|Okay, here it is.... at least as it
stands now. It's roughly in the order I want it in....
not particularly chronolgical, but chronological within
the section, at least. Please ignore the beginning.... it
will be rewritten last, and right now is such flowery
junk that if I go back to edit, I'll never finish the
to the good stuff
to the Madac section
to the Kieran section
Feedback, feedback, feedback!
INTRODUCTION: PREFACE TO THE TEXT?
I. The Way of Things
As I could not be the first, I suppose that it is only
fair that I am the last, and the least, of the companions
that once wandered the roads between Ascanon and fair
Medora. And as there are things done under the Stars of
the Diadem that require long memory in mortal men, it is
fitting that I set down here the history, as I am able to
recall it, of the actions and manner of the Companions.
It is neither a long tale nor one of great heroism, but
nonetheless important in it's own way, after the manner
II. The Where of Things
I shall start with a brief description
of the countryside of our day, for the world changes
quickly in these last years, and I fear in my heart that
none shall soon walk who carry the memory of that Time,
or the nature of Teremenor, as she was called when I was
first taught the nature and naming of things. Of late
this land has become known as Helven Deep, but I am
reluctant to address her thus. Teremenor is an old land,
bordered on three sides by mountains, chiefly in the
North, East, and West, and by the Sea along the South.
She is roughly divided into six areas, each distinct unto
the others, with histories that must be pursued
elsewhere, or I shall lose my tale in the telling.
Of the peoples of this place I shall
give only short listing, being much of the same manner
and custom as they are found elsewhere in the wide world.
The fair races are represented mostly by men, making up
the greater portion of the population, but enclaves of
elves are scattered throughout, and it is not greatly
unusual to happen upon a member of the dwarven guilds or
to meet with a halfling when in the southern dales.
Teremenor has her measure of the darklings of nature as
well, mostly in the form of trolls, orcs, and goblins,
although these have not been seen in settled areas for
upward of three hundred years. There are others, as well,
creatures not so well known to the world at large,
although ancient texts make mention of them. These are
the creatures of the earth, who do not dwell as others
do, but are instead a part of the living land and cannot
be said to be good or evil, but simply to be.
III. In the Beginning, and other
But time passes, and I am drifting from
my purpose. The story of the Companions begins far before
me, but as I am the scrivener my introduction shall come
first, as a part of the general introduction, and then I
shall begin the history unbiased by my appearance in the
events. I am known as Daenor, a Dwarf of the lineage of
Gorben Orcslayer, master of Thenskold Hall in the
Northeast. Realizing early in life that mine was not to
be the life of a smith (I am rather small and withdrawing
by nature), I was early sent to the Guildhall of Lore,
where I was trained in the scholarly arts of the dwarves,
such as they are. For while it is true that we love best
our craftsmanship, the tracing of the great works of our
race is no simple thing, and to be trained in the
heritage and history of dwarven affairs is respected by
the mastersmiths. There I discovered a native ability in
the tongues and customs of the other races. Dwarves in
general are more concerned with themselves than others,
and learn of outlier things grudgingly, but I could
converse with equal ease with the Elden Elves, or the
sailors of Ascanon, or the rough farmers of the Northern
Reaches, or even the priests high in the Wizard's Keep. I
could write as and live with such, and so ended up in the
service of the King in the great City that lay by the
sea. It was after some thirty years there that events
opened, and thus I shall begin my history.
It is only right to begin with Melessial daughter of
Barandor. Barandor was of old a guardsman in Ascanon,
although he later became a fisherman, and owned a red
boat trimmed in yellow (for Glenda his wife was a woman
who liked color and orderliness in her life, even
extending to her husband's sudden desire for the water).
Their four children spent equal time on land and sea as
they grew. Beren was the oldest, followed by his sister
Melessial, then the twin lads Ganden and Madac. The
eldest two were inseparable, sharing mischief and reward
alike. When Beren came of age he entered the Guard as his
sire had before him, and Melessial, at somewhat of a loss
without him, began to spend more time in the city. At
first she only seemed to help her mother in the market
(for Barandor sold his catch at the great Fairday Market,
where merchants from all the civilized corners of
Teremenor gathered to trade their wares), but soon (and
no one has yet explained just how this came about), she
was making weekly trips to the King's City along the
Coast Road, transporting Fairday goods for the larger
In this age it is unheard of for a woman, especially one
so young, to undertake so long a journey alone, but those
were more civilized days, when brigands were not often
seen on the Southern roads and the King's Peace was kept.
Also, Lessa, as she was called, was no ordinary lass. She
was small and quick, pretty in a common way, but in no
ways missish or shy. Her hair was dark without being
black, a sort of deep brown. Her eyes were green, and she
had a few freckles sprinkled across her fine features.
She had worn boys clothing since her earliest years, and
had studied combat and swordsmanship alongside Beren.
When I first met her she was twenty in the reckoning of
men, but her adventures began earlier, in the fall of her
eighteenth year. At that time Beren had been in the Guard
for two years, and she had been making the Coastal trip
for one and a half. Long acquaintance with the way had
given her the ability to pay little attention to the road
as she traveled, and she was given to losing herself in
thought during the long hours between morning and night.
The journey took at best seven days, although a messenger
could make it in three and a half, but a loaded wagon
calls for far more temperate a pace.
And so it happened that on this trip (I am told that the
cargo consisted of very fine wines bound for the royal
household), she was debating the merits of an earlier
versus a later marriage for the twins (who were sixteen
and showing every sign of pursuing the sea all their
lives), when a rider passed at a pace that could only be
described as desperate. (So I was told, years later
that only one driven to the final bounds of desperation
could fly so quickly). Lessa's immediate reaction was
quite typical. She calmed the horses and raised herself
in the seat to better convey to the rider her opinions of
his courtesy on the roads. Then, assuming that he was a
messenger summoning the family of someone ill, or perhaps
a thief escaping to less policed areas, she continued on
her way and gave him no more thought.
AND THUS WE ARRIVE AT THE
REAL SHOW. . . IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING.
Darkness caught her long before she'd reached the Silver
Thistle. Lessa frowned over the reins and cursed Haydor
for trading in wines. Her time was half again what it
should have been. There was a valley not far ahead.
Sheltered on the coast side, it allowed the wagon to exit
and reenter the road with relative ease. For lack of a
better option, she pulled off and picketed the horses.
Then began the tedious business of gathering wood and
setting the camp. Throughout, Lessa puzzled over the best
Conventional wisdom held that the longer route east of
the mountains was safer, but in late summer, with the
dwarves meeting her
she was overly tempted to
attempt the Calendor pass. Musing, she began to sketch
rough maps in the sandy soil.
It was not long after dark when a tall form appeared at
the far edges of the flickering circle.
Lessa jumped, and wondered how she had missed his
"What do you want?" she demanded, a little
frightened but determined not to show it at all cost.
"Your courtesy, milady," the stranger continued
in a strangely accented speech. "I am, perhaps, at a
disadvantage here, for I find myself in need of
"The disadvantage is mine," Lessa snapped back,
"I'm the one accosted at night by one who does not
give his name or purpose."
The stranger chuckled a bit, but it sounded strained.
"So it is." He inclined his head toward her.
"But I can say little of myself without much
consideration. Still, you are right to demand something
in return for your inconvenience."
"You may call me Meddan. Be at ease, for I mean no
harm to come to you by me." He drew a ragged breath.
"May I sit?"
Lessa nodded toward the opposite side of the fire, for if
she had been curiously reassured by the
stranger's--Meddan's--uninformative speech, she was still
inclined to be cautious. As he sat the hood of his cape
fell back, and she saw that he was an Elf, although one
unlike any she had seen before. His skin was fair--almost
translucent. His face was thin and dominated by black
eyes that seemed to give off rather than reflect light.
It was his hair, though, that made him so unlike others
of his race. It was truly black, the color of midnight,
and provided a matte contrast to his eyes. In all, he was
the incarnate appearance of danger; yet she was again
assured that he meant her no harm.
"That's not true," he said abruptly. "I
mean no harm to come through me. There is a
"Can you read my thoughts, then?"
"It is a thing that some of my people can do, yes.
But do you not find it odd that your response questions
my actions, not my intentions?"
"What are your intentions?"
"Again, milady, you find the wrong question. That is
not something I may answer. But time grows short, and I
have need of your aid."
Suddenly in the fire she saw that he was injured, and it
occurred to her that she should have noticed this before,
for he held an arm protectively across his body. It also
occurred to her that she could see him rather more
clearly now than earlier, but discomfort at elven
enchantment was overridden by a desire to offer what
relief she could.
"What type of wound is it?" she asked, reaching
for her blanket in anticipation of tearing bandages. She
had seen gashes of all sorts in her youth, as well as
treating a few who had been crushed by heavy timbers, and
felt quite adequate to remedy the situation at hand.
"It was a blade, as you guessed. I do not require
your assistance in its healing, although bandages would
be welcome. There will be men seeking me, probably soon.
I cannot escape them on my own. I need you to hide me
until they depart."
"I don't understand. I know that your kind have. .
" Magic? Yes. But there will be those who are
searching for just that. If not for this. . . but
currently I am a bit--inhibited." She sensed that he
had misspoken the last word, but he continued. "The
best option is to cease attempts at disguise and, well,
hide. Cower like a dog under the wagon." His
bitterness was unmistakable.
"You want me to--"
Even as she spoke she heard the approach of hooves--it
sounded to be at least a company--from the darkness of
the road. Acting on instinct, she lifted the wagon's
canvas cover and waved him under, fastened it quickly,
and resumed her place beside the fire, standing in
anticipation of her guests' arrival.
VI. The Arrival of the Company
She was not long in her waiting. It was
a scarce three minutes time until they
approached--slowly--and called out, "Hail the
"You may approach, and welcome," she responded.
"Who are you, and in whose name do you ride?"
A horseman came into the circle of light. "Melchod,
Captain of the Third Company of the Ascanon Guard. We
search for a thief, miss. I am obliged to ask for your
name and business."
"Of course, Captian. I am Lessa of Ascanon,
transporting Fairday goods for the merchant Haydor. I
travel to the King's City. May I ask what manner of thief
you seek?" Lessa's voice was very even.
"'Tis none of your concern, Miss
"Melchod! Why didn't you say you'd hunted down my
With a laugh her brother rode up and dismounted. He
shared his sister's fair coloring and green eyes, but his
hair tended strongly to blonde rather than brown, and his
expression was open and merry. He embraced her, for they
had lost none of their closeness over the years, then put
his hands on her shoulders.
"Did you see anyone on the road, Less? This fellow's
turned half the Bluff out looking for him. Apparently
he's caused some trouble for the wizards, though what
anyone'd want with them is beyond my guess."
Lessa turned to the Captain. "I was passed by a man
on horseback about midmorning. He didn't speak. Could it
Melchod exchanged a glance with Beren. "It could be.
The watch said that there weren't many who left on the
King's Road. Did you meet him before or after Treta
"Before. There was no sign of him when I watered the
horses there. I'm afraid, though, that I can't be of
further help. I didn't take much interest in the rider at
the time. Is he dangerous?"
Beren gave an exasperated snort. "Who knows. They
certainly don't see fit to tell us anything. Only a
description and notice that he's to be returned."
Melchod remounted. "It's back to the ford for us.
Since we've seen no sign of him thus far, he must have
headed north at the river. There's a post about three
miles up, we can get provisions there. Beren, you'll
He nodded. "I'll only be a moment."
With a whistle, Melchod cantered back to the highway.
From all around the camp, where they had remained just
out of the light, the riders followed him. When they were
well gone, Beren looked closely at his sister.
"You know more about this than you've let on, Less.
Let's have it."
She gave him a look of wide-eyed innocence. "Who,
me? I know nothing at all about criminals from the Bluff.
All I do is ride the road."
He laughed again. "Brat. Fine, then. Keep your
secret. I trust your judgement more than the flappings of
those needle-nosed tomfools. But if you happen to see
this stranger again, you might let him know that the
wizards aren't happy. They want him, and whatever he has,
back immediately. And they've got the Guard to do
Lessa scowled. "And since when does the Guard do
wizards' bidding? They've nothing to do with Ascanon,
besides going about with their heads covered."
"Aye, you've the right of it. But they've got
powerful friends. Lord Delac has put us at their
disposal. I must be off, Less. You'll be home soon?"
He cast the reins over his horse's neck and mounted.
"No, I may stay a bit in the City. Haydor is waiting
on a shipment from the North, furs and dwarven trinkets
and the like. I told him I'd take delivery and bring them
along when I returned.
She chewed her lip for a moment. "At that, I may
ride up the road and wait at the Calendor Pass. Either
way, mention it to Mum and Da, will you? I didn't know
about this when I said goodbye. Haydor only told me when
I got to the wagon."
"Will do. Be careful--that Pass isn't friendly
country. And don't worry," he stopped to wink at
her. "I'll make sure that Madac and Gand make it
into the Town Proper from time to time
it would be
a shame to waste Sadie Larken's smiles on only me,
With that he was away, leaving Lessa a bit bemused at his
parting words. She hadn't told him of her plans for
Ganden and Sadie, had she? No. She was certain she
hadn't. But really, what was Beren teasing her for? Sadie
would be perfect for their youngest brother. . . although
Madac, the older twin, really ought to be married first.
No. Lessa shook her head, exasperated. Madac, despite her
best intentions, would have none of matchmaking.
VII. Enigma as a Lifestyle
"They're gone," Lessa said
abruptly, pulling out of her reverie. "You can come
"Gladly," came the muffled reply. "If you
would but release the canvas, Milady?"
Smothering a noise that was suspiciously close to a
laugh, Lessa loosed the ropes and Meddan slowly emerged.
It was immediately apparent that his condition had
further deteriorated. Lessa bit her lip. "Sit.
You'll camp here tonight."
Meddan offered no argument. Giving an audible sigh of
relief, he returned to his seat at the far side of the
"Do you have water? Supplies? Where is your
"I have asked Asfaehel to continue without me. You
will find my pack just under the wagon. I would like to
offer such that I may, since you have extended your
"Hmm. You said that you didn't need my help with the
wound. What do you need?"
"Only rest, Milady."
"My name is Lessa. You didn't ask earlier. You were
too busy being enigmatic." She stood and retrieved
his belongings. "I have questions, and would like
such answers as you feel you may give."
"Well met, Lessa. I was at a disadvantage before,
and did not like to make demands--but then we have
already had this discussion, have we not?" He smiled
thinly. "And I suppose that I am by nature
enigmatic, as you term it. What you would ask, I would
"I wonder if you will. You are the one the wizards
"But not the one the Guard sought?"
Meddan looked up. "You learn quickly, Milady,"
he said slowly.
"I am not often caught unaware, Meddan."
Lessa knelt before the fire and began to construct a
tripod, hanging a kettle from the hook in the center.
"Do you drink tea?"
At his nod she unrolled a piece of cloth and dropped in a
handful of dried leaves. "You are an elf, but unlike
any I have seen. Are there many dark elves?
"Wait," she continued before he could respond.
"What you'll tell me won't answer my question, and
I've other things I want to know more."
"As you wish."
She went briefly to the wagon, returning with bread and
toasting forks. "If I asked, would you be able to
tell me why the Guard was sent to find you?"
There was a pause. "No."
"Then why risk coming to me?"
This time the silence was noticeably longer. Lessa didn't
look at her guest. Instead she sliced and speared the
bread, attached generous portions of cheese, and stirred
the fire before perching the forks over the dancing
"'Tis a question not easily answered, Milady."
Lessa moved to speak, but Meddan raised a hand to
"That was not an evasion, for all it sounded like
one. I found myself in the unusual position of lacking
options. There were wizards--as your people name
them--riding with the men who followed me. I realized
that I was weakening, and--" he paused momentarily.
She looked up, but he didn't continue.
Lessa searched his face for further information, but it
remained passive except for tension around his mouth. His
eyes reflected the fire, and as she watched the flames
dance against the black background she felt a gentle,
insistent pressure in her mind. Outrage bubbled up as she
realized what he was doing.
"You've no call to invade," she snapped.
"I certainly don't know why you came."
It was Meddan's turn to be surprised. In long years of
experience with humans, he had not found one that could
read his thoughts. In truth, he hadn't realized that he
was probing. A slow flush of embarrassment crept over
him, as well as bemusement at the novelty of being
embarrassed. When had he last experienced that particular
emotion? But a statement was required, he realized
suddenly. An apology, even. She was staring at him
"Your toast is burning," he said mildly, and
immediately wondered at himself.
"Let it." Her face reddened with genuine
anger--anger at him. "What do you want with
"I'm afraid that I've no idea," he answered
To Lessa's great annoyance, he stood, shouldered his
pack, and disappeared into the darkness. She didn't call
The morning sun collaborated with a
stiff breeze to burn away the low mist, but their efforts
could not dispel Lessa's lingering bad mood. She had
slept little the night before--not from fear of her
visitor's return, as she might have expected, but from
her thoughts' mulish refusal to forget the whole affair
had happened to begin with. There was nothing remarkable
in meeting a stranger on the road between the two largest
cities in the Deep. She would not accept guilt from
driving an injured man into the night. She would not, and
that was that.
After all, she reasoned to herself as she stopped for an
early dinner, it had been his choice to leave. She had
offered him the hospitality of her camp; rest, or refuge,
or whatever he'd needed to assist his elven magic, and it
was he who refused her aid. She bore no responsibility in
Indeed, she brooded two days later, it was his behavior
that had caused his abrupt departure. If he hadn't
attacked her, invading her thoughts like he had, she
wouldn't have gotten angry. Besides, it simply wasn't
civilized--be one elf or human--to go mucking about in
It was the magic that weighed on her mind into the fifth
day on the road--the magic, and it's danger. She was
close to the sea now; there was a hint of salt in the
air, and the gulls wheeled in the sky. The road took her
inland before veering back to the coast and Lessa, being
ocean-bred, had always welcomed the return to the shore
almost as a homecoming. But with the tang of the sea came
the chalky cliffs of Watersmeet. It was a mystical place,
one that even the pragmatic sailors of Ascanon referenced
with softened voices. The cliffs jutted out like a
sentinel of the earth, standing a lonely, ever-vigilant
guard against the encroaching waters. It was easy to feel
the divinity of the place, with the foam below and white
rock above, and a sense of--of--here Lessa's power of
description failed her momentarily. It was not so much a
gathering of power for attack, she mused, but a guarding
against a blow.
Meddan had had the same air. Not menace, but depth and
intensity, and forbearance. He had gathered magic about
him like his shield, she knew, and the absolute
vulnerability of his losing it struck her suddenly. She'd
become equally defensive when stripped of her shields,
and his behavior, while certainly worse than hers, could
perhaps be excused somewhat.
Whether it was the return to the coast or her
realization, Lessa's mood lightened instantly and she
hurried the horses along, eager now to reach the City.
Even with her newfound enthusiasm, it was almost midnight
the next day before she drew up before the Western Gate
and declared herself to the guards. Another hour brought
her to the giant sheds the merchants kept, about a league
away from the gate. She found a sleepy stable boy, turned
over to him the care of the wagon and horses, and climbed
two flights to the attic room she used in the King's
VIII. Stars of the Diadem
Lessa awoke at dawn, dressed, and found
her way down the wooden steps to the main room of the
warehouse. Haydor, like most merchants, preferred to keep
the larger part of his space open to facilitate the
loading and unloading of the goods. At this particular
point in the season the spice ships were coming in from
farther down the coast, and the air was filled with the
various tangs and whispers of a thousand roots, stems,
nuts, and berries. Great walls of wooden barrels
nominated the left, fronted by crates padded with straw
that emerged from the wooden slats like a whirlwind
paused at the height of its fury. To the right a row of
wagons--ten or fifteen across--stood in differing stages
of loading or unloading. Everywhere there were unsteady
stacks of goods groaning under their own weight,
threatening collapse at any moment--and with the least
provocation. The sun shone through knots and cracks in
the walls, casting divergent beams into the room at
myriad angles. And directly in the middle of the chaos of
light, sound, and smell stood Jamie Weathercoate.
He was perched atop a stack of spiced apples bound for
Glendenning, bellowing orders to the laborers, most of
whom were boys no older than fifteen. Jamie himself stood
just under five feet tall, allowing Lessa to tower head
and shoulders over him, but there was little else about
the man that made him seem diminutive. He had a wide
leathery face, with skin brown as a nut. Gray, bristly
whiskers grew along his chin and blended into the gray,
bristly hair on his head. Tough and burly, there were few
who would willingly cross Jamie Weathercoate.
Incidentally, he was Lessa's favorite person in the City.
When he saw her step into the dim light Jamie left off
his bellowing in favor of the gruff voice he claimed to
reserve only for his friends.
"Lessa! Heard you'd arrived. Come down, girl, and
get a bite."
With that he leapt from his wooden mountain and strode
briskly off toward a door set in the back right-hand
corner. Lessa wandered after him, tossing an occasional
greeting to one of the lads. She arrived in Jamie's
office to find him opening tins of biscuits, slicing
cheese, and warming a tankard of the heavily spiced cider
that he preferred. Lessa inhaled deeply and settled into
She raised an eyebrow. "From Ascanon to the City?
"What's got you looking so rattled, then?"
"Rattled? Travel-worn and rumpled, maybe."
"Nonsense. I saw it when you came down. What
She opened her mouth to deny, then shut it again. He knew
her too well.
"Met an elf on the road. Shook me up, somehow."
Had his hand stilled, oh-so-briefly? Why? Lessa dismissed
the illogical thought as he set the heavily laden plate
before her. The trip had been a long one, and Jamie
Weathercoate's biscuits were meant to be enjoyed to the
fullest. She slathered jam over the top and took a bite.
Jamie had continued to trifle with dishes and the like,
and she wasn't expecting him to speak when he did.
"You don't see their kind about much, nowadays.
Ascanon was thick with 'em, once."
"Mmm," was her muffled reply. "Jamie, this
is good." Then, belatedly, "Why not?"
"Who knows. They've retreated to that forest of
theirs now, and don't come out. What was yours about,
Lessa felt a sudden recalcitrance, one that she couldn't
understand. "He didn't say. Just wanted to share the
fire, I suppose."
Jamie did stop, then, and turned to face her. He crossed
his thick arms and glared at her from under thicker
brows. "And this rattled you? Try again, lass."
She took a deep breath. "He was hurt. I would have
helped, Jamie, but he said that he'd heal with
rest." She paused. "But it was more than that.
It was his whole air--made me feel like I'd stumbled into
something I didn't understand."
He was quiet for a moment. Then his face cleared and he
chuckled, the last reaction she'd expected. "Eh,
Lessa girl, I don't think there's much you'd miss, no
matter who you met."
With that a tension she hadn't even been aware of left
the room, like someone letting out a deep breath. Things
seemed brighter, somehow, and the little sounds of knife
and fork, the hissing of the stove, and the gurgling of
the teapot on its hook made Jamie Weathercoate's quarters
seem very welcoming, indeed. She relaxed into the chair
and smiled at him.
"Did Haydor mention the shipment from the
"Right before I left. I'd thought to ride up a bit,
meet them by the Pass, and bring it back down. I haven't
been that way before, thought it might be fun."
"Mmm. Rough roads up that way. Bandits, too. Sounds
like your sort of fun. When were you thinking of
"As soon as possible. The train south should've
It was a little less than a day after
Lessa's departure for the Pass that Jamie Weathercoate
was startled from his sleep. At first he couldn't
identify the source of his waking, and his senses began
an automatic scan of the quarters. Nothing seemed
abnormal or out of place, including the cloaked figure
before the door.
"Meddan," Jamie said with some relief.
"Come in and stop skulking about. I'd heard that you
Almost imperceptibly, the darkness thinned a little.
Cloak and figure differentiated themselves and Meddan
emerged to stand against the wall. "What did you
"Humph. You mean how much did the girl give away?
Nothing. She said that she'd met a stranger on the
Meddan smiled thinly. "And you assumed me to be the
"Don't start, lad. 'Twas knowing Lessa that gave it
away. She was upset. Rightly so, if you ask me. You
behaved abominably." Jamie rose and pulled on a
tattered robe absurdly assembled from bits of red and
blue cloth. "Did you find what you were after in
Ascanon?" he asked as he fumbled with the light.
There was only the slightest of hesitations before the
"I suppose I found answers that I hadn't questioned
yet. Not a particularly. . . illuminating. . .expedition.
Jamie snorted. "Well, that tells me everything and
nothing at once, doesn't it. But are you waking me up for
a reason, or simply to be obscure?"
"Who was the girl?"
Meddan was gratified to see Jamie Weathercoate confused
for the first time in--well, quite a long time. In truth,
he'd surprised himself with the question, having resolved
that he would not ask when next he saw his old friend.
Certainly, they both had more pressing matters to review.
He had already dismissed the question in his own mind
when Jamie's response came.
"Just a girl. Runs a train now and again. Why?"
"You, too? Try again, lad."
He sighed raggedly. "They sent out riders. I had to
"Not a difficult process on the Coast Road."
"No. Especially when one is sent a calthenod."
"Ahh." Jamie chuckled a bit. "That does
He busied himself with the fire, set a kettle to boil.
"Our Lessa." He smothered a smile. Wasn't often
elves found themselves a safe place--the most direct
translation of the word. For it to have been with
. well, it presaged interesting times. Very
It was early afternoon when Madac left
the docks. He hadn't really planned on leaving so early,
but there'd been little else to do. Ganden had, as usual,
had the ship ready to sail at dawn, and there were only
the routine emergencies--the ones that always seemed to
accompany a voyage--to delay him. So Madac had bid his
brother swift sail and seen him off around midday. It was
the first time one had sailed without the other, and
Madac found the vague sense of dislocation at once
bizarre and exhilarating. With no particular destination
in mind--other than avoiding his mother and father, and
the uncomfortable questions sure to arise about his
presence in Ascanon--he began navigating the series of
bridges and wooden stairways that connected Proper with
the Downside. After passing the Terrace he veered left,
placing his back to the Market and the more familiar
reaches of the city.
Climbing steadily, Madac glared up at the white towers of
the Keep. The sun reflecting off the stone seemed to
investigate all activities in the city below, offending
his newfound sense of freedom. A sudden desire to spite
the eternal vigilance seized him, and he spun towards one
of the crooked little side streets that wheeled off
Market Way. He followed the worn cobbles for a bit,
finding little to interest him in the shabby boarding
houses that leaned so dejectedly against each other.
About a mile in the buildings abandoned entirely their
struggle for respectability and gave over to outright
seediness. He paused, but an exhilarating blend of fear
mixed with adrenaline propelled him forward against his
It wasn't so much the place itself that had caused it--or
so he reassured himself as the gloom thickened. He'd
grown up around the docks--and the sailors--that had
taught him to use both his wits and his fists to get out
of trouble. If anything, he was only . . . worried
. . . now because of that damnable sense of absolute
Not that being alone was such a bad thing, either. He'd
asked--even begged--for it. Other people did it all the
time with no signs of ill effect. He, Madac, just wasn't
used to it, was all. And even if Ganden had been here, he
wouldn't have been, because Gand wouldn't ever have come
this far in. Really, he decided, he should stop and enjoy
He stalled in front of an alley and considered wandering
down it. The alluring combination of dank, slimy walls,
piles of dilapidated crates, and the noxious fumes that
steamed up from the refuse proved overwhelming, and he
There was a sudden movement in the alley's shadowed
corners. He froze, and in the heavy silence was certain
that he heard shallow breathing.
"Who's there?" he demanded, tensing for an
attack. None came.
"Show yourselves!" he barked, and was pleased
to notice that his voice managed to sneak past the lump
that had lodged itself in his throat.
The word seemed to hang in the air before him, and for
the first time true dread crept down his spine. Slowly,
he began to retreat towards the mouth of the alley.
"No--don't go." The voice was thin and weak,
but more recognizably human, at least.
And vaguely familiar.
"Kieran?" he asked, feeling more than a little
foolish. "Is it--is that you?"
Slowly, a blue-clad arm differentiated itself from the
shadows. Madac watched in horror as it grasped the corner
of a box and flexed itself into a thin form that
immediately collapsed with a groan. Instinctively, he
"What happened?" Madac demanded as he linked
Kieran's arm over his shoulders and braced his waist. He
flinched when he felt the matted blood on the tunic, and
fought against his rising panic.
"C'mon, I'll get you back to Ma."
Kieran's head struggled up. "No."
His voice was stronger, but still only a shadow of what
it should have been. Especially if he's trying to
argue with me.
"What d'ya mean, no? Ma'll. . .."
Kieran clenched his shirtfront fiercely.
"No," he hissed. "Not there." He took
a ragged breath. "Jeno's."
Later the sheer insanity would reveal itself, but at the
moment outrage had seized control of him and he actually
dropped his friend.
Kieran remained curled on the ground, his face twisted
with pain. Madac stared down at him. The silence was
"Okay, fine. You win." Madac hefted him up.
A torturous fifteen minutes brought them only to the edge
of respectability, and Madac thought to stop and cover
Kieran with his jacket. Although he'd never considered
himself particularly weak (in fact he rather enjoyed
taking his shirt off when there were girls around to
impress), he began to wonder just how strong he was when
muscles began protesting further movement. Gritting his
teeth, he focused on the street in front of them.
"I'll try to help." It was the first time
Kieran had spoken since the alley, and the pathetic offer
of aid infuriated Madac.
"Don't even start. Later, I'm going to kill you for
this. For now, just shut up and try to stay alive, okay?
Do you know how lucky you are I found you?" He
paused to catch his breath and squinted up at the sun.
Beside him Kieran twitched. It could have been a sigh,
but it sounded suspiciously like a laugh, albeit a
"Luck had nothing to do with it."
Madac dismissed the comment, instead focusing on the most
direct way--or the one with the fewest people--he could
take. It was a place he'd heard of before, although he'd
never been there. Jeno's was a tavern in the Break, the
series of ramshackle shops, apartments, and entertainment
establishments that clung to the stairways, and was not
someplace he, even in his rebellion, would have
considered going. Options, however, were limited. Glenna
would be best, but he didn't want to have to fight Kieran
all the way there. Beren was his next choice, but some
members of the Guard would find things a bit suspicious
if he appeared with the wounded boy in tow. Lessa would
simply read them a scolding before turning them over to
Glenna, who would doubtless wonder, he realized with a
sinking feeling, just what her son had been doing where
he was, alone, when he had left on the afternoon tide. At
Jeno's, at least, they wouldn't be forced to answer
questions that could be tricky to explain. And it was
If they made it there. They'd reached the steps, and
navigating the more crowded ones could prove tricky.
Perhaps it was only in his mind that
the rattle of conversation stopped as soon as he and
Kieran stepped through the doors, although it certainly
seemed so at the time. Madac very carefully kept--or
tried to keep--all traces of absolute terror from his
face. At something of a loss as to how best proceed, he
made for the bar set against the back wall.
The room itself was about twenty feet deep, and perhaps
twice as long, but seemed very small. It as dark, and
filled with a greasy smoke that seemed to clog the air
around his head, frustrating his attempts to see. He was
forced to squint as he threaded his way through the maze
of tables--dragging Kieran's leaden weight all the while,
and was almost sorry he could see what he did. Gritty,
hardened, ill-visaged faces glared at him with
undisguised contempt. Picturing the way they must look--a
clean-cut pretty boy and an obviously injured
companion--he stumbled faster.
The man behind the bar seemed as maliciously
disinterested as his patrons. Not certain what to
say--beyond perhaps asking for Jeno--Madac opened his
mouth and devoutly prayed that words would emerge of
their own accord. They did, in a low, graveled voice that
ground out, "Come with me."
Madac had half a moment of utter incomprehension before a
knotted log--a log with articulated fingers, he
noted--propelled them through a door that opened behind
the bar. A hallway, carved from the cliff face itself and
lit by flickering tallow candles, seemed to stretch on
for miles. Madac's exhausted muscles, rebelling at the
sight of further trials, disengaged entirely. To his
horror, he felt his knees collapse underneath him, felt
Kieran sag in, and was watching the unforgiving approach
of the floor when Gravel-Voice caught them.
"That's enough, boy."
Broad shoulders lifted Kieran, cradled him, and began
No! Madac willed himself up and
staggered after them, feeling strangely disconnected from
his body. Each step seemed to take an eternity and sent
tremors coursing up when his foot struck the stone. He
pushed furiously on, watching the shadowed form
proceeding further into the darkness; then disappearing
No! He struggled on a
few more steps, until his vision clouded and his legs
curled into themselves.
He was fisting away tears when the darkness captured him.
He woke up angry. Angry at Gand for not
being there, angry at Kieran for getting hurt, angry at
Gravel-Voice for leaving him behind. His hands clenched,
twisted around fabric, and he opened his eyes to glare
down at the arm of a chair.
He blinked and discovered that he was folded into a
rocker that could easily have accommodated two of him.
The cheerful fire lit the room--warm, cozy, and utterly
disjoined from the chipped walls and the tunnel that ran
along its back. Madac shivered as the blackness behind
him seemed to stretch cold fingers out to beckon him into
its reaches. A sudden, irrational desire to find Kieran
and beat him senseless forced him out of the chair and
sent him trotting down the dark corridor.
Five minutes at a brisk pace to brought him to the place
he had left the night--had it been a night?--before. The
broad oaken door stood like a sentinel before him,
illuminated by a flickering tallow torch in a sconce.
Slowly, the anger that had fueled his drive collapsed in
on itself and melted into the cold stone floor. He'd gone
the wrong way. Empty, he stood before the door, trying to
reclaim the will to move forward. When the door groaned
open, creaking like the hold of a ship tossed in a storm,
he started back against the wall. Determined to at least
make a good accounting of himself, he waited for
Gravel-Voice, or some other doom, to overtake him.
"So, you've woken yourself. Ready to be gone, are
Doom had arrived in the form of a tall, sallow-cheeked
woman. Dark hair framed a long face, and severe black
eyes bored into his. He gaped at it open-mouthed.
"More than enough of that, youngling. Off with you,
He'd already started for the door when his abandoned wits
"I want to see Kieran," he squeaked, to his
Doom pursed her lips, obviously displeased. "No
need. You've done your part, be on your way."
This time it was easier to resist the compulsion to
"I'm not leaving 'til I see what you've done with
She glared at him. Madac, almost relieved, glared back,
half-resolved to set out without her.
Impossibly quickly, a wiry hand wrapped itself around the
back of his neck, faced him into the darkness, and
marched him forward.
notwithstanding, Madac's stomach convulsed when he
finally saw Kieran. The chamber, like the one he'd been
in, was warm and well-lit, with the notable addition of
bedstead and chintz counterpane. Kieran's face was turned
away, but the faintly green cast of his skin was
visible--and disturbing. Swallowing, he jerked himself
free of the woman and approached the bed.
"Don't go waking him," she hissed,
unnecessarily. He awarded her another glare.
He held his breath, unable to believe that the form--so
absolutely still--could really be Kieran. Again he felt
tears rising through his throat, swallowed against them.
He sensed the woman reaching out, tensed for her
grasp--and saw Kieran's face turn towards them.
Kieran watched for a long moment, his eyes slowly
focusing on the pair before him. He opened his mouth,
seemed surprised when no words came out. Licking his
lips, he tried again.
"Let him stay. Please."
She was going to refuse. Madac was absolutely certain of
Melda exhaled shortly.
"Don't tire him. I'll be back."
Madac watched her go, casting about for something to say.
What did one say in such circumstances?
Kieran spoke first.
"Hi." His voice was barely a whisper, but he
quirked an eyebrow--so typical of the charming,
indomitable Kieran of old.
"Don't try. I'm planning on killing you, soon as I
There was the slightest twitch of his lips.
"Spent all day. Up to fifty-seven ways now."
"S'waste. One'll do." He paused, considered.
"One has, maybe."
Madac actually felt the chill as his blood ran cold. He
stepped back and crossed his arms. "What's that
s'posed to mean?"
"Thought it was obvious. Even to you."
"All that's obvious to me is you've gone idiot on
me. Bloody stupid, getting hurt like that." He
restrained the urge to throttle Kieran as a new thought
"Kieran, what in seven holy hells did you do?"
Madac stood waiting for three long heartbeats, until the
silence became unbearable.
Resigned, Kieran rolled his head on the pillow.
"What I had to do," he muttered, and braced for
the inevitable. His stomach threatened to rebel, sending
new waves of pain through his body. That was a surprise.
He'd thought it already hurt more than humanly possible.
Now there was an ironic phrase. Not that I had a
choice in the matter. Not that it would make a
The pain was
making his always tenuous grasp on patience nonexistant.
He turned back to see Madac staring at him in utter
breathed. "You didn't kill anyone, did
"I what? No,
The familiar scowl settled
across Madac's features. "So you're going to call me
names, now? After I saved your bloody life?"
Kieran struggled up,
exasperated. "Madac, will you be reasonable?"
Melda was suddenly
descending, eyes almost black with concentrated fury.
"Out!" she hissed. "Out, out, out!"
She thrust him through the
archway and into the darkness of the corridor. Kieran
closed his eyes, listening to the scuffles until the
heavy thud of the door announced their departure. He
frowned, relief fighting fierce guilt within him.
He must have slept, for he
awoke to Melda's gentle touch drawing back the
bedclothes. He jerked when she began to undress the
bandages, drawing her attention, as well as her
inevitable disapproval, up to him. Vainly, he sought
something that would bring a smile, but his wit seemed to
have decamped in his body's general retreat. [blech!!
eminent rewrite, pending inspiration]
"Umph. Melda, that
Her eyes speared his,
searching, before she nodded sharply.
"Happens that way
when you get caught. Worse when you weren't meant to be
"Somebody had to
"And you were told it
wasn't you. For good reason."
He closed his eyes when
she lifted the final bits off. He could feel every inch
of his side; seeing it would do him in entirely. He had
no stomach for blood--even small hurts would send him
straight to Glenna. Glenna.
began, staring up at the ceiling, "What did you do
"Sent him home where
He groaned. Melda and Jeno
had been wonderful to him, but they had never understood
his association with Barendor's family. It was an old
argument, one he'd learned to avoid long ago. He did not
want to begin it again now, but there were things he'd
Things you ran away
Kieran gathered himself.
"I need to talk to him," he said softly.
stronger." Melda replied automatically, padding and
nudging at the bandages.
"Soon, Melda. I have
to talk to him before. . . " He choked suddenly,
confronted with the prospect of his emminent death.
Flinching, he tried to sit up, to escape. Fire chewed
through his abdomen, and he collapsed back into the
pillows. "Melda!" he gasped, panicking.
Goal: To move Madac from
the Kieran encounter to the "real" world, to
introduce wizard meddling, to build up to Beren's leaving
the Guard and forming a company of merry men. Madac had
less intention of heading home than ever. He struck out
away from the Break towards Proper, with the vague idea
of tracking Beren down and leading a raid on Jenos'
establishment. The thought gave him some degree of grim
satisfaction. He imagined himself at the head of a column
of Guardsmen, storming through the dank smoke, casting
aside the heavy oaken tables, while Gravel-Voice stood
stricken in the corner. He'd crash through the door he'd
been so unceremoniously ejected from, stride down the
dark hallway, and emerge triumphantly with Kieran.
Who would probably
just want to go straight back in. He scowled, and
once again considered causing irreparable harm to his
best friend. It's the least he deserves.
It slowly began to occur
to him that the Proper was unusually silent. The paved
streets gaped wide without the throngs of people crowding
them. Even the banners and awnings seemed to flap
listlessly above the shop windows. It felt as if the city
sat waiting--for whom or what he couldn't tell. Even the
horses--beasts he had never particularly cared
for--seemed to shy away from shadows that weren't there
to shy away from. The eerieness of it unnerved him enough
that he turned his steps more directly toward the stern
gray fortress that the Guardsmen of Ascanon called home.
There was more of a bustle
under the walls of the fort, with a crowd gathered close
together. Madac couldn't make out what they were there
for; the men and women muttered amongst themselves and
glared suspiciously at anyone who approached. The height
of the surreal day hit, however, when he was challenged
by the lookout at the gate. As the son and brother of
Guardsmen, Madac was as familiar with the fort as he was
with the docks, and there was no good reason for the
sentry to stop him as it was--challenges were generally
reserved for the shady or suspicious characters who would
enter. Stunned, he declared himself, and was allowed in
through the (locked) door beside the gate.
A wizard stood just
inside, shunting people into queues along the right and
left walls. He looked up at Madac harriedly, then began
spraying him with a thick purple solution that oozed
thickly down his arms and tunic. The wizard suddenly
straightened and signaled for another green-clad Watcher.
"Right you are. Have
any idea why you were spelled? Party or parties bearing a
Madac began to wonder if
the young wizard was entirely in his right mind. He
blinked as the slime seeped further into his clothes.
"I what?" he
The harried wizard rolled
his eyes. "I said you were right. You have been
spelled. Please advance to the appropriate queue. Left
for known parties, right for unknown."
"I was spelled
?" he repeated.
The wizard sighed.
"About a day ago, from the looks of it. Don't worry,
the guard will start formal proceedings against the
parties responsible. Now if you would please advance to
Madac nodded absently,
turned, and headed in the general direction of the
barracks. Spelled? Him? The whole concept was
"You too, little
brother?" Beren's voice was so dry it burned to
answered reflexively. "I mean, what?"
He had to squint up at his
brother, shadowed against the sun. Beren's merry face
seemed darker today, colder--more resolute than Madac
could remember. Was anyone the way they should be today?
Beren glared down at him
for a moment, then propelled him through a doorway into a
nearly deserted armory. Two guardsmen in the process of
unpacking dusty crates of pikes looked up at them.
"Take a break,"
Beren growled. The men saluted sharply and headed for the
door. Beren's hand remained leaden on Madac's shoulder
until they were gone, then thrust him squarely into the
room. He staggered a little, but held his ground.
"I thought you, at
least, would have better sense. And I suppose you dragged
Madac hastily shook his
head. "He's out. I am too, really. Beren. . . I'm in
"That you are, little
brother. What makes you think you have any reason to be
involved in this? Some grode at the dock, Madac? Planning
on getting yours back on some little sneaker?"
Madac closed his eyes,
both to avoid his brother's fury and to reassure himself
that he really had opened them that morning. The day had
been unreal since the moment Gand left, and suddenly he
didn't think he could stand another moment of it.
"Beren," he said
softly, "if you don't leave off now I am going to
knock you down." He opened his eyes and exhaled. His
brother squared himself and crossed his arms.
"Is it safe
"Safe enough, for
now." He leaned in. "But it won't be unless I
start getting answers real soon. Where's Ganden?"
"Took the boat out.
The usual lads are crewing. I--ah, I didn't go."
An eyebrow quirked.
"The time came, did it?"
Why was he blushing?
"I didn't know you knew."
"There's plenty you
don't know. Keep going with what you do."
"Well, I was just
wandering around--Ma doesn't know I stayed--and then I
"So we come to the
Madac shook his head
slowly. "Not like you think. He got hurt bad,
Ber--real bad. Like maybe he's--," he broke off
suddenly. "Anyway, I took him to these people and
they won't let me see him. Beren, you've got to go get
him out of there."
OUTLINE: Madac is
told by a wizard at the fort that he shows signs of being
spelled. He hooks up w/ Beren, who gives him the LD on
all the weird stuff that's been going on. Later, Madac
happens to see something funky going on w/ the wizards
and some prisoners that they're in the process of taking
to the keep. This is how he forges his alliance with the
mixed kids. (I NEED A SIGNIFIER FOR MIXED BLOODED
Lessa tightened the cinch
on her saddle, mentally noting that the leather strap
wasn't far from becoming worn. Although she appreciated
it being the greatest of her current worries, and that
this sentence is utter and complete crap, the smooth trip
had left her slightly bored. Even the notorious banditry
of the route north had failed to bloody well show up.
And, she was itching for a fight.
The vague discontentment
that had haunted her in Ascanon had returned, stronger
than ever. She'd hoped for new adventures to relieve the
monotony of familiar roads; new sights and sounds to,
well--to fill her, she admitted in a moment of candor.
She was bored.
Something mundane happens;
she turns and barks at someone. Blahdeblahdeblah, then
she sees Meddan skulking in the trees. He invites her to
go running off to become whatever the hell he is.