The night was beautiful in its serenity, the full moon
Liabo at its peak in the midnight sky. A wandering cloud occasionally drifted
in front of the moon, casting a soft shadow over the land, but left just
as quickly as it had come. Here, a thin hunting trail wound through the thick
brush, hidden from the moons light by beautiful elms that let their
limbs hang out over the footpath. Although the surroundings were indeed
beautiful, no man dared to travel this path at this time of night, for the
abundance of deep shadows lent concealment to the creatures that roamed the
night. The figure that traveled the path now, however, was grateful for the
shadows, as they would lend him concealment as well. Keeping his black cloak
drawn tightly around him, he crept silently down the forest trail, scanning
the shadows for predators.
The figure stopped, and his sharply pointed ears twitched
slightly under his hood. In a nightmarish black blur, the cloaked figure
spun around to meet whoeveror whateverit was that snapped the
twig. The figure gazed down the path, but nothing stood within his line of
sight, except the fractured twig. No blades of grass were broken or even
slightly bent. There were no disturbances in the dirt along the path to clarify
ones footsteps. The figure pushed back his hood, revealing a dusky
gray face of finely chiseled features, piercing violet eyes, and a dangerously
long mane of silver hair which was loosely tied back. The elf felt a presence,
and knew that he wasnt merely hearing things. Whoever snapped that
twig was good. Real good. And they were playing with him.
The elf backed up against a nearby tree, taking a
defensive position. His right arm slowly wandered up behind his shoulder
and took hold of his longswords grip, but the sword stayed sheathed.
His left hand strayed to his belt, and he took from a cleverly concealed
pouch three throwing knives. His eyes nervously darted back and forth, scanning
the tree line for whatever it was that was following him. He dropped his
right hand to his side, choosing to wait a few moments before resorting to
his longsword. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and held it, reflecting
on an old lesson.
"Thoryn," said a tall, black skinned elf. "More often
than not, your eyes will aid your enemy, rather than yourself, until you
learn to master them
. Till then, dont trust them."
The young elf nodded, and his violet eyes flickered
in the torch light. He brought a blindfold up to his face and tied it securely
around his head so that he could not see. His mentor flashed a few kicks
at him, following up with three consecutive strikes to Thoryns jaw
with his palms. The blows sent the young trainee flying into a nearby cavern
wall. Thoryn landed on the stone floor with a thud, and let out a soft moan.
His teacher chuckled, genuinely amused.
you didnt even try. You attempted
to block not one of my strikes! Fight like that, and you will surely not
live another winter."
"I didnt even know that you had flung your first
kick until I was already on the floor, Shard
how am I" Thoryn
began to take off the blindfold, but his instructor quickly pulled it back
down over his eyes. He grabbed the collar of his students shirt and
pulled him to his feet.
"Try again!" The instructor urged, in a command-like
tone. "This time, open up the rest of your senses. Find the sixth
once you do, do not let it go. Your sixth sense will prove to be a valuable
ally indeed, in many situations
including battle. When you have mastered
this sense, you will even be able to fire bows and throw knives with better
accuracy while blind-fighting than when your eyes are open and youre
able to aim..."
His mind fading back to the current situation and his
eyes never opening, Thoryn flung all three knives into a nearby tree. His
incredible hearing picked up the sound of one of the knives penetrating cloth,
but then hitting the trunk of the tree, joining the other two.
"Nearly got tagged by that one, eh stranger?" Thoryn
asked, a wry grin forming on his face, his eyes still closed.
No answer came, and Thoryn let fly another trio of
blades. This time, they all connected with the trunk. Nothing more. Thoryn
opened his eyes, and his grin turned into a broad smile. "Getting better,"
he commented to his unseen opponent.
"Naive," sounded a hoarse voice from the trees. A
flash rapidly sped towards Thoryn, and he was barely able to leap out of
the path of his own throwing knives
all six. Thoryn landed with his
hands, leaning forward into a somersault that brought him back to his
"Nearly got tagged by those six, eh
stranger?" echoed the raspy voice in a mocking tone, a slight
snicker behind the words.
"Alright, shadow, who are you?" Thoryn stared into
the black foliage above.
. I like that," the voice mused. "That
is, then, who I am. Call me Shadow."
"I grow tired of your games. Reveal yourself and allow
us to settle this," Thoryn growled, as his longsword was torn from its scabbard.
He lowered it to his side, taking a neutral stance.
"Ahh, but that would spoil all the fun, now, would
Thoryn narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth, but
wouldnt it, half-breed?" the voice
This remark enraged Thoryn, and he dashed toward the
tree. Leaping straight up, higher than any normal person could jump, Thoryn
landed on a limb just below the one his Shadow had seemingly been standing
upon. Thoryn sliced at the thick branch, his longsword easily sliding through
the eight inch thick wood. Backing close against the trunk, the above branch
fell down past him, until it hit the ground some twenty feet below. Noticing
a dark outline a couple of limbs up, Thoryn came to the conclusion that his
Shadow must have leaped at the last moment.
"Impressive," came the hissing voice again. "Even
more so, considering youre a filthy human."
The words sent Thoryn into another fury. This time,
though, the Shadow wasnt fast enough to evade the rogue. He realized
he had no way of escape this time; his back was against the trunk, and Thoryn
stood before him on the limb, keeping close guard.
From under the black hood, Thoryn made out a smile.
"Impressive indeed," it rasped.
"Now, I ask you again
who are you?" Thoryn snarled
as his bladepoint crept closer to the Shadows throat.
"Oh, nobody really
" hissed the Shadow
"Answer me, and answer now. One second more, and your
previous answer will easily become reality," Thoryn threatened, and he applied
more force with his sword. A small bead of blood trickled down the hooded
Realizing he had no chance of winning here, the Shadow
gave his last answer. "The Faendryl wish a previous mistake corrected, half-elf.
I came to do exactly that, but it seems that I have failed
"Youre mistaken. This time was your last." Thoryn
thrust his blade forward, but only accomplished pinning a shadowy black cloak
to the trunk with his sword. He looked around, but saw nothing. Heard nothing.
Whoever the Shadow was, he was able to leave by magical means, although it
was probably outside help. Nonetheless, this incident was not something to
be disregarded as some midnight encounter. Thoryn knew his Shadow would return
in the near future, and until then he needed to look into this as much as
possible. He already had a good bit of information: the assassin claimed
he was under the employment of the Faendryl, or Dark Elves, which meant that
the assassin was also a Dark Elf; the Faendryl rarely cooperated with anyone
outside their own race. This was enough information to give him a great start,
He sheathed his longsword, picked up the cloak left
behind by the assassin, and stuffed it in his pack. He then dropped down
from the tree and started back down the trail, in the opposite direction
he had been heading before. He began to journey back toward the coast. Toward
Toward Wehnimers Landing.
The lithe dark elf sped down one street, then another,
crossing through alleys and hurdling over trashcans, crates, and other obstacles.
His pursuers , however, were not quite so agile. One by one theyd fall,
until finally the dark elf could slow his pace to a brisk walk and managed
to lose them. His left arm, wrapped loosely in bandages despite the fact
that it wasnt injured, reached down to draw a crude dagger from his
boot. He slid the dagger under his belt, so that he could access it much
quicker should the need arise. He turned out of the alley and passed many
warehouses until at last he saw the friendly sign of Helgas Tavern
peek around the corner. Taking the outdoor flight of stairs three at a time,
the dark elf shoved his way through a set of swinging doors, under a thick
brocade curtain, and into the smoke-filled bar.
To his right sat a number of small round tables, at
which patrons sat, enjoying their conversations and alcoholic beverages.
Straight ahead, there was a steep stairway that led to a short hallway consisting
of three doors, all which had "Vacant" signs hanging on the knobs. It was
nearly impossible to make out these signs, since the whole upper half of
the building was cloaked in a thick blanket of cigar smoke, but the elf knew
they were there
Helgas infamous rooms had a reputation for being
downright disgusting, and sharing ones bed with a family of roaches
or worse was standard practice here. Thus, these vacancy signs had hung there,
unchanged, for quite some time, and would continue to hang there, unchanged,
for quite some time. To the left of the staircase was a half-closed doorway,
and dim light could be seen through the small gap between the door and the
wall. This was the taverns gambling room, where people of all races
and professions would gamble away their silver, jewelry, or sometimes their
lives, over a quick game of craps. To the dark elfs immediate left
was a dark passage that led to a room full of nice, reserved tables. Along
the same wall as the passage was a long fel bar and behind it stood a very
round, voluptuous human woman, caked in dirt, sweat, and grime. Noticing
the dark elf, she smiled broadly, showing off her numerous missing teeth
and waved at him to come to the bar.
"Hey, Lafarlinn! Whatll it be tday, kid?"
she asked loudly, flecks of saliva shooting forth from her lips as she
The dark elf turned his head away slightly, a look
of disgust forming on his face. He wiped the spit from his face with his
cloak and answered, "My usual, Helga
If you would."
"OCourse I would, kid, just as long as ya kin
dish out the dough, ifn ya knows what I mean," she slobbered.
Lafarlinn nodded and set a small pouch down on the
bartop. Helga swiped it up, dumping its silver contents into a coin box under
the counter. She tossed the pouch back onto the bartop in front of the dark
elf, and it unfolded to reveal a widely-recognized symbol.
"Still choosin the tax-collectors as yer prey,
eh Lafarlinn?" Helga chuckled. "Well, I dont think the townsfolk would
approve oyer usin their tax money tbuy yerself a flagon
oDragondraught Ale, now would they? But as long as the coins are
endin up in my tin, Im happy as kin be."
"Im sure." Lafarlinn took his flagon from off
the bartop and started towards the reservations room, just checking to see
what Lords and Ladies sat at the large tables, discussing "important matters."
Upon spotting the human called Din, Lafarlinn scoffed. Din, noticing the
dark elf whom hed had much trouble with in the past, stopped his
conversation and rose from his chair.
we are all honored by your presence,"
Din declared, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he bowed low. The other
lords and ladies in the room burst into laughter, sneering and making fun
at the homeless thief.
Still in a bow, Din received a sharp blow to the head,
and he fell back onto the table top. The metal flagon, which had flown from
Lafarlinns fingertips, dropped to the floor with a loud "clank", and
the room suddenly grew deathly silent. All eyes shifted from the dark elf
to the ale-soaked lord, who was half-lying on his table. Rubbing his forehead
and grimacing, Din staggered to his feet.
"That," he screamed, "was your last mistake, elf!"
Din slid an elaborate rapier from his scabbard, and its vultite blade gleamed
in the soft candle light.
"Perhaps." Lafarlinn grinned as he said this. In one
flashing movement, he grabbed the dagger from his belt and flung it at Din,
who tried as best he could to parry it with his rapier. The result was a
deep gash cut into his cheek. Howling in pain with blood flowing from the
cut, Din slashed at Lafarlinn with great speed, opening a few wounds in various
spots on his torso. Red stained through Lafarlinns dirty white tunic,
growing larger and darker, until his head was spinning from blood loss.
The commotion lured a couple of off-duty town guards
into the reservations room. Both Lafarlinn and Din were immediately beat
down with cruel amounts of unnecessary force. But while Lafarlinn was being
hauled off to the healers tent
Din was being hauled off to
Thoryn passed a huge boulder, and continued to walk
quickly through the grass. This was bad territory to travel through, he knew,
but it was an easy shortcut that would cut the time it took to get back to
the town considerably. Hobgoblins roamed this part of the Lower Dragonsclaw
in large bands, attacking and robbing anyone foolish enough to wander through
their grasslands or up their steep mountain slopes. Luck was with Thoryn
today, however, and he managed to make it through the hobgoblin territory
without even spotting one of the foul creatures.
Thoryn stepped out of the thick grass and onto a
well-traveled road, which led up through the forest towards the North Gate
of Wehnimers Landing. Thoryn passed many familiar sights: the huge
briar patch which separated the forest from the tiny kobold village, the
shadowy path that led to the wedding glade, and the beginnings of the Merchant
Road. Wehnimers Landing was plainly visible now, and he rapidly approached
its North Gate, a smile painted across his face.
The North Gate was busy, as it usually was, with merchants
and gypsies going in and out, farmers heading into the town to sell their
crops, sailors and captains of ships hanging around the outside of the famed
Wayside Inn. Mules pulled carts through the mud, leaving deep tracks, and
horses planted their hooves into the watery ground, leaving holes in the
mud the size of a giantmans fist. Many lords and ladies came and went
down a northern path toward the massive estate upon which Hearthstone Manor
sat. The smell of pine and oak blended here with the distinct scent of the
sea, resulting in a very strange but pleasant aroma. These were the sights
and sounds of Wehnimers immediate exterior, bustling with
Thoryn broke into a run, sending mud flying up in
his wake, until he reached the beginnings of a cobblestone street just inside
the gates. In a shaded corner of the town wall, many bodies lay strewn about.
Healers and clerics busily tended to each, trying to heal their patients
wounds. Beyond the survival camp was the Gate Tower East, and loud explosions
and other such noises could be heard, all coming from inside the tower as
rogues busily tried to disarm traps and pick the locks on chests that adventurers
had picked up during their travels. Although Thoryn, too, could disarm traps
and pick locks better than most, never did he decide to join his fellow rogues
in the tower to pick for a fee. He was always busying himself with other
Thoryn took a right at the end of the street, passing
Dakris the Furriers shop, until he reached the western wall, which
forced him to turn. To his left stood an impressive fieldstone house, every
inch etched with runes and arcane images. He knocked sharply on the main
door. He knew that it would be quite some time before anyone answered his
knocks, so he turned and took a seat, leaning against one of the houses
walls. He watched people walk by, stared at horses, and played with sticks
to pass the time. After what seemed like an eternity of trying futilely to
entertain himself, the door cracked open and a small voice could be
"What is it?" it asked, seemingly annoyed at the
"I wish to speak with Jypta, a sorceress who resides
here," Thoryn explained as he stood up and stretched his muscles.
"She is not in," the voice said after a long pause.
The door slowly began to close, and Thoryn lunged
forward, stopping it from shutting all the way. He leaned close to the crack
and whispered, "Yes. She is. Let me in and let me in now, or Ill carve
your miserable heart out with a wooden spoon, just before I eat every other
waggler in this place. Now stand aside, fool!"
Thoryns threat brought him a painful reply.
A tiny ball of blue energy slowly floated through the crack, swirling around
Thoryns head until it landed softly on his shoulder. He gazed at it
for a moment, until the soft green pulsing in the center became so intense
he had to turn away. A deafening boom erupted, louder than any explosion
Thoryn had ever heard, and a tremendous amount of force sent Thoryn flying
into the town wall behind him.
"I should think not," the voice snorted just before
it slammed the door shut.
Thoryn lay there, watching the morning sun cross the
sky and finally set hours later, waiting for the constant ringing in his
ear to stop. When finally it did, he again approached Twilight Hall. He brought
his fist up to pound on the door, but stopped short when a sharp cry split
the cool night air. It wailed for several seconds as it gradually decreased
in volume until it could be heard no more. The death blow had been delivered.
The sound was very close to the town wall directly behind him, so Thoryn
decided to investigate. Deaths did not generally concern him, but when a
dying scream lingered for as long as it did, it was obviously not the average
mugging or killing that commonly occured just outside of the Landings
walls at night. Thieves would silently open their victims throats and
then take their coin purse or weapons, or whatever else they felt held some
value. Never would they land a non-lethal strike to a painful spot, let their
victim scream for many seconds, and then finally deliver the killing blow.
It drew too much attention, and attention was something thieves hated.
Thoryn climbed the towns thirty-foot wall
effortlessly and kneeled when he reached the Ledge. The Ledge was a protrusion
from the inside of the towns walls that formed an elevated walkway
all around the town. It was most commonly used by the town guard, since they
could patrol the citys exterior from above without having to leave
the citys walls, as well as monitoring the activity that took place
in the citys immediate interior. It was off limits however, except
during times of war, to anyone that wasnt a member of the city militia.
Knowing this and not caring to be arrested, Thoryn dropped off to the outside
before he could be spotted on the Ledge.
He landed with an economy of silence that only the
most skilled of elven stalkers could achieve. Upon his landing, he immediately
backed against the wall again, becoming one with the shadows that lingered
there. The long mane of fine silver hair that Thoryn possessed sparkled
brilliantly in the moonlight, despite the fact that he was crouching low
and concealed in shadows. Quickly, he jerked the hood of his assassins
cloak over his head. Gripping an intertwined gold and brass ring that sat
on his left hands middle finger with the thumb and forefinger of his
right hand, he slowly turned it all the way around the digit until he felt
a slight pulse emanate from it. He was ready.
Thoryn glided across the path and into some thick
brush with cat-like grace, making not a single sound as he passed. He could
travel relatively noiselessly through the tall grass and bushes at a surprisingly
great speed, and so he did. Soon though, he stopped and parted a veil of
thick grass in front of him. Laying dead and still on the main exterior road
was a black-clad human woman.
Thoryn studied his surroundings closely, and after
seeing no signs of any life but himself, he stepped out onto the trail to
examine the body. Close to six feet tall and thick with muscle, the red-haired
woman was obviously a warrior. A warrior of relative skill, Thoryn thought
as he noted that her shield and broadsword were both forged from vultite,
and expensive metal that only the more skilled of adventurers could handle.
He also noticed that neither were readied
nor taken. In fact, a belt
pouch heavy with coins was still strapped to her belt. None of her belongings
were taken. This would mean that his earlier inference about the attack coming
from a wandering monster was very wrong. Whoever killed this woman did it
for no outwardly obvious reason
and by no outwardly obvious means.
Not a scratch was visible anywhere on her body. So how did she die? Magic?
Very few known spells could cause someone that much pain without leaving
some sort of sign, whether it be a magically torn throat or a near-invisible
blue light in the carcass eyes.
Thoryns thoughts were interrupted by a strong,
sudden gust of wind that pushed him off of his heels and onto his rear. The
gale halted just as quickly as it had begun, and when it did, Thoryn leaped
back up to his feet and pulled his longsword from its scabbard, which rested
comfortably on his back.
"Thats no midnight breeze," he snarled.
A familiar scent struck Thoryns nostrils, and
he held his nose up high in the air, sniffing at the gentle ocean breeze.
The pupils in his eyes abruptly narrowed into slits, and he let out a low,
"Shouldnt hide upwind, stranger
grinned, the moonlight reflecting momentarily off of a set of sharp
"Indeed I shouldnt," came a low voice from some
shadows along the road. "But its been a long time since Ive had
to dance with a priest of Andelas." The voices owner approached Thoryn,
no more than a moving shadow to anyone with vision even slightly less advanced
as Thoryns. "Yes, half-elf
" the voice rasped. "Your Shadow has
"Not if I can help it."
Thoryns longsword ripped through the chill air
in a horrific downward arc, but the Shadow easily parried the imflass blade
with his own weapon, an elegant scimitar etched with intricate dark elven
runes and other magical writings.
"And Im not yet a priest
The longsword flashed through the night again, but
missed its target completely.
"Oh? A thousand pardons then, my dear altar boy,"
responded the Shadow, who returned the strike.
Thoryn fell to his knees, painfully grasping his left
thigh. Although the cut was not even deep enough to scar, the mere touch
of the scimitars keen edge sent a paralyzing jolt through Thoryns
"Shendrilite," Thoryn muttered, recalling the strange
black metal from the many years he spent with the Faendryl elves under the
cursed soil of Rhoska-Tor.
"Very good indeed, Thoryn. Youve won the guessing
game. I, however, have won the game that actually contains an element of
importance; you have lost. It has all really been quite amusing, but I think
I should be on my way. The town guard will be arriving shortly, you
"I thought you were going to kill me," Thoryn
"Oh, dont you worry about that. Ill be
back to take care of you, if the guard doesnt complete the task for
a lot of suffering is what theyll put you through, Im
sure," said the Shadow with a malevolent grin. "I dont think the constable
will grant his daughters murderer a quick death."
The words echoed through Thoryns head, and he
tried desperately to get back on his feet as his longsword faded from his
hand. The magical numb in his leg was too great, though, and he slid back
down into a heap. Turning himself around, he crawled with his hands toward
the lifeless form of the woman ahead of him and watched in horror as his
longsword materialized again; now, however, it was protruding from the
womans back. Blood began to seep from the new wound, and suddenly
Thoryns leg regained feeling. He leaped to his feet and spun around.
His Shadow was gone, or so it seemed. Hesitating for only a moment, Thoryn
began to run. He didnt know where to, just away. The moment he hesitated
for was long enough though, and the town guard brought their cudgels down
onto him, beating his body into severe unconsciousness. Grabbing their prisoner
by his ankles, they dragged him back through the town gates, toward Cheridan
avenue. Toward the town jail.
"Gitcher stanky, rotten, gray arse in there, half-breed!"
shouted a bald and burly member of the Wehnimers Landing town guard.
Kicking Thoryn in the back, he slammed the iron door to the cell shut.
Thoryn, after having his belongings stripped from
his body, lay on the cold, wet, stone floor of the dark cell for some time,
collecting his thoughts and watching rats scurry about. Were it not for his
elven sight, Thoryn would not have been able to see the ratshe
wouldnt have been able to see anything but a giant black nothing, with
a single ray of moonlight shining through a rat hole at the base of one of
the walls. But the dark elven blood that coursed through his veins granted
him the typical heat-based vision that all dark elves possessed, allowing
him to see everything with the clarity and vivid color anyone else could
see, all resulting from the heat-waves of the room. This created some differences
from normal vision that took some getting used to, since the hotter something
was, the brighter it was; the colder, the darker
thus, a white-painted
piece of iron might look shadowy and dull while using heat-vision, but that
same piece of metal would look a bright white in a well-lit room when viewing
it with common light-based vision.
Using this "elvensight," as it was commonly referred
to (all elves possessed it, but dark elves was the most enhanced),
he was able to make out the lithe form of someone, hidden deep among the
cold shadows. A familiar scent hung about in the air, and Thoryn was determined
to figure out where he knew it from
it reminded him of the past. Of
old friends long gone
"Lafarlinn!" screamed the seemingly dark elven youth.
"No! Ycrow biting bastardsleave him alone!" He tried to lunge
forward, but two older dark elves held him back. All he could do was watch
through the strands of silver hair that hung in front of his eyeswatch
as his only real friend had the life fiercely beat out of him. In one final
burst, Thoryn managed to twist free of the two elves grasp and he spun
around, grabbing each by the throat.
The short one was strong, though, and took hold of
Thoryns arm. In a swift flash of gray, Thoryn was lying flat on his
back. The elves feet came down again and again onto his chest and stomach,
and Thoryn could feel his ribs snapping and shattering under the force. Futilely
he tried to stand, to help his friend, but found that he couldnt. The
blows stopped coming, and though his vision had become blurred, Thoryn could
see that the other dark elves were coming in his direction.
"Dont kill him just yet," said the tallest one,
seemingly the leader of the group. "We want him to feel the pain for a long
time before we grant him the privilege of death."
"Dont worry, we didnt kill him," said
one of the dark elves that had been stomping him. He couldnt tell which
one it was, since his vision had become nothing more than a giant, fuzzy
patch of black with a few shapes that he assumed were the dark elves. "We
just made sure that he came close enough to death to realize the ease with
which we could finish him," the elf added.
After several moments of trying, Thoryn managed to
mutter a few words. "When I get up, you had better be goneall of you.
Otherwise, you can plan on saying goodnight to the sandman
This cut into the dark elves debate over which
torturing techniques theyd use on him, and they looked most displeased
with the interruption. After Thoryn had finished, however, it sent them all
into violent spasms of malevolent laughter. Soon it subsided, and the leader
once again spoke.
"Half-breed, thats exactly what you dont
understand. You arent getting up
youre staying down.
just like your little human-loving friend over there," he motioned
towards the unmoving form of Lafarlinn, who lay across the cavern.
"Perhaps not," came a voice from no place in particular.
"It is you who will be doing the staying down."
From the little that Thoryn could see and hear in
his condition, he gathered that the voice belonged to Shard, his and
Lafarlinns instructor. He also decided that eight knives had been thrown,
dropping every dark elf but the leader. Quicker deaths than any of them deserved,
he knew, but he was glad that they were deadand he was not. He also
heard Shard telling the lead dark elf something about a lot of pain, and
then came the sound of chain links clinking together. That was the last thing
he heard, however, as blackness closed over his eyes, his ears
When Thoryn finally came to, he found that his ribs
had been bandaged and were healing nicely. Lafarlin, he was told, was in
fact dead, but he already knew that. He had felt his soul leave the world
long before the mob had stopped beating the body. Sitting in the corner was
the dark elf leader, blood-soaked and terrified. After long, torturous beatings
each day for months, he finally cut deeply into the dark elfs wrists
with his dagger, stomping on them until all life (and blood) was drained
from the body. That was the first time he had lost anyone hed cared
the only one hed cared about. A true friend. That day,
Thoryn swore to himself that he would never again allow himself to befriend
anyone. The pain that was caused when they were taken away was simply too
great. That day was also the day Thoryn left his underground home and emerged
on the surface
Although he had not yet entered Andelas religion
at the time of Lafarlinns killing, and thus did not have the enhanced
senses he had now, he vaguely recognized the scent as Lafarlinns. But
thats impossible, Thoryn thought. He died, I felt his soul leave. They
disposed of his body afterwards
didnt they? Despite the many
questions that entered his thoughts, trying to convince him that it wasnt
his old friend, he had to find out. And if it wasnt Lafarlinn, it was
worth asking him who he really wasperhaps Thoryn had recognized the
scent from someplace else
maybe an old enemy that had slipped through
his fingers and finally ended up in the same room with him, a client that
"accidentally" forgot to pay him and had conveniently disappeared, or perhaps
some human sailor that had beat up on him in his younger days and taken his
silver. Whoever it might turn out to be, Thoryn had nothing to lose.
" Thoryn began, "Whatre you hiding
way deep in the shadows for?"
"I know youre there, pal
not only can
I see you, but I can smell you and hear you, too. An if you dont
speak up, soon Ill be tasting you." Thoryn licked his chops to further
imply the threat.
"Doubtful, fellow offender," the shadow-cloaked prisoner
answered in a challenging tone. He sounded as if he were going to continue,
but Thoryn cut him off.
"FirstIm no offender. And second,
theres no doubt to it. Id swallow you whole before you could
Ignoring Thoryns threat, the figure spoke calmly.
"Then I suppose youve been framed, eh? Yeah, yeah, half of everyone
that gets thrown in here says that. Good luck trying to prove your innocence
to the judge
he usually doesnt even give you a chance to speak;
he just slaps a fine on you or locks you up for good."
"You speak as if you know him well," Thoryn
"Thats because I do," answered the prisoner.
"I take it youre a regular in here, then?"
The prisoner murmured in agreement.
"So whatre you in for this time?" asked
"Grand theft," said the prisoner proudly.
"Theft is nothing grand if youre caught," Thoryn
"I was ratted out by a so-called friend. If it
wasnt for him, I wouldnt have been caught."
"But you were," Thoryn said distastefully, "and that
is all that matters."
The prisoner shrugged in the darkness. "Hell
be dead soon anyway
"Youll kill him?"
"Perhaps," said the prisoner, "but only if Mr.
Pumass allows it."
The name hit Thoryn so hard that he almost fell over.
Mr. Pumass was well known among all that were associated with
Andelas, the Lord of Cats and Master of the Hunt; the god whom Thoryn served.
Mr. Pumass was said to have been a gift bestowed upon a young
dark elf by the Lord Andelas himself. A speaking, thinking amulet of imflass,
fashioned into the image of a pumas head. The dark elf named it Mr.
Pumass, and it persuaded the young rogue into joining in on the
worship of the Cat God. Since then, that dark elf had become one of
Andelas most promising acolytes, and his reputation with fellow followers
grew. Hs name, however, was not known, since he revealed it to no one except
the select few that Mr. Pumass allowed him to reveal it to. So
he most often used the alias "Shindrek," which roughly meant "Son of the
Night" in dark elven.
"Mr. Pumass?" Thoryn asked, shocked.
"Thats right. Hes in a little box, though,
on the constables desk; all my things are, as are yours, Im sure,"
explained the prisoner. "Although sometimes they use packing crates over
in the closet, rather than the boxes
"So, you mean to tell me that youre Shindrek?"
chuckled Thoryn, amused at the irony of the situation.
whore you?" the prisoner
seemed suspicious of Thoryn.
just a framed dark-elf awaiting
"Dark elf, eh?" the prisoner revealed himself from
the shadows to get a better look at this "dark elf."
The two simultaneously gasped as they saw each
others faces. For several minutes, they stared at one another, each
trying to convince himself that it wasnt possible
wasnt his best friend standing a few feet away from him, whom he
hadnt seen in decades. But it was, and when they finally let themselves
believe this, they embraced as reunited brothers would.
"Thoryn! Shard told me you were dead!" Lafarlinn looked
"He told me the same about you
in fact, Im
sure that I felt your soul depart this realm," Thoryn also looked
"Well, after a long time of arguing with some old
man in the realm between light and dark, he finally agreed to grant me another
shot at life, if I were to promise to perform a deed when my life was restored.
So I did
I took all the money I had and gave it up as charity to a
temple of Lorminstra. When I came back to shock Shard, he told me that you
had left for the surface after what happened. He also told me that he could
not trace you with spells after you left
he couldnt even get
the slightest hint of you being alive. We decided it would be best that I,
too, leave the underworld after all that had transpired. The dark elves had
grown very impatient about a dark elf with human blood staying among them
as one of their own, and many had started to seek you out to kill you, as
those bastards had that killed me. Being your life long friend, I would surely
be the first to die when they couldnt find you. Shard would probably
be the second, but he couldnt bring himself to leave his home. Last
I heard, he was found in about eight pieces, tossed into a pile of cave lizard
dung," Lafarlinn told his friend sadly.
Thoryn tensed his hands and his nails were suddenly
Theyll get theirs soon enough," he snarled.
"So, friend, you claim that youve been framed.
What happened?" inquired his disbelieving friend.
"Apparently, an assassin has been sent by the Faendryl
to be rid of me
he uses a scimitar, a strange weapon choice for a dark
elf of this region, and he is very adept with the ways of magic. He has visited
me twice, and the first time I believe he was toying with me
him too easily that time. This last time, however, he displayed more of his
power, although I dont think it was to his full extent."
"A scimitar? Thatd be Mourn
shuddered at the name.
"Mourn? So you know of him?" Thoryn asked eagerly.
Maybe Lafarlinn could provide him with the knowledge he needed, and that
way he wouldnt have to make anymore embarrassingand often
painfulattempts to use Twilight Halls libraries.
"Yeah, but not a whole lot
I do know that if
youre his targetyoure dead. And its rumored that
he is the one that killed Shard."
Thoryns eyes widened, his teeth ground together,
and he scraped at the cold floor with his claws.
"Yep. And whats even more infuriating is the
fact that he was one of Shards trainees." Lafarlinn shook his head.
"How I wish I could tear his throat out
"So whatd he do to get you in here? I thought
his job is to kill you, not imprison you."
"It is to kill me
he seems to enjoy playing
with me. Hell wait for me to die from the torture the constable will
be dishing out to me. And if I survive, Mournll make sure I
"Torture?" Lafarlinns eyes grew extremely large.
"What did you doer, whatd he frame you for to earn you death
by slow torture?"
"Im being accused of murdering the constables
"His daughter? Howd he do it?" Lafarlinn
"Im not sure. Some kind of magic, obviously.
I heard a scream, so I checked it out. The body had not a scratch
even any signs of a magical death. This Mourn bastard shows up
and takes me down with some fancy swordplay. I braced myself for death, but
it didnt come. Instead, my longsword just vanished from my hand and
reappeared in that womans back. Blood started flowing from the wound.
Everything looked as if I were the murderer, so I ran, which probably
didnt help the way the situation looked either. My leg was still numb
from the bite of Mourns shendrilite scimitar, and the guards caught
up. Then they threw me in here," Thoryn explained.
Lafarlinn shook his head slowly. "Sounds like
theres not a whole lot of help for you, friend. Here we are, just getting
reacquainted when suddenly, you must go away again. This time, though, it
looks like forever."
"Come on, dont give up on me that
easilyIm going to fight it out until the very end. And I intend
to win." Lafarlinn looked at Thoryn with unconvinced eyes. "So, you have
joined a thieves guild, I take it?"
"Thats right. But starting from this point on,
the only thing theyll be getting from me is a dagger in their throats.
Bastards sold me out."
"I thought only one of them had had a little talk
with the constable
"One rats enough to make the whole pile of meat
"Yep. And do you know who else is getting a dagger
flung into his throat?"
"Know of a pretty human named Din?"
Thoryn looked disgusted. "I was tempted to plant a
knife in his chest myself," he said gravely. "I had a little run-in with
him a long while back."
"Then youll help me get rid of him?"
"Maybe. First, Ive got to save my own ass. Crow,
this isnt going to be easy," Thoryn mumbled. "What got you two into
a tangle, anyway?"
"Well, back when I had first arrived in this revolting
holeour precious Wehnimers LandingI was greeted by a young,
snotty, rich bratthe son of a nobleman. We had our share of fights
throughout the years, and I must sadly admit that most of Daddys money
was put to good use; that boy can fight very well for his age. Well, Daddy
conveniently bit the dust when Din was old enough to inherit anything without
interference from relatives, and thats when
Lafarlinn was cut off by the sound of keys turning
in the iron doors rusty lock. The same bald man that had thrown Thoryn
into the dank cell came now to fish him out. Grabbing him by his hair, The
burly guard dragged Thoryn through the doorway.
its time fer you ta
Those wicked words were the last Thoryn heard before
the cudgel came down upon his head, dulling everything into blackness.
Thoryn stumbled out onto the street, his naked body
suddenly warmed by the harsh mid-morning sun. The judge had set bail at 500,000
silver pieces, which was quite a bit for the poverty-stricken half elf. He
realized, though, that the fine should have been more, and that he was lucky.
Much more, especially since the woman he murdered was the daughter
of the constable. The constable was outraged at the ease with which Thoryn
had gotten off the hook. The judge argued that just because the victim was
the constables daughter, Thoryn shouldnt have to be forced to
pay more or be sentenced to something worse than a fine. He did, however,
make it clear that if Thoryn ever broke the law again, no matter how small
the crime, he would be put to immediate death. The judge gave Thoryn two
hours to pay the fee and claim his belongings, so hed have to be
A beautiful girl, not quite in her teenage years,
skipped up the lane, whistling a merry tune. She wore an extremely loud yellow
dress embroidered with tiny flowers all around the hem, which suited her
well, since she sold the flowers that sat in her woven basket for pocket
money. Everybody in town adored her, and Thoryn knew that if he was seen
doing what he was about to do, he wouldnt be put to an easy death.
Cloaking himself in the shadows of the great Moot Halls walls, he waited
for her to come closer. The timing was perfect; just as she was within reach,
not a soul was out on the street. Realizing that this was the perfect opportunity
to snatch her up without anybody noticing, Thoryn quickly moved to the edge
of the building. Grabbing the flower girl by the hair, Thoryn wrenched her
into the alley with a quick flick of the wrist.
* * * * *
Lafarlinn giggled gleefully to himself as the lock
on the cell door made a loud CLACK sound. Slowly, he edged the massive iron
door open, not caring that it boisterously screeched on its hinges. The terrible
sound was enough to draw the whole town militia in, but it did not. The fools
had never opened it this slowly before, thus not knowing of the horrid noise
it made when opened in such a manner. Lafarlinn cautiously stepped out of
his cell and surveyed his surroundings. Satisfied that nobody was around,
he ran back into the dank cell and re-hid his lockpick in the hollow brick
he had spent many nights working on. He was in jail often, and memorized
in which part of the darkest corner his brick was located. The knowledge
of this hiding place was quite valuable, and he spoke not a word of it to
anyone, not even his long-thought-dead best friend, Thoryn.
Now for the crate, Lafarlinn thought as he quickly
shut the cell door. Stepping over to the storage closet, he opened the
crudely-made wooden gate and glanced over the labels of the huge crates.
Finding one that read, "The Regular", he smiled briefly. He ran back across
the small room, to the opposite wall of the constabulary. He opened a low
cupboard and took from within a crowbar, which was not only very large, but
quite heavy, too. Lafarlinn, still tired from many nights without sleep,
dragged the black piece of iron across the floor to his crate. Sliding the
flat end of the crowbar between two slats, he popped the top of the crate
off with ease. Lafarlinn hastily threw away the crowbar and rummaged through
his belongings until he found a small imflass pendant, crafted with the utmost
skill and care, of a pumas head.
"Hello Mr. Pumass
I missed you very
much in your absence." Lafarlinn carefully draped the mithril chain from
"And I you, Lafarlinn," answered a macabre voice that
echoed resoundingly throughout the dark elfs mind, causing his lips
to shape into a contorted grin.
"You dont know how happy it makes me to hear
that, Mr. Pumass," Lafarlinn said, feeling a warm sense of pride
spread throughout his body. Snatching his clothes and what other few belongings
he had out of the crate, he began to dress on his way out the door.
* * * * *
"Its not quite me, but it will have to do,"
Thoryn commented as he looked himself over, twisting his body into different
angles to better see his new garment. "After all, I cant just walk
up to Twilight Hall and speak with Jypta seriously if Im in the nude
But then," he looked distastefully at his new, flowery, yellow dress. "I
dont think shed take me seriously if I were to show up in this.
Still, its better than nothing, and Ive already wasted enough
Thoryn dragged the flower girls body, now naked
(and, consequently, very suspicious looking), into a nearby bush. Checking
her pulse to make sure she had simply fainted and hadnt died from fright,
he snatched up her basket of wilted flower petals. He knew that the chances
of him getting beat down just for wearing the dress were high, made higher
still by the fact that the dress was the famous flower girls, and he
dared to think about what might happen if some powerful and grumpy wizard
didnt see the offensive humor in Thoryn also carrying the flower
girls basket. Thoryn snickered whimsically at the mockery involved,
and wished hed had time to stop a few times and ask somebody in as
beautiful a voice as he could manage, "Would you like to buy some flower
petals?" That fantasy in mind, Thoryn stepped out of the shadows and onto
* * * * *
The booming echoed throughout the great main hall.
Twilight Halls Page, a very round and tightly-robed halfling, hurried
over to the great doors. Cracking it open, he saw the ridiculously dressed
Thoryn leaning very near the door, a malevolent grin twisting his face.
"You again, is it?" the halfling snorted, preparing
to unleash the same spell on Thoryn that he had the day before.
"Yes. It is." Thoryn, moving suddenly, drove his shoulder
into the door, forcing the little halfling (who wasnt expecting it)
off of his feet and on to his back. Slamming the door shut behind him, Thoryn
smiled wickedly at the furry-footed page. "I would toy with you longer little
one," Thoryn said as he ran past the halfling, "but I have something to attend
Reaching a spiral staircase at the end of the hallway,
Thoryn ascended it and stepped onto the upper floor of the houses monstrous
library. Mages scurried away at the sight of the yellow-clad assassin, but
one stayed, sitting on a bench at the far side of the room, hood pulled and
back hunched over a massive tome. Thoryn began to walk toward the sorcerer,
but spun around at the sound of the halflings shrill cries.
"Intruder! Kill the Intruder!" he yelled, running
around and pointing up at Thoryn, who was now leaning over the railing that
insured nobody fell from the upper level to the ground floor some thirty
The halfling silenced abruptly, concentrating on preparing
a spell. From the movement of the hands and the few words that Thoryn could
make out, the halfling was preparing a devastating sorcerer spell called
Dark Catalyst; and Thoryn was more than likely going to be the target. Vaulting
over the rail, Thoryn dove at the halfling headfirst.
Two things immediately followed this action: the first
was that Thoryns left hand was completely vaporized by the halflings
spell. The second was that the hooded sorcerer that had remained in the library
blasted the halflings left hand into oblivion as well. This ultimately
created a blind confusion between the two on the ground level; Thoryn had
forgotten, in this moment of awe, about the sorcerer from the second floor,
and thus could not figure out where the blast in his favor had come from.
He began to think that he had somehow unleashed the dark energy. The halfling
also thought that this was the case; he wondered why these special
powers Thoryn seemingly possessed were surfacing only now. A new sense
of respect filled the halflings senses, and he tried to calm down enough
to get Thoryns attention.
This, however, was not an easy thing to do. Thoryn
was gibbering incoherently about spells, missing hands, the amount of blood
that was seeping from his new "stump", new powers, world conquest, politics,
and a lot of other stuff the page couldnt quite pick up. At last, though,
the halfling managed to catch Thoryns not-so-undivided attention by
landing a lucky blow straight on Thoryns severed wrist.
Screaming in agony, Thoryn spun around to face the
halfling. He bit his lip hard, fighting to remain calm and not tear the page
limb from limb. The halfling, however, remained perfectly calm, despite his
missing left hand.
"Please sir," he said, flinching every few seconds
at the pain, "allow me to summon some empaths to take care of our
"Yes. Do that," Thoryn growled.
The halfling gazed past him for a moment, a look of
intense concentration decorating his pudgy face. A moment later, two robed
healers arrived and began to tend to and transfer the wounds to themselves.
They did this almost carelessly, although both screamed painfully when their
new wounds had been transferred. Summoning their inner most energy, they
used this mana to regenerate their own hands. After the healing had been
done, the black-robed figure descended the spiraling stairs gracefully, and
just from the air about her and the way she walked, Thoryn recognized the
robed "stranger" as his good friend, the sorceress Jypta.
Jypta was a uniquely beautiful dark elf; she didnt
possess the black skin and white hair that were common among most of her
kind. Instead, she had long, effulgent, dark brown hair and matching eyes.
Her skin as a far cry from ebony; beautiful skin of a soft, lily white hue
covered her from head to toe. Her other qualities, however, were not much
different from her kin. She wore typical dark elven clothesdark, satiny,
and revealing. She studied typical dark elven magicthe Black Arts,
or Sorcery as called by most. Most who laid eyes upon Jypta believed her
to be a warm and caring wizardress
all were deadly mistaken.
"Thoryn," she began, sounding genuinely amused. "Why
are you wearing the flower girls dress?"
Thoryn ignored her question and cut straight to then
point of his unexpected visit. "I need your help," he said flatly.
At this, Jypta pulled back her hood and arched an
eyebrow, though she did not seem the least bit surprised. "And?"
I need your help."
Jypta grinned slightly. She knew what he wanted. Money.
Thoryn always wanted money. Not only did he always want money, but he always
needed money as well. Thoryn was notable for his constant lack of funds.
He was also notable for always starting more trouble than he could handle
by himself, and his poverty was due mainly to this.
"I see. How much this time?"
"Thats all? Whatever you bought this time had
better been worth it, if it cost you enough to force you to come asking for
a loan of five hundred
"Five hundred. As in, five hundred thousand."
"Five hundred kay?!" Jypta gasped. Though for her
it was not at all a large sum, she certainly hadnt ever heard of a
theft charge of five hundred thousand. "By the Lords of Lornon
did you steal?!"
"Nothing. I was set up. Now please
I need this
money. I really dont feel like living my life in this stupid thing."
Thoryn held out the sides of his dress as if to curtsy.
Jypta looked at Thoryn with skepticism. "Im
supposed to believe that you, who can hardly ever keep his hands off things
that arent his own, was framed for stealing something?"
"No. I was framed for murder..."
To be continued....