The Adventures of The Blade and the Ballad
Episode One: A Mark Upon the Soul
Summary: Set between the last chapter and the epilogue of Elfshadow. Arilyn chooses the power that she will add to the Moonblade.
Notes for Episode One: Welcome! This is less a single fanfiction than it is a series of adventures set within the Songs and Swords series. Mainly, these are all fierce little plot bunnies that latched on to me and wouldn't let go. Some of them are gap-fillers, some are completely new stories, and all of them stem from a desire to have seen some unexplored aspect of Arilyn and Danilo's relationship in the series itself.
This episode can definitely be called a gap-filler. From reading the novels, we all know why Arilyn chooses the power for the Moonblade that she does. This short is written to explore the how. It's also supposed to address one small, lingering left-over from the Elfshadow plotline that has bothered me for some time as well as explain one small inconsistency between Elfshadow and Elfsong. I didn't really set out to make this an H/C bit, but it kinda turned out that way in many ways, although not purely. I hope that doesn't bother too many people. Enjoy! Sweet water to you!
Arilyn drew the sword and pointed to the line of runes. "There are nine runes now; this new one is mine." She paused and chose her words carefully. "It is not so much a power, but the removal of certain restrictions." She turned the moonblade and offered it to Danilo, hilt first.
His grey eyes filled with understanding. Arilyn was offering him far more than her sword. Deeply moved, he accepted the symbol of her friendship and cradled it in his burned hands. "A rare and precious thing," he murmured, looking not at the moonblade but at the half-elf's face. "You honor me by sharing it."
Their gaze clung for a long moment, the Arilyn's eyes slid away. Her uncertain expression tugged at Danilo's heart. To lighten the mood, he assumed a cocky grin and returned the magic sword to its master. "Things of value should always be shared. Your beauty, for instance." He drew a translucent gown from his bag with a flourish. "Now, about this gown..."
Arilyn's smile brightened her face. "Don't push
- Elaine Cunningham, Elfshadow.
"Now it's over," she had said. She had stood there, beneath the statue of Hannali Celanil, looked directly at him, and said it.
But now, as her horse approached the Halfway Inn on the northwestern edge of the Evereskan Mountains, Arilyn Moonblade had her doubts. Certainly it was the end of the mess with Kymil Nimesin and her own Elfshadow; the mystery of the Harper Assassin had been solved. But Arilyn couldn't help but feel that something else was just beginning.
Absently, she stole a glance at one of her two traveling companions, riding close and being uncharacteristically silent. Danilo Thann looked haggard and drawn from the ordeal of the past few days and Arilyn could see that it was little more than willpower keeping his eyes open and his seat in the saddle. Every once in a while, his horse's reins would shift in his burned hands and he would wince.
Danilo looked as bad as Arilyn felt; utterly exhausted and saddled with aches and pains that weren't kind enough to wait until the morning. But he also looked strangely contemplative, a condition with which Arilyn could certainly sympathize.
"Well now, isn't that a sight for sore eyes!" Danilo exclaimed as the Halfway Inn came into view. "Finally, a good meal and a better night's sleep. Wouldn't you agree, my dear?"
"Forget the meal," Arilyn replied, "I could go straight to bed."
"Oh, but what kind of gentleman would I be then?"
Arilyn rolled her eyes skyward, seeking patience and thinking that perhaps she liked Danilo better quiet. "Don't start," she warned him, sending him a venomous glare.
"I think that I'm obligated to second that," said Bran Skorlsun, riding ahead of them a couple horse lengths.
Danilo grimaced and cast a look toward the aging Harper. "Oh, right! I now have to contend with the paternal protection problem." He leaned in closer to Arilyn and whispered just loud enough to be heard over the horses' hooves. "That is what the sword is for, though."
"I heard that!" Bran shot back at him.
"My sword's bigger," Arilyn warned Danilo, completely deadpan.
"Oh dear, one might think that I've just been insulted," said Danilo.
"That was the idea."
The witty banter ceased as they all came to the inn and saw to their horses. Like the three travelers, Arilyn's grey mare and the two rather temperamental horses Danilo and Bran had purchased in their haste to get to Evereska were road weary and eagerly searched for rest and food. As soon as they were penned and found themselves near water, they drank deeply, their tongues lapping noisily.
"That, my excitable equine, is the first thing upon which we have agreed all day," Danilo said to his horse as he leaned heavily against the wall of the stable. One of the mare's ears swiveled back at him, but she continued to drink without a glance back.
Seeing to her own mare took Arilyn somewhat longer. She watched the horse carefully for several minutes to make certain she was comfortable and well stocked with food and water. When she was finally satisfied with the arrangements, Arilyn made for the doorway with Bran hot on her heels. When Danilo didn't make a move to follow, she looked to him and found him still leaning with his back against the wall, eyes closed tiredly.
"Danilo, are you coming?" she prompted. "Or are you going to spend the night in the barn?"
"Hmm?" Dan queried, startled and looking up at her. "Yes, yes of course." With some effort, he pushed himself up and fell into step next to Arilyn.
The night was growing dark and so she couldn't be certain, but something about the look on Danilo's face was troubling Arilyn. She watched him closely as they walked from the stable to the inn, trying to put her finger on it. But try as she might, she just couldn't figure out what it was. It was as if she was looking at something she could only see when she did not look directly at it, the way someone in her youth had taught her to see faint stars.
Arilyn was relieved to find that the Moon Elf proprietor, Myrin Silverspear, had already retired for the night. One of his Elven barmaids had taken his place at the tavern bar. Bran Skorlsun was known to the enigmatic innkeeper and Arilyn was not in the mood to explain his presence to Myrin; she was far too tired.
The three travelers went into the tavern portion of the Halfway Inn and claimed one of the curtained booths at the back of the room, hoping to shut out the noise and shuffle of the rest of the place just that much. Soon, food had been brought for them and Arilyn and Bran both dug into their meals with fervor. But it didn't go unnoticed to Arilyn that Danilo picked at his plate lackadaisically, only taking a small bite every once in a while and chewing it long and unnecessarily well. And still, there was that odd silence that had settled over him, even as she and Bran chatted amicably.
"Something wrong with your food?" Arilyn asked Danilo, finally having had enough of the odd little faces he was making with each tentative swallow.
Danilo lazily pushed his plate aside and leaned back in his seat. "Myrin should see to his cook. Imagine! A perfectly good piece of chicken ruined with too much thyme and pepper." With a sigh, he stood. "Well, I wasn't all that hungry anyway. I believe I will turn in for the night." He pulled back the curtain and stepped out of the booth. "See you on the morrow," he tossed over his shoulder as he left.
Curiously, Bran reached over and took a bite of Danilo's discarded meal. "That's odd," he said.
"What is?" Arilyn asked.
"There isn't any thyme in this at all. Pepper, yes. And he's right, too much of it. But no thyme."
Arilyn gave Bran a confused look, then briefly pulled back the booth's curtain to catch a glimpse of the retreating Danilo. She spotted him just as he was beginning to make his way up the stairs to the second floor and the inn's lodgings. He moved a little more slowly than usual, Arilyn thought, and as he went his toe caught on the edge of one stair, nearly toppling him face-first. He caught himself on the rail, though, and steadied himself with a small shake of his head before continuing up.
"He's probably just looking for some time to himself," Arilyn said to Bran, letting the curtain fall back into place, "he's had to stick to me like tar for the past tenday. I'm sure he has his reasons."
"If you say so," said Bran, "you know him better than I do."
Arilyn halted for a moment at that before allowing herself a small, lop-sided, and ironic smile. "I'm not so certain of that."
Arilyn and Bran both sought their own rooms not long later. But, as exhausted as she was, Arilyn found that sleep was still elusive. It was a clear night and the starlight streamed into her window as she lay motionless on her bed. On the floor immediately next to her, the Moonblade lay more quiet and still than Arilyn had ever known it to be, as if it, too, was resting after the long ordeal.
The half-Elf pondered the eight runes along the sword's blade, each signifying a power that had been added to the blade by one of Arilyn's Elven ancestors, the previous wielders. Now that the blade was whole once again, now that the moonstone had been replaced in its pommel, Arilyn would be able to add her own power to the Moonblade. To do so was both her right and her duty.
But Arilyn wondered what she would ever need from the blade. Each of the previous wielders had added a power that reflected some need. The twinborn Zoastria had added the power of the Elfshadow, looking to refill the hole in her soul left by her lost sister. Arilyn's own mother, Z'beryl, had added the power of the Elfgate, seeking to bridge the two worlds in which she walked. It was as if the Moonblade had been able to fill the void in the hearts of its wielders. Though she could not see how such an ability would help her, such a thing was attractive to Arilyn whose heart had holes aplenty.
And yet, other powers seemed to be purely practical things. The ability to strike quickly, to be warned of danger at all times, to walk through fire; all of these seemed little more than tools. Necessary in the end, but of little spiritual relevance.
In the middle of this line of thought, Arilyn heard a loud thump from the room next door, where she knew Danilo was sleeping. Instantly and instinctively, she snatched up the Moonblade as she leaped from her bed and rushed out into the hallway and to the door of Danilo's room. She pushed it open quickly, ignoring the noise she made while doing it, and charged in, sword ready.
What she found, though, brought her to an instant halt. There was no visible danger anywhere in Danilo's room and a quick glance at the Moonblade proved it as it was lacking its blue glow of warning. What was in the room was one foggy-eyed dandy, slowly picking himself out of tangled blankets strewn all over the floor next to the bed, cursing softly as he did.
The tip of Arilyn's sword dropped to the floor, along with her jaw. "You fell out of bed?" she asked Danilo in a tone that suggested she couldn't believe what she was seeing.
"Good heavens, my dear!" Danilo exclaimed. "Do you really unsheathe that thing for every bump in the night?"
"Only when I know that the bump might mean someone is about to get himself killed thanks to his own idiocy," Arilyn replied quickly, sliding the Moonblade back into its ancient sheath.
"Well, I'm certain there's a clever retort to that somewhere around here, but as for right now, you'll have to forgive me for not finding it," Danilo clipped out, crossly pushing aside the blankets and rising. He weaved slightly and his legs crumpled under him, depositing him soundly back on the floor. "Oh, dear. I must have hit the floor harder than I thought."
Concerned now, Arilyn crossed the room to the small nightstand sitting against one wall. Leaning the Moonblade against it, she snatched up the tiny bit of flint and steel and used it to light the small lamp. This she brought closer to Danilo who squinted and looked away from it with a soft groan.
"You're pale as a ghost," Arilyn observed, putting a hand to his face to turn it back to her, "and feverish."
"Oh, don't worry about that," said Danilo, "it happens sometimes to wizards who cast powerful spells for the first time. Exhaustion and all that. I'm sure it's nothing to concern yourself with. A day of rest and I'll be up and raising your hackles for certain."
"Just stop babbling like a fool and get back into bed," Arilyn ordered, setting the lamp aside and pulling Danilo up by an elbow, careful to avoid the burns on his hands. But in the process something caught her eye, a blue glow reflecting off the white of Danilo's shirt. Her eyes quickly searched for the source as Danilo sat on the edge of the bed and she traced it back to the palm of his hand. Danilo was about to pull it away from her grasp, but she held his wrist tight.
The dandy flashed her a cheesy smirk and rested his other hand on top of hers. "Well, if I had known this is all it took to win your hand, my dear, I would have gotten ill much sooner than this!"
"Don't be a fool," Arilyn snapped, throwing off his one hand and quickly turning over the other for inspection, a small part of her mind realizing that it was his left.
Danilo's joking expression vanished almost instantly. "Nine hells!" he exclaimed in a whisper.
There, blazing forth in an eldritch blue glow, was the symbol of the Harpers.
"Kymil's magic brand," Arilyn said, fearfully, "how is this possible?"
"Arilyn, Lord Thann," Bran Skorlsun said, appearing at the door, bleary-eyed and looking as if he, too, had just rolled out of bed. "What's going on in here? I heard a crash and some loud voices."
Myrin Silverspear, too, appeared behind the old Harper. "Is everything all right in here?" he asked.
"No," Arilyn answered, "we've got a problem." Danilo protested, but she lifted his hand to show the Harper and the Elf the glowing brand.
"The Harper Assassin?" Bran said with impossible wonder. "He yet lives?"
Arilyn shook her head. "No, all of that has been dealt with. But Danilo was branded by Kymil before, in Waterdeep."
"But I thought you had gotten the poison cured," said Bran, quickly crossing the room and inspecting Danilo's hand with a probing finger. "Why has the brand returned?"
The dandy gritted his teeth and winced at the touch. "That sort of hurts you know," he said.
"Actually, the effects went away on their own," said Arilyn to the aging Ranger, "Loene just gave him some apricot brandy to help him save face."
"It was never actually treated, then," said Myrin, also entering the room and also taking a closer look at Danilo's hand. He uncurled the nobleman's fingers for a better view.
Danilo finally gave a cry and pulled his captive hand free. "I beg pardon, but that is still attached to my arm and it does still have a fair number of burns. By Mystra, it's no wonder none of you ever turned to the Clerical orders of Faerûn. You three have the collective bedside manner of Cyric with a bee sting." He folded his arms up against his chest and shivered. "Now, if one of you could kindly hand me the blankets? It's frightfully cold."
With concern naked on her face, Arilyn stooped to gather up Danilo's blankets. She draped one over Danilo's shoulders and guided him further on to the bed to lean against the headboard and a pillow. The rest of the blankets she piled on top of his chest and outstretched legs.
"He's already showing the signs," she said to Bran and Myrin, "the poison has returned and is attacking his body again. He's got a fever and he's so disoriented that he can't stand on his own."
"But why has the brand returned now?" Myrin pondered aloud. "Why not sooner?"
"The spell that moved the Elfgate," stated Bran, "I saw him after he cast it; he was exhausted, could barely stay on his feet. The poison was never actually treated, so his body's been fighting it all along."
"Only now, after casting the spell, he doesn't have the energy," Arilyn realized. She leaned in closer to Danilo, placing a hand on his forehead. "The fever's already climbing. Myrin."
The innkeeper was already in motion, heading for the door. "You'll need cold water and a cloth. I'll see what I have in my store of potions, as well." He hurried from the room and disappeared down the stairs.
Danilo's head lolled backward into the pillow and he squeezed his eyes closed. His breath was already starting to come in drawn out gasps. "A potion alone won't be enough," he stated, "it's the brand that's the source of the poison."
"It will have to be removed magically," said Arilyn, "we need a Cleric. But Myrin's potions can help in the meantime."
"There may be a Cleric nearby," suggested Bran.
"Could you find out?" Arilyn asked of him.
The old Harper nodded. "I'll see who I can find. But Arilyn..." He trailed off and motioned the half-Elf aside, away from the ailing Danilo. He lowered his voice. "There's something else to consider. The boy is the only one who can verify the whole story of the Harper Assassin. He's the only one who was there, with you, for the whole thing. Kymil Nimesin must still stand trial. If Myrin's potions run out before I can find a Cleric and Thann dies, it will be a lot harder to prove it was Kymil and not you who was the Harper Assassin."
Arilyn scrubbed a hand over her face and sighed heavily. "That's a comforting thought," she said with sarcasm, "thank you so much for that."
"Perhaps..." Bran trailed off with a sigh, hesitating with his next suggestion. "Perhaps you should have him write down what he's seen and heard of the whole affair."
Arilyn was already shaking her head before Bran finished. "No, I won't make him waste his energy on that."
"Just as a precaution, Arilyn. He may not survive this."
"Look at him! He's using every bit of strength he has just to fight the poison and stay conscious! If we have him write his memoirs while he's at it, he won't survive it! I can't ask anyone to sacrifice themselves like that for my sake. If Danilo dies, I stand trial as the Harper Assassin and it's as simple as that. And I can't believe you would ask something like that of me."
"You're right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... It's just that, now that I have found my daughter after so long-"
"Enough!" Arilyn snapped, turning her back to Bran and
wandering back over to Danilo. "You're wasting time that
Danilo does not have. Just go find a Cleric."
Bran started at that, pausing to look at Arilyn in surprise for but a moment before leaving the room.
Arilyn pulled a nearby chair up next to Danilo's bed and sat upon it, feeling the nobleman's head once more. With effort, Danilo opened his eyes and looked up at her, a smile weakly lighting his features. "Alone at last," he quipped.
"Don't get delusional on me. Myrin will be back with some cold water any moment. We're going to bring down your fever and have you drink a potion or two."
"Mmm. There's nothing like drinking something that tastes like it came out of the Waterdeep sewers. Home cooking, that."
"You should stop talking so much and save your strength."
One of Danilo's hands slowly snaked its way from out of the blankets and reached over to grasp Arilyn's hand. It was weak and it trembled, but there was something about it that felt desperate.
"I'm frightened, Arilyn."
"Don't be. Bran is going to bring a Cleric. All you have to worry about is getting well again."
Danilo's head lolled to one side, looking away from her, and he squeezed his eyes shut.
"Danilo, look at me," Arilyn said. When it got no reaction from him, she reached over and turned his head back to face her. "Look at me." His eyes slowly opened again and with effort they focused on her through the haze of fever. "You will not die. Do you understand?"
After a moment, he gave a small nod of understanding.
"You will not die," Arilyn repeated to him, now holding his hand tightly in hers.
By the time the sun had risen, Danilo had fallen into a fitful sleep. Arilyn had spent the night plastering his blonde hair to the sides of his head with cloths soaked in cold water, but it seemed to do little to alleviate the fever. Myrin's search had turned up only two anti-poison potions, the second of which Arilyn now held firmly in one hand, pondering whether to rouse Danilo and have him drink it or to save it for if the fever got worse. The first she had given to him as soon as Myrin had returned with it. The innkeeper was presently off visiting the other businessmen of the town, hoping to turn up a few more of the precious concoctions.
Arilyn, herself, had yet to get any real sleep. She had, at times, found herself drifting in and out, her bobbing head startling her awake enough to stay awake for a few more minutes. When this was not enough, she got out of her seat and paced back and forth in the room, now looking out the window at the rapidly growing sunlight, now listening at the door for the approaching footsteps of either Myrin or Bran.
It was during one of these sessions of pacing that she heard Danilo give a soft cry in his sleep. One shaking hand reached out of the blankets and waved at the air weakly, as if trying to clear something out of his way.
"The city's on fire," he mumbled, "they're attacking in hoards!"
"Danilo?" Arilyn asked, quickly moving back to his side. She found that the cloth had fallen from his forehead, so she rewet it and put it back. He remained asleep, however, still trapped in whatever dream he was having.
"Waterdeep's burning," he continued, "it's Myrkul's legion! No! Uncle Khelben!"
He was beginning to outright thrash when Arilyn decided to wake him, catching both his wrists in hand and calling his name several times. Finally, Danilo shook himself awake and dazedly focused his grey eyes on her.
"Have to get out of the city," he told her, "it's burning. They're going to destroy it."
"No, they're not," Arilyn stated evenly, "nothing is burning. It was a dream. Just calm down."
Slowly, realization crept through Danilo's fevered mind. He cautiously looked about the room as if searching for the specters had he just been seeing, wondering where they had gone.
"Do you remember where you are?" Arilyn asked him a moment later.
"The... the Halfway Inn," he answered after some concentration. Then, a weak smile made its way on to his face. "We decided on my room, then?"
Arilyn blinked stupidly. Then, with an exasperated sigh, she let go of Danilo's wrists and plopped back down in the chair next to him. "I don't believe you," she said, "deathly ill and half delirious and still you manage to find the energy to think up the dirty jokes. There is something wrong with your mind."
"Perhaps, but it certainly is fun."
"Only for you."
"But, my dear, that is precisely the person who counts."
Arilyn rolled her eyes so hard that their momentum carried her out of her seat. She began to pace again in frustration, but her feet somehow thought better of it and she never managed to get more than an arms' length away from the chair.
"Why are you still trying to fool me with that?" she snapped. "Why do you keep up this pretense of an arrogant, spoiled, vulgar, cowardly, and utterly useless dandy of a half-baked wizard when you and I both you that you are none of these things?"
"Good heavens! Was that a compliment? Tell me, then, where is the real Arilyn Moonblade?"
"'Sing me a song, bard, of a man with two faces.' That was what you said to me."
Arilyn's resolve crumbled at that for Danilo's tone had completely changed, just as quickly and easily as if someone had blown out a candle. Jest had been replaced by steel and though his grey eyes did not look her way, Arilyn could see them flashing even in their fever. With some effort, Danilo put an arm under himself and sat up slightly to look at her.
"Was it not?" he continued. "I put on no show, Arilyn. For I am a man with two faces. And each is a part of who I am and how I live. I may just as well discard an arm as discard one of them. Certainly you understand what it is to be not wholly one thing or another."
Slowly, shocked into silence and stillness, Arilyn nodded at him. And just then, only as it was lifting from him, she noticed an odd desperation in his gaze, as if something he had long searched for, needing to find, had been found at last.
The arm that was propping Danilo up shook and finally collapsed under him. The stricken nobleman flopped back onto his side, curling in on himself with a grimace and a stifled moan. Arilyn was instantly in motion, leaning over him and rolling him onto his back, feeling his face again. As if in reflex, he pushed against her hands, trying to coil himself around his own abdomen, but his resistance was very weak.
"What is it?" she asked him with urgency.
"My stomach feels as though it's on fire!" he told her with great effort.
"You're moving around too much, using too much energy. You have to calm down."
"Burning on the inside and freezing on the outside! One would think it would even out a little."
Arilyn's hand tightened around the vial in her hand, the one potion remaining to her. She had hoped to save it longer than the scant few hours that had passed since she had given Danilo the first. She had also hoped that Bran would have returned with a cleric before this moment. Honestly, she had ultimately hoped not to have to make the decision. But now it had come to it. She had never shied away from a decision in her life and she would not now.
Quickly, she popped the cork out of the vial and helped Danilo to sit up.
"Drink this," Arilyn said, "it'll help you rest for a while, at least." She pushed the opening of the vial into Danilo's mouth and tipped it up. The nobleman made a face as he drank it.
"Not a good year," he deadpanned through his pained expression after the vial was emptied.
Arilyn moved to lay him back down, but he held up a shaking hand and clasped on to her tunic and so she moved to sit on the edge of the bed and leaned his head against her shoulder. Danilo shook and gasped for several minutes before the potion began to take effect. Finally, some of the tension in his muscles disappeared and his breathing slowed. Yet he seemed content to remain where he was.
"Is it helping?" Arilyn asked him.
Danilo nodded slowly and carefully.
"What is it?"
"No one's ever..."
"Ever what?" And as she asked, Arilyn looked down to Danilo, only to find him soundly asleep once again.
There was the sound of a clearing throat at the door of the room, causing Arilyn to start. She looked up in surprise to find Myrin standing there with a look of guilt upon his face, as though he had interrupted something rather more private.
"I am sorry, quex etriel. Did I come at a bad time?" the innkeeper asked.
"Fever dreams," Arilyn explained, gently setting Danilo back down upon his pillow and replacing his blankets. "He's remembering the Time of Troubles, I think."
"Are you certain it isn't a ploy to be held by an attractive young lady?" Myrin asked as he crossed the room. "That would be just like him, you know."
"He's not like that," Arilyn affirmed.
"You're singing his praises, now? I thought he annoyed you." When he received no response to this, Myrin continued with more relevant conversation. He pulled from a small leather pouch three small vials which he handed to Arilyn. "I managed to obtain three more potions," he said, "not as potent as the first two, but they will help."
"Danilo doesn't need more potions," Arilyn said in frustration, "he needs a Cleric. Where on Toril has Bran disappeared to?"
"I don't know," Myrin admitted, "the only Clerics in the area that I know of are in Evereska. And Bran Skorlsun is not welcome there."
"Then someone will have to go to Evereska," said Arilyn, suddenly coming to her feet. She strode across the room with purpose, set down the three potions, and picked up her Moonblade, strapping it to her belt. "Myrin, I need you to watch over Danilo while I'm gone."
The innkeeper nodded. "I will do this. But how will you convince any of the Elven clerics in Evereska to come for a Human?"
"I have several ways," she said, "if they will not come for me, they will come for Khelben Arunsun. If asked directly for help, they would think twice before allowing the apprentice of the Blackstaff to simply die."
"Especially since he helped to defend Evermeet?"
Arilyn stopped in her tracks on her way out the door. She looked back at Myrin with surprise.
"I know far more about what happened than you think," he said, "but that is unimportant. Your grey mare is still stabled where you left her last night. Go and find the Cleric this young man so desperately needs."
Arilyn rode her mare as hard as she dared. The horse even seemed to understand that there was urgency in the ride as her ears pressed back and she seemed to gallop without tiring even though she was panting deeply. Arilyn whispered repeatedly to the mare promises of extra oats and even a carrot and sugar cube or two and thanked her for her efforts.
She reached Evereska by mid afternoon and tore through the elegant and serene streets, making for the temple of Hanali Celanil. Speaking quickly to the old sun elf head cleric there, she outlined the situation with such fervor that the cleric was moved to say he would help if only to have her stop panicking on his doorstep. Mention of Danilo's connections to the Archmage of Waterdeep only quickened the cleric's own pace.
The old sun elf, however, needed time to make preparations. He bid Arilyn to see to her horse and return in two hour's time.
Taking care of her mare, seeing that she was fed and watered and rubbed down, took the better part of a half hour. But after that, Arilyn was left with little to do but wander the streets of Evereska. Not far from the temple, she found the gardens that were so lovingly maintained by the Elves of the city. Splashes of color dotted the expanse of green, bright blossoms heralding the new seeds that were to follow. When a breeze passed, some of the blossoms chimed out a gentle song. Arilyn's Elven soul sang in reply, reaching out to this sign of the People's connection to the earth. She had not had a chance to be as an Elf for too long.
That thought brought Arilyn to a sudden halt in her wandering. She stopped dead in her tracks in the middle of one of the garden paths, wondering why it was that she hadn't stayed in Evereska following Kymil's arrest. Before she had met Danilo in the Halfway Inn, she had wanted nothing less than to return. Yet, when the crisis was ended, following Danilo and Bran back to Halfway Inn seemed as natural to her as breathing. She hadn't given it a thought.
Arilyn found a nearby bench and sat for a moment, studying a nearby vine of chime flowers. A breeze blew and the blossoms rang out another song. She was almost convinced that it was her imagination, but she could have sworn that they chimed the familiar riff of Danilo's thrice-be-damned Ballad of the Marsh of Chelimber.
It was at that moment that she realized that she wanted to hear Danilo sing again.
The old sun elf cleric, Anorin, turned out to be a surprisingly good rider. This relieved Arilyn a little since it meant that she could ride back to Halfway Inn with him in tow nearly as fast as she had ridden to Evereska alone. Still, when they reached the stables, it was well into the night. Arilyn left her mare and Anorin's black gelding in the care of the stable boy, tossing instructions over her shoulder to give both horses each an apple and two carrots.
Arilyn took the stairs inside the inn two at a time in her haste, only slowing at the top when she was forced to wait for Anorin's slower pace. When he had caught up, she made straight for Danilo's room and burst through the door.
Myrin and Bran were both in the room and the innkeeper came to his feet, having been sitting in the chair that Arilyn had vacated earlier that day to go to Evereska. The moon elf and the ranger both looked to Arilyn's entrance with surprise and it did not go unnoticed by the half-elf that Bran's hand twitched toward his sword. Arilyn's own hand jumped in response, but the reflex passed as soon as Bran relaxed.
"Arilyn!" Bran exclaimed. "By the goddess, don't startle me like that!"
"How is he?" Arilyn asked, brushing past both Bran and Myrin to reclaim her place in the wooden chair next to Danilo. The would-be bard was laying on his bed, pale as a lich and still as a stone. He did not even react when she put a hand to his forehead to feel of his fever.
"Not good, I'm afraid," Myrin answered, "he has fallen into a deep sleep. Nothing we do can wake him. We could not even get him to drink the last of the anti-poison potions."
Arilyn's hand strayed to one of Danilo's. It found instead something harsh and uneven circling his wrists. She knew what it was before she looked, but she looked anyway as if disbelieving what she knew it to be. She leaped to her feet and spun on Bran, reaching for his tunic in fury.
"Why are his hands tied?" she demanded.
"What did you do?"
"Quex etriel," Myrin broke in, using as calm and reasonable a tone as he could muster. Arilyn redirected her angry glare to the innkeeper, but the moon elf merely pointed to the far wall.
The wood there was blackened in a large patch.
Somewhat bewildered, Arilyn let go of Bran. "What... what happened?"
"A lightning bolt," Bran answered, "before he fell into his sleep, he was delirious, seeing things. He must have seen something terrible because he decided that he needed to attack it. After that, we decided that we needed to make sure he wouldn't do it again, both so that he wouldn't waste what energy he had left and so he wouldn't cast anything in our directions."
"He is quite far along, then," Anorin chimed up from his place near the door. He drifted across the room toward the unconscious Danilo, gently displacing Arilyn from her post. His long fingers began to work at the rope around Danilo's wrists. "I must begin by seeing this magical brand," he said, "for that, I will need to untie his hands. If he is as deeply asleep as you say, we need not worry about him casting any spells. But, all the same, if all of you would keep a wary eye out, please."
"There wasn't a cleric anywhere between here and the Forgotten Forest, but you managed to find one," Bran said to Arilyn, "thank Mielikki."
"Hanali Celanil, actually," Anorin said absently as he finally got a look at the magic brand in Danilo's left palm. He made a sound as if pondering what it might be, then reached into a pocket and pulled out an owl feather and a pearl. "I'll need a goblet of wine, if you please," he said.
Myrin produced the requested drink from places unknown and placed the cup in Anorin's hand. By then, the old cleric had taken out and mortar and pestle and had crushed the pearl. This he dumped into the goblet of wine and finally he stirred the mixture with the owl feather, chanting a few arcane words over it. Then, he drank and looked again to Danilo's branded hand.
"I had surmised this would need a simple remove curse spell," said the cleric, "but this is far more complicated. This magic was devised by a Circle Singer, I'm afraid."
Arilyn's heart jumped up into her throat as she heard the grim note in Anorin's voice. "Can you counteract it?" she asked, almost sounding as if she dreaded the answer.
"I believe I can," said Anorin, but his tone never lightened, "I am privy to an ancient form of magic particular to the High Elves known as Spell Song. It should be strong enough to remove the curse Kymil Nimesin placed on this young one." He turned back to the assembled group and leveled an even more serious gaze at them. "Know this. This magic is not for any of you to see or use. You will have to leave while I cast the spell. And you must never speak of it to anyone."
Arilyn was positively incensed. "You want me to simply leave the room while Danilo is-"
"Arilyn," Bran interrupted her, placing a firm hand on her shoulder, "Danilo does not have time for you to argue with this elf. Let him do what he came to do."
"Your father is correct," Myrin agreed, placing a gentle hand on Arilyn's other shoulder. "Come. We will wait in the common room."
Slowly, innkeeper and ranger ushered Arilyn from the room, even as she cast an uncertain glance back over her shoulder. As Anorin closed the door behind them, the last thing Arilyn saw was Danilo's fevered face.
Danilo was so deeply asleep that he did not dream. Instead, he floated in blackness, just out of reach of the one thing that gave him any sense of direction, a faint, thin strand of glittering silver drifting before him. At times, he almost felt as though he could reach out and touch it. But whenever he tried, the strand would lurch out of his reach as if a breeze had pushed it.
At length, he realized that the breeze was coming from his own hand, his left. Something red and malignant wafted from it, swirling around him before dissolving off into the blackness. Slowly, as he still tried to reach for the strand of silver, the red began to spread. Soon, it covered his entire arm, his chest, his legs. Now, only his head was free of the menacing glow. Danilo's body had become useless and the strand of silver faded even more.
And then, there was something new in the blackness, fading into sight like a rising sun. A strand of gold began to reach out toward him, fighting against the red that surrounded him. As it came closer, Danilo though he heard the sound of song, low and steady and graceful. As the song reached high, strong notes, the gold surged forward, pushing back the red as it advanced.
Though he was convinced for some reason that he knew the silver and the red, Danilo did not know where the gold was coming from. But somehow he felt the need to reach for it the way a drowning man reaches for anything that floats. As he reached out his hand, the song changed somewhat, becoming louder and brighter. The red pushed back against it, but the gold would not be moved. Slowly and steadily, it continued toward Danilo, its song growing louder by the moment until it had reached an almost deafening tone.
At last, Danilo reached it with his hand. The song hit a roaring crescendo, shattering the red and sending it spinning off into the darkness.
And all at once, the gold was gone and the song was no more than a fading echo. Danilo was alone in the blackness again with only the faint, far off strand of silver. It no longer moved away from him when he reached for it, but it was still out of his reach. Desperately, he began the long journey toward it through the lonely blackness.
Arilyn was utterly spent. She sat in silence at a table in the common room of the Halfway Inn, staring at the flame of a candle, just as she had since Myrin and Bran had sat her there some time ago. She did not even know how long she had sat there, nor did she care. Whenever she allowed herself to think, all that came to mind were thoughts of the past tenday and an odd realization that everything that mattered was being determined in one small room upstairs.
The Moonblade lay across her lap and her fingertips absently traced the eight runes along the blade and circled the smooth shape of the moonstone in the hilt. She had learned more about it in the past tenday than she had ever known about it. And every step of the way there had been a foppishly-dressed human was delusions of grandeur learning these things with her.
No, not a fool. He was not a fool. He was a wise and caring soul who refused to let her walk alone.
Suddenly, Arilyn was aware of something wet on her cheeks and a sob escaping her throat.
A gentle hand was on her shoulder a moment later and somewhere behind her, Bran spoke in a voice softer than she had ever heard him use. "Arilyn, you are tired," he said, "you have not slept since the battle with Kymil Nimesin."
Hastily, Arilyn bushed the tears from her cheeks and shook herself back to some semblance of composure. "That battle is not yet over," she said.
"But it is no longer in your hands," Bran replied, taking the seat next to her, "it is up to Anorin, now."
"Of course. And Danilo as well. But the cleric could be working his magic for hours. You should get some rest."
"I will not abandon him in this," Arilyn said softly, "not when he did not abandon me. Strange, isn't it? I've been alone for so long, I had come to think that was simply my path. And I acted on that. And then, here he comes, and he simply refuses to leave. Just like that; refuses. No matter what I did, he just stayed with me. And now, because of it, he's dying."
One of Bran's hands appeared in front of her, reaching for her chin gently. The old Harper softly turned her gaze away from the candle flame to look at him. With a look of sadness, he reached up and brushed away a tear that was forming in her eye, then put his weathered hand against her cheek.
"I am sorry for that," he said at length, "not a moment has gone by since we met in Waterdeep that I did not wish things had been different. I suppose it is my fault for falling in love with Amnestria and allowing her to fall in love with me. I knew it could only end in sadness. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine it would lead us all to such bitter loneliness. But know one thing, Arilyn. Years ago, when I first learned that I had a daughter, I have always been proud that she existed. You were my victory over those who wanted to punish me for my love of your mother."
For whatever reason, Arilyn found that her own hand had moved up to cover Bran's. Somehow, it seemed right.
"Please forgive me for all that I have done," the old ranger said with deep regret, "please don't take my victory from me."
Arilyn could not speak. Instead, she simply shook her head and grasped Bran's hand tighter.
It was then that footsteps made their presence known on the stairs. Startled, Arilyn and Bran turned to see Anorin step from the last stair to the floor. As they both came to their feet, Myrin, too, melted out of where ever it was that he had disappeared to. All three looked askance at the venerable old elf.
"I was able to remove the curse," Anorin finally announced which let loose a round of held breaths. "The boy will no longer be attacked by new poison from the brand."
"I sense that there is more, however," Myrin observed.
A spark of uncertainty came to the cleric's eyes, but his gaze never wavered. "There is," he said at length, "I am unable to cure the poison already in his body. My magic is spent for the day."
"What does that mean?" Arilyn asked, disbelieving what Anorin was implying.
"It means, child, that there is no more I can do for your friend."
The statement hung in the air for several silent moments, as if a death sentence had been handed down. And indeed, hadn't it?
"Myrin, are there any potions left?" Bran asked in dread.
"There are not," replied the innkeeper, "we used the last one hours ago."
"So, that is all?" Arilyn asked in frightful fury, looking from face to face in an effort to find hope. "There is nothing more to be done? We simply give up on him?"
"Not all poisons are fatal all the time," Anorin stated calmly, "there is a chance his body will fight it off on its own."
"It is, regrettably, a very small one."
Once again, Arilyn looked about from ranger, to innkeeper, to cleric, looking for some sign that they had not given up. But when all was said and done, she found that the only place where it still lied was with her.
"I will not accept that," she said, "he is not going to die." With no further words, she brushed past Anorin and went up to Danilo's room. Closing the door behind her, she strode swiftly across the room and took up her place in the wooden chair next to his bed.
"Danilo, I do not care that you are unconscious," she said, "you will listen. I was but a child when I drew the Moonblade. I knew nothing of its history, nothing of the honor it gave me when it accepted me as its wielder. That did not change for a very long time. But of one thing I had always been certain; that the Moonblade was meant for one who walked alone. But in this past tenday, I have come to see that it was meant for one who only thought themselves alone." Slowly and reverently, she drew forth the Moonblade and laid it in her lap. Her fingers traced the shape of Zoastria's rune. "The power of Elfshadow that Zoastria gave to the blade was born of a time of pure loneliness, it was born to fill a gaping hole in her soul. And the power my mother gave to the blade," here her fingers strayed to that rune. "Elfgate. It, too, was made to fill a void in her soul."
Absently, without even realizing she was doing it, Arilyn's hand began to run back and forth over the moonstone that now sat in the hilt of the blade. "Something within me has changed. The Moonblade is whole again and I feel as though I am whole for the first time. I am no longer just a half-elf. I am a person.
"I still don't know everything about the Moonblade, but I know a great deal more about it, now. And I just wonder, is it possible that the Moonblade has a power that no one gave it? Is it possible that the Moonblade can mend a broken soul? I must know this, for if any soul is in need of mending, it is mine. But I do not believe I can do it alone. And, strange as it may seem, you are the only one I care to ask for help."
The Moonblade began to tingle in her hands. Somehow, she knew what was happening. And, even more incredibly, she found that she could shape it. So she took the blade in both hands and held it up in front of her.
"So, I need your help, Danilo. I add my own power to the Moonblade, as is my right and my duty. It is a power made to complete the wielder; made to complete me. I give to you a share of its power, to help you and protect you when it is needed. No longer will this be the blade of one who walks alone."
As she spoke these words, a new rune came forth upon the blade of the ancient sword, sitting next to her mother's and glowing a faint blue and arcane light. Arilyn could not read it and so she did not know what name to give to this new power. But that had no bearing on its effect. Silently, and with the Moonblade now giving a faint hum somewhat akin to the warning hum, but somehow less threatening, she placed the hilt of the Moonblade in Danilo's burned hands.
"And now, I need something from you," Arilyn continued a moment later, "and that is, quite simply, for you to live. You cannot die. You have refused to leave me thus far. I cannot believe that you will leave me now. So, I will wait here until you awaken. And if you do not, I will be forced to walk alone again, and I will once again be just a half-elf. You have proven loyal. Do not betray me now."
She said nothing else that night. She simply sat there, waiting and watching. She held her own hands on the hilt of the Moonblade, covering Danilo's for hours on end. But eventually, practicality won out and she was forced to sheath the ancient weapon and give her tired hands some rest. The rest of her body ached to follow, but she would not allow it.
Even as she waited, Selûne sank low and disappeared beneath the horizon. The Dawn Heralds and the sun followed her, slowly climbing into the sky as the hours passed. Still Arilyn waited, never leaving the small wooden chair, never lifting her gaze to other things as if to do so would be to allow the steady and shallow rise and fall of Danilo's chest to stop.
And then, when the sun was midway through her trip back down toward the horizon, Danilo gave a shiver and took a deep breath. Arilyn, teetering on the brink of sleep despite all her efforts, leaned forward and took one of Danilo's hands.
"Danilo," she called softly, rubbing her thumb over his knuckles, "wake up, Danilo. Come on."
Slowly, almost hesitantly, Danilo's grey eyes drifted open enough to focus on her. His mouth moved to speak, but little more than a strangled whisper emerged. Arilyn reached for the carafe of water and the cup that Myrin had left there nearly a day ago. With one hand, she held Danilo's head up and with the other she held the cup to his mouth. He took to it quickly, greedily sucking down mouthfuls of the water.
"Careful," Arilyn cautioned him, "just a few sips at a time." At length, Danilo emptied the cup and Arilyn set it aside in favor of resting her hand on his forehead. "Oh, thank Hanali Celanil, the fever is breaking."
"I'm right here," she reassured him.
"You are a sight more beautiful to see than Sune herself," Danilo said hoarsely, evoking the Faerûnian goddess of beauty, "how long has it been?"
"More than a day," Arilyn replied.
"Good heavens," Danilo said, "that would explain it, then. My stomach feels as though it is eating itself for its dinner."
Arilyn allowed herself a small chuckle at that. "If you can sit up, I'll have Myrin bring something light."
"Perhaps, with some help," Danilo allowed, pushing up as best as he could with his trembling arms. With some work, Arilyn helped him to lay up against the headboard of the bed amidst the pillows. She was busily rearranging the blankets, without saying a word, when Danilo reached out with a hand to pause her. Gently, he turned her face to his gaze. "What's this, then?" he asked, brushing a tear away from her cheek with the back of his hand.
Arilyn looked at him but said nothing. For but a few moments that felt like hours, they both stared at each other. Another tear tumbled from Arilyn's eye. She could not stop it.
"Oh, Arilyn," Danilo said with apologetic realization, "you have not even slept, for this whole time, have you? I can't have worried you so much."
"You almost died."
"None of that now, my dear," Danilo said, putting a finger over her mouth, "such blatant worry is not like you. Besides, there is no need for it. I will not be going anywhere for some time. Go and rest and stop fussing like a mother hen. It doesn't suit you at all. Imagine a mother hen with a magical elven sword!"
Despite everything, Arilyn found another laugh escaping her at the thought Danilo had managed to conjure up. She grasped his hand in her own and pulled it from the side of her face.
"For once, you are right," she said, "perhaps I will go and rest. But only after I've told Myrin to bring you something to eat. You need to recover your strength."
"Well, my stomach would not argue that point with you, that is for certain. So it would seem that I am outnumbered."
"For once you're being reasonable," Arilyn tossed over her shoulder as she crossed the room and went to the door.
Danilo leaned back into his pillows and watched her go. "You really are beautiful, you know."
"Don't think for a moment that flattery will get you anywhere."
Danilo gave a loud, exaggerated sigh. "Well, it was worth a try, anyway."
End Episode One
Okay, so that went beyond saccharine. My apologies. The next one won't make you reach for the insulin syringe, I promise.
If you didn't catch the inconsistency I attempted to explain, here it is. In Elfshadow, the book ends with Danilo's hands still burned from bringing the Moonblade to Arilyn. Yet, in Elfsong, there is mention that a cleric in Evereska had healed his hands using Spell Song and that it was the first time Danilo had ever seen its use. Anorin's use of Spell Song to remove the Harper Assassin's brand was my attempt at an explanation for this.
Finally, here's a preview for the episode two.
Episode Two: Code Duello
Set just after Elfshadow. Arilyn follows through on her promise to return to Waterdeep with Danilo and explain his actions to his family. But when she runs afoul of a member of Waterdahavian nobility, it's up to Danilo to defend her honor... with the Moonblade!
Sweet water and light laughter to you, until next we meet.