The Reaper's Price

It was a calm, quiet night.

All of glorious Palanthas slept, cocooned in the silken dreams of emotional and physical restoration. Soft as a baby's breath the wind murmured among brown, crinkled leaves, limp branches, and tall stalks of grass. Autumn leaves, as well, dappled the streets, unusually dull and lifeless, whirling like maddening ocean waves. Solinari, the silver moon of good magic, and Lunitari, red moon of neutral magic, simultaneously shed ivory and crimson shafts akin to the gleam of fresh blood upon virgin snow.

Nuitari, ebony moon of dark arcane, also celestially enthroned itself.

Few alive upon Krynn could see the enigmatic Nuitari, concealed as it was by its very nocturnal nature. Like an emblem of infinite darkness sewn into midnight cloth its seems flawlessly evanesced in. But a black-robed wizard, such as himself, could detail the stitches, the absence of stars.

Such as himself.

Lips curving derisively, the cloaked figure abandoned his perch at the tower's window. He'd needed time to think, contemplate events and concerns presented to the distinguished Conclave of Wizards. Turning on a heel, the wizard again peered out, fingers still wrinkling the faded curtain, and he found the scene as one dead. a graveyard waiting for those of unlife to breathe 'life'.

Entirely too quiet. A chuckle to that.

Paranoid. I've become paranoid. One more worry and I'll sport gray.

Though the possibility of silver marring the elven elegance of gossamer black hair was highly unlikely, his vigilance was much warranted. Those strands, mirroring a starless night of Nuitari, might be Solinari white from a lesser man. But he was as calm and collected as Crystalmir Lake. Over the course of his life he'd gazed into Death's eyes and stared it down more often than a sane man might admit. Battles against wizards, warriors, and dragons. He'd slew a Dragon Highlord; survived an otherwise lethal encounter with a Death Knight-nearly even witnessed the world's destruction.

No white. No wrinkles. No worries...not much anyway.

Through this intense adventure a shard of himself persevered.

His ambition.

He had survived.

Dalamar the Dark had survived.

Dalamar ignited a stout candle occupying his bookshelf with mere thought. He willed it and it was so. Ghost-hued shimmers highlighted his luxurious bedchambers; as fine as any of the most expensive inns in the port-city. It rippled over his massive dull red blankets imprinted with satiny insignia, over his vallenwood nightstand (acquired from Solace), study table, and all of his furnishings. Four bedposts suspended a canopy of spidery elven lace. Even the sight of it inspired sleepiness in the dark elf.

I've had little enough rest these days. As a kender might say 'I'm stretching myself like an old shirt, inevitably tangling myself in threaded thoughts and making a textile hazard'.

Another smile, of mirth, crossed his marble features. The most ironic aspect of a kender, or handler, was their uncanny ability to be accurate. Indeed, many of their theories made little sense, but they had the ring of truth to them. For days now he'd investigated the rumors of a renegade mage holed somewhere in Ice Wall. Days without success. If such an outlawed wizard existed he or she was well entrenched within the wintry land. The three heads of the Conclave of Wizards-of which he directed the Black Robes- concluded it as mere fiction. And...still...

Add crazy. I'm becoming as crazy as a kender now, too.

Shrugging with a snicker (he was no kender and any who claimed differently would become chillingly acquainted with the 'Dead Ones'), the dark elf banished it from his mind. Little could be accomplished by idle speculation. Once further evidence could be secured to prove the renegade's existence, then he'd revive the inquest. Now he would grant himself a much- needed rest.

Stripping out of his velvet ebony robes and lifting the heavy covers, Dalamar committed his weary body to sleep. But sleep did not come. The very silence of the night disturbed him. What would normally lull another to slumber perked his ears into watchfulness, paradoxical though it be. A soft breeze wafted through his window. Naturally images, of past and present, invaded the serene blackness. However, the Black Robe's exhaustion finally commanded the attention his calculating mind refused to concede. Twisting to his side, the two penetrating almond eyes shut.

Like a dagger piercing a newborn's belly, a scream tore the night.

Like a massive blade of death, lightning sliced through the night.

The calm, quiet night wasn't so calm or quiet anymore.

In his apprenticeship days, the dark elf might have bolted upright, frightened. He might have recoiled in fear that his master had found him out. No more. Dalamar's trepidation was not unseemly then-the thought of deceiving the most powerful sorcerer to ever live would make ice run in your veins-now he was in control. His Shalafi, Raistlin, instructed the significance of manipulating everything and permitting nothing to manipulate oneself. The dark elf listened well. Leader of the Black Robes, a wizard of renown, no fear could paralyze to the magnitude as before. Consequently, Dalamar merely straightened leisurely.

A delicate eyebrow arched. Curious. A scream. A female's scream. Definitely, not Jenna's. Familiar though. But why?...To what end?

Like the process of magic itself, Dalamar handled this turn of events with measured precision, impassivity, and efficiency. Slipping from the comfortable bed with elven grace, he redressed. That elegance came as naturally as the beating of one's heart to an elf from fair Silvanesti. Tall as an aspen, dark as dragon's blood, and as intelligent as any scholar, he epitomized the Silvan Elf though neither the dark elf nor his kin claimed one another. He learned, early on, that the greatest sacrifices yield the greatest rewards and true power came from darkness.

The soft fabric hissed over the former-apprentice's body. So much I have offered for the opportunity to hear magic's song. What will the bloody toll be next?

Smothering that unbidden line of sentiment, the dark elf traced a path through the pools of vermillion-and-crystals that was the moonlight. His refined bone structure admirably expanded out his silver-stitched robes. A clasp, melted from obsidian into the mold of a swam, concealed his five finger-shaped wounds. Even now, years since he'd acquired them, the Black Robe winced at their sting. Magic runes encircled his sweeping hem. Dalamar drew down the hood. A sigh, of mere annoyance, escaped the pale, moist lips.

Jenna should have contacted me by now. Damn her! More mind games. Utterly foolish. I am the master of this tower. Breathing over the overflowing candle, his expression twisted, amused. She should know better than to dance with the best.

Though modestly irritated, Dalamar resumed his window vigil. Duo dark brown eyes flickered from the shadows of the Shoikan Grove, a traumatic woods putting it mildly, to the tower's outer courtyard. Nothing lived here. Well, nothing 'of life' lived here, anyway. An imposing rusted black gate encompassed the Tower of High Sorcery like a charred skeletal hand. Here a wizard of his order had flung himself to certain death. Cloak frays still wreathed the iron spikes, a grim testament to the life of one who lives dangling on the precipice of wild delight and dangerous insanity.

Lightning snaked across Krynn's skies, hungrily stabbing at the constellations. Paladine's platinum dragon remained a saintly constant as was Takhisis, the chromatic dragon. It lit the courtyard as dawn. That voice was so familiar...Why was that gods-damned voice so familiar?


Any normal man would have cringed at such an inhuman sound but, as was his custom, the former-Silvanesti elf did no such thing. Normal, hardly that. One could not define Dalamar Nightson, Dalamar the Dark, as normal. Again with feline, or rather elven grace, the dark elf wizard smoothly spun on a heel to face his intruder. A deadly intruder. A lovely intruder.

Jenna blotted out the meek light spilling in from his ajar door. A skilled Red Robe, daughter of the current head of the Conclave, Justarius, and a beautiful, wealthy Kalamite woman. Skilled in many fine arts, be they spell casting, or lovemaking, she presented a worthy adversary or consort-or both. While the former interested him more the later still received much of his regard. Hair as brilliant as flames and the shade of blood with a slender form to add, Jenna had attracted some of Dalamar's more 'attentive' charms. Of course, he didn't trust her or any of the additional ladies who shared his bed. He'd learned that, too, from the....little incident.

The little incident. Dalamar almost laughed. Almost. Hardly that.

"My love, did you not appreciate the sudden display of lightning? Might that have drawn you from your slumber?" Jenna queried innocently and yet not innocently at all. It was a long-standing game between them-the foundation of their tumultuous and passionate relationship. Her aspen-green eyes glittered. "Did you, perhaps, hear the scream?"

The question is: Who couldn't?

His own eyes darted to the window again, briefly, in tune with a spear of lightning. Thunder, its companion, groaned mightily. The arching light lanced through the midnight skies, leaving a fresh scent of metallic and resonating akin an ocean's call. It accentuated his face with a distinctive death-hued effect. The other side of the dark elf's face remained chill in shadow.

Forgoing the customary wordplay, their spars' pivotal aspect, he swept through the room. She automatically shifted to allow the Master of the Tower to pass over the threshold. A long-fingered hand rested on the brass handle with its mate indicating for his human lover. "Attend me." Without waiting for an assent or dissent, Dalamar the Dark commenced the taxing walk up the forbidding Tower of High Sorcery.

Few are fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on who's telling the story) to witness the stunning height and sheer majesty that is this magical fortress. Five there were, shrines constructed and dedicated to the three moonchildren's magic. Each was a wonder of the world, enchanted individually. But the pride of the Kingpriest and his followers resulted in the destruction of the towers at Daltigoth, Istar, and Goodlund. A fourth, lurking in Wayreth forest, remained, now the center of Krynn's wizardry. The other, in Palanthas. His.

It had been said that the presence of this tower was both appropriate and an eyesore. This tower harbored creatures of the undead, creatures that should never been resurrected to the living world. A vile miasma enveloped the area within a grove of murderous trees. Even the fearless kender race stay clear ("Only because there's nothing interesting about it," they would claim while shivering). In stark comparison, the sanctified Temple of Paladine, god of good, stood within eyesight of the wicked monstrosity. To some, this fouled the shrine's sacredness; to others only illuminating both buildings that much more.

Regardless of what moonlight you might trod upon, none, not even the high- collared Palanthian nobles, could deny the magnificence of the Tower of High Sorcery. By the time Dalamar reached the upper levels his breath hitched painfully and his lungs burned slightly. Glancing down the bone- white steps, not even acknowledging the killing plunge to the impenetrable bottom, the dark elf noted with satisfaction that his lover had followed suit.

Beautiful features pale from exertion and heightened emotion, Jenna murmured, "Darling, are you out for a stroll of the Tower?" She came aside him, her cool, impassive face partially but not entirely concealing the workings of the Red Robe's mind. She was the player, leaning over a complicated board game, pondering her opponent's intentions. That opponent being him.

Why have a placid, perfect relationship? This political maneuvering was far more...fascinating. He tossed the ball of conversation back at her, twisted to his own needs. "Why Jenna dear, how could I pass up this golden opportunity to recharge my wands? Dry lightning is rare indeed." Flicking his rich cloak aside, Dalamar resumed the climb, cloak fluttering like the damnation of a black soul.

Though wearisome, the effort was rewarded. He arrived at one of the higher landings that lead up to the door. With its physical manifestation memories, submerged in the rivers of time, resurfaced. It bit like spicy wine-somewhat pleasant, somewhat painful. Thrilling fear, the old fear, coursed the dark elf's blood. That door, adorned with a skull-shaped handle, led to the chamber where Dalamar nearly met his doom and that of all of Krynn's.

Almost a decade ago I killed her.

Her...that voice...familiar...


As if the lightning that savaged outside slammed into the tower, Dalamar winced.

The thought appalled him.

Drawing a shuddering breath, the Master of the Tower forced the past images to the recess of his soul. You can either allow fear to dominate your reactions or control it so it'll serve you. His shattered reflections swirled in sequence, ordered like a repaired mirror with deadly purpose.

He was Dalamar the Dark, Leader of the Black Robes, Master elf-magus. He commanded life and death. His' and that of others.

Steady in stride, he finished the ascent. The dark elf would never enter that room-Raistlin's notorious laboratory. He could still see the vaporous forms and disembodied eyes of his dead living that was his specter. That chapter of his history was lived and written (quite literally if one believed the stories of ageless Astinus). Now he headed an imposing division of the Conclave, still stirring controversy.

The chamber he did occupy was a spectacle of black marble and three walls with floor-to-ceiling windows. Like sheets of polished ocean they poured down to the black-and-blue tiled floors. It appeared nonexistent, a shimmering crystalline waterfall. The room was nearly empty, outfitted with a simple wooden cabinet and a stone pillar. Outside the wind rustled in through a partially open window. Its call was ominous.

Lips twisting acrimoniously, the dark elf unlocked the aspen closet and withdrew three wands from the upper levels. A long list of magical items lined the shelves but, at this moment, he had only need for his lightning rods. All could be defined as exceptionally elegant, but the last especially more so. Gold made up its sturdy mold, intertwined with leaved gems rare in this part of Ansalon. Every bolted flash seemed to emphasis the faded 'rust' upon its surface.

Her blood. His blood. Dalamar shut his eyes and bit down bitterly.

The hard choices are hard.

Carrying them to the ancient pillar, the dark elf rested them on the dark violet pillow that had been there for years. After all, who'd expect him to reactivate the wand that played party to his former lover's destruction. As much as it aided the Black Robe in that last desperate hour its very presence seemed an insult to the present; a mockery of his closing the door to the past.

Jenna entered soon after. Her frame, highlighted beautifully by the blazing bolts and accentuated by each punctuating roar of thunder, remained aloof. And yet, in the same manner hovered near. As three spidery words, of magic, fell from his lips, the Red Robe approached. Transparent azure light coned the trio of wands.

Each of them gleamed. Activated.

"Yes, a fine night for recharging the wands, indeed." Jenna's voice, cutting through the silent threads of midnight. But it did not startle the dark elf even remotely. He constantly guarded himself with automatic, life preserving spells that made assassins to frequently keep trying and dying. But, then, consistent success was bad for business. A hunter still needed prey.

Dalamar appraised his human companion as he awaited the outside weather to take affect. He bisected his lips with a finger when Jenna might have spoken. All was in readiness. Silence, the dark elf commanded, more in his dark brown eyes than his lips, hear now not any sound but magic's song. Both Nuitari's and Lunitari's servants loved the Art. It was beautiful...In this they were in perfect unison as two well-versed lovers.

More so I should think, Dalamar mused, the most casual of 'friends' can share intimacy. Sharing in the art, in one's soul, ah, that is the true lovemaking.

In that, the banished Silvanesti elf was correct. It was lovemaking. A dark frame of bliss that seizes everything it contaminates. When a mage is first infected, when the notes of spellcasting are more than a superficial thought, then it is the point of no return. You either submit to the power or die with a hole in your chest from being bereft a calling. Incomplete.

For Dalamar that would never do. To live in a physical home or the home of the soul...The hard decisions are hard.

Seeing the speared lightning pierce the glass with an inhuman shriek, he instinctively scurried backwards. Jenna followed his example. The light enveloped all three wands, as it should. Like catalytic agents they reacted, spilling more shafts of brilliance. Both elf and human drank in the delightful insanity. It whirled, devoid a pattern unless insanity itself is a pattern.

Then disaster struck.

While two of the wands recharged properly their companion, the most splendid, reacted violently. Coated in gold with a sharp blue crystal, that in itself would provoke the lightning to retaliate but the reaction was anything but normal. Dazzling blue bolts erupted at contact. Dust columned. Light scintillated. Dalamar pulled his lover further into the chamber's protective shadows.

When the dust settled, as they say, the pillar lay in shambles. The other lesser wands fared no better. Only a single rod remained.

Duo piercing brown eyes narrowed dangerously. One survived. That particular one. It saved my life by ending her's. Saved even my soul...but how is it that even a wand can survive such an assault?

"Strange...Almost as if it were blessed-or cursed," he murmured as the Master of the Tower lifted the unharmed magical instrument. Like acid it burned each supple digit but he ignored the slight sting. Its gleam was as the moon's themselves-red as blood, white as snow, black as night.


His face darkened as a shadow of a painful past lurked beneath the surface. It was not a tale the dark elf liked to dwell on-the story of the wand that killed a Dragon Highlord. "This-" the Black Robe hands clenched the gold in gesture. "This weapon helped me as the Blue Lady had me trapped in Raistlin's laboratory. I was wounded grievously. My only hope was this wand. It prevailed and I survived."

And you met a most unfortunate fate, didn't you my late lover? Now you reside with the Death Knight who betrayed us both. Did you deserve such a grim doom? Ah, I'll leave that up to the gods to debate.

Dalamar never stepped in the foreboding laboratory ever again but he found, at times, his mind lured to it. Now was one of those such times. He could still see her; the warrior woman towering over him, sword in hand. Murder glimmered in those once loving brown eyes. The portal flashed behind her, illuminating the battle lust that consumed the Dragon Highlord. Like a promise, the wand dangled out of reach. To retrieve it, Dalamar would have to remove the protective shield. Would mean death.

But when the alternative would also result in death, why not?

Wind shrieked briefly. Thunder roared dully. The Black Robe's dark-as- Nuitari eyes crashed into Jenna with all its ferocity. "I killed her," he announced dully. "She was my lover and my sworn confidante. But for fate's whim we might have ruled Ansalon together. But she betrayed me." Eyes flashed. "Love meant little to-"


Those three syllables reverberated through the chamber with a chilling effect. Quite chilling, in fact, since it came from the voice of the ever cold. The unliving.

The undead.

Lord Soth.

"Yes, dark elf. She used you. You used her. The mind games of mortals," he drawled in that customary brisk fashion. It sounded like bones scrapping on the bottom of the Abyss. "You defeated Kitiara with that wand. To this day she curses it."


Though physically unmoved, Dalamar felt himself drowning with confusion and fear. Cold. Trapped. Dying. Much like that fateful night those many years ago. If his former lover had managed to survive she would undoubtedly be plotting his downfall with every breath the Black Robe drew. Jenna stirred by his side, concerned. Her glittering green eyes appraised him and the Death Knight.

His own eyes scanned Soth. Aside from even more transparency, the former Knight of Solamnia seemed no worse for wear. But then, time held little meaning to one who is nearly deathless. "Greetings, Soth." Dalamar swept a hand at the human woman. "This is Jenna of the Red Robes. I don't believe you've met?"

To that, Soth failed to answer. Instead he advanced upon the two wizards with stunning determination. His feet made no sound even as they trod over the shattered remains of the pillar. He absorbed no air to sustain lungs long since passed the jurisdiction of living. One purpose alone propelled the Death Knight...but what was that purpose?

"Fascinating company you keep, darling," muttered Jenna at the moment she backed off. "An old friend?"

Lips warped in a humorless smile, Dalamar, too, stepped away from the creature of the grave. Few there were upon Krynn who did not have a healthy respect of the infamous undead. "Not quite. An old opponent, perhaps. You remember the legend of Lord Soth, Knight of the Black Rose?"

Her ash-colored lips were all the answer he needed.

Once the death knight circled the chamber, always dodged by the wizards, he returned to the broken altar. He extended a hand over the shattered remnants but seemed unsatisfied by his deducement. Where his eyes should have been two flamed orange lights flared. Soth's armor once bore fine Solamnic designs but they must have been charred to oblivion, a testament to his glorious rise to the sacred knighthood and his blazing descent into evil. No emotion in his icy tone, Soth uttered, "The wand, dark elf."

Sighing with mild irritation, Dalamar complied. He carried the magical instrument at a slow pace in ease. After all, he was the master of the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas. True, Soth could not be considered anything but a fearful adversary, enough to turn most men's blood to water, but the dark elf rather sacrifice life and limb (and soul, if need be) than be trampled on in his own household.

"He comes for one thing, Jenna," the former Silvanesti elf explained. "And one thing only."

Dalamar, eyes level with Chemosh's servant, held the wand outward to Soth. It would be a concession and his final one. Then the death knight would return to his mistress and disturb Dalamar no more. The matter would be laid to rest.

Like the dead.

As the Knight of the Black Rose clasped the wand, Dalamar added, as if in afterthought, "Oh, and give the Highlord my regards."

Dark energies rippled through the wand. It circulated into the dark elf's blood and prompting him to gasp. Lightning flashed brutally in Soth's 'eyes'.

Was that laughter!?

Dear Nuitari, it's a trap!

"You can do it yourself, dark elf, when you go to see her!"

Pain lanced into the black-robed sorcerer with all the intensity of the lightning blast outside. Desperate, he attempted to dart back. He might as well have been trying to rip the heart from his chest. Like his eyes were frozen to Soth's eyeless sockets, the dark elf's hands remained cemented to the wand's cold surface. It burned like arctic ice. The pain could blind. Only once had the dark elf experienced such as thus-as Raistlin's fingers pierced his flesh.

He couldn't help himself then and could do even less now.

He couldn't scream. He couldn't breathe.

"Dalamar!" screeched Jenna.

Life drained from his limbs with startling speed and cold flooded rapidly in after. The dark elf struggled to remain standing and failed. He sank to a knee, gagging in agony, hands still bonded to the cruel wand. A shadow, of Soth's, remained to smother him. Lightning erupted inhumanly, stirring thunder's call. Again, his lover screamed, fear and fury in a single terrible note.

Soth-if it was possible-smiled.

"Yes, I have come for one thing, dark elf. But it is not the wand." Heedless of the pain inflicted upon his victim by his actions, Soth ripped Dalamar's hands free. The wand clattered to the flooring. Swiftly, Soth snared the dark elf's crumpling form. His wintry voice could freeze the Plains of Dust. "It's your soul."

Though his throat closed in to prohibit speech, Dalamar's mind screamed insanely. No! Never! To be a slave of dark and eternal torment, a mockery of life...NEVER! Nuitari shelter me! Nuitari do not shun your faithful servant! Inconceivable dread for his life and death-or subsequent rebirth- offered the dark elf such strength that mere mortal terror could never hope to provide.

He wrenched free. Staggering back, the Black Robe scampered toward his human companion. "No...Soth," he gasped. "Not today...and not" Summoning the spidery language of magic crimson haloed his fist. It ignited and blazed at Soth. Thunder rumbled like a god's ungodly scream. Lightning snapped viciously.

No affect. Soth resumed his deadly march to recapture his prey.

Jenna gripped his arm in what would normally be considered painful. He barely felt it. It was good to have the Red Robe near, reviving him to this world. Yet, her eyes were bright with fear. "What manner of magics can harm it?" she demanded without any real force.

"That's the thing...the history books...forgot to mention," came his distorted answer. Dalamar still experienced the bone-numbing chill and found himself sluggish and semi-conscious. It was a struggle to even speak. "Normal magic...can't harm a creature from...the Abyss."

Jenna's face whitened as Soth approached. Her hands did not tremble but the Red Robe's hushed words spoke more volumes of fright than any recording of her death scream could. "Then how do we kill it?!"

"Unfortunately, that unavailable to us. You see, he's been...dead for centuries."

Lightning tore into the window-wall cavity, striking the opposing wall. Made of heavy stone and metal it remained erect but after the dust cleared a sizable gap could be seen. It rained rubble briefly. Mercifully, the room stayed intact. The violence of weather had intensified outside. Yet Palanthas slept unhindered, unaware of the bitter war that occurred between two powerful forces right at their doorstep.

Dalamar poured an arsenal of magic into defeating Soth, even after his grim concession to Jenna. It is far better to die than to be a slave of the undead, anyone would agree. Energy orbs pelted the death knight, flames coned his insubstantial form. Again, for naught. His lover added her offensive to the fray but resulted with the same fruitless struggle. Whenever the knight of the black rose approached too close-and that was too often enough-dark elf and human woman circled the chamber, evading the deadly advance. Soth didn't stride with much speed but his tenacity lacked nothing.

His message was dreadfully clear-Dalamar would die.

And have a dark, deadly rebirth.

Dalamar the Dark. Dalamar the Undead.

"Who sent you, Soth? The Dark Queen?" demanded the Black Robe. Distract him. Find some effective means of combating him. Blessed Nuitari, how does one go about killing something that's been rotting for ages? It seemed an impossible task but Dalamar had beaten such assignments before. Still...

Kill the dead? You can't.

Jenna and Dalamar continued to retreat, desperate, skirting around the broken altar and cabinets. Soth pursued. He was the deadly cat who patiently follows his prey until his victims tire incorrigibly. His slow, systematic movements deceived opponents into inferring Soth was an unintelligent creature, all force and no focus. And they would be 'deathly' wrong. This undead knight had succeeded in the downfall of the most cunning woman Dalamar had known.

Kitiara...Had she? Would she? Yes! Yes, she would!

"It's Kitiara, isn't it?" the Black Robe cried furiously. He ducked a cold wave thrown by Soth. Had it connected the very blood in his veins would have frozen over. As it was the dark elf felt naked in a winter wind rather than plunging into icy waters. Both can kill-it's all a matter of time.

Damn, this bizarre feeling persists! What is it? Am I...dying?

The Master of the Tower braved his fears long enough to hear his adversary's response. The words iced the soul more than the body. "Most observant, dark elf. She requested that, since you condemned her to eternal death with me, I doom you to join us in this 'life'."

Jenna's face paled visibly and Dalamar knew instinctively that his expression was the cause. His eyes must be utterly unfocused, haunted in the shadows of his hood. A life of endless wretched existence, a life of aching thirst, a life of no life.

There are, after all, worse things than dying...

Living, for one.

"I think I shall decline, Soth. Tell your mistress to rot in the Abyss." With that, the dark elf snatched up the dismissed wand. Its golden pre- cataclysm design glinted dangerously in the moonlight like blazing hatred hurled by the gods. He spoke the arcane word of power which unleashed brilliant bolts, a mimicker of the outside lightning. It forked, sizzling, and collided with Soth full in the chest.

Again, no affect. Little anyhow, aside from further charring an already blackened chest plate. Jenna immediately attempted to capitalize on the death knight's brief cessation. Bright energy spheres, as emerald as her eyes, erupted from both palms. That, too, Soth deflected. This was getting frustratingly, and frighteningly, ineffective. Jenna sent several more magical attacks his way but the former knight of Solamnia completely ignored the Red Robe, concentrating the bulk of his efforts on the dark elf.

As ever, the dark elf's mind was at work, spinning in plots and solutions. So, the arcane arts are not succeeding. Very well. Back to the basics, then. Dalamar was a warrior in his own right, usually depending upon the speed of his tongue rather than the steadiness of his blade. But there comes a time when nothing else but brute force will do.

Gripping the wand tightly, he lunged at Soth. Arching sharply, the dark elf connected. Or, more accurately, didn't connect. The wand passed through Soth as if the death knight was a figment of Dalamar's imagination. Caught off guard, the Black Robe swung around again for a second blow. Physical combat was not his foray and he knew, before the subsequent swing, that it was unavailing.

Soth's insubstantial hand came up and seized Dalamar quite forcefully. Again, the pain was agony, as horrifying as before. It seemed to be on a level mortals were not meant to suffer. The wand clanged to the flooring with an ominous sound. Jenna hovered in the shadows, knowing she must act before her lover was killed but well aware of the futility. The dark elf's face became ash from the exertion as he hung in midair, foreign entity to this plane of existence.

The hand of Lord Soth is death and certainly Dalamar did not doubt for his body leaked energy and life like a bleeding goblet. Is this death? Am I dying? Nuitari preserve me! More lightning flared outside, illuminating the death knight's hideous armor and his victim's dark robes.

Laughter. Her laughter.

"Have a nice...death, dark elf," came the hollow voice from beyond the grave. His chilling words seemed to only intensify the flame of his orange eye sockets. "And you will become all too aware of." Soth's complementary hand clamped around Dalamar's throat.

Not in this lifetime, Soth. I survived worse than you. I can survive, life, death, rebirth, and endings of worlds if need be. But the valiant cries of his soul, availed the Black Robe nothing. The former knight of Solamnia dragged him to the edge of the tall Tower. Wind whirled up to meet him as they appeared at the killing plunge through the window-wall's fissure.

Dalamar struggled for air but found only the pinpricks of light before his graying eyes, dancing mockingly. Early autumn sent up its chills. His feet literally dangled on empty space, suspended by Soth's mercy. That, of course, wouldn't last much longer. Jenna remained in the shadows, a dark angel recognizing the dark elf's desperate need but just as aware of the hopelessness of such an endeavor. And, though Dalamar summoned every scrap of knowledge he possessed to task he knew his doom like the beating of his heart.

That wouldn't last much longer either.

"Time to die, dark elf," hissed Soth, orange flame-sockets burning. Dalamar gasped, glaring with as much indignity as his consciousness would permit. "Oh, and don't forget your little charm."

With that, the death knight pitched the Black Robe from the murderous heights of the Tower of High Sorcery, his lightning wand trailing like a fallen soldier's broken sword.

Directions, up and down, it all became instantly meaningless to the dark elf. Gravity was the only sensation that affected him, but oh, did it ever! The air seemed to cushion his fall, only sustaining him the merest of seconds before erupting like shattered glass and leaving him to the dreadful descent. His ebony velvet robes whipped insanely like the dark elf was aflame.

Dalamar screamed but once. And it was a pathetic sound, thin and self- mocking. Yet if some god witnessed his fall, they would know the true terror, the sound of thousand vases shattering. It had no shape or color but the shades of obscure fear.

I am not afraid...


He was afraid. Very afraid.

The Tower of High Sorcery clawed into the midnight skies at hundreds of feet, one the tallest buildings on Krynn. To former-Silvanesti elf, the killing plunge was but a blink...a breath...a heartbeat long.

The gate's cruel spikes tore into Dalamar viciously as he landed directly on them. They felt like burning steel as they erupted from the center of his chest. The dark elf gasped as the blood blossomed on his robes and gurgled its way up his throat. Life fled his limbs. Dalamar accepted this.

Death, indeed held no dread for him. life, did.

He could feel it happening-the pain, the numbness, the cold. Is this the initial signs of the deadly transformation? Winds shrieked, stirring the dead leaves to wreath him in a spiral. On the rotten ground that is the outer courtyard to the Tower and the Shokian Grove, the wand lay, its wizard master dying by its side. Wherever Soth was didn't matter. Wherever Jenna was didn't matter. The whole of Palanthas didn't matter.

As the terrible blackness finally came to claim his vision, Dalamar felt a conflicted surge of relief mingled with horror. Agony would bother him no more. Death would at last claim him as it longed to for many, many years. The war was over.

Or was it?

Beneath the cursed, blessed darkness a voice called out, a sliver of an image materialized. Like a lover's whisper in the night it was intangible but undeniably intimate. A cascade of crimson hair fluttered in the darkness...Jenna's? Dalamar knew at once it was not. Eyes soon accompanied the shadowy visage, piercingly cold, icy blue. He'd never seen the likes of this woman before but Dalamar would give all he had (including his soul) to swear she was familiar...


No...This woman visited my dreamscape, though...Does it matter-I'm dying!

She beckoned to the infinite blackness, the infinite silence.

Death? Life? Unlife/undeath?

"Come, Dalamar..."

Dalamar heeded.