Songs & Swords 1

Free Songs & Swords 1 by Elaine Cunningham

Book: Songs & Swords 1 by Elaine Cunningham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elaine Cunningham
greeting. “Uncle Khelben! Just the person we need. That last bit of magic went awry. Can you show me where I went wrong?”
    “I wouldn’t presume,” Uncle Khelben said dryly. “It would seem, Danilo, that we need to have another little talk.” He took a firm hold of the dandy’s glitter-speckled arm and glared around the circle of nobles.
    The gay assemblage took the hint and scattered like a flock of startled birds, muttering excuses as they went. This would not be the first time that Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun, archmage and reputed member of the secret circle that ruled Waterdeep, had chastised his frivolous nephew over the irresponsible use of magic, and Danilo’s friends did not care to witness the coming lecture.
    “Cowards, all of them,” Danilo mused as he watched the rapid retreat of his friends.
    “Forget them. We have more important matters to discuss.”
    Danilo grimaced and captured two goblets of Sparkling Evermead from the tray of a passing waiter. He thrust one of the goblets into his uncle’s hand. “Here, take this. I suppose it’s safe to assume that you’ll be as dry as usual.”
    Khelben’s dour response was drowned out by a delighted squeal.
    “Danilo, you’re back!” A tipsy young noblewoman, dressed in an incongruous mixture of sheer lace and white furs, launched herself at the green-clad dandy.
    Adept at avoiding wine stains on his finery, Danilo held his goblet out at arm’s length as he caught the attractive missile in a careful, one-armed embrace. “I’ve counted the minutes, Sheabba.” He smiled into her upturned face.
    The blond woman wrapped her arms around his waist and giggled up at him. “Of course you have. I suppose you’ve been charming all the women from here to Suzail?”
    “Fertilizing the fields, more likely,” interjected Khelben in a sour tone.
    “Bray elsewhere, old donkey,” Sheabba snapped. She threw a withering look at the mage, then recoiled in mortification as she realized whom she had insulted.
    Danilo noted her dismay and came quickly to her rescue. “You’ll be at the festival games tomorrow, Shea, won’t you? Oh, marvelous. I’ll have to ride in one or two events, but a group of us are getting together at the Broken Lance afterward for drinks. My treat. Meet me there?”
    The young woman managed a weak nod of agreement, then she took flight, weaving unsteadily through the crowd.
    Danilo sighed noisily and shook his head. “Really, Uncle, the effect you have on women is beyond belief. Don’t despair. I’ve been working on this new spell, don’t you know, that might do your social life a world of—Hey, mind the silk!”
    Khelben had once again seized Danilo’s arm. Ignoring the young man’s sputtering protests, the mage drew his nephew out of the room and into a secluded alcove.
    Once released, Danilo leaned against a marble bust of Mielikki, Goddess of the Forest, and arranged his cape in artful folds before addressing himself to his glowering uncle. “To what do I owe the honor of this abduction?”
    “You’ve heard about Rafe Silverspur.” Khelben was not given to lengthy preambles.
    Danilo took a sip of his wine. “No, can’t say that I have. What’s the good ranger doing these days?”
    “Very little. He’s dead.”
    Danilo paled, and a look of remorse washed over Khelben’s face. The wizard continued in a gentler tone, “I’m sorry, Dan. I’d forgotten that Rafe and you had become good friends.”
    The young man nodded acknowledgement. His face was without expression, but he studied the bubbles in his glass for a long moment before he looked up.
    “Branded, I suppose?” Danilo’s voice was flat, all hint of the lazy drawl gone.
    “Yes.”
    “Rafe Silverspur,” Danilo repeated in a distant voice. “Your death will be avenged, my friend.”
    The vow was spoken quietly, yet no one could hear it and doubt that it would come to pass. Danilo’s voice rang with quiet strength and stubborn resolve. Anyone who saw

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