'I didn't find you, friend,''

'Was I empty-handed? Pray to all your gods, Eshono, that I was not found empty-handed.'

The sea elf's eyes widened dangerously. 'You were fully garbed when the guards brought you here, but your hands were empty. There was a bag, though…' Eshono gave a kick to the slatted crates where they kept their belongings. 'I didn't open it.'

Shemsen snatched the small sack from the crate, tore the knot, and shook the contents out. The small conch shell, Umberlee's gift, drifted toward the net. He caught it. Unnaturally warm in his hand, the shell rejuvenated Shemsen completely.

And just as well, the ruined beacon was a day's swim away, even with the tide on his heels. He dressed quickly in eel skin leathers, ignoring Eshono's pleas that he needed rest, food, and a visit to the healers. When he'd strung the small sack to his belt and snugged his belt around his waist, Shemsen took up his trident.

'Wait!' the sea elf protested.

Shemsen brought the tines level with Eshono's heart.

'Listen to me, Shemsen, you're not well. Come with me. We'll go to the temple.'

Shemsen shook his head slowly, 'Move aside, Eshono. I don't want to hurt you, but I have to leave.'

Eshono made a wise choice and drifted to the other interior corner. Two kicks and Shemsen was outside the net, which he drew up and hooked over the pegs. It was a strictly symbolic act. The net was meant to confine objects, not elves, but the meaning wasn't lost on the pale, wide-eyed Eshono.

'Whatever happens tonight,' Shemsen said earnestly, 'know that I have come to think of you as a friend, as I had never imagined I would have a friend, and I would be angry-unhappy-if I thought something happened to you. Stay here. Lie low, and be safe.'

'What are you talking about?' Eshono shouted after him, but Shemsen had found the estuary current and was headed for open water.

The conch shell restored Shemsen whenever his strength faltered, and he used it often. Remembering what the priestess had said about the sahuagin plans, Shemsen took a longer route that steered him clear of both ship channels and long-range patrols.

The sun was setting when he emerged from a shortcut rift. Its light turned the overhead surface into a dazzling mirror pocked with dark splotches. Shemsen was heaving too hard-drawing too much water over his labored gills-to focus his eyes clearly. He dug out the shell and clutched it against his heart. Calmed and restored, he looked up again.

One ship, yes-a wallowing pentekonter with a gaping hole amidships where its sahuagin crew could arrive and depart without breathing air. Behind the pentekonter, a single file of oval, wooden fliers, each capable of holding several hundred warriors. Shemsen did the arithmetic. Waterdeep would survive-he'd seen demonstrations of what the lords of the city could bring to a battle-but the harbor would run red first.

And this, if Shemsen believed the priestess, was only the first army. He shaped a prayer to the Sea Queen and breathed it into the conch shell.

Then, what? He could have swum to a working beacon and told them that several thousand sahuagin were headed up the main channel. Assuming he was believed, the beacons could give Waterdeep a few hours to prepare. What could even Khelben Black-staff, his Lady, Maskar Wands, Piergeiron Paladinson, and all their ilk do to forestall the sahuagin attack, Shemsen asked himself. Notions leaped to his mind, but none stronger than the memory of Umberlee's voice.

You will do as Sekolah expects…

Shemsen rose from the seaweed and swam toward the outpost. The yellow-tailed priestess was waiting. She berated him for being late. Between his kind and hers, it was usually wisest to answer contempt with contempt. He snarled that he saw no signs of a second army.

There were others, the priestess admitted, leading the second force across open water. They weren't expected until twilight. Then they'd await a signal from Prince Iakhovas.

The conch shell weighed like iron against Shemsen's hip. You will know the moment… Did Umberlee expect him to intercept the prince's signal? No. You will lead them to me…

The priestess-she gave her name as Quaanteel offered Shemsen meat. He declined and settled against the same stones where he'd waited for the mermen. With a final, reddish flash, the day ended. Night gloom settled quickly as clouds massed above to block the moon and stars. Sekolah's power did not reach above the waves, but Umberlee could summon a storm, if She chose.

And so could any great mage of Waterdeep.

Shemsen nestled deeper into his lair. The sea was cold and full of shadows. Every slight change in the water brought them all to attention. The priestess invariably looked to the southwest, so Shemsen chose a different stone and spotted the army himself.

The shapes Shemsen watched were wrong for surface ships or fliers. They didn't seem to be on or near Hie surface, either. It was almost as if Prince lakho-vas' second army were a school of giant fish. Sahuagin kept sharks, and some good-sized sharks at that, but not giants and not this far north. The only giants that swam in these cold waters were whales. If the prince had persuaded whales to swim against Waterdeep then, perhaps, the city was in trouble.

Quaanteel leaped up. She funneled her webbed hands around her mouth and emitted a series of chirps and clicks, less than words or language, but enough to reach the vanguard of the second army and bring it to a halt before she led Shemsen and several other sahuagin out to meet it.

Three priestesses of considerable rank swam out to meet them. Quaanteel engaged the largest of them in an animated, private conversation that, from Shemsen's distance, did not seem to go well on either side. He had an idea why they might be arguing. The shapes weren't ships or fliers. As best he could make out, the second army was composed of abyssal beasts. He counted aboleths and dragon turtles near the front and had a bad feeling there was worse swimming in the rear.

Fierce as they were, sahuagin steered clear of the abyssals and none of the abyssals were known to school together. Their combined presence implied that a power greater than, or at least significantly different from Sekolah was involved in this attack. That, in turn, implied a few things about Prince Iakhovas, things no self-respecting priestess would accept without an argument.

The men who'd swum with Quaanteel stayed well away from the quarreling priestesses. Those who'd swum with the second army did likewise. There weren't many times when being malenti brought advantages, but this was one of them. Shemsen frog-kicked his way into their conversation. Eight angry, silver eyes focused on his elflike face.

'Go away,' Quaanteel commanded.

'Impossible. You named me your guide to Water-deep harbor. If I'm to succeed-for the glory of Sekolah-I must know what I'm meant to guide through the channel currents. I seek only to serve you well, most favored one.'

There was a chance Quaanteel was unfamiliar with sarcasm, and there was a chance she understood it perfectly and meant to put it to her own use. Either way, she flashed her teeth before turning to the larger priestesses.

'The malenti speaks the truth. A guide must know what he is guiding. Show him,' she demanded.

If he lived past midnight, which he very much doubted, Shemsen knew he'd never forget swimming among the abyssals. It wasn't just the aboleths, dragon turtles, great crabs and seawolves, eyes of the deep, sea snakes and giant squids massed in one small space, though that was eerie and unnerving in itself. At every heartbeat, Shemsen expected them to come alive with a viciousness that would put blood frenzy to shame, but the beasts were oblivious to their neighbors and surroundings, enthralled by Prince lakho-vas, or so the large priestess explained in an anxious whisper.

'Our orders were to herd them here and wait for his signal.'

Shemsen didn't know Khelben Blackstaff personally. Harbor rumor said the man was among the most powerful wizards on the land, and his consort, Lady Laeral, nearly so. Shemsen doubted that even the two of them together could hold so many beasts in thrall.

'And that signal will be?' Quaanteel asked, her fins flared in irritation.

'Prince Iakhovas said we would know it when it came.'

That sounded uncomfortably like Umberlee's instructions to him! 'I cannot guide these beasts once they

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