The Halfling’s Gem Prelude

The wizard looked down upon the young woman with uncertainty. Her back was to him; he could see the thick mane of her auburn locks flowing around her shoulders, rich and vibrant. But the wizard knew, too, the sadness that was in her eyes. So young she was, barely more than a child, and so beautifully innocent.
Yet this beautiful child had put a sword through the heart of his beloved Sydney.
Harkle Harpell brushed away the unwanted memories of his dead love and started down the hill. “A fine day,” he said cheerily when he reached the young woman.

“Do ye think they’ve made the tower?” Catti-brie asked him, her gaze never leaving the southern horizon.
Harkle shrugged. “Soon, if not yet.” He studied Catti-brie and could find no anger against her for her actions. She had killed Sydney, it was true, but Harkle knew just by looking at her that necessity, not malice, had guided her sword arm. And now he could only pity her.
“How are you?” Harkle stammered, amazed at the courage she had shown in light of the terrible events that had befallen her and her friends.
Catti-brie nodded and turned to the wizard. Surely there was sorrow edging her deep blue eyes, but mostly they burned with a stubborn resolve that chased away any hints of weakness. She had lost Bruenor, the dwarf who had adopted her and had reared her as his own since the earliest days of her childhood. And Catti-brie’s other friends even now were caught in the middle of a desperate chase with an assassin across the southland.
“How quickly things have changed,” Harkle whispered under his breath, feeling sympathy for the young woman. He remembered a time, just a few weeks earlier, when Bruenor Battlehammer and his small company had come through Longsaddle in their quest to find Mithril Hall, the dwarf’s lost homeland. That had been a jovial meeting of tales exchanged and promises of future friendships with the Harpell clan. None of them could have known that a second party, led by an evil assassin, and by Harkle’s own Sydney, held Catti-brie hostage and was gathering to pursue the company. Bruenor had found Mithril Hall, and had fallen there.
And Sydney, the female mage that Harkle had so dearly loved, had played a part in the dwarf’s death.
Harkle took a deep breath to steady himself. “Bruenor will be avenged,” he said with a grimace.
Catti-brie kissed him on the cheek and started back up the hill toward the Ivy Mansion. She understood the wizard’s sincere pain, and she truly admired his decision to help her fulfill her vow to return to Mithril Hall and reclaim it for Clan Battlehammer.

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