Blackstaff Tower, a young male elf rose to greet them. “This is Wyn Ashgrove. He’ll be traveling with you,” the archmage said by way of introduction.
Danilo struggled to conceal his dismay as he surveyed his new partner. Fully six inches shorter than the Harper and as slender as an aspen tree, the elf had the serious mien of a scholar. He also possessed in generous measure the beauty of the gold elf people, an elegance of form and feature unmatched by any other race. Slung over Wyn’s back was a delicate silver lyre, and the crystal flute that hung from his belt was closer to hand than his long sword. All told, the elf struck Danilo as a being better suited to charming the ladies with poetry and song than to the rigors of travel.
Wyn greeted Danilo politely, then, at Khelben’s request, he seated himself and sang a ballad about the dragon Grimnoshtadrano. Danilo remained standing, arms crossed, as he listened to the music with trained detachment. He noted that the song was written well, but in the style of a time several centuries past. The words of the ballad were compelling, a stirring call to action, and Danilo was drawn into the story despite himself. He began to see the reason for his uncle’s concern.
As soon as the ballad ended, Danilo got down to business. “How many Harpers have answered this challenge?”
“To the best of my knowledge, none,” Khelben responded.
“Really? That seems odd.”
“Apparently, this ballad is not widely sung. Wyn has long studied ballads by and about the Harpers, and he tells me that although most bards know this ballad, they are reluctant to sing it.”
Danilo nodded slowly. “Very responsible of them. If this ballad is no real threat to the Harpers, why do you think that I should answer this summons?”
“You’re armed with something the other bards did not have: your memory,” the archmage said, motioning Danilo toward a chair. “It’s time you heard the rest of Wyn Ashgrove’s tale.”
The Harper settled down and listened as Wyn related the events of Silverymoon’s Spring Faire, and the strange spell upon the bards there.
When the elf had finished, Danilo massaged his aching temples and tried to sort through the tale. “So you’re saying that this ballad is newly composed, but the finest bards in the land believe it to be nearly as old as the dragon himself.”
“That’s correct,” Wyn said.
“I don’t see the point.”
The elf looked at him strangely. “A powerful mage has devised a way to lure Harpers to their deaths.”
“With very little success,” Dan pointed out.
“True. The spellcaster works against the Harpers in another, more subtle Manner. As I understand Harper philosophy, your purpose is, in part, to help preserve a knowledge of the past. By changing the Harper ballads, the spellcaster is undermining the society’s work.”
Danilo thought that over. On the surface, the elf’s evaluation of the problem seemed accurate enough. But why was the dragon ballad so little sung? There seemed to be another motive at work, one Danilo could not quite grasp. Obviously Khelben thought this as well, for the archmage was not normally one to concern himself with music. Danilo tucked this thought away for future consideration and turned his attention to more immediate concerns.
“How are we to acquire this scroll?” -
“According to the ballad,” Wyn replied in a didactic tone, as if they were discussing nothing more pressing than dry theory, “you must answer a riddle, read a scroll, and sing a song. That is clear enough. When you have accomplished these tasks, you may demand from the dragon whatever treasure you wish. Obviously, you will ask for the scroll itself. Since it is mentioned in the ballad, and since the ballad first appeared when the bards were enspelled, it is reasonable to assume that the scroll was devised by the spellcaster we seek. If this is so, the archmage can use it to discern the spelicaster’s identity.”