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 story itself.

Go to the good stuff

Go to the Madac section

Go to the Kieran section

Feedback, feedback, feedback!


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 of legends.

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 Necessary Explaining

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 trading companies.

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.

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 way north.

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 approach.

"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 help."

"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 difference."

"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 camp."

"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 sister?"


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 be him?"

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 Ford?"

"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 catch up?"

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 it."

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, wouldn't it?"

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 out now."

"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 fire.

"Do you have water? Supplies? Where is your horse?""

"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 hospitality."

"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 answer."

"I wonder if you will. You are the one the wizards seek?"

"I am."

"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 flames.

"'Tis a question not easily answered, Milady."

Lessa moved to speak, but Meddan raised a hand to forestall her.

"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 expectantly.

"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 me?"

"I'm afraid that I've no idea," he answered shortly.

To Lessa's great annoyance, he stood, shouldered his pack, and disappeared into the darkness. She didn't call after him.


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 the matter.

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 another's mind.

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 City.

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 a chair.

"Rough trip?"

She raised an eyebrow. "From Ascanon to the City? Hardly."

"What's got you looking so rattled, then?"

"Rattled? Travel-worn and rumpled, maybe."

"Nonsense. I saw it when you came down. What happened?"

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, then?"

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 North?"

"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 leaving?"

"As soon as possible. The train south should've already started."


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 were hurt."

Almost imperceptibly, the darkness thinned a little. Cloak and figure differentiated themselves and Meddan emerged to stand against the wall. "What did you hear?"

"Humph. You mean how much did the girl give away? Nothing. She said that she'd met a stranger on the road."

Meddan smiled thinly. "And you assumed me to be the stranger?"

"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 elf responded.

"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 find shelter."

"Not a difficult process on the Coast Road."

"No. Especially when one is sent a calthenod."

"Ahh." Jamie chuckled a bit. "That does change things."

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 her…. well, it presaged interesting times. Very interesting, indeed.


Madac-Time! (top)

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 growing misgivings.

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 aloneness.

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 this.

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 sauntered in.

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 rushed forward.

"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.

"Like hell!"

Kieran remained curled on the ground, his face twisted with pain. Madac stared down at him. The silence was deafening.

"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 miserable one.

"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 the closest.

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 walking away.

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 completely.

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 you?"

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, then."

He'd already started for the door when his abandoned wits reasserted themselves.

"I want to see Kieran," he squeaked, to his utmost horror.

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 escape.

"I'm not leaving 'til I see what you've done with him."

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.


Injured dignity 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 it.

"Melda, please."

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 decide how."

There was the slightest twitch of his lips. "Really?"

"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 struck him.

"Kieran, what in seven holy hells did you do?"



He stiffened. 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 difference.

The pain was making his always tenuous grasp on patience nonexistant. He turned back to see Madac staring at him in utter horror.


"Kieran," he breathed. "You didn't kill anyone, did you?"

"I what? No, you idiot."

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 hurts."

Her eyes speared his, searching, before she nodded sharply.

"Happens that way when you get caught. Worse when you weren't meant to be there."

"Somebody had to go."

"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.

"Melda," he began, staring up at the ceiling, "What did you do with Madac?"

"Sent him home where he belongs."

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 left unsaid.

Things you ran away from saying.

Kieran gathered himself. "I need to talk to him," he said softly.

"When you're 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. "Melda!"


Introducing Beren

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 grudge?"

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 asked stupidly.

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 your queue."

Madac nodded absently, turned, and headed in the general direction of the barracks. Spelled? Him? The whole concept was dotty.

"You too, little brother?" Beren's voice was so dry it burned to hear.

"No!" Madac 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 Ganden along?"

Madac hastily shook his head. "He's out. I am too, really. Beren. . . I'm in trouble."

"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 here?"

"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 found Kieran."

"So we come to the trouble."

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 PEOPLE!!!)


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.



Random Chunks of Text that Need to be Recycled:

It belonged to a part of Kieran's life that he and Ganden hadn't ever asked about; an easier way, he belatedly assumed, for them to ignore its existence. Kieran's parents were a forbidden topic, and the boys had eventually stopped their conversations long before they reached the delicate areas of home and family--although Kieran had been a frequent--bordering on perpetual--figure in their lives.



Random Inspirational Quotes that Remind Me of Things I Want to Incorporate:

"The pilots in Rogue Squadron were on the front lines, and they had to act now and deal with moral delimmas when they had time." ~Lizzie

"I was informed that if I did so, I would be hunted down and exterminated like the rat I that I am. There were repeated mutterings of "I know where you live" interspersed with "I also know where you work," and at one point I believe demons were channeled. I assumed that this left all artistic license up to me."

"Everyone can remember that indefinabel draw to that world onscreen or in print or in swooping musical cadences that hinted at so many possiblities."