'Leave me alone! Gods curse on you-'

He opened his eyes. There was no one nearby: no dancing girl, no bully waiting with his fists. The humans had passed. The laughter-Bro still heard laughter-came from elsewhere.


The name reminded him of the Yuirwood and nights with his father, but he couldn't place it precisely.

'Fine, young man, come dance with me!'

Locks of Bro's hair twisted on his neck and a touch soft as feathers, warm as life, caressed his arm. Bro clutched the cuff of his boot before he sprang to his feet. There was a knife-a dark-steel Cha'Tel'Quessir knife-in his hand when he stood, wary of an enemy he could feel, but not see.

'Fine, silly, young man! Come dance with Zandilar!'

He saw her then, hovering above the grass: a slender apparition in silver and gold. Cloaked in dazzling light, the apparition had no sex nor race, but her laugh was feminine, as was her manner. She sat astride a twilight horse whose black legs disappeared in its shadow.

A golden arm stretched out to trace the angle of his cheek; Bro's knees weakened. He staggered backward into the tree, dropping his knife as well. Her laughter shook the tree. Leaves brushed Bro's face as they floated down.

'Come dance with Zandilar in the Yuirwood, fine young man. Come when you're ready. I'll wait for you in the Sunglade!'

Zandilar spoke the Cha'Tel'Quessir dialect with a lilting accent as if ordinary words were a magical melody. When she wheeled the twilight stallion and galloped south, toward the Yuirwood, Bro yearned to follow her, but after three strides, they simply vanished.

'Sunglade,' Bro whispered Zandilar's parting word. He'd never visited the Sunglade, but Rizcarn had spoken of it in reverent tones: the oldest stone circle in the Yuirwood, older than the Cha'Tel'Quessir, built by the Yuir, the wild and full-blooded Sy-Tel'Quessir from whom Bro and all his scattered kin claimed descent.

The youth's pulse quieted. His hand was steady when he slipped the fallen knife into the boot sheath. There was no more reason to be frightened. He'd fallen in love, just as Shali predicted, and he'd dance with Zandilar when the twilight colt could carry him to the Sunglade-in two years, just as he'd planned. With Zandilar shimmering in his memory, no human girl would tempt him to break faith with the Cha'Tel'Quessir. With Zandilar waiting in the Sunglade, the next two years would be tortuously slow, but when they'd passed, he and the twilight colt, Zandilar's Dancer-the name appeared suddenly in Bro's mind-would be ready.

Hours past midnight, in a distant part of Faerun-in Shadowdale, to be precise-in the privy chambers of the mage, Elminster, to be absolutely accurate-a silver-haired woman sat bolt-upright in bed.

'Zandilar?' she muttered, cross-grained and clutching a corner of the mage's linen. 'Zandilar's dancer?'

Nearby, the great mage tidied his abundant beard. 'What disturbs you, Alassra?' He laid a gently restraining hand on her forearm, deterring her from the shape-shifting magic that was her reflex response to unmeasured danger.

'Zandilar. The name came to me in a dream from Aglarond.'

No surprise there. These days, Alassra Shentrantra, Chosen of Mystra, was better known as the Simbul, the storm queen of Aglarond, and she took her ruling responsibilities seriously. Little in Aglarond passed beneath her knowledge. If Zandilar had penetrated Alassra's rest here in Shadowdale, then Zandilar was important. Elminster racked his prodigious memory for answers to questions that would almost certainly be asked.

'A god, I think,' Alassra muttered.

'A goddess, Zandilar the Dancer,' the Old Mage corrected. 'Once of the Sy-Tel'Quessir in the Yuirwood.'

The silver hair shimmered as Alassra nodded. 'There's a stone in the Sunglade that bears her name-one of the smaller stones within the elven Seldarine circle.'

Elminster made a light and, in the chamber's northern corner, a brazier came to life beneath a ceramic pot kept filled with water. 'You're aware of the rumor that some of the Cha'Tel'Quessir seek to arouse the powers of their distant ancestors?'

Alassra rose from the bed with the singular grace possessed by all seven daughters of Dornal and Elue Shundar. She clothed herself in a gown of plain-woven linen and knelt beside the brazier.

'Of course I'm aware of rumors,' she said, her voice sharp, and a reminder, even to Elminster, that the epithet 'storm queen' was well deserved. 'The Cha'Tel'Quessir have talked about their ancestors as long as humans have groused in the Fang. Discontent is foremost in the Aglarondan nature. That's why I rule there. I don't fear it.'

Boiling water rattled the pot's lid. Unmindful of the steam, Alassra stuffed crumpled leaves into a silver-lace basket, then shoved the basket into still-bubbling water. Elminster sat in silence, waiting for the tea's fragrance to calm his beloved friend.

A few moments later, Alassra sipped tea hot enough to scald and sank into a cushioned chair. 'Your warning was well-meant. I will see if the Cha'Tel'Quessir malcontents are attached to Zandilar the Dancer. Yet, I tell you, what was said to me was not Zandilar the Dancer, but Zandilar's Dancer and the image, unmistakably, was that of a horse, a foal, in fact, and scarcely a day old.'

'Rashemen, perhaps?' Elminster suggested. Alassra had grown up among the Rashemaar witches. Centuries had not dulled the bonds between the horse folk and their adopted daughter. 'Surely they would warn you if their seers had scryed something ominous.'

But Alassra shook her head before Elminster could pursue his thought further.

'This was an announcement, not a warning. And the messenger was a Cha'Tel'Quessir youth, not quite grown.' She wrinkled her brow. 'His mother calls him Ember. He means to dance with her, with Zandilar-or the horse.' She smiled and shook her head. 'He's young still; his thoughts shift before they're complete.'

Elminster stifled his own smile, remembering a time when he was younger and the ever-shifting thoughts of Elue Shundar's daughters confounded every mage in Faerun.

Again, Alassra interrupted Elminster's thoughts. 'It is odd, isn't it, El-to combine horses and the Yuirwood powers in a single thought? A forest is hardly the place where I'd look for horses.'

'Nowadays,' Elminster agreed, reaching into one of his robe's many pockets and drawing out the briar-thorn pipe that nestled there. Sparks flew and scents as delicate as Alassra's tea mingled in the air. 'There was a time, though… Faerun was a colder, wetter place, stamped with great trees the likes of which-well, a few remain in the groves around your sister's Silverymoon, but of what remains of that primal forest, most of it is in your beloved Aglarond, deep in the Yuirwood.'

Alassra arched an eyebrow many shades darker than her hair. 'And horses? I suppose you're going to tell me that herds of horses ran freely in this primal forest.'

'As freely as any creature that size can run between the trees. As freely, at least, as a great hart.'

'And herds, El-were there herds of forest horses in the time before you and I?'

Elminster shrugged, knowing that Alassra was baiting him. 'Small herds, I should think. Narrow, certainly. Easier to fit between the trees and the hunters.'

'Oh-hunters? Bears, wolves and panthers, or creatures more exotic?'

'Men, Alassra,' the bearded mage said, growing suddenly serious. 'There were men in Faerun's forest.'

'And women?'

She'd missed his change in tone, a rare mistake and a certain sign that the midnight image disturbed her more than she wished to admit.

'Men and women, yes. Living their lives, worshiping their gods-none of whom are remembered.'

Alassra poured herself another cup of tea. 'Except by you?' She'd sensed the change now, but resisted it. Her baiting turned brittle, bitter.

'I know nothing about them, dear friend, except that they-the hunters and their gods-existed in that part of the primal Faerun forest that the Yuir elves would eventually claim for themselves. There those elves would erect two stone circles, one inside the other, one inscribed with Seldarine names and the other with names that are, as you, yourself said, at best, half-forgotten.'

'The Cha'Tel'Quessir? Say it outright, El: There are Cha'Tel'Quessir who've never reconciled to human rule in Aglarond. They wish to see every human man, woman, and child put in boats and sailed toward the sunset. They'd

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