J. Robert King

The abduction



How has this happened?

In one evening, I have been transformed from Piergeiron Paladinson, Open Lord of Waterdeep, into this… this inward-shrinking worm. Worse-my palace, my city, and my world have transformed around me.

My palace slumps into sand.

Waterdeep melts into air.

Toril sloughs away.

… I blame it on the dust. The will of dust has changed. The chorus of specks no longer sings, 'I cling to thee.' Every mote has turned traitor. Rock becomes sand. Sand becomes dust. Dust becomes nothing at all. The particles have denounced their kinship. What once bound all to all is gone…

On, to sleep…

I should have expected transformations. After all, I had chosen to orbit a changeable star.

Eidola. She is changeable in all things-mood and mind, will and wont Only her beauty remains the same.

I comfort myself with the thought of her beauty.

Somewhere, her bright, silvery eyes look upon something. Somewhere, her long auburn hair casts its shadow on some rock or blade of grass. Her smile, with its thousand mysteries and thousand thousand promises, somewhere enchants someone.

I tell myself that somewhere, she breathes She must breathe. Her beauty is eternal. It is the same beauty that Shaleen had, the beauty that lives on in Eidola…

No, I must not think that.

Eidola's beauty is her own.

Eidola's beauty is immortal.

She will not die like Shaleen.

Will not die, or has not died? What sorrows fill the transforming tense of words!

Oh, to sleep…

I met Eidola in a dream.

I wore full plate armour. My white stallion. Dreadnought, was resplendently barded. Even the summer woods had put on their best: velvet mosses, pendulous cones, carpets of gold… Insects whispered in the heavy afternoon.

A scream shattered the stillness. It was a high, helpless sound. Someone was cornered, crying out in mortal terror.

I halted Dreadnought. I listened. The woods were filled with ghost echoes. Then a damnable stillness settled.

Dreadnought huffed. His satiny back twitched.

A rustling came in the trailside trees. With it came another terrified scream.

A woman, I thought… a beautiful, helpless lady trapped in some old ruined tower… beset on all sides by blackguards… the stuff of dreams.

'Ho, Dreadnought,' I called. The great stallion was already galloping toward the sound.

When I saw the woman at the tree, I thought of Shaleen. Her hair was the auburn of an autumn evening. Her teeth had the gleam of pearls. She was armoured in well-worn field plate.

And, like Shaleen, she was anything but helpless.

Ignoring me, the woman grabbed a tree in front of her and shook it. Another scream came from above.

I looked up, and saw a scaly kobold clinging there.

'You can't have your money back!' the puny creature shouted. It shook its lizard like head and angrily jangled a coin purse.

I stepped down from Dreadnought. I walked toward the woman. 'Unless that purse holds a fortune in gold, you'd best let him go, Shaleen.'

She cast a silent reproof my way, and shook the tree again.

In apology, I took out my battle-axe and began chopping the trunk. It shuddered with each blow and started to lean. I wiped sweat from my face and chopped again. Only when the tree crackled and fell did I look up toward the kobold.

It was gone. While I had chopped, the woman had used a snip of jerky to coax the thief down. Now, woman and monster sat side by side like old friends, eating meat and watching me sweat

I laughed and joined them.

She had lured a kobold and a man.

I became her willing captive.

Her name was Eidola. Is Eidola. Is, is! What sorrows fill me transforming tense of words!

She is gone. My benevolent captor is gone. My changeable star has fled, comet like. or winked out altogether.

Perhaps her will has changed with the will of the dust, the fleeting and incomprehensible migration of minute attractions.

Oh, to sleep-…

Chapter 1

Perils in the Palace

Laskar Nesher, a fat nobleman with an illicit logging empire, led his family toward the gate to Piergeiron's palace. The brown waistcoat he wore was just snug enough to make him look like a bratwurst, and his jowls were red from chafing on his lapels. A slender consort clung to his side. She was half his age, one fifth his bulk, and twice as quick with coin. Behind them trudged a teenaged boy who oozed boredom and fashionable disaffection.

Laskar halted before the gate guard and presented his invitation:

Master and Friend Laskar Nesher. and Heir Kastonoph Nesher:

The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of Piergeiron Paladinson, Open Lord of Waterdeep, and Eidola of Neverwinter, Descendant of Boarskyr. The wedding will take place the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Days of Eleint, this Year of the Haunting.

Please arrive by third watch on the Seventeenth, an hour before sunset. The feasting will begin at nightfall, the masked ball thereafter, as stomachs allow, and the nuptials at the stroke of midnight on the Eighteenth. Sandrew the Wise, Savant of Oghma at the Font of Knowledge, and Khelben 'Blackstaff' Arunsun, High Mage ofWaterdeep, will officiate.

'Have you brought any weapons?' the guard asked levelly. Laskar said, 'Of course not We'd not bring-' 'I suppose I'd best surrender this,' broke in the youth, handing over a sheathed dagger. 'And while you're peacestringing mine, you might as well do Fathers, too.'*

Laskar Hushed, even redder than before. He struggled at his belt for a moment and handed over his once- hidden blade.

The guard finished tying the youth's dagger into its sheath and did the same for the father's. 'Anything else?' Before Laskar could answer, a shadowy figure standing in the gateway said, 'No. Nor do they bear any harmful

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