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Elaine Cunningham

Evermeet: Island of Elves

27th day of Eleint, 1367DR

To the esteemed scholar, Athol of Candlekeep, does Danilo Thann, his erstwhile and unworthy student, send greetings.

My old friend, it is with enormous satisfaction that I take up quill and parchment to begin an endeavor that may, in some small measure, begin to justify the care and effort you once lavished upon my education. I thank you for that, and for your offer of assistance in my new effort.

It is my desire to gather some of the tales told by sages and bards, warriors and rulers, and fashion them into something resembling a history of the elven island of Evermeet. Without your aid and introduction, I would not presume to approach the mighty, the famous-and the well-armed. Those who do not know me would surely hesitate to contribute to so ambitious an undertaking. As for those who do know me… well, suffice it to say the damage is done. Perhaps the mantel of your fine reputation will enable me to reap credibility where none was sown.

What, you may ask, possesses me to set my hand to so daunting a task as this, a history of Evermeet? My reasons are threefold.

I believe that the lessons taught by elven history have not yet been learned. Though the wondrous island of Evermeet seems inviolate, is it truly so much different from Illefarn, Keltormir, or Cormanthyr? Once, these great centers of elven culture seemed eternal; now they are merely legend. What then may we expect for Evermeet and the elves who have made the island their home and their hope? I pray that my views hold more pessimism than prophecy; nevertheless, change occurs, often when we are least ready for it. In my short career as a bard, I have observed that facts usually serve only to obscure the truth. Truth, when it can be found at all, is more likely to be heard when it is presented in stories and song.

You are also aware of my long fascination with all things elven. You may recall that you enjoyed a brief respite from my lamentable magical pranks whenever your lessons focused upon the fey folk. Shortly after you retired from your post as my tutor, having expressed your desire to regain your peace of mind and regrow your eyebrows and beard-for which loss I heartily apologize (upon my word, that ink was supposed to glow in the dark, not explode when exposed to candlelight!) I took upon myself the study of Elvish. In the years since, I have achieved a level of fluency that will allow me to read any histories, lorebooks, and letters you can send me. Rest assured I will treat them with far greater care than I showed my mother the Lady Cassandra's lorebooks, and that I shall return them to Candlekeep without the bawdy asides and small charcoal sketches that filled the margins of those books-save of course for those that dealt with elven legend and lore. Even then, I recognized and respected the unique magic of such tales.

My final reason is the most deeply personal. Through the blessings of the gods (which gods, precisely, remains to be ascertained) I am soon to wed an elf woman of royal blood-and mixed race. Her greatest sorrow, and therefore mine, is that she has been denied her elven heritage. While this history cannot restore her birthright to her, it is the only such gift within my power to give. My lady has little use for anything my wealth can purchase. The things she values cannot be found in the bazaars of Waterdeep, and are, alas, in scant supply elsewhere: honor, courage, tradition. As I undertake this work, I keep ever before me an image of this true daughter of Evermeet, whom I love dearly for her elven ways-and despite them.

A contradiction, you think? So would have I, before I came to know Arilyn. My lady is capable of inspiring admiration and exasperation in great and equal measure. I suspect that the story of her ancestors may hold true to this pattern. Yet I will follow the story of Evermeet's elves wheresoever it may lead, as faithfully as lies within my powers. This I swear to you by the Mystery I hold most dear-that the fairest and bravest of these wondrous, frustrating beings could love a man such as I.

I remain respectfully yours in the service of truth, story and song,

Danilo Thann

Prelude

The Edge of Twilight

1371DR

High above the waters of the Trackless Sea, a silver dragon wheeled, soared, and danced upon the crisp thin air. For many centuries had the dragon lived, and never had she found a pleasure to rival the sheer joy of flight-the rush of the wind and the delightful tingle of ice crystals against her scales.

As she soared over a narrow gap in the cloud cover, she noted that she was not the only creature to take flight on this glorious autumn day. Far below, a flock of white-winged seabirds skimmed over the waves. Seabirds?

The dragon pulled up, startled. There was no land for many, many miles-how could a flock of such size sustain itself so far out to sea? Curious, she tucked in her wings and went into a stooping dive. Down she hurtled, plunging through the mist and damp of the clouds. Out of habit, the dragon stretched wide her wings just before she broke through the cloud bank, pulling out of the dive and then circling around in the thin mist to slow her momentum. Staying hidden among the clouds was most likely an unnecessary precaution, for even the sharpest- eyed seabird would see the dragon, if he saw her at all, as nothing more than a silver speck. But the dragon was a Guardian; it was her task to see and not be seen.

The dragon peered down at the strange flock. At this height she could see that it comprised not birds after all, but ships. A vast fleet of ships, sailing due west-sailing for Evermeet.

'I could attack,' the dragon whispered longingly, yet she knew she could not. There were far too many ships, for one thing, and her duty in such matters was clear. She wheeled toward the west, her glittering wings thumping as she climbed back up to the cold, dry air above the clouds. There she could fly more swiftly.

And fly she must, with all the speed that the magic of dragonflight lent her. The dragon had been Evermeet's guardian for nearly as many years as Queen Amlaruil had been its ruler. During her centuries-long vigil the dragon had seen hundreds of ships attempt the passage to Evermeet. Most lay rotting on the ocean floor. But this flock, this fleet, was an invasion force of devastating strength. The dragon could see no other explanation for so many ships-not even during the height of the elven Retreat did so many ships band together at once. If even a tenth of them managed to get past the island's safeguards, they might do considerable damage to Evermeet's defenders.

The dragon sped toward the elven island, her mind reaching out desperately across the miles to search for the mind of her elven partner, so that she might warn him of the approaching danger.

Silence. Darkness.

There was a moment's disbelief-after all, Shonassir Durothil was a formidable warrior, one of the finest Wind-riders in all Evermeet. Many times had the dragon contacted him, even from so far a distance. If the elf did not answer, it was because he could not. Shonassir was dead; of that, the dragon was grimly certain. She did not wish to contemplate the severity of battle, the manner of foe that could send a warrior such as Shonassir Durothil to Arvandor before his time of consent.

The dragon muttered the words of a spell that would speed her flight to the elven homeland. In moments, the cloud mass below her sped by in a white blur. But fast as she was, the dragon had reason to fear that she might already be too late.

When Shonassir Durothil died, he had been on Evermeet itself.

High above the deck of Rightful Place, unmindful of the dragon sentinel passing swiftly overhead, a young sailor clung to the rail of the crow's nest and peered out over the endless waves.

Kaymid No-Beard, his mates called him, for his visage was indeed as smooth as a newly laid egg. But young though he was, this was his third voyage, and he was proud of his place on this vessel, the flagship of a mighty

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