Early Days

Ice Age

Age of Conflict

Through the Eye of Paal

Maps and Tables

Ch 1

Chapter 1

A'Dalene, City of Dreams

The fountain was cool and moist and so completely unexpected that Phineas dropped his pack and just stared for a full three minutes. Sure, fountains are supposed to be cool and moist and sit in squares in the middle of towns just like this one. But he'd just spent 10 years . . .no eight, actually . . .walking exactly away from this particular fountain. He stepped up to it and touched it's gray stone barrier gingerly, not sure even still that he could believe it was real.

It wasn't an exact duplicate, he decided. The stones were older here, more worn. From a half moon the water moved sideways in a cascade so even that it looked to the casual eye as if a glittering curtain covered the arch. He'd spent many hours as a youth trying to figure out the engineering feat that caused that effect. It finally occurred to him that it could well be magical, and that effectively curtailed his interest. The water in the bowl of this fountain was about 4 inches deep, and the moss was more lush than in the one at home. He suspected the children weren't allowed to play in this one the way they were in his.

So intent was he on the apparition before him, he didn't even hear the light footsteps behind. "I assure you, sir, it is a real fountain."

His body reacted to the dangerously close voice before his mind registered the feminine timbre and the friendly tone. Desperately he tried to recover from an assault pirouette. In doing so, he fell into the water. Her delighted laughter followed the splash. "If you doubted my word, traveler," she said between hearty laughs, "you could have asked another. There was no need to test it!" Good-naturedly she offered her hand.

She was beautiful, Phineas noted. Her hair was red and long, worn unbound in the style of one not yet spoken for. Her body was young and lean and oh so shapely. It took him a moment to realize that indeed she did have cause to laugh, for he was sure he made a comic sight sitting in the shallow pool. He laughed and took the offered hand. Then -- purely as an exercise in leverage, you understand -- he twisted just enough to make it look accidental and she was sitting next to him in the water. She sputtered once or twice, then started up again laughing.

This was actually working out quite well, Phineas thought. He could easily create a persona of a clumsy oaf. That would work well if he intended on staying here in A'Dalene without alarming the Family. The fountain was an anomaly his curiosity would not let him pass up. "I apology, lady Miss." He said contritely, exaggerating his accent. In a master contrivance of grace and lack of same, he reached for her arm to help her up, contacted breast instead, snatched away the offending hand loosing his balance, slipped on the moss, knocked her just stabilizing feet out from under her, and finally ended bottom man in a truly delightful heap, her face just inches from his.

Thanking the Fates that the water was so shallow, he smiled his most charming and said, "I maybe not move. Ok for you, lady Miss?"

Not impressed with his smile, the beauty said, "You are a dangerous man when you are in motion. I think you 'maybe not move' too." Lifting herself off from him, she stepped to dry ground and backed up about 6ft. "If you stay more than a body length away, I will allow you to introduce yourself. I am Joannah?

Slowly Phineas got up from the fountain and stepped onto dry ground. "I heit Phineas Le Phevr?é, lady Miss. So pleasing to meet you." Scrupulously he kept his distance, measuring it with his eye more accurately than most could.

The accent had finally caught her, and she stepped timidly closer. "Where are you from, Phineas The Fever."

For his part, Phineas moved backward. He had checked where his pack was upon getting out from the water, so that now he could seem to step on it by accident. His memory--weakened by the long journey and startled by the nickname--misjudged the distance by about 3 inches. He stepped on the side of the pack, lost his balance and fell. Lightning reflexes should have saved him from serious injury, but being in the middle of such a large city hampered him. Ingrained fear of discovery stayed those reflexes long enough for him to meet the stone retaining wall with his head. It wasn't like running into Joanna.

Chapter 2