WeFair – Excerpt: Not How He Said it Would Go

Fair let out a deep breath and walked over and reluctantly took her place at the table.

“Where is your father?” WeFair asked.

“He is on the train,” Eddy said offhandedly. “He said this is something I need to do myself.”

Fair nodded.

Eddy swallowed hard.

Shaft gestured to the child to proceed.

He nodded and pulled on his collar.

“WeFair, I have come to bring you a gift,” he told her.

He started to fish around in his pockets in a clumsy fashion.

One of the guards stepped up and held out a hand.

“Oh, yeah,” Eddy said as he took an object from the guard.

The guard stepped back into position.

“I brought you this,” he said, holding out his hand.

Fair reeled at the sight. In his palm lay a small black felt box. She knew that box. Her suspicions where confirmed as he opened the lid, revealing three pieces of jewelry featuring vivid blue diamonds.

“No!” WeFair shouted out involuntarily.

“What?” Eddy said, pulling his hand back a little and looking at the contents.

“I can’t take them,” she said in a panicked voice. “Not those!”

Eddy dropped them on the table and stood back from them with a confused look.

“What is wrong, Fair child?” Lure asked her daughter.

Fair could only shake her head.

Shaft reached out and picked up the abandoned box. “I don’t see anything wrong with them.”

Her father fingered the jewels and passed them to his wife.

Lure examined them closely and pulled the necklace free of the container.

“It is really quite lovely,” Lure told her daughter.

Fair turned and looked at it in her mother’s hands.

“It is,” she admitted. “But I want it gone! Not those!”

WeFair turned to Eddy who bore a very hurt look on his face. “I am sorry, just not those.”

She got down from the table and stormed from the room.

“Well.” Eddy sounded bewildered. “That is not how my dad said it would go.”

I don’t know! We are running!

WeFair

“Wake up, Fair child!” Thomas shook the sleeping form on the settee. “It is time to get moving!”

“Huh?” She stirred and poked her head out from under the blanket. “It’s still dark out! I can hear the frog birds.”

“I have a special surprise for you today, but we have to leave very early to get there in time,” he said excitedly.

“What is it?” she asked, yawning and pulling the blanket off.

“I told you, it is a—”

Fair made a face as her feet hit the ground that startled Thomas and he stood up off of the bed.

Her eyes grew large then she took off at a run.

“What is wrong?” he called after her, chasing her through the library.

She did not answer but continued to dash across the main hall and into the guest wing.

“What is going on?” Margret showed up alongside Thomas.

“I don’t know. We are running!” he said and tried to keep up.

Fair disappeared behind a door and slammed it shut behind her.

Thomas slid to a stop, laughing, and Margret slammed into him. They fell splayed across the floor. Thomas could not stop laughing.

“What is so funny?” Margret asked.

He could not answer but a few moments later the door opened again. Fair stood there with her arms akimbo.

“Nothing is funny,” she said in a firm voice. “I just had to pee really bad!”

Thomas just laughed harder.

“Stop laughing!” she insisted. “I just had to pee!”

A Memory of Now

Short story:  A Memory of Now

By Eric Johnson

“I promise only a little further up this way.” I told Emma.

“How do you even know where we are going?” she whined back at me.

“Look, according to the map, I parked due east of the caves and it should just be a mile and a half hike.” I assured her.

“Are we going east then?” I felt her grip firm up on my hand, as if testing her assurance of my being able to guide us.

I smiled at her, not certain she could see me in the star light. “No, we are walking west.”

I could just make out her face. She frowned and knitted her eyebrows.

“We parked east of the site so we have to walk west to get to it.” I explained.

“How do you know we are walking west though?” The hand shifted grip again.

“Because I have Polaris in my right ear.”

That stopped her cold and she even dropped her grip on my hand. “You have a what in your what?”

I stifled a laugh; I have long been the outdoorsman, not her. It would not be so obvious to her.

“Listen,” I started to explain.

“To Polaris?” Her voice strained. “I don’t hear anything but you and the crickets.”

“No, no, no.” I walked forward and took both of her hands. They shook. It seemed all so simple, why could she not give me a chance to explain.

“Remember she is not a rocket scientist.” I told myself, though the thought somehow did not seem my own. “Make her see it.”

I removed my left hand from her right and pointed straight left and a little up to the star I instinctively knew the location of.

“Polaris is a star in the sky.” I told her. “It is always in the same place so you can use it to find your way by.”

“But it looks like it is moving” She said watching where my hand pointed.

I looked to my left, straight up my own arm and found it there, as always. But something seemed amiss.

“It is moving,” my thoughts said. Again they sounded somehow foreign. “Just keep watching.”

I did, a moment later the dot that represented my forever constant heavenly companion shifted and become two dots. One the star and one… the other one something else. It moved slowly and steadily towards the horizon. It became fractionally brighter at first. In the matter of a minute, its magnitude had doubled, and then quadrupled.

“Steve.” She dropped my hands and pointed up a hill behind us. “We could see it better from up there!”

“Don’t go up there!” my voice screamed, but not out loud. I heard it, but did not say it. Ellen did not give any indication that she did either. She already scrambled up a steep climb of scree.

“No! Wait! Don’t go up there!” I called to her.

“Now who is the scared one!” Ellen chided me.

She picked up a small rock and tossed it playfully down the hill at me.

“You have to stop her!” The voice, my voice rang out again.

I started ineffectually up the hill, calling out to her and got rewarded with some falling loose scree.

“Ellen!” I called to her, but she pulled herself up over a ledge a short distance up.

“You have got to get up there.” I felt myself commanding me, but still unsure.

“Okay, give me a minute to figure this out.” My voice sounded contemplative. 

A moment later it continued. “Okay, it took me a week, but I think I got it.”

“A week?” I asked the air around me.

“Steve!” Her dulcet voice called down to me from above. “The view is remarkable from up here! You have to get here.”

“You have to get her down and now.” My thoughts told me.

Then suddenly I felt dizzy with vertigo. I felt as if in a high place, I felt the wind blowing at me, whipping my hair into my face. I took in the fantastic view, but I did not see Ellen anywhere. I looked down. My entire body absorbed a sudden cacophony of emotions at once. Below me the valley lay out beautifully lit by the star light. It felt wonderful, but looking further down my emotions went from elation to horror, regret, destitution, and sorrow. There lay Ellen.

Ellen lay broken below; she had fallen off the precipice and onto the rocks below. I shook my head and blinked hard.

I still stood at the base of the hill.

“You coming?” Her voice rang down to me again.

My own voice said, “Get her down or get up there or SHE IS GOING TO DIE!”

“What happened just then?” I wondered out loud.

“I put the memories out of sync for a moment, which is what took so long. Now get up there now!”

The loss of her still fresh in my mind gave me courage and strength to scramble up the side with speed beyond what I thought imaginable.

I crested the steep hill and she stood over near the edge where I had seen her body. She took in the same beautiful vistas I knew of but had never actually seen before from this view, yet.

“Come away from there!” I cried out to her and she turned and smiled at me.

“It is so wonderful! Come look at it with me!” She held out her hand to me and in that moment, lit by the stars, she looked perfect. The wind blew her long hair out behind her. Her shirt and skirt blown against her features showed her goddess like form. Her smile, I could write songs about that smile. Her arm outstretched, a promise from god of riches everlasting if only I reached out to take it.

Then the moment shattered. Her foot slipped and she slid backwards slightly and then down roughly onto her chest.

“Ow!” she said as she hit the ground and she went silent. But she still moved backwards off the edge as the rocks acted as bearings beneath her body.

The image of her broken body set itself in his head again and I dove forward just grasping one of her hands before it slid away. I pulled with both hands and managed to stop her slide. Blood covered some of the stones, not much but I could see she had a cut on her head.

I stopped her fall, but could not get her back up. Her limp body seemed to weigh more than I ever imagined. My grip continued to slip.

“You need to get her other hand” I heard myself instruct me. “You had to get both then brace with your knees to get her up.”

I made a mad grasp with my right hand for her other hand and nearly lost the one I had. Ellen edged a little more away.

“Try again! You get it this time. I remember it now!” I said in my head.

I thrust myself a little forward as I made the attempt and my hand closed around her wrist. I pulled. My other hand slipped now and I loosened it slightly and reached up her wrist there and got a better grip.

“There is a rock outcrop by your right knee, brace with that.”

I pulled my knee up and hit good solid rock just above my knee. As I placed my knee I felt a biting in my leg.

“God dammit!” I shouted out and heard it echoed through all the valleys around.

“Oh, I forgot about the dog catcher, sorry.” My own voice said in my head.

Dog catchers are these little small one inch round cactuses that have between three and five inch spines on them. They grow in masses around rocks in the desert and my dad told me they were dog catchers because if you brought your dog out here, and let it run around, it would come back with these completely covering the bottom of their body.

I shut out the pain of multiple needles digging into my flesh and pulled backwards until I had Ellen’s form against me. Not knowing what else to do, and needing to get her further, I leaned back and then to the side so that she briefly laid on top of me before I rolled her off.

I sat up and looked at her body there, whole. She had a marvelous body and I appreciated it all the more for knowing what could have just happened had I not been here. But that memory seemed to be fading from me somehow. I remembered looking out over the valley then looking down, but now only remembered grey shapes in the darkness below. The horrible emotions faded quickly too.

“What is going on?” I spoke out.

“I am giving you some of my, or rather your memories from the future.”

“But how?” I asked the voice.

“A device I found. Actually we found it.” The voice stammered for a moment. “You found it. I have to keep reminding myself here who is whom.”

“What device?”

“This will take some time.” Came the response and then silence.

“How long?” I finally asked.

“That was about two and a half months.” My voice said finally. A metal object, glowing and smoking, appeared on the ground in front of me.

“I had to find it, separate it from its memory and then find a way to make it belong here in this one.” My voice said in a matter-of-fact way.

“What is it?” My question, I did not verbalize it, but my future voice seemed to hear it.

“It is a communication device unlike any other.” I sounded rather snooty as it explained, “It can transmit along fourth dimensional wavelengths as long as the other three dimensional positions are relatively the same.”

“So where are you?” I asked, out loud this time.

My voice snickered. “Right here beside you.”

I looked about quickly. I did not see another of me. That reminded though of the unconscious body that lay on the top of the hill with me. I had to figure out how to get her out of here and keep her alive.

“She will be fine. She was up here with me last time, but had an appointment this time.” I annoyed myself with the way I talked to me.

“She had to go see her mother. We got married you know.” I continued in those thoughts of my future self.

“So you can transmit message back in time?” I asked.

“Not messages per say, but thoughts. You receive them as your own.” I explained to myself, “Every time I have to respond to you, I have to pull up our next memory, compose it the same as it was but add my response to it. You are not so much hearing me, but remembering that you heard me.”

“This is too weird” I said to myself, or maybe to him, this future me. I said it to one or both of us.

I checked on her form. She breathed steadily and her head injury did not look serious. But the low light made it hard to tell. Not till then I finally remembered the flashlight I carried in my bag. I had wanted to save all the battery for the cave so we walked by star light.

“Let me see if I can make it easier. This will take a bit.”

I waited for only a moment, and then bent down over her still form. I could not help but smell her body as I came close. She always smelled of freshness. Kind of a clean you don’t get from perfumes. Sweet, but not artificial I guess is the best way to describe it. I planned to ask her to go steady tonight in the caves. It surprised me she had agreed to come out here. Looking back, the whole evening turned into one bad idea after another. I flowed the light over her form and she seemed okay, just unconscious and the one cut on the head. It did not show any signs of bleeding any more.

“Here, how is this?” the voice returned.

I instinctively turned in the direction the voice came from and there stood someone.

Me? I don’t know. I could not tell immediately. It looked somewhat like me, I had much shorter hair shaved on the sides and a neat left part on top. It looked very businesslike and adult to me. I had gained weight. I wore a double chin and my tummy stuck out far enough that I probably could not see my own feet from that perspective. Come to think of it, the figure had no feet. Most of the legs just faded into nothing and I could see the background through them.

“Oh, the legs.” The image said and he placed his hand on his forehead… or my hand on my forehead.

He shifted for a moment and reappeared about a foot out of position. This time he had legs.

“They say that is why ghosts never have legs; they forgot what they look like.” The image explained and laughed at the idea. I noticed though that the legs were slowly fading out again though.

“So I have got to get her down.” I said. “What did I do?”

“You left her here.” The body lacked legs again, but this seemed unimportant.

“What?!?” I asked, shocked.

“You went on and found the device then got help.” The image said. “I remember it very clearly. She was fine.”

“I don’t know” I hesitated.

“She is here with me now, I know she was fine.” The image replied.

“Wait, I thought she was with her mother.” I said.

He shook his head. “That was five days ago. She likes it out here and comes out half the time to join me.”

The image seemed to stop and consider something then said, “Wait a second.”

The image flickered and appeared right nearby. Next to him stood Ellen. You could not mistake Ellen. She radiated beauty. It looked like she had never cut her hair as it flowed down in long tresses that had a wonderful natural ringlet curl to it that blossomed out close to the bottom. She had put on a little weight, but it all showed just as curves. Her lips filled out a little more maybe. Her skin, flawless, except for that tiny scar on her forehead. She did have legs, long and slender, but showed nice tone in all the right spots. God she was heaven.

The image of my older me smiled, he remembered exactly what I thought.

“But she nearly just died!” I said, but somehow I felt a little unsure of my own statement.

“What?” my older me seemed shocked. “She just fell and hit her head. I remember.”

“But what about that part at the bottom of the valley, her broken body?”

The image of Ellen disappeared and my older self changed position again.

“I can find no memory of that. It never happened.”

“It did, or at least I think it did.” I felt confused, but I had a point to make. “Look, I remember, or at least I remember remembering that she fell off the cliff and died.”

The image flickered again. The new image did not even have a hint of legs. Actually he lacked everything below the belly button.

“No, I do not remember showing that to you. I have no memories like that.” He insisted. “She nearly fell, we caught her. I remember that very clearly.”

“But she did…” I started hopelessly. I did not know what I wanted to gain from this except some kind of acknowledgement that I did not imagine it.

“I want to get her out of here.” I finally said weakly.

“You will, but you need help.” He seemed to implore. “Go get the device and then go get help! This is what I remember you doing. It worked out fine!”

I sighed. I reached down and ran a finger along the side of Ellen’s face. It felt warm and soft. I could not leave her here.

“Come on,” the voice pleaded. “The sooner we get the communicator, the sooner that we can get her some help.”

I looked again at her and then the image. I shook my head.

The image flickered out for a moment, and I took that as my cue to pickup Ellen. I lifted her from under her arms and pulled her up to me. Her smell warmed my nostrils. I shifted some and tilted her to the side a little and then scooped with one hand for her knees and only got one of them. I took two steps to regain my footing and nearly toppled us both over. In the back of my head somewhere the image from over the edge of the cliff emerged again before fading into oblivion. I tried another grab and had her now around the back and lifted with both knees. I had a comfortable grip but her body already started to weigh me down.

“You are going to need help. If you try to go down yourself, you are going to fall.” The voice and I presume the legless body because I did not bother to turn and look, had returned.

I continued to the edge where I came up.

“No!” The voice shouted right as my foot dislodged some scree and I went down hard on my ass.

Somehow I still held the girl in my arms.

Then we started to slide. I pulled her to me as tight as I could and tucked the top of her head under my chin as best as I could.

I lost track of what direction we were going besides down. At some point I hit my own head and just remember getting hit a lot after that. All the while I clutched the precious cargo to me and sheltered it as best as I could.

We stopped. My feet and head and switched places along the way and Ellen became a heavy weight on top of me. I slowly rolled a little to set her down. We moved slightly on the loose rock here, but not much. Somehow I knew we already made it to the bottom and most of the danger passed now.

I laid her gently beside me, looked her over. She did not appear to have any new injuries and still breathed regularly.

I passed out.

I don’t know how long unconsciousness gripped me. When I awoke, everything seemed the same as before except there I heard a voice calling my name, my own voice.

“Steve!” it persisted. “You need to get up!”

I listened to it and slowly pulled myself up. I ached all over but I felt relatively whole. I did not See any bleeding and fortunately had no broken bones. My head throbbed though with each movement.

“Get up! It is important to get moving!” I heard myself warn further, but I did not rush. Movement felt too painful.

“Listen, I remember it clearly. After you get up, you go after the device. When you get there, you meet someone and they come back to help you with Ellen.”

I shook the fatigue out of my head and instantly regretted it. I could hear my heartbeat loudly inside my head. I felt it even. Each beat pressed outward on my skull followed immediately of the sensation of sucking back in on the counter beat.

I made it to my hands and knees then pushed myself back into a kneeling position. Gravity pulled the excess blood from my skull and a sudden shock of pain pulsed even louder with my heartbeat before it started to fade.

“If you do not hurry though, the other guy is going to find it. I still remember us finding it though so there is still a chance! Let’s get going!”

I stood up and as the blood completely cleared the brain, the pain faded a little. My future me desperately pointed west.

I felt one foot step forward and then the next. It seemed as though I remembered walking before taking the steps. My feet just filled the destiny already set out.

“That’s it!” he called out.

I looked down at my feet beneath me, but did not see them there. I could not remember what my feet looked like at that instant and though I moved forward, I could not see my feet doing the work.

I stopped. I looked down and clearly saw my feet standing directly beneath me. I seemed to remember now that I stopped walking again, but I could not quite picture the memory. Seems I remembered the feet moving but could not see them move as I stood there and stared.

“We must go now! I am not sure if we can make it.” He pleaded. “We find it now just before meeting the other guy. If we delay, he will find it first!”

It was a he now, it was not me. It was not a future of myself, at least not any future I wished to be a part of. No one would just walk away from a helpless person in the middle of a desert.

“Go, we must go—“

I made a decision. As soon as I made the decision, I no longer heard the voice. I did not look to see if he still stood there. I turned around and went back for Ellen. Ignoring all pain, I gently picked her back up in the same position we had taken down the hill and started back towards the car.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered something about someone else being out here with me through this ordeal, helping me through it. But somehow I could not remember who it was. Even as I tried to remember it as I walked with my beautiful burden, I remembered less and less, as if it never happened.

 

Tales of Uncle Catpaws – The Time I Rode a Dragon (Complete)

Tales of Uncle Catpaws

And the time I rode a dragon.

Part 1

 

The Kender stood on top of the balrog corpse with his topknot swaying.  “Ha!  That’ll teach you!”

The dwarf named Tinstack shuffled forward and knocked the Halfling off the body.  “Get off with you Quicksnatch!  You didn’t even do anything!”

“Yes I did!”  He picked himself up and dusted himself off.  “Ask Ephellia, I gave her the potion that saved you!”

“It was her potion to begin with!”  He roared.

The elves each cleared their throat.  Telling them apart could be difficult.

Quicksnatch paid them no mind.  “She dropped it!  Had I not found it and kept it safe for her you would definitely be dead!”

“You mean if you hadn’t stole—”

“What!”  The kender frothed.  “I never steal!  Stealing is wrong!  I would take you down a notch but then you would not be able to see over your boots!”

“Again with the short jokes?”  Tinstack complained.  “I am taller than you and if you do not shut up I will cut you in half and be twice as tall as you!”

“Tempers.”  Ephellia said in a calm but demanding voice.  “We need to get moving.  Did he have it?”  She directed this last part to the kender.

One of the elves tapped his toe impatiently.

“No!”  Quicksnatch said.  “I was just about to tell you that when Dumbstack accosted me and called me a thief!”

“In half you cretin!”

Ephellia held up a hand in the dwarf’s direction to calm him.  “Check your pouch, maybe it fell in there while we were fighting.”

“Yeah!”  Quicksnatch dropped to the ground and immediately upturned his pouch across the stone floor.

“We need to get moving.”  One elf said.

“Just take his pouch and let’s go.  We don’t need him.”  The other elf interjected.

Ephellia shot them both dagger looks but they did not back down.  Quicksnatch, lost in exploring his belongings missed the whole exchange.

“Hey!”  Tinstack rushed in and knocked the kender over.  “That is mine, you thief!  And that too!”

The dwarf plucked a couple of knick knacks from the pile.

“Oh!”  Quicksnatch exclaimed.  “I was wondering where I got those.  You must have accidently dropped them in my bag earlier.  It’s a good thing my bag was there to catch them or else you might have lost them!”

A hand reached past the kender and scooped up a couple of wands from the pile.  Quicksnatch watched as the treasures disappeared into the cloaks of the elves.

Ephellia spotted two rings, a crystal, and an enchanted belt in the pile that belonged to her.  She left them there knowing shortly after claiming them they would be right back in the pouch.

“Is this it?”  Quicksnatch help up a rusty object.

“Lemme see that!”  Tinstack rushed in and swiped it away from him and examined it closely.  “It is a key alright, not sure if it is the right one but we can give it a try.”

“I guess it did fall—”

Tinstack walked past the kender and as he passed he shoved him in the chest and sent him reeling over backwards.

“Hey!  Watch out!”  He complained.  “You nearly knocked me over!  You should watch where you walk.”

“I was.”  The dwarf grumbled under his breath.

Ephellia offered the kender a hand up and realized her folly as she watched a bracelet vanish from her arm as he stood up.

“Clean that mess up and let’s go already!”  An elf complained.

“Keep your knickers in your britches Shelfmouth!”  The kender taunted.  “I have to repack my bag.”

“Shealfalla, you uncouth ferret leaving!”

The opportunity to join in a game of insults slipped by the kender as he became engrossed by his belongings again.

“Where did I get this?”  He asked holding up a familiar bracelet.

“It fell off my wrist.”  Ephellia stated holding her hand out.

“Oh, great!”  Quicksnatch said with a smile.  “I am glad I found it for you!”

Ephellia fastened the catch on the bracelet but knew the demi-human would probably have it again within the hour.  Probably sooner.

“So where is this rock?”

“Not a rock, it is a gem.”  Tinstack said.

“It is the main stone from King Faavur’s crown.”  Shealfalla informed the kender.  “We have told you before but you were not paying attention.  It has been lost for centuries.”

“Oh yeah!”  The Kender stood up with the pouch returned to his waist and looking even more bulging than before.  “The stone thingy goes in the crown and Sharknet wears the crown and becomes king?”

“Sharhett.” The other elf corrected.  “And yes, and we have to get back to Greenhaven before sunset tomorrow when the imposter is going to be crowned and take my rightful place.”

“Sheesh!”  Quicksnatch said.  “Then why are you guys taking so long!  We should get going!”

“In half!”  The dwarf growled.  “I will cut him in half!”

“Then there would be two of me!”  The kender said joyously.

Taking a deep breath, Ephellia watched them begin to move forward. The bickering between Quicksnatch and Tinstack continued as they moved down the hall. The flickering light of their torches teased the edges of the room making each stone appear to be shimmering. Moving closer to the balrog she wiped the blood from her sword on his tattered clothing. Cleaning it with precise movements, she could see the reflection of the room and the two elves that leaned together to whisper in the language of their fathers.

Which one? Was it Shealfalla, with his quick temper and rush to find the stone? Or was it the cool and collected male that he called brother. One of them had already betrayed them to the imposter for merely a promise of wealth. That one would not live. But, would she have to fight the other when the time came.

Standing slowly, she cast her long braid back over her shoulder and slid her sword back into it sheath. The familiar weight of it and the sound of it sliding home was a comfort for the woman who knew that at the end of this day, she would have to kill someone she called friend.

Part 2

 

The missing arm did not slow down her attacker.  She swung her bastard sword again and watched it tear away half of the rib cage.  The skeleton’s other arm still held its sword and swung it around towards her and with a quick reversal of her sword she parried it easily.  She then hacked upwards and separated the skull from the torso and kicked out knocking the rest of the shambling mess of bones and dried skin collapsing backwards.

Ephellia stepped back from her kill and assessed the battlefield.  Nearby Quicksnatch seemed to play with his skeleton by taking aim and knocking single bones off the structure and the blunt end of his hoopak.  She heard him laugh and taunt with each swing while he danced around, his topknot always about a second behind him and trying to catch up.

Tinstack eschewed his axe and used his hammer with great results turning bones to dust with each blow.  The elves had a group of three torches.  That’s what they were now anyway, the skeletons still writhed and swiped at them but they would soon be ash.

The headless body before her tried to move some and reached up with its one remaining arm.

Ephellia dismissively amputated the limb and stepped towards Quicksnatch.  Her sword put off the soft blue glow she was accustomed to as it cleaved the skull of the skeleton.

“Hey!”  The kender complained.  “I was not done with that!”

“Yes you were.”  Ephellia said gently.  “If I know you then I am sure you are eager to see what traps are on that door!”

She pointed to the great vault door.

Quicksnatch’s face lit up and he literally skipped away.

“It’s dead you know.”  Ephellia assured the dwarf as he kneeled on the ground reducing every scrap of bone to dust.”

“It was dead when we got in here!”  He did not look up from his work.  “That did not stop it from tearing my apron with that rusty sword of his!”

Ephellia rolled her eyes.  “I think you can stop worrying about it now; there is nothing left to attack you.”

Tinstack took aim at a wiggling finger joint and bashed it into oblivion.  “Is the kender working yet?”

“I just sent him to the door.”  Ephellia stated.

“Maybe he will spring the trap and it will kill him.”  The dwarf looked up and smiled at the prospect.

The elves appeared next to Ephellia.  “We may still need him for any traps on the inside.”  One of them said.

“Hey!”  The kender yelled out.  “Watch this!”

Everyone turned and looked at the Halfling just in time to see him plunge his arm into a hole in the wall.  A groaning sound reverberated overhead and the sound of something tumbling echoed from above their heads.

“You idiot!”  Tinstack hollered while ducking down and covering his head.

Shealfala rushed forward towards the vault door.

“Wait!”  The kender shouted and he jumped between the door and the elf.

When the elf did not slow his approach the kender smacked him in the forehead with his hoopak sending the man reeling backwards.

Suddenly the rumbling stopped and the room stood silent.

“Wait for it!”  The kender said hopping from one foot to another.  “This is going to be neat!”

Without warning a whole section of the ceiling separated itself and slammed down across the vault door as one large slab.

“You fool!”  Shealfala stood up rubbing his head.  He then did something Ephellia had never seen him do.  He drew his sword.  Rune characters covered the blade from hilt to tip and they vitually glowed and sparkled in the torch light.  “I am of royal blood and you attacked me!”

“I saved your life you foolish point ear!”  The kender stated.  “You would have been smashed into tiny elf bits!”

The elf swung hard at Quicksnatch and the kender parried quickly.  The sword embedded itself into the side of the hoopak and wrenched it from the hands of the Halfling.  “And you sealed the vault!”

The kender ducked and rolled away while the elf attempted to dislodge the ironwood staff from his sword.

“No I didn’t!”  The kender stood up on the far side of the room away from the elf.

Shealfala discarded the hoopak to the side and charged the kender.

Tinstack appeared between the two; hammer in one hand and axe in the other.  “You back off Quicksnatch, I just saw him save your life.”

“Yeah!”  The kender added from behind his stocky protector, arms akimbo.

Sharhett appeared next to his brother with a wand drawn.

“Teaming up on me, eh?”  Tinstack set his feet firmly into a defensive stance

Ephellia rushed forward to try to assist her friend but a blinding flash knocked her back as Sharhett released the energy of his wand.  She fell back and shielded her eyes.  As the blast cleared the black burn in her retina remained.  She blinked to try to clear her vision so she could see what might be left of the dwarf.

Amazingly the dwarf stood there unharmed.  His beard, normally neat and down on his chest had split and went over his shoulders.  His helm was missing and his hair stood straight back, there was smoke or steam coming from the ends of his hair.

The kender seemed no worse for wear.  In fact he smiled and waved to Ephellia.  “Isn’t this fun!”

“You missed!”  The dwarf sneered still holding his defensive pose.

The elves looked at each other.  Shealfala raised his sword.

“Stop this at once!”  Ephellia’s voice echoed down through the corridors of the dungeon and a couple of times made it back to the vault room.

Everyone froze in place looking at her.

“I saw it myself.”  She said.  “If you had not been so stupid rushing in there you would have been crushed.  Quicksnatch saved your life.”

“Told you!”  The kender added.

“Shut up!”  She barked at him and he sought shelter behind the dwarf.

“But he sealed us of from the vault!”  Shealfala complained.

“Did you?”  She directed this towards Quicksnatch.

“Of course not!”  He said.  “You hired me to get you in, why would I block you from getting there?”

“So what do we do then to get past…” Shealfala gestured at the new wall covering the vault door..  “… that?”

“I was just about to tell you that before and then you tried to kill me so I did not get to say!”  The kender said.  “That was neat what you did while trying to kill us, I have never seen such a bright light, can you do that again?”

The elves fumed.

“Settle down.”  Ephellia advised the elves then turned back to the kender.  “How long do we have to wait?”

As if in answer to her question the room started to rumble.  Slowly the stone slab went back up into the ceiling.

“That long!”  Quicksnatch skipped over to where the vault door stood.  “It has an automatic reset but I could tell by the clockwork on the trap that it only had one more go.  It will not trigger again!  You should have just listened to me instead of trying to kill me!”  He taunted the elves with the last part.

“Let’s get inside then.”  Ephellia stated returning her sword to its sheath.

The dwarf slowly lowered his hammer and ax as the elves turned their attention to the kender’s ministrations on the door.

In short order the vault door rolled away to one side revealing a small cavern with boxes and barrels full of equipment, weapons, armor, and treasure.

Sharhett pushed his way past the kender.

“Hey!”  Wait!”  The kender protested.  “Don’t touch anything until I check it for traps or at least wait for me so I can see what happens!”

The elf ignored all the treasure and walked directly to a small chest atop one of the piles of boxes overflowing with coins and gold chains.  He whipped it up without caution and opened the lid.  Sparkles danced along the walls.  Sharhett laughed loud.

Shealfala rushed over.  “Did you find it brother?”

Sharhett’s expression went dark and faster than his brother could react he pulled a wand out, aimed it, and release the full fury of the spell.

Shealfala’s torso vaporized in the close range blast and his head fell into a heap upon his legs.

Sharhett laughed loudly and then pointed his wand in the direction of the rest of the party.  “When I lead the elves into Her army she will be thankful to me and bestow upon me great rewards!”

“What are you talking about Shark Bait?”  Quicksnatch asked.

The elf pointed the wand directly at the kender and started saying some arcane syllables.  The dwarf stepped directly between.

“You didn’t learn last time?”  The dwarf asked as he took up his defensive stance again.

Sharhett stopped mid chant.

“Bah!”  He said and stashed his wand away.  “I can take you without or without magic!”

Before their eyes the elf’s form seemed almost to melt and reform.  Replacing the elven body stood a nine foot tall silver draconian.

“I am hungry anyway and I can feast on your bones!”  The draconian’s voice hissed on the sibilants.

Ephellia drew her sword and leapt forward right alongside the charging dwarf.

“This is the best day ever!”  The kender shouted as he passed by them to get first attack on the draconian.

The draconian lashed out at the Halfling but Quicksnatch easily dodged the blow and brought the blunt end of his hoopak up under the chin of the monster.

The dwarf swept in next and smashed his hammer heavily into the knee of the draconian.  A loud crack rent the air and it screamed out in pain.

Ephellia came in at a run, put a foot on the back of the dwarf and went air borne at the draconian.  She smacked heavily into the chest of the monster and it screamed out in pain only no noise escaped its throat.  Both hands went to its neck grasping and pulling.  The draconian tossed Ephellia aside and continued to clutch at its throat.  Eventually its hand closed around the pommel of a sword buried to the hilt in the base of its neck.

It stumbled to the side and made a gurgling noise.

“He is going down!”  Quicksnatch yelled excitedly while jabbing the creature’s gut with the forked end of the staff.

The creature’s form started to go liquid again and changed before their eyes.  For a moment Sharhett stood before them, sword coming out of his chest and struggling.

“Sharknet!”  The kender cried out and he bashed the head of the elf in hard.

The draconian fell to the ground sideways knocking over a barrel of swords, his form went liquid again and then he lay on the floor unmoving.

“What in the wet coal is that?”  Tinstack cursed looking down at the body.  He then looked up at Ephellia as she approached.  He took a couple of steps back.

Ephellia looked down on the body and it was astonished to find herself looking at her own form.  The draconian now looked just like her in its death.

“Oh wow!”  Quicksnack appeared at her elbow.  “He looks just like you!  You killed yourself!”

“No, he is a draconian.”  She stated simply as she sheathed her sword.  “Some of them turn into the form of the person that killed them.”

“Hey!”  The kender protested.  “I hit him last!  He should like me then!”

She shook her head.  “Doesn’t work that way.  It was the sword that killed him.”

“Pocket holes!”  The kender cursed.  “It would have been neat to see another me.”

“One of you is plenty for my tastes.”  The dwarf growled.  “In fact that might be one or two too many!”

“How could one of me be two too many?”  The kender asked cheerfully.

Tinstack thrust his hand out and pushed the kender away.

Undeterred Quicksnatch continued to berate him with questions about the math of his statement.

“One thing.”  Ephellia interupted.  “How did you not die in that blast earlier?”

The dwarf grinned wickedly then reached into the collar of his shirt and produced an amulet on a chain.  “I have never trusted magic so I got this to protect me.”

“So you wear that to protect you from magic?”  She asked him.

He nodded and grinned.

“You do realize that the amulet itself is magic.”

His grin slowly faded and he finally just stuffed the necklace back into his shirt.  “Yeah, whatever.”

“Hey guys!”  The kender called their attention back to him.  “What are we going to do with this?”

Quicksnatch held aloft the gem they last saw in the hands of the draconian.

 

Part 3

“Let’s get away from this place!”  Ephellia shivered as she looked down at the body that mirrored hers.

“But there is still so much here!”  Quicksnatch petulantly moaned.  “Seriously guys!  Come on!”

“We have what we came for.”  Ephellia stated.

“Maybe we do.”  Tinstack interjected.  “It’s somewhere in that fleabag’s pouches!”

Ephellia turned back towards the entrance and the dwarf followed.

“We have to see what is in all the boxes!”  The kender jumped up on a chest to shout after them.  “It could be anything!”  He stated.

“Bye!” Tinstack waved very briefly over his shoulder and did not look back.

“Ephellia!”  The Kender jumped.  “Come back!”

The chest under the Kender gave way and rolled forward off of its stack.  The kender’s legs followed it but the rest of his body did not.  He found himself horizontal in the air with his topknot dangling in the air above him.  Then he slammed into the floor back first.  His hair piled up on his face a second later.

“I’m okay!”  Quicksnatch called out.  “Wait!  No I’m not!”

A stack of crates from just behind the chest wavered and teetered his direction before reaching their tipping point and falling directly on top of the kender.  A muffled scream rang out as bolts of silk spilled out of the crates all over him.

“Should we go back for him?”  Tinstack asked.

Ephellia smirked at him and turned back to go find their diminutive companion.

Two legs and one arm stuck out from under the pile of shiny fabric.

“I’m dying under here!”  Quicksnatch pleaded.

Ephellia reached down and grabbed one flailing arm and pulled.  The Halfling slid out with hardly any effort on her part.

“Oh wow!  You saved me!”  Quicksnatch Jumped up and hugged Ephellia.  He dropped back down and started embellishing his experience.  “I might have been crushed to death, or suffocated, or I could have been eaten alive by moths, what an exciting way to die!”

Ephellia did not pay him any attention, her eyes had landed on a long black box that lay with the other crates that had fallen.  It was black and smooth.  The finish on it was like glass.  The torches in the room reflected brightly off of it and she could actually make out the image of the flames in the reflection.

“And when I tell the tale I will make sure everyone knows you were my savior.”  The kender prattled on.

Ephellia took a step forward placing her foot on some of the fallen silk and reached out for the box.

“They will sing songs about you back in Kendermore!”

“Come on you guys!”  The gruff voice of the dwarf put in.

Ephellia grabbed one end of the box and slid it across the cloth till it lay before her.

“Parades and everything!  Hey, I really should check that for traps.”

The surface of the box was exceptionally smooth and cool to the touch.  She heard an unintelligible whisper in her ear.  She longed to open the box.

“Really though, you shouldn’t, could be trapped.”  The kender took two steps back and covered his ears.

“What is going on?”  The dwarf started back towards the other two.

A slight hiss sound emitted from the box and she felt air sucked in as she cracked it open.

As she opened it it still looked dark inside as if the light was fighting with the lid still.  Slowly the contents came into focus.  Laying a the finest black felt she saw an ornate sword.  Bejeweled it looked more fit for a wall than suitable for battle.  She reached in and grabbed it.

Holding the blade aloft Ephellia gazed upon its beauty.  The jewels each held a sparkle that burst out when she gazed directly at them.  It held her entranced.  The voice whispered to her of deeds to be done and power to be gained.

“Ephellia!”  Someone called out to her.  Someone shook her arm.

In defense she whipped the sword around in the direction of her attacker.

She watched as a head ducked down below the swing and a long trail of hair pop up before following the head down.

“Quicksnatch?”  She said coming out of her trance.

“Wow!”  The kender exclaimed.  “You almost got me!  You want to try again?  Though I doubt you would do any better, I would expect it this time!”

She shook her head and glanced and the sword again.  “Its name is Glimfury.”

“Who is Glimfury?”  Quicksnatch asked.

“You okay?”  Tinstack asked.  “You seemed a bit zoned there, and then you swung at Quicksnatch.  Of course who wouldn’t want to.  I know I think about it all the time.”

“He just surprised me, that’s all.”  She pulled her other sword from its sheath and set it down on one of the boxes and then sheathed the new sword.  It fit perfectly.

She stepped away from the other sword and did not look back.

“Look at that!”  The kender squatted looking closely at something on the floor.

Ephellia and Tinstack moved in closely to see what caught the kender’s eye.

“It’s hair.”  Quicksnatch stated pushing something around on the ground.  He reached around and pulled his topknot around front and scrutinized it closely.

“Hair?”  Ephellia asked.

“Stop wasting our time!”  The dwarf complained.  “We need to get moving!”

“It is the same color and…”  He examined the tip of his own hair.  “Yep!  I am missing just a little bit!”

“How did you lose hair?”  Ephellia asked.

“And why do you care?”  The dwarf exasperated.

“You cut it off of me!”  The stated pointing at Ephellia.  “When you swung at me, you trimmed the very end of my hair off.  “That must be some awesome blade to cut so precisely!  Can I see it?”

Ephellia’s hand immediately went to the hilt of the sword and took a step back.  “No!”

“Hey, no, I wasn’t going to touch it or anything!”  Quicksnatch backed up with his hands raised.

Ephellia found herself panting and her heart raced.

“You sure you are okay?”  Tinstack asked again.

Ephellia slowly released the hilt and took a deep breath.  “Yes, the fight just got me jittery I think.  And seeing that.”  She pointed at the corpse with her likeness.

The dwarf nodded.  “Let’s get going.”

 

Part 4

 

 

Quicksnatch looked down at the corpse of Ephellia.  A huge cut from the right shoulder traveled almost all the way to the left hip.  The kender wrinkled his nose at the stench from the entrails.

With only a moment’s hesitation he then started doing what his genetic programming told him to do, he pilfered.  He managed to find several gold coins, a ring, two daggers and scroll.  All of these items promptly disappeared into the depths of his pouch.

He moved over to the other corpse, this one of the dwarf.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.”  Quicksnatch said as he rifled through the pockets.  This corpse had a big chuck missing from its head and one leg was missing.at just above the knee.  The body provided a very similar collection of odds and ends.  Just as he went to stand up from the body he noticed something.  He kneeled down again and examined one of the buttons closely.  He fetched a dagger from the pouch and deftly cut the button free.  Holding it in his hand as he stood up he frowned.

“It’s not pretty anymore?”  He complained and tossed the button aside.

“What’s not pretty anymore?”  Tinstack asked him.

“Your button, it turned into what looked like a piece of black slag.”  Quicksnatch answered.

“Are you finished yet?”  Ephellia asked the kender.

“Yeah, but I really wanted that button.”  The kender looked around at the ground, spotted the offending button and gave it a quick kick and it skittered off among the rocks.

“You can’t have my buttons and if you try to take one you will have one less finger when you draw your hand back.”  Tinstack stated.

Quicksnatch walked over to the dwarf corpse and gave it a good kick in the side.

“Hey!”  Tinstack complained.

“What are you worried about?”  Quicksnatch asked.  “It’s dead.”

“But still.”  Tinstack said.  “It just does not seem right.”

The kender kicked again.

The dwarf grunted and turned away.  “Are we leaving or not?”

“Sure sure.”  Quicksnatch said.  “I have been waiting on you.”

“Well stop playing with…”  Tinstack became flustered but finally continued.  “Quit playing with my corpse.”

“It’s not yours though.”  The kender replied and kicked one more time for good measure.  “They look just like you guys though.”

“That’s because we killed them.”  The dwarf said.  “I notice there are no kender shaped corpses, maybe there should be?”

“Nah.”  Quicksnatch used his hoopak to vault over the body in front of him.  For good measure he turned around and brought the staff weapon down hard on the chest of the dwarf corpse.

“Would you cut that out!”  Tinstack whined.

The kender hit it one more time.  “Okay.”

Ephellia and Tinstack stepped out onto the trail and the kender skipped along behind them.

“How far is it to Lordgreen?”  The Halfling asked.

“Just as far as it was to get here from there.”  Tinstack announced and then grumbled under his breath.

“Wait a minute!”  Quicksnatch suddenly shouted and stopped dead in his tracks.

Ephellia turned around, “What is it Quicksnatch?”

“How do I know that one of those bodies back there are not the real Ephellia or Tinstack?”

The dwarf rolled his eyes and turned around and started down the trail again.

“You remember the button you cut off?”  The human asked.

The kender nodded.  “It was very pretty, just like Tinstack’s but it turned ugly.”

Ephellia nodded.  “You did not cut a button off.  You shaved a scale off of a draconian.”

“Oh.”  He said in a voice of wonderment.  He stood there still as a statue for a moment looking blankly at the ground, then suddenly he took to his feet and ran back towards the dungeon entrance.

“Can we just leave him?”  Tinstack begged.

Ephellia half smiled but shook her head and then walked back up the path to the entrance.

“It’s okay!”  They heard the kender’s voice call out from ahead.  “The corpse is the draconian.”

A moment later the lithe kender came skipping back down the path.

“And how pray tell do you know this?”  The dwarf asked..

“I cut a button off her blouse.  It turned into a scale.”  The kender skipped right past the two.  “So I guess you two are the real Ephellia and Tinstack!”

The dwarf shook his head and followed the kender.

Ephellia checked the trail behind them for a moment before following as well.

“Wait!”  The kender stopped on the trail just ahead of them.

“What now you five fingered discount freak?”  The dwarf barked.

Quicksnatch passed an opportunity of taunts, a game in which he was dearly fond of, as something else troubled him.

“What if one or both of you are draconians?”

“I am not a draconian.”  The dwarf crossed his arms.

A dagger appeared in the kender’s hand.

“What are you doing little one?”  Ephellia asked.

“I want to know if he is a dwarf or a draconian.”  Quicksnatch moved to close the distance between him and the dwarf.

The dwarf took a couple of steps back and grabbed to draw his axe.  “You do it and I will kill you!”

“Just a button.”

“No!”  The dwarf drew the axe and took a defensive stance.

“He is not a draconian.”  Ephellia assured the kender.

“Just one button?”

The human shook her head.  “No, let’s get going.”

“I will give it right back to him.”  The kender looked down at the ground and draw a line in the gravel with his toe.  “I promise.”

“No!”  Tinstack burst out.  “Do it and die!”

“Fine.”  The kender then looked up at Ephellia.  “When he turns into one of those creatures in the middle of the night and kills you, just remember that I tried to warn you.”

Ephellia shook her head and they continued.  The kender took the lead again but the dwarf took up rear guard to put as much distance between him and the button crazed Halfling as possible.

 

Part 5

 

“Another day’s journey and we should be there.”  Ephellia set down her pack next to a tree.  “I am going to find some water.  Quicksnatch can you get us some rabbits to eat?”

The kender twirled the end of the hoopak around a couple of times till it made a whistling noise then he stopped it suddenly in a salute to Ephellia.  “Will do!”

“And as usual I will get firewood.”  The dwarf grumbled.

“Your axe to makes the job a lot easier.”  Ephellia stated.

The dwarf grumbled some more and started to cross the field towards the woods.  The kender fell in next to him.

“Didn’t she say that you needed to be hunting rabbits?”

“I am!”  Quicksnatch said defensively.  “I am using your clumsy foot steps to flush them out!”

“Why I shoul—”

The kender put his hand out and slapped it against the dwarf’s chest.  “Did you hear that?”

In an instant the dwarf was in a crouched defensive stance, axe in hand.  His eyes scanned the grasses and the woods nearby.

The kender slipped a stone out of his pouch into the pocket of the hoopak sling and started the whole rig twirling over their heads.  “Over there!”  He pointed with his nose.

“Where?  Who?”  The dwarf started moving forward slowly in the direction indicated.

“Pst Pst!”  The kender signaled the dwarf and shook his head when his companion looked back.

“The dwarf held his position and looked hard where indicated.

A woosh noise sounded and a rock flew through the air from the tip of the hoopak and plunged into some thick grasses.

The grass rustled and the dwarf tightened his grip, ready to lunge.

Suddenly two rabbits emerged from the hillock and scampered in opposite directions before quickly disappearing into the grass again.

“Horse noodles!”  The kender cursed.  “I was sure I would have had one!”

“What?  That was over some rabbits?”  The dwarf brandished his axe towards the kender.

Quicksnatch failed to notice the physical threat.  “I guess you are not very good at flushing them anyway.  Maybe Ephellia is better at it!”

“Go find out!”  Tinstack still held the axe aloft.

“I will!”  The kender said.  “Good idea.”

He turned to go but then came right back to the dwarf and held out his hand.

“What is this?”  The dwarf took something out of the kender’s hand.

“It’s your button, I said I would return it.”  Quicksnatch said.  “Don’t worry, you’re not a draconian.”

“I have been telling you that!”  The dwarf yelled at the retreating kender.

 

The kender ran into the small clearing at the trees and smacked right into Ephellia as she arrived there too.

“We need to get going.”  Ephellia stated.

“I almost had two rabbits in one shot!”  The kender bragged.  “But the clumsy dwarf messed up my shot.  Hey did you get water yet?”

“No time.”  Ephellia said.  :”Do you still have the gem?”

“Of course!”  Quicksnatch stated proudly.  “Keeping it safe, just like you asked!”

“We need to go then, right now!”

The kender started to reach into his pouch to assure her the gem was okay when he realized he had something in his hand.  He looked down to identify it and then quickly closed his hand again.  He glanced at Ephellia and narrowed his eyes.  “I will go get Tinstack!”

The kender did not wait for a response but turned around and ran off back towards the dwarf, a few minutes later he found him breaking a fairly substantial limb down with his axe.

“I thought you were going to bother Ephellia!”  The dwarf complained as he saw the kender run up.

“I did…”  Quicksnatch gasped heavily trying to get air.  “Maybe.”

The dwarf’s face turned serious.  “I have never seen you so out of breath, what happened?”

“Ephellia, ran into her.  It came off in my hand.”  The kender said between puffs.

“What did?”  The dwarf asked.

The kender held out his hand palm up.

“This was hers?”  Tinstack asked.

The kender nodded.  “It was one of her blouse buttons.  I checked, she has one missing now.”

The dwarf picked it up off the kender’s palm and examined it closely.  He nodded firmly and then flicked the black draconian scale off to the side.  He grabbed up his axe and held it across his body and took off back towards the camp at a run with the kender right behind.

The braches whipped back slapped the kender in the face as he attempted to keep up with the dwarf.

“Wait up!”  Quicksnatch barked just as a dwarf released another branch.

The kender stuck out a hand and caught this one and the next couple of steps took him into the clearing.  The short legs of the dwarf pumped quickly as he neared his destination.

“Oh, there you are!”  Ephellia looked up from digging through her pack.  “Where is the kender?”

The kender stepped up behind the dwarf right at that moment.

“Do you still have it?”  Ephellia asked.  “You did not lose the gem did you?”

The human stood up right and walked towards the two men.

“What’s his name?”  Tinstack held his axe out in front of his body in a blocking gesture.

“What are you talking about?”  Ephellia touched her fingers to her chest and made a half step backwards.  “I know who he is.”

The dwarf shook his head.  “No.  What is his name?”

Ephellia looked back and forth in a little bit of a panic.

“What is my name!”  The dwarf demanded.

Ephellia looked up and frowned at the dwarf.

“You’re missing a button.”  The dwarf gestured towards the human with his axe.

Ephellia looked down at her blouse then looked back up at them.  Her face contorted into something grotesque.  It solidified and the rest of the body followed in form.

“Give me the gem!”  The draconian reached out with a scale covered black arm.

“Quicksnatch, run!”  The dwarf lunged forward bringing the axe through an arc at the monster.

“No way!”  The kender yelled back and he hurled a dagger at the creature.

The axe sliced empty air as the draconian leapt back but the dagger embedded itself into the shoulder of the draconian.  The creature let out a roar and yanked the dagger and flung it back at the kender in a single motion.

“You have to get the gem far away!”  The dwarf leveled the axe head at the draconian and charged impaling the draconian on the short spike at the tip.  “It’s now your mission!  Get it back to the elves!”

The kender stiffened at the mention of a mission.  He saluted with his hoopak and took off running in the opposite direction.  A short ways away he spotted a stream and made for there.

“If I walk along the stream for a while I can make them lose my tracks!”  He said out loud regardless of lacking an audience.

As he entered the bush line along the stream he stopped in his tracks.  He spotted a person kneeling at the edge of the stream.  He squinted a little to be sure he recognized the person right.

“Ephellia?”  He said in a startled voice.

She looked up at him.  “Quicksnatch, did you get any rabbits?”

“Ephellia!”  The kender shouted.  “It is you!”

“Of course it is me, I have only been gone for ten minutes!  You act like I have been gone for ages!”

The kender stood with his mouth open before he snapped to.  “Tinstack is killing you!”

“You are making a lot less sense than normal.”  Ephellia lifted a canteen out of the water streamed down the fur covered side.  She let the flow stop before capping off the top.

“Seriously!”  The kender bounced back and forth pleading.  “You have to come see!  He is killing you right now!”

“Me?”  She smirked then froze.  “Me?  As in someone who looks like me?”

“Well they were a lot scalier when I left.”

Ephellia dropped the canteen and dashed up the stream bank.  She drew her sword as she ran.

“Yes!”  She heard Glimfury’s voice cry out in her mind as she burst into the battle.  Tinstack tumbled backwards just as Ephellia arrived.  His axe fell and rebounded off a root to a distance out of the dwarf’s grasp.  The Draconian raised a claw in the air and readied to gut the dwarf.

Ephellia heard a scream of joy in her head at the same moment as her sword met with the upraised claw.  She could feel no hesitation in the sword swing from the skin or bones.  The draconian swung down at the dwarf but the lower arm and hand just kind of floated for a moment before falling away.

The Draconian screamed out in pain and Ephellia followed up her swing with a back hand across the back of the head and sliced the upper two thirds off the body.  The scream turned to a gurgle that stopped once the body finished crumpling to the ground.

Ephellia looked down at the mostly headless corpse at her feet.  She was getting tired of seeing herself dead so often.

“You okay?”  She asked the dwarf.

“What is my name?”  He asked her.

“Come on now.”  Ephellia reached down for the dwarf’s hand to help him up.

He batted it away and rolled away to get up on his own.  “No, what is my name?”

“Tinstack, are you feeling okay?”  The dwarf released a gust of air from his lungs.

“I hate draconians.”  Tinstack said as he leaned back against a tree and then slid down into a seated position.

 

Part 6

 

Four guards stood outside the city gate with the gate itself closed behind them.

“It’s market day today isn’t it?”  Quicksnatch asked in a low voice.

Ephellia nodded.  “This road should be teaming with carts going in to the city and the gates should be open.”

“Maybe they are securing for the coronation tonight?”  Tinstack said weakly.

Ephellia shook her head.  “No, not this tight.  They need to get supplies into the city.”

Ephellia placed her hand on the grip of her sword.

“Are we about to kill something?”  A voice whispered in her head.

She let her hand fall off the hilt and the voice went silent.

“You don’t think they canceled market day do you?”  Quicksnatch said with a whimper.

Ephellia nodded.  “Yes, I think they have.”

The kender stopped in his tracks.

The dwarf walked past him but stopped as he looked at his companion’s face.

“Are you crying?”  Tinstack asked of the Halfling?

Quicksnatch made wet soggy noises with his nose and then rubbed his face on his sleeve.

“What is going on?”  Ephellia circled back to the pair.  “Is he crying?”

“If that is not crying, I don’t know what it is.”  The dwarf said.  “Quicksnatch, snap out of it boy!  We have a mission!”

The kinder sniffed loudly.  “The question is why are you not crying?  It’s market day!  It is like the best day ever! And they canceled it!”

“There will be other market days.”  Ephellia assured him.  “And today we would not have had time to go to it anyway.  We need to find out what happened to Sharhett and get the gem to him.”

“But we killed Sharhett!”  Quicksnatch mourned.  “Couldn’t we have just looked around a little?”

“No, we killed a doppelganger draconian of him.”  The dwarf corrected.  “He may still be alive.”

“Hey!”  One of the guards approached from the gate to the stationary party.  “What are you doing out here on the road.  It is restricted!”

Ephellia turned around towards the guard to answer but as soon as the guard saw her face he stopped dead in his tracks with his mouth hanging open.  Then he took a few steps back and landed with a clank as he and his armor clad body hit into the ground.  In a mere moment he regained his feet and ran back towards the gate shouting something.

“Well that can’t be good.”  Tinstack stood at Ephellia’s elbow.

“I don’t know why he should be acting that way.”  Ephellia pondered.

“Maybe he was so happy to see us that he wanted to go back and tell the others so they could all meet us and congratulate us on doing such a great job!”  The Kender’s mood suddenly lifted and he skipped ahead of the human and dwarf.

“Quicksnatch wait!”  Ephellia yelled.

The Kender continued towards the city a short distance away.  Ephellia looked ahead and all four guards stood at the ready with swords draw and held defensive stances in front of the gate.  Then she looked up at the wall.

“Stop!”  She commanded in her voice reserved for just such occasions.

The kender stopped dead in his tracks and immediately after he stopped an arrow slammed into the ground between his feet.

“That nearly hit me!”  The kender complained.  “You need to be more careful!”  The kender shouted towards the archers atop the wall.

“I don’t think they did that on accident.”  The dwarf said.

Ephellia instinctively reached for her sword but stayed her hand.  “Don’t draw your weapons.  They could just kill us before we even reached anyone.”

Two of the guards approached from the gate with swords drawn.  “Identify yourselves!”

“I am Ephellia Silverside, and I am accompanied by Tinstack Sharpaxe, and Quicksnatch Catfeet.”

“They are not really cat feet, that is just my uncle’s name.”  The kender added.

“That is what I suspected.”  One of the guards said.  “You are under arrest by order of King Heir Sharhett!”

“Arrest?”  The dwarf asked Ephellia.

“He did not have cat feet either, though I am not sure about his uncle.”  The kender continued.

Ephellia shrugged at the dwarf then turned back to the guards.  “On what grounds?”

“Kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder!”

“What are you talking about?”  The dwarf called out.  “And are you saying that Sharhett Holtfound is still alive?”

“Yes, but no thanks to you.”  The guard growled and brandished his sword at them.

Ephellia instinctively reached for her sword.

 

Ephellia stood on a plain of grass.  Actually as she looked around it appeared to be a hill.  The grass slowly curved down and away from her in every direction until it just vanished at the edge of sight.  Nothing broke through the grass.  It all looked the same, not even any flowers or weeds showed.  She turned in a full circle and every direction she saw the same thing.in every direction.

“Plain I know.”  A voice came from behind her.

A black man stood there in clothing woven of silver threads.  His skin looked like polished ebony.  He lacked hair.  He did not even have eyebrows she noted.  She reached for her sword and only found air.

“I am not there.”  The man said with a smile.

“What do you mean?”  She asked him.

He shook his head and did not answer.  He gestured to their surroundings.  “I said it is pretty plain out here.”

She looked around again and saw only grass had to agree with him.

“It is not usually this way, but I did not want any distractions.”

“Distractions from what?”  She approached him and tried to grab out for him but caught only air.

“Pay attention.”  He growled.  “Don’t do that again.  We only have another minute or two.”

“Why did you bring me here?”  She demanded.

“Because you have something on you that is interfering with me, it is keeping me from being my full strength.”

“What are you talking about?”  She sounded confused.  “I don’t have anything of yours or that would do anything to you.”

“You are wearing a necklace.”  Her hand went right to it and closed around it as he told her this.  “And it is blocking most of my power.

“What power?”  She asked him, still gripping the necklace.

“That necklace is centuries old and has been imbued with some negation field.  It is not aimed at me but something else, but it is effecting me.”  He told her.

She opened her hand and looked at the small silver dragon pendant.  “It was a gift from my mother.  I have always worn it.”

“Have you ever taken it off?”  The ebony man stood next to her now.  His body gave off a cool radiance.

Ephellia wracked her memories and could not ever remember a time that she had ever removed it.

“Has the chain ever broken maybe?”  He walked around in front of her.

She shook her head.  That did seem odd now that he had mentioned it.

“So take off, if it is just a necklace, then take it off.”  He instructed her.

She felt no desire to remove it and simply dropped it back to her chest.

The man snorted.  “I thought as much.  You must take it off if you want me to be at full power.”

“Who are you?”  She had to look over her shoulder at him this time.

“Oh!  We are out of time!”  He said suddenly with a snap.  “If you want to live, you had better let go of me.”

“Let go of you?”  She shook her head to try to get through the confusion.  “Who are you?”

“I am Glimfury.”  He told her.  “Now let go of me.”

 

 

Ephellia looked down at her hand where it was just next to the hilt of her sword.  Her hand felt particularly warm.  She looked up and the two guards stood with swords brandished and behind them several archers stood with crossbows at ready and aimed at her chest.

“Good!  Now drop your sword belt!”  The lead guard demanded.

“What happened there?”  Tinstack asked.  “You zoned out for a little bit. And a bad time to do it too!”

“I was talking to someone she said absently and she pulled the buckle on her belt and the sword belt fell to the ground.

Nearby a guard had his foot on Quicksnatch’s back.  She looked at the dwarf and saw two guards busied themselves tying him up.

As her belt hit the ground someone grabbed her from the other side and pulled her arms behind her.  The force of the person behind her knocked her down to her knees and with some pushing the person had her face down on the ground.

Ephellia hardly noticed the rough treatment.  She felt with her mild what she had on her body and she could definitely feel the necklace at her throat and the little trinket dangling there.

 

 

“If Sharhett is alive then we need to see him!”  Ephellia insisted.

A couple of guards held them captive in an interrogation room and had chained their hands down to a table while the guards went through their stuff.

“Sharhett is alive regardless of your previous attempts to kill him!”  One of the guards barked.

“Why did you run from the city the day he was assaulted?”  The other asked while digging through Ephellia’s pack.

“We did not run!  We were on a mission!”  The kender complained.  “And we were with Sharknet too!”

Ephellia gave Quicksnatch a stern look and he seemed to melt back from her gaze.

“Err.”  The kender looked back and forth for a moment.  “I mean Sharhett.  We went with him to look for…”

Both guards stopped searching and stood up and stared at the Halfling.

“Looking for what?”  One of the guards took a step closer to him.

Quicksnatch looked at his two companions and then to the guards.  He looked down for a moment and mumbled something to himself.  Finally he addressed the approaching guards.  “Yeah!  We were looking for a good place for a picnic!”

One guard slapped a meaty hand on the kender’s shoulder and leaned him back.  “You I will search first!”

“You already have my pouch!  I can show you anything in there you like, I have these two buttons that are quite amazing and I cannot quite remember where I got them from but you really have to see them.”  Quicksnatch gestured with only his fingers towards the pouch against the wall.

“In due time, I need to search you to make sure you have not stashed anything on you.”  The guard barked and reached for the Halfling.

Quicksnatch burst out into a fit of laughter.

“What is that about?”  The guard pulled back slightly.

“I’m ticklish!”  The kender claimed as he wiggled.

“I have not touched you yet.”  The guard stated and moved forward again.

Quicksnatch burst out laughing again and wiggled away from the prying hands.

“Get over here and hold this thing down.”  The guard waved the other guard over.

“Unchain his hands?”  The other guard asked.

The first guard shook his head.  “You want untied kender hands loose while you are holding him down?”

Quicksnatch wiggled and giggled through the whole process of being held down and searched.

After a few minutes the two men pulled away.  Sweat dripped from their brows and they huffed for breath.

“Would it be easier if we just kill it?”  One guard suggested.

“Yeah.”  The kender interjected.  “If you kill me it would stop being so ticklelish!”

Ephellia rolled her eyes.

“You are next missy!”  The guards moved towards Ephellia.  “I think I may enjoy this.”

Ephellia scowled at him but did not verbalize any response.”

“You get the dwarf.”  The guard at Ephellia ordered.  “I got this one taken care of.”

A low growl emerged out of Ephellia’s throat.

The guard pulled Ephellia into a hunched-over standing position with her hands still chained down.  He started low and worked his way up on her body.  When he got a little personal she pulled away.  He grunted and pulled her back and continued his search being a bit handsy in places.  Ephellia had difficulty fighting against him.  Luckily her struggles kept him from feeling up too much.  They both came to a standstill when his hands closed around something hanging from her neck.

“What have we got here?”  The guard cackled.  “A pretty little trinket.”

He opened his hand and looked down at the small silver dragon charm.

Ephellia looked at the charm and then at her guard.  A wicked smile cracked his face as their eyes met.

“I think I will keep this for myself.”  He chortled and closed his hand in a fist around the talisman and he pulled slightly.

The guard’s eyes kind of glazed over for a minute and he stopped moving.  Then he looked down at his hand and released the dragon.

“You find anything over there?”  The guard said turning away from Ephellia.  “The dwarf didn’t have anything.”

“Nothing.  Did the girl?”  The other guard asked.

The first guard looked at Ephellia for a brief moment and then shook his head.  “I…  I am going to search her in a bit.  I am going to go through the other stuff.”

“But didn’t you just?”  The second guard came over the join him against the wall where the bags and weapons of the party had been tossed.  “I can search her if you like.”

The first guard turned and looked at Ephellia again and then quickly glanced away.  “No reason to worry about it.”

“You want to go through the kender pouch?”

“Not me, it is likely full of traps!”

“No traps!  I can go through it for you and tell you all about everything in there!”  Quicksnatch volunteered.

“Shush you stupid fool.”  Tinstack admonished.

“What is this?”  The second guard lifted up a scabbard.

“I probably woul—”  Ephellia started to argue.

“Shut up you!”  The guard with her sword barked.  “No talking in the shackles!”

The guard smirked at Ephellia and then looked over at the other guard and started to chuckle before gripping the hilt of the sword.

The guard went completely still as his hand closed around the grip.

“I tried to warn him.”  Ephellia said.

“Quiet!”  The other guard commanded then turned to his partner.  “You okay?”

The guard slowly unsheathed the sword out and did not draw his eyes from the blade.

“Cor, that is a beaute!”  The second guard admired.

The scabbard hit the ground with a thunk and the guard raised the sword up with both hands.

“Now, no playing around.”  The second guard half laughed but took a step back.

A moment later the second guard lay on the floor with a slash from shoulder to belly button.

“Oh wow!”  The kender peered over the table at the corpse.  “Were you really mad at him?”

Ephellia and Tinstack attempted to jump up and move back but their bindings held them to the table.

The guard turned and set its eyes on Ephellia.  Solid black covered the entire surface of the eyes.

“Take off the necklace!”  The guard raised the sword over his head again and moved a step to close the distance between himself and Ephellia.

A cold draft poured across Ephellia.  She shivered and slightly shook her head.

The guard growled and brought the sword down hard.  It landed hard in the table right between her hands.  The chains binding her went asunder.

The guard looked up from the chop into her eyes with his hollow sockets.  “Take it off!”

She stood up and backed away shaking her head.  In her fist she held the tiny silver dragon.

“Gah!”  The guard yelled out.  “I cannot maintain this, come talk to me!”

The guard stopped moving and his eye color returned.  From his nose streamed a streak of blood and he fell to the ground.

“What the hell was that?”  Tinstack’s voice sounded a bit higher than normal.

“That was Glimfury, my sword.”  Her own voice wavered.

“Your sword just saved us?”  Quicksnatch piped up.  “I want to try it!”

Ephellia glared at the kender.  “No.”

The kender felt the seriousness in the single syllable and backed off.

“Can you get me loose?”  Tinstack asked Ephellia.

“I’ll find their keys.”  She stated.  “Quicksnatch, where is the gem?”

“It’s in my pocket?”  He stated.

“How could it be in your pocket, they searched you.”

“Well, when they were tickling me I did not want it to fall out of my pocket and lose it so I put it in one of their pockets for safe keeping.”

Ephellia stood up from her search at this statement.  “How could you do that, your hands were chained.”

“It is a shame about the quality of the shackles in this place.”  The kender suddenly appeared right next to her with his hand out and the gem resting in his palm.  “They really should upgrade their hardware.  It is barely any effort to get out of them.  Why they might work better if they were broken then at least there would be a chance of them getting jammed.”

Ephellia exhaled deeply and grabbed the gem up from the kender.  She looked it over for a moment then handed it back to him.  “Keep it safe!”

The kender nodded enthusiastically.  “Of course!  Just as I have been!”

“Go get Tinstack loose.”  Ephellia directed the Halfling as she walked around the table.  She had to step around the corpse on that side and push it a little with her foot to stand right in front of the sword embedded in the table.

“What are you doing?”  Tinstack asked.

“I am going to go talk to him.  I need to know what is going on”  She said simply.

“Who?  Glimfury?”  The dwarf’s voice really went up in pitch.  “You are crazier and stupider than the addle brained kender!”

“Maybe.”  She said and reached down and took ahold of the handle of the sword.

“Can I come?”  The kender’s voice sounded distant and hollow as if through a long hallway.

 

Part 7

 

Ephellia opened her eyes.  She stood again on the grassy unending plain.

“You actually came.”  A voice rumbled behind her

She turned knowing what she would see and her eyes met those of the ebony skinned man.

“Where are we?”  Another voice asked her.

Both her and Glimfury looked down at the kender standing between them.

“How did that get here?”  Glimfury took half a step back and raised his eyebrows.

“I don’t know how I got here, so I really cannot answer that.”  She replied.

“Where is everything?”  The kender complained.  “It is really boring here.”

Glimfury let out a sigh.  “There is a bazar just at the bottom of the hill.”

“Which way?”  Quicksnatch asked.

The black man pointed to his right and the kender ran past.

“There is a bazar in here?”  Ephellia asked.

Glimfury shook his head.  “There will be when he gets there though.  At least he will think so.”

“Why the necklace?”  Ephellia cut to the chase.

“It is holding me back.”

“Maybe that is a good thing.”  Ephellia stated.  “I saw what you did to the guards and they did not have any protection.

“You are different.”  The man started walking a slow ring around her.  “There is something about you.  I cannot quite get it, but together we would be very powerful.  We could defeat anything together if only you would remove the necklace.”

“And what would keep you then from then just killing me?”

He stopped midstep.  “I would sooner destroy a piece of fine art.  You are the perfect vessel.  We could both do so much together but for one thing…”

“The necklace.”  She acknowledged.

“The necklace.”  He echoed immediately after.

“But you would promptly just take over my body and then use me for your own will and never let me go.”  She argued.

“You saw what happened to the guard that wielded the sword?”

Ephellia nodded..

“For me to take over a body it rips apart the mind.  If I ripped apart your mind then I would lose my perfect vessel.  I like being out in the world again and getting to fight.  I don’t want to mess that up.”

Ephellia nodded.  “But what is in it for me?”

“Hey!”  Quicksnatch showed up suddenly between them.  “I did not have enough money for roast corn so I went back to my body and fetched some coins out of my pouch.”

“You cannot—”   Glimfury attempted to say something to the kender but the kender just took off back down the hill.

“How is he here?”  The sword asked Ephellia again.

She shrugged.  “So what is in it for me?”

“Power!”  Glimfury gripped his hands in upturned fists in front of him.  “You would have enough power to be nearly invincible.  I can channel all my energy through you and you can direct it.”

“Where would that get me?”  She tapped her foot.

“Well,”  Glimfury said, “Out of here.”

“Be we are inside of your mind or something.”  Ephellia argued.

The sword shook his head.  “No, you are standing at the table in the guard room gripping my handle.  There are two dead guards in the room with you, you have become unchained, and there will likely be more guards show up any time.  If you get past them then you will have a whole city between there and freedom.”

“And you can get me out of that?”

He smirked a little and shrugged one shoulder.  “You and me together could level this whole town.”

 

 

The iron stench of blood filled Ephellia’s nose.  She looked down and her had was just inches from the handle of the sword.  The kender lay across the table with his hands outstretched and one of the just touching the hilt.

“What happened?”  Tinstack asked.  “I was about ready to knock you off of there.”

She looked around and realized she was back in the guardroom.  “We were talking about the necklace.  I don’t think I am in any danger from him.  And he is only mildly annoyed with Mr. Catpaws.

“Only mildly annoyed?”  The dwarf snickered.  “Must be a made of steel.”

Ephellia took a deep breath and started to reach for the sword again.

“You going back?”  The dwarf move forward.  “What if someone comes?”

“The sword will warn me and kick me out.”

“I don’t trust your sword too much.”  Tinstack said.

“Neither do I.”  She reached forward and closed her grip around

 

 

Glimfury stood before her.  “Back again I see.  Why did you leave?”

“I don’t wish to level this town.”  Ephellia stood toe to toe with the man.  “I just need to get out of this safely and finish my mission.”

“But the man who assigned you this mission thinks you are an enemy.”  Glimfury argued.

“I will have to convince him otherwise.”  She turned away and crossed her arms.

“Why convince when you can conquer?”  He came up alongside her and put an arm around her shoulders.

She pulled away.  “I have no desire to conquer!”

He held up his hands defensively.  “Okay, okay.  No conquering.”

“I will think about it.”  She kept her arms crossed.

Glimfury frowned for a moment then a sly grin flashed across his features.

“There are more guards coming.”  He said.  “We should go take care of them.”

She narrowed her eyes.

 

 

Ephellia found herself in the guardroom still gripping the sword lodged  in the table.  The kender still lay unmoving with a hand on the grip.

“Get off of there!”  Ephellia complained and broke his grip.  In the sudden surprise of being in the guard room Quicksnatch rolled off the side of the table.

“He says there are guards coming!”  Ephellia heaved the sword loose from the table.

The dwarf already had his equipment on him.  The kender made a dash for his hoopak.

Ephellia loosed one hand from the sword and grabbed the charm.  She pulled slightly but then released her grip.  With both hands on the sword she readied for the attack.

The door creaked open and a pair of guards walked in casually.  “…no, but she said it was not him but the other guy—”

The kender and dwarf rushed forward and bashed the pair right back through the doors.

The kender, in full battle excitement rushed out the door with them.  A moment later he came running back.  “There are a lot more out there coming and they saw me!”

Tinstack shook his head.  “It has been good fighting alongside you two.  Let’s make this good.”

“It’s going to be fun!”  Quicksnatch yipped.

Ephellia stood between them.  Her shoulders bobbed with each breath.  People started shouting outside.

The dwarf hunched down ready to launch himself.

“Wait!”  Ephellia suddenly decided.  “I will get us out of this.”

She reached up with one hand and grabbed the pendent and before she could change her mind she yanked it free of her body.  It fell to the floor before her.

“The necklace!”  A voice said inside of her.  “It is gone!”

She looked down at the sword in her hand and then cast it aside.

She looked around where she was and sudden panic struck.  “I have to get outside!”

“You have to what?”  Tinstack asked.

Ephellia lurched forward just as a couple of guards tried the doorway.  She put out a palm towards them and watched as they were easily moved out of her way.  They tumbled back out into the street but unharmed.  She reached the doorway and heard a twang of a bow released.  It was immediately followed by countless more.

She reached out and grabbed the first projectile out of the air inches from herself.  The others seemed to be deflected in mid-air around her.

“Get back everyone!”  Ephellia shouted.

Several guards broke away from the line and charged her.  She waved them away and sent them tumbling over the heads of their colleagues.

Ephellia felt a pressure building inside of her.  She moved from the doorway and staggered into the middle of the street.  Several arrows attempted to make purchase on her and did not make it all of the way.

“Get back now!”  She shouted.

She fell down on her knees.  The pressure continued to build and boil under her skin.

A few guards pulled back, others started a cautious approach.

“Too much…”  She strained to hold the pressure in but it suddenly leapt from her body.  A shockwave shot out from the ground where she stood into the crowd around her.  The blast carried Anyone within fifty feet of her backwards onto buildings and other people.

Dizziness prevailed and she wavered.  “My necklace.  I need my necklace.”

Ephellia’s eyes rolled up and she fell straight forward into blackness.

 

Part 8

 

She opened her eyes and craned her neck to look around.  People surrounded her on all sides and stepped back as she turned her head their way.

“My necklace.”  She felt as if the words scratched at her throat but came out as a dull rumble.

A collective gasp came up from the crown as she spoke.

“She is going to find me.”  She said and turned back towards the guard room.  “She remembered dropping it there.”

She looked down at her hand.  No longer did she have fleshy appendages, but scaly claws.

“It’s a silver!”  Someone shouted out behind her.

A dwarf stood in the doorway of the guardhouse.  She recognized him and after a moment of searching unfamiliar memories she finally put a name to the face.  “Tinstack.”

He dropped his axe and took a step back.

“I need my necklace, quickly.”  Her voice shook the ground.

“Wow!”  Quicksnatch stepped out into the open and leaned back to look at her.  “You’re a dragon!”

“Yes,” She answered, “where is my—”

“Can I ride on you?”  Quicksnatch came running towards her.

She lowered her head to his level and let out a deep low roar that bowled him over backwards and shook the walls of the surrounding buildings.  She let loose some dragon fear.  People in the crowd around her scattered.

“Find my necklace!”  She ordered.  “She can feel me and she is searching for me!”

The kender scrambled to her feet and ran into the guard building.

Tinstack winced and fought his reflex to run away.  He called out to her in a strained voice.  “Ephellia?  You are a dragon?”

She moved deftly towards him and put her face up next to his.  “Ephellia is a human form I take when I wear the necklace.  It binds me to that form.”

“B-b-but you never said you were a dragon before.”  The dwarf stammered.  ‘I have known you for years.”

The dragon drew in a long breath and then made a sighing noise.  “I don’t know I am a dragon when I am in that form and I cannot find out either.  You will not tell me!  Is that understood?”

The dwarf shook his head.

“Look,” The silver dragon said, “My name is Symphallia the Silver.  My kind has been hunted to near extinction.  I have to hide from Takhisis or she will seek me out and kill me.  I can already feel her focusing in on me here.  She will send her minions to destroy this town to get to me.

“This necklace?”  The kender held aloft a silver charm.

“Yes!”  The dragon howled with glee.  “Bring it to me!”

The kender ran forward and held the amulet out.  “What about our mission?”

The dragon looked at the kender and then out across the city.  She growled.

“Get on my back.”  She ordered.

“Yipee!”  Quicksnatch leapt towards the dragon and eagerly climbed up a foreleg up to the shoulder.

“Get on.”  She ordered the dwarf.

He stepped back and shook his head.

In a quick movement she scooped him up in her mouth and deposited him on her back.

“Hold on to something!”  She commanded and they were suddenly a hundred feet off the ground.

“Dragon!”  The Dwarf hollered.  “Let me down from here, I have underthings to change!”

The kender laughed and then yipped for joy at watching the ground pass under them.  “Where are we going?”

“To the coronation!”  The dragon stated and then descended steeply towards the castle.

The kender giggled

The dwarf coughed and emitted a gurgling noise.

The dragon dove right down into the side garden of the castle.  The dwarf fell off tumbling.  He landed in a bed of flowers and made fierce retching noises.

Three guards came running up but immediately lowered their weapons as they saw the dragon.

“Symphallia?”  The eldest of the guards called out to her.

“Old friend Kirim.”  She said in a light and jovial voice that belied her large size.  “It has been a long time.”

“Two hundred and thirty-seven years.”  Kirim stated.  “Give or take.  Where have you been?  We thought the dark one took you.”

She let out a low chuffing sound.  “It has been far too long but I must go away again.  Even now I sense she is coming.  The dwarf and the kender were taken prisoner and should not have been.  They have another companion named Ephellia.  They are all to be treated as heroes.”

“For what?”  Kirim asked.

“Show him.”  She directed this towards the Halfling.

Quicksnatch slid down off the back of the dragon and landed lightly on his feet.  A moment later his topknot and pouch caught up with him and settled in with gravity’s grasp.  He dipped his hand in the pouch and then held aloft the gem.

“Is that…”  Kirim started to ask.

“Yes.”  Symphallia replied and then turned to the kender.  “Give it to Tinstack and get on my back!”

“I get to fly again!”  The kender practically threw the gem at the dwarf and charged right up the side of the silver dragon.

The kender had barely made purchase when the city dropped from beneath them.

“You have the necklace?”  She called back to him.

“In my pouch!”  He called back then let out a long, “Yipee!”

Symphallia turned to run with the wind to add its speed to her own.  In about an hour and after having to catch the kender only twice, she landed in a field of sheep.

One of the sheep disappeared whole into her maw as they landed.

The kender leapt off the back of the dragon and danced around the field in delight.  “I want to go again!”

Over the crunching noises of bones the dragon growled slightly.  “We cannot.  I need your help to become Ephellia again.”

“Do you have to?”  Quicksnatch whined.  “We could have so much fun like this!”

Symphallia chuffed a couple of times which might have been laughs.  Then she swallowed the mouthful of lamb.  “No little one, as tempting as it is, I must go into hiding again.  One day when she is defeated I will be able to emerge once more and be me.”

“What will happen to Ephellia then?”  The kender asked.

“She is and always will be a part of me, but she should never know of me for her own protection.”

“I won’t tell her!”

“You have to promise!”  She lowered her face to his.

“Promise?”  The kender kicked at a dirt hank on the ground.  “Like promise, promise?”

“Like a for real promise.”  The dragon’s breath washed warm over his body.  “You can never tell me I am a dragon.”

The kender sighed.  “Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“Okay, I promise.”  He said in a whine.

“This is important Quicksnatch!  You promise me and you mean it!”

The kender nodded.  “Yes, I mean it!  I will not tell you that you’re a dragon!”

“Quick!”  Symphallia said.  “I feel them nearing, press the pendant against my neck.”

The kender reached into his pouch and held aloft the trinket.

The dragon moved her head forward to give him access.

Quicksnatch put one hand on the side of the neck and stroked it gently feeling the rough silver scales glide under his palm.  “I am going to miss you Symphallia!”

He thrust his other hand forward and pressed the small silver dragon at the neck of the real dragon.  The dragon bucked and lashed around but somehow its neck remained still enough that the kender stayed in one place and kept his grip.

“I will miss you too.”  The dragon hissed and an instant later Quicksnatch found himself clinging, a little personally, to Ephellia.

“What are you doing?”  The human complained and thrust the kender off of her.

“Ephellia!”  The kender hit the ground and bounced right back up at her.  “I missed you!”

“Missed me?  Where did I go?  How did we get here?”

“Oh, it is a long story.  Let’s see, you grabbed the sword, and there was a dragon, everyone ran and—”

“A dragon?”  Ephellia asked.  “There are no dragons.”

“Yes, a dragon.”  The kender said.  “Only it definitely wasn’t you.”

“I should think not.”