Author's Note: Well, it's about time I got this damn thing posted. Took me a while to write, and I had to keep up with my other works-in-progress, but I did finally get it done... 'course, it is rather hard for me NOT to daydream about Raistlin for any length of time. I still sort of like Gerald Tarrant better, but Raistlin is a very, very close second. Dalamar's pretty damn hot, too.

To the anonymous guest who reviewed: Wow! I rarely meet people with higher IQs than me, that's really cool! I'm both ecstatic and flattered that I actually have 'fans': when I started posting fics I thought for sure I'd get shot down. Before I started reading fanfiction I'd never heard of the slash phenomenon, yet now I don't read or write anything else (fanfiction-wise, that it). It's just so much better somehow... I think I'm officially addicted. That's why I started writing fanfics, because I needed more slash about my favorite pairings, so I decided to just write it myself.

Darkstar: Thanks for the tip, I actually just got an account on deviantArt, there's a notice on my profile. It might take a while to get all my fics there, but eventually I'll post a version of this fic there - complete with the sex scenes I cut from Dalamar and Raistlin's little flashbacks. Wow, so I've actually made a convert? Sweet! Yeah, you don't get much hotter than Raistlin and Dalamar. I mean, they're already smoking hot on their own - put them together, and you get... well, I don't think they've invented a word for that level of hotness.

Sweet-Hearted Silver Ears: Aww, so glad you like it! And it's a good thing you don't like Crysania, because she's not going to come out on top in this fic. Lifelong blindness really would be a blessing compared to what I'm going to do to her. Mwah ha ha!

A.N.2: Chapter soundtrack is Battle Hymn by Faith and the Muse, Takhisis Dance by Dargaard (God I love that band for giving us 'Takhisis Dance' and 'Rise and Fall'!), and Banshee by the Blarney Rebel Band. Once again, all Elvish was created by the Grey Company. There's a lot of jumping around in time and location in this chapter, so I added headings to clarify what happens when and where. You'll see.

The second that the two mages were gone, the spells were broken and chaos reclaimed the chamber. Crysania was in hysterics, Goldmoon nearly so: Caramon looked like he was going to be sick, Tasslehoff was talking a mile a minute, and Kitiara was ranting about treacherous mages. Tanis seemed to be the only sane person left in the room, and he shook his head in despair before shouting,

"QUIET!"

Silence finally fell. Tanis looked around at his stunned companions and sighed. "Alright, I know we're all rather... surprised by Raistlin's little display here, but let's talk about this rationally. We need to figure out our next move, and this is not the way to go about it."

There was a short, tense silence. It was Caramon who broke it, his brown eyes dark and thoughtful. "Are we still trying to stop him?"

"ARE YOU INSANE?" Crysania screeched. "If anything, Caramon, he just proved that he's beyond redemption! I could understand why he would have felt that evil was the only path open to him, but this... this sickness is simply unforgivable!"

"Hey!" A flicker of anger crossed the warrior's face. "Don't you dare say that, Lady Crysania." Somehow, he turned the title into an insult, something Raistlin had always excelled at but Caramon had never really managed before now. "I couldn't care less who he's in love with, I'm a little more concerned with the possibility of him destroying the world!"

"That may be, but Raistlin is clearly not right in the head." Goldmoon insisted. Kitiara interrupted her.

"I don't believe Tanis meant what we're going to do about my brother's choice in lover. At the moment, it might be a better idea to focus on the whole taking-over-the-world bit."

"What exactly are we supposed to do about that?" Crysania snapped. Tanis sighed.

"This is out of our hands, at this point. Par-Salian was the one who dragged us into this mess in the first place, I suggest that we go back to him and ask what the hell he's planning on doing now. He must have a contingency plan - though I doubt he expected a triple-cross on Dalamar's part." Frustration flickered in half-elf's eyes, and he cursed. "I talked to that elf not two days ago, and he swore up and down that Raistlin was in love with Lady Crysania and that everything was going according to plan. How long has this been going on?"

Kitiara spoke reluctantly. "Since before you knew about his ambitions at all, Tanis. I talked to Raistlin a month ago, and I could tell he was faking his feelings for Lady Crysania."

Crysania looked horrified. "And you didn't see fit to tell me?"

"We... had a deal." Kitiara admitted. "I was to make it look like I thought he was serious by sending Soth after you, and in return, once he defeats Takhisis he'll give me sole control of the dragonarmies and let me lead the campaign to subjugate Krynn. I wasn't all that worried about him destroying the world - truthfully, I didn't think he'd get this far. I only cut a deal with him to hedge my bets, and because I wasn't losing anything in the process. I sure as hell didn't know Dalamar was throwing my name around as camouflage."

"Just great." Tanis said through gritted teeth. "Caramon, please, tell me you're acting unsurprised because you just automatically accept anything Raistlin does, and not because you knew about this."

Caramon looked guilty. "Well, actually... see, Raist doesn't usually drink, but after the siege of Hope's End there was a sort of celebration because we won. Raist drank a lot, and... well, he might have said something..."

Tanis groaned. "Just lovely. And I suppose once he sobered up, he was smart enough to tell you to keep your mouth shut. Fantastic." He shook his head, wishing he could go back to the simple days when the most he had to worry about was being ostracized by every elf in Qualinesti. "Alright. Let's go find Par-Salian. He started this mess: he'd damn well better have a plan for finishing it."

At the dark reflection of Neraka, in the Abyss...

"You think you can defeat me?" Takhisis roared, cackling madly as she reared upward, her leathery wings blotting out the crimson sky. Her five heads danced and swayed, almost hypnotic in their constant movement, her eyes ablaze with hatred and malice. "You are nothing! You may be the Master of Past and Present, but no mortal can face me alone!"

Raistlin stood before the Dark Queen herself, but he felt no fear. The battle had raged for some time, fierce and unrelenting: he was exhausted and his black robes were damp with blood, but his golden eyes shone with resolve as his mouth twisted in a mocking sneer. "You believe I am unaided, Takhisis, but in truth it is you who stand alone. You have a weakness, my Queen, a weakness that Fistandantilus shared. You won't let anyone close. That is why Huma defeated you, all those years ago - and that is why you shall be defeated here today. You scorn love as a weakness, yet my love has made me so much stronger than I was before."

"You?" Takhisis scoffed. "Little archmage, do you think me so gullible? You, who have scorned the attentions of all who would win your admiration - who could you possibly love?"

"Me."

The spell struck Takhisis hard from the side, snaking beneath her shields: the five-headed dragon was flung back, shrieking as the fiery bolt of energy scorched her multihued scales. Dalamar emerged from the shadows that had cloaked him, sparkles of magic dancing on his slender fingers as he moved to take his place at Raistlin's side. The gold-skinned mage smiled at his lover.

"I scorned only the unworthy, Takhisis. How could I turn aside a'mael en maranweamin?"

The Queen of Darkness hissed, her eyes burning as she snarled furiously. "You! Oh, yes, I remember you... the arrogant little Dark Elf who dared defy me. My son was ever so proud of you, standing up to me like that - we'll see how proud he is when you are naught but ashes!"

A bolt of searing dark power erupted from the blue dragon's head, streaking toward the two mages: however, it rebounded and exploded in midair, repelled from the mages by some unseen force. Raistlin smiled darkly.

"You still don't understand, do you, Takhisis? You have no comprehension of love - and thus, it is the one power you cannot overcome." Raistlin reached out to his lover and drew him close: Dalamar lifted his hand and twined his fingers through Raistlin's, joining their hands as the human continued, his voice ringing with growing power. "I will never make your mistakes, Takhisis. I will defeat you, and I will destroy you - and I will keep Dalamar at my side forever, to remind me of how I won."

Both mages summoned their power: a blaze of golden fire welled from their linked hands and blasted forward, engulfing the Dragonqueen. Takhisis reared back, screaming in agony as the golden flames danced over her scales, the magical fire penetrating her thickly armored hide. "NO! I will not be defeated like this!"

"Then destroy us - if you can." Dalamar taunted, his silver eyes alight with the ecstasy of the magic. He had never dreamed that anything could feel like this: standing at his lover's side, wielding the magic in perfect harmony, their spirits joined as one... it was thrilling beyond belief, and he could almost taste their impending victory. "Follow us back to Krynn, face us on our terms - unless, of course, you're afraid..."

"I AM NOT AFRAID!" Takhisis roared, the ground shaking at her furious roar. "I AM TAKHISIS, QUEEN OF DARKNESS! I WAS BORN WITH THE WORLD, AND I SHALL NOT DIE UNTIL THE WORLD, TOO, PERISHES! I WILL DESTROY YOU, AND I WILL CRUSH YOUR PATHETIC DREAMS INTO DUST!"

"Time to go, love." Raistlin murmured, his eyes glittering with the same exhilaration that coursed through Dalamar as they willed themselves to the portal, preparing to lead the Queen of Darkness into the world of Krynn.

Moments earlier, in the Great Library of Palanthas...

"HE WHAT?"

Par-Salian leaped from his chair as though scalded, his face blanching as white as his robes. It was Justarius who had bellowed: the mage was standing rigid, his face hard as stone but his eyes absolutely blazing, his red robes swirling as the very air stirred from the force of his anger. Tanis quailed.

"Dalamar betrayed us." he repeated, hoping fervently that Ladonna might be able to calm the other two mages. "He was working for Raistlin the whole time. Raistlin was faking his attraction to Lady Crysania all along, he and Dalamar have been lovers for - well, we don't know how long, but several months at least. Kit was in on it, partially: she knew the attack on Crysania was a set-up, but she didn't know about Dalamar. We tried to stop them going through the portal, but... we couldn't. We didn't know what to do, so we came here."

Ladonna whirled on Par-Salian, her face pale with fury. "I told you, you incompetent old fool! I warned you the elf was compromised, but you just wouldn't listen! You were so damn sure that Dalamar was too strong to be corrupted, too smart to fall for Raistlin's lies: now look where our faith has gotten us!"

"Not now, Ladonna!" Justarius barked, his expression thunderous. "We can apportion blame later! Right now, we must travel to Godshome immediately! That's where Raistlin and Dalamar will go to fight Takhisis, and that is where we must go to stop them."

Par-Salian looked up, fresh determination in his eyes. "Tanis, I want you and your friends to return to the Tower. Dalamar and Raistlin will have to come back through the portal before they can journey to Godshome: you need to intercept them there, and slow them down as much as you can. If you cannot stop them we will be waiting at Godshome to ambush them, but I pray that you can make them see reason. If Raistlin tries to absorb all of Takhisis's power, if he is not torn apart then he will become more powerful than any god has ever been. He could destroy the world on a whim, and no one would be able to stop him. The conflict between him and the other gods would surely destroy Krynn: we cannot allow that to happen!"

Tanis was already starting nod when Caramon spoke, his voice uncharacteristically harsh. "And that's absolutely certain, is it? Or are you just mostly sure? Like when you were mostly sure that Raist wouldn't get hurt in the Test?"

The warrior stepped forward, his brown eyes hard as he glared at the shocked mages. Tanis caught his arm, though, and held him back. "Caramon, not now. Even I can see that what they're saying is true. We can worry about past misdeeds later: right now, we have to stop Raistlin!"

At that moment, a near-deafening thundercrack echoed over Palanthas. A tremor raced through the ground, causing the stone underfoot to tremble ominously. Astinus looked up from his tomes, his normally expressionless face grave as he gazed toward the heavens.

His voice was low and grim. "So it begins..."

Four months ago, in the Tower of High Sorcery in Palanthas...

Dalamar lay contentedly in his lover's arms, basking in the warmth that the human's body radiated. Elves were rather cold-blooded compared to humans, and Raistlin had an unnaturally high body temperature: whenever they were in close proximity Dalamar wanted to curl up like a cat and just soak in that delicious warmth. Tonight was a rare opportunity to do so - Raistlin didn't have any part of the Plan that needed tweaking at the moment, and Dalamar didn't have to report to the Conclave until the next day. The dark elf had no intention of leaving his lover's arms until the next morning at the earliest.

He felt Raistlin stir slightly, and sensed the human's smile as slender golden fingers carded gently through his jet-black hair. "You're purring again, love."

"I am?" Dalamar said, startled, as he lifted his head to meet Raistlin's gaze. The human mage smirked, eyes glinting as he nodded slightly. Dalamar paused - and as Raistlin ran his hand through the elf's hair again, a strident purr vibrated up out of Dalamar's throat.

Dalamar flushed slightly, but smirked nonetheless. "That's entirely your fault, you know. My people only do that when we're extremely happy: it's not my fault that you make me so happy just by being near me."

Raistlin smiled and drew his lover back down against him. "Mmm. In that case, it's your fault that I haven't been able to get a full day's work done for the last two weeks, because you keep distracting me with those big grey eyes."

Dalamar chuckled and burrowed into Raistlin's arms, smiling in absolute bliss. "Fair enough, melamin." They were both silent a moment, but even now Dalamar could feel a nagging though eating at the back of his mind like some parasitic worm, polluting his happiness. He tried to push it away, determined that nothing would interfere tonight - then Raistlin spoke again.

"You might as well tell me what's weighing on your mind, Dalamar, I can practically hear you thinking."

Dalamar sighed. "I never could hide anything from you, could I?" he murmured affectionately. He sighed again then pushed himself up on one elbow, looking into his lover's molten gold eyes. "The last time I reported to the Conclave, something Par-Salian said... unsettled me a little. I'm sure that if it is a real danger you've already thought of it, I just... it's been bothering me, no matter what I do."

Raistlin ran a soothing hand along Dalamar's jawline and up the side of his face, tracing the edge of his pointed ear. The elf relaxed involuntarily, sighing in pleasure: his ears were extremely sensitive, and the mage's expert touch never failed to make him melt. Raistlin's voice was low and gentle. "What did he say?"

Dalamar exhaled softly, leaning into Raistlin's touch. "He said that if you defeated Takhisis and absorbed her power on top of your own, that there was a chance the overload might tear you apart. He also said that even if you managed to control it... that you would become too powerful. That when the other gods challenged you and you fought them, that your strength would destroy Krynn."

Raistlin was silent a moment, then he said quietly, "I'm amazed he realized that. He's right, of course."

Dalamar froze, his eyes flying open and fixing on Raistlin, shocked. "You - you mean that really could happen? Then... why..."

"It's quite simple, love." Raistlin said softly, still gently massaging Dalamar's ultra-sensitive ears. "I don't intend to keep all the power for myself."

For a moment, distracted by a mixture of pleasure and anxiety, Dalamar didn't quite process his lover's statement. Then the implications hit him, and he nearly stopped breathing, his eyes growing huge as he stared at the other mage.

"Raistlin?" His voice was almost inaudible. "You - you can't mean -"

"Of course I do, love." Raistlin caught hold of Dalamar's wrists and tugged him down, so that they were lying face-to-face once more. "You didn't really think that I would become a god and simply leave you behind, did you? Takhisis has more than enough power for us to share, love. Then, once we have defeated the other gods... then we can rule the world together."

Dalamar stared at him for a long moment, speechless with awe, before he managed to whisper, "You would do that for me? You... you would let me join you?"

"Of course, Dalamar, mela en coiamin. I wouldn't want to spend eternity without you." Raistlin murmured, drawing his lover into a dizzyingly heartfelt kiss. Dalamar started purring again, sighing blissfully into the kiss as he wrapped his arms tightly around his lover's slender frame. The dark elf was deeply touched by Raistlin's offer: no one had ever cared enough about him to give him the time of day, much less grant him a chance to become a god. Whatever fools accused Raistlin of being incapable of love clearly had no comprehension of the mage's true nature.

Raistlin drew back slightly, running his fingers gently through Dalamar's dark hair as he murmured, "I will never leave you behind, my love. No matter what happens, I will never leave you. Remember that."

Dalamar nodded, tears shimmering in his silver-grey eyes as he clasped his lover's hand tightly. "And I will never betray you, Raistlin. Not for anything in the world."

The two lovers sealed their pledge that night, bound together by the most solemn oaths that any mortal could make. And though they did not know the extent of their peril, the gods trembled that night, knowing that for all the tales of the strength of the light, a bond forged in darkness could be infinitely stronger. After all, what could threaten true love born out of shadows and death, the very banes of most lovers? Not even the powers of the gods themselves could rend such commitments apart, so long as the lovers held true to their vows...

Present Day, the Lordcity of Palanthas, just outside the Shoikan Grove...

At the edge of the Shoikan Grove, Tanis and the others were forced to pause as Goldmoon and Crysania worked together to forge a safe passage through the cursed trees. The skies were thick with fast-darkening stormclouds, jagged bolts of lightning flashing here and there: the ground shifted almost continuously, heaving and groaning. Before leaving for Godshome, the mages had explained that the disruption was the result of the tremendous magic currently at work in the world: if Takhisis and Raistlin continued their battle on Krynn, the upheaval would become a thousand times worse. Just the battle itself would be a second Cataclysm, never mind the fallout. Tanis sincerely hoped it never came to that.

At the moment, the half-elf was keeping a sharp eye on his cohorts: the clerics and kender were no concern, but Kitiara and Caramon were another matter. Kit was a true snake in the grass, always working some angle or another, and Caramon... there was a look in the warrior's brown eyes that sent prickles of unease down Tanis's spine. The warrior had been surprising vocal in his defense of his brother's lover - and there was no question that he had grown up during his sojourn in the past. He now exhibited a confidence and independence that Tanis had never seen from him before: no more was he simply Raistlin's puppet. Caramon Majere had finally grown into a man, and Tanis was no longer certain that he knew his friend well enough to be sure of his intentions. This was a Caramon that he had barely glimpsed, and it was most certainly not the Caramon that had followed Raistlin like an adoring puppy all those years.

Meanwhile, Caramon himself was thinking hard. He wasn't really as stupid as people liked to think: it just took him a while to arrive at any conclusion. The conclusions he did arrive at, however, were often very good ones. Right now he was turning over every bit of information he possessed about the current situation, and trying to arrive at a reasonable course of action.

He was dwelling in particular on the look Raistlin had given Dalamar, during those last moments before the mages entered the portal. The young mage's expression, the glow in his golden eyes... Caramon had never seen that look on Raistlin's face before, but he knew what it was. What it had to be.

Raistlin was in truly in love with Dalamar.

Caramon had seen his brother suffering from a passing infatuation. He'd witnessed it first-hand with Miranda, though he hadn't known that was what it was at the time. He'd seen Raistlin desire someone, without emotional attachment: he'd seen that in Mereklar, when the mage had been under the spell of the Lady Shavas. He'd seen Raistlin faking love - hell, he'd been treated to a three-month show of that, ending just hours ago. All of that, though, paled in comparison to the look in Raistlin's eyes when he turned to Dalamar.

Though he had always fought against admitting it, Caramon had been among those who believed Raistlin more or less incapable of normal human emotion. The devotion, the passion in his eyes when he'd smiled at the elven mage... that shattered all of Caramon's remaining illusions. Raistlin couldn't have faked that depth of emotion, it just wasn't possible.

So, Raistlin genuinely loved Dalamar. From that brief interaction they'd witnessed, Caramon thought it was safe to say that the dark elf felt the same way about Raistlin. That left only the issue of Raistlin's ambitions for godhood, because there was no way Caramon would ever willingly interfere with his brother's happiness.

Were the mages right about the risk to Krynn? Would it really be so bad if Raistlin succeeded? Did Caramon really have a right to interfere with the one thing his brother had devoted his life to? The warrior was seriously beginning to question what he had been told. Despite his brother's chosen vocation Caramon had never really lost his innate distrust of mages in general, and he had no reason to like or trust Par-Salian in particular. Indeed, after the events of the Test, he had every reason not to trust the White Robe. Raistlin would never willingly destroy Krynn, so he obviously believed he'd found a way to avert the disaster the Conclave described: who did Caramon trust more, Par-Salian or Raistlin?

Raistlin, without question.

In that moment, as the earth underneath them rolled and shuddered and the skies overhead roiled with darkness, Caramon Majere made his choice. He would trust his brother, one last time: not because he always had, or because he was expected to. This time, he would trust Raistlin because he believed in the mage, because his gut told him that the Conclave had lied. And because when it came right down to it, when all was said and done, he and Raistlin were brothers. Brothers never turned on each other, no matter what the world did to them.

Tanis was watching from the corner of his eye, and he saw when Caramon lifted his head suddenly, brown eyes now blazing with conviction. He felt a chill ripple down his spine: he'd never seen the warrior look so determined before. He turned, careful not to let his unease show on his face.

"Caramon? Is something wrong?"

"Yes." Caramon said firmly, his expression calm but fierce. "This. This whole thing is wrong."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kitiara was the first to catch the implications, and she stared at her half-brother in amazement. "What are you talking about, Caramon?"

The warrior gestured toward the Tower. "Why the hell are we doing this? Why are we taking Par-Salian's word over Raist's? Think about it for a minute. If Raist wins against Takhisis, then Par-Salian, Justarius, and Ladonna are all going to be out of a job, and fast. You know what mages in general are like: they'd do anything to save their own skins! How do we know that Par-Salian isn't just telling us whatever it takes to make us stop Raist?"

Crysania stepped forward, her grey eyes hard. "We can't take that chance, Caramon. Your brother's more blinded by power-lust than any of the others: who can say how far he'd go?"

"But that's just the point: if what Par-Salian says is true, then even if he wins Raist gets nothing!" Caramon argued. "You can't honestly believe that Raist wouldn't know about the risk, if this supposed danger was real. If there really was a chance of Krynn being destroyed, Raist would know, and he would have planned for that. I know my brother, Lady Crysania: he may be ambitious, but he's anything but blind."

"That's actually a good point." Kitiara said thoughtfully. "You might be on to something here, little brother. That doesn't sound much like Raistlin, does it?"

"It doesn't matter." Goldmoon said firmly. "Either way, we cannot allow Raistlin to become a god! Think of the damage he could do to Krynn! Look at how we've suffered at Takhisis's hands: Raistlin could be infinitely worse. We cannot take the risk."

Caramon's eyes hardened, and Tanis knew with a sudden stab of fear what the warrior was going to say, even before he spoke. "I'm not going to go through with this, Goldmoon. You do what you feel you have to, but I'm going to do what I feel I have to do, and I don't think it's my place to try and stop Raist. Maybe you've forgotten, or maybe you don't want to remember, but he's spent his whole life just trying to make a place for himself in the world. I got lucky: I have Tika, and lots of friends, and a good life in Solace. Raist never had any of that, and I spent too many years being jealous of him for being the smart one. If this is what he wants, then I'm not going to stop him."

Stunned silence reigned, punctuated by a growl of thunder as another blinding blue-white bolt flashed across the sky. Even Tas was momentarily speechless. Surprisingly, it was Kitiara who spoke first.

"I know I've called you a fool enough times over the years, Caramon, but I was obviously wrong. I don't think I've ever heard you say something so well thought-out - or so brilliant. And, much as I hate to say it... I have to agree."

"You too?" Crysania exclaimed, paling. Then her eyes flashed and she drew herself up, her expression hardening like the marble she so resembled. "So be it. You two back out if you want. We'll finish this without you."

Caramon turned to Tanis, his gaze appealing. "Tanis, don't do this. You haven't got a chance against Raist, you must know that. Besides, you owe him: don't you remember in Neraka, when you killed Ariakas? If Raist hadn't destroyed his shields you never would have managed it. And no matter what Par-Salian says, I can't believe that Raist could ever be worse than Takhisis."

Tanis froze. Caramon made a damn good point: if it wasn't for Raistlin, Tanis himself wouldn't be standing here today. Yet it went against everything the half-elf stood for to back down now: though he had started out as the most reluctant of heroes, he could hardly bring himself to turn away when the world was in danger, then or now. Even as he thought that, though, another - rather more disconcerting - thought crept into his mind. It was entirely possible that Par-Salian knew that, and was deliberately manipulating Tanis's honor to force him into conflict with Raistlin. What if Caramon was right? What if Tanis was walking into the biggest trap of his life?

Sensing his hesitation, Kitiara pounced. "Tanis, think about it. Par-Salian is a manipulative old bastard, we know that. Ladonna must be even worse, she's head of the Black Robes for heaven's sake. Neither of those two would have qualms about tricking us into fighting their battles for them. That only leaves Justarius. Have you seen the way he's acting? It's like he's furious with the other two, but refusing to say anything in front of us. Maybe he knows, but is too scared to tell us - or maybe he only suspects, so he can't say anything yet. Gods know, though, he has no reason to like Dalamar - the elf used to be in a relationship with Justarius's daughter Jenna, but he left her about the same time he apprenticed with Raistlin. Maybe he's cooperating to get revenge. And I don't know about you, Tanis, but if Par-Salian is lying and Raistlin wins anyway, I really don't want to be on the losing team. My brother has a vindictive streak that could put Zeboim to shame, and I'd rather not be on the wrong side of him if he does become a god. Do you really want to risk that?"

For the first time in several years, Tanis felt utterly lost. He was vastly overwhelmed and out of his depth, outranked and outgunned and more than a little scared. The fate of the world might well be resting on his shoulders once again, and this time Raistlin was on the opposite side of the battlefield. For all their differences, Tanis had always been glad to have the mage as an ally: contemplating what he might do as an enemy was well and truly terrifying.

Goldmoon was glaring at him. "You had better not be considering this madness, Tanis. Surely, you must know better."

Another tremor, much more pronounced than the others, rocked through the city. Blood-curdling shrieks rose from the creature within the Grove, as the Tower's guardians reacted to the raw magic now filling the air. Tanis could almost feel it dancing on his skin, and it only heightened his anxiety. What the hell was he supposed to do? He forced himself to draw a deep breath. If you can't trust anyone else, trust your own instincts.

What were his instincts telling him? After a moment's consideration, Tanis knew. His instincts were telling him that there was indeed danger in this situation, but that it was not necessarily coming from Raistlin. Par-Salian and his cohorts might well be the true danger here. Most of all, his instincts were telling him that opposing Raistlin now was a ticket to an early and extraordinarily painful death.

What would Laurana say?

Tanis's wife was one of the very few people who seemed to see beyond the facade of cynical cruelty that Raistlin perpetually shrouded himself in. She had always told Tanis not to judge Raistlin too harshly, that there were layers to the mage that no one bothered to delve into. For a time, Tanis had even worried that Raistlin might end up being his competition for Laurana's affections: the two had become all too close for Tanis's comfort during their journey. Laurana had assured him, though, that her friendship with Raistlin was based entirely on mutual understanding, not any sort of romantic interest. Tanis hadn't quite understood that at the time - hell, he still wasn't sure he did - but he understood one thing. Laurana would have approved of giving the mage the benefit of the doubt.

Firming his resolve, Tanis nodded to Caramon. "You're right. Regardless of what the Conclave said, we all owe Raistlin a hell of a lot. We have to give him a chance."

Caramon's smile was near blinding. Both clerics looked horrified: Crysania's grey eyes narrowed coldly, and she turned to Goldmoon.

"These idiots have obviously fallen for Raistlin's act. You and I will have to deal with this on our own."

"Just as well, perhaps." Goldmoon said, looking at Tanis and Caramon with an expression of mingled distaste and severe disappointment. Without another word, the two priestesses grasped their clerical medallions and set out into the darkness of the Shoikan Grove, small circles of light surrounding them to hold back the deadly guardians of the trees.

The taut silence was broken suddenly by a high-pitched voice that had been rambling in the background for most of their debate, though it's constant chatter was only now actually registering.

"I guess this means we don't get to see Raistlin turn Tanis into a toad, huh?"

In Raistlin's Laboratory, inside the Tower of High Sorcery...

Raistlin and Dalamar emerged from the portal to find a blockade of just two waiting for them. Crysania and Goldmoon, both grim-faced and clutching their medallions defensively, blocking the path from the chamber. Raistlin, despite his bloodied condition and the fact that only Dalamar and the Staff of Magius were keeping him on his feet, smirked.

"Ah, the welcoming committee. Where are Tanis and my dear siblings?"

"As if you don't know." Crysania spat, her eyes flashing. "They've all bought into your lies. Caramon was the first: he started spouting nonsense about Par-Salian being untrustworthy, and convinced Half-Elven and Lady Kitiara against trying to stop you."

Raistlin lifted one eyebrow, surprised. "Really? How remarkable... perhaps my brother has grown more astute than I gave him credit for. And Tanis and Kit actually listened to him? I shall have to see about rewarding them for that - after my inevitable victory, of course."

Seeing the protest forming on the women's lips, Dalamar cut them off, also smirking. "You see, ladies, I don't think you quite understand. There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop us. We are traveling to Godshome in a few moments, there to defeat Takhisis and assume her power and mantle. The moment we have departed, the Guardians of this tower will turn on you. You will be quite unable to save your own wretched lives, much less thwart our plans."

Raistlin smiled at his lover. "I think they'll understand soon enough, melamin. Shall we?"

"Absolutely." Dalamar murmured, catching the other mage's lips in a kiss, even as the magic took hold of them and whisked them away to Godshome.

Crysania and Goldmoon were left standing in an empty laboratory, staring at the ominously swirling portal, which was the only source of illumination in the room. Slowly, they turned to look at each other. At that moment, a mournful wail drifted from somewhere close by: a chill began to fill the room, feelers of pure blackness creeping in around the doorframe. Both women swallowed hard.

"Well." Crysania said, her voice shaking slightly. "That didn't go according to plan at all, did it?"

...

...

Heh heh, I'm such an evil dragon. That takes care of chapter two: next, the ultimate battle! Will Raistlin and Dalamar succeed? Or does Par-Salian have a few more tricks up his baggy white sleeve? Reviews are like roast elk: feed the dragon if you want more story!

A'mael en maranweamin: My destined beloved.