awaken,' Shemsen protested. 'Begging mercy… no one could. All we can do is swim toward Waterdeep harbor until we are overtaken.'

Quaanteel nodded. 'That, undoubtedly, is the prince's plan. For the glory of Sekolah!' Her fist shot above her head. 'The land-dwellers shall know fear as they have never known it before. Waterdeep shall be ours!'

Not ours, Shemsen thought as he sculled backward, easing his way slowly out of the uncanny school. We are bait, not even meat.

They'd all reached the same conclusion, though no one spoke aloud. The priestesses fussed with their amulets while the men stropped their weapons on the sea stone. Shemsen thought of Umberlee's conch and the insignificance of any one man's life. He settled in the silt, both eyes on the somnambulant beasts- morbid curiosity. He wanted to know what would eat him.

An hour passed, then another and another. If they'd successfully ridden the tide all the way in-and Shemsen had no reason to think they hadn't-the pen-tekonter and fliers should be near the harbor. They should have been noticed, but a wizard who could enthrall an army of abyssal beasts could delude a few pilots and guards, especially the night after Fleetswake. Shemsen wasn't worried, not any longer, not about anything. His arms grew heavy, his vision clouded.

He was suffocating in unnaturally calm water. A malenti's gill slits were relatively small. They relied on currents to speed water over their gills, or they made currents with their hands, or-when all else failed-they used the last of their strength to breach the surface. Shemsen breached like a shark-chased dolphin and gulped air like a drowning lubber.

Except for his thrashing, the air above was as calm as the water below, and just as dark. Shemsen couldn't see the storm clouds, but he felt them pressing down on the air and the ocean. There were no waves. The surface was a midnight mirror, flat and quiet. In all his life, Shemsen had never experienced the surface without a ripple.

His companions appeared nearby, ready to mock his malenti weakness but they weren't fools. They knew wizard weather when they felt it. The priestesses clutched their amulets, invoking Sekolah. Green lightning flashed in the northeast, over Waterdeep.

'Below!' the large priestess shouted.

They needed no second warning as clouds and beasts both came to life.

'Come,' a smooth, cruel voice sang as the sea rose. 'Obey my words and destroy my enemies. Unite with We Who Eat in our labors.'

Lightning struck the surface, drawing up a wave that waited for the wind that surged out of Waterdeep. It buffeted the beasts, enraging them. One of the men struck a sea snake and disappeared. Shemsen cast aside his trident and swam against the surge. At full strength, he slid backward, into a dragon turtle's shadow.

The cruel voice-Prince Iakhovas' voice-energized the ocean. It flowed over Shemsen's gills, seducing his senses. He saw his friend, Eshono, with a gash across tiis belly and his innards trailing red in clear water. It was an invitation to feast.

You will know the moment… You will know the moment…

Umberlee's voice came to Shemsen from the depths of his spirit, and from the southwest, on a wind that calmed the wizard weather. While others, beast and sahuagin, cast about in confusion, Shemsen withdrew the conch shell, held it against his lips, and blew.

The eyes of an evil army placed Shemsen at the center of their vision. His strength faltered. He'd hoped for a different sort of miracle, but malenti were used to disappointment. He found a rhythm-water drawn over his gills, air blown into the shell-that left little room for consciousness. His memories of

Umberlee's Cache broke free. Flowing from the conch shell, they mixed uneasily with Prince Iakhovas's commands.

'Obey my words!' the wizard's voice echoed through the sea.

Return to me… for your reward…

Images of wealth, power, and prey danced among the beasts, caressing their hot minds. The sea crackled with its own lightning as greed warred against obedience. Another moment and blood frenzy would have consumed them all, but the tide changed and, with the southwest wind behind it, rolled toward Waterdeep in a single, wall-like wave.

No choices were required. The abyssal beasts and their puny sahuagin escort rode the tidal surge while Shemsen poured his spirit into Umberlee's shell. Faster than any fish could swim, they raced up the channel, catching the last of the sahuagin fliers as they entered the harbor. The wave rose higher-too high-and began to crest.

'Destroy my enemies!' the wizard's command swirled within the wave.

Return to me… for your reward…

Shemsen's work wasn't done. When the tumbling wave had drawn even with Deepwater Isle, he blew till his innards bled. With his dying strength, Shemsen dived down, through wave, air, and harbor water, straight into Umberlee's Cache.

Cold shock ripped the shell from the malenti's grasp. His hands were numb, bloodless. The abyssals- not all of them and only a few of the sahuagin-had followed him. Enough, he thought, to insure that Waterdeep would emerge from this battle with its substantial strength intact.

Return to me…

Umberlee welcomed Shemsen with glimpses of wealth beyond measure and Her minions reaching out to the abyssals to tear them apart. He fell away from the carnage. There was a woman swimming toward him. Through fading vision, Shemsen knew her instantly.

Return for your reward.

She took Shemsen's weakening body gently in her arms. His heart stopped. There was darkness and, at the end, there was peace for one malenti.


Elaine Cunningham

3 °Ches, the Year of the Gauntlet

What did you do when the Sea Devils attacked, Grandsire?

Oh, how I savored that question! I could hear it in my mind even as I ran toward the battle. The words were as real to me as the stench of smoke that writhed in the sky above the West Gate, and they rang as loudly in my mind's ear as the boom and crash of wooden beams giving way under wizard fire. No matter that the question would be many, many years in coming. A wizard's apprentice learns that all things must first be conjured in the mind.

As I ran, I conjured apace. Wouldn't the little lad's face be expectant, his eyes bright with the pride that comes of a hero's bloodline? Wouldn't the bards leave off their strumming and gather near, eager to hear once again the tale of the great wizard-that would be me-who'd fought at Khelben Arunsun's side?

That's what it would come down to, of course. That would be the first question to come to everyone's lips: What did Khelben Arunsun do during the battle? How many monsters fell to the Blackstaff's might? What spells were employed?

I must admit, I myself was most anxious to know the end of this tale.

'Above you, Sydon'

Panic infused my companion's voice, lifting it into the range normally reserved for elf maidens and small, yapping dogs. Without breaking pace, I followed the line indicated by Hughmont's pointing finger.

The threat was naught but a goodwife at the upper window of the building ahead. She was about to empty a basin of night water out into the back street-a minor hazard of city life that did not abate even during times of conflict. Hughmont was at best a nervous sort. Clearly, he was not at his best, but he was my training partner nonetheless, so I snagged his arm and spun him out of the way. He tripped over a pile of wooden crates and sprawled, but if his landing was hard at least it brought him beyond reach of the fetid splash.

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