Emerlyon, Alcarivar, Phoenix Nord May, 1006 NE Into the Realm Eternal In her dreams Silthay danced through the void between worlds, a permeable darkness flowing around her like thick roiling smoke. From the darkness whispers assailed her wailing, crying, threatening, warning. You should not be here! Trespass! Abomination! Flee! Fly! Ruin! Death! Destruction! Silthay didn’t mind. She sort of enjoyed them. She imagined they were the souls of the dead, but she really didn’t know. She didn’t recall having killed anyone who chattered so much lately. The silver gates swam out of the haze, indistinct and broken as if seen through a rippling pool of ink, and she danced through them and into the halls beyond, all distorted by her twisted vision of this realm that somehow always drew her in her sleep. She heard sounds coming over the whispers, tinny and faint as if from a great distance and followed them. “The Herald has been dealt with then, Lord Morragan? Good. And events on Procarthis have taken an unexpectedly favourable turn. I believe I may be able to regain full control of the lower roads, and provide you the gates to the shadowlands that you require.” The speaker was a tall woman dressed in silver with the palest alabaster skin standing before a large full body mirror hanging on the wall of a room whose other details swam together at the edges of Silthay’s limited vision as if she were looking through a fishbowl. The woman looked like a ruler, a manipulator, someone who got others to do her dirty work – a weakling. A roaring voice like the rushing of the wind spoke from the mirror, which swirled impenetrable colours, blotting out that portion of Silthay’s vision. She only heard the woman in silver’s response; “I am glad the mortal seer suits your needs so well, Lord Morragan, but truly, such mundane concerns of iron and flesh bear little interest for me.” The rushing roar answered her again, and even through the distorted swirls, Silthay saw the woman’s eyes go wide, then narrow and her expression darkened. “The human army? Using my paths? This could not happen without the manipulation of some other Power. I will – ” She stopped, then looked up sharply, staring right at Silthay. “A shadow on the wall – a trespasser from the shadowlands.” Her voice came through clearly now. “I know you. Exile. Defiler. Return my Phylaricon.” Surrounded by inky clouds Silthay touched the icon hanging around her neck and smiled. “Finders keepers.” “It will return to me time.” The woman said. “Whether you will it or not. All it will bring you is death.” “Blah blah blah.” Silthay drew her sword, a flickering insubstantial thing of smoke and mirrors, “I like death.” She leapt forward and slashed at the woman, but the world fractured into thousands of howling whirlwinds and she fell through the storm, tumbling back into her body. Silthay opened her eyes with a yawn, humming with eager energy, like a plucked string. She threw the silk sheets back and strode to the window, naked but for the icon around her neck. She threw the intricate blinds wide and looked out over the conquered city of Sundamar on the Surf. Great breakers rolled down the long bay, tumbling and frothing as they broke on the beach, before turning pink and retreating. The beach itself was piled high with corpses of Alcarivan warriors and the sand soaked crimson. Drow sea serpents writhed among the corpses, devouring them as they bloated in the summer heat of New Phoenicia. Up from the beaches much of the azure-and-marble flecked city lay in ruins, marked by the plumes from still burning fires to the south, stronger now than they had been last night. Eventually they would spread unchecked and consume the whole city, but Silthay didn’t care, she wouldn’t be staying here long anyway. She yawned again and padded off through what had once been the house of the local lord to find the nearest bath. Charred frescoes of great elven heroes and deeds of old glared back at her, but she just winked back. There were no servants, but the Alcarivans had adopted that marvellous plumbing used by the New Phoenicians and Aquitanians, and in a few moments, Silthay was sinking contentedly into a shell-shaped pool large enough for half a dozen people and filled high with bubbles. Elyon entered the room, soundlessly pushing aside the screen behind Silthay. Silthay felt the assassin’s cold, calculating mind regard the bath room. She would have expected at least a brief flicker of malice from Elyon – some thought as to how to use this opportunity to assassinate her unarmed mistress, but the woman’s mind remained focussed on some other task. So suspicious. Perhaps she should find out who Elyon really was. . . “I have located the man called Saber, My Queen.” Elyon said. All other thoughts fled Silthay’s mind. “Where?” “Emerlyon,” Elyon said. Silthay frowned. “Is he trying to hide there? That’s a little disappointing.” She pouted and sank lower into the bubbles, blowing a cloud of them into the air. “Well? What are you waiting for? Assemble the legions, summon the minions, mount the warbeasts and all that stuff. Whoever’s not ready to go by the time I’m finished my bath gets left behind.” Elyon bowed unseen as Silthay vanished beneath the white topped bath water, then turned on her heel. As she entered the hallways of the elven manor, she tapped a mindex gem on her gauntlet and summoned up an image of General Izzam. Formed out of flickering green magical light, the face of the scarred Drow warrior looked out at her, “What is it Elyon?” “Prepare the troops for another raid.” She said. “Emerlyon.” The usually taciturn Izzam raised a scarred eybrow. “Emerlyon? That’s a hard target, and we don’t have that many men left. It’s inland, so we’ll have to leave the serpents, and Her Majesty’s last raids have been hard on the numbers of the enskinned and devoted.” Elyon just looked at the swordmaster. “I’ll get the men ready.” She killed the connection. “Trouble in the ranks, Raine?” A little imp buzzed through an open window to hover over her shoulder, it’s voice a soft whisper in her ear. It had the form of a small dainty dark skinned girl as long as a finger, but with insect wings, horns, sharp fangs, and a barbed scorpion’s tail. On its tiny pert nose perched a pair of equally tiny gold rimmed reading glasses. All in all it was rather cute. Elyon shrugged. “The army is coming to the end of its rope. I think they’re starting to realize Silthay’s just in this for her own personal glory, and few, if any of them, will survive to win any loot from this. I’ve counted the numbers, and at least a third of those who were at Tassarion have quietly deserted. Most of the rest probably stay because they fear the consequences of leaving, but I don’t think Silthay really cares. I suppose being nearly immortal does that.” “But you got her to attack Emerlyon, right?” The imp asked, tugging on Elyon’s ear insistently, “Right?” The imp was actually just another form of communicator like the mindex gem, but it bore an uncanny resemblance to the appearance and mannerisms of its master. “I hardly had to try.” Elyon said swatting the imp aside. “She’s eager to fight Saber again. Unless she manages to tap the limitless power of the Phylarikon he’ll give her a hard time, but Sithay’s not one for caution. I suppose she’s never fought one of these. . . Raphæim. . . before.” “Neither have you.” The imp said. “Shouldn’t you be summoning or something?” Elyon said evenly. “You didn’t do so well your last time against him.” “Oh, our Red Queen left me plenty to work with here.” The imp said. “Almost makes up for the loss of my Kitiara.” “That was your own fault.” Elyon said, with a pointed look at the imp. “There was no need to try to capture Serra Arquisson yourself.” The Imp folded its arms and harrumphed. “I need that dagger she has, if I’m to get the Phylarikon.” Elyon’s hand snapped up and she grabbed the imp, holding it in her fist and bringing it to her nose. “Not our mission, Charm.” “A bonus.” The Imp said. “And it’ll be a poke in they eye of those damn bloodsuckers if we can succeed where they failed.” Elyon shook the imp. “You have no intention of giving the Phylarikon to Lord Shavak if you find it, and we both know it.” The imp blinked its large eyes innocently, but Elyon did not release her grip. The scorpion tail flexed and stabbed repeatedly into the assassin’s palm. Elyon tossed the little imp away and healed the pricks with a flick of her wrist. The imp buzzed back up to her face angrily. “Well, listen to yourself – ‘nearly immortal’, ‘limitless power’. ‘Course I want it! What self respecting Sancta wouldn’t? Know your problem Raine? Lack of ambition. Maybe that’s why I still like you.” The imp grinned, then vanished in a pop. Outside the thrumming bellow of Drow hunting horns blew, first one, then two, then a mounting chorus. The Red Queen’s hunt was assembling. Elyon faded into a bank of rustling curtains as a group of enskinned thumped down the hallway, blending perfectly with the blowing cloth. Silthay wouldn’t care that she wasn’t present, probably wouldn’t even notice in her excitement to get at Saber. So let the Red Queen earn her reputation. Elyon and her partner would be sitting out the first act of this one. . .