Dragonlance

Legends 3

TEST of the TWINS

MARGARET WEIS AND TRACY

HICKMAN

"Shush!" Caramon hissed and went on reading from Astinus's Chronicles. "'The bronze dragon he

rode, having no magical protection, died at Soth's command, forcing Tanis Half-Elven to fight the

death knight on foot. Lord Soth dismounted to meet his opponent according to the Laws of Combat

as set forth by the Knights of Solamnia, these laws binding the death knight still, even though he

had long since passed beyond their jurisdiction, Tanis Half-Elven fought bravely but was no match

for Lord Soth. He fell, mortally wounded, the death knight's sword in his chest-"'

"No!" Tas gasped. "No! We can't let Tanis die!" Reaching up, he tugged on Caramon's arm. "Let's

go! There's still time! We can find him and warn him-"

"I can't, Tas," Caramon said quietly. "I've got to go to the Tower. I can sense Raistlin's presence

drawing closer to me. I don't have time, Tas."

"You can't mean that! We cant just let Tanis die!" Tas whispered, staring at Caramon, wide-eyed.

"No, Tas, we can't," said Caramon, regarding the kender gravely. "You're going to save him."

Book 1

The Hammer of the Gods

Like sharp steel, the clarion call of a trumpet split the autumn air as the armies of the dwarves of

Thorbardin rode down into the Plains of Dergoth to meet their foe-their kinsmen. Centuries of

hatred and misunderstanding between the hill dwarves and their mountain cousins poured red upon

the plains that day. Victory became meaningless-an objective no one sought. To avenge wrongs

committed long ago by grandfathers long since dead was the aim of both sides. To kill and kill and

kill again-this was the Dwarfgate War.

True to his word, the dwarven hero, Kharas, fought for his King Beneath the Mountain. Cleanshaven,

his beard sacrificed to shame that he must fight those he called kin, Kharas was at the

vanguard of the army, weeping even as he killed. But as he fought, he suddenly came to see that the

word victory had become twisted to mean annihilation. He saw the standards of both armies fall,

lying trampled and forgotten upon the bloody plain as the madness of revenge engulfed both armies

in a fearsome red wave. And when he saw that no matter who won there would be no victor,

Kharas threw down his Hammer-the Hammer forged with the help of Reorx, god of the dwarvesand

left the field.

Many were the voices that shrieked "coward." If Kharas heard, he paid them no heed. He knew his

worth in his own heart, he knew it better than any. Wiping the bitter tears from his eyes, washing

the blood of his kinsmen from his hands, Kharas searched among the dead until he found the bodies

of King Duncan's two beloved sons. Throwing the hacked and mutilated corpses of the young

dwarves over the back of a horse, Kharas left the Plains of Dergoth, returning to Thorbardin with

his burden.

Kharas rode far, but not far enough to escape the sound of hoarse voices crying for revenge, the

clash of steel, the screams of the dying. He did not look back. He had the feeling he would hear

those voices to the end of his days.

The dwarven hero was just riding into the first foothills of the Kharolis Mountains when he heard

an eerie rumbling sound begin. Kharas's horse shied nervously. The dwarf checked it and stopped

to soothe the animal. As he did so, he looked around uneasily. What was it? It was no sound of war,

no sound of nature.

Kharas turned. The sound came from behind him, from the lands he had just left, lands where his

kinsmen were still slaughtering each other in the name of justice. The sound increased in

magnitude, becoming a low, dull, booming sound that grew louder and louder. Kharas almost

imagined he could see the sound, coming closer and closer. The dwarven hero shuddered and

lowered his head as the dreadful roar came nearer, thundering across the Plains.

It is Reorx, he thought in grief and horror. It is the voice of the angry god. We are doomed.

The sound hit Kharas, along with a shock wave-a blast of heat and scorching, foul-smelling wind

that nearly blew him from the saddle. Clouds of sand and dust and ash enveloped him, turning day

into a horrible, perverted night. Trees around him bent and twisted, his horses screamed in terror

and nearly bolted. For a moment, it was all Kharas could do to retain control of the panic-stricken

animals.

Blinded by the stinging dust cloud, choking and coughing, Kharas covered his mouth and tried-as

best he could in the strange darkness-to cover the eyes of the horses as well. How long he stood in

that cloud of sand and ash and hot wind, he could not remember. But, as suddenly as it came, it

passed.

The sand and dust settled. The trees straightened. The horses grew calm. The cloud drifted past on

the gentler winds of autumn, leaving behind a silence more dreadful than the thunderous noise.

Filled with dreadful foreboding, Kharas urged his tired horses on as fast as he could and rode up

into the hills, seeking desperately for some vantage site. Finally, he found it an out-cropping of

rock. Tying the pack animals with their sorrowful burden to a tree, Kharas rode his horse out onto

the rock and looked out over the Plains of Dergoth. Stopping, he stared down below him in awe.

Nothing living stirred. In fact, there was nothing there at all; nothing except blackened, blasted sand

and rock.

Both armies were completely wiped out. So devastating was the explosion that not even corpses

remained upon the ash-covered Plain. Even the very face of the land itself had changed. Kharas's

horrified gaze went to where the magical fortress of Zhaman had once stood, its tall, graceful spires

ruling the Plains. It, too, had been destroyed-but not totally. The fortress had collapsed in upon

itself and now-most horribly-its ruins resembled a human skull sitting, grinning, upon the barren

Plain of Death.

"Reorx, Father, Forger, forgive us," murmured Kharas, tears blurring his vision. Then, his head

bowed in grief, the dwarven hero left the site, returning to Thorbardin.

The dwarves would believe-for so Kharas himself would report-that the destruction of both armies

on the Plains of Dergoth was brought about by Reorx. That the god had, in his anger, hurled his

hammer down upon the land, smiting his children.

But the Chronicles of Astinus truly record what happened upon the Plains of Dergoth that day:

Now at the height of his magical powers, the archmage, Raistlin, known also as Fistandantilus, and

the White-robed cleric of Paladine, Crysania, sought entry into the Portal that leads to the Abyss,

there to challenge and fight the Queen of Darkness.

Dark crimes of his own this archmage had committed to reach this point-the pinnacle of his

ambition. The Black Robes he wore were stained with blood; some of it his own. Yet this man

knew the human heart. He knew how to wrench it and twist it and make those who should have

reviled him and spurned him come to admire him instead. Such a one was Lady Crysania, of the

House of Tarinius. A Revered Daughter of the church, she possessed one fatal flaw in the white

marble of her soul. And that flaw Raistlin found and widened so that the crack would spread

throughout her being and eventually reach her heart....

Crysania followed him to the dread Portal. Here she called upon her god and Paladine answered,

for, truly, she was his chosen. Raistlin called upon his magic and he was successful, for no wizard

had yet lived as powerful as this young man.

The Portal opened.

Raistlin started to enter, but a magical, time-traveling device being operated by the mage's twin

brother, Caramon, and the kender, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, interfered with the archmage's powerful

spell. The field of magic was disrupted ...

... with disastrous and unforeseen consequences.

Chapter

"Oops," said Tasslehoff Burrfoot.

Caramon fixed the kender with a stern eye.

"It's not my fault! Really, Caramon!" Tas protested.

But, even as he spoke, the kender's gaze went to their surroundings, then he glanced up at Caramon,

then back to their surroundings again. Tas's lower lip began to tremble and he reached for his

handkerchief, just in case he felt a snuffle coming. But his handkerchief wasn't there, his pouches

weren't there. Tas sighed. In the excitement of the moment, he'd forgotten-they'd all been left

behind in the dungeons of Thorbardin.

And it had been a truly exciting moment. One minute he and Caramon had been standing in the

magical fortress of Zhaman, activating the magical time-traveling device; the next minute Raistlin

had begun working his magic and, before Tas knew it, there had been a terrible commotion stones

singing and rocks cracking and a horrible feeling of being pulled in six different directions at once

and then-

WHOOSH-here they were.

Wherever here was. And, wherever it was, it certainly didn't seem to be where it was supposed to

be.

He and Caramon were on a mountain trail, near a large boulder, standing ankle-deep in slick ashgray

mud that completely covered the face of the land below them for as far as Tas could see. Here

and there, jagged ends of broken rock jutted from the soft flesh of the ash covering. There were no

signs of life. Nothing could be alive in that desolation. No trees remained standing; only fireblackened

stumps poked through the thick mud. As far as the eye could see, clear to the horizon, in

every direction, there was nothing but complete and total devastation.

The sky itself offered no relief. Above them, it was gray and empty. To the west, however, it was a

strange violet color, boiling with weird, luminous clouds laced with lightning of brilliant blue.

Other than the distant rumble of thunder, there was no sound ... no movement ... nothing.

Caramon drew a deep breath and rubbed his hand across his face. The heat was intense and,

already, even though they had been standing in this place only a few minutes, his sweaty skin was

coated with a fine film of gray ash.

"Where are we?" he asked in even, measured tones. "I-I'm sure I haven't any idea, Caramon," Tas

said. Then, after a pause, "Have you?"

"I did everything the way you told me to," Caramon replied, his voice ominously calm. "You said

Gnimsh said that all we had to do was think of where we wanted to go and there we'd be. I know I

was thinking of Solace-"

"I was too!" Tas cried. Then, seeing Caramon glare at him, the kender faltered. "At least I was

thinking of it most of the time...."

"Most of the time?" Caramon asked in a dreadfully calm voice.

"Well"-Tas gulped-"I-I did th-think once, just for an instant, mind you, about how-er-how much

fun and interesting and, well, unique, it would be to-uh-visit a-uuh ... um......

"Um what?" Caramon demanded. "A... mmmmmm."

"A what?"

"Mmmmm," Tas mumbled. Caramon sucked in his breath. "A moon!" Tas said quickly.

"Moon!" repeated Caramon incredulously. "Which moon?" he asked after a moment, glancing

around. "Oh"-Tas shrugged-"any of the three. I suppose one's as good as another. Quite similar, I

should imagine. Except, of course, that Solinari would have all glittering silver rocks and Lunitari

all bright red rocks, and I guess the other one would be all black, though I can't say for sure, never

having seen-"

Caramon growled at this point, and Tas decided it might be best to hold his tongue. He did, too, for

about three minutes during which time Caramon continued to look around at their surroundings

with a solemn face. But it would have taken more holding than the kender had inside him (or a

sharp knife) to keep his tongue from talking longer than that.

"Caramon," he blurted out, "do-do you think we actually did it? Went to a-uh-moon, that is? I

mean, this certainly doesn't look like anyplace I've ever been before. Not that these rocks are silver

or red or even black. They're more of a rock color, but-"

"I wouldn't doubt it," Caramon said gloomily. "After all, you did take us to a seaport city that was

sitting squarely in the middle of a desert-"

"That wasn't my fault either!" Tas said indignantly. "Why even Tanis said-"

"Still"-Caramon's face creased in puzzlement "this place certainly looks strange, but it seems

familiar somehow."

"You're right," said Tas after a moment, staring around again at the bleak, ash-choked landscape.

"It does remind me of somewhere, now that you mention it. Only"-the kender shivered-"I don't

recall ever having been anyplace quite this awful ... except the Abyss," he added, but he said it

under his breath.

The boiling clouds surged nearer and nearer as the two spoke, casting a further pall over the barren

land. A hot wind sprang up, and a fine rain began to fall, mingling with the ash drifting through the

air. Tas was just about to comment on the slimy quality of the rain when suddenly, without

warning, the world blew up.

At least that was Tas's first impression. Brilliant, blinding light, a sizzling sound, a crack, a boom

that shook the ground, and Tasslehoff found himself sitting in the gray mud, staring stupidly at a

gigantic hole that had been blasted in the rock not a hundred feet away from him.

"Name of the gods!" Caramon gasped. Reaching down, he dragged Tas to his feet. "Are you all

right?"

"I-I think so," said Tas, somewhat shaken. As he watched, lightning streaked again from the cloud

to ground, sending rock and ash hurtling through the air. "My! That certainly was an interesting

experience. Though nothing I'd care to repeat right away," he added hastily, fearful that the sky,

which was growing darker and darker by the minute, might decide to treat him to that interesting

experience all over again.

"Wherever we are, we better get off this high ground," Caramon muttered. "At least there's a trail. It

must lead somewhere."

Glancing down the mud-choked trail into the equally mud-choked valley below, Tas had the

fleeting thought that Somewhere was likely to be every bit as gray and yucky as Here, but, after a

glimpse of Caramon's grim face, the kender quickly decided to keep his thoughts to himself.

As they slogged down the trail through the thick mud, the hot wind blew harder, driving specks of

blackened wood and cinders and ash into their flesh. Lightning danced among the trees, making

them burst into balls of bright green or blue flame. The ground shook with the concussive roar of

the thunder. And still, the storm clouds massed on the horizon. Caramon hurried their pace.

As they labored down the hillside they entered what must once have been, Tas imagined, a

beautiful valley. At one time, he guessed, the trees here must have been ablaze with autumn

oranges and golds, or misty green in the spring. Here and there, he saw spirals of smoke curling up,

only to be whipped away immediately by the storm wind. Undoubtedly from more lightning strikes,

he thought. But, in an odd sort of way, that reminded him of something, too. Like Caramon, he was

becoming increasingly convinced that he knew this place.

Wading through the mud, trying to ignore what the icky stuff was doing to his green shoes and

bright blue leggings, Tas decided to try an old kender trick To Use When Lost. Closing his eyes

and blotting everything from his mind, he ordered his brain to provide him with a picture of the

landscape before him. The rather interesting kender logic behind this being that since it was likely

that some kender in Tasslehoff's family had undoubtedly been to this place before, the memory was

somehow passed on to his or her descendants. While this was never scientifically verified (the

gnomes are working on it, having referred it to committee), it certainly is true that-to this day-no

kender has ever been reported lost on Krynn.

At any rate, Tas, standing shin-deep in mud, closed his eyes and tried to conjure up a picture of his

surroundings. One came to him, so vivid in its clarity that he was rather startled-certainly his

ancestors' mental maps had never been so perfect. There were trees-giant trees-there were

mountains on the horizon, there was a lake....

Opening his eyes, Tas gasped. There was a lake! He hadn't noticed it before, probably because it

was the same gray, sludge color as the ash-covered ground. Was there water there, still? Or was it

filled with mud?

I wonder, Tas mused, if Uncle Trapspringer ever visited a moon. If so, that would account for the

fact that I recognize this place. But surely he would have told someone.... Perhaps he would have if

the goblins hadn't eaten him before he had the chance. Speaking of food, that reminds me ...

"Caramon," Tas shouted over the rising wind and the boom of the thunder. "Did you bring along

any water? I didn't. Nor any food, either. I didn't suppose we'd need any, what with going back

home and all. But-"

Tas suddenly saw something that drove thoughts of food and water and Uncle Trapspringer from

his mind.

"Oh, Caramon!" Tas clutched at the big warrior, pointing. "Look, do you suppose that's the sun?"

"What else would it be?" Caramon snapped gruffly, his gaze on a watery, greenish-yellow disk that

had appeared through a rift in the storm clouds. "And, no, I didn't bring any water. So just keep

quiet about it, huh?"

"Well, you needn't be ru-" Tas began. Then he saw Caramon s face and quickly hushed.

They had come to a halt, slipping in the mud, halfway down the trail. The hot wind blew about

them, sending Tas's topknot streaming out from his head like a banner and whipping Caramon's

cloak out. The big warrior was staring at the lake-the same lake Tas had noticed. Caramon's face

was pale, his eyes troubled. After a moment, he began walking again, trudging grimly down the

trail. With a sigh, Tas squished along after him. He had reached a decision.

"Caramon," he said, "let's get out of here. Let's leave this place. Even if it is a moon like Uncle

Trapspringer must have visited before the goblins ate him, it isn't much fun. The moon, I mean, not

being eaten by goblins which I suppose wouldn't be much fun either, come to think of it. To tell

you the truth, this moon's just about as boring as the Abyss and it certainly smells as bad. Besides,

there I wasn't thirsty. . . . Not that I'm thirsty now," he added hastily, remembering too late that he

wasn't supposed to talk about it, "but my tongue's sort of dried out, if you know what I mean, which

makes it hard to talk. We've got the magical device." He held the jewel encrusted sceptre-shaped

object up in his hand, just in case Caramon had forgotten in the last half-hour what it looked like.

"And I promise ... I solemnly vow ... that I'll think of Solace with all my brain this time, Caramon.

I-Caramon?"

"Hush, Tas," Caramon said.

They had reached the valley floor, where the mud was ankle-deep on Caramon, which made it

about shin-deep on

Tas. Caramon had begun to limp again from when he'd fallen and wrenched his knee back in the

magical fortress of Zhaman. Now, in addition to worry, there was a look of pain on his face.

There was another look, too. A look that made Tas feel all prickly inside-a look of true fear. Tas,

startled, glanced about quickly, wondering what Caramon saw. It seemed pretty much the same at

the bottom as it had at the top, he thought-gray and yucky and horrible. Nothing had changed,

except that it was growing darker. The storm clouds had obliterated the sun again, rather to Tas's

relief, since it was an unwholesome-looking sun that made the bleak, gray landscape appear worse

than ever. The rain was falling harder as the storm clouds drew nearer. Other than that, there

certainly didn't appear to be anything frightening.

The kender tried his best to keep silent, but the words just sort of leaped out of his mouth before he

could stop them. "What's the matter, Caramon? I don't see anything. Is your knee bothering you? I-

"

"Be quiet, Tas!" Caramon ordered in a strained, tight voice. He was staring around him, his eyes

wide, his hands clenching and unclenching nervously.

Tas sighed and clapped his hand over his mouth to bottle up the words, determined to keep quiet if

it killed him. When he was quiet, it suddenly occurred to him that it was so very quiet around here.

There was no sound at all when the thunder wasn't thundering, not even the usual sounds he was

used to hearing when it rained-water dripping from tree leaves and plopping onto the ground, the

wind rustling in the branches, birds singing their rain songs, complaining about their wet feathers....

Tas had a strange, quaking feeling inside. He looked at the stumps of the burned trees more closely.

Even burned, they were huge, easily the largest trees he had ever seen in his life except for

Tas gulped. Leaves, autumn colors, the smoke of cooking fires curling up from the valley, the lakeblue

and smooth as crystal ...

Blinking, he rubbed his eyes to clear them of the gummy film of mud and rain. He stared around

him, looking back up at the trail, at that huge boulder. . . . He stared at the lake that he could see

quite clearly through the burned tree stumps. He stared at the mountains with their sharp, jagged

peaks. It wasn't Uncle Trapspringer who'd been here before...... Oh, Caramon!" he whispered in

horror.

Chapter 2

"What is it?" Caramon turned, looking at Tas so strangely that the kender felt his inside prickly

feeling spread to his outside. Little bumps appeared all up and down his arms.

"N-nothing," Tas stammered. "Just my imagination. Caramon," he added urgently, "let's leave!

Right now. We can go anywhere we want to! We can go back in time to when we were all together,

to when we were all happy! We can go back to when Flint and Sturm were alive, to when Raistlin

still wore the red robes and Tika-"

"Shut up, Tas," snapped Caramon warningly, his words accented by a flash of lightning that made

even the kender flinch.

The wind was rising, whistling through the dead tree stumps with an eerie sound, like someone

drawing a shivering breath through clenched teeth. The warm, slimy rain had ceased. The clouds

above them swirled past, revealing the pale sun shimmering in the gray sky. But on the horizon, the

clouds continued to mass, continued to grow blacker and blacker.

Multicolored lightning flickered among them, giving them a distant, deadly beauty.

Caramon started walking along the muddy trail, gritting his teeth against the pain of his injured leg.

But Tas, looking down that trail that he now knew so well-even though it was appallingly differentcould

see to where it rounded a bend. Knowing what lay beyond that bend, he stood where he was,

planted firmly in the middle of the road, staring at Caramon's back.

After a few moments of unusual silence, Caramon realized something was wrong and glanced

around. He stopped, his face drawn with pain and fatigue.

"C'mon, Tas!" he said irritably.

Twisting his topknot of hair around his finger, Tas shook his head.

Caramon glared at him.

Tas finally burst out, "Those are vallenwood trees, Caramon!"

The big man's stern expression softened. "I know, Tas," he said wearily. "This is Solace."

"No, it isn't!" Tas cried. "It-it's just some place that has vallenwoods! There must be lots of places

that have vallenwoods-"

"And are there lots of places that have Crystalmir Lake, Tas, or the Kharolis Mountains or that

boulder up where you and I've both seen Flint sitting, carving his wood, or this road that leads to

the-"

"You don't know!" Tas yelled angrily. "It's possible!" Suddenly, he ran forward, or he tried to run

forward, dragging his feet through the oozing, clinging mud as fast as possible. Stumbling into

Caramon, he grabbed the big maxis hand and tugged on it. "Let's go! Let's get out of here!" Once

again, he held up the time-traveling device. "We-we can go back to Tarsis! Where the dragons

toppled a building down on top of me! That was a fun time, very interesting. Remember?" His

shrill voice screeched through the burned-out trees.

Reaching out, his face grim, Caramon grabbed the magical device from the kender's hand. Ignoring

Tas's frantic protests, he took the device and began twisting and turning the jewels, gradually

transforming it from a sparkling sceptre into a plain, nondescript pendant. Tas watched him

miserably.

"Why won't we go, Caramon? This place is horrible. We don't have any food or water and, from

what I've seen, there's not much likelihood of us finding either. Plus, we're liable to get blasted right

out of our shoes if one of those lightning bolts hits us, and that storm's getting closer and closer and

you know this isn't Solace-"

"I don't know, Tas," Caramon said quietly. "But I'm going to find out. What's the matter? Aren't

you curious? Since when did a kender ever turn down the chance for an adventure?" He began to

limp down the trail again.

"I'm just as curious as the next kender," Tas mumbled, hanging his head and trudging along after

Caramon. "But it's one thing to be curious about some place you've never been before, and quite

another to be curious about home. You're not supposed to be curious about home! Home isn't

supposed to change. It just stays there, waiting for you to come back. Home is someplace you say

'My, this looks just like it did when I left!' not 'My, this looks like six million dragons flew in and

wrecked the joint!' Home is not a place for adventures, Caramon!"

Tas peered up into Caramon's face to see if his argument had made any impression. If it had, it

didn't show. There was a look of stern resolution on the pain-filled face that rather surprised Tas,

surprised and startled him as well.

Caramon's changed, Tas realized suddenly. And it isn't just from giving up dwarf spirits. There's

something different about him-he's more serious and ... well, responsible looking, I guess. But

there's something else. Tas pondered. Pride, he decided after a minute of profound reflection. Pride

in himself, pride and determination.

This isn't a Caramon who will give in easily, Tas thought with a sinking heart. This isn't a Caramon

who needs a kender to keep him out of mischief and taverns. Tas sighed bleakly. He rather missed

that old Caramon.

They came to the bend in the road. Each recognized it, though neither said anything-Caramon,

because there wasn't anything to be said, and Tas, because he was steadfastly refusing to admit he

recognized it. But both found their footsteps dragging.

Once, travelers coming around that bend would have seen the Inn of the Last Home, gleaming with

light. They would have smelled Otik's spiced potatoes, heard the sounds of laughter and song drift

from the door every time it opened to admit the wanderer or regular from Solace. Both Caramon

and Tas stopped, by unspoken agreement, before they rounded that corner.

Still they said nothing, but each looked around him at the desolation, at the burned and blasted tree

stumps, at the ash covered ground, at the blackened rocks. In their ears rang a silence louder and

more frightening than the booming thunder. Because both knew that they should have heard Solace,

even if they couldn't see it yet. They should have heard the sounds of the town-the sounds of the

smithy, the sounds of market day, the sounds of hawkers and children and merchants, the sounds of

the Inn.

But there was nothing, only silence. And, far off in the distance, the ominous rumble of thunder.

Finally, Caramon sighed. "Let's go," he said, and hobbled forward.

Tas followed more slowly, his shoes so caked with mud that he felt as if he were wearing iron-shod

dwarf boots. But his shoes weren't nearly as heavy as his heart. Over and over he muttered to

himself, "This isn't Solace, this isn't Solace, this isn't Solace," until it began to sound like one of

Raistlin's magical incantations.

Rounding the bend, Tas fearfully raised his eyes-and heaved a vast sigh of relief.

"What did I tell you, Caramon?" he cried over the wailing of the wind. "Look, nothing there,

nothing there at all. No Inn, no town, nothing." He slipped his small hand into Caramon's large one

and tried to pull him backward. "Now, let's go. I've got an idea. We can go back to the time when

Fizban made the golden span come out of the sky-"

But Caramon, shaking off the kender, was limping ahead, his face grim. Coming to a halt, he stared

down at the ground. "What's this then, Tas?" he demanded in a voice taut with fear.

Chewing nervously on the end of his topknot, the kender came up to stand beside Caramon.

"What's what?" he asked stubbornly.

Caramon pointed.

Tas sniffed. "So, it's a big cleared-off space on the ground. All right, maybe something was there.

Maybe a big building was there. But it isn't there now, so why worry about it? I-Oh, Caramon!"

The big man's injured knee suddenly gave way. He staggered, and would have fallen if Tas hadn't

propped him up. With Tas's help, Caramon made his way over to the stump of what had been an

unusually large vallenwood, on the edge of the empty patch of mud-covered ground. Leaning

against it, his face pale with pain and dripping with sweat, Caramon rubbed his injured knee.

"What can I do to help?" Tas asked anxiously, wringing his hands. "I know! I'll find you a crutch!

There must be lots of broken branches lying about. I'll go look."

Caramon said nothing, only nodded wearily.

Tas dashed off, his sharp eyes scouring the gray, slimy ground, rather glad to have something to do

and not to have to answer questions about stupid cleared-off spaces. He soon found what he was

looking for-the end of a tree branch sticking up through the mud. Catching hold of it, the kender

gave it a yank. His hands slipped off the wet branch, sending him toppling over backward. Getting

up, staring ruefully at the gunk on his blue leggings, the kender tried unsuccessfully to wipe it off.

Then he sighed and grimly took hold of the branch again. This time, he felt it give a little.

"I've almost got it, Caramon!" he reported. "I--"

A most unkenderlike shriek rose above the screaming wind. Caramon looked up in alarm to see

Tas's topknot disappearing into a vast sink hole that had apparently opened up beneath his feet.

"I'm coming, Tas!" Caramon called, stumbling forward. "Hang on!"

But he halted at the sight of Tas crawling back out of the hole. The kender's face was like nothing

Caramon had ever seen. It was ashen, the lips white, the eyes wide and staring.

"Don't come any closer, Caramon," Tas whispered, gesturing him away with a small, muddy hand.

"Please, stay back!"

But it was too late. Caramon had reached the edge of the hole and was staring down. Tas, crouched

beside him on the ground, began to shake and sob. "They're all dead," he whimpered. "All dead."

Burying his face in his arms, he rocked back and forth, weeping bitterly.

At the bottom of the rock-lined hole that had been covered by a thick layer of mud lay bodies, piles

of bodies, bodies of men, women, children. Preserved by the mud, some were still pitifully

recognizable-or so it seemed to Caramon's feverish gaze. His thoughts went to the last mass grave

he had seen the plague village Crysania had found. He remembered his brother's angry, griefstricken

face. He remembered Raistlin calling down the lightning, burning everything, burning the

village to ash.

Gritting his teeth, Caramon forced himself to look into that grave-forced himself to look for a mass

of red curls.... He turned away with a shuddering sob of relief, then, looking around wildly, he

began to run back toward the Inn. "Tika!" he screamed.

Tas raised his head, springing up in alarm. "Caramon!" he cried, slipped in the mud, and fell.

"Tika!" Caramon yelled hoarsely above the howl of the wind and the distant thunder. Apparently

oblivious to the pain of his injured leg, he staggered down a wide, clear area, free of tree stumpsthe

road leading past the Inn, Tas's mind registered, though he didn't think it clearly. Getting to his

feet again, the kender hurried after Caramon, but the big man was making rapid headway,

staggering through the mud, his fear and hope giving him strength.

Tas soon lost sight of him amid the blackened stumps, but he could hear his voice, still calling

Tika's name. Now Tas knew where the big man was headed. His footsteps slowed. His head ached

with the heat and the foul smells of the place, his heart ached with what he had just seen. Dragging

his heavy, mud-caked shoes, fearful of what he would find ahead, the kender stumbled on.

Sure enough, there was Caramon, standing in a barren space next to another vallenwood stump. In

his hand, he held something, staring at it with the look of one who is, at last, defeated.

Mud-covered, bedraggled, heartsick, the kender went to stand before him. "What?" he asked

through trembling lips, pointing to the object in the big mans hand.

"A hammer," Caramon said in a choked voice. "My hammer."

Tas looked at it. It was a hammer, all right. Or at least appeared to have been one. The wooden

handle had been burned about three-fourths of the way off. All that was left was a charred bit of

wood and the metal head, blackened with flame.

"How-how can you be sure?" he faltered, still fighting, still refusing to believe.

"I'm sure," Caramon said bitterly. "Look at this." The handle wiggled, the head wobbled when he

touched it. "I made it when I was-was still drinking." He wiped his eyes with his hand. "It isn't

made very well. The head used to come off about half the time. But then"-he choked-"I never did

much work with it anyway."

Weakened from the running, Caramon's injured leg suddenly gave out. This time, he didn't even try

to catch himself, but just slumped down into the mud. Sitting in the clear patch of ground that had

once been his home, he clutched the hammer in his hand and began to cry.

Tas turned his head away. The big man's grief was sacred, too private a thing for even his eyes.

Ignoring his own tears, which were trickling past his nose, Tas stared around bleakly. He had never

felt so helpless, so lost and alone. What had happened? What had gone wrong? Surely there must

be a clue, an answer.

"I-I'm going to look around," he mumbled to Caramon, who didn't hear him.

With a sigh, Tas trudged off. He knew where he was now, of course. He could refuse to admit it no

longer. Caramon's house had been located near the center of town, close to the Inn. Tas continued

walking along what had once been a street running between rows of houses. Even though there was

nothing left now-not the houses, not the street, not the vallenwoods that held the houses-he knew

exactly where he was. He wished he didn't. Here and there he saw branches poking up out of the

mud, and he shivered. For there was nothing else. Nothing except ...

"Caramon!" Tas called, thankful to have something to investigate and to, hopefully, take Caramon's

mind off his sorrow. "Caramon, I think you should come see this!"

But the big man continued to ignore him, so Tas went off to examine the object by himself.

Standing at the very end of the street, in what had once been a small park, was a stone obelisk. Tas

remembered the park, but he didn't remember the obelisk. It hadn't been there the last time he'd

been in Solace, he realized, examining it.

Tall, crudely carved, it had, nevertheless, survived the ravages of fire and wind and storm. Its

surface was blackened and charred but, Tas saw as he neared it, there were letters carved into it,

letters that, once he had cleaned away the muck, he thought he could read.

Tas brushed away the soot and muddy film covering the stone, stared at it for a long moment, then

called out softly, "Caramon."

The odd note in the kender's voice penetrated Caramon's haze of grief. He lifted his head. Seeing

the strange obelisk and seeing Tas's unusually serious face, the big man painfully heaved himself

up and limped toward it.

"What is it?" he asked.

Tas couldn't answer, he could only shake his head and point.

Caramon came around to the front and stood, silently reading the roughly carved letters and

unfinished inscription.

Hero of the Lance Tika Waylan Majere Death Year 358 Your life's tree felled too soon.

I fear, lest in my hands the axe be found.

"I-I'm sorry, Caramon," Tas murmured, slipping his hand into the big man's limp, nerveless fingers.

Caramon's head bowed. Putting his hand on the obelisk, he stroked its cold, wet surface as the wind

whipped around them. A few raindrops splattered against the stone. "She died alone," he said.

Doubling his fist, he bashed it into the rock, cutting his flesh on the sharp edges. "I left her alone! I

should have been here! Damn it, I should have been here!"

His shoulders began to heave with sobs. Tas, looking over at the storm clouds and realizing that

they were moving again, and coming closer, held Caramon s hand tightly.

"I don't think there would have been anything you could have done, Caramon, if you had been here-

" the kender began earnestly.

Suddenly, he bit his words off, nearly biting his tongue in the process. Withdrawing his hand from

Caramon's-the big man never even noticed-the kender knelt down in the mud. His quick eyes had

caught sight of something shining in the sickly rays of the pale sun. Reaching down with a

trembling hand, Tas hurriedly scooped away the muck.

"Name of the gods," he said in awe, leaning back on his heels. "Caramon, you were here!"

"What?" he growled. Tas pointed.

Lifting his head, Caramon turned and looked down. There, at his feet, lay his own corpse.

Chapter 3 t least it appeared to be Caramon's corpse. It was wearing the armor he had acquired in

Solamnia-armor he had worn during the Dwarfgate War, armor he had been wearing when he and

Tas left Zhaman, armor he was wearing now. . . .

But, beyond that, there was nothing specific that identified the body. Unlike the bodies Tas had

discovered that had been preserved beneath layers of mud, this corpse lay relatively close to the

surface and had decomposed. All that was left was the skeleton of what had obviously been a large

man lying at the foot of the obelisk. One hand, holding a chisel, rested directly beneath the stone

monument as if his final act had been to carve out that last dreadful phrase.

There was no sign of what had killed him.

"What's going on, Caramon?" Tas asked in a quivering voice. "If that's you and you're dead, how

can you be here at the same time?" A sudden thought occurred to him. "Oh, no! What if you're not

here!" He clutched at his topknot, twisting it round and round. "If you're not here, then I've made

you up. My!" Tas gulped. "I never knew I had such a vivid imagination. You certainly look real."

Reaching out a trembling hand, he touched Caramon. "You feel real and, if you don't mind my

saying so, you even smell real!" Tas wrung his hands. "Caramon! I'm going crazy," he cried wildly.

"Like one of those dark dwarves in Thorbardin!"

"No, Tas," Caramon muttered. "This is real. All too real." He stared at the corpse, then at the

obelisk that was now barely visible in the rapidly fading light. "And it's starting to make sense. If

only I could-" He paused, staring intently at the obelisk. "That's it! Tas, look at the date on the

monument!"

With a sigh, Tas lifted his head. "358," he read in a dull voice. Then his eyes opened wide. "358?"

he repeated. "Caramon-it was 356 when we left Solace!"

"We've come too far, Tas," Caramon murmured in awe. "We've come into our own future."

The boiling black clouds they had been watching mass along the horizon like an army gathering its

full strength for the attack surged in just before nightfall, mercifully obliterating the final few

moments of the shrunken sun's existence.

The storm struck swiftly and with unbelievable fury. A blast of hot wind blew Tas off his feet and

slammed Caramon back against the obelisk. Then the rain hit, pelting them with drops like molten

lead. Hail beat on their heads, battering and bruising flesh.

More dreadful, though, than wind or rain was the deadly, multicolored lightning that leaped from

cloud to ground, striking the tree stumps, shattering them into brilliant balls of flame visible for

miles. The booming rumble of thunder was constant, shaking the very ground, numbing the senses.

Desperately trying to find shelter from the storm's violence, Tas and Caramon huddled beneath a

fallen vallenwood, crouching in a hole Caramon dug in the gray, oozing mud. From this scant

cover, they watched in disbelief as the storm wreaked further destruction upon the already dead

land. Fires swept the sides of the mountains; they could smell the stench of burning wood.

Lightning struck near, exploding trees, sending great chunks of ground flying. Thunder hit their

ears with concussive force.

The only blessing the storm offered was rainwater. Caramon left his helmet out, upturned, and

almost immediately collected water enough to drink. But it tasted horrible-like rotten eggs, Tas

shouted, holding his nose as he drank-and it did little to ease their thirst.

Neither mentioned, though both thought of it, that they had no way to store water, nor was there

anything to eat. Feeling more like himself since he now knew where he was and when he was (if

not exactly why he was or how he got here), Tasslehoff even enjoyed the storm for the first hour or

so.

"I've never seen lightning that color," he shouted above the booming thunder, and he watched it

with rapt interest. "It's as good as a street illusionist's show!" But he soon grew bored with the

spectacle.

"After all," he yelled, "even watching trees get blasted right out of the ground loses something after

about the fiftieth time you've seen it. If you won't be lonely, Caramon," he added with a jawcracking

yawn, "I think I'll take a little nap. You don't mind keeping watch, do you?"

Caramon shook his head, about to reply when a shattering blast made him start. A tree stump not a

hundred feet from them disappeared in a blue-green ball of flame.

That could have been us, he thought, staring at the smoldering ashes, his nose wrinkling at the

smell of sulfur. We could be next! A wild desire to run came into his head, a desire so strong that

his muscles twitched and he had to force himself to stay where he was.

It's certain death out there. At least here, in this hole, we're below ground level. But, even as he

watched, he saw lightning blow a gigantic hole in the ground itself, and he smiled bitterly. No,

nowhere was safe. We'll just have to ride it out and trust in the gods.

He glanced over at Tas, prepared to say something comforting to the kender. The words died on his

lips. Sighing, he shook his head. Some things never changed-kender among them. Curled up in a

ball, completely oblivious to the horrors raging around him, Tas was sound asleep.

Caramon crouched down farther into the hole, his eyes on the churning, lightning-laced clouds

above him. To take his mind off his fear, he began to try to sort out what had happened, how they

had landed in this predicament. Closing his eyes to the blinding lightning, he saw-once again-his

twin standing before the dread Portal. He could hear Raistlin's voice, calling on the five dragons

heads that guarded the Portal to open it and permit his entry into the Abyss. He saw Crysania, cleric

of Paladine, praying to her god, lost in the ecstasy of her faith, blind to his brother's evil.

Caramon shuddered, hearing Raistlin's words as clearly as if the archmage were standing beside

him.

She will enter the Abyss with me. She will go before me and fight my battles. She will face dark

clerics, dark magic-users, spirits of the dead doomed to wander in that cursed land, plus the

unbelievable torments that my Queen can devise. All these will wound her in body, devour her

mind, and shred her soul. Finally, when she can endure no more, she will slump to the ground to lie

at my feet ... bleeding, wretched, dying.

She will, with her last strength, hold out her hand to me for comfort. She will not ask me to save

her. She is too strong for that. She will give her life for me willingly, gladly. All she will ask is that

1 stay with her as she dies....

But I will walk past her without a look, without a word. Why? Because I will need her no longer. . .

.

It was after hearing these words that Caramon had understood at last that his brother was past

redemption. And so he had left him.

Let him go into the Abyss, Caramon had thought bitterly. Let him challenge the Dark Queen. Let

him become a god. It doesn't matter to me. I don't care what happens to him any longer. I am finally

free of him-as he is free of me.

Caramon and Tas had activated the magical device, reciting the rhyme Par-Salian had taught the

big man. He had heard the stones singing, just as he had heard them sing during the two other times

he had been present at the casting of the time-travel spell.

But then, something had happened. Something that was different. Now that he had time to think

and consider, he remembered wondering in sudden panic if something was wrong, but he couldn't

think what.

Not that I could have done anything about it anyway, he thought bitterly. I never understood magicnever

trusted it either, for that matter.

Another nearby lightning strike shattered his concentration and even caused Tas to jump in his

sleep. Muttering in irritation, the kender covered his eyes with his hands and slept on, looking like a

dormouse curled up in its burrow.

With a sigh, Caramon forced his thoughts away from storms and dormice back to those last few

moments when the magical spell had been activated.

I remember feeling pulled, he realized suddenly, pulled out of shape, as if some force were trying to

drag me one way while another was tugging at me from the opposite direction. What was Raistlin

doing then? Caramon struggled to recall. A dim image of his brother came to his mind. He saw

Raistlin, his face twisted in horror, staring at the Portal in shock. He saw Crysania, standing in the

Portal, but she was no longer praying to her god. Her body seemed wracked by pain, her eyes were

wide with terror.

Caramon shivered and licked his lips. The bitter-tasting water had left some kind of film behind

that made his mouth taste as if he'd been chewing on rusty nails. Spitting, he wiped his mouth with

his hand and leaned back wearily. Another blast made him flinch. And so did the answer.

His brother had failed.

The same thing had happened to Raistlin that had happened to Fistandantilus. He had lost control of

the magic. The magical field of the time-travel device had undoubtedly disrupted the spell he was

casting. That was the only probable explanation

Caramon frowned. No, surely Raistlin must have foreseen the possibility of that happening. If so,

he would have stopped them from using the device, killed them just as he had killed Tas's friend,

the gnome.

Shaking his head to clear it, Caramon started over, working through the problem much as he had

worked through the hated ciphering his mother'd taught him when he was a child. The magical field

had been disrupted, that much was obvious. It had thrown him and the kender too far forward in

time, sending them into their future.

Which means, I suppose, that all I have to do is activate the device and it will take us back to the

present, back to Tika, back to Solace....

Opening his eyes, he looked around. But would they face this same future when they returned?

Caramon shivered. He was soaked through from the torrential rain. The night was growing chill,

but it wasn't the cold that was tormenting him. He knew what it was to live knowing what was

going to happen in the future. He knew what it was to live without hope. How could he go back and

face Tika and his friends, knowing that this awaited them? He thought of the corpse beneath the

monument. How could he go back knowing what awaited him?

If that had been him. He remembered the last conversation between himself and his brother. Tas

had altered time-so Raistlin had said. Because kender, dwarves, and gnomes were races created by

accident, not design, they were not in the flow of time as were the human, elf, and ogre races. Thus

kender were prohibited from traveling back in time because they had the power to alter it.

But Tas had been send back by accident, leaping into the magical field just as Par-Salian, head of

the Tower of High Sorcery, was casting the spell to send back Caramon and Crysania. Tas had

altered time. Therefore, Raistlin knew he wasn't locked into the doom of Fistandantilus. He had the

power to change the outcome. Where Fistandantilus had died, Raistlin might live.

Caramon's s shoulders slumped. He felt suddenly sick and dizzy. What did it mean? What was he

doing here? How could he be dead and alive at the same time? Was that even his corpse? Since Tas

had altered time, it could be someone else. But-most importantly-what had happened to Solace?

"Did Raistlin cause this?" Caramon muttered to himself, just to hear the sound of his voice amid the

flashing light and concussive blasts. "Does this have something to do with him? Did this happen

because he failed or-"

Caramon caught his breath. Beside him, Tas stirred in his sleep and whimpered and cried out.

Caramon patted him absently. "A bad dream," he said, feeling the kender's small body twitch

beneath his hand. "A bad dream, Tas. Go back to sleep."

Tas rolled over, pressing his small body close against Caramon's s, his hands still covering his eyes.

Caramon continued to pat him soothingly.

A bad dream. He wished that were all this was. He wished, most desperately, that he would wake

up in his own bed, his head pounding from drinking too much. He wished he could hear Tika

slamming plates around in the kitchen, cursing him for being a lazy, drunken bum even while she

fixed his favorite breakfast. He wished that he could have gone on in that wretched, spirit-soaked

existence because then he would have died, died without knowing....

Oh, please let it be a dream! Caramon prayed, lowering his head to his knees and feeling bitter tears

creep beneath his closed eyelids.

He sat there, no longer even affected by the storm, crushed by the weight of his sudden

understanding. Tas sighed and shivered, but continued to sleep quietly. Caramon did not move. He

did not sleep. He couldn't. The dream he walked in was a waking dream, a waking nightmare. He

needed only one thing to confirm the knowledge that he knew, in his heart, needed no confirmation.

The storm passed gradually, moving on to the south. Caramon could literally feel it go, the thunder

walking the land like the feet of giants. When it was ended, the silence rang in his ears louder than

the blasts of the lightning. The sky would be clear now, he knew. Clear until the next storm. He

would see the moons, the stars....

The stars ...

He had only to raise his head and look up into the sky, the clear sky, and he would know.

For another moment he sat there, willing the smell of spiced potatoes to come to him, willing Tika's

laughter to banish the silence, willing a drunken aching in his head to replace the terrible ache in

his heart.

But there was nothing. Only the silence of this dead, barren land, broken by the distant, faraway

rumble of thunder.

With a small sigh, barely audible even to himself, Caramon raised his head and looked up into the

heavens.

He swallowed the bitter saliva in his mouth, nearly choking. Tears stung his eyes, but he blinked

them back so that he could see clearly.

There it was-the confirmation of his fears, the sealing of his doom.

A new constellation in the sky. An hourglass....

"What does it mean?" asked Tas, rubbing his eyes and staring sleepily up at the stars, only half

awake.

"It means Raistlin succeeded," Caramon answered with an odd mixture of fear, sorrow, and pride in

his voice. "It means he entered the Abyss and challenged the Queen of Darkness and-defeated her!"

"Not defeated her, Caramon," said Tas, studying the sky intently and pointing. "There's her

constellation, but it's in the wrong place. It's over there when it should be over here. And there's

Paladine." He sighed. "Poor Fizban. I wonder if he had to fight Raistlin. I don't think he'd like that.

I always had the feeling that he understood Raistlin, perhaps better than any of the rest of us."

"So maybe the battle is still going on," Caramon mused. "Perhaps that's the reason for the storms."

He was silent for a moment, staring up at the glittering shape of the hourglass. In his mind, he could

see his brother's eyes as they had been when he emerged-so long ago-from the terrible test in the

Tower of High Sorcery-the pupils of the eyes had become the shape of hourglasses.

"Thus, Raistlin, you will see time as it changes all things," Par-Salian had told him. "Thus,

hopefully, you will gain compassion for those around you."

But it hadn't worked.

"Raistlin won," Caramon said with a soft sigh. "He's what he wanted to be-a god. And now he rules

over a dead world"

"Dead world?" Tas said in alarm. "D-do you mean the whole world's like this? Everything in

Krynn-Palanthas and Haven and Qualinesti? K-kendermore? Everything?"

"Look around," Caramon said bleakly. "What do you think? Have you seen any other living being

since we've been here?" He waved a hand that was barely visible by the pale light of Solinari,

visible now that the clouds were gone, shining like a staring eye in the sky. "You watched the fire

sweep the mountainside. I can see the lightning now, on the horizon." He pointed east. "And there,

another storm coming. No, Tas. Nothing can live through this. We'll be dead ourselves before long

either blown to bits or-"

"Or ... or something else. . ." Tas said miserably. "I-I really don't feel good, Caramon. And it-it's

either the water or I'm getting the plague again." His face twisting in pain, he put his hand on his

stomach. "I'm beginning to feel all funny inside, like I swallowed a snake."

"The water," said Caramon with a grimace. "I'm feeling it, too. Probably some kind of poison from

those clouds."

"Are-are we just going to die here then, Caramon?" Tas asked after a minute of silent

contemplation. "Because, if we are, I really think I'd like to go over and lie down next to Tika, if

you don't mind. It-it would make me feel more at home. Until I got to Flint and his tree." Sighing,

he rested his head against Caramon's strong arm. "I'll certainly have a lot to tell Flint, won't I,

Caramon? All about the Cataclysm and the fiery mountain and me saving your life and Raistlin

becoming a god. I'll bet he won't believe that part. But maybe you'll be there with me, Caramon,

and you can tell him I'm truly not, well-er-exaggerating."

"Dying would certainly be easy," Caramon murmured, looking wistfully over in the direction of the

obelisk. Lunitari was rising now, its blood-red light blending with the deathly white light of

Solinari to shed an eerie purplish radiance down upon the ash-covered land. The stone obelisk, wet

with rain, glistened in the moonlight, its crudely carved black letters starkly visible against the

pallid surface.

"It would be easy to die," Caramon' repeated, more to himself than to Tas. "It would be easy to lie

down and let the darkness take me." Then, gritting his teeth, he staggered to his feet. "Funny," he

added as he drew his sword and began to hack a branch off the fallen vallenwood they had been

using as shelter. "Raist asked me that once. 'Would you follow me into darkness?' he said."

"What are you doing?" Tas asked, staring at Caramon curiously.

But Caramon didn't answer. He just kept hacking away at the tree branch.

"You're making a crutch!" Tas said, then jumped to his feet in sudden alarm. "Caramon! You cant

be thinking that! That-that's crazy! I remember when Raistlin asked you that question and I

remember his answer when you told him yes! He said it would be the death of you, Caramon! As

strong as you are, it would kill you!"

Caramon still did not reply. Wet wood flew as he sawed at the tree branch. Occasionally he glanced

behind him at the new storm clouds that were approaching, slowly obliterating the constellations

and creeping toward the moons.

"Caramon!" Tas grabbed the big mans arm. "Even if you went ... there"-the kender found he

couldn't speak the name-"what would you do?"

"Something I should have done a long time ago," Caramon said resolutely.

Chapter 4

"You're going after him, aren't you?" Tas cried, scrambling out of the hole-a move which, more or

less, put him at eye-level with Caramon, who was still chopping away at the branch. "That's crazy,

just crazy! How will you get there?" A sudden thought struck him. "Where is there anyway? You

don't even know where you're going! You don't know where he is!"

"I have a way to get there," Caramon said coolly, putting his sword back in its sheath. Taking the

branch in his strong hands, he bent and twisted it and finally succeeded in breaking it off. "Lend me

your knife," he muttered to Tas.

The kender handed it over with a sigh, starting to continue his protest as Caramon trimmed off

small twigs, but the big man interrupted him.

"I have the magical device. As for where there is"-he eyed Tas sternly-"you know that!"

"The-the Abyss?" Tas faltered.

A dull boom of thunder made them both look apprehensively at the approaching storm, then

Caramon returned to his work with renewed vigor while Tas returned to his argument. "The

magical device got Gnimsh and me out of there, Caramon, but I'm positive it won't get you in. You

don't want to go there anyway," the kender added resolutely. "It is not a nice place."

"Maybe it cant get me in," Caramon began, then motioned Tas over to him. "Let's see if this crutch

I've made works before another storm hits. We'll walk over to Tika's the obelisk."

Slashing off a part of his muddy wet cloak with his sword, the warrior bundled it over the top of the

branch, tucked it under his arm and leaned his weight on it experimentally. The crude crutch sank

into the mud several inches. Caramon yanked it out and took another step. It sank again, but he

managed to move forward at least a little and keep his weight off his injured knee. Tas came over to

help him walk and, hobbling along slowly, they inched their way across the wet, slimy ground.

Where are we going? Tas longed to ask, but he was afraid to hear the answer. For once, he didn't

find it hard to keep quiet. Unfortunately, Caramon seemed to hear his thoughts, for he answered his

unspoken question.

"Maybe that device cant get me into the Abyss," Caramon repeated, breathing heavily, "but I know

someone who can. The device'll take us to him."

"Who?" the kender asked dubiously.

"Par-Salian. He'll be able to tell us what has happened. He'll be able to send me ... wherever I need

to go."

"Par-Salian?" Tas looked almost as alarmed as if Caramon had said the Queen of Darkness herself.

"That's even crazier!" he started to say, only he was suddenly violently sick instead. Caramon

paused to wait for him, looking pale and ill in the moonlight himself.

Convinced that he had thrown up everything inside him from his topknot down to his socks, Tas

felt a little better. Nodding at Caramon, too tired to talk just yet, he managed to stagger on.

Trudging through the slime and the mud, they reached the obelisk. Both slumped down on the

ground and leaned against it, exhausted by the exertion even that short journey of only twenty or so

paces had cost them. The hot wind was rising again, the sound of thunder getting nearer. Sweat

covered Tas's face and he had a green tinge around his lips, but he managed nonetheless, to smile at

Caramon with what he hoped was innocent appeal.

"Us going to see Par-Salian?" he said offhandedly, mopping his face with his topknot. "Oh, I don't

think that would be a good idea at all. You're in no shape to walk all that way. We don't have any

water or food and-"

"I'm not going to walk." Caramon took the pendant out of his pocket and begin the transformation

process that would turn it into a beautiful, jeweled sceptre.

Seeing this and gulping slightly, Tas continued on talking more rapidly.

"I'm certain Par-Salian is-uh-is ... busy. Busy! That's it!" He gave a ghastly grin. "Much too busy to

see us now. Probably lots of things to do, what with all this chaos going on around him. So let's just

forget this and go back to someplace in time where we had fun. How about when Raistlin put the

charm spell on Bupu and she fell in love with him? That was really funny! That disgusting gully

dwarf following him around.....

Caramon didn't reply. Tas twisted the end of his topknot around his finger.

"Dead," he said suddenly, heaving a mournful sigh. "Poor Par-Salian. Probably dead as a doorknob.

After all," the kender pointed out cheerfully, "he was old when we saw him back in 356. He didn't

look at all well then, either. This must have been a real shock to him-Raistlin becoming a god and

all. Probably too much for his heart. Bam-he probably just keeled right over."

Tas peeped up at Caramon. There was a slight smile on the big man's lips, but he said nothing, just

kept turning and twisting the pieces of the pendant. A bright flash of lightning made him start. He

glanced at the storm, his smile vanishing. "I'll bet the Tower of High Sorcery's not even there any

more!" Tas cried in desperation. "If what you say is right and the whole world is ... is like this"-he

waved his small hand as the foul-smelling rain began to fall-"then the Tower must have been one of

the first places to go! Struck by lightning! Blooey! After all, the Tower's much taller than most

trees I've seen-"

"The Tower'll be there," Caramon said grimly, making the final adjustment to the magical device.

He held it up. Its jewels caught the rays of Solinari and, for an instant, gleamed with radiance. Then

the storm clouds swept over the moon, devouring it. The darkness was now intense, split only by

the brilliant, beautiful, deadly lightning.

Gritting his teeth against the pain, Caramon grabbed his crutch and struggled to his feet. Tas

followed more slowly, gazing at Caramon miserably.

"You see, Tas, I've come to know Raistlin," Caramon continued, ignoring the kender's woebegone

expression. "Too late, maybe, but I know him now. He hated that Tower, just as he hated those

mages for what they did to him there. But even as he hates it, he loves it all the same-because it is

part of his Art, Tas. And his Art, his magic, means more to him than life itself. No, the Tower will

be there."

Lifting the device in his hands, Caramon began the chant, "'Thy time is thine own. Though across it

you travel-"' But he was interrupted.

"Oh, Caramon!" Tas wailed, clutching at him. "Don't take me back to Par-Salian! He'll do

something awful to me! I know it! He might turn me into a-a bat!" Tas paused. "And, while I

suppose it might be interesting being a bat, I'm not certain I could get used to sleeping upside down,

hanging by my feet. And I am rather fond of being a kender, now that I think of it, and-"

"What are you talking about?" Caramon glared at him, then glanced up at the storm clouds. The

rain was increasing in fury, the lightning striking nearer.

"Par-Salian!" cried Tas frantically. "I-I messed up his magical time-traveling spell! I went when I

wasn't supposed to! And then I stol-er-found a magical ring that someone had left lying about and it

turned me into a mouse! I'm certain he must be rather peeved over that! And then I-I broke the

magical device, Caramon. Remember? Well, it wasn't exactly my fault, Raistlin made me break it!

But a really strict person might take the unfortunate attitude that if I had left it alone in the first

place-like I knew I was supposed to-then that wouldn't have happened. And Par-Salian seems an

awfully strict sort of person, don't you think? And while I did have Gnimsh fix it, he didn't fix it

quite right, you know-"

"Tasslehoff," said Caramon tiredly, "shut up."

"Yes, Caramon," Tas said meekly, with a snuffle. Caramon looked at the small dejected figure

reflected in the bright lightning and sighed. "Look, Tas, I won't let Par-Salian do anything to you. I

promise. He'll have to turn me into a bat first."

"Truly?" asked Tas anxiously.

"My word," said Caramon, his eyes on the storm. "Now, give me your hand and let's get out of

here."

"Sure," said Tas cheerfully, slipping his small hand into Caramon's large one.

"And Tas . . . "Yes, Caramon?"

"This time-think of the Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth! No moons!"

"Yes, Caramon," Tas said with a profound sigh. Then he smiled again. "You know," he said to

himself as Caramon began to recite the chant again, "I'll bet Caramon would make a whopping big

bat-"

They found themselves standing at the edge of a forest. "It's not my fault, Caramon!" Tas said

quickly. "I thought about the Tower with all my heart and soul. I'm certain I never thought once

about a forest."

Caramon stared intently into the woods. It was still night, but the sky was clear, though storm

clouds were visible on the horizon. Lunitari burned a dull, smoldering red. Solinari was dropping

down into the storm. And above them, the starry hourglass.

"Well, we're in the right time period. But where in the name of the gods are we?" Caramon

muttered, leaning on his crutch and glaring at the magical device irritably. His gaze went back to

the shadowy trees, their trunks visible in the garish moonlight. Suddenly, his expression cleared.

"It's all right, Tas," he said in relief. "Don't you recognize this? It's Wayreth Forest-the magical

forest that stands guard around the Tower of High Sorcery!"

"Are you sure?" Tas asked doubtfully. "It certainly doesn't look the same as the last time I saw it.

Then it was all ugly, with dead trees lurking about, staring at me, and when I tried to go inside it

wouldn't let me and when I tried to leave it wouldn't let me and-"

"This is it," Caramon muttered, folding the sceptre back into its nondescript pendant shape again.

"Then what happened to it?"

"The same thing that happened to the rest of the world, Tas," Caramon replied, carefully slipping

the pendant back into the leather pouch.

Tas's thoughts went back to the last time he had seen the magical Forest of Wayreth. Set to guard

the Tower of High Sorcery from unwelcome intruders, the Forest was a strange and eerie place. For

one thing, a person didn't find the magical forest-it found you. And the first time it had found Tas

and Caramon was right after Lord Soth had cast the death spell on Lady Crysania. Tas had wakened

from a sound sleep to discover the Forest standing where no forest had been the night before!

The trees then had appeared to be dead. Their limbs were bare and twisted, a chill mist flowed from

beneath their trunks. Inside dwelt dark and shadowy shapes. But the trees hadn't been dead. In fact,

they had the uncanny habit of following a person. Tas remembered trying to walk away from the

Forest, only to continually find himself-no matter what direction he traveled-always walking into it.

That had been spooky enough, but when Caramon walked into the Forest, it had changed

dramatically. The dead trees began to grow, turning into vallenwoods! The Forest was transformed

from a dark and forbidding wood filled with death into a beautiful green and golden forest of life.

Birds sang sweetly in the branches of the vallenwoods, inviting them inside.

And now the Forest had changed again. Tas stared at it, puzzled. It seemed to be both forests he

remembered-yet neither of them. The trees appeared dead, their twisted limbs were stark and bare.

But, as he watched, he thought he saw them move in a manner that seemed very much alive!

Reaching out, like grasping arms....

Turning his back on the spooky Forest of Wayreth, Tas investigated his surroundings. All else was

exactly as it had been in Solace. No other trees stood at all-living or dead. He was surrounded by

nothing but blackened, blasted stumps. The ground was covered with the same slimy, gray mud.

For as far as he could see, in fact, there was nothing but desolation and death....

"Caramon," Tas cried suddenly, pointing.

Caramon glanced over. Beside one of the stumps lay a huddled figure.

"A person!" Tas cried in wild excitement. "Someone else is here!"

"Tas!" Caramon called out warningly, but before he could stop him, the kender was dashing over.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Hullo! Are you asleep? Wake up." Reaching down, he shook the figure, only to

have it roll over at his touch, lying stiff and rigid.

"Oh!" Tas took a step backward, then stopped. "Oh, Caramon," he said softly. "It's Bupu!"

Once, long ago, Raistlin had befriended the gully dwarf. Now she stared up at the starlit sky with

empty, sightless eyes. Dressed in filthy, ragged clothing, her small body was pitifully thin, her

grubby face wasted and gaunt. Around her neck was a leather thong. Attached to the end of the

thong was a stiff, dead lizard. In one hand, she clutched a dead rat, in the other she held a dried-up

chicken leg. As death approached, she had summoned up all the magic she possessed, Tas thought

sadly, but it hadn't helped.

"She hasn't been dead long," Caramon said. Limping over, he knelt down painfully beside the

shabby little corpse. "Looks like she starved to death." He reached out his hand and gently closed

the staring eyes. Then he shook his head. "I wonder how she came to live this long? The bodies we

saw back in Solace must have been dead months, at least."

"Maybe Raistlin protected her," Tasslehoff said before he thought.

Caramon scowled. "Bah! It's just coincidence, that's all," he said harshly. "You know gully

dwarves, Tas. They can live on anything. My guess is that they were the last creatures to survive.

Bupu, being the smartest of the lot, just managed to survive longer than the rest. But-in the end,

even a gully dwarf would perish in this god-cursed land." He shrugged. "Here, help me stand."

"What-what are we going to do with her, Caramon?" Tas asked bleakly. "Are-are we just going to

leave her?"

"What else can we do?" Caramon muttered gruffly. The sight of the gully dwarf and the nearness of

the Forest were bringing back painful, unwelcome memories. "Would you want to be buried in that

mud?" He shivered and glanced about. The storm clouds were rushing closer; he could see the

lightning streaking down to the ground and hear the roar of the thunder. "Besides, we don't have

much time, not the way those clouds are moving in."

Tas continued to stare at him sorrowfully.

"There's nothing left alive to bother her anyway, Tas," he snapped irritably. Then, seeing the

grieved expression on the kender's face, Caramon slowly removed his own cloak and carefully

spread it over the emaciated corpse. "We better get going," he said.

"Good-bye, Bupu," Tas said softly. Patting the stiff little hand that was tightly clutching the dead

rat, he started to pull the corner of the cloak over it when he saw something flash in Lunitari's s red

light. Tas caught his breath, thinking he recognized the object. Carefully, he pried the gully dwarf's

death-stiffened fingers apart. The dead rat fell to the ground and-with it-an emerald.

Tas picked up the jewel. In his mind, he was back to ... where had it been? Xak Tsaroth?

They had been in a sewer pipe hiding from draconian troops. Raistlin had been seized by a fit of

coughing.... Bupu gazed at him anxiously, then thrust her small hand into her bag, fished around for

several moments, and came up with an object that she held up to the light. She squinted at it then

sighed and shook her head. "This not what I want," she mumbled. Tasslehoff, catching sight of a

brilliant, colorful flash, crept closer. "What is it?" he asked, even though he knew the answer.

Raistlin, too, was staring at the object with wide glittering eyes. Bupu shrugged. "Pretty rock," she

said without interest, searching through the bag once more.

"An emerald!" Raistlin wheezed.

Bupu glanced up. "You like?" she asked Raistlin. "Very much!" The mage gasped.

"You keep." Bupu put the jewel in the mage's hand. Then, with a cry of triumph, she brought out

what she had been searching for. Tas, leaning up close to see the new wonder, drew back in disgust.

It was a dead-very dead-lizard. There was a piece of chewed-on leather tied around the lizard's stiff

tail. Bupu held it toward Raistlin.

"You wear around neck," she said. "Cure cough."

"So Raistlin was here," Tas murmured. "He gave this to her, he must have! But why? A charm ... a

gift? ... " Shaking his head, the kender sighed and stood up. "Caramon-" he began, then he saw the

big man standing, staring into the Forest of Wayreth. He saw Caramon's pale face and he guessed

what he must be thinking, remembering.

Tasslehoff slipped the emerald into a pocket.

The Forest of Wayreth seemed as dead and desolate as the rest of the world around them. But, to

Caramon, it was alive with memories. Nervously he stared at the strange trees, their wet trunks and

decaying limbs seeming to glisten with blood in Lunitari's light.

"I was frightened the first time I came here," Caramon said to himself, his hand on the hilt of his

sword. "I wouldn't have gone in at all if it hadn't been for Raistlin. I was even more frightened the

second time, when we brought Lady Crysania here to try to find help for her. I wouldn't have gone

in then for any reason except those birds lured me with their sweet song." He smiled grimly.

"'Easeful the forest. Easeful the mansions perfected. Where we grow and decay no longer, they

sang. I thought they promised help. I thought they promised me all the answers. But I see now what

the song meant. Death, that is the only perfect mansion, the only dwelling place where we grow and

decay no longer!"

Staring into the woods, Caramon shivered, despite the oppressive heat of the night air. "I'm more

frightened of it this time than ever before," he muttered. "Something's wrong in there." A brilliant

flash lit up sky and ground with the brightness of day, followed by a dull boom and the splash of

rain upon his cheek. "But at least it's still standing," he said. "Its magic must be strong-to survive

the storm." His stomach wrenched painfully. Reminded of his thirst, he licked his dry, parched lips.

"'Easeful the forest,"' he muttered.

"What did you say?" asked Tas, coming up beside him. "I said as good one death as another,"

Caramon answered, shrugging.

"You know, I've died three times," said Tas solemnly. "The first was in Tarsis, where the dragons

knocked a building down on top of me. The second was in Neraka, where I was poisoned by a trap

and Raistlin saved me. And the last was when the gods dropped a fiery mountain on me. And, all in

all"-he pondered a moment "I think I could say that was a fair statement. One death is just about the

same as another. You see, the poison hurt a great deal, but it was over pretty quickly. While the

building, on the other hand-"

"C'mon"-Caramon grinned wearily-"save it to tell Flint." He drew his sword. "Ready?"

-Ready," answered Tas stoutly. "'Always save the best for last, my father used to say. Although" -

the kender paused "I think he meant that in reference to dinner, not to dying. But perhaps it has the

same significance."

Drawing his own small knife, Tas followed Caramon into the enchanted Forest of Wayreth.

Chapter 5

The darkness swallowed them. Light from neither moon nor stars could penetrate the night of the

Forest of Wayreth. Even the brilliance of the deadly, magical lightning was lost here. And though

the booming of the thunder could be heard, it seemed nothing but a distant echo of itself. Behind

them, Caramon could hear, too, the drumming of the rain and the pelting of the hail. In the Forest, it

was dry. Only the trees that stood on the outer fringes were affected by the rain.

"Well, this is a relief!" said Tasslehoff cheerfully. "Now, if we just had some light. I-"

His voice was cut off with a choking gurgle. Caramon heard a thud and creaking wood and a sound

like something being dragged along the ground.

"Tas?" he called.

"Caramon!" Tas cried. "It's a tree! A tree's got me! Help, Caramon! Help!"

"Is this a joke, Tas?" Caramon asked sternly. "Because it's not funny

"No!" Tas screamed. "It's got me and it's dragging me off somewhere!"

"What ... where?" Caramon yelled. "I cant see in this damn darkness? Tas?"

"Here! Here!" Tas screamed wildly. "It's got hold of my foot and it's trying to tear me in two!"

"Keep yelling, Tas!" Caramon cried, stumbling about in the rustling blackness. "I think I'm close-"

A huge tree limb bashed Caramon in the chest, knocking him to the ground and slamming his

breath from his body. He lay there, trying to draw in air, when he heard a creaking to his right. As

he slashed at it blindly with his sword, he rolled away. Something heavy crashed right where he'd

been lying. He staggered to his feet, but another limb struck him in the small of his back, sending

him sprawling face first onto the barren floor of the Forest.

The blow to the back caught him in the kidneys, making him gasp in pain. He tried to struggle back

up, but his knee throbbed painfully, his head spun. He couldn't hear Tas anymore. He couldn't hear

anything except the creaking, rustling sounds of the trees closing in on him. Something scraped

along his arm. Caramon flinched and crawled out of its reach, only to feel something grab his foot.

Desperately he hacked at it with his sword. Flying wood chips stung his leg, but apparently did no

harm to his attacker.

The strength of centuries was in the tree's massive limbs. Magic gave it thought and purpose.

Caramon had trespassed on land it guarded, land forbidden to the uninvited. It was going to kill

him, he knew.

Another tree limb caught hold of Caramon's thick thigh. Branches clutched at his arms, seeking a

firm grip. Within seconds, he would be ripped apart.... He heard Tas cry out in pain....

Raising his voice, Caramon shouted desperately, "I am Caramon Majere, brother of Raistlin

Majere! I must speak to Par-Salian or whoever is Master of the Tower now!"

There was a moment's silence, a moment's hesitation. Caramon felt the will of the trees waver, the

branches loosen their grip ever so slightly.

"Par-Salian, are you there? Par-Salian, you know me! I am his twin. I am your only hope!"

"Caramon?" came a quavering voice. "Hush, Tas!" Caramon hissed.

The silence was as thick as the darkness. And then, slowly, he felt the branches release him. He

heard the creaking and rustling sounds again, only this time they were moving slowly away from

him. Gasping in relief, weak from fear and the pain and the growing sickness inside him, Caramon

lay his head on his arm, trying to catch his breath.

"Tas, are you all right?" he managed to call out.

"Yes, Caramon," came the kender's voice beside him. Reaching out his hand, Caramon caught hold

of the kender and pulled him close.

Though he heard the sounds of movement in the darkness and knew the trees were withdrawing, he

also had the feeling the trees were watching his every move, listening to every word. Slowly and

cautiously, he sheathed his sword.

"I am truly thankful you thought of telling Par-Salian who you are, Caramon," Tas said, panting for

breath. "I was just imagining trying to explain to Flint how I'd been murdered by a tree. I'm not

certain whether or not you're allowed to laugh in the Afterlife, but I'll bet he would have roared-"

"Shhhh," Caramon said weakly.

Tas paused, then whispered, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, just let me catch my breath. I've lost my crutch."

"It's over here. I fell over it." Tas crawled off and returned moments later, dragging the padded tree

branch. "Here." He helped Caramon stagger to his feet.

"Caramon," he asked after a moment, "how long do you think it will take us to get to the Tower? II'm

awfully thirsty and, while my insides are a little better since I was sick a while back, I still get

queer squirmy feelings in my stomach sometimes."

"I don't know, Tas," Caramon sighed. "I can't see a damn thing in this darkness. I don't know where

we're going or what's the right way or how we're going to manage to walk without running smack

into something-"

The rustling sounds suddenly started again, as though a storm wind were tossing the branches of

the trees. Caramon tensed and even Tas stiffened in alarm as they heard the trees start to close in

around them once more. Tas and Caramon stood helpless in the darkness as the trees came nearer

and nearer. Branches touched their skin and dead leaves brushed their hair, whispering strange

words in their ears. Caramon s shaking hand closed over his sword hilt, though he knew it would do

little good. But then, when the trees were pressed close around them, the movement and the

whispering ceased. The trees were silent once more.

Reaching out his hand, Caramon touched solid trunks to his right and his left. He could feel them

massed behind him. An idea occurred to him. He stretched his arm out into the darkness and felt

around ahead of him. All was clear.

"Keep close to me, Tas," he ordered and, for once in his life, the kender didn't argue. Together, they

walked forward into the opening provided by the trees.

At first they moved cautiously, fearful of stumbling over a root or a fallen branch or becoming

entangled in brush or tumbling into a hole. But gradually they came to realize that the forest floor

was smooth and dry, cleared of all obstacles, free from undergrowth. They had no idea where they

were going. They walked in absolute darkness, kept to some irreversible path only by the trees that

parted before them and closed in after them. Any deviation from the set path brought them into a

wall of trunks and tangled branches and dead, whispering leaves.

The heat was oppressive. No wind blew, no rain fell. Their thirst, lost in their fear, returned to

plague them. Wiping the sweat from his face, Caramon wondered at the strange, intense heat, for it

was much greater here than outside the Forest. It seemed as if the heat were being generated by the

Forest itself. The Forest was more alive that he had noticed the last two times he had been here. It

was certainly more alive than the world outside. Amid the rustling of the trees, he could hear-or

thought he heard-movements of animals or the rush of birds' wings, and sometimes he caught a

glimpse of eyes shining in the darkness. But being among living beings once more brought no

sense of comfort to Caramon. He felt their hatred and their anger and, even as he felt it, he realized

that it wasn't directed against him. It was directed against itself.

And then he heard the birds' songs again, as he had heard them the last time he'd entered this eerie

place. High and sweet and pure, rising above death and darkness and defeat, rose the song of a lark.

Caramon stopped to listen, tears stinging his eyes at the beauty of the song, feeling his heart's pain

ease.

The light in the eastern skies Is still and always morning, It alters the renewing air Into belief and

yearning. And larks rise up like angels, Like angels larks ascend

From sunlit grass as bright as gems Into the cradling wind.

But even as the lark's song pierced his heart with its sweetness, a harsh cackle made him cringe.

Black wings fluttered around him, and his soul was filled with shadows.

The plain light in the east Contrives out of the dark The machinery of day,

The diminished song of the lark. But ravens ride the night

And the darkness west,

The wingbeat of their hearts Large in a buried nest.

"What does it mean, Caramon?" Tas asked in awe as they continued to grope their way through the

Forest, guided, always, by the angry trees.

The answer to his question came, not from Caramon, but from other voices, mellow, deep, sad with

the ancient wisdom of the owl.

Through night the seasons ride into the dark, The years surrender in the changing lights, The breath

turns vacant on the dusk or dawn Between the abstract days and nights.

For there is always corpselight in the fields And corposants above the slaughterhouse, And at deep

noon the shadowy vallenwoods Are bright at the topmost boughs.

"It means the magic is out of control," Caramon said softly. "Whatever will holds this Forest in

check is just barely hanging on." He shivered. "I wonder what we'll find when we get to the

Tower."

"If we get to the Tower," Tas muttered. "How do we know that these awful, old trees aren't leading

us to the edge of a tall cliff?"

Caramon stopped, panting for breath in the terrible heat. The crude crutch dug painfully into his

armpit. With his weight off of it, his knee had begun to stiffen. His leg was inflamed and swollen,

and he knew he could not go on much longer. He, too, had been sick, purging his system of the

poison, and now he felt somewhat better. But thirst was a torment. And, as Tas reminded him, he

had no idea where these trees were leading them.

Raising his voice, his throat parched, Caramon cried out harshly, "Par-Salian! Answer me or I'll go

no farther! Answer me!"

The trees broke out in a clamor, branches shaking and stirring as if in a high wind, though no

breeze cooled Caramon's feverish skin. The birds' voices rose in a fearful cacophony,

intermingling, overlapping, twisting their songs into horrible, unlovely melodies that filled the

mind with terror and foreboding.

Even Tas was a bit startled by this, creeping closer to Caramon (in case the big man needed

comfort), but Caramon stood resolutely, staring into the endless night, ignoring the turmoil around

him.

"Par-Salian!" he called once more.

Then he heard his answer-a thin, high-pitched scream. At the dreadful sound, Caramon's skin

crawled. The scream pierced through the darkness and the heat. It rose above the strange singing of

the birds and drowned out the clashing of the trees. It seemed to Caramon as if all the horror and

sorrow of the dying world had been sucked up and released at last in that fearful cry.

"Name of the gods!" Tas breathed in awe, catching hold of Caramon's hand (in case the big man

should feel frightened). "What's happening?"

Caramon didn't answer. He could feel the anger in the Forest grow more intense, mingled now with

an overwhelming fear and sadness. The trees seemed to be prodding them ahead, crowding them,

urging them on. The screaming continued for as long as it might take a man to use up his breath,

then it quit for the space of a man drawing air into his lungs, then it began again. Caramon felt the

sweat chill on his body.

He kept walking, Tas close by his side. They made slow progress, made worse by the fact that they

had no idea if they were making progress at all, since they could not see their destination nor even

know if they were headed in the right direction. The only guide they had to the Tower was that

shrill, inhuman scream.

On and on they stumbled and, though Tas helped as best he could, each step for Caramon was

agony. The pain of his injuries took possession of him and soon he lost all conception of time. He

forgot why they had come or even where they were going. To stagger ahead, one step at a time

through the darkness that had become a darkness of the mind and soul, was Caramon's only

thought.

He kept walking and walking and walking one step, one step, one step ...

And all the time, shrilling in his ears, that horrible, undying scream ...

"Caramon!"

The voice penetrated his weary, pain-numbed brain. He had a feeling he had been hearing it for

some time now, above the scream, but-if so-it hadn't pierced the fog of blackness that enshrouded

him.

"What?" he mumbled, and now he became aware that hands were grasping him, shaking him. He

raised his head and looked around. "What?" he asked again, struggling to regain his grasp of reality.

"Tas?"

"Look, Caramon!" The kender's voice came to him through a haze, and he shook his head,

desperately, to clear away the fog in his brain.

And he realized he could see. It was light-moonlight! Blinking his eyes, he stared around. "The

Forest?"

"Behind us," Tas whispered, as though talking about it might suddenly bring it back. "It's brought

us somewhere, at least. I'm just not certain where. Look around. Do you remember this?"

Caramon looked. The shadow of the Forest was gone. He and Tas were standing in a clearing.

Swiftly, fearfully, he glanced around.

At his feet yawned a dark chasm.

Behind them, the Forest waited. Caramon did not have to turn to see it, he knew it was there, just as

he knew that they would never reenter it and get out alive. It had led them this far, here it would

leave them. But where was here? The trees were behind them, but ahead of them lay nothing just a

vast, dark void. They might have been standing on the very edge of a cliff, as Tas had said.

Storm clouds darkened the horizon, but-for the time being-none seemed close. Up above, he could

see the moons and stars in the sky. Lunitari burned a fiery red, Solinari's s silver light glowed with

a radiant brilliance Caramon had never seen before. And now, perhaps because of the stark contrast

between darkness and light, he could see Nuitari the black moon, the moon that had been visible

only to his brother's eyes. Around the moons, the stars shone fiercely, none brighter than the

strange hourglass constellation.

The only sounds he could hear were the angry mutterings of the Forest behind him and, ahead of

him, that shrill, horrible scream.

They had no choice, Caramon thought wearily. There was no turning back. The Forest would not

permit that. And what was death anyhow except an end to this pain, this thirst, this bitter aching in

his heart.

"Stay here, Tas," he began, trying to disengage the kender's small hand as he prepared to step

forward into the darkness. "I'm going to go ahead a little way and scout-"

"Oh, no!" Tas cried. "You're not going anywhere without me!" The kender's hand gripped his even

more firmly. "Why, just look at all the trouble you got into by yourself in the dwarf wars!" he

added, trying to get rid of an annoying choking feeling in his throat. "And when I did get there, I

had to save your life." Tas looked down into the darkness that lay at their feet, then he gritted his

teeth resolutely and raised his gaze to meet that of the big man. "I-I think it would be awfully lonely

in-in the Afterlife without you and, besides, I can just hear Flint "Well, you doorknob, what have

you gone and done this time? Managed to lose that great hulking hunk of lard, did you? It figures.

Now, I suppose I'll have to leave my nice soft seat here under this tree and set off in search of the

muscle-bound idiot. Never did know when to come in out of the rain-"

"Very well, Tas," Caramon interrupted with a smile, having a sudden vision of the crotchety old

dwarf. "It would never do to disturb Flint. I'd never hear the end of it."

"Besides," Tas went on, feeling more cheerful, "why would they bring us all this way just to dump

us in a pit?"

"Why, indeed?" Caramon said, reflecting. Gripping his crutch, feeling more confident, he took a

step into the darkness, Tas following along behind.

"Unless," the kender added with a gulp, "Par-Salian's still mad at me...."

Chapter 6

The Tower of High Sorcery loomed before them-a thing of darkness, silhouetted against the light of

moon and stars, looking as though it had been created out of the night itself. For centuries it had

stood, a bastion of magic, the repository of the books and artifacts of the Art, collected over the

years.

Here the mages had come when they were driven from the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas by

the Kingpriest, here they brought with them those most valued objects, saved from the attacking

mobs. Here they dwelt in peace, guarded by the Forest of Wayreth. Young apprentice magic users

took the Test here, the grueling Test that meant death to those who failed it.

Here Raistlin had come and lost his soul to Fistandantilus. Here Caramon had been forced to watch

as Raistlin murdered an illusion of his twin brother.

Here Caramon and Tas had returned with the gully dwarf, Bupu, bearing the comatose body of

Lady Crysania. Here they had attended a Conclave of the Three Robes-Black, Red, and White.

Here they had learned Raistlin's s ambition to challenge the Queen of Darkness. Here they had met

his apprentice and spy for the Conclave-Dalamar. Here the great archmage Par-Salian had cast a

time-travel spell on Caramon and Lady Crysania, sending them back to Istar before the mountain

fell.

Here, Tasslehoff had inadvertently upset the spell by jumping in to go with Caramon. Thus, the

presence of the kender-forbidden by all the laws of magic-allowed time to be altered.

Now Caramon and Tas had returned-to find what? Caramon stared at the Tower, his heart heavy

with foreboding and dread. His courage failed him. He could not enter, not with the sound of that

pitiful, persistent screaming echoing in his ears. Better to go back, better to face quick death in the

Forest. Besides, he had forgotten the gates. Made of silver and of gold, they still stood, steadfastly

blocking his way into the Tower. Thin as cobweb they seemed, looking like black streaks painted

down the starlit sky. A touch of a kender's hand might have opened them. Yet magical spells were

wound about them, spells so powerful an army of ogres could have hurled itself against those

fragile seeming gates without effect.

Still the screaming, louder now and nearer. So near, in fact, that it might have come from

Caramon took another step forward, his brow creased in a frown. As he did so, the gate came

clearly into view.

And revealed the source of the screaming....

The gates were not shut, nor were they locked. One gate stood fast, as if still spellbound. But the

other had broken, and now it swung by one hinge, back and forth, back and forth in the hot,

unceasing wind. And, as it blew back and forth slowly in the breeze, it gave forth a shrill, highpitched

shriek.

"It's not locked," said Tas in disappointment. His small hand had already been reaching for his

lockpicking tools.

"No," said Caramon, staring up at the squeaking hinge. "And there's the voice we heard-the voice

of rusty metal." He supposed he should have been relieved, but it only deepened the mystery. "If it

wasn't Par-Salian or someone up there"-his eyes went to the Tower that stood, black and apparently

empty before them-"who got us through the Forest, then who was it?"

"Maybe no one," Tas said hopefully. "If no one's here, Caramon, can we leave?"

"There has to be someone," Caramon muttered. "Something made those trees let us pass."

Tas sighed, his head drooping. Caramon could see him in the moonlight, his small face pale and

covered with grime. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes, his lower lip quivered, and a tear

was sneaking down one side of his small nose.

Caramon patted him on the shoulder. "Just a little longer," he said gently. "Hold out just a little

longer, please, Tas?"

Looking up quickly, swallowing that traitor tear and its partner that had just dripped into his mouth,

Tas grinned cheerfully. "Sure, Caramon," he said. Not even the fact that his throat was aching and

parched with thirst could keep him from adding, "You know me-always ready for adventure.

There's bound to be lots of magical, wonderful things in there, don't you think?" he added, glancing

at the silent Tower. "Things no one would miss. Not magical rings, of course. I'm finished with

magical rings. First one lands me in a wizard's castle where I met a truly wicked demon, then the

next turns me into a mouse. I-"

Letting Tas prattle on, glad that the kender was apparently feeling back to normal, Caramon

hobbled forward and put his hand upon the swinging gate to shove it to one side. To his

amazement, it broke off-the weakened hinge finally giving way The gate clattered to the gray

paving stone beneath it with a clang that made both Tas and Caramon cringe. The echoes bounded

off the black, polished walls of the Tower, resounding through the hot night and shattering the

stillness.

"Well, now they know we're here," said Tas.

Caramon's hand once again closed over his sword hilt, but he did not draw it. The echoes faded.

Silence closed in. Nothing happened. No one came. No voice spoke.

Tas turned to help Caramon limp ahead. "At least we won't have to listen to that awful sound

anymore," he said, stepping over the broken gate. "I don't mind saying so now, but that shriek was

beginning to get on my nerves. It certainly sounded very ungate-like, if you know what I mean. It

sounded just like ... just like..."

"Like that," Caramon whispered.

The scream split the air, shattering the moonlit darkness, only this time it was different. There were

words in this scream-words that could be heard, if not defined.

Turning his head involuntary, though he knew what he would see, Caramon stared back at the gate.

It lay on the stones, dead, lifeless.

"Caramon," said Tas, swallowing, "it-it's coming from there-the Tower. . . ."

"End it!" screamed Par-Salian. "End this torment! Do not force me to endure more!"

How much did you force me to endure, O Great One of the White Robes? came a soft, sneering

voice into Par-Salian's mind. The wizard writhed in agony, but the voice persisted, relentless,

flaying his soul like a scourge. You brought me here and gave me up to him-Fistandantilus! You sat

and watched as he wrenched the lifeforce from me, draining it so that he might live upon this plane.

"It was you who made the bargain," Par-Salian cried, his ancient voice carrying through the empty

hallways of the Tower. "You could have refused him-"

And what? Died honorably? The voice laughed. What kind of choice is that? I wanted to live! To

grow in my Art! And 1 did live. And you, in your bitterness, gave me these hourglass eyes-these

eyes that saw nothing but death and decay all around me. Now, you look, Par-Salian! What do you

see around you? Nothing but death. ... Death and decay. . . So we are even.

Par-Salian moaned. The voice continued, mercilessly, pitilessly.

Even, yes. And now I will grind you into dust. For, in your last tortured moments, Par-Salian, you

will witness my triumph. Already my constellation shines in the sky. The Queen dwindles. Soon

she will fade and be gone forever. My final foe, Paladine, waits for me now. I see him approach.

But he is no challenge-an old man, bent, his face grieved and filled with the sorrow that will prove

his undoing. For he is weak, weak and hurt beyond healing, as was Crysania, his poor cleric, who

died upon the shifting planes of the Abyss. You will watch me destroy him, Par-Salian, and when

that battle is ended, when the constellation of the Platinum Dragon plummets from the sky, when

Solinari's light is extinguished, when you have seen and acknowledged the power of the Black

Moon and paid homage to the new and only god-to me then you will be released, Par-Salian, to find

what solace you can in death!

Astinus of Palanthas recorded the words as he had recorded Par-Salian s scream, writing the crisp,

black, bold letters in slow, unhurried style. He sat before the great Portal in the Tower of High

Sorcery, staring into the Portal's shadowy depths, seeing within those depths a figure blacker even

than the darkness around him. All that was visible were two golden eyes, their pupils the shape of

hourglasses, staring back at him and at the white-robed wizard trapped next to him.

For Par-Salian was a prisoner in his own Tower. From the waist up, he was living man-his white

hair flowing about his shoulders, his white robes covering a body thin and emaciated, his dark eyes

fixed upon the Portal. The sights he had seen had been dreadful and had, long ago, nearly destroyed

his sanity. But he could not withdraw his gaze. From the waist up, Par-Salian was living man. From

the waist down he was a marble pillar. Cursed by Raistlin, Par-Salian was forced to stand in the

topmost room of his Tower and watch-in bitter agony-the end of the world.

Next to him sat Astinus-Historian of the World, Chronicler, writing this last chapter of Krynn's

brief, shining history. Palanthas the Beautiful, where Astinus had lived and where the Great Library

had stood, was now nothing but a heap of ash and charred bodies. Astinus had come to this, the last

place standing upon Krynn, to witness and record the world's final, terrifying hours. When all was

finished, he would take the closed book and lay it upon the altar of Gilean, God of Neutrality. And

that would be the end.

Sensing the black-robed figure within the Portal turning its gaze upon him, when he came to the

end of a sentence, Astinus raised his eyes to meet the figure's golden ones.

As you were first, Astinus, said the figure, so shall you be last. When you have recorded my

ultimate victory, the book will be closed. I will rule unchallenged.

"True, you will rule unchallenged. You will rule a dead world. A world your magic destroyed. You

will rule alone. And you will be alone, alone in the formless, eternal void," Astinus replied coolly,

writing even as he spoke. Beside him, Par-Salian moaned and tore at his white hair.

Seeing as he saw everything-without seeming to see Astinus watched the black-robed figure's

hands clench. That is a lie, old friend! I will create! New worlds will be mine. New peoples I will

produce-new races who will worship me!

"Evil cannot create," Astinus remarked, "it can only destroy. It turns in upon itself, gnawing itself.

Already, you feel it eating away at you. Already, you can feel your soul shrivel. Look into

Paladine's face, Raistlin. Look into it as you looked into it once, back on the Plains of Dergoth,

when you lay dying of the dwarf's sword wound and Lady Crysania laid healing hands upon you.

You saw the grief and sorrow of the god then as you see it now, Raistlin. And you knew then, as

you know now but refuse to admit, that Paladine grieves, not for himself, but for you.

"Easy will it be for us to slip back into our dreamless sleep. For you, Raistlin, there will be no

sleep. Only an endless waking, endless listening for sounds that will never come, endless staring

into a void that holds neither light nor darkness, endless shrieking words that no one will hear, no

one will answer, endless plotting and scheming that will bear no fruit as you turn round and round

upon yourself. Finally, in your madness and desperation, you will grab the tail of your existence

and, like a starving snake, devour yourself whole in an effort to find food for your soul.

"But you will find nothing but emptiness. And you will continue to exist forever within this

emptiness-a tiny spot of nothing, sucking in everything around itself to feed your endless hunger.

....

The Portal shimmered. Astinus quickly looked up from his writing, feeling the will behind those

golden eyes waver. Staring past the mirrorlike surface, looking deep into their depths, he saw-for

the space of a heartbeat-the very torment and torture he had described. He saw a soul, frightened,

alone, caught in its own trap, seeking escape. For the first time in his existence, compassion

touched Astinus. His hand marking his place in his book, he half-rose from his seat, his other hand

reaching into the Portal....

Then, laughter ... eerie, mocking, bitter laughter-laughter not at him, but at the one who laughed.

The black-robed figure within the Portal was gone.

With a sigh, Astinus resumed his seat and, almost at the same instant, magical lightning flickered

inside the Portal. It was answered by flaring, white light-the final meeting of Paladine and the

young man who had defeated the Queen of Darkness and taken her place.

Lighting flickered outside, too, stabbing the eyes of the two men watching with blinding brilliance.

Thunder crashed, the stones of the Tower trembled, the foundations of the Tower shook. Wind

howled, its wail drowning out Par-Salian's moaning.

Lifting a drawn, haggard face, the ancient wizard twisted his head to stare out the windows with an

expression of horror. "This is the end," he murmured, his gnarled, wasted hands plucking feebly at

the air. "The end of all things."

"Yes," said Astinus, frowning in annoyance as a sudden lurching of the Tower caused him to make

an error. He gripped his book more firmly, his eyes on the Portal, writing, recording the last battle

as it occurred.

Within a matter of moments, all was over. The white light flickered briefly, beautifully, for one

instant. Then it died.

Within the Portal, all was darkness.

Par-Salian wept. His tears fell down upon the stone floor and, at their touch, the Tower shook like a

living thing, as if it, too, foresaw its doom and was quaking in horror.

Ignoring the falling stones and the heaving of the rocks, Astinus coolly penned the final words.

As of Fourthday, Fifthmonth, Year 358, the world ends.

Then, with a sigh, Astinus started to close the book.

A hand slammed down across the pages.

"No," said a firm voice, "it will not end here."

Astinus's hands trembled, his pen dropped a blot of ink upon the paper, obliterating the last words.

"Caramon ... Caramon Majere!" Par-Salian cried, pitifully reaching out to the man with feeble

hands. "It was you I heard in the Forest!"

"Did you doubt me?" Caramon growled. Though shocked and horrified by the sight of the wretched

wizard and his torment, Caramon found it difficult to feel any compassion for the archmage.

Looking at Par-Salian, seeing his lower half turned to marble, Caramon recalled all too clearly his

twin's torment in the Tower, his own torment upon being sent back to Istar with Crysania.

"No, not doubted you!" Par-Salian wrung his hands. "I doubted my own sanity! Cant you

understand? How can you be here? How could you have survived the magical battles that destroyed

the world?"

"He didn't," Astinus said sternly. Having regained his composure, he placed the open book down on

the floor at his feet and stood up. Glowering at Caramon, he pointed an accusing finger. "What trick

is this? You died! What is the meaning

Without speaking a word, Caramon dragged Tasslehoff out from behind him. Deeply impressed by

the solemnity and seriousness of the occasion, Tas huddled next to Caramon, his wide eyes fixed

upon Par-Salian with a pleading gaze.

"Do-do you want me to explain, Caramon?" Tas asked in a small, polite voice, barely audible over

the thunder. "I-I really feel like I should tell why I disrupted the time-travel spell, and then there's

how Raistlin gave me the wrong instructions and made me break the magical device, even though

part of that was my fault, I suppose, and how I ended up in the Abyss where I met poor Gnimsh."

Tas's eyes filled with tears. "And how Raistlin killed him-"

"All this is known to me," Astinus interrupted. "So you were able to come here because of the

kender. Our time is short. What is it you intend, Caramon Majere?"

The big man turned his gaze to Par-Salian. "I bear you no love, wizard. In that, I am at one with my

twin. Perhaps you had your reasons for what you did to me and to Lady Crysania back there in

Istar. If so"-Caramon raised a hand to stop Par-Salian who, it seems, would have spoken-"if so,

then you are the one who lives with them, not me. For now, know that I have it in my power to alter

time. As Raistlin himself told me, because of the kender, we can change what has happened.

"I have the magical device. I can travel back to any point in time. Tell me when, tell me what

happened that led to this destruction, and I will undertake to prevent it, if I can."

Caramon's gaze went from Par-Salian to Astinus. The historian shook his head. "Do not look to me,

Caramon Majere. I am neutral in this as in all things. I can give you no help. I can only give you

this warning: You may go back, but you may find you change nothing. A pebble in a swiftly

flowing river, that is all you may be."

Caramon nodded. "If that is all, then at least I will die knowing that I tried to make up for my

failure."

Astinus regarded Caramon with a keen, penetrating glance. "What failure is that you speak of,

Warrior? You risked your life going back after your brother. You did your best, you endeavored to

convince him that this path of darkness he walked would lead only to his own doom." Astinus

gestured toward the Portal. "You heard me speak to him? You know what he faces?"

Wordlessly, Caramon nodded again, his face pale and anguished.

"Then tell me," Astinus said coolly.

The Tower shuddered. Wind battered the walls, lightning turned the waning night of the world into

a garish, blinding day. The small, bare tower room in which they stood shook and trembled.

Though they were alone within it, Caramon thought he could hear sounds of weeping, and he

slowly carne to realize it was the stones of the Tower itself. He glanced about uneasily.

"You have time," Astinus said. Sitting back down on his stool, he picked up the book. But he did

not close it. "Not long, perhaps, but time, still. Wherein did you fail?"

Caramon drew a shaking breath. Then his brows came together. Scowling in anger, his gaze went

to Par-Salian. "A trick, wasn't it, wizard? A trick to get me to do what you mages could not-stop

Raistlin in his dreadful ambition. But you failed. You sent Crysania back to die because you feared

her. But her will, her love was stronger than you supposed. She lived and, blinded by her love and

her own ambition, she followed Raistlin into the Abyss." Caramon glowered. "I don't understand

Paladine's purpose in granting her prayers, in giving her the power to go there-"

"It is not for you to understand the ways of the gods, Caramon Majere," Astinus interrupted coldly.

"Who are you to judge them? It may be that they fail, too, sometimes. Or that they choose to risk

the best they have in hopes that it will be still better."

"Be that as it may," Caramon continued, his face dark and troubled, "the mages sent Crysania back

and thereby gave my brother one of the keys he needed to enter the Portal. They failed. The gods

failed. And I failed." Caramon ran a trembling hand through his hair.

"I thought I could convince Raistlin with words to turn back from this deadly path he walked. I

should have known better" The big man laughed bitterly. "What poor words of mine ever affected

him? When he stood before the Portal, preparing to enter the Abyss, telling me what he intended, I

left him. It was all so easy. I simply turned my back and walked away."

"Bah!" Astinus snorted. "What would you have done? He was strong then, more powerful than any

of us can begin to imagine. He held the magical field together by his force of will and his strength

alone. You could not have killed him-"

"No," said Caramon, his gaze shifting away from those in the room, staring out into the storm that

raged ever more fiercely, "but I could have followed him-followed him into darkness-even if it

meant my death. To show him that I was willing to sacrifice for love what he was willing to

sacrifice for his magic and his ambition." Caramon turned his gaze upon those in the room. "Then

he would have respected me. Then he might have listened. And so I will go back. I will enter the

Abyss"-he ignored Tasslehoff's cry of horror "and there I will do what must be done."

"What must be done," Par-Salian repeated feverishly. "You do not realize what that means!

Dalamar-"

A blazing, blinding bolt of lightning exploded within the room, slamming those within back against

the stone walls. No one could see or hear anything as the thunder crashed over them. Then above

the blast of thunder rose a tortured cry.

Shaken by that strangled, pain-filled scream, Caramon opened his eyes, only to wish they had been

shut forever before seeing such a grisly sight.

Par-Salian had turned from a pillar of marble to a pillar of flame! Caught in Raistlin's spell, the

wizard was helpless. He could do nothing but scream as the flames slowly crept up his immobile

body.

Unnerved, Tasslehoff covered his face with his hands and cowered, whimpering, in a corner.

Astinus rose from where he had been hurled to the floor, his hands going immediately to the book

he still held. He started to write, but his hand fell limp, the pen slipped from his fingers. Once more,

he began to close the cover ...

"No!" Caramon cried. Reaching out, he laid his hands upon the pages.

Astinus looked at him, and Caramon faltered beneath the gaze of those deathless eyes. His hands

shook, but they remained pressed firmly across the white parchment of the leather-bound volume.

The dying wizard wailed in dreadful agony.

Astinus released the open book.

"Hold this," Caramon ordered, closing the precious volume and thrusting it into Tasslehoff's hands.

Nodding numbly, the kender wrapped his arms around the book, which was almost as big as he

was, and remained, crouched in his corner, staring around him in horror as Caramon lurched across

the room toward the dying wizard.

"No!" shrieked Par-Salian. "Do not come near me!" His white, flowing hair and long beard

crackled, his skin bubbled and sizzled, the terrible cloying stench of burning flesh mingling with

the smell of sulfur.

"Tell me!" cried Caramon, raising his arm against the heat, getting as near the mage as he could.

"Tell me, Par-Salian! What must I do? How can I prevent this?"

The wizard's eyes were melting. His mouth was a gaping hole in the black formless mass that was

his face. But his dying words struck Caramon like another bolt of lightning, to be burned into his

mind forever.

"Raistlin must not be allowed to leave the Abyss!"

BOOK 2

The Knight of the Black Rose

Lord Soth sat upon the crumbling, fire-blackened throne in the blasted, desolate ruins of Dargaard

Keep. His orange eyes flamed in their unseen sockets, the only visible sign of the cursed life that

burned within the charred armor of a Knight of Solamnia.

Soth sat alone.

The death knight had dismissed his attendants-former knights, like himself, who had remained

loyal to him in life and so were cursed to remain loyal to him in death. He had also sent away the

banshees, the elven women who had played a role in his downfall and who were now doomed to

spend their lives in his service. For hundreds of years, ever since that terrible night of his death,

Lord Soth had commanded these unfortunate women to relive that doom with him. Every night, as

he sat upon his ruined throne, he forced them to serenade him with a song that related the story of

his disgrace and their own.

That song brought bitter pain to Soth, but he welcomed the pain. It was ten times better than the

nothingness that pervaded his unholy life-in-death at all other times. But tonight he did not listen to

the song. He listened, instead, to his story as it whispered like the bitter night wind through the

eaves of the crumbling keep.

"Once, long ago, I was a Lord Knight of Solamnia. I was everything then-handsome, charming,

brave, married to a woman of fortune, if not of beauty. My knights were devoted to me. Yes, men

envied me-Lord Soth of Dargaard Keep.

"The spring before the Cataclysm, I left Dargaard Keep and rode to Palanthas with my retinue. A

Knights' Council was being held, my presence was required. I cared little for the Council meeting-it

would drag on with endless arguments over insignificant rules. But there would be drinking, good

fellowship, tales of battle and adventure. That was why I went.

"We rode slowly, taking our time, our days filled with song and jesting. At night we'd stay in inns

when we could, sleep beneath the stars when we could not. The weather was fine, it was a mild

spring. The sunshine was warm upon us, the evening breeze cooled us. I was thirty-two years old

that spring. Everything was going well with my life. I do not recall ever being happier.

"And then, one night-curse the silver moon that shone upon it-we were camped in the wilderness. A

cry cut through the darkness, rousing us from our slumbers. It was a woman's cry, then we heard

many women's voices, mingled with the harsh shouts of ogres.

"Grabbing our weapons, we rushed to battle. It was an easy victory; only a roving band of robbers.

Most fled at our approach, but the leader, either more daring or more drunken than the rest, refused

to be deprived of his spoils. Personally, I didn't blame him. He'd captured a lovely young

elfmaiden. Her beauty in the moonlight was radiant, her fear only enhanced her fragile loveliness.

Alone, I challenged him. We fought, and I was the victor. And it was my reward-ah, what bittersweet

reward-to carry the fainting elfmaid in my arms back to her companions.

"I can still see her fine, golden hair shining in the moonlight. I can see her eyes when she wakened,

looking into mine, and I can see even now-as I saw then-her love for me dawn in them. And she

saw-in my eyes-the admiration I could not hide. Thoughts of my wife, of my honor, of my castleeverything

fled as I gazed upon her beautiful face.

"She thanked me; how shyly she spoke. I returned her to the elven women-a group of clerics they

were, traveling to Palanthas and thence to Istar on a pilgrimage. She was just an acolyte. It was on

this journey that she was to be made a Revered Daughter of Paladine. I left her and the women,

returning with my men to my camp. I tried to sleep, but I could still feel that lithe, young body in

my arms. Never had I been so consumed with passion for a woman.

"When I did sleep, my dreams were sweet torture. When I awoke, the thought that we must part

was like a knife in my heart. Rising early, I returned to the elven camp. Making up a tale of roving

bands of goblins between here and Palanthas, I easily convinced the elven women that they needed

my protection. My men were not averse to such pleasant companions, and so we traveled with

them. But this did not ease my pain. Rather, it intensified it. Day after day I watched her, riding

near me-but not near enough. Night after night I slept alone-my thoughts in turmoil.

"I wanted her, wanted her more than anything I had ever wanted in this world. And yet, I was a

Knight, sworn by the strictest vows to uphold the Code and the Measure, sworn by holy vows to

remain true to my wife, sworn by the vows of a commander to lead my men to honor. Long I

fought with myself and, at last, I believed I had conquered. Tomorrow, I will leave, I said, feeling

peace steal over me.

"I truly intended to leave, and I would have. But, curse the fates, I went upon a hunting expedition

in the woods and there, far from camp, I met her. She had been sent to gather herbs.

"She was alone. I was alone. Our companions were far away. The love that I had seen in her eyes

shone there still. She had loosened her hair, it fell to her feet in a golden cloud. My honor, my

resolve, were destroyed in an instant, burned up by the flame of desire that swept over me. She was

easy to seduce, poor thing. One kiss, then another. Then drawing her down beside me on the new

grass, my hands caressing, my mouth stopping her protests, and ... after I had made her mine ...

kissing away her tears.

"That night, she came to me again, in my tent. I was lost in bliss. I promised her marriage, of

course. What else could I do? At first, I didn't mean it. How could I? I had a wife, a wealthy wife. I

needed her money. My expenses were high. But then one night, when I held the elf maid in my

arms, I knew I could never give her up. I made arrangements to have my wife permanently

removed....

"We continued our journey. By this time, the elven women had begun to suspect. How not? It was

hard for us to hide our secret smiles during the day, difficult to avoid every opportunity to be

together.

"We were, of necessity, separated when we reached Palanthas. The elven women went to stay in

one of the fine houses that the Kingpriest used when he visited the city. My men and I went to our

lodgings. I was confident, however, that she would find a way to come to me since I could not go to

her. The first night passed, I was not much worried. But then a second and a third, and no word.

"Finally, a knock on my door. But it was not her. It was the head of the Knights of Solamnia,

accompanied by the heads of each of the three Orders of Knights. I knew then, when I saw them,

what must have happened. She had discovered the truth and betrayed me.

"As it was, it was not she who betrayed me, but the elven women. My lover had fallen ill and, when

they came to treat her, they discovered that she was carrying my child. She had told no one, not

even me. They told her I was married and, worse still, word arrived in Palanthas at the same time

that my wife had 'mysteriously' disappeared.

"I was arrested. Dragged through the streets of Palanthas in public humiliation, I was the object of

the vulgars' crude jokes and vile names. They enjoyed nothing more than seeing a Knight fall to

their level. I swore that, someday, I would have my revenge upon them and their fine city. But that

seemed hopeless. My trial was swift. I was sentenced to die a traitor to the Knighthood. Stripped of

my lands and my title, I would be executed by having my throat slit with my own sword. I accepted

my death. I even looked forward to it, thinking still that she had cast me off.

"But, the night before I was to die, my loyal men freed me from my prison. She was with them. She

told me everything, she told me she carried my child.

"The elven women had forgiven her, she said, and, though she could never now become a Revered

Daughter of Paladine, she might still live among her people-though her disgrace would follow her

to the end of her days. But she could not bear the thought of leaving without telling me good-bye.

She loved me, that much was plain. But I could tell that the tales she had heard worried her.

"I made up some lie about my wife that she believed. She would have believed dark was light if I'd

told her. Her mind at ease, she agreed to run away with me. I know now that this was why she had

come in the first place. My men accompanying us, we fled back to Dargaard Keep.

"It was a difficult journey, pursued constantly by the other Knights, but we arrived, finally, and

entrenched ourselves within the castle. It was an easy position to defend-perched as it was high

upon sheer cliffs. We had large stores of provisions and we could easily hold out during the winter

that was fast approaching.

"I should have been pleased with myself, with life, with my new bride-what a mockery that

marriage ceremony was! But I was tormented by guilt and, what was worse, the loss of my honor. I

realized that I had escaped one prison only to find myself in another-another of my own choosing. I

had escaped death only to live a dark and wretched life. I grew moody, morose. I was always quick

to anger, quick to strike, and now it was worse. The servants fled, after I'd beaten several. My men

took to avoiding me. And then, one night, I struck her-her, the only person in this world who could

give me even a shred of comfort.

"Looking into her tear-filled eyes, I saw the monster I had become. Taking her in my arms, I

begged forgiveness. Her lovely hair fell around me. I could feel my child kicking in her womb.

Kneeling there, together, we prayed to Paladine. I would do anything, I told the god, to restore my

honor. I asked only that my son or daughter never grow up to know my shame.

"And Paladine answered. He told me of the Kingpriest, and what arrogant demands the foolish man

planned to make of the gods. He told me that the world itself would feel the anger of the gods

unless-as Huma had done before me-one man was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the

innocent.

"Paladine's light shone around me. My tormented soul was filled with peace. What small sacrifice it

seemed to me to give my life so that my child should be raised in honor and the world could be

saved. I rode to Istar, fully intent upon stopping the Kingpriest, knowing that Paladine was with me.

"But another rode beside me, too, on that journey-the Queen of Darkness. So does she wage

constant war for the souls she delights in holding in thrall. What did she use to defeat me? Those

very same elven women-clerics of the god whose mission I rode upon.

"These women had long since forgotten the name of Paladine. Like the Kingpriest, they were

wrapped in their own righteousness and could see nothing through their veils of goodness. Filled

with my own self-righteousness, I let them know what I intended. Their fear was great. They did

not believe the gods would punish the world. They saw a day when only the good (meaning the

elves) would live upon Krynn.

"They had to stop me. And they were successful.

"The Queen is wise. She knows the dark regions of a mans heart. I would have ridden down an

army, if it had stood in my way. But the soft words of those elven women worked in my blood like

poison. How clever it was for the elfmaid to have been rid of me so easily, they said. Now she had

my castle, my wealth, all to herself, without the inconvenience of a human husband. Was I even

certain the baby was mine? She had been seen in the company of one of my young followers.

Where did she go when she left my tent in the night?

"They never once lied. They never once said anything against her directly. But their questions ate at

my soul, gnawing at me. I remembered words, incidents, looks. I was certain I'd been betrayed. I

would catch them together! I would kill him! I would make her suffer!

"I turned my back upon Istar.

"Arriving home, I battered down the doors of my castle. My wife, alarmed, came to meet me,

holding her infant son in her arms. There was a look of despair upon her face-I took it for an

admission of guilt. I cursed her, I cursed her child. And, at that moment, the fiery mountain struck

Ansalon.

"The stars fell from the sky. The ground shook and split asunder. A chandelier, lit with a hundred

candles, fell from the ceiling. In an instant my wife was engulfed with flame. She knew she was

dying, but she held out her babe to me to rescue from the fire that was consuming her. I hesitated,

then, jealous rage still filling my heart, I turned away.

"With her dying breath, she called down the wrath of the gods upon me. 'You will die this night in

fire, she cried, 'even as your son and I die. But you will live eternally in darkness. You will live one

life for every life that your folly has brought to an end this night!' She perished.

"The flames spread. My castle was soon ablaze. Nothing we tried would put out that strange fire. It

burned even rock. My men tried to flee. But, as I watched, they, too, burst into flame. There was no

one, no one left alive except myself upon that mountain. I stood in the great hall, alone, surrounded

on all sides by fire that did not yet touch me. But, as I stood there, I saw it closing in upon me,

coming closer ... closer. . . .

"I died slowly, in unbearable agony. When death finally came, it brought no relief. For I closed my

eyes only to open them again, looking into a world of emptiness and bleak despair and eternal

torment. Night after night, for endless years, I have sat upon this throne and listened to those elven

women sing my story.

"But that ended, it ended with you, Kitiara.. . .

"When the Dark Queen called upon me to aid her in the war, I told her I would serve the first

Dragon Highlord who had courage enough to spend the night in Dargaard Keep. There was only

one-you, my beauty. You, Kitiara. I admired you for that, I admired you for your courage, your

skill, your ruthless determination. In you, I see myself. I see what I might have become.

"I helped you murder the other Highlords when we fled Neraka in the turmoil following the

Queen's defeat, I helped you reach Sanction, and there I helped you establish your power once

again upon this continent. I helped you when you tried to thwart your brother, Raistlin's, plans for

challenging the Queen of Darkness. No, I wasn't surprised he outwitted you. Of all the living I have

ever met, he is the only one I fear.

"I have even been amused by your love affairs, my Kitiara. We dead cannot feel lust. That is a

passion of the blood and no blood flows in these icy limbs. I watched you twist that weakling,

Tanis Half-Elven, inside out, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as you did.

"But now, Kitiara, what have you become? The mistress has become the slave. And for what-an

elf! Oh, I have seen your eyes burn when you speak his name. I've seen your hands tremble when

you hold his letters. You think of him when you should be planning war. Even your generals can no

longer claim your attention.

"No, we dead cannot feel lust. But we can feel hatred, we can feel envy, we can feel jealousy and

possession.

"I could kill Dalamar-the dark elf apprentice is good, but he is no match for me. His master?

Raistlin? Ah, now that would be a different story.

"My Queen in your dark Abyss-beware Raistlin! In him, you face your greatest challenge, and you

must-in the end-face it alone. I cannot help you on that plane, Dark Majesty, but perhaps I can aid

you on this one.

"Yes, Dalamar, I could kill you. But I have known what it is to die, and death is a shabby, paltry

thing. Its pain is agony, but soon over. What greater pain to linger on and on in the world of the

living, smelling their warm blood, seeing their soft flesh, and knowing that it can never, never be

yours again. But you will come to know, all too well, dark elf....

"As for you, Kitiara, know this-I would endure this pain, I would live out another century of

tortured existence rather than see you again in the arms of a living man!"

The death knight brooded and plotted, his mind twisting and turning like the thorny branches of the

black roses that overran his castle. The skeletal warriors paced the ruined battlements, each

hovering near the place where he had met his death. The elven women wrung their fleshless hands

and moaned in bitter sorrow at their fate.

Soth heard nothing, was aware of nothing. He sat upon his blackened throne, staring unseeing at a

dark, charred splotch upon the stone floor-a splotch that he had sought for years with all the power

of his magic to obliterate-and still it remained, a splotch in the shape of a woman....

And then, at last, the unseen lips smiled, and the flame of the orange eyes burned bright in their

endless night.

"You, Kitiara-you will be mine-forever. ....

Chapter 1

The carriage rumbled to a stop. The horses snorted and shook themselves, jingling the harness,

thudding their hooves against the smooth paving stones, as if eager to get this journey over with

and return to their comfortable stables.

A head poked in the carriage window.

"Good morning, sir. Welcome to Palanthas. Please state your name and business." This delivered in

a bright, official voice by a bright, official young man who must have just come on duty. Peering

into the carriage, the guard blinked his eyes, trying to adjust them to the cool shadows of the

coach's interior. The late spring sun shone as brightly as the young mans face, probably because it,

too, had just recently come on duty.

"My name is Tanis Half-Elven," said the man inside the carriage, "and I am here by invitation to

see Revered Son Elistan. I've got a letter here. If you'll wait half a moment, I'll-"

"Lord Tanis!" The face outlined by the carriage window turned as crimson as the ridiculously

frogged and epauletted uniform he wore. "I beg your pardon, sir. I-I didn't recognize ... that is, I

couldn't see or I'm sure I would have recognized-"

"Damn it, man," Tanis responded irritably, "don't apologize for doing your job. Here's the letter-"

"I won't, sir. That is, I will, sir. Apologize, that is. Dreadfully sorry, sir. The letter? That really

won't be necessary, sir."

Stammering, the guard saluted, cracked his head smartly on the top of the carriage window, caught

the lacy sleeve of his cuff on the door, saluted again, and finally staggered back to his post looking

as if he had just emerged from a fight with hobgoblins.

Grinning to himself, but a rueful grin at that, Tanis leaned back as the carriage continued on its way

through the gates of the Old City Wall. The guard was his idea. It had taken a great deal of

argument and persuasion on Tanis's part to convince Lord Amothus of Palanthas that the city gates

should actually not only be shut but guarded as well.

"But people might not feel welcome. They might be offended," Amothus had protested faintly.

"And, after all, the war is over."

Tanis sighed again. When would they learn? Never, he supposed gloomily, staring out the window

into the city that, more than any other on the continent of Ansalon, epitomized the complacency

into which the world had fallen since the end of the War of the Lance two years ago. Two years ago

this spring, in fact.

That brought still another sigh from Tanis. Damn! He had forgotten! War End's Day! When was

that? Two weeks? Three? He would have to put on that silly costume-the ceremonial armor of a

Knight of Solamnia, the elven regalia, the dwarven trappings. There'd be dinners of rich food that

kept him awake half the night, speeches that put him to sleep after dinner, and Laurana.. . .

Tanis gasped. Laurana! She'd remembered! Of course! How could he have been so thick-headed?

They'd just returned home to Solanthus a few weeks ago after attending Solostaran's funeral in

Qualinesti-and after he'd made an unsuccessful trip back to Solace in search of Lady Crysania when

a letter arrived for Laurana in flowing elven script:

"Your Presence Urgently Required in Silvanesti!"

"I'll be back in four weeks, my dear," she'd said, kissing him tenderly. Yet there had been laughter

in her eyes, those lovely eyes!

She'd left him! Left him behind to attend those blasted ceremonies! And she would be back in the

elven homeland which, though still struggling to escape the horrors inflicted upon it by Lorac's

nightmare, was infinitely preferable to an evening with Lord Amothus.. . .

It suddenly occurred to Tanis what he had been thinking. A mental memory of Silvanesti came to

mind-with its hideously tortured trees weeping blood, the twisted, tormented faces of long dead

elven warriors staring out from the shadows. A mental image of one of Lord Amothus's dinner

parties rose in comparison

Tanis began to laugh. He'd take the undead warriors any day!

As for Laurana, well, he couldn't blame her. These ceremonies were hard enough on him-but

Laurana was the Palanthians' darling, their Golden General, the one who had saved their beautiful

city from the ravages of the war. There was nothing they wouldn't do for her, except leave her some

time to herself. The last War's End Day celebration, Tanis had carried his wife home in his arms,

more exhausted than she had been after three straight days of battle.

He envisioned her in Silvanesti, working to replant the flowers, working to soothe the dreams of the

tortured trees and slowly nurse them back to life, visiting with Alhana Starbreeze, now her sisterin-

law, who would be back in Silvanesti as well-but without her new husband, Porthios. Theirs

was, so far, a chill, loveless marriage and Tanis wondered, briefly, if Alhana might not be seeking

the haven of Silvanesti for the same reason. War's End Day must be difficult for Alhana, too. His

thoughts went to Sturm Brightblade-the knight Alhana had loved, who was lying dead in the High

Clerist's Tower and, from there, Tanis's memories wandered to other friends ... and enemies.

As if conjured up by those memories, a dark shadow swept over the carriage. Tanis looked out the

window. Down a long, empty, deserted street, he caught a glimpse of a patch of blackness-Shoikan

Grove, the guardian forest of Raistlin's Tower of High Sorcery.

Even from this distance, Tanis could feel the chill that flowed from those trees, a chill that froze the

heart and the soul. His gaze went to the Tower, rising up above the beautiful buildings of Palanthas

like a black iron spike driven through the city's white breast.

His thoughts went to the letter that had brought him to Palanthas. Glancing down at it, he read the

words over:

Tanis Half-Elven,

We must meet with you immediately. Gravest emergency. The Temple of Paladine, Afterwatch

Rising 12, Fourthday, Year 356.

That was all. No signature. He knew only that Fourthday was today and, having received the

missive only two days ago, he had been forced to travel day and night to reach Palanthas on time.

The note's language was elven, the handwriting was elven, also. Not unusual. Elistan had many

elven clerics, but why hadn't he signed it? If, indeed, it came from Elistan. Yet, who else could so

casually issue such an invitation to the Temple of Paladine?

Shrugging to himself-remembering that he had asked himself these same questions more than once

and had never come to a satisfactory conclusion-Tanis tucked the letter back inside his pouch. His

gaze went, unwillingly, to the Tower of High Sorcery.

"I'll wager it has something to do with you, old friend," he murmured to himself, frowning and

thinking, once again, of the strange disappearance of the cleric, Lady Crysania.

The carriage rolled to a halt "pin., jolting Tanis from his dark thoughts. He looked out the window,

catching a glimpse of the Temple, but forcing himself to sit patiently in his seat until the footman

came to open the door for him. He smiled to himself. He could almost see Laurana, sitting across

from him, glaring at him, daring him to make a move for the door handle. It had taken her many

months to break Tanis of his old impetuous habit of flinging open the door, knocking the footman

to one side, and proceeding on his way without a thought for the driver, the carriage, the horses,

anything.

It had now become a private joke between them. Tanis loved watching Laurana's eyes narrow in

mock alarm as his hand strayed teasingly near the door handle. But that only reminded him how

much he missed her. Where was that damn footman anyway? By the gods, he was alone, he'd do it

his way for a change

The door flew open. The footman fumbled with the step that folded down from the floor. "Oh,

forget that," Tanis snapped impatiently, hopping to the ground. Ignoring the footman's faint look of

outraged sensibility, Tanis drew in a deep breath, glad to have escaped-finally-from the stuffy

confines of the carriage.

He gazed around, letting the wonderful feeling of peace and well-being that radiated from the

Temple of Paladine seep into his soul. No forest guarded this holy place. Vast, open lawns of green

grass as soft and smooth as velvet invited the traveler to walk upon it, sit upon it, rest upon it.

Gardens of bright-colored flowers delighted the eye, their perfume filling the air with sweetness.

Here and there, groves of carefully pruned shade trees offered a haven from glaring sunlight.

Fountains poured forth pure cool water. White robed clerics walked in the gardens, their heads bent

together in solemn discussion.

Rising from the frame of the gardens and the shady groves and the carpet of grass, the Temple of

Paladine glowed softly in the morning sunlight. Made of white marble, it was a plain, unadorned

structure that added to the impression of peace and tranquillity that prevailed all around it.

There were gates, but no guards. All were invited to enter, and many did so. It was a haven for the

sorrowful, the weary, the unhappy. As Tanis started to make his way across the well-kept lawn, he

saw many people sitting or lying upon the grass, a look of peace upon faces that, from the marks of

care and weariness, had not often known such comfort.

Tanis had taken only a few steps when he remembered with another sigh-the carriage. Stopping, he

turned. "Wait for me," he was about to say when a figure emerged from the shadows of a grove of

aspens that stood at the very edge of the Temple property.

"Tanis Half-Elven?" inquired the figure.

As the figure walked into the light, Tanis started. It was dressed in black robes. Numerous pouches

and other spellcasting devices hung from its belt, runes of silver were embroidered upon the sleeves

and the hood of its black cloak. Raistlin! Tanis thought instantly, having had the archmage in his

mind only moments before.

But no. Tanis breathed easier. This magic-user was taller than Raistlin by at least a head and

shoulders. His body was straight and well-formed, even muscular, his step youthful and vigorous.

Besides, now that Tanis was paying attention, he realized that the voice was firm and deep-not like

Raistlin's soft, unsettling whisper.

And, if it were not too odd, Tanis would have sworn he had heard the man speak with an elven

accent.

"I am Tanis Half-Elven," he said, somewhat belatedly. Though he could not see the figure's face,

hidden as it was by the shadows of its black hood, he had the impression the man smiled.

"I thought I recognized you. You have often been described to me. You may dismiss your carriage.

It will not be needed. You will be spending many days, possibly even weeks, here in Palanthas."

The man was speaking elven! Silvanesti Elven! Tanis was, for a moment, so startled that he could

only stare. The driver of the carriage cleared his throat at that moment. It had been a long, hard

journey and there were fine inns in Palanthas with ale that was legendary all over Ansalon.. . .

But Tanis wasn't going to dismiss his equipage on the word of a black-robed mage. He opened his

mouth to question him further when the magic-user withdrew his hands from the sleeves of his

robes, where he'd kept them folded, and made a swift, negating motion with one, even as he made a

motion of invitation with the other.

"Please," he said in elven again, "won't you walk with me? For I am bound for the same place you

go. Elistan expects us."

Us! Tanis's mind fumbled about in confusion. Since when did Elistan invite black-robed magicusers

to the Temple of Paladine? And since when did black-robed magic-users voluntarily set foot

upon these sacred grounds!

Well, the only way to find out, obviously, was to accompany this strange person and save his

questions until they were alone. Somewhat confusedly, therefore, Tanis gave his instructions to the

coachman. The black-robed figure stood in silence beside him, watching the carriage depart. Then

Tanis turned to him.

"You have the advantage of me, sir," the half-elf said in halting Silvanesti, a language that was

purer elven than the Qualinesti he'd been raised to speak.

The figure bowed, then cast aside his hood so that the morning light fell upon his face. "I am

Dalamar," he said, returning his hands to the sleeves of his robe. Few there were upon Krynn who

would shake hands with a black-robed mage.

"A dark elf!" Tanis said in astonishment, speaking before he thought. He flushed. "I'm sorry," he

said awkwardly. "It's just that I've never met-"

"One of my kind?" Dalamar finished smoothly, a faint smile upon his cold, handsome,

expressionless elven features. "No, I don't suppose you would have. We who are 'cast from the

light,' as they say, do not often venture onto the sunlit planes of existence." His smile grew warmer,

suddenly, and Tanis saw a wistful look in the dark elf's eyes as their gaze went to the grove of

aspens where he had been standing. "Sometimes, though, even we grow homesick."

Tanis's gaze, too, went to the aspens-of all trees most beloved of the elves. He smiled, too, feeling

much more at ease. Tanis had walked his own dark roads, and had come very near tumbling into

several yawning chasms. He could understand.

"The hour for my appointment draws near," he said. "And, from what you said, I gather that you are

somehow involved in this. Perhaps we should continue-"

"Certainly." Dalamar seemed to recollect himself. He followed Tanis onto the green lawn without

hesitation. Tanis, turning, was considerably startled, therefore, to see a swift spasm of pain contort

the elf's delicate features and to see him flinch, visibly.

"What is it?" Tanis stopped. "Are you unwell? Can I help-"

Dalamar forced his pain-filled features into a twisted smile. "No, Half-Elven," he said. "There is

nothing you can do to help. Nor am I unwell. Much worse would you look, if you stepped into the

Shoikan Grove that guards my dwelling place."

Tanis nodded in understanding, then, almost unwillingly, glanced into the distance at the dark, grim

Tower that loomed over Palanthas. As he looked at it, a strange impression came over him. He

looked back at the plain white Temple, then over again at the Tower. Seeing them together, it was

as if he were seeing each for the first time. Both looked more complete, finished, whole, than they

had when viewed separately and apart. This was only a fleeting impression and one he did not even

think about until later. Now, he could only think of one thing

"Then you live there? With Rai-With him?" Try as he might, Tanis knew he could not speak the

archmage's name without bitter anger, and so he avoided it altogether.

"He is my Shalafi," answered Dalamar in a pain-tightened voice.

"So you are his apprentice," Tanis responded, recognizing the elven word for Master. He frowned.

"Then what are you doing here? Did he send you?" If so, thought the half-elf, I will leave this

place, if I have to walk back to Solanthas.

"No," Dalamar replied, his face draining of all color. "But it is of him we will speak." The dark elf

cast his hood over his head. When he spoke, it was obviously with intense effort. "And now, I must

beg of you to move swiftly. I have a charm, given me by Elistan, that will help me through this

trial. But it is not one I care to prolong."

Elistan giving charms to black-robed magic-users? Raistlin's s apprentice? Absolutely mystified,

Tanis agreeably quickened his steps.

"Tanis, my friend!"

Elistan, cleric of Paladine and head of the church on the continent of Ansalon, reached out his hand

to the half-elf. Tanis clasped the man's hand warmly, trying not to notice how wasted and feeble

was the cleric's once strong, firm grip. Tanis also fought to control his face, endeavoring to keep the

feelings of shock and pity from registering on his features as he stared down at the frail, almost

skeletal, figure resting in a bed, propped up by pillows.

"Elistan-" Tanis began warmly.

One of the white-robed clerics hovering near their leader glanced up at the half-elf and frowned.

"That is, R-revered Son"-Tanis stumbled over the formal title- "you are looking well."

"And you, Tanis Half-Elven, have degenerated into a liar," Elistan remarked, smiling at the pained

expression Tanis tried desperately to keep off his face.

Elistan patted Tanis's sun-browned hand with his thin, white fingers. "And don't fool with that

'Revered Son' nonsense. Yes, I know it's only proper and correct, Garad, but this man knew me

when I was a slave in the mines of Pax Tharkas. Now, go along, all of you," he said to the hovering

clerics. "Bring what we have to make our guests comfortable."

His gaze went to the dark elf who had collapsed into a chair near the fire that burned in Elistan's

private chambers. "Dalamar," Elistan said gently, "this journey cannot have been an easy one for

you. I am indebted to you that you have made it. But, here in my quarters you can, I believe, find

ease. What will you take?"

"Wine," the dark elf managed to reply through lips that were stiff and ashen. Tanis saw the elf's

hands tremble on the arm of the chair.

"Bring wine and food for our guests." Elistan told the clerics who were filing out of the room, many

casting glances of disapproval at the black-robed mage. "Escort Astinus here at once, upon his

arrival, then see that we are not disturbed."

"Astinus?" Tanis gaped. "Astinus, the Chronicler?"

"Yes, Half-Elven," Elistan smiled once again. "Dying lends one special significance. 'They stand in

line to see me, who once would not have glanced my way.' Isn't that how the old mans poem went?

There now, Half-Elven. The air is cleared. Yes, I know I am dying. I have known for a long time.

My months dwindle to weeks. Come, Tanis. You have seen men die before. What was it you told

me the Forestmaster said to you in Darken Wood-'we do not mourn the loss of those who die

fulfilling their destinies.' My life has been fulfilled, Tanis-much more than I could ever have

imagined." Elistan glanced out the window, out to the spacious lawns, the flowering gardens, andfar

in the distance-the dark Tower of High Sorcery.

"It was given me to bring hope back to the world, HalfElven," Elistan said softly. "Hope and

healing. What man can say more? I leave knowing that the church has been firmly established once

again. There are clerics among all the races now. Yes, even kender." Elistan, smiling, ran a hand

through his white hair. "Ah," he sighed, "what a trying time that was for our faith, Tanis! We are

still unable to determine exactly what all is missing. But they are a good-hearted, good-souled

people. Whenever I started to lose patience, I thought of Fizban-Paladine, as he revealed himself to

us-and the special love he bore your little friend, Tasslehoff."

Tanis's face darkened at the mention of the kender's name, and it seemed to him that Dalamar

looked up, briefly, from where he had been staring into the dancing flames. But Elistan did not

notice.

"My only regret is that I leave no one truly capable of taking over after me," Elistan shook his head.

"Garad is a good man. Too good. I see the makings of another Kingpriest in him. But he doesn't

understand yet that the balance must be maintained, that we are all needed to make up this world. Is

that not so, Dalamar?"

To Tanis's surprise, the dark elf nodded his head. He had cast his hood aside and had been able to

drink some of the red wine the clerics brought to him. Color had returned to his face, and his hands

trembled no longer. "You are wise, Elistan," the mage said softly. "I wish others were as

enlightened."

"Perhaps it is not wisdom so much as the ability to see things from all sides, not just one," Elistan

turned to Tanis. "You, Tanis, my friend. Did you not notice and appreciate the view as you came?"

He gestured feebly to the window, through which the Tower of High Sorcery was plainly visible.

"I'm not certain I know what you mean." Tanis hedged, uncomfortable as always about sharing his

feelings.

"Yes, you do, Half-Elven," Elistan said with a return of his old crispness. "You looked at the Tower

and you looked at the Temple and you thought how right it was they should be so near. Oh, there

were many who argued long against this site for the Temple. Garad and, of course, Lady Crysania-"

At the mention of that name, Dalamar choked, coughed, and set the wine glass down hurriedly.

Tanis stood up, unconsciously beginning to pace the room-as was his custom-when, realizing that

this might disturb the dying man, he sat back down again, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

"Has there been word of her?" he asked in a low voice.

"I am sorry, Tanis," Elistan said gently, "I did not mean to distress you. Truly, you must stop

blaming yourself. What she did, she chose to do of her own free will. Nor would I have had it

otherwise. You could not have stopped her, nor saved her from her fate-whatever that may be. No,

there has been no word of her."

"Yes, there has," Dalamar said in a cold, emotionless voice that drew the immediate attention of

both men in the room. "That is one reason I called you together."

"You called!" Tanis repeated, standing up again. "I thought Elistan asked us here. Is your Shalafi

behind this? Is he responsible for this woman's disappearance?" He advanced a step, his face

beneath his reddish beard flushed. Dalamar rose to his feet, his eyes glittering dangerously, his

hand stealing almost imperceptibly to one of the pouches he wore upon his belt. "Because, by the

gods, if he has harmed her, I'll twist his golden neck-"

"Astinus of Palanthas," announced a cleric from the doorway.

The historian stood within the doorway. His ageless face bore no expression as his gray-eyed gaze

swept the room, taking in everything, everyone with a minute attention to the detail that his pen

would soon record. It went from the flushed and angry face of Tanis, to the proud, defiant face of

the elf, to the weary, patient face of the dying cleric.

"Let me guess," Astinus remarked, imperturbably entering and taking a seat. Setting a huge book

down upon a table, he opened it to a blank page, drew a quill pen from a wooden case he carried

with him, carefully examined the tip, then looked up. "Ink, friend," he said to a startled cleric, who

after a nod from Elistan-left the room hurriedly. Then the historian continued his original sentence.

"Let me guess. You were discussing Raistlin Majere."

"It is true," Dalamar said. "I called you here."

The dark elf had resumed his seat by the fire. Tanis, still scowling, went back to his place near

Elistan. The cleric, Garad, returning with Astinus's ink, asked if they wanted anything else. The

reply being negative, he left, sternly adding, for the benefit of those in the room, that Elistan was

unwell and should not be long disturbed.

"I called you here, together," Dalamar repeated, his gaze upon the fire. Then he raised his eyes,

looking directly at Tanis. "You come at some small inconvenience. But 1 come, knowing that I will

suffer the torment all of my faith feel trodding upon this holy ground. But it is imperative that I

speak to you, all of you, together. I knew Elistan could not come to me. I knew Tanis Half-Elven

would not come to me. And so I had no choice but to-"

"Proceed," Astinus said in his deep, cool voice. "The world passes as we sit here. You have called

us here together. That is established. For what reason?"

Dalamar was silent for a moment, his gaze going back once again to the fire. When he spoke, he

did not look up.

"Our worst fears are realized," he said softly. "He has been successful."

Chapter 2

Come home. . . .

The voice lingered in his memory. Someone kneeling beside the pool of his mind, dropping words

into the calm, clear surface. Ripples of consciousness disturbed him, woke him from his peaceful,

restful sleep.

"Come home. . . . My son, come home."

Opening his eyes, Raistlin looked into the face of his mother.

Smiling, she reached out her hand and stroked back the wispy, white hair that fell down across his

forehead. "My poor son," she murmured, her dark eyes soft with grief and pity and love. "What

they did to you! I watched. I've watched for so long now. And I've wept. Yes, my son, even the

dead weep. It is the only comfort we have. But all that is over now. You are with me. Here you can

rest. . . ."

Raistlin struggled to sit up. Looking down at himself, he saw-to his horror-that he was covered with

blood. Yet he felt no pain, there seemed to be no wound. He found it hard to take a breath, and he

gasped for air.

"Here, let me help you," his mother said. She began to loosen the silken cord he wore around his

waist, the cord from which hung his pouches, his precious spell components. Reflexively, Raistlin

thrust her hand aside. His breath came easier. He looked around.

"What happened? Where am IT' He was vastly confused. Memories of his childhood came to him.

Memories of two childhoods came to him! His ... and someone else's! He looked at his mother, and

she was someone he knew and she was a stranger.

"What happened?" he repeated irritably, beating back the surging memories that threatened to

overthrow his grasp on sanity.

"You have died, my son," his mother said gently. "And now you are here with me."

"Died!' Raistlin repeated, aghast.

Frantically he sorted through the memories. He recalled being near death.... How was it that he had

failed? He put his hand to his forehead and felt ... flesh, bone, warmth ... And then he

remembered....

The Portal!

"No," he cried angrily, glaring at his mother. "That's impossible."

"You lost control of the magic, my son," his mother said, reaching out her hand to touch Raistlin

again. He drew away from her. With the slight, sad smile-a smile he remembered so well-she let

her hand drop back in her lap. "The field shifted, the forces tore you apart. There was a terrible

explosion, it leveled the Plains of Dergoth. The magical fortress of Zhaman collapsed." His

mother's voice shook. "The sight of your suffering was almost more than I could bear."

"I remember," Raistlin whispered, putting his hands to his head. "I remember the pain ... but..."

He remembered something else, too-brilliant bursts of multicolored lights, he remembered a feeling

of exultation and ecstasy welling up in his soul, he remembered the dragon's heads that guarded the

Portal screaming in fury, he remembered wrapping his arms around Crysania.

Standing up, Raistlin looked around. He was on flat, level ground-a desert of some sort. In the

distance he could see mountains. They looked familiar-of course! Thorbardin! The dwarven

kingdom. He turned. There were the ruins of the fortress, looking like a skull devouring the land in

its eternally grinning mouth. So, he was on the Plains of Dergoth. He recognized the landscape.

But, even as he recognized it, it seemed strange to him. Everything was tinged with red, as though

he were seeing all objects through blood-dimmed eyes. And, though objects looked the same as he

remembered them, they were strange to him as well.

Skullcap he had seen during the War of the Lance. He didn't remember it grinning in that obscene

way. The mountains, too, were sharp and clearly defined against the sky. The sky! Raistlin drew in

a breath. It was empty! Swiftly he looked in all directions. No, there was no sun, yet it was not

night. There were no moons, no stars; and it was such a strange color-a kind of muted pink, the

reflection of a sunset.

He looked down at the woman kneeling on the ground before him.

Raistlin smiled, his thin lips pressed together grimly. "No," he said, and this time his voice was firm

and confident.

"No, I did not die! I succeeded." He gestured. "This is proof of my success. I recognize this place.

The kender described it to me. He said it was all places he had ever been. This is where I entered

the Portal, and now I stand in the Abyss."

Leaning down, Raistlin grabbed the woman by the arm, dragging her to her feet. "Fiend, apparition!

Where is Crysania? Tell me, whoever or whatever you are! Tell me, or by the gods I'll-"

"Raistlin! Stop, you're hurting me!"

Raistlin started, staring. It was Crysania who spoke, Crysania whose arm he held! Shaken, he

loosed his grip but, within instants, he was master of himself again. She tried to pull free, but he

held her firmly, drawing her near.

"Crysania?" he questioned, studying her intently.

She looked up at him, puzzled. "Yes," she faltered. "What's wrong, Raistlin? You've been talking

so strangely."

The archmage tightened his grip. Crysania cried out. Yes, the pain in her eyes was real, so was the

fear.

Smiling, sighing, Raistlin put his arms around her, pressing her close against his body. She was

flesh, warmth, perfume, beating heart....

"Oh, Raistlin!" She nestled close to him. "I was so frightened. This terrible place. I was all alone."

His hand tangled in her black hair. The softness and fragrance of her body intoxicated him, filling

him with desire. She moved against him, tilting her head back. Her lips were soft, eager. She

trembled in his arms. Raistlin looked down at her

-and stared into eyes of flame.

So, you have come home at last, my mage!

Sultry laughter burned his mind, even as the lithe body in his arms writhed and twisted ... he

clasped one neck of a five-headed dragon ... acid dripped from the gaping jaws above him . . . fire

roared around him . . . sulfurous fumes choked him. The head snaked down....

Desperately, furiously, Raistlin called upon his magic. Yet, even as he formed the words of the

defensive spell chant in his mind, he felt a twinge of doubt. Perhaps the magic won't work! I am

weak, the journey through the Portal has drained my strength. Fear, sharp and slender as the blade

of a dagger, pierced his soul. The words to the chant slipped from his mind. Panic flooded his body.

The Queen! She is doing this! Ast takar ist ... No! That isn't right! He heard laughter, victorious

laughter. . . .

Bright white light blinded him. He was falling, falling, falling endlessly, spiraling down from

darkness into day.

Opening his eyes, Raistlin looked into Crysania's face.

Her face, but it was not the face he remembered. It was aging, dying, even as he watched. In her

hand, she held the platinum medallion of Paladine. Its pure white radiance shone brightly in the

eerie pinkish light around them.

Raistlin closed his eyes to blot out the sight of the cleric's aging face, summoning back memories of

how it looked in the past-delicate, beautiful, alive with love and passion. Her voice came to him,

cool, firm.

"I very nearly lost you."

Reaching up, but without opening his eyes, he grabbed hold of the cleric's arms, clinging to her

desperately. "What do I look like? Tell me! I've changed, haven't I?"

"You are as you were when I first met you in the Great Library," Crysania said, her voice still firm,

too firm-tight, tense.

Yes, thought Raistlin, I am as I was. Which means I have returned to the present. He felt the old

frailty, the old weakness, the burning pain in his chest, and with it the choking huskiness of the

cough, as though cobwebs were being spun in his lungs. He had but to look, he knew, and he would

see the gold-tinged skin, the white hair, the hourglass eyes....

Shoving Crysania away, he rolled over onto his stomach, clenching his fists in fury, sobbing in

anger and fear.

"Raistlin!" True terror was in Crysania's voice now. "What is it? Raistlin, where are we? What's

wrong?"

"I succeeded," he snarled. Opening his eyes, he saw her face, withering in his sight. "I succeeded.

We are in the Abyss."

Her eyes opened wide, her lips parted. Fear mingled with joy.

Raistlin smiled bitterly. "And my magic is gone."

Startled, Crysania stared at him. "I don't understand-"

Twisting in agony, Raistlin screamed at her. "My magic is gone! I am weak, helpless, here-in her

realm!" Suddenly, recollecting that she might be listening, watching, enjoying, Raistlin froze. His

scream died in the blood-tinged froth upon his lips. He looked about, warily.

"But, no, you haven't defeated me!" he whispered. His hand closed over the Staff of Magius, lying

at his side. Leaning upon it heavily, he struggled to his feet. Crysania gently put her strong arm

around him, helping him stand.

"No," he murmured, staring into the vastness of the empty Plains, into the pink, empty sky, "I know

where you are! I sense it! You are in Godshome. I know the lay of the land. I know how to move

about, the kender gave me the key in his feverish ramblings. The land below mirrors the land

above. I will seek you out, though the journey be long and treacherous.

"Yes!"-he looked all around him-"I feel you probing my mind, reading my thoughts, anticipating all

I say and do. You think it will be easy to defeat me! But I sense your confusion, too. There is one

with me whose mind you cannot touch! She defends and protects me, do you not, Crysania?"

"Yes, Raistlin," Crysania replied softly, supporting the archmage.

Raistlin took a step, another, and another. He leaned upon Crysania, he leaned upon his staff. And

still, each step was an effort, each breath he drew burned. When he looked about this world, all he

saw was emptiness.

Inside him, all was emptiness. His magic was gone.

Raistlin stumbled. Crysania caught him and held onto him, clasping him close, tears running down

her cheeks.

He could hear laughter. . . .

Maybe I should give up now! he thought in bitter despair. I am tired, so very tired. And without my

magic, what am I?

Nothing. Nothing but a weak, wretched child....

Chapter 3

For long moments after Dalamar's pronouncement, there was silence in the room. Then the silence

was broken by the scratching of a pen as Astinus recorded the dark elf's words in his great book.

"May Paladine have mercy," Elistan murmured. "Is she with him?"

"Of course," Dalamar snapped irritably, revealing a nervousness that all the skills of his Art could

not hide. "How else do you think he succeeded? The Portal is locked to all except the combined

forces of a Black-Robed wizard of such powers as his and a White-Robed cleric of such faith as

hers."

Tanis glanced from one to the other, confused. "Look," he said angrily, "I don't understand. What's

going on? Who are you talking about? Raistlin? What's he done? Does it have something to do with

Crysania? And what about Caramon? He's Vanished, too. Along with Tas! I-"

"Get a grip on the impatient human half of your nature, Half-Elven," Astinus remarked, still writing

in firm, black strokes. "And you, Dark Elf, begin at the beginning instead of in the middle."

"Or the end, as the case may be," Elistan remarked in a low voice.

Moistening his lips with the wine, Dalamar-his gaze still on the fire-related the strange tale that

Tanis, up until now, had only known in part. Much the half-elf could have guessed, much

astounded him, much filled him with horror.

"Lady Crysania was captivated by Raistlin. And, if the truth be told, he was attracted to her, I

believe. Who can tell with him? Ice water is too hot to run in his veins. Who knows how long he

has plotted this, dreamed of this? But, at last, he was ready. He planned a journey, back in time, to

seek the one thing he lacked-the knowledge of the greatest wizard who has ever lived-

Fistandantilus.

"He set a trap for Lady Crysania, planning to lure her back in time with him, as well as his twin

brother-"

"Caramon?" asked Tanis in astonishment.

Dalamar ignored him. "But something unforeseen occurred. The Shalafi's half-sister, Kitiara, a

Dragon Highlord...."

Blood pounded in Tanis's head, dimming his vision and obscuring his hearing. He felt that same

blood pulse in his face. He had the feeling his skin might be burning to the touch, so hot was it.

Kitiara!

She stood before him, dark eyes flashing, -dark hair curling about her face, her lips slightly parted

in that charming, crooked smile, the light gleaming off her armor. . . .

She looked down on him from the back of her blue dragon, surrounded by her minions, lordly and

powerful, strong and ruthless....

She lay in his arms, languishing, loving, laughing....

Tanis sensed, though he could not see, Elistan's sympathetic but pitying gaze. He shrank from the

stern, knowing look of Astinus. Wrapped up in his own guilt, his own shame, his own

wretchedness, Tanis did not notice that Dalamar, too, was having trouble with his countenance

which was pale, rather than flushed. He did not hear the dark elf's voice quiver when he spoke the

woman's name.

After a struggle, Tanis regained control of himself and was able to continue listening. But he felt,

once again, that old pain in his heart, the pain he had thought forever vanished. He was happy with

Laurana. He loved her more deeply and tenderly than he had supposed it possible for a man to love

a woman. He was at peace with himself. His life was rich, full. And now he was astonished to

discover the darkness still inside of him, the darkness he thought he had banished forever.

"At Kitiara's command, the death knight, Lord Soth, cast a spell upon Lady Crysania, a spell that

should have killed her. But Paladine interceded. He took her soul to dwell with him, leaving the

shell of her body behind. I thought the Shalafi was defeated. But, no. He turned this betrayal of his

sister's into an advantage. His twin brother, Caramon, and the kender, Tasslehoff, took Lady

Crysania to the Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth, hoping that the mages would be able to cure

her. They could not, of course, as Raistlin well knew. They could only send her back in time to the

one period in the history of Krynn when there lived a Kingpriest powerful enough to call upon

Paladine to restore the woman's soul to her body. And this, of course, was exactly what Raistlin

wanted."

Dalamar's fist clenched. "I told the mages so! Fools! I told them they were playing right into his

hands."

"You told them?" Tanis felt master of himself enough now to ask this question. "You betrayed him,

your Shalafi?" He snorted in disbelief.

"It is a dangerous game I play, Half-Elven." Dalamar looked at him now, his eyes alight from

within, like the burning embers of the fire. "I am a spy, sent by the Conclave of Mages to watch

Raistlin's every move. Yes, you may well look astonished. They fear him-all of the Orders fear him,

the White, the Red, the Black. Most especially the Black, for we know what our fate will be should

he rise to power."

As Tanis stared, the dark elf lifted his hand and slowly parted the front closure of his black robes,

laying bare his breast. Five oozing wounds marred the surface of the dark elf's smooth skin. "The

mark of his hand," Dalamar said in an expressionless tone. "My reward for my treachery."

Tanis could see Raistlin laying those thin, golden fingers upon the young dark elf's chest, he could

see Raistlin's face-without feeling, without malice, without cruelty, without any touch of humanity

whatsoever-and he could see those fingers burn through the flesh of his victim. Shaking his head,

feeling sickened, Tanis sank back in his chair, his gaze on the floor.

"But they would not listen to me," Dalamar continued. "They grasped at straws. As Raistlin had

foreseen, their greatest hope lay in their greatest fear. They decided to send Lady Crysania back in

time, ostensibly so that the Kingpriest could aid her. That is what they told Caramon, for they knew

he would not go otherwise. But, in reality, they sent her back to die or to at least disappear as did all

other clerics before the Cataclysm. And they hoped that Caramon, when he went back into time and

learned the truth about his twin-learned that Raistlin was, in reality, Fistandantilus-that he would be

forced to kill his brother."

"Caramon?" Tanis laughed bitterly, then scowled again in anger. "How could they do such a thing?

The man is sick! The only thing Caramon can kill now is a bottle of dwarf spirits! Raistlin's already

destroyed him. Why didn't they-"

Catching Astinus's irritated glance, Tanis subsided. His mind reeled in turmoil. None of this made

sense! He looked over at Elistan. The cleric must have known much of this already. There was no

look of shock or surprise on his face even when he heard that the mages had sent Crysania back to

die. There was only an expression of deep sorrow.

Dalamar was continuing. "But the kender, Tasslehoff Burrfoot, disrupted Par-Salian's spell and

accidentally traveled back in time with Caramon. The introduction of a kender into the flow of time

made it possible for time to be altered. What happened back there, in Istar, we can only surmise.

What we do know is that Crysania did not die. Caramon did not kill his brother. And Raistlin was

successful in obtaining the knowledge of Fistandantilus. Taking Crysania and Caramon with him,

he moved forward in time to the one period when he would possess, in Crysania, the only true

cleric in the land. He traveled to the one period in our history when the Queen of Darkness would

be most vulnerable and unable to stop him.

"As Fistandantilus did before him, Raistlin fought the Dwarfgate War, and so obtained access to the

Portal that stood, then, in the magical fortress of Zhaman. If history had repeated itself, Raistlin

should have died at that Portal, for thus did Fistandantilus meet his doom."

"We counted on this," Elistan murmured, his hands plucking feebly at the bedclothes that covered

him. "Par-Salian said that there was no way Raistlin could change history-"

"That wretched kender!" Dalamar snarled. "Par-Salian should have known, he should have realized

the miserable creature would do exactly what he did-leap at a chance for some new adventure! He

should have taken our advice and smothered the little bastard-"

"Tell me what's happened to Tasslehoff and Caramon," Tanis interrupted coldly. "I don't care

what's become of Raistlin or-and I apologize, Elistan-Lady Crysania. She was blinded by her own

goodness. I am sorry for her, but she refused to open her eyes and see the truth. I care about my

friends. What has become of them?"

"We do not know," Dalamar said. He shrugged. "But if I were you, I would not look to see them

again in this life, HalfElven.... They would be of little use to the Shalafi."

"Then you have told me all I need to hear," Tanis said, rising, his voice taut with grief and fury. "If

it's the last thing I do, I'll seek out Raistlin and I'll-"

"Sit down, Half-Elven," Dalamar said. He did not raise his voice, but there was a dangerous glint in

his eyes that made Tanis's hand reach for the hilt of his sword, only to remember that-since he was

visiting the Temple of Paladine-he had not worn it. More furious still, not trusting himself to speak,

Tanis bowed to Elistan, then to Astinus, and started for the door.

"You will care what becomes of Raistlin, Tanis HalfElven," Dalamar's smooth voice intercepted

him, "because it affects you. It affects all of us. Do I speak truly, Revered Son?"

"He does, Tanis," Elistan said. "I understand your feelings, but you must put them aside!"

Astinus said nothing, the scratching of his pen was the only indication that the man was in the

room. Tanis clenched his fists, then, with a vicious oath that caused even Astinus to glance up, the

half-elf turned to Dalamar. "Very well, then. What could Raistlin possibly do that would further

hurt and injure and destroy those around him?"

"I said when I began that our worst fears were realized," Dalamar replied, his slanted, elven eyes

looking into the slightly slanted eyes of the half-elf.

"Yes," snapped Tanis impatiently, still standing.

Dalamar paused dramatically. Astinus, looking up again, raised his gray eyebrows in mild

annoyance.

"Raistlin has entered the Abyss. He and Lady Crysania will challenge the Queen of Darkness."

Tanis stared at Dalamar in disbelief. Then he burst out laughing. "Well," he said, shrugging, "it

seems I have little to worry about. The mage has sealed his own doom."

But Tanis's laughter fell flat. Dalamar regarded him with cool, cynical amusement, as if he might

have expected this absurd response from a half-human. Astinus snorted and kept writing. Elistan s

frail shoulders slumped. Closing his eyes, he leaned back against his pillows.

Tanis stared at all of them. "You cant consider this a serious threat!" he demanded. "By the gods, I

have stood before the Queen of Darkness! I have felt her power and her majesty-and that was when

she was only partially in this plane of existence." The half-elf shuddered involuntarily. "I cant

imagine what it would be like to meet her on her own ... her own..."

"You are not alone, Tanis," said Elistan wearily. "I, too, have conversed with the Dark Queen." He

opened his eyes, smiling wanly. "Does that surprise you? I have had my trials and temptations as

have all men."

"Once only has she come to me." Dalamar's face paled, and there was fear in his eyes. He licked his

lips. "And that was to bring me these tidings."

Astinus said nothing, but he had ceased to write. Rock itself was more expressive than the

historians face.

Tanis shook his head in wonder. "You've met the Queen, Elistan? You acknowledge her power?

Yet you still think that a frail and sickly wizard and an old-maid cleric can somehow do her harm?"

Elistan's eyes flashed, his lips tightened, and Tanis knew he had gone too far. Flushing, he

scratched his beard and started to apologize, then stubbornly snapped his mouth shut. "It just

doesn't make sense," he mumbled, walking back and throwing himself down in his chair.

"Well, how in the Abyss do we stop him?" Realizing what he'd said, Tanis's flush deepened. "I'm

sorry," he muttered. "I don't mean to make this a joke. Everything I'm saying seems to be coming

out wrong. But, damn it, I don't understand! Are we supposed to stop Raistlin or cheer him on?"

"You cannot stop him." Dalamar interposed coolly as Elistan seemed about to speak. "That we

mages alone can do. Our plans for this have been underway for many weeks now, ever since we

first learned of this threat. You see, Half-Elven, what you have said is-in part-correct. Raistlin

knows, we all know, that he cannot defeat the Queen of Darkness on her own plane of existence.

Therefore, it is his plan to draw her out, to bring her back through the Portal and into the world-"

Tanis felt as if he had been punched hard in the stomach. For a moment, he could not draw a

breath. "That's madness," he managed to gasp finally, his hands curling over the armrests of his

chair, his knuckles turning white with the strain. "We barely defeated her at Neraka as it was! He's

going to bring her back into the world?"

"Unless he can be stopped," Dalamar continued, "which is my duty, as I have said."

"So what are we supposed to do?" Tanis demanded, leaning forward. "Why have you brought us

here? Are we to sit around and watch? I-"

"Patience, Tanis!" Elistan interrupted. "You are nervous and afraid. We all share these feelings."

With the exception of that granite-hearted historian over there, Tanis thought bitterly

"But nothing will be gained by rash acts or wild words." Elistan looked over at the dark elf and his

voice grew softer. "I believe that we have not yet heard the worst, is that true, Dalamar?"

"Yes, Revered Son," Dalamar said, and Tanis was surprised to see a trace of emotion flicker in the

elf's slanted eyes. "I have received word that Dragon Highlord Kitiara" the elf choked slightly,

cleared his throat, and continued speaking more firmly-"Kitiara is planning a full-scale assault on

Palanthas."

Tanis sank back in his chair. His first thought was one of bitter, cynical amusement-I told you so,

Lord Amothus. I told you so, Porthios. I told you, all of you who want to crawl back into your nice,

warm little nests and pretend the war never happened. His second thoughts were more sobering.

Memories returned-the city of Tarsis in flames, the dragonarmies taking over Solace, the pain, the

suffering ... death.

Elistan was saying something, but Tanis couldn't hear. He leaned back, closing his eyes, trying to

think. He remembered Dalamar talking about Kitiara, but what was it he had said? It drifted on the

fringes of his consciousness. He had been thinking about Kit. He hadn't been paying attention. The

words were vague....

"Wait!" Tanis sat up, suddenly remembering. "You said Kitiara was furious with Raistlin. You said

she was just as frightened of the Queen reentering the world as we are. That was why she ordered

Soth to kill Crysania. If that's true, why is she attacking Palanthas? That doesn't make sense! She

grows in strength daily in Sanction. The evil dragons have congregated there and we have reports

that the draconians who were scattered after the war have also been regrouping under her

command. But Sanction is a long way from Palanthas. The lands of the Knights of Solamnia lie in

between. The good dragons will rise up and fight if the evil ones take to the skies again. Why? Why

would she risk all she has gained? And for what-"

"You know Lord Kitiara I believe, Half-Elven?" Dalamar interrupted.

Tanis choked, coughed, and muttered something.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Yes, damn it, I know her!" Tanis snapped, caught Elistan's glance, and sank back into his chair

once again, feeling his skin burn.

"You are right," Dalamar said smoothly, a glint of amusement in his light, elven eyes. "When

Kitiara first heard about Raistlin's s plan, she was frightened. Not for him, of course, but for fear

that he would bring the wrath of the Dark Queen down upon her. But"-Dalamar shrugged-"this was

when Kitiara believed Raistlin must lose. Now, it seems, she thinks he has a chance to win. And Kit

will always try to be on the winning side. She plans to conquer Palanthas and be prepared to greet

the wizard as he passes through the Portal. Kit will offer the might of her armies to her brother. If

he is strong enough-and by this time, he should be-he can easily convert the evil creatures from

their allegiance to the Dark Queen to serving his cause."

"Kit?" It was Tanis's turn to look amused. Dalamar sneered slightly.

"Oh, yes, Half-Elven. I know Kitiara every bit as well as you do."

But the sarcastic tone in the dark elf's voice faltered, twisting unconsciously to one of bitterness.

His slender hands clenched. Tanis nodded in sudden understanding, feeling, oddly enough, a

strange kind of sympathy for the young elf.

"So she has betrayed you, too," Tanis murmured softly. "She pledged you her support. She said she

would be there, stand beside you. When Raistlin returned, she would fight at your side."

Dalamar rose to his feet, his black robes rustling around him. ".I never trusted her," he said coldly,

but he turned his back upon them and stared intently into the flames, keeping his face averted. "I

knew what treachery she was capable of committing, none better. This came as no surprise."

But Tanis saw the hand that gripped the mantelpiece turn white.

"Who told you this?" Astinus asked abruptly. Tanis started. He had almost forgotten the historians

presence. "Surely not the Dark Queen. She would not care about this."

"No, no." Dalamar appeared confused for a moment. His thoughts had obviously been far away.

Sighing, he looked up at them once more. "Lord Soth, the death knight, told me."

"Soth?" Tanis felt himself losing his grip on reality.

Frantically his brain scrambled for a handhold. Mages spying on mages. Clerics of light aligned

with wizards of darkness. Dark trusting light, turning against darkness. Light turning to the dark....

"Soth has pledged allegiance to Kitiara!" Tanis said in confusion. "Why would he betray her?"

Turning from the fire, Dalamar looked into Tanis's eyes. For the span of a heartbeat, there was a

bond between the two, a bond forged by a shared understanding, a shared misery, a shared torment,

a shared passion. And, suddenly, Tanis understood, and his soul shriveled in horror.

"He wants her dead," Dalamar replied.

Chapter 4

The young boy walked down the streets of Solace. He was not a comely boy, and he knew it-as he

knew so much about himself that is not often given children to know. But then, he spent a great

deal of time with himself, precisely because he was not comely and because he knew too much.

He was not walking alone today, however. His twin brother, Caramon, was with him. Raistlin

scowled, scuffing through the dust of the village street, watching it rise in clouds about him. He

may not have been walking alone, but in a way he was more alone with Caramon than without him.

Everyone called out greetings to his likeable, handsome twin. No one said a word to him. Everyone

yelled for Caramon to come join their games. No one invited Raistlin. Girls looked at Caramon out

of the corners of their eyes in that special way girls had. Girls never even noticed Raistlin.

"Hey, Caramon, wanna play King of the Castle?" a voice yelled.

"You want to, Raist?" Caramon asked, his face lighting up eagerly. Strong and athletic, Caramon

enjoyed the rough, strenuous game. But Raistlin knew that if he played he would soon start to feel

weak and dizzy. He knew, too, that the other boys would argue about whose team had to take him.

"No. You go ahead, though."

Caramon's s face fell. Then, shrugging, he said, "Oh, that's all right, Raist. I'd rather stay with you."

Raistlin felt his throat tighten, his stomach clenched. "No, Caramon," he repeated softly, "it's all

right. Go ahead and play."

"You don't look like you're feeling good, Raist," Caramon said. "It's no big deal. Really. C'mon,

show me that new magic trick you learned-the one with the coins-"

"Don't treat me like this!" Raistlin heard himself screaming. "I don't need you! I don't want you

around! Go ahead! Go play with those fools! You're all a pack of fools together! I don't need any of

you!"

Caramon's face crumbled. Raistlin had the feeling he'd just kicked a dog. The feeling only made

him angrier. He turned away.

"Sure, Raist, if that's what you want," Caramon mumbled.

Glancing over his shoulder, Raistlin saw his twin run off after the others. With a sigh, trying to

ignore the shouts of laughter and greeting, Raistlin sat down in a shady place and, drawing one of

his spellbooks from his pack, began to study. Soon, the lure of the magic drew him away from the

dirt and the laughter and the hurt eyes of his twin. It led him into an enchanted land where he

commanded the elements, he controlled reality. . . .

The spellbook tumbled from his hands, landing in the dust at his feet. Raistlin looked up, startled.

Two boys stood above him. One held a stick in his hand. He poked the book with it, then, lifting the

stick, he poked Raistlin, hard, in the chest.

You are bugs, Raistlin told the boys silently. Insects. You mean nothing to me. Less than nothing.

Ignoring the pain in his chest, ignoring the insect life standing before him, Raistlin reached out his

hand for his book. The boy stepped on his fingers.

Frightened, but now more angry than afraid, Raistlin rose to his feet. His hands were his livelihood.

With them, he manipulated the fragile spell components, with them he traced the delicate arcane

symbols of his Art in the air.

"Leave me alone," he said coldly, and such was the way he spoke and the look in his eye that, for

an instant, the two boys were taken aback. But now a crowd had gathered. The other boys left their

game, coming to watch the fun. Aware that others were watching, the boy with the stick refused to

let this skinny, whining, sniveling bookworm have the better of him.

"What're ya going to do?" the boy sneered. "Turn me into a frog?"

There was laughter. The words to a spell formed in Raistlin's mind. It was not a spell he was

supposed to have learned yet, it was an offensive spell, a hurting spell, a spell to use when true

danger threatened. His Master would be furious. Raistlin smiled a thin-lipped smile. At the sight of

that smile and the look in Raistlin's eyes, one of the boys edged backward.

"Let's go," he muttered to his companion.

But the other boy stood his ground. Behind him, Raistlin could see his twin standing among the

crowd, a look of anger on his face.

Raistlin began to speak the words

-and then he froze. No! Something was wrong! He had forgotten! His magic wouldn't work! Not

here! The words came out as gibberish, they made no sense. Nothing happened! The boys laughed.

The boy with the stick raised it and shoved it into Raistlin's stomach, knocking him to the ground,

driving the breath from his body.

He was on his hand and knees, gasping for air. Somebody kicked him. He felt the stick break over

his back. Somebody else kicked him. He was rolling on the ground now, choking in the dust, his

thin arms trying desperately to cover his head. Kicks and blows rained in on him.

"Caramon!" he cried. "Caramon, help me!"

But there was only a deep, stern voice in answer. "You don't need me, remember."

A rock struck him in the head, hurting him terribly. And he knew, although he couldn't see, that it

was Caramon who had thrown it. He was losing consciousness. Hands were dragging him along the

dusty road, they were hauling him to a pit of vast darkness and cold, icy cold. They would hurl him

down there and he would fall, endlessly, through the darkness and the cold and he would never,

never hit the bottom, for there was no bottom....

Crysania stared around. Where was she? Where was Raistlin? He had been with her only moments

before, leaning weakly on her arm. And then, suddenly, he had vanished and she had found herself

alone, walking in a strange village.

Or was it strange? She seemed to recall having been here once, or at least someplace like this. Tall

vallenwoods surrounded her. The houses of the town were built in the trees. There was an inn in a

tree. She saw a signpost.

Solace.

How strange, she marveled, looking around. It was Solace, all right. She had been here recently,

with Tanis Half-Elven, looking for Caramon. But this Solace was different. Everything seemed

tinged with red and just a tiny bit distorted. She kept wanting to rub her eyes to clear them.

"Raistlin!" she called.

There was no answer. The people passing by acted as if they neither heard her nor saw her.

"Raistlin!" she cried, starting to panic. What had happened to him? Where had he gone? Had the

Dark Queen

She heard a commotion, children shouting and yelling and, above the noise, a thin, high-pitched

scream for help.

Turning, Crysania saw a crowd of children gathered around a form huddled on the ground. She saw

fists flailing and feet kicking, she saw a stick raised and then brought down, hard. Again, that highpitched

scream. Crysania glanced at the people around her, but they seemed unaware of anything

unusual occurring.

Gathering her white robes in her hand, Crysania ran toward the children. She saw, as she drew

nearer, that the figure in the center of the circle was a child! A young boy! They were killing him,

she realized in sudden horror! Reaching the crowd, she grabbed hold of one of the children to pull

him away. At the touch of her hand, the child whirled to face her. Crysania fell back, alarmed.

The child's face was white, cadaverous, skull-like. Its skin stretched taut over the bones, its lips

were tinged with violet. It bared its teeth at her, and the teeth were black and rotting. The child

lashed out at her with its hand. Long nails ripped her skin, sending a stinging, paralyzing pain

through her. Gasping, she let go, and the child-with a grin of perverted pleasure on its face-turned

back to torment the boy on the ground.

Staring at the bleeding marks upon her arm, dizzy and weak from the pain, Crysania heard the boy

cry out again.

"Paladine, help me," she prayed. "Give me strength."

Resolutely, she grabbed hold of one of the demon children and hurled it aside, and then she

grabbed another. Managing to reach the boy upon the ground, she shielded his bleeding,

unconscious body with her own, trying desperately all the while to drive the children away.

Again and again, she felt the long nails tear her skin, the poison course through her body. But soon

she noticed that, once they touched her, the children drew back, in pain themselves. Finally, sullen

expressions on their nightmarish faces, they withdrew, leaving her-bleeding and sick-alone with

their victim.

Gently, she turned the bruised body of the young boy over. Smoothing back the brown hair, she

looked at his face. Her hands began to shake. There was no mistaking that delicate facial structure,

the fragile bones, the jutting chin.

"Raistlin!" she whispered, holding his small hand in her own.

The boy opened his eyes....

The man, dressed in black robes, sat up.

Crysania stared at him as he looked grimly around.

"What is happening?" she asked, shivering, feeling the effects of the poison spreading through her

body.

Raistlin nodded to himself. "This is how she torments me," he said softly. "This is how she fights

me, striking at me where she knows I am weakest." The golden, hourglass eyes turned to Crysania,

the thin lips smiled. "You fought for me. You defeated her." He drew her near, enfolding her in his

black robes, holding her close. "There, rest a while. The pain will pass, and then we will travel on."

Still shivering, Crysania laid her head on the archmage's breast, hearing his breath wheeze and

rattle in his lungs, smelling that sweet, faint fragrance of rose petals and death....

Chapter 5

"And so this is what comes of his courageous words and promises," said Kitiara in a low voice.

"Did you really expect otherwise?" asked Lord Soth. The words, accompanied with a shrug of the

ancient armor, sounded nonchalant, almost rhetorical. But there was an edge to them that made

Kitiara glance sharply at the death knight.

Seeing him staring at her, his orange eyes burning with a strange intensity, Kitiara flushed.

Realization that she was revealing more emotion than she intended made her angry, her flush

deepened. She turned from Soth abruptly.

Walking across the room, which was furnished with an odd mixture of armor, weaponry, perfumed

silken sheets, and thick fur rugs, Kitiara clasped the folds of her filmy nightdress together across

her breasts with a shaking hand. It was a gesture that accomplished little in the way of modesty, and

Kitiara knew it, even as she wondered why she made it. Certainly she had never been concerned

with modesty before, especially around a creature who had fallen into a heap of ash three hundred

years ago. But she suddenly felt uncomfortable under the gaze of those blazing eyes, staring at her

from a nonexistent face. She felt naked and exposed.

"No, of course not," Kitiara replied coldly.

"He is, after all, a dark elf." Soth went on in the same even, almost bored tones. "And he makes no

secret of the fact that he fears your brother more than death itself. So is it any wonder that he

chooses now to fight on Raistlin's side rather than the side of a bunch of feeble old wizards who are

quaking in their boots?"

"But he stood to gain so much!" Kitiara argued, trying her best to match her tone to Soth's.

Shivering, she picked up a fur nightrobe that lay across the end of her bed and flung it around her

shoulders. "They promised him the leadership of the Black Robes. He was certain to take Par-

Salian's s place after that as Head of the Conclave-undisputed master of magic on Krynn."

And you would have known other rewards, as well, Dark Elf, Kitiara added silently, pouring

herself a glass of red wine. Once that insane brother of mine is defeated, no one will be able to stop

you. What of our plans? You ruling with the staff, I with the sword. We could have brought the

Knights to their knees! Driven the elves from their homeland-your homeland! You would have

gone back in triumph, my darling, and I would have been at your side!

The wine glass slipped from her hand. She tried to catch it-Her grasp was too hasty, her grip too

strong. The fragile glass shattered in her hand, cutting into her flesh. Blood mingled with the wine

that dripped onto the carpet.

Battle scars traced over Kitiara's body like the hands of her lovers. She had borne her wounds

without flinching, most without a murmur. But now her eyes flooded with tears. The pain seemed

unbearable.

A wash bowl stood near. Kitiara plunged her hand into the cold water, biting her lip to keep from

crying out. The water turned red instantly.

"Fetch one of the clerics!" she snarled at Lord Soth, who had remained standing, staring at her with

his flickering eyes.

Walking to the door, the death knight called a servant who left immediately. Cursing beneath her

breath, blinking back her tears, Kitiara grabbed a towel and wound it around her hand. By the time

the cleric arrived, stumbling over his black robes in his haste, the towel was soaked through with

blood, and Kitiara's face was ashen beneath her tanned skin.

The medallion of the Five-Headed Dragon brushed against Kit's hand as the cleric bent over it,

muttering prayers to the Queen of Darkness. Soon the wounded flesh closed, the bleeding stopped.

"The cuts were not deep. There should be no lasting harm," the cleric said soothingly.

"A good thing for you!" Kitiara snapped, still fighting the unreasonable faintness that assailed her.

"That is my sword hand!"

"You will wield a blade with your accustomed ease and skill, I assure your lordship," the cleric

replied. "Will there be-"

"No! Get out!"

"My lord." The cleric bowed-"Sir Knight"-and left the room.

Unwilling to meet the gaze of Soth's flaming eyes, Kitiara kept her head turned away from the

death knight, scowling at the vanishing, fluttering robes of the cleric.

"What fools! I detest keeping them around. Still, I suppose they come in handy now and then."

Though it seemed perfectly healed, her hand still hurt. All in my mind, she told herself bitterly.

"Well, what do you propose I do about ... about the dark elf?" Before Soth could answer, however,

Kitiara was on her feet, yelling for the servant.

"Clean that mess up. And bring me another glass." She struck the cowering man across the face.

"One of the golden goblets this time. You know I detest these fragile elf-made things! Get them out

of my sight! Throw them away!"

"Throw them away!" The servant ventured a protest. "But they are valuable, Lord. They came from

the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas, a gift from-"

"I said get rid of them!" Grabbing them up, Kitiara flung them, one by one, against the wall of her

room. The servant cringed, ducking as the glass flew over his head, smashing against the stone.

When the last one left her fingers, she sat down into a chair in a corner and stared straight ahead,

neither moving nor speaking.

The servant hastily swept up the broken glass, emptied the bloody water in the wash bowl, and

departed. When he returned with the wine, Kitiara had still not moved. Neither had Lord Soth. The

death knight remained standing in the center of the room, his eyes glowing in the gathering gloom

of night.

"Shall I light the candles, Lord?" the servant asked softly, setting down the wine bottle and a golden

goblet.

"Get out," Kitiara said, through stiff lips.

The servant bowed and left, closing the door behind him.

Moving with unheard steps, the death knight walked across the room. Coming to stand next to the

still unmoving, seemingly unseeing Kitiara, he laid his hand upon her shoulder. She flinched at the

touch of the invisible fingers, their cold piercing her heart. But she did not withdraw.

"Well," she said again, staring into the room whose only source of light now came from the flaming

eyes of the death knight, "I asked you a question. What do we do to stop Dalamar and my brother

in this madness? What do we do before the Dark Queen destroys us all?"

"You must attack Palanthas," said Lord Soth.

"I believe it can be done!" Kitiara murmured, thoughtfully tapping the hilt of her dagger against her

thigh.

"'Truly ingenious, my lord," said the commander of her forces with undisguised and unfeigned

admiration in his voice.

The commander-a human near forty years of age-had scratched and clawed and murdered his way

up through the ranks to attain his current position, General of the Dragonarmies. Stooped and illfavored,

disfigured by a scar that slashed across his face, the commander had never tasted the

favors enjoyed in the past by so many of Kitiara's other captains. But he was not without hope.

Glancing over at her, he saw her face-unusually cold and stern these past few days brighten with

pleasure at his praise. She even deigned to smile at him-that crooked smile she knew how to use so

well. The commander's heart beat faster.

"It is good to see you have not lost your touch," said Lord Soth, his hollow voice echoing through

the map room.

The commander shuddered. He should be used to the death knight by now. The Dark Queen knew,

he'd fought enough battles with him and his troop of skeletal warriors. But the chill of the grave

surrounded the knight as his black cloak shrouded his charred and blood-stained armor.

How does she stand him? the commander wondered. They say he even haunts her bedchambers!

The thought made the commander's heartbeat rapidly return to normal. Perhaps, after all, the slave

women weren't so bad. At least when one was alone with them in the dark, one was alone in the

dark!

"Of course, I have not lost my touch!" Kitiara returned with such fierce anger that the commander

looked about uneasily, hurriedly manufacturing some excuse to leave. Fortunately, with the entire

city of Sanction preparing for war, excuses were not hard to find.

"If you have no further need of me, my lord," the commander said, bowing, "I must check on the

work of the armory. There is much to be done, and not much time in which to do it."

"Yes, go ahead," Kitiara muttered absently, her eyes on the huge map that was inlaid in tile upon

the floor beneath her feet. Turning, the commander started to leave, his broadsword clanking

against his armor. At the door, however, his lord's voice stopped him.

"Commander?"

He turned. "My lord?"

Kitiara started to say something, stopped, bit her lip, then continued, "I-I was wondering if you

would join me for dinner this evening." She shrugged. "But, it is late to be asking. I presume you

have made plans."

The commander hesitated, confused. His palms began to sweat. "As a matter of fact, lord, I do have

a prior commitment, but that could easily be changed-"

"No," Kitiara said, a look of relief crossing her face. "No, that wont be necessary. Some other night.

You are dismissed."

The commander, still puzzled, turned slowly and started once again to leave the room. As he did so,

he caught a glimpse of the orange, burning eyes of the death knight, staring straight through him.

Now he would have to come up with a dinner engagement, he thought as he hurried down the hall.

Easy enough. And he would send for one of the slave girls tonight-his favorite....

"You should relax. Treat yourself to an evening of pleasure," Lord Soth said as the commander's

footsteps faded away down the corridor of Kitiara's military headquarters.

"There is much to be done, and little time to do it," Kitiara replied, pretending to be totally

absorbed in the map beneath her feet. She stood upon the place marked "Sanction," looking into the

far northwestern corner of the room where Palanthas nestled in the cleft of its protective mountains.

Following her gaze, Soth slowly paced the distance, coming to a halt at the only pass through the

rugged mountains, a place marked "High Clerist's Tower."

"The Knights will try to stop you here, of course," Soth said. "Where they stopped you during the

last war."

Kitiara grinned, shook out her curly hair, and walked toward Soth. The lithe swagger was back in

her step. "Now, won't that be a sight? All the pretty Knights, lined up in a row." Suddenly, feeling

better than she had in months, Kitiara began to laugh. "You know, the looks on their faces when

they see what we have in store for them will be almost worth waging the entire campaign."

Standing on the High Clerist's Tower, she ground it beneath her heel, then took a few quick steps to

stand next to Palanthas.

"At last," she murmured, "the fine, fancy lady will feel the sword of war slit open her soft, ripe

flesh." Smiling, she turned back to face Lord Soth. "I think I will have the commander to dinner

tonight after all. Send for him." Soth bowed his acquiescence, the orange eyes flaming with

amusement. "We have many military matters to discuss," Kitiara laughed again, starting to

unbuckle the straps of her armor. "Matters of unguarded flanks, breaching walls, thrust, and

penetration. . . ."

"Now, calm down, Tanis," said Lord Gunthar good-naturedly. "You are overwrought."

Tanis Half-Elven muttered something.

"What was that?" Gunthar turned around, holding in his hand a mug of his finest ale (drawn from

the barrel in the dark corner by the cellar stairs). He handed the ale to Tanis.

"I said you're damn right I'm overwrought!" the half-elf snapped, which wasn't what he had said at

all, but was certainly more appropriate when talking to the head of the Knights of Solamnia than

what he had actually spoken.

Lord Gunthar uth Wistan stroked his long mustaches-the ages-old symbol of the Knights and one

that was currently much in fashion-hiding his smile. He had heard, of course, what Tanis originally

said. Gunthar shook his head. Why hadn't this matter been brought straight to the military? Now, as

well as preparing for this minor flare-up of undoubtedly frustrated enemy forces, he had also to

deal with black-robed wizards' apprentices, white-robed clerics, nervous heroes, and a librarian!

Gunthar sighed and tugged at his mustaches gloomily. All he needed now was a kender. . . .

"Tanis, my friend, sit down. Warm yourself by the fire. You've had a long journey, and it's cold for

late spring. The sailors say something about prevailing winds or some such nonsense. I trust your

trip was a good one? I don't mind telling you, I prefer griffons to dragons-"

"Lord Gunthar," Tanis said tensely, remaining standing, "I did not fly all the way to Sancrist to

discuss the prevailing winds nor the merits of griffons over dragons! We are in danger! Not only

Palanthas, but the world! If Raistlin succeeds-" Tanis's fist clenched. Words failed him.

Filling his own mug from the pitcher that Wills, his old retainer, had brought up from the cellar,

Gunthar walked over to stand beside the half-elf. Putting his hand on Tanis's shoulder, he turned the

man to face him.

"Sturm Brightblade spoke highly of you, Tanis. You and Laurana were the closest friends he had."

Tanis bowed his head at these words. Even now, more than two years since Sturm's death, he could

not think of the loss of his friend without sorrow.

"I would have esteemed you on that recommendation alone, for I loved and respected Sturm like

one of my own sons," Lord Gunthar continued earnestly. "But I have come to admire and like you

myself, Tanis. Your bravery in battle was unquestioned, your honor, your nobility worthy of a

Knight." Tanis shook his head irritably at this talk of honor and nobility, but Gunthar did not

notice. "Those honors accorded you at the end of the war you more than merited. Your work since

the war's end has been outstanding. You and Laurana have brought together nations that have been

separated for centuries. Porthios has signed the treaty and, once the dwarves of Thorbardin have

chosen a new king, they will sign as well."

"Thank you, Lord Gunthar," Tanis said, holding his mug of untouched ale in his hand and staring

fixedly into the fire. "Thank you for your praise. I wish I felt I had earned it. Now, if you'll tell me

where this trail of sugar is leading-"

"I see you are far more human than you are elven," Gunthar said, with a slight smile. "Very well,

Tanis. I will skip the elven amenities and get right to the point. I think your past experiences have

made you jumpy-you and Elistan both. Let's be honest, my friend. You are not a warrior. You were

never trained as such. You stumbled into this last war by accident. Now, come with me. I want to

show you something. Come, come..."

Tanis set his full mug down upon the mantelpiece and allowed himself to be led by Gunthar's

strong hand. They walked across the room that was filled with the solid, plain, but comfortable

furniture preferred by the Knights. This was Gunthar's war room, shields and swords were mounted

on the walls, along with the banners of the three Orders of Knights-the Rose, the Sword, and the

Crown. Trophies of battles fought through the years gleamed from the cases where they were

carefully preserved. In an honored place, spanning the entire length of the wall, was a dragonlance

the first one Theros Ironfeld had forged. Ranged around it were various goblin swords, a wicked

saw-toothed blade of a draconian, a huge, double-bladed ogre sword, and a broken sword that had

belonged to the ill-fated Knight, Derek Crownguard.

It was an impressive array, testifying to a lifetime of honored service in the Knights. Gunthar

walked past it without a glance, however, heading for a corner of the room where a large table

stood. Rolled-up maps were stuffed neatly into small compartments beneath the table, each

compartment carefully labeled. After studying them for a moment, Gunthar reached down, pulled

out a map, and spread it out upon the table's surface. He motioned Tanis nearer. The half-elf came

closer, scratching his beard, and trying to look interested.

Gunthar rubbed his hands with satisfaction. He was in his element now. "It's a matter of logistics,

Tanis. Pure and simple. Look, here are the Dragon Highlord's armies, bottled up in Sanction. Now I

admit the Highlord is strong, she has a vast number of draconians, goblins, and humans who would

like nothing better than to see the war start up again. And I also admit that our spies have reported

increased activity in Sanction. The Highlord is up to something. But attacking Palanthas! Name of

the Abyss, Tanis, look at the amount of territory she'd have to cover! And most of it controlled by

the Knights! And even if she had the manpower to fight her way through, look how long she'd have

to extend her supply lines! It would take her entire army just to guard her lines. We could cut them

easily, any number of places."

Gunthar pulled on his mustaches again. "Tanis, if there was one Highlord in that army I came to

respect, it was Kitiara. She is ruthless and ambitious, but she is also intelligent, and she is certainly

not given to taking unnecessary risks. She has waited two years, building up her armies, fortifying

herself in a place she knows we dare not attack. She has gained too much to throw it away on a

wild scheme like this."

"Suppose this isn't her plan," Tanis muttered.

"What other plan could she possibly have?" Gunthar asked patiently.

"I don't know," Tanis snapped. "You say you respect her, but do you respect her enough? Do you

fear her enough? I know her, and I have a feeling that she has something in mind...." His voice

trailed off, he scowled down at the map.

Gunthar kept quiet. He'd heard strange rumors about Tanis Half-Elven and this Kitiara. He didn't

believe them, of course, but felt it better not to pursue the subject of the depth of the half-elf's

knowledge of this woman further.

"You don't believe this, do you?" Tanis asked abruptly. "Any of it?"

Shifting uncomfortably, Gunthar smoothed both his long, gray mustaches and, bending down,

began to roll up the map, using extreme care. "Tanis, my son, you know I respect you-

"We've been through that."

Gunthar ignored the interruption. "And you know that there is no one in this world I hold in deeper

reverence than Elistan. But when you two bring me a tale told to you by one of the Black Robesand

a dark elf at that-a tale about this wizard, Raistlin, entering the Abyss and challenging the

Queen of Darkness! Well, I'm sorry, Tanis. I am not a young man anymore by any means. I've seen

many strange things in my life. But this sounds like a child's bedtime story!"

"So they said of dragons," Tanis murmured, his face flushing beneath his beard. He stood, head

bowed, for a moment, then, scratching his beard, he looked at Gunthar intently. "My lord, I

watched Raistlin grow up. I have traveled with him, seen him, fought both with him and against

him. I know what this man is capable of!" Tanis grasped Gunthar's arm with his hand. "If you will

not accept my counsel, then accept Elistan's! We need you, Lord Gunthar! We need you, we need

the Knights. You must reinforce the High Clerist's Tower. We have little time. Dalamar tells us that

time has no meaning on the planes of the Dark Queen's existence. Raistlin might fight her for

months or even years there, but that would seem only days to us. Dalamar believes his master's

return is imminent. I believe him, and so does Elistan. Why do we believe him, Lord Gunthar?

Because Dalamar is frightened. He is afraid-and so are we.

"Your spies say there is unusual activity in Sanction. Surely, that is evidence enough! Believe me,

Lord Gunthar, Kitiara will come to her brother's aid. She knows he will set her up as ruler of the

world if he succeeds. And she is gambler enough to risk everything for that chance! Please, Lord

Gunthar, if you won't listen to me, at least come to Palanthas! Talk to Elistan!"

Lord Gunthar studied the man before him carefully. The leader of the Knights had risen to his

position because he was, basically, a just and honest man. He was also a keen judge of character.

He had liked and admired the half-elf since meeting him after the end of the war. But he had never

been able to get close to him. There was something about Tanis, a reserved, withdrawn air that

permitted few to cross the invisible barriers he set up.

Looking at him now, Gunthar felt suddenly closer than he had ever come before. He saw wisdom in

the slightly slanted eyes, wisdom that had not come easily, wisdom that came through inner pain

and suffering. He saw fear, the fear of one whose courage is so much a part of him that he readily

admits he is afraid. He saw in him a leader of men. Not one who merely waves a sword and leads a

charge in battle, but a leader who leads quietly, by drawing the best out of people, by helping them

achieve things they never knew were in them.

And, at last, Gunthar understood something he had never been able to fathom. He knew now why

Sturm Brightblade, whose lineage went back unsullied through generations, had chosen to follow

this bastard half-elf, who-if rumors were true-was the product of a brutal rape. He knew now why

Laurana, an elven princess and one of the strongest, most beautiful women he had ever known, had

risked everything-even her life-for love of this man.

"Very well, Tanis." Lord Gunthar's stern face relaxed, the cool, polite tones of his voice grew

warmer. "I will return to Palanthas with you. I will mobilize the Knights and set up our defenses at

the High Clerist's Tower. As I said, our spies did inform us that there is unusual activity going on in

Sanction. It wont hurt the Knights to turn out. Been a long time since we've had field drill."

Decision made, Lord Gunthar immediately proceeded to turn the household upside down, shouting

for Wills, his retainer, shouting for his armor to be brought, his sword sharpened, his griffon

readied. Soon servants were flying here and there, his lady-wife came in, looking resigned, and

insisted that he pack his heavy, fur-lined cloak even though it was near Spring Dawning

celebration.

Forgotten in the confusion, Tanis walked back to the fireplace, picked up his mug of ale, and sat

down to enjoy it. But, after all, he did not taste it. Staring into the flames, he saw, once again, a

charming, crooked smile, dark curly hair. . . .

Chapter 6

How long she and Raistlin journeyed through the red-tinged, distorted land of the Abyss, Crysania

had no idea. Time ceased to have any meaning or relevance. Sometimes it seemed they had been

here only a few seconds, sometimes she knew she had been walking the strange, shifting terrain for

weary years. She had healed herself of the poison, but she felt weak, drained. The scratches on her

arms would not close. She wrapped fresh bandages about them each day. By night, they were

soaked through with blood.

She was hungry, but it was not a hunger that required food to sustain life so much as a hunger to

taste a strawberry, or a mouthful of warm, fresh-baked bread, or a sprig of mint. She did not feel

thirst either, and yet she dreamed of clear running water and bubbling wine and the sharp, pungent

aroma of tarbean tea. In this land, all the water was tinged reddish brown and smelled of blood.

Yet, they made progress. At least so Raistlin said. He seemed to gain in strength as Crysania grew

weaker. Now it was he who helped her walk sometimes. It was he who pushed them onward

without rest, passing through town after town, always nearing, he said, Godshome. The mirror

image villages of this land below blurred together in Crysania's mind-Que-shu, Xak Tsaroth. They

crossed the Abyss's New Sea-a dreadful journey. Looking into the water, Crysania saw the horrorfilled

faces of all who had died in the Cataclysm staring up at her.

They landed at a place Raistlin said was Sanction. Crysania felt her weakest here, for Raistlin told

her it was the center of worship for the Dark Queen's followers. Her Temples were built far below

the mountains known as the Lords of Doom. Here, Raistlin said, during the War, they had

performed the evil rites that turned the unhatched children of the good dragons into the foul and

twisted draconians.

Nothing further happened to them for a long while-or perhaps it was only a second. No one looked

twice at Raistlin in his black robes and no one looked at Crysania at all. She might well have been

invisible. They passed through Sanction easily, Raistlin growing in strength and confidence. He

told Crysania they were very close now. Godshome was located somewhere to the north in Khalkist

Mountains.

How he could tell any direction at all in this weird and awful land was beyond Crysania-there was

nothing to guide them, no sun, no moons, no stars. It was never really night and never truly day,

just some sort of dreary, reddish in between. She was thinking of this, trudging wearily beside

Raistlin, not watching where they were going since it all looked the same anyway, when, suddenly,

the archmage came to a halt. Hearing his sharp intake of breath, feeling him stiffen, Crysania

looked up in swift alarm.

A middle-aged man dressed in the white robes of a teacher was walking down the road toward

them....

"Repeat the words after me, remembering to give them the proper inflection." Slowly he said the

words. Slowly the class repeated them. All except one.

"Raistlin!"

The class fell silent.

"Master?" Raistlin did not bother to conceal the sneer in his voice as he said the word.

"I didn't see your lips moving."

"Perhaps that is because they were not moving, Master," Raistlin replied.

If someone else in the class of young magic-users had made such a remark, the pupils would have

snickered. But they knew Raistlin felt the same scorn for them that he felt for the Master, and so

they glowered at him and shifted uncomfortably.

"You know the spell, do you, apprentice?"

"Certainly I know the spell," Raistlin snapped. "I knew it when I was six! When did you learn it?

Last night?"

The Master glared, his face purpled with rage. "You have gone too far this time, apprentice! You

have insulted me once too often!"

The classroom faded before Raistlin's eyes, melting away. Only the Master remained and, as

Raistlin watched, his old teacher's white robes turned to black! His stupid, paunchy face twisted

into a malevolent, crafty face of evil. A bloodstone pendant appeared, hanging around his neck.

"Fistandantilus!" Raistlin gasped.

"Again we meet, apprentice. But now, where is your magic?" The wizard laughed. Reaching up a

withered hand, he began fingering the bloodstone pendant.

Panic swept over Raistlin. Where was his magic? Gone! His hands shook. The words of spells

tumbled into his mind; only to slip away before he could grasp hold of them. A ball of flame

appeared in Fistandantilus's hands. Raistlin choked on his fear.

The Staff! he thought suddenly. The Staff of Magius. Surely its magic will not be affected! Raising

the staff, holding it before him, he called upon it to protect him. But the staff began to twist and

writhe in Raistlin's hand. "No!" he cried in terror and anger. "Obey my command! Obey!"

The staff coiled itself around his arm and it was no longer a staff at all, but a huge snake. Glistening

fangs sank into his flesh.

Screaming, Raistlin dropped to his knees, trying desperately to free himself from the staff's

poisonous bite. But, battling one enemy, he had forgotten the other. Hearing the spidery words of

magic being chanted, he looked up fearfully. Fistandantilus was gone, but in his place stood a

drow-a dark elf. The dark elf Raistlin had fought in his final battle of the Test. And then the dark elf

was Dalamar, hurling a fireball at him, and then the fireball became a sword, driven into his flesh

by a beardless dwarf.

Flames burst around him, steel pierced his body, fangs dug into his skin. He was sinking, sinking

into the blackness, when he was bathed in white light and wrapped in white robes and held close to

a soft, warm breast....

And he smiled, for he knew by the flinching of the body shielding his and the low cries of anguish,

that the weapons were striking her, not him.

Chapter 7

"Lord Gunthar!" said Amothus, Lord of Palanthas, rising to his feet. "An unexpected pleasure. And

you, too, Tanis Half-Elven. I assume you're both here to plan the War's End celebration. I'm so

glad. Now we can get started on it early this year. I, that is, the committee and I believe-"

"Nonsense," said Lord Gunthar crisply, walking about Amothus's audience chamber and staring at

it with a critical eye, already calculating-in his mind-what it would take to fortify it if necessary.

"We're here to discuss the defense of the city."

Lord Amothus blinked at the Knight, who was peering out the windows and muttering to himself.

Once he turned and snapped, "Too much glass," which statement increased the lord's confusion to

such an extent that he could only stammer an apology and then stand helplessly in the center of the

room.

"Are we under attack?" he ventured to ask hesitantly, after a few more moments of Gunthar's

reconnaissance.

Lord Gunthar cast Tanis a sharp look. With a sigh, Tanis politely reminded Lord Amothus of the

warning the dark elf, Dalamar, had brought them-the probability that the Dragon Highlord, Kitiara,

planned to try to enter Palanthas in order to aid her brother, Raistlin, Master of the Tower of High

Sorcery, in his fight against the Queen of Darkness.

"Oh, yes!" Lord Amothus's face cleared. He waved a delicate, deprecating hand, as though brushing

away gnats. "But I don't believe you need be concerned about Palanthas, Lord Gunthar. The High

Clerist's Tower-"

"-is being manned. I'm doubling the strength of our forces there. That's where the major assault will

come, of course. No other way into Palanthas except by sea to the north, and we rule the seas. No,

it will come overland. Should matters go wrong, though, Amothus, I want Palanthas ready to

defend herself. Now-"

Having mounted the horse of action, so to speak, Gunthar charged ahead. Completely riding over

Lord Amothus's murmured remonstration that perhaps he should discuss this with his generals,

Gunthar galloped on, and soon left Amothus choking in the dust of troop disbursements, supply

requisitions, armorment caches, and the like. Amothus gave himself for lost. Sitting down, he

assumed an expression of polite interest, and immediately began to think about something else. It

was all nonsense anyway. Palanthas had never been touched in battle. Armies had to get past the

High Clerist's Tower first and none-not even the great dragon armies of the last war-had been able

to do that.

Tanis, watching all of this, and knowing well what Amothus was thinking, smiled grimly to himself

and was just beginning to wonder how he, too, might escape the onslaught when there was a soft

knock upon the great, ornately carved, gilt doors. With the look of one who hears the trumpets of

the rescuing division, Amothus sprang to his feet, but before he could say a word, the doors opened

and an elderly servant entered.

Charles had been in the service of the royal house of Palanthas for well over half a century. They

could not get along without him, and he knew it. He knew everything from the exact count of the

number of wine bottles in the cellar, to which elves should be seated next to which at dinner, to

when the linen had been aired last. Though always dignified and deferential, there was a look upon

his face which implied that when he died, he expected the royal house to crumble down about its

master's ears.

"I am sorry to disturb you, my lord," Charles began.

"Quite all right!" Lord Amothus cried, beaming with pleasure. "Quite all right. Please-"

"But there is an urgent message for Tanis Half-Elven," finished Charles imperturbably, with only

the slightest hint of rebuke to his master for interrupting him.

"Oh," Lord Amothus looked blank and extremely disappointed. "Tanis Half-Elven?"

"Yes, my lord," Charles replied.

"Not for me?" Amothus ventured, seeing the rescuing division vanish over the horizon.

"No, my lord."

Amothus sighed. "Very well. Thank you, Charles. Tanis, I suppose you had better-"

But Tanis was already halfway across the room.

"What is it? Not from Laurana-"

"This way, please, my lord," Charles said, ushering Tanis out the door. At a glance from Charles,

the half-elf remembered just in time to turn and bow to Lords Amothus and Gunthar. The knight

smiled and waved his hand. Lord Amothus could not refrain from casting Tanis an envious glance,

then sank back down to listen to a list of equipment necessary for the boiling of oil.

Charles carefully and slowly shut the doors behind him.

"What is it?" Tanis asked, following the servant down the hall. "Didn't the messenger say anything

else?"

"Yes, my lord." Charles's face softened into an expression of gentle sorrow. "I was not to reveal this

unless it became absolutely necessary to free you from your engagement. Revered Son, Elistan, is

dying. He is not expected to live through the night."

The Temple lawns were peaceful and serene in the fading light of day. The sun was setting, not

with fiery splendor, but with a soft, pearlized radiance, filling the sky with a rainbow of gentle

color like that of an inverted sea shell. Tanis, expecting to find crowds of people standing about,

waiting for news, while white-robed clerics ran here and there in confusion, was startled to see that

all was calm and orderly. People rested on the lawn as usual, white-robed clerics strolled beside the

flower beds, talking together in low voices or, if alone, appearing lost in silent meditation.

Perhaps the messenger was wrong or misinformed, Tanis thought. But then, as he hurried across the

velvety green grass, he passed a young cleric. She looked up at him, and he saw her eyes were red

and swollen with weeping. But she smiled at him, nonetheless, wiping away traces of her grief as

she went on her way.

And then Tanis remembered that neither Lord Amothus, ruler of Palanthas, nor Lord Gunthar, head

of the Knights of Solamnia, had been informed. The half-elf smiled sadly in sudden understanding.

Elistan was dying as he had lived with quiet dignity.

A young acolyte met Tanis at the Temple door.

"Enter and welcome, Tanis Half-Elven," the young man said softly. "You are expected. Come this

way."

Cool shadows washed over Tanis. Inside the Temple, the signs of grieving were clear. An elven

harpist played sweet music, clerics stood together, arms around each other, sharing solace in their

hour of trial. Tanis's own eyes filled with tears.

"We are grateful that you returned in time," the acolyte continued, leading Tanis deeper into the

inner confines of the quiet Temple. "We feared you might not. We left word where we could, but

only with those we knew we could count upon to keep the secret of our great sorrow. It is Elistan's

s wish that he be allowed to die quietly and peacefully."

The half-elf nodded brusquely, glad his beard hid his tears. Not that he was ashamed of them. Elves

revere life above all things, holding it to be the most sacred of the gifts from the gods. Elves do not

hide their feelings, as do humans. But Tanis feared the sight of his grief might upset Elistan. He

knew the good man's one regret in dying lay in the knowledge that his death would bring such bitter

sorrow to those left behind.

Tanis and his guide passed through an inner chamber where stood Garad and other Revered Sons

and Daughters, heads bowed, speaking words of comfort to each other. Beyond them, a door was

shut. Everyone's glance strayed to that door, and Tanis had no doubt who lay beyond it.

Looking up on hearing Tanis enter, Garad himself crossed the room to greet the half-elf.

"We are so glad you could come," the older elf said cordially. He was Silvanesti, Tanis recognized,

and must have been one of the first of the elven converts to the religion that they had, long ago,

forgotten. "We feared you might not return in time."

"This must have been sudden," Tanis murmured, uncomfortably aware that his sword-which he had

forgotten to take off-was clanking, sounding loud and harsh in such peaceful, sorrowful

surroundings. He clapped his hand over it.

"Yes, he was taken gravely ill the night you left," Garad sighed. "I do not know what was said in

that room, but the shock was great. He has been in terrible pain. Nothing we could do would help

him. Finally, Dalamar, the wizard's apprentice"-Garad could not help but frown-"came to the

Temple. He brought with him a potion that would, he said, ease pain. How he came to know of

what was transpiring, I cannot guess. Strange things happen in that place." He glanced out the

window to where the Tower stood, a dark shadow, defiantly denying the sun's bright light.

"You let him in?" Tanis asked, startled.

"I would have refused," Garad said grimly. "But Elistan gave orders that he should be allowed

entry. And, I must admit, his potion worked. The pain left our master, and he will be granted the

right to die in peace."

"And Dalamar?"

"He is within. He has neither moved nor spoken since he came, but sits silently in a corner. Yet, his

presence seems to comfort Elistan, and so we permit him to stay."

I'd like to see you try to make him leave, Tanis thought privately, but said nothing. The door

opened. People looked up fearfully, but it was only the acolyte who had knocked softly and who

was conferring with someone on the other side. Turning, he beckoned to Tanis.

The half-elf entered the small, plainly furnished room, trying to move softly, as did the clerics with

their whispering robes and padded slippers. But his sword rattled, his boots clomped, the buckles of

his leather armor jingled. He sounded, to his ears, like an army of dwarves. His face burning, he

tried to remedy matters by walking on tiptoe. Elistan, turning his head feebly upon the pillow,

looked over at the half-elf and began to laugh.

"One would think, my friend, that you were coming to rob me," Elistan remarked, lifting a wasted

hand and holding it out to Tanis.

The half-elf tried to smile. He heard the door shut softly behind him and he was aware of a

shadowy figure darkening one corner of the room. But he ignored all this. Kneeling beside the bed

of the man he had helped rescue from the mines of Pax Tharkas, the man whose gentle influence

had played such an important role in his life and in Laurana's, Tanis took the dying man's hand and

held it firmly.

"Would that I were able to fight this enemy for you, Elistan," Tanis said, looking at the shrunken

white hand clasped in his own strong, tanned one.

"Not an enemy, Tanis, not an enemy. An old friend is coming for me." He withdrew his hand

gently from Tanis's grasp, then patted the half-elf's arm. "No, you don't understand. But you will,

someday, I promise. And now, I did not call you here to burden you with saying good-bye. I have a

commission to give to you, my friend." He motioned. The young acolyte came forward, bearing a

wooden box, and gave it into Elistan's s hands. Then, he retired, returning to stand silently beside

the door.

The dark figure in the corner did not move.

Lifting the lid of the box, Elistan removed a folded piece of pure white parchment. Taking Tanis's

hand, he placed the parchment in the half-elf's palm, then closed his fingers over it.

"Give this to Crysania," he said softly. "If she survives, she is to be the next head of the church."

Seeing the dubious, disapproving expression come onto Tanis's face, Elistan smiled. "My friend,

you have walked in darkness-none know that better than I. We came near losing you, Tanis. But

you endured the night and faced the daylight, strengthened by the knowledge that you had gained.

This is what I hope for Crysania. She is strong in her faith, but, as you yourself noted, she lacks

warmth, compassion, humanity. She had to see with her own eyes the lessons that the fall of the

Kingpriest taught us. She had to be hurt, Tanis, and hurt deeply, before she would be able to react

with compassion to the hurt of others. Above all, Tanis, she had to love."

Elistan closed his eyes, his face, drawn with suffering, filled with grief. ".I would have chosen

differently for her, my friend, had I been able. I saw the road she walked. But, who questions the

ways of the gods? Certainly not I. Although" opening his eyes, he looked up at Tanis, and the halfelf

saw a glint of anger in them-"I might argue with them a bit."

Tanis heard, behind him, the soft step of the acolyte. Elistan nodded. "Yes, I know. They fear that

visitors tire me. They do, but I will find rest soon enough." The cleric closed his eyes, smiling.

"Yes, I will rest. My old friend is coming to walk with me, to guide my feeble steps."

Rising to his feet, Tanis cast a questioning glance at the acolyte, who shook his head.

"We do not know of whom he speaks," the young cleric murmured. "He has talked of little else but

this old friend. We thought, perhaps, it might be you-"

But Elistan's s voice rose clearly from his bed. "Farewell, Tanis Half-Elven. Give my love to

Laurana. Garad and the others"-he nodded toward the doorway-"know of my wishes in this matter

of the succession. They know that I have entrusted this to you. They will help you all they can.

Goodbye, Tanis. May Paladine's blessing be with you."

Tanis could say nothing. Reaching down, he pressed the cleric's hand, nodded, struggled to speak,

and at last gave up. Turning abruptly, he walked past the dark and silent figure in the corner and

left the room, his vision blinded by tears.

Garad accompanied him to the front entrance of the Temple. "I know what Elistan has charged you

with," the cleric said, "and, believe me, I hope with all my heart his wishes come to pass. Lady

Crysania is, I understand, on some sort of pilgrimage that could prove very dangerous?"

"Yes," was all Tanis could trust himself to answer.

Garad sighed. "May Paladine be with her. We are praying for her. She is a strong woman. The

church needs such youth and such strength if it is to grow. If you need any help, Tanis, please know

that you can call upon us."

The half-elf could only mutter a polite reply. Bowing, Garad hurried back to be with his dying

master. Tanis paused a moment near the doorway in an effort to regain control of himself before

stepping outside. As he stood there, thinking over Elistan's words, he became aware of an argument

being carried on near the Temple door.

"I am sorry, sir, but I cannot permit you to go inside," a young acolyte was saying firmly.

"But I tell you I'm here to see Elistan," returned a querulous, crotchety voice.

Tanis closed his eyes, leaning against the wall. He knew that voice. Memories washed over him

with an intensity so painful that, for a moment, he could neither move nor speak.

"Perhaps, if you gave me your name," the acolyte said patiently, "I could ask him-"

"I am-The name is-" The voice hesitated, sounding a bit bewildered, then muttered. "I knew it

yesterday. . ."

Tanis heard the sound of a wooden staff thumping irritably against the Temple steps. The voice

raised shrilly. "I am a very important person, young man. And I'm not accustomed to being treated

with such impertinence. Now get out of my way before you force me to do something I'll regret. I

mean, you'll regret. Well, one of us will regret it."

"I'm terribly sorry, sir," the acolyte repeated, his patience obviously wearing thin, "but without a

name I cannot allow-"

There was the sound of a brief scuffle, then silence, then Tanis heard a truly ominous sound-the

sound of pages being turned. Smiling through his tears, the half-elf walked to the door. Looking

outside, he saw an old wizard standing on the Temple stairs. Dressed in mouse-colored robes, his

misshapen wizard's hat appearing ready to topple from his head at the slightest opportunity, the

ancient wizard was a most disreputable sight. He had leaned the plain wooden staff he carried

against the Temple wall and now, ignoring the flushed and indignant acolyte, the wizard was

flipping through the pages of his spellbook, muttering "Fireball ... Fireball. How does that dratted

spell go? . . ."

Gently, Tanis placed his hand upon the acolyte's shoulder. "He truly is an important person," the

half-elf said softly. "You can let him in. I'll take full responsibility."

"He is?" The acolyte looked dubious.

At the sound of Tanis's voice, the wizard raised his head and glanced about. "Eh? Important

person? Where?" Seeing Tanis, he started. "Oh, there! How do you do, sir?" He started to extend

his hand, became entangled in his robes, and dropped his spellbook on his foot. Bending down to

pick it up, he knocked over his staff, sending it down the steps with a clatter. In the confusion, his

hat tumbled off. It took Tanis and the acolyte both to get the old man back together again.

"Ouch, my toe! Confound it! Lost my place. Stupid staff! Where's my hat?"

Eventually, however, he was more or less intact. Stuffing the spellbook back in a pouch, he planted

his hat firmly on his head. (Having attempted, at first, to do those two things in reverse order.)

Unfortunately, the hat immediately slipped down, covering his eyes.

"Struck blind, by the gods!" the old wizard stated in awe, groping about with his hands.

This matter was soon remedied. The young acolyte-with an even more dubious glance at Tanisgently

pushed the wizard's hat to the back of his white-haired head. Glaring at the acolyte irritably,

the old wizard turned to Tanis. "Important person? Yes, so you are ... I think. Have we met before?"

"Indeed, yes," Tanis replied. "But you are the important person I was referring to, Fizban."

"I am?" The old wizard seemed staggered for a moment. Then, with a humpf, he glared again at the

young cleric. "Well, of course. Told you so! Stand aside, stand aside," he ordered the acolyte

irritably.

Entering the Temple door, the old man turned to look at Tanis from beneath the brim of the

battered hat. Pausing, he laid his hand on the half-elf's arm. The befuddled look left the old wizard's

face. He stared at Tanis intently.

"You have never faced a darker hour, Half-Elven," the old wizard said gravely. "There is hope, but

love must triumph." With that, he toddled off and, almost immediately, blundered into a closet.

Two clerics came to his rescue, and guided him on.

"Who is he?" the young acolyte asked, staring, perplexed, after the old wizard.

"A friend of Elistan's," Tanis murmured. "A very old friend."

As he left the Temple, Tanis heard a voice wail, "My hat!"

Chapter 5

"Crysania......

There was no reply, only a low moaning sound.

"Shh. It's all right. You have been hurt, but the enemy is gone. Drink this, it will ease the pain."

Taking some herbs from a pouch, Raistlin mixed them in a mug of steaming water and, lifting

Crysania from the bed of blood-soaked leaves upon which she lay, he held the mug to her lips. As

she drank it, her face smoothed, her eyes opened.

"Yes," she murmured, leaning against him. "That is better."

"Now," continued Raistlin smoothly, "you must pray to Paladine to heal you, Revered Daughter.

We have to keep going."

"I-I don't know, Raistlin. I'm so weak and-and Paladine seems so far away!"

"Pray to Paladine?" said a stern voice. "You blaspheme, Black Robe!"

Frowning, annoyed, Raistlin glanced up. His eyes widened. "Sturm!" he gasped.

But the young knight did not hear him. He was staring at Crysania, watching in awe as the wounds

upon her body closed, though they did not heal completely. "Witches!" cried the knight, drawing

his sword. "Witches!"

"Witches!" Crysania raised her head. "No, Sir Knight. We are not witches. I am a cleric, a cleric of

Paladine! Look at the medallion I wear!"

"You lie!" Sturm said fiercely. "There are no clerics! They vanished in the Cataclysm. And, if you

were, what would you be doing in the company of this dark one of evil?"

"Sturm! It's me, Raistlin!" The archmage rose to his feet. "Look at me! Don't you recognize me?"

The young knight turned his sword upon the mage, its point at Raistlin's throat. "I do not know by

what sorcerous ways you have conjured up my name, Black Robe, but, speak it once more and it

will go badly for you. We deal shortly with witches in Solace."

"As you are a virtuous and holy knight, bound by vows of chivalry and obedience, I beg you for

justice," Crysania said, rising to her feet slowly, with Raistlin's s help.

The young mans stern face smoothed. He bowed, and sheathed his sword, but not without a

sideways glance at Raistlin. "You speak truly, madam. I am bound by such vows and I will grant

you justice."

Even as he spoke, the bed of leaves became a wooden floor; the trees-benches; the sky above-a

ceiling; the road an aisle between the benches. We are in a Hall of Judgment, Raistlin saw,

momentarily dizzied by the sudden change. His arm around Crysania still, he helped her to sit down

at a small table that stood in the center of the room. Before them loomed a podium. Glancing

behind them, Raistlin saw that the room was packed with people, all watching with interest and

enjoyment.

He stared. He knew these people! There was Otik, the owner of the Inn of the Last Home, eating a

plateful of spiced potatoes. There was Tika, her red curls bouncing, pointing at Crysania and saying

something and laughing. And Kitiara! Lounging against the doorway, surrounded by admiring

young men, her hand on the hilt of her sword, she looked over at Raistlin and winked.

Raistlin glanced about feverishly. His father, a poor woodcutter, sat in a corner, his shoulders bent,

that perpetual look of worry and care on his face. Laurana sat apart, her cool elven beauty shining

like a bright star in the darkest night.

Beside him, Crysania cried out, "Elistan!" Rising to her feet, she stretched out her hand, but the

cleric only looked at her sadly and sternly and shook his head.

"Rise and do honor!" rang out a voice.

With much shuffling of feet and scraping of the benches, everyone in the Hall of Judgment stood

up. A respectful silence descended upon the crowd as the judge entered. Dressed in the gray robes

of Gilean, God of Neutrality, the judge took his place behind the podium and turned to face the

accused.

"Tanis!" Raistlin cried, taking a step forward.

But the bearded half-elf only frowned at this unseemly conduct while a grumbling old dwarf-the

bailiff-stumped over and prodded Raistlin in the side with the butt-end of his battle-axe. "Sit down,

witch, and don't speak unless you're spoken to."

"Flint?" Raistlin grabbed the dwarf by the arm. "Don't you know me?"

"And don't touch the bailiff!" Flint roared, incensed, jerking his arm away. "Humpf," he grumbled

as he stalked back to take his place beside the judge. "No respect for my age or my station. You'd

think I was a sack of meal to be handled by everyone-"

"That will do, Flint," said Tanis, sternly eyeing Raistlin and Crysania. "Now, who brings the

charges against these two?"

"I do," said a knight in shining armor, rising to his feet.

"Very well, Sturm Brightblade," Tanis said, "you will have a chance to present your charges. And

who defends these two?"

Raistlin started to rise and reply, but he was interrupted.

"Me! Here, Tanis-uh, your honorship! Me, over here! Wait. I-I seem to be stuck...."

Laughter filled the Hall of Judgment, the crowd turning and staring at a kender, loaded down with

books, struggling to get through the doorway. Grinning, Kitiara reached out, grabbed him by his

topknot of hair, and yanked him through the door, tossing him unceremoniously onto the floor.

Books scattered everywhere, and the crowd roared with laughter. Unfazed, the kender picked

himself up, dusted himself off, and, tripping over the books, managed eventually to make it up to

the front.

"I'm Tasslehoff Burrfoot," the kender said, holding out his small hand for Raistlin to shake. The

archmage stared at Tas in amazement and did not move. With a shrug, Tas looked at his hand,

sighed, and then, turning, started toward the judge. "Hi, my name's Tasslehoff Burrfoot "

"Sit down!" roared the dwarf. "You don't shake hands with the judge, you doorknob!"