Chapter 1

The house was dark as people walked by. The home of Braldt2 and Nalynn was locked up tight, yellow ribbons gracing the trees in the front yard. A messenger approached the front door and saw a note tacked to the door. He read:

To whom it may concern, I have received word that my beloved husband of only a month is no longer among the living. It's a rumor actually, but all efforts to find or reach him have failed. There is no clue to his whereabouts and my heart aches over his absence. I have gone off in search of him with Riklaun but am not hopeful of finding any trace of him. I am terribly sad and am beginning to feel life is no longer worth living...

The rest of the paper was soaked with tears which had caused the ink to run, making the rest of the message unreadable. A look of concern crossed the messenger's face as he hurried off to inquire of anyone whether they might know where Nalynn had headed.

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A long, mournful wail pierced the cold night air in the realm of the Grey Company. Several elves, disturbed from their slumber by the terrible sound, opened their doors, walking into the moonlight. Who was making this agonizing cry and what could have happened to cause such misery? A shadowy figure made its way into the village. The elves watched warily, wondering if evil was about to descend upon their community.

As the figure approached the square, its features became more identifiable -- it was Nalynn, wife of Braldt2. She collapsed into a heap by the fountain, sobbing uncontrollably.

"Alas, what am I to do? My beloved has disappeared without a trace. All of my messengers have returned to advise me they are unable to get word to him. I fear the worst. The citizens of WP have shown neither concern nor sympathy and I am at my wits' end. Prithee, someone find Riklaun. Tell him I am here and I think I shall die for the terrible emptiness which has taken hold of my heart. If the minions of evil have seized him, I no longer want to live. I cannot imagine life without my beloved beside me." She contemplated the magical dagger in its sheath and the mysterious potion she had found in some god forsaken place while on her way to Grey Company.

She began to sob again; the elves' hearts ached over her pain and deep sorrow, but they seemed at a loss as to what to do. Meanwhile a youngster, filled with a sense of intense purpose, donned his cloak and headed off into the night, to Riklaun's home. He must be found and told of this poor lady's plight. Perhaps he would know what to do.

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In the failing light of a late autumn afternoon a solitary figure stood transfixed upon the Triboar-Westbridge trail. Above, torn tatters of white clouds flew past under a steel gray sky. For a moment the elf listened and then, after murmuring a short sentence of harsh syllables, faded from view. No sooner had he disappeared than another smaller running figure lurched unsteadily around a bend in the trail and made for the very spot that the first had stood.

Chest heaving, the young boy yearned to throw himself to the ground and end the torture of the long run. Never would he, however, for his heart was pierced with sadness for the grief of Lady Nalynn. Not until he reached the home of Riklaun would he rest. Bending his will back to the task of his journey, he stubbornly willed his pleading legs to bear him onward. Rewarding him with a fresh burst of speed he rounded a bend in the trail that he knew marked the last leg of the journey. A grim smile flashed upon his face; he hoped Riklaun was home.

As the small figure approached, the elf realized that he had been mistaken. What he had first mistaken for a dwarf or halfling was actually a small boy, running as if pursued by the demons that haunted his darkest dreams. "What could it be that drives one so young with such urgency?" thought the elf. Closer now he could see the tortured expression on the boys face as he strove to master his faltering body. His breath, ragged and broken, plumed about him in the chill air. "Whatever it is, I shall not sleep lest I aid him," thought the elf. Thus resolved he watched as the boy drew nigh. As he passed the elf stepped behind him and caught him by the cloak. "Hold, young one, I am a friend," he cried.

From nowhere the boy felt is cloak caught up for behind and heard the call of an elven voice. Startled, he stumbled to the ground. So intent was he upon the mastery of his rebellious legs that he failed to understand the words that had been spoken to him. Thinking himself assailed, he groped for his dagger and made to defend himself. Rolling onto his back, he beheld his assailant. Several feet away stood an elf. Though clad in worn and travel stained clothing, the boy could see the glimmer of a mithril coat of rings beneath. Suddenly the boy realized that the elf was smiling. Reaching into a fold in his cloak, the elf drew out a small flask. "Drink lad," he commanded. "Then thee shall tell me what brings thee to the lonely place with such urgency."

Lwynis watched as the lad downed the last of his cordial. Instantly his breathing slowed and the color in his face dimmed to normal. In a moment the boy spoke. As he listened to the tale of Nalynn and her missing husband, his face grew grim. Sorrow did he feel for her, yet there was more. Lwynis, himself, had cast himself into the fire of love and now reveled in its sweet burning. Yet one could not be consumed by this flame and not fear the day that it was doused. For a second his heart grew cold at the thought, but then he pushed it aside, deep into that place where darkness and unbidden fears dwell within all beings. Turning his mind back to the moment, he thought ruefully of his failure in this matter. Several times had he attempted to contact Braldt himself only to have his messenger return unsuccessful. "Alas I am a fool," he thought, "had I but acted promptly the trail might still be found. Now it is cold and shall require skill beyond what I posses to find it."

Bidding the boy to rise, he cast about him wards of protection so that he might complete his journey to Riklaun. After watching the young boy depart Lwynis whistled into the night a long series of shrill notes. Wrapping himself his cloak Lwynis sat back against bole of a large tree and watched as darkness shrouded the land. Deep into the night did he wait. Almost had the given up hope that his call had been heard, when a shrill cry cut through the night sky above him. Unto him had come his friend the Falcon and with him four of his sons and daughters. Circling upon the night sky they cried their greetings to him.

"Noble birds of the hunt," he in turn cried unto them, "I have grave need for thy swift wings and keen eye. My cousin, Braldt is missing, and his wife Nalynn is distraught unto contemplation of taking her life. I beg for you search where I cannot and to carry word to her not to loose her faith in this world."

"Upon the ground did'st thee find me, Lwynis," shrilled the Falcon, "broken and dying, thee nursed me back to health. Thee has known my children from the shell and thy wards have guarded my nest better than my wife and I ever could. Nay, thee need not beg anything from me for you are first among my friends upon this earth. Command us as you would."

Then did Lwynis call down to him each son and daughter in turn. Instructed as to his will, one flew north, south, east, and the last west. Below them they scoured the land as only they could. Upon the wind, to all who could hear and understand, came their mournful call, "Where art thou Braldt?"

At the last Lwynis called down his friend. "Lord of the Hunt, Friend, Swiftest of the Swift. I send thee unto Nalynn. Tell her that I have done all that I can and that if trace of Braldt be found that she shall hear of it forthwith. Tell her as well that though her pain be great she must not succumb to it. Sore shall it be for her to walk in this Realm without her love, but she must for he may await her yet. Yea though they may not walk together again in this Realm, across the sea lies Evermeet. When the labors of the elves in this Realm are finished, each of us shall receive the call to come at last unto that blessed land. None knows when that call may come, and none may resist it when it does. Mayhap Braldt has heard that call and awaits the day that her labors are completed. Upon the day that she makes that journey, mayhap her heart shall be healed."

With that the Falcon leapt into the sky and wheeled of into the breaking dawn. Quickly had that night passed, and involuntarily Lwynis glanced into the sky. Above him, through a rent in the scuttling clouds gleamed i'silelen en cormamin. Smiling, he wrapped himself in his cloak and lay down for a brief rest.

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Solack had called all of the Seekers for a conference in the new meeting hall. Those that were able to attend came as asked, with those not able were taking part by mass ESP. Solack, as usual, was a bit late, coming in at the last moment.

"Sorry I'm late. I had some pressing business to take care of. Now then, the reason I called you to order: I have sad news. It seems Drago XaR, in his quest to gain the Warriors of Peace's acceptance of the Seekers, has fallen in the field of battle while searching for Braldt2. He died heroically fighting to find the remains of Braldt2 before he fell. There is still hope, though, because if his remains are found he may once again be resurrected. How do I know this, you ask. If you look at his Tapestry, you will find that it has gone blank. This is an indication that the person has been defeated in life and has gone on to death." Everyone was stunned by this news. No one had thought Drago would ever fall.

Solack again spoke, "Nalynn seems to be on a quest with Riklaun to find Braldt2 as well, and I think we should also take up the quest. Perhaps during it we will also be able to find Drago's remains so that he may once again join us in the world of the living. Who will lead us in the quest, and where will we start?" The Seekers murmured amongst themselves as what to do.

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Darkness turned to dawn and faint beams of light pierced the morning clouds in the square in which Nalynn lay. Her dress was rumpled, her face still showing streaks of the tears which stained her face as she had wept herself into the sweet oblivion of sleep. A shrill cry came from high up in the air. Nalynn awakened, shivering in the cold morning air, wondering from whence the sound came.

A Falcon swooped down gracefully, riding the air flows and currents. He circled several times, eyeing the woman all alone on this morning, wondering if he was soon to complete his appointed mission. He noted a sparkle of light emanating from her hand and recognized the engagement ring which bore the unmistakable imprint of Elfin craftsmanship and was confident that he had located his quarry. He plunged to the ground, alighting on the rock against which Nalynn had spent the night.

He began to speak, to pass on the message sent by Lwynis. Nalynn watched him, puzzled. He quickly realized she was unschooled in the language of the Falcon. He walked over to her, and gestured toward the small vial attached to his leg. Nalynn gently removed the vial and opened it. "Ahh what a pleasing aroma -- not unlike the scent of sweet jasmine flowers on a warm summer's eve." She took a small sip of the sweet nectar, wondering if this was to be her last -- could it be that the Falcon had come to help her end her sorrow and suffering? The liquid was sweet and syrupy and tasted ever so good. Emboldened as she noted that it seemed to be having no ill effect, she swallowed the rest of the liquid, then returned the vial to its owner. She listened in amazement as the Falcon began to speak.

"Lady Nalynn, I bring word from my cherished friend, Lwynis. He has heard of your plight and has sent my brothers and sisters off in their quest to find your dear husband, Braldt2. Long and hard have I flown to bring this word to you -- Lwynis begs you to reconsider the actions you contemplate, and urges you to have faith that your beloved will be found."

"Oh, kind and noble Falcon, thank you for your message. But my heart is so heavy, I do not know if I have the strength or will to go on. There is a great emptiness in my soul -- a deep hollow left by the separation from my husband of so few months." Tears began to trickle from her eyes. "Tell, me, dear Falcon, has Riklaun been located yet? I have heard that he intends to lead another search for Braldt2. I must, of course, accompany him on the quest. But I don't know how much longer I can hold on...I am in such great despair."

"Fair lady, I know not if Riklaun has been located. I can only tell you what Lwynis has told me. But I did not see him as I flew to your side. When I have rested, I shall fly aloft and see what news I can gather."

"Well then, stay here with me and rest sweet Falcon. I shall protect you as you regain your energy." She extended her arm and the Falcon hopped onto it, taking care not to pierce her delicate wrist with his talons of steel. "There will be no hood placed upon this Falcon's head," she mused. Together, they headed toward a small cafe which has just opened its doors to greet the morning crowd.

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Above the town, a lone bird circled, searching. He spotted his quarry and flew down toward the ground. He swooped in and grabbed the field mouse quickly in his talons. The Falcon alighted on a rock to eat when he was startled by a rustling in the forest. His senses perked up and he noticed an elf walking down the trail. "My, what an interesting lunch you have there." Riklaun said to the bird, smiling. The Falcon leapt into the air and flew off in the direction of Lwynis.


Continue to Chapter 2