Travelling from Triboar to Longsaddle proved harder than it should have been. The Elves kept running into groups of humans encamped on the road. Most were like them: fleeing the wrath of the storm. They had not found a healer yet as most of the townsfolk were already near or in Longsaddle.
"Either that storm is really slow, or it is really huge." Camris said. "I do hope it's slow. If it's huge, then who knows what to expect."
Randow looked at Dina. She was not too good. Her condition had worsened since the escape from Triboar. The had to get her to the healer in Longsaddle soon; she would not survive another day.
"Mela, how do you feel?" Randow asked of Dina.
"I am okay, Randow. " Dina said. "Fret no more. I will make it." Betraying her condition, she started to slide from the saddle but caught herself. She looked at Randow and smiled weakly.
Laedrynn came down the road towards the three Elves. "Mellonea, amin has found a healer," he said. The Elves prodded their horses to move faster and followed Laedrynn. They passed a broken carriage, and Laedrynn moved off the road. Several steps away he stopped at a group of people.
"Moebius, I have brought mellonamin." Laedrynn said as he dismounted.
A particularly non-descript man apparently in his early twenties turned from the group and faced Laedrynn. He wore simple clothes or blues and grays. An orange and yellow mantle draped around his neck. "Good! Come, bring her over here."
Randow helped Dina off her horse and she nearly collapsed into his arms. He half-carried her to where Moebius was standing. "This young human is going to cure Dina?" he said.
"I may look young my dear friend Elf, but I am actually well into my fifties, a grand age for a human. Magic has maintained my young appearance." Moebius said. "Now let us see what has happened." Moebius examined Dina closely. He chanted some words of magic and frowned.
"Your friend is possessed by a shadow. There is only one cure." Moebius said as he pulled out his mace. He lifted it up to strike. Moebius said a few thankful words as he brought the mace down on Dinalqua's right arm, smashing it. Dina howled in pain.
"No!" Randow yelled. He charged Moebius, but Laedrynn held him back. "It's the only way, mellon."
Moebius put away his mace, satisfied that his work was done. He knelt down and examined the damage he had caused. Grasping the broken arm in both hands he began a chant. Randow looked on, still struggling in Laedrynn's grip.
"Stop him!" Randow said. A bluish glow emanated from Moebius's hands and encompassed the fractured arm. The bone fragments mended together and the skin healed. Dinalqua lay on the ground unconscious, but alive.
Moebius walked to Randow. "Your friend was surrounded by a shadow. The shadow is almost undetectable, except in the brightest of light. Since the sun is under the cloud cover of the approaching storm, you could not see it. He was hiding in the folds of her clothing, draining her strength. She would have died within five hours, had you not the fortune to find me."
Calmed a little, Randow asked, "But why did you hit her and then mend the damage?"
"I hit the shadow that was on her arm. I used my Mace of Disruption to destroy it." Moebius said. "It was the only way. I knew she could withstand the injury, if it was healed immediately. She will regain her strength in a couple of days."
Not approving of his actions, Randow was angry and yet relieved. His friend and lover was going to live. "What is your fee, Moebius?" he asked.
"Do not worry about it. My services are free to the Elves of Neverwinter. I do not believe the rumors I've heard about The Grey Company." Moebius said, "Please stay awhile to refresh your mounts and eat. Longsaddle is still far, and I've heard that it is packed with refugees. Provisions and accomodations will be hard if not impossible to find."
The Elves accepted Moebius's invitation and stayed a few hours until Dina was conscious ready to move.
"What do you know of this storm, Moebius?" asked Camris as the Elves were preparing to leave.
"Little, but I do know that this is an unnatural storm, born of high magic. I can sense the fear in the very trees and ground. Something large is about to happen and even I cannot say what it is. I just know that we cannot outrun this storm." Moebius said.
"Riklaun." Voices called out. "Riklaun."
A figure lay on the floor, a light shone directly on him. "Riklaun." The voices stirred him from within. He slowly rose. The entire area was dark, save for that light. He put up a hand to shield his eyes from it. "Who is there?" he asked. The voices began to mutter incoherently.
"It is I, your father." A single voice said; the jumble of voices faded away.
"Father?" the albino Drow asked.
"Why Father? Why must I endure?"
"It is your destiny, Son."
"Why do the humans always attack me?"
"They are afraid of what they do not know."
"And my brethren, the Mori'Quessir?"
"They are afraid of Lloth's punishment."
"What of Ebonstarr? Why does she attack my friends and not me directly?"
"She is also afraid. Afraid of you."
"Of what you represent."
Pain. Severe pain. The right side of his face throbbed in pain. Slowly he opened his eyes. One did not open as it was swollen shut. He noticed he was lying on a cold brick floor. Dried blood--his blood--stained the ground around him. He tried to bring himself up to a sitting position but could not move his right arm. Pushing up with his left, he slowly sat up, leaning against the wall. The view was blurry. Slowly the world became clearer and in focus. He made out a figure standing a few feet away, behind some bars. His sight regained, he noticed it was a small boy watching him.
Riklaun tried to speak, but his mouth was dry. "Uumna gorga...," he said--"Don't be afraid." The boys eyes widened. He screamed "Daddy!" and ran off. Riklaun looked down to the ground in dispair.
The return to the guild hall was uneventful, except that both Elven minds were preoccupied with the information Geenah had provided. Some group with a drider was planning to destroy Neverwinter, and an immortal being was massacring Elves. On top of that, a bomb-wielding "foreign drow" had taken an interest in the Grey Company. The previous night when the two Elves had stayed at Daglow's Inn, Brisid had hoped Taelsin would be quiet during the return trip. He decided to be more specific with his wishes.
Passing under the familiar boughs surrounding the guild hall, Brisid and Taelsin led their horses into the late afternoon Elven crowds--and were quite surprised when the crowd was only one Elf.
"Brisid, Taelsin, sut nae lemallie?" boomed Starrbolt.
"Quel, but we need to speak with Tizer," responded Brisid.
"He's visiting Lywnis."
"Then we shall speak to Riklaun."
"He's not here either." At the arch of Brisid's eyebrow, Starrbolt explained where all the Elves had gone.
"So where do we go?" wondered Taelsin.
"We need to speak with Riklaun," decided Brisid. "Hopefully the trail hasn't deteriorated too much. Pack enough supplies for a few days, Taelsin. We'll leave in an hour."
One hour later, the two Elves were riding down a dark path through the woods.
"So what do you think will happen after Neverwinter is destroyed?" piped Taelsin. Brisid sighed--the shock of Geenah's news had obviously faded from the young Elf's mind. "I mean," Taelsin eagerly continued, "do you think it'll catch on fire, or maybe sink into the Sword Sea, or maybe even float into the sky! Oh, it might even just, poof." The animated Elf snapped his fingers. "Disappear. Well, what do you think?" Taelsin leaned forward in his saddle, waiting for an answer.
"Neverwinter will...," Brisid began, but Taelsin's imagination had already invented a dozen other possibilities.
"Or maybe Neverwinter will even..." Brisid tuned the noisy Elf out and whispered to the slight wind.
"Kids these days..."
On the three companions trudged, the late afternoon sun beating down on them even through the thick canopy of the forest. Rayella sat astride Roland, her high spirited, snow white horse, while Lightning, the change-wolf, trotted beside them. Their progress was minimal, the wet heat making every second slow and tiring. They had not broken a slow trot the whole trip, and had been traveling for half a day.
"Gods, I cannot wait for a real bed," Rayella complained to Lightning and Roland. "'It's not that far,' Von says. Yeah, and I'm a dwarf. Gods, this traveling is awful!"
"I agree with you there Ray." Lightning's mindspeech sounded as tired as she felt. "Next time Von tells you it isn'tthat far... fly! Don't ride!"
At that exact moment,Roland whickered softly and pawed the ground, expressing his own displeasure. Ray laughed, and patted his sweat drenched,white neck.
"I think he agrees with us Lightning. Not that I blame him any. After all, he has been carrying me the whole way--not a job I would envy. But you've done it well and haven't complained, haven't you Roland? You are a good boy and shall get extra-special treatment when we get home." As if in answer to this Roland whickered again and slightly picked up his pace. Ray and Light both chuckled.
"You know, I think he really does understand us sometimes. Smart, for a horse."
"Don't get cocky now, Lightning. Remember, you weren't always as smart as you are now!" Ray answered, laughing.
"Yeah, yeah...," the wolf mumbled. They continued to trot along, until finally they came to a small brook in a meadow. The water was clear, and the grasses tall.
"What do you say we rest here for a little bit, Ray? I'm exhausted, and I'm sure Roland is feeling the same."
"Of course, Lightning. I was thinking the exact same thing."
She dismounted, and removed Roland's tack, giving him a free rein of the meadow, knowing he would return when she needed him. It was late afternoon, and they decided that instead of moving on and perhaps not finding a great place to make camp,they would stay here in the meadow. Night fell, and as the three of them were just about to drift off to sleep, they heard odd noises coming from the forest to the south of them.
"Ray, do you hear that?" Lightning queried, his mind-voice a tad shaken.
"Yes, I do. And whatever it is, it doesn't sound like an animal." Rayella answered, her voice tinged with fear.
"Nor does it smell like an animal." Lightning lifted his head and sniffed. "In fact, it smells like an Elf. But like no Elf I've ever smelled: warped, dank, dark."
Rayella looked up sharply, her mind-voice a whisper, "Drow..." She extended her mage-sight and felt for the Dark Elf's magical aura. "Quite the Mage as well if my reading is correct. Light, what should we do?"
"You should run little Elf." A deep evil voice filled their heads, and
they turned to see an exquisitely handsome--and powerful from the looks of it--Drow mage. "But
it looks to be a tad bit too late for that. Oh, too bad. You lose." The mage smirked
evilly. "I'd suggest you just surrendering. It would be easier for you and for me."
When the darkness of night had spread through the trees, Brisid and Taelsin made camp. The latter set to the task of lighting a fire, while the former cast wards around the small site. They had a silent meal--silent only because Taelsin was too hungry to voice his ideas about the destruction of Neverwinter. No doubt Taelsin's appetite was so large, Brisid thought, because he had been prattling ever since they had left the guild hall.
After they had finished their meal, and the moon had risen, they lay down to rest.
"What do you think of the drider Geenah mentioned?" Taelsin's shrill voice broke the silence. Brisid almost groaned a response. "I wonder what the drow did to deserve that mutation, Brisid. Brisid?" Only soft snores replied.
By late morning, Taelsin had run out of questions and had once again fallen into thoughtful silence. A good thing, Brisid thought, since the younger Elf's clamor would probably have attracted unwelcome attention. For hours they rode through the woods, pushing their steeds at a moderate canter. Brisid's mind too was preoccupied; he was worried about all the terrible things that had happened. There were too many enemies about. Never before had the Grey Company faced so many dangers--so many unknown dangers.
Brisid looked up to the sky. What in Corellon's name were they going to do? And Brisid stopped and stared into the sky.
"What's wrong?" came Taelsin's all-too-familiar voice. When no response came, he followed Brisid's gaze and froze in awe and horror.
"That's a damn big storm..."
The Shadow stretched in the gloom, savoring his freedom after ages of entrapment. He no longer remembered what crime he'd committed--and did not care. Foolish, perhaps, because to forget meant risking Lloth's wrath and incurring further punishment. He smiled bitterly as he recalled his confinement in the Dagger of Infinite Slaying. Oh, the havoc and death he had caused! He unconsciously licked his lips as if to taste, once again, the blood of all his victims: Elves, dwarves, humans, wyverns, Dracoliches.
The dagger's destruction had released him from his prison. But it had left him in a strange and foreign land. And even though he'd come to know the land well, traveling with the witch, Ebonstarr, the arcanaloth found his surroundings alien and uncomfortable.
Ebonstarr! How he longed for the caresses of those delicate yet cruel hands! He'd been her companion for so long. Theirs had been a partnership of unparalleled strength and horror, destroyed when she'd lost favor with Lloth and had been reduced to the drider form she now sported. "Perhaps a union can win back Lloth's favor and restore your form," he mused.
Pushing that thought away, he turned to his more immediate problem. He needed to find his way home, though he was uncertain exactly how to accomplish this. One thing was certain: it would take a combined effort. His powers were great, but he must find those careless enough to aid him in opening the door through which he could return to his world and throne.
His mind searched the realms--they must be of the right sort, else his plan would fail. He touched many minds as he stretched himself further, making a list of sorts in the process: Ebonstarr, Dralennal, K'ellz, Rimellyn, Aerrellun. He paused as he scanned the latter's mind more deeply, detecting a mission which might distract this one from the matter at hand, making his loyalty and commitment questionable.
Ebonstarr's commitment would be easy. Promise her the Elf, Riklaun's, soul in exchange for the lady Nalynn's death. He smiled lewdly as he considered that thought. "Ah, Nalynn. The things I could do to you. Such a pity you must be sacrificed. Still, there could be much pleasure before your life is ended."
Of the others, he was less certain. Still, he noted the mischief they were creating by impersonating those of the Grey Company. That might be useful--drive the meddlesome Elves from Faerun . Yes, that might just work...
Continue to Chapter 9