Ed Greenwood: Swords of Eveningstar

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Ed Greenwood Swords of Eveningstar
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    Swords of Eveningstar
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Ed Greenwood


Swords of Eveningstar

Prologue

Delyn Laquilavvar laughed in farewell and let the mists claim him. Then he was falling, a brief and silent plunge toward an elusive brightness beyond the swirling blue endlessness…

His boot came down on soft moss, the great dark trees familiar and friendly around him. Sunfall soon; the shadows were already long as he crossed his glade. The unseen wards stirred at his approach, and amid their gentle caresses Delyn of the Seven Spells chuckled softly, remembering the merry jests Fluevrele and the others had just flung.

Most elf mages-if they disliked bullying apprentices or taking awed and fearful lovers-walked alone, and grew as wary as the ancient Horned Ones of the forests. He was fortunate to have such friends, and so escape tha His wards hummed serene and unbroken, nothing amiss. Nor had the ancient way he’d just taken, to cross half of Faerun with a single step, been a whit different.

So why now, with his wards singing all around him, was something coiling-nay, uncoiling — sickeningly, deep inside him.

“What-?”

He’d time for no more than that before something gnawing, strange, and impossibly large surged up into his throat, chokingly…

Delyn reeled, clawing vainly at the empty air. His tree-cats, who’d been mincing unconcernedly to join him, now shrank back, arching and hissing.

Whatdoomcanthis be? Wherewhatracingoutofmyown mindto — to The elf swayed, face as white as winter moonlight, towering over Myrithla, eldest and longest of his furred companions, who watched in grim fear as her master’s eyes went as dark and empty as the sockets of a skull. Even before they shriveled, she could see that he was no longer there behind them.

No one was.

Whatever had been Delyn Laquilavvar had been snatched-or drained-away, leaving behind a suddenly spasming, trembling body that flung wide its arms, dropped its jaw slack to drool a foamy river, and… started to flare at its fingertips.

Flare as in flames, licking and rising, as swiftly as if the elf were dry deadwood and not living flesh.

Myrithla hated fire, and sprang back, spitting in fear. The other rethren were already fleeing behind her, mewing their terror in loud unison.

Their cries were abruptly drowned out by a loud wail, a shriek that burst not from the elf mage’s mouth but from his every orifice, air and juices boiling forth together as the flames built into their own roar.

Myrithla flung herself back, heedless of rough landing.

Her master was a column of flame, already shedding ashes, the air thick with the stink of scorched meat…

And like all rethren, Myrithla hated her meat cooked.

The scrying orb glowed brightly, lighting up a soft smile.

The column of flames in its depths was already beginning to shrink and flicker, the evening gloom of that distant deep-forest glade returning around its fading brilliance.

“Perfect,” said the owner of that smile, in a voice soft with satisfaction. “And such spells, Laquilavvar! This one should give me just the key I need to open Dathnyar’s wards. Thank you. ”

Chapter 1

WEARING RABBIT STEW

Great things befall when one is brave enough to do something bold, strange, and unusual. Something off one’s daily trail, apart from one’s chosen character and station and presented-to-the-world mask. Great things-or terrible. Or merely pratfalls and troublesome chaos in their wake.

All of which proves one thing beyond all doubt: Whatever gods watch over us, they’re starved for amusement, and richly reward those who entertain them.

Ulvryn Hamdarakh, Sage of Saelmur

Musings On Mortality published in the Year of the Dying Stars

I t had been a bright and glorious day of listening to the new leaves rustle around her every time the gentle breeze set them to fluttering.

Yet the late Tarsakh sun stabbed through them, eager and hot. The Purple Dragon was glad to doff her helm and step into the roadside shade when the gruff old lionar led a dozen fresh blades to her post and told her she was done until next sunrise.

Though the bustle of Waymoot was just around the bend behind her, she went the other way, striding straight to the smells that had been tantalizing her.

The farmwife who’d been selling apples and fresh bread whisked aside the fly blankets from their baskets at her approach, her smile widening.

“Tummy trumpeting?”

“And how,” the warrior replied, fumbling for her purse. “Gods, I feel I could eat-eat-”

She stared past the end of the farmwife’s cart at something in the trees beyond, her jaw dropping open and her words trailing away forgotten.

The farmwife peered-and grinned. “Him? Aye, I think half the folk hereabouts could, given the chance. The female half.”

The Purple Dragon swallowed. “Who is he?”

They stood elbow to elbow, watching a tall, broad-shouldered man coming out of the trees as quietly as a passing breeze. His stride was long and liquid, his square-jawed face as handsome as “King Azoun,” the warrior whispered. “He carries himself like a king.”

The apparition’s level blue-gray eyes had noted the two women several soft strides ago, but flicked a glance at them again now. Their owner added a firm smile and a nod-and then was across the road and into the trees on its far side, his dusty brown leathers vanishing among them in a few strides.

The farmwife chuckled. “Nay, he’s not one of the king’s brood. Or so his parents claim. Prentice to the armorer Hawkstone these last few seasons, but seeking the king’s coin as a forester now, I hear. ‘The Silent,’ they call him hereabouts. You can see why.”

The Purple Dragon licked her lips, cleared her throat, and blinked as if banishing daydreams. “Now that,” she said almost regretfully, “was what a man should look like.”

The farmwife turned to her. “The Rebel Prince. Chapter Three. Boldgrim the Outlaw!”

The warrior nodded eagerly. “You read Goldghallow too?”

The farmwife beamed. “Aye, I’ve every one of his at home-including the ah, Blackcovers edition of The Nymph Said No. ”

The Purple Dragon’s jaw dropped open again. This time, one of the flies that had been buzzing around the food took a chance and flew into her mouth.

When she was done choking, the farmwife flung an arm around her and said, “Eat what you want for free, dear-and take latestew with me this night. Rhabran’s gone to market these two nights, now, and we can talk all we want. After you read the naughty bits.”

The shadows in the sun-dappled shade were deepening; sunset wasn’t far off. Florin moved quickly, gliding through ferns like a ghost. Queen of the Forest, but he loved these walks. The deep green shadows, the magnificent trees, gnarled and vast and patient, sentinels that had seen dozens of passing kings of Cormyr, and stags beyond number…

He was of the forest, he felt at peace here. This was where he belonged.

And yet as spring quickened toward summer in this Year of the Spur, there was a restlessness rising in Florin Falconhand.

Not the weariness of hot metal and forge-crash and ringing, numbing hammerwork that had driven him here from Hawkstone’s service, despite his passable skills, but… something else. Something that was riding him as eagerly as his fellow youngbloods of Espar were riding their lasses this spring, despite the peace of the forest. He gave the trees around him a smile. He didn’t want anything more than this.

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