Episode One

Three Men and a Lady

Bethgael Amberhair wondered if it had been worth waking up that morning. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now…. well, now she wasn't so sure.

She had woken up, groggily pulling herself out of her blankets and wriggling her toes until they stopped feeling chilled, and was informed peremptorily by her twin brother that she was, henceforth, to call him "Dark Spider". This worried her somewhat, but then, he had always been a little on the weird side. Of course, this could simply be the final rebellion against their parents having called him "Margaret" and having been called "Maggie" all of his life…. you never could tell. She considered, not for the first time in their lives, that she was definitely the saner of the two, despite being slightly the younger.

She arched an eyebrow at him and said nothing.

"So, what will we do today?" Maggie – no, Dark Spider – asked her in a bright voice.

"Find a good psychiatrist," Bethgael muttered under her breath.


"Nothing." She sighed. "You don't really expect me to call you Dark Spider, do you?"

"Well, yes, actually."

She regarded her brother's face for a minute. "Your face is too widely innocent to be able to wear a name like that without being laughed at, you realise that, don't you?"

His features darkened.

"I don't suppose this is just another 'stage' you're going through, is it?"

He glared at her.

She sighed again. "Oh, okay, then, Spidey, whatever you want. Oh, don't look at me like that. I'm hardly going to run around Erathia going 'Dark Spider, where art thou!' am I? They'll throw me in a mental home."

Spider smiled. "Breakfast?"

"Yeah, thanks."

She shouldered her crossbow as they picked up to leave. "So, Mr Sorcerer, where are we off to today?"

"You're going to let me decide?" She gave him a level look. "Okay, keep your pants on. I heard a rumour in that town we went through yesterday afternoon. Apparently, there is a treasure hunt on some island somewhere. The prize: a Castle."

"You want to go on a Treasure Hunt. What on Erathia would we do with a Castle? We're elves, for Roland's sake. And I hate ships"

"Do you always have to be so abrasive?"

"Well, no. Sorry. I slept on a rock last night. And I get seasick."

"Well, if you'd let us stay at the Inn yesterday…"

"I know. We couldn't afford it."

He grinned. "So, we go win a castle. We don't have to keep it. Let's sell it, I'm sure there's a Noble somewhere in need of a good home."

She shrugged. "Okay."

They trudged through the forest, following an unlikely – looking trail until they came to another small, seaside town. It smelled strongly of fish. They found the wharves fairly easily, being that there were a lot of boats nearby. Masts tend to stick out, if you have the sense to look up.

Bethgael and Maggie – Spider, she amended: she was never going to get used to that – walked up to the nearest sailor. A human with an ugly scar on his face, he leered up at her. She rolled her eyes. "Treasure Hunt," she said.

The sailor looked confused. "I dun know what yer talkin' aboot."

"Which boat will take us to the Treasure Hunt?"

"Dun ersk me, how'd I know?"

"I think the lady is inquiring of you which ship will take her and her good servant here to Emerald Island," said a smooth voice behind them. "As am I. If you would be so kind…"

Bethgael spun around and looked directly into a pair of brown eyes, ignoring her brother's muttered "Servant?"

The sailor thumbed them in a general direction, and the suave gentleman joined them as they walked along. "If I may introduce myself," he said. "I am Taliesin, but most people just call me Bard."

Bethgael regarded the man soberly. A human, with dark brown hair, he carried himself with grace. He struck her as a bit of a charmer, and she resolved to keep her distance – she'd come across his type before. She noted the dagger – not a very good one – hanging off his belt. "Beth, " she said shortly. "My brother, Mag – uh, Spider."

"Spider?" Bard said with an amused look.

Bethgael arched an eyebrow at her brother again.

"Yes?" Spider said.

"Oh, nothing," Bethgael replied innocently.

"Well, I am certainly pleased to meet you both," Bard said. "You don't see elves out of the Tularean Forest, often, unless you're heading over to Avlee. I am a Druid, so I have a sort of kinship with you."

"If you say so," Bethgael remarked.

"If I may ask you, what brings you both so far away from your kind?"

"You may not ask," Spider said.

Bard held his hands out in a soothing gesture. "No offence intended… Spider. You have the look of a magic-user about you," he said smoothly.

"I dabble in the elemental arts," Spider replied.

Bard turned to Bethgael. "And you?"

"Oh, I do a bit of everything, I guess. I was never very good at anything in particular, so I never specialised."

"Can you handle that crossbow?"

"I do alright, although I'd prefer a good elven bow. I just don't have one right now."

Bard smiled charmingly. "Well, perhaps we – "

He was interrupted by a loud raucous voice – singing lazily.

"In Harmondale there lived a maid
Sing holy roly doolart.
And she was mistress of her arts
Willikins wollikins magpie farts."

The song was followed by a dwarf. A very, very drunk dwarf. He walked carefully up to the three of them. "Well, hello there," he said, looking up – way up – at Bethgael. "Nice little piece of nothing you're almost not wearing there."

Bethgael resisted the urge to pat the fellow on the head.

"Now, look here, that's my sister you're - " Spider started to say, but the dwarf had already moved on… up the ramp of the ship that Spider, Bethgael and Bard had been about to board.

"Well, at least I won't be the only one puking on this trip," Bethgael remarked.


So, Bethgael thought as she hung over the side of the ship, ensuring her prophecy, now I am wondering why I agreed to this. I hate ships. I have no desire at all to own a castle. I am sure that I am turning a nice shade of leafy green. Goes well with my eyes.

"You must be Bethy." A gruff voice sounded at about shoulder height. "Here, have a bit of this, it'll settle your stomach." She looked down at the aforementioned dwarf, who was offering her a jug of something. She took a sniff.

"What is it?"

"Go on – it'll put hairs on your chest."

Bethgael rolled her eyes and took a swig. It did not go down very well. "What is that?" she gasped.

"Cleans you out."

"Oh, yes," she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes. "I'll remember this stuff the next time I need to clear a blocked nose – or a blocked sewer, for that matter."

"Well, you've stopped emptying your guts, haven't you?"

"Give me a second, I'm sure I'll get back to it presently."

"Well, Miss Bethy, I hear you and I are on the same trip."

Bethgael took another tentative mouthful of the dwarf's drink. She winced as she swallowed, handing back his jug. "Beth, please. And you are?"

The dwarf bowed ostentatiously, the effect only slightly spoiled by the sword hanging off his hip – it was a little big for him, and wasn't in very good condition. The man looked strong, though, Bethgael thought, for his height. "Caber, at your service. I have spoken to your friend, Bard."

"He isn't my – " Bethgael was interrupted by the arrival of Bard himself, closely tailed by Spider.

"I see you two are getting acquainted. Caber, have you given my proposal any thought? I have suggested, " Bard went on, turning to Bethgael, "that Caber, here, should join us on our quest."

"Our quest?"

"Why, yes. I think the four of us would make a good team, don't you?" Bard asked. "An Elven Ranger, a Dwarven Knight, an Elven Sorcerer, and of course, a Human Druid. What better combination can there be?"

Bethgael looked at Spider. Spider looked at Bethgael. He shrugged.

"Sure, why not?" she said, albeit a trifle guardedly.

"Which just leaves one last thing," Caber said.

"What's that?" Bard asked.

"I haven't yet been introduced to our 'Elven Sorcerer'."

"Ah," Bard replied. "May I present to you, Caber the Dwarf: Spider the Sorcerer."

"Spider? An Elf called Spider?"

"Yes," Spider said indignantly. "Dark Spider, actually."

Caber threw back his head and laughed. "You don't have the looks for it, boy."

"See, I told you so." Bethgael remarked.

"Oh, shut up," Spider said.


Next: Episode Two: Emerald Island – Dragonfly Paradise
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