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  • The pair sat motionless beside the open window, looking upon the orange and purple streaked sky. The wintry air was heavy with the sounds of sailors shouting and boots tramping around on the docks below, while a hubbub of laughter, merriment, and muffled lutesong drifted in from the common room behind them. After some time, the door to the kitchen swung open and the portly young innkeep marched out, preceded by the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon and cloves. Huffing loudly, he set down a steaming platter of spice bread next to their still-hot mulled ales before disappearing into the other room. The fighter took up his mug and cupped it with both hands, taking in the soothing aroma with a deep breath.

    "Nearly three years of peace..." he said softly. "Only to watch it slip away through my fingertips like grains of sand on the beach."

    "And you are absolutely certain?" said the other.

    "As certain as you sitting right here before me. Believe me, I saw him. I saw him standing there, just beyond the edge of the clearing, his icy blue robes all aglow under the light of the moon. And then he was gone."

    "I see."

    "But there was something else this time." Jedd took a sip from his mug. "As he shimmered out of sight, I swear by the goddess I could hear his hoarse voice, whispering my name upon the wind."

    "An ill omen," the other said, his eyes transfixed on the sun dipping slowly beneath the undulating blanket of fog. "And pray tell, what is to be made of the dragons?"

    "Only one explanation comes to my debilitated mind. He is calling them together again, to the councils of war. The alliances of old may yet be forged anew, between the dragons of green, yellow, and blue."

    "That is all? What of the reds?"

    "They do not seem to be partaking in this gathering...just as in times past."

    "Yes...humanity has ever been closer to the fire than the ice."

    "A familiar refrain, that."

    "The words of the forest priest."

    Jedd turned back toward the window. The last sliver of the sun had sunk below the foggy horizon, leaving behind an ethereal twilight glow that too began to fade until the veil of darkness had swallowed it completely. It was only then did he notice that the skies were still ablaze with the sea of twinkling starlight, made all the more brilliant by the bluish-silver moon hanging high and full above the ocean. The sight of it filled his veins with a mighty wave of adrenaline, and he let out an uncontrollable shudder.

    "I feel it too," the other said. "Worry not." He raised his mug to his lips. "The allies and companions of old may have faded away into the mists of time...but in this fight, you are not alone."

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    Early morning hours of Day 116 of the Fighting Moon, Year 445

    Shadows1
     

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