Okay, so I know I should be concentrating on my current instalments, but to be honest, I've been longing to re-write this for ages. It's got a ton of spelling mistakes, it's pretty bare-bones, the romance moves too fast and Dalamar's 'voice' is completely different to how he speaks in later instalments. The story's been kept the same (this being one of the few things I actually /liked/ about the original), but I've changed and added a lot of things.

I'm also planning to re-do Ice and Steel, but that will take a while since that will be mostly adding extra chapters.

Notes: An answer to the "Zodiac" challenge: LEO AUGUST Passionate, forceful, aggressive, likes to be in the lime light. 1) The "Different Meeting" Challenge: Make your characters meet for the first time in a different way than they do in "canon", but still be who they are.
Disclaimer and warnings:
AU, obviously (Dalamar was discovered and kicked out of Silvanesti much earlier). Slash, obviously. Raistlin/Dalamar, obviously. Not mine; although the plot is, obviously. The lyrics belong to Kovenant who are in my mind one of the best bands currently in existence and a good deal of this fic was written while listening to them.

Long A/N:
This takes place two years before Raistlin takes his test. Here Raistlin is nineteen, has auburn hair, uncursed blue eyes and while he is quite sickly, doesn't suffer from his cough yet. If you think that Raistlin is behaving like he's far older than nineteen, please remember who we're taking about, also remember that he's nowhere near as good with the magic yet, so he and Dalamar are on pretty much the same level. Dalamar used the spell 'Shirak' due to the fact that it is a spell and not just a command word for the staff of Magius. This focuses on the mental aspects of Raistlin and Dalamar's relationship, is as realistic as I can be, and as they are both pretty messed up individuals... is not normal by miles.

Enigma

Chapter one- Curiosity

"We were alone and on our own, in the dark between the stars.
From the shadows to the pyre, amidst the chaos, from the stars"
-Star by Star, Kovenant

Raistlin sighed as he walked down the long road leading from the outskirts of Qualinesti to Solace, a road few travelled on and which was very overgrown.

He hadn't exactly been pleased when Master Theobald had demanded that he go to the edges of the elven lands- a journey of nearly two weeks- and offer to trade with the elves for herbs that Theobald insisted were "vital spell components."

The young mage knew very well why he'd been chosen for the task. He was the oldest in Theobald's class and the only one with any knowledge of herb lore (including 'Master' Theobald). He'd held his own in the argument for about five minutes until his 'Master' started making noises suggesting expulsion if he didn't obey. He had probably been bluffing, but even if he had, Raistlin didn't want to take the risk.

Never mind that it had been drizzling for nearly the entire week -probably the reason Theobald hadn't gone himself- or the fact that the schoolmaster had no idea if the elves would barter or not. In fact, Raistlin suspected that Theobald's true reason for setting him on this fool's errand was to get him out of his hair for a month.

To make things worse, Caramon- Raistlin's twin and the one who would have normally accompanied him on such a trip- was unable to come due to having sprained his leg a few days before. The clumsy oaf had slipped off a plank walkway made treacherous by the constant downpour and hit another bridge walk several meters down. Although he hadn't broken any bones, he'd sprained his leg badly (to say nothing of the mass of bruises carpeting his ribs) to the point that he hadn't even been able to rise from the bed and see Raistlin off, let alone accompany him.

Despite his brother's protests, Raistlin had gone alone, not that he'd had much choice in the matter. Flint, Tanis, and the kender had left on a short trip east to trade with the Plainsmen and wouldn't be for at least another three weeks, and Kitiara had pulled off one of her disappearing acts so Gods only knew when she'd be back.

Raistlin had been fortunate enough to meet a trader going part of the way to Qualinesti and had negotiated a ride on his wagon. However, luck seemed to have abandoned him after that. Not only had the elves flat-out refused to barter or even let him anywhere near their woods, but the return journey appeared to be one which he would have to make alone on foot.

So now Raistlin found himself a week's journey from Solace, without the herbs which had been the entire point of the journey, during a particularly wet and miserable spring. It was raining now, and Raistlin was soaked through and shivering as he trudged down the path back to Solace, a path which more closely resembled as a river of mud between two grassy banks. It sucked at his boots as he walked along, and the rain drenched him and made his robes stick unpleasantly to his skin.

The only mercy was that the road was very rarely travelled. The elves hardly ever let anyone in and the dwarves in the city of Thorbardin kept their gates firmly closed, so any bandits in the area tended to leave this stretch of road alone in favour of more travelled areas. Raistlin snorted, he wished there had been bandits on this road, if so, then he would have been given a better reason to refuse Theobald's 'request'. So instead of risking a quick death on a thief's blade, he was doomed to a much slower one from hypothermia. How typical.

The rain stopped briefly around midday, giving Raistlin a chance to examine the map Theobald had given him without fear that it would disintegrate. The map was rough at best, and the damp and mud hadn't improved it. The road was little more than a thin, wavering line next to large smudges which Raistlin supposed were meant to represent mountains. He'd toyed with the idea of crossing the mountains themselves, but between his own ignorance of the region and the bad quality of the map, he'd probably end up halfway to Neraka.

As if on cue, the rain started again. Raistlin sighed, rolled up the map, and drew his already soaking hood further over his head and shoved the map back into a pocket.

The day promised to be pretty much what the others had been, both the journey there, and the journey back, wet, foggy and unpleasant. Shivering a little from the cold wind, Raistlin began to walk again. The rain, which had started as a light drizzle, quickly grew stronger, pelting down from an iron-grey sky. Before long Raistlin had trouble seeing more than ten feet ahead, and was as sodden as if he'd jumped into Crystalmir lake with his clothes on. He thought about taking shelter under one the trees which now crowded close to the overgrown path, but decided against it. The trees were bent over, their early leaves limp in the downpour and dripping rainwater sullenly onto the already muddy path. The wind made their branches creak and Raistlin didn't particularly want to be under them when one snapped.

Shivering harder, clasping his cloak around him in a futile attempt to keep warm, Raistlin kept going. Walking as he was, head down against the driving rain, it wasn't surprising that he didn't see the other traveller until they had almost collided. He pulled up short, suddenly noticing the figure in front of him, no more than a few feet away. The man turned, also seeing he was no longer alone on the road.

"If you've come to rob me," The voice was hoarse, and strangely accented, "I can inform you I have nothing of value."

Raistlin tried to make out the figure, it appeared to be a slender man a little taller than he was, wearing a very bedraggled black cloak.

Taking Raistlin's silence to mean that either he wasn't a bandit, or that he would leave him alone, the stranger turned and began to walk again. The mage fell into step behind the newcomer, studying him.

Whoever the man could be, he was not rich, no bandit would bother him. His cloak was worn thin and stained with long travel and he wore no backpack where weapons or steel might be stowed. With no weapons, armor or cohorts, whoever this was, they were unlikely to be any kind of a threat.

The two of them travelled in silence as the day wore on. When night started to fall, the stranger turned to Raistlin. "As we're both travelling the same way, would you join me in finding somewhere to rest for the night?"

Raistlin thought it over. If this person was a brigand, they would have had plenty of opportunities to rob him prior to this. Besides, two pairs of eyes were better than none when it came to finding shelter. He nodded once and gestured towards the mountains to the east of them. His fellow traveller inclined his head in agreement and walked off the path towards the jagged teeth of the peaks half a mile away. Raistlin followed him. The land was rough, and dotted with caves worn from the frequent snows and spring melts, Raistlin had found himself using them several times as shelter when the weather was simply too wet to sleep outdoors.

Unfortunately, they hadn't been the only one to think of this. No sooner had they found a likely cave that a large black bear lumbered out of the shadows, thin from long hibernation and growling ferociously.
Raistlin jumped back out of the cave, his heart pounding, and one hand reaching to his pouches for spell components. He didn't have the chance to draw up a spell, however, before the stranger leaped to the side and thrust one clenched hand into the air- "Shirak!"

Blinding light filled the cave, and the bear- unused to it after its long sleep- roared in pain and fled, lunging past Raistlin to disappear down the mountainside.

Raistlin stared at the stranger, his face betraying a fraction of the shock he felt.
"You are magi." He said, his first words since he'd met the man, not accusing or amazed, just stating the truth.

"Yes." Soft irony, irony remarkably similar to that Raistlin often heard in his own voice, bit into the single word. "The same as you." Unseen eyes stared, undaunted, from beneath the drawn hood.

Raistlin looked back, equally undaunted, he nodded slightly. "Yes."

The words between them stopped, but the look lingered, not hostile, not challenging, but searching, curious, as probing as their words were guarded.

They found enough dry wood in the cave to make a fire, both for warmth and to deter the bear if it returned. Once sitting beside the blaze, pack laid down and component pouches discarded, Raistlin found himself unwilling to remove his hood and cloak. So far neither of them had seen each other's faces, the low light and heavy hoods had seen to that, but despite the damp material weighing heavily on his back, he felt reluctant to remove it, to open himself to the stranger's probing eyes.

The stranger's thoughts appeared to be running along the same lines, and the two of them sat, still hooded, staring at each other over the crackling flames as intensely as if the other was an enigma they were dying to solve.

Finally, it was the stranger who straightened and unbuckled his cloak, pulling it over his shoulders, over his head, to lay it down nearby to dry.
Then he straightened up and met Raistlin's gaze squarely, challenging.

Raistlin had to fight back the urge to blink in surprise. The man was, for one thing, not a man at all; the slanted eyes and pointed ears gave that away instantly. Yet the robes he wore under his cloak, though travel-stained and worn, were not the typical white of a follower of Solinari.

They were black, black as night, black as the invisible moon.

Dark elf.

Raistlin raised his eyes back to the elf's face, his grey eyes were slightly narrowed, black eyebrows arching over them in the hint of a frown, thin lips lightly compressed- still appearing calm, but allowing an aura of menace to show through. This elf, like Raistlin, was adept at controlling his emotions, he was sure that the Dark elf's face showed only what he wanted Raistlin to see.

The elf jerked his head slightly, and Raistlin pulled his own cloak off his shoulders, copying the elf in laying it down to dry before raising his eyes to meet the Dark elf's.
His turn to challenge.

Their eyes locked and Raistlin could see himself in the elf's eyes: nineteen, old beyond his years, thin and as pale in the firelight as the robes that marked his allegiance. He wondered what the Dark elf saw, reflected in Raistlin's fire splashed blue eyes.

The tension stretched. "Solinari." The Dark elf said, voice forcibly impassive, gesturing at Raistlin's robes.

"I have not been Tested." Raistlin answered the elf's unspoken question.

The tension in the air lessened as if it had been cut. The elf shook his head "Neither have I."

It was strange, Raistlin mused, still staring intently at his companion, despite the few words they had exchanged, he already had a healthy respect from the Dark elf, one had somehow knew was returned. It was the first time he had met someone so hard to read. His emotions were as guarded as if a sheet of steel had been placed in front of them.

The silence stretched as they prepared to eat. He'd had had to bring some provisions for the journey due to the lack of game in bad weather, but the majority he found along the way. He'd pulled out some dried fruit and a few mushrooms he'd found the day before. Due to his usual lack of appetite, this would be more than enough.
His companion had pulled a small sack from out of one of his cloak pockets, a sack holding some unidentifiable dried meat and hard bread. Human trail rations, Raistlin thought; clearly the elf had been exiled for quite some time. Interesting.

Most Dark elves, he knew, did not live long after being thrown out. He'd heard from Tanis that elves considered death more humane than exile, even despite their respect for life. Of those few that were forced to leave their homelands; most died, either by the hand of the righteous or by their own. This one clearly had the strength to live on after exile, and the cunning to avoid those who would have him dead.

Also, if he had been on the road for a while, it was highly unlikely he had come from nearby Qualinesti. Silvanesti then, and not one so high and mighty that he looked down on sharing a cave with a human. Still, it was odd that he should be so close to elven lands.

"What were you doing near Qualinesti?" Raistlin asked, voice betraying nothing but casual nonchalance, asking the question would give him a better insight on his companion, the questions he couldn't answer for himself.

"I came from further south, from Tarsis." The Dark elf answered, and Raistlin picked up the smallest strain when the elf spoke the name of the city- not something anyone else would have picked up, but intriguing all the same. The Dark elf seemed to have realised his slip, and was watching Raistlin intently as he continued, "I cut through the mountains rather than follow the woods."

No prizes for guessing why Raistlin mused. He had heard from Tanis the penalties for a Dark elf attempting to return to or even go near elven lands. Clearly even the elven love for life had limits.
"And you are heading where?" Raistlin asked, tone neutral.

"North."

Just that. North. No sign of duplicity or any sign of hiding anything. No doubt the elf was heading north for no other reason than lack of any other direction, all held nothing.

"And you, mage," the Dark elf asked, "Where are you headed?" Voice bland, he was very good.

"Solace." Don't give anything away that he hasn't done first.

The silence between them was broken, visual probing discarded in favour of this elaborate, verbal chess game. Each of them moving to draw the other out without revealing too much about themselves. Each curiously probing.

By the end of the conversation, if it could be called that, Raistlin had learnt that his companion was, as he'd guessed, from Silvanesti, and travelling from place to place in the hopes of developing his skill with the magic to the point where he could take the Test in the Tower of High Sorcery. He was eighty-five and had been in exile for about two years. He had also lived in Tarsis for most of this time, Raistlin guessed, although the elf had said nothing directly.

As in all chess games, verbal as well as physical, pieces must be sacrificed to draw out the opponent. The Dark elf now knew that Raistlin was nineteen, attended Theobald's school of magic in Solace and most likely lived there as well, he was well skilled in herb lore, and had a twin brother.

The Dark elf looked up from where he had been examining his hands. "This has been very interesting conversation"- Raistlin could sense the smile in the Silvanesti's words, although his face remained expressionless- "would you care to continue it tomorrow on the road?"

Raistlin nodded, and allowed his smile to reach his lips, "Yes, I think that would be a good idea."
Another chance to sake the curiosity the Dark Elf had awakened in him, for one so used to reading people, his companion represent to Raistlin a challenge undreamt of.

The two of them sat in the silence that had descended, contemplating this information, then the Dark elf stood and walked to the cavern entrance, looking out.

The rain had stopped some hours ago and finally appeared to be moving west towards Qualinesti and the sea. Sky and stars glinted through breaks in the clouds for the first time in days. It seemed as though they might have some decent weather for once.

Without turning, the Dark elf asked the one question neither of them had seen fit to ask before. The one that would tell him little of his companion, nothing about his past, and yet was often the first thing asked in conversations.

"What is your name, mage?"

"Raistlin Majere."

"Majere..." The Dark elf tasted the word thoughtfully. "Hmm..." he paused, and studied Raistlin again. Then- "My name is Dalamar Nightson."

Nightson? A curious name for an elf. A lie perhaps? But no, in this chess game they both gave what they took, they told the other exactly what the other had told them, no more, no less. A changed name then, taken when his real one was stricken from elven record. In a corrupted form of elven, that of the wilder elves, Nightson meant Argent, a far more fitting name for a Silvanesti, meaning 'silver' in their language.

And his first name, Dalamar...told nothing, a Silvanesti name, nothing more. Yes, his companion told the truth, and then there was still tomorrow to solve this tantalizing puzzle, this riddle that the Dark elf posed.

Raistlin pulled out the battered spellbook he owned, and began to memorize his few spells for the next day. He felt Dalamar's eyes on him as he did so, before the elf turn his attention to his own spells.

Skull Bearer