By Jack Barnwell
Seasons is the property of the author, Jack Barnwell and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email Jack with any comments and feedback on this story.
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The half-elf stalked silently through the forest, looking for his prey. He scanned the area for any signs of the person he tracked. Something caught his eye. To the side of him were broken twigs and branches. Typical humans, he thought. Always leaving their tracks lying around. Drawing a dagger, he lept with a grace that even a full bloooded elf would envy. He stalked silently for sevrel wards moe, before he saw a figue with his back to him.
The half-elf courched towards his unspuspecting prey. Leaning back the he jumped towards the target. And through the target. Landing on his side, the half-elf cursed at his own stupidty. Getting up, he turned and saw as the image of a black haired and eyed human mage waver and dissaper into thin air. Grinning at how useful the simple spell had been, he turned just in time to see movement flash in front of him.
Instict came to the fore as the the half-elf threw the dagger at the mage. The dagger thunked blade first into a duskwood. Cursing some more, the young hunter drew a second dagger and listened, pushing his hearing to its limits and beyond. For a few seconds nothing, then a slight noise, like that of something brushing against something else. Within the breadth of a second, he spun around, hurling the second dagger. This time it hit its intended target.
Standing before the half-elf was a human male, just short of six feet and fair of face and frame. His skin spoke of eastern heritage and elven ancestry, perhaps six centuries ago. Dressed in a commoner's garb and held himself like ranger, it was hard to believe he was a mage of no small skill. The dagger hovered barely an inch from his heart, floating of his accord. The mage's eyes were filled with mischief as he smiled, looking at the dagger. Moving his hand in a gesture, the dagger flipped around and hurled back towards the half-elf, who just stood there calmly.
At the last second, the half-elf leapt up, spinning in midair. The dagger flew under him, never touching him once. The half-elf landed with a third dagger ready, point held ready. The mage grinned and suddenly a staff appeared in his hands, ready for battle. His eyes went wide when his hunter suddenly dissapered in a flash of silver light. Cursing outloud in Cormyrian, the mage threw aside his staff and cast a spell that would render anything invisible in a viloet ligth. Two seconds later, the image of a figure appeared a few feet away, outlined in a violet light.
The mage smiled and drew a long-bladed knife from its sheath in his sleave, sneaking up to the unsuspecting hunter. Leaping forward, he thrusted the balde into the outlined fiugre. The knife sunk deep into the figure, and it started to come back into sight. The mage stood back to examine his work. His eyes went wide again as the thing that fade into view was not a body, but a wooded statue. It had been cloaked in an invisibilty spell.
Pain shot through his back as something hit him from behind. Doubling over, the mage groaned. Turning his head around, he saw the half-elf with his quaterstaff in hand. Staff raised high, the elf brought it down like a club, knocking the mage unconscious. Sighing he threw down the staff, then dropped to the ground, waiting while th mage woke up.
* * * * *
The moon had risen and fallen before the mage awoke, a firece head ache raging. The mage heard the sound of a fire burning. Looking up he saw that fire was indeed burning. By it was the half-elf who had knocked him out witht his own quaterstaff. Sitting up, he rubbed the back of his head and winced. There was a good sized egg on his head. Judging by the size of it, the bumb would heal in a few days. Getting up, he walked over to the fire and sat down. Looking over he saw that his opponent was smiling.
"Nice trick, Solin. But next time, could you please try not hitting me so hard. I would still like to keep my wits. By the way, where in the Nine Hells did you learn to combine spells like that?"
The half-elf, Solin, grinned. "Sorry Jase, but the spell is my secret. An old elven trick, you might say. But as for your head, it probably knocked some sense into that thick skull of yours." Reaching into a backpack near him, he took out a wineskin and took swig of it before handing it over it Jase.
Without even thinking, the mage took a pull of the wine, then sputtered as he swallowed. The wineskin held elverquiist, a elven wine made from rare fruits and distilled sunlight, which gave it ruby hue and a kick worse than a mule. Raising the flask in salute, he took another long pull. Elverquisst was hard to come by even in the best of times. He took a third drink, then capped it before returning it to Solin.
The half-elf put the wineskin back into his pack and took out some biscuits, which served as dinner for them both. Handing some over to his friend, Solin quitely ate his dinner, thinking about what had brought him into the Moonwood. It was common practice for both of them to come out into the forest every year to repeat a long ago battle between two mages of great renown. Every year the two friends would come down to square off agaisnt each other in mock spell battle. It had been like that for five years. Sighing, Solin threw his last biscuit into the fire and got up to stretch.
Solin was a half-elf born on the Moonshaes to a sylvan elf mother and ranger father. It was rare for such a copule to exist, as green elves were often the most distant of all the elven races. He looked twenty, but he was in fact forty-seven and would live for perhaps four centuries without magic. He was short of six feet by two inches, weighting a hundred twenty pounds. Black hair was worn long and unbraided to his shoulderes, covering his sharp ears, his gift from his mother. His face was fairer than his friend, which also spoke of elven heritage. His fierce green eyes missed little, which granted him the full use of elf sight. Dressed in commoners clothes, it was hard to believe he was of noble blood.
Grabing his broadsword, a fine weapon made by the Armacatha clan, a noble family of Waterdeep. Made of mithril, it was a valuble thing, it was his fahter's blade, given to his mother on his death before Solin's birth. Strapping it to his back, he grabed his backpack and slung it over his shoulders, then headed for Silverymoon and home.
"Hey, wait up. Mystra's sake, but your impatient. Don't even give a person enough time to eat," yelled Jase. Quickly dousing the fire with a spell, he gathered his bags and staff ran after the half-elf. By the time he caught up with his friend, they were at the reach of the Rauvin, the river that ran near the city. At first look, it appeared as if there were no way into the city, as the only enterance was over a deep chasam that held the Rauvin. Upon closer inspecion however, it appeared that people were walking on air. The Moonbridge was an invisible sturctaure of magical force that spanned the city. Legend had it that the city's first ruler, Ecame Truesilver, created it centuries ago, yet the bridge held magic that much older, more wilderer.
In the years past, the ruler of the city was Lady Alustriel Silverhand, a mage of great power and sister to the Symbul, ruler of far-off Algariond, and the bard Storm Silverhand, a bard of great renown. Now she was the ruler of Luruar, the new kingdom of the North. The new High Mage, Taren "Thunderspell" Hornblade was just and good in ruling the Jewel of the North. Rumor even had it that Taren played a key role in destrucion of fell Hellgate Keep to the east, elmiantating the Abyss-spawned threat for decades to come.
As they crossed the bridge, they nodded to the knights on duty before passing through the gates. They went down the main road, taking in the splendor of the most magical city of the North. In Silverymoon, all who posed no threat were welcome. The very air was filled with magic and the towers glistned with magic light. In Silverymoon, an artist could use his imagination to its fullest. As such, many towers had endless spires and many towered buildings.
As they passed the throught the Street of Fey, the ward where merchents and mages lived, Jase turned into a small grove dominated by a single three-storied tower made of flagstone. Jase's family, the Eion clan, were merchents of incredible wealth who dealt in silks and cloths of all types. Jase was the youngest of three children and was no taken with the family business, to the dissapointment of his father. He had bought this tower when he was of enough skill in magic to leave his apprenticeship to study and live away from the hustle and bustle of his family manor in the eastern ward. Saying goodbye to Solin, the mage entered his home.
The half-elf walked on through the ward and turned onto Jewel Street, entering the South ward, the place where commoners and lower-level businessmen like tavern keepers and innkeepers lived. Although a skilled warrior and noteworthy mage in his own right, Solin had no taste in fancy homes and the like. He made enough coin while acting as a guard at the Falcon's Talon, an inn near the heart of Southward. He was paid six silver a week when business was good. It was enough for him to rent a three roomed house near work. He considered the home to be comfortable enough. As he turned into the doorway he spoke a word that disbaled the wards he plaed there every week.
The small house was made of stone and motar with a stone foundation. It was simple looking and was perfect for the half-elf. As he opened the door, he entered the main room... and a small library. Book shelves made of duskwood covered two wallls, filled with books of many types. The furniture was covered with books as well, a few spellbooks, the rest books of lore and poetry. The air smelled of herbs as the common room also served as componet storage as well as a library. Solin loved reading and went to great lenghts to aqiure rare books. Many sages would pay a small fortune for even one his books. The half-elf had aquired most of his books ten years ago in a raid on a Zhentraim mage's hold. Of the six that had gone, only three remained. One, an elf fighter took as his prize a magical blade and the wizard's wand of fire. The other, a rouge took as her prize a suit of leather armor and half the coins. All Solin had taken were the books.
Tossing aside the backpack, the half-elf placed his broadsword on the rack over the fire mantle. Exiting the room, he went to his room and jumped onto his bed, exhuasted. He fell asleep before hitting the bed.
* * * * *
Jase entered his tower study, ready to replenish the spells he had casted that morning. He had gotten enough sleep when Solin had knocked him out, so he was ready to study. The young mage made a gesture, and magelight flooded the room, illuminating the study. As the place lit up however, Jase's eyes went wide and his jaw fell openwhen he saw what was before him. The study was a mess. The tables were turn upside down, the chairs were broken or thrown to the side. Spell components were scatered all over the place and beakers were broken all over the place. Worse of all, Jase saw that his many of his spellbooks and scrolls were ripped from the sheleves and many laid strewn all over the place, some ripped to shreds. The shelves themselves were reduced to so much fire kindiling, the once beautiful duskwood shelves in shards everywhere. Jase gasped at such destruction. How could anything get past his wards? It was impossible.
There was movement outside the library. Jase paled. Whoever had done this was still in here with him. Steeling himself, the mage drew his twin daggers and entered the common room. Because of his elven hertiage, Jase had elven sight and needed no light to see by. Looking around he caught sight of something flashing. It was a dagger hurling towards him. Dodging the dangerous blade, Jase came up, daggers ready. What he saw nearly made him drop them. From the darkest corner stood a drow, his ebony skin glisening in the moonlight. The drow were well known and feared as being mavolent and evil incarnate. Very few could be claimed as good. And most of those were dead because of their kin's reputation. Smiling wickedly, the drow lept towards the mage with a sword in hand, glowing with a dark light. Mihtral met steel as the daggers parried the cursed weapon.
"Why do you enter my home and destroy my property. How did you enter Silverymoon in the first palce. Surely, no guard would let your kind into this city to be polluted by such as you. Prepare to die, dhaerow!" said Jase, hurling an elven insult that was as old as the elven race. The drow visibly bristled under the deadly insult. Smiling, Jase droped his daggers and barked arcane words that were old when dragons were young. Three bolts of magical force flew from the mage's outstreached hands and flew towards the drow. They hit the drow full force, but he held his ground.
Jumping towards the stunned human, the drow slashed low. A glowing blade met the dark longsword, sending sparks flying. Jase stepped back and the two combatants started circling each other, looking for all the world like two lions fighting for a meal. Blades came and were met again and again. Then the drow came in with a high thrust aiming for the human's neck. The long sword was met again by the conjured blade.
"My name, human is Jereis Ner'jase, and I'm the last face you'll ever see, cur." said the drow in a dark, mellidous voice. Grinning, he slashed low. It clanged agaisnt the mage's sword once again.
"What a pity. I was hoping that the last face I would see would be that of a beautiful woman. Yours is the last face that anyone would see. A yeti's would be better looking."
The drow winced as the insult hit home. But he just shruged it off and said, "Very good, mageling. Considering your race, I'm sure a yeti would be the perfect mate for you." With that he stepped back and waited sword held out in one hand, waiting.
Jase snarled at the remark and his temper flared. Without thinking, he charge the drow with his sword level, aiming for the heart.
It was his last mistake.
The drow barked a word and a bolt of blood red lightning hurled towards the mage, hitting him full in the chest and hurling him back against the far wall, coming to a painful halt. Through dim eyes, Jase saw the drow walk slowly up, his blade raised. Jase tried getting up, but his body would'nt comply. Then he saw the drow's blade fall, striking the mage's heart. The last thing Jase saw was a laughing drow pull something from the pouch that hung around his ebony arm. A signet ring. Solin's ring! It was the last thought that entered his mind. Then there was darkness.
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