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Old 01-12-2004, 02:36 PM   #43
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,908
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
Sting

As Mithadan and Airefalas approached the palace with their escort, Mithadan halted and looked up at the sun. More than three hours remained before the reception would begin, he judged. He turned to Airefalas and smiled. "There is an errand I need to run," he said. "I promised my youngest a present when I return and I would not incur her wrath for failing her."

He spoke to the guards and, after a few moments of reluctant discussion, Mahat and Seft accompanied him to the south towards the markets. He had been there many times already, examining herbs, fine cloths and metalwork which would find a market in Minas Anor. But he also had another task there. He had inquired of all who spoke his language about Bird and her people, the Shapechangers.

Most of the vendors had laughed at his questioning, as had the guards. The Shapechangers were the stuff of fable, he had been told. Monster stories to scare children. But a few had blanched and fallen silent upon hearing his queries, declining to respond. He would try once more... and secure the gift he had promised for Cami.

The vendors at the shops were aggressive, waving their wares before him as he passed. "Herbs and oils, magical and fine!" some cried. Others spread reams of cloth on the ground before him, forcing him to step to the side or pause as they rerolled their goods. He looked into several stands and occaisionally inquired about prices, more for the purpose of educating himself than for buying. Finally, he found himself in a stand full of finely carved wooden figures. He purchased five small figurines for Cami, two men, two women and a dog. As the vendor wrapped them, a small group of carvings caught his eye. They depicted manlike creatures, with arms and legs, but they had the heads of animals. Some were birdlike but had mannish heads.

His guards stood patiently at the tent's flap speaking to a wine vendor. Taking advantage of the momentary privacy, he spoke to the vendor, an old man with dark and leathery skin. "What are these?" he asked quietly.

The vendor smiled, revealing several missing teeth. "Desert dwellers, master," he answered. "The strange ones, animals that can take the form of men."

"They can change shapes?" asked Mithadan. The vendor nodded with a grin. He pulled up the sleeve of his robes and revealed a long scar running up his arm. "When I was young and foolish I went with some friends seeking them, for it is said they have special powers and if captured they can turn stone to gold. We found some, but they fled. One fell and we surrounded him. He turned into a great cat and ran off, but left me with a reminder to leave his people alone."

"They are real?" hissed Mithadan. "The Shapechangers live in the desert?"

"Yes," replied the old man. "Very real. Very secretive and very dangerous. They do not like strangers."

"Where can I find them?" asked Mithadan, but the old man shook his head. "They are nomads, wanderers. They are where they are and stay nowhere for very long."

"Can you tell me more?" asked Mithadan. At that moment, Seft stuck his head into the tent. The vendor shook his head. "I know nothing more." Mithadan purchased a figure of a bird with a woman's head, then turned away after thanking the old man.

"It grows late," growled Seft. "We must return to the palace. Mithadan nodded, cradling his purchases in his arms...
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