All rights belong to the author: Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Richard A Knaak, Roger E Moore, Mark Anthony, Dan Parkinson, Michael Williams, Nick O, Teri Williams, Todd Fahnestock.
This is a short fragment for review the book. The full version can be purchased in the store.

Margaret Weis,Tracy Hickman,Michael Williams, Teri Williams, Mark Anthony, Todd Fahnestock, Nick O'Donohoe, Richard A. Knaak, Dan Parkinson, Roger E. Moore
The cataclysm

Introduction

The world was forged upon three pillars: good, evil, neutrality. In order to progress, a balance between the three must be maintained. But there came a time in Krynn when the balance tilted. Believing himself to be the equal to the gods in knowledge and in wisdom, the Kingpriest of Istar sought the gods in arrogance and pride and demanded that they do his bidding.

Having viewed with sorrow the tilting of the scales of balance, resulting in hatred, prejudice, race divided against race, the gods determined to restore the balance of the world. They cast a fiery mountain upon Ansalon, then withdrew their power, hoping those intelligent races who dwelt upon Krynn would once again find their faith — in the gods, in themselves, and in each other.

This catastrophe became known as the Cataclysm.

Michael Williams tells a tale of vengeance in his epic poem, "The Word and the Silence." He and his wife, Teri, continue the tale and turn it into a mystery, as the accused murderer's son seeks to end the curse on his family in "Mark of the Flame, Mark of the Word."

Matya, a very cunning trader, stumbles onto the bargain of her life — literally — in Mark Anthony's "The Bargain Driver."

In Todd Fahnestock's story, "Seekers," a young orphan boy embarks on a perilous journey to ask the gods a question.

For most people, the Cataclysm meant sorrow, death, ruination. For the entrepreneurs in Nick O'Donohoe's story, "No Gods, No Heroes," the Cataclysm means opportunity.

Richard A. Knaak tells the tale of Rennard, known to readers of THE LEGEND OF HUMA. Now a ghost, doomed to torment in the Abyss, Rennard finds himself transported back to Ansalon during the Cataclysm. Is it an accident, or has he been brought back for a reason?

Dan Parkinson continues the adventures of the Bulp clan of gully dwarves. Led by their valiant leader, Gorge III, the Bulps leave Istar in search of the Promised Place. What they find instead is certainly not what they expected, in "Ogre Unaware."

Roger E. Moore reveals why Astinus never hires kender to be scribes, in his story, "The Cobbler's Son."

A ship bound for Istar may be making its final voyage, in Paul B. Thompson and Tonya R. Carter's story, "The Voyage of the SUNCHASER."

Doug Niles continues the adventures of his scribe, Foryth Teal, as that intrepid historian sets out to investigate a priest's claim that he can perform miracles, in "The High Priest of Halcyon."

In "True Knight," we continue the story of the cleric of Mishakal, Brother Michael, and Nikol, daughter of a Solamnic Knight. The two survive the Cataclysm, but now they want answers. Their search leads them to an encounter with the knight who, so rumor has it, could have prevented the Cataclysm.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

THE WORD AND THE SILENCE

Michael Williams

I

On Solamnia's castles ravens alight, dark and unnumbered like a year of deaths, and dreamt on the battlements, fixed and holy, are the signs of the Order

Kingfisher and Rose -

Kingfisher and Rose and a sword that is bleeding forever over the covering mountains, the shires perpetually damaged, and the blade itself is an unhealed wound, convergence of blood and memory, its dark rain masking the arrangement of stars, and below it the ravens gather.

Below it forever the woman is telling the story, telling it softly as the past collapses into a breathing light, and I am repeating her story then and now in a willful dusk at the turn of the year in the flickering halls of the keep.

The story ascends and spirals, descends on itself and circles through time through effacing event and continuing vengeance down to the time

I am telling her telling you this.

But bent by the fire like a doubling memory, the woman recounts and dwells in a dead man's story, harsh in the ears of his fledgling son, who nods, and listens again, and descends to a dodging country of tears and remembrance, where the memories of others fashion his bent recollections, assemble his father from mirrors and smoke and history's hearsay twines and repeats, and the wavering country,

Solamnia, muses and listens.


Out on the plains, orestes,

the woman is saying, out among fires

Which the bard's voice ignited

In rumor and calumny,

There they are burning your father,

His name and our blood

Forever from Caergoth

To harboring Kalaman

And out in the dying

Bays of the north:

All for a word, my son,

A word masked as history

Shielding a nest of adders.

With words are we poisoned,


Orestes, my son, she repeats in the fragmenting darkness, the firelight fixed on her hair, on the ivory glove of her hand and the tilted goblet.

And always Orestes listened and practiced his harp for the journey approaching, and the world contracted, fierce and impermeable, caged in the wheeling words of his mother, caged in a custom of deaths.

II

Three things are lost in the long night of words: history's edge the heart's long appeasement the eye of the prophet.

But the story born of impossible fragments is this: that Lord Pyrrhus Alecto light of the coast arm of Caergoth father to dreaming and to vengeful Orestes fell to the peasants in the time of the Rending fell in the vanguard of his glittering armies and over his lapsing eye wheeled constellations the scale of Hiddukel riding west to the garrisoned city.

It is there that the edge of history ends: the rest is a song that followed on song the story involved in its own devising tied in devolving circles until truth was a word in the bardic night and the husk of event was a dim mathematics lost in the matrix of stars.

III

But this is the story as Arion told it,

Arion Corvus, Branchala's bard the singer of mysteries light on the wing string of the harp.

Unhoused by the Rending, traveling west, his map a memory of hearth and castle, unhoused, he sounded forever the hymns of comet and fire perpetual sounded the Time of the Rending, betrayals and uprisings spanning the breadth of the harper's hand, and history rode on the harp incanting the implausible music of breath.

His was the song I remember, his song and my mother's retelling.

O sing the ravens perpetually wronged to the ears of my children,

O sing to them, Arion Stormcrow:

Down in the arm of Caergoth he rode:

Pyrrhus Alecto, the knight of the night of betrayals

Firebrand of burning that clouded the straits of Hylo,

The oil and ash on the water, ignited country.

Forever and ever the villages burn in his passage,

And the grain of the peasantry, life of the ragged armies

That harried him back to the keep of the castle

Where Pyrrhus the Firebringer canceled the world

Beneath the denial of battlements,

Where he died amid stone with his covering armies.

For seventeen years the country of Caergoth

Has burned and burned with his effacing hand,

A barren of shires and hamlets,

And Firebringer history hangs on the path of his name.

IV

Look around you, my son for the fire in Arion's singing:

For where in this country, in forgotten Caergoth, where does a single village burn?

Where does a peasant suffer and starve by the fire of your father?

Somewhere to the east before a white arras, gilded with laurel and gold adulation, the bard sings a lie in a listening house, and Caergoth burns in the world's imagining, while the bard holds something back from his singing, something resembling the truth.

But let not the breath of the fire touch your father,

Orestes, my son, my arm in the dwindling world, my own truth my prophecy, soothed the effacing mother, and darkly and silently

Orestes listened, the deadly harp poised in his hand circuitous.

And the word turned to deed and the song to a journey by night, and the listening years to a cloak and a borrowed name, as the boy matured in his mother's word, and the harp strings droned in the facing wind as he rode out alone, seeking Arion.

V

High on the battlements of Vingaard Keep as the wind plunged over the snow-covered walls,

Orestes perched in a dark cloak huddled, the window below him gabled in light, and he muttered and listened, his honored impatience grown loud at the song of the bard by the fire.

Melodiously, Arion sang of the world's beginning, the shape of us all retrieved by the hands of the gods from chaos, the oceans inscribing the dream of the plains, the sun and the moons appointing the country with light and the passage of summer to winter, the bright land's corners lovely with trees, the leaves quick with life with nations of kestrel with immaculate navies of doves, with the first plainsong of the summer sparrow and the song from the bard sustaining it all, breathing the phase of the moon's awakening, singing the births and the deaths of the heroes, all of it rising to the ears of Orestes.

And rising beyond him it peopled the winter stars with a light that hovered and stilled above him, as nightly in song the old constellations resumed their imagined shapes, breathing the fire of the first creation over the years to the time that the song descends in a rain of light today on your shoulder with a frail incandescence of music and memory and the last fading green of a garden that never and always invented itself.

For the bard's song is a distant belief, a belief in the shape of distance.

All the while as the singing arose from the hearth and the hall, alone in the suffering wind, Orestes crouched and listened slowly, reluctantly beginning to sing, his dreams of murder quiet in the rapture of harp strings.

VI

Hieronymo he called himself,

Hieronymo when down from the battlements he came, supplanted and nameless entering the hall in the wake of the wind and darkness.

Arion dreamt by the fire, and his words were a low, shaping melody: the tongue of the flame inclined in the hall of his breath and the heart of the burning was a map in the eye of Orestes, who crouched by the hearth and offered his harp to his father's slanderer, smiling and smiling his villainous rubric,

Teach me your singing, Arion, he said, adopting the voice and the eye of imagined Hieronymo deep in disguises, and none in the court knew Alecto's son -


Teach me your singing, memorable bard,

The light in the heart of winter,

Singer of origins, framer of history,

Drive my dead thoughts over the winter plains

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!


Old Arion smiled at the boy's supplication at the fracture of coals, at the bright hearth's flutter at the nothing that swirled at the heart of the fire: for something had passed in his distant imagining, dark as a wing on the snow-settled battlements, a step on a grave he could only imagine there in the warmth of the keep where the thoughts were of song and of music and memory, where something still darker was enjoining the bard to take on the lad who knelt in the firelight.

Some things, he said,

The poet brings forth.

Others the poet holds back:

For words and the silence

Defining each other

In spaces of holiness.

Softly the old hand rose and descended, the harp-handling fingers at rest on the brow of the bold and mysterious boy.

The apprenticeship was sealed in Orestes's bravado, the name of HIERONYMO fixed to the terms of indenture, all in the luck of an hour, and depth of a season, but somewhere within it a darker invention that sprawled in the depths of the heart and the dwindling earth.

VII

So masked in intention, in a sacred name for a year and a day

Orestes surrendered his anger to music and wind, apprenticeship honed on the laddered wires of a harp that the gods whispered over, of a wandering in lore and the cloudy geographies tied to the fractured past, and he dwelt by the poet and traveled to Dargaard to the heart of Solanthus, to imperiled Thelgaard, to nameless castles of memory where the knights abided in yearning for something that moved in the channels of history, redeeming the damaged blood of the rose, while the story that Arion sang, his back to the dream and incredulous fire, discovered the years and the fading arm of the sword.

Seven songs of instruction arose from the fire and the dreaming: the spiral of Quen love's first geometry the wing of Habbakuk brooding above the world the circle of Solin rash and recurrent heart the arc of Jolith dividing intention from deed the white fire of Paladine perfected song of the dragon the prayer of Matheri merciful grammar of thought and the last one the high one light of Branchala that measures all song in the shape of words

Alone in the margin of darkness, Orestes surrendered and listened singing reluctantly, joyfully, as the gods and the planets and the cycle of years devolved in a long dream of murder and the cleansing of harp strings.

VIII

A year and a day the seasons encircled, according to fable and ancient decrees of enchantment, as the gnats' choir of autumn surrendered to ice and the turn of the year approached like a death and the listening castles mislaid under snow.

Orestes's apprenticeship led to a circle of fire, where the harp he had mastered and the seven songs and the fourteen modes of incalculable magic circled him back to the night and the keep and the wintry eyes of the bard singing memory into flesh, into stone, into dreaming and wind, and


Arion, he said, and Arion, tell me of time

Of the rending of Krynn and betrayals.


The bard took the harp in the foreseen night: for his memory darkened the edge of the past when knowing devises the shape of creation, and the Rending changed as he spoke of its birth in the spiral of prophecy, the brush of its wing on the glittering domes and spires of Istar the swelling of moons and the stars' convergence and voices and thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes and Arion told us that night by the hearth that hail and fire in a downpour of blood tumbled to earth, igniting the trees and the grass, and the mountains were burning, and the sea became blood and above and below us the heavens were scattered, and locusts and scorpions wandered the face of the planet, as Arion told us, and Orestes leaned closer and ARION, he said, and

Arion, teach me of time

Of the famine and plague and Pyrrhus Alecto.


Arion stroked the harp and began, his white hair cascading across the gold arm of the harp as though he were falling through song into sleep and the winter stilled at the touch of the string, and he sang the last verses as hidden Orestes reclined and remembered and listened:

Down in the arm of Caergoth he rode:

Pyrrhus Alecto, The knight of the night of betrayals

Firebrand of burning that clouded the straits of Hylo,

The oil and ash on the water, ignited country.

Forever and ever the villages burn in his passage,

And the grain of the peasantry, life of the ragged armies

That harried him back to the keep of the castle

Where Pyrrhus the Firebringer canceled the world

Beneath the denial of battlements,

Where he died amid stone with his covering armies.

For seventeen years the country of Caergoth

Has burned and burned with his effacing hand,

A barren of shires and hamlets,

And Firebringer history hangs on the path of his name.

Orestes listened, as honor and song, as blood and adoption warred in the cell of his thoughts, his father redeemed by poison, by blade by the song of the harp string rendered a garrotte, closing the eloquent throat of Arion silencing song, reclaiming his father, and transforming Caergoth from desert to garden: yet the hand of Orestes stilled in the arc of reprisal, and into the night he warred and remembered, and as I tell you this, memory wars with him still.

IX

The mourning began when the doves circled Vingaard: the poison had passed through the veins like imagined fires: and alone in his quarters, the poet's apprentice abided the funerals, settled accounts, awaited the search of the Order through ravaged Solamnia for rivals and villains, for the trails of assassins, and late on the fifth night after the burning, when the ashes had settled on Arion's pyre, only then did Hieronymo bring forth the harp

(though some there were curious, who late in the night had heard, or had thought they heard, the apprentice weeping and playing the sonorous mode of the Rending), and late on the fifth night after the burning

Hieronymo sang for the host at the Vingaard Keep and the Rending changed as he spoke of its birth in the spiral of prophecy, the brush of its wing on the glittering domes and spires of Istar the swelling of moons and the stars' convergence and voices and thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes as Hieronymo told them that night by the hearth that hail and fire in a downpour of blood tumbled to earth, igniting the trees and the grass, and the mountains were burning, and the sea became blood and above and below us the heavens were scattered, and locusts and scorpions wandered the face of

the planet, as Hieronymo told us, and then he leaned closer and now, he said,

Now, I shall teach you of time

Of the famine and plague and Pyrrhus Alecto.

Down in the arm of Caergoth he rode:

Pyrrhus Alecto, the knight on the night of betrayals.

When a firebrand of burning had clouded the Straits of Hylo.

Like oil on water, he soothed the ignited country.

Forever and ever the villages learn his passage

In the grain of the peasantry, life of the ragged armies.

They carried him back to the keep of the castle

Where Pyrrhus the Lightbringer canceled the world

Beneath the denial of battlements,

Where he died amid stone with his hovering armies.

For seventeen years the country of Caergoth

Has turned and turned in his embracing hand,

A garden of shires and hamlets,

And Lightbringer history hangs on the path of his name.

X

His duty dispatched and the old bard murdered,

Orestes returned toward rescued Caergoth, skirting the foothills, and long were his thoughts as he passed over Southlund, the Garnet Mountains red like a memory of blood in the distance:

There is no law,

Orestes murmured, his hand on the harp strings,

No rule unwritten

That your father's slanderer

Cannot instruct you,

That the man you murder

Your heart cannot honor,

Even as your hand

Concocts the poison.


The landscape ahead was diminished and natural, no thing unforeseen sprang from the heavens, the waters were channeled and empty of miracles.


So this is history,

Orestes considered,

So this is history

Now I can understand

as the road lay before him uninherited,

heirless cut off from its making and silenced by blood.

At the borders of Southlund the smoke was rising,

the Arm of Caergoth harbored incessant fire:

Orestes rode swiftly through billows of prophecy,

the stride of his horse confirming the dead words of Arion.

The cavalry plundering the burgeoning fields,

leveling villages, approaching invulnerable Caergoth,

heeded little the ride of a boy in their column cloaked in the night and in helpless mourning.

A bard, some said, or a bard's apprentice returned to his homeland burning and desolate.

The captain of cavalry turned to the weeping boy and addressed him as soldier as fellow and brother:

Sooner or later, sing you this,

Bard or bard's apprentice.

For the voice of the harper

The musician, the piper

Shall no longer be heard

In the arm of Caergoth,

Long kept from the fire

By the song of a poet

Who said she was burning already:

For a fresh fabled country

Is the nest of invasions,

The quarry of cavalry,

Ripe for the sword and the fire.

Orestes rode forth and the captain continued, turning his pale horse as a star tumbled down from the fixed dream of heaven:

For the bard's song, they tell me,

Is a distant belief

In the shape of distance.

For Caergoth was burning

When she said in her heart,

'I am Queen, not a widow

And sorrow is far from me,

Elusive as thought

Or the changes of memory.'

Sooner or later, sing you this.

And he vanished in histories of rumor and smoke, and sooner or later, a bard will sing this, in beleaguered castles abandoned to night and the cough of the raven.

Sooner or later, someone will sing of Orestes the bard, for some things the poet brings forth and fashions, and others the poet holds back: for words and the silence between them commingle, defining each other in spaces of holiness. and through them the story ascends and spirals, descends on itself and circles through time through effacing event and continuing vengeance down to the time

I am telling and telling you this.

MARK OF THE FLAME, MARK OF THE WORD

Michael Williams,Teri Williams

It began when I was fourteen, the burning, in the winter that the fires resurged on the peninsula.

I awoke with a whirling outcry, my face awash in fire, the blankets scattering from the bed. The dogs raced from the cottage, stumbling, howling in outrage. Mother was beside me in an instant, wrapped in her own blanket, her pale hair disheveled, her eyes terror stricken.

The burning spread down my neck and back, the pain brilliant and scoring, and I clutched at her hand, her shoulders, and shrieked again. Mother winced and fumbled silently, her thick fingers pressing hard, too hard, against my scarred lips.

And then we were racing through the forest night.

The freezing rain lanced like needles against the hissing scars on my neck and face. QUIET, MY DARLING, MY DOVE, LEST THEY HEAR YOU IN THE VILLAGE, her hands flashed.

We moved over slick and glittering snow, through juniper and Aeterna, and my breath misted and crystalized on the heaped furs, and the dogs in the traces grumbled and yapped.

Then it was light, and I lay in a dry, vaulted cavern on a hard pallet.

Above me the druidess L'Indasha Yman rustled, draped in dried leaves and holly bobs like a pageant of late autumn. She was young for medicine, young even for divining, and I was struck by her dark eyes and auburn hair because I was fourteen years old and just becoming struck by such things.

She gave me the Beatha to help with the pain, and it tasted of smoke and barley. The burning rushed from my scars to my throat, and then to the emptiness of my stomach.

"They've matured, the lad's scars," she said to my mother. "Ripened." Expectantly, she turned to me, her dark eyes riveting, awaiting our questions.

Mother's hands flickered and flashed.

"Mother wants to know… how long…" I interpreted, my voice dry and rasping.

"Always," said the druidess, brushing away the question. "And you?" she asked. "Trugon. What would you ask of me this time?"

She should have known it. Several seasons ago, the scars had appeared overnight without cause, without warning. For a year they had thickened slowly, hard as the stone walls of our cottage, spreading until my entire body was covered with a network of calluses. I could no longer even tell my age. I was becoming more and more a monstrosity, and no one could say why.

"Why. I would know why, my lady." It was always my question. I had lost hope of her answering it.

Mother's gestures grew larger, wilder, and I would not look at her. But when L'Indasha spoke again, my heart rose and I listened fiercely.

"It's your father's doing," the lady said, a bunch of red berries bright as blood against the corona of her hair.

"I have heard that much," I said, wincing as Mother jostled me frantically. The pain drove into my shoulders, and still I turned my eyes from her gestures. "I want all the rest, Lady Yman. How it was his doing, and why."

The leaves crackled as the druidess stood and drifted to the mouth of the cave. There was a bucket sitting there, no doubt to catch rainwater, for it was half filled and glazed with a thin shell of ice. With the palm of her hand, the druidess broke the ice, lifted the container, and brought it back to me, her long fingers ruddy and dripping with frigid rain. She breathed and murmured over it for a moment.

I sat up, the heat flaring down my arms.

"Look into the cracked mirror, Trugon," she whispered, kneeling beside me.

I brushed Mother's desperate, restraining hand from my shoulder, and stared into the swirl of broken light.

There was a dead man. He was small. His shadow swayed back and forth in a room of wood and stone, dappling the floor below him with dark, then light, then dark. His fine clothing fluttered and his hood lifted slightly. I saw his face… his arms…

"The scars. Lady, they are like mine. Who is he?"

"Orestes," she replied, stirring the water. "Pyrrhus Orestes. Your father, hanged with a harp string."

"And… who?" I asked, my sudden urge for vengeance stabbing as hot as the BEATHA, as the burning.

"By his own hand, Dove," L'Indasha said. "When he thought he could neither redeem nor… continue the line."

Redeem nor continue. It was quite confusing and I was muddled from the potion and the hour.

L'Indasha's face reflected off the fractured ice in the bucket: it was older, wounded, a map of lost lands. "You weren't told. But Orestes got his desire and now the scars have ripened."

Mother clutched my shoulder. The pain relented a bit.

"Continue what? Lady, 'tis a riddle."

A riddle the druidess answered, there in the vaulted cave, as the weather outside turned colder still and colder, on a night like those on which the fisherman claim you could walk on ice from Caergoth across the waters to Eastport.

She told me that my father, Orestes, had ridden desperately westward as the peninsula burned at the hands of the invaders. He rode with freebooters — with Nerakans and the goblins from Throt, and they were rough customers, but he passed through Caergoth unharmed. None of them knew he was the son of Pyrrhus Alecto — "the Firebringer," as the songs called my grandfather.

"Why did he… why didn't he…" I began to ask. I was only fourteen.

The druidess understood and lifted her hand. "He was just one, and young. And there is a harder reason. Orestes, NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER, had brought the fires to the peninsula. You see, he murdered his master. Your grandmother had fostered his apprenticeship with Anon of Coastlund. She taught him from childhood that he must recover his father's honor at any cost. Your grandfather's honor. So he killed Arion, that he should sing no longer of your grandfather's shame."

Mother's grip tightened on my shoulder. I shrugged her away yet again. Again the scars on my neck and face bit and nettled.

"Go on."

"Then the goblins came, when they heard the new song Orestes sang…"

When Orestes saw what his words had wrought, he ran. It was at the last village seawards — Endaf, where the coast tumbles into the Cape of Caergoth — that Orestes could abide no more of the plunder and burning. Caergoth was in flames behind him, and Ebrill, where the bandits first camped, then Llun and Mercher, vanished forever in the goblin's torchlight.

He was just one man, and he was young, but even so, surely it shamed him as much as it angered him.

At Endaf he stopped and turned into the fray. He dismounted, broke through the goblins, and joined in a frantic attempt to rescue a woman from a burning inn. Orestes was sent to the rooftop, or he asked to go. The beams gave way with him, and the goblins watched and laughed as Orestes fell into the attic, which fell around him in turn, crashing down and up again in a rapture of fire.

But he lived. He was fire-marked, hated of men, and they would know him by his scars henceforth. The burns had bitten deep and his face was forever changed into a stiffened mask of grief. A fugitive and a vagabond he was upon Krynn, and wherever he traveled, they turned him away. To Kaolin he went, and to Garnet, as far north as Thelgaard Keep and south to the coast of Abanasinia. In all places, his scars and his story arrived before him — the tale of a bard who, with a single verse of a song, had set his country to blaze and ruin.

He took to bride a woman from Mercher, orphaned by the invasion and struck mute by goblin atrocity as they passed through with their flames and long knives. Orestes spirited her away to the woods of Lemish, where in seclusion they lived a dozen years in narrow hope.

A dozen years, the druidess said, in which the child they awaited never came.

That part I knew. Mother had told me when I was very little, the soft arc of her hand assuring me how much they had waited and planned and imagined.

That part I knew. And Mother had shared his death with none but me. But I had never heard just how he had died.

"In despair," the Lady Yman told me, the cavern lapsing into shadow as her brown, leafy robes blocked out the firelight, the reflection on the ice. "Despair that his country was burning still, and that no children of his would extinguish the fires. He did not know about you. Your mother had come to me, and she knew, was returning to your cottage to tell him, joyous through the wide woods.

"She found what you've seen. Orestes could wait no longer. Your mother brought me his note to read to her: I have killed Arion, and the burning will never stop, it said. The land is cursed. I am cursed. my line is cursed. I die."

L'Indasha reached for me as I reeled, as the room blurred through my hot tears.

"Trugon? Trugon!"

Redeem nor continue. I understood now, about his anger and guilt and the terrible, wicked thing he had done. The BEATHA raced through me, and the torchlight surged and quickened.

"Why did you finally tell me?" I asked.

"To save your life," the lady replied. She passed her hand above the broken water, and I saw a future where fires arose without cause and burned unnaturally hot, and my scars were afire, too, devouring my skin, my face, erasing all reason and memory until the pain vanished and my life as well.

"This… this is what will be, Lady?"

"Perhaps." She crouched beside me, her touch cool on my neck, its relief coursing into my face, my limbs. "Perhaps. But the future is changeable, as is the past."

"The past?" The pain was gone now, gone entirely.

"Oh, yes, the past is changeable, Trugon," L'Indasha claimed, passing from firelight to shadow, "for the past is lies, and lies can always change." She was nearing the end of the answer and the beginning of another riddle.

"But concern yourself now with the present," she warned, and waved her hand above the troubled water.

I saw four men wading through an ice-baffled forest, on snowshoes, their footing unsteady, armed with sword and crossbow.

"Bandits," L'Indasha pronounced, "bound to the service of Finn of the Dark Hand"

I shivered. The bandit king in Endaf."

The druidess nodded. "They are looking for Pyrrhus Orestes. Remember that only your mother and you know he is dead. They seek him because of the renewed fires on the peninsula. They are bent on taking your father to the beast, for the legend now goes, and truly, I suppose, that no man can kill a bard without dire consequence, without a curse falling to him and to his children."

She looked at me with a sad, ironic smile.

"So the bandits are certain Orestes must die to stop the fires."

Mother helped me to my feet.

"I… I don't understand," I said. "It's over. He's killed himself and brought down a curse on me."

L'Indasha waved her hand for silence. "It wasn't the killing that cursed you. It was the words — what he said before he died. Now you must go from here — anywhere, the farther, the better. But not to Finn's Ear, the bandit king's stronghold on the Caergoth shore."

"Why should I leave?" I asked. "They are after my father, not me. I still don't understand."

"Your scars," she replied, emphatically, impatiently. "The whole world will mistake you for your father, because of the scars."

"I'll tell them who I really am!" I protested, but the druidess only smiled.

"They won't believe you," she said. "They will see only what they expect. Hurry now. FIND the truth about Orestes. The finding will save your life and make the past.. unchangeable."

I thanked her for her healing and her oracle, and she gave me one last gift — her knowledge.

"Although now you may regret your blood," she said, "remember that you are the son of a bard. There is power in all words, and in yours especially."

It was just more puzzlement.

We climbed, Mother and I, into the sled, moving quickly over thick ice on our way back to the cottage. Mother slept, and I guided the dogs and looked into the cloudless skies, where Solinari and Lunitari tilted across the heavens. Between them somewhere rode the black abscess of Nuitari, though I could not see it.

The black moon was like the past: an absence waiting to be filled. And looking on the skies, the four big dogs grumbling and snorting as they drew us within sight of the cottage, I began to understand my scars and my inheritance.


Frantically, as I gathered my clothing in the cottage, Mother told me more: that my grandfather, Pyrrhus Alecto was no villain. He had kept the Solamnic Oath, had fallen in the Seventh Rebellion of Caergoth, in the two hundred and fiftieth year since the Cataclysm. She showed me the oldest poem, the one that Arion had taken and transformed. The old parchment was eloquent. I read it aloud:

"Lord Pyrrhus Alecto light of the coast arm of Caergoth father to dreaming fell to the peasants in the time of the Rending fell in the vanguard of his glittering armies and over his lapsing eye wheeled constellations the scale of Hiddukel riding west to the garrisoned city.

"And that was all?" I asked. "All of this trouble over a poem?" I hated poetry.

I gave voice to her answer as she held forth rapidly, as the words slipped from her fingers into my breath and voice. "No, Trugon, not over that, over the other one."

She did not know the words of the other poem. She had not even seen or heard it. It was the poem of trouble, she insisted, crouching nervously by the door of our cottage. It was the poem that Father…

"Changed?"

She nodded, moving toward Father's old strongbox.

"Then Father lied as well as betrayed?"

Mother shook her head, brushed her hair back. She opened the strongbox.

I knew what was inside. Three books, a penny whistle, a damaged harp. I had never asked to see them. I hated poetry.

Mother held up one of the books.

It was the story of the times since the Rending, since the world had opened under Istar. The work of the bard Arion, it was, but more. It was his words and the words of others before him: remote names like Gwion and Henricus and Naso, out of the time when Solamnia was in confusion.

The book was battered, its leather spine scratched and cracked. As Mother held it out to me, it opened by nature to a page near its end, as though use and care had trained it to fall at the same spot, to the same lines.

She gestured that the lines were in Father's hand. Indeed, the whole book was in Father's hand, for neither Arion nor any of the bards before him had written down their songs and tales, preferring to pass them on to a listening apprentice, storing their songs in the long dreaming vaults of their memories. But Father thought he was heirless and alone, and had written them all — every poem and song and lay, from the edicts to the first shaking of the city, down through the dark years unto this time. A dozen lines or so of one verse he had worried over, scratched out, revised, and replaced, only to go back to the first version, to his first choice of wording.

I mouthed the lines, then read them aloud:


"Down in the arm of Caergoth he rode:

Pyrrhus Alecto, the knight on the night of betrayals.

When a Firebrand of burning had clouded the straits of Hylo.

Like oil on water, he soothed the ignited country.

Forever and ever the villages learn his passage

In the grain of the peasantry, life of the ragged armies.

They carried him back to the keep of the castle

Where Pyrrhus the Lightbringer canceled the world

Beneath the denial of battlements,

Where he died amid stone with his hovering armies.

For seventeen years the country of Caergoth

Has turned and turned in his embracing hand,

A garden of shires and hamlets,

And Lightbringer history hangs on the path of his name."


It was as though Father had never been satisfied. Something had drawn him to these lines again and again, as if changing them would…

Would straighten the past, make it true.

" 'Tis here, Mother," I announced, so softly that at first she did not hear, though she was staring directly at me as I read.

She cupped her ear, leaned forward.

" 'Tis in the poem. Or, rather, not in the poem."

Mother frowned. I knew she saw Orestes in me nowpoetic and full of contradictions.

I tried to be more clear about it.

"These lines Father wrote and rewrote and worked over are… are the lie. Don't you see, Mother? The druidess said that the past is lies, and lies can always change. These are — " I thumbed through the book, looking early and late " — these are the only lines he has fretted over.

"It's as though… he was trying to…" I looked at Mother. "… change the lies back to the truth."

I did not know whether that was so or not. I stepped quietly to the strongbox and took out my father's harp, one thick string missing, and held it for a long moment. It fit my hand exactly and when I put it down, I could not shake away its memory from my grasp. When I looked at Mother again, her eyes had changed. We both knew what I would say next.

"Yes, I must go, but not because they seek me. I will go because I have to find the lost song," I announced. "Father's words are still hiding something."

One of the dogs rumbled and rose from the shadows, stretching and sniffing lazily in the dwindling firelight. Then his ears perked and he gave a low, angry growl.

Mother scrambled to her feet and to the door, a confusion of soundless sobs and flickering hands.

"I know. They're coming," I said. "I must hurry. Finding the truth is saving my life. The druidess said so."

I stroked the ears of Mateo, the largest of the dogs, who looked up at me solemnly, his thick shoulders pressing against my legs until I staggered a little at the weight. I had no thought of how small I was — how things far greater would press against me when I stepped across the threshold into the early winter morning.

Mother moved slowly aside as I passed into the pale sunlight, her fingers brushing softly, mutely against my hair. I gave her a smile and a long hug, and she assured me of her own safety. In the sled lay an old hide bag, big enough for the harp and the book, a loaf of bread, and a wedge of cheese. I tossed everything in and moved off, as quickly and silently as I could.

One of the dogs barked as I lost the cottage behind a cluster of blue Aeterna branches, and the high wind shivered faintly at their icicles like the vanished notes of a song. Above the hillside nearest my home, four long shadows fell across the trackless snow.


There were other adventures that led me back to the peninsula — a wide arc of years and travels across the continent, Finn's men at first only hours behind me, then less constant, less menacing the farther south I traveled. I sent the dogs back to Mother soon and traveled alone, sometimes working for a while at jobs where nobody knew me or thought they knew me, where nobody cared that I never removed my hood.

It was a year, six seasons perhaps, before I realized exactly what it was about the song I was searching for.

It has long been practice that when a bard travels and sings, his songs are attended, remembered, and copied by those in the regions nearby. If a song is a new one, it carries to still farther regions by word of mouth, from bard to bard, from orator to folksinger to storyteller to bard again.

It is a tangled process, and the words change sometimes in the telling, no matter how we try to rightly remember. The old lines from Arion's song I heard in Solamnia as THE PRAYER OF MATHERI MERCIFUL GRAMMAR OF THOUGHT

I had heard in the small town of Solace as THE PRAYERS OF MATHERI MERCY, GRANDMOTHER OF THOUGHT

and the southern lines made me laugh, distorted like gossip in their passage across the straits.

For I had the book with me, and within it (he truth unchangeable. As I traveled, I knew I would come to a place when I would hear those scratched and worried lines of my father's — the lines about Pyrrhus Alecto, about Lightbringer and history and glory — but I would hear them in a different version.

And I would know at last what Pyrrhus Orestes had altered.


Across the Straits of Schallsea I once stowed away on a ferry. The enraged ferryman discovered me under a pile of badger hides, and he threatened to throw me overboard for evading his fee. He relented when he pushed back my hood and saw the scars from the burning.

"Firebringer," he snarled. "Only my fear of Branchala, of the curse upon bard-slayers, stays my hand from your murder." I cherished his greeting. It was the first of many such conversations.

Over the grain fields of Abanasinia I wandered, in a journey from summer to summer and threat to threat. Three times I heard "Song of the Rending" — once from a minstrel in Solace, again in the city of Haven from a seedy, unraveled bard who had forgotten entire passages about the collapse of Istar, whereby his singing lost its sense, and finally from a blind juggler wandering the depths of the plains, whose version was wild and comical, a better story by far than Arion's.

The minstrel and the juggler repeated Father's altered lines word for word. But the juggler recited them with a curious look, as though he was remembering words contrary to those he was speaking. Although I asked him and asked him again about it, he would tell me nothing. Faced with his silence, I began to believe I had imagined his discomfort, that it was only my hope and dreaming that had expected to find the missing lines.

And so, back across the straits I sailed, in the summer of my sixteenth year, and again the ferryman called me Fire-bringer, cursing me and spitting at me as he took my money.

On Solamnic shores once more, I started for home, but discovered that no village would shelter me on the journey. "Firebringer," they called me, and "Orestes the Torch," meeting me on the outskirts of the hamlets with torches of their own, with stones and rakes and long peninsular knives.

Some even pursued me, shouting that the fires would die with the one who brought them. Like the ferryman, like Finn, they thought I was my father.


To the north lay the great Solamnic castles — Vingaard and Dargaard, Brightblade and Thelgaard and DiCaela. Each would take me in of a night for the sake of my grandfather. These families would nurse me on occasion, for my scars burned with growing intensity as the seasons turned and the fires to the west raged and the years passed by me. Sometimes the knights let me stay for a week, perhaps two, but the peasants would clamor, would talk of traitors and firebrands, and I would be asked to leave, would be escorted from Solamnic holdings by a handful of armed cavalry.

The knights would apologize there at the borders, and tell me that their hearts were heavy for me… that the welfare of the order and the people took precedence… that, had there been another way, they would have been glad to…

In all those high places, I asked after Arion's song. Solamnia was, after all, the bard's sanctuary, the harp's haven. All of the schooled poets had retreated to these courts, and all knew the works of Arion of Coastlund.

I showed around the scratched and amended passage near the poem's end. All the bards remembered it, and remembered no other version. As I sat alone in the vaulted hall of Vingaard Keep, my thickened hands strumming Father's harp in the vast and echoing silence, it almost seemed to me that the walls shuddered with my clumsy music, the one string still and always missing.


In my seventeenth year, the peninsula had burned clear up to Finn's own holdings.

Out of the stronghold of his lair in the seaside caverns at Endaf, from which his horsemen could harry the trade routes north from Abanasinia and his notorious ships, the Nuitari and the Viper, could find safe harbor, Finn terrorized the cape and covered the shore with the husks of schooners and brigantines, off course in the smoke from the mainland.

It was rumored by some that an ancient evil had returned, in those brief years before the War of the Lance. Finn was one of those who harbored them, the populace whispered. For in the depths of his seaside cavern lay an intricate web of still larger caverns, tunnel devolving on tunnel, the darkness slick and echoing. This was the legendary Finn's Ear, where it was supposed that all sounds muttered in shelter of stone eventually and eternally circled and spoke. At the heart of Finn's labyrinth was said to lay a monster, his black scales glittering with cold malice and devouring acid.

They said that the beast and the bandit had struck an uneasy truce: Finn soothed the monster with the music of well paid but exhausted bards, and, lulled by continual song, the great creature received in turn the company of the bandit king's uncooperative prisoners. And as to the fate of those poor wretches, even the rumormongers were silent.

In the rough border country between Lemish and Southlund, cooling myself in the high foothills of the Garnet Mountains, I pondered the looming necessity of actually going to Finn's Ear, where the bards were singing and the caverns echoing. It was the only place I had not searched for the song.

Hooded as always to hide my livid scars, I crossed that border and stalked through the burning peninsula, keeping the towers of Caergoth to the north as I traveled toward the little villages in the west. My route took me within Finn's own sight, had he cared to leave his rocky throne and look west from the beetling cliffs.

For days I wandered through hot country and distant rising smoke. I would stand outside the village pubs, hooded and shrouded like a highwayman or a self-important mage, and through open windows I heard the nervous talk, the despair of farmer and villager alike.

Spontaneous fires arose in the dry grain fields, leaving the countryside a wasteland of ash and cinder. In droves the farmers were leaving, no longer able to fight the flames. All this disaster, they claimed, had enraged Finn to the point where, in the search for remedy, he had offered an extravagant bounty to any bard or enchanter who could extinguish the fires with song or incantation.

Hard words about a curse drifted through one of the windows. I heard the name of my father. It lightened my steps somehow, as I passed through the deserted village of Ebrill in the early morning, then over the ruins of Llun and Mercher, moving ever westward, believing now that my quest would at last be done. Endaf was the last place Finn would look for a far-flung quarry, and my father's name rode on the smoky air.

It was midmorning when I reached Endaf. I wandered the village for a while, weaving a path amid the deserted cottages and charred huts and lean-tos, all looking like a grim memory of a village. And it was odd walking there, passing the old flame-gutted ruins of the inn and knowing that somewhere in its vanished upper story my father had received the scars I had mysteriously inherited.

I turned abruptly from the ashes. I was eighteen and impatient, and had come very far for the truth. The old acrid smell of Endaf faded as I walked from the ruins on a rocky and shell-strewn path, and as I trudged west I caught the sharp smell of salt air and heard the faint cries of gulls and cormorants.


About a mile from the center of the village, Finn's Ear burrowed into a sheer limestone cliff overlooking the Cape of Caergoth. Black gulls perched at its edge, the gray rock white with their guano, loud with their wailing cries.

Steps had been chopped in the steep rock face, whether by the bandits or by a more ancient hand it was hard to tell, given the constant assault of storm and birds. I took my place in the middle of a rag-tag group of beggars, farmers, bards and would-be bandits, each awaiting an audience with King Finn of the Dark Hand.

As I waited, the bards talked around and over me in their language of rumor. The gold thread at the hems of cape and cloak was tattered, frayed; each wooden harp was chipped and warped, each bronze one dented and tarnished.

No famous poets these, no Quivalen Sath or Arion of Coastlund. They were courtiers with trained voices and a studied adequacy for the strings. Now, in single file on the rocky steps, each encouraged the other, thereby encouraging himself.

Being praise-singer to a bandit king was a thankless and shabby job, they said.

Well, generally.

But Finn, they said, was different. Of course.

It was hard to keep from laughing. In the rationale of such men, a bandit, a goblin, even a monster was DIFFERENT when coin and a warm hearth were offered.

Finn, they claimed, had joined resolutely in the search to lift a curse brought upon Caergoth and the surrounding peninsula years ago by the fire-bringing Solamnics, Pyrrhus Alecto and his son Pyrrhus Orestes. His search had entered its fourth year, his seers and shamans telling him that the curse would last "as long as Alecto's descendants lived," his hirelings telling him always that they had just missed catching Orestes. Desperate, Finn hoped that a transforming hymn would lift the curse with its beauty and magic.

The bards needled one another cynically, each asking when they would write that certain song, make their fortunes among the bandits. They all laughed the knowing laughter of bards, then fell silent.

I leaned against the cold rock face, awaiting uncertain audience. Pelicans and gulls wheeled over the breaking tide, diving into the ardent waters as the sun settled over the eastern spur of Ergoth, dark across the cape.

Carelessly, I touched the strings of the harp, felt in my pockets for the poet's pen and ink. I had traveled hundreds of miles to this stairwell, this audience. The pain of my scars rose suddenly to a new and staggering level.

The song of the bards around me was skillful and glittering and skeptical… and empty of the lines I sought. I would have to brave the echoing caverns below Finn's lair.

The druidess had told me that I could find the truth.

And the finding would save my life and make the past unchangeable. The song had to be here, or there was no song. And could the final pain of the monster's acid be any worse than this perpetual burning?

"You'll have it, Father," I muttered into the dark of my hood. "Redeemed and continued. The past will be unchangeable. Whatever you have, it will be the truth. And whatever I have, it will be better."


Finn of the Dark Hand sat in a huge chair hewn from the cavern wall. He looked hewn from stone himself, a sleepless giant or a weathered monument set as a sign of warding along the rocky peninsular coast. His right hand was gloved in black, the reason known only to himself.

Around him milled his company of bandits, rough and scarred like burned villages. They bared their knives as they watched the singers, smiling wickedly one to another, as though keeping a dreadful secret unto a fast-approaching hour.

I hovered at the mouth of the cave, listening for an hour to the technically brilliant and lifeless songs of the bards. They claimed to play the music for its own sake, for the sake of the glory of song, but they all knew otherwise, for always music serves some master.

Even Finn knew they were liars. Finn, who had held neither harp nor flute, whose poetry was ambush and plunder. He leaned into the eroded throne, dismissing the pearly singer from Kalaman, the pale lad from Palanthas and the merchant turned poet from Dargaard. Each gathered a heel of bread for his song and turned, grumbling, eastward toward Solamnic cities and the possibility of castles and shelter.

It was night. Bats rustled in the upper regions of the cavern, and I remembered an old time, a winter time, a cavern and a dry rustling sound. Two last supplicants stood between me and the bandit: a beggar whose leg had been damaged in a field accident, and another bard.

While the beggar begged and was given a loaf, and while the bard sang and received a crust, I waited in the shadow of the cave.

None of them had the song. None of them. Neither bard nor minstrel nor poet nor troubadour. Their songs rang thinly in the cave, echoing back to them and to us, throwing the music into a doubling confusion.

I had come this far, and for me there was still more to discover, more than thin music and mendicant rhymes. When summoned, I stepped to the light, and when the dulled eyes of the bandit king rested upon me, I threw back my hood.


"Firebringer," he rasped, and "Orestes the Torch."

As all the bandits hastened to be the one to slay me, to end the line and the curse before the approving eye of their leader, Finn raised his hand and stayed theirs.

"No," he rumbled. The blood of the line of Pyrrhus should not stain the floors of this cavern. For remember the curse. Remember the harm it might visit."

One shaman, seated by the stone foot of the throne, nodded in agreement, beads rattling as he fondled his bone necklace.

I followed the bandit guards into the throat of the cave, to a confusing depth where all light had vanished except the glow of candles wedged in rocks and later only the torch that guided us. In a great rotunda hundreds of feet below the surface they left me, the last of the guards covering their tracks, candle by extinguished candle, and their footsteps echoed over each other until the cavern resounded of a passing, vanished army.

I sat in a darkness most absolute. After only a moment, I heard a voice.

The language was quiet, insinuating, weaving with the fabric of my thoughts until I could no longer tell, especially in this darkness, what words lay outside me and what within.

Oh, to a wandering eye… it began, a fragment of song in the darkness.

I scrambled to my feet and lurched toward, I hoped, the passageway. Bones clattered beneath my feet, rattled against rotting wood and rusted strings, striking a hollow music. Spinning blindly in the dark, I realized I had left father's harp behind, and knew at once that I could not find my way back to it.

A second voice caught me standing stupidly in the same place, huddled in my cloak, expecting the fangs, the monster's fatal poisons. At the new sound, I jumped, flinging my pitiful knife away into the darkness, where it clattered much too loudly against the rock wall.

"Est Sularis Oth Mithas…"

And then, behind me, or what I thought was behind me, another.

Build ye the westernmost wall in three parts…

And, beyond that, another voice, and yet another, until I spun about dizzily, buffeted by voices, by echoes, by wandering sound from centuries before. For not only did the voices of Southlund and Coastlund mingle in the darkness with a chorus of High Solamnic, but the ancient ritual language seemed to change as I heard it, traveling from voice to voice, each time its pronouncements varying slightly until I realized that the last voices I had heard were another language entirely and that I had followed a passage of familiar words, familiar sounds, back to a voice that was entirely alien, speaking a tongue as remote as the Age of Might, as the distant and unattainable constellations.

I would know why, said a young man's tortured voice.

You can find the truth, another voice said — softer, more familiar.

And the finding will make the past… unchangeable.

I followed the familiar voice of the druidess L'Indasha Yman, my shoulder brushing against stone and a cool liquid draft of air rushing into my face, telling me I had found a passage… to somewhere else.

The voices were ahead of me now, ahead and behind, contained, I suppose, by the narrow corridor. Some shouted at me, some whispered, some vexed me with accents curious and thoughts fragmentary…

Se The For Dryhtnes Naman Deathes Tholde

here on the plains, where the wind erases thought

our medsiyn is a ston that is no ston, and a thyng in kende and not diverse thynges, of whom all metalles beth made

your one true love's a sailing ship

down in the arm of Caergoth he rode

I stopped. In the last of the voices, somewhere behind me in the corridor, the old words had sounded. I forgot them all — the druidess, the erasing wind of the plains, the medicine and bawdy songs — and turned about.

In the midst of a long recounting of herb lore I discovered that voice again… the bard's intonation masking the accents of Coastlund. I followed the northern vowels, the rhythmic sound of the verse…

And I was in another chamber, for the echo swirled around me and over me, and I felt cold air from all quarters, and a warmth at a great distance to my left. The voice continued, louder and unbroken by noise and distraction, and it finished and repeated itself as an echo resounds upon echo.

I held my breath, fumbled for pen and ink, then remembering the monster, sniffed the air for acid and heat.

It was indeed Arion's "Song of the Rending," echoing over the years unto this cavern and unto my listening.

So I waited. Through the old narrations of the sins of the Kingpriest, through the poet's account of the numerous decrees of perfection and the Edict of Thought Control. I waited as the song recounted the glittering domes and spires of Istar, the swelling of moons and the stars' convergence, and voices and thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes. I listened as hail and fire tumbled to earth in a downpour of blood, igniting the trees and the grass, and the mountains were burning, and the sea became blood, and above and below us the heavens were scattered, and locusts and scorpions wandered the face of the planet…

I waited as the voice echoed down the generations, from one century to the next to the third since the Cataclysm, awaiting those lines, not letting myself hope that they would be different from the ones in the leather book in my pack, so that when the lines came, they were like light itself.

Down in the arm of Caergoth he rode:

Pyrrhus Alecto, the knight of the night of betrayals

Firebrand of burning that clouded the straits of Hylo,

The oil and ash on the water, ignited country.

Forever and ever the villages bum in his passage,

And the grain of the peasantry, life of the ragged armies

That harried him back to the keep of the castle

Where Pyrrhus the Firebringer canceled the world

Beneath the denial of battlements,

Where he died amid stone with his covering armies.

For seventeen years the country of Caergoth

Has burned and burned with his effacing hand,

A barren of shires and hamlets,

And Firebringer history hangs on the path of his name.


I sat on the cold stone floor and laughed and cried quietly, exultantly. I waited there an hour, perhaps two, as the "Song of the Rending" ended and began again. I wondered briefly if this were the echo of Arion himself, if I was hearing not only the words but the voice of the bard my father had killed a generation back.

I decided it did not matter. All that mattered was the truth of the words and the truth of the telling. Arion's song had marked my grandfather as a traitor, but it had preserved the land, for what bandit or goblin would care to invade a fire-blasted country? Orestes's song had rescued Alecto's name, at the price of flame and ruin and his own life. So when Arion's song returned again, I was ready to hear it, to commit it to memory, to wander these caves until I recovered the light, the fresh air, the vellum or hide on which to write the lines that would save my father's line, my line.

It did return, and I remembered each word, with a memory half trained in the listening, half inherited from a father with bardic gifts. For the first time in a long while, perhaps the first time ever, I was thankful for who he was, and I praised the gifts Orestes had passed on to me.

And then, with a whisper that drowned out all other voices, at once the beast spoke. It was a dragon!

So he has sent another from up in the light… o most welcome… the struggle is over is over… rest there rest… no continuing… no… no…

Oh. And it seemed not at all strange now to fall to the monster without struggle or issue, to rid myself of the shifting past and the curse of these scars and their burning, and to rid all above me of the land's torture… ...

All rights belong to the author: Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Richard A Knaak, Roger E Moore, Mark Anthony, Dan Parkinson, Michael Williams, Nick O, Teri Williams, Todd Fahnestock.
This is a short fragment for review the book. The full version can be purchased in the store.