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The Way of the Hunter - The Search Continues (Chapter Thirty-Two)

Alya Elvawiel
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Bevil stomps through the halls, ignoring the rainwater dripping off his face, and the mud he is tracking across the clean flagstones of the keep, as he seethes with the memory of what he just had to endure.

The order had come from Lord Nasher himself: the Knight-Captain has been missing far too long. Hopes of finding her alive are fading with each passing day. Neverwinter cannot continue to expend its resources on a cause that is increasingly becoming more and more hopeless.

Time to stop dwelling in the past, and to look towards the future. Crossroads Keep needs a new Captain, and Alya Elvawiel, saviour of Neverwinter, shall be remembered with a hero’s funeral.

The page who delivered the message said that Lord Nasher was giving the command “with deepest regret”.


Nasher is just concerned about lining his own coffers. Crossroads Keep has been thriving since Alya rebuilt it, and Neverwinter has been reaping the economic benefits with their share of the tithes. No doubt Nasher is eager to see the keep’s prosperity continue in the absence of their Knight-Captain.

The sooner the keep’s residents stop pining for their lost hero, and get back to making everyone more coin, the better.

And so, within a couple of days of receiving the dispatch, Kana was appointed the new Captain of Crossroads Keep, Bevil was promoted to Commander, and arrangements for the burial were hastily made.

What a joke…

He brushes roughly past a group of Greycloaks, disregarding the questioning glances they exchanged at the sight of their Commander’s thunderous face. He is too preoccupied with his own thoughts to care about what they might think.

He had practically begged Kana for just a bit more time, just one more week, perhaps, to search for Alya. He didn’t need many men, maybe just half a dozen of them. Surely she could spare a few Greycloaks for their missing Knight-Captain?

But Kana had merely sighed, and reminded him of his new duties as a Commander. After all, he is now even more of an example to the troops than when he was a sergeant.

Bevil was understandably mad when she rejected his request, but he knew he couldn’t direct his anger at Kana. Her hands are tied; she takes her orders directly from Neverwinter now, and as much as she doesn’t agree with some of the commands, he knows that she is not the type to question the authority of her superiors.

If anything, Bevil couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the woman. Despite her icy demeanour, she is a good soldier, a loyal soldier, and he couldn’t shake the impression that she doesn’t always feel she belongs with the other Greycloaks. Her exotic heritage and foreign beliefs make her very different from the other soldiers. Combined with her superior rank, these unusual qualities isolate her from the men she leads, and he had noticed how she often sits alone in the mess hall during mealtimes. It was no wonder that she had taken an instant liking to Alya, as they are both followers of the Way, and hence they share the same philosophies on life, although Alya had always tended to be less serious in her interpretations. He had often seen them together, when they should be going over paperwork, just sitting around and chatting like old friends, or animatedly debating some ideological viewpoint. It looked like Kana had finally found someone she could relate to.

And now that Alya is gone, she is expected to fill the monk’s shoes.

Bevil can imagine how difficult that must be for her. The woman’s eyes practically shone with respect and admiration every time Alya was around. He wouldn’t be surprised if they had become the best of friends if only they had been given the chance; they had so much in common. He has no doubt that Kana also believes that the monk is still alive, and is loathe to usurp her position as Captain of Crossroads Keep, when it is still possible that she could return.

But he also knows that Kana would never disobey orders from higher up.

His mind flashes back to the funeral ceremony, just an hour ago. In the cold drizzle of the grey morning, they had buried an empty casket, and erected a tombstone with Alya’s name on it.

As if that ridiculous gesture would give us all some sort of closure.

He pictured Kana during the ceremony, when she had picked up a handful of dirt to sprinkle into the open grave. She had hesitated, reluctant to go through with the charade, wracked with guilt that she had taken over Alya’s captaincy so soon after her disappearance. He thought she would break down then and there, but for the sake of the men, she had managed to hold herself together, and the rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch.

But after everyone else had left, Bevil had found Kana kneeling beside the grave. She had placed a small bunch of lilies in front of the headstone, and was thoughtfully running her hand across Alya’s name.

As if she were saying goodbye.

Perhaps she, too, has given up all hope of the Knight-Captain returning.

So that leaves just me…

Permission or no, he will not give up on his search.

Not when he seems so close to a breakthrough.

Bevil bursts through the door to the keep’s library, startling Aldanon out of his thoughts.

“Oh!” the old man exclaims, dropping the book in his hand. “Who are you?”

Bevil sighs, as he goes through the ritual of re-introducing himself to the forgetful sage. “It’s me. Bevil.” He sees the glint of recognition in Aldanon’s eyes, and before the old man could say anything more, he adds, “No, this is not a new suit of armour. And no, I have not had a hair cut.”

The sage’s eyes widen in surprise. “My, Commander Bevil, you must be some sort of psychic! You seemed to know precisely what I was about to ask!” He strokes his white beard thoughtfully. “Although I could swear something’s different about you today…” he muses.

Bevil shrugs nonchalantly, even as he holds back a chuckle. After dealing with Aldanon enough times, one learns to speed up the initial reacquainting part.

But his mirth is quickly replaced by urgency as he explains the reason for his visit.

“I came to see if you’ve made any progress with the portal.”

Aldanon blinks vacantly a few times, and the ensuing silence is almost unbearable.

If he says anything like “Portal? What portal?” I swear I will throttle him, wise old man or not…

“Ah! The portal!” the sage finally declares, and Bevil lets out a visible sigh of relief. “Yes, I have made some most fascinating discoveries! Come with me!”

Bevil follows closely behind as the old man shuffles to the very back of the library, where the bookcases have been moved to clear a space for a makeshift workshop of some kind. There, in the midst of a jumble of books and scrolls and equipment, stands the reassembled portal. Its archway is cracked and chipped in some places, and parts of it appear close to crumbling, but the runes etched into the stone are mostly intact, and thanks to Aldanon’s restoration efforts, a number of them have started to glow with an eerie light.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Aldanon gushes proudly, as he lovingly strokes the stone arch. Bits of gravel start to come off in his hands, and he quickly pulls away. “She’s not in, er…pristine condition, though…”

“Aye, I can see that,” remarks Bevil, grimacing. He half-expected the archway to collapse at the sage’s touch. “But is it functional?”

“From the initial test runs, I don’t see why she shouldn’t be,” replies the old man. “Of course, in the state she’s in, she may disintegrate immediately after a teleportation, but at least she could be used once, eh?”

“Will you be able to put it back together again, though, should it fall apart?” Bevil asks again.

“Maybe…” Aldanon answers, a finger to his lips. “Depends on how damaged she gets.”

“I see…” Bevil says distractedly, as he grimly contemplates the implications of what the old man had told him.

They may have only one chance to get her back.

“Any luck on determining where the portal was last connected to?”

“I have managed to recover the coordinates of the portal’s last destination, yes.” Aldanon brightens considerably as he starts to explain his research. “It was difficult at first, considering the damage, and the fact that the portal didn’t want to be scryed, but then I realised that all it took was a pinch of sulphur and some quicksilver to –“

“Uhm, Aldanon,” Bevil interrupts, trying to sound gentle despite his rising excitement. “Where was it, then?”

“Huh? Where was what?”

Bevil resists the urge to slap himself on the forehead.

“The last destination of the portal,” he reminds the sage, forcing his voice to sound patient. “Where was that?”

“Ah! Of course!” Aldanon snaps his fingers. “Yes, quite extraordinary, really. You see, this is not an intraplanar portal, but an interplanar one.”

He pauses for effect, only to find Bevil staring blankly back at him.

“Uh, in Common, please, Aldanon?”

The old man tut-tuts in annoyance. “Really, Commander...intra? Inter? You must know the fundamental differences between the two!”

“Humour me, Aldanon.”

“Very well,” the sage sighs. “What I’m trying to say is, that this portal doesn’t merely transport someone from one place to another.” The old man’s eyes gleam with enthusiasm before continuing.

“She transports people from one plane to another.”

Bevil’s head snaps up. “She, er, it, what?” he blurts incredulously, correcting himself hastily when he too, started to assign a gender to the inanimate archway.

Aldanon puts his hands on his hips. “I say, Commander, don’t tell me you don’t know about the different planes?”

“N-no, I do…” the younger man mutters, sparing himself another long lecture. He glances at the fragile stone archway with a mixture of hope and apprehension.

That must be why they hadn’t been able to find any sign of her…at least, not on this plane…

“So where exactly was the last destination?” he asks, this time not bothering to hide his impatience.

Aldanon doesn’t seem to notice his anxiousness. “Now, I didn’t manage to pinpoint exactly where the portal was connected to,” he explains. “But I have narrowed the location down to being somewhere in the Outer Planes.”

“The Outer…” Bevil feels a heaviness building in the pit of his stomach. He is not a man of vast knowledge, and he doesn’t know much about the other planes of existence, but what he does know, is that they were no place for a half-elf.

But he has come too far to give up now. The chances are minuscule at best, but he has to at least try.

“Aldanon,” he urges. “Can you reconnect the portal to the Outer Planes?”

“Most definitely!” the old sage says cheerfully, and Bevil feels a surge of hope.

Then they stare at each other for a good minute.

“Well?” Bevil finally prompts.

“Well, what?” Aldanon asks.

“You said you could reconnect the portal to the Outer Planes.”

“Huh? Oh! You mean it wasn’t just a theoretical question?”

“No, it was not a theoretical question,” the Commander says through clenched teeth, willing himself to keep calm. “Listen,” he continues heatedly. “This portal could be our last hope of finding Alya, and if she is somewhere in the Outer Planes, by the gods I want to get her back here as soon as possible!”

The old man’s jovial expression turns serious. “What? The Knight-Captain’s in the Outer Planes? Now why didn’t you tell me that before? We must get to work immediately!”

This time Bevil does slap himself in the forehead in exasperation – with both hands.

“Just give me one minute…” the old man motions, oblivious to the Commander’s frustration, as he sets to work tinkering with bits and bobs Bevil couldn’t even begin to identify. He watches as Aldanon inscribes a rune onto the floor in front of the portal, all the while mumbling some magical incantation.

With a soft hum, the portal starts to glow and vibrate, the pulsations causing even more pieces of its shaky foundations to flake off. Bevil eyes the stone frame anxiously, silently praying that it doesn’t collapse just yet.

After a while, the light from the portal stabilises, and the gateway starts to glow steadily with an incandescent light.

But the ever-present pulsing is shaking the arch dangerously.

“There,” he hears Aldanon saying, as the sage brushes his hands off on his robe. He, too, is looking worried at the showers of debris coming off the frail structure. “Now what?” he queries, glancing quizzically at the Commander.

Now what, indeed?

Now that it is operational, Bevil has no idea what their next plan of action should be.

He gazes into the swirling lights in the centre of the portal, almost hypnotised by the undulating colours dancing all around. Every now and then, the curtain of light parts slightly, offering him a glimpse of a barren, rocky landscape and a blood red sky.

He hesitates. Should he go in and try to search for her? Or should they just wait and see what steps through the portal? How likely is it for Alya to spot the portal if she were in the Outer Planes now?

In any case, how long can the brittle archway hold?

Before he could decide, bright rays of light shoot out of the portal as a hand, a humanoid hand, protrudes out from the mass of rippling colours. The hand is followed by a slender arm, as whoever, or whatever it is, steps directly from the Outer Planes into the keep’s library.

Bevil’s faint glimmer of hope is overwhelmed by a mounting trepidation, as his fingers close reflexively around the hilt of his longsword. The portal starts to hum louder, and proceeds to quake dangerously. Both men could only watch as large chunks of rock start to tear off the archway, as it inches ever closer to complete implosion.

Finally, a slim figure steps out of the pool of light, but the beams radiating outwards from the portal bathes the newcomer in a dazzling brilliance, obscuring the stranger’s identity.

Then a second hand emerges from the portal.

There are two of them??

The portal sways ominously as its foundation crumbles, and no sooner has the second person crossed the threshold, than the entire stone archway disintegrate in an explosion of light. Bevil shields his face as the blast sends rocky projectiles flying out at them.

As the dust begins to settle, the shapes of the two creatures that came through the portal become more discernible. Bevil realises that he had unknowingly drawn his longsword, and is holding it in front of him in a defensive position.

He gapes when he recognises the familiar form of the two women, one a tall tiefling, the other a petite wood elf, both looking tired and bedraggled, but otherwise alive.

Everyone stares at each other in shocked silence. Then, as she glances around at the keep’s library, then back at the mound of rock that used to be the portal, Neeshka utters a simple exclamation that sums up how everyone is feeling.


The Way of the Hunter Chapter 32 - The Search Continues © Alya Elvawiel

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