Author's note: The characters, lore and storylines of Dragonlance are not owned by me. I'm just borrowing them for awhile. New characters and storylines introduced in this retelling, however, are mine and may not be claimed by anyone else.
Welcome to the "Delano Chronicles." If all goes well and my interest is kept throughout, I plan on retelling all three of the original "Dragonlance Chronicles" by Weis and Hickman, one of my favorite stories.
That being said, let us begin.
The world shifted into place once the teleportation spell was finished. Delano Baeron wobbled a little as his knees threatened to give way and leaned on his staff to avoid falling flat on his face.
"That was far more taxing than I expected," he said, breathing heavily. Taking in his surroundings while recovering, he began to smile. Nice bit of work, he thought. He stood in the middle of a rarely used path that crossed the main road into Solace on its way to the ridge overlooking the tree town. Even after all he'd been through, his brain still harbored many fond memories of this path. It was a path only he and Raistlin used with any regularity. They were best friends growing up, and spent many a day walking slowly along the path talking over many topics and practicing spells they'd learned.
"Well," he said to the trees, "did you miss me?" He looked at the forest around him and noticed something he never expected to see that day. A deer stood perfectly still about ten feet off the path in the trees staring at him. It looked to be a young buck with 8-point antlers. "Hello young one," Delano said to the deer. "Having a good day? It's alright, I won't hurt you." He slowly moved his hand to a pack hidden in his robes to look for something he could use to entice the deer to come closer. His fingers touched on something in his pack and he was a little surprised. "What am I doing with corn kernels?" He pulled them out and looked down at his hand. He shrugged and held out his hand, palm up and open offering the kernels to the deer. "I won't bite." The deer turned a little, blinked, and took a hesitant step towards Delano. "You're lucky Caramon isn't here. All he would see looking at you is food," he said as he smiled. He threw the kernels on the ground at the edge of the path eight feet or so in front of the deer. "Free of charge."
He looked down the path towards the main road and the ridge beyond it. He sighed. You know, I don't have to make the reunion, he told himself. I could always just go somewhere else. Delano decided to go to his tree, the one he himself planted on the ridge as a kid, and think it over. He pulled his hood over his head, re-gripped his staff and started walking towards the ridge. After a hundred feet, he looked back and saw the deer standing in the trees with its head poking out looking at him. Delano stopped walking and watched the deer to see what was going to happen. A moment later, the deer bent its head down and began eating the corn kernels. Delano watched the deer eat for a moment, then resumed his walk.
Reaching his tree, he sat down and leaned against the trunk like he had years ago. How was he supposed to explain, well, everything to his parents? He left five years ago with such high hopes, leaving with Raistlin and Caramon Majere to go take the Test at the Tower of Wayreth. Other than the students and teachers at the school (and even they didn't fully understand), Raistlin was the one person that knew how important the Test was to Delano, since he was just as eager. They both desired power – immense power – but Raistlin wanted it for different reasons than Delano. Raistlin had always been sort of sickly, weak and requiring help, so he was angry at the world and planned on showing everyone that he was the strong one. Delano wanted, no, needed the ecstasy of feeling the power flow through him and, to a lesser extent, thought it would just flat out be cool. Now that he thought about it, he really wanted to talk to Raistlin and see how his old friend was doing. Delano was close to all of the companions, but with Raistlin, there was a bond that he shared with no one else. He sighed again as he pulled out his pipe, packed it with his favorite herb, lit it, and placed it between his teeth. He had no idea what the Conclave was saying about him. He supposed they considered him dead, seeing as how he left their presence in a rather unorthodox way. Would Raistlin even want to talk to him now?
"What have you become, Delano?" he asked the afternoon air.
Delano had asked himself that question thousands of times over the past five years, but he never thought anyone else ever heard. Little did he know, that this time, in the bar/dining room of the Inn of the Last Home, an old man in gray robes sitting in a chair near the fireplace heard him.
The old man took a drink of ale and set his half empty mug on the armrest of the chair. He folded his hands together in the sleeves of his robes and bowed his head, sighing. "I'm sorry my child. I'm sorry."
Flint Fireforge walked up the main road into Solace like he had countless times before. He got to a point where he could look down into the valley at Solace and sat down on a boulder sitting next to the road. He pulled out a small silver dagger and a block of wood and began carving, taking in the scene.
"What was I thinking? Dumbest idea Tanis ever had this confounded quest. Never shoulda left." Still absentmindedly carving the block of wood, he caught the scent of dinners starting to cook on the wind, mixed with the myriad of scents Solace produced on a fine autumn afternoon. "And I'm never leaving again, you here me?" he roared. "After one hundred and forty-eight years, I shoulda learned to be happy where I was, shoulda known not to leave again."
"A hundred more years on Krynn still wouldn't teach you, dwarf," came a voice from an advancing figure on the road.
Flint rose from the boulder, placing his dagger and block of wood in a pouch and grabbing his battle axe off his back in one motion. He peered questionably down the road to see who spoke. "Tanis . . . ?"
"Who else old friend?" the half-elf smiled as he drew near the old dwarf.
Flint replaced his axe and regarded Tanis for a moment. "You were ugly enough without the beard," he scowled.
"Haven't changed a bit, have you?" Tanis laughed. "I've been in lands that don't take kindly to those of elven blood. The only gift my father ever gave me," he said in a more serious tone.
"Bah, you live, don't you?"
Tanis looked at him for a second, then produced a small smile. "Fine. The second gift."
"One of these days," began Flint before the half-elf motioned for silence. The dwarf instinctively reached for the battle axe on his back.
The slowly setting sun was beginning to produce shadows dark enough for Tanis's elvish night vision to pick up the heat outline of a small humanoid creature in the trees. "Who goes there?"
Suddenly, a low whining sound started and began to creep higher and higher until it reached an ear-splitting pitch.
Delano jerked out of his self-imposed prison of thought at a sound he hadn't heard in over five years. The higher the pitch of the sound, the surer he was of what it was. He looked over to the main road and saw a rather hilarious sight. There was a dwarf standing with battle axe in hand next to a red-haired human staring at a brightly clothed kender running at him. The dwarf put his axe on his back as the kender ran up to hug him. Realization kicked Delano in the head like a horse of who the three were, when the human began laughing as the dwarf tackled the little one. Since it was the day the reunion was scheduled, the only red-haired person he could think of that would be laughing at a dwarf and a kender rolling around on the ground . . .
Tanis . . . Flint . . . Tasslehoff . . .
". . . my friends," Delano whispered as he stood up. He had almost convinced himself to leave and not go to the inn for the reunion, but seeing his friends again . . . Just seeing them again brought a smile to his face and a tear to his eye. Memories came flooding back of all the good times and close calls they had all those years ago, and he slowly started walking down to the road, putting the pipe in one of his robes' inner pockets.
Well, he thought, I'm here now. Let's get this over with.
Tanis was in the process of untangling Flint and Tas when he noticed someone coming down from the ridge. It looked to be a mage wearing black robes, but the closer the person got, the more blue the half-elf could see amongst the black. As he drew even closer, Tanis could see the white outlining the cuffs and hood. The half-elf could also see a black staff with a silver dragon curled around the top and a sword hanging from the left hip . . . A sword? Now he was really confused. He must have had a perplexed look on his face, because when Flint and Tas looked up, they immediately spun around to look in the direction Tanis was staring.
Delano saw the looks on the three faces once he got to the road and figured he better say something before the wrong impression was made. "Easy friends, it's just me," he said as he removed his hood.
"Delano!" screamed Tasslehoff as he ran forward to hug his old friend. Tanis and Flint were a little more hesitant.
"Your appearance worries me," Tanis said once Tas broke the embrace.
"Aye, since when do mages carry swords and wear robes colored like that?" Flint said with a look of suspicion on his face.
Delano looked down at his robes. "Well, the robes I can't really explain. I just like the way they look. The sword isn't for me." He looked back up. "And, I would imagine I'm not officially a mage seeing as how I never completed the Test."
It was then that Tanis noticed Delano's eyes. Gone was the fiery ambition, the humor, the friend he once knew; instead Delano had a look in his eyes like his soul had aged a thousand years. Flint noticed them too.
"Don't listen to them. I like the robes, and might I mention it's good to see some color in them, the blue is a little dark, but we can work on that. Love the staff by the way, what's its name? And a sword! What are you doing with a sword? Can you use it? How-" Tas stopped mid sentence at the sound of Flint's voice.
"Ah, lad, what happened to you?" Flint asked in his concerned grandfather tone, one he's only used a few times with his companions. Delano looked over at Flint for a moment, looked down, then at Tanis, trying to look the half-elf in the eyes. When he couldn't, Tanis's heart sank.
Tanis walked over, placed his hands on Delano's shoulders, and looked him in the eyes with serious concern twisting the half-elf's face. "Delano, what happened?"
Delano looked down at Tas, ruffled his top knot with his right hand, and brought his gaze back to meet Tanis's. "I almost didn't come," he finally said.
The three friends were shocked. What could possibly have happened to their young friend? Tanis lowered his arms and took a step back to regard Delano more closely. The proud, loyal, albeit sometimes cruel, prospective mage that filled their days with laughter five years ago was gone. A dark shell of his former self stood before them now. What could have changed him so much? Tanis thought.
"You see boys, our work is never done. Never let your guard down, you never know what scum will mosey on in to our town."
The four friends spun to see who had spoken. Immediately Tanis cursed himself for not paying attention to his surroundings. Upon a runt of a horse sat a hobgoblin, seven goblins spread out behind him, brandishing swords that dripped a liquid the half-elf assumed to be poison. Goblins were well known to poison their blades to gain the upper hand since they were shorter than most races on Krynn.
"You are all under arrest for violating curfew." At that, he turned and leaned down to speak to the goblins. "Take the blue crystal staff if you find it and take the mage's staff anyway," he said in goblin, a language that sounded like frogs. Switching back to Common, he said, "And if they resist, kill them." He flashed a toothy grin to the companions as he rode off.
"Goblins! In Solace! Someone has a lot to answer for," Flint growled as he removed his battle axe from his back and took his accustomed ready stance. Tanis removed his sword from its scabbard while Tas and Delano remained still.
"I'd advise you to follow your master and leave us be," Delano barked in the goblin tongue. "There is no blue staff or whatever among us, and if you touch any of my friends, you'll meet whatever foul god you worship this evening." The goblins hesitated for a moment, not used to seeing skilled fighters and a mage (although they did see one earlier that day in red robes). Most of whom they bullied were weary peddlers and farmers. Goblins, however, are not known for their intellect, so they charged in.
Since Delano was the closest to them, the goblins went after him first. Muttering a few words in the language of magic, the heads of the two goblins in front burst into flames, causing them to drop to their knees screeching as their skulls melted in on themselves. Saying another word of magic, the bottom third of Delano's staff turned into a blade and he swung it upwards at the third goblin, splitting him in half from between his legs up through his skull. The other four goblins did not see what happened to their comrades for they were engaging the other three companions.
Tanis was dumbfounded, barely managing to block an attack as he witnessed Delano's swift dispatching of three of the goblins. Flint had not noticed since he was busy decapitating one of the goblins. Tas noticed though. He stared in wide-eyed amazement as he absently threw a dagger into the chest of the goblin running at him, felling him in mid-step. Tanis soon recovered and killed one goblin while disarming the last one. Flint turned and saw Tanis and Tas staring in disbelief at Delano as he walked over to the disarmed goblin lying on the ground and placed his right boot on the goblin's neck.
"What are you doing here? Who sent you?" Delano demanded in goblin. At that, the goblin grinned and started laughing.
"You'll find out soon enough mage," the goblin spat. "Your death at his hands will make you wish our poison had killed you. I wish I could be there to see your face" his voice cut off as Delano drove the blade end of his staff through the goblin's temple. Wiping the blood off the blade on the goblin's tunic, Delano spoke a word and the blade turned back into an inconspicuous bottom part of the staff.
Delano stood thinking for a second. What in the Abyss are goblins doing in Solace? he thought. A blue crystal staff? I should find that hobgoblin and "ask" him some questions. I don't mind not ever seeing anyone I care about again, but I will not stand goblins roaming around my parents' home. Feeling the eyes of his friends on him, he sighed and turned around to face them. Looking at his friends' faces, he could see stupefied surprise (and was that fear?). Raistlin would laugh at that.
"That was great Delano! How did you melt their heads like that? How did you do that with your staff? I've never seen a staff do that before, could you teach me how to do that with my hoopak? Please, Delano?"
"That . . . if you haven't completed the Test, how were you able to do that?" Tanis asked apprehensively.
Delano looked at the goblins he killed. He cursed himself for being so efficient. I shouldn't have done that in front of them, he scolded himself. Delano looked at each of his friends for a moment. The looks in Tanis's and Flint's faces broke his heart. Tas looked like he always did, bright-eyed and inquisitive. "I . . ." What in the name of the Abyss am I supposed to say? "It's complicated."
"I don't understand. In the name of Reorx, how did you do that? Are you possessed?" asked Flint, desperate to understand.
"No, I'm not possessed."
Tanis just stared at him in disbelief. Delano felt extremely out of place and uncomfortable. This isn't fair! he screamed in his head. These are my friends, my family. And now I've scared them. I shouldn't have come. He met Tanis's gaze.
"I don't understand," Tanis said finally.
"This . . ." Delano began. What am I supposed to say? he asked himself. I need Raistlin; I need to talk to him. "I don't know what to say or where to begin. I – I need to talk to Raistlin before I," this sounds so childish, he thought. They trusted Raistlin less than they trusted him. That however, might have just changed. "I need to talk to Raistlin before I can explain."
"Great," Flint muttered. "Just what we need. What else is going to ruin this reunion?"
Tanis stood thinking for a moment. This is not the homecoming I envisioned for all these years, he thought. Flint might be right, what else can go wrong? Stop that, the half-elf admonished himself. Delano may be many things, but he has always been a trustworthy and loyal friend. "C'mon Delano, let's go get some of Otik's spiced potatoes and ale. I've been dreaming of them for years. Whatever happened, we're still your friends," he said as he smiled at Delano.
With a pained smile, Delano nodded at Tanis. "Thank you. That means a lot to me."
The four of them turned and began walking towards Solace and the Inn of the Last Home, nightfall settling in.