Prologue

The merriment in Torm and Nalynn's apartment went on well into the early morning. Water splashed everywhere, dripping through the floorboards. A discarded, empty ale bottle rolled across the floor. Then came the annoyed thumping of a broom handle from the floor below and the sound of buckets being dragged and loudly slammed down. Giggling and drunk, they drained the tub and retired for some much needed rest.

Nalynn's dreams were anything but pleasant. She dreamt of witches and unspeakable horrors--boulders being cast down upon her, chased by an unseen and menacing creature. As she ran wildly through a strange wooded area, she began to hear pounding. The farther she ran, the louder it became, until she reached a precipice. She was trapped! There was no way out. As the pounding came nearer, she took a deep breath and leaped from the precipice ....

Nalynn awakened with a start--heart pounding, drenched in sweat. The Falcon gazed from his perch, alarmed, wings flapping. She saw Torm lying beside her -- oblivious to her distress. Only then did she realize that someone was knocking at the door. She arose, taking care not to disturb her husband and donned her satin robe and slippers. Quietly, she headed towards the door.

As she opened the door, she looked down to see a queer little creature, reeking of malevolence, standing before her -- it was a young Green Haglet and it carried a black scroll. The Haglet handed it to her and hissed, emitting a stench which caused Nalynn's stomach to churn. It vanished in a cloud of putrid smoke. Nalynn shivered as she closed the door.

She inspected the scroll carefully; it was decorated with strange markings and secured with a sticky black string -- as dead and diseased as the sickening creature which delivered it. She reached for the ale bottle, but it was empty. Hands shaking, heart pounding, she released the string and the scroll opened to reveal a message:

Vedui', Nalynn,

I was easy on you because you were in an area patrolled by Nasher's guards. Next time you will not be so lucky. My slave Gaden Zra has been very helpful in finding you. Braldt is still alive; he is my personal slave and does everything I ask of him. Soon you will join him and then we can give the perfect sacrifice to Lloth. I have kept him hidden away so you cannot find him. Do not attempt to locate him or else I shall do the unthinkable. Your friend Riklaun was bested in combat from me until a friend came in to rescue him. A pity. I will sacrifice him to Lloth to regain my status as Yathrin.

Ebonstarr

Nalynn remembered this witch--she had met her in Crossergate as she was returning from battle with the Dracs. She wore long purple robes and had white hair--a woman of cold and cruel beauty... and hurled threats, the likes of which Nalynn had not heard since the days when Riklaun was possessed by the evil forces of Neverwinter. Nalynn paled and trembled, remembering the encounter. She uttered a strangled scream which aroused Torm from his slumber and fainted. Running from the bedroom he arrived just in time to see the scroll disintegrate, leaving nothing behind but the sticky string which had surrounded it. He kneeled beside his wife and picked her up tenderly, carrying her back to the bedroom.


*****

When she awakened, she told Torm what the scroll had said. "My love, I thought this was all behind me now! Who is this witch and why does she torment me? And this business about Braldt... Why is he being brought back into our lives? I still have no memory of this man, though I believe to be true the stories I have been told. But that was another life and another person altogether."

She buried her face in Torm's arms and sobbed uncontrollably as he comforted her. If she had seen his face, she would have noted the deepening furrows in his forehead and the look of worry.

"No," he whispered to himself. "I will not let her see that this distresses me. I must be strong for both of us. And Ebonstarr must be found... and stopped. As for Braldt, well, that marriage was to another creature, not my beloved wife... and she had the marriage annulled. Nay, I shall not worry about him, at least, not now."