Paul S. Kemp

Twilight Falling

Save for some whisper of the seething seas,

A dead hush fell; but when the dolorous day

Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came

A bitter wind …

the bard Tennyson



The young Tymoran priest lay unconscious on his side, bound hand and foot with thick hemp rope. A purple bruise was already beginning to form around his left eye. Vraggen eyed him coldly.

'Get him up,' Vraggen ordered his agents.

Dolgan, the big Cormyrean, slung his axe and kneeled at the captive's side. He took the priest's face in his ham hand and squeezed.

'Awaken,' Dolgan said.

The priest groaned, but did not open his eyes.

'Well done,' taunted Azriim. He stood beside Vraggen with a smirk on his dusky-skinned face. 'Very creative.'

Dolgan looked at the half-drow with his typically thick expression and grunted, 'Huh?'

Azriim, dressed in the green finery and high boots that he favored, flashed a smile at Vraggen.

'He never gets the joke, does he?'

Vraggen made no reply. To Azriim, everything was a joke.

'I don't?' Dolgan asked, still dumbfounded.

'Wake him up,' Vraggen said to the Cormyrean warrior.

'And try not break him,' Azriim added. 'We need him capable of speech.'

Dolgan nodded, turned back to the captive, shook him by the shoulders, and said, 'Wake up! Wake up!'

The young priest groaned again. Dolgan lightly tapped his cheeks, and after a moment, the priest's eyes fluttered open.

'There,' Dolgan said. He stood and backed away a few steps to stand beside Azriim and Vraggen.

The priest's bleary eyes cleared the moment his situation registered. He struggled against his bonds, but only for a moment. Vraggen waited until he saw resignation in the Tymoran's eyes before he spoke.

'What is the last thing you remember?'

The captive tried to speak, but found his mouth too dry. He swallowed, and said, 'You abducted me from the streets of Ordulin.' He looked around the cell. 'Where am I?'

'Far from Ordulin,' Vraggen replied.

Azriim chuckled, and the sight of a laughing half-drow must have unnerved the Tymoran further. His face went pale.

'What do you want?'

Vraggen stepped forward, kneeled at the priest's side, and said, 'Information.'

For the first time, the priest's eyes went to Vraggen's broach pin-a jawless skull in a purple sunburst-the symbol of Cyric the Dark Sun. Fear flashed in his brown eyes. He uttered a prayer under his breath.

'Is it reasonable for me to assume that you understand your situation?' Vraggen asked.

'I don't know anything,' the Tymoran blurted. 'I swear! Nothing.'

Vraggen nodded and stood. 'We shall see.'

He beckoned Dolgan and Azriim forward. His agents stepped up to the priest, grabbed him by the arms, and lifted him to his feet.

'Don't! Please don't!' the priest pleaded.

Vraggen stared into the captive's fear-filled face. For effect, he let shadows leak from his hands and dance around his head. The Tymoran's breath audibly caught.

'You are a shadow adept,' the priest whispered.

Vraggen didn't bother to answer; the shadows were answer enough.

'I'll tell you everything I know.'

'Of course you will,' Vraggen said. 'The only issue is whether or not I feel I can trust you to tell me the truth without my having to resort to more forceful means. The resolution of that issue will determine whether or not your last moments are spent in pain.'

The priest's lips trembled. He looked into Vraggen's eyes.

'I have a family,' he said.

Vraggen was unmoved.

'No doubt they will miss you,' Azriim said, smiling.

Dolgan too grinned and shifted from foot to foot, fairly giddy at the thought of bloodshed. The Cormyrean had a fetish for pain-administering it, and receiving it.

The priest's whole body began to shake. Tears began to leak from his eyes.

'Why are you doing this? I don't even know you. I don't know any of you.'

Azriim scoffed, 'What does that have to do with it?'

Vraggen patted the priest's cheek, as close as he would come to offering comfort, and said, 'I am going to cast a spell that will subject your will to me. Do not resist it. I know that you will speak the truth under the effect of this spell. That is the only way I can be certain. Otherwise….'

He left the threat unspoken, but the priest took the point. He nodded in resignation.

Vraggen smiled and said, 'You've made the right decision.'

Beside the captive, Dolgan sighed in disappointment.

Vraggen ignored the Cormyrean, drew on the Shadow Weave, and pronounced the arcane words to a spell that would make the Tymoran his thrall. When he finished, the captive priest's eyes went vacant. Ever careful, Vraggen verified that his spell had taken hold of the priest by casting a second spell that allowed him to see dweomers.

The priest glowed a soft red in his sight, indicating that he was under the effect of a spell. Surprisingly, so too did Dolgan and Azriim. Vraggen looked a question at his lieutenants.

Azriim took the sense of that look immediately. He held up one long fingered hand, upon which hung a platinum band.

'Our rings, Vraggen.'

Vraggen nodded. He had forgotten that each of his lieutenants wore a ring that warded them against scrying. He turned his attention back to the captive priest.

'About one year ago, your adventuring company looted a ruined temple in the Sunset Mountains. Do you remember?'

'Yes,' the priest answered in a monotone.

The priest and his comrades, calling themselves the Band of the Broken Bow, had happened upon an abandoned temple of Shar that Vraggen had been seeking for months.

'Among the treasures you took from those ruins was a crystal globe of gray quartz, about fist-sized and inset

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