Drizzt had little trouble convincing Bruenor to reverse their course and head back to the west. While the dwarf was anxious to get to Sundabar and find out what Helm might know, the possibility of valuable information less than a day away set him off and running.
As to how he had come by the information, Drizzt offered little explanation, saying only that he had met up with a lone traveler on the road to Silverymoon during the night. Though the story sounded contrived to them, his friends, respecting his privacy and trusting him fully, did not question him about it. When they ate breakfast, though, Regis hoped that more information would be forthcoming, for the biscuits that this traveler had given to Drizzt were truly delicious and incredibly refreshing. After only a few bites, the halfling felt as if he had spent a week at rest. And the magic salve immediately healed Wulfgar’s injured leg and back, and he walked without a cane for the first time since they had left the Evermoors.
Wulfgar suspected that Drizzt’s encounter had involved someone of great importance long before the drow revealed the marvelous gifts. For the drow’s inner glow of optimism, the knowing sparkle in his eyes that reflected the indomitable spirit that had kept him going through trials that would have crushed most men, had returned, fully and dramatically. The barbarian didn’t need to know the identity of the person; he was just glad that his friend had come through the depression.
When they moved out later that morning, they seemed more a party just beginning an adventure than a road-weary band. Whistling and talking, they followed the flow of the Rauvin on its westerly course. For all of the close calls, they had come through the brutal march relatively unscathed and, it appeared, had made good progress toward their goal. The summer sun shone down upon them and all the pieces of the puzzle of Mithril Hall seemed to be within their grasp.
They could not have guessed that murderous eyes were upon them.
From the foothills north of the Rauvin, high above the travelers, the golem sensed the drow elf’s passing. Following the tug of magic spells of seeking that Dendybar had bestowed upon it, Bok soon looked down upon the band as they moved across the trail. Without hesitation the monster obeyed its directives and started out to find Sydney.
Bok tossed aside a boulder that lay in its path, then climbed over another that was too big to move, not understanding the advantages of simply walking around the stones. Bok’s path was clearly set and the monster refused to deviate from that course by an inch.
“He is a big one!” chuckled one of the guards at the post on the Rauvin when he saw Bok across the clearing. Even as the words left his mouth, though, the guard realized the impending danger – that this was no ordinary traveler!
Courageously, he rushed out to meet the golem headon, his sword drawn and his companion close behind.
Transfixed by his goal, Bok paid no heed to their warnings.
“Hold where you are!” the soldier commanded one final time as Bok covered the last few feet between them.
The golem did not know emotion, so it bore no anger toward the guards as they struck. They stood to block the way, though, and Bok swatted them aside without a second thought, the incredible force of its magically strong arms blasting through their parrying defenses and launching them through the air. Without even a pause, the golem continued on to the river and did not slow, disappearing under the rushing waters.
Alarms rang out in the city, for the soldiers at the gate across the river saw the spectacle at the guard post. The huge gates were drawn tight and secured as the Knights of Silver watched the Rauvin for the reappearance of the monster.
Bok kept its line straight across the bottom of the river, plowing through the silt and mud and easily holding its course against the mighty push of the currents. When the monster re-emerged directly across from the guard post, the knights lining the city gate gasped in disbelief but held their stations, grim-faced and weapons ready.
The gate was farther up the Rauvin from the angle of Bok’s chosen path. The golem continued on to the city wall, but didn’t alter its course to bring it to the gate.
It punched a hole in the wall and walked right through.
* * *
Entreri paced anxiously in his room at the Inn of the Wayward Sages, near the center of the city. “They should have come by now,” he snapped at Sydney, sitting on the bed and tightening the bonds that held Catti-brie.
Before Sydney could respond, a ball of flame appeared in the center of the room, not a real fire, but the image of flames, illusionary, like something burning in that particular spot on another plane. The fires writhed and transformed into the apparition of a robed man.
“Morkai!” Sydney gasped.
“My greetings,” replied the specter. “And the greetings of Dendybar the Mottled.”
Entreri slipped back into the corner of the room, wary of the thing. Catti-brie, helpless in her bonds, sat very still.
Sydney, versed in the subtleties of conjuring, knew that the otherworldly being was under Dendybar’s control, and she was not afraid. “Why has my master bid you to come here?” she asked boldly.
“I bear news,” replied the specter. “The party you seek was turned into the Evermoors a week ago, to the south of Nesme.”
Sydney bit her lip in anticipation of the specter’s next revelation, but Morkai fell silent and waited as well.
“And where are they now?” Sydney pressed impatiently.
Morkai smiled. “Twice I have been asked, but not yet compelled!” The flames puffed again and the specter was gone.
“The Evermoors,” said Entreri. “That would explain their delay.”
Sydney nodded her agreement absently, for she had other things on her mind. “Not yet compelled,” she whispered to herself, echoing the specter’s parting words. Disturbing questions nagged at her. Why had Dendybar waited a week to send Morkai with the news? And why couldn’t the wizard have forced the specter to reveal more recent activity of the drow’s party? Sydney knew the dangers and limitations of summoning, and understood the tremendous drain of the act on a wizard’s power. Dendybar had conjured Morkai at least three times recently – once when the drow’s party had first entered Luskan, and at least twice since she and her companions had set out in pursuit. Had Dendybar abandoned all caution in his obsession with the Crystal Shard? Sydney sensed that the mottled wizard’s hold over Morkai had lessened greatly, and she hoped that Dendybar would be prudent with any future summonings, at least until he had fully rested.
“Weeks could pass before they arrive!” Entreri spat, considering the news. “If ever they do.”
“You may be right,” agreed Sydney. “They might have fallen in the moors.”
“And if they have?”
“Then we go in after them,” Sydney said without hesitation.
Entreri studied her for a few moments. “The prize you seek must be great indeed,” he said.
“I have my duty, and I shall not fail my master,” she replied sharply. “Bok will find them even if they lay at the bottom of the deepest bog!”
“We must decide our course soon,” Entreri insisted. He turned his evil glare on Catti-brie. “I grow weary of watching this one.”
“Nor do I trust her,” Sydney agreed. “Although she shall prove useful when we meet with the dwarf. Three more days we will wait. After that we go back to Nesme, and into the Evermoors if we must.”
Entreri nodded his reluctant approval of the plan. “Did you hear?” he hissed at Catti-brie. “You have three more days to live, unless your friends arrive. If they are dead in the moors, we have no need of you.”
Catti-brie showed no emotion throughout the entire conversation, determined not to let Entreri gain any advantage by learning of her weakness, or strength. She had faith that her friends were not dead. The likes of Bruenor Battlehammer and Drizzt Do’Urden were not destined to die in an unmarked grave in some desolate fen. And Catti-brie would never accept that Wulfgar was dead until the proof was irrefutable. Holding to her faith, her duty to her friends was to maintain a blank facade. She knew that she was winning her personal battle, that the paralyzing fear Entreri held over her lessened every day. She would be ready to act when the time came. She just had to make certain that Entreri and Sydney didn’t realize it.
She had noted that the labors of the road, and his new companions, were affecting the assassin. Entreri revealed more emotion, more desperation, every day to get this job over and done. Was it possible that he might make a mistake?
“It has come!” echoed a cry from the hallway, and all three started reflexively, then recognized the voice as Jierdan’s, who had been watching the Vault of Sages. A second later, the door burst in and the soldier scrambled into the room, his breathing ragged.
“The dwarf?” Sydney asked, grabbing Jierdan to steady him.
“No!” Jierdan cried. “The golem! Bok has entered Silverymoon! They have it trapped down by the west gate. A wizard was summoned.”
“Damn!” Sydney spat and she started from the room. Entreri moved to follow her, grabbing Jierdan’s arm and yanking him around, bringing them face to face.
“Stay with the girl,” the assassin ordered.
Jierdan glared at him. “She is your problem.”
Entreri easily could have killed the soldier right there, Catti-brie noted, hoping that Jierdan had read the assassin’s deadly look as clearly as she.
“Do as you are told!” Sydney screamed at Jierdan, ending further argument. She and Entreri left, the assassin slamming the door behind them.
“He would have killed you,” Catti-brie told Jierdan when Entreri and Sydney had gone. “You know that.”
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