Chapter 1

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The dryad was making her usual scouting of the Thaum Mountains. Three foot tall and humanlike in appearance, the elemental had a ruddy complexion and gossamer wings, but overall her form was somewhat lucid. Though she had been scouting these mountains for countless years, a constant uneasiness followed her. Even though the mountains were heavily wooded, and dryads were after all wood and forest spirits, she never really became comfortable here. The Thaums were a large range with jagged, snow-capped peaks that were believed to be haunted. No, not believed to be, they were haunted. Albera did not need the tales of others to persuade her. The dryad had seen too many strange occurrences in her years as a Scout to disregard her intuitions.

Today would bode another strange occurrence. Something was in the air. Earlier she had encountered Vento, a sylph Scout, and he felt out of sorts as well. She recalled the air spiritís words to her earlier, "Albera, before the second sun sets, something very unusual will take place in the Thaums. Mark my words." Maybe that was it. The sylphs were much more flighty (Albera laughed outwardly at her own pun) and she was letting Ventoís impressions disturb her. Still laughing, Albera continued north. She estimated that she was about halfway to her report station, the Towers of the Moons, when she noticed a mist gathering in a small clearing. The wind picked up and began blowing from all four directions, causing a violent, swirling motion. From within the mist came a fierce howling and an image began to coalesce. As the swirling winds abated and the mist dissipated, the image materialized into a figure. The figure looked as if it were human and laid crumpled on the ground next to a staff. As Albera's astonishment wore off, she noticed something much more significant: the figure wore a cloak of grey!

§

Cold was the first sensation to reach Uriel's clouded mind. First the cold, then the wind stinging his face. Slowly, he opened his eyes and the brightness of the snow on the ground caused him to wince. He squinted and looked up. For a long moment he could make nothing out except for a vast brightness. Slowly, trees and a rising slope came into focus. His eyes followed the slope upward quite a distance before he saw the grey of the clouds, jarring something in his memory. He struggled with it momentarily and remembered looking out the window. Then it all came back in a flood.

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