden. Sounded real proud of himself. The others said they didn't believe him, but they looked real scared. They said a lot of other stuff after that. Stories about Darkelden. How he's some dark wizard or something."

Galyn seemed to relax slightly with her words, apparently believing her story, but when he spoke again his voice was still a charged whisper. "'E's a dangerous man . . . do ya 'ear me? Dangerous. I'll tell ya wha' I know, 'cause I don't wan ya to be askin' about, but after I tell ya, ya leave it alone, understand?"

She nodded, and he continued. He didn't know much, or if he did, he share it with her. Apparently the scouts who had been sent to investigate the wizard had either learned little or hadn't returned. Currently the guild was operating on the premise that he was too far away from Stormpoint and their interests to be either a threat or a help. But they were maintaining active feelers for any signs of change. He told her a few more things, which she committed to careful memory, before he warned her never to speak of the matter again. She nodded again, her eyes wide with an emotion which he believed to be fear, and he released his grip on her shoulders.

He stood slowly, seeming to have aged years in a matter of moments, then walked quietly back to the cupboard and resumed his work. "I think it's time fer yer lockwork, Kitten. Ya'd better go see Wendell."


"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Children's Hour"


Gyndeene had talked a long time with her good friend, Silver, before turning in. Tired, she fell asleep immediately, but images of a rugged mountain range and the face of an unknown Elven woman filled her dreams. The morning sun found its way through her window covering. Blinking, she sat upright and frowned for she felt that she had hardly slept at all and was not ready for what the morning would bring.

Sliding from bed, she wondered where her young friend was with her coffee. Grumbling to herself, she pulled on her breeches and tunic and shoved a hat on her head. Barefooted, she made her way down to the innkeeper's desk and ordered a pot of coffee. Startled at the woman's attire, he merely nodded and turned to do her bidding. A chuckle left his lips as he returned and watched the woman pour herself a full cup and stood sipping the hot brew. She flashed him a smile and a thanks as she made her way back to her room.

Now that her brain was awake, she went over what she must accomplish this day. Quickly, she did her absolutions and worked her tawny curls into a long braid. Slipping her cloak on, she pulled her wide-brimmed hat on her and left the room. She hesitated for a moment wondering if she should check on her young friend, but decided that perhaps he had had a long night too and she would let him sleep.

Stepping out into the bright sunlight, she made her way to Merchant's Row and to the Kuriousity Shoppe. She appreciated the clever lettering of the sign as she peered into the dark interior of the structure. "Drat, it appears I'm too early. It dinna seem like the shop has opened yet." Not one to give up easily, she turned the handle on the door, but realized that her first impression was right, not open yet. Sighing, she turned to go when out of the corner of her eye, she noted lights being lit within. She tried the door again and it opened. Shaking her head, she smiled and walked into the now brightly lit shop. Chimes rang throughout and the smell of spice tickled her nose reminding her of her Aunt's apple pie. There was magic in this shop, she could feel it.

Gyn was overwhelmed at the size of the interior of the store. Her eyes took in the many cabinets and shelves that seemed to fill with items as she looked about the room. A beautiful cherry cabinet holding colored bottles and jars drew her to it. Spotting a crystal globe, she picked it up marveling at its beauty and intricate design. Turning the globe over in her hand, she chuckled as it seemed to fill with silver flecks of metal reminding Gyn of snow. As the silver flecks settled, she was surprised to see images filling the globe. She bit her lip as an image of Kamelot appeared followed by one of Karrinth as he laid the Moonblade to rest in the great hall. Gasping, she could not tear her eyes from the globe.

Images of her many friends flashed before her eyes; Vinnie, Zagaroth, Tara, Silver, Shasha, JJ. Slowly a new image filled the globe. A woman dressed in white with wild flowers woven in her tawny hair stood along side a tall man. His blond hair was pulled back into a queue and his dress spoke of the formality of the event. He gazed at the woman with love as he whispered to her, "I shall love you forever." Elodan came unbidden to her mind. She had been unable to forget him or that day, the day of her wedding high on the cliffs of Rydin. Her hands were unsteady as she returned the globe to the cabinet. Turning, her turquoise eyes were filled with unshed tears. Try as she might, a part of her heart still belonged to him and always would.

Gazing with unseeing eyes, she moved to a rack of beautiful tapestries as she tried to blot out the pain that bit deeply into her heart. Struggling, she forced herself to take in the detail of the tapestries as she moved each one. The work was beyond compare and the colors seemed to jump out at one. Indeed, this was a shopkeeper with very discreet taste. Seldom had Gyndeene seen such tapestries. As she moved the last one, she noted a rather decrepit chest pushed back against the wall. Stepping between the tapestries, she studied the items displayed on the shelves with interest, thinking how out of place this cabinet was for everything else she had seen was immaculate.

Bits of ribbon, feathers, rocks and an odd array of items cluttered the shelves. Gyn moved her fingers over some of the items when she found a piece of crystal attached to a leather thong. Pulling it forward, she once again found herself speechless. The crystal turned out to be a small dragon with bits of turquoise stones for eyes. Shaking her head in disbelief, Gyn wondered how this had come to be in a shop far from Kamelot. "Unbelievable." She had given many of these tokens as a gesture of her friendship and love. Could it be that one of her many friends had somehow come to Stormpoint at one time or another. The thought warmed her and clutching the small dragon in her hand, she turned to survey the rest of the room.

A smile tugged her lips upward as it seemed a small counter had materialized near the entrance of the store. On its smooth surface was a large ledger book, a black quill pen and a small silver bell. "Amazing is what it is." She took in a staircase along the back wall that seemed to lead nowhere except to a small landing and there it stopped abruptly. Her eyes widened and a laugh as pure as the chimes fell from her lips when she spotted a back bird perched high on a newel post of the staircase. His yellow eyes seemed to peer into her soul and she was reminded of the Lady Crohn's crow. She was sure that if the bird could talk, he would reprimand her for making free of the shop.

As usual, her impatience surfaced and she wondered when the shopkeeper would appear. Moving toward the counter with the thought of using the bell to call the woman forth, she was struck by a large woven basket. The design was reminiscent of something, but Gyn could not bring it to mind. She removed the cover and looked inside and was not surprised to find more treasures. Her fingers closed over a metal object and a loud gasp left her lips as she pulled out a chain vest. She studied it intently as her fingers ran over the silken links of the piece. Certainly, this was an Elven mithril vest and not unlike the one JJ had crafted for her. She remembered with warmth the halfing JJ, short for John Jay, and the many hours they had spent together before his fire. She would never forget the glimpse of his shop and all the interesting articles it held or the day he had gifted her with a mithril vest and an Elven sword. Her fingers found what she was looking for. Aye, the vest had JJ's marking on it; he had indeed crafted this vest.

Gyn hoped that this item was for sale and made her way to the counter. Laying her items there, she glanced once again at the black bird at the top of the stairs as she pushed against the impatience that surged through her like a bolt of lightening. She wished to meet the proprietor of the shop and would be disappointed if she did not appear. Her eyes lingered on the landing of the staircase. Perhaps it was protocol to ring the bell to alert the woman that someone was in her shop; however, Gyn knew this woman was well aware of her presence. A bit reluctant, her long fingers tapped the bell. Chimes filled the room once again as Gyndeene waited to meet this most unusual woman.

Gyndeene of Aquilar


The gentle peals of the chimes rose effortlessly into the air and drifted with playful mirth over the rows of cabinets and shelves that lined the floor of the shoppe until at last they found the ear of the proprietress. She was sitting at an ancient desk hidden in a curtained alcove and arguing with a secondary ledger that stubbornly refused to balance. A vexed scowl and several empty bottles of ink gave silent testimony to the fact that the argument had waged for some time now, and neither party showed signs of budging. Delighted to find their mistress so deeply engaged, the waggish chimes plucked her ears with impish glee, fading only when they saw the shoppekeeper's eyes flicker towards the door of the shoppe in recognition of a visitor.

Sighing quietly, the woman lowered her quill, closed her eyes, and reached. Her visitor was a young woman, tall and slim. Long, tawny tresses had been worked neatly into a tight braid and then largely hidden beneath a wide-brimmed hat. That hat obscured other features as well, but the shoppekeeper's senses were honed and keen, allowing her to see her visitor's piercing turquoise eyes and distinctly half-elven attributes. A small smile rose on Eowyn's lips. Unlike many of her seeming kind, she had lived long among humans and bore no malice towards mixed progeny. Another half-elf within the city was, in her opinion, a good sign. There was something familiar about this one though, and the shoppekeeper thought long and hard to recall it while she watched the woman wander amid her wares. Many items responded to her . . . another good sign. It wasn't until the visitor approached the bird, however, that Eowyn was able to grasp hold of the elusive familiarity. It wasn't the woman herself, but rather someone that she knew . . . mutual acquaintance . . . no, more than one . . . and they too were nearby. She considered reaching further, but a sudden and sharp presentiment advised against it. She would wait. She doubted it would be long.

She continued to watch the woman in silence, allowing her time to examine several more items while she herself mulled over several possibilities. She'd not yet reached a conclusion when the woman rang the silver bell that sat atop the front counter, sending another set of waves rippling through the air between them. Opening her eyes and rising from her chair in a singular fluid motion, the shoppekeeper stepped noiselessly from her desk, glad for an excuse to leave the disagreeable ledger. She swept aside the curtain that concealed her small nook with an ink-splattered hand, frowning slightly as she noticed the dark, uneven patches. Chastened by her stare, the spots dwindled and faded until they were gone, leaving the shoppekeeper with an unstained hand and an improved mood. She used both to welcome her guest, extending her the former in greeting as she smiled and spoke with the latter.

"Elen síla lúmenn omentilmo."

Her words had no direct translation into the common tongue, the closest perhaps being, "A star shines on the hour of our meeting." The ancient elven tongue was a colorful one, rich both in imagery and sound; but sadly, it was fading, and many of the young raised outside the elven lands no longer learned its bounty. The shoppekeeper had met many whose mouths held none of its poetry and whose ears no longer perked when washed beneath its dulcet tones. Still, she always used it when fate brought one of her assumed blood to her door, but she had learned to temper it with more common parlance. Hence, she added, in the currently predominant language of land, "My name is Eowyn. How may I help you?"


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

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Silver rolled her shoulders back and raised a hand to shield her eyes from the morning glare of the sun. With a slight frown, she lowered her hand and began to cross the deck. Ty and Joseph, up early as usual and expected, met her half way across.

"Goin' into town, Cap'ain?"

Silver nodded, amused. "Aye. Business to tend to at one of the shops."

Ty shook his head, sending an elbow into Joseph (who was quite smaller in stature). "I think she's tryin' ta leave us, Joe."

Joseph, biting back the wince that threatened to cross his face nodded in assent. "Aye. She is."

Silver grinned, shaking her head. "Oh quit it. I just have to go see a woman about a journey."

"Sounds like seein' a man about a boat." Ty grinned.

"Aye, and we all know what that leads to." Joseph chimed in.

"TROUBLE!" The crew shouted simultaneously, finishing the inside joke among her crew. Within moments, they roared in raucous laughter, something usual to them, but unusual to the surrounding ships and dockhands.

Silver chuckled, shoving the two men out of her way. "Clear out ya lice-ridden barnacles. I got work to do."

"Aye aye, Cap'ain!" Ty winked before he slapped Joseph on the back and the two turned to make their way back to the ship.

Silver, in better spirits now and not so upset she slept later then planned, managed to make her way down the docks. She chuckled at the strange looks, waved to those she knew and fell into a few more jesting words as she passed familiar faces.

The streets were already beginning to fill as the shopkeepers pushed open doors for the day. Vendors had their carts lined up and were arranging their goods in eye catching manners. Silver smiled as she past the apple vendor, flipping a coin in his direction. "Mornin' Red!" Slender fingers plucked a ripe apple from his cart as she moved past.

The man just clucked at her, but nonetheless grinned. "When ya gonna stop ta ask m'real name, lass?"

"When you promise not to hit on me!"

Silver tossed the shiny apple upwards, catching it before she took a bite out of the fruit and turned down the maze of streets leading into the city and the shops. The sign hung lazily in the morning breeze up ahead, her eyes falling on the passing windows. Silver paused in front of the door, noting Gyndeene was already inside. With a slight sigh at being late, or perhaps not being first inside, Silver tossed her apple down the alley and gently pushed open the door. She was greeted by the song of the chimes as she stepped down into the shop.

A quick call from Eowyn's mischievous bird caused Silver to wink at him before turning to regard Eowyn and Gyndeene. "Good morning, ladies. Am I late?"



Gyndeene watched the woman glide across the room. She was struck by her ethereal beauty and her graceful movements. Long black hair framed the delicate features of the Elven woman. Skin so pale, it seemed almost translucent. When she spoke, Gyndeene was struck by the dulcet, musical tones of her voice and smiled at the pleasure it gave her, striking a cord deep in her soul. She struggled to control an unknown emotion that the music ignited.

Gyn listened closely to the Elven phase as it flowed from the woman's lips. Her knowledge of the ancient language was limited and she was surprised as the words came quickly to mind. `Stars shine on our meeting.' She smiled, taking this as a good omen.

"My name is Eowyn. How may I help you?"

Gyndeene greeted the woman with arms outstretched, palms upward; the Elven gesture of respect. Her voice was low and throaty as she responded.

"T'is an honor to meet the proprietor of this lovely shoppe. It is a tribute to your ability to judge the uniqueness and value of each item that adorns its many cabinets and shelves. My name is Gyndeene Trevianeu. I have recently arrived in your city, and if I may be so bold, I am here seeking your counsel and advice."

Gyndeene shivered wondering if she would offend Eowyn by making such a request. After all, the woman knew her from naught. Chimes filled the shoppe, and Gyn glanced over her shoulder; a soft sigh of relief left her lips. "Good morn, Sil." She felt a bit bolstered by the appearance of her friend for she knew Sil was acquainted with Eowyn, and perhaps Eowyn would not think her request so brazen knowing she was a good friend of Silver's.

Gyndeene Trevianeu of Aquilar


A small smile lit the shoppekeeper's face, a token of both her surprise and delight that her visitor not only understood the tongue of her ancestors, but was familiar with certain customs as well. The combined effect seemed to impress her avian friend as well, and the bird left its prior perch in favor of one closer to the half-elven woman, its curiosity as to her identity and intent clearly burning in its keen stare. Fortunately, its hunger was soon sated, for at its mistress responded in silent kind, the woman began to speak.

"T'is an honor to meet the proprietor of this lovely shoppe. It is a tribute to your ability to judge the uniqueness and value of each item that adorns its many cabinets and shelves. My name is Gyndeene Trevianeu."

Her words were flattering, owing perhaps more to the human half of her nature, but the shoppekeeper accepted them with the kindness in which they were intended and inclined her head in a small gesture of gratitude. But despite her interest in the shoppe or even particular items therein, the woman was no mere shopper. She'd come to Merchants' Row and to this establishment in particular in search of something else, something that rested not in a store window or upon one the many shelves that surrounded them. The truth was written upon her plainly . . . in her stance, her bearing, her eyes, and finally within her words as they turned quickly to the fundamental reason for her visit. She was seeking counsel . . . counsel and advice.

Some within the city would have said that the shoppekeeper had both in abundant supply. Others, however, would have warned that her counsel was fey and fraught with peril. Both were correct, but missed the point that such intangible wares, while not for sale, rarely came without considerable expense and never without appraisal.

The brow that had arched involuntarily upon hearing Gyndeene's words now lowered, being pulled back into place by its owner as she considered both the request and the requester. She neither moved nor spoke in the long silent moments that followed, but held the woman in an unbreakable gaze, her dark eyes piercing into bright turquoise orbs to examine something that lay both within and beyond. Her eyes grew impossibly darker in the process, deepening into a shade that knew no name as present slid silently into past. It was only when they passed from this velvet hue to the next that the shoppekeeper finally blinked, ending both her stare and her inquiry.

Like water upon stones, the gliding sweep of her lids washed the shadow from her eyes, returning them to their normal color as her expression similarly softened. There was much to this one, this Gyndeene, and there was much to come for her. The outcome, she had not seen, suggesting an uncertainty that prowled restlessly about the woman's future. But such was often the case with one such as this. It boded well. Thus resolved, she answered the woman in what she hoped was a reassuring tone.

"I'd be pleased to offer whatever advice and assistance I may."

She was about to escort her guest to a more amenable spot for conversation when, as if on cue, the chimes that hung above the shoppe's door sang out once more, announcing the arrival of another guest. The early morning light that spilled in from the street framed the newcomer within the shoppe's vestibule and obscured all features save a length of blond hair that shone with small sparks as the light filtered through it. The voice which issued forth from glare, however, left Eowyn with no doubt as to her new visitor's identity, answering a question that had thus far remained unasked.

The latest arrival was undoubtedly one of the common threads she'd felt earlier. Yes, these two, the newcomer and Gyndeene were much alike, not in ways visible to the physical eye, but rather in ways that lay deeper than the mortal coil. The picture woven upon the tapestry was clearer now, but one thread still remained unseen. It would surface in its own time, she knew, and until then she had at least this newest thread to pluck.

"Captain . . . Silver, is it?" The shoppekeeper began with wry tone and mischievous glint. "I dare say, you've been so long gone from these shores 'tis a marvel you've found your way back. I don't suppose you ran aground on the fabled isle of Ellisinar? No, no, you still have both eyes. Hmmm. Beset upon by the ravenous serpent of the Ildathian Sea, then? No, I'm certain reports of that would have reached my ears far earlier. Well, I fear then that you're left with no excuse." She shook her head sadly as she delivered a final, but well-meaning jab. "Need I give you a map, or perhaps a sextant, to remind you to visit from time to time? Besides, I've items in need of delivering, and it's rather doubtful that they'll send themselves." She paused for a moment and twisted her mouth slightly to one side as if considering the veracity of her statement, but decided to let it stand.

With nearly full-fledged smile, she gripped the captain's hand in a firm welcome, then added in a warmer yet equally spirited tone, "I've something for you." Not pausing for explanation, she led both guests to an ancient cherry cabinet that stood off by itself in a back corner of the shoppe.

"I do hope it's still here," she chided once again, "as it turned up some time ago."

Producing an oddly shaped key from the wrist of her sleeve, she unlocked the cabinet and pulled gently at its double doors. They opened without sound of protest, despite the piece's apparent age, and a warm breeze rushed out from the deep interior within, stirring a few strands of the shoppekeeper's hair. Brushing them back into a semblance of place and tucking them behind a decidedly pointed ear, Eowyn began to survey the cabinet's current holdings.

Its inventory had changed since last she had sealed it, but she wasn't surprised. It wasn't that the cabinet held any great mystery in and of itself, but it was hers, and like all things that were hers it had a habit of behaving with peculiarity. Over the years she had formed, tested, and discarded several theories as to why. One rose above the rest, but she didn't find it particularly satisfying or comforting and had no time to reconsider it at present. And so, she simply surveyed the contents of cabinet with a silent and idle curiosity that only half appeared on her features, making a mental note of each item until at last she pulled one from the back of the bottom shelf.

"Ah, it appears you're in luck! It's still here."

Straightening, she examined the item for dust, and upon finding none, handed it to Silver with no explanation as to its origin or purpose aside from a comment that she might find it useful. She wasted little time in both closing and relocking the cabinet thereafter, and paused only long enough to tuck the curious key back into the wrist of her sleeve before asking the women to follow her to a back room where they might further converse.

The room in question was separated from the main of the shoppe by only a heavy curtain of deep green that hung near a staircase of questionable use. The shoppekeeper pulled the curtain back with one hand, and gestured with the other for her guests to precede her and to take a seat at an unadorned wooden table flanked by three oaken chairs. When they had settled, she allowed the curtain to fall behind them. It swung steadily back and forth, casting dancing shadows across the faces of the three within as the elven woman joined her two visitors at the table. When its rustling finally came to an end, the shoppekeeper folded her hands upon the table and broke the silence with a question similar in phrase yet different in portent from that she had asked before.

"How may I be of assistance?"


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

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Silver's boots ceased their unmusical thumping across the floor. No matter how many times she had visited, she still felt slightly unnerved that the sound of her walking did not fit the musical tones that floated, if one listened closely enough, on the currents of air in the Shoppe.

A brow arched over a webbed blue as she regarded Eowyn. She was about to answer that indeed, her name was Silver, when Eowyn began to poke fun at her expense. Biting her tongue, Silver grinned, crossing her arms loosely as Eowyn began the gentle tirade of teasing the Captain. It had been a strange friendship, if to go as far, forged by the chance of business when Eowyn needed a few of her wares to be delivered. Silver, intrigued by the Shoppe and equally by the proprietor, had gone back to peruse the wares. Often, Eowyn would make small talk and ask about Silver's recent voyages. Random stops turned into weekly visits, as the Lady Captain would stop in to make small talk, occasionally deliver a new item, found on one of her adventures to Eowyn, or to share the latest town gossip or outlandish story heard on her sailing. It was indeed an amiable acquaintance to say the least, and Silver had come to respect the Lady Eowyn.

Silver couldn't help but allow a small laugh to escape her lips as she returned the fervent handshake. Her curiosity piqued, yet again, as Eowyn mentioned a gift. Silver turned to look at Gyndeene with an arched brow, and seeing that Gyn knew nothing either, she followed Eowyn further into the shop.

"Now I understand it's been a while, Eowyn, but gifts are really unnecessary. Being docked all winter has hardly allowed me the luxury of at least one adventure, let alone finding you a new trinket to add to your unbelievable collection."

Truth be told, she was hoping it wasn't some potion that would turn her into a frog for not visiting sooner. Silver knew that wasn't the way, but those that gossiped around Stormpoint wouldn't put it past Eowyn. Silver wasn't one to take to town gossip, especially such fictitious tales that frequented the taverns and streets. Yes, Eowyn was an enigma, but Silver had found that almost everything she had heard could be tossed out the window.

She eyed the shopkeeper warily as Eowyn fished in her pocket and then dug into the cabinet, nearly laughing as Eowyn handed her a small bottle and turned to walk into the back room. Leave it to Eowyn. Silver took a moment before following, turning to hold the bottle in her hands and raise it towards her eyes. She glanced at Gyndeene, motioning for her to come look, just when the little ship inside the bottle began to slowly morph.

Silver blinked a few times to make sure she wasn't losing her mind. Inside the bottle, instead of some small unknown ship, was a replica of the Starstruck Siren. Silver blinked again. "It's m'ship…" Muttering, she peered closer, noting the masthead. Yes, the ship was docked, and the masthead was hers. It was her ship.

Silver chuckled quietly before laughing out right. She beamed, looking at Gyndeene. "Only Eowyn would find me something to keep an eye on m'ship." Shaking her head in amusement, Silver tucked the bottle under one arm, and hooked her free hand into Gyndeene's arm. She moved into the room, settling in a chair and placing the bottle on her lap. She waited for Eowyn to fall into place, and running a finger over the glass of the bottle she winked.

"Thank you, Eowyn, for such a wonderful gift." She smiled. "I will someday have to return such a kind gesture."

Silver shifted, glancing again towards Gyndeene. "Unfortunately it is not such fantastic circumstances that bring us here, but Gyndeene will tell the tale. We are in need of some advice and counsel, as I am sure you know, and I told Gyndeene that perhaps you would be the best person to start with. I do hope it is not a bother."

Finally settled, Silver laced her fingers together, resting them on the little ship in a bottle that was on her lap. She allowed a small smile to play over her lips before another considerate frown creased her brow.



Happy to no longer be under the scrutiny of the Shoppekeeper's eyes, Gyn turned to her impressions of the Elven woman. Certainly, this was a woman of great resource, and Gyn felt that her interests lie far beyond those of this Shoppe. Gyn knew instinctively that she would be a valuable ally, but also, would be a fearsome enemy. Biting her lip, she wondered if she had passed the test. Many questions had been asked and answered without a word being said.

Gyn watched Eowyn unlock a cabinet as she talked to Silver. The shelves were overflowing with items, and she chuckled to herself as the Shoppekeeper searched for the gift. "Ah, it appears you're in luck. It is still here." She handed Silver a small vial. Gyn studied the contents of the cabinet closely, but it gave up no secrets. It made her think of Sasha. 'T'would indeed be an unusual meeting when Sasha and Eowyn met; one that she did not wish to miss.'

Locking the cabinet, Eowyn slid the unusual key into her sleeve. Gyn moved to her friend's side and studied the vial. Incredible. The bottle held a small replica of the Starstruck Siren. A soft gasp slipped unbidden from Gyn's lips. She was sure she could see sailors moving about the deck. Her eyes met Silver's and she could not hold back a chuckle. Obviously, Silver was used to these unusual gifts. Slipping her arm through her friend's, she said, "T'is a fine gift, indeed, Sil. I'm sure you'll make good use of it." Her mind worked furiously. How wonderful it would be to have a similar vial that held a replica of Darkelden's fortress.

Arm-in-arm, Silver and Gyndeene followed Eowyn to a small nook at the back of the Shoppe. Gyn removed her hat and sat down at the table as Eowyn pulled a curtain across the doorway, closing out any prying eyes. She loosened her cloak and looked inward, searching for words that would form a picture of Kamelot, Karrinth and the Moonblade.

Bringing to mind a blank canvass, Gyn began her story. Her voice was low and throaty. As she spoke, the brush took on a life of its own. It moved across the canvas with bold strokes, filling it with color and detail. Kamelot came alive against the backdrop and laughter and gaiety seemed to reverberate in the small room.

Gyn paused and when she spoke, a husky whisper filled the room as the timbre of her voice quivered with emotion. She took up the brush one more time to complete the picture. Her eyes were distant as she recalled the memory of her first visit to Kamelot with her friend Karrinth.

"Karrinth lifted the sword high over his head. Swinging it downward in a two-handed grip, he buried the ancient blade deep within the black marble of the great hall. My surprise was so great at such a gesture, that I had a hard time believing what I had seen. Karrinth took my hand in his and led me to the blade. He placed my hand over the hilt, saying, 'Though I may not be here, the blade's power will keep you safe and Kamelot will always be protected against the evil that lurks without.' I felt the life of the sword beneath my fingers as it seemed to burn a path up my arm and through my body. Overwhelmed, I argued with Karrinth, feeling that he could not make such a sacrifice, but all he said was, 'It has been done.'

The brush moved again as it surrounded Kamelot with a piercing blue light. The past drifted slowly away as the picture faded, and Gyndeene moved to the present.

"I have been told that the Moonblade no longer resides in Kamelot and that it has been removed by a very powerful Wizard. The details, unfortunately, are but sketchy. A request was made by an Elven queen that I recover the blade and return it to Kamelot." Gyn shrugged her shoulders and her turquoise eyes reflected the uncertainty she felt. "I only know that the wizard's name is Darkelden and that his fortress is somewhere in a place called Ogrekvannia. That is why I have come to Stormpoint. I must find the wizard and regain control of the blade. How or why he took the blade is unclear, but, he must not learn its secret and unlock the power of the blade. It would spell disaster for all within his reach."

Running the tip of her tongue over her lips, Gyn gazed into the dark eyes across the table. "I am hopeful that you may know more about this Wizard than most in Stormpoint and unlike others, may be willing to talk of it." Shaking her head, she continued, "We also need a guide to the border; someone who knows the land well. I know what I ask might be beyond you and I also know that any who speak of Darkelden may be in danger as well."

Gyndeene of Aquilar


Eowyn listened to the woman's account with a sharp ear and still tongue, noting the effect it had on both her and her nautical friend.

Kamelot . . . moonblade . . . wizard . . . an elven queen . . . Darkelden . . . .

The woman's words painted a grim picture, perhaps more grim than she realized, for she knew only half the tale. Holding now a broader palate due her visitor's recitation, Eowyn could see more of the completed work. There were still spots and streaks of white to be sure, but the elven woman had long possessed the art to fill such lacuna with brushstrokes of her own.

'Strange,' the shoppekeeper mused to herself as Gyndeene finished and she gazed upon the composite image. It didn't look as she had expected. Things were different . . . out of place . . . a water-run picture on a warped canvas. She remained silent for some time, her hands templed casually together as she again studied the two before her . . . reevaluating . . . reconsidering. Something was missing, and something else had found its way into a place it didn't belong. The answers were before her, she knew, ripe fruit dangling from a tree, and she longed to wrap her slim fingers around them and pluck them from the laden bough. But it was too dangerous; and she refused to barter with lives that were not her own. And so she continued to ponder quietly, her eyes resting upon the captain and her increasingly curious companion until a last, a decision reached, her voice broke the mounting silence.

"I know the one of whom you speak, Darkelden, as you call him. He is a mage of considerable power. If you are to move against him, you must prepare yourselves well. It will not be easy."

She opened a thin drawer that had previously lay hidden within the table before them and withdrew a large parchment scroll. It was loosely rolled and secured with a dark leather cord which she untied before placing the parchment atop the table. She unfurled it with care, then spread it smooth across the table with the palms of her hands. It crackled in resistance, trying to draw itself back up into its prior shape, but the shoppekeeper was insistent, and soon it lay flat enough to remain open upon the table, only its edges turned upward in a small, defiant curl. It appeared blank at first, but as its elven owner gave it a final smoothing with a pale white hand, it revealed itself to be a map of the lands surrounding Stormpoint.

"First," Eowyn began, drawing the others over the map, "your Darkelden is no longer in Ogrekvania. Some time ago, he left the borders of that kingdom, throwing his hand into the anarchical grab for power in the Shattered Lands." Her hand moved toward a section of the map entitled "Dominia," and as it passed over the region, the letters twisted and reformed themselves into a title that conformed with her description.

"Recently," she continued, unconcerned by the map's behavior, "he's united three baronies under this control," she drew circles about the areas in question with a long, thin finger and they darkened with her touch, "but he hasn't moved to expand his influence any further. He's avoided dealing with both Stormpoint and Rivenland, and has purposefully distanced himself from his former holdings in Ogrekvania. He appears to have no alliances." She paused to let the possible import of this statement resound in silence.

"Few have seen him," she added, leaning back from the map, "as he appears to have a host of 'discardable' agents to deal with both business affairs and 'minor nuisances.'" A small grimace made the meaning of her euphemism pointedly clear.

"For more important dealings, he relies upon a particularly effective cadre of followers . . . the Fey-ri." Her lip curled slightly in a measure of disgust as the name slid from her tongue. "They are intelligent, highly skilled, and methodically cruel. I've not seen them personally, but from the . . . reports I've received I suspect that a degree of elven blood warms their veins. The wings and crimson skin, however, suggest a heritage I'd rather not think about. As for their master, the only thing known for certain is that he's Quende."

The shoppekeeper's tone had become near blistering as she reached the end of her description and her eyes burned in a further rare display of anger. She stared hard at Gyndeene as she waited for the boiling rage to subside, knowing that she, more than Silver, was likely to understand her sentiment. It took several seconds for her to regain a measure of calm, but when at last the bile within her stomach had lowered from a boil to a steady simmer, she continued almost sadly.

"You are correct in stating that you've need of a guide. Regrettably, I am unable to assist you in that regard. I currently have certain . . . responsibilities which require my attention here. There are, however, those within the city who will aid you in this task. Take care in choosing your company. Not all who offer help will be you friend. Be wary."

She stopped suddenly, her expression becoming both distant and amused as she looked once more upon the broader picture. An odd smile, bordering on the mischievous, tugged at one corner of her mouth when at last she spoke again. "You will find, however, that friends will come from unexpected places. Be ready."

From the main floor of the shoppe, a sharp caw pierced the dark green curtain, echoing in the small alcove where the three women sat.

"Yes, I know. I was just getting to that," the shoppekeeper responded, her voice and one eyebrow raised in mild vexation. As she spoke, a small rustling issued from base of the curtain that swathed their conversation. Eowyn ignored it, trying to draw her visitors' attention back to the map, but within seconds the curtain parted a few scant inches while an agitated and avian figure worked its way into the room. Its goal accomplished, it sprung into brief flight and deposited itself on the shoppekeeper's shoulder with an unmistakable air of self-satisfaction. The elven woman closed her eyes briefly, but said nothing to the bird, addressing her guests instead.

"Before you can reach the Shattered Lands, you'll have to pass through the Forest of Tanglewood."

She drew another circle on the map around an area entitled Darkendale. As her finger completed its invisible border, the lettering she encircled wavered and skewed, reforming its characters until it read, "Tanglewood." Drawings of trees likewise replaced the varied sketches of buildings and the names of smaller cities within the former kingdom's holdings.

"You won't it find on many maps," she continued. "It's a rather recent landmark. The outer edges for the first several miles are relatively harmless. The further you venture within, however, the more likely you are to disturb its . . . residents." The bird perched atop her shoulder cawed in ill-omened admonition. "I'd advise skimming along its eastern edge. It will take you far longer than trying a direct route through, but many who dwell within its heart have a deep dislike for mortals." The warning carried an ominous tone and was punctuated by a telling expression.

"Should you encounter trouble within the forest walls," she continued, "I've something that may help you, though I fear I can make no promises." Opening the same drawer from which she had drawn the map and reaching within, the shoppekeeper retrieved a well-tanned pouch of dark brown leather. Long and nimble fingers pulled open the mouth of the small bag, then allowed the contents to spill out into a pale waiting hand.

Upon first glance, the tiny objects lying within the shoppekeeper's hand might have appeared to be stones or even gems, but as she held her hand over table, her visitors could see clearly that they were neither. Rather, the elven woman's cupped palm was full of acorns, seemingly normal in all respects save for the fact that they were of pure and palest white. She held them out to allow her guests a moment of brief appraisal, rippling her fingers beneath them so that they shifted and rolled over one another before she poured them back into the pouch and pulled tight its strings. Once satisfied that it was fully sealed, she pressed the pouch into Gyndeene's hand.

"Keep these close. They may be of help, but again, I can offer no guarantees. The fae are fickle, and have been known to turn even on their own."

Her counsel bestowed, the shoppekeeper looked from one visitor to the other, reassuring herself once again before asking, "Is there any other way in which I may offer assistance? Any further information you seek? Any supplies you have need of?"


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

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Silver sat stoically in her chair, her fingers gently draped over the small glass bottle that held the replica of her ship. Upon hearing Gyndeene's voice, her focus seemed to almost waiver and cloud over. It had been a great deal of years since she, or anyone else, had talked about Kamelot. The sound of Gyndeene's voice remembering the beloved place struck a chord inside Silver that hadn't been touched in years.

Almost as if in a trance, she allowed Gyndeene to paint the picture, covering her mind with colors and images that had long since been repressed. The stone walls became focused in her mind, the looming towers and brightly lit courtyard. She could almost smell the air and hear the voices of those long since passed. Silently, Silver recalled the first place she dared call home since her arrival to this land.

The grey stone walls rose in towering spires towards the sun filled sky. She dared enter through the gates, welcomed by the gentle song of the fountain in the midst of the courtyard. Stable hands ushered beautiful horses across the cobblestone while others roamed in idle chatting. Briefly, she allowed a light smile to touch her lips. She ventured forward to view the lush hilltops in the background that would hold memories of banquets and festivals, training grounds and weddings. The long corridors drank up the golden sunlight that spilled through the windows, glittering upon the woven surfaces of tapestries that seemed to come to life upon each passing. They held the secrets of a past that built Kamelot and the present that kept its halls alive with merriment.

In her mind's eye, Silver rounded a corner and ducked down the stairs to enter a large room with windows that viewed the courtyard and the forests beyond. Against the wall sat an old trunk, one that held all her possessions, her armor and memories of her past and Kamelot. In front of the wall sat a marble desk strewn with papers. Imaginary fingers ran over the seal that was hers, her signature and the title Gyndeene had respectfully bestowed once upon Silver.

As Gyndeene began the saga of how the Moonblade came to be and the owner, Karrinth, the pictures faded, replaced by a great hall, a large polished wooden bar sliding out from the far end with round tables purposefully taking their place before the counter. Across from both lied the staircase allowing those coming from their rooms entrance to the hall. Wonderful banners of old and new, showing the heritage that now took residence in Kamelot, waved in the currents that mingled in the domed ceiling. It was here Silver remembered the long haired elf, Karrinth, and the sword protruding from the marble floor. Kamelot was always a place of solace and happiness. A gentle smile tugged at the corners of her lips before the images began to fade.

Silver blinked, allowing eyelashes to rest a brief moment on the tops of her cheeks before reopening her eyes and setting her gaze on Gyndeene. She reached out a gentle hand to squeeze the woman's arm before settling back again and turning her attention to Eowyn.

It was long moments before the Shoppekeeper spoke. She curiously eyed Eowyn and her hesitancy to speak. She could almost sense the shoppekeeper thinking there was more to the story, as Silver had often thought so as well. Gyndeene never revealed a reason that someone would want to steal the moonblade or what use it had outside Kamelot, and the realization just hit the Lady Captain. Perhaps, she thought, Gyndeene did not know. Or she was waiting in her own time to reveal the reason.

It was somewhat unsettling, but Silver shook off the feeling as Eowyn began to speak. Her eyes dropped down towards the map as she listened intently to Eowyn's description of the lands and the magus Darkelden. Strange, she mused, that he had stopped his conquest short of three other lands and distanced himself from Ogrekvania. What had happened there that caused the mage to leave? It was only when Eowyn began the description of the Fey-ri that Silver arched a brow at the apparent anger that lied within the woman. She noted the brief, unspoken words that flew between Gyndeene and Eowyn, but said nothing.

Silver listened intently before she took a breath and looked up at Gyndeene. Her gaze slid to Eowyn again. She wanted to further ask about Tanglewood, but feared it wasn't the right timing. Eowyn had already bestowed a gift upon Gyndeene to use in the forest. The previous mention of choosing a guide carefully somewhat bothered her. "Aye, we are in need of supplies, but I believe that is being taken care of already. Perhaps anything you suggest we have that we wouldn't normally purchase?"

She sat back, folding her hands in her lap. "You also mentioned that not all who offer help would be allies in this …. journey." She nodded. It was after all, Stormpoint. Silver sighed quietly. Eowyn had already been of great help and she did not want to further press such an issue that had most of Stormpoint's inhabitant's reluctant to speak. Knowing full well most adventures had some sort of danger involved, she allowed her thoughts to quickly shift elsewhere. The thought of all the work to be done, the precautions to take, and the journey itself seemed somewhat overwhelming. Glancing towards Gyndeene, Silver allowed a slight smile to curve on her lips.

"Do you have a suggestion on where to start?"



Gyndeene listened intently to Eowyn for this was the first true information she had received regarding Darkelden. He had no apparent allies, but she needed to know more about the three baronies under his control. Her thoughts tumbled about as she tried to put them in an order that would lead them to the Shattered Lands. Frowning deeply, she studied the map as the Shoppekeeper pointed out the various regions.

Her eyes narrowed and hardened. It did not surprise her that he would align himself with the Fey-ri. Her lips curled in disgust and she stared back into the Shoppekeeper's eyes, feeling the anger that boiled within. She had never met such a being, but knew they were evil and cruel for no apparent reason other than their own sadistic satisfaction. She had heard about the sect of high elves who had created these creatures by mating their own with demons. Her stomach rolled and she fought to push the acrid taste from her mouth. There were many tales of how the Fey-ri had enslaved not only humans but all other races for the simple purpose of increasing their numbers. She also knew their dislike of elves went far beyond hatred.

'T'would indeed be a difficult task making sure her friends would be safe from the webs that the Fey-ri wove.' It did not surprise her that Darkelden was aligned with such beings, but it raised many alarms regarding the Moonblade. The fact that he was Elven did not surprise her either as only an elf would know the true worth of the blade. A soft groan left her lips. In her heart, she knew that if he unlocked the secrets of the blade, he would most likely move against not only Stormpoint but Ogrekvania and Rivenland as well until he controlled all within his reach.

Her heart beat a dull rhythm against her ribs. Ignited by the unspoken anger of Eowyn, her blood raced like hot lava inside her veins threatening to burst its bounds. Her head ached with a weariness she could not describe. She rubbed her hand across her throbbing temples as she tried to focus on the map. She struggled to gain control as sparks flew between the synapses of her brain. Lowering her eyes, she sought a place of calm, deep within her being. He had to be stopped, but how? It would not be accomplished by anger. Only cool resolve would be effective against this Wizard.

Taking a deep breath, her heartbeats slowed, and within her, the hot lava cooled into a hard resolve to regain control of the Moonblade and send this evil one to the depths of hell where he belonged. The acidic taste in her mouth began to recede and the calm she sought slowly infused her being. Her eyes narrowed once again as the Shoppekeeper described the Forest of Tanglewood. They would indeed take her advice and follow the outer edges of that region. She had one battle to fight and it would not be with those within the forest. She watched with curiosity as Eowyn withdrew a small pouch from the drawer that had held the map. As Eowyn poured the contents of the pouch into a slender hand, Gyn studied the objects with interest and smiled her thanks as the Shoppekeeper pressed the pouch into her hand.

Gyndeene listened to the question Silver posed to the shoppekeeper. "Do you have a suggestion on where to start?" Gyn's vision cleared and she ran her tongue over her lips wondering whether she should share her thoughts with the two women who sat at the table. She felt that both Silver and Eowyn believed she knew more than she was telling, which, sadly, was not the case. She also knew that Eowyn knew more than she was telling. What a juxtaposition this was.

Grasping the small pouch in her hand tightly, Gyn decided it was time to lay all her cards on the table. Even though many cards were missing, perhaps they would eventually build a strong hand. She smiled as she gazed into the eyes of the Shoppekeeper's avian friend perhaps looking for the strength to say what she must, and feeling encouragement, her gaze shifted to Eowyn.

"As you know, much of what you have told us is troubling. I had not counted on fighting against the Fey-ri, and the fact that they are somehow aligned with Darkelden presents even a greater challenge, although from what I know of their race, they rarely align themselves with anyone unless guarantees of great gains are made; in fact, they even often turn on themselves; however, that does not lessen the danger they present to us. Can you tell us more about the three baronies that are under his control and is there any likelihood that one of these baronies may not be satisfied with the arrangement. Also, we will heed your advice and avoid the Forest of Tanglewood, but we will need someone who is trustworthy to guide us."

She cleared her throat as she continued. "I have no idea why I was chosen to retrieve the MoonBlade. Up until I met her messenger, I had never heard of the Queen Laumari of Sarenalon nor do I have any idea why she has an interest in Karrinth's blade; but, I do not think she would make such a request lightly, especially to one who was not full blood. My connection to the blade is through Karrinth, and I do not know if I can even draw the blade without being killed."

Gyn hesitated a moment and sighed, "Darkelden has a very good reason for wanting this blade, just what that reason is, I'm not sure. I'm not surprised that he is Elven, for only a true elf would realize all that such a blade holds. Obviously, his magic is strong, and my guess is that his true identity has never been revealed. I fear he hides behind different masks and could easily walk among us without our knowing it. I have to wonder why he has not moved against the free lands you mention. It would seem that Stormpoint would be a very ripe plum for him to pluck. If he is able to release the power of the blade, I believe he would move to take over these regions, which in turn, would be ripe pickings for the Fey-ri, which explains their unholy alliance with Darkelden. I'm afraid this is merely conjecture on my part for I don't know the true reason why he stole the MoonBlade."

Taking a deep breath, she somehow felt better, and grinning, she turned the conversation to another matter. "Can you tell me if the symbols of a weapon constructed of a lance, double-bladed axe and a mace mean anything to you? Also, I hope that the items I found within your Shoppe are for sale for I have already developed a deep attachment to them." She looked expectantly at the Shoppekeeper as she waited for a reply.

Gyndeene of Aquilar


That the woman had many questions was not surprising. The journey upon which she sought to embark would be both long and tortuous, taking her places where few would chose willingly to go. That she chose to ask these questions of the shoppekeeper, however, did carry a modicum of surprise. Those who "knew" the seemingly elven woman knew also that she kept much information wrapped in shadow, and that she rarely gave direct answers, though few would hazard a guess as to why. As she considered her guest's questions, debating whether she would answer, she looked briefly to Silver, giving the captain a small and ironic smile of thanks.

"I'd be very much surprised," she finally began, having apparently reached her decision, "if any of the baronies were 'satisfied' with the current 'arrangement.' Not many within them, however, are in a position to do much about it. Of the three, Kiltanor," she pointed to its location on the map as she spoke, "has proven to be the greatest thorn. The second son of the ruling family survived the coup that claimed the rest of his kin. He and small pocket of loyal resistance have launched a few unsuccessful attacks from the east, suggesting that they may have taken up refuge in the lower foothills. Despite their lack of success, they do appear to be well armed. You might be able to find them if you can discover who's supplying them."

If the shoppekeeper knew more of the issue, she didn't say, but moved on to address her visitor's next request.

"As to a guide," her mouth twisted slightly to the side as if giving the matter a final bit of consideration, "I believe I know of someone who may be willing to help. His name is Gaboren Toth. You're likely to find him at any tavern in town if you wait long enough, but he tends to favor The Dragon's Den. Be forewarned, his services do not come cheaply, but he is well worth his fee."

"As to the items you're interested in . . . well, this would hardly be much of a shoppe if things weren't for sale, now would it?" She smiled, almost fully, for the first time since their conversation had begun, but something still lurked in dark back of her eyes .... something that grew stronger as she asked, rather than answered, a question.

"But this "weapon" of which you speak, a lance, a double-bladed axe, and a mace? Are you sure?"

When Gyn nodded her affirmance, Eowyn rose from the table and gestured for her guests to do the same. Pulling back the curtain that had blanketed their tiny alcove, the shoppekeeper allowed her guests to proceed her onto the floor of the shoppe. Once they had passed and she herself had exited, she let the curtain fall back into place, ignoring its sweeping movements as she began to walk the aisles of the shoppe, obviously in search of a something.

Had either of her guests glanced behind them, they might have caught a glimpse of a suddenly barren alcove as the curtain swang to a stop in the wake of their departure. The shoppekeeper, however, paid it no notice, but was moving intently through the tall rows of bookshelves, muttering in elven as she scanned their contents. Her eyes were alight were curiosity as she searched, looking for one tome which she knew was there, for the one that might serve to sharpen the image. Finally, her eyes settled upon it and a smile of satisfaction crossed her face. It stood upon the top row of one the rear shelves, nestled between a tome on ogreish architecture and an exceedingly thin book of orcish verse.

The bird, which had ridden all this time upon her shoulder, took short flight until it rested atop the book. It cawed as if in confirmation, but was unable to budge the heavy tome from its niche. The shoppekeeper smiled indulgently at the bird, then cast about briefly for the dark wooden ladder she kept for such purposes. Having found the book, however, and being eager to verify her suspicions, she was filled with a good measure of impatience; and when the ladder did not immediately present itself, she did something she normally would not, and silently called the book to her.

Duly summoned, the book slid easily from its shelf and flew to her waiting hand. The bird, having had no warning of her action and still looking about for the ladder, was caught by surprise when his perch began to move; and he squawked angrily as he ruffled his wings and hopped to another book. He clicked a rough beak few times in reproach, soliciting a rushed apology from his mistress as she swept to a large oaken table, prize in hand and guests in tow. Placing the book unceremoniously upon the table, she began to thumb through it in a fury of determination. And when at last her fingers slid across the page she sought, a single word fell her lips.


Turning the book so that it faced her visitors, she asked, "Is this the 'weapon' of which you speak?"

When Gyndeene indicated that it was, the shoppekeeper, now with a slightly clearer but still skewed image of the whole, began to explain. "First, this is not a weapon. It's a seal, a symbol, a coat of arms, if you will. Second, it's old . . . very old. It belonged to the land of Thrukal, an ancient kingdom which united the blood of three races under one banner. Humans," as she spoke, she ran a long, thin finger along the lance in the image, "orcs," her finger passed over the image of the axe, "and ogres," she added, this time brushing over the mace. "It's the precursor of modern day Ogrekvania."


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

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Gyndeene listened closely to all the Shoppekeeper had to say. Though she doubted that Eowyn was telling her all that she knew, she was grateful for the information she received. Her eyes narrowed with interest as she tucked the name "Kiltanor" away. Should she be able to find this person, he might be of great help in retrieving the stolen sword. She tucked away the second piece of information and could not help but smile. Gaboren Toth. Certainly, they would be in luck if this person agreed to be their guide, for it was important to have someone she could trust. She fidgeted a bit, pushing down the desire to find The Dragon's Den and this guide immediately.

In her excitement of learning about a possible guide, Gyn had almost forgotten the items she wished to purchase and chuckled to herself. Shaking her head, she really had to control her impulsiveness. Her ears again pricked up as the Shoppekeeper mentioned the strange weapon Gyn had questioned her about. Standing, she followed Eowyn through several tall bookcases that she had not noticed before. She flashed a grin at Silver as the black bird took flight. He landed on the very top shelf and proceeded to try and dislodge a book from its resting place. Sensing an impatience in the Shoppekeeper, Gyn was not surprised when the book seemed to fly from the shelf into the proprietor's hand. Indeed, she had been right, for did not still water run deep.

Gyn moved closer to the table and nodded as Eowyn spoke. She studied the drawing closely and sighed softly as this did nothing to indicate her shadowy friend's name. Certainly, the spirit would not be called seal or symbol. Frowning, Gyn tried to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. Although it did nothing in revealing the spirit's name, it did give her a reference point from which to work, the being's heritage. Stepping back, Gyn flashed a smile at Eowyn.

"You've have been most helpful and I can't tell you how grateful I'm for the assistance you've given us. I don't wish to seem abrupt, but I'm anxious to try and find Gaboren Toth, which may not be an easy task in itself. If you would tally up what I owe for the items I've chosen, I would be very appreciative, and, again, I am in your debt for the time you've taken and the assistance you've provided."



Silver listened intently, absorbing what information she could. A hint of a smile touched her lips to almost mirror the one Eowyn gave her. She leaned closer to look once more at the map. It reminded Silver of the days spent pouring over maps of her country and surrounding ones with her Generals. It also reminded her of War and the plotting of courses and attacks. The lady Captain blinked slowly and frowned at the thought. Although reminiscent, it was not a good one to be having at the moment. Her curiosity piqued at the mention of Kiltanor and finding the suppliers to find the soldiers. That was something she could do and quite frankly, was interested in finding out. Pushing that tidbit of information back into her head and noting to talk to Gyndeene about it, she continued to listen.

It was at Gyndeene's mention of the weapon that Silver noted the change of expression in Eowyn. She rose to follow the shoppekeeper, her eyes filling once more with the wonders the shop held. She noted various trinkets and objects that seemed to shift and change with a life of their own. How odd, she thought, I wonder if they move around the shop? She had never really noticed that before. Another mental note was made to stop in upon their return from their expedition. She caught Gyndeene's grin as the bird took flight, and the apparent curiosity mixed with surprise on her friend's face when the book flew from the shelf to land in Eowyn's waiting hands.

"Eurisko." Silver arched a brow before following Gyndeene over to peer at the three objects that had been spoken of, which in turn proved to be a seal. The explanation made sense and the mention of Ogrekvania caused Silver to straighten and allow a slight grin to cross her lips. She had heard tales of Ogrekvania. Yet another twist of fate, she pondered, sending her off on some journey through various lands.

She shifted, rolling her shoulders back and allowing a small smile to grace her lips. Her intuition was correct and Eowyn was a wonderful source of help. However, it was time to venture out of the shop and get started on this long awaited journey. Silver skeptically raised a brow and looked down at the bottle in her hand. Adventures were hardly a place to carry a glass bottle around, especially one that was no doubt going to contain unexpected sidetracking and a bit of fighting. Silver frowned. She wanted to keep the bottle with her as it would allow a bit of comfort at seeing her ship, but also the reassurance of knowing all was well with her traveling home.

Silver raised the bottle to peer closer at it and looked up at Eowyn. "Eowyn, is this bottle break proof?"

Seeing a chance to repay her "friend" for playing her against her wont, Eowyn answered with a wry grin and a mischief-speckled tone.

"Hmm. You know, I'm not entirely sure." Cat-quick, she plucked the bottle from Silver's hand and continued in similar vein, "Let's find out, shall we?"

Without waiting for reply, the shoppekeeper let the bottle slip from her hands and fall to the floor below. It landed with a resounding thump and bounced twice before rolling across the clean-swept wooden boards and finally disappearing beneath an oaken cabinet. A split-second later, a sudden shriek rang throughout the shoppe. The shriek was soon followed by a scuttling sound and then by the appearance of an orange, vaguely cat-shaped blur that shot out from under the cabinet, knocking one of the drawers ajar in the process. In a frenzied panic, it flew past both its mistress and her visitors before it found another spot of refuge atop an empty wall-shelf.

The shoppekeeper, accustomed to such displays, tried to coax the cat down, but it wouldn't move from its new found perch and soon curled itself up into a tight ball of fur. Apparently content, but still wary, it gazed down at those below with half-lidded eyes. Sighing, Eowyn let the creature be, then moved to the cabinet beneath which the bottle had rolled. She knelt before its three burled drawers and felt about the floor underneath. Her hand soon latched upon the neck of the glass and she pulled it out for examination. It was still in one piece, a fact which elicited a small sigh of relief from Silver and a look of amusement from the shoppekeeper. She'd known that it wouldn't break, and was toying with the idea of bashing it against the wall, in part to demonstrate the point, and in part to goad the captain, when her free hand found the open drawer.

Her fingers slipped inside almost without thought, and she was struck with a sudden chill of prescience. Pausing only long enough glance quickly toward the cat, the shoppekeeper pulled the drawer further open with both hands. It was empty, save for a simple wooden box and a few motes of dust that shuffled deeper into the drawer and out of her sight with the urgency of self-preservation. She was too keen on the box, however, to give them much notice, and she left them to their devises as she removed the box from the drawer and placed it atop the cabinet for further study. It was plain and unadorned, save for a coiled design burned onto the lid, and it opened with ease beneath nimble fingers. Peering briefly within, Eowyn scanned its contents with first curiosity and then understanding before she closed the box and handed both it and the bottle to Silver.

"I think you now have answers to two of your questions."

Silver cradled the bottle under an arm, biting her tongue to keep from uttering a sarcastic remark to Eowyn. She knew the shoppekeeper would find it amusing, but the Captain thought better of it. Who knew what prank Eowyn would pose on Silver if she did. Silver flashed a grin at Eowyn as she took both offered items. "Well, the demonstration definitely answered my question." Silver glanced to the box, noting the simple etching but saying nothing. If Eowyn wanted to give an explanation she would have. "Somehow I have a feeling I will know exactly what to do with this box, and I have another intuition that my knowing has to do with you."

Silver winked towards the Shoppekeeper. "Thank you for all your help Eowyn. It has indeed shed some light on this journey and has been greatly appreciated. " Silver fell in with Gyndeene and turned towards the door. "The moon guide you, and the stars light your path. Keep well." She smiled once more and exited the shop. Turning towards her friend she allowed a laugh to escape her lips for the first time since they sat to discuss the adventure at hand. "Well Gyn, what is your next stop?"

Silver and Eowyn


Feeling herself propelled out of the shoppe, laughter bubbled over and she turned to her friend. "Well, it would seem that the Dragon's Den would be a good place to start, but one moment, my friend, I still have a task to complete. Bells chimed once again as she entered the shoppe. She was not surprised to see Eowyn standing behind the counter. She had wrapped Gyn's items in a shimmering turquoise cloth and was just tying it up with a silver ribbon.

Gyndeene's laugher filled the room. "Indeed, Eowyn, you will never fail to surprise me."

A small smile twitched at the corners of the shoppekeeper's mouth. "Perhaps not, but the good captain seems to be in too great a hurry for you to put your theory to the test. Best you keep her company. I shall send an accounting to you at your inn. Lissenen ar' maska'lalaith tenna' lye omentuv."

Gyn nodded in agreement. Taking the package, she placed it safely in a pocket within her cloak. "Again, I am in your debt. You have indeed given more than expected." Extending her left hand outward with palm up, she inclined her head deeply.

Anxious to join her friend, she slipped through the door, but stopped short. Turning her head, she smiled at the large black bird who had once again found a perch on Eowyn's shoulder. Gazing into his golden eyes, she smiled and giving him a broad wink, said, "Sayonara, my friend. Be well until we meet again."

The sun felt warm on her face as she slipped her arm through Silver's. "Well, my friend, let's see if we can find this Gaboren Toth. Also, I just happened to see your eyebrows raise a bit when Eowyn talked about Kiltanor and the fact that he seemed well armed." Tilting her head to one side, Gyn gave her friend a shrewd look. "You wouldn't happen to have any ideas about that would you?" Also, it would appear that you know a bit about this land called Ogrekvania, which is good, no?" Laughing as they moved down the street, Gyn shook her head. "If I did not know better, I would tend to think that you're as anxious for this adventure to begin as I am, and, by the way, when are you going to open that box Eowyn gave you?"



Continue to Part Two . . . .

© 2004 Stormpoint Writers Guild
All rights reserved

Graphics on this page provided by: