Skin of Glass


The sun was still several hours from setting, and they were only two hours away from Waterdeep. Warm weather had begun to melt the icy roads, but with the city so close the cloying mud was hardly a concern. The merchants they passed might have been grousing about the fickleness of the Lady Tymora, but for Misara, Rowan and Olpara it was wonderful weather for the last leg of their current journey.

For Misara it was a chance to lose herself in companionship of a journey, and for a time think of other things.

Rowan and Misara had been discussing places to stay for almost an hour, comparing the amenities of this festhall, or that Inn with another.

"I always enjoyed the comforts of the Topaz Flower," Misara told her companion. "A little on the small side, certainly, but not really a bad thing."

"I believe that you might find it changed."


"A year ago, I think, it was purchased by a suspected follower Lovitar. The pleasures it deals in these days are not for everyone."

"Pity, it was a nice place."

"I still say that The Pampered Traveller is a good choice."

"There are times that I find the Castle Ward a little too constraining."

"Excuse me," Olpara said, "do you mind if I ask a question?"

Misara turned to face Olpara. Olpara rode, sidesaddle, upon a large gelding, speckled grey in colour.

"What is it?" Rowan asked.

"Is it common for Paladins to take such concerns in matters of comfort?"

Rowan laughed. "Well, it depends on the Paladin in question. I myself find nothing wrong in wanting to be surrounded by beautiful things and comfort. It always reminds me what I fight for."

"I suppose that many Paladins take on a life of greater privation," Misara told her, "and for many good reasons. Some feel that seeking out such pleasures might weaken them, and there is some truth to such a concern. Many are the tales of a Paladin who found the temptations of such a life too much to resist. However I feel that most such tales are actually apocryphal and function as warnings.

"There are those that feel hard living keeps them sharp and ready for battle. Others would rather donate their money to their churches, or other good causes."

"And some are simply not much fun," Rowan added.

"So why do you seek out such comforts? I can understand Rowan's choice, one might almost see it as proper worship after all."

Rowan laughed again and Misara nodded before saying, "Comforts do not take my edge off, perhaps they even help me maintain it. A brittle sword sharpens easily, but chips and breaks. As for saving money for good causes, well, the people who run those festhalls and Inns have employees and suppliers to pay as well as families to support. I have given greatly to good causes and feel no guilt in also spending money that simply helps society to function.

"And you have to remember, there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself."

"No matter what some people might tell you," Rowan added.

"In moderation," Misara countered.

"Oh yes," Rowan sighed theatrically, "moderation."

Olpara smiled and then laughed. "And I thought travelling with a pair of holy Paladins would be dull."

The Pampered Traveller turned out to be the Inn where the three women chose to stay once reaching Waterdeep. Not that they took advantage of its luxuries, other than a quick bath.

Rowan left to visit the Temple of Beauty in the Sea Ward. Olpara had friends to meet in the Trade Ward. Misara had business of her own and did not expect to be back until much later.

The sun was low in the west, casting long shadows, as Misara exited the Pampered Traveller, feeling in good spirits. She carried little with her having left most of her things in her room. Expensive Inns and festhalls tended to offer, along with enjoyments, very good security for their patrons.

She wore loose, black pants of black silk, tucked into her a pair of knee high walking boots made of soft, tanned leather, and a red leather vest over a silk blouse. Her weapon belt rode low on her left hip, her sword worn at the ready.

Misara was vigilant as she walked the city streets. Four decades past she had lived in the City of Splendours for three years and she had known it from the mansions of the rich to the tunnels of the Undermountain. But it had changed since those days, she herself had been an agent of some of the change, and she did not delude herself that the time she had spent in the city since then, a few weeks, mostly a few days, kept her abreast of what occurred there.

Lack of knowledge could be a deadly thing.

Not that she thought it was likely she would be jumped while on the city streets. She was just careful.

The sun had set as she stepped onto the Street of Silks, a district that catered to the wealthier members of the city's society. The street lamps had already been lit, though the sun was just down, and with the evening many people set out to find entertainment. Greengrass was only three days away and many people looked as if they planned to start celebrating at little early.

She walked at a more sedate pace, enjoying the sights and the sounds around her. She politely declined several invitations to join in some form of merriment or other, and stopped occasionally to look at the display cases in front of a few stores that had not yet closed for the evening.

She was near the middle of the street when she stopped in front of a tall, narrow house, situated between a tavern and a curio shop of some kind. The house, like most of the buildings along the street, was well constructed, of fine timber and stone masonry. There were even large, leaded glass windows, but a thick coat of dust on the inside only showed the glow of lights within. There was a sign over the front door, indicating that it had likely been a shop at one point, but the wooden sign was painted over in black.

Misara wondered if the people who passed it even noticed it. She opened the front door, stepped in and then closed it behind her. She looked around, marvelling at the changes since she had last entered.

There were no longer any floors above her, she could see the timbers of the roof, and a few platforms that were connected to the stairs that still led up to what had once been the second, third and forth floors. Panels had been cut from the roof, sheets of glass put in their place.

Once wood panelling had covered all the walls, but that had been stripped away-likely at the same time the walls removed-and the naked beams and interior stonework polished until it shone.

The first floor was, as it had been last time, littered with tables, alchemical apparatus, easels, bookshelves, chairs, an upended couch, paper and much more. There was even a forge at the far side of the room, but it was cold.

The house's owner, Celeb Argyros, stood near one of the tables, his long silver hair pulled back from his face, working with one of the alchemical devices. She crossed the floor, stepping around various obstructions, until she stood close to the table.

Celeb appeared to be elvish, with the pale skin and silver hair that would have made him a moon elf like Misara, were he actually elvish. Misara had no idea of his true race nor was she concerned. He was focused on his craft, and perhaps amoral to the extreme, but he was not evil. And he was a friend.

He wore thick glass goggles, a leather apron over rumpled clothing, and heavy, leather gloves. She watched in interest as he used a pipette to remove some clear liquid from a beaker and then placed the beaker carefully aside. He put a small plate of silver metal in front of him and then reached out to activate a magical timepiece. Misara had watched him work before and knew what the various objects he used were.

As soon as he activated the timepiece he let the liquid run out of the pipette onto the metal plate. It hissed and bubbled, sending up wisps of smoke as it did so. Misara took a step back, wary of the powerful acid, but Celeb simply watched, apparently unconcerned. When the timer chimed he took a handful of powder from another beaker and then poured it from his gloved hand onto the metal.

"Acid etching is the best way to properly mark my weapons," he said, turning to face her as he pulled off his gloves.

"So you have said."

"The problem being of course," he brushed the powder from the metal with his now bare fingers, "is that to properly etch the materials I chose to use requires a very strong acid." He picked up the metal plate and looked at it. "Were it otherwise I could just go to any alchemist for my needs." He handed the metal to Misara.

Misara looked at the metal-she suspected it was mithral-and noted that the acid had brunt a shallow mark into the material. "If not an alchemist, then who?"

"Well, I did get the acid I required from a black dragon. A rather unpleasant fellow named Demara. He inconvenienced me to no end when he let a group of adventurers kill him."

"I have found that black dragons can be most inconsiderate like that." She placed the metal back on the table.

"Yes," he nodded, "it is in their nature. Fortunately I found another source, which I shall not name in case you feel the need to go and kill this black dragon."

"Perish the thought," she said with a smile.

"I think not. Dragon Slayer is a moniker you have earned a few too many times. That aside, this new acid is stronger than that Demara gave me. I've been having no end of trouble getting the mix and time right to ensure the etching is perfect. I'm almost there however."

"Good to hear. How is the sword coming along?"

He smiled. "Let me show you," he said, "This way."

Misara followed him across the room until they stood by one of the easels. He flipped a piece of paper over, revealing a picture of a sword on the sheet behind. Misara looked at it for a moment and then said, "To be honest, I don't see any differences from last time I looked at it."

"Of course not. You are a pedantic Paladin with no real appreciation of a sword beyond what you can kill with it."

"Pedantic Paladin," she said thoughtfully. "I like the alliteration. May I use that?"

"If you wish."

"Now, tell me what I have missed."

"Take note of the quillions, they have been adjusted back towards the pommel by two degrees."

"Imagine me missing that," Misara said sarcastically. "It will change the balance of the weapon."

He nodded. "It will help to counter the weight of the blade, not very much mind you, but enough. It will be a fast sword."

"When do you think you will finish it?"

"Three years. By the end of Flamerule. Barring the unforeseen."

Misara looked at the sword sketched out on the paper. It was a hand and a half sword, with thick quillions and a waisted-grip. Double sided, a gem set in the blade just above the cross. Two fullers ran down the middle of the blade, and between the fullers were a series of indistinct Elvish runes.

"Do you know what it will say?" she placed her hand on the writing.

"Not yet," he shook his head. "It becomes clearer though."

Misara had met Celeb ninety-six years ago, and in that time she had watched him, over the course of decades, make two swords. The one on the paper would be his third. She had realised that he was not so much a sword smith or a master crafter-though likely he had been at one time-but a conduit for powers greater than himself.

Gods used Celeb to create weapons for their champions.

He looked away from the sheet and towards her. "Tell me that you have come for her."

She nodded.

"It is about time," he said with a smile. "She grows tired of you ignoring her, and I can't say that I am pleased about it myself." He turned away from her and walked towards the forge. From a shelf by the wall he removed a case of darkly stained wood, nearly as long as the span of his arms. He returned to where she waited and placed it on a nearby table. With a flourish he flipped open the case.

Within was a sword, next to it a sheath, both set in the black velvet lining of the case.

Misara reached in and took the blade by its hilt and then raised it out from where it had rested. It was the sword that Celeb had given her when she had first met him. A sword meant for her, and only her. It would not survive her death, he had told her, and Misara believed him.

It was a long sword, though the blade was both a little wider and longer than in most such weapons. The twin edged sides ran almost parallel until they reached the slightly rounded tip. The hilt was made of a black wood, gently curving, long enough to allow her to use two hands if she chose, but it was easily wielded in one hand. It was a little like the tai-chi swords from far off Kara-Tur.

It was a beautiful weapon, made of mithral, marked with acid etched runes. Although heavier than similar swords, it was balanced perfectly and would move fast.

To Misara it was not as if she were holding a sword, but as if it were an extension of her body. It was likely she was.

"Five times," Celeb said.

"Excuse me?" She looked over at him.

"Five times I have given her to you, and five times you have returned her."

She nodded and reached for the sword's sheath. "When I hold this sword I feel as if there is nothing I cannot do." She slid the weapon into its sheath.

"There probably is nothing you cannot do when you hold her," he said.

"That is even worse." She placed the sheathed sword on the table and then removed her weapon belt.

Celeb shook his head and reached for the case that had recently held the sword. He closed it and put it aside. Misara removed the long sword from her weapon belt, put it aside, and then set about setting her sword in its place.

Celeb reached forward and picked up the long sword and pulled it from its sheath. "Dwarven make," he said as he examined the blade. "Holy sword, alloy steel, mithral for strength, silver for colour."

"Its name is Graceful Steel," Misara told him. "It was used by Ocram Grace, Paladin of Tyr. Forged about one hundred and fifty years ago."

"The runes have been carved into the blade with a chisel," Celeb said. "The maker went too deep, altered the balance of the blade. Careless."

"I can't say that I ever noticed." She finished affixing the sheath to her weapon belt.


"Why am I a liar?" she asked as she put her weapon belt back on.

"If you never noticed you would never have come back here for her," he told her, looking at the sword she wore at her side. "This is, for the most part, a fine blade, though I am loathe to admit it."

She nodded after a moment. "I think I'm going into great danger. I need Ree'anor." There was more to her choice, but at the moment she could not voice the words.

He nodded as he sheathed Graceful Steel and then tossed it back to her. "I won't take her back a sixth time."

"I could just toss her into the ocean afterwards."

"She will come back to you. Of course I'd rather you did not toss her into the ocean."

Misara laughed. "We'll see what happens." She looked down at the long sword she held. "I have to go." She looked back at him. "My apologies."

He waved the apology off. "No matter. I have work to do, as do you."

"Thank you Celeb."

"You are welcome," he told her as he turned back towards the table he had been working at earlier. "Now get out of here."

"Until we meet once more," she said as she turned to leave.

Celeb muttered a farewell of his own and Misara smiled as she walked from the house.

"I do not like these," Siishi said, waving her arms up and down. "It is like wearing bindings."

Liman was careful not to sigh. The dress that Siishi was wearing was of elven make and design, the kind of garment that might be called indecent in some places. As it was he suspected that Siishi would be drawing a few stares when they entered the city, but less comment and interest than she would if naked. "We need to fit into the city. We must wear the clothing."

He was dressed in a tasteful suit of dark clothing, breaches, a shirt and a jacket, as well as a good, sturdy set of boots. He had even managed to replenish his supply of cigars. Liman was as comfortable in such clothing as he was naked, or in the skin of a tiger.

Unfortunately he knew that Siishi was not. A fact he often considered strange given her background. He watched as she removed the soft shoes he had brought her and knew that he would not convince her to wear them.

"We could wait for her to come out of the city," Siishi said, throwing the shoes aside.

"And what if she takes a boat out onto the ocean."

Siishi frowned and did not reply.

Liman picked up a wide brimmed, straw hat and placed it on her head, shifting it so that the brim shaded her gold eyes. "Let's go."

Several hundred miles south of Waterdeep, deep in the dungeons of Baldur's Gate, a half-orc named Kesk Hornskull grasped the rocky walls of his prison and lifted his body into the air. It was the one hundred and sixty seventh time he had done so since he had started a short time before.

He lowered himself slowly until his feet almost touched the ground of his cell, and then he pulled himself up once again: One hundred and sixty eight.

Kesk had been born from the harsh environment of the North. He was tall, and broad across his shoulders, heavily muscled. Like his kin he had greyish skin, a sloping forehead, and a wide face with a flat nose. His teeth were prominent and the tips of his lower canines jutted out above his lips.

He was naked, but for a raggedy loin cloth and an equally ragged patch he wore over his left eye.

For a long time he had been imprisoned in the oubliette in one of the lowest dungeons of the city. Almost thirty feet above him was the thick, iron gate that sealed off the hole he lived in. He could cross the floor of the oubliette, at its widest point, in two paces. The lowest part of the cell had a hole that drained off water and other things, as well as giving insects and rats entry.

Kesk did not mind the vermin, more than once he had survived off of them.

He had been thrown into the hole to die. When he finally did a new prisoner would be tossed down there, perhaps not right away, but eventually. The bones of the last prisoner had greeted Kesk when he had been tossed down.

They wanted him to die, but he refused to. He ate the food that was tossed down, drank the water that was lowered in a bucket, and when they forgot him he ate rats and bugs and drank the trickles of water that seeped out of the stone.

When he was not asleep he exercised, as he was at that moment, pushing his body until he fell into an exhausted sleep. In the small space of two paces he practiced combat drills.

The guards sometimes watched, sometimes laughed at him, threw things down at him. He said nothing to their taunts, simply continued his drills, ready for the day he would escape. He was certain that he would one day. He refused to die in the cell.

One hundred and ninety seven.

"Kesk Hornskull," a voice called from above.

Kesk paused, holding himself perfectly still near the top of the repetition. He had not heard his name used in a long time. The guards simply called him prisoner, when they called him anything at all.

"Do not tell me that Kesk Hornskull has died," the voice said.

He had heard that voice before, he thought, one of his guards. Had they come to taunt him again? Then he heard a click. As he hung there it took him several seconds to realise that the grate far above him had been unlocked. Before he could consider what that meant he heard the screech of rusted iron and knew that his prison was being opened. Would they toss another prisoner down? Did they think he had died?

Something was tossed down. A torch. It hit the floor in a shower of sparks, flickered as if it would go out, and then began to burn brightly again. He blinked against the brightest light he had seen since being thrown down there.

"I see you Kesk Hornskull," the voice came down to him. "We need to talk."

There was a slithering noise as a rope was tossed into the cell. Kesk released his hold on the wall and walked over to the thick, hemp rope. He gave it a pull and it did not move. It was secured somewhere up above him.

He climbed quickly, well-conditioned muscles pulling his heavy frame up the rope and soon out of his cell. He found one of the guards standing there, holding a sword. He was holding it by the blade, the hilt extended towards Kesk.

Kesk reached out and took it.

"I thought you might feel better if armed," the man said.

Kesk tried to speak, but he made a croaking sound, his voice had been unused for such a long time. He tried again. "Who are you?" he managed with a raspy sound.

"I am the man who is freeing you so that you might get your revenge on the Paladin Misara Dawntide."

The half orc reached out and grabbed the man by his shoulder. "The elf?"

"Yes. She was the one responsible for capturing you and turning you over to the authorities here. You had reason to hate her before. Six years of imprisonment should give you even more."

"Six years?" He found it hard to comprehend. Had he really been locked up for six years?

"Six years," the man said once more.

Six years. He had not known. There was no way to keep time down in the oubliette, no sun to mark the days, not even set time for meals. He had known it had been long, but he had never assumed six years. Six years of his life, spent locked up in the dungeon, six years that he would never get back. The leather bindings around the sword he held creaked under the pressure his grip.

"Let's go. We should be clear of this place as soon as we can." Kesk's liberator walked away.

There was much that Kesk wanted to ask, but he could not think of how to put it into words. Too long had it been since he had last talked to someone, the words did not come easily to his mind. So he followed, thinking that eventually he would have the answers he sought.

Together they passed through the quiet dungeons, sometimes passing by a sleeping guard. His rescuer was approaching a door when he suddenly collapsed heavily to his knees. Kesk moved forward and pulled the man up. He saw that a thin sheen of sweat covered the man's face, and he was shaking slightly.

"Do not die on me man," he croaked.

The man laughed. "This body will certainly die." He straightened. "Before that happens I will ensure you are free of this place." He unlocked the door and opened it.

"I will take you to an old escape tunnel," the man told Kesk some time later. "At the end of it you shall find weapons, armour, a small store of supplies and funds. There is also a scroll there in which you will find the information you need."

"The elf?"

"She is in Waterdeep, but I do not think she will stay there."

"I want her."

"You shall have your chance," he said, swaying slightly.


The man did not answer. He stopped by a wall and ran his hand along it. There was a 'click' and part of the wall swung open. "Down there Kesk, down there you will find what you need." And then he fell to the ground.

Kesk had seen enough dead bodies to know one. He looked about, then grabbed the man and dragged him through the secret door before sealing it. He stripped anything of value from the body and then set off down the tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel, as promised, he found weapons, armour and other supplies, as well as another secret door that, he saw when he opened to peer out, led into a busy part of the lower city. After closing the secret door he put the armour on, adjusting it for a better fit. It was a familiar feeling, and a comforting one. He pulled a great sword from its sheath and swung it about in the small room, getting a feel for it.

Grounding the tip between his feet, he grasped the quillions tightly. "Gruumsh, I have not prayed to you in a long time," he said slowly, picking his words with care. "I would not let you see me as a prisoner, fallen low to my enemies. Now I have escaped and I ask for your strength. I will kill the Elf in your name." He reached down and grasped the naked blade, cutting open his hand. "By my blood I swear it."

Misara was secretly amused to have been greeted by the Temple Warden's assistant. The priests and acolytes of the temple of Tyr, the Halls of Justice, were busy preparing for the Greengrass festival. The only person who could spare the time to speak to the elven Paladin who had come to their doors was a somewhat junior priest.

Restmar Orgess had come to the small audience chamber, a notebook in his hands, appearing as if Misara was just one more job that he did not have time for. He was unfailingly polite of course, and he was respectful of the position that Misara held, even if she was not of his church, but he was obviously distracted. At least he was until Misara presented Graceful Steel to him.

She had stopped on the way to the temple and picked up some dark blue cloth to wrap the sword in. Presentation was important as well.

Restmar picked up the sword and drew it partway from its sheath. "Graceful Steel," he said softly. "Forged by the master sword smith Khondou Steelhammer, dedicated to both Tyr and Moradin, wielded by Ocram Grace."

"Do not forget the magic placed into it by Araselle, or that she was the one who convinced Khondou to forge it for Ocram in the first place."

"I did not know that Araselle Grace did such a thing," he admitted, looking up for the sword.

Misara nodded. "I suppose it gets lost in the rest of the tale, but it is important to remember. It was the first time she put off the marriage, telling Ocram that if she could get him a sword powerful enough to slay the demon Wegollis they would travel to deserts of Amn and hunt him out, putting the wedding off to another day."

Restmar looked as if we were trying not to smile. "The tales of Lady Araselle before she married are looked upon with some disfavour by the leaders of the church."

"If the tales are to be believed she was a wild one, but telling tales of Araselle is not why I came here. As I said, I have a gift for the church, and Graceful Steel is it."

"So you said, and I am having difficulty understanding it. Where did you find it? According to the histories the sword was lost when Ocram fell in Hellgate Keep."

"Before the keep was destroyed the baatezzu often traded with those outside. I suspect that was how the sword left the keep. How it ended up as part of a wizard's treasure in Sembia I do not know, but that is where I found it.

"Graceful Steel has served me well since it came into my hand, but now I return it to Tyr's followers."

"You must allow me to reward you. Let me summon the high priest so he can properly thank you."

"There is no need for that. I did not come here seeking a reward, and you have thanked me enough by your intentions." She got to her feet. "I hope we may meet again."

He quickly got to his feet and then bowed deeply. "Lady Dawntide, the church of Tyr owes you much and hopefully you will allow us to repay you one day."

Misara smiled as him, then turned and left the audience room on her way out of the temple. She felt a little guilty at Restmar's words. Her actions were not as noble as he thought they were. One day she would ask them to recognise her daughter and guarantee the church's justice and protection for her. And, a small voice spoke in the back of her mind, one day Graceful Steel may not recognise you as an unworthy wielder.

Part of her wanted so badly to ignore that voice.

She left the temple, stepping out into a cool night. There were less people about then when she had entered. She wandered the streets, enjoying the cool air and the peace that the evening brought. Her next destination was the Hall of the Seldarine, the Elven Temple in Waterdeep, but she was in no rush. She wanted to reach the temple when the moon was at its highest point.

The night deepened around her, and while spring was close it was cold. Misara hardly felt it, and the dark was not an impediment to her. She wandered a little, enjoying the empty streets and deserted squares. It was, at times, as if she were alone in the city. It helped her to spark the connection to the city that she had once felt. For a time she was able to put other concerns away.

Misara was feeling fairly good when the attack came. A man slipped out of the shadows and charged at her, a pair of blackened daggers in his hands. Her right hand dropped to the hilt of her sword, and she was ready to step back and draw the blade. Instead, gripped by a sudden urge, she leapt at him, directly at his blades.

A moment before the blades would have pierced her breast she lowered her head and dipped her shoulders. The twin blades slid along the leather of her vest, perhaps cutting it, but not her. She clipped him, about his waist, meaning to knock him down and then step over him. Instead the man went flying back, sailing through the air for several body lengths before he hit the ground, the back of his head rapping up against the cobble stone street with a 'crack'.

Misara had forgotten her increased strength and it was possible that she had killed the man when she had not meant to do so. She put that thought from her mind, continuing her forward motion, drawing her sword, and then turning about, settling into a fighting stance.

She found herself facing three more assailants, dressed and armed in the same manner as the first attacker; they had been behind her but a moment before. They seemed, for the moment, off balance. Perhaps they had expected her to back into their blades, or they had not expected their companion to be taken down so quickly.

"I want you to throw down your weapons and surrender," Misara told them, hoping to take advantage of their surprise. "Barring that, turn and leave this place. I do not wish to harm you."

The three, a woman with two men flanking her, seemed to be spurred by her words. They approached quickly, she could see the discipline in their style, and that they had trained in a co-operative combat style. As the woman slashed towards Misara with her daggers, the two men shifted their weapons to defend her. One attacked, two defended. The attacks shifted from one to the other, with no apparent pattern, forcing Misara to maintain a defensive posture.

Even as she fell back she called out loudly for the guards, hoping to bring the authorities there before she was forced to kill her attackers, or before they might kill her. There were, after all, laws in the city, and she would respect and uphold them to the best of her ability.

As they came at her Misara used her sword to drive the daggers aside, knocking them off true and trying to break their pattern so they might interfere with one another. Her wrist and to a lesser extent her elbow directed the weapon, not as powerful as movements from the shoulder, but so very fast.

Fast as it was the stabbing daggers slid over and around her sword, scratching her skin, cutting the sleeves of her blouse, and sometimes the skin beneath. She hoped that the blades were not envenomed. She would not have time until the battle was over to pray for the power to neutralize any poison that might be in her system.

She had been pushed back the street nearly thirty steps when the man to her left over extended himself slightly in his attack. She feinted to her right, drawing the blades of the woman to the defence of her companion, then swung the sword around and slashed under the guard of the attacker on her left, the blade cutting into his hip.

There was a spray of blood, her sword cutting much deeper than she had expected. It had nothing to do with her strength, Misara thought as she spun to the right, batting aside the daggers from the remaining two assailants. She had forgotten just how sharp Ree'anor was, having grown used to the edge of other blades.

Stepping forward, catching woman's daggers with her sword, Misara pushed her back, then dropped and swept the legs from the man. She completed her spin and stood, lashing forward with her blade as she did so. One of the woman's daggers went spinning off into the night.

Then there was a bright ring of light around them, lanterns held by members of the city watch. Misara backed away from the man and the woman, and lowered her sword.

In a dark corner Liman watched as the guards led Misara and her attackers away. He had come upon the Paladin not long before, but at the same time he had realised that others were stalking her. He had chosen to wait and to watch.

The fight had been illuminating, to say the least. The Paladin was a skilled warrior. Little wonder the wolves of Deeppond were so wary of her, or that Ippla had met his end facing her.

And yet at the same time he had seen a weakness that he might exploit.

"She fights with her head and not her heart," he said aloud.

"You are wrong," Siishi said from beside him.

He turned and looked at his companion. "Explain."

"She charged the first attacker. That was an act of instinct."

Liman thought about that for a time, and then nodded. It was not the first time Siishi had seen something he had missed, appreciated the significance of something he dismissed. "That may be so, but she still will be weak in a fight against someone or something not using a style she can predict."

"Why did they try to kill her?" Siishi asked.

"I suspect they were paid assassins."

"Who paid them?"

Liman considered the question. "She may have other enemies."

"And it might be the Oil and Steel man's doing."

"What is it that could worry him so that he sends us and assassins after her?" He reached into jacket he wore and removed a cigar. "Assuming that they were sent by him."

"He's afraid of her." Siishi crouched down, suddenly looking uncomfortable. "The Oil and Steel man is a afraid of her."

"He may not be afraid of her," Liman said as he set about lighting his cigar, a laborious task involving flint and a bit of tinder.

"We should be wary. She knows she is being hunted."

Liman nodded. "We will be, and if others seek her death as well, then perhaps we need not even confront her. For now we'll watch and learn. I will not strike until I am certain of my prey."

Siishi nodded but did not say anything. She pulled the hat he had placed on her head down further over her eyes and shifted deeper into the shadow.

The palace of Piergeiron the Paladinson, the only open Lord of Waterdeep, offered many comforts for those who lived in it and those who were guests. The small parlour where Misara waited was pleasant enough, with a few chairs, a chaise lounge, a low table and a cabinet with a glass door. The cabinet held a wide variety of wine and spirits, as well as glasses, and a silver-bucket-obviously enchanted-that held ice. On the table was a tea service.

Misara had looked through the cabinet, but in the end had chosen to restrict herself to the tea.

She had been brought to the palace soon after the watch had taken her into their custody. It had not taken long for her to go from a possible prisoner to a respected guest. She had been asked a few questions, and had answered them as best she could, but it was obvious someone more important was going to speak with her than the watchmen.

She filled her teacup anew and stirred in a little sugar, then sat back in one of the overstuffed chairs and waited. When the door opened she expected that it would be one of the night servants, there to see if she was comfortable of if there was anything she needed. Instead she found herself facing a young man wearing half-plate armour.

Placing her teacup on the table she rose to her feet.

"Lady Dawntide, I am Corith Garrsen, one of the Piergeiron the Paladinson's assistants. I have been asked to apologize to you, for he will not be able to meet with you directly at this time."

"Apologies are not required. I understand that the Warden of Waterdeep is busy with many things."

"Thank you Lady Dawntide."

"Please, sit," Misara said, doing so herself.

"Thank you," he said as he sat, his armour creaking as he did so. "Before anything else is said I was told to offer you the Warden's thanks for returning Ocram's sword to the church."

"Thanks are not required, however they are appreciated. The sword served me well for many years, but it was time it was returned."

"As you saw Lady Dawntide. Now, forgive me for I must speak of less pleasant matters. Normally the Warden would not take a direct hand in a situation such this. It would be something that watch would handle, but, being who you are, it was decided that the Warden must know."

"How are the two men I injured?"

"One is dead, the other may not survive the night."

"I am sorry for that."

"They gave you no quarter Lady Dawntide, there is no blame. What the Warden asked me to find out was why you were attacked?"

"In all honesty I cannot say for certain. I have made many enemies over the years, and there are people who might see me dead simply for who and what I am, but," she paused, "it may have something to do with the quest I am presently on."

And she told him the entire story; from the time Domas summoned her to the attack on her that evening. She left out a few things, such as the Dark Elf priestesses of Eilistraee, but little other than that.

He commented that Waterdeep had heard of the trouble that Domas had faced and that he was glad that the threat had been ended.

"The Warden will wish to know if you think that this Asharass offers a threat to this city?"

Misara was not surprised by the question. "I do not know, but if this person or thing truly has ties back to the days of the Elven Empires, then it is possible."

"You travel to Candlekeep next?"

"Unless I might find the answers in the city."

"I will give a full report of this to the Paladinson. He may able to uncover information that might be valuable to you."

"I would appreciate that greatly," Misara told him, suspecting that Waterdeep's Lord Mage, Khelben Arunsun, would be asked for information.

"I believe that the Warden would like you to keep him informed of what you find out."

"I will do what I can," she answered.

"Thank you Lady Dawntide. As for the matter of the attack and your defence of yourself, I would ask that you try to avoid such lethal force in the future, but I hope you will not be required to defend yourself again while in Waterdeep."

"I will do my best."

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