"The tale came to me in a nameless hamlet tucked into the treetops not far from Titan's Reach. I wasn't even teaching." Shanna glanced at Sam. "We'd just stopped for the night."
Leander the Elf muttered under his breath, "You two hadn't even gotten started for the night." Darvinin glanced at him, and he grinned.
"And the tale says Ruin has come back to life," Darvinin said slowly, looking back at Shanna.
She nodded. "Ruin, Fartathren, Lilly, and some human cleric they were traveling with. They're calling them the Twice-born. Mythrandril is supposed to have spoken with them. They had been turned into undead, but they turned on their captors and reclaimed their bodies."
"Fartathren?" asked Evrimon, eyebrows rising. "A fellow Grey Elf, and her name is Fartathren?"
"I really must meet her."
Darvinin turned to the Grey Elf druid. "I'm pretty sure she would eat you alive, new friend."
"Yes, well," said Sam, "that's sort of the concern. Mistra told us about the dopplegangers, and with the traitors sending a false army to turn the dwarves against us--"
Darvinin shook his head, and she stopped.
"All the evidence points to the traitors," Darvinin said quietly, "but there is no possible way that that many soldiers and that much materiel went wandering off without the High Provost knowing about it."
"Ah," said Shanna. "Which is why you think the Provost is going to send a newborn goblin to assassinate you."
Darvinin had to think about that one; he groaned when it came back to him. "Sort of," he said after a moment. "I meant I was drunk enough that a newborn goblin could take me--"
"Probably true," observed Sam.
"--and I'm also quite sure that the High Provost would happily have me murdered if he could find a way to do so that looked like something else."
"Which," said Mistra firmly, "brings us back to your cousin and her lover and why they came looking for you. Whatever's going on, whether the High Provost is involved or not, none of us can trust appearances and none of us know what the truth is. Supposedly, your mother has returned and pledged her service to the King. Supposedly, your twin brother has resurrected himself. But for all we know, a Solari illusionist could be impersonating them both. The only person who's really going to be able to tell... is you."
"Ahhhh," said Darvinin, as the last of the pieces fell into place.
Leander and Evrimon exchanged a glance as the three women nodded.
...Which means they really do think that Ruin might be alive. Even after he died. Darvinin went still, eyes unfocused. Do I think that?
He would know if Ruin died. He had known when Ruin died. It had nearly destroyed him. And yet, he couldn't shake the feeling that Ruin was still out there somewhere, that he could show up at any moment. Was that grief and denial, as he'd supposed? Or was it something else?
"There's only one way to find out," he said, almost too softly to hear.