The sun had set, but a large fire burned in the centre of the village, and several casks of ale had been tapped. The celebration had started soon after the children had walked through the gate and into Serpent's Cowl. Misara had only escaped the overwhelming attention and gratitude when Kirksin and Stedd had landed their pegasi shortly before the sunset.
She desperately wanted to be alone, to think on what had happened. There were many things she still had to do.
When Rowan, Thayla, and the others finally returned Misara was able to leave the press of people unnoticed and seek out Calroth. The headman was enjoying a mug of ale with Kirksin, thanking the wizard for all his help.
"Headman Calroth," she said, "may I have a moment of your time?"
"Lady Dawntide," he said, putting down his mug and bowing to her. "Of course. Please, what do you need?"
"I have no needs," she told him. "I want to give this to you," she told him, handing him the purse that she had taken off Kesk.
He took it and opened it up. His eyes widened. "I cannot take this Lady Dawntide." He tried to push it back into her hands. "If anything we should be giving you such a reward."
Misara refused to accept the purse. "You have more need for it than I do. Take it with my blessings."
He looked uncertain, holding the purse tightly in his hands. After a few seconds he relaxed slightly. "Thank you Lady Dawntide," he said, bowing down deeply.
"You are welcome Headman Calroth." She turned towards Kirksin. "For you and Stedd, and for sorceress Halacanter of course." She poured more than half the contents of one of the bags of gems into his palm.
"This is quite generous," he said, smiling widely.
"Your aid was very valuable."
She nodded, then tied the bag shut and passed it to Calroth. "Give this to Thayla. She can split it up amongst her riders."
"Generous to a fault perhaps," Kirksin said with a laugh.
Misara wanted to tell the man to shut up; she did not want to hear people say things like that; not at that moment. She kept her peace and said nothing.
"Is there anything that we might do for you?" Calroth asked hopefully.
"I came here to arrange travel to Yarthrain. Perhaps you could introduce me to the owners of the fastest skiffs."
"Of course my Lady," he said and bowed again.
"You don't have to pay us Lady," Roschan told Misara, bobbing his head low and holding his cap to his chest. "You saved my sister's little boy."
Roschan was a man of average height, with a broad chest from poling his skiff. The two men standing behind him were similar in build. All of them wore warm clothing, but their feet were bare.
"My vows as a Paladin," and she almost stumbled on the word, "do not allow me to accept such rewards. I must pay you," she told him. She had told the lie about her vows many times before, but it had never echoed so falsely in her ears.
"Oh," Roschan said. He looked a little relieved. "Well, I wouldn't want to cause you trouble."
Misara took the hat from his hands and then pushed the bag of gold into them. She placed the hat back on his head. "Can we leave immediately?"
"Of course Lady." He looked over his shoulders at his two companions. They nodded vigorously. "We just need to get some supplies, and you'll want to bring your horses to the docks."
"I will meet you back here in short order then," she told Roschan.
"Of course Lady."
"Very well," she said, and watched as the three men ran off to ready their skiffs. Misara waited until she was certain that they could no longer see her for she wanted to be alone. She turned and looked out over the darkened river.
She thought about what had happened, about what it really meant.
Kesk had had to die. She had known that. She grasped the ring on the ring finger of her left hand and began to turn it.
The Paladin had needed to kill him because he was a threat to the people in the area. Because of the crimes he had committed and would commit. Because there was no one she might turn him over to; no one with authority and power, no prison in which he might be placed.
A Paladin could act as judge and executioner, but only when there was no other choice.
The champion and servant of Corellon Larethian had needed to kill him because he was an orc, or near enough. Because he was a worshipper of a god that hated the elves and would see them suffer. Because the battle mirrored one from long ago and the only proper ending was for Kesk to die.
She had swung that sword as a servant of Corellon Larethian. Even if their had been a person of authority to turn Kesk over to. Even if there had been a prison nearby to which she might send him. Even if those options had existed, she still would have killed him.
Misara thought she should feel different. And yet she did not. She still wanted to help the people of the village, and had, giving them part of the treasure that she had taken off Kesk. She still felt the need to discover what Asharass was and combat it if needed. Nothing seemed to have changed, and that seemed wrong to her.
It would be easier to understand if her decision on that hill had altered her.
She looked down at the ring she was twisting on her finger. It was the ring she had taken from her home, many, many days before. The symbol of Tyr, in gold, shone in the darkness by the river.
She might have defied her god, might have struck Kesk down with the certainty of a Paladin. Had she done that then she had little doubt that Corellon Larethian's patience with her would have ended. That he would have turned his back on her. Not in anger, but in acceptance that she was not his.
Then it might by the crescent moon holy symbol she toyed with instead of the ring. She could be a Paladin of Tyr. Somehow she knew it was not too late. She looked at the symbol and remembered the camaraderie she had felt with the followers of Tyr she had known. It would be a good life. All she had to do was ask for it.
Part of her wanted to do that. It was the part of her that had known a purity of purpose, that had performed miracles. It was a very strong desire.
A Paladin of Tyr would, however, not have a place in Daetarue. And the people of Daetarue would have little use for the stern arbiter of justice she would become. Lindra would love her, but there would be a wedge driven between mother and daughter. Perhaps Lindra's resentment of others would grow even stronger.
And, she knew with certainty, that she could never turn her back on Corellon Larethian.
It was not fair, she thought. And yet, who was she to ask the world be fair? Only a child would do such a thing, as Vilis had told her.
Misara pulled the ring from her finger. She almost imagined it seemed to speed from the digit, as if wanted to be away from her, but it was only imaginations. The enchantments on the ring were minor, and not of the sort to judge her.
It was time for her to grow up.
She tossed the ring out over the water. Heard it fall into the river with a soft splash. For a moment she stood there, feeling as if the final tie to what she had been was gone. She cursed Kesk softly and then turned and started back to the village.
The celebration had not lasted long. The people of Serpent's Cowl were farmers and come the sunrise they would be out, preparing their fields for planting. The fire in the village centre was still burning well, but only a few people sat around it.
"Rowan, Olpara," Misara said as she stepped into the firelight, "I've arranged for the skiffs to take us to Yarthrain."
"When?" Rowan asked.
"As soon as we are ready."
"Lady Dawntide," Calroth said as he stood, "I want to thank you, all of you, for your aid and your generosity."
"It was my honour and duty," Misara told him.
Calroth turned towards Rowan. "Lady Jassan, I also offer you the village's thanks for all you have done."
"You do not need to thank us," Rowan told him as she got to her feet.
"And yet I must."
"We should be leaving." Rowan handed her mug of ale to an old man who sat by the fire. "Thank you for your hospitality."
Olpara finished whatever was in her mug and then got to her feet.
"I wish you well on your journey ladies," Kirksin said. "Perhaps we will meet again."
"Let me see you on your way," he got up. "Stedd, come along."
"Of course," the younger man said, smiling.
"Goodbye Headman Calroth. May your ways be green and golden."
"Thank you Lady Dawntide. Chauntea watch over you." He bowed deeply to her.
"Farewell Headman Calroth," Rowan told him.
"Lady Jassan, the blessings of Chauntea on you as well." He bowed to her.
Misara turned and left, knowing that stretching out their farewells would only make the man that much more uncomfortable.
Kirksin stopped when they reached the paddock where the horses were kept. "I do hope that we meet again. Perhaps when you are finished with whatever quest you are on now you might search me out."
"Perhaps," Misara said, but did not think she would.
"Well enough." Kirksin stopped. "Fare thee well."
She, Rowan and Olpara said their farewells to Kirksin and Stedd. The three women gathered up their horses and gear and then went to board the skiffs that were waiting for them.
Cirtimin entered Asharass' chamber, leaning over, shuffling forward on his staff.
"You have news Cirtimin?" Asharass asked, her voice coming for directly in front of him.
He looked up, a little surprised by the immediacy of her voice. He found himself looking into the red eyes of Asharass. He stumbled and almost fell.
"Careful," she advised. "It would not do if you hurt yourself."
"You are too kind to be concerned with me, Lady Asharass." He bowed his head down.
"You are valuable to me," she told him, "and thus I am concerned. Now, what is it you came to tell me?"
Cirtimin looked up and saw she had moved away from him. She was standing in profile. Her long, red hair nearly swept the dusty floor and her flawless, pale skin seemed to almost glow in the darkness of the room.
"The orc, Kesk Hornskull, has failed," he said, not allowing thoughts of the body to make him foolish. "He is dead. Killed by Misara Anor'Esira."
"I see," she said. There was nothing in her tone of voice, in the way she stood, that gave away what she was thinking.
"I am still searching for other enemies that we might turn against her, but it is proving," he paused, "difficult."
"Too many of her enemies are dead I suppose. She is wise in that."
"There are some cultists in..."
"Do not bother any longer with this Cirtimin."
"It may have been a mistake to avoid moving directly against her. I thought it prudent, but..." And she shrugged her shoulders. "So far I think she searches after information, but she has not found it. She is chasing after something that she learned in Candlekeep I think. It may be that she finds nothing. I will watch her and as long as she stays far from here I will not waste any more of my time or resources with her.
"I want you to aid Onica. She needs assistance, and we are close to the end of this. Soon the elf will not matter," Asharass told him.
"Yes my lady."
"You have done excellent work Cirtimin. The fault is not yours. Go, help Onica, and get some rest."
"Yes my lady," he said, and bowed his head low.
When he looked up there was no sign of Asharass.
He turned and left, promising himself that he would give Onica all the help she might require. This time he would make certain that things were accomplished as Asharass wanted.