Transcendence - By R. A. Salvatore


Brynn Dharielle looked back over her shoulder repeatedly as she slowly paced her pinto mount, Diredusk, along the descending moun-tain trail. Though she had only been on the road for a half hour be-yond the edge of Andur'Blough Inninness, the enchanted elven valley, the ridges that marked the place were already lost from sight. The mountainous landscape was a natural maze that had been enhanced by the magic of Lady Dasslerond of the Touel'alfar to be unsolvable. Brynn had marked the trail well along her route, but she understood that she would have a hard time finding her way back - even if she were to turn about right then.

This was the first time Brynn had been out of that misty valley in a decade, and she truly felt as if she was leaving her home. The Touel'alfar, the diminutive, translucent-winged elves of Corona, had come to her when she was a child of ten, orphaned and alone on the rugged and unforgiving steppes of To-gai, far to the south.

They had taken her in and given her food and shelter. And even more importantly to Brynn, they had given her life purpose. They had trained her and made her a ranger.

And now they were sending her home to find her destiny.

The young brown-skinned woman crinkled her face at that thought, as she continued to stare back along the trail behind her, to the place that she knew to be her real home, the place she would likely never see again.

Tears misted in her almond-shaped brown eyes, the sparkling eyes of a child, still, though so much had they seen. Already she missed Aydrian, the fourteen-year-old who had shared some of her training. Many times, Brynn had found the boy to be exasperating, often infuriating. But the truth was, he was the only other human she had seen in these last ten years, and she loved him like a brother.

A brother she would likely never see again.

Brynn shook her head forcefully, her raven hair flying wildly, and point-edly turned back to the trail heading south. Certainly leaving the valley was a sacrifice for Brynn, a dismissal of the trappings and the companionship that had made the place her home. But there was a reason for her depar-ture, she reminded herself, and if the pain of this loss was the greatest sacri-fice she would be expected to make, then her road would be easier by far than anyone, herself included, had ever imagined possible.

Her future was not her own to decide. No, that road had been laid out be-fore her a decade before, when the Behrenese Yatol priests and their armies had tightened their grip on To-gai, had abolished almost completely the last remnants of a culture that had existed for thousands of years. Brynn's road had been set from the moment Tohen Bardoh, an orange-robed Yatol priest, had lifted his heavy falchion and lopped off her father's head; from the mo-ment Tohen and his lackeys had dragged off her mother, eventually killing her, as well.

Brynn's jaw tightened. She hoped that Tohen Bardoh was still alive. That confrontation alone would be worth any sacrifice.

Of course, Brynn understood keenly that this journey, this duty, was about much more than personal gain.

She had been trained for a specific reason, a destiny that was bigger than herself. She was to return to the cold '~ and wjndy steppe? of harsh To-gai, the land she loved so much, and find those flickersj>fXvhat had once been. She, little Brynn Dharielle, just over five feet tall and barely weighing a hundred pounds, was to fan that flicker into a flame, then feed the flame with the passion that had burned within her since that fateful day a decade ago. She was to find the To-gai spirit, to remind her fierce and proud people of who they truly were, to unite the many divided tribes in the cause against a deserving enemy: the YatoMed Behrenese, the Chezru.

If the plan went as Brynn and the elves hoped, then Brynn would be the harbinger of war and all the land south of the great Belt-and-Buckle Moun-tains would be profoundly changed.

That was the hope of Lady Dasslerond, who rarely involved herself in the affairs of humans, and that was the burning hope of Brynn Dharielle. Lib-eration, freedom, for the To-gai-ru would avenge her parents, would allow them to sleep more comfortably in their graves.

"We will move down to the east, along that open