Chapter 1 Ascending into the back alleys and litter strewn streets to Renwyar's shop, the green-eyed half-elf hesitantly opens door. "Hail and well met, Agonides." After seeing her stealthily tip toe through the front door, Calumdar hails a greeting and holds up both palms face up in an effort to make known his eagerness at seeing her and the news she would have to report to him. "Greetins' and well met Calumdar", she said. Calumdar was not Agonides’ first choice as an adventuring companion, but the merchant orwould-be rogue had his usefulness. “It seems yer happily anticipating the news I bring than seeing my ugly mug." "Aye. I do at that, Agonides. The trade routes used by my employer would do well to hear the news. There have been too many marauders of late who intercept communications and sell it on the open black market for a handsome price. My employer and I are under the assumption that there is a greater danger from the Order of the Rose who’ll want to divert my progress or sales of goods and services to the Prince", he said with a tinge of sarcasm. “Pray tell, could it be some of your friends perhaps who would want to do this? Those little do-gooders who wish to thwart any kind of act considered untoward in their books?” A curve of her lips indicated she knew what Calumdar was driving at, but she didn’t bite. “What? I don’t know a damn thing of what yer talkin’ about ye crazy pit pocket, and even if I did, I am not a Knight of the Rose. What are ye daft or have ye been smokin’ too much o’ the pipe? She muttered under her breath the mature human was an idiot. She lifted a brow and turned the corner of her lip into a half-smile and whisked a stray strand of hair that fell into her eyes. She then replied cooly and intelligently. "Calumdar, aye, you might want to consider that whilst I have my knack for doing good or doing bad, depending on who looks at it, I have no affiliation with the Rose. I am on the run from questioning as the result of my witness to a certain incident, not that I was a part of anything. Nevertheless, I avoid legal confrontations just as much as the next guy, and that being you. So you would do kindness to kiss my freakin’ arse and conduct business with me like you would do anyone else. Of course, I would think you would provide a friend with a larger discount than your usual customers.” She said with a wide grin. Calumdar expected this type of behavior from the half-elf, which was why he was secretly fond of the girl. She was brash, crude at times, but had a generous heart. He responded, “I’ll give ye what ye want ya dolt. I could no consider you anything other, but I warn ye Agonides. Don’t ye be pullin’ me into any shenanigans that would bring attention to my services and wares. We not be direct kin, but I do grant ye the fact that yer my cousin from my father's brood and that one side that I have no knowledge about, except yer my cousin by word of Windomar. Rest up girl." The appearance of Calumdar’s face relaxed. Agonides had gone on to slink into the back warehouse to look for wares to purchase. She couldn’t stay long. It would implicate Calumdar to her and it would easily bring about her quick capture. It wasn’t the Order she was worried about. She was more worried about being caught with the beauty of a horse she tied up in the back of Calumdar’s store. She couldn’t risk the chance of having the horse spotted would her would-be seekers. In the meantime, Calumdar conducted his business throughout the day. He unfolded the parchment he viewed only moments before Agonides’ arrival. He only now had a chance to view the communication from Windomar. He gently smoothed the creases out of the parchment. The usually neat caligraphy was blatantly scrawled in haste. It read, "Keep an eye on the girl. I fear not only peril from the Sheik is quickly advancing, but the Zhentarim have an interest in the item she keeps in her possession. Should anyone other than those who call themselves friends should fall into its possession, it would mean all the Kingdoms would be overcome with horrors unimaginable." Calumdar rubbed his chin and frowned. "By the gods and goddesses, why does it always fall into my hands?" He voiced the statement clearly hoping that someone would answer. His thoughts ran to his father's last wish before passing into another realm that Agonides never know her father, nor shall she meet him lest she become one of the vilest creatures to roam the realms other than her father. He pondered. All that he knew about the blackheart didn't hold high respect, but he wasn't all that bad. He smiled slightly. He'd already contacted Elaith a moon ago to let him know his daughter was in the area. Elaith already intended to make his introduction as a long lost kinsman, not necessarily the entire truth. Calumdar knew Windomar wouldn't approve. Nay, Windowmar would break all ties of friendship over the betrayal to Borug and the efforts Windomar and Abbigale had made to retain certain trusts. The gold that Elaith had promised for Calumdar's co-operation was too enticing for the rogue. He did after all have an image to retain as a merchant living off of meager means.
Many suns and moons had passed before Calumdar had seen his cousin again. It was not too often his father, Borug Gunter Celtis, took him to visit the High Elders of the Clan of the Goldenleaves. The daughter from the late Priestess, Aumrea, was the sole reason Borug ever made the journey to the woods near the old manors of Myth Drannor and Cormanthyr. When Borug ventured out with Calumdar to make the visit, it was to ensure that the lies created by him and his brother Joshua remained intact and still believed by all the High Elders. Agonides was not conceived by his brother Joshua, but by a High Elf black of hair and ill-tempered and ill-natured. Her mother, Aumrea, was enamored with Elaith from the first moment she encountered the black-heart, and the High Elf's heart was claimed by the late Priestess. Elaith had long since abandoned Aumrea upon Agonides' birth. He couldn't take the chance his past discretions would happen upon the Clan to take their lives away as a result of vengence, and so he left never to see Aumrea's last breath at the hand of an evil Mage of the Zhentarim. From afar, Elaith kept track of Agonides rearing. He watched her mature into a beautiful young maiden and careless Ranger. He smiled at her tendencies to "lightly" pick up items not necessarily hers or bargain for items with cunning. It was his trait. At times Agonides, would catch a glimpse of a handsome High Elf's eyes upon her. She often thought it was just the natural curiosity or appreciate from the opposite sex. There was no further thought from the casual observance. However, she started to see the elf more frequently than just a casual encounter. Her curiosity and imagination grew in the years to come as a maturing female. Her nature was far too shy to ever make long-lasting relationships with men or males in general. She preferred the outdoors and creatures that adorned it. The pet skunk so fondly kept inside her home was an unwelcome guest by passersby. Yet, be it bird, skunk, raccoon or the like, Agonides made steadfast friends with these creatures, and she conversed with them in the language of beasts with ease. Unfortunately, it was that fondness of animals that kept the Ranger from ever staying the cities and towns she frequently visited to maintain friendship with Windomar and Abbigale. She first met Windomar as a child upon the death of her mother. From the stories and tales Windomar recited in the early years, he had adventured with her mother. He claimed Aumrea had healed his "arse" many a time when bleeding out. Agonides always thought in the back of her mind that Windomar was a fop, but she never voiced it. Windomar was alive and aging as any human, and he must be proficient in whatever it was that he did. His companion, Abbigale, on the other hand was another story. She believed Windomar's fondness for the drink brought about the odd traveling companion. Abbigale was a superior brewster and had the finest brewery of various spirits from one end of the continent to the other. He once claimed to the half-elf that he brought a gift of an ancient spirit concocted by the Witches in the Eastern Realms to the Purple Knights. Whenever she heard the acclamation the girl would lift her brow mockingly and nod her head. "Abbigale, you do so tell this often enough. So when shall you provide me with a drink?" Abbigale, would huff and puff and recant the claim and say that she was yet too young to try any spirit for another thirty or so. The frown of displeasure brought about a chuckle form the portly priest. "Aye, I know. Yer about 100 to my own lass." She'd reply with a wry grin."
Windomar Windsinger stood at the gate of the old monastery waiting for his companion. Mentally, Windomar was giving the priest about two more minutes to gather his traveling gear or he'd leave without him. He shifted his feet constantly, finally planting them firmly on the ground with hands on hip. He didn't look happy. "Where are you?!" He shouted out toward the open double-doors. Within a few minutes, the portly priest colored in a drab tunic and frock appeared through the doorway with his arms full of his traveling gear. Around his leg was tied a keg which he dragged with each footstep. "Do you need help?" The bard chirped sarcastically. "Nay, I can manage meeself you pompinjay." He grinned with thick rosy lips, deep laugh lines etched on his face. Abbigale was the epitomy of a cherub in adult garb. The two human men finally loaded the two-wheeled cart within minutes. The team of horses, Flo and Jo. Abbigale hefted his weight onto the cart, pulling the reins into each hand. The horse-team lurched forward at the priest's command. "C'mon lads, pull ahead." The bard mounted his his bay stallion, Pascal, turning it around in circles to rush forward ahead of the cart. Windomar was an expert rider, but held the stallion in check to prance alongside the cart. "When do ye expect we'll arrive?", Abbigale questioned the bard. The bard scratched his chin calculating the distance and traveling time to reach the Dancing Boar. "Well, since we have to travel a portion of the way by ship and purchase provisions now and then." He gave Abbigale a baleful look. "We should arrive in thirteen or fourteen days give or take." The portly priest wrinkled his face. "What in Lathander's name makes travel so tiresome?", said sarcastically. Abbigale was no more a worshipper than Windomar was a worshipper of Tyr. "Tell me why we didn't hire or purchase a spell to teleport us to Calumdar's? I don't have the stomach for sailing, nor do I 'ave any taste for salt air. I want to travel afoot." The bright green and blue of the peacock's feather in Windomar's hat glistened in the sunlight. It moved back and forth as he shook his head. "You fool. We have to time this just right. We're killing two birds with one stone so-to-speak. We have to intercept the Sheik first. The bounty on Agonides' head is alive or dead, but the return of The Mother is alive only. The Sheik has no more patience for his former bride. The ploy to marry the Sheik to get to the mare was all but the last straw in the torrid relationship between the two. She had no call to use the man, albeit an ass of a man. He should've given her the mare as a bridal gift, but he cherished The Mother more than his bride-to-be." Abbigale thoughts were easily read. "She was wrong yes, but she is our friend, our ally, and an heir to the throne." Abbigale quickly replied, "If the girl and her father ever meet, make amends and get through the turmoil of real-politics and prejudices between their Elven races, she'll make a fine heir. It's his heirarchy that will never allow her to take seat, even though she's rightful heir. They would sooner put an Aldori Dueling Sword through her gullet than allow an Elf Maid of the Woods sit council." His face was red. Prejudice was not an easy topic for Abbigale. It infuriated him to no end, and the sermons he preached to his worshippers pushed that evils that arose from such hate. Windomar smiled at the priest. His friend was right. "Once we convince the Sheik that he can save face and return the mare, we move to the next problem of Elaith. All will go as planned. Timing is precarious. Have faith brother." The smile made the man more handsome. His eyes lit at the tasks at hand. He lived for adventure and missed it immensely. While the years had matured him and his companion, they had not lost their zeal for life and the open road. Of course, the treasure was a great incentive. "Abbigale, every man, child or woman you interact with throughout the realm deserves your good tidings. Is this not true?" The priest thought a moment and lamented. "Aye, tis good to be on the road yet again after so long. My feet have forgotten how to step one foot in front of the other." He smiled at the bard. "I've also brought provisions enough to keep the thirst at bay." He winked at the bard. Windomar shook his head and laughed. The slender flute the bard withdrew from his cloak glistened with the deep color of red oak. Deft fingers played a quick-noted tune in time with the click-clack of horses' hooves.
The half-elf kicked her mount into a steady gallop. She made haste for a thorp around the next bend of the hill she looked up at. A pair of hawks circled above a large pine about 50 yards away from her. She could see the next of large twigs and branches folded about the top part of the pine. It was summer solstice and the countryside was teeming with wildlife. As the half-elf turned Daisy into the bend, small rocks and dust flying behind her, she heard a faint neigh. She looked down at her mount's ears and saw that each ear twitched back and forth as if to hear the noise as well. Agonides urged Daisy on faster, then pulled her up short and slowly turned her to the right into a group of thatches. Her dust cleared in time for the unknown rider to gallop past where she was hidden. Her tight hand on the reins kept Daisy at bay and the mare obediently stood still, her ears flicking back and forth as the black figures sped by. After a few minutes, the half-elf went further up toward the top of the hill to get a better view of the whereabouts of the rider. When she reached the top, she could see far enough into the distance to see the rider was headed toward the thorp. She decided she would have to traverse the gorge on the far side of the hill that ducked into a smaller valley on the opposite side to reach her destination. She was familiar enough with the territory and its peoples to find shelter if the strange rider relocated her trail.
Abbigale was reclining back on his haunches against a fallen tree. The fire emitted enough light so that the portly priest could determine how the night's fare was cooking. Windomar was playing a forlorn melody on his flute, and the mood was somewhat sad. He stopped momentarily. "Do you think she suspects her guardian's involvement in the ordeal?" Windomar turned toward Abbigale. "Nay, she's oblivious. Ye know how naive she is in matters of character judgment, but she has means of divulging one's character in other ways. I'm sure she's might have suspected something a time or two, but she values the friendship more than she profits from the mentoring." Windomar smiled at Abbigale's surmizing of the half-elf's intelligence. "I must say I'm a little disappointed she hasn't been around more than the thrice visits she's made over the past year." Abbigale chortled. "Aye, well she's a busy lass. She has a keen business sense as dishonest as it seems. She'd give the shirt off her back ifn' a peasant asked fer it. Though I think she's a bit daft taking risks with Mahmud." Windomar nodded his head in agreement. "Aye, agreed my friend...agreed. Never lie to a pasha, promise him your soul and steal his love. He'll never forgive her, and I'm sure he's sent his best assasin after her." The priest sighed deeply. "Aye, let us pray we meet her first."
Content that she had lost her adversary, the half-elf contemplated another tactic to give speed to her journey. She remembered the outsider, Raavice, that had a gnash for magical crafts and gadgets. The outsider's love for inventions earned him the respect and loyalty of his co-hort, Bidgebater. Prior to leaving the Dalelands, she was advised of the Randal Mourn's enlistment of an mercernary group called the Shining Blades to patrol and keep safe the Dales. Raavice was one of those adventurers, including his close friend The Constable, Siobohan, and Alexander. Raavice was a fairly reliable wizard, and the half-elf could use his skill of teleportation to her destination. She would have to ride until dawn to find the wizard and had one more day remaining to complete her task. The half-elf patted the mare's neck as she side-stepped and pranced. "It's up to you girl. Make haste like our lives depended upon it."
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