Fyre reaches over and takes a sip of her red wine. After staring intently at the mage while she tells her tale, Fedrel blinks to wet his eyes. He sighs and leans back, rubbing his eyelids with his palms, “By Oghma’s Endless Library! It just gets worse, doesn’t it?” Moving his hands, he sits back up into the intense gaze of Fyre’s eyes, a wide toothy grin pasted on her face. Recoiling into the cushions of his chair, he asks. “Why do you smile? So far everything you’ve told me is terrible.” He inadvertently glances to the closed door of the room, where the mage’s shield guardian stands motionless, awaiting orders, its purple steel glistening in the firelight of the room. He licks his lips nervously and returns his attention back to Fyre.

My favorite image of Fyre.

She nods, and says, “I am free and in Candlekeep. This is wonderful, yes?”

Fedrel nods. “Yes, of course.” 

She turns her gaze to the fire, still smiling, the dancing flames reflecting off of her golden eyes, and the slitted pupils shrinking to thin lines. He waits patiently for her to continue, but her unblinking stare seems lost in the blaze. Finally, he clears his throat and her attention snaps back to him. “Yes!” she exclaims, “I will continue!” And with that, she delves into her tale once more:

Those two were indeed horrible, but not to me. As they approached, I wiped the tears out of my eyes and stood up, taller than the elf boy. Smiling at him, I used the one weapon that had shielded me from hobgoblin bullies. “And what have you done to be thrown in here with these ‘stupid green skins?’ It must be incredibly terrible.” Advancing toward him, I gazed into his red eyes, and his sneer retreated, replaced by uncertainty. “Why would the lofty drow toss one of their own in with us?” When I said “us,” I stood nose to nose with the dark elf, and then he stumbled backward, landing at the feet of his companion.

I looked up to the tiefling, his grin reflecting my own. His hand shot out and gripped my palm. Pumping my hand up and down, he said, “My name is Marthus, and this is my friend Sornin. I like you. What’s your name?”

Sornin stood up, resentment reflecting off his features, but he seemed placated by Marthus’s inquiry. Glancing around my dismal surroundings, I decided that Aila, the name given to me by my father, was not suitable. I returned my gaze to Marthus, masking my true feelings behind my smile, and said, “Today, my name is Gloom.”

He released my hand. “Are you hungry?” Marthus asked.

Since my capture, I really hadn’t given food much thought, but after they asked, my stomach gurgled in protest. “I am a little hungry,” I said, grasping my stomach.

“Alright, Gloom,” Sornin said, “I suppose you’re alright. Follow us and we’ll let you have some of our stash.” At that, he turned and departed into the shadows. I glanced at Marthus, who smiled at me and gestured for me to follow. He looked just like a human child except for the red skin and the long fangs, accentuated by his large smile. Falling into step next to him, they led me deeper into the cell.

Eventually, we reached a nook hidden by a stalagmite about three hundred paces into the cell. None of the other captured children came back this far, and it looked like the cell went farther still. Comforts that I hadn’t even possessed before capture adorned Marthus and Sornin’s den. They had sleeping mats, dried rations, and a waterskin.

“Wow!” I exclaimed after walking in.

Sornin stepped over to a bag, pulled out some dried roth meat, tore off some pieces, and handed one to each of us. After I sat across from Sornin and next to Marthus, Sornin slipped a dagger out from under his mat and flipped it into the air.

Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked

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