other things, but he didn’t sound muddled about
“Let’s see—how did that go? There was a big tree, a beautiful tree, and beneath it sat a grumbling, old dwarf, carving wood and—Hey! There’s the tree! Now, where did that come from?”
The kender blinked in astonishment. Right ahead of him, where nothing had been just a moment before, he now saw a large tree.
“Not exactly my idea of a beautiful tree,” Tas muttered, walking toward it, noticing—as he did so—that the ground had developed a curious habit of trying to slide out from under his feet. “But then, Fizban had odd taste and so, come to think of it, did Flint.”
He drew nearer the tree, which was black—like everything else—and twisted and hunched over like a witch he’d seen once. It had no leaves on it. “That thing’s been dead at least a hundred years!” Tas sniffed. “If Flint thinks
going to spend my Afterlife sitting under a dead tree with him, he’s got another think coming. I—Hey, Flint!” The kender cried out, coming up to the tree and peering around. “Flint? Where are you? I—Oh, there you are,” he said, seeing a short, bearded figure sitting on the ground on the other side of the tree. “Fizban told me I’d find you here. I’ll bet you’re surprised to see me! I—”
The kender came round the tree, then stopped short. “Say,” he cried angrily, “you’re not Flint! Who—Arack!”
Tas staggered backward as the dwarf who had been the Master of the Games in Istar suddenly turned his head and looked at him with such an evil grin on his twisted face that the kender felt his blood run cold—an unusual sensation; he couldn’t remember ever experiencing it before. But before he had time to enjoy it, the dwarf leaped to his feet and, with a vicious snarl, rushed at the kender.
With a startled yelp, Tas swung his torch to keep Arack back, while with his other hand he fumbled for the small knife he wore in his belt. But, just as he pulled his knife out, Arack vanished. The tree vanished. Once again, Tas found himself standing smack in the center of nothing beneath that fire-lit sky.
“All right now,” Tas said, a small quiver creeping into his voice, though he tried his best to hide it, “I don’t think this is at all fun. It’s miserable and horrible and, while Fizban didn’t exactly promise the Afterlife would be one endless party, I’m
he didn’t have anything like this in mind!” The kender slowly turned around, keeping his knife drawn and his torch held out in front of him.
“I know I haven’t been very religious,” Tas added with a snuffle, looking out into the bleak landscape and trying to keep his feet on the weird ground, “but
thought I led a pretty good life. And I
defeat the Queen of Darkness. Of course, I had some help,” he added, thinking that this might be a good time for honesty, “and I
friend of Paladine and—”
“In the name of Her Dark Majesty,” said a soft voice behind him, “what are
Tasslehoff sprang three feet into the air in alarm—a sure sign that the kender was completely unnerved—and whirled around. There—where there hadn’t been anyone standing a moment before—stood a figure that reminded him very much of the cleric of Paladine, Elistan, only
figure wore black clerical robes instead of white and around its neck—instead of the medallion of Paladine—hung the medallion of the Five-Headed Dragon.
“Uh, pardon me, sir,” stammered Tas, “but I’m not at all sure
I’m doing here. I’m not at all sure where
is, to be perfectly truthful, and—oh, by the way, my name’s Tasslehoff Burrfoot.” He extended his small hand politely. “What’s yours?”
But the figure, ignoring the kender’s hand, threw back its black cowl and took a step nearer. Tas was considerably startled to see long, iron-gray hair flow out from beneath the cowl, hair so long, in fact, that it would easily