“I don’t know,” Adalos murmured aloud. There was a sudden clanging to his right, a drawbridge began to lower. He could hear something breathing heavily from the other side. Rather than run away, Adalos took this as his chance. Perhaps this was his way to escape. “Air, water, I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know,” he shouted, the drawbridge lowered faster and faster. Adalos was about to dart up the drawbridge when he saw the massive shape emerge from the gloom. An enormous three-headed dragon stood before him.
Adalos immediately backed up, he wasn’t prepared to fight a dragon on his own. The monstrous beast snarled at him with all three heads each exhibiting its rows upon rows of bone breaking teeth. The thick fog grew denser until Adalos had a hard time breathing, his head began to grow light and he struggled to stay conscious. As his vision faded he thought he saw a light glowing closer toward him. He braced himself for death and fell to the floor. The world went dark.
When Adalos opened his eyes again he was not in the wine cellar anymore. Disgruntled he sat up and looked around, he was in a field. A rather large field full of long white and gray shafts of grass. At least, the moon made them look that way. It was night out and up above was a full moon, but it was grey and didn’t seem real at all. He knew then he was back in the Shadowfell, a place he vaguely remembered. Directly to his west was a large grey rock jutting up from the middle of the field. It was quiet out and no bugs seemed to be flickering past him. Had this been some extension of the weird wine cellar? He had no way of knowing.
“What in the stars…?” a confused female voice came from behind him. He jumped and turned defensively only to be met by a puzzled look from the female rogue he’d just encountered in Tamaryn’s temple. Behind her, Clary Haro stood brushing dirt off of her knees.
“How did you two get here?” Adalos asked, he wondered if they all were dead.
“Last thing I remember, I’m laying down after waking Jim for his watch. Where on earth are we?” Marie asked. Her eyes stared up at the moon and Adalos thought he caught something in them, perhaps a twinge of sadness.
“What’s the weird rock thing?” Haro asked, strutting forward.
“Wherever this is it feels…” Marie began.
“Creepy,” Haro and Adalos finished for her.
All three of them walked towards the stone, and as the approached it was just that: a weird, gray stone. Nothing more. “Now what?” Haro mused, trying to climb up the rock.
Before their eyes a giant being appeared. She was pale skinned with a jaw that hung open, gray tattered rags covered her body. A gruesome sight for sure. “Adalos, my dear,” she began.
“I’ve met her before,” Haro muttered under her breath so that only Marie could hear.
“Everess,” Marie whispered.
“It’s been a while,” she giggled, it sounded more like the cawing of ravens though. Only Marie seemed unphased while Adalos and Haro took a step back. “And your friends,” Everess said, “you look quite familiar. Remind me of someone I used to know.” She pointed at Marie, and scratched her head with a claw like hand. “It doesn’t matter now though, I have something important for you to do. It’s of great urgency that you find a book, it belonged to you long ago.”
“A book, belonging to me?” Adalos asked, he didn’t remember owning any particularly important books.
“Yes, it’s bound in leather with a red ruby. It lies not far from here, but it will help you to complete your quest,” she said.
“What quest is that?” Haro asked.
“You’re going to be up against many enemies,” Everess sighed, “you’ll need all the help you can get to fix everything. It’s the last chance you’ll have.”
“Still unclear,” Haro said.
“There are a few things I need to warn you about,” Everess seemed to ignore Haro and Marie and focus only on Adalos, “Jinx is doing terrible things to that town, be careful that he doesn’t catch you, he will kill you. Katymar is not the same as the evil queen,” Everess continued.
“Katymar?” Marie asked Haro.
“A companion who was dragged away by the Queen of the Shadowfell who looked a lot like her,” Haro replied, “they could have been identical twins, except one is our friend and the other is freakin’ evil.”
“You mustn’t let the Queen take Katymar’s essence,” Everess continued, “that’s what the Nightwatch wants. He wants the Queen to be more powerful. One more thing before I have to go back, you have to find the missing parts of my soul.”
“Your soul, m’lady?” Adalos asked.
“Yes, they’ve been scattered a bit,” Everess confessed, “and until I have them back I will be trapped doing the Nightwatch’s will.”
Everess smiled and moved closer to him. Out of fear, Adalos jumped back but managed to turn his fleeing move into a courteous bow. Everess shifted from the horrifying being she appeared to be and turned into a lovely woman with long blonde hair, dancing blue eyes, and cute dimples as she smiled fondly at Adalos. “You always were so very charming,” she reminisced. Then she disappeared.
The moon in the sky became a normal golden hue.
“This is weird, right?” Haro piped up, once again trying to climb the rock.
“Very,” Marie muttered quietly, seeming to be in a daze.
“If I recall right,” Adalos scratched his chin as he thought, “there’s a tower a few miles from here. It’s old and abandoned like most things in the Shadowfell. That must be where this book is,” he surmised.
“We’re in the Shadowfell?” Haro asked excitedly.
“Yes, my home land,” Adalos said charmingly, “shall we be off then?”
“Tell me this,” Marie demanded harshly, even she seemed taken aback by her tone, “why is Everess so interested in you?”
“Everess?” Adalos asked.
“Yes, that being we just encountered,” Marie replied.
“I don’t know,” Adalos shrugged, “never met her before. How do you know her?”
Marie grew suddenly quiet and Adalos knew for sure that time he saw a devastation crawl across her pale gray eyes, “Just read about her once.”
Adalos wasn’t convinced, but he didn’t push her to keep talking. Instead he shared his childhood, he thought Marie and Haro both had the right to know what had happened in the temple. He explained about his father’s ritual and talked about his dark childhood, “There was one time…I took two torches into a villiage…and…”
“You don’t have to tell us,” Marie butted in, “it’s tragic and terrible but it’s not your fault.”
“We’ll find a way to fix you,” Haro added.
It was at this time they all began to smell a musty bog, up ahead all they could see was pure blackness. Above the stars shined brightly though, and it was comforting to all of them. They could now see a faint dark line stretching up to the sky, the dark tower Adalos had mentioned. It loomed into the sky a foreboding visage. A deep yearning resonated with Adalos every time he looked at the tower, a missing link was there and he had to find it. Marie turned to look behind herself, she saw a shadow flicker through the brush. Something was following them.
The group approached a river. It was wide and the current was strong, its flow moving toward the tower. Marie glanced over her shoulder again, there was something there, but why hadn’t it come out? What did it want from them? Gold, weapons, or something more treacherous? Her companions hadn’t seemed to notice yet, instead they argued about the best way to build a raft.
“I’ve got plenty of rope, we’ll bind the logs together,” Haro said.
“Fine, and we can fill in the gaps with dried grass so we don’t get as wet,” Adalos added.
“I’ll go find something to steer with,” Marie said absent-mindedly, she headed through the trees in a round about way, looking for the creature that was following them. She hid behind trees and slunk through the shadows, then she felt it. It was watching her. She couldn’t get a clear look at it, but she knew one thing for certain. It was only observing for now, otherwise she would have been dead. Eager to be away from the thing, she headed back towards her companions.
Adalos and Haro had finished half of the raft and all the logs were cut, waiting to be bound. Marie had returned empty-handed after her fright over the creature. Her mind swam, the others only stared at her quizzically.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” Adalos said.
“And you didn’t find anything to steer with,” Haro crossed her arms across her chest.
Marie looked around, pulled a sturdy but small sapling out of the ground and used a dagger to trim off the branched. She picked up a chunk from one of the logs and fastened it to the sappling. She tossed the crude, but functional rudder/paddle and went to make a second one just in case.
“Are you all right?” Adalos asked her.
“You do seem on edge,” Haro agreed.
“There’s something watching us,” Marie admitted, “Just observing, but I don’t like it.”
“Well, let’s get this ship finished and get out of here,” Adalos said, “they won’t be able to follow us across the water.” They all set to work and completed the raft shortly. It was crude, but it would manage the two-mile float to the tower. They shoved off, Marie watching the shoreline behind them. There it was, the being that had been following them. Clothed in dark armor and carrying a broad sword, how had it remained so stealthy in such garb?
“Is that it?” Haro asked, pointing to it.
“Yes,” Marie said.
Haro raised her small palm to it and waved, the dark knight waved back.
TO BE CONT…