"I was born in the Evermeet. My family was wealthy, incredibly so. Master craftspeople and adventurers who had brought a great deal of treasure to their home, we had all we could ever want. I, like my brothers and sisters, was trained by some of the finest instructors on the island.
"My friends were like me. Privileged and arrogant young bloods, certain that we burned like the sun, and nothing would ever stand in our way. At a time when I was no longer a girl, but not quite a woman, my friends and I would spend our days in a chaotic attempt to live our lives as fast as we could.
"We met before the sun rose, and practiced our sword play. Each of us had been fencing for decades, and while none of us were blooded, we were skilled with our blades. We fenced as if we danced, and pushed ourselves as hard as we could. We were all determined to become the youngest blademaster ever.
"When the sun rose those of us who had lessons or other demands set upon us by our families would leave to attend those. Well, most of the time. We would all meet once more as soon as we could. We were hedonistic, seeking pleasures in whatever we did. We drank elverquisst by the bottle and ate the finest foods the island or any other place might offer. We sang and danced and played.
"We mastered the arts of our people. We would draw our swords and fence at the fall of a leaf. We threw targets into fast moving rivers and would fire arrows at them by moonlight, mocking anyone would could not hit the target's centre. We composed poems in hidden glades, and practiced simple magic for the simple joy of doing so.
"And when exhaustion finally took one of us we would exile that person from us for a time. We pretended we were cruel, but in the truth we all knew it was to let that person rest before someone truly got hurt."
Misara smiled and looked up into the sky. It had been sometime since she had thought back on those days. "It is funny. I have fought in battles that went on for days and they were not as exhausting as those days of my youth." She shook her head and returned her attention to her audience.
"We were, however, growing up, and all of knew that our carefree days were nearing their end. All of us knew that more awaited us. I had even, I think, begun to feel the first stirrings of my calling." Misara was careful not to sigh, as she wished to do. Had it been a true calling she had felt so long ago, or had she just convinced herself that it was?
"So we were looking for that last grand adventure of youth. Well, we were looking for a series of them really. I think it was Aravilar who proposed that we race across the sea towards the Moonshaes." Misara nodded. "Yes, Aravilar. His father had just given him a yacht; a beautiful trimaran that he was certain was as fast as the wind.
"The weather was beautiful and the sea called to us. Many of us also had yachts, so we formed a regatta and raced out from island. We were quite a sight I am sure, our colourful sails dotting the blue sea.
"I don't know if it was bad luck, or if someone had seen us leave the island and had passed that information on, or even if we were being scryed upon, but somehow we were found out by enemies.
"We did not even realise we were under attack, not until it was far too late.
"The sahuagin led the attack, swarming up onto our yachts, cutting the lines, dropping our sails to stop us. We fought back. As I said, by that time none of us were blooded, but we were all very skilled. Had it just been sahuagin I think we would have fought free and felt that it was truly a grand adventure."
Misara grew silent again, thinking about that time. It had been a long time since she had last told the story. There were reasons she did not often think back on that time.
"Something black rose out of the water, like a whale, and clouds rushed in to darken the day and hide the sun. The black thing opened up and drow swarmed from it, leaping onto our yachts.
"Sahuagin were one thing, but the drow had practiced with their weapons as long as any of us had, if not longer, and they had fought real battles. We never had a chance. They flowed among us, cutting down any that tried to meet them with steel, but most of us fell to their crossbows."
Misara put her hand to her right shoulder, remembering the sting from the dart that had pierced her. "We were all soon helpless, lying upon the decks of our yachts, unable to move. The drow raped us," she said without pause, "wanting to humiliate us before they killed us. Some of the drow pushed their blades into their victims even as they entered them, killing lust overwhelming sexual lust perhaps. They cut the heads from the dead and tossed their bodies overboard."
Her tone was even as she spoke of the rape and murder of her friends, her own rape. A century after the fact and she could speak about it in such a way. She remembered it had taken years before she could think about that day, let alone talk about it, without being reduced to tears. Years before the nightmares went away.
"The one who took me chose to draw it out. He took a great deal of pleasure in my rape. I was almost senseless from the drug within me and really felt very little." She sighed loudly. "It was his desire that saved me, in the end.
"I remember hearing screams, and the sound of wood snapping, and the drow atop me threw himself off me as something passed through the space he had just occupied. It was the sword of an ocean strider. It had swept over the decks of the yachts, scattering drow and sahuagin, cutting through the masts of our craft.
"The drow who had been raping me tried to get back to me, tried to finish me off, but the back sweep of the ocean strider's blade forced him away again, and by then the sea elves were climbing into the boats.
"The drow ran, returning to the black thing that had brought them. I think only two of the drow died, the rest escaped. More of the sahuagin were killed, but many managed to escape as well. I had survived, as had three of my friends, all for the same reason.
"The sea elves retrieved the headless bodies of our fallen friends so that they might be returned to Evermeet. We were transferred to a naval vessel and returned home. People mourned and the patrols around the island were increased for fear that the drow might strike again.
"I spent a tenday, perhaps two, in a state of shock. My wounds were healed, but for a time my mind simply did not want to deal with what had happened. I was still recovering from the trauma when I discovered I was pregnant."
Misara stood and stretched before sitting again. No one said anything. Not far off the sounds of the horses moving about were seemingly loud.
"Many people counselled me to end the pregnancy, and I must admit that I considered it as well, but," Misara paused, "I don't really know. My brother told me that perhaps I hoped to make something good come out of what had happened. Maybe he was right. Maybe the drow had taken away so much from me I was not willing to let them take anything else.
"Whatever the reason, I chose to bear the child, much to the consternation of almost everyone who knew. I was really too young, and the reason for the pregnancy, and the fact I was planning on bringing a half drow bastard into the world, well, it was no surprise everyone disapproved.
"The pregnancy was very peaceful however, and many people took that as a good sign. It was hoped that the child might be more moon elf than drow, perhaps even showing none of its father's heritage. Such things are known to happen.
"The birth was easy. The infant, my daughter, showed no sign that she had a moon elf as a parent. As I held her in my arms I heard some of my family suggesting that she be killed that instant. They were rather extreme in their views, so no one really listened to them, but many others were suggesting that the child be sent away, perhaps myself as well.
"No one asked me what to do, but then again, why would they? I had not impressed anyone in my family with my choices.
"Into that chaos came Talintiel, an ancient elf and high priest of Corellon Larethian. He was suddenly by my side. No one had seen him enter. He smiled as me as he knelt down. He reached out and traced the symbol of the crescent moon on my daughter's forehead. He spoke the blessing of Corellon Larethian over her. For a moment the room went quiet as the presence of the god filled my room." Misara remembered it all so clearly. It was as if she were describing something as it happened rather than her memory of it.
"After that no one would speak about harming my daughter, or sending her away. She had been accepted by the chief of our gods. Who would be willing to speak against that? It was then that I swore my service to Corellon Larethian; I swore it to Talintiel as the sense of the divine still lingered. He had given my daughter a future. What else could I do?" What else could I do, she asked herself. What other choice had she had?
"I named her Lindra. She was so very beautiful, perfect in every way." Misara smiled and closed her eyes.
"For a time, a year, I thought that I might simply live in the Evermeet with my daughter. People were kind enough, and no one could hate Lindra, not an infant. It was something of a foolish dream. I knew that as Lindra grew older she would become more and more isolated. I knew that she could never be truly welcome in the Evermeet, never be part of it like I had.
"It was when I was thinking such things that Talintiel came to me again. He asked me if I still wished to serve Corellon Larethian, if my oath still held me. Of course it did. He told me of Eilistraee, and her followers, and how they needed someone to help them. That they needed me.
"He was offering me the chance to serve my god, but he was also offering me a place where my daughter might live as part of a community and not an outsider.
"I left the Evermeet, travelled to the High Forest, to a small community of dark elves that were trying to live in peace on the surface world. They were besieged by their evil brethren on one side, by surface elves that saw all dark elves as evil on the other.
"That was how I came to know Vilis and the others. I spent two decades with them, helping them secure their lives, to make alliances and gain the begrudging trust of the good people that lived in the area. They gave Lindra and myself a community and a family."
Everything was quiet for a time after Misara finished her story. Even the horses seemed content to stand still.
"Thank you for telling me that," the Historian said.
"Thank you for listening."
"I must go now I think."
"Go now," Misara told him. "I will call you again."
"Thank you," he said, and then was gone.
Misara got to her feet. "Get some rest. I'll take first watch. We'll leave after we have all had some time to rest up."
"Has Lindra followed your path?" Rowan asked.
Misara looked towards her and shook her head. "She follows Eilistraee, has become one of her priestesses."
"Why did you tell us this? Why keep such a thing secret for so long only to tell this story now."
Misara moved towards the edge of the trees, looking down at the slope of the hill. "Lindra wants more from life then just be tolerated, in a small part of the High Forest. She will find that easier if she is known to be my daughter." She turned and looked at Rowan. "If other Paladins would speak for her."
"I see. So your actions are prompted less by trust and more by selfish desires."
"There is truth in what you say. Can anyone fault a mother for wanting to help and protect her child?"
"No, I suppose not." Rowan stared down into the fire for a time. "I think I would like to meet Lindra."
"I would like that. Lindra would as well."
Rowan looked up from the flames and smiled.
"What happened to the other three?" Olpara asked.
"Pardon?" Misara looked towards her.
"Your three friends that survived the attack. What happened to them?"
Misara paused as she thought about the question. "Flaris cloistered herself in the church of Sehanine Moonbow. She remains isolated, seeking answers in enchanted dreams. Evani had a spell laid upon her that wiped her memory and replaced it with another. To her all her friends died in a storm at sea. Javan is driven by vengeance and he has dedicated himself to the extermination of the drow. I fought alongside him several years ago, in the forest of Cormanthor. One day his cruelty and hatred may match the drow he hunts."
Misara turned away from Olpara and Rowan. "Get some rest. Our journey nears its end, but the last part is likely to be the most difficult."
Rowan poked at the embers of the fire with a stick, spreading them out a little. She would have to bury them soon to hide any sign of their camp. She looked to her companions. Misara was leaning against the trunk of a tree, her eyes open, apparently seeing nothing. Olpara lay on her bedroll, tossing, obviously not asleep.
Rowan was thinking of Misara's story. She had thought she knew the elven woman. From everything that Seomon and Damos had told her she would have thought that she knew the important facts. She was not certain that she knew what to think about what Misara had told her. She had some trouble combining the picture of the warrior for good with the loving mother or the helpless victim.
Lindra was her weakness, Rowan thought. Could she also be her strength?
There was something about Misara that was different, but she thought it might only be her view of the elf.
Olpara sat up. She looked over at Misara, then got to her feet and walked over to Rowan's side.
"I can't sleep," she said, stating the obvious.
Rowan pulled the stick from the fire and jammed the burning end into the ground to put it out.
"I've been of no use to you." Olpara sat down beside her.
Rowan wanted to deny what Olpara said, but she knew that Olpara was not looking to be reassured about her value.
"When we were in that keep, when those creatures attacked, I could tell that Misara wanted to fight her way clear of them. It was not because she was not willing to face that phaerimm monster, but because she did not want me to get killed. And I ran away, forcing us to go right to it.
"And when you had fallen and lay on the floor, I stood up there and I thought that I should run. I saw that horrible monster and I wanted to run."
"But you didn't," Rowan told her. "You came down and gave me the healing potion."
"I was more frightened of being on my own than I was of that monster, at least for that moment. I helped you because I was afraid. I've been doing everything because I've been afraid. I asked to continue with you at Hill Crown because I was afraid. I'm tired of that. I am tired of letting fear drive me. I finally realised that, and it disgusts me."
"Is that why you want to come with us?"
"I don't want to come with you. I want to take the opportunity that Misara offered me, to go to Waterdeep."
Rowan put her arm around Olpara and drew her close. Olpara leaned into her. They said nothing, just sat together while the embers in the fire cooled, waiting for Misara to wake.