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Sy-Tel'Quessir got careless and got tangled in wars with goblin-kind and the drow. They drew their gods into the wars with them, and even though they won the wars and kept the Yuirwood, they lost, too, because they and their gods had done bad things in order to win.

So the Sy-Tel'Quessir of the Yuirwood began to forget things. They began to die. When humans came back to the Yuirwood, there weren't many Yuir elves left, and they'd forgotten most everything that had ever been important to them, including their gods. Other elves remembered the Seldarine, but only the Yuir elves had ever known about Zandilar, Relkath, Magnar and the other old human gods.

Now, no one knows anything about Zandilar. The Candlekeep mentors say she's missing or that she's become a part of the forest. But they don't know. No one knows what's happened to her, why she vanished, or whether she could come back.

I think she could come back, if the Cha'Tel'Quessir who live in the Yuirwood now wanted her and the other old gods, but maybe they shouldn't try too hard. Maybe Zandilar's been gone too long. Maybe she wouldn't be a goddess of passion and romance when she came back.

1

The village of Sulalk, in Aglarond Eight days after Greengrass, The Year of the Staff (1366DR)

It was a warm spring morning. Trees were cloaked in flowers. The grass had greened with the promise of rich forage for the mothers of the lambs, calves, and colts born each night in farmyard birthing sheds.

Bro wanted to stretch out on the ground and nap until noon. No matter how beautiful the days, it was the nature of babies to be born at night, and it was the duty of farmers and farmer's stepsons to sit in the birthing shed. Bro had been vigilant for six nights' running, through a steady stream of births, all but one of which had been successful.

A good spring, so far, with good trade even for the stillborn lamb whose tender hide would make a fine pair of gloves for some lady in the royal city, Velprintalar. Dyed and embellished with jewels and silks, the lamb's hide might find its way onto the queen's hands, though thoughts of Aglarond's mighty Simbul fled Bro's mind as fast as they occurred. In Sulalk, on the Yuirwood's verge, Aglarond's seacoast capital was a world, not a week, away.

Adentir, Bro's human stepfather, paid the queen's tithes and abided by her laws, which were, fortunately, rooted in common sense and easily obeyed. Dent raised a glass in the queen's name at festival times and never mentioned her otherwise. For Bro, who'd lived his first twelve years among his own kind, the Cha'Tel'Quessir half- elves of the Yuirwood, the Simbul was the living emblem of an uneasy truce between them and the world outside- the world in which Bro had lived since his father's death.

A hand touched Bro's shoulder. With it came the scents of pine bark and moss that were Shali, his mother, and the Yuirwood. But the forest was memory and the bowl she offered was filled with whey-soaked grain.

'Hungry, Ember?'

She called him by his boyhood name. Everyone else called him Bro, a crude shortening of Ebroin because, deep in their guts, humans remained averse to Cha'Tel'Quessir names and, in his own soul, Bro knew he hadn't yet made Ebroin his own true name.

More tired than hungry, Bro set aside the collection of half-braided thongs that would, when he was clearheaded, become a halter for a newborn foal. He accepted the bowl.

'Maybe tonight.' Shali ran a hand through his hair, leaving his ears exposed to the sunlight.

'Maybe.' Bro tossed his head, returning his hair to its customary ears-and-face-hiding disorder.

He watched his mother flinch and felt shame. Half-elves weren't a race like their elf or human forebearers. First-generation half-elves took after their elven and human parents equally, but among the Cha'Tel'Quessir, family resemblance was a chancy thing. It wasn't Shali's fault that her skin was human-fair and her ears were small and rounded while he was forest-shadowed to the tips of his very elven ears. No more than it had been her fault that Rizcarn had broken his neck falling out of a tree he'd climbed a thousand times. Shali had loved Rizcarn in a way Bro couldn't begin to imagine; she'd left the Yuirwood because she couldn't bear her memories and couldn't die, either-because she had a son she'd had to finish raising.

In the five years since Rizcarn's death, Shali had become a stranger dressed in layers of woven cloth, a kerchief bound over hair and ears alike. She'd never go back to the trees; they both knew that, just as they both knew he would. The knowledge ached between them.

'Adentir says the foal will be yours, if it's a colt.' Shali gave a brittle laugh. The Cha'Tel'Quessir weren't horse-folk. A colt wouldn't keep Bro out of the Yuirwood.

'I'll hold him to his word,' Bro replied.

She smiled a thin-lipped half-smile, the only smile Bro saw anymore.

'He's not bad,' Bro said awkwardly, speaking words that were, and were not, the truth.

Adentir was human. Everyone in Sulalk was human, except for Bro and Shali. Even Tay-Fay, his half-sister, was human. That was the way of things for the Cha'Tel'Quessir: If a half-elf mated with an elf or human, their children belonged to the full-blooded world. The Cha'Tel'Quessir way of life could vanish in a generation.

Bro didn't blame his stepfather. Human ways were ideal for humans, elf ways were ideal for elves, but Cha'Tel'Quessir had to resist both, if they valued themselves.

'He's been good to me, Ember. He understands. Rizcarn-'

Bro gagged down another spoonful of the cold porridge. He hated it when his mother talked about his father, expecting him to take Rizcarn's part. He'd loved his father, missed him and mourned him, but when push came to shove, he couldn't-didn't want to-replace Rizcarn.

'Dent says it'll take two years at least to train a colt,' he muttered. 'Says we'll do it together. Says he'll show me how it's done. He's got good hands-' he paused, leaving the words, for a human, unsaid.

'A tree doesn't grow until a seed's been planted, Ember. A lot can happen in two years.' Shali tucked Bro's hair behind his ears again. 'If it's a colt.'

And if the mare foaled a filly, instead? Bro closed his eyes. A lot would happen in two years, no matter what happened after they led the mare into the birthing shed. In two years he'd be back in the Yuirwood; he couldn't- didn't want to-imagine being anywhere else.

'A pretty girl might catch your eye.'

Bro flinched. Shame burned for a second time, then his anger flared: He'd never look at a human woman. Never. And Shali knew it. She looked at the sky; they were each alone and miserable.

'Momma! Momma! Bro!'

A child's voice broke the silence. Bro and Shali glanced toward the path where Tay-Fay ran as fast as four- year-old legs could carry her. She stumbled as she stopped and avoided a fall only by lunging for Bro's knees. The bowl speckled all three of them with cold porridge and laughter. Bro shook his head dramatically, then swung his sister into his lap.

'What's the matter, Little Leaf?'

Her true name was Taefaeli-Light-through-the-Leaves-a Cha'Tel'Quessir name: Adentir did understand, better than Rizcarn would have understood were the situation reversed. But Taefaeli knew nothing of the forest. She called herself Tay-Fay and hadn't yet noticed that she didn't look like her mother or brother.

Tay-Fay gasped for breath. 'Poppa says come quick. To the shed. The momma-horse-'

Bro pushed his sister off with a kiss on the forehead. Tay-Fay whimpered as he stood and threatened worse until he picked her up. She was spoiled, human, and a thorough pest; no Cha'Tel'Quessir tree-family would have put up with her. She fought when he passed her to Shali.

'Later, Little Leaf. I'll take you to the bank above the stream. You can pick flowers, pinks for the mare, yellow-bud for the foal.'

Her sniffles became a grin that Bro returned effortlessly. He couldn't explain the joy he felt when she smiled, but Tay-Fay was the reason he hadn't left Sulalk yet and the only reason he might still be here two years hence.

Adentir greeted Bro with a grunt and a gesture toward the straw sheaves heaped against the wall. With no other instruction, Bro hauled an armful into the shed. The mare ignored him until he got the straw spread, then she

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