Floating lazily downriver, the barge jars to a stop and Kane steps out on deck to join Elise and Maerda in the chill dawn light, he sees the stone walls of Zhentil Keep stretching north and south of the river, the first of two high bridge before them, ”Why have we stopped? ” He asks a sailor who shrugs and nods towards the captain standing at the bow between the women. ”What are you looking at? ” The captain points to the chain spanning the river and watchmen searching for any bold enough to try crossing the chain without paying the harbormasters bribe or fleeing the impending doom by the undead.

”Won be docking within. I can let you off here. ” Indicating the southern shore, ”Then you
e on your own. ” Happy to be stepping on solid ground, they give the captain and crew their thanks and are on the way to the River Trail Gate, when they come across iron cages hanging beside the road, emaciated, frozen corpses of criminals found guilty filling them, being picked at by crows. As they get closer, to the city, the prisoners are still alive, those that are conscious, beg for freedom or death, while some simply stare in despair.

”Hey, hey you! Pretty lady! ” A man calls from his cage, fingers, ears, and nose blackening with frost bite.

”Me? ” Elise asks, pointing to herself.

”Who else? Definitely not the crispy broad! ” He says sticking his tongue out at Maerdas scowl.

”Ignore him. ” Kane tells her, ”Hes in there for a reason. ”

Standing, he throws offal at Kanes back, ”Im innocent! ” He yells.

A man from another cage down the road shouts, ”Im innocent too! You gotta believe me! ”

”Shut up! They caught you with the heads of eight people in a trunk! ” Yells the first man.

”You were found in that girls bed, her feet around your ears! ” Laughs the serial killer.

e in love and shes a woman! ” He shouts in defense; the pair try throwing waste at each other but cannot reach with their arms restricted. ”The gates are closed by the way. ” He informs the travelers.

Kane stops, ”What do you mean? ”

”Are you daft? They
e not letting people in. ” the caged man sighs.

Having heard enough, Kane continues ahead towards the city, thinking the criminals words some ploy.

”Wait! Ill tell you; they
e closed cause some guy came a couple days ago, on a zombie horse, wanting in. When they said no, an army of undead showed up and he told them to send out someone named Liana. ”

Kane turns to Elise and Maerda, ”Well, now what? ”

”I don know. They might let us in, being that we
e alive. ” Maerda reasons.

”Good luck with that crunchy. Last group got filled with arrows before they could say hello. ” He laughs, playing as though he is filled with arrows.

”You want to see crunchy? Ill roast you alive! ” She joins her hands together in a fan to cast a burning hands spell, but is interrupted by Elise.

”Do you know a way in? ” Elise presses, trying honey not vinegar.

Smiling with a wink, ”That I do beautiful, I know my way about the Keep, theres nothing I don know or who. ”

”Please tell us, its important we get inside. ” Elise asks with a forced smile, uncomfortable with his lecherous eyes.

”Show me something so that I may die happy. ” He says grinning mischievously, cupping his hand in front of his chest.

”No! ” Elise says appalled at the mere suggestion.

Kane draws his sword, ”Ill give you something to remember. ” He growls.

”Then take me with you and Ill show you the way in, only one this side of the river the fat livered guards can control. ” The cage wobbling wildly from his movement.

”I don trust him nor do I like him. ” Elise says looking away from his sheepish grin.

”We don need to trust him, just use him. ” Says Maerda coldly.

”Hey! Im right here… ” he says wounded.

”If you even think of betraying us, putting you back in your cage will be the kindest thing I do to you. ” Kane threatens.

”Fine, fine, Ill get you in, but you may not like how. ”

Kane cuts the lock off and the bottom of the cage swings open, dumping him out onto the filthy snow. Standing, he stretches his stiff limbs, then runs over to dance about the serial killer, ”Ha-ha! Told you Id get out of that cage! Have a nice life, whats left of it! ”

Spitting on him, ”Ill get out and make puppets of your corpses! Youll be dolls dancing to my song and masks when Im bored! Ill find your precious whore and give her your bloated head as a gift! ”

They make rude gesture at each other for a quarter of a mile as leads the travelers towards Zhentil Keeps southern gate. Stopping well out of range of the archers patrolling the high stone walls, they make camp under the last of the trees behind the final hill before the city to hide their campfire light and wait for nightfall. Other such camps can be seen, belonging to merchants waiting to bring their goods in and refugees trying to find work, while sitting around the campfire getting warm, they can here the screams of those falling prey to the knives of bandits and opportunists.

While looking for wood, Kanes foot finds a rabbit hole and sticking his hand in, pulls back after receiving a savage bite, drawing his sword, he stabs it into the hole wounding the animal, and reaching in again, is bit once more and with a growl he grabs the animal, pulls it out and snaps its neck. Hanging the skewered animal over the fire once it is skinned, the blade across his lap, eyes searching and muscles ready. ”So, what brings you to Zhentil? ” The man asks, staring hungrily at the thin rabbit, its juices dripping onto the flames with a sizzle, frost burnt lips watering.

Sitting across from him, trying to be as far away as possible from his stench, ”We
e meeting some friends. Whats your name by the way? ” Elise asks.

”The names Berrik, but you can call me anything you like, beautiful. ” He says winking at Elise and smiling with yellow teeth while constantly brushing his greasy long black hair out of his eyes. Not yet thirty winters old, his soft features and gilded tongue having carried him through life but was useless against an outraged father. Kane reaches for the rabbit, but Berrik snatches it first and greedily devours it before the disgusted travelers. She hated the way he said beautiful, felt gross.

”Do we really need him? Surely we can find our own way in. ” Maerda asks, stoking the flames while trying not to watch him eat.

”Im your best bet for getting in Crispy. Ill make you a deal, I get you inside and you help me get to my love. ” Letting out a belch and licking his black and numb fingertips.

Maerda sighs and grumbles something about the night not coming swiftly enough around a mouthful for dried meat, when it does finally come, they leave before the moon can cast too much light and follow Berrik down to the river bank. Sliding down the frozen slope, he leads them to a sewer tunnel just big enough for a man to crawl through on hands and knees that had been significantly widened to allow the smuggling of cargo in and out of the city.

”Ugh, it smells worse than you! Is there no better way in? ” Elise says plugging her nose shut and breathing through her mouth for all the good it does.

Maerda chuckles, ”Thinking over this adventuring life yet? Itll be a good tale in years to come and its only going to get worse. ”

Berrik takes a gulp of fresh air and leads the way, crawling through the sewage followed by Kane, Maerda and lastly Elise, exiting the pipe after nearly two hundred paces into a hewn stone tunnel where they can stand up in. Sloshing through the muck with help from Elises light cantrip, they come to a wooden door a hundred paces more, where Berrik taps three times, then twice, once, four then two more. A slit in the door slides opens revealing a pair of eyes, ”Who the hell is you? ” He says in a pitched voice.

”Its Berrik and these are my friends, we
e just passing through. ”

The window slides shut, moments later he returns, ”You got the fee? ”

Berrik turns to Kane, ”Pay the half man a shiny gold. ”

Kane pulls a gold coin from his purse and reluctantly drops it into the small waiting hand. Again, the slit closes and the door is are unbarred and opened by a halfling, his curly light brown hair and round face caked in dirt and filth, puts a short sword to Kanes groin, ”Don ya do anything stupid now, we be watching. ” Looking Berrik over, ”ya lived two days, made some blokes purses quiet, watch the shadows. ”

He escorts the travelers through a gang-controlled area full of cutthroats and scoundrels into a cleaner part of the sewer, where wooden platforms have been built on stilts above the waste water, an assortment of outlaws, refugees and homeless have created their own underground town. An intricate aqueduct system has been set up to bring fresh water from the surface to the people, with burn barrels and torches providing light, the temperature was pleasant enough that many can go barefoot if not by choice but because they can afford them.

Elise notices that some kind of plague has begun spreading among the sewer dwellers, a black rash with weeping boils and a hacking cough. Passing by a young boy whose entire left side of his face is covered in the disease, to the point of blinding the eye, ”Is there nothing to be done for them? ” She asks the halfling.

”Nah, they don last. Not long before they doing the jig wit death. Best keep clear of the weepers, ya don want what they be selling. ” He hits one with the flat of his blade who tries to push a wooden collection bowl towards her. Stopping, Elise puts a couple coppers in the mans bowl, when other beggars see her charity, they swarm her, thrusting their dirty hands, cups or bowls for her to fill. Before she can give them anymore, Kane draws his sword and with a yell, scares the crowd into backing off, putting one arm around Elises shoulders, hurry on until the rough-cut underground becomes brick laid tunnels, the proper sewers. Elise pushes free of Kane, ”Whats wrong with you? ” she scolds.

”You need to be careful, they may look like pathetic beggars, but theyll cut your throat and rob your corpse, if you
e lucky. Woman are easy prey and kind women more so. ” She did not like the coldness in his voice, it was absent compassion and full of experience.

”Hes right, you don know how these big cities can be, I know you want to help them but they can and will take advantage of any weakness. ” Maerda says in a motherly tone that was borne of witnessing it firsthand.

”Don treat me like a child! I can take care of myself! They only want our help, I can believe you could be so callous to their suffering, oh but when it comes to stopping Perrin, you
e willing to sacrifice everything, but a few coins is too much? ” Brushing past them and up the stairs and through a door.

”They should be culled before the plague spreads; not given our coin that theyll waste away on wine. ” He says before she gets too far away, brow furrowed angrily as Elise slams it shut.

Maerda meets his cold eyes, ”Just because you killed the sick, doesn make it right. Not every problem can be solved with a sword. She is right you know; you treat her as a child wet behind the ears. ”

He pins Maerda against the wall with his free hand, ”you
e not any different, just as clueless. There is nothing good to come from these cities, if we don watch our backs, well soon find a knife in it. ”

She tries to shove Kane away but he effortlessly keeps her there, ”you don know me, just because youve lived beside cruel men doesn make you right. Ive seen this world, its beauty and horror, because I don wear my scars on the outside doesn mean I live without them! ”

”Maybe we
e to blame for Perrin, but there is nothing we can do for these people, their Lords and elders are more than able to help them or themselves, the only thing keeping them down here is themselves. Do what you want but Im going to make sure Perrin is stopped and whatever made him never happens again. ”

Berrik interrupts, ”hate to break up the lovers spat but our guides gone and those little displays bound to draw the cloaked daggers. ”

Pushing Kane away, ”Lets find your friends then and finish this, I know more than anyone the evils of the undead, and if you want to end this, you
e going to need to destroy that necklace. ” Maerda says going after Elise followed shortly by Kane.

Berrik shakes his head, ”shes got plenty of scars outside, hate to see whats inside that one. ”

Walking up the stairs into the flop house that hides one of the many entrances into the undercity, Elise steps out of the rundown house full of squatters huddled together around their precious fires and into the night air, she breathes deeply and looks around at the slums of the Foreign Quarter. The garbage ridden streets and dilapidated wood homes seem like palaces compared to the sewers, she can help but feel for the impoverished that live in such squalor, for being civilization it was anything but. Unsure of where she is and aware of her reeking clothes, Elise starts walking east to find a tavern, but mostly to put some distance between herself and Kane.

She wanders the cobblestone streets eventually coming to a guard house, where three men in chainmail shirts, wielding clubs and short swords, wearing sur coats bearing a winged serpent on a field of flames, stand guard. they sit laughing and drinking wine with two women at a makeshift table outside the guard station and don notice Elise walking past but a sentry above the gate house does, ”Hey! You! Where are you going? ”

The three turn away from their game, stand up slowly and wobble towards her, one cuts a loud whistle, ”Look at this one, lads! She makes these two look like last weeks fish! ” Getting close to her, he smells the sewage on her clothes, ”Ugh! Whatd you crawl through? Go on, get out of here! ” Waving Elise and the stench away, they return to the table, signaling to the crossbowman to let her pass.

Elise quickly passes by, thankful they decided not to scrutinize her any further, if the sewers are that bad, how much worse could the streets be? Following the ruckus and music, finds The River, a rowdy tavern alive with those looking to drown their sorrows and forget their obligations. Stepping over an unconscious drunk laying on the steps, is overwhelmed with chaotic laughter, heated arguments and music, the smells of sweat, food and ale, working her way through the crowd to the bar, where a thin man with waddling jowls pours drinks. Chatting with a dwarf in a chain coat and an axe on his belt, his long bushy beard flecked in vomit and crooked nose from his many fights with two other men on either side.

”Excuse me, ” Elise says without getting his attention. ”Excuse me! ” practically yelling, looking down at the woman with annoyance at the interruption.

”What do you want? ” The barkeep snaps, while filling a pitcher for one of the wenches, her eye black from catching a stray fist.

”Id like a room and a bath. ” She asks, speaking loudly over the noise.

The dwarf turns up his nose, waving the air away, ”Gods, ye needs it! Hurry an get her one will ye Keris? Me eyes are burning something fierce! Mustve just crawled out of the gutter after finishing her back work. ”

”You could flatten a dragon with your breath alone. ” Elise quips, waving away the dwarfs stink, his smell just as bad.

Keris whistles to a waitress, calling over a half-elven woman in a low-cut bodice and dress, ”Onara, see to it she gets a bath and burn those clothes of hers, no chance of saving them and when your done bring a bucket of water for Nossrit. ”

”Don ye dare lass, Im smelling right as an old mine and wouldn want it any other way! ” Wagging a fist Onaras way. The woman scoops up his drink and dumps it on his head, ”don ye dare threaten me ye stumpy rock kissing nob! ”

Elise follows Onara upstairs to a small room, past drunks sleeping in the halls and a couple wrapped in each others arms as they stumble through the door to their room. The room has the barest of furnishings, a straw mattress, wash tub, a chamber pot, chair and trunk, ”Ill be right back with hot water and some clean clothes. ” Onara says, leaving Elise alone. Taking off her coat and dress, she doesn wait long for Onara to return with two buckets of warm water, wash rag and a towel. Looking at Elises filthy clothes, ”I can launder those for ye but ye better off forgetting them. ” She offers.

”I would appreciate it ” Reluctantly handing over her clothing, it felt odd but they were a piece of home, ”can you manage the coat? Im a bit attached. ” With a nod, Onara leaves her to sit in the water with a relaxing sigh, the water immediately turning brown. The opening of the door startles her and she reaches for the dagger nearby before realizing that its Onara, settling back into the water and covering herself with her arms. Dropping clean clothing for her to wear on the chair, she quickly turns around, ”Don worry, yeve nothing Ive not seen before. ” She chuckles, ”Itll be seven gold, that includes the laundry, bath and room. ”

Elise pulls the coins from her belt pouch and gives them to Onara, who leaves Elise alone at last, clean and tired, she sets the chair under the handle to block the door from any unwanted visitors. The raucous of the tavern down stairs makes it hard to sleep, and she lays staring at the ceiling for a while, thinking about what Kane said, she may be new to all of this but he had no place getting angry. Waking after a couple of hours, goes to the window for some air, it was a cool night and the corpse fires lit up the night so she could not see the stars, the city was so alien from the tranquil isolation of the forest. Hearing a commotion down on the street, sees four people rob and beat an old man, looking up to see her watching, he calls out for her to help, one of the thieves turns toward her and she quickly slams the shutters close, sitting down on the chair by the door with dagger in hand.

Kane starts to go after Elise but Maerda grabs him by the arm, stopping him, ”Let her go. She needs to figure it out, shell be fine, Im sure of it, just, just understand all shes gone through in a tenday. ”

”If that ones tough enough to travel with you two, shell be well enough off. ” Berrik says, ”I wouldn be taking to the road with either of you myself, having to suffer ugly and cold. Now, come along, I want to change clothes and see my love, then we can find your friend, she won have gone too far from here. Theres a tavern nearby and Id bet she stopped in there, one of the finest in Zhentil. ”

He leads them down several alleys until they come across some frozen clothing on a line, taking it with them, they stop at an abandoned house, its second-floor roof caved in from neglect and light a fire in the brick hearth to dry out the clothes they stole. While sitting around the fire, they scrub their dirty clothing clean with snow the best they can and pack them away. Sitting in their smallclothes, Maerda looks at Kane, he was handsome enough but the darkness of his eyes prevented anyone from wanting to get close, for him keeping the armor on was his way of ever getting attached at the cost of finding someone.

Putting on the damp, ill-fitting pants and shirt, Berrik stretches his limbs, ”Get dressed crispy, I can stand to look at you, shame we can cover up that face. Now that I got you into the city, time for your end of the bargain. ” Throwing snow on the flames, extinguishing it with a hiss.

”We freed you, we owe you nothing. ” Kane reminds him.

”But I know the Keep, your free to try and find your girl on your own but does she have the time to wait? Shes pretty and though the slavers aren picky, shell fetch her weight in gold, if someone doesn cut her pretty neck. ”

Kane picks him up by the throat, ”we will find her first or I will put you back in that cage, upside down. ”

Maerda puts a hand on Kanes arm, ”hes right, the cities to big for us to go bumbling around all night, it won take long, right? ” Berrik nods franticly.

Dropping the gasping man, ”Lets get this over with than, we need to find Elise. ” They follow Berrik through the Foreign Quarter and across the eastern Force Bridge to the wealthier Inner Quarter. Entering a house, they silently make their way past its sleeping owners up to the roof and cross over several roofs to avoid the walls and guard posts that divide the city into defensible segments.

Berrik tries the door of another home to find it locked, not wanting to draw attention by breaking it open, he leads them over more rooftops until they find a way down. Climbing into an open window and sneaking out through the servants door where they walk a couple blocks towards a large house within its own high wall topped with iron spikes to prevent intruders. They follow him around to a side where several of the spikes have been bent aside from his previous visits and after climbing over, Berrik begins tossing a rocks at a second-floor window, while Kane and Maerda wait against the house hidden within its shadow and watching for anyone.

”Cossette, its Berrik. ” He whispers through cupped hands.

The shutters swing open and a girl of fifteen sticks her head out in time to receive a stone to her forehead, ”Berrik my love! I thought you were dead! ” forgetting the volume of her voice, she covers her mouth and checks the hallway outside her room, returning when she is certain that no one heard them.

”Nothing could keep me from you! Come, run away with me, we can leave on a ferry, go to Hillsfar or Phlan and take a ship from there to anywhere you want! ” his tone and accent changed to sound proper and not the alley way thug he is.

”If my father catches us this time, he will have your head and I will suffer this arranged marriage, I am to be wed to a Peitor Nadlier, the boy is more dedicated to his family business and simply speaks ceaselessly of it. ” Keeping her voice low and rubbing her forehead.

Stepping into view, ”This is touching, but we haven the time, collect your things and let us be away before your blathering attracts the guards. ” Kane says trying to hurry them along.

”Who are you to speak to me in such a tone? Silence him Berrik, or I will have his tongue. ” Cossette scolds, ”I thought better of you than to enlist an uncouth strongarm and ruffian of low birth, how desperate we must be to employ such. ”

”He saved me from the death cage my love, and hes right, we must go. Take what coin you have and let us leave your fathers clutches and be away, for my passion is dedicated only to you and not a moment passed without thought of your beauty. ” With a beaming smile, Cossette disappears into her room, and returns shortly in a white coat and a pillowcase full of jewelry.

She climbs out of the window and onto the icy ledge, where she slips and falls with a cry. Berrik tries to catch her but misses and she lands on her head, snapping her neck, putting his hand over her mouth to see if shes breathing, feels her labored breath and darting eyes filled with panic, ”What a shame, I was growing quite fond of you, I will miss our time together my dear, perhaps well meet again sometime, but not too soon I hope. ” Kissing her on the lips passionately that he never forgets their sweetness. Cossette can only stare at him, her blue eyes large with fear at his betrayal, silently mouthing questions, unable to move any other part of her body.

A light appears in the window and a handmaid looks out to see the three of them with Berrik standing over Cossettes body, she lets out a scream drawing the attention of a pair of guards, who come running from their position at the back door with swords drawn. ”We must go, NOW! ” Kane yells, pulling on Berrik.

Berrik picks up the pillowcase and runs to the wall where Kane pushes him and Maerda up and over then pulls himself up, running from the ever-increasing guards who answer the alarm, they try to make their way back to the Foreign Quarter the same way they came in but find the house they used to get of the roofs awake. Fleeing into an alley, Berrik points to a sewer grate, ”get it open or we
e dead! ”

”Id sooner be dead than wade through more muck… ” Maerda groans, Kane pulls on the grate, his jaw clenched still it does not move. Berrik inspects the iron bars to find a chain holding it tight, ”by the gods, Im not dying in some damn alley! Do something! ” Berrik pleads pitifully. Maerda flicks bulls blood on Kanes face and chanting, ”what the hells are you doing!? ” the man whines, watching the entrance for their pursuers. Finished, a surge of strength fills his muscles and with Maerdas urging, tries again. Arms and legs swelling with blood and magic, he rips the chain free from its bracket and lifts the grate free.

Slapping Kane on the back, ”never doubted you, just needed some motivation is all! ” they drop into the sewer and replace the bars. Without stopping, they run through the low tunnels guided by Maerdas spark of light until they hear the river, leaving the sewers for the Harbor District, with the whistles of the searching soldiers too distant to hear, cross over the river in a rowboat. ”I know how to find your friend, theres a diviner that can help you for a price, which Im sure you can afford. You can find her along the pier to the west, can miss it. Her names Certcha, but youll have to wait till the morn, mad old hag doesn like evening guests. ”

Kane reaches for the mans throat, but he backs out of reach, ”this isn what we agreed too! ”

”But youll take it, theres little choice, ” he says matter of fact. Kane draws his sword, ”you can kill me for all the good itll be, dead men tend not to share their secrets, do they? ”

With anger at the mans reasoning, sheathes his sword, ”then take us to this seer. ”

”With the whole damn city coming for us? No. ” Looking through the bag of jewelry with a pleased smile, Cossette was not the first he romanced for her wealth and would not to be the last. Kane shakes his head, ”Us? You killed the girl! ”

Ignoring him, ”Well, best of luck, theyll be wanting my head on a pole this time, Im leaving town and I suggest you do the same, ” Berrik tosses Maerda a silver necklace adorned with emeralds from the pillowcase, ”It won fix your face, but itll help. Fare thee well. ” Turning to leave make his way back into the shadows to plan his escape and leave the city for good. Faster than Maerda can follow, Kane slices through one of Berriks hamstrings, the man goes sprawling to the street with a cry unbefitting him, trying to stand, his foot refuses to cooperate and repeatedly crashes into the mud, ”what, what did you do to me? ”

With his foot on the back of Berriks head, Kane pushes his face into the slush, the man squirms and thrashes, ”I don like liars. ” Letting the pitiful man up, Berrik rolls onto his back spitting mud and trying to clear his eyes, ”you, you bastard! Ill… ” Kane takes the necklace from Maerda and stuffs the jewelry into his mouth, ”keep your prize, we wouldn want you to forget Cossette. ”

Leaving Berrik, Kane starts off to the west with Maerda beside him, ”What are you going to do when you find Elise? You
e not the apologetic type and she can be quite stubborn. ”

”Lets find her first. ” He had nothing to apologize for, if Elise couldn see the reality of the world around her then she would become a victim of her own making. They come to a guard hut with three guards sitting around a table with bottles of wine in hand, ”where are you going at such a late hour? Don you know its dangerous to be out at night? ” Asks one of the guards, with slurred speech, his chain shirt barely fitting over his belly and coat of arms stained, the Foreign Quarter was always in need of guards and the district commander kept his standards low to attract anyone who could swing a blade and use their eyes.

Maerda speaks first, ”We
e just out for a stroll, such a clear night isn it, dear? ” Taking Kanes hand and squeezing it hard.

”It is. Dear. ” Resting his forearm on the pommel of his sword.

The guard captain waits silently, looking at them, his palm out. ”What
e you waiting for? Give him a tip for not kicking your teeth in. ” One of the other men at the table says. Kane tosses the waiting man a silver coin that bounces of his chest and into mud.

”A silver? Do I look like some peasant urchin, no, Im a city guard, its five gold for being out after curfew and double it for making me look at your ugly wife. ” He says spitting on Maerdas boot. Feeling Kane tense up and shift his feet, Maerda nudges him with an elbow to remind him to not kill them. Tossing the coins at the fat mans feet, the guard to the left starts to draw his sword, stopping when the cold of iron meets his throat and drawing a line of blood, his beard falling into the muddy snow. The other guards leap up with weapons in hand, the archer in the watchtower comes alert and takes a bead on Kane, they halt their advance when the captain signals them to stop with a raised fist.

Still holding his hand, Maerda starts pulling on him, ”I think theyve learned their lesson, lets go before they forget it. ” Slowly lowering his sword from the petrified man, they turn to walk away when he hears the mans sword leave its scabbard, Kane spins back around with a lightning-fast slash that cuts the mans weapon belt and a second that cuts his trousers free. Maerda lets a chuckle slip and pulls him along, the two of them running as the crossbow clicks sending a bolt thudding into the ground behind them.

They continue running west along the road when the joyous sounds ahead break the city nights murmur, the tavern on their left bursting with loud music and merriment, paying it no mind, Kane keeps walking, but Maerda, cold and hungry, leaves his side to go in. Hesitating for a moment he follows after her into the taverns busy hall, packed with people drinking, gaming, and dancing to the band, their music barely loud enough to rise above the din coming from the patrons. Maerda pays the barkeeper for a room and follows a barmaid upstairs with Kane not far behind, into the single bedchamber. Not long after they set their equipment down, Kane answers a knock at the door. A half-elven maid sets down two buckets of warm water, two towels, and washrags.

Taking notice at the shape of their clothing ”I can try to launder those clothes for you, seems quite a few have been wandering the sewers tonight. ” she offers. Kane pulls their sewage-soaked clothing from his backpack and hands them to her, gagging, the maid takes them along with an extra fee, carrying them wrapped in one of the towels so as not to touch them further.

e not staying the night, wash up and rest your feet, but don get comfortable. ” Kane reminds Maerda, with a nod and a sigh, fills the wash basin with hot water and is the first to clean up, throwing the dirty water out of the window, lets Kane have his turn. The banging on a door down the hall gets Maerdas attention, looking out the door, she sees four people in hooded cloaks kicking down a door a couple of rooms away. ”Kane, go see whats going on down there. Someones getting robbed. ”

Dropping the washrag into the bucket with a grumble, takes up his sword and walks down the hall nude, to see what the commotion is, with Maerda hurriedly pulling on her stolen dress to follow. He comes up behind one of the intruders kneeling over another and puts his sword through the mans back, pulling it up through the collar instead of out with a spray of blood and stepping over a dying man clutching a gash in his neck laying within the door, black poison quickly spreading through his veins, causing the side of his face to resemble a spiders web, eyes white.

The last two men have someone pinned down on the bed, ”just kill her and lets get gone before someone else sees us! ” one hisses, the other pushes him away, ”then help watch the door if your so scared. ” Kane turns the man around and puts the sword up into his throat and skull, the thief dropping heavily to the ground. The remaining assailant turns enough to see the sword coming for his head and rolls away, the blade cutting a furrow into the wall just inches above Elises head.

Quickly throwing a dagger into Kanes chest and drawing a short sword, the robber sees his three dead friends and the naked, bloody Kane, ”who, what in the Nine Hells are you? ” slashing the man across the abdomen without any try to stop the attack, decides the window and the street below is the better choice. Throwing another dagger at Kane, who does nothing to avoid the missile and takes it in the bicep of his sword arm, the thief darts for the window while rolling under another swipe that hews through the footboard, throwing open the window, feels a searing pain in his back and is unable to move, Elises chromatic orb having stunned him. Kane walks over and throws the man out of the window, to crash onto the street with a splat.

Turning to Elise, who sits motionless with a number of cuts on her arms and a bloody nose, her hand still outstretched from the spell. Dropping his sword, scoops her up and carries her back to their room, passing Maerda in the hall, ”what happened? ” Looking inside at the dead thieves and the blood slick floor, finds her answer and hurries after them. Setting Elise on the bed, he drops onto a chair, awash in dark red, coming into the room, Maerda goes to Elises side, ”where are you hurt? ” Wiping away the blood franticly and looking her over, the wounds on her arms are not bad, she being more shaken than anything.

”Its not mine. I, Im alright, they didn hurt me much. ” Looking past Maerda at Kane who sits removing one of the daggers without expression, a gory statue, ”I was so wrong to think Im ready to go alone, I had moms dagger but just swung it about uselessly, never had a chance to cast a spell till he showed up. ” She had killed the first man through the door, her mothers dagger having delivered a lethal dose of poison, but the other two overwhelmed her and soon had her pinned on the bed, thinking that she was about to die, froze with terror.

Maerda goes to gather Elises things from the room, giving Kane a sidelong glance of appreciation that goes unseen, while Elise cleans herself off, ”I have to thank you, they wouldve, I, I don want to think of it. ” He sits quietly, the knife still gripped tight in his hands. ”How did you know it was me? ”

”I didn . ”

”Im glad you
e the kind of man who rushes headfirst into danger. ” she smiles at him, she was not sure what else to say, but she was truly happy to see him.

”Maerda told me to go help. ”

Her jaw falls open at the admission, ”You were going to let someone get robbed or killed?! ” His silence further angers her, ”Your incredible… ” She wanted to punch him, instead throws a candle sconce that hits him in the face. ”What the hell is wrong with you?! ” He yelps, jumping to his feet.

”You! You
e a pig-headed lout! ” Crossing the room to slap him.

”Me? You
e a star-eyed mewling child! None of this would have happened if you didn run off like some kicked pup! ” He catches her wrist as she tries to hit him, then the other as she splits his lip, pushing her down onto the bed, restrains her arms as she fights against his vice-tight grip, ”Get, off, me! You, you, ill-bred horses ass! Id not needed to if you weren so damn insufferable! ” She finds his red eyes and they were not angry, just empty; he was not sure what was happening or how to reply.

”Ahem, Im not interrupting, am I? ” Maerda says from the door, Kane stands up and remembering that he is without a stitch of clothing, pulls on his breaches and pushes past Maerda, going downstairs to sit at the bar to drink, leaving a trail of bloody footprints down the hall, a blade still in his chest and head full of confusion.

Setting down Elises things and Kanes sword, closes the door, ”What was that about? ” Maerda asks.

Sighing, she sits up, cleaning the last of the blood off, ”Just being stupid, mostly him, why are men such idiots? ”

”You better get your head on straight, hes as dangerous as they come. He leaves a wake of bodies wherever he goes and if you
e not careful youll join them. ” Elise is stunned by the words; would he have killed her just now if Maerda had not walked in or with his reckless attack that nearly split her head?

Elise sits up, ”I know, I know. Weve got enough trouble as is, can be trying to kill each other, its just, Ive never met anyone like him, Gods Im an idiot. ”

”How many men have you known well? You know hell be gone when this is all over, no pretty smile will bind that man. Id wager hes downstairs with some harlot right now or half drunk. ” Sitting on the bed, puts an arm around Elises shoulder.

Sighing, ”there was a man I was spending time with, it was nice but I didn know what I wanted, were he did. I thought it would make me happy and for a time I was, but we lived different lives and he moved on, it hurt to lose him but that too was short lived. I think Ive been to wrapped up with helping others to find what I need. ”

”You know he wasn going to stop looking for you. I can tell what lies behind those eyes but he sees you differently. ” She was unsure if she should tell Elise of Kanes past or leave it to him to open up to her when he was ready, though that was likely never.

”All I see is an orc, nothing but brawn and anger, a raging animal. He killed those three without a word, as if life doesn matter to him, not even his own. ”

Maerda strokes her wet hair, ”but he has a heart… ”

Elise snorts, ”and its carved from stone! You see how he talks to me, as if Im an inconvenience, a thorn in his boot. Maybe hes right, Im not ready for this life, I have no scars, no trophies or stories of my deeds and victories. ”

”Those scars he carries are thick and many, but I don think he can point to them and tell you its tale, you can judge yourself weighed against him, you have to walk the path that calls to you, that fills you with purpose. Why are you here after all if not to right what has happened and see that it never does again? ”

Elise sighs again, Maerda was right but what if she was not? Could she go home knowing that all those dead never find peace? That she gave up because a stubborn man got under her skin, she would see this through if not only to prove to herself but to Kane.

Awakened by a knock on the door, Maerda cautiously opens it to see Onara, carrying clean clothes, she is surprised to see Elise in the bed, arms wrapped in bandages, ”oh, Im not interrupting? ” the bloody footprints told part of the story.

”Had a bit of trouble with thieves last night. ” Elise laughs, feeling better today than the last.

”No onell be missing them, let alone come asking questions, good on you I say. ”

”Have you seen Kane? ” Maerda asks, getting dressed. Onara throws her head back in laughter, ”The big man you came in with last night? ”

”Thats the one. ” They say together.

”He slept on the bar, nearly kept up with a pair of dwarfs, they drank so much I thought they would drown. ” Pointing a finger at the bloody sword and dagger, ”if that be his handy work, Zhentil Keep best watch out. ”

Elise gives Maerda a I told you so look. Onara wakes Kane up from off the bar counter with a pail of cold water, returning to the room smelling of drink and vomit. They let Kane get dressed and ready while they have breakfast downstairs with the morning crowd. While stuffing his things into the bag, his scarf falls to the floor, quickly picking it up, is relieved to see it, wrapping it around his neck, remembering a long-gone scent of desert roses, of the woman he came to love, that felt so long ago and catches his reflection but its not his, the woman stairs back with a smile, she never was without it.

Punching the glass with his armored fist, shattering the memory into a thousand fragments, each with eyes that asked him to stay, joins the ladies downstairs with an even darker mood. Leaving the inn, they walk east towards the pier, with the smell of evening chamber pots emptied out onto the street as they follow the traffic of carts and people carrying goods bound for the market or off to work, what little there was.

Bathed in the morning light, the markets come alive, streets humming with people going about their business, merchants shouting above each other to sell their goods and wares, in a deafening roar. Elise is over overwhelmed at the sights and smells, spotting a stall selling herbs and reagents, she weaves through the crowd to browse the array, vials of arcane powder, bone dust, basilisk blood, sulphur, bottles of holy water, phosphorus, licorice root, feathers of a phoenix and cockatrice, gum of arabic, and many things she had only heard of and many she hadn .

Maerda joins her to look through the buffet of ingredients, while Elise buys sweet grass, worm root, poppy extract and distilled water for healing and slivers of a hill giants fingernail, ogres blood and iron vine for a strength potion. Maerda gets chameleon scales and phantom weed for a potion of alteration and adders fang, scorpion tail, enchanted sand but can find a tiny beating heart for a potion of longevity to hopefully reverse her burns, while Kane stands idly by watching the crowd. After paying, they continue through the market past venders selling rare hides and furs, trinkets magical and mundane, and many street performers. A troupe performs acrobatics, juggling knives, sword swallowing and fire eaters. They stop and try to look at the fresh fruits and fish but turn away when they see a man standing atop a cart preaching the word of The Father before a large crowd.

”Have your gods fed you? Have they protected you? Where are they now? Theyve abandoned you, left you to suffer and die whilst they sit in their palaces sated on your prayers and worship, for what? ” Fists stabbing at the sky as though to pull the gods from them.

”Nothing! ” The crowd yells.

”Nothings right! Are we to continue serving them? ” He yells.

”No! ” They roar.

”The Father asks not for praise, not for your coin, he only desires to share his godly wisdom and eternal afterlife with us, whilst the false Gods serve only their own needs and scheme for more without so much as a thought for your suffering. ”

A boo rises from the crowd.

”So too do the exalted elite fill their own plate, while stealing from your childrens and your childrens children. Fat on honey and wine, living in opulence atop thrones of gold. ” Pointing in Kanes direction, ”We will not depend on adventurers to defend us nor suffer the blight they bring to our home after disturbing ancient and forgotten powers that no longer belong in our world! They seduce your sons with their tales of grandeur and bed your daughters only to abandon them to bear their bastards and raise them on your meager coin! ” the crowd boos and jeers the group.

”But you must prepare yourself in body and soul, commit yourself to conditioning the body for the coming battle, we must fight the corruption or be doomed to be consumed by it. Go, spread the message to your neighbors, family, and friends, war is coming and we must outnumber the servants and false prophets who bend their knees within the temples and shrines to the vile and wicked! But fear not, the Father lights our hearts, fills them with his love, should you accept it, all praise and glory to Father of Wisdom, Exldir the Awakened! ”

Tossing pendants of the Father into the crowd, Kane plucks one out of the air and fixes the man with an icy glare, the preacher returns it with a confidant smirk before stepping off the cart and is lost to sight amid the swarm of people, while a third of the crowd walks away. Shaking their heads in disbelief, ”so, it has a name, Exldir. ” Kane drops the pendant and moves on, Maerda pauses to pick the copper symbol up to take a look at it, though bent from Kanes boot, she finds no Godstone.

The open market eventually joins up with the docks that are operating significantly slower since the entrances had been shut, barring traffic, with smaller fishing boats on the river and the seafaring vessels sit waiting for Auril the Frostmaiden to relent her wintery grip on the land and let the waters thaw. The pubs were full of bored sailors and shoremen who have nothing to do and a summers worth of coin to spend.

”What are we doing here? ” Elise asks looking around for some clue.

”To find the boat that woman came in on with Liana. Now get looking, Ill go east, you two west. ”

”What was the name on the letter? ” Maerda asks him with a grin.

”What letter? ” he asks annoyed.

Containing her laughter, Elise says nothing.

”The letter Lady Kistain left for us in Teshwave, the one you crumpled up. ”

Getting tired of the game, ”it said to find her boat ” he growls.

Smiling superiorly, ”Elise, be a dear and remind him of what you read. ”

Pinching her sides to stop from laughing, ”Lady, Kistain, said to, look for, her brother, in law, Lord, Doyalan Halaster, not her bloody boat! ” the two double over with waves of laughter.

Turning red with anger, ”Enough! ” Kane roars, several people stop to see whats going on but quickly mind their own feet.

Swallowing hard, ”alright, alright. ” Maerda coughs, punching Elise in the arm, ”lets ask someone for directions. ”

The fishermen and dockworkers they ask provide little help, Lord Halaster was a known councilman but none could do more than point them towards the Inner Quarter where the wealthiest and most prominent live. With only that to go on with, they cross the Force Bridge to the district, there wouldn be any sneaking in this time, the guards being on high alert and scrutinizing all traffic in.

Near the gate, they spot a merchant leading a team of wagons having just left the area, Maerda waves her hands and whispering words, blows a kiss the mans way, ”now, go ask him. ” Nudging Elise towards the merchant who was giving instructions to his men but new stands silent with a blank expression. Smiling at the cleaver enchantment, she casually walks up to him, ”pardon, milord, ” Elise addresses the man in fine furs and clean clothes. Two guards step before him, hands on their sword hilts, ”stand away woman! ” one commands. Kane double steps to flank Elise with his own hand at the ready, ”I was wondering if you help me with directions. ” She asks with a disarming smile that cannot resist. The merchant steps between his two men, ”of course, how could I refuse such a polite request or lovely creature? ”

”Im to meet with Lord Halaster today and simply have forgotten the way, perhaps you can help? ”

Returning her smile, fully under the charm, ”of course, you will want to go down Ravens Street and to Elephstron Way, its a blue house marked with an anchor and dolphins, you won miss it. ”

Bowing gratefully, ”thank you milord, I am in your debt. ”

He kisses her hand, ”think nothing of it! Now, if youll excuse me, but I must be on my way. ”

Kane is lost as what just happened and follows to tittering women to the well-guarded gate, a young man with a patchy beard lowers his spear, stopping them with a ”Halt! ” The archers within the gatehouse watch intently as the commander walks over, ”Easy boy, do they look like undead or thieves? ” The captains gleaming plate mail clinking with every movement.

”But sir, are we not to look for two men and a woman who killed that girl last night? ”

”Lady Cossette Blackryn and yes, two men and a woman, should I send for a cleric to check your eyes? Now whats your business here? ” The captain asks, eager to keep the line of traffic moving.

”Lady Kistaen is expecting us at Lord Halasters home. ” Kane answers, not at all happy to hear Cossettes name or of her death, killing was to survive but what happened to her was unnecessary and could end badly for them. Berrik be damned, this was his doing, now Kane was regretting his decision to ever free the scoundrel and spare his miserable life.

”Who shall I say you are? ” the sergeant asks, not at all believing their words.

”Kane. ”

”Maerda and Elise ” She adds with a frown at being left out.

The captain snaps his fingers at a waiting runner who rides off on horseback to deliver the message.

”If he returns with word that Lord Halaster is expecting you lot, Ill eat my boot. ” Waving them off to the side, ”how long have you been in the Keep? ”

”A tenday. ” Kane quickly says, ”why? ”

The sergeant removes his helmet, setting it on a table, ”if you hadn heard, Lord Blackryns youngest daughter was murdered last night, fortunately one of the servants saw them, two men and a woman, girl was to be wed soon. ” Waiting to see their reactions.

”Why would someone do such a thing? ” Elise croaks.

”Why? For love and coin. ” He answers as if she should know this already.

Kane and Maerda exchange a quick look of concern and she wraps herself around his sword arm, ”do you know who they are? ” she hesitates to ask.

”We do, ” Maerda squeezes tighter to Kanes arm to keep herself from running, ”Berriks their leader, the pig worms his way into womens beds and spends their coin before taking whats left. They put him in a cage last time, now they
e going to pull him apart and slowly till he gives up his comrades then they can all dance above the gate. ”

Kane visibly relaxes and puts his arm around Maerdas shoulder, ”theres a bounty for the killers then? ” he asks to Maerdas surprise.

”That there is, three hundred gold for the wretch and a hundred for each of the others. ”

”Alive or dead? ” Elise and Maerda couldn tell if he was genuinely interested or playing along.

”Lord Blackryn wants him able to talk and beg forgiveness, the other twos heads will do. ” Setting a bounty note on the table, ”that kind of coin will feed a village, and go without being missed from his coffers, the mans not known for his generosity but rage has a funny way of opening ones purse to feed it. ”

After a long wait starring at each other, the young man returns to inform them that Lord Halaster is in fact expecting them and to allow the three to pass, the captain lets them through with an escort, ”hope youve a spare boot. ” Kane says over his shoulder with a laugh. Following the horseman to the Halaster estate, Maerda asks, ”you
e not seriously going to collect on that bounty? We have more important things to worry about. ” Whispering so as not to let the guard hear. ”Why not? We could use the coin besides I might have a good idea of where to start looking. ” Kane says with a sly smile.

”Your bloody mad if you
e even considering that, theres no way anything good would come from hunting that, man, down. ” No longer trying to cover her voice.

”Just what are you two talking about? I leave you two alone for a night and he turns into a bounty hunter and you a nagging wife! ” Elise says completely at a loss, ”whatever is going on between you, it can wait. ”

”Well, you are old enough to be my daughter. ” Maerda chuckles at their mortified looks.

Elise groans, ”I assure you hes nearly my age, and if I had you two for parents, Id be swinging an axe around screaming war cries. ” The flagstone streets are clear of trash, snow and the homeless, as they get closer to the center of the district, the more luxurious they become, large manor houses each trying to outdo the next, each secured with gates and guards. Their escort comes to a halt at a large gate marked with an anchor wreathed with two dolphins in blue, and white, with three gold orbs at the top, one for each war they helped win. A servant is waiting and greets them, ”My Lord is expecting you. ” Looking them up and down, adds, ”Sir and Ladys. ”

He shows them into a waiting room the size of Elises entire home, where they are joined by Kistaen, Carth and Lord Doyalan Halaster. The servants relieve them of their weapons, packs and coats, taking a seat on a silk sofa, where they are brought chilled wine, smoked fish and cheeses. Emptying the glasses and stuffing their mouths full before saying a word, Lord Halaster clears his throat, ”Im glad you enjoy my Cormanthian wine, it is rather rare. ” Elise swallows hard and starts coughing, the bottle of elven spirits easily sells for more than one-hundred and fifty gold. Maerda washes her cheese down with more of the exceptional wine, ”Im Maerda, this is Elise and Kane. ”

”Wheres Liana? ” Kane asks rudely, drink trickling down his mouth and throat.

”Im glad you made it out of Dagger Falls alive, if it was not for your bravery at holding off the undead, I fear we might not have escaped. ” Carth says, extending his hand towards Kane who ignores it to fill his silver cup again. Retracting his hand, Carth grumbles about disrespectful savages.

Lord Halaster sips from his cup, ”If Kistaens tale is true, I too am in your debt good Sir. Your deed will not soon be forgotten by my house nor the Girouts. If there is anything you need in your quest to defeat this undead horde that has come for Liana and all life as we know it simply ask. ”

”I need to talk with Liana, now. ” Kane insists.

”Im afraid shes not here. ” Says Kistaen, ”She and Jandar slipped out of town a couple days before the undead came demanding her, she was well when last we saw her and the elf. ”

Kane sighs and pours more wine, ”Whered they go to? ”

”Liana said she was going to Turranoir Abbey, her home and place of tutorage. Do you know where it is? If not, I can arrange a carriage to take you there without delay, as some minor thanks. ” Kistaen offers.

Kane stands, eager to leave, ”Just two horses and directions, Ill travel faster and quieter alone. ”

Elise stands too, ”Im coming with! Weve come this far together; surly we can finish together. Youve seen what I can do and know what I have to offer, you will need all the help you can get. ”

”The second horse isn for you; Ill be able to ride faster and longer without needing to rest or wait. ” He points out.

”Are you already forgetting what happened back at the hag? You nearly died! If we hadn been there to help, youd have never made it here in one piece, weve had to mend you like an old quilt the whole way! ” Elise says matter-of-factly without backing down from his stern look. ”When are you going to realize you need not be alone in this fight? Have you forgotten that Ive lost my home twice, my friends twice, I want him to answer for what hes done. ”

Maerda too was not going to be left behind with Perrin so close, ”if anyone deserves to go with, its me, you have no right to go alone, none. ” Hands on her hips and a fierce glare.

Doyalan snaps his fingers at a manservant, calling for him to fetch a map from the study and to hand it to Kane, ”I believe he is right; you will be safer here under my roof. Gods forbid the dead take you, and should they breach the outer walls, they will suffer a second death before entering my home. ”

Addressing the manservant again, ”Prepare two horses for Turranoir, and two rooms for our additional guests, make them comfortable for they may be staying a while. I will have an artist aid in allowing you to pass through the wall, with the city been sealed tight, even I cannot open the gates, not even for one man. ”

Kane relents, ”Im not going out there to fight, Liana needs to know what Perrin has done here, maybe her fellow clerics know of a way to fight such odds but I need to speak with her and the sooner you stop arguing with me the sooner I get there and back. ”

”Ill take Maerda with, she knows as much as I the way of the road. ” He understood her anger, her need to face the one who butchered the ones she loved but now was not that time.

Turning to Elise, Maerda puts her hands on the womans shoulders, ”well return with Liana and then we can make a plan on how to fight Perrin, if nothing else you can help try to convince the Council to help. ”

She understood the reasoning but didn like it, ”just don get yourselves killed. ” Elise says with a sigh.

”Lady Aewin Girout Halaster. ” Announces the servant standing at the door. ”Ah, guests! You must introduce me at once. ” A woman that is nearly Kistaens splitting image says entering the room accompanied by her two young handmaids. Standing before Kane she presents her hand to him, ”Oh my! You are a tall one! ” She coos. Kane looks down at her hand dismissively, then back to Elise, ignoring Aewin, ”we won be long. ” He turns and leaves with Carth following Doyalans manservant.

Maerda gives her a tight hug, ”well be back before you know it, theres no way youll sit out when we go to bury Perrin for good. ” before anything can be said further, she follows after Kane, giving Elise a backwards glance before leaving. Gathering their belongings from the butler, they walk out front with Carth to the horses being prepared and the saddlebags filled with supplies that they will need for the journey. Checking over the horses, Kane stores his belongings in the saddle bags, ”What old man? ” He asks, annoyed at being shadowed.

”Im surprised you survived, quite the feat. ” Carth says admiringly, ”He demanded they send her out to him before he attacked with his cloud kill spell slaying everyone outside the walls before the garrisons mages could react, he did not send in his forces, only raising a number within the walls, do you not find that odd? ” asks Carth.

”Perhaps the Godstones hold on him isn complete, he could be defying it or taxing its strength. ” Maerda offers.

”A Godstone? What are you speaking of? ” a curious expression on the old warriors face.

Kane shifts the sword from his hip to his back, mounting atop the black and white horse, adjusting himself in the saddle, ”It was in a pendant around Aramans neck, a black stone that gave him powerful magics, and now Perrin has it. ”

”When I held the stone, it whispered to me, dark things I can begin to explain, I had asked Araman where he got it but he wouldn say, though named it a Godstone, I think someone gave it to him or he found it. ” Shrugging, there was too little information to give any definitive answers.

Helping Maerda onto her horse, Carth asks, ”Do you expect Perrin to follow you? ”

Kane pauses, ”Im not sure but if hes here looking for her, hell at least will have us followed. ”

”The Council is still determining whether or not they want to send troops out to confront him, they still believe he will go away if only they can give Liana to him if he does happen to follow you, I can assure you it will be a bloodbath, Liana will have only a small number of clerics to combat such a vast force. ” Carth cautions.

”Ive come this far to see it through, Im not about to let someone else put their blade through his chest, if you
e the praying kind, you had best get started. ” Once they receive word of where to rendezvous with the mage, they ride to the northern wall with the streetwise manservant and find a red robed woman with her bald head tattooed in swirling patterns and rigid shapes waiting impatiently in an ally. She places a clay archway next to the wall, begins speaking the arcane phrase and moving her hands through the exact sequence needed, shaping a way through the wall, hesitantly Kane approaches. ”It is safe I assure you. ” The Thayan wizard sighs, slapping the horses haunch, spurring the animal into a gallop through the portal and out of the city towards Turranoir Abbey.

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