X’erai-xereth – recently dubbed “X” [“ten”] by her new companions – slumped back against a scraggly marsh tree and slid to the ground. The muddy, swampy hot springs to the south of Precipice were simply miserable.
Desiring some comfort, she retrieved her gold-plated pipe from her backpack, filled it with pipe-weed and searched for the means to light it. She suddenly froze – her flint and steel were gone.
Uttering a string of curse words in Aklo, she looked to her right. She and her companions had just eliminated a village of Boggards, large disgusting toad-like creatures, and a dead one lay next to her.
“Got a light?” she inquired of it sarcastically. When it failed to respond, she kicked it. “Bastard . . . frog . . . with . . . no . . . .”
Stowing the pipe in her backpack, she pulled out her tasteless trail rations and began choking them down. X then refocused and gave thought to her future. Though she loved her step-father, Lord Gex, she knew Precipice could no longer be her home. Her evil step-sisters made life unbearable and her most recent visit to Precipice only stoked the mutual enmity between them.
At least now she was part of a group in which no one hated her – at least not yet. Fortunately, her deific patrons had guided her back to Balefire, a city which she had not visited in many months. It was for that reason she suspected her destiny was bound up with the City of Lanterns.
She also wondered about the Raven Queen of the Murder Court. It was the Queen who had hired the group to kill the Shadow Drake, the dead carcass of which lay several yards away. She would soon meet the Queen and ostensibly be knighted. Could that be her destiny?
“What do you think?” she asked of dead Boggard. When it again failed to answer, she chucked her rations at it and kicked it a second time. “You’re no help at all.”