CHAPTER 1 - GREETINGS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS
Much has been said about the Second Monarchy of Gassenti, and the unlikely events which lead to
it. For centuries scholars have argued over whether it was Fate, Destiny, Kismet, or just Blind
Luck which brought it about.
Some say the Gods were involved, perhaps their last direct dealings with the sapient races of the
Some say that it was all planned by a long mad and long dead wizard, who was doomed to walk the
land until an ancient wrong was set right.
Still others say it could never have happened without the Redemption of the Fallen Ones.
But most people just say "Who cares? It happened, that's all there is to it. Bloody hell, mutton
again? Pass the ketchup."
There is just no pleasing Most People.
* * *"Enter."
The wide oaken double doors opened, and Perah-Perah and her half-sister Asyra came into her
father's office. Well, HE called it an office. Perah-Perah called it an eyesore, their wayward
and absent brother called it a tragedy, and Asyra preferred not to speak of it at all. But
nevertheless, it was from here that the Nydassa Syndicate was run by the charming, but fashion-blind elf, Seren Nydassa.
As a race, elves are fair, wise, witty, and intelligent. Their senses, skills, and craft surpass
those of most men. Yet despite their strengths, the majority don't care for the world of Men; of
cities, or power, or wealth. They tend to stay in the woods, building quiet societies of peace,
deep philosophy, tantric meditation, and pretty much keep to themselves.
That's why the minority of elves, those who "go manish", can be so dangerous. They become
entranced by the complexities of human life, of politics and material gain, and then they thrive
in it. That is how the Nydassa Syndicate became the second most powerful underground organization
on the island in a single human generation.
Perah-Perah and Asyra were now in the nerve center of that organization. And much like the nerve
center of a human being, it was not something you wished to look at up close, let alone from the
"New porcelain horses, daddy?" said Perah-Perah, trying to avoid direct eye contact with the
garish figures on either side of his desk. They were pure white, with gold saddles and ruby eyes,
reared as if for battle. They were obviously expensive. Such loving care had been taken in their
construction, it was clear the creator had hoped the viewer would well up in tears just by looking
at them. They often did, but for very different reasons.
"Yes, with extra gold trim," her father said, "It took me quite a while to find replacements for
the last ones. Funny how they were both shattered by one crossbow bolt."
Asyra looked terrified and yet perfectly innocent at the same time, which isn't as hard as it
sounds when you're a half-elf. "Yes. Funny how that happened..." she began.
"I worked it out, you know, and the only way it could have hit both from where you say it was
fired from is if it bounced off the desk, hit the wall, and rebounded back into the desk." he
casually gestured to the point where his fine oak desk (the only tasteful part of the room) had
been hit by a bolt.
Perah-Perah stepped in, "It is strange how things work out like that, isn't it? Sounds like some
of the fluke shots you've made in the past." This was the best way to deal with him, use his own
vast experience back at him like that. Ego took care of the rest.
"True, true." he conceded, "Like the time I impaled two orcs through the head with a single bolt."
"Exactly." Perah-Perah agreed. Privately she sighed in relief. Destroying the statues by
accident he could believe, but he'd never forgive them if he knew there was a second crossbowman
behind the fuzzy sofa.
"Anyway," he said, "no harm, no foul. I have even better statues, and now you know better than to
have a loaded crossbow inside the office, don't you?"
"Yes, father." said Asyra, trying not to smile, and desperately trying to think of a new plausible
"Now, onto a more serious subject," said Seren, standing up. "I know you have both been pestering
me for months now to see some action..."
More like years, thought Perah-Perah, but then elves are notoriously lousy judges of time. Living
an opulent lifestyle was all well and good, but being the eldest child she had to be practical.
How was she ever going to run the family business unless she got some experience in the outside
world? None of her employees would take her seriously unless she could claim to be as good a
thief as any one of them. It would only be, what, a few hundred more years before their father
considered stepping down? She needed to start learning the ropes right away.
"Well, I've decided to give you such a chance," he held up a scroll in his left hand and tossed it
to Perah-Perah. She and Asyra looked at it, but the seal on it made it clear it was not to be
"What is it?" asked Asyra.
"A task," her father said simply, "A small task, to be sure. A courier job to an old friend of
"That's it?" Perah-Perah said, trying her hardest to sound matter-of-fact and not disappointed-as-hell.
"Most likely. I've made it clear that you may be called upon for aid if he so requires, but it
may not be necessary, and he is not to do so if the situation is too dangerous."
The sisters nodded in a non-committal manner. Dangerous is, after all, a subjective term.
"It may not seem like much, but I assure you that this is quite important, and I am sending you in
part to emphasize this fact. I would have sent The Three, but they are busy on another
He walked over to a large flat crystal lamp in the shape of the island of Gassenti, over a yard in
diameter. From its center bright colors poured out to the edges and disappeared, changing from
red to blue to yellow and any colors in-between. It was magical, it was expensive, and
unfortunately that was all that he needed to justify its addition to his collection, right beside
the painting of a minotaur on black velvet.
He looked back at the girls, surprised to still see them in his office. "I hate to use this
clich?, but time is of the essence."
Perah-Perah gave him a hurt and pleading look, the kind he had no defense against.
"Or... you can go first thing in the morning."
* * *Soo Snowcatcher ran for her life. Well, at least to avoid a whooping from her parents, or worse,
a lecture. It had been two days since she ran away from home and they were STILL on her trail.
All of her training, all of her practice and the mighty self confidence of a know-it-all teenager,
and they had the nerve to make her feel like a rank amateur by keeping pace with her all this
Life in the village wasn't all that bad. It was just that she was never allowed to go anywhere,
unless it was Moving Day. No contact was allowed with outsiders, except by full Rangers. It was
the Ranger lifestyle, or what you might call a double lifestyle. In the outside world, a Ranger
could be anyone, but in the camp they were just Rangers.
The Rangers were an elite band of men and elves, founded centuries earlier during the Reign of
Kings, sworn to protect the people of the island from the threats that surrounded them secretly
and quietly. Unlike the showy Lance of Light Paladins, who fought evil with as much pomp and
circumstance as possible, they hid in the shadows, and if they did their job right nobody knew how
much danger they were actually in. Meanwhile, the Paladins charged in on horseback with trumpets
blaring and put on a good show for everyone, then politely collected donations afterwards.
Though their tactics were vastly different, they had both evolved one similar trait: they went
beyond mere organizations and evolved into societies. The Paladins became an elitist society,
where only the most worthy and pious were permitted to join. The Rangers faded into a secret
society, which kept to themselves and only occasionally approached outsiders to join their ranks.
Most of the modern Rangers, like Soo, were born and raised in the ever mobile Ranger camps. And
to keep their training and thoughts focused, they were not allowed to leave until reaching full
Ranger status at adulthood.
Soo was fifteen, had never agreed to those terms, and damn well couldn't wait that long.
So she ran.
She knew that major roads crisscrossed the island. If she found one of them, she could follow it
to any number of cities and just disappear. But for now, in the woods, she was vulnerable. She
knew she was being followed, and unless she found a city soon it was just a matter of time before
they caught up with her.
She thought about the stern talking-to she would get from her parents if they caught her,
shuddered, and ran some more.
* * *
It was midnight as Rosileen approached The Master. The soft clack of her walking stick on the
flagstones paced out her steps within the small church. The Master had no name he had ever shared
with his pupils, a trait left over from his days with the Rechmond Monks. As Rosileen neared, The
Master stopped praying, stood, and looked down at her. If he had continued kneeling he would
barely have been eye level with her. The Master had begun acquiring a bit of a stoop, the kind
humans usually get when they spend all their time in a Halfling village.
"You asked to see me?" said Rosileen.
The Master nodded, "Yes. I am leaving Valleyville." He winced as he said the name. Valleyville
may have been a beautiful peaceful village located in a secure valley on the boarder of Scry, far
from the worries and events of the rest of the Big People, but that was no excuse for such a name.
One expected the halflings to burst into a happy toe tapping song any time it was mentioned.
Rosileen had been expecting his departure. The donkey outside laid down with supplies was a
subtle hint. The fact she often heard him mutter "Great Salias, I am sick of this place!" when he
thought he was alone was a more obvious clue. But still she asked, "Why are you leaving?"
The Master gave his most practiced solemn and wise look, "Because it is time. You and your
brothers and sisters are fully trained. You are ready to be priests and priestesses of the Great
Salias. I am now needed elsewhere."
Rosileen nodded, "I understand. But what are we to do now? Who will take care of the church?"
"A replacement will come, to mind the church. But you and your brothers and sisters will walk the
earth like Kane of Kanfu." Kane was a greatly respected wandering teacher of Monks' legends.
Every Thursday evening, it was said, he would encounter people who needed his help, which
invariably involved violence in the name of peace.
"One year of PCA, huh? Sounds good to me!" said Rosileen, the least of his students inclined to
wax poetically, though the most inclined to think romantically.
"Yes. As it is written." Since the brief reign of King Segmey the Good, all new clerics were
required to travel the island and give free Public Clerical Assistance for one year after their
training. This way they could give something back to the community before they could settle down
with their own practices. It was probably the single largest factor involved in Gassenti's high
life expectancy. It also bolstered productivity and the economy by greatly reducing sick days,
annoying many a farmer who wanted to sneak off fishing.
"When do we leave?" she asked.
"Each in your own time. You will know when the time is right."
"When do you leave?"
"Tonight. I was waiting to speak to you first."
The Master smiled. "Yes. I didn't want you to think I regretted my time here, or for saving your
life." Rosileen looked at her cane. She had suffered a terrible fall, and though The Master had
saved her life, her left leg remained crippled. Even now she relied on a walking stick more than
she cared to admit.
"It's just time for me to move on, and I have taught you all I can. You must live your life
before you can learn any more. Also..."
"...the ceilings are too low." said Rosileen.
"...the ceilings are too low, yes. I'm afraid I may suffer a permanent concussion if I remain
here any longer."
"Will I see you again?"
"Perhaps. If your journeys take you to Rechmond, you may. I return to the Monks for a time, and
then... who knows?"
Rosileen didn't know what to say, The Master had been such an influence on her life, in some ways
he had been the reason she decided to become a Priestess of Salias in the first place. With her
eyes welling up she could only manage to say, "Thank you. For everything."
The Master smiled, and patted her shoulder. He then walked out of the church and into the night,
swearing only a little when he banged his head on the top of the door.
* * *
The last note of the epic ballad hung in the still air. The audience sat, entranced as her voice
echoed away. "Thank you... thank you. You liked that one, did you? Okay, here's a song that
dates back to the age of Kyreen and Bremore... it's a song about love, destiny and sacrifice. I
hope you like it."
The squirrels listened politely. One of them twitched a whisker. Ordinarily they would run away
if a human came within fifty yards of them, but her music was strangely pleasant to their tiny
Victoria's hand wavered before she strummed the first cord, and looked at the furry faces,
silently asking for any spare nuts she might have. She thought about the past year. The Big Tour
around Gassenti, the Band, and her decision to go solo. Now here she was, in the middle of
nowhere, beside a dying fire, playing to a pack... a group... what do you call a bunch of
squirrels, anyway? She sighed, took some nuts from her backpack, and tossed it to her audience
before curling up in her dusty bedroll. Maybe tomorrow would look better.
"You've been a great crowd, goodnight."
* * *"Our first quest! Can you believe it? This is great!" For the first time since speaking with
her step-father, Asyra let her excitement show.
Perah-Perah shared her feelings, but refused to show it, "I wouldn't call it a 'quest', sis. It's
just a delivery job. But it's about bloody time, that's for sure."
The two of them had almost finished packing their gear on their horses. Both of them had fine
steeds, the best pampered little princesses could afford, or their fathers at any rate. Asyra's
long brown hair was done up in thick braids for riding, and she was giving her sleek gray mare a
brush with the hand comb. Perah-Perah's short black hair needed no braids, and her large pointed
ears looked like great tanned sails in a small black sea.
Asyra checked her bags, and looked at Perah-Perah's gear, "Have we forgotten anything?"
"I believe we have packed everything we need, but I am forgetting something..." She gave a ear
splitting whistle and yelled "NARI!"
The giant white wolf bounded from Perah-Perah's bedroom. The beast struck fear in all sensible
men, yet he was raised from a cub by Perah-Perah, and was fiercely loyal to the one he saw as the
den mother. All others he merely tolerated, even Asyra.
Nari bounded to the stables, nearly frightening the entire herd into flight, and sat beside Perah-Perah, looking at her expectantly.
"Hello, Nariiiii..." she said, rubbing him behind the ears, then noticed something was missing.
"Where's your bow, you big silly thing?"
Nari tried to look innocent, but radiated guilt. Had they the time to go back inside, Perah-Perah
would have found the murdered remains of the bright silver ribbon shredded to pieces under her
"It must have come off. Did you take it off?" Perah-Perah's condescending baby voice was well
practiced. Nari pretended she was talking to someone else. "That's okay, I have another!"
"And you want to be taken seriously by the other Syndicate members?" said Asyra.
Perah-Perah ignored her as she took a bright silver ribbon from her saddle bags and tied it into a
big puffy bow on Nari's collar. The result was quite comical, but this was still a giant wolf;
waist high to a human and far greater in mass. People were wise enough to snicker out of his
sight. Nari began plotting this ribbon's eventual demise. Asyra finished brushing her horse,
"Are you ready?" asked Perah-Perah
"You better believe it," Asyra answered, already in the saddle.
Perah-Perah mounted the horse in a practiced bound, "Let's ride!"
* * *Ben the mule bore his tiny burden without complaint. Rosileen was slight in build, unlike most
halflings, who forced many an 'All You Can Eat' buffet to add time restrictions like: 'In Ten
Minutes'. In fact, she was considered to be of that rare sub-category of halflings commonly
referred to as "Those Bloody Adventuring Types".
She had decided to leave Valleyville that day, to travel out of Scry and see where the Goddess
guided her. The Master had said that the small village of Sorrowtown in Dreet was without a
healer, so she decided to see if she was needed there.
For the past two days she had seen only wilderness and rain, somehow managing to be as far away
from the nearest village as possible when it was time to sleep. Today was looking better, and
Rosileen cheerily prodded Ben forward, under the mistaken assumption that he too would like to
enjoy this fine day by going faster.
As she continued along one of the great, ancient highways of Gassenti, she became aware of someone
not far up ahead. Rosileen had never been in a fight before (aside from her training, which
sometimes felt too real), and hoped this wouldn't be her first. But that was silly, the road was
full of ordinary travelers. It was just the typical paranoia of the fledgling adventurer.
It was a woman, walking alone, with long orange-red hair that cascaded effortlessly around her
shoulders, as only someone with a lifetime of experience in the performing arts can manage. The
lute on her small backpack made her look familiar. Rosileen held her breath. But she was
alone... so it couldn't be...
She prodded Ben forward, his hooves clopping on the road noisily. The woman turned around, one
hand ready to go for her crossbow, the typical paranoia of the seasoned adventurer, who realized
the fledgling had it right all along.
"Victoria?" Rosileen gasped.
Victoria's eyes widened, and a goofy smile, one that betrayed honest emotion and not a
performance, crossed her face, "Rosileen?"
Rosileen got off Ben and hugged her old friend at the waist. Over the years they had become
acquainted with one another, whenever Victoria's band of Troubadours, the Vanguard, would pass
through Valleyville. Valleyville was always good for a large paying crowd, so long as there was a
Victoria patted her on the back, "So you've finally graduated, or whatever it is you Priestesses
"Ascended, yes, I should have known it would be something poetic like that. Are you starting your
year of wandering and healing?"
Rosileen was puzzled by her tone, it was almost sarcastic, "You say that as if it was a bad
Victoria shrugged, "Wandering isn't all its cracked up to be. Especially alone."
"Which begs the question: Where's the band? Last I heard they were -"
Victoria raised her hand, "Not another word. I know all about it. I've taken another path."
"You have? But they -"
"I know! I know! Just drop it! Where are you going?"
"I'm not sure. Wherever Salias guides me."
"Well, maybe Salias knows where there are some paying gigs."
* * *Soo smelled smoke. Five, maybe ten miles away. It wasn't a campfire, nor was it a distant forest
fire. This was chimney smoke.
The sun was had passed its meridian and was slowly beginning to descend. One, maybe two hours at
a full pace and she would be there.
Civilization. And freedom!
* * *It was now late in the afternoon. It was more than a day since their departure from the Nydassa
Syndicate in Scry. Perhaps by the end of the day they would reach their destination. Perah-Perah
and Asyra had taken the main road out of Scry towards Dreet at full gallop. Their horses began to
bead with sweat, but they had been ridden hard before, in playful excursions throughout the
This time, however, the horses sensed something different. They sensed a purpose behind their
ride, and it showed in their performance. They took to matching one another's pace and didn't
complain, even when resting.
The pair rounded a bend in the road at top speed, and didn't notice the small mule and pedestrian
in their way until it was too late. Asyra managed to ride around them, but Perah-Perah couldn't.
She kicked her horse into a jump that brought her within an inch of knocking the halfling's head
"Sorry!" Perah-Perah yelled behind her as they sped off.
The sounds of hooves faded as Victoria brushed her hair back into place.
"That was bloody rude of them." she said.
Rosileen swayed for a moment, then fainted off Ben.
* * *Soo had scouted out the village as the sun began to hit the treetops. She asked a few people
about places to stay, eat, sleep and work, and got some suggestions that shouldn't be heard by
fifteen year old girls. The fact she had asked these questions in a bar called The Diarrhetic
Warrior didn't help matters.
Finally she decided to find the nearest church to crash at. She had heard about the other
religions. Salias the All Mother was popular, as was Gassail the Earth God. Rangers tended to
worship Zephil because she was an elf god, and many of the Rangers were elves or half elven. Most
also used the bow and arrow as their weapon of choice, and Zephil was the Air Goddess.
Soo was all for Zephil. She wasn't a stuck up Goddess like some of the others, all interested in
rules and order. She was free and did what she wanted when she wanted. It made her wonder how
the Rangers could worship her and yet be so restrictive. Perhaps it was because they protected
Gassenti outside the bounds of Gassenti law. From what she heard, they were considered legends
nowadays, and only a few outsiders knew of their existence.
There was only one church in the village, and it was locked tight. Soo found a discretely hidden
side window and smashed it in with the pommel of her father's sword, using her cloak to muffle the
sound, then crawled inside.
It was deserted, or so she had been told. Soo looked around for a place to sleep. There was a
bedroom in the back for the abbot or friar or whoever was supposed to stay there, but it was
devoid of certain comforts, such as heat, blankets, or a mattress. The church seemed to be a
magnet for cold.
She didn't want to risk going outside. She wanted to stay low until tomorrow, and find a caravan
or something to hook up with. From what the locals said, nobody had used this church in months,
and a replacement cleric wasn't expected any time soon.
She looked at the pews. Awful lot of wood there.... who would miss one?
* * *Perah-Perah examined the tree. It was too big to move. It neatly blocked the road for the
sisters. A little too neatly.
Asyra pointed to the hacked trunk, it was obvious the tree had been felled on purpose. Perah-Perah nodded, and looked around cautiously.
The first arrow missed by mere inches, and she suddenly became aware that being mounted on top of
a horse was about the same as painting a bullseye on your forehead in this situation. Perah-Perah
and Asyra fell off their horses (its faster than dismounting), and hit the ground rolling. The
tree meant to block their path was large enough to provide them with some cover.
Nari sniffed the air, and with a short leap, disappeared into the bushes.
A couple of arrows ricocheted off the tree, which gave the hopeful sign that their attackers would
have to come around for a clear shot. Perah-Perah and Asyra unslung their bows and notched an
A crow cawed.
The thick bushes on the side of the road rustled. They drew their bows back. More rustling, and
Nari popped out. He sniffed the ground, but didn't growl, and jumped back in.
An arrow landed by Perah-Perah's feet with a weak clatter.
"Other side!" she yelled, looking to the other side of the road. A small green, ugly thing
wearing clothing most likely scavenged and altered from dead bodies, readied another arrow. It
was akin to orcs the way chimps who can ride ponies and smoke cigars are to humans.
This was one of those statements people make despite themselves. Everyone knew it was a goblin.
Perah-Perah knew, Asyra knew, the goblin knew, or at least it had a strong suspicion. There was
no real reason to make such an obvious statement, but people usually make them anyway.
The sisters fired, and both arrows found their mark. They may have been pampered, but that didn't
mean they hadn't practiced the bow every week since they were tweens. The goblin gurgled and
Their position had been given away, however, and the rest of the goblin raiders decided to swarm
the sisters from the bushes.
Perah-Perah drew her long sword and held off two at once, trying to look as if she did this sort
of thing all the time. They took less notice of Asyra, and she continued to fire arrows at those
still charging, or loading arrows.
One of the goblins attacking Perah-Perah fell quietly, the other took a gash across the chest and
ran away with a shriek. Perah-Perah flicked her fingers, and a dagger-like point of white light
shot from them, dropping the raider before he could get away.
Asyra heard something on the fallen trunk, and saw a goblin wielding a rusty dagger almost on top
of her sister. She frantically loaded another arrow, but knew it would be too late.
"Look out!" was all she managed to blurt.
A crossbow bolt struck the goblin's forehead, and it fell backwards off the trunk.
Down the road, the sisters saw the travelers they almost ran into a moment before joining the
fray. The remaining goblins saw they were flanked, and made for a retreat. A few of them,
however, never made it, shot in the back as they ran.
The four travelers gathered by the fallen tree.
"Thanks for the help," Perah-Perah said, though her tone indicated she had everything well in hand
before they showed up.
"You're welcome," said Victoria, "Is anyone hurt?"
"I'm not. Asyra?"
Perah-Perah's shot a look at her sister: she hadn't expected that. Asyra was holding her arm,
blood flowing down it, staining her riding jacket.
"One the arrows grazed me."
The halfling on the mule dismounted, "Here, let me take a look at that..." Asyra took off the
jacket and rolled up the shirt. Rosileen closed her eyes, put her hands together, and began a
"Goddess Salias, Mother of All. Hear my prayer and heal my friend..." her hands began to glow
light blue, and a faint warmth radiated from them.
"She's a cleric?" Perah-Perah asked Victoria, who nodded. "Never saw a halfling cleric before."
Truth was she never saw many things before, but she would never admit it.
Rosileen laid her hands on the wound, which quickly and quietly closed up. The blood on her skin
dried and flaked off equally fast.
Can you get the stain out?" asked Asyra, hoping her shirt wasn't ruined. Rosileen smiled, but
Victoria looked up to the setting sun. "I think there is a village not far from here. We should
stick together and find a place to sleep there for the night. Is that okay with you?"
The sisters looked at each other and nodded. Perah-Perah brushed her short black hair back into
place over her long elf ears, "I'm Perah-Perah, and this is my sister Asyra."
"Victoria and Rosileen."
"You're pretty good with that crossbow, Victoria. That was no easy shot you made."
"Well, it comes with the territory. I've picked up a little bit of everything. Except magic.
That was a magic missile you used, wasn't it?"
Perah-Perah shrugged, "I've have time to practice on my own."
"You're not part of the Guild?"
"We're not exactly on the best of terms with the Wizard's Guild." said Asyra as they lead their
rides around the blocked road.
They cleared the tree. Perah-Perah smirked as she and her sister mounted their horses, "Not
Victoria noticed that of everyone she was the only one on foot. "Uh.. can I get a ride with one
A rustle came from the woods. Victoria readied her crossbow, Perah-Perah raised their fingers,
This is, perhaps, why people always state the obvious: it gives others the chance to correct them.
"Don't shoot! That's Nari, my puppy!"
Victoria hesitated, but lowered it when she saw the silver bow around the collar. She almost
raised it again when she saw the shredded and bloody goblin clothing in his mouth, however.
"Your puppy? What, inside of it?! It's huge!"
"Yes, it's often convenient. Nari! Drop that right now! Bad boy! You don't know where that
Nari looked sheepish, quite a trick without the right clothing, and dropped the rags.
"Come on," said Rosileen, spurring Ben forward, It will be dark soon, and its already cold. I
would like to reach the church by nightfall."
* * *
Soo curled up by the fire, the splintered and hacked remains of a pew to one side.
* * *
The four of them entered the village of Sorrowtown just before sunset, where they quickly
encountered their first obstacle.
"I am NOT going in there." Perah-Perah said firmly.
"It's just a name." reasoned Asyra. Unfortunately, since most people were illiterate, it was also
"I don't care! I am not going into a tavern whose name refers to... that. It must be reflective
of their service!"
"I'm sure there is a logical explanation."
"I'm sure I just gave one."
Nari watched the sisters bicker patiently, waiting for one of them to get to the important
business of feeding him. The other two were already inside The Diarrhetic Warrior. Victoria was
offered room and board for the night in exchange for an evening's entertainment, and Rosileen was
having a drink with the local village elder.
Eventually, Asyra convinced her, and they went inside. Victoria was singing about the Age of
Kings, and the entire audience of four tried not to pay any attention. It wasn't that she
couldn't sing, it was that they were all hard working farmers, and somehow it didn't seem manly
for them to show appreciation unless it involved carousing and/or verbal abuse.
The sisters sat at the bar and overheard Rosileen say, "So what became of the last priest?"
"Oh, him?" said the elder, a stout balding man with no need for fancy shows of office, "Finished
his PCA tour and set up an aromatherapy clinic in Dreet Proper, I hear."
"Yeah, elves are into things that smell nice, and this guy knew a niche market when he saw one.
Add some magic so the smells actually do something and you've got a franchise!"
"I haven't seen many elves here, to be honest. Present company excepted." she added nodding to
Asyra and Perah-Perah.
"Well, we're near the Dreet/Scry boarder, see," explained the elder, "we've got a few, make no
mistake of it. But this area is too much farmland for most of their liking."
A short blond girl walked into the tavern and waved the barman over. "A mug of mead, please." she
The bald barman looked her over with his one good eye. "Oy, you were in 'ere earlier. I told
you, I don't serve children. Especially girls."
"But I'm thirty five!" she said astonished.
"Sure you are, and I'm the 'ead of the Guild."
"Take yur pick, you're still a kid and I'm still just a barman."
"Fine." the girl said with a humph and left.
"Bloody kids these days..." the barman grumbled.
Perah-Perah waved him over. "Do you have any meat?"
"Wha, like a steak?"
"Anything. My dog is quite hungry."
"A dog, eh? Is that what you call that monster outside? If it weren't fur the collar and bow I'd
have shot it. Scared the bloody hell out of me!"
"Well then, you wouldn't want him to be hungry would you?"
"No... I reckon not. I'll look in the back."
Rosileen tapped Perah-Perah on the shoulder, "Could you let Victoria know I'll be in the church
next door? I don't want to interrupt her singing. The mayor gave me the key and I want to clean
it up a bit."
"Sure. No problem."
"Thanks. Oh, and you are welcome to stop by anytime yourselves."
"Thanks." said Asyra for both of them.
"Salias be with you." Rosileen said, bowing her head, and left.
The bartender returned with a big pot of stew. "I made too much, and its mostly mutton inside.
Think 'ed like it?"
"More than likely. How much?"
"I was gonna throw it out anyway, 'ow about a copper?"
Perah-Perah handed over a single copper piece, and took the pot outside. Nari's head dove inside
"Did you hear something?" asked Asyra when she returned.
"I thought I heard a shout."
Perah-Perah shook her head, "Probably just Nari eating too loudly."
The girl with short blond hair came back into the tavern with a paper and charcoal, "Excuse me?"
she said sweetly to Perah-Perah.
"I haven't learned to write yet. Could you write something for me?"
"You're thirty-five and can't write?" she said jokingly, not that such a thing was unusual in a
town like this.
"Well, I'm not thirty-five." the girl conceded, then quickly added, "I'm twenty-nine."
Perah-Perah held herself back from laughing. "Sure. What do you want the note to say?" she asked
taking the paper and charcoal.
"'I'll bring it right back.'" the girl dictated.
Perah-Perah scribbled it down and handed it back.
"Thanks!" she said and left the bar.
Asyra looked puzzled. "I wonder what she wanted that for?"
There was silence. Then a sound of hooves riding swiftly into the distance. Their eyes widened,
and they both ran out of the tavern.
"My horse!" Asyra screamed, and noticed the note stuck to the post in her sister's handwriting:
'I'll Bring It Right Back'