Authors: Edward Bolme
“Thief! She killed him!”
Kehrsyn turned and fled blindly as the false witness broke into another fit of coughing.
She ran down the twisting back alleys, dodging barrels of refuse and ducking under laundry lines, puffs of steamy breath peeling from the sides of her panicked face. When she’d been pursued as a child, she’d used her small size, fast feet, and knowledge of the terrain to evade pursuit, but she had none of that left to her. She was an adult, somewhat the weaker for chronic hunger, and had only been in Messemprar a few months. Worst of all, she was outnumbered far worse than she’d ever been as a kid; an entire city’s worth of guards and deputized mercenaries had become her foes.
Her only hope was that they hadn’t seen her face.
From the mean streets of Faerûn
From the edge of civilized society
From the darkest shadows
The Alabaster Staff
The Black Bouquet
Richard Lee Byers
The Crimson Gold
The Yellow Silk
Novels by Edward Bolme
The Steel Throne
Legend of the Five Rings™
Title Deleted for Security Reasons
The Baby Bible Board Books™ series
(with Sarah Bolme)
THE ALABASTER STAFF
©2003 Wizards of the Coast LLC.
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Cover art by: Mark Zug
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For the dedicated volunteers of the International Alliance of Guardian Angels, Inc. I gave them two and a half years and my front teeth. What they gave me was priceless.
Thanks and applause go to: Peter Archer for giving me a new challenge; Phil Athans for telling me it wasn’t good enough; Sean K Reynolds for being a bottomless pit of resources; Heather Easterling for tutoring me in High Untheric; Glenn Oliver and Sharon Blackford for looking things over; Jessica Kristine for being such an amazing perfectionist; Dad for raising me right; and Mom for removing my boundaries.
imrilim felt his heart thudding in his chest, beating out what might prove to be the last moments of his life. All his experience, his tenure as a war priest, his pogroms against heretics, his repression of the other churches of the Untheri pantheon, his officiating at the execution of hundreds if not thousands of citizens, his aggressive climb to power in one of the most ruthless religious organizations known, his entire life in a society built upon suffering and hardship, all of that had still left him woefully unprepared for what was happening in this remote field.
They faced a goddess.
Tiamat herself, the Dragon Queen, stood across the field from them, her five scaled heads weaving in a hypnotic serpentine pattern. There was no superlative that surpassed Tiamat’s lusty, greedy evil. There was no greater threat to the god-king whom Zimrilim served.
It was true that they had a god on their side, as
well: Gilgeam, Master of Wars; Father of Victory; God of the Sky and the Cities; Supreme Ruler of Unther, Chessenta, Threskel, Chondath, Turmish, the Shaar, and Yuirwood; who had ruled from his throne in Unther with an iron fist for over two thousand years.
The god-king stood tall and proud in the center of their battle line, with not a trace of fear in his handsome face. His golden hair and beard glowed in the sunlight, and for armor he wore only a skirt of bronze scales, each as large and as thick as Zimrilim’s hand. Secured by a wide belt that reached up to his ribs, the skirt protected his most vital assets, and left his awe-inspiring physique exposed to enthrall his followers and intimidate his enemies.
It was hard for Zimrilim to imagine a finer physical specimen than Gilgeam. His shoulders were so broad that a grown woman could sit on each comfortably (and, in fact, they often did so at his official debaucheries). His arms had muscles the size of watermelons, with sinews as strong as steel. In his hands he held a great war mace, with a long handle as thick as Zimrilim’s arm and topped with a spiked ball of solid bronze that weighed more than Zimrilim could lift.
Gilgeam always kept his body oiled, so that the sun’s reflection might better contrast the shadowed crevasses of his chiseled musculature.
The god-king’s forces stood arrayed at his direct orders. Nearest him were his high priests, of which Zimrilim was the senior member. Gilgeam’s bodyguard, a dozen phalanxes of handpicked troops, surrounded them. A legion of loyal troops protected each flank, their morale bolstered by the petty clergy that moved among them, incanting blessings and prayers. The sycophants, servants, and other non-combatants huddled to the rear, bleating their supplications like sheep, helpless to avoid whatever doom befell Gilgeam’s forces.
Under ordinary circumstances, the sight of Gilgeam’s
force would send the enemy army into flight … but these soldiers had not only refused to flee, they had deliberately sought out the retinue, ambushed the procession as Gilgeam toured his realm.