Zeddar sat next to a small fire, his tattered cloak clutched tight around him. The icy wind whistled outside the mouth of the cave, but Zeddar paid it no mind. He carefully turned the dry, cracked pages of an ancient tome. It was the last surviving relic of what had once been a mighty kingdom. The History of Shadowcove was the title, and it bore a simple SxC on the front cover in faded golden lettering. Some pages were missing, and the last three chapters had been burned away, but it was all he had left...the book, and a faded blue ribbon. He held the ribbon to his nose and breathed in deeply, though all he could smell were his own grimy fingers. Once the ribbon had held her hair back.... velvet waves of shimmering purple so deep it seemed black. Queen Morgaine had given the ribbon to him one day when he'd pulled her from the mouth of a hungry Drake near Destard. The Queen's fingers had shaken as she untied the ribbon from her hair and tied it around his upper arm, naming him her champion. Zeddar had worn the ribbon for a month. Then he'd kept it in a golden lockbox hidden in an alcove of his keep. Now, he used it to mark his spot in the book, closing the cover slowly to protect the fragile pages within. He turned and stared at the flickering flames for a long time, the dancing shadows pulling unwanted memories from him.... The rise of Shadowcove, and the Keepers.... His time as the leader of the Council of Mystics, and Dean of the Hall of Mystics, the training center for the SxC Wizards, Mages, and Tamers.... The fall of the kingdom, bloody and swift.... The rise of Silvervale in the ashes of the Cove.... Ilina le Kyteller, Abbysinthe, Cage Johnson.... His friends for so many years. Now, all had crumbled to dust....all that was left were the dancing shadows in his mind. The ghosts from ages past that refused to leave him.... the laughter of friends no longer there. The wind howled outside the Cavern, louder this time. For a moment, Zeddar felt a strong pull on his soul, a nearly irresistable urge to step outside the cavern, breathe deeply, and walk in the world again. He pushed it aside roughly, harshly, but the feeling would not leave him. It had been growing slowly, steadily for months now, and it was becoming too much to ignore. It made him want to weep. Zeddar had left the world behind, walked away. He had awoken to find his home gone, the dust of his friends' bones scattered in the wind, and all memory of them washed from the history of Man. What was there left in the world for him? Why should he answer the call of Fate? Hadn't he done enough when he'd given his life's essence in the spell to destroy the Dark Lord Necromonk? Hadn't his debt been paid? But just then, Zeddar's twisted memories spit forth the image of a twisted, hunched old man in a dusty cave looking out over the vast Desert Sands west of Vesper. The old Hermit had nursed him back to health once after a nasty encounter with a silver serpent. Zeddar was certain the man was mad, but he was also eerily lucid at the oddest moments. Once, after staring into a fire for seven hours straight, the grizzled old hermit had raised his face, and with milky white eyes, spoken in an echoing and hollow voice, "Never bargain with Fate, Wizard....What She sells is ne'er what you thought was bought....and the price is always steeper once the deal is made...." The hermit had fallen silent after that, and had slept for three days. Zeddar was sure he was dead, but the man had woken on the morning of the fourth day, and walked out of the cave without a word. Zeddar had never seen him again. The wind outside howled again, but this time it whipped through the cavern, tearing at the flickering fire, toppling the single wax candle on Zeddar's table, and opening the book. The ribbon floated out of the book and drifted towards the still wavering flames, and Zeddar's heart skipped a beat. He lunged across the small cavern, barely catching the ancient ribbon before it went up in flames. He huddled against the wall of the cavern, clutching the ribbon to his chest, and weeping silently. After a long time, Zeddar opened his eyes, and was surprised to find the cavern dark. The fire was nearly out, with only a few embers still glowing, and the darkness was heavy, oppressive. It seemed to be laughing at his sorrow and his pain. Zeddar walked over to the book and started to close it, but his hand paused. It had opened to the very page describing his death.... Zeddar glanced at the words, and the memories flooded back... His sense of honor, and duty.... his sense of purpose... his courage and his steadfast devotion for Queen Morgaine. He had been that man once... a man who had stood and faced the darkness, and won. He had been a hero once... a man of wisdom and of power... a man he had been proud to be. And he would be again. Zeddar tied the ribbon around the volume of history, and laid it carefully on the table at the back of the cavern. He kicked dust and dirt over the last of the embers, smothering them. Then, he walked to the mouth of the cave, summoned all of his long-dormant power that was left to him, and called upon the earth to move. At first, nothing happend... Zeddar strained, and focused until sweat ran down his face and neck. His blood was pounding in his ears. Then, some dust and pebbles began to slide down the slope. Zeddar pulled harder on his reserves of strength, and he felt a sudden surge within him like a blinding white light. The ground rumbled and snow mixed with stones and small boulders began to rain down the mountainside. Zeddar stumbled back, throwing up an arm to shield his face. When the dust had settled, the mouth of the cavern was gone, buried in the avalanche. Zeddar wiped the stinging tears from his face, and turned south. He felt the pull now, the inexorable force of Fate tugging on the strings of his life. Where they would lead, he couldn't say.....but he would face whatever foe was waiting. Zeddar grinned.... As he walked through the blinding wind and snow, Zeddar's mind drifted back to the desert hermit. Years after the wandering madman had walked out on him, Zeddar had found his sandy cave once more, but it was empty. Etched into the stone at the back of the cave, though, was an inscription...."As long as a single candle burns...." Zeddar marched through the blizzard, laughing as tears streamed down his face.