Chapter 14

Ebonstarr gazed at the broken Riklaun laying inside his cell. A wry smile crossed her drow face. She ran her long, delicate fingers over the bars as she walked. She turned to the large creature next to her.

"So you think this will get me to help you in your quest?" She asked.

The Shadow looked at Ebon, watching her every move. "What better way to get back home than through the one who kept me from it?" It looked as if he shifted his weight. "Ebon, I know your ambitions. I know what you want. This is only the beginning."

Ebonstarr's face frowned slightly. "I think we have a deal." Ebonstarr moved off down the corridor as the Shadow watched. After Ebonstarr had gotten out of earshot he walked up to and through the bars of the cell. He looked at Riklaun lying on the ground in a heap.

"You are my ticket home, Elf boy, and I thank you for that." He grabbed Riklaun and lifted him up. Riklaun's breath was shallow and slow; he was near death. "I cannot let you die now, can I? You are much too valuable to me." He raised his arm and ran it across Riklaun's chest. The Elf's breathing became more regular and normal. Riklaun opened his eyes with a start and saw the dark image before him. The Shadow slammed him into the wall, holding him by the neck.

"You live only because I choose it, Elf. Your new mistress wants you alive." The Shadow dropped Riklaun to the floor, and the still-weak Elf landed hard. The Shadow walked out of the cell and into the darkness.

Ebonstarr saw Brendar standing in her makeshift throne room. "It has been done, Brendar." She said as she walked to him.

"Aye, and what will Lloth think of your 'pact with the devil?'" Brendar asked.

"I should think she would be intrigued. But I do not care about Lloth anymore. I have more ambitious goals to attend to. She thought that changing me into a drider would stop me, but she was terribly wrong. If anything it has increased my abilities."

Brendar looked at Ebonstarr and took out a scroll.

"By the way, mistress, This came for you while you were out." Brendar said as he handed the scroll over to her. "The being that brought it would not give it up without a fight. I swept the rubble over into that corner if you care to see him."

Ebonstarr unfurled the scroll and read it. She laughed a heartily evil laugh."This gets better every time."

After Camris had told his tale, the small band of Elves rested. Strongbow spent the next few hours deep in thought, wondering how best to use the time they had left before the storm destroyed Longsaddle and who knows what else. He glanced around at his companions. To be sure, he, Ray and Tael needed at least another day before undertaking anything too strenuous. The others seemed fit enough to leave right away after their short reverie. He had three goals in mind, the first, investigate Tael's story about Brisid and Riklaun. The second, get to Tizer and inform him of the happenings of late. And the third, which directly related to the second, gather all the Elves they could and get them to the guild hall.

His decisions were made. He began rousting everyone out of their dream-states. "Allright everyone, while you've been resting, I've been thinking. This is what I came up with." They all looked to him, his suddenly serious demeanor capturing their attention.

"Camris, mellonamin, you, Lyrianda, Laedrynn, Randow and Dinalqua will ride with all due haste to Lywnis' cabin and get Tizer, gathering all the Elves you find on the way and telling them to go to the guild hall and wait. Once at Lywnis', inform Tizer of all you know, and tell him that we must get plans for evacuation of Toril underway as soon as possible. Then get to the guild hall. He should attempt to locate Laerithil, for I believe this is going to require the high magic he brags about so often, and it seems it's time to put it to the test."

"What about you toror'? Camris replied. "You surely won't be staying here?"

"N'uma mellon. Let the humans rot for all I care. It is our survival I am concerned about. However, Rayella, Taelsin and I need some extra rest, and will require much speedier mounts for what we must do. I have already summoned four of my best gryphon's, and they are on their way as we speak. They should arrive before dawn.. giving them time to rest before we venture forth."

"Then what is it you're going to do?", asked Dina.

He looked around at them all, catching everyones eyes, Rayella's at the last. "Taelsin, Rayella and I, will fly into the storm to investigate his tale about Brisid and Megil'tura Riklaun. Hopefully finding at least one of them or both. If not..." Strongbow sighed heavily, "Then we will proceed straight to the guild hall, letting the gryphon's sharp eyes help locate any stragglers."

"Into the storm?" "That's madness!" "You can't possibly...." Several voices cried out.

"I can, and I will!" Strongbow spoke adamantly, "I ask none of you except those I mentioned to take this risk. And I will do it alone if need be!"

At this, Rayella rose to Von's side, her face set with grim determination, "No Mela. Not alone. I would rather face all of Tahkisis's armies by myself, than let you leave my side again. And this is something we must do."

Lyrianda spoke up suddenly, "Von? Heruamin Strongbow." she looked down as if unsure, then gazed back up, resolute, "I... I started this out with you... and Nalynn. I would finish it the same way. Please, let me go with you into the storm."

Strongbow looked at Lyrianda and spoke seriously, "Lyri, you need not come with us. I need Tael because he knows the location, and Ray and I will not be parted again. You may come, or go with Camris and his party. Journeying through the storm will be dangerous, perhaps even fatal, but the choice is yours."

"I choose the storm," she said firmly and without hesitation.

He grinned at her, "Knowing you, arwenamin, you would follow us anyway, despite my objections to the danger. If you truly wish it, so then shall it be."

He turned to the rest of the Elves there. "Camris, I'd like your party to leave right away toror'amin--within the hour. You can warn the people in Longsaddle if you wish, but reaching Tizer is your main priority. I wish you luck and a good journey melloneamin!" He clasped the arms of all that were leaving and they gathered their belongings. Once ready, they said some more hurried goodbyes, waving farewell as they made their way back through the woods to Longsaddle.

Strongbow watched them leave, praying silently for their success. He let out a soft sigh, then faced the remaining few. "Allright my intrepid compatriots, let us build some strength for the coming foray into darkness. I have a feeling we'll need all we can get."

"What a cute little gift." Ebonstarr said as she peered into the cage. "She watched as Nalynn cowered behind the frightened horse. "Now my task is nearly complete. I have what I wanted." Ebon turned to the three drow before her. "Bring me Riklaun." Brendar nodded and stepped out of the room.

Ebonstarr placed the cage on the table. "This storm has grown in strength. It is time to leave this realm, permanently. Let the foolish Elves of Tel'Mithrim rot in this dying place. I have begun a researching a spell that will take us to a new realm. One where I can properly do the sacrifice, without interruption."

Ebonstarr walked over to the makeshift throne and sat. "You can come out now." She said. The Shadow creature moved out of the dark shadows of the room and stood by Ebon's side. "Soon, this realm will no longer exist and there will only be chaos. Already the storm has passed over us and only wasteland exists above where once stood the human town of Berun. You have gotten your wish Shadow. You will see your homeland once again."

Brendar took no chances. He pulled Riklaun from his cell and shoved him down the corridor. Riklaun could not move very well as his feet and hands were shackled together. "You'll not be a pest this time Elf. My Mistress is most displeased with you. I think you will not see the setting sun of tomorrow." With that, he shoved Riklaun again. Rik stumbled, but kept moving.

Brendar pushed Riklaun into the room. "I have brought him Mistress." Brendar said. Ebonstarr moved over to Riklaun. Riklaun's eyes widened as he saw Ebonstarr. She was not the drow she once was. She had been turned into a Drider.

"Ebonstarr," Riklaun said. "I see Lloth has still favor in you." Ebonstarr reached over and swatted Riklaun to the floor.

"That is for insolence." She said. "And you will get your reward for turning me into this horrid form." Ebonstarr turned away from Riklaun. "Lloth be damned for what she did to me, And I will enjoy watching you suffer as your dear sweet Nalynn dies before your eyes. You will be mine once again Riklaun, you will be mine, as it was written long ago when your homeland still existed."

The wine had been good, very good. The fire had been warm and the bed was soft, this Tizer knew when he opened his eyes. He could ponder little else before the throbbing hit him in the face like an owlbear's paw.

Tizer had been at Lywnis and Ilustriel's cottage for three days. Ilustriel had been very hospitable while they waited for Lywnis' return, but the Elven leader grew restless and knew that he must return back to the guildhall as soon as he could. The previous evening, Ilustriel had assured him that her husband would be home this very morn.

The aged Elf rubbed his temples and rose from the soft bed with a groan. He doused his face with some water from a bowl that Ilustriel had laid on the dresser. He ran his fine bone comb through his blond hair before emerging from the bedroom, eyes half shut. Upon stepping out into the hallway, Tizer realized he was barefoot and reentered the bedroom, shaking his head groggily. He pulled on his thigh boots, donned his dark teal cloak, and stepped back out into the hallway, taking a deep breath, hoping to blow away the pain that was circulating through his skull.

His nose was greeted with the smell of freshly baked bread, and the sweet sound of Ilustriel's singing rang through the cottage. Stretching his arms, he walked down the hall and out into the living room, which was flooded with the light of the morning sun.

"Quel re, Tizer!" called Ilustriel from the kitchen. Her voice like melodic bells was a welcome sound to Tizer's ears.

The female Elf continued, "Lywnis is home, mellonamin! He rests right now but he should awaken soon enough. Come, sit and fill your stomach."

Tizer entered the kitchen with sagging eyelids and greeted Ilustriel with a smile, "Vedui' selar, your wine was a little too delicious for my own good."

Laughing, the fair Elven woman gestured for Tizer to sit and placed a steaming plate of peppered fish filet down before him along with a glass of mead. The aroma was delightful, and Tizer immediately started to devour his breakfast. He had barely stabbed a fourth a piece of fish with his fork before he heard the bellow of a familiar voice. "Tizer! Vedui'! It has been far too long, mellon."

Tizer turned to see Lywnis standing in the threshold. He stood from the table and rushed over to give his old friend a hug. "'Tis good to see you, mellonamin. I only wish I had come under better circumstances. We have much to discuss and...."

"You shan't discuss anything on an empty stomach. Now come, sit down and enjoy your meal." Ilustriel said with a playful frown. She muttered some syllables under her breath and Tizer and Lywnis both found themselves at the kitchen table before they could have a second thought.

Ilustriel winked at Lywnis and left the kitchen through the outside door to tend her herb garden.

The afternoon sun shined down on the backs of the two Elves as they walked back from Lywnis' cottage towards the guildhall in Neverwinter Wood. The chirps of birds were few and far between and the only the wind rustled the leaves in the canopies above.

"And so it was that we felt you should be notified about this situation. I would not have taken you away from Ilustriel and Endril for anything trivial." Tizer explained.

"No, the call for alarm was necessary. I only wish that Ilustriel could join us on the quest, but Endril is but a boy. Even under the protection of such a powerful sorceress as melamin, I fear for him. I could not leave him alone."

The looming form of the guildhall came into view through the dark shadows on the forest floor. Tel'Mithrim Glade was illuminated by the sun and it appeared as a lone patch of brightness in the otherwise dark, foreboding wood.

"Here we are. I only hope Thranduil is here so that we may plan a course of action." Tizer said, quickening his pace.

"There it is, just like always. I have so many fine memories of this place," Lywnis wistfully said.

They approached the door to the guildhall and entered. The two Elves proceeded down a wooden hallway to the end where a tapestry hung from the ceiling. Tizer brushed it aside and felt for the latch of the secret door. Grasping the small knob, he pushed open the portal and led Lywnis to the meeting table. It is a large round oaken piece surrounded by fine chairs of the same wood with leather cushions. The room was illuminated only by torchlight and had the appearance of one table amidst the inky blackness of the Place Between.

The two Elves sat in two of the chairs and Tizer touched a crystal in the center of the table. It sent out a telepathic beacon to all Elves in the guildhall to come immediately to the meeting room. It was time to plan a course of action, and with Lywnis' aid, Tizer was feeling better towards the success of their mission.

Ebonstarr strode to her chambers. She opened up the secret door in the far wall and went through it and soon stood next to the forgotten altar of Lloth. It had not been used in many moons. From a nearby chest she pulled out the items needed to contact the goddess. Laying them out accordingly, she prepared herself for the task at hand.

Ebonstarr started chanting the words required to open the link. She continued for the next few minutes. After she finished with the spell, the drider sat back on her back haunches. She waited. And waited. Nothing happened for what seemed like an eternity. With a disgusted look on her face, she turned from the altar and opened the door to the chamber.

A smoke began to flow out of the brazier. Ebonstarr turned back to the altar and watched. The smoke billowed out and fell to the floor. It increased in intensity until the floor was covered in a foot-thick cloud. A figure formed in the swirling mist. Ebonstarr slowly moved back slightly to give it room to form.

A tall, slender female Drow emerged out of the mist. Intoxicatingly beautiful, yet very deadly. She had a stern look about her face as she cast her eyes in the direction of Ebonstarr.

"Ebonstarr," the avatar said, "I wondered when you would get around to contacting me. I have been watching my mistress of the damned."

"What have you learned, Lloth?" Ebonstarr said with mock anger.

"I shall pretend I did not hear that tone from you. I have noticed that you have aligned yourself with the Arcanaloth, my enemy. I am displeased, to say the least, but it has put you in a position to return him to me."

"I was thinking the same. I could betray him and give him back to you. Would not take much as he has accepted my loyalty. We have scattered the Elves of the surface, and I have Riklaun, my dear albino." Ebonstarr told the avatar.

"Good, very good. I have something special in mind for you Ebonstarr. I will grant you your body back if you do one task for me. The albino has been a thorn in both our sides for a long time. It is now that he should learn his true calling. I want his soul completely and irrevocably. Mate with him Ebon, as was your calling years ago when you were betrothed to him. I want his child."

"Yes, Lloth, I shall. He will be yours, body and soul." Ebon said.

The avatar watched Ebon for a moment. "I have been watching this storm brought about by the Arcanaloth and am pleased at the destruction he causes. I have sent a container for him to you. Make sure that an Elf is sacrificed. I care not who. Perhaps his mrimm d'ssinss, Nalynn will be an excellent choice. Do this for me, and your body will be restored permanently. Just be sure that the arcanaloth is placed in that container. He must go willingly."

Ebonstarr bowed to the avatar. "As you wish, Lloth." Ebonstarr watched as the avatar slowly faded into the mist that covered the floor. She turned and headed out of the chamber. She did not see the mist reform, this time in the shape of the Shadow himself, the arcanaloth. His eyes glowed red and he glared after Ebonstarr. He smiled inward to himself that his ploy worked. Never before had he impersonated a deity.

Continue to Chapter 15