Note: As a sort of forewarning, I probably won't be writing more in this story for a while. I was really excited about it, but then I got this idea that ended up spawning Nighthawk, so Shane and co are hanging out on the back burner again, so to speak. But, for those who care, yes! There is a sequel to Silver Shadow in progress! And it might even end up finished eventually!

Prologue

The darkness wrapped him up like a warm cloak, shielding him from the world without and protecting him from the world within. He burrowed deep into it, savoring the gentle caress of his one true love.

He slipped along the dark corridor, deeper and deeper into the tunnel, passing cell after cell in search of one in particular. And then he reached it. The occupant, a man of perhaps twenty summers, slept fitfully in the furthest corner, turned away from the corridor. The man outside hissed sharply. The prisoner came to full wakefulness in an instant.

"Who is there?"

The man without lifted his head and struck a spark to the candle in his hand. "It is I, Master."

The prisoner rolled toward him, his face pale and gaunt, his black hair long and lank from lack of washing. But his dark eyes sparked to life, and his thin lips quirked up into a feral sort of snarl. "What took you so long?"

----------

4 Dryland, 26th Year of Kings

"Elijah Woodstock, you get back here right now, young man!"

The summer sunlight bounced off feathery blond locks of hair as the man in question paused at the far end of the walkway leading up to his house. He looked back over his shoulder. "Sorry, ma. I can't!" Then he turned back and ran off, dashing around the first corner he came to and racing down the deserted street.

He slowed after only a block or so. After all, there was no possibility at all of him being pursued or anything. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets as he wove between the other pedestrians. Like anyone else will even notice I'm gone. He felt a bit bad about leaving his mother behind, and he refused to think about Theo, but it couldn't be helped. If I had stayed for one moment more, someone would have ended up seriously injured. Really, father has got to learn to lighten up.

Either that, or I've got to learn to take his crap better.

Well, it was more or less a moot point now, wasn't it?

The young man stopped suddenly, and a wide grin slipped onto his face. He had finally left home. After so many years of threatening it, he had finally left. I, Elijah, am on my own now. Finally.

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5 Dryland, YK 26

"Oh, Elijah, we were so worried about you!"

"Yes, mother." Elijah suffered his mother's tearful embrace with admirable stoicism. He didn't even pat her back.

"You had better go see your father. He was fixing to call out the Guard to search for you."

"He...was?" Elijah blinked. That was unexpected. "I'll go see him right now!" The young man broke away and set his mother aside, then hurried down the hall to his father's study. Was father really worried about me? Maybe he's finally come to his senses! Elijah knocked, then pushed open the door. "Father?"

"Elijah." The tall, graying man turned from the window behind his desk, his hands clasped behind his back. His steely gray eyes flashed with all-too-familiar irritation. Elijah withered beneath his stern glare. "Why are you back?"

"Uh...I got hungry," Elijah admitted, staring down at the floor.

His father snorted inelegantly. "Then why didn't you get food?"

"I don't have any money."

"Why didn't you get money?"

"Because...uh...Well, I don't know how."

"I see." The man turned back to the window as his son risked a peek at him from beneath his eyelashes. "Your incompetence is, as usual, staggering."

"Father--!"

"Had you taken but one of the opportunities I offered you, I might not be ashamed to call you my son. As it is, you have no skills, no talents, no aptitude for anything of any worth at all. You can do nothing, Elijah. Nothing. You are like the lilies of the field. You take up space and you consume resources, but you give nothing in return. Allowing you to live under my roof is like throwing coins into the gutter."

Elijah felt himself turning redder and redder as his father spoke. He knew it wasn't true--he was good at some stuff!--but it still hurt to hear the man say it.

"However. Useless as you are, I cannot allow you to run rampant through the city. Your actions are a direct reflection on my ability to control you, and I cannot allow my rivals to see any weakness you may display. Therefore, you will be confined to the house from now until you can prove to me that you have found something worthwhile to pursue. Should you, for some reason, feel the need to leave your rooms, my good friend Ardwyn here will escort you." Elijah's father waved at one of the doors leading off his study, and it opened to reveal a short, slender man with a sword over his shoulder and a headful of feathery, muted red locks. "Ardwyn, this is Elijah. Elijah, Ardwyn. Now go."

Elijah turned and left, shoving his hands into his pockets. Ardwyn followed him out. Elijah ignored him as he made his way to his own rooms. Once there, he slammed the door in Ardwyn's face and threw himself into the nearest chair. He's really a jerk, Elijah thought furiously. He crossed his arms over his chest. If only I had the guts to tell him so.

Sighing, the young man tipped his chair back onto its rear legs by bracing one foot against the table before him. I'm not bad at everything. Really. I'm good at some stuff. Like...like...Elijah hung his head. Like balancing chairs. Oh, man...

Of course, Elijah's father didn't care about balancing chairs. He cared about his reputation, his business, and his money, in that order. A long time ago, he had cared about Elijah, too. He had tried to teach his son to carry on his trade--carpentry. But Elijah had shown absolutely no flare for woodworking at all, and after he had destroyed his second set of tools, his father had cast about for a new trade. "Something honorable and worthy of a man's efforts," he had described it. Then he had brought in tutor after tutor, running right down the list of workable trades and stopping just short of flower arranging. But Elijah had performed poorly clear across the board, and his father had simply...given up. Since then, he had largely ignored his eldest son, deigning to acknowledge him only when absolutely necessary to maintain his lofty status as the head of the woodworkers' guild. Besides, he always had Theo to dote over.

But there was one thing Elijah enjoyed. The young man ran his gaze over the room, taking in the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, all packed full of leather-bound volumes of all shapes and sizes, that lined the walls. He stood abruptly and crossed over to the nearest shelf, pulling down a thick book. At least his father had hired someone to teach him letters before he fell out of favor. Elijah took the book to his bedroom and sprawled across his large bed, opening the book across his pillow and propping his chin in his hands.

Elijah stayed in his rooms all day. Someone even slipped in and left a tray of food on the table in his study. He read until his elbows hurt from holding up his head. The light faded from the sky outside his window, so he stopped long enough to light the wick in the oil lamp on the table by his bedside. He figured it to be about midnight when he finally turned the last page with a little sigh. I have got to get some new books...Reading the same ones over and over is tiresome.

Taking the lamp with, Elijah returned the book to its proper place on the shelf in the other room, but he paused before returning to bed. I wonder...?

He set the lamp on the table and tiptoed over to the door, pressing his ear against it. No noise...Hmm...After only a moment's hesitation, Elijah reached for the handle and pressed the latch. The door swung out on perfectly oiled hinges.

Elijah stuck his head out into the hall and glanced both ways. Ardwyn was nowhere to be seen. He must have gone to bed! With a sly grin tugging at the corners of his mouth, Elijah slipped out the door, slinking off toward the exit of his father's house.

Someone cleared their throat behind him.

Elijah froze. Then he turned his head slowly to look back over his shoulder.

Ardwyn hadn't gone to sleep. He leaned casually against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest and one foot crossed over the other ankle. He wasn't wearing a shirt, but his sword still hung in its sheathe over his bare shoulder. He didn't even look up when he spoke. "Where are you going?"

"Ah...Midnight snack?"

"Without informing me? How rude."

"Aha...ha...I...didn't want to wake you?"

"Very thoughtful of you, but it's no trouble at all, truly. I'd prefer you wake me next time."

"Right. Well, good night." Elijah dragged his feet as he headed back to his room.

"You forgot your snack," Ardwyn pointed out.

"I seem to have lost my appetite," Elijah admitted before closing his door. He leaned back against it and sank down to the floor, burying his head in arms crossed over his bent knees. Oh, man...

----------

6 Dryland, YK 26

"Eli!"

Elijah rolled over, pulling his blanket up over his head. "Go 'way, Theo," he muttered into his pillow.

"Come on, Eli, get up!"

"Don't you have classes to be at or something?" Elijah demanded, swatting at the small hand that kept patting his shoulder.

"Yeah, but I ditched them."

Elijah sat up. "You what?"

"Well, I wanted to go to market with you today."

"Theo, I can't go to market today. I'm not allowed to leave the house anymore," Elijah informed him bitterly.

Theo snorted. "Not allowed this, not allowed that...Really, Eli, grow up!" He bounced up onto the bed, grinning.

"Come to think of it, how'd you get in here? If you're skipping classes, wouldn't Ardwyn have stopped you?"

"You mean this guy?" Theo stood up straight and crossed his arms over his chest, glowering down at Elijah. Then he snorted again. "He's only here 'cause he wasn't hairy enough to be an executioner."

"Theo! That's rude!" Elijah lunged, tickling his little brother in all the right places until he squealed. Then he clapped a hand over the boy's mouth and leaned in close to whisper in his ear. "But I totally agree."

Theo giggled when Elijah let him go.

"You still haven't answered the question, though, Theo. How'd you get past him?"

"Really, Eli. You're my big brother. You should know this by now. The best way to get past something..."

"...is to go around it. But how'd you do that?"

"Window." Theo pointed.

Elijah turned to the open window, then stood and walked over. A low wall of bushes shielded the area beneath the window from view, but Elijah glanced down and spotted an array of little metal tools. "What are those?"

Theo beamed over at him. "I dabbled in locksmithing."

"Lockpicking, you mean!"

"Well, they're kind of the same thing, only backwards."

Elijah shook his head. "You know, Theo, you're really a genius."

Theo glanced down, and his tone turned bitter and resentful. "Yeah, I know." Then he brightened. "But, come on! Let's go to market now!"

Elijah pulled a clean shirt out of a drawer and quickly switched it for yesterday's dirty one. Then he reached for his boots. "But I don't have any money, Theo."

The boy smiled, bouncing up and down on the bed. "It's all right. I have my allowance."

He gets an allowance...? That is so not fair...Elijah pasted on a smile of his own.

Within moments, the two brothers had slipped from the room and were creeping across the back yard to the years-old hole beneath the hedge that they had created for precisely this purpose. Soon after, they strolled down the street hand-in-hand, headed for the North Quarter Market. They reached it, and the pair of sleepy-looking guards merely blinked as they passed into the square.

It was still early in the morning--the sun had only barely crested the far horizon--so many of the stalls that lined the square were empty, but the place was already crowded with yawning shoppers and sleepy vendors. Elijah himself yawned hugely as Theo tugged him along to one of the stalls.

"C'mon, Eli! It's over here, over here!"

"What is?" Elijah asked curiously.

"This!" Theo pointed at an item on display.

Elijah peered intently at the polished wooden box. It looked awfully plain to him. "What is it?"

"It's a cylue set!"

Elijah's eyes widened in shock. He had played cylue before, back when his father stilled wished to engage him in productive activities. But the board had been a table top, and the pieces as large as his hands. This little case might have held two of those figures, but certainly not a whole set.

Theo had taken out a little leather pouch with a stylized "T" burned into it and was digging around inside of it. He sighed suddenly. "Aw, I still don't have enough...But some day, Eli, I'll get it, and then we can play together!"

Elijah smiled faintly. "Father plays cylue with you?"

Theo nodded, tucking his coinpurse away. "Yeah, but...I beat him every time. It's no fun to play with him."

Elijah patted the boy's back. "Theo, I lost to father every time. Playing with me would be even less entertaining."

"Nuh-uh!" Theo hopped eagerly from foot to foot. "Father's so...predictable, Eli. I always know what he's gonna do before he does it, but I can't even guess with you! It'll be exciting!"

Unsure how to take that, Elijah simply replied with a thoughtful "Hmm..."

Theo bounced around for a while longer, leading Elijah to stall after stall as he surveyed the goods for sale and greeted many of the vendors by name. As the list of people Theo knew grew longer and longer, Elijah began to wonder just how often his little brother snuck out of the house. Certainly more than I do...

As the sun rose higher in the sky, Theo purchased two cold meat pies (for half the selling price because the vendor thought he was clever!) and handed one to Elijah. They retreated to one of the small benches around the fountain in the center of the square and sat down to share the meal. They ate in silence for a bit, until Theo stopped and furrowed his brow, staring hard at Elijah, who paused mid-bite and blinked back at him.

"What is it, Theo?"

"Eli...why'd you run away like that?"

Oh, great...Elijah set his pie carefully on his knee, wiping a few crumbs from the corner of his mouth. "Theo. I...Well, you know when try to do something really hard and you can't?" Theo stared blankly at him, and Elijah sighed. Right. Kid genius. He can't not do anything... "Well, if that ever happened to you, you'd feel really bad, wouldn't you?"

"Well, I guess..." Theo pursed his lips as he thought it over. "Yeah, I'd feel kind of useless, I suppose."

Elijah winced uncomfortably. "All right. What would you do about it?"

"I'd find something else to do, something I was more good at!"

"And what if you weren't good at that, either?"

"Then I'd look for something else and something else until I found something I was good at." Theo frowned a bit as he nibbled on a corner of his pie.

Elijah nodded. "That's good, Theo. But what if you tried everything and you weren't good at any of it?"

"Well...well, then...um..." Theo bit his bottom lip. "Well, I'd have to go looking for something else that I hadn't tried yet."

"That's exactly how I feel, Theo. Can you understand that?"

"Well, I mean, I guess, but..." Elijah quirked one brow as Theo fidgeted. Finally, the boy looked up, a deep thought-line etched between his eyes. "But why did you leave me there, Eli?"

Elijah blinked. What? Where is this coming from? "Theo, don't you like it at home? I mean, you get praised and hugged and coddled and father gives you an allowance. What more could you want?"

"I dunno," Theo admitted, waving the last of his pie in a broad gesture. "I just...I want you, Eli! You're the best big brother ever!" He threw himself forward, and Elijah caught him in a stunned embrace, totally disregarding the larger part of his meal as it flipped off his lap and into the dust.

"But...Theo...I...I can't...I mean..." Elijah sighed and gently pushed Theo away, holding him out at arm's length. "Theo, even if I left and took you with, I couldn't possibly take good care of you. I can't even take care of me. You deserve better than that."

Theo scrubbed the back of one hand across his face. "I wouldn't mind, Eli. Really. I don't need an allowance. I need someone to play with who won't scold me for skipping classes or slap my hands when I do things wrong. I need someone who doesn't want me to do everything perfect so I don't have to anymore!"

Elijah felt this terrible sinking feeling, as though his whole body had just melted into a puddle. He knew exactly what Theo was talking about, but he had never dreamed the boy shared his sentiments. After all, Theo was good at everything. He suddenly felt very, very guilty. For no reason! Elijah rubbed his brother's back slowly. "Theo, I love you very much. I always want to do what's best for you, even more than I want to do what's best for me. Do you understand that?"

The boy's head against Elijah's shoulder moved up and down in a soggy nod as his tears flowed silently.

"Good. Then you'll understand when I tell you that you are taken care of better at home than anywhere else I could provide for you."

"But--"

Elijah squeezed Theo tight, silencing his protests. "But if you need me, I will be there for you. Always."

Theo sobbed quietly for a moment more, then drew back and wiped his face on his bare arm. He offered Elijah a watery smile, then glanced down and gasped in dismay. "Oh! Eli, I'm sorry! I'll go buy you a new one!" He pointed at the fallen food.

Elijah laughed, but the noise sounded hollow in his own ears. He felt all torn up inside, like parts of him were fighting other parts. He wondered secretly how long the parts that favored Theo over himself could hold out. But he patted the boy's back and followed him over to the stall where they had purchased their meal.

Theo pulled out his coinpurse and rifled through it before coming up with the required copper coin. As he pulled it out, a shiny golden blind flipped to the ground. Eli stooped and snatched it up swiftly, hoping no one had noticed. After all, not everyone carried gold around, and thieves and such might be about. Theo passed him the new meat pie, and Elijah slipped him the gold coin. Theo dropped it back into his coinpurse, where it clinked against other coins.

The pair of them strolled about the market for a while longer, until the sun hung near its zenith. Theo purchased a small, brightly painted wooden top and some roasted nuts as they moved from stall to stall. As the pair of them polished off the last of the spiced and salted treat, Elijah looked up at the sky and sighed heavily.

"Well, we had better head home soon, Theo, before father calls out the guard for real."

Theo nodded glumly, his mouth full of nuts.

Elijah steered the boy toward the southern entrance to the market square, and they passed by the pair of the bored-looking guards there with no more than a nod of greeting.

Once they had left the market, the streets opened up before them, wide and largely empty. After all, not as many people lived in the north of the city as in the south. Elijah had heard that even fewer people lived in the Inner Circle, but he had never personally been there, so he wouldn't know. The brothers stepped aside to let a single gilded carriage pass on its way to the North Quarter Market. A few poorly-dressed servants skittered about on various errands, their ranks dotted with the bright livery of messengers passing notes between the well-to-do folk of the Quarters.

The pair followed the King's Way for a few blocks, then turned off on Guild Street, headed toward their father's large estate. But as they left the line of sight of the market guards, something happened. Or rather, someone happened.

A tall figure stepped out of the narrow shadow of a tall wall around someone's home and caught the collar of Theo's shirt, hauling the boy up into the air with a sort of practiced ease that made Elijah shudder. Elijah staggered back a step as he caught the flash of sunlight off a blade in the stranger's hand.

Theo whimpered softly as the man stared up at him. Then his assailant turned his head and spat on the ground. "Where's the gold, boy?" Theo flinched and whimpered again, and the man shook him hard. "Give it to me!"

"Give it to him, Theo," Elijah called. He started to take a step forward, but froze when the rogue shot him a withering glare. Theo tried to turn his head to look at Elijah, but the robber shook him again, and the boy began to cry. Elijah caught his bottom lip between his teeth. "Look, mister, he's scared. Just put him down and he'll give it to you." He could feel his legs shaking.

The thief sneered as he tossed Theo to the cobbled street and pointed his very sharp-looking knife at Elijah. The young man swallowed hard and took a step toward his sobbing brother, but the thief made a sharp gesture with his even sharper knife, and he froze.

"Theo. Theo, give the man your money. It's all right, Theo, stop crying. Just give it to him."

The boy sniffled pitifully and scrubbed the back of one hand across his face. He began to fumble with his coinpurse, but then the thief snarled and kicked at one of his feet.

"Too slow, boy!" His free hand shot forward and snatched Theo's shirt again.

Elijah had taken but half a step forward when a splash of dull color flashed past him. He caught a glimpse of bright, reflected light, and then the clang of metal on metal set his nerves on edge. As Elijah's head spun with sensory overload, he heard a grunt of pain and a sharp curse, then retreating footsteps that pattered away around the nearest corner.

Elijah blinked his mind back into focus. A shock of dark red hair and plain homespun clothing. The man crouched down on one knee as he shook his head sharply and spat on the ground before him, the fingers of one hand curled around a shortish sword. Elijah bent over the man, his heart pounding and his blood roaring in his ears. Then he blinked in astonishment.

"Ardwyn?" Elijah yelped, drawing back.

The man cursed again, a fierce hiss of frustrated rage. He reached for something at his belt and brought it up to his mouth, pulling out the cork of the waterskin with his teeth. He splashed some of the liquid onto his face and rubbed his streaming eyes with his sleeve. Finally, he grimaced and opened one eye, then the other, blinking rapidly.

"Are you all right?" Elijah pressed, concern overriding surprise.

Ardwyn's flat gray eyes flicked over Elijah, then past him, and he stood swiftly. "Dammit," he muttered ferociously. Then he sighed and sheathed his sword over his shoulder. "Well, that's that, then." He recorked his waterskin.

Suddenly, the events of the past few moments slammed down on Elijah, and his breath huffed out of him in a sudden explosive burst of sound. "Theo!"

Ardwyn's face twitched into a scowl that vanished as soon as it appeared. He shook his head. "Nothing for it. He's probably dead already anyway."

Elijah staggered to his feet, dread and disbelief clashing for dominance as he fought down rising panic. He was sure that he would explode if his heart beat any faster. "Dead?" Elijah shook his head so hard he thought it might pop off. "No! He can't be!"

"Yes, he can be, and he probably is. That bastard hardly looked like the type to fall for tears and pleading."

"No!" Elijah whirled around. "Theo!" He started to race off, but a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, holding him back.

"Leave him be, or you'll be joining him far too soon." Ardwyn's soft voice held none of its previous edge, but whispered low and intense into Elijah's ear.

Elijah spun back around, his face twisting into a snarl, but he blinked when he caught sight of the red, puffy spots that marked Ardwyn's face. "What did he do to you?"

One side of the red-haired warrior's face twitched into a fleeting grimace as he reached up to brush one cheek with his free hand. "Some sort of burning powder, probably derived from the papea plant." He shook his head and let his hand fall back to his side. "A cheap trick, really. I'm ashamed I--Hey, come back here!"

But Elijah had used the momentary distraction to pull free and stumble down the street. He skittered to a halt at the intersection where Theo and his assailant had disappeared and looked both ways, but there was no sign of either of them. Ardwyn caught up as he hesitated. The man looked thoroughly annoyed now.

"Listen, boy, you're not making my job any easier by running off like this. I'm not anymore pleased with what happened than you are, but there's no point in all of this. Come, we will return to your father and deliver the news."

Elijah shook his head stubbornly. "No! I can't! I've got to find him! I can't just go home without Theo!"

Ardwyn regarded him carefully for a moment, then shook his head once. "I'll take the blame for this. Your father will not blame you."

Astonished by the sheer stupidity of that comment, Elijah made a sharp, negative gesture with one hand. "This isn't about my father! It's about Theo! That's my brother who just got snatched! He's hurt and frightened and there's no one to help him but me; I can't just sit here and do nothing!"

"Can't you?" Ardwyn quirked one brow.

"No! I can't!"

"I see." The older man eyed Elijah speculatively for a long moment. Then one corner of his mouth twitched up for the barest instant. "Very well, then. Come along."

Elijah blinked. "Yo...you're going to help me?"

"Of course." Ardwyn lifted his shoulders in a half-hearted little shrug. "You won't return to your home without proof one way or the other, and it is my job to guard you. I can't do that if I'm not with you. Of course, I could simply incapacitate you and drag you to your father, but there are a number of reasons why this would be inadvisable. Firstly, I don't think that is quite what your father had in mind when he said 'guard.' Secondly, to be frank, I don't feel like wasting the effort. And thirdly--most importantly--you seem quite convinced that the boy is alive. If it turns out that he is...Well, your esteemed father has invested quite a lot in the little lad, and I have no doubt that seeing him safe and sound would stir up every generous particle in his body."

Elijah rushed to keep up as Ardwyn moved down the street back toward North Quarter, frowning at the man's analysis. While he certainly did not approve of this reasoning, he could not argue its validity, nor did he wish to question it for fear of losing Ardwyn's support.

"Do you...know where they're going?"

Ardwyn shook his head. "No, but I can guess."

Elijah listened intently, but the man said no more. Finally, he risked another question. "Can you tell me your guess?"

"The Dwells."

Elijah stopped dead, blinking at Ardwyn's retreating back. Then he made a loud noise of disgust and disbelief and ran to catch up. "The Dwells?"

Ardwyn turned his head slightly so that Elijah could see the tiniest flash of teeth as his lips curled into a half-sneer, half-smirk. "Of course. Where else would one go to dispose of unwanted baggage?"

Aghast, Elijah reached out to catch Ardwyn's shoulder and demand an explanation, but he caught himself just in time and turned the gesture into a vague wave of disbelief. "Baggage?"

With another of those half-way shrugs, Ardwyn turned back to face the road ahead. "I don't think of him as such. But I can guarantee our shady rogue does."

Thoroughly shaken, Elijah swallowed hard. "So...So we're going to the Dwells..."

"Right." Ardwyn nodded emphatically. "If we head straight there, we might be able to preempt our elusive thief. He probably isn't expecting to be followed." Suddenly, the man stopped. "I know my way around the Dwells, kid. But you don't." His shoulders fell slightly, and Elijah suddenly wished he could see the man's face, but then he started walking again. "You'd better do precisely as I say without any hesitation. If not, there's a very good chance you won't make it home alive." Again, Ardwyn turned just enough to catch Elijah's gaze with his own steely stare. "Frankly, your brother's life is worth more to me than yours."

Elijah felt an ominous tingling chill creep down his spine. He frowned suddenly as Ardwyn looked back around. "Wait a minute. How did you find us, anyway?"

Something that sounded distinctly like a snort floated back to Elijah's ears. "Do I look like an idiot? When I'm told to guard something--or someone--I do."

"But we snuck out!"

"A good plan, but poorly executed." Ardwyn's shoulders twitched up again. "I followed you to the market and I knew there'd be trouble as soon as that gold coin showed up, so I decided not to reveal myself. Surprise is often the greatest weapon any warrior can hope to wield." A note of bitterness entered his voice then. "Unfortunately, surprise crumbles in the face of careful preparation." He straightened up abruptly. "But, moving back to the matter at hand...You're going to need an alias."

"A what?"

"The son of a man like your father cannot simply stroll around the Dwells and go unnoticed. From now on, you will refer to yourself only as...as Elwood. Have you any useful skills at all?"

Elijah blushed a bit and looked down. "Not really, no."

"But you can read and write, correct?"

"Of course!"

Ardwyn nodded. "All right, that'll work. You can be my scribe. And do not call me Ardwyn anymore. 'Red' should prove to be an appropriately anonymous name." He tugged at a lock of his red hair. "Now, before we get there, we should stop and buy you a cloak to cover up those clothes of yours. You'll stick out like a seahawk among sparrows with that outfit..."