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An Unlikely Father

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    An Unlikely Father

    An Unlikely Father
    Jo Metzler
    When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
    When you are somewhere, you are everywhere

    The forest was calm and peaceful. The rays of the sun broke through the canopy of leaves above to dance along the forest floor. Unseen birds sang up in the branches. Small game, disturbed by the lone rider passing through their area, quickly hid themselves in the underbrush. But he paid them no mind, for he was hunting larger quarry.

    Yes, Kelemvor was hunting all right, but not for edible fare. He was in search of the pack of Xaos Wargs that had been terrorizing the local farmers. Of course, he was alone. All the other knights were cowering, safe behind the castle walls. But what did he expect? They all thought he had taken leave of his senses for venturing out alone to take on an entire pack. He couldn’t help but smile. If they only knew.

    But they didn’t know. In fact, no one in all the realm knew the truth about Kelemvor. Yes, he was a tried and true knight of the realm, and yes, he served King Starfall and Queen Robyn without question or qualm, but his heart and soul belonged to a realm that no longer presided upon this land. He sighed and quickly banished the thoughts of his long perished home. No good would come of dwelling on the past.

    He continued his steady pace through the forest. He had hoped to come across their den during the daylight hours, it being common knowledge that Xaos Wargs were more active, and therefore dangerous, at night. But so far every trail he had followed had led nowhere. He knew they were mystical beings, and not much about their abilities were known, but surely they couldn’t just vanish without a trace. Even that would leave some kind of essence behind.

    Kelemvor pulled his steed to a halt. Nothing seemed out of place in the forest. Perhaps that was why he was so on edge. A pack of Xaos Wargs couldn’t just wreck chaos all over the land without disturbing something. And yet the forest appeared untouched. Nudging his steed back into a walk, he continued through the forest, perhaps around the next bend he would find something.

    As he rounded the next bend he did indeed find something, or SOMEONE to be exact. A woman was lying next to the path, the blood pooling around her was obvious. Kelemvor was off his steed with his sword drawn in one fluid motion. He would offer what aid he could, if it wasn’t too late, but he would not let his guard down for one moment. He knew too well the trickery that some species tried to lure travelers to their doom.

    “Milady?” He said softly as he approached cautiously. If she was still alive he didn’t want to spook her.

    A soft moan was his only answer.

    When he reached her side he carefully turned her over with his free hand. Her abdomen and chest had been ripped open, and her life force was quickly draining out onto the ground. And yet she still lived, if barely.

    “My son,” she wheezed.

    Kelemvor looked around, seeing no other body he turned back to her and shook his head. “I see no one else, Milady.”

    “Hidden,” she coughed, trying to motion toward a small game trail leading off the path. “Please. Take him.”

    “Milady, perhaps your husband…”

    “NO!” she cried. “You…take…my son…elf,” she finished, closing her eyes.
    When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
    When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


      Kelemvor was stunned. How could this dying woman know what he was? Not even the great wizards of the realm could tell of his true heritage. Everyone accepted him as a human and he acted no different. And yet this woman, with her dying breath, revealed to him that she knew the truth and therefore only him would she entrust her son to.

      He sighed with regret as he went to his steed, who was now very upset at the scent of blood that was thick along the path. Kelemvor soothed him with a few words as he took a blanket from his pack and returned to wrap the woman’s body in it. He would not leave her here for the Wargs to get.

      After securing the blanket around her, he started off down the game trail. She had motioned this direction so the child must be along here somewhere. He had gone quite a ways when he sensed something. He froze and listed intently for whatever had set off his internal alarms.

      Then he heard it. A soft whimpering coming from an old rotten tree trunk. He cautiously approached the tree, noticing a hole in the side. He looked in and saw a small bundle tucked inside. Kelemvor reached in carefully pulled the bundle, which was now writhing, out.

      He had barely secured the bundle in his arms when the blanket that was wrapped around it fell away, revealing a dark little boy. On the baby’s head was thick dark hair, more hair than Kelemvor had ever seen on a child. The baby’s complexion was also dark, much darker than what the woman’s had been. But it was the baby’s eyes that were amazing. His eyes were large and could have been called green, if not for the amber in them, and Kelemvor could swear he saw just a hint of red.

      Kelemvor carefully rewrapped the blanket around the child, and headed back toward the path. He had almost reached the path when he heard the distinctive sound of Xaos Wargs. During the day? Carefully tucking the child into his breastplate, he drew his sword and cautiously made his way forward.

      Sure enough, there on the path was, thankfully only a couple of the Wargs. Unfortunately, they were tearing what was left of the woman’s body apart. They hadn’t touched his steed, however, which he had tied just off the path. He made his way toward his steed, careful of where he stepped. The Wargs had heightened senses, but he was hoping that his inborn qualities would shield him from their notice.

      He thought, while they might not notice him on foot, the moment he mounted up they would and then the battle would be on. It was a risk he would have to take. He had to get the child back to the safety of the castle. Even now the infant lay still and quiet within his breastplate, seeming to know the importance of silence at this moment.

      Kelemvor reached his steed and carefully untied him. He had barely vaulted onto it’s back when the Wargs turned toward him screaming in their guttural language. Too bad he couldn’t speak their tongue, although he was pretty sure it had something to do with killing him.

      He wasn’t about to stick around and find out though. He urged his steed into a hard gallop, swinging his sword at any Warg that go too close. He managed to get a hit on one, which screamed in agony when Kelemvor’s sword cut into its flesh. The rest of the Wargs immediately ceased the pursuit when they saw the damage that his sword had inflicted. Kelemvor didn’t let up, however, he kept pushing his steed as fast as he could go back toward the castle.
      When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
      When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


        Once he had put enough distance between them and the Wargs, he pulled his steed down to a walk. Kelemvor could see the castle in the distance, and it wouldn’t be long until he entered the outskirts of Castleton.

        He would have to stop at the General Store to get some supplies to take care of the baby. He was pretty sure Robyn had nothing left from when the princess was a child. Kelemvor could just imagine the rumors that would fly around the town when news of him buying baby supplies got around. Not that he really cared. Let them think what they want.

        The first place he stopped as he entered town was the blacksmith. He wanted Azelgund to check over his steed and make sure he was unharmed. As he dismounted he checked the child, surprised to find him sleeping curled up against his chest inside the breastplate. Well, that was fine by Kelemvor. That just meant he could get some business done without having to disturb the baby.

        “Hail, Azelgund,” he called, leading his steed into the adjacent corral.

        Looking up from his forge, the large hulking man smiled. “Hail, Kelemvor. What brings you to my smithy?”

        “I need you to look over Kalzar for me. We had a little run in with some Xaos Wargs out in the forest,” Kelemvor explained.

        Azelgund straightened to his impressive six-foot height, which was still a few inches shorted than Kelemvor, and nodded. “Wargs, huh? During the Day? They are either getting brave, or stupid.”

        Azelgund rubbed his smooth chin in thought. He was definitely an impressive man to behold. Taller than most of the humans of Castleton, he was broader than everyone that Kelemvor knew. His skin was tough and brown, with just a reddish tint, probably from the constant heat of the forge, and always glistening with a fine sheen of sweat. He had no hair on his arms, chest or head, long since either burned off or kept shaved off for safety’s sake. And his dark brown eyes were deep and soulful. And he wore the typical smithy attire, a tough leather apron, sturdy leather breeches, and even sturdier leather boots, all a dark brown.

        No one, native of Castleton, dared to cross Azelgund, and everyone respected him. Perhaps that is why he was elected as the peacekeeper of the town. He was fair in his dealings, and held no favorites when someone broke the laws.

        “I have to get some things at the General Store. I’ll be back in a while to get Kalzar,” Kelemvor said, heading out of the smithy.

        “No problem,” Azelgund answered, waving him off.

        As Kelemvor made his way down the street he greeted several citizens that he knew, but declined to stop and make conversation with any of them. He wanted to get what he needed and get back to the castle. He had to talk to Cometmoon about the Wargs. AND the baby.

        He just couldn’t shake the feeling that the Wargs were looking for the child specifically.
        When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
        When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


          Kelemvor entered the General Store, which was, of course, packed at this time of day. He nodded to several ladies as he approached the counter. “Hail, Mourngrym.”

          Mourngrym looked up from the list he was filling for a small girl and smiled at Kelemvor. “Hail, Kelemvor. Be with you in just a moment.”

          Kelemvor stood to the side patiently, checking the infant again, satisfied that he was still asleep, and watched the women doing their shopping. He couldn’t help but be amused at how no man of Castleton would step foot inside the General Store. There were a few exceptions, himself for example, Azelgund for another, but for the most part the men of the area acted as though Mourngrym might do terrible unspeakable acts to them if they were to step inside his store.

          Mourngrym only stood a tad over five-foot tall, with a fair complexion, from working indoors, and fine blonde hair. His soft blue eyes were always sparkling, and he always seemed to have a smile on his face. He was polite to the ladies, both young and old, and as far as Kelemvor knew, he had never forced himself on anyone.

          Mourngrym finished the girl’s list and handed her the goods in the basket she had brought in with her, and she in turn handed him a few coins. “Thank you, sir,” she said softly and turned and made her way out of the store.

          “Now what can I do for the Captain of the Royal Knights?” Mourngrym asked, chuckling.

          “I need some, well…” seeing no other way to say it, Kelemvor decided to just come out with it. “I need some baby supplies.”

          Every conversation in the place died instantly, and every woman within the store looked his way. Even Mourngrym took a few moments to close his mouth. “I’m sorry did you say BABY supplies?”

          “Yes, that’s right. I came across an orphaned infant in the forest, and I’m going to raise it. Per it’s dying mother’s request,” Kelemvor said, deciding that he might as well make sure that the gossips had the facts direct from the source. And as if to prove his words, the child chose that moment to start fussing, instantly grabbing everyone’s attention.

          Kelemvor carefully removed the child from his breastplate, not sure what to do next. So he did what he had seen several midwives do when tending to an infant. He placed the child upon his shoulder and gently patted him on the back. Being rewarded instantly with a very audible belch.

          Instantly, Kelemvor and the baby were surrounded by adoring women, all cooing and vying for the attention of the child, unfortunately all they succeed in doing was upsetting him, and he started wailing at the top of his lungs. They all immediately backed off, and gave the baby the space he so obviously didn’t want to share, which seemed to be just the thing to instantly calm him once more. Kelemvor released a sigh of relief, and was surprised to see that, during the commotion, Mourngrym had assembled everything he would need to take care of the baby.

          “I’ll put it on your account. I think you may want to get him somewhere a little quieter than here.”

          Kelemvor picked up the pack of goods and smiled, “Thank you. I believe you may be right.” Then, with the baby in one arm and the supplies in the other, he headed back to Azelgund’s smith.
          When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
          When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


            Azelgund gave Kalzar a clean bill of health when Kelemvor arrived at the smith. “He had a few minor scratches, but nothing a little ointment couldn’t fix. I did go ahead and put his new shoes on. He was due for them anyway.”

            “Thank you, my friend,” Kelemvor said securing the supplies to Kalzar’s back.

            Azelgund simply watched in silence. Taking particular note of the infant cradled in Kelemvor’s arm. He said nothing however, just smiled and waved as Kelemvor rode off toward the castle. Shaking his head he turned back to his forge. “That is going to be interesting.”

            The gates of the castle opened at Kelemvor’s approach and he rode through into the courtyard. He barely acknowledged the other knights as he dismounted and quickly took care to Kalzar’s comfort in his stall. Once finished with that task he took the infant and the supplies and headed for the castle proper.

            He paid no mind to the whispering as he passed the other knights. Most of them were too soft anyway, having let their squires do most of the HEAVY work for them. To be honest, he was disgusted with the whole lot of them. Abusing their squires so that they may lounge about and squander their time, instead of training their squires in the true ways of a knight. Oh well, he thought, perhaps one day he would be able to oust the lot of them in exchange for some real knights.

            Kelemvor often thought it amusing that he was the only knight allowed in the castle proper. Mainly because of the other knights lack of social grace. Even Kelemvor’s quarters were in the castle proper, which was where he stopped briefly to leave the supplies he had brought in, before heading to Cometmoon’s library. He only hoped the sage wasn’t in one of his moods today.

            Kelemvor reached the library without incident, a small blessing, he imagined, and quietly slipped inside. One tower had been converted into the library. Filled to capacity with books from all over the realm, plus the books that were in the castle when it first arrived in this land. Each floor of the tower was dedicated to a different subject, the bottom floor being the history of Castleton itself and how it came to be here.

            Luckily Cometmoon sat at his desk on the ground floor, pouring over some scrolls in front of him. He barely glanced in Kelemvor’s direction, but then quickly snapped to attention focusing his gaze on the sleeping infant. “What in the world is that?” he exclaimed, rising to his feet.

            “HE is a baby,” Kelemvor answered, amused by the wizard’s reaction.

            “Well, obviously,” he said, moving over to get a closer look. “But just what are YOU doing with it…I mean him.”

            Kelemvor quickly explained the circumstances that lead to his having the baby in his care. Of course, he left out the part where the woman had called him elf. And he wrapped up the update with his recount of the Wargs actions.

            “So what do you think it means?” Kelemvor asked.

            “Well, it’s obvious that the child must be important to them. Although why, I’m sure I couldn’t fathom. I mean, babies are loud, smelly, messy, little things that require all of your attention and nothing ever pleases them. They destroy your life as you know it and then when they do finally grow into something else, everything gets worse. You have to deal with suitors, and planning their weddings, and then if that isn’t bad enough, after their wedded off to some poor, unsuspecting soul, they have a child of their own and want to bring it to you! You’d have to be out of your mind to want to deal with a baby!”
            When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
            When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


              “Focus, Cometmoon!” Kelemvor snapped, tired of the wizard’s rambling.

              Cometmoon jerked to attention. “Oh, right. The Wargs,” he muttered, digging through the tomes on his desk. “Let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.”

              “Ok. I’m going to take him to my quarters and clean him up. I’ll be there when you find something,” Kelemvor said, leaving the library.

              The baby sighed and cooed as Kelemvor carried him down the corridor. He still couldn’t figure out why the Wargs wanted the baby so badly. If only the mother could have told him more. There was definitely more than met the eye with this child, if only he could figure out what. Hopefully, Cometmoon would uncover something.

              “And what will you call the child?” a lilting feminine voice asked as he passed an open doorway.

              Kelemvor froze, and turned slowly to face the woman who had addressed him. “Queen Robyn, I didn’t see you there,” he said, bowing slightly.

              She smiled. “That was quite obvious. But you should know by now that not much happens here in the castle that I don’t find out about. His name?” she asked again.

              “Well…I really hadn’t thought about it, Your Majesty,” Kelemvor said, not sure why it should matter what he called the baby. He didn’t plan on having him for very long. At least he hoped he didn’t have him for very long. After all, it would be hard for him to perform his duties with a baby in tow.

              Robyn simply lifted on elegant brow. “You hadn’t thought of it? Did you think that Cometmoon would just bestow you with the answers you sought and you could be rid of the child? The child needs a name, Kelemvor. It is only proper,” she said, turning and walking back down the corridor she had been standing in.

              Wonderful, he thought. What was he supposed to call the kid? What did he know about naming a child? He could muddle through taking care of him while he had to, but naming him? He had been taught that a name must be a reflection of what was expected of the child. Kelemvor was at a complete loss as to what to expect of this child.

              He finally reached his quarters, thankfully without encountering any of the other castle inhabitants. He was tired and the baby was starting to fuss. He quickly bathed the child and put clean clothes on him. Then he prepared the mix that Mourngrym had given him.

              Kelemvor soon discovered that feeding the baby wasn’t going to be that easy. Every time he offered the mix to the infant, he knocked it away with his flailing arms. Kelemvor was getting frustrated. He paced back and forth with the child for what seemed like hours, constantly trying to get him to drink the mix. But the baby continued to fuss, pushing it away.

              Finally giving in to exhaustion, which was saying something considering he had never experienced it before, he lay on his bed, tucking the child against his chest and sang the only lullaby he knew. The baby quickly quieted, and grabbed Kelemvor’s hand, bringing it to his mouth. Not knowing what he was in for, Kelemvor closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off to sleep, hoping the baby would quickly follow suit. But no sooner had he closed his eyes than he felt a sharp nip on one of his fingers. His eyes flew open and he watched in awe as the baby happily sucked on his now bleeding finger. And just like that, and with a little bit of horror, Kelemvor knew what was so special about this baby. And he knew what to call him.
              When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
              When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                A few days later, Queen Robyn stopped Kelemvor once again, as he was heading out of the castle to do his patrol. “Have you decided on a name for the child?”

                “As a matter of fact, I have,” Kelemvor answered, adjusting the baby in the pack on his chest. “I have decided to call him Varik.”

                Robyn nodded. “A very unique name. And I must say that I’m very impressed by your ability to perform your knightly duties in addition to caring for Varik. You seem to have taken to fatherhood very well, considering that parenthood and knighthood are both full time endeavors.”

                And with that, Robyn turned and disappeared down the corridor. Kelemvor sighed. It was all he could do to keep anyone from finding out just how tired he was. But ever since he had figured out what Varik was, he had been at a loss as to what he should do with him. Every fiber of his being screamed at him to take him out to the forest and destroy him, but he had given the dying mother his word that he would care for him.

                Cometmoon still searched for answers, Kelemvor couldn’t bring himself to tell him what Varik was, knowing what the old man’s reaction would be. All he could do was continue his duties and hope that something would come to him.

                He continued out to the stables where Kalzar rested. As he prepared his steed, he described his actions to Varik, not that he expected him to ever ride a steed of any kind, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to know the basic requirements to caring for one. Kelemvor paused as a thought occurred to him, he could train Varik to be a knight. He laughed as he finished saddling up Kalzar. Kelemvor mounted up and rode out of the castle and away from Castleton.

                “Maybe we can find something today, Varik,” he said as they rode into the forest.

                They had traveled into a darker area of the forest, where the canopy was so thick that the rays of the sun couldn’t penetrate. Varik slept peacefully against Kelemvor’s chest in the pack that Kelemvor had made to carry him in, allowing Kelemvor to watch and listen to his surroundings without worrying about the baby.

                As he entered a small dark clearing, Kelemvor’s senses went on high alert. They weren’t alone anymore. He was reaching for his sword when a soft feminine laugh stayed his hand. He knew that laugh. He pulled Kalzar to a halt and looked around.

                “Show yourself, Azuna,” he said.

                “Have you figured out the significance of that child yet?” she asked, materializing in the shadows.

                “And just what do you know about it?” Kelemvor asked, instantly suspicious.

                “Calm yourself. I don’t want him. But there are those that do. And while you pass yourself off as one of those human imbeciles, just remember that there are those of us who are old enough to know what you really are and where you come from,” she said, her eyes glowing softly.

                Kelemvor sighed as he dismounted. “Tell me what you know.”

                “I thought you’d never ask,” she said, conjuring up two chairs and a table complete with wine and goblets. “Have a seat and let me fill you in on the abomination that you have found yourself caring for.”

                “That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? He hasn’t been any trouble really,” Kelemvor said sitting at the table.

                “And just how do you feed the little beast?” she asked. At his silence she laughed and said, “Just as I thought.”
                When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                  Azuna picked up the wine and carefully poor it deep red contents into the goblets. “So have you figured out exactly what he is?” she asked, setting the wine bottle down and handing him one of the goblets.

                  “He is an orphan,” Kelemvor said, sipping the bittersweet wine.

                  “Sometimes your obtuseness simply amazes me,” she scowled. “You will be in for quite a rude awakening if you don’t start taking an interest in what you have been saddled with.”

                  Kelemvor simply lifted a brow and took another sip of wine.

                  “So you don’t want to know?”

                  “I don’t have time for your games of beating around the bush. If you know something then tell me, otherwise, I have duties that I must attend to that have nothing to do with this baby and everything to do with protecting the kingdom,” he said, finishing off the wine and starting to stand.

                  “Very well. Sit down, Kelemvor. You are still just as cold as you were back in the war.”

                  The tip of his sword was at Azuna’s throat so fast she had no time to react. She sat completely still; shocked at the dark look that Kelemvor glowered at her. He hand was steady as he touched her chin with it.

                  “Yes, there are those who are old enough to know where I came from and what I am, but that can be quickly remedied. And I’ll thank you not to mention that dark time again in the presence of my son.”

                  Azuna’s eyes grew wider at his words and she shuddered slightly as he put his sword away. “Do you realize what you just said?”

                  Kelemvor smoothed one hand down Varik’s head and nodded. “Yes. I consider him my son. And perhaps I have since his mother entrusted me with his care. Now get to the point, Azuna. I am very tired and my patience is thin.”

                  Azuna nodded. “The Wargs want him because he is one of them,” she said, holding up a hand to stop Kelemvor from interrupting. “But he is more than that. His mother was a princess, and not just any princess, but a princess of Bloodmoon.”

                  Kelemvor looked stunned. “But how is that possible? Bloodmoon would never allow one of his daughters, or concubines, to leave his palace unattended. How would a Warg have gotten a hold of one, and wouldn’t they have just killed her?”

                  “Normally, yes. But a Warg didn’t grab her first. A wizard did. A sick and twisted wizard, who decided to do some experimenting with crossbreeding. He took the princess and allowed her to be raped by a ‘restrained’ Warg, resulting in pregnancy. But as you well know, Bloodmoon’s family is good at doing the unexpected and she managed to escape from the wizard and find her way here, where she gave birth to the child. She had done a fair job of hiding from the Wargs, but, as you well know, eventually everyone has to eat and she took a farmer’s livestock one evening. After that the Wargs descended, in force, to search for her. And then you entered the picture.”

                  “So he will forever be in my care? I feared as much,” Kelemvor said, gently stroking Varik’s thick dark hair.

                  “Well you could turn him over to Bloodmoon, seeing as how he is the baby’s grandfather. Or, you could turn him over to the Wargs to be raised by a twisted wizard determined to destroy all the good in the world. It is really up to you,” she said standing. “I do not envy you your choices. And eventually he will be too much for you to handle.”
                  When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                  When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                    And with that, Azuna disappeared, leaving Kelemvor to ponder the information she had bestowed upon him. He couldn’t very well turn Varik over to the sick wizard who had seen to his conception. And yet, deep down, Kelemvor knew that he couldn’t return the child to his family. The lycanthrope lords were nothing if not bloodthirsty, and they would wreak havoc and vengeance upon all, not just the one who had wronged them.

                    Kelemvor mounted Kalzar and turned him away from the clearing, starting back toward the castle. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to raise the child on his own. But what choice did he have now, knowing what he knew?

                    Suddenly Kalzar balked, drawing Kelemvor’s attention to his surroundings. Something was amiss. That thought had barely entered his head when the Wargs burst from the underbrush.

                    Kelemvor had his sword out swiftly, but one of the Wargs still managed to grab Kalzar by the throat and pull the war horse down. Kelemvor’s superior agility was the only thing that kept him and Varik from being crushed beneath Kalzar’s body.

                    He was outnumbered, without a mount, and burdened with Varik’s extra weight. Kelemvor knew he wouldn’t be able to fight them off for long. He also knew that Azuna wouldn’t come back to lend any assistance. So he did the only thing he could. He ran.

                    Kelemvor’s swiftness caught the Wargs by surprise and he managed to make it out of the woods. The Wargs stopped at the edge of the woods, partially because they were normally nocturnal and hated the sun, and partially because of the troop of knights waiting outside the forest.

                    Kelemvor came to a sliding stop. He didn’t recognize these knights and he kept his sword up, ready for another assault.

                    “Sir Kelemvor of Castleton,” the largest knight addressed him. “I am Quinn. Your lord, King Starfall, said you were out on patrol and my men and I came to find you.”

                    “What is it you want?” Kelemvor asked. He was not lowering his guard for a minute, especially with the Wargs back in the woods watching.

                    “We are looking for someone and we were told you might have information about her,” Quinn said, looking beyond Kelemvor toward the woods. “Do you always patrol without a mount?”

                    Kelemvor took notice that these knights weren’t riding horses. They were all riding the biggest mysta beasts that he’d ever seen. “I ran into some trouble and my mount was killed,” he said.

                    Quinn nodded. “Do you know where she is?” he asked bluntly.

                    “To whom are you referring?” Kelemvor asked, a sinking feeling forming in his stomach.

                    “Princess Ravenmoon,” Quinn clarified. “She’s been missing for some time and our oracle said that she might be here.”

                    Kelemvor sighed, suddenly very tired for the first time he could remember. “She was here,” he said slowly. “The Wargs killed her.”

                    There were several angry sounds from the knights behind Quinn until he made a move that silenced them all. Quinn’s eyes pierced Kelemvor. Kelemvor wasn’t sure if he didn’t believe him or if he knew there was more to the story. But Quinn simply nodded, turned his mount and his knights around and returned from the direction they came, leaving Kelemvor to find his own way back to the castle, which was fine by him.
                    When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                    When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                      Several hours later, Kelemvor entered Castleton. He grieved for his lost mount, was angry that he couldn’t even give his faithful companion a proper knight’s ceremony. Azelgund stood outside his forge at the edge of the village; he seemed to be watching for Kelemvor.

                      “The Bloodmoon Knights said you’d be coming home on foot,” Azelgund said by way of greeting. “Wasn’t even decent enough to give you a ride back.”

                      Kelemvor actually smiled. “That isn’t their way,” he acknowledged. “So they came back here?”

                      Azelgund offered Kelemvor a tankard of water as he replied, “They didn’t enter Castleton, nor did they go to the castle. They traveled on to the North.” Azelgund watched Kelemvor as he drank deeply. “It isn’t everyday that you see their kind in the realm. What are they looking for?”

                      “Varik’s mother,” he replied, handing back the tankard. “I have to return to the castle. Varik isn’t safe outside of the castle walls.”

                      With that, he left the forge and headed for the castle. Azelgund watched him stride purposefully toward the castle gate. He had wondered about the child and the consequences that taking him in would have. Now he wondered if Kelemvor had perhaps made a grave error in judgment. Would Varik’s presence bring the wrath of the Lycanthrope Lords down upon them? Even worse, would they soon face an onslaught from the war wizards?

                      As soon as Kelemvor entered the castle, he went directly to his chambers. Varik was beginning to fuss, and he was tired from his long trek on foot. Entering his chamber he came to a halt when he realized that the room wasn’t empty. Standing at the window was Queen Robyn, who turned at his entrance.

                      “I suppose you know we have an emissary from the Lycanthrope Lords here at the castle?” Robyn asked, clearly asking the question as a way of warning him of the emissary’s presence. “You will be expected to be present at the banquet tonight.” She looked pointedly at Varik.

                      “Your Majesty,” Kelemvor began, but Robyn cut him off.

                      “It isn’t a request, Kelemvor. Prince Razor wishes to meet you,” Robyn informed him, walking toward the door. “I just hope that he saves any in depth conversation until after the meal.”

                      Then Kelemvor was alone, with a fussy Varik squirming within his breastplate. Shutting the door, Kelemvor moved to his bed and removed his armor. Varik tumbled onto the bed, making a happy whelping noise. After setting the armor to the side, he’d clean it later; Kelemvor returned to the bed and lay beside Varik who quickly took his nursing position next to him.

                      Kelemvor had had no choice but to become accustomed to how Varik fed, but until he was old enough for more solid food, he hadn’t much choice. He couldn’t let the infant starve. He had just enough time to rest and feed Varik before he’d have to bathe and join the family at the banquet. Closing his eyes, he wondered just how much Prince Razor knew for a fact and how much he was purely speculating on. He would find out soon enough, he thought, flinching as Varik’s teeth nipped him. Yes, soon enough he’d discover whether they would face a war with the Lycanthrope Lords.
                      When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                      When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                        The tables almost groaned under the weight of the banquet laid upon them. It had been some time since the King and Queen had entertained dignitaries, so Queen Robyn had had the kitchen go all out preparing the elaborate meal. Whole roasted hogs rested upon ornate silver platters. For the special guests, less prepared fare lay under silver domes. Vegetables from the local farms adorned silver skewers, having been cooked whole in the open fires of the kitchen.

                        King Starfall and Queen Robyn sat at the high table, their honored guests on their right. The seats on their left were taken up by their daughter and her betrothed, Andrew. Kelemvor stopped inside the doors and took in the dinner guests. The lycanthrope prince spoke to King Starfall, but when Kelemvor entered his eyes immediately went to him.

                        Steeling himself for the coming onslaught of questions, he approached the high table. He bowed to the King and Queen, but before he could take his place at a lower table, Prince Razor stood and said, “Sir Kelemvor, I would have words with you.”

                        So much for a meal, Kelemvor thought as Prince Razor walked to him. “Let us walk,” he said, motioning for Kelemvor to precede him out.

                        They exited the castle and entered the southern courtyard. “Castleton is a beautiful village,” Prince Razor began, “it would be a terrible shame to see it drawn into a battle.”

                        Kelemvor fumed. “Before you go around making threats, you should know that I did everything I could for your sister.”

                        Razor was silent for a moment as he considered that. “She was beyond healing when you found her?”

                        “Yes,” he responded.

                        “Then why didn’t you just gather her body and bring her back to the village?” Razor demanded, turning to glare at Kelemvor. “What kept you from staying with her body to protect her from the Wargs?”

                        “I did what I could for her,” Kelemvor repeated.

                        Razor seemed to be trying to peer into Kelemvor’s soul, and then he smiled and said, “I heard you are raising an orphan. My sister was the child’s mother wasn’t she?”

                        “What makes you think that?”

                        “My sister had been missing for some time. There were many that had already given her up for dead, but I knew she was still out there,” Razor looked away, gazing and the half moon rising over the castle walls. “We were twins, a rare occurrence for our kind, so we knew what each other felt. Unfortunately, the farther away from each other we were, the fainter the feelings. When she died, however, it felt as if my heart was being ripped out.” He paused as he breathed deeply, and then, “I want to see the child.”

                        Kelemvor sighed. “I promised I would protect the child. What are your reasons for wanting to see him?”

                        “He is a part of my sister. I am his uncle, I am family. That gives me every right to see my sister’s son,” Razor turned to face Kelemvor, his eyes gleaming. “I want to see him now.”

                        “Very well, but I’ll warn you now, if you make one move to harm him in any way, I’ll send you home in pieces,” Kelemvor said calmly as he turned and lead Razor back into the castle. He wasn’t worried about turning his back on the prince. He was angry enough to hope that he would give him an excuse to take his frustration out on him.
                        When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                        When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                          Kelemvor lead Razor to his quarters where Varik was sleeping soundly in the middle of Kelemvor’s bed. Razor stood back as Kelemvor approached the bed and gently lifted the child into his arms. Varik stirred and blinked up at him as he yawned and stretched, settling into Kelemvor’s arms.

                          Kelemvor turned and presented Varik to Razor. “This is Varik,” he said, not offering to let Razor hold him, which didn’t seem to offend him.

                          Razor smiled at Varik as Varik’s eyes went back and forth between Kelemvor and Razor. “He looks healthy,” Razor commented, noticing how Varik clung to Kelemvor’s tunic.

                          “He eats well,” Kelemvor responded.

                          “What does he eat?” Razor watched Kelemvor closely.

                          Kelemvor’s eyes narrowed. “What difference does it make?”

                          “Anything but milk from our species could be detrimental to his development,” Razor explained.

                          “Is that so? Well, as you can see, he’s healthy and he eats well,” Kelemvor wasn’t about to explain the specifics of Varik’s eating habits.

                          “Yes.” Razor narrowed his eyes and looked as if he was about to ask something else, but thought better of it. “The child cannot return to my people, however. My father would have him killed.”

                          The change of subject caught Kelemvor off guard. “Excuse me?”

                          Razor smirked. “My father. He would execute the half-breed. But I cannot,” he paused, “no, I will not, see my sister’s child killed for being something that was out of his control. So you will be the guardian of this child until such a time he is old enough, or deadly enough, to be on his own. Do you think that would be something you could handle?”

                          “I haven’t had a problem up to this point,” Kelemvor pointed out.

                          “Yes, of course. Either way, we will be departing in the morning. I have the information that I was seeking and I will return home to give my father the news,” Razor explained. “Worry not, Castleton is safe.”

                          Kelemvor nodded. “That’s good to hear.” He looked down at Varik, who was still eyeing Razor warily. “Would you like to hold him?” he offered at last.

                          Razor smiled sadly. “Yes, I would, but I will not. I fear that if I were to touch him, my ingrained training would take over and I would either take him home with me or I’d kill him myself. My rational side can tell you that I want no harm to come to him, but my feral side won’t care if the child is in my arms.”

                          Again, Kelemvor nodded. “I understand.”

                          “I’ll leave you now. I must prepare my men for the journey home. Take care, Sir Kelemvor, and guard the child well. More may be at stake here that you know,” then Razor quickly and quietly left the room, leaving Kelemvor and Varik alone.

                          “That was interesting, Varik,” Kelemvor spoke aloud. “Perhaps someday you can spend some quality time with you uncle, he seems to be a decent fellow.”

                          Varik pulled at Kelemvor’s tunic. “Hungry again?” Kelemvor asked. “Patience, little one,” he murmured, moving to a chair in the corner of the room. As Varik began feeding on his favorite spot, Kelemvor considered their options. There seemed to be few, but he had already made a commitment to the child and he would stand by it.
                          When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                          When you are somewhere, you are everywhere


                            “Kelemvor!” a sweet voice called from across the field. “Kelemvor, dinner is ready!”

                            Kelemvor smiled. Alazne’s voice could always reach him no matter how far he wandered from their home. He started across the field toward the small cottage. The mountains surrounding the valley protected his people from the outside realms, but lately Kelemvor had been feeling uneasy.

                            He reached the cottage and saw Alazne standing in the door, smiling. Her belly was swollen with the child she carried. Kelemvor felt the pride swell in him as he thought of that child and how he or she would accomplish.

                            “I’m here,” he said, placing a kiss upon Alazne’s head.

                            “You’ve been wandering off a lot lately,” she observed. “What is it that troubles you?”

                            “It is nothing,” he denied. “I just like to look at the mountains.”

                            Alazne’s eyes gleamed knowingly. “Of course you do,” she agreed, placing a plate of steaming food upon the table. “Sit and eat, the mountains aren’t going anywhere.”

                            Kelemvor nodded as he took his seat at the head of the table and began eating the delicious meal that his wife had prepared for him. “Splendid, as usual,” he praised.

                            “You’re just easy to please, my love,” she laughed.

                            “Perhaps,” he conceded. “I’m going to check the horses.”

                            Alazne smiled as she accepted the kiss from her husband. “Don’t stay out too long. I’m going to bed,” she winked.

                            “Then I will make haste,” he chuckled, watching her hips sway as she walked to their bedroom.

                            The horses were restless. Almost as restless as he’d been feeling. He wanted to take a quick ride, but Alazne was waiting for him, and he couldn’t deny her.

                            He was closing the barn door when he first heard the dreadful whine. He looked around, seeing nothing. The whine grew louder and sharper causing Kelemvor to rush back to the cottage.

                            “What in the realms is that?” Alazne wondered, greeting him at the door once more.

                            “I know not, stay inside,” he commanded, pulling his sword down from above the mantle where it normally rested.

                            “Be safe, Husband,” Alazne whispered as Kelemvor left the cottage, sword drawn.

                            The whine seemed to be coming from the mountains, and yet it felt as though it surrounded him. His ears throbbed from the insistent whine. Kelemvor made his way cautiously across the field. He was looking for anything out of the ordinary that could be the cause of the noise.

                            He was barely across the field when an explosion rocked the valley. Kelemvor was knocked off of his feet by the shockwave, but he managed to hold onto his sword. Struggling to his feet, he turned to go back to the cottage and saw thick black smoke rising from where his cottage had been.

                            Kelemvor’s eyes shot open as he cried out. He was breathing heavy and sweating. Reaching up, he wiped the tears from his cheeks. He hadn’t dreamed of that day for a very long time. He looked down at the sleeping Varik. He wouldn’t abandon him.
                            When you are everywhere, you are nowhere
                            When you are somewhere, you are everywhere