Early Days

Ice Age

Age of Conflict

Through the Eye of Paal

Maps and Tables

Ch 1

Chapter I

A'dalene

Dolanor tipped the stein back to get the last drop of ale then he set the stein down on the table and started people-watching. The Lazy Lizard Inn was a good place for that. Day or night you could find a wonderful collection of outcasts: the powerful and the different, sprinkled occasionally with the eager youth.

Today, in the corner of the room farthest from him, Dolanor could see a young human sitting with his lady. The young man, dark haired and slim of build, was in no way exceptional -- Phineas Something-or-other was his name -- but the girl was spectacular. She was Joanna Scopazi, the daughter of the Lazy Lizard's owner. Every young man for miles around was vying for the hand of this exquisite flame-haired beauty but it was the drab, fumbling Phineas who had caught her eye. There was no understanding humans.

Near the fireplace, about even with the boarded up window, a young magician was trying to impress an old crone with his magic. The hag scratched her bony posterior; smelled the fingers that had done the scratching; picked up a roast turkey leg, and bit into it ignoring the kid. The young mage had been misinformed about his talent, or was unaware that he was trying to impress the greatest witch in the nation with parlor tricks. Zignogbitz looked like a derelict with her filthy, tattered clothes and long, matted hair, so perhaps the kid could be forgiven his cheek.

Dolanor grunted and picked up his stein. Glancing toward the door in the hopes that Golasdu would show up soon, he headed toward the bar where he could see the grizzled and mustached Lazarus Scopazi glaring at his daughter. "Ho Scopazi, another ale before you throw him out."

"I'll not be throwing him out, dwarf." The large, meaty, innkeeper said grumpily as he refilled Dolanor's mug. "He's paid up and he isn't rowdy."

"Shouldn't you be glad that the poor girl has finally caught a fella's eye?" He grinned.

"Ha!" Lazarus leaned on the counter with both elbows and scowled deeper. "She's caught plenty an eye. It's the eyes she's giving back that has me worried."

"Phineas?" Dolanor feigned surprise, baiting humans was one of his greatest joys. "Why he's a good enough boy. He's always polite."

"He's muddle-headed, scrawny and ugly, and with his coordination he has to be polite." Grace and muscle were something Lazarus -- a retired mercenary -- valued highly.

"He stands to inherit the family's business."

"When he can’t stand without knocking something over? How long do you think a boy like that will be able to stay alive making a living as a butcher? No. My Joanna should be looking higher. Isn't it true that the Baron's son, Rac, is of age?"

Ah, Dolanor thought, now it comes out. The young elfin lord would indeed be a fine catch -- though a trifle long lived for a human bride. Still, if ever a human could catch his eye it would be the ravishing Joanna. "I wouldn't count too heavily on the Lord Rac till he survives his trip to the Eye of Paal."

"The Baron is still going through with it is he?"

Before Dolanor could answer, the inn door opened and an odd gnomic looking elf entered. He was barely four feet tall, though the ridiculous, orange felt hat with the enormous, purple and green, ostrich feather added another two feet. He was more broad than he was tall with the overwhelming percentage of his body being muscle. His skin had a bright bluish tinge to it, fading to purple around the bulbous nose.

"Well, Golasdu, nice of you to stop by." Lazarus said affably despite the fact that the broken window had been caused by Golasdu's body in an "uncontrolled retreat" the last time he was in. Scopazi would be the first to admit---with a shrug and grin--that "if they don't mind being thrown out when they're rowdy, I don't mind them coming back. Besides, Golasdu always pays for the window in advance." Golasdu, for his part, considered the Lizard to be his kitchen and was one of the 22 customers allowed to keep a personal mug hanging behind the bar.

With one hand Golasdu grasped the bar and pulled himself up onto a stool. His feet dangled in a most comical manner. One would be hard pressed to think of this funny little man as one of the few high elves to leave the mountain kingdom in the last three hundred years. It was skewing people's viewpoint of that tall, regal, aloof race.

"My usual, Gastronome!" he said in a voice loud enough to make the young mage jump and spoil his aim. The fire that the kid had been trying to light on his hand flamed up on Ziggy's plate instead, singeing her greasy black hair. As a consequence, Ziggy was forced to pay attention long enough to reach into the bag at her waist. Pulling out a pouch of dust, she tossed some in the lad's general direction, returned the pouch to her bag and got back to her meal. A peculiar look came over the youth's face and in less than a minute he was running for the door, itching and scratching, and ripping his clothes from his back. Golasdu, of course, ignored the whole thing entirely.

"Well, Dolanor," He said, turning to his friend. "It looks like Rac will be leaving first thing tomorrow morning."

"And. . ."

"And I thought it was high time you and I shook some of the cobwebs from our toes! What d'ya say, come on in the water's fine."

"The lad is supposed to be on his own."

"But there's nothing that says he can't meet up with and join a hearty band of explorers who just happen to be heading north."

"Which we aren't," Dolanor emphasized, seeing himself being backed into a corner. When Golasdu got a wild idea, he always included his dwarven friend. Golasdu had come to expect it and even Dolanor had forgotten the reasons for setting the precedent. . . . No he hadn't. Dolanor was an inveterate people watcher and Golasdu was one of the most interesting people he'd ever watched. If only he could figure out why Golasdu was still alive. . .

"Ah ha! Wrong-o oh mighty dwarf! It seems someone has cruelly abducted my faithful mount just two days hence. Ah, me. I must perforce go find and rescue him, and thus am establishing a rescue team. Surely you're not so hard of heart you'd turn away when my steed could be already dying!" This was delivered in a stage voice while Golasdu -- grinning -- looked around to see if anyone else listened. The man could not refrain from playing to an audience.

Dolanor groaned. Golasdu's jokes were legendary mostly because they were badly timed and somewhat obscure but somehow this didn't have the ring of his brand of humor. Something told him that Golasdu really meant to go out against the order of the baron to aid his fellow elf, Rac.

"Who else is in the party?" Dolanor winced because he knew what was coming.

"And do they know they're in it?" Lazarus commented sotto voce.

"Um, yes, well." Here it came. "I knew you would want to be included, and as for a magician, Edwin has agreed to come."

Dolanor choked so badly that the ale stung his nose. Behind him, he could hear someone in the bar choking as well. While it was true that the magician Edwin was the greatest potion maker in all of the city of A'Dalene -- possibly in all of Imperia -- he was as far from being a candidate for adventure as any one being could get and still be alive. The poor human was well past any ability to walk a normal day's pace, and his memory no longer functioned all the way through a sentence.

"Well, I'm sure Edwin would gracefully decline to come if he had more pressing concerns on the date of departure and we were able to round out a good rescue team." Golasdu said while beating on his friends back. "And I certainly couldn't come up with a more plausible scheme in the time they gave me."

"That was probably the baron's intent, Golasdu."

"You think so? Well, maybe the baron is slowing down a little. He should have known better than to talk about it in front of the children. He must have known that's why I spent the last year sleeping on his stoop. You know, it's really quite amazing what kids hear and are willing to pass on to a well known derelict."

"So who's going to be your fourth?" Lazarus was trying to speed up the process.

"Don't look at me, Golasdu," Dolanor added hastily, "I'm not coming up with one of my friends to follow you into a hare brained scheme."

Lazarus laid a hand on Dolanor's arm. "Take Phineas."

"Who?" Golasdu asked.

"The kid with my daughter." Lazarus said quietly, and Dolanor could hear the pleading in his voice.

"Great idea!" Dolanor hastily interjected, "This could be a good training exercise for the boy.

Phineas," he called, keeping his fingers crossed, "could you join us a minute? I think you might be interested in this."

The boy, looking startled, jumped to his feet, "You honor me." His chair tipped over and in trying to put it to rights he knocked over his drink, staining Joanna's dress. Patiently, she patted Phineas' arm; she brushed at the wet spot, murmured something and disappeared into the back.

"Boy, how would you like to try for high adventure?" Dolanor just managed to forestall an objection from Golasdu. "Golasdu, here is putting together a rescue party. Thieves have absconded with his horse, and there's rumor they're holeing up in a monastery north of here. We hear you came from the north. D'you think you could show us a bit about the trails in that direction?"

For a moment Phineas' attention turned inward. Dolanor had seen that happen before with the boy. When a decision needed to be made his eyes would glaze over for a second. He doubted anyone else noticed that sort of thing. It was the kind of tick only a people watcher would catch. "I can be happy to show you the route I tooking, Masters Golasdu and Dolanor" The young man said, his accent soft and charming, "Are you sure you want me?" his face flushed from embarrassment.

"None other!" Golasdu exclaimed, hitting Phineas on the back hard enough to knock him into Dolanor. "We'll give you tonight to say goodbye to that pretty little filly of yours, but first thing tomorrow you'll need to have our provisions at the north gate. Deal?"

"The north gate at sunrise. I will be there." Phineas picked himself up from the floor of the inn and left on light feet.

"Well," Golasdu said rubbing his hands in glee, "I'd better hurry over to Madam Rosie's. I've only got the one night. The girls will be destitute, but," he shrugged, "such is the price of beauty." He hopped down from his chair and headed for the door. "Maybe I should let Lightening know we're going to be searching for him... For a pegasus he can be a bit stodgy."

Chapter 2