After their meeting in Elfshadow, Arilyn and Danilo part ways to pursue separate adventures. Danilo heads north to pursue the mysteries of Elfsong, while Arilyn returns to the southern land of Tethyr. These stories run in the same time slot, different channel.
The elves of the Wealdath forest have a long, troubled history with Tethyr’s humans. When someone starts staging atrocities that are blamed on the forest elves, Queen Amlaruil of Evermeet sends an offer of a home on the elven island. The Harper chosen to carry this message–half-elf Arilyn Moonblade–is barred from Evermeet by her mixed blood, despite the fact that she is Amlaruil’s granddaughter. But she takes on the job, determined to demand as payment answers about the sword she carries. This quest for her elven roots takes on a new dimension when she finds in a treasure hoard a moon elf warrior in deep magical sleep, displayed in a glass case. Arilyn’s moonblade recognizes this elf woman as a former wielder, and the elves of the Wealdath recognize her as an ancient hero returning in a time of need.
What begins as a means to an end becomes a deeply personal commitment, and Arilyn is willing to sacrifice the sword that is her identity and purpose to win freedom for the forest elves. But when her personal quest endangers those she loves–Foxfire, the charismatic leader of the wild elves, and the human bard Danilo Thann, her Harper partner–she will risk far more.
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Audio book: Available on Amazon.com
Paperback: Currently out of print. See this page on Amazon.com for used copies.
Even more info:
Go to the info page for Elfshadow to see a list of novels and short stories featuring Danilo, Elaith, and Arilyn.
Moonblades were designed to be a test of kingship, a visual symbol of the right and fitness to rule. But over the years, concept creep has set in. For those who are in need of clarification, consider, if you will, an imaginary conversation that I’ll call…
A CONNECTICUT GAMER IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT
I woke up in a stable, though I’ll be damned if I could tell you how I got here. One minute, I’m racing an approaching thunderstorm so I can level up before logging out, the next, I’m face down in straw. Everything hurt, and I smelled like a bucket of KFC that had been left in the fryer a little too long.
After a few tries, I hauled myself up. Remembering how to walk took a while, but pretty soon I was staggering out of the stable into the grounds of a Ren Faire that looked–and smelled–more authentic than most. The sun wasn’t all the way up yet, and the only person in the muddy courtyard was an old man with a long white beard. He sat on the low end of this huge boulder, next to the hilt of an old sword that someone had Crazy-Glued to the rock.
He watched my approach with eyes that saw way too much. I got the feeling that he knew things about me I don’t know myself, and probably won’t figure out until I’m old. Like, forty. Although come to think of it, forty isn’t looking as old as it used to, considering Jennifer Anniston.
“Around here, that’s pronounced ‘Gwynevere,'” he said.
“Huh. Like Drizzt’s panther?”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
It hit me then that he’d responded to something I hadn’t actually said. I looked from the old guy to the sword, to the stone. Something clicked.
“No way!” I marveled.
“Way,” he said gravely. “Took you long enough, dude.”
Now, that just didn’t seem right. “Wait. If you’re Merlin, shouldn’t you be all, ‘forsooth, ye saucy varlet’ and so on?”
A longsuffering expression crossed his face. “Whence and wherefore art thou come, young sir?”
“Damned if I know. Last thing I remember, I was playing Neverwinter Nights and found an old sword in an abandoned dragon’s lair. Looked like it might be elf-crafted. I was trying to level up, in case it was a moonblade, so I’d have a better chance of claiming it without getting fried.”
His shoulders rose and fell in a sigh that held about a thousand years of been-there-heard-that. “And how’s that working out for you?”
“Hard to say. Thunderstorm blew in and…” I spread my hands, palms up. “Here I am.”
“I see. And now I suppose you want to attempt to draw the sword from the stone.”
“Dude, that’s the high king’s sword. Excalibur. What exactly are you smoking?”
He almost smiled. “That’s refreshing. Most people think they ought to have a shot.”
“Seriously? At being high king of the Britons?”
Merlin thought that over. “At first, perhaps. Now they mostly want to prove themselves worthy.”
“Just ‘worthy’ in general. The definition gets broader and more vague by the day.”
“So it’s not just the royal wannabes, but people who want to prove they’re as good as the next guy.”
“Pretty much.” He scowled. “And it’s not just the Britons anymore. Irish, Saxons, Danes, Jutes, Scotti—they’re all wanting in. Last week a Greek sea captain showed up.”
I tried to make sense of this, but apparently the lightning had fried more than my motherboard. “You’d think they could come up with swords and myths and rituals of their own.”
“You’d think,” Merlin grumbled.
A goat trotted up to the boulder, fixed its weird yellow dragon’s eyes on the wizard’s face, and let out a long string of bleats and bahs. Merlin listened politely for a while, then held up one hand to staunch the flow of goatspeak.
“I believe I have the gist. To recap, you found a sword similar to this one in a meadow and kicked it into a hollow log. When a fox threatened your offspring, you led it in a chase and tricked it into taking a shortcut through the log, thus ending its life and the threat it posed. Having successfully employed a sword in defense of your young, you believe you have the right to this one.”
The goat bleated enthusiastically.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way,” the wizard said. “You are not the destined king. You’re not a Briton, nor, for that matter, are you human. For all these reasons, you are not eligible to claim the sword.”
Judging from the nipping and head-butting that followed, this wasn’t something the goat wanted to hear. Merlin kicked at the angry goat for a while before he figured out it would make more sense to scramble up onto the highest part of the boulder and stand out of reach.
“I didn’t say you weren’t a worthy goat,” he said. “No doubt you’re a paragon among goats. But you don’t. Need. A frickin’ sword to validate that!”
The goat thought this over and then bleated some more.
“No, I will NOT train you to be a warrior king!” howled Merlin. “And no, you can NOT impregnate a human woman and expect to pass Excalibur to your theoretical offspring. It doesn’t work that way.”
The goat huffed. It turned its back to Merlin, lifted its tail, and dumped a load. Off it trotted, grumbling.
I clapped one hand over my nose and reached the other up to help the old wizard climb down from the stone.
Merlin nodded his thanks and sank down to sit on a low edge of the boulder. “You see how it is.”
“Yeah.” I shook my head in disbelief. “Weird, though. It’s such a simple concept.”
“It was certainly meant to be.”
He pulled out a pottery flask, took a swig, and offered it to me. We passed the flask back and forth for a while. The high-blood-pressure-red slowly faded from his face.
“So, tell me about this moonblade. You’re acting as a representative for a noble moon elf clan, I assume?”
I swallowed a mouthful of mead and shook my head. “It’s for my PC. She’s a half-orc, half-tiefling fighter who moonlights as a courtesan.”
Merlin stared at me for a long moment.
“She’s neutral good,” I said defensively. Since he didn’t look convinced, I added, “And she’s thinking of multi-classing as a paladin.”
The wizard rose and gestured to a lanky kid who was foot-dragging his way toward us, scratching himself and yawning widely.
The kid glanced my way. His gaze sharpened as he took in tee shirt: 4th edition blows. Also, WTF are ELADRIN?!!
“Let me guess: Moonblades again?”
Merlin nodded and took a couple of quick steps away.
Moving faster than I would have thought possible, the kid lunged for the sword, yanked it out of the stone, and swung it toward me in a shining arc.
The world spun and rolled. When it came to a stop, I was eye-level with the pile the goat had left behind. A few paces away, my headless body twitched in a spreading red pool.
Interesting. I’d heard that the brain takes a few minutes to shut down after decapitation. I lasted long enough to see young Arthur head off in the direction the goat had taken, Excalibur in hand.
I guess a future king can’t be too careful when it comes to potential rivals.