Skin of Glass

By Shawn Hagen

Fantasy / Adventure

Stories and Tales

The edge of the High Forest came far too soon for Misara. She had travelled from Daetarue in the company of Serdeia, Conkordia and Lindra. They knew the fastest paths in the Forest, the safest, and the more interesting. She had always enjoyed the times she spent with Serdeia and Conkordia, they were, in some ways, like older sisters who had made all the mistakes and were set on ensuring their younger sister made the same ones.

It was the first time she had seen Lindra in an adult role; she was impressed with her daughter's abilities, and again saddened for all that she had missed. At the same time, when night fell and they rested, she held Lindra tight in her arms as they stared up at the stars and Lindra was her little girl again. If only she did not have so many misgivings about her daughter's future and her own shortcomings as a mother.

As always the partings were difficult.

"Where are you going now?" Conkordia asked as she helped Misara don her armour.

"Waterdeep, with a stop at Beliard along the way. Then, likely onto Candlekeep."

"Waterdeep," Lindra said, a wistful tone in her voice. "I would like to go there."

Misara thought for a moment to ask Lindra to accompany her, but she immediately knew that were she to do so, it would be for her own benefit, and not for Lindra's. Lindra did not need to go on an adventure with her mother. She needed far much more.

Serdeia said, "We might take a trip to Skull Port in a season or two."

Skull Port, Misara thought, was hardly a substitute of the City of Splendours. Lindra deserved better than Skull Port. Lindra deserved better in so many things.

Instead of saying anything she brought her fingers to her mouth and then blew out a long, piercing whistle.

"Calling your horse?" Conkordia asked as she turned her attention to filling Misara's pack from Misara's belt-pouch-the magic bag much emptier since she had left Daetarue.

"Yes. He should be here soon." She picked up the saddlebags and walked over to the stump that she had filled several days before. She poured another portion of grain into it, suspecting that Iron would be a little hungry, then returned to help Conkordia with the packing.

Serdeia and Lindra spoke softly about the condition of the forest while Conkordia and Misara worked. Conkordia looked up from the work. "I think your horse may not be coming."

"Iron will come," Misara said as she sealed one of the pockets on her pack. She got to her feet and put her fingers to her mouth again, blowing out another whistle, pitching its tone up and down.

"How do you do that?" Lindra asked.

"Do what?" Misara turned towards her.

"Whistle like that." She put her to her mouth as Misara had and tried to whistle, but the sound was just of air coming from her mouth.

"Pull your lips back over your teeth," Misara said, and then demonstrated. Lindra did so. "Pull your tongue back in your mouth, the tip touching the bottom, behind your teeth. Then put your fingers just in just past your teeth and blow."

Lindra did as she was instructed and blew, with no improvement.

"You'll have to practice. Let me show you again." At least she could do that for Lindra.

The lesson was interrupted a few minutes later by the sound of pounding hooves. Conkordia was the first to see Iron. "That is not a horse," she declared.

"Of course it is a horse," Misara said, whistling again.

"What happened to Snow Lock?" Lindra asked.

"Snow Lock got herself killed by running off a cliff while under the influence of dragon fear. Stupidest horse I ever had."

"Aren't they all," Serdeia said.

"Not Iron," Misara said, watching the horse run straight to the grain and begin to eat. "He'd run from a dragon in a second, but he'd have enough sense to keep from running off a cliff." She approached her horse, looking him over.

"Damn ugly thing," Conkordia commented.

"Oh yes, he certainly is that." Misara was pleased to note that while a little dirty, Iron looked none the worse for the days alone, not that she expected otherwise. He was, for the most part, a wild horse.

She examined his hooves while he ate, checking the steel shoes as well as the condition of each hoof. When she arrived at Beliard she'd have the blacksmith look them over, but they'd be fine until then.

Lindra had approached the horse and was looking at it closely. Iron, who had finished his grain, looked up at the dark elf and snorted at her. "Can I touch him?" she asked.

"Watch him. He's fast and he may bite," Misara said as a warning.

Lindra reached out tentatively and put her hand on his neck. She lightly began to pat him. Iron stood there apparently enjoying the attention. "I like him. You're right, he doesn't look stupid."

"Bad tempered however. He likes elves a little more than most others."

"He has good taste," Conkordia said as she handed the saddlebags to Misara.

She placed her gear onto Iron, then turned and hugged Conkordia. "Take care you everyone while I'm gone."

"You know I will."

She next hugged Serdeia. "Take care of Conkordia."

"I always do."

She turned finally to Lindra. Brushing the pale yellow hair back from her forehead she kissed her. "I love you."

Lindra moved forward and hugged her tightly. "Come home soon mother," she said.

Simple words that held so much weight.

They ended their embrace and Misara shouldered her pack before pulling herself onto Iron's back. Iron turned in a circle, Misara made eye contact with the three dark elves, then she urged Iron into a run. She turned back to wave just before cresting a hill. Flashes of silver from drawn weapons answered her.

Misara smiled when she heard a piercing whistle from the edge of the forest.

"Good girl," she said, then turned Iron around and raced over the hill.


Onica Jade placed the vial within the light of the floor pattern. "As you requested Mistress."

Asharass stepped to the edge of the pattern, and stared down at the vial. "Tell me of it."

"When Saint Ormas of Ilmater died in the first battle of Sammer Valley his companion, the Knight Resala Twinn, filled an empty potion vial with his blood and a lock of his hair. He then carried this reliquary into the second battle of Sammer Valley. It was said that the vial shone brightly with the light of Ilmater and all those who were good of heart were healed by the power."

"It does not look that impressive," Asharass told Onica.

"No my mistress. It may be that Ilmater has drawn his power from it, or that it takes a believer in the Broken god to call it forth."

"Or that it is a fake."

"That is possible my Mistress," Onica said, "but I think that unlikely."

"Why?"

"After the second battle of Sammer Valley the reliquary was given to Soomin Chai, priest of the Shrine of Ilmater in Everlund. In the two hundred years since the second battle of Sammer Valley the reliquary has only left the shrine three times, each time given to a Champion of Ilmater. All three times the Champion in question returned the reliquary once the quest they were on ended.

"The danger of those quests and their success, in all three cases attributed to the reliquary, makes me certain that the shrine has retained the true vial as sealed by Resala Twinn."

Asharass said nothing and Onica knelt upon the floor, silent, awaiting her mistress' decision.

She understood why Ahsarass was so concerned with the possibility of the reliquary being a fake, but Onica was certain she had stolen the true item from the shrine. Before she had chosen to follow Asharass, Onica had been a Divine Seeker in service to Oghma, the god of Knowledge. She had uncovered many secrets for her church, and she knew how to differentiate between a fake and the genuine article.

The reliquary was real, and Onica knew that Asharass would come to accept that decision as well.

"What will you hunt next?" Asharass asked.

"The temple of Lathander in Marsember is said to have three of the five pieces of the cloth used to bind Lathander's wounds. That is my next destination."

Asharass nodded. "That pleases me dear Onica. Return to me quickly for I do not like to be without your presence."

Onica felt like a cat that had been stroked, it was almost as if she might purr. Bowing down deeply, touching her head to the chamber floor, she said, "It will be as you order, Mistress Asharass."

She got to her feet, her head still low in respect, and she took three steps back before straightening. She turned and walked from the chamber, stopping at the threshold to bow once more.

Onica was a small woman, only a little over five feet in height, and she was half-elven. She came from the Far East, the daughter of a far travelling, elven, adventurer and a Kara-Tur concubine. Her eyes were a deep green, the reason for her last name. Her hair was black and straight, like her mother's. Her skin colour was also that of her mother's people.

Attractive, but not really beautiful, the features of her parents had mixed in her face in such a way that made it seem incomplete. There was a mark of youth on her that made many think she was still an adolescent.

Her thoughts were on Asharass and of her next journey, to far off Cormyr. To steal the three pieces of the binding would be difficult and she would need to plan carefully. And at the same time her mistress had told her to return quickly. She took it as an indication of how much Asharass thought of her abilities.

She was brought out of her musings when she noticed that Cirtimin was leaning against one of the walls, looking drawn and fatigued, as he often did.

"Cirtimin," she said softly, "may I be of aid to you?"

He shook his head. "I thank you for your offer, but this is something I must do on my own."

"You should be willing to take help Cirtimin. You are valuable to Asharass, my Mistress, and I would not see you waste your strength in such matters."

"It is not a waste to me. My mind grows stronger even as my body fails me. To allow my body to grow even weaker would surely do a disservice to Lady Asharass."

Onica bit her lower lip and after a moment nodded. "As you say. I must go, but know that if you ever need my help you have but to ask." She nodded to him, a respectful bow of sorts, and then continued on her way.


Two days of hard riding had brought Misara to Beliard. She and Iron were splattered in mud. Warm temperatures and rain were beginning to change the frozen roads of the North to the rivers of mud that slowed trade and travel every spring.

Inside the villages things were a little better. Wooden planks had been laid across the road that passed through the village, and old straw tossed down in an attempt to fight the mud. Iron's hooves thumped across the wood as he approached the Watchful Knight.

Misara slid off his back, getting more mud on her in the process, then walked the horse around the side of the Inn towards the stables. A stable boy ran out, dodging between mud puddles, and almost fell over as he slid to a stop close to her. "Want to stable your horse lady?" he asked.

She pulled a few copper coins from the small belt-pouch she wore and tossed them to the boy. "Get me a few buckets of water and some blankets," she told him.

"Right," he said as he pocketed the coins and ran back to the stable.

When he returned Misara used the water to sluice as much for the mud from Iron as she could, then the blankets to rub him dry. "He's going to need a good combing," she told the boy who was carrying the muddy blankets.

"I'll do that," he said.

"Be careful, he can be troublesome. Leave him if he gives you any difficulties." She looked into the other stalls in the stable. She saw Rose Thorn, looking impeccably groomed and perfectly clean. He tossed his head when he saw Misara and snorted. She suspected that he wanted to be off.

The boy opened one of the stall doors and Misara led Iron in. She got a measure of grain from a barrel by the door, filled the small feeding trough with it, and then closed the door. "Be good," she told the horse.

She gave the boy another copper coin, then left the stable, gathering up the things she had removed from Iron's back before washing him. Now it was time to get herself clean and dry.

Slabs of stone covered the floor just beyond the Inn's doorway and a low divider of wood had been set up around it. A signpost requested that all guests clean their boots before entering.

"Clean your boots ma'am?" a young man asked her.

Misara smiled. "You are an enterprising youngster," she told him as she put her right boot upon a simple stand. He took a brush and some water and cleaned most of the mud from the one boot, and then from the other. She tossed him a few copper pieces and then stomped across the stone to shake off the last bits of clinging mud before stepping off the stones and onto the wooden floor.

The Watchful Knight was not very busy, most of the tables sat empty, and only one of the hall's fireplaces had a fire burning within. Misara walked to the bar and placed six silver coins onto the clean and polished surface. The man behind the bar took up a position across from her. "What can I do for you?" he asked, not touching the silver.

"I need a room, a bath, a servant and a hot meal."

He nodded as he reached for the silver and swiped it into his open hand. "What order do you want that in?"

"Bath first."

He nodded again and walked towards a door that led to the kitchen. "Margot!" he called loudly. "Got a job for you."

A few seconds later a woman, probably sixteen or seventeen years old, came from the kitchen. She wore a homespun dress of grey, with a red scarf tied around her waist and another tied around her head, holding her blonde hair from her face.

"Margot, take this lady to the baths, and give her a hand for as long as she's here."

"Yes sir," Margot said, ducking into a slight bow toward the man. Then she came out from behind the bar and bowed again towards Misara. "If you'll come with me Ma'am, I'll show you to the baths."

The baths were fairly simple, several tubs, privacy screens, and a large fire place where water was heated. Margot brought buckets of hot water behind the screen to fill the bath, and then helped Misara with her hair. The girl would never make a decent lady's maid, but she handled her tasks well enough.

Afterwards Margot led her to one of the rooms on the third floor. Misara removed an armour kit from her pack and set Margot to helping her clean her armour. Then they moved onto her other gear. By the time they finished Misara's hands were as dirty as they had been when she had first arrived.

"Take these things to be laundered," Misara told Margot, handling her a bundle of clothing, wrapped in her road stained cloak. "And then bring me some water to wash up with."

"Yes Ma'am," she said with a quick bow, then left the room at a quick walk.

A short time later there was a knock on her door and she heard Rowan call though the door, "Misara, are you in?"

"Yes. Come in," Misara called out.

Rowan pushed open the door and entered the room. "I'm glad you finally made it. I was becoming concerned that I might have to go on without you."

"Have you been waiting long?"

"Six days." Rowan took a seat in one of the room's heavy chairs. "Not that long really."

Misara nodded. "Are you ready to leave tomorrow?"

Rowan smiled. "More than ready. I'm anxious to be on the road again, and, to be truthful, away from this Inn."

"I understand. With luck we can reach Waterdeep before the roads get too bad."

"We are going to have a stretch of clear, cold days which should see us close to Waterdeep. At least that is what Fermas told me."

"Fermas?"

"Woodsman, a druid I think. He claims to have a very good weather sense."

"Well, if he is correct, that is good for us. How did things go at Everlund?"

"Krall, Red, Granson and Ockal were looking for other adventurers to help them track down the giants. They were all well when I left. Midan," she paused, "well, he had this potion, he called it the waters of forgetfulness, from a river called Lethe. He drank some and could not remember anything that had happened for a week."

"So he forgot about his time with the giants?"

"Yes. In a way, it was a good thing. I think that he had been hurt too deeply by what had happened. Now it is just a story that we had to tell him. And yet, well, it seems somewhat cowardly. I know that nothing like that has happened to me," she said quickly, "and maybe I have no right to such a thought, but it what I think."

"There is a bravery of sorts in walking away from a fight that you cannot win. Or if not a bravery, then a wisdom."

"I almost wish Olpara had chosen to follow that path."

"Oh?"

"She has come with me."

For a moment Misara considered asking if that was wise, but chose not to. "How is she?"

"Not well," Rowan said. "Physically she is fine, but what happened out on the moors weighs heavily on her. She did not want to stay in Everlund."

"If she is looking for safety I do not think she will find it with us."

"I know, and I don't think she is looking for safety."

"She wants to prove something to herself?"

"I think so." Rowan nodded. "I don't think she will do anything stupid, but she wants to be certain of herself. I want to help her, but," she paused, "I know that it is her battle to fight."

"Very well. We'll do what we can to aid her. I have seen people who have suffered as she turn to more destructive paths. I would not see that happen if I could stop it." She found herself thinking of Lindra.

"I'm glad that you feel that way."

Misara took a seat on the bed. "I have not been able to find out that much out Asahrass, other than it is a name that is very old, back to the Elven Empires and before the fall of the Netheril Empire."

"That is troubling?"

"There are many things that date from that time, hidden in the vastness of Faerûn. It would be best for everyone if that remained so."

"Do you still wish to go to Waterdeep?"

"Yes. We may be able to find what we seek there, and we can get a ship there to travel south."

"To where?"

"Candlekeep."

"I understand."

"If we do not find the answers we seek there, we will continue on. We can speak more of that later."

Rowan stood, apparently satisfied with Misara's answers. "Shall we have dinner together? The Inn leaves a lot to be desired, but the food is decent enough, and I discovered that Arachar keeps a good wine cellar, if you pester him and have some gold to offer."

"Yes, dinner sounds wonderful. I have a few more things to take care of here, and then I want the blacksmith to look at Iron's shoes, but none of it should take too long."

"Excellent. I shall see you later then." Rowan walked to the door and opened it. "I am looking forward to tomorrow, and our quest."

"Danger faced together is danger lessened," Misara said, quoting a Dwarven proverb.

Rowan nodded and then left the room, closing the door behind her.


The weather had become cold and clear, and the roads remained easily travelled, for the most part. Misara, Rowan and Olpara were not the only ones taking advantage of what would likely be the last days of easy travel. Caravans were travelling both ways along the road, as well as patrolling soldiers and small groups of adventurers.

The heavy traffic made the roads both safer, and at the same time more dangerous. Small bands of raiders would not dare attacking anyone who looked well armed and numerous, but people and creatures who had the strength to deal with such opposition would see chances for a large haul.

Fortunately such threats were few in number, and only once did Misara and the others ride into battle to help a caravan. The two Paladins had easily been able to scatter the gnolls and bugbears, breaking the momentum of the attack. It had been then that they had learned that Olpara was a practicing sorcerer, and the spell that put a number of their opponents to sleep had given them and the caravan a near bloodless victory.

Several days of hard riding brought them to Amphail Village, only two days from Waterdeep. They took rooms in Mother Gonthol's Feast Hall and settled down for a quiet evening.

They were seated a table, near the stage, relaxing after just having finished an excellent meal. Misara was listening to the three musicians on the stage, tapping her fingers on the table in time to the music, when Olpara asked, "How did you take up the mantle of a Paladin Misara?"

Misara said nothing for a moment, thinking about the question. It had been preying on her mind as of late. "That is not a story I would tell today," she said, and reached for her wine glass.

"Hardly fair," Rowan said. "Now we will be held in the grip of curiosity and will not know rest until you tell us." Her tone was playful.

"They say that suffering is good for the soul," Misara replied with the same tone, and then took a drink of her wine.

"There is a story I know about you," Rowan said. "It will not answer Olpara's question, but it is a good one."

"Please tell," Olpara said.

Rowan smiled, obviously enjoying having become the centre of attention.

"It happened perhaps thirty years ago, near the Sea of Fallen stars, at least that is what Seomon told me."

"I think that I know the story you are about to tell," Misara commented dryly.

"Quiet," Olpara said, shifting closer to Rowan.

Misara sighed and signalled the waitress for another glass of wine.

"Now, Seomon had met the Elven Paladin Misara Dawntide," she nodded towards Misara who raised her neatly empty glass in acknowledgement, "and he had fallen instantly in love with her, or at least was infatuated with her beauty."

"Not uncommon for the followers of Sune," Olpara said.

"Seomon, a young Paladin, still on his first quest, decided that he would travel with the beautiful Misara, to learn what he could, and to stay close to her. I am not certain what the beautiful Misara thought of this..."

"She found him annoying, but well meaning," Misara said.

"...but she allowed him to travel with her," Rowan continued as if Misara had not spoken. "After several months of questing they came upon a number of villages, in lands between the Dalelands and Sembia, but officially claimed by neither. A petty warlord, a rather vile man, had taken control of these villages, making them pay tribute to him under threat of violence.

"Seomon wished to ride in and take the head of this man, who was named Ragalla Twoswords..."

"Twoknives," Misara corrected.

"...but Misara suggested to Semon that they wait and make certain of their actions first. Seomon, still young and a little uncertain, and of course infatuated Misara agreed. He went along while Misara began to speak to people, to seek out those who might rebel against Ragalla Twoknives.

"This did not please Seomon, and after a time he left, leaving Misara behind while he went in search of excitement. He had promised Misara that he would not act against Ragalla until she said it was time, but he had no interest in skulking about in shadows and playing political games, as he described it.

"Over the next two years Seomon Westride would gain fame in Cormyr, the Dalelands and Sembia for his actions, as well as enemies south of the Moonsea. He destroyed two warlords like Ragalla, helped slay a blue dragon in the Dragon Spine Mountains, countered several Zhentarim plots and was knighted by the King of Cormyr. An impressive list of accomplishments for a young Paladin."

"What about Ragalla?" Olpara asked.

"Ah yes. Ragalla. Well, with a group of rebels Misara led an attack against Ragalla and his small army, overthrowing the petty warlord, and putting a popular and good leader in his place. Several years later the villages were made part of Sembia, for good or ill."

"Mostly ill," Misara said softly, taking a drink from the glass of wine the waitress had just put on the table.

"Seomon and Misara met again and once more adventured, but to be truthful Seomon now thought less of Misara than he had when he first met her. He thought his accomplishments were of greater importance, and he felt that he was the superior Paladin."

"And poor Misara was completely ignorant of this fact." Misara said.

"Yes, that is what he thought. He also thought that Misara's quiet way of doing things was a mistake. If evil did not know you were out there evil would think it had free reign, as Seomon liked to say."

"What do you think?" Olpara asked Rowan.

"I think there is value in anonymity," she paused, "but it might be mistaken by some as fear."

Misara was a little surprised to hear Rowan make such a statement, and she considered it.

"Well, whatever the case," Rowan continued, "Seomon and Misara eventually went their separate ways, and Seomon eventually took on a young, beautiful and brilliant young woman named Rowan Jassan as a squire and taught her what she needed to be a Paladin. He also told her stories of a companion of his from long before, an elf named Misara Dawntide.

"An interesting thing to note is that one of the petty warlords he had vanquished while Misara was dealing with Ragalla was replaced by a much worse person. The territory of the dragon he had killed became the territory of a tribe of orcs, who were much more destructive. And he often had to deal with assassination attempts directed from Zhentil Keep.

"Seomon pointed out to his young squire that one had to give thoughts to their actions and there were times that taking the time to make certain that the destroying one evil does not lead to the raising of another was necessary."

"So it is just an example of the different way that elves and human view things?" a man who sat by a table near them asked. When Rowan turned a surprised gaze at him he held up his hands and said, "I'm sorry, I could not help but listen."

"Well, I'm not really certain," Rowan admitted. "I still can't say that I understand everything that Seomon tried to teach me." She looked over at Misara.

"Seomon did not tell you the entire story, or you have chosen to leave some things out," Misara said. "And the lesson he wanted you to learn from that story has perhaps been exaggerated for effect. There is more to it, different levels. Levels that anyone might learn from."

"Care to explain that?" Rowan had picked up wine glass; ready to moisten her throat if Misara was going to take up the story.

"When the warlord who was worse than the one that Seomon had defeated came to power, it was only weeks before Seomon was back there, putting the man and his followers to the sword. He led a small force against the orcs, driving them away. He acted quickly, with little thought, as he had the first times. However, afterwards, he went to work to make certain that his actions would not cause more problems.

"He found leaders to take over for the warlord, he even spared some of the warlord's men, if they swore to follow the new leader. He found benevolent creatures, ones that the local villages might negotiate with, to take over the territory that he had driven the orcs from.

"As for the assassination attempts, he would say, I think, that every assassin following him is one not attempting to take the life of one who could not fight back.

"Seomon learned what I tried to teach him well, and has improved upon those lessons."

"And what can you learn from that story?" Olpara asked.

The nature of the question, and the tone that Olpara asked it in, appeared to surprise some of the people who had gathered to listen.

Misara said nothing for a few seconds as she gave it some thought. "What it teaches me is that Seomon chose a course of action that was far more difficult, and required more work on his part. It also reminds me that a Paladin should not be afraid of such work. More often that not, for one who chooses to follow the path of a Paladin, immediate action is for the best.

"I tried to teach Seomon that the consequences of one's actions must be considered."

"And what he taught me, and," Rowan looked over at Misara, "you, is that sometimes it is that you can and should consider the consequences, but do not let that stop you from acting."

"Yes," Misara said.

"So," the man who had first spoken said, "you were wrong?" He looked at Misara.

Misara almost laughed at that. She wanted to shout out, 'About too many things.' She nodded, and then smiled. "It is never too late to learn a lesson. As Lady Rowan once said to me, Wisdom is not only the purview of the aged, and those who have seen many years pass are often blind to the new."

The people who gathered nodded at that, and a few offered Rowan congratulations. Misara watched, and thought about the boy Seomon had been when she had first met him. She liked to think that she had helped shape the man and Paladin he had become. Now she was no longer so sure.

Several stories later, after a few hours had passed, the common room began to empty as people started toward their rooms. Rowan took Misara aside and said, "I'm sorry that I drew such an audience. I know you like to keep a low profile."

"It's alright," Misara told her, thinking about her future. "In fact, it might be time I started allowing my name to become more widely known."

Rowan looked at her with a puzzled expression.

Misara smiled and placed a companionable hand on the woman's shoulder. "Do not worry, and get some rest. We leave before sunrise tomorrow."


Liman watched the human village become dark as lights in the windows went out. The sounds of conversation and music faded, until it was almost silent. The watchmen wandered the perimeter, carrying bright lanterns, calling out that all was well. He could sweep down on them and end their lives, silence their calls in their throats before any alarm could be raised.

Of course that would not help him get to Misara. Killing the watchmen would only get him in the village undetected. Entering the building in which she stayed would be much more difficult to do without giving himself away. He would take her by surprise if he could.

He had been concerned after finding Ippla dead, and what the wolves at Deeppond had told him. After watching her for the past few days, watching her fight, he knew he was right to be wary. She was a skilled warrior and killing her would be difficult. He would kill her though. He had no doubt of that.

"Elves sleep with their eyes open," Siishi said.

Liman looked over at his companion. She had shifted to her human form to speak with him. She crouched just behind him, naked but for her long hair. "I know, but their sleep is still sleep. They are no more aware than a human with closed eyes."

"But how would you know?" she asked him. "You could stalk up on an elf, certain she slept her elf sleep, only to be tricked. Once you were close, the elf could spring a trap."

"That is so, which is why there is danger in this hunt."

"How will we take her?"

"I do not know," he admitted. "We will continue to watch until the best way to hunt presents itself."

"She listens to her horse, as does the human woman."

"What?"

"She knows that her horse can read the scents on the wind. She takes cues from it. The human woman as well, perhaps even better."

Liman considered that. "I wonder if that gave her an advantage over Ippla?"

Siishi did not answer. She had returned to her tiger form, the white of her fur hiding her well in what little snow remained and the winter washed plants.

Liman turned back to the village. A time would come when he might attack. He had to watch and wait for it. If he made a mistake Ippla's fate might befall him and Liman had no intention of letting such a thing happen to him.


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