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Forgotten Realms & Highlander: The Series crossover

The blade of my long sword made a soft whistling sound as it sliced through the air. Connecting with its target wasn't nearly so musical. However, as the saying goes, "There Can Be Only One," and it wasn't going to be the late and unlamented Jonathon Simmons.

As the white mist closed in on me, I knelt down in exhaustion and vaguely hoped that the Quickening wouldn't be noticed in this disused warehouse district in New York City.

The pyrotechnics finally slowed and stopped a few minutes later. Taking several deep breaths, I pulled myself upwards and looked around for signs that someone had seen what had just happened and came face to chin with a man wearing some sort of flowing robes. He had his head tilted back (which was why I was looking at his chin instead of his face), and his arms were stretched above him, looking like he just finished some extravagant movement.

"Oh, shit," I muttered to myself.

That apparently got the guy's attention. His head snapped down and looked at me in shock. Glancing quickly around himself, his face settled into a deep scowl as he turned back to me. "Who are you, and why are you here?" he demanded.

I looked down at the bloody sword in my hand. How in God's name should I explain this one? Stretching for any excuse I could, I stammered out, "I just found this guy here, and . . ." I turned to point and trailed off as I looked at a bare patch of ground. Where had Simmons gone?

The man looked over my shoulder for a moment before waving one hand irritably. "Bah! Put that sword away, fool. I don't know how you did it, but you managed to ruin my spell."

Spell? I hurriedly tucked the sword into the sheath sewn into the lining of my coat. I was surprised that he hadn't gone running and screaming for the police by now. Bloody swords generally got a stronger reaction from people than what he'd shown.

He was still glaring at me. I decided that I'd better say something before he lost patience. "Uh, I'm sorry. If you don't mind, I'll just be going now, sir." Never hurts to call someone "sir". Especially those that think they're important.

He waved one hand dismissively, glaring at me all the while. I took his gesture as permission to leave, which I did.

I'd made it perhaps ten steps before my mind caught up with what my eyes were seeing, and I stopped dead in my tracks. This definitely wasn't New York City. It still looked like I was in a warehouse district, but the construction was much more crude. Mostly wood with some stone and mortar jobs. I could see what had to be a town a few blocks distant, but none of the buildings were more than two stories tall with one notable exception.

This place wasn't all that much taller (it was only three stories itself), but it was definitely more ornate. Studying it, the only way I could describe it was as a castle. Not one of those ugly impregnable fortress types of things you see in medieval movies, but more along the lines of a gorgeous castle that you might see in a picture calendar of "Castles of Europe" or maybe a Disney movie.

What the hell was going on?

"What, you've never seen a city before?" asked the man behind me sarcastically.

My jaw was probably down around my ankles, but I didn't bother to turn around. Instead, I figured I'd better get away from this guy. I started walking forward again as my mind started churning away.

None of this made sense. I was in New York, then I was here. Wherever HERE happened to be. Some small town in Europe somewhere? But that guy spoke English. Weird accent maybe but English nonetheless. Even the most isolated hamlet in England would have better construction than this. For sure nowhere in the United States would look like this. Maybe in the Outback of Australia? That still didn't explain how in the world I got here. Amnesia? Drugs? If so, then what was the gain? I still had my sword and my wallet right where they were supposed to be.

What was going on?

While my mind was running in tight circles I absently removed my sword, cleaned it, and replaced it. Taking care of one's sword was so ingrained into an Immortal that it became habit, no matter the circumstances. Meanwhile, my feet had taken me further forward, toward the populated portions of this place. As I closed in on the folks scurrying around, I realized that everyone was dressed in wildly differing styles. There was one guy standing on a corner apparently spouting poetry wearing a doublet and hose. Across the street a woman playing something that looked like a modified harp was wearing a long skirt and blouse in blazing white. The passersby were wearing a conglomeration of clothing, most of which would have looked normal on the set of a Robin Hood movie. Wearing a trench coat, casual shirt, and jeans, I felt horribly out of place, but nobody even gave me a second glance. One item that took several seconds to register on my overwhelmed consciousness was that the only sounds were of horses and people. No machinery or cars were in evidence.

With no idea where to go, I kept walking gradually toward the castle. Once I got close enough to a pair of men talking together, I noticed enough about their features that I stopped in my tracks again. They were both quite short at less than four feet, had beards down to their waists, large noses, and feet all out of proportion to their height. One of them finally noticed my stare and broke off his conversation to look at me. When I didn't turn away, he cocked an eyebrow at me and asked in a gravelly, Scottish accent, "What, haven't never seen a dwarf before or somethin'?"

Dwarf? Like a real dwarf, not a genetically short human? "Sorry, good sir," I stammered. "Where I come from, we don't have dwarves." True enough, but the whole situation was way outside of reality for me. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

He gave a deep chuckle and eyed me curiously. "From the South then?"

Hell, why not? Whatever would keep me from looking more like an idiot. "Yes, sir."

Nodding in apparent satisfaction, he turned back to his conversation with his companion.

I kept walking and started to look at the signs of the shops I was walking past. Bakery, meat shop, armorer, fletcher, smith, and apothecary. How in the hell did I get to medieval times? Also, how do I explain a real, live, honest-to-God dwarf?

"I can wake up anytime now. Come on, this nightmare has lasted long enough," I muttered to myself, hoping someone was listening.

One wild idea was starting to come into focus, but I needed time to stop and think. Okay, it was time to regroup. I looked up and down the street and spotted a sign for the "Storm Tales." Hoping it was a tavern or something equally benign, I crossed the street and pushed open the door. Giving a silent prayer of thanks that bars were the same no matter where you were, I took myself to a quiet corner, dropped into the chair, and laid my head down on my arms.

I spent perhaps five minutes running all the theories through my head. There were only two choices I could come up with. Either I was completely insane (which didn't bear much thinking about), or I was in a real life version of Dungeons and Dragons. I'd played a few games with mortal friends about three decades ago when it was so popular, and everything I'd seen so far fit in with the motif portrayed in the role playing game. I drug out all my rusty knowledge of that universe and quickly reviewed it. If I wanted to last here for any length of time, I'd better not goof up too badly. If I remembered correctly, then this world had almost zero technology, magic was abundant, religions were varied, multiple intelligent races, governments were mostly monarchies in city-states, and apprenticeships were used in place of formal education. It sounded barbaric to my American raised sensibilities, but on the other hand it sounded like it had an element of rustic charm to it.

My musings were interrupted by a plate being placed on the table in front of me. Jerking my head up, I saw a pretty young woman placing a goblet next to the plate and smiling at me. "I'm sorry," I said, "but I don't have anything you'd accept as money." Precious metals were the only currency accepted, as I recalled. My paper money certainly wouldn't impress anyone. Not to mention the credit cards.

One tapered eyebrow rose. "Where are you from and how did you get here without any money?"

"The South," I answered, figuring that was vague enough and remote enough to answer all sorts of questions. It seemed to work with that dwarf.

The other eyebrow came up. She really was quite pretty. "And how'd you get here?" Her voice was strangely melodic, too.

My face fell as I considered that. "I don't know," I answered honestly. "There was a flash of light and this man appeared in front of me. No, I appeared in front of him I guess," I amended.

She nodded and the eyebrows came down. "You were teleported."

I looked at her. "Teleported." Why not? Nothing else had made sense for the past hour.

She smiled slightly and brushed her hair back and hooked it over an ear in a charmingly familiar gesture. A pointed ear. I blinked. Okay, she was an elf. This world was going to take some getting used to. I tuned in to what she was saying again, " . . . is on the house. You're new to town so we'll give you a break." With another alluring smile, she turned and walked away.

I looked down at the plate and goblet. The plate contained what looked like some sort of stew. Peering closely at the contents of the goblet, I couldn't identify the dark brown liquid. Steeling myself, I took a cautious sip and nearly choked. So this is what ale tastes like, I thought around a choking cough that I tried desperately to muffle. I wasn't all that impressed. Well, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Besides, it wouldn't poison me.

Mechanically eating the food without truly tasting it or paying attention, I considered what I would do next. Unless this teleport spontaneously reversed itself, I would need to either try to get myself back or learn to live here.

Okay, who could do a teleport? Mages, I answered my own question. Fine. How could I get a mage to teleport me home? Ask politely? Not likely. Pay 'em? That would probably work much better, but that assumed I or they knew where to teleport me TO. It would also mean I needed some money.

How to make money? What skills did I have? By United States standards, I was an expert swordsman, though I was pretty low on the Immortal scale. How did I stack up around here, where most everyone wore a weapon of some type? I was literate, as well. Most of this world's population probably wasn't. At least I hoped I was literate. My American was fine, of course, but there was no telling what reading and writing was like around here. If worst came to worst, I could do general labor, but I would most definitely prefer something else.

The waitress gracefully sank into a seat at the table with me, setting a small wineglass in front of herself. Propping her head in one hand, she studied me intently for a few moments before saying, "You're looking far too serious for the day, good sir. Pray tell what I can do to ease your mind."

Instead of answering immediately, I looked around the room and discovered that we were nearly alone. The only other person in the room was the male elf bartender who keeping a loose eye on us while absently wiping down the tables. The lack of patrons explained why this pretty waitress was here talking with me instead of waiting tables. I turned back to the woman sitting beside me and discovered she was still looking to me with an expectant expression. Hell, why not?

"My name is Thian, good lady," I started, giving her the name I adopted for my main character, pronouncing the "I" as a long "E" as I preferred. "As I told you, I've been brought to this place against my will, and I do not even know where this is. Please, where am I?"

She laughed. "'Tis not often that the patrons don't even know where they are! You're in the city of Silverymoon, near the Trollmoors." Seeing my blank look, she continued, "North and east of Waterdeep."

Like that helped me any. Move on to something a little more practical, I chided myself. "I fear I'll need a place to stay and a job soon. I cannot expect you to continue to feed me this way."

Her eyes were still shining. "Come back tonight and we shall see what we can do about your supper." I opened my mouth to protest, but she held up a hand. "Do not argue, for it is not a problem. As for a job, there I cannot help you. What skills do you have?"

I shrugged. "In my own land I am an accomplished swordsman, but here?" I shrugged again in ignorance. "I also know how to read and write, but again that may not help here. I have no other skills that come to mind that may be useful here." I vaguely realized that my speech patterns were already altering to fit in.

A smile trying to work its way onto her face warned me that I was about to get zinged. "Why did you enter this building, then?"

I blinked in confusion. What in the world was she saying?

"I watched you come down the street, swordsman, and you entered none of the buildings save this one. Why?"

"The sign said 'Storm Tales'," I answered slowly. "I was hoping it was a bar or somewhere else I could quietly sit and think."

"You READ the sign over our door," she pointed out.

She nodded at me as my eyes grew wide in dawning comprehension. So I could read after all.

"As for your employment," she continued, "sell-swords are always useful to the merchant bands and the city guard. You can also go to the Sage's Hall to apply as a scribe if that grabs your fancy." She looked me up and down slowly. Grinning slightly, she continued, "Might I also suggest you find a change of clothing soon? Though those pants and shirt are flattering," she smiled at my blush, "they are not like anything else here. You may be targeted by every cutpurse simply because you appear to be wealthy."

Great, another thing to worry about: local muggers thinking I'm too rich for my own good, I grumbled to myself. Shaking off the depressing thought, I smiled at her. "Thank you for the suggestions. How may I call you?"

"I am called Carith, and that is my cousin Therth," she nodded toward the bartender.

Standing, I removed an imaginary hat from my head and dipped into a grand bow, holding my "hat" to my chest and my other arm out wide. "My pleasure to meet you, Lady Carith."

Giggling at my theatrics, she stood and dipped into a curtsey. Leaning on a table, Therth chuckled at the both of us. Smiling at the two of them, I said, "Thank you for the meal. I hope to repay you for your hospitality and advice, but I fear I may be back tonight to draw more heavily into your debt."

They both waved that off. "Tymora's Luck to you, Thian," called Therth as I made my way to the door.

Okay, now what? I needed a job and lodging immediately. A guard for a traveling merchant band, though it sounded fascinating, wasn't what I needed right now. Okay, so my next choice was the city guard. If that didn't work out, then I'd try to find work as a scribe.

For the moment heading toward the castle, I tried to keep an eye out for any of the city guard. I was rewarded almost immediately by seeing four men wearing identical blue and silver capes over their armor. Crossing the street and stopping in front of them, I greeted them, "Good day, sirs. Are you members of the Silverymoon city guard?"

The oldest of the four, wearing chain mail armor with a shield hanging off is left arm nodded. "We are members of the Knights in Silver, yes. I am Knight Karfom. How can I help you?"

Now for an abbreviated version of the truth. "I find myself in need of a job. Where I'm from, I'm something of an accomplished swordsman. I was wondering if I could join your ranks."

He nodded. "We're always looking for experienced men-at- arms. We're nearing the end of our patrol. Follow us back to our barracks, and I shall introduce you to Armsmaster Starkin. There, we'll see what we shall see."

Nodding my acceptance, I followed the four as they continued toward a complex of buildings near the castle. Passing through a market area, everyone we passed moved respectfully out of our path, giving a word of greeting as often as not. While everyone gave me a questioning look, they treated Karfom and his men with respect but not fear. The guard was well liked among the city, apparently.

Crossing between two guards with wickedly bladed, long spear-like weapons, the three other guardsmen headed off in one direction as Karfom indicated that I should follow him. He led me off toward one low domed building. Stepping inside, it was immediately obvious that this was a training arena. "Star," my guide called to the man keeping an eye on a group of Knights engaged in sword practice.

The man turned and I saw his drooping mustache and wicked scar marring one cheek. He was wearing chain mail as well, with a long sword riding easily on one hip. "Karfom. How went your patrol?"

"Nothing to report, except this man," Karfom turned to me and waved me forward. "He stopped us and asked if he could join our ranks. Thian, this is Armsmaster Starkin."

Starkin gave me a curt nod and looked me over appraisingly. "Anything else, Karfom?" he asked. At Karfom's negative reply, Starkin waved him out the door and chased the other trainees out as well, ordering them to return three afternoons hence. Once the building was empty, he pulled off his cape and hung it on a peg near the door. He turned to me and looked me up and down again for a moment before saying, "Well, before we hire you, I have to determine how good you are. As Armsmaster, I'm in charge of training, so I need to also know how much further training you will require." Waving at the open space, he offered, "Spar?"

I nodded and took off my coat, hanging it on a peg near his cape. While I was doing that, he asked, "What sword do you prefer?"

Smiling, I drew my long sword out of the coat. One of his eyebrows came up. "Scabbard within your coat?" he asked.

I nodded. "Where I come from, nobody wears their weapons openly. My home is much different than Silverymoon."

Shrugging his acceptance of that information, he drew his weapon and moved into the center of the room slowly, eyeing my clothing. "You've no armor?"

I shook my head. "As I said, Silverymoon is very different from what I'm used to."

"Well, we've healing magic near at hand if it's needed," he commented. Settling himself into a defensive stance, he said, "Let's see how good you are, then."

"Rules of engagement?" I asked, closing to within ten feet.

"Check all hits and cuts, if you would. No sense in bothering the clerics if we can help it," he said.

I took that to mean he would avoid drawing blood or breaking bones if he could avoid it. I certainly planned on the same, seeing as how he was mortal, but figured I needed to ask first.

Saluting him quickly, I came at him with a lazy attack routine, trying to get some idea how my style and skill compared to his. Defeating all my attacks easily, he smiled and asked, "Is this all the better you can do? I may have to train you further than I thought."

Grinning at the implied challenge, I stepped up the tempo. Swords crashed into each other repeatedly as we both started fighting in earnest. "Enough," he called after a half-hour of fighting. We'd gotten the sense of the other's skills and respected each other for it. Each of us had landed "hits" on the other with kicks or our off fists and elbows, but neither had gotten a blade past the other's defenses. Leaning forward and breathing heavily, he admitted, "You're good."

Smiling but also breathing heavily, I bowed to him, "And you. Thank you for the exercise. So how did I do?"

"We can definitely use you," he answered as he slowly stood up and sheathed his sword. "What other weapons do you know?"

I shook my head. "None. When fights occur among my people, it's always single duels with swords or very occasionally axes."

He nodded. "You'll need some instruction for different weapons and group tactics, then, but you're already among the best in the city." He smiled modestly. "With few exceptions, I AM the best in Silverymoon, and you fought me to a standstill." He cocked his head at me and examined my clothing once again. "How came you to Silverymoon again?"

"I was teleported," I answered, moving over to my coat.

"Voluntarily?" he asked.

I shook my head. "I doubt it was malicious, seeing as how he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him, but no, it wasn't voluntary on my part."

His face clouded over. "You'll be needing to see the Lady Alustriel then. If there's a mage in town teleporting people against their will, she needs to know about it."

"Who?" I asked blankly. "As I said, I doubt it was intentional."

"Lady Alustriel," he repeated. "Ruler of this city."

I shrugged. "I'd be honored to meet her, then."

Nodding, he grabbed his cape from the hook and waved me along after him. Leading me back out of the guard complex, he headed toward the front gate of the castle.

Moving through the castle, he stopped in front of the guards at what I took to be the entrance to an audience room. "Is Lady Alustriel in?" he asked directly.

One guard nodded. "She is, but is speaking with an emissary from Mithril Hall. If you'll wait a few minutes, sir, I'm sure you can go in when they're done."

Nodding his head, Starkin waved me over to a bench. "No telling how long they'll -" He cut himself off as the large wooden doors opened and out stepped two people.

One was a male dwarf. I turned to the woman who had exited with him, and I nearly stopped breathing. She was beautiful, no other word for it. Pale skin, lustrous hair, and regally poised, she was among the most enchanting visions I'd ever seen. As she was standing at nearly six feet tall, she was physically looking downward at her companion, but something about the stance didn't indicate she felt he was inferior for it.

Starkin discreetly pulled on my arm, indicating I should follow. Grinning slightly at my awed expression, he led me over to the pair. " . . . delighted to. Tell King Bruenor that an informal alliance is in everyone's best interest, and Silverymoon is always interested in defending goodly folk," she was saying.

The dwarf nodded. "Aye, me king'll be glad to hear it. Me thanks for the meeting, Lady Alustriel. If ye'll excuse me, I'll be off, then." What little of my mind that was functioning noted that all dwarves seemed to speak with what I would call a Scottish accent.

He turned to leave, but Alustriel said suddenly, "Do tell Drizzt to come for a visit."

The dwarf gave her a short nod and moved down the hallway.

She turned to us and smiled. "Armsmaster. How can I help you today?"

Starkin gave her a half bow and said, "Lady, I'm sorry to interrupt your day, but this man has some information that I believe you'll be wanting to hear."

Still almost too stunned to speak, I dumbly nodded.

She graced me with a small smile and waved the both of us back into her audience room. I numbly followed as she crossed a cozy room to sit at a deep chair sitting next to a fireplace. "Please," she said, indicating two chairs nearby. I took a seat, but Starkin stood behind the other in an "at ease" position. Smiling slightly at his stance, she turned her intense gaze onto me and said, "So, Starkin, what will this man tell me once he regains use of his tongue?" Knowing I was acting like a prize idiot, I tried to compose myself.

I could hear the humor in Starkin's voice as he replied, "He claims he was teleported into town against his will. One of my patrols brought him to me when he asked for a position among the Knights, claiming that he was a swordsman in his own homeland. I've tested him and found him to be a quite capable swordsman indeed. With a little seasoning, he'll be a valuable addition to our garrison. However, as you can see he's clearly not from around here. His clothing is like nothing I've even heard rumored. I had thought you'd at least want to ask him about the mage who teleported him and from where."

She nodded fractionally. "You are correct." She studied me a moment longer before flicking a glance at Starkin. "I would prefer to speak with him alone. Please be seated out in the hall, Armsmaster. We will be out presently."

He nodded and spun around, exiting through the door which he closed behind himself.

She continued to study me as I finally composed myself.

"What is your name?" she asked.

"Thian, my Lady," I answered, still giving a fake name that would definitely fit in better than my real one.

Her head tilted. "Were you aware that I am a mage?" I shook my head silently, trying to fit her into my mental image of doddering old men wearing baggy robes. "I am," she continued calmly, "and there is a certain spell that allows me to learn the falsehood of anything spoken to me. I will try again. What is your name?"

A "detect lies" spell? Cool. "Theodore Iancroft," I answered honestly.

Nodding, she continued, "Where are you from?"

I grinned sadly, knowing my answer will mean nothing to her. "Most recently from New York City, New York, United States of America." I paused and added sarcastically, "Planet Earth."

One eyebrow comes up. "I have never heard of a planet Earth."

I sighed. "That's what I was afraid of. That means you cannot send me back to my home?"

She shook her head sadly. Damn, I was afraid of that answer. I suppose I was stuck here until further notice, then.

Seeing my expression, she quickly changed the subject. "How came you to be here?"

How the hell do I answer that? "I was standing in the middle of an electrical storm. When my eyes cleared, there was a man standing in front of me. That was among the warehouses not far from here."

She tilted her head slightly and asked, "Electrical storm?"

I have no idea why, but lying about it never even occurred to me. "A natural side effect of one of my kind dying. I had just killed him in self-defense."

Casually, she reached up and pressed a spot along the side of the mantle. Nothing appeared to happen. "You are a swordsman?" she continued.

I nodded. "I am."

"Do you have your weapon with you now?"

I nodded again.

She indicated the table. "Please."

Shrugging, I stood and silently drew my sword out, laying it on the table in front of her. Taking my seat again, I watched her study the sword without touching it.

With no warning, the door opened and a dwarf walked in. I frowned as something seemed just a little out of place but couldn't put my finger on it. "Fredegar Rockcrusher, this is Thian, a newcomer to our town," she introduced us, using my assumed name, I noticed. We politely nodded to each other as she continued, "Fret, what can you tell me about this weapon?"

Walking over, he examined it without touching it. "Long sword obviously, though I don't recognize any smith markings. Recently used, but generally well cared for." He looked up at me and asked, "Yours?"

I nodded silently.

Nodding in acknowledgement, he reached forward to lift it. Once his hand touched the bare blade, he stopped. Leaning forward and peering at the metal more intently, he murmured to himself for a moment before saying, "The finest smith in the world couldn't produce a weapon like this without enchantment." He glanced up at her, and she silently shook her head, her eyes never leaving what he was doing. Shaking his head, he muttered, "Didn't think so." After studying it for a few more moments, he turned to me and asked, "What is the metal?"

I shrugged. "A steel alloy. Iron, nickel, and various other metals."

He nodded and put the sword down again. Turning back to Alustriel, he stated calmly, "The metallurgy of Faerun could not have produced this weapon."

She turned to me, "Are you willing to part with the blade?"

I blinked in surprise. All this fuss over a sword? "Well, yes, but I need a sword." If this weapon marked me as out of place, then perhaps getting something more natural to the environment would help me blend in, I mused.

She smiled softly and said, "I will replace this one, never fear." She turned to the dwarf and asked, "Assuming you want it to study?"

He nodded solemnly but had an eyebrow raised. She nodded and waved toward the door. Without a word, Rockcrusher picked up the sword and headed out.

She turned back to me and said, "Forgive me, but that weapon is unlike anything I have ever seen. It would take a fine weapon smith and a powerful mage working together to produce such a weapon. Your sword is of high quality but apparently done without enchantments." She cocked her head and asked, "If I may ask, how was this done?"

I sighed in frustration. Very little of this was making sense. "By my world's standards, that metal is very common."

"Your technology level is well above ours, then," she deduced. "What of magic then?"

I nodded, agreeing with her first comment. "Magic simply does not exist on my world," I answered the second.

Nodding in acceptance of my answer, she waved at my attire and asked, "What of your clothing? Is that common as well?" At my nod, she said, "You could probably sell it to any of the weavers or tailors in town and they would provide you more than one complete outfit just to study the clothing you have now."

I smiled, embarrassed by the whole situation. I had no money, but everything I was carrying was worth something?

She leaned forward in her seat. "On to more practical matters," she said. "What of the mage who teleported you?"

I recounted for her what I could remember, including his accusation that I'd disrupted his spell.

"It was not intentional on his part, then," she concluded. "Your lightening storm interacted with his magic weave, producing an effect that he had not intended."

Yeah. Right. Whatever.

Seeing my blank expression, she smiled and shook her head. "Never mind." She stood and waved me toward the door. "Come along, Thian." She headed out the door and waved for Starkin to follow once we spotted him rising from the bench. I felt slightly naked without a sword in my coat but fought the feeling down. I'd had no indication thus far that anyone wished me harm. She led the two of us down a couple of corridors before stopping alongside a blank wall. Turning to a panel that was seemingly just another part of the hallway, she waved her hand and muttered something under her breath that I didn't hear.

I nearly fell over from shock when part of the wall dissolved, forming a doorway into a small room. Alustriel entered without hesitation, Starkin waving me in with a small smile. The disappearing wall didn't surprise him at all. He must have known about it, then.

Gathering myself together, I entered and stepped into a small armory. A rack along one wall held several swords, a few axes, and some maces. The opposite wall held three suits of armor and a few shields. The wall in front of us held shelves containing a little bit of everything. Gauntlets, long bows, quivers, javelins, crossbows, rings, helmets, darts, and other items that I couldn't begin to describe. Soft blue light seemingly came out of nowhere, allowing no shadows.

Alustriel's voice drew me back from my slack-jawed perusal of the room, "Feel free to pick one of the swords."

Shaking my head to dispel this latest shock, I walked over to the swords and examined them. Based on the size and length of the scabbards, only two were long swords. I picked up the first, surprised at how light it was. Once I drew it out of its scabbard, the entire blade began glowing a bright red. Sheathing it and putting it down in shock, I gingerly picked up the other scabbard and hesitantly drew the sword it contained. I was greatly relieved when nothing appeared to happen. Once again noticing how light this weapon was, I gingerly tested the edge against my thumb.

"Careful!" cautioned Starkin.

Too late. Without even trying, the edge slid along the pad of my thumb, drawing blood immediately. Starkin's warning drew Alustriel's attention as well, so both of them were watching as my Quickening healed my thumb in seconds.

They both stared at me before turning to each other momentarily. Once again looking toward me, Starkin finally broke the incredulous silence, "What are you? How did you do that?" His hand kept inching toward his own sword, and he edged toward Alustriel in a clearly protective move.

I sighed. Busted. Gingerly putting the sword back where it had been resting, I answered, "We call ourselves Immortals. We'll heal from most any injury in minutes." I once again surprised myself with how easily I told Alustriel everything. Maybe she had a "trust me" spell going as well. The thought drew a slight smile out of me.

They both studied me again before Alustriel resumed her search along the shelves. "Immortal," she commented blandly. "So how old are you?"

Hell, why not? I was already in this neck deep, and I needed the help. "Nearly one hundred," I answered honestly.

She nodded calmly, but Starkin's jaw dropped. "One word of advice," said Alustriel. "If someone else notices you heal like that, you had best tell them that you have been blessed with quick healing by Helm, God of Guardians or perhaps have a Ring of Regenerative Healing. Explaining that you are Immortal and from another world will not work with most people."

Starkin's jaw dropped further. "Another world?!?"

"Yes," she commented casually. "That reminds me. You will provide him with a suit of armor that he is comfortable with as well as the other standard items he would receive as a member of the guard: cloak, boots, and so on." She turned to me and asked, "Assuming you would still be willing to become a Knight of Silver, Thian?"

Smiling slightly, I nodded.

She nodded back, turned back to the shelves, and continued, "If I could also suggest, take your clothing to Astemon the tailor. He will give you a fair trade value for those items and outfit you well." A moment more of searching before she said, "Ah! I knew he was here." Turning, she presented me with a dagger in a sheath.

Looking from the weapon to her, I asked, "He?"

Smiling slightly, she just held the dagger up a little higher, inviting me to take it.

Taking the sheath in one hand, I grasped the dagger handle in the other and got the latest shock in a day filled with them.

Greetings, Master. I am known as Flick.

Glancing around quickly, I asked, "Who was that?" It didn't sound like Starkin, but it was an undeniably male tone, with a voice that sounded a lot like the few recordings I'd heard of my own voice.

Starkin groaned and shook his head. "I don't want to know. I'll see you outside when you and the Lady are done speaking?" At my confused nod, he bolted from the room.

Alustriel laughed shortly. Composing herself, she said, "That," indicating the dagger in my hand, "is Flick."

"Flick?" I asked dubiously.


I looked down at the dagger. It wasn't much, just a simple dagger. Not all that different in appearance from the two that my teacher carried. I looked back up at Alustriel and asked incredulously, "The dagger is talking to me?"

Alustriel nodded with a gleam in her eye as I heard a soft sigh. Nobody ever respects me.

I looked back down again and asked, "Why wouldn't I respect you?"

You think I'm just a dagger.

"Hate to break it to you, but you ARE a dagger," I answered in amusement, wondering if I was totally insane for having a conversation with what after all WAS just a dagger.

I'm not JUST a dagger, came the annoyed response.

"Okay, you're an talkative dagger," I allowed.

"More true than you know," commented Alustriel. "As I said, that is Flick. I suppose you could think of him as a spirit trapped in a dagger's blade."

One eyebrow rose. "A spirit."

It isn't quite that easy, but that definition will suffice. Unfortunately, I can do no more than communicate with the person holding me.

"So Lady Alustriel can't hear you?"

She shook her head as he "said", No. Think of it as telepathic communication if that makes it easier.

"Can you hear my thoughts?" The whole situation was surreal, but no more than the rest of the day had been.

No. I can hear as well as you can, and can therefore hear what you say. I can only speak to the one holding me, though.

I look up at Alustriel. "Uh, thank you," I said, not knowing what else to say.

She nodded. "You are welcome." She turned to leave the room, tossing over her shoulder, "Do not forget your sword."

Pausing long enough to grab up the scabbard of the sword that DIDN'T glow, I scooted out the door. She repeated the hand wave in reverse, and the wall reformed. Reaching out gingerly, I felt the solid wall that my eyes were telling me was there. I shook my head in amusement. Magic, after all, was quite good at what it did.

Leading me back the way we'd come, Alustriel didn't say anything, so I asked, "I thank you for all that you're doing, but I must ask why you are doing it."

She gave me barely a glance, "I have a long history of helping people, Thian. You seem to be somebody who needs that help. Besides, I collect oddities and your sword certainly qualifies, being from a different world."

Another world?

"I'll tell you later, Flick," I answered.

I'll hold you to that.

Alustriel hardly raised an eyebrow at my talking to a dagger, but the guards we were passing quite definitely did a double take.

I just smiled. My whole world had just become completely insane, and I was adjusting to it amazingly well.

Alustriel paused at one intersection. Pointing further along the hall, she said, "This will take you back to the front entrance. Thank you for an amusing interlude to an otherwise dull week, Thian. I will leave you to settle in, and then I would enjoy speaking with you again, if that is acceptable to you."

Nodding in acceptance, I dipped into a bow. "At your service, Lady."

Smiling, she headed down a different corridor as I turned back toward the entrance.

I found Starkin just outside the main gates, standing with the other guards.

"Everything set?" he asked me. Okay, we'll pretend nothing weird happened. Fine by me.

I nodded, tucking Flick's sheath into my waistband. I'd already buckled my new sword's belt around my waist. Arranging my coat around the outside of the swinging scabbard, I decided that Alustriel was right. I needed a new set of clothes.

Leading me away from the castle and toward the guard complex, Starkin explained to me the position. Beginning guardsmen were given a cot in the barracks, meals provided, a standard set of clothing and armor, and two lions every week.

"Lions?" I asked.

He glanced at me and shook his head. "I keep forgetting you're not from here." He fished around in a small pouch tied to his belt and produced three coins. "Ten sparrows," he pointed to what looked like a copper piece with a rough imprint of a sparrow on it, "to a falcon." His finger shifted to the silver coin with the appropriate symbol on it. "Ten falcons to a lion," he indicated the gold coin with a lion in full roar on it. Dropping the coins back into the pouch tied around his waist, he concluded, "And five lions to an eagle. They're made of platinum, though I don't have one to show you."

You'll never guess what's imprinted on an Eagle coin, commented Flick dryly.

Making it look casual, I slapped his sheath.

Was that supposed to hurt? he asked in all innocence.

"My duties?" I asked Starkin, trying to ignore Flick before I broke into laughter.

"Standing guard or patrol seven days out of ten. Assignments are announced for the following week at evening meal every tenth day."

With a start, I realized that I had no idea what the calendar was like here. "What's today?" I asked. I would have said it was Wednesday, but who knew, here?

"Seventh day."

Fine, so we don't give days a name, just number them. It was apparently a ten day week as well. "Okay, what about the rest of this week for me?"

"Training mostly, after I get you outfitted," he answered as he led me through the door of a barracks. One stint in the United States Army during World War II made the function of the room glaringly obvious. Based on the size of the city, this could only be one of several such buildings in the complex.

Nodding at a familiar scene, I asked, "Which one's mine?"

He led me halfway down the aisle and pointed at a bed. "Here. Lads," he called, catching the attention of all half dozen men in the room at the moment. "This is Thian. I've just hired him. He's new to Silverymoon, though."

I winced. Oh, I had just been set up for SO much hazing.

After a word with me to meet him in the morning after "dawnfry", he started to head off, but one big mustachioed guard lazily asked, "How good is he, Star?"

"Better'n you, Famkins," Starkin replied, to the amusement of the room. He stopped, "Oh, and thank you for volunteering to use your day off to help me train him further."

Everyone else in the room guffawed at Famkins's sour look as Starkin left.

Opening the chest at the foot of my bed, I poked through the assorted clothing, shooting glances at the casual attire of the guards around me, I picked out an outfit to change into for a quick trip back into town. I most definitely needed to learn my way around this city.

I'd finished changing and was threading my new sword belt through Flick's sheath when a young guard took a seat on the bed next to mine. He looked pleasant enough, though a bit young at nineteen or so. "Hi, I'm Chavim," he introduced himself to me.

I smiled shortly at him. "Thian."

"Starkin said you're not from here?" he asked. At my head shake, he asked, "Okay, where are you from, then?"

"A galaxy far, far away," I muttered.

"What?" he asked, apparently not having heard.

"Far from here," I answered in a louder voice.

"Don't want to talk about it, huh?" Chavim asked sympathetically.

Not really, and you wouldn't believe anything I said even if I DID answer, I silently replied. I just shook my head at him in answer. I slipped my wallet into a belt pouch and tied that to my belt. The wallet wasn't worth anything to anyone here, but I still wasn't convinced I wouldn't be "teleported" back home soon. Standing, I sheathed my new sword and asked, "I'm going to walk around the town some if that's okay. Care to join me?"

Chavim's expression brightened. "Sure," he chirped. Standing, he went two beds down and pulled his cape off a hook on the wall and grabbed his sword belt. I started to walk back out before he stopped me. Stepping to the hook beside my bed, he pulled down the blue and silver cape there and handed it to me. "We aren't supposed to leave the barracks without wearing these capes."

That made sense. Local law enforcement always wanted to be visible.

Working with it a moment, I finally got the clasp together and everything hanging down comfortably instead of trying to strangle me. Once I was arranged, he led me out of the complex and back into the city.


A pleasant gong-like tone woke me the next morning.

I looked around groggily, hoping to wake up in my apartment. It wasn't to be. I was still in Silverymoon, and this wasn't all a bizarre dream.

After breakfast, I met Armsmaster Starkin at the training arena as he'd asked me to. Instead of beginning my weapon training, he led me back out into the city and stopped beside a storefront with a plaque reading, "Shields, Helms, and Plates." We'd apparently arrived at an armorer.

Stepping through the front door, Starkin waited patiently in front of the counter as I perused the room. Lots of sizes of shields, helmets, and so on, plus every conceivable style of armor filled every available space. I saw plate mail, chain mail made of interlocking metal rings, scale mail with small flaps bolted into a heavy leather backing, padded armor that looked like nothing more than heavy clothing, and armors made of leather of various grades.

"Can I help?" asked a dwarf as he came out of a back room. His soot covered apron proclaimed him to be a smith. He spotted Starkin and his face immediately brightened. "Star! How's me favorite guardsman this fine day?"

Starkin smiled back. "I am well, Durak." He waved at me and said, "This is Thian, a new recruit. I need to outfit him."

The dwarf nodded and turned to me. "What do ye see that tickles yer fancy?"

I shrugged. "I've never worn armor before."

Durak was clearly surprised. He peered at me and asked, "Ye've never worn armor?" He turned to Starkin and asked, "Ye sure ye WANT him in the guard?"

I bristled at the implied insult, but Starkin laughed. "I've already tested him, Durak. He's good. He's just from a land that doesn't use armor."

Durak sniffed his nose disdainfully at THAT thought. "Well," he said, turning back to me, "what do ye need? A piece that'll stop blades, maces, or arrows? Light and flexible, or would ye be wanting sumthin heavier?"

"It cannot be heavy and slow me down," I started. "I've never worn armor, so my style is based on speed. The joints must be flexible for the same reasons."

The dwarf nodded and crossed over to the leather armors. Taking the right sleeve off one of the sets, he held it out to me wordlessly. I took it and slipped my arm through, bringing my wrist out at the other end when the shoulder was covered. I swung my arm around a time or two and bent it at the elbow. Shaking my head slowly, I said, "The weight is fine, but the elbow must be more flexible."

Durak nodded again. "Aye, I was afraid of that. That there is the heaviest leather armor me brother can make. Any lighter than that'll lose a lot of the protection that armor gives ye." He took the one sleeve back and replaced it in its display, pulling another out and handing it to me. I studied it for a moment, noticing that it seemed much more soft and flexible, but there were metal rivets all over the exterior.

This sleeve allowed a lot more movement, and the weight still wasn't a problem, even with the studs. We went back and forth, finally agreeing to a suit of the studded leather with a breast piece that I liked due to its raised collar. It was all still soft leather, so I had my flexibility, but I was gaining some protection along the way with the metal studs. Knowing that I used my left arm as a weapon as well, Starkin suggested that the elbow of that arm be reinforced slightly and spikes or scales added at that point, turning it into a more effective weapon. I vetoed the spikes, not wanting something that would catch on any objects that I might be walking past. I liked the idea of reinforcing the elbow, though. Durak nodded and then asked about my left hand, leading me the gauntlets when I said it was never covered. Still not wanting to lose any flexibility, I opted for an open fingered heavy leather glove with raised metal ridges along the back of the hand. It didn't quite qualify as "brass knuckles", but it would definitely add to the damage of a straight punch. When asked about helmets, I shook my head immediately. My hearing was too important to compromise in any way. Starkin nodded, mentioning that some of his guards refused helmets as well.

Once we'd picked out all the pieces, Durak wrote down all the requirements and said, "Go on next door to Astemon, and he'll get yer measurements. Come back next week, and me brother'll have the pieces made for ye, Guard Thian." He turned to Starkin and asked, "Send the bill as usual?" At Starkin's nod, he waved us out the door, "Off with ye both, then. I've a business to run!" His smile showed us he was teasing, though the voice was loud and gruff.

We stepped next door immediately. Once I closed the door behind us, a tall, cadaverously thin man stepped forward out of the back. "May I help you?" he asked in a deep voice.

Starkin nodded. "Durak asked that we come to you for measurements for Thian here," he waved at me without looking. "He's to be fitted for studded leather armor, so Garak will need those numbers."

Astemon's gaze never wavered once it made it to me. Walking past his counter, he picked up a marked tape from it and approached me. "Take off the cape and sword, please." Catching Starkin's reassuring nod, I removed the cape and hung it on a peg beside the door. Starkin took the sword belt from my hand once I'd unbuckled it. The actual measuring took only a few moments. As he was scribbling down the numbers, he asked, "Will there be anything else, gentlemen?"

A satin sheath would be nice, came Flick's comment. He'd been so quiet that I'd nearly forgotten he was there.

As calmly as I could, I asked, "Will you be here this evening?"

He looked up at me and nodded his affirmation.

I nodded back. "Lady Alustriel suggested I come to you for some clothing. I've the clothes I wore when arriving in Silverymoon, and she assures me that you'd likely be interested in trade."

He didn't look all that excited about the idea but agreed to see what I had when I came back that evening.

On our way back to the guard barracks, I said, "Will someone teach me how to care for the armor?"

He nodded. "Ask Garak or Durak when you go to pick it up. They'll tell you what you need to know and give you some oil to use. Go ahead and charge it to the Knights. That sword is another matter," he continued. I was about to explain that I already knew how to care for a sword when he explained, "The enchantment on it prevents nicks, tarnish, and the like. Just wipe it off when it's dirty, and it'll last through your lifetime."

I smiled at the thought. Unless I was beheaded, my life could easily extend thousands of years.

We'd arrived back to the training arena by that time. Pulling open the door, he crossed over to the weapon rack and pulled down a bow. "Have you ever used a long bow?" he asked, turning to me after picking up a quiver of arrows.

I shook my head warily.

He smiled at me encouragingly. "You're already an expert in long sword, Thian. I only need to get you familiar with the rest of these. Long bow, two-handed sword, throwing daggers, mace, axe, hammer, and crossbow." As he listed them off, he pointed out examples of each.

I stared at him. "ONLY those?" I asked sarcastically.

He grinned back, matching my sarcasm with his tone. "Yes, Thian. ONLY these. If you lost your sword in the midst of a battle, you'd better be able to use any weapon near at hand."

Sighing at the necessity, I nodded my head. Well, at least it would teach me something.

By mid-day meal, Starkin was convinced that giving me a long bow again was just asking for friendly casualties. Once we'd eaten, he hesitantly encouraged me to try the crossbow. Fortunately, that was easier to use. By quitting time, I was getting decent with that weapon, though I doubted I would ever enjoy using it. After using a semi-automatic rifle in wartime, the idea of one shot per minute wasn't something that bore much thinking about for me.

Once he was comfortable with my skill, Starkin released me for the day, bidding me to return after morning meal tomorrow for more practice. Hurrying back to the barracks after a quick meal, I invited Chavim out again. We'd had a pleasant conversation the previous evening as we'd wandered the city, and I was anxious to make friends. Unfortunately, he was standing a late watch, so I headed out alone.

I made it back to Astemon's shop with no trouble. Once inside, I found him fitting a female halfling with a cloak. Paying me no attention, they haggled over the price before she paid him the agreed two lions. Smiling at me politely, she headed past me to the door.

"Welcome again, Knight Thian," greeted Astemon in his grave manner.

I nodded back. Placing my backpack on the counter, I opened it up and pulled out the pair of jeans that I'd been wearing. Handing it to him, I watched his reaction.

Both of his eyebrows immediately rose. Reaching out to gingerly touch the fabric, he ran his fingertips over it for a few moments before pulling it off the counter and shaking it out to its full length. Critically eyeing it, he said quietly, "Curious shade of blue. Tight weave, most likely very durable." He peered closely at one of the belt loops and finally nodded, apparently recognizing them for what they were. "Tight, even stitching," he added next, examining one of the front pockets. Turning it around, he noticed all four pockets, examining all the stitching he could find. Finally folding it back together, he placed it on the counter and turned to me with a raised eyebrow. "Lady Alustriel thought I would be interested in this item?"

I nodded.

He pursed his lips in thought and stared at the ceiling a few moments before he looked back down at me. "Do you have more of this material?"

I shook my head. "I was teleported to Silverymoon without any warning."

He nodded and looked down at the jeans again. "She was right," he said eventually. "This is a curious cloth. Do you know how it was done?"

"No. I was not a tailor nor weaver." True enough, but how the hell was I going to explain to a man who sews items by hand every day that I had gone to a store that sold hundreds of these things?

Flipping over the item, he pointed to the leather patch above one of the pockets. "What is this?"

"Maker's mark," I explain, figuring it was both true and the easiest explanation.

Staring downward, absently running his hand over the denim, his brow furrowed in concentration. Eventually, he said, "I'll give you two eagles and a lion for it."

Time for haggling. Opening bid on his side was supposed to be absurdly low, and going by the pattern, I should overshoot the mark in the other direction. Shaking my head with a heavy sigh I countered, "Four eagles, a pair of heavy wear breeches, and two shirts, also of heavy wear."

One eyebrow crept up a fraction and his lip twitched. "One eagle, breeches, and one shirt."

"Three eagles, breeches, two shirts," I countered.

"Two eagles, breeches, and two shirts."

Smiling, I nodded. "My size, of course," I added.

He laughed deeply and slowly. "Of course."

"Now if we can just agree about the breeches and two shirts, I'll show you what else I was wearing."

His slow smile was answer enough.

It took another hour, but I left with the promise of two pair of heavy wear pants, three heavy wear shirts, one pair of lighter but more decorative pants, two decorative shirts, a soft leather hat with a large plumed feather, and three eagles and four lions worth of assorted coinage for all three major pieces of clothing I'd been wearing the previous day. Counting out the money to give me immediately, he asked, "Come back in nine days with your garments and we can do the trade then." We'd already agreed that he could keep my jeans as my "earnest deposit" for the money.

I shook my head. He frowned at me momentarily before I explained, "I'll leave everything with you. You have the trust of Lady Alustriel, Armorer Durak, and Armsmaster Starkin. You will not steal from me, I trust."

He smiled and finished counting out the money. Dropping it into my coin purse, I asked, "Perhaps you could direct me to a boot maker. I have another trade to make, similar to this," I waved at the jeans, shirt, and trench coat. I grinned at him. "Hopefully that one will be as profitable as this one was."


My training the next morning was much easier on me.

The guard Famkins who had been "volunteered" to help in my training became my sparring opponent. After an hour it was clear that Starkin was using him since he needed at least as much training as I did. His preferred weapon was the mace, and he beat me soundly with it when we were both wielding maces, but my skill with the two-handed sword wiped the superior smirk from his face. By the evening, I'd learned how to not hurt myself with the larger sword, maces, axes, and war hammers. Famkins wasn't patronizing me anymore, either.

My third morning through the looking glass dealt with throwing daggers. I picked that up quickly, much to my surprise. Flick had a few choice comments about his dumber cousins but didn't want to join in the flights himself. Small unit combat tactics started that afternoon.

Since my armor wasn't done, Starkin didn't assign any patrols to me the following week. Instead, it was more dagger and sword practice. It took a few days, but I eventually noticed a problem in my offensive routines and patterns. I continually ignored potential light hits on my opponents. After a moment of thought, it made perfect sense to me. Immortals would hardly be slowed down by such minor wounds, but the mortals and monsters that I would potentially be fighting against now were vulnerable to such attacks. Once I realized that, I began getting better.

Also during this week, Lady Alustriel called me in for a meeting.

Stepping into her audience room, I smiled at her and gave a slight bow, my new hat to my chest. "Lady," I greeted.

She smiled back slightly. "Knight Thian. I was going to ask how you were fitting in, but I can see that you are going quite well."

I nodded. "You've told me that there is no easy way for me to return home, so," I shrugged slightly, "I may as well make the best of the situation."

She nodded and looked down at my waist, "I am glad of that. How is Flick?"

Finally, someone notices me!

I laughed. "He is well. He appreciates that you remember him."

"As well I should," she replied. "His flight from the hand of a friend saved my life once."

I raised my eyebrow, but she didn't divulge the story. Instead, she leaned back in her seat and said, "I have been thinking about how best to use you and your skills. You have told me that you are immortal and most wounds heal quickly. Does this mean you cannot die?"

Whoa, immortal? asked Flick.

"Yes, Flick, Immortal. I thought you'd already heard that." I looked up at Alustriel and continued, "I'm afraid you misunderstood, Lady. I CAN die. Most mortal wounds will cause my body to die but be healed with ten minutes, err, a hundred breaths," I amended, remembering that short duration timekeeping was rudimentary at best in this world. "At that point, I will wake up, so to speak, without any wounds."

Wow, commented Flick, sounding awed.

"You said MOST mortal wounds," pointed out Alustriel.

I sighed. "I would not survive a fire hot enough to consume my body, nor any spells that did the same. There is another way to destroy me, but I would rather not divulge that, Lady."

She nodded, accepting that I had a secret I didn't want to reveal. "So you do not fear death?" she asked.

I frowned slightly. "I dislike it. Wounds still hurt, but I know I will recover quickly."

She nodded, satisfied with my answers. "As I said, I have been giving thought as to how best to use you. You would make an excellent guard, but your skills would be wasted there. Armsmaster Starkin gives glowing reports on your skills, so I know that you are an accomplished swordsman." I was blushing at all the praise by this time. "So what I would like to suggest is that you get some seasoning as a guard first. Once you have some experience, I could use you as a personal bodyguard on those infrequent times that I leave the city and recommend you for the same to those visitors who ask."

I thought about it for a second before hesitantly asking, "What would be expected from me as your personal bodyguard?"

Get your mind out of the gutter. Flick sounded chastising but amused.

I smacked him. "That's not what I meant, Flick."

Alustriel colored slightly but steadily answered, "Stand near me when I am out and about in public. I may be protected by magic, but a ruffian with a dagger can still harm me. Anywhere I go, I'm likely to have a protective ring of guards. I am simply asking you to be one of them. The same rules for guarding for the occasional visitors who enter Silverymoon and ask for a personal guard."

I bowed deeply. "I'd be honored, my Lady."

She smiled. "Good, then. I will instruct Armsmaster Starkin to give you training as a personal guard."

I nodded. Thinking for a moment, I consider how to bring up the next topic.

"There is something else," Alustriel asked as a statement.

I nodded again. "Lady, if I should die in front of witnesses, and then wake up, I would have to leave. If I do not, I would be reviled as evil and hunted."

"Perhaps not," she answered. "This is a land of magic," she reminded me.

Lots of magic, added Flick pointedly. He was ample proof of that.

"True," I conceded. "However, I also do not age, though I appear human. How will everyone feel in twenty years if I haven't aged a day in that time?"

She frowned. "You have a point. I expect we will have time to worry about this later, but I will keep that in mind."

Don't age? asked Flick in a delayed reaction.

I looked down at his sheath. "Flick, I know you were in the room when Lady Alustriel and I were discussing this before."

He didn't say anything, but Alustriel said, "Yes, but neither of us was holding him when we discussed it."

I stared at her silently for a moment before starting, "But he said -" I broke off and addressed myself to Flick. "You said you could hear normally, but only speak to the one holding you."

I'm sorry, he said softly.

I sighed. "Sorry about what?"

"He apparently misled you, Thian," Alustriel answered. "He cannot hear in the traditional sense. His telepathic communication with you permits him to hear and see through your senses. More precisely he shares the senses of whoever is his current Master or Mistress."

I frowned slightly and asked calmly, "Why didn't you tell me this the first time, Flick?"

He still wasn't answering, so I looked up at Alustriel. She nodded and answered, "Many people cannot deal with the thought of someone else seeing and hearing through them. If he did not tell you, then you would not reject him."

Hell, the world was weird enough the way it was, why not this, too? "Flick?"

Yes? he asked in a small voice.

"What can and what can't you do? Tell me the truth this time, or I'll drop you in the River Rauvin and walk away," I threatened flatly.

He took it seriously. What the Lady told you is correct. I can communicate up to five paces or so. Beyond that, I can't connect with them at all. Once my Master dies, the next person who picks me up and accepts me becomes my new Master.

That explained why he didn't bond with Alustriel a couple days ago. She knew what he was but didn't allow it. "Can you hear my thoughts, or just what I hear?"

Both, but it has to be a loud thought before I can hear it.

"Why didn't you tell me this the first time?"

Would you have calmly accepted it? Too many people in the past have rejected the thought of another sentience in their mind.

I laughed out loud. "Remind me to tell you about a Quickening sometime."

There was a quiet pause before, So you're not rejecting me?


Thank you. The phrase was simple, but the heartfelt gratitude was almost palpable.

I smiled. "You're welcome." I looked up at Alustriel, and she smiled as well when I didn't move to take Flick from his sheath.

"I am glad you two are getting along. I have worried about Flick these past few years. I am happy to see him in a partnership again. I was hoping for this when I gave him to you."

Hey, I'm not a simple item that you can just pass around like that!

"Easy, Flick. You know what she meant."

Well, she could have phrased it better, he huffed.

Smiling at Alustriel, I said, "Okay, YOU tell Lady Alustriel how insulted you were by what she said."

Her eyebrows went up. Pretending to become deep in thought, she said, "Now how did that polymorph spell go?"

Like anything you can do is WORSE than a dagger? he taunted.

"Yes, it could be worse, Flick. She could turn your blade bright pink."

His shout of outraged fear overlapped her laughter.


I'd overheard some casual conversations among the guards for several days about the various cloak clasps that everyone had. Though I already had one as part of my standard attire, it was a plain affair made of iron. Most everyone else enjoyed showing off their own personal ones.

"What's the big deal about these things?" I quietly asked Flick one evening as I was out walking around.

Pride, was the simple answer. From what I've been able to gather about your world, jewelry is commonplace. These clasps are the only jewelry affordable to most of the guards.

Hmm, that's true. "Other than the obvious, what else is a clasp good for?"

If it's made of the right materials, it can be a magical focus. My confusion must have gotten through, because he explained himself, It can hold a continually acting spell. A light source for example.

"Isn't that interesting?" I muttered to myself. "What materials would work?"

Gold is sufficient for the low power spells, but mithril is the best.

"Hmm," I hummed to myself in thought. I lightly fingered the wristwatch that was in my coin purse. I really had no other use for it here. I'd been in Silverymoon going on ten days, and prospects for getting home were non-existent. So why not try to trade it? "You know a good jeweler in town, Flick?"

Armsmaster Starkin has mentioned a halfling named Flanner that he goes to for his own purchases, why?

Instead of answering, I just headed toward where I remembered seeing a sign for "Flanner's Jewels" before. Entering the store and explaining to the halfling proprietress that I was from a far away land, I produced my wristwatch. Fortunately, it was one of the wind-up models instead of a battery powered. Explaining what it was didn't get the reaction from Flanner that I was hoping for. She found it an interesting item, but not worth anything in trade. Sighing in disappointment, I asked about the prices of new cloak clasps.

Her eyes lit right up. She walked me over to the displayed items and allowed me to browse. None of them caught my eye, particularly, so I asked about custom making one.

"No problem there," she assured me.

"Could you make design out of mithril?" I asked, hoping for the best.

Her expression didn't even twitch. "It's doable, but that will cost more."

"How much?" I asked with a sigh.

"Depends upon the design," she responded with a shrug.

I thought about it for a second before one particular symbol jumped out of my subconscious. Smiling, I asked for paper and something with which to draw. Using a piece of sketch paper and a coal writing stick, I quickly drew it.

Infinity? You have a wicked sense of humor, Immortal, Flick commented in amusement.

Flanner looked at it and shrugged her acceptance, apparently not recognizing the symbol for what it was. Staring off into space, she thought for a few seconds and said, "I can make it for you for ten eagles."

I nearly choked. Frantically pulling in my composure, I replied, "Four." Even then, I didn't have that much money. "It'll be some time before I can place the order," I added.

"Eight, and up to one moon until ordering is fine."

"Five eagles and two lions," I countered.

"Six and two."


She thought on it for a moment and nodded her agreement. "When?"

I shrugged. "I'll let you know when to start it. Shouldn't be more than a few days." I hoped.

As I was stepping out of the store, Flick asked,


You should be ashamed of yourself, Flick commented just an hour later.

"Why's that?"

Taking advantage of that poor gnome's excitement like that.

I shrugged. "I had something he wanted, and he was willing to buy what is undoubtedly a unique item in this world. What's the problem?"

For ten eagles? You'd have been just as happy getting two or three.

"That's all I need for the moment, true. However, I just ran out of stuff from before coming to this world. I need this money if I'm going to live how I want here." I'd just come out of a gnomish inventor's store. He ran what I would have called a curiosity shop. A wristwatch certainly qualified.

Instead of heading straight back to Flanner's store (and raising her curiosity as to how I got so much money so quickly), I headed over to the "Storm Tales". I still hadn't visited them since that first night in town.

Stepping through the swinging doors, I scanned the crowded bar, looking for familiar faces. I spotted a few, two fellow guardsmen (both elves), as well as Carith and Therth. Once I was actually looking for it, I realized I was the only human in the room. Apparent human anyway.

I quietly slid into an empty table and watched everything going on around me. Therth was barely keeping up with the drink orders at the bar, Carith was waiting the tables with another younger looking female half-elf, and another elf came out of the back and dropped plates of food on the counter that Carith and the other waitress would then shuttle out to tables. All in all, it was clearly a busy night in the "Storm Tales".

It was several minutes before Carith noticed me, but once she did, she smiled immediately. Indicating that I should wait, she turned back to filling the order she was working on. It wasn't very long before she placed a flagon down in front of me. "Thian! Nice to see you again. After you didn't show up later that evening, I started to worry."

"You were worried about me?" I asked with a teasing smile.

Even her blushes were cute, I noticed. "I worry about everyone," she shot back.

My chuckle was echoed by Flick. "Now that I have a job," I waved at my cape, "I've come back to repay you for the generosity." I raised a hand to the impending argument I could see gathering on her face. "Now either you accept this or I'm going to tip you VERY well." I smiled at her. "Either way, you'll accept the money."

She frowned momentarily before nodding her agreement with a slight smile.

Nodding at her reaction, I asked, "Is my being here a problem?"

"How's that?" she asked with a frown.

I waved around the room. "I'm the only human in the place," I pointed out. "Just making sure that wasn't intentional."

"Not at all," she assured me quickly enough that my fears were laid to rest. "We're just one of the few non-human run taverns in Silverymoon. We get more non-human customers, but that's not by design." She glanced around the room quickly and turned back to me. "I have to go. You'll be here for a while?"

Sure, why not? I didn't have anywhere to be until late tomorrow.

Smiling at my nod of agreement, she turned and went back to her customers.

I spent the next hour just "people watching". I gradually came to the conclusion that the clientele didn't mind me being there. One or two gave me suspicious glares, but it could have just been the city guard colors I was wearing.

Flick and I kept a running dialogue going. I was practicing communicating with him without speaking out loud, since I figured that'd be a far safer way of talking with him.

Why does the phrase "cantina scene" keep showing up in your head? asked Flick out of the blue.

I nearly laughed out loud. How to explain a science fiction movie? [All the different races in the room reminded me of a scene from a movie I'd seen in my own world. A movie is something that is like a theatre play.] It was an incomplete answer, but it explained enough to him.

Now I'm curious. Try to remember one of these "movies", would you?

Why not? Concentrating as hard as I could, I replayed the movie in my head. It didn't take the usual two hours, of course, but it still took a while.

Once I was done, I let Flick sort through the whole thing while I took a deep breath and looked around. The place was emptier than the last time I'd looked around. Seeing my look, Carith came over with another flagon of ale to replace the empty one on my table. "I was going to come over to make sure you were still breathing," she remarked as she smoothly exchanged the empty mug for a full one.

I smiled at her. "I was thinking deep, profound thoughts."

"Star Wars" is profound? asked Flick in amusement.

[Sure is,] I shot back at him.

Carith looked at me skeptically.

I looked wounded. "What, you don't believe me because I'm human or because I'm male?"

"Male, of course," she returned through her laugh. Glancing around, she apparently saw that everything was under control, so she took a seat at my table. She looked at me appraisingly for a moment before saying, "Okay, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. What deep and profound thoughts were going through that head of yours, Thian?"

How to respond to that? Was that a come on or not? Better play it friendly without being pushy. "I was wondering if the head server of a certain tavern in Silverymoon would care for a friend."

Her face hardened fractionally. "I don't know what kind of taverns you've been in before, Knight Thian, but -"

I interrupted with a raised hand, "Just friend. I must admit the thought of more than that isn't unpleasant," I hurried through her scowl, "but I won't ask for more. I hardly know anyone here. You seem to be someone that I could become friends with." Not to mention that an elven life span meant I wasn't likely to lose her in a decade.

Her eyes continued to bore into mine. We were interrupted by a voice above us saying, "Is there a problem here, Carith?" I looked up to find the other waitress standing over us with a slight scowl on her face. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Therth watching us intently.

Carith slowly shook her head, never taking her eyes off of me. "No, no problem, Sherith." She stood abruptly and smiled at her waitress friend. "Sherith, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Thian."

Since handshakes were exclusive signs of respect among warriors and nobles, I stood and bowed politely as I'd seen others do when being introduced. She smiled politely back and continued on her rounds. I turned a raised eyebrow on Carith. "Friend?"

She nodded. "Friend." She grabbed up her serving tray and twirled to the room, saying over her shoulder, "Now go away, friend! I have work to do." She stopped suddenly and flashed me a brilliant smile before bouncing off to see to her customers. Scattered chuckles from the tables near us followed her, telling me that we'd had an audience for at least part of that conversation.

Still standing, I dropped a falcon on the table to cover the drinks and her tip. Making a detour to the bar, I held out a lion to Therth and explained that it was as belated payment for my first night in town. He tried to wave it off, but I placed it down in front of him and walked out with a smile and wink to Carith.


The following weeks and months passed relatively quietly for me. My armor came in, and I started standing watches and going on walking patrols through town. I ordered and eventually picked up my clasp, though there were no spells in it yet.

Through it all, I spent at least two nights a week in "Storm Tales". Carith and I rapidly became friends and nothing more, much to Therth's relief. I'd brought Chavim in with me one evening, and he come in on his own more often after that. Privately, I suspected that it had to do more with his crush on Sherith than his friendship with me, but it didn't really matter.

For whatever reason, Chavim and I were sharing a table there one spring night. The patrons of the bar were the usual mix of regulars, visiting merchants, and travelers of all sorts. Also as usual, Chavim and I were the only humans in the place.

Thian, Flick called softly, drawing my amused attention away from Chavim's attempts to flirt with Carith and Sherith. Several people just came in that I think you need to pay attention to.

Having Flick was great. Just because I wasn't paying attention to what my ears were hearing didn't mean he wasn't.

I looked up at the door and immediately saw what he was referring to. The customers' gasps must have alerted him. Five human men had come in, four with swords in hand, spread in a ring protecting the fifth. The one being protected looked to be a young mage, judging by the robe and arrogant smirk he displayed while surveying the suddenly silent room.

I rapidly surveyed the situation. Neither Chavim nor I were wearing our armor as we weren't on duty. Our capes were on, of course, but were hopefully far enough around our backs that the colors wouldn't be obvious. We were both armed, but to draw weapons right now would invite immediate battle in a room full of civilians. Chavim had sensed a problem the instant I tensed. He looked up and tensed as well but had the good sense to not move, apparently waiting for my orders. Though I technically didn't outrank him, my tactical sense had been noticed by most of the guards during our occasional skirmishes in town and the surrounding countryside.

The mage and apparent leader of this group of thugs smirked as he looked around at the sea of faces. "Sub-humans," he sneered. Everyone tensed even further.

Oh, shit, muttered Flick. He'd been picking up more phrases from my vocabulary, I noticed idly.

Nobody said anything in response to the mage, so he continued, "Since you sub-humans clearly don't understand your place in civilization, I'll have to teach you a lesson about economics and power." So saying, he marched toward the till behind the bar with his guards tensely following. Stopping before the till, he reached over the bar and flipped it open, grabbing all the money in it and dumping it into a bag he held.

[My kingdom for a Beretta,] I thought in disgust.

I was thinking of an Uzi, but I take your meaning, Flick replied.

Seeing the mage stealing money, Therth rushed over to stop him. A crashing backhand is all he got for his troubles. Sherith saw Therth fall behind the bar and rushed forward herself shouting his name. One of the guards struck her jaw with the pommel of his sword as she approached. She fell heavily to the floor, groaning through the blood dripping from the corner of her mouth.

Chavim and a gnome sitting on the other side of the room both moved at the same time. Chavim jumped up and drew his sword, charging at the man who'd just felled Sherith. The gnome started casting a spell.

Two guards turned with wide grins to engage Chavim.

The mage shouted, "NO!" and started a hasty spell of his own. The attacker's spell went off first, sending two glowing darts out of his hand and into the gnome who crashed into the table behind him from the impact.

The gnome's spell was disrupted, but the commotion had given me a chance to act. Ripping Flick out of his sheath, I threw it at the attacking mage when his attention was on his own spell. I mentally heard Flick's terrified screech but ignored it. Leaning forward, I drew my other two throwing daggers out of my boots and hurled them as quickly as possible, another at the mage, and one at one of the fighters facing Chavim. Out of daggers, I jumped up and drew my sword.

Flick and my second dagger both flew true and killed the mage before he knew what hit him.

My third dagger had wounded one of the guards in front of Chavim. The wounded guard was immediately attacked by an elven customer who drew a blade and jumped into the fray.

Chavim ferociously attacked the guard who was still standing over Sherith.

Another guard charged after the wounded gnome, only to be stopped in his tracks by a pair of dwarves wielding war hammers.

Panicked, the fourth guard was trying to make it to the door, but I intercepted him before he could make it. A quick series of parries on my part, then my left fist struck out suddenly to catch him on the temple. He crumpled.

I took another look around the room. The dwarves already had their opponent down. The elf had his foe kneeling down, clearly beaten. Chavim's opponent was still fighting, but Chavim ran his sword through the man's chest even as I moved to help. He was dead before hitting the floor.

That made all the opponents down. It was time to figure out who was hurt. Both dwarves were helping the gnome dig himself out of the splintered table. The elf looked fine, calmly holding his opponent immobile with a blade at his throat. Chavim was staring at the man he'd just killed. His sword lay forgotten on the floor, and he had a couple nasty cuts on his arm that were still bleeding. Carith was kneeling beside Sherith, quietly speaking with her as a halfling chanted quietly on Sherith's other side.

"Therth," I called. "You okay?"

"Yeah," he replied, pulling himself upright from behind the bar. He'd have a black eye in the morning but was otherwise okay.

"You have rope or something else to bind these guys up with?" I asked him.

He nodded and headed through the swinging doors back into the kitchen, gingerly holding a hand to his cheek.

Another elf had been speaking with the gnome and was now heading to Chavim. He took Chavim's arm and gently pulled him over to a chair. "Have a seat, and I'll see to your wounds, Guardsman," he said quietly. Chavim let himself be guided over and sat down, never taking his eyes from the slowly spreading pool of blood coming from the man he'd killed.

Seeing that Chavim and Sherith were being taken care of, at least for the moment, I turned back to the man I'd knocked unconscious. Grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, I dragged his unconscious body over to the man that the elven fighter still held at sword point. Therth came out from the back with a coil of rope at the same time that one of the dwarves pulled the last living (but unconscious) guard over to where I was keeping a watchful eye over the other two prisoners.

Therth tossed me the rope, but the dwarf immediately took it from my hand. "I'll tie 'em up, ye just keep yer sword handy," he said. Uncoiling a piece, he roughly pulled the conscious guard's hands behind his back and started tying him up.

"Well fought," greeted the elf cheerfully, sheathing his sword now that I had mine out and ready.

I chuckled at his attitude. "And you."

"Chavim!" shouted Sherith, apparently just waking up. Everyone spun to her. She stood and surveyed the room quickly. Spotting Chavim, she ran to him so quickly she almost flew and knocked into him so hard that he toppled out of the chair. When the two of them came to a tumbling halt, Sherith had her lips firmly locked upon his.

Everyone chuckled at the scene and turned back to what they'd been doing.

Carith made her way over to me with her eyes still on Sherith. "She'll be fine," she commented blandly. I turned a smile toward her, but she grasped the back of my head and pulled me forward into a mind-blowing kiss.

I came up for air and my mind started working again when I heard a commotion at the door.

Famkins came rushing in with mace out, followed by three more Knights. All four of them came to a screeching halt when they saw me with Carith's arms still twined around my back.

Quickly surveying the rest of the scene, Famkins dropped his mace back into the loop at his belt. Walking over to me he said dryly, "I see you have the situation well in hand, Thian."

I smiled broadly, and Carith buried a giggle in my chest. Most everyone else in the room smiled or chuckled, except for Chavim and Sherith, who still hadn't looked up.

Taking a longer look around the room, Famkins asked, "What happened?"

Both dwarves and Therth converged on him, explaining what had happened as the three other Knights took the three prisoners out of the bar. In the commotion Carith snuck another kiss to the underside of my jaw before joining the group around Famkins.

The halfling who had been tending Sherith shuffled over to the oblivious couple on the floor and loudly cleared his throat. Chavim's head, hair tousled wildly, shot up and surveyed the room. Blushing scarlet in embarrassment, he quickly tried to sit up, Sherith moaning in disappointment beside him.

"We'd best tend to your wounds now," the halfling commented in amusement. "You can get acquainted with each other later."

Chuckling in agreement, the elf who'd originally helped Chavim also came over, both clerics beginning more spells of healing.

The gnome who'd taken a magical hit had come up beside me and got my attention with a soft touch on my arm. "Thank you, good sir," he said softly, holding one hand across his stomach lightly.

I nodded. "It is my job, good gnome. I'm a member of the city guard. Guardsman Thian at your service." I bowed politely. I had the right to call myself a Knight, but that title held more nobility in my mind that I thought was appropriate. Besides, Guardsman was also correct.

He bowed back to me. "Illusionist Wik. It may be your job, but you saved my life by killing that mage. I owe you a debt of gratitude."

I shook my head. "We cannot take payment for our services," I replied, thinking that's where he was going.

He shook his head. "I owe you more than mere money can repay." He peered at me thoughtfully for a moment before saying, "Come back here tomorrow night." Smiling enigmatically, he turned on his heel and shuffled stiffly toward Famkins.


Grinning slightly, I crossed over to the dead mage and retrieved Flick. Did you really have to do that? Do you have ANY idea how much it hurts to come to a crashing halt against someone's backbone?

Wiping Flick's blade clean, I saw that he was correct. My throw had imbedded itself immediately next to the mage's spine, the blade angled in and just long enough to reach his heart. Damn, that was a better throw than I'd ever managed before.

Don't get an over-inflated ego, he snapped. I just happen to be a special flight dagger.

I blinked in amazement. [Just why didn't you tell me this before?] I silently asked.

'Cause I didn't want to take such a bruising flight, was the prompt reply. Besides, you never asked.


Despite my best intentions to leave "Storm Tales" alone the next evening, I had to return. I didn't want to run into Illusionist Wik again and he feel obligated to make some sort of restitution, but I had to return. In all the excitement of cleaning up, I'd forgotten my cape. At least I hoped it was there.

Immediately after my watch at the Moonbridge, I headed straight over there, not even stopping to remove my armor.

Walking in, half a dozen of the regulars greeted me with raised goblets, wineglasses, or flagons. Smiling sheepishly back, I made my way to Therth behind the bar. A cleric had healed him, I noticed idly. His cheek and eye didn't show the bruise I was expecting.

"Thian!" he greeted.

"Therth. Please tell me that I left my cape here last night. If it isn't here then I've lost it."

Laughing, he leaned down and came back up with my cape, neatly folded. Smiling my thanks, I shook it open to put it on but stopped when I realized my clasp was gone. Damn! Now I'll have to get it replaced.

Seeing my expression, Therth said, "Don't worry about your clasp. Wik has it," he nodded to the gnome at the replaced table.

Thanking Therth distractedly, I walked over to Wik and took a seat at his invitation. What would Wik be doing with my clasp? More importantly, how'd he get it?

What are you asking ME for? asked Flick irritably.

I was about to tell Flick that it was a rhetorical question when Wik interrupted softly, "Based on your expression, I'm sure you want to know why I may have this." His hand shifted slightly and my clasp slid along the table to come to a gentle stop at my hand. At my start of surprise, he laughed and said, "I AM an Illusionist, Knight Thian."

"Um, thank you," I said, scooping up my clasp and standing, trying to get out of the strange situation.

"Don't you even want to know what I've been doing with it?" Wik asked calmly.

I sat back down. "Okay," I started slowly, "what have you been doing with my clasp?"

Nodding toward the object in question, he said, "I'm sure you're aware that mithril is good as a spell focus for it is strong and already prepared for magic." At my hesitant nod, he continued, "So as repayment for your actions yesterday, I have put two spells into it."

I was afraid of that. Not that I didn't want spells placed into it (that's why I wanted it made of mithril in the first place, of course), but I really couldn't accept any payment for what I did yesterday. "I cannot take any form of payment -" I began again.

Oh, shut up and accept it, Flick said in exasperation. It's why you got the thing, isn't it?

"You can, and you will," stated Wik placidly. "Even if you didn't want it, it's too late. The enchantments are already complete."

Sighing in defeat, I nodded. "Then I thank you. What enchantments?"

Smiling at my agreement, Wik said, "First is a protection against all illusions, including attacks directed against your mind. You will still see the illusions, but they will be fuzzy and indistinct. How you react to them is up to you. This protection is continuous when you are wearing the clasp. The second enchantment is a light spell. I'm aware that humans cannot see in the dark, so I decided this would be useful to you. The command words 'brightness' and 'darkness' activate and deactivate it."

I stared at him in stunned silence. "This is entirely too much -" I started.

Wik waved a hand. "It cost me little to do, and it will be a useful item to you. As I said, I owed you a debt." Smiling calmly, he said, "Now try it. I want to make sure the enchantments work at your bidding."

I looked down at the clasp nestled in my hand. It didn't look any different, nor feel different. "Brightness," I said, not knowing how else to invoke it. The mithril infinity symbol immediately brightened to the intensity of a good light bulb. In the naturally light room, it wasn't noticed by anyone else, though. "Darkness," I said, smiling. It immediately went out, looking once again like a normal clasp.

Smiling delightedly, I looked up at Wik to find him nodding in satisfaction. "Put it on," he bade me.

Eager to discover what else it could do, I stood and hooked it back into place, settling the cloak about my shoulders. Taking my seat again, Wik was muttering quietly, his hands waving. Suddenly a four inch chipmunk popped into existence on the tabletop. Starting slightly, I studied it. I could see all the stripes along its back, looking like a chipmunk should, but it looked just hazy enough that I knew something was wrong with it.

The "chipmunk" sniffed around the table for a few seconds until it came to the wineglass at Wik's elbow. Taking one sniff of that, it immediately dunked its face in and drank deeply. Coming up for air eventually, it stumbled over toward me before keeling over in the middle of the table in a drunken stupor. I could swear it even had a grin plastered on its tiny face.

Anyone know chipmunk CPR? asked Flick in amusement.

Chuckling, the dwarf at the next table saluted Wik with his mug and said, "Nice spell, wizard."

Chuckling in agreement, I looked back down to discover the illusion had disintegrated, and Wik's wineglass was once again at its previous level. "Nice spell, wizard," I echoed with a smile.

Nodding in satisfaction, Wik stood, tossing a lion onto the table. "Thank you, Knight," he said. "Until we meet again." Bowing to me, he swept out of the room.


The months passed quietly and so became a year. My training had long since finished, and I slowly climbed the unofficial ranks of the Knights. My official rank and pay hadn't gone up, but the respect of my peers and superiors had given me a de facto promotion. My extra training to be a personal bodyguard at least provided the occasional week guarding some visiting dignitary. Though rougher on me, it did provide a diversion. I even was part of Alustriel's personal guard during her occasional visits to the surrounding communities.

Generally, though, time passed quietly. Despite my hopes after the fight and ensuing kiss at "Storm Tales", Carith and I never extended our relationship further. We simply remained very good friends.

I was standing guard at one of the city entrances one quiet summer day when two figures approached. Once they were close enough, I was astonished to see a drow elf and a huge panther traveling together.

"Well met, ranger," Chavim called from beside me, nodding to the dark elf.

The drow looked up and raised a hand in greeting to Chavim but never took his eyes off me. "I am Drizzt Do'Urden," he said quietly.

I nodded in recognition. I'd heard several stories about this renegade dark elf. "Well met, I am Guardsman Thian. The Lady Alustriel has spoken well of you, dark elf."

His smile and suddenly relaxed pose released the tension in the remaining two guards standing with us.

"And this," the drow indicated the panther patiently standing beside him, "is Guenhwyvar."

The panther let out a low growl, as if understanding what was occurring.

"Is the Lady Alustriel here?" Drizzt asked.

I nodded. The watch leaders had specific instructions regarding this visitor. Since I was the watch leader here . . . "Indeed she is. If you and your companion would like to come with me." I waved him past, and we fell into step, Guenhwyvar padding along silently on Do'Urden's other side.

"I thank you for the courtesy, but I need no guide," he said to me after twenty paces.

"It isn't solely for your benefit," I explain. "Unfortunately, dark elves have a reputation. If some of the townsfolk were to see a drow wandering freely without escort . . ." I trailed off.

He nodded with a heavy sigh. "I understand."

There's something about one of those scimitars, commented Flick as we neared the castle.

[What's that?] I asked.

I don't really know, was the hesitant reply. It's almost alive, but not quite. It's just . . . Hungry.

A hungry scimitar? Well, hell, why not? I had a talking dagger.

I heard that!

Smothering a chuckle at Flick's mock outrage, I silently led Do'Urden to the castle, nodding to the guards positioned there. Walking to the audience room, we found the door open, so we stepped straight through.

Lady Alustriel looked up from the desk where she was seated. Seeing my companions, her face broke into a smile. "Drizzt! Guen!" She stood and rushed over to Do'Urden and wrapped him into a hug after giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.

One eyebrow rose in surprise. Well, that explained why watch leaders had such specific instructions concerning this dark elf. Deciding I had no reason to be here, I quietly said, "Master Do'Urden, Lady," bowing to each in turn. I spun on my heel, intending to return to my post.

"Thian," called Alustriel.

I turned back. "Lady?" She'd turned to me but hadn't released her dark elven friend.

"Stay. I have been wanting to speak to Drizzt about you for some time. Please stay so that we may have that discussion now."

Since I wasn't about to disobey a direct order from her, I took one of the seats she indicated as Do'Urden and she took the others. The panther flopped down in front of the fireplace after Alustriel had rubbed behind its ears.

Do'Urden was studying me intently. I calmly returned the scrutiny. He possessed the black skin that was the trademark of drow elves, white hair, and vibrant purple eyes on a slightly over five foot frame. Though he was hardly large in a purely physical sense, I didn't make the mistake of considering him to be a weak fighter. He was wearing a heavy traveling cloak over chain mail, a medallion depicting a unicorn resting against his chest. My warrior instincts had already taken in the scimitar that rode each hip. If one of them was nearly alive, I wondered about the other.

"Drizzt," Alustriel began, drawing our attention to her, "You have been places and heard rumors that I have no access to. I was wondering if you knew anything about where Thian is from, or anything about his people. He came to us a year ago through no action of his own, a victim of a misfired teleport."

Do'Urden nodded his head silently, accepting the information.

Alustriel took a breath and turned to me. "He is from a place called Earth. His people call themselves Immortals."

"Lady," I objected, beginning to rise in my seat.

She raised a hand, and I immediately stilled. "I trust Drizzt with my life," she calmly told me. "You can trust him with your secret for it will go no further than these walls." Getting my grudging nod of agreement as I settled back down, she turned back to Do'Urden and continued. "They call themselves Immortal and with good reason. I myself have seen him wounded, only to heal in moments. He claims to be a century in age, and I have no reason to doubt that claim."

Do'Urden's eyes were slightly wider as they turned back to me. "Human and a century old? Are you some sort of mage?"

I shook my head. "No, not a mage. Nor am I quite human, either. I appear to be human, though I am not. I am Immortal."

"Fascinating," he murmured. Shaking his head, he turned back to Alustriel and said, "I've never heard of such a people, nor of a place called Earth." Turning to me again, he asked, "Your wounds heal?"

Sighing in resignation, I drew Flick.

Sure, use ME, he muttered.

I ignored him and instead slashed across my palm, allowing the dark elf to watch it as it healed seconds later. Pulling a cloth out of my pocket, I cleaned Flick's blade and then my hand. Tucking everything away, I looked up again to find Do'Urden's stare boring into me.

"A human who is older than I am," he mused after a time.

Alustriel smiled slightly. "I am human, and *I* am older than you are, Drizzt."

He smiled and tilted his head to her in silent apology. "True, but you're an enchantress. Thian claims no magical ability."

I shrugged. "Magic does not exist on Earth."

His eyebrows rose. "Not at all? What of the gods?"

I smiled slightly. "What gods? There are many religions, but most of them believe in a single God who is actually little changed from one religion to the next. Also, priests in my world have no special powers as do the clerics here on Faerun."

Do'Urden continued to silently regard me for a few more seconds before Alustriel said, "I just wanted to ask you about Thian's people, Drizzt." She turned to me. "Knight Thian, do you have any further questions?"

I shook my head and stood at the obvious cue. "Good day, Lady, sir."

One more avenue of information that'd never heard of Earth. I was despairing of ever returning home.

This place did have several redeeming features however, I consoled myself with a thought toward that evening.

As a member of the Knights in Silver, I was required to attend the occasional formal party in Silverymoon. Most of it was petty posturing by self-important local merchants mixed with minor politics. I was only required to attend every fourth such event, at any rate. Besides, it was always a good meal followed by dancing.

We were all encouraged to bring "dates" to these parties, but this was the first one that I'd mustered the nerve to actually ask Carith to attend with me. I was greatly relieved when she agreed. She was known in town as a server at one of the better taverns, of course, but she didn't have the same type of reputation that many of the other tavern wenches had. Attending this party together wouldn't hurt either of our social standings.

As we agreed, I met her at "Storm Tales" before the party was due to begin that same evening. As a member of the guard, I was permitted to retain my weapons, so I had most of them on me, though I wasn't wearing my armor. Instead, I wore one of my slightly oversized deep green shirts and a pair of black breeches that Astemon had made for me a year ago. My feet were clad in the high sided, fir lined boots that I had gotten in trade for my Reeboks. I was feeling rather dashing this evening, but one look at Carith stole that smug feeling.

She was wearing an emerald green dress, a sash of red velvet hooked from left shoulder to right hip. Her hair was pulled back from her face with a fragile looking hair clasp, clearly revealing her elven features.

She smiled demurely while I stopped drooling and got my voice under control. "You look lovely, lady," I finally stammered out.

Her head dipped slightly, and she replied, "And you, lord."

Voice and emotions finally under control, I smiled and held out an arm. "Shall we?"

Gracefully hooking her arm through mine, she let me lead her away.

Hubba, hubba, commented Flick, followed by his best approximation of panting sounds.

[Shut up, or I'll leave you at the door all night. You may be able to see what I do, but you DON'T have to comment, Flick.]

Aye, aye, sir! he snapped back, clearly teasing. Shutting up now, sir.

[Arrogant little pipsqueak.]


Through all my conversation with Flick, I'd silently led Carith to the banquet hall in the castle. Giving our names to the doorman (though he and I knew each other through the Knights), we were permitted entry. We stepped forward and into the main party hall in the city. Two dozen tables were set up for the night, seating a total of almost a hundred and fifty guests. As one of the few mixed race couples in the room, we caused several raised eyebrows as we circulated and danced, but no comments came our way.

As a member of the guard, I wasn't expected to sit with any of the merchants or minor nobility, for which I was eternally thankful. Instead, Carith and I spent the meal sharing a table with two other Knights and their wives. Once the meal was finished, I quietly told Carith, "If you grow weary, do not hesitate to tell me, and I will walk you back."

She laughed. "You will do no such thing! This is the most fun I've had in years, Thian. You're not about to drag me out of here so soon. Besides, I'm used to working all evening, remember?"

I smiled and stood. "In that case, may I have another dance?"

It turned into three dances before we made it off the dance floor. Laughing arm in arm, we headed back to our table, only to be intercepted by Armsmaster Starkin. "Thian," he greeted with a smile. "It is good to see you here."

"Armsmaster," I nodded back. "Permit me to introduce you to Carith. Carith, this is Armsmaster Starkin of the Knights."

She dipped into a graceful curtsey, and he nodded politely. Turning to me again, he said, "Thian, please join Lady Alustriel and me. We have something to discuss with you."

Now what could that be? Nodding my agreement, I held my arm out to Carith to escort her, but she held back. "Maybe I should leave," she said, unsure of what she should do.

Starkin shook his head. "'Tis not bad news, nor confidential. You are welcome at the table as well, Carith." He shot me a quick smile before turning back to her. "I daresay that Thian here will have more to celebrate once he hears what we have to say." He waved over at the table at the head of the hall. "Come. The Lady isn't as intimidating as you may fear."

Slowly taking my arm, she nodded agreement and all three of us started heading toward the table. Leaning toward Carith slightly, I whispered, "You have nothing to fear, Car. Lady Alustriel is nothing but kind."

Carith nodded slightly but whispered back, "But will I remember all my manners? I do not want to disgrace my clan."

I patted the hand nestled into the crook of my elbow. "You'll do fine," I soothed.

Upon arriving at the front table, I wasn't terribly surprised to find Drizzt Do'Urden seated beside Lady Alustriel, though he looked ill at ease in the banquet hall. Nodding to him and bowing to Alustriel, I said, "Lady Alustriel, Master Do'Urden, may I present my friend Carith. Carith, this is Lady Alustriel, ruler of Silverymoon, and the Ranger Drizzt Do'Urden of Mithril Hall."

Alustriel nodded and smiled at Carith's hasty curtsey. Since arriving within sight of the table, Carith hadn't taken her frightened gaze from the dark elven ranger. Seeing her nervousness, Do'Urden said quietly, "Perhaps I should leave."

"No!" Carith said too quickly and slightly too loudly. Blushing, her gaze fell to the floor for a moment while she composed herself. Looking back up at him calmly, she continued, "No, pray do not leave, good ranger. I'm afraid it was just the shock of seeing a dark elf here. I've never met one of your kind, you see, and . . ."

He nodded solemnly as she trailed off. "I understand. The drow cause fear just through rumors. If I DO make you uncomfortable, I can leave."

She shook her head. "Do not. You are a guest of Lady Alustriel. I have no right to force you from here." Seeing that she was apparently calming down, I held a chair out for her and she seated herself gracefully. Taking a deep breath, she took a hold of my hand under the table as I sat down next to her, Starkin taking a place between her and Alustriel.

"Thian," started Starkin, "are you happy here with your place among the Knights?"

I'd told Carith an abbreviated version of where I was from, so I wasn't hesitant to answer honestly in front of her. "Yes," I said. "It is beginning to seem as though I cannot go back to my home world, and this is as good a place as any to be." I smiled at Carith and squeezed her hand slightly. "And better than some," I added.

She blushed slightly, eyes on the tabletop.

Starkin and Do'Urden chuckled, and Alustriel smiled.

"I am glad to hear that," Alustriel said. She gestured at Starkin slightly and continued, "Armsmaster Starkin and I have discussed you recently, and I agree with his recommendation to promote you a grade."

I blinked in astonishment. Finding my voice, I said, "I am honored, Lady, but forgive my confusion. I was expecting it to be some years before I could be promoted."

"That is usually true," Starkin nodded. "However, you've proven your worth several times over. Your guarding of visitors has brought nothing but glowing comments, and then there's the incident at 'Storm Tales' some months back," he nodded at Carith slightly. "You have stood all your watches, done all the patrols, and acted honorably in all respects. In addition, you're probably the best swordsman in town, now. With the possible exception of Ranger Do'Urden, of course," he hastily added, shooting a glance at the drow. For his part, the ranger just shrugged modestly. Starkin continued, "You passed me by some months ago in sword skills."

Alustriel picked up the thread, "Montogram, the head of the Knights in Silver, is retiring soon. I will be promoting Armsmaster Starkin to that position." She fixed her gray eyes on me and finished, "He recommended you for the position of Armsmaster in his place."

My jaw started to collect splinters. Turning an unblinking stare from Alustriel to Starkin, I stammered out, "That's years ahead of where I am. What if some of my friends in the guard resent me for it?"

Starkin shook his head. "You do honor to your friendships by thinking of that first. To answer the question: it shouldn't matter. But to ease your mind, even that loud oaf Famkins admits you're better than he is. This job is training, administrative, and diplomatic. Though we'd have to find someone else to train the lads with the bow," he added with a sly grin. I smiled nervously back as he continued, "Nobody else can do this job, Thian." He shot a quick glance at Carith before continuing, "You'd be interested to know that the position entitles you to a significant increase in pay as well as a private residence."

Carith blushed scarlet again and dropped her gaze to her lap. I opened my mouth to refute what he was implying, but shut it just as quickly. Why bother trying to correct him?

"You have given me a great deal to think about," I said slowly instead. "Pray give me a few days to think it over?"

Alustriel and Starkin both nodded. The Armsmaster stood and bowed politely to the table. "If you will excuse me, it is getting late. I'd best retire. Ladies, ranger," he said, nodding to the three of them. "See you tomorrow, Thian?"

At my shocked nod, he thumped me on the shoulder and moved off through the thinning crowd.

Carith leaned over to me and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. "What is your hesitancy, Thi? This is quite the step up for you." I looked over at her but didn't say anything. She didn't know about my Immortality, so she didn't understand all the ramifications to me. She stood and shook a finger sternly at me. "I'll be right back, and then I'm going to talk you into accepting this position!"

Chuckling helplessly at her attitude, I watched her walk off toward the restrooms.

"She's right," Do'Urden calmly said into the resulting silence. "This is a step up for you. What are you afraid of?"

Oh, where to start? I stood and began pacing back and forth off of the end of the table near where Do'Urden and I had been sitting. As an Immortal, I couldn't take any position that was too high profile. I'd hidden my nature entirely too long to change that basic fact of life now. It was safer, easier to hide among the average workers wherever I happened to find myself. As always, I would eventually have to move on, otherwise the fact that I wasn't aging would become obvious.

The room had only thirty people left in it by this time, so the slight sound I heard from the door behind me was clearly audible. Since I was turned away from it at that moment, I saw Do'Urden's quizzical expression turned toward the door before I turned around myself. Finally facing the door, I found one of the worst nightmares of the Knights in Silver. Four forms stood just inside the doorway, three with crossbows coming up into firing position, and the fourth's hands were waving soundlessly, clearly in the midst of a spell. All four were nearly translucent and had the wavering lines I'd learned to associate with illusions. Which meant nobody else even knew there was danger.

Reacting purely on instinct, I pulled Flick from his sheath and hurled him at the mage. Not even waiting to see how the throw came out, I turned and barreled through Drizzt Do'Urden, knocking him backwards off the chair he'd been casually reclining in. I ran at Lady Alustriel, intending to knock her down and out of the line of fire.

Four things happened simultaneously. I heard Flick's shriek as he flew through the air. I heard the three crossbows click. I heard one male voice scream in pain. A bright flash of light obscured everything.

Just as quick as that, everything winked out.


I woke up with a gasp and immediately wished I'd die again. At least that way my back wouldn't hurt so much.

"Lie still, I'll get a cleric," a voice said in my ear.

Balling my fists in pain, I ground out through clenched teeth, "No clerics!"

"The crossbow bolts in your back -" objected the voice that I was beginning to recognize as Do'Urden's.

"Pull them out," I hissed in pain, interrupting him. No wonder my back still felt like hell.

"What?!" he asked in amazement.

"Do it," stated Alustriel's voice. "Thian knows his body's healing better than we do. If he wants you to remove them, then remove them, Drizzt."

I heard a soft sigh then slight rustling. He placed a hand on my back on one of the few places that was NOT on fire. "Brace yourself. This will hurt," he said. Still trying to keep from screaming, I simply nodded.

The first bolt was jerked from my back, and I howled in agony. Quickly, he jerked the two remaining bolts out of my back, throwing them to the side.

Oh, quit crying, you sissy, said Flick.

He was probably just trying to get my mind off the fact that my back had just been put through a meat grinder, but I wasn't in the mood. "Shut the hell up, Flick," I ground out, pain sweat running off my forehead and into my eyes.

"What?" asked Do'Urden, still kneeling beside me.

"His dagger," explained Alustriel. "It is sentient, and he is talking to it."

"Yeah, like that scimitar on your hip," I added, trying desperately to keep my mind on some topic other than my back until it finished healing.

"What are you talking about?"

"Flick called it semi-sentient and described it as 'hungry'," I explained, slowly uncoiling every muscle in my body as the pain ebbed down to merely torturous.

"Yes, I suppose that is correct," he said reflectively. "From what I understand of it, it was forged with a cold enchantment, specifically designed to banish demons."

"Drizzt Do'Urden the Demon Slayer," I quipped. "Woulda made a hell of a television show. Just hope Buffy doesn't sue your ass off for copyright infringement," I babbled on.

"NOW what are you talking about?" he asked, clearly exasperated with my shifting focus.

"Never mind," I muttered, slowly putting my arms under my body and heaving myself upright. By the time I made it to a sitting position, I realized I was in one of the small anterooms near the banquet hall. Alustriel stepped forward and handed me Flick. Quietly thanking her, I pulled myself upward with a hand braced firmly on a table. Standing as well as I could, I replaced Flick in his sheath and asked, "What happened?"

I got the mage, Flick told me quietly.

Do'Urden was speaking at the same time. "Your dagger killed the mage at the same time that his lightning bolt and the three crossbow quarrels hit you."

"Thank you," Lady Alustriel quietly said. "That may have destroyed me if you hadn't been there."

"And me," added Do'Urden. "I was in the line of fire as well."

Still leaning forward, braced on one arm, I looked over and smiled grimly. "That's my job, Lady." I coughed into a hand and then asked, "What happened to the three crossbowmen?"

Alustriel snorted inelegantly. "It was a toss-up whether Drizzt or I would have killed them first. Fortunately, my dark elven friend here just knocked them out instead."

Now that I could stand without toppling, I removed my cape. Unsurprised to find a massive bloodstain on the back, I removed the clasp from it and dropped the cape onto the floor and the clasp to the table. Pulling my shirt over my head, I looked at the back critically. "This was my favorite shirt, too," I lamented with a sigh, studying the sodden fabric.

The door came crashing inward, and Carith ran in. She made it less than five feet before she came to an abrupt halt, staring at me with wide eyes. Starkin came in behind her and closed the door quietly, standing in a guard position in front of the door.

Carith's eyes never left me. "How . . . What are you?" she whispered.

There I was, holding my bloody shirt, standing over my equally bloody cape, and to top it off, my back was probably in even worse shape. No point in trying to deny anything. Without moving and perhaps spooking her, I said, "I'm Immortal, Carith. I will survive most any wound, including crossbow quarrels and lightning bolts."

Her mouth opened once or twice, but nothing came out. She slowly shook her head, still staring at me.

Alustriel crossed the room and gently took Carith's arm, pulling her off to the side and starting a quiet conversation.

Do'Urden was still eyeing me. "You okay?"

I nodded absently, "Yeah, I'm fine." Looking over at the drow, I held up the shirt and said facetiously, "They ruined my shirt! Now I'm angry."

He stared at me incredulously before breaking into laughter. Even Starkin chuckled. Do'Urden shook his head and said, "You're impossible."

I've been saying that for months, interjected Flick.

Do'Urden was still talking, "You were just killed and you're complaining about your shirt?"

I shrugged at the dark elf's comment. "I'm alive now, so there's no sense in commenting on it. Besides, this WAS one of my favorites."

Do'Urden threw his hands up in exasperation. Starkin just chuckled again.

Alustriel called out from the corner where she was standing with Carith still, "Armsmaster, please go out and explain to the remaining guests and Knights that Knight Thian survived."

"No," I objected immediately, drawing curious looks from Do'Urden and Alustriel. Starkin merely looked shocked that I'd disagree with Lady Alustriel. I explained, "I died very publicly out there. I can not appear in town again."

Alustriel frowned slightly. "Why not? I told you that this is a land of magic. Just say that you were blessed by Helm with rapid healing."

I shook my head. "What happens when it becomes obvious that I'm not aging? No, I will have to leave Silverymoon eventually, and this is as good a time as any." I sighed and looked to Carith who was still looking at me, though it was with less fear now. "I just wish I could have spent more time with you, Car." I smiled sadly and continued, "I'm beginning to fall in love with you, but that wouldn't be fair to either of us. I can't stay, and I can't ask you to leave, either."

"Why can't you stay?" she asked in a quiet, choked voice.

Surprisingly, Do'Urden answered the question. "When his survival here becomes public knowledge, he will be under scrutiny from many directions. Once it's obvious he isn't aging, one of two things will happen. Either he'll be hunted down for having made a pact with some evil greater power, or some mage or another will kidnap him to learn his secret for perpetual health and youth."

I nodded sadly. "Elves and dwarves won't bat an eye at it, but what of humans and the other shorter lived races? I do not want to become a test subject for some mad human mage who wants to live forever."

Alustriel nodded with a soft sigh. Do'Urden just looked sad for me. Carith walked slowly over to me and laid her head against my chest, her arms snaking around my back. I felt her tears against my bare chest moments later.

"You are determined to leave, then?" asked Alustriel quietly.

"I have to," I answered tonelessly, holding Carith and keeping my eyes closed in a futile attempt to stop the tears. "Though I regret having to give up the position of Armsmaster that I was just offered," I added in wry amusement.

Strained chuckles greeted my comment.

"Armsmaster Starkin," said Alustriel in an official tone laced with regret. "Please go out and explain that Knight Thian died of his wounds. We shall have a ceremony for him tomorrow, full honors. He left word with you that he stated his preference of no resurrection, correct?"

I gave a crooked smile and looked at her in admiration as she built a plausible series of events that covered everything nicely.

"As you wish, Lady," whispered Starkin before he quietly exited.

"Carith Stormbow," said Alustriel.

Her head jerked up. Sniffling back a tear, she turned to Alustriel, "Yes, Lady?" She frowned. "How did you know my clan name?"

[Stormbow?] I wondered.

Alustriel smiled slightly. "I know your sister Kith and cousin Survan. Are they in town?"

"Not now. They're expected in two months," she answered, still looking surprised.

She nodded in thought. "That will be just about right," she commented to herself. Heading to the door, Alustriel said to me, "I will return for you here once the hall is clear. Drizzt, might I have a word?" Do'Urden nodded to me shortly and followed the ruler of Silverymoon out the door.

Once we were alone, Carith laid her head on my chest again and sniffed.

"Stormbow?" I asked.

She chuckled. "My clan name. The Stormbows are minor nobles, but we're mostly cursed with wanderlust. Few of us live in elven communities, preferring instead to be traveling merchants, adventurers, or living in human cities."

She was calming down from all the shocks of the day, but I could still hear the underlying note of sadness. With a gentle finger under her chin, I pulled her face up to look at me. "You do understand why I can't stay here, don't you?"

Closing her eyes and biting her lower lip slightly, she gave a slight nod. Tilting her head forward to rest her forehead on my chest again, she whispered, "I understand, but that does not mean that I have to like it."

My mouth quirking into a sad smile, I whispered, "I know. Me neither."

Taking a deep breath, she stepped back and turned away from me. She suddenly looked down and chuckled slightly. Turning back to me and showing me the blood on her hands and arms, she said, "Now look what you did."

I smiled. "I'd offer to share a bath with you, seeing as how my back no doubt needs cleaning, but I don't think that'd be appropriate."

Giving a hiccuping laugh, she said, "No, I do not think that would be very appropriate, Thi. It's hard enough letting you leave now, let alone after such an evening as you're describing."

Not allowing myself to step forward and hug her again as I desperately wanted, I said softly, "I'm sorry that we didn't have the chance to become closer, but as I said, it wouldn't be fair to either of us."

She nodded slowly and took a deep breath. "I know." She cocked her head slightly and asked, "Will you ever be back?"

"Don't even think of waiting for me," I responded immediately. I'd been stung by that particular problem in the past. "It may very well be decades before I return to Silverymoon. You deserve to be happy here, not waiting on me. When I DO return, I expect to find you happily married with lots of little Stormbows running around, terrorizing Therth and providing amusement to all the patrons of 'Storm Tales'."

She laughed at the picture I was painting. "You as well," she returned. "I want to meet your fine, strong sons when you return."

I smiled sadly but didn't dispute her comment.

She saw through it anyway. "What's wrong? You don't want any sons?" she asked in amused disbelief.

What a horrifying concept, said Flick. Lots of little Iancrofts running around Faerun, swinging their little swords.

I snorted in amusement at the both of them. "I can't have children. It's a natural condition of my people," I explained.

A slight grin formed as she retorted, "With humans in YOUR world, perhaps. Here, who knows? Besides, you don't know about elves, do you?"

That was an interesting point, though the twinkle in her eye demanded some comment. "Your sister's name is Kith?" I asked in all innocence.

She laughed, as I intended. "Yes, and I'll warn her about you first thing after I see her," she returned.

A light tap preceded Lady Alustriel poking her head in the door by a few seconds. Seeing both Carith and I standing calmly, she smiled and entered fully. She handed me the pack she was carrying and said, "Starkin brought the remainder of your clothing."

I took the pack and nodded in thanks. Picking up my ruined shirt, I tried to clean up my back as much as possible.

"I'll be off, then," Carith announced. She bowed toward Alustriel and said, "'Twas a pleasure meeting you, Lady. Come and see me when you can, Thi?"

I stopped what I was doing and cupped her cheek in one hand. "When I can," I promised, followed by a soft kiss on her other cheek.

Sniffling back a tear, Carith headed out the door quickly.

Still looking at the door, Alustriel asked, "Is she okay with your decision?"

I sighed and went back to trying to clean my back. "She understands it but doesn't like it any more than I do. We've come to an agreement, though."

"Here, let me," said Alustriel, taking the shirt from my hand.

"Lady!" I protest. Was she really planning on cleaning blood off my back?

She clucked at my tone and turned me around with a firm hand on my shoulder. "I was an adventurer before coming to Silverymoon. The sight of a little blood does not bother me as much as you may think, Knight Thian," she said as she began quickly wiping at my back.

"Thank you, Lady. Though I doubt I'm still a Knight, really."

Her hands stopped momentarily before resuming their work. "You will be welcome in Silverymoon as long as I rule here, Thian."

Finishing with one last flourishing swipe, she declared, "Done! Now if you would care to put something on, I can take you to one of the guest rooms for the night. We can decide what you will do on the morrow. It is too late now to be making any serious decisions."

Nodding my agreement, I pulled one of my other shirts out of the bag she'd brought in and quickly donned it. Scooping my magical clasp into the bag, I picked up the bag and scabbard that had been removed at some point. Wadding my destroyed shirt and cape in one fist, I followed Alustriel out the door.

Leading me through conspicuously empty hallways, Alustriel asked, "One thing I do not understand. How did you see the attackers?"

"My cloak clasp," I answered. "It's been enchanted to allow me to see the truth behind illusions."

She nodded. "Since invisibility is an illusion, you could see them," she concluded. "That is a valuable item, and I am glad for it."

I'm sure she is, Flick commented wryly, seeing as how it just saved her neck.

[Behave,] I chastised him. [She IS the elected ruler of this city.]

Don't wanna behave, he replied childishly.

[Will you EVER grow up?] I asked in mock exasperation.

Doubt it. I'm a great deal older than you are, kid, and I'm still like this.

I chuckled quietly. [I'm thankful for that. You'll probably keep me sane over the centuries, assuming we're together that long.]

No reason we shouldn't be. Besides, I just got you broke in.

I chuckled again as Alustriel stopped beside one door and opened it to reveal a luxuriously appointed bedroom, complete with steaming bath and private bathroom.

"I will send for you in the morning to discuss your future plans. In the meantime, good night, Thian."

"Thank you for everything, Lady," I replied, bowing to her.

She shook her head with a small smile. "No, thank YOU." Nodding to me, she pulled the door closed behind herself.

After a long bath that nearly put me to sleep, I collapsed into bed, asleep nearly the instant I got horizontal.



"Humph. Go 'way," I mumbled into my pillow.

Thian, wake up.

"Why?" I answered groggily, not bothering to open my eyes.

"Because it is time for dawnfry," answered Alustriel.

My head shot up at her voice. She was standing, regal as ever, at the foot of my bed beside a covered tray. "Um, good morning, Lady," I said, hastily checking that I was at least covered.

Gracefully taking a seat in a chair next to the tray, she asked, "Would you care to break your fast with me and discuss your future plans?"

"Uh, I would be honored, Lady, but if you could excuse me for a moment . . ." I trailed off, gesturing at my pack over next to the door to the bathroom.

She smiled, but there was a touch of malicious amusement to it. "Do not let me stop you, then." When I didn't immediately get up, she continued, "I doubt you have anything I have not seen before, Thian. I AM over a hundred winters old, after all."

Really? Funny, she didn't look much over thirty. "That may be, Lady, but . . ."

Sighing in exasperation, she turned her head politely to the side and said, "Oh, very well."

I bolted for the bathroom, snagging the strap of the pack on my way past.

Once dressed, I re-entered the room and took a seat across from Alustriel. She'd uncovered the tray and was working on her own breakfast. I sat down and started working on my eggs and venison patties.

"I must admit that I peeked," commented Alustriel calmly. Her gaze lifted slightly to catch my eye as I looked up quickly. "I was right, you do not have anything I have not seen before."

I nearly choked on my food as Flick howled with laughter.

"Lady," I said again, mortified.

"Oh, do lighten up, Theodore. I was only teasing." She sighed slightly before continuing, "I have precious few friends that I can tease. Now that you are no longer one of my Knights, I can treat you as the friend that I hope you are."

Chuckling helplessly, I nodded my agreement. "If you insist on not calling me Thian, then at least call me Ted. It is what my friends called me on Earth."

Nodding happily, she said, "I am Ali to my friends."

Smiling, I said, "I doubt that I could ever call you anything other than Lady Alustriel."

"Try," she ordered with a twinkle in her eye.

"Oh, if I must," I said in false exasperation.

Giggling (Lady Alustriel giggles!), she returned to her meal. We ate in silence for a few minutes before she said, "Have you given any thought to where you will go from here?"

I sighed and shook my head. "Not really. Perhaps to Waterdeep."

She nodded thoughtfully, placing her fork down. "That is one possibility, certainly. Though if you are willing to take a suggestion?"

"Of course."

"Join a merchant band as guard. You possess all the skills needed, and you would constantly be on the move, providing you some protection from anyone learning your secret outside the merchants themselves."

Nodding thoughtfully, I said, "Good suggestion, thank you."

Seeing that I was done, she leaned back in her chair and studied me intently for a few moments. By the time I started fidgeting, she said, "I owe you a debt of gratitude that I cannot hope to repay, Ted." I opened my mouth to argue the point, but she raised a hand. "Do not bother to argue. I owe you a debt for saving my life. There are two things I would like to do for you as the beginning of that repayment." I started to argue again, but she shook her head at me. "I WILL do this for you, Ted. Do not argue with me." She gave a sudden grin. "Has no one ever told you that it was a bad idea to argue with a mage?"

Smiling, I said, "Obviously a serious lack in my education."

Her lip twisted into a smile as I signaled for her to continue.

Getting my acceptance, she nodded. "First, let us meet with Drizzt, for he is a part of my plan." Standing, she waved me along.

Confused, I followed her out the door and toward her audience room.

I sense a conspiracy afoot.

[You and me both,] I answered.

Once again traveling through the obviously empty hallways, we entered the audience room to find Do'Urden sitting in one of the chairs facing the fire. The panther was lying on its side at his feet.

Seeing us enter, he stood and smiled at Alustriel.

"Please," she said, waving at the chairs.

We all seated ourselves quietly, Do'Urden retaking his seat, my taking one near him, and Alustriel sitting at her desk.

"As I was saying," Alustriel said, "I would like to thank you for saving my life, Knight Thian, so I would like you to go with Drizzt back to Mithril Hall, where a suit of mail will be made for you. When you return, I will see about finding you a position with a merchant band."

My jaw was hanging open. "Lady -" I protested. Again.

She held up a hand, and Do'Urden laughed. "She does this to everyone, Thian. Just accept the gift. Besides, I owe you my life as well."

I shook my head. "Neither of you know that."

"True," he conceded, "but why are you arguing the point? Just accept what we are offering to you."

"Why are you doing this?" I asked. "You two hardly know me. Since I've been here, Lady, you've given me a sword, a job, and Flick."


"You know what I mean, Flick," I said without breaking eye contact with Alustriel.

She nodded. "True, I have been generous with you. Do you not believe you deserve it?"

I shook my head.

She and Do'Urden smiled. "That proves you DO deserve it," she said.

I sighed. What convoluted logic was this?

"If it eases your mind," she continued, "then rest assured that it will cost me little in monetary terms. At this level it is merely a small favor for me to ask King Bruenor to do this."

"Myself as well," added Do'Urden.

I gave up on that one. "Okay, so why is it so important for me to go to Mithril Hall to get this mail?"

"It will be made there, of course," Do'Urden answered. "No armorer in Silverymoon knows how to work with mithril. Buster Bracer does."

I stared at him. "Mithril armor?"

He nodded calmly.

Little dollar signs started spinning in my head. How much would such a thing cost?

He must have read my expression because he said, "As Ali said, it is merely a small favor. Most of the dwarves living there have mithril armor. It will not cost so much to make as you may be concerned about."

I didn't believe that for a second, but who am I to argue? Nodding slowly, I stuttered, "I . . . Thank you, Master Do'Urden, Lady."

He smiled. "Drizzt," he corrected.

"Drizzt," I echoed with a small smile.

Both he and Alustriel nodded in satisfaction.

"What of the attackers from last night?" I asked, changing the subject.

She frowned distastefully. "Assassins sent after me by one of my numerous enemies." She paused and added thoughtfully, "I must determine how they breached my magical defenses." She brightened suddenly, "Oh, before I forget, you are entitled to what was found on the mage."

I stared at her. "You're kidding."

She shook her head. "No. The victor gets spoils from the vanquished in battle. Usually it goes to the owner of the building where it took place as in the case of the fight in 'Storm Tales', but in this case, there was little damage."

Nodding at the practicality of that thought, I asked, "As a mage, was he carrying anything I could really use?" City guards and mages didn't typically carry the same kinds of items on them, after all.

"Not for the most part," she admitted. "You could use one or two of his spell ingredients as spices if you wish. Though I wouldn't recommend using the snake intestines," she added wryly.

Drizzt grimaced and I laughed. "I'll keep that in mind, thank you. Tell you what, I'll trade his spell ingredients to you for this armor you're determined to give me and everything else in my locker at the barracks."

She raised an eyebrow. "I was going to give those items to you anyway."

"I wasn't expecting anything from that mage, either. We're both coming out ahead here."

Nodding, she pulled open a drawer of the desk and pulled out a coin purse, placing it on her desk near me. "This is yours as well."

Opening it, I found a substantial amount in coinage and several gems. I looked up at her and rolled my eyes. "Great, I'm rich. Now what?" I asked dryly.

She laughed.

I'd suggest you buy the items you'll need when on the road.

"Hmm, good point, Flick."

"Adventurer's gear?" Alustriel asked in amusement.

I grunted in affirmation. "I guess I need to go shopping."

She nodded. "I will place an illusion over you for the rest of the day, since you have stated that you do not want to be recognized in town."

"Thank you for everything." Smiling ruefully, I asked, "Could you recommend a good shop, Ali?"


Most of the remainder of the day passed in a whirlwind shopping spree. After input from Drizzt, Flick had an excellent mental list, though some of the items on it surprised me. Why would I want fifty feet of rope, anyway? By that evening I was carrying around a heavy pack, filled with everything I could think of and then some. At Flick's urging, I only used the coins, never letting anyone else see the gems. He explained that they were easier to carry than an equivalent in coins.

Only MOST of the rest of the day was taken up with shopping. What was left was taken up with my funeral.

I was certainly concerned about being discovered, but I just HAD to go to my own funeral. In addition to the illusion still disguising my features, I wore my new plain cloak with a plain clasp, and I'd switched my sword to the other hip and moved Flick's sheath far around the hip to be hidden completely by the cloak. I was as disguised as I could be, but I was still nervous about it.

Still, I HAD to go to my funeral.

Arriving at the courtyard in front of the castle in plenty of time, I selected an inconspicuous spot and watched everyone else filter in. A goodly portion of the Knights turned out, of course, including all of them that I would call friends. Several merchants showed up as well, but several that I knew of only through the occasional social event came expressing more grief than was warranted. Damn politics anyway.

When Carith finally showed up, I fought the urge to join her. I couldn't run the risk of someone seeing me with her.

The service was opened by a priest of Helm of the Unsleeping Eyes, god of guardians, chanting a prayer. Once that was finished, Lady Alustriel came to the front of the gathering carrying an urn, supposedly holding my ashes. Placing the urn nearby, she started the eulogy, speaking of my unselfish devotion to the Knights in Silver and how I'd come to town suddenly, not knowing the city's ways, but still tried to fit in and make friends among the people of the city. Through the whole thing, I noticed that she kept gesturing to the urn but never directly said it contained my ashes. I almost smiled as I realized that she wanted to convey that it did indeed contain my ashes, but she was skillfully avoiding telling an outright lie.

When she was done, a cleric of Tyr the Even-Handed, god of justice, intoned a prayer and then opened the floor for anyone else to speak. I was surprised to see several people indicate that they wanted to do so. Armsmaster Starkin came forward first, talking about my early days in the city and how good a soldier I was from the very beginning. Famkins came forward and told how I would tell unusual tales to wile away the dull hours while standing watch. Chavim, the poor kid, barely got through his story of my befriending him. One of the regulars from "Storm Tales" told of how I helped thwart the robbery, and how I was a friend to nearly everyone I met.

When Carith stepped toward the front, my heart nearly stopped.

Do not move, commanded Flick, though the thought hadn't even occurred to me.

"I was a friend of Knight Thian," started Carith in the standard opening. She smiled sadly for a second then continued, "Almost a year ago now a man came stumbling into 'Storm Tales' wearing the most unusual clothing." I peripherally noticed that Astemon smiled at that. Carith was still speaking, "He was hopelessly lost, he said. He had no idea where he was, nor how to get home. Still, instead of demanding answers or becoming rude, he was charming to me. Over the following months, he and I became friends. He never demanded anything of me, only gave of his time and friendship." She stopped and looked down. Swallowing hard, she continued in a quieter voice, "I never did thank him for that. For being a true friend. Wherever he is, I hope he knows that he's left behind friends." She looked down at the urn through tear rimmed eyes and said, "Goodbye, Thi. I'm going to miss you."

When nobody else stepped forward, a priest of Torm the True, god of duty and loyalty, began one last prayer. Once he finished, Therth began chanting something in Elven, which was immediately picked up by all the other elves in the crowd. Once the last syllable faded away, the crowd slowly dispersed.

I just stood there, stunned. I'd attended more than one of my own funerals over the previous century, but this one had more impact on me than all the others combined.


Per our agreement, Drizzt and I met in the audience room the next morning just after dawnfry. He was quietly checking the contents of my backpack when Starkin entered. "Ready to go?" the armsmaster asked.

Drizzt nodded calmly, but I did so with less enthusiasm. I knew that I was expected back into the city in two months time, but that didn't mean it was any easier to leave now.

Alustriel came in to see us off. She first handed a scroll to Drizzt and then wrapped him into a hug, whispering into his ear for a time before giving him a peck on the cheek. Pulling out of his embrace with obvious reluctance, she turned to me and also gave me a hug. "You take care of yourself, Ted," she whispered, "and come back in two month's time, you hear me?" she finished, pulling back but keeping hold of my shoulders.

I smiled sadly. "As you wish, Lady. Two months."

Nodding, she quietly began casting a spell. Recognizing that she was simply refreshing the illusion over my features, I waited quietly. When she finished, all three of them peered at me and nodded in satisfaction that the illusion had worked.

She stepped to the door but paused with her hand on the handle. "Fare thee well, Drizzt and Ted."

"Thank you, Lady," I whispered, my breath nearly hitching in my throat.

With a final sigh, she exited the room.

I stared after her for a moment before I composed myself. When I turned back to the two men standing with me, both of them had solemn expressions on their faces, recognizing how tough this was on me and apparently Alustriel as well. Instead of dwelling on it, Drizzt held up the straps of my backpack so I could slip it on. Jiggling it back and forth for a moment and then adjusting one of the straps, I made it as comfortable as possible. Starkin had helped Drizzt with his pack while I was working on mine. Once we were both settled, Starkin waved us along with him. Heading out of the castle, he led us quietly through town and to the guard post near the Moonbridge over the River Rauvin.

"Fare well, ranger," Starkin commented when we arrived. "Oh," he added as an afterthought, "the Lady Alustriel asked me to remind you that you're welcome whenever you wish."

Drizzt raised a hand to him in salute with a slight smile. Nodding pleasantly at the guards, he exited the city with me following closely on his heels.

We started walking to the west, following the River Rauvin. After silently traveling for two hours, Drizzt broke the silence, "Ted?"

"Yes?" I answered absently, my mind wandering.

"I thought your name was Thian."

I smiled slightly. "Either, really. Ted was what I was called in my world. Thian is another name that I'm comfortable with, and it fits in here in Faerun much better."

He nodded, his legs never slowing their distance devouring stride. "Ali didn't tell me much about you," he commented. It was an open invitation to talk but only if I wanted to do so.

I shrugged. "You already know the important points. I was teleported here unexpectedly a year ago. I'm Immortal. Nothing much more to tell."

"What did you do on Earth?"

I chuckled. "The job doesn't exist here, and it would be impossible to explain." Under the circumstances, how would I describe computer tech support? "Let's just say that I'm used to a MUCH higher level of technology. My job dealt with that technology. I don't want to insult you, but telling you would be pointless."

He nodded easily. "If there's no equivalent here, then the answer wouldn't mean anything. No offense taken. What CAN you tell me about Earth?"

"As I said, much higher technological level. Almost the entire planet has been settled. Cities with a half million inhabitants are becoming common. Humans are the only sentient race, probably, though there is debate on the subject of dolphins. Governments are dictatorships or democracies, depending on the country."

He raised an eyebrow at me as I was rattling everything off. Once I stopped, he returned his attention to the trail and said, "A vastly different world indeed. Am I correct in assuming that your wilderness survival skills are weak?"

I chuckled. "No, not weak. They're almost non-existent. I knew some useful skills almost a hundred years ago, but I haven't practiced them since then."

He nodded. "Then while your armor is being made, I'll teach you what I can."

"Thank you."

He shook his head. "No, thank YOU. You saved my life, remember?"

Back to that? "We don't know that," I disagreed with a tired sigh.

"No, not really," he agreed, "but I want to thank you at any rate. This is an easy way for Alustriel and I to do so. Allow us this small token, Thian." He grinned slightly. "You don't want to insult the Lady of Silverymoon or one of the dreaded drow elves, do you?"

I chuckled. "Oh, was I supposed to dread you? I must remember to run, screaming in terror, at the first opportunity."

He smiled sadly. "Why didn't you?" he asked.

I frowned over at him. "I told you. Lady Alustriel had told me a few tales of the ranger Drizzt Do'Urden."

"And you didn't care that he is a drow?" he asked in mild disbelief.

I shrugged. "Recall where I grew up, ranger. Why should I care that you are drow?"

"Drow are evil," he stated flatly.

"Then should I cut you down where you stand?" I returned.

"You know what I mean," he muttered with a frown.

"You're asking why I don't treat you with prejudice? That's pretty cynical of you."

"For good reason," he answered in a low voice. "I've been met with open hatred more often than not."

I huffed out a breath in aggravation. "Look, you've browbeat me into accepting your and Ali's help. You just deal with my acceptance of you, okay?"

He laughed suddenly. "Why are we arguing about this?"

"You tell me, dreaded drow elf," I teased.

He rolled his eyes. "Okay, I'll drop it."

"Good. Now maybe you could explain to me what happened to your panther."

He smiled slightly and answered, "She's not 'mine'. To answer the question: she's at home in the Astral plane."

Going back and forth with questions and answers, the time passed quickly.


Through the entire fourteen day journey, we talked, and I learned all I could of Faerun and wilderness survival skills. He told me of the various racial etiquette, how to identify the major races, how to forage for food, how to start a fire . . . The list went on.

In turn, I told him of the history of Earth and our culture.

By the time we were camping the fourteenth night, we were at least both comfortable with each other, if not truly friends. I guessed that Drizzt Do'Urden had very few friends in life. If I was not to be counted among them, then so be it, but I could at least do everything possible to help him as much as I could.

Instead of continuing our trek the next morning, he asked me to stay here for the day. He explained that the exact location of Mithril Hall was a secret, and therefore didn't want to take me in. He seemed almost apologetic about it, but I assured him that I understood the value of secrets and wasn't insulted.

Nodding at my assurance, he promised to be back in a few hours.

Making myself comfortable, I watched the day pass for a time before growing bored. Instead of going crazy from inactivity, I talked with Flick, idly passing the time.

"Who are ye talking with?" asked a gruff voice, interrupting a point I was trying to make with Flick.

I looked up to find Drizzt walk back into our little campsite with two dwarves in tow.

"His dagger," answered Drizzt with a grin.

I don't get no respect, muttered Flick in disgust.

Both dwarves seemed to accept that answer, for some reason. "Thian, I would like to introduce you to King Bruenor Battlehammer, eighth king of Mithril Hall," Drizzt said, indicating the dwarf wearing armor, carrying a shield with a foaming mug crest, and a double bladed battle axe that looked like it'd been through hell and back. Drizzt gestured to the other dwarf and continued, "And this is Buster Bracer, Master Armorer of Clan Battlehammer." This dwarf was wearing a smith's apron instead of something more appropriate to the environment.

I stood and bowed politely to the both of them. Bracer seemed rather pleased by my action, but Battlehammer waved one hand. "Bah! Don't give me none of that."

Okay, so this dwarf didn't like the pomp and circumstance surrounding his royal status. Fine.

I turned to Bracer and said, "Well met, Armorer. How fare you this fine day?"

He smiled and chuckled. "Well enough. I'm to produce a chain mail suit for ye?"

I looked to Drizzt for guidance. At his nod, I answered, "I suppose so. Lady Alustriel just told me that she would ask for mail to be produced for me. She did not tell me what type."

He nodded and pulled a marked tape out of one of his pockets.

Before he began measuring me, I interrupted, "Forgive me, good dwarf, but I fear I may not be able to wear chain mail. I can not wear anything too heavy, for my fighting style is based on speed."

"That's nay a problem," he assured me. "Mithril chain weighs less than that suit of stubby leather ye're wearing now."

Stubby leather? asked Flick with a snicker.

Without another word, Bracer began measuring me for the chain mail.

While I was standing patiently, Battlehammer asked, "Drizzt tells me that ye saved his life as well as Lady Alustriel's?"

I frowned at Drizzt. "That is a matter of debate, King Bruenor."

"I told ye to not be so formal," he pointed out.

"You are the king," I answered with a shrug. "Shouldn't I treat you with respect?"

"Respect, yes. Obsequience, no," answered Drizzt.

"I can speak for meself, elf," said Battlehammer with a glance to Drizzt.

Drizzt smiled and bowed.

Battlehammer's look turned to a glare, which only made Drizzt's smile wider. Working with his tape measure, I could see Bracer fighting a grin.

Battlehammer waved one hand at Drizzt with a growled, "Bah!" Turning to me, he asked, "How did ye save this elf's skin?"

"I got in the way of an assassination attempt," I answered ruefully.

Bracer looked up. "Oh?"

"Long story," Drizzt said easily. "Suffice it to say that Thian saved Lady Alustriel and myself from death or at least serious harm. Therefore she asked that he be given a suit of mithril chain."

Battlehammer and Bracer both nodded, the latter returning to his task.

"No shield?" asked Battlehammer next, apparently having looked over my equipment.

I shook my head. "I use my left arm as a weapon. A shield would just slow me down."

"Drizzt said he explained why we cannae invite ye into the Hall," Battlehammer continued in a change of topic.

I nodded. "I understand the need for secrecy. If you don't want me into your Hall, then I won't enter."

"I will stay out here with him," Drizzt offered.

"You don't have to do that," I said quickly.

He shrugged. "I don't have to, but I wish to. I prefer sleeping out of doors when the weather permits."

There was that. It was the middle of the spring, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

"Well," said Bracer as he stepped back, "I can have the mail done in two weeks."

"Thank you," I replied, unsure of what else to say.

"Don't ye be getting yerself lost, elf," Battlehammer threw over his shoulder as the two dwarves left.

"Colorful character," I said with a grin.

Drizzt laughed. "That he is, but a truer friend you could not find."


The two week wait passed quickly. We talked, told stories, and taught each other games. Running out of other ideas, he also sparred with me.

The first time, it took him all of five seconds to beat me.

He was a patient teacher. Over time, he helped me close the holes in my defense. He also taught me several new offensive patterns and routines. Unfortunately, I had little to show him in return. When I mentioned this, he waved it off, explaining that teaching was a reward unto itself.

The wait for the armor was well worth it, though. Once I put on my new armor for the first time, I absolutely fell in love with it. Being mithril, it was hardly heavier than a thick shirt, but being chain mail, it provided a great deal more protection than the studded leather did.

Praising Master Armorer Bracer, I moved around, checking for my mobility. Finding no problems, I smiled at Bracer again.

He chuckled and waved one soot covered hand. "Aye, I know ye like it. Everyone does."

"I can imagine," I said. "How do I care for such a suit?"

"Keep it clean," he shrugged. "Mithril will withstand most anything. 'Twill not rust, but do nay allow it to remain in salt water overlong. The underpadding can be replaced easy enough, but the mithril itself needs little care. It'll likely last beyond yer grandson's grandson's grandson's time," he added with a smile.

Not quite, but I took his meaning. "Thank you." I pulled on the rest of my gear, leaving the studded leather armor in a neat pile. "Any suggestions?" I asked the dwarf, waving at the armor.

"The stuffy leather?" he asked with a snort.

[Stuffy leather? Do you get the impression he isn't fond of leather armor?]

Flick's howling laughter answered my question readily enough.

"I'll take care of it," volunteered Drizzt, seeing Bracer's expression.

"Well enough," the dwarf said. "Oh," he said, digging around in the bag that he'd brought along. "Me king asked me to bring something else for ye." He came up with two throwing daggers and handed them to me.

More gifts? Testing the weight and balance of the daggers, I found them to be excellent weapons, probably mithril themselves based on their weight. "Why?" I ask with a tired sigh.

"That," he said pointing to the chain mail, "is a gift from Drizzt and Lady Alustriel fer saving their lives. Those," his finger shifted to the daggers, "are from King Bruenor fer saving them."

Hell, at this rate I just need to save important people's lives a few more times and it'd set me up for centuries.

Leaning down, I replace the throwing daggers in my boots with the two new ones. Slipping the two old blades into sheathes on the outside of my backpack, I stood and turned to the dwarf. "Thank you again. Please express my appreciation to King Bruenor."

He nodded. Turning to Drizzt, he asked, "Ye coming back in, then?"

Drizzt turned to me. "That all depends on Thian."

I shook my head. "Go home. I can make it back to Silverymoon on my own. South to the river, follow it east until I hit the city. Take two weeks on my own?"

He nodded. "About that." Stepping up to he, he offered me his arm, which I clasped near the elbow as he did mine. "Fare you well, Thian."

"And you, Ranger Do'Urden. If you've ever need of another ally, know that I'll come to your call."

He nodded again and turned to gather his items, packing up the campsite quickly. I gathered my pack and helped him clear the camp. Once done, I raised one hand in farewell and then turned to the mountain pass to our south-east and headed back to Silverymoon.

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