It was a tenday after what some bards had named the 'Battle of Red Tears Hill'. Misara had spent most of that time in Silverymoon, telling the complete story to members and representatives of the League of the Silver Marches.
The last few days had been overcast, and cold, as if winter was not yet finished with the region. Then the clouds had blown away and a warm breeze from the south carried with it the promise of summer.
Misara knelt on the edge of the Moonbridge, at its highest point. She was dressed in a green silk dress and was barefoot. By her knee a mechanical songbird perched upon the sheath of her sword. The bird whistled a soft and beautiful tune. The dress and the songbird were among the many gifts that had been presented to her by the publicly grateful leaders of the Silver Marches. She supposed that some of them had to be truly grateful, but it was hard to tell.
The songbird and the dress were the only gifts she thought she might keep. The rest would likely be given in to the care of the temple at Everlund.
She looked down into the water and thought about the High Forest.
There was traffic on the bridge of magical force, quite a bit of it, but no one had bothered her. Then someone came and sat down beside her. She looked up into Domas' eyes.
"You're hiding," he said to her good-naturedly.
"I envy you." He laughed. "You are going to leave soon?"
"Taern Hornblade and Alustriel wish you to attend a state dinner in your and Rowan's honour this evening."
"How could I say no?"
"You'd say no and walk away."
"Well, yes, but not this time."
He shifted about, letting his legs dangle over the edge of the bridge. "Things are difficult," he said. "You'd think that with the evil beaten that everything would be well."
"You are nowhere that naïve," Misara told him, and reached to gently stroke the mithral and gold feathers on the head of the songbird. Its song changed slightly, and Misara knew that no one would overhear what she and Domas said.
"But I am hopeful. Alustriel wishes to seal the hall, strengthened the seals with wards, and to put guards around Wolf Hill. No one is to ever get in again."
"It would be a wise choice."
"You would think. Unfortunately there is no agreement. Helm Dwarf-friend does not believe in burying such things. He wants the hall left open, garrisoned, and to invite people to come who might know of a way to destroy the dragon."
Domas said nothing for a short time, and then, "I am not certain that that is such a poor choice."
Misara did not reply.
"King Warcrown, well, I am not certain, but he may think that Asharass is just a construct, a power that might useful. King Harbromm wants to tear down Ahsarass and salvage the metals."
"Were that it was that easy," Misara told him.
"I have sent a message to Queen Amlaruil," Misara told him. "She may contact Alustriel soon to offer aid in this matter."
"No doubt such a thing would be welcome."
"Perhaps," Misara said softly. With the difficulties of late in Evermeet and in Evereska she was not certain if any forces could be spared.
"The politics of this all just gets more difficult."
"They always do."
Domas sighed. "It was all so much simpler when I was younger. You vanquished evil and everything was well. I envy those young men and women who have not realised that it is so much more complicated."
"I don't," Misara told him. "They have yet to learn the lessons, and that is always harder than living with it afterwards. That is a lesson I don't envy anyone learning."
"I fear that this might weaken the league, even break it."
"A supreme irony if it does."
"Yes. What can I do?" It was not a rhetorical question. He truly wanted to know, was asking her as the teacher she had once been to him.
Misara did not feel as if she should be giving him any advice, but she answered his question as best she might. "You do what you are doing now. Work to strengthen the league and help the people of the Marches. Be there to offer counsel when asked. And whatever you do, never got caught up in the attempts at others to take power."
Misara turned her attention back to the river. "There is one thing that I will tell you, something that I think Alustriel already knows. Queen Amlaruil will not allow the threat of Asharass to go unmet. She will not take a direct hand in what happens, unless it appears that the League of the Silver Marches is unable to properly deal with it. If that happens she will likely move. I'm not certain what she will do, but it will be an unmistakeable show of force."
Domas shook his head, but not in negation. "Such an action could break the League." He was silent for a short time, and then turned towards her. "Something has happened to you."
"Might you tell me?"
"I've lost the way."
"What do..." He paused. "I see. How..."
"Not important, not really. A choice. It was only a choice."
Domas said nothing, he seemed at a loss for words.
Misara shifted about and reached for her sword. The songbird leapt from the sheath and fluttered up to perch on her shoulder. She stood and looked down at Domas. "Do not despair yet Domas," she told him, and smiled. "From these fires something strong and lasting may yet be forged. Both for myself and for the league."
She turned walked towards the north side of the city. The songbird on her shoulder chirped happily.
Misara was dressed for travelling. Breeches, a chemise, and a short-jacket, her elven chain shirt hidden beneath. She wore a cape over it all, with a wide brimmed hat for protection from the sun. Perched on the brim of her hat was the songbird, silent for the moment. Ree'anor was at her side, about the only obvious martial thing about her.
She led Iron from the stable of the Golden Oak. One of the stable hands had obviously spent a lot of time brushing out Iron's coat, likely in some futile attempt to make the horse more appealing to the eye.
"Well, are you ready to ride?"
Iron snorted, and he stomped on the ground with his right, front hoof.
"Me too," she told him, and then put the saddlebags on him and the rig that held her bow and quiver. She swung up on his back, shifting her sword about as she did so. "Let's go you ugly brute."
Iron cantered down the street, forcing a few people to step quickly out of his way. They passed the old wall and then entered the market. Misara had to slow Iron lest he knock someone over in the crowded area. They exited the city through the Sundabar gate and Misara let Iron run as they travelled a short distance down the road that eventually led through the Moon pass to Sundabar.
Less than a mile from the walls of Silverymoon, on a grassy hill, dotted with trees, was a small graveyard. Misara left Iron near the gate and continued on foot, passing through the low, stone, wall and starting up a path that led through grave markers.
Rowan, dressed in her armour, was seated near a fresh grave, about midway up the hill. The stone that marked the grave was a large slab of polished stone, shot through with lines of gold and silver.
Misara walked up to the stone and ran her hand over the rough texture of the edge. Under Olpara's name were the words, 'Hero of the Battle of Red Tears Hill'.
"I'm leaving now," she said to Rowan.
"To the High Forest?"
"I'd like to visit you. Perhaps before the summer ends."
"I'd like that as well," Misara told her, and then knelt down beside Rowan.
"Do you think I forced Olpara to travel with us?" Rowan asked.
Misara reached into the pocket of her jacket and brought at a small, velvet bag. She tossed it back and forth between her hands, the contents made a soft, clicking sound. "Ultimately Olpara forced herself to travel with us. She was looking for herself. Nothing you could have done would have made a difference. You are not responsible. Give Olpara some credit for having control of her own life."
"I miss her, and I regret that we did not have more time together."
"Be glad for what time you did have. Regrets are far too dangerous." She grabbed Rowan's arm and forced the velvet bag into her gauntleted hand. "Send this to Olpara's friends. She would be glad to know that the ship she dreamt of was finally built."
Rowan looked at the bag, bouncing it in her hand. "Thank you."
Misara got up from the ground and looked around. "There are only two reasons you should spend any length of time in a place like this Rowan." She started walking down the path. "One is if you are dead. The other is if there are undead to make dead. You're a Paladin Rowan Jassan," she called back over her shoulder, "and there is plenty of evil out there that needs to be dealt with and I trust that you will do so." She turned back to the path and continued down.
"Sing," Misara said.
The songbird fluttered down to her shoulder and began to chirp.
Hours later, a little after noon, Misara slowed Iron down. There was a figure on the side of the road. She was naked, but for long, white hair, and she watched Misara approach with wide, gold eyes.
Misara stopped Iron and looked down at her. "If you seek revenge I must tell you that there are far better ways to die than by my sword."
She shook her head. "My name is Siishi."
"Well met Siishi."
"You killed Ippla and Liman."
"Yes, I suppose I did."
"I don't like being alone," Siishi said in a soft voice.
Misara looked down at her for a time. Plenty of evil out there, she thought. There was plenty of good as well. And for those things in between, well, sometimes all it took was a gentle prod. "Will you ride or run?"
Siishi looked at Iron with some alarm.
"Run it is then. Try to keep up." She squeezed Iron with her knees. He took off at a gallop.
Some time later Misara looked over to the side. The white tiger was pacing her, running flat out on the ground beside the road. She laughed, truly laughed, for the first time in days, and urged Iron to run faster. As she did her hat was blown from her head and left behind, fluttering down to lay on the road.
They had taken everything away.
The glass skin had been shattered, by the very gnomes that had crafted it. The shards had been swept from the hall.
There was no light in the hall, no noise.
She did not mind. She had spent more than twenty thousand years in the darkness and silence. Then she had not known if she would ever be free. Now she knew it would only be a few years at most.
A few years was but a blink of an eye for Asharass.
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