Desert Detour

Copyright Suzanne Searle and Jay Howell, 1999


"There's just no work for us here," Ithildin said as he sat at a table in "The Red-Headed Lady" in Norek. He leaned back with a sigh. Ceyenna was momentarily distracted from her argument by his elven looks: tall, lean, shoulder-length sandy blonde hair. She pulled herself out of her reverie and looked around at the rest of the Shadow Seekers seated at the table with her.

Arondil, another elf, sat next to Ithildin. He would do anything that Ithildin asked of him. He wasn't subservient, but he was more than just a friend, too. Ceyenna hadn't figured them out yet. Where Ithildin was slim, Arondil was taller and more muscular.

"C'mon Ithildin," Ceyenna spoke. "Just give me a little more time here in Norek. We have enough money to live here quite comfortably for at least another month." Ceyenna liked it in Norek. She had joined the Shadow Seekers as a Ranger, but her other skills as a thief could keep them comfortable in this city for longer than a month. Besides, she was sure work would turn up and this city was interesting. She hadn't finished exploring it yet.

Before Ithildin could answer her, Arondil spoke. Ceyenna disliked Arondil, he was a Paladin of Cay and very self-righteous; not a good combination for an elf that already looked down upon you as "Inferior"

"And then what do you propose we do once we run out of money?" Arondil asked. He suspected Ceyenna of being linked to some evil, somehow, but until he could prove it, he kept his misgivings to himself.

"That's right, Ceyenna," Ithildin agreed with Arondil. "We need to plan our next course of action BEFORE we run out of finances."

Ceyenna looked to the other Shadow Seekers for help. Ariena, the halfling , was studying a rune book Ithildin had assigned her. Since she was Ithildin's apprentice, there wouldn't be much help there. Her familiar Anardil, a Shaskan, was lying sleepily with his head on her lap digesting breakfast. Dion was a hulking swordsman with, in Ceyenna's opinion, more muscle than brain. They'd recently lost a companion in one of their recent jobs for hire. He was obviously still brooding about that and didn't care what decision they came to.

"I hate to say this Ceyenna, but I agree with Ithildin." Melian said. She was Ceyenna's closet friend in the group, and usually she could be relied upon to take the RIGHT side. Ceyenna scowled at her.

"Don't give me that nasty look!" Melian complained. "We have to do what's for the good of the group, as a whole. Not just what you think would be best." Melian was of dwarven heritage. As a Beast mistress, she was more used to training her animals than dealing with humans. To Ceyenna's mind, she had no tact.

Arondil gave Ceyenna a very self-satisfied "too bad you can't always get your way" look.

"Fine!" Ceyenna said, shoving back from the table and startling the Inn's two cats Melian was giving leftover sausage to. "Since it's for the good of the group, make up your minds without me!" Ceyenna said petulantly. She tossed her head, sending her waist length red hair cascading over her back. She stalked out of the inn and headed up the street, walking off her bad mood.

Back at the inn, Ithildin shrugged at the rest of the group. "Let's figure out where we will be going," he said. Bringing forth a map, the group began their debate.

Ceyenna didn't get back until the next morning. She found that the Shadow Seekers had just finished packing for their trip. Ceyenna said nothing to them, but went up and packed her few belongings. She met her companions in the Inn yard. They silently mounted up on their horses and headed out of Norek.

After a short while, Ceyenna's inherent curiosity got the better of her. She rode up beside Ithildin. "Well, where are we going?" Ceyenna asked grudgingly.

"Haalkitaine," Ithildin replied without preamble.

Ceyenna reacted as if she'd been slapped. "What?! Back there? Why?"

"We've had good luck finding work out of that area," Ithildin said. "And besides, the Phoenix Nest gives us a discount."

Great! Ceyenna thought to herself. She had explored every street, alley, nook and cranny possible already. It was like going back to a cage, especially since the others would end up sitting around an Inn table waiting for work once the Guilds knew they were available for hire. Sighing, Ceyenna settled in for a boring ride.

Ceyenna was dozing in her saddle, ignoring the mid-summer day's beauty. The sun hung high in the clear sky. Bees buzzed, busily about their tasks. The group was traveling along a little used cart track. Young trees closed in and receded intermittently along the trail. The horses were going slow enough that Ariena let Anardil, her Shaskan, fly alongside the group. Occasionally he would land on a bush, gathering a mouthful of ripe berries which he greedily munched.

Ithildin called a halt early in the afternoon. Ceyenna roused from her nap and decided to help Melian with the horses. There was a stream nearby in the trees, so Ceyenna and Melian took the horses there. They had just finished watering the horses when Ceyenna's weather sense started warning her of nasty weather. Through the sparse branches Ceyenna glimpsed the sky, it was cloudless and bright blue. She frowned, puzzled and called out to Melian.

Suddenly both Melian and Ceyenna heard Ithildin calling them urgently. Ceyenna had never heard Ithildin use this tone of voice before, not even when they faced a Herald of Night.

As Ceyenna and Melian led the horses from the trees, they spotted their friends knotted together near the trail. They hastened to join them.

"Can't you feel it?" Ithildin asked. His almond-shaped eyes were wide, almost frightened, and he was paler than usual. Arondil stood grimly by Ithildin's side.

Ceyenna stopped and "listened" with her ranger senses. Except for the horses whickering and shuffling, all was deathly still. As before a storm, she realized, but the sky remained clear and blue.

"I don't..." Ceyenna began, but then they all saw the sky darken in the west as quickly as if someone had thrown black paint across the horizon. The horses started rearing and bucking. Ariena's familiar landed close to one of her legs, nearly knocking her to the ground, and attempted to crawl under her cloak for safety.

Ithildin spoke something to Arondil in Erlin, and he nodded an emphatic "Yes".

"Flow-storm," Ithildin said in common to the group. "We haven't got much time before it hits and no shelter nearby."

The wind began to toss the tops of the trees, moving like no other storm Ceyenna had ever seen in her 24 years. Already half the sky was black and the wind was blowing harder each second. One of the horses screamed and sent the rest into a panic.

"Leave the horses!" Ithildin commanded Ceyenna. She felt herself dropping the reins against her better judgment. The spooked animals took off in all directions.

Black clouds piled higher and higher as searing bolts of lightning began flickering within the clouds. The wind worked itself into a howl as the storm intensified.

The Shadow Seekers stood awestruck by the fury of the storm. They could barely keep their feet under them.

"Join hands," Ithildin yelled above the roar of wind. Ceyenna locked hands with Ariena on her right and Melian on her left. Arondil had grabbed Dion's and Ithildin's hands. Melian clasped Dion's hand as Ariena completed the circle by latching onto Ithildin.

The storm was fully upon them now, wailing with strange noises and flashes of odd colored light. To top it off, rain soaked the Shadow Seekers within moments, despite the best waterproofing money could by at "The Shack" in Norek.

Ceyenna felt her stomach drop as a raging tidal wave of madness, inconceivable to her mind, swept over the group of companions lifting them up and away. Whether it was physical, dimensional, or both, she wasn't sure anyone could tell.

* * *

Tyre Al-Khazen, Captain of the Guardians of Nof-Keh, turned in his saddle. He had been surveying the vast desert around him when one of his men whistled to him, indicating he had found something. Tyre waved in acknowledgment. He urged his desert bred horse down the steep dune towards the ruins.

The great Pyramid of Nof-Keh seemed unaffected by the terrible (the Elders said magical) storm that had come through a few hours ago. Tyre and his men had gone out to check the ruins as soon as was safe after the storm. His people were the Guardians of these ruins, and had been for decades. In a Prophetic dream, the Founder of the Guardians foresaw a terrible wave of destruction unleashed from the Great Pyramid if men were allowed to enter. As a Guardian, Tyre's life as well as his men's, was dedicated to preventing anyone entrance to the Pyramid. There had not been many since he had been a Guardian. Usually those seeking entry were unprepared for the dangers and rigors of the desert.

Now, as Tyre rode closer to his man, he saw the bodies lying in the sand approximately a hundred feet away from the Pyramid. Obviously these people had been caught in the storm, but whether or not they had been intentionally seeking out Nof-Keh was another matter.

Tyre called to the rest of his men and they all rode down to see the strangers. As the Guardians dismounted, Tyre was struck by the diversity of this group. Two humans, male and female, two tall pointed-ear beings, likely elves although he'd only heard of them and never actually seen one. Then one small, but stocky, female and apparently .... a child!

They were sprawled unconscious, almost as if they had been dropped from a height. Most were showing signs of severe sunburn and dehydration, all except for the stocky female. The greater concern was that the strangers looked as though they were in some sort of shock.

Tyre ordered his men to take them on their mounts. He himself lifted the child, and almost dropped her when a three foot miniature dragon flew out from under the girl's cloak, hissing. It beat its wings menacingly. Tyre spoke to it soothingly, although he had no idea if it understood him or was even intelligent. The creature quieted and flew just above him and his men back to their settlement in the cliffs.

* * *

Ceyenna awoke abruptly. Her first reaction was to reach for her dagger, which was missing. She rolled to her knees on a clean pallet, blinking her eyes rapidly to clear her muddled vision. Her head ached slightly, and she realized she had a healthy case of cotton-mouth.

She found she'd been dressed in soft light layers of cloth, cotton she thought. She was in a bare rock-walled room with an open doorway to one side and a small window on the other. Ceyenna arose, feeling slightly dizzy, and went to look out the window. All she saw for miles was sandy desert. Her window appeared to be high up in some cliffs. She heard a whisper of cloth behind her and turned around. A person stood in the doorway, apparently female, although it was hard to tell because the person was covered from head to toe, with only the eyes showing above a long veil. The fabric was brightly colored in mauve and the veil was a dark rich indigo. Around her head, over her veil, was a beaded circlet. The woman exclaimed, saying something in a language Ceyenna was unfamiliar with.

"I don't understand you," Ceyenna said tentatively in her own tongue.

The woman nodded. "Fadwa," she said distinctly, tapping her chest. She repeated this several times.

"Ceyenna," she replied back, indicating herself. Then she tried asking after her companions, naming them off. The woman seemed to understand, and motioned Ceyenna to follow her.

They went out the doorway into a low corridor that the elves would have to duck to negotiate. The walls were rounded out of the living stone, Ceyenna guessed.

After a short way, the woman led Ceyenna into another room, this one also bare but for a pallet. On it lay Ithildin, who looked deathly pale. His clothes had also been replaced by neutral colored robes. Next to him lay his rune-staff, the wood looking unusually dull and lusterless.

Ceyenna quickly knelt beside him. He was barely breathing. He seemed like he might be in the elven "sleep" to restore himself. She had seen this before.

Ceyenna, using signs, asked where the rest of her friends were. Fadwa led her to another small room next door and there lay Arondil. He was also unconscious but looked to be in better shape than Ithildin. Arondil's elven longsword was not in sight.

Ceyenna motioned to Fadwa as if drinking. Fadwa nodded vigorously and left the room. Ceyenna went over and knelt by Arondil. She knew he had healing powers and that he could possibly help the others. She hesitated, then touched his shoulder, but there was no response.

Fadwa was back shortly with the requested drink. She encouraged Ceyenna to try some. Ceyenna took a swig and found it the sweetest, purest water she had ever drunk! Her head suddenly seemed clearer. Still, she was unable to remember how she and her companions had gotten here. Ceyenna bent over Arondil's chest and slid her hand under his neck, lifting his head. He was mumbling something as Ceyenna tried to give him a drink of water. After spilling some into his mouth, he began to come around. His eyes came open.

"It's me Arondil," Ceyenna assured him. She offered him more water and he drank eagerly. When he'd finished the whole cup he thanked her.

"Thank you, Ceyenna," Arondil said. "I'm capable of holding my own head up now."

Ceyenna pulled her hand away from Arondil as he sat up. He was wearing the same style of clothing as Ceyenna and Ithildin.

"Ithildin's in the next room over," Ceyenna explained as she pointed which direction. "He's out cold. He doesn't look well." Ceyenna said shortly. She was quickly losing her concern for his welfare and regaining her dislike for the paladin. Arondil nodded and went to see about Ithildin while Ceyenna found her other companions and woke them.

They all met in Ithildin's room, where Arondil was trying to revive him.

"Don't even bother," Ariena said after she'd seen her teacher. "He's in spell shock. He was casting spells as the Flow storm swept over us. He needs to recover in his own time." Ariena settled in to watch over Ithildin.

Fadwa left, motioning that she was going to get them food. Ariena sent Anardil out the window to reconnoiter. "I can't remember anything," Ceyenna complained. "What happened to us?"

Dion and Melian echoed Ceyenna's statement. They all started to look towards Arondil, hoping for answers, but it was Ariena who spoke up.

"The last thing I remember was being compelled to catch hands by Ithildin's spell," Ariena said. "Then when the Flow storm hit, looks like we were carried along with it and deposited somewhere else on Kulthea."

Just then Fadwa came back with two younger women, dressed in a similar fashion as herself. They were carrying trays of food: fruit, water jugs, flat breads with cheese, and sweetmeats. Ceyenna noticed, as they served the food, that they had tattoos around their wrists which looked like bracelets. The Shadow Seekers ate hungrily when the women were done laying out the food for them. Anardil returned during the meal and Ariena fed him some of the sweetmeats and cheeses.

When they had eaten and somewhat revived, Fadwa sent one girl away. 'Talk' was all the group could understand of her signing. The young girl returned after a little while with the Captain of the Guardians, Tyre Al-Khazen, and an elder male of the tribe. Judging by his evident age and aura of power, he was probably the Shaman. The group, however, didn't recognize Tyre, having been unconscious the last time Tyre had seen them. The elder attempted several different languages, but none of the Shadow Seekers could figure out what he was saying. Not even Arondil, who was fluent in several languages.

Ceyenna noticed Tyre staring at her several times during these futile talks. He was about six feet tall with shoulder-length black hair. His had a small tattoo on his left cheek, an unusual design of flares and dots, Ceyenna thought. He was very handsome, in a dark and exotic way, with smoldering dark eyes. His commanding presence combined with his lithely muscled body attracted and aroused Ceyenna's libido. He was dressed somewhat differently from everyone else, wearing loose trousers and a tunic-like top. Over this he had a neutral colored split robe, which looked designed specifically for horse riding.

When Ceyenna spared a quick glance at the elder she noticed he too was dark-haired and wore robes with strange designs, reminiscent of the tattoo on Tyre's cheek, but more intricate.

When it was frustratingly obvious to both groups that communication was impossible, the elder mimed out 'sleep' and 'dawn'. There was something else about pointing to the head, but the group didn't understand. The elder shrugged and said something to Fadwa. As the elder and Tyre left, Fadwa signed that she would return shortly with more drinks for the companions, then turned and left the room.

Fadwa soon came back, with the promised drinks. She also provided the group with light covers for sleeping. Arondil and Dion decided they would stay in Ithildin's room with Ariena. After they had decided on sleeping arrangements and Fadwa had left, Ariena relayed the information that Anardil had passed on to her when the elder was with them.

They were in the middle of a huge desert. The cliff dwellers had built their homes high up in the rock facing. They had provided themselves with access to the desert floor, and to the top of the cliff, where an oasis was located. The majority of their structures were carved within the cliff facing. There was a large structure in the ground about two miles from their current position, which Anardil only described to Ariena as a pointy topped building.

The group was rather dejected, since they didn't know where they were, who these people were , or how to talk to them. It was also disturbing to them that their weapons were missing. "Maybe the elder is sending for an interpreter," Ariena stated hopefully as they sat around talking and drinking the sweet water left for them.

"Maybe they're planning to kill us tomorrow at dawn", Dion said, giving his depressing point of view.

"Doubtful", Arondil responded. "I don't sense any evil about these people. Besides, they could have finished us when we were helpless".

The group agreed it was best to just wait until the next day. Surely daylight would bring answers. Melian and Ceyenna went to the next room to sleep. All were tired and not fully recovered from their ordeal.

At dawn the next morning, Fadwa awoke them. She smiled in greeting and had trays of food laid out for them to help themselves. Arondil and Ariena checked on Ithildin's condition. He looked better than the previous day, but was still comatose. As soon as they had finished eating, Fadwa indicated they should follow her. Ariena refused to leave Ithildin's side, but Fadwa motioned one of her helpers to watch over him. Once Arondil understood Fadwa's intent, he encouraged Ariena to join them. She left her post at Ithildin's side reluctantly.

The Shadow Seekers followed Fadwa through a maze of twists and turns. Ceyenna was unsure if she would remember her way back to their rooms, even though her direction sense was much better than normal humans. Melian was there however, exclaiming over the skill of these people and generally admiring the carvings worked into the living rock. With a dwarf along, they were unlikely to get lost, Ceyenna reassured herself. She didn't like feeling helpless, or at someone else's mercy, and the lack of weapons made her uneasy.

Catching up with the others, Ceyenna asked why the spell casters had been left their staves, but their other weapons had been removed. Ariena explained the Flow storm had drained or released the power from their rune-staves and so they were just sticks to the cliff dwellers. Dion thought differently, saying that the desert people probably didn't regard the staves as weapons. Arondil's opinion was that these people most likely thought the staves were totems, and probably believed Ithildin was the Shadow Seekers shaman or elder.

As they finished exchanging ideas about the staves, the small corridor opened into a large room. It was intricately carved and airy in its design. Melian murmured in appreciation as they entered. The rest of the group was so impressed they stood stunned. Various forms of wonder and awe were written across their faces. Usually rooms such as these were only found in Dwarven mines, or in royal palaces.

The room had been carefully designed so that each object was actually a part of the floor, walls, or ceiling. The light colored rock was intricately worked to mimic columns and archways, which spanned the length and breadth of this room in a bas-relief. Chairs of stone rose from the floor itself, and each had inlaid designs of multi-colored amber within their backs. The central, and largest chair, had an inlay designed with mother of pearl and porphyry, a purplish stone.

The elders of the cliff dwellers were assembled in the room with their Chieftain, several of the Guardians were in the room as well. These Guardians were the patrol that found the Shadow Seekers near the Pyramid. Ceyenna's eyes sought out, and found, the guard whom she had been staring at the night before. He was speaking to one of his men, but broke off when he caught sight of Ceyenna entering the room. Ceyenna resumed her visual appreciation of him, and he returned the blatant stare. Fadwa lead the group to low chairs in front of the assembled elders, who were now in their respective seats.

As the group sat, Ceyenna tossed her head and gave Tyre an if-you-dare look, which seemed to surprise him. With the exception of Arondil and Dion's blond hair, Ceyenna's hair stood out among all the dark-haired people assembled in the room.

One of the elders stood up and spoke to them. Each of the Shadow Seekers heard the elder in his or her own native language. "Before you seem surprised, let me explain that I have cast a spell which allows me to communicate with you for a short duration. Therefore, I must ask your permission to perform a similar spell on you outsiders. While not able to encompass the intricacies or complexities of our language, it will allow you to converse with us in a normal manner. The spell will take one full day for each of you to "learn" our language. How do you answer?" he asked.

Arondil looked around at the rest of his companions, who all nodded ascent, except for Ceyenna. She was still engaged in a staring contest with the Captain of the Guardians. He and his men were all armed to the teeth, conspicuous next to the unarmed Elders.

"Ceyenna!" Arondil barked, irritated that Ceyenna, as usual, was not paying attention during important meetings.

Ceyenna broke her gaze, looked towards Arondil and nodded ascent. Arondil gave the group's collective response, while Ceyenna returned her gaze to the very attractive guard. His gaze was wandering between Arondil and herself and his look was speculative.

With what little time remained of the elder's spell, he asked what had brought the group to the desert. Arondil explained as best he could, trying to remember exactly what had happened. Then he asked about their weapons. The elder asked for a promise of peace from the outlanders, which Arondil gave on behalf of the group. After receiving Arondil's pledge of honor, the elder sent the guards away to retrieve the companions weapons. The elder closed the meeting by welcoming them to their cliff-side dwellings and asked that they remain seated until he had finished casting his spells. He also asked that they stay inside their rooms until the morrow, when they would be able to understand those around them. Arondil agreed with these requests for the group.

The elder circled around the table and approached the Shadow Seekers. He quietly and repeatedly chanted a spell, as he circled the seated friends. As he began each repetition, he reached out and touched one of the companions on the forehead. When he had completed his task, the guards returned to the chamber with the groups weapons.

Ceyenna went to retrieve her two small daggers and one Kynac. The guard, Tyre, again looked surprised. Ceyenna smiled at him and then deliberately raised her robe up to her thigh, so that she could buckle her dagger against her skin.

There were gasps all around the room, and Ceyenna looked up in surprise herself. The group of Elders looked offended, the spell-caster said something urgently to Arondil.

Arondil nodded and came swiftly to Ceyenna's side.

"Keep yourself clothed, if it's possible for a woman like you," Arondil stated harshly. "In this culture, it is highly offensive for a female to show her body to any but her husband!" He finished his explanation and turned his back on her, beckoning the others to come over and gather up their weapons. The Elders left the room, leaving the guards to watch over the strange outlanders.

When the group was finished arming themselves, they were escorted back to the room where Ithildin lay. Upon entering, they all exclaimed and gathered around the elf. He was sitting up and drinking water. He didn't look completely recovered, but he was conscious and looked better than he had.

"Ithildin!"... "You're awake!"... "How are you feeling?"... "Are you alright?" The questions washed over the elf like a tidal wave, leaving him no time to answer any.

"EXCUSE ME!!" It was the diminutive Ariena whom had raised her voice to gain silence from everyone. "Let Ithildin have some room to breathe, and he just might be able to answer some of our questions!"

"Thank you, Ariena," Ithildin said quietly.

The woman who had been watching Ithildin rose and left. The companions gathered around the mage, hoping to figure out what had happened to them.

Ithildin explained that Flow-storms often moved people or objects far from their original location, carrying them along the storms erratic course to any destination on Kulthea. Ceyenna lost interest as the Shadow Seekers began discussing possible locations they might have been dropped by the storm. She went to stare out the window, it was near noon and the sun blazed down upon the sparkling desert unmercifully.

* * *

The desert looked very different to Ceyenna as the sun set. The Shadow Seekers were waiting to eat dinner and then retire for the night, since the next day would allow them normal communications, and the freedom to walk around the cliff dwelling. Maybe they could find out which land they were in, where the nearest town was, or a trade outpost at the least.

Ariena had spent the day recasting spells into her rune-staff. She had been very diligent in studying them from her spell book. Ithildin had not been up to doing the same for his staff, yet. The spell-casting elder, whom Ithildin said was probably a Shaman, had visited late in the afternoon to cast the language spell on Ithildin. Now he would also be able to understand the cliff-dwellers sometime during the next day.

As some of the desert women brought in the evening meal, the sun sank into the desert floor. The friends gathered around to eat, but Ceyenna found the food too spicy for her taste, and went to stare out the window. The setting sun was casting a red glow across the sky and turned the sand into a dark amber ocean. Ceyenna caught an echo of strange music washing over the darkening landscape. She tilted her head, hoping to hear more. As full night fell, Ceyenna could see flames wavering here and there among other parts of the cliff dwellings. The music seemed to echo louder, it's tempo quickening. The moons could not be seen yet, but she felt that one of them was full. Whirling away from the window with barely suppressed excitement, Ceyenna faced her comrades.

"I'm going out to explore," she announced.

"No!" Ithildin and Arondil shouted at the same time.

Ceyenna grinned and shrugged her shoulders apologetically. Then her outline wavered and melded into her tiger form. Out the window she leapt, oblivious to her companions cries behind her. There was a small narrow ledge and a sheer drop to the desert floor, a hundred feet below. It was thrilling to Ceyenna as she picked her way along the ledge and up to the top of the cliffs. She crouched low as she edged over the top, hoping her outline would not be noticed amongst the stark flatness of the cliff-top. She noticed several guards dressed in black patrolling the cliffs. A routine watch, she figured.

Ceyenna eased towards the music which was coming from a nearby oasis. She could make out the light of a large bonfire, her eyes glowing an incandescent yellow. She stalked away from the cliff edge, stealthily leaving the patrolling guards unaware of her presence. She circled around to the north side of the oasis, settling down to watch the celebration.

The oasis was large, palm trees surrounded what could almost be called a lake. This was the largest oasis that Ceyenna had ever seen or heard of. The cliff dwellers had set a huge bonfire, around which men danced wearing only loose fitting black pants. Ceyenna could easily spot Tyre, the Captain of the Guards and some of his men. Only the Captain and his men were tattooed on their faces and hands. The other men bore no such marks. There were no women present at all. Several older men sat playing drums, flutes, and a strange stringed instrument Ceyenna had never seen. It was producing the unfamiliar sounds that resembled wailing. There was another strange instrument which looked like a hollow tree branch, it sounded like a deep echoing horn, and sent a reverberant bass rolling across the plateau.

Ceyenna watched mesmerized when Tyre began to dance. His shoulder length black hair was tied back, his caramel colored skin glistened with sweat as his dancing became faster and more intricate. His attractive muscular form flowed smoothly to the music as the beat slowed and quickened. The other dancers continued to move, but Ceyenna thought the Captain was the best of them all. Ceyenna wondered if Tyre's stamina was as great in other areas. She would have liked to stay and find out , but the unfamiliar smells of the desert and the prickling of the full moon called enticingly to her cat curiosity.

Ceyenna arose, her tiger form slipping easily through the shadows and away. She loped out into the cooling desert under the bright moons, heading North along the cliffs edge to explore.

* * *

Ceyenna had traveled about two miles in her cat form, loping over the desert under the bright face of Orhan. The time to travel was definitely at night, a part of Ceyenna's brain thought. When one of the moons was full it was much harder to control her lycanthropy, even with the blessed amulet she had gained during her worship of Andaras, the Cat-God.

Suddenly, she picked up the scent of water. Slowing her pace, she veered towards where the scent was coming from. She came abruptly upon a large crevice in the ground which stretched over 200 feet back from the cliff-face. Ceyenna had been running along the lower plateau, which was about 50 feet above the desert floor. She could hear the sounds clearly from the small spring located within the crevice, and she saw a layer of mist along the bottom. Her eyes picked up traces of light reflected from the water as it coursed along the crevice, pooling within a small rocky outcropping at the base of the cliffs. Along the path of the spring, within the mist, she could barely see milky-white flowers.

Of a sudden, her gaze was locked upon a small speck on the desert floor horizon. She saw something sticking up from the sand. It was too square shaped to be a normal desert formation. Ceyenna chose a semi-difficult path down the side of the crevice; once reaching the desert floor she loped off towards the place where the shapes rose from the sand.

It was a shorter distance than she expected, but took longer since the loose sand was much more difficult to travel on. She was working twice as hard to make progress; she'd never run on loose sand before, and was slipping backwards or sinking into the sand every time her paws landed. Suddenly, it seemed, the uncovered ruins opened at her feet.

The buildings were built of stone, from what she could see of them. Most of the buildings were still mostly covered in the sand, but one or two of the taller buildings had a floor completely scoured free from their gritty burial grounds.

Before Ceyenna could explore further, she was startled to see a lion, with its wings folded against its body, come around the side of one of the exposed structures. Ceyenna lashed her tail. Her find! Hers!! She attacked the startled creature, leaping towards the creature with a savage roar. It was a brief and vicious fight, but the lion got in a good blow to Ceyenna's head and knocked her unconscious.

* * *

The next day dawned, washing the cliff dwelling in sparkling hues of pink and rose. The temperature began to rise with the appearance of the sun as well, seeming to jump by tens of degrees as the sun rose above the horizon.

The Shadow Seekers were grateful to their hosts for shelter, water, and sustenance. They would surely have perished in the unforgiving desert, otherwise.

"Isn't this typical?" Arondil said. "Our hosts, who were nice enough to save us from certain death, asked us to refrain from leaving their dwelling area. All's fine, then Ceyenna takes it into her head to run off. Worse yet, she fails to return this morning! How are we going to explain her absence to these desert people?" Arondil asked Ithildin in acerbic tones.

Ithildin sighed. Even the other Shadow Seekers, who usually took Ceyenna's absences and re-appearances in stride, looked a little worried. "I'm sure things will turn out alright," Ithildin said. "If these people wanted to do us harm in any way, they could have done so a long time ago. Why would they wish to hurt us now?"

Before anyone could comment however, Ceyenna leapt through the window in her tiger form and shimmered into her human form. Mere seconds later, Fadwa and her female entourage brought the post-dawn meal into the room. Arondil had opened his mouth, no doubt to yell, Ceyenna thought, then snapped it shut again as the women entered. All was unnaturally silent, like before a storm.

Fadwa spoke to them as she served the silent group. "I trust you all rested peacefully?" she asked pleasantly.

They could understand her speech!! The companions excitedly answered her and began asking questions of her. Fadwa answered what she could, but it was obvious she knew little of life outside the cliff dwellings.

"I am sure the Elders can answer all your questions," Fadwa said with a smile. "I can take you to them when you are finished eating."

Arondil leaned over to Ceyenna as she was stuffing food hungrily into her mouth. "This won't be forgotten," he promised in a threatening tone.

Ceyenna cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're the only one who will remember!" she shot back at him. When Ithildin was done eating, Ceyenna pulled him aside for a quick and private conversation, pointedly keeping Arondil out of hearing distance. She quietly and briefly explained that she had discovered some ruins farther out in the desert. Some Lammasu she had encountered told her the ruins were only recently uncovered by the major Flow-storm. The same storm that had brought the group here.

It was a wild tale told in hushed tones, but before Ithildin had a chance to ask questions or fully assimilate what Ceyenna had told him, Fadwa returned.

Fadwa led them to the hall they had been in the previous day. While introductions were made all around, Ceyenna learned the name of her admirer, Tyre. Ceyenna sat and stared at Tyre while Ithildin explained their presence here as best he knew how. Fadwa brought cool, milky drinks that tasted sweet - like nothing Ceyenna had ever had before.

After some discussion, the Elders agreed that it was unforeseen circumstances that had brought the Shadow Seekers here. They explained that they guarded the Giant Pyramid of Nof-Keh and would allow none access. Other than that fact, the companions were welcome guests in the Cliff-dwelling for as long as they liked. Ithildin then asked where the nearest town was.

Ceyenna became bored and got up to look out one of the small windows in the chamber, as some of the elders excused themselves. The oldest man, named Ahnksun, had sent for a map and was becoming deeply engrossed in discussion with Ithildin.

Arondil came up behind Ceyenna after a few moments.

"What?" she snapped irritably.

"Oh, I just thought you'd like to know, Ceyenna," Arondil began. "The Captain of the guard ... what was his name? Oh yes, Tyre! He just approached me and asked how much I would sell you for."

Ceyenna turned to Arondil and her jaw dropped open in surprise. She could not find her voice. Arondil, not normally given over to mirth, laughed to see her expression.

"I told him that you were not mine to sell, but I'd sell you for one copper if you were," Arondil finished. He was still smiling when he walked away from her.

Ceyenna couldn't believe it! Were women in this society owned by men?? Of course, Ceyenna was not so naive that she did not know about slavery. She just never experienced it so closely before, and she wasn't liking the feeling now that she had.

Well, Ceyenna decided, she wouldn't worry about it. She could do what she wanted, nobody owned her. She would be leaving here in the not too distant future.

Ithildin called to Ceyenna and she went to over to where her friends were standing. Ithildin explained that he had gotten permission, and some guides, to go out to the ruins that Ceyenna had "discovered". Ceyenna was ecstatic and spontaneously flung her arms around Ithildin in a hug.

"You are welcome, Ceyenna." Ithildin said when she had released him and he could breathe again. He tucked some of his shoulder-length blonde hair behind his pointed elven ear and then indicated the map.

"I don't know what their motivation is in allowing us to explore," Ithildin explained to the group. "A good conclusion would be that since it is in the general direction of the nearest settlement, it makes little difference to them in supplies or water expenditure."

"We will also be traveling and exploring at night," Ithildin continued, "since it is too excruciatingly hot for our human companions to tolerate daytime travel."

Ceyenna rolled her eyes and sighed, thinking that Ithildin was being too much of a worry-wart.

"It was suggested by our hosts, Ceyenna, and it is unwise to refuse their advice in these matters," Ithildin responded to her reactions.

* * *

Nightfall found the Shadow Seekers and their guides at the base of the cliff dwellers home. Ithildin had been studying the intricately carved cliff face with interest while the desert men checked to make sure all was loaded onto the strange mounts.

Ithildin even had some parchment out and was sketching a few of the designs. Strange winged creatures peeked out from behind carved columns. Ceyenna saw some of the winged Lammasu that had revived her, when she'd changed into her human form, after she'd been knocked out. They were withdrawn, but intelligent creatures, and had asked her not to give away their location to the cliff dwellers. Ceyenna respected their wishes.

The cliffs looked luminous in the light of the newly risen moons. Ithildin put away his sketches as Tyre came up with two of his men. They had been assigned by the Elders as escorts to the settlement of Ardana, which was roughly ten days journey to the North, North-East.

In preparation for the journey, the Shadow Seekers had been given the same type of clothing that the desert men wore. Children's clothes had been altered for Ariena, much to her amusement. Her little Shaskan was a source of wonder to the desert people and Ariena had let Anardil fly around, entertaining the women who had come to measure her.

The group was told the creatures they were to ride were called camels. Ceyenna thought they were ugly brutes. As they were about to mount up, she gingerly kicked at hers with her foot. It turned its scruffy head around and grunted at her menacingly, showing its teeth. Ceyenna bristled! The nerve of the animal! Why she had a good mind to...

Tyre interrupted her thoughts. "Do not let the beast intimidate you," he instructed with a grin on his face.

"I don't like them," Ceyenna said, "except maybe on a dinner plate."

Tyre responded seriously, "Oh, they are not good eating. Too tough."

Ceyenna did a double take at him, trying to decide if he was having her on.

"Would you like to ride behind me?" Tyre asked her innocently.

Ceyenna thought she would like a ride of another sort, but for now... "Sure," she responded.

He agilely mounted one of the unruly beasts, extending his hand to assist her in gaining her seat behind him. Even though there was plenty of room, Ceyenna slid up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He stiffened a moment at her touch, then relaxed. With Tyre leading and the other desert men bringing up the rear, the group proceeded North across the desert.

The night passed uneventfully and Ceyenna wondered at how chilly it was at night. After a quick break in the mid-of-night to eat, Ceyenna lay her head against Tyre's shoulder and fell asleep.

Tyre awoke Ceyenna as the sky lightened from purple to mauve. They were at the small spring, which was very close to the hidden location of the Lammasu. Ceyenna wanted to keep the others from discovering where the Lammasu lived.

"The ruins are only about one hours ride to the East," Ceyenna said to spur the group on.

Everyone was rather eager to see these ruins, even Tyre and the other guards. They followed Ceyenna's instructions and made it to the edge of the uncovered ruins before it got too hot. The largest structure was square and tomblike, providing enough shade where they could set up their tents for the day's rest.

As soon as Ceyenna had fulfilled her minimum obligations with setting up camp, she made a tour around the structure. As far as she could tell, there was only one entrance, the doorway at what looked like the front of the structure. There was little decoration on the outside, save for some unreadable symbols that might or might not represent writing of some sort.

"Have you ever seen anything like this before, Tyre?" Ceyenna asked the guard captain.

"No. It looks nothing like Nof-Keh," he responded. "But, now is not the time for exploring. Let us wait until evening," he said.

There arose a discussion. Ceyenna, Dion, and Melian wanted to try entering the structure during the daylight. Tyre advised against it, with Ithildin, Arondil, and Ariena agreed that it would be better to rest before attempting access.

Although Ceyenna and Melian tried to persuade the others to explore now, there was no moving Ithildin when his mind was set. Since he was the only one with spells to make an opening through the stone door, Ceyenna and the others would have to wait. Ceyenna complained and pouted, but it was already nearing 90 degrees and it was only early morning.

After a quick meal, the party retired to their tents, all but Ceyenna, that is. She sat up against the stone structure in the shade. She unwrapped her headdress and took off all but her under-robe. She sat sipping her share of the strange milky-sweet drink the desert people preferred.

It was not long later that Tyre came out of his tent. He did not notice Ceyenna sitting motionless against the structure. He had unwrapped his head also and removed all but his leggings. He made a quick check on the camels and then faced the East, dropping to his knees apparently in prayer. His loose, shoulder length black hair fell forward in a silky mass as he leaned over to briefly touch his forehead to the sand. He stood, turning, and caught sight of Ceyenna watching him. He looked surprised, then he smiled and came towards her. As he sat next to her, Ceyenna casually handed him what was left of her drink. He smiled his thanks, his white teeth perfect against his dark skin.

"I like that stuff, what's it made of?" Ceyenna asked.

"It's a combination of fermented camel's milk and spices," he replied. He laughed at the face Ceyenna made. Then he became serious. "Does any man claim you?" he asked.

Ceyenna shook her head no, and before she could speak Tyre slid his hand to the back of her neck and drew her close for a kiss. He pulled back, but left his hand on her neck.

"I've been wanting to do that since I first saw you," he admitted.

Ceyenna only leaned forward and kissed him in her turn, sliding her tongue between his teeth to taste the drink they had just shared. Tyre pulled her to his tent and they disappeared inside.

* * *

Ceyenna arose toward dusk and dressed. Tyre lay asleep still, his hair tousled and his skin dark and inviting. But Ceyenna was done with that, she'd had her sample. Besides, the stone structure awaited, she thought eagerly.

* * *

Ithildin stood before the door in the moonlight. Ceyenna thought the structure looked much less inviting, and much more tomblike in the dark. Several in the party carried torches. After a few minutes of concentration, Ithildin was able to create a magical door in the solid stone.

Air redolent of old spices and dark passages assailed them. Ceyenna took a torch and went point - going slowly to check for hidden traps.

There was a hallway leading downward, gently sloping, as far as the torch light penetrated. It was ten feet high and about six feet across. Simple square blocks were set together tightly, so that even moisture could not get in or out. The hall was dry and unremarkable as it headed downward, but Ceyenna stopped. She held up her hand to halt the rest of the party.

"The floor here....." Ceyenna began, and then disappeared as the square floor tile dropped out from under her.

"Ceyenna!" Melian cried out. All the friends gathered close to the edge. Tyre pushed his way to the front.

Ceyenna was hanging by her fingertips over an apparently cavernous drop. "I'm okay," she said. "Just help me up!"

Tyre reached down and grabbed Ceyenna's arm to lift her up. She looked a little white in the torch light.

"Too close!" she said.

It was only a four foot leap across, so Tyre went first, then the rest followed. Ceyenna took a deep breath and leapt. Once across, she took a torch from Tyre and went ahead, this time being a lot more careful and going slowly.

"I'll tell you this," Ithildin's voice said drifting up from somewhere near the back. "Something magical was alerted to our presence by triggering that trap." He sounded uneasy.

After a few more minutes of uneventful passage, the hallway opened out into a large chamber. Obviously they had proceeded to an underground level. Ceyenna carefully explored the perimeters of the room and there were no apparent traps. The room was plain, containing only three sarcophagi. Melian and Ithildin were examining the stone coffins. Tyre, his men, and Ariena were busy placing extra torches around.

"Well, this is disappointing," Dion said dejectedly. He kicked at one of the raised carvings of a fantastic beast that decorated the walls.

With a grating sound, three stone doors slid aside, startling the group. Out came three skeletal warriors, scimitars raised! They were dressed in ornate headdresses resembling animal heads: a Jackal, a Cheetah, and a Ram. Their clothes had long since rotted away, leaving only their ornately jeweled baldricks as testimony to their status.

Dion and Arondil drew their swords. Ariena spoke a word of power and one of the skeletons collapsed in a bejeweled heap of loose bones. Arondil and Dion made short work of the remaining two. Melian retrieved the belts from the dismembered skeletons, but Ithildin still seemed uneasy.

Ceyenna examined the cavities the skeletons had come out of and found that one had a hidden doorway. Ceyenna called the party's attention to it. It was decided that Ithildin, Arondil, and Ariena would stay in the main chamber. They would try to discover who these people had been, and possibly open one of the sarcophagi. Ceyenna, Dion, Melian, and the three desert men would go further into the structure and see what it held.

"Be careful," Ithildin admonished Ceyenna.

She nodded and disappeared into the small tight passageway. The desert men and Dion had to duck to negotiate the passage. Ceyenna and those following her wormed their way deeper and deeper. Melian was the only one who didn't feel at all claustrophobic.

It was a good thing Ceyenna was going slowly, since the passage ended abruptly in a drop. She held her torch out to see what was before her and her eyes widened in disbelief. It was a thieves dream come true. Ceyenna shut her eyes a moment, then opened them. Yep, it was still there.

"What is it?" Tyre asked from the back of the group.

There was a drop of about 12 feet down into the room. The stone looked darker, and also looked like it had been worked differently, Ceyenna thought. It was possible that this room was older than the rest of the structure, and that the above chamber was an addition.

But it was the room that was so impressive, it was set up as an opulent burial chamber. The walls, what she could see of them, were hung with tapestries that were surprisingly well preserved. Their color was slightly faded, but clearly showed hunt scenes through lush forests, and large banquets at which richly dressed lords and ladies sat. There were sarcophagi along both sides of the room. At a quick count, Ceyenna guessed about twenty. Two of the sarcophagi looked to be made of pure gold, intricately carved to resemble a lord and lady. Even from this distance Ceyenna could tell the carvings resembled two figures featured prominently in the woven tapestries. As incredible as it seemed, if the tapestries were to be believed, it was possible that this desert might not always have been the waste it was today...

"What is it, Ceyenna? Is there gold up there?" Melian called.

Ceyenna rolled her eyes. Melian's dwarven heritage was definitely showing. She could smell gold at thirty paces.

"Yep, there's gold aplenty! It's a burial room," Ceyenna called back.

Not seeing an easy way down, she asked Dion to back up a little. After some grumbling on Dion's part, about squeezing himself back a bit, Ceyenna got a few inches of breathing room. She carefully dropped her torch into the room, then changed into her tiger form, and made the leap down into the treasure room easily.

As she was about to change back into human form in order to properly explore, she heard something with her sensitive cat ears. She cocked her head to one side and roared, since the others in the tunnel were making too much noise. When all was quiet, the faint sound of battle came from far above.

Tyre called out something to Dion, and they all retreated back up the hallway.

Ceyenna tried jumping out of the room, but it was just a little too high. She tried climbing up onto one of the sarcophagi and jumping from there, but to no avail; her leaps kept falling short, and her claws were digging grooves into the wall at each attempt. After several tries, she finally gave up. Changing back into her human form, she picked up the still-lit torch and began to explore.

* * *

As Ithildin and Ariena bent over one of the sarcophagi, he asked his apprentice to cast a light spell so he could see the markings better. Ariena was happy to oblige, but she got something wrong in the incantation and the lid of the sarcophagus opened instead.

A blast of icy cold emerged, sending her and Ithildin reeling back. Arondil exclaimed in Iylar and a white aura popped into existence around him. He drew his enchanted Mithril sword, which shone like liquid silver within his aura.

A wraith climbed out of the sarcophagus, its cold and evil eyes burning red within its shadowy humanoid form. It reached its hands out toward Ariena, and Ithildin stepped between her and it. Ithildin spoke a word, which caused a bright light to surround himself and Ariena.

The wraith shied away from it, swerving directly into Arondil's aura. It shrieked and fled towards the dark passage, just as Tyre burst through the opening. The wraith gripped Tyre by his arm, while his sword passed harmlessly through it. He fell, white and cold to one knee.

Arondil hit the wraith with his sword from behind, causing the wraith to release Tyre. It turned upon Arondil angrily, reaching through his aura with obvious pain. It grabbed his sword with both insubstantial hands, ripping it out of Arondil's grip.

Arondil gasped in surprise, stepping back from the wraith. He raised his hand, calling upon Cay to protect these people and banish the undead spirit.

A searing white light emanated from Arondil's palm, temporarily blinding everyone who saw it. When they could see again, the wraith was gone without trace, as if it had never been. Arondil lowered his hand, fervently thanking Cay for his protection.

Ithildin unsteadily went to help Tyre, whom was kneeling in icy pain on the floor, his teeth chattering.

When the group had all collected themselves, and Melian had explained about a possible treasure room, they proceeded downward.

All except Ariena and Arondil. She felt bad about her spell going awry. She sat with Anardil's head in her lap, saddened that her actions had endangered her companions, even unintentionally. Arondil remained kneeling, praying in fervent thanks to Cay

Ithildin went over to her and said a few quiet words, then left her alone.

* * *

Ceyenna had not gone very far into the room when a chill hit her. Suddenly it became very cold, and her breath was visible as she exhaled. Not a good sign, she was sure.

From the very air, a pair of glowing green eyes opened to regard the trespasser. To her horror, she realized that the mist from her breath was coalescing into a form before her. The eyes steadily gazed at Ceyenna as her breath slowly defined more of the guardian spirit.

As the head became easier to see, a voice hissed inside Ceyenna's mind. "WHO DARES DISTURB THE SLEEP OF THE MASTERS?" The creature's head resembled a cat's, but much larger than any Ceyenna had ever seen.

A fresh wave of cold passed over her as the thing communicated. Its form was coalescing faster as the chill in the room deepened and vapor rose from the floor. Ceyenna moved away from the creature and placed her shivering back to the nearest wall. She attempted to pull her sword from its sheath and found it frozen in the scabbard. She found all her other weapons similarly useless.

Then she remembered! The dagger strapped to her thigh would be warmer. Her body heat would have kept it warm enough to remove from its sheath. She quickly reached through the cut in her robe to retrieve the dagger.

In one fluid motion she unsheathed the weapon and threw it. The wholly formed creature was unharmed as the dagger penetrated and exited its form. The dagger landed on the far side of the cat, rimed with ice crystals. The creature began to slowly advance towards its now weaponless prey.

Shivering from fear as much as the chill, she put her hand up to the amulet around her neck. Ceyenna began to pray to Andaras, her cat god. She felt some warmth return to her body as a dark presence flowed into her mind, answering her call. Awareness of Andaras' attention sent waves of delight coursing through her body.

Ceyenna felt Andaras take control of her body and begin to speak to the creature in a strange, guttural language. As the strange speech issued from her mouth, the icy cold receded. Ceyenna heard the creature speak in her mind again.

"AS YOU WISH, GREAT ONE," the spirit cat acquiesced. "NO HARM SHALL BEFALL THOSE UNDER YOUR PROTECTION." So saying, the guardian spirit dissipated.

"There is an object hidden here which I greatly desire." Andaras whispered to her. He directed her to the base of the "lords" golden sarcophagi. With whispered warnings the presence of Andaras left Ceyenna's mind. She felt the loss keenly, but sent a prayer of thanks to him.

She knelt by the sarcophagus, inspecting it for hidden compartments. After several moments of scrutiny she found a small irregularity in the carving along the foot of the coffin. Her senses warned of traps, but she could not locate any visible indications nor could she guess what form the trap would take.

Climbing onto the top of the sarcophagus, she drew a dagger. Laying flat upon the top, she carefully pressed the tip of the blade into the trigger. She heard a click and saw a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye. Before she could react, a dart ripped through her sleeve and hit a statue several feet away from the side of the coffin.

Getting down from the golden sarcophagus, she investigated the outline of the hidden compartment. Using her dagger she pried open the compartment and found a parcel wrapped in leather.

Hearing the others coming back down the hallway, she quickly grabbed the parcel and shoved it into her pack. She forcefully closed the compartment, reseating the lid so that it blended once again with the design.

Turning, she walked casually back towards the entrance and awaited her friends.

As Tyre appeared at the opening with a torch, Ceyenna said, "There were a few traps but I've disarmed them."

A rope was dropped down and anchored in the passageway. At Ceyenna's assurance that all was safe, the rest of the group lowered themselves into the room and picked up what they could carry. All except the desert men and Ithildin, that is.

"We do not believe in removing burial possessions from the dead," Tyre said reprovingly. Even though he disapproved, he made no attempts to stop the others from taking what they wanted.

Ithildin busied himself studying the ancient tapestries. Melian and Dion took gold and jewel encrusted belts from the lifelike statues in the chamber.

Ithildin thought the tapestries were extremely well preserved, retaining most of their original richness in color. The fabric was of a finer weave than Ithildin had ever seen, even better than the cloth Elves produced. The most lavish tapestry was of a large structure containing various large cats. Centrally located in the tapestry was a large black panther, it's eyes were such a vibrant emerald that Ithildin suspected real gems were used for the eyes. The effect was quite eye-catching, and eerily made him feel as if the panther was aware of his gaze. The central tapestry was an extravagant representation of a Lord and Lady of some note. The surrounding areas were detailed with a flowing script. Ithildin busied himself with copying the language into a journal of his for future deciphering and translation. It would be very interesting to discover who these people were and when they had lived.

Ceyenna paid little attention to what the others took. In her opinion, she'd probably already gotten the only item worth any real value.

* * *

The Shadow Seekers and their guides were more than half way to the nearest settlement. Ceyenna had established her unspoken position by sleeping in Tyre's tent every day of their journey so far. They had traveled over the desert along a caravan trail apparent only to Tyre, the guard named Benni, and the camels.

On the fifteenth day of their travel, they came over a dune hill and saw a city spread out before them. The group expressed awe, amusing Tyre greatly.

"You think we desert people have no civilization?", he asked rhetorically. He admitted to Ceyenna, as they rode closer, that he'd only been to Ardana once with his father when he was very young. He didn't remember much.

Ceyenna was excited. This city looked like a place she could get used to. Caravans of all types came through all the time. Very few passed by the cliffs, Tyre explained to Ceyenna. There just wasn't enough profit for them to travel out that distance.

After securing lodgings with Tyre's help, the companions each went off to explore this new city according to their own whims.

Ceyenna, Melian, Dion, and Ariena went with Tyre and his men to one of the local taverns. Ceyenna proceeded to get very drunk on a spicy wine.

The next morning, she found herself lying next to Tyre in their room. Her head hurt fiercely and her wrist burned. Other unmentionable parts of her body ached as well.

She lifted her left arm up before her eyes, groggily noticing that she sported a tattoo around her entire wrist. It resembled an intricate bracelet, vaguely reminding Ceyenna of something, but she couldn't recall what.

Tyre rolled over and put his arms around her. "My wife," he said sleepily.

To be continued.........


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