In the far north of Faerun, there lies an untamed wilderness, known as Icewind Dale. Above the Spine of the World, the frozen tundra was home to the Ten Towns. A confederation of sorts, the towns had sprung up around the three lakes in the south-central area of Icewind Dale. Most of the inhabitants of the towns were of a solitary ilk, choosing to live apart from the warmer, more civilized parts of Faerun. In their quiet attempt to survive, a discovery of a rare fish was made. This fish, the knucklehead trout, was unique to the three lakes fished by the ten towns, for from its bones, an ivory-like scrimshaw craving could be made. The demand for these items was profitable enough that the towns banded together to better accommodate the harvesting of the fish and the trade of scrimshaw in Faerun.
It 1312, the year of the Griffin, in the month of Mirtul, when a message for help came from the Ten Towns. Throughout the northern reaches of Faerun it was learned that hordes of orcs and goblins had begun besieging the northern towns without mercy. It was rumored that they were organized and precise in their attacks beyond any other raid known in the dale's history. Stretched beyond their limits, the inhabitants of the frozen dale, sent forth a spokesman with an impassioned plea for help. Promises of trained soldiers from both Neverwinter and Luskan would be dispatched to the northern climes as soon as they became available. In the meantime, what could not be had quickly by pleas, was sought with the promise of gold and fame. This drew out mercenaries, fighters, and adventures alike, from as far south as Baldur's Gate, and Silverymoon to the east. Worried that it would still be too little, too late, the the frozen dale's ambassador, called on the clergy to pray for divine intervention.
And so it was that a plan was devised by the clerics of both Tyr and Helm. It seemed of late that the prisons of Neverwinter and Luskan were teeming with criminals from all walks of life from fighters, to rogues, and even bards. The priests brought forth their idea to the city magistrates. With executions planned daily for the next several ten-days, why not put these men to better use. So the condemned were given a choice, die by the hangman's noose or, stay their execution by taking up arms and fighting the orcs and hobglobins that threatened the good townspeople of Icewind Dale. A promise of freedom was to be granted to all who survived, but only if they truly fought for the inhabitants of the Ten Towns. Those who chose to fight for their redemption, would be put under the direct supervision of the captains and knights leading the fight against the invading hordes. Many men decided to join in the fight figuring their odds would be better to the frozen north. Or at the very least, die with honor.
The day was half gone when a half dozen squads of Neverwinter guardsmen made their way through the busy city streets toward the docks. Amidst the sights and sounds of the sailors, cart-merchants, and passers-by, the dragging of chains and shuffling of feet heralded the prisoner's armed escort. Awaiting them, anchored in the safe harbor were a number of ships. Each vessel bobbed up and down on its moorings as if just as anxious to be away with the evening's tide as the chained men now nearing the docks.
Overlooking the harbor, standing on a grassy slope beneath a shady tree, a young woman looked out upon the gentle white capped swells slapping against the hulls of the vessels. Flags on the dockside and ships were whipped, snapping loudly as the the westward wind picked up from off the Trackless Sea. The same sea breeze tugged and pulled at the woman's woolen cloak and blew her hair in enough disarray, to allow for a glimpse of delicately shaped ears that proclaimed her elven heritage. With an absent toss of her hand she moved aside the thick braid of night black hair from were it had fallen to her shoulder. At first glance, one might think the young maid to be merely taking in the sights or perhaps seeing her beloved off to adventure upon the sea. They would be sadly mistaken, in fact, they might be surprised when, as the sea wind one again, whipped the heavy cloak aside to reveal a faint gleam of silver, from the chain mail beneath. The eldest daughter of a noble elven lord, Anariel Peranwyr Ni'Tessine was in truth, awaiting her appointed time to board a ship heading to the chilly north. Like those criminals that were given a choice to do or die, so too had she been given an ultimatum.
Anariel's birth had been a rare one among elves. She was born a twin. Tears stung her pale green eyes as she recalled her brother, the other half of her soul. Lavir had been born first, their father's heir, his pride and joy. She had come, happily second. Although the Anariel's parents had been blessed with four more children, the twins had been special in their eyes. A special blessing, or at least Lavir had been, thought Anariel. She had not cared that she was not quite the apple of her father's eye, for she had all she needed in her twin.
It is not uncommon for a brother and sister to be close, especially twins, but Lavir and Anariel had been closer than most. As children they were nearly inseparable, so much so that Anariel trained with her brother in both range and melee weapon and Lavir learned rudiments of healing with Anariel. Many in the family teased them saying that the two two shared one heart. In truth, they were the perfect halves to a whole, balancing one another. He was level headed, and respectful, the perfect knight and diplomat's son. She was the opposite, willful, and defiant. Always getting into one scrape or another, with Lavir usually keeping her from going too far. Lavir was also the one who would calm their father down, buffering his anger.
Several more tears slipped from Anariel's eyes, her vision blurring. It was the loneliness that tore at her spirit. Never had she been alone when Lavir lived, for even if they were leagues apart, they still shared an unbreakable bond. A link. He had always known when ever she was sad or in trouble, and she had known when he had need of her. She had known that dreadful night, when he was mortally wounded and lay dying. She could not save him that night. Her healing skills had been too meager for the wound and the magic that had struck him down. Everything changed that night in one misstep and plunge of a sword. One cast of a dark spell. He died. For her folly. Her wildness. She knew she was responsible as surely as if she had had her hand on the sword hilt herself.
The wind from the sea whipped up her cloak, exposing Anariel to the cold sea air. A shuddering sigh racked her small frame. With ease born of much practice, she pushed the memories of that night from her thoughts, but her mind continued to turn over the events after her twin's death. The relationship between her father and herself had always been strained, but now it threatened to snap. The elven lord never accused her of causing Lavir's death, but she saw it in his eyes. She saw it clearly as if he had uttered the words aloud, it should have been you who died.
The past year proved a difficult one, for how did one live with only half a soul. Her behavior changed. She became quieter, less troublesome. But she knew in her heart it was not an attempt to please her parents, but rather, her joy in life had died. There was even one night that she wondered if she wouldn't be better off dying. Toying with a vial of poison, she contemplated just that. It was in the quiet of that night, that Anariel heard Lavir's voice, clear as day, telling her to go on living. She was meant to go on living. So she tried to survive. Her father did not make it easy. Almost all of the freedom she had known and loved vanished. Her life as a diplomate and former knight's daughter became restricted to the point of near suffocation.
What spare time she had to herself, Anariel kept her fighting skills honed, and her talent for lock picking a secret. Then one day it was announced that she would be wed. A match had been made for her to another elven lord's son. Her head reeled at the thought of going from one prison to another. What could her parents be thinking, she had never even met the man. Unbending her pride, she caroled and pleaded with both parents. but it was to no avail. Then, tired of her father's deaf ears, she schemed and plotted, taking matters into her own hands. It had been a mere ten-days ago when she broke one of her father's strictest codes of correct behavior, and although she had truly not meant to shame her family, she also knew she could not go through with the wedding.
Dark days followed as Anariel awaited her fate. Having deftly out maneuvered her father's handpicked marriage, she was now given two choices. Either enter the clergy until a lesser match could be found outside of Neverwinter and Luskan, or journey north to take charge of a fighting party. To her mother's sorrow, she chose the north. Her father was somehow not surprised by her decision. He believed that within several ten-days, she would either find her own footing, return and willingly enter a marriage of her parent's choosing, or die fighting for the innocent. Confident in her skills as a fighter, she watched as her sire calmly made all the necessary arrangements. So her she stood, with two finely crafted swords. Hers and her brother's swords, sheathed to her back, awaiting her departure. Her freedom.
Behind the petite eleven woman, stood four men. One of the men, a human paladin named Sir Wind Nord, stood to the side in deep conversation with the elder of the three elven men. The man with whom he spoke was tall, even by human standards. A Sun Elf, his dark golden hair was braided and bound in cuffs of burnished gold to keep it from blowing about in the sea winds. His piercing blue eyes briefly left the face of the paladin to look at the elf maid upon the grassy knoll. A frown marred his brow as he noted the stubborn line of his daughter's stance. L'orvarin Ni'Tessine sighed inwardly, wondering if he was making a mistake by sending his daughter away like this. Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face, for his friend smiled, "She will be fine my friend. She is made of sterner stuff than she looks, aye? I am sure she will try her hand at a fight or two and then come straight home to you and your lady wife. Just you wait and see."
"I wish I shared your certainty old friend. I fear she is far too stubborn for her own good, said L'orvarin sadly. He knew she was better off away from the family. They were better off with her gone. The elven lord sighed, closing his eyes briefly at the thought of the peace her departure would bring to their household. She set such a poor example to her younger brothers and sisters. Silently he thanked the gods that at least one of her sisters was safely wed and her two brothers settled as squires before Anariel's misadventure happened.
"But enough, it is nearly time for her to be aboard," said L'orvarin aloud. Without raising his voice, the elven lord spoke clearly across to were Anariel stood, "Daughter." Her spine visibly stiffened.
"Anariel, I would have you meet some of your traveling companions." As she came closer to her parent, her father secured his daughter's arm, guiding her. "You remember Sir Nord of course."
"Aye, greetings Sir Nord. I trust you are well this day," said Anariel politely. Her father frowned at the lack of warmth in her voice.
"Good day to you lass," greeted the paladin. "I have assured your lord father that 'tis a fine day to start our adventure."
"Indeed sir," came the maid's simple reply.
"Sir Nord has already secured a few likely adventurers from among the prospects. This young man being one of them," gestured L'orvarin to the other side of the knight. A slender golden haired elf came forward to be presented. His clear blue eyes held the depth of a cold mountain lake as he looked at Anariel.
L'orvarin continued with the introductions, "This is Diriel, who Wind tells me has agreed to join your party to the north. He is a druid from the High Forest. I am sure his maturity and knowledge will prove invaluable in your travels. "
"You honor me Lord Ni'Tessine," said the younger elf formally. Addressing Anariel, he blowed ever so slightly, "Lady, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. It shall be . . . a mutual benefit I am certain."
A smattering of small talk was made before, a bell was rung to announce the beginning of the embarkment. L'orvarin turned to his daughter. Taking her hand, he drew her away from the others, "I shall be leaving soon, Anariel. Once I am through with the diplomatic talks here in Neverwinter I shall be returning home to Luskan." Placing his free hand over his heart, where he had placed a letter, he added, "I will deliver your missive to your mother as you requested." The elder elf paused, swallowing hard as he looked at his daughter. Several minutes passed, as the elven lord looked into the eyes of his daughter. Quietly under his breath, she heard him whisper,"You look so like him. If only . . ." tears welled up in his eyes. Tears Anariel knew, were for Lavir.
Knowing her father seldom bowed to emotion, and realizing that this could be the last time she saw him, Anariel unbent her pride. "Heruamin, may your heart be at peace," she began. Raising herself upon her toes, she stretched up to whisper in her father's ear as she did as a child. "Amin mela lle. Aa' menealle nauva calen ar' malta."
L'orvarin swept his daughter up in a quick embrace, "Namaarie daughter,Tenna' ento lye omenta." Releasing her just as quickly, the elder lord stepped back. Once again in control, he inclined his head to his daughter before calling out for his aide and departing the docks.
Seeing that the paladin and elven druid had discreetly left the father and daughter to their farewells, Anariel was once again, alone. Grateful for the solitude to gather her thoughts, her pale green eyes moved back to the ships at the docks. The bell rang a second time. Anariel started to move forward to rejoin her companions. As she walked toward the dock, her eyes watched the guardsmen ahead of her. The new, albeit, coerced recruits were securely being marched aboard several of the awaiting ships. Each squad was made up of six men that were responsible for an equal number of able bodied criminals. A guardsman called out to make way as the squad at the end turned to make its way back toward the town. The elven maid stepped aside for the last squad as it approached. She noted that this last group of six soldiers, surrounded a single man. A involuntary shiver touched her spine as she sensed her regard being returned. Before her mind could register whence it came, a burly guardsmen swept his halberd's staff to knock the lone, chained prisoner to his knees. He was yelling at the fallen man for looking at his betters.
The head that had been covered with a cowl was now in plain sight. Anariel raised a black brow in surprise, for the man on his knees, now mere feet from her, looked to be a drow. Or at least what looked to be a half-drow. Another of the guardsmen grabbed the drow's long silver white hair and yanked his head back. His brother in arms raised the halberd once more for a blow to the dark elf's face. The blow never fell.
Anariel held a wickedly curved blade to the soldier's throat. As he started to move, he felt its razor edge bite into his skin. In a calm, even voice, the elven woman asked,"What seems to be the matter here that you must needs abuse this man?"
"He is no man. He is a stinkin' drow. He deserves no less," came the soldier's reply.
"What was his offense that warranted being brought to his knees in such a way?"
"His being alive is an offense. An offense to all the innocents that have been killed by his kind."
"And what kind would that be?"
"Elves . . . I mean, drow. Ya know . . . dark elves."
A single black brow raised, "Elves, you say? Indeed. We are a bloodthirsty lot, aren't we. Mayhap I should prove your point with one of my own." Leaving the sword at his throat, she smoothly produced a slim dagger which she pressed into his side, below his armpit. The elven maid heard Sir Nord's voice blustering not far behind her.
Before the situation could escalate any further, the captain of the guards approached, "What is the meaning of this?" Looking at Anariel he said, "Lower your weapon lass." Noting the stubborn look in her stance, he added with an edge of authority, "That wasn't a request." Satisfied that she was complying, the captain again address his man, "Why isn't this prisoner, er, volunteer aboard ship? Isn't he the one that is supposed to be delivered personally to Lord Ulbrec? Where's the dwarf that agreed to escort this one?"
"Drunk. Tore apart the Seedy Tavern he did and landed in prison," offered the burly soldier, as he cast a worried eye to his fellow guardsman. The man held a cloth to the thin cut from Anariel's blade.
"Damn it all to the nine hells," exclaimed the captain. He really didn't want the drow back in the prison. Even if the dark elf's execution was rescheduled, his presence still caused too much disruption within the prison walls.
"If it is an escort for yon Tel'gothrim to the Ten Towns that you need, then you have one,"said Anariel calmly. The six guardsmen of the squad looked at the maid in surprise. Anariel even saw a flash of disbelief in the drow's silvery grey eyes, before he rose to his feet. The captain looked as if he suspected her of joking, and nearby Anariel thought she heard a moan from Sir Wind Nord.
It took Anariel a quarter of an hour to convince the captain that she was indeed, both going to the frozen north, and capable of taking charge of escorting the drow. As the third and final bell tolled, Anariel was walking across the gang plank that led to the ship with the dark elf by her side. Just as they neared the ship, Anariel leaned toward the drow and unlocked his chains.
In a voice that only he could hear, she said, "What is your name Tel'gothrim?"
With eyes still cast down, the dark elf answered, "Jabbress, I am called Rizdaer."
"Look at me Rizdaer," she said in a voice that was at once soft and yet edged with steal. A full head and shoulders taller than her, Anariel waited and watched as Rizdaer raised his eyes to hers. Intelligence glimmered within.
"Know this and understand Rizdaer. I have saved you from certain death. Should you even try to escape or cause me grief, I will take your life myself."
Silvery grey eyes silently took the measure of the elven maid. He saw a look that bespoke a stubborn, independent pride, and strength was worn upon a pale, thin, heart-shaped face. In the depths of the pale green the dark elf could see that her words were true. He acknowledged the elven maid with an incline of his head, lowering his gaze once again, "I understand mistress. I am drow, I will obey."
A slim black brow raised. How many times had she said something similar to her father? 'I understand father. I am your daughter, I will obey.' She wondered if it left just as bad a taste in the dark elf's mouth as it had hers. She also wondered if he was lying through his teeth just as she always had. Just to survive. If that were any indication, drow or no drow, this elf would bare watching just as she had. The first smile she had smiled all day tugged at the corners of her mouth. A small smile, but one never the less.