darkest hours of morning. Yet, that night, the horse refused to break its slow, measured pace as they traversed the final length of the seemingly deserted road that led to the walled city of Arabel and sanctuary.

'We have to make the city tonight,' Midnight whispered sweetly, having already tried ranting, raving, kicking, and screaming to motivate the horse into action. After a time, Midnight became worried that the company would catch up with her. There was no one in view on the open road, however, nor were there any woods close to the road that could hide an ambush.

Midnight felt the stolen parchments in her cape. Talbot and his men would be after her for these. Although she had not read the inscriptions, she fully realized the power the parchments held; power to rock far-away empires.

Midnight's mount reared up, but there was nothing within range of Midnight's senses to warrant the beast's alarm. Then she noticed the stars. Many were blacking out, then reappearing in huge clusters. Even as Midnight raised an arm to protect herself, the brothers Guin appeared, riding the air itself as they attacked front and rear. The darkness flanking Midnight expelled Talbot and the rest of his men as they charged.

Midnight fought well, but she was hopelessly outnumbered. Only her ownership of the parchments kept the others from killing her outright. And when she was knocked from her mount, Midnight beseeched the goddess Mystra for assistance.

I will save you, my daughter, a voice said, revealing itself to Midnight alone. But only if you will keep safe my sacred trust.

'Yes, Mystra!' Midnight screamed. 'Anything you ask!'

A great, blue-white ball of fire suddenly burst from the darkness, traveling at incredible speeds. It struck Midnight and her foes, enveloping them in a blinding inferno. Midnight felt as if her soul was being torn apart; she was certain she would die. Then the night closed in.

When Midnight woke, the road before her was burned, and the entire Company of the Lynx was dead. The parchments were destroyed. Her mount was gone. And a strange, beautiful blue-white pendant hung around Midnight's tanned neck.

Mystra's trust.

Dazed, the magic-user continued on foot. She was only vaguely aware of the intense storm that raged around her. Though it was night, the road before her was lit as bright as highsun, and she walked toward Arabel until she collapsed of exhaustion.

Midnight remembered nothing from the time she collapsed on the road until she woke in the strange room where she now found herself. She fingered the pendant unconsciously, then set about clothing herself. The star was obviously a reminder of the favor that had been granted her by Mystra, Midnight decided. But why was it grafted to her skin?

Midnight shook her head.

'I suppose I'll have wait for an answer to that question,' the magic-user said sorrowfully. There would be answers, in time. She was certain of that. Whether or not she would care for them was another matter.

Midnight was anxious to examine her new surroundings, so she quickly finished gathering her belongings. As she bent over her pack, stuffing her spell book in with her clothes, a slight rush of air warned her that she was not alone in the unfamiliar bedchambers; an instant later she felt hands at her back.

'Milady,' a soft voice said, and Midnight turned to face the source of the gentle summoning. A young girl dressed in a pink and white gown stood before her, looking for all the world like a delicate rose blossoming with every movement. Her face was framed with shoulder-length hair, and the expression worn upon her attractive features was that of a frightened child.

'Milady,' the girl began again. 'Are you well?'

'Yes, I'm fine. Quite a storm last night,' Midnight said, attempting to allay the girl's fears with pleasantries.

'Storm?' the girl said, her voice barely a whisper.

'Aye,' Midnight said. 'Surely you're aware of the storm this land suffered last night?' Midnight's tone was stern. She did not wish to stoke the furnace of the child's fears, but neither would she be mocked by feigned ignorance.

The girl drew a breath. 'There was no storm last night.'

Midnight looked at the girl, shocked to find the truth in her eyes. The magic-user looked back to the window and hung her head, her waist-length raven-black hair falling forward, obscuring her face. 'What is this place?' Midnight said at last.

'This is our home. My father and I live here, milady, and you are our guest.'

Midnight sighed. At least she didn't seem to be in any danger. 'I am Midnight of Deepingdale. I woke to find myself dressed as a fine lady, yet I am merely a traveler, and I do not remember coming to your home,' Midnight said. 'What is your name?'

'Annalee!' a voice cried from behind Midnight. The girl shuddered and drew into herself as she turned to the doorway, where stood a tall, wiry man with thin brown locks and a rough growth of beard. He was dressed in what appeared to be a soft brown frock, belted with thick leather. Gold lace adorned the open folds of his collar and the wide expanses of his cuffs.

Annalee floated past Midnight and left the room, the scent of some exotic perfume gracing the air with her sudden passing.

'Perhaps you would be so kind as to tell me what this place is and how I came to be here. All I remember is the wicked storm we suffered last night,' Midnight said.

The man's eyes shot open wide and his hands flew to his mouth; he could not mask his surprise.

'Oh, how extraordinary,' he said as he sank to the edge of the bed. 'What is your name, beautiful wayfarer?'

Midnight suddenly wished she understood the proper etiquette to accept a compliment gracefully. Because she did not, she merely looked away and studied the floor as she dutifully recited her name and place of origin.

'And your name?' Midnight said. The weakness she had felt earlier was returning, and she was forced to sit on the edge of the bed.

'I am Brehnan Mueller. I am a widower, as you might have guessed. My daughter and I live in this cottage, here in the forest to the west of Calanter's Way.' Brehnan looked about the room with sadness in his eyes. 'My wife became ill. She was brought to this, our guest room, where she died. You were the very first person to lay upon this bed in almost a decade.'

'How did I get here?'

'First, how do you feel?' Brehnan said.

'Sore. Tired. Almost… dazed.'

Brehnan nodded. 'You say there was a storm last night?'


'A great storm did shake the Realms,' Brehnan said. 'Meteors split the sky and laid waste to temples all across the Realms. Did you know this?'

Midnight shook her head. 'I knew of the storm, but not the destruction.'

The magic-user felt the skin of her face grow tight. She looked toward the window once more. Suddenly the images before her came sharply into focus. 'But the ground is dry. There are no traces of such a storm.'

'The storm was two weeks ago, Midnight. Annalee's prize stallion had become frightened by the storm, and bolted. I caught up with the horse past the woods, near the road, and it was there I found you, your skin glowing with a luminescence that all but blinded me. Your hands clutched at the pendant that hung from your neck. Even when I brought you here, it was all I could do to pry your fingers from the object. And I could not remove the pendant.

'At first I worried that the bed we sit upon now would be your final place of rest, but gradually your strength returned, and I could sense the process of healing as it transpired, day by day. Now you are well.'

'Why did you help me?' Midnight said, absently. The weakness she felt was passing, but she still felt dizzy.

'I am a cleric of Tymora, Goddess of Luck. I have seen miracles. Miracles such as the one that surely touched you, fair lady.'

Midnight turned to look at the cleric, hardly prepared for his next words, or for the fervor with which his

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