by Richard Lee Byers
from the anthology HALLS OF STORMWEATHER
(to be published by Wizards.of the Coast summer, 2000)

Shamur crouched among Gundar's coffers, her signature red-striped mask on her face and a silver amulet set with a large, lustrous pearl -- the first piece of loot she'd selected to carry away -- dangling around her neck. She was smiling in triumph, but the expression felt wrong and unnatural. Because this time, for the moment at least, she fully understood that she was reliving the past, and accordingly knew what was about to happen.

Sure enough, the door to the treasure vault crashed open. On the other side stood Gundar -- clad in a nightshirt and nightcap, his beard still black with only a sprinkling of white -- a pair of his dwarven guards, and a human, his household mage.

Swords in one hand, target shields in the other, the soldiers in their mail shirts spread out to flank her. Gundar, who had a reputation as a warrior himself, came straight at her. His battle-ax, whispering and crooning with some magic of its own, shifted deceptively to and fro.

Shamur was so intent on the men-at-arms that she missed seeing the sorcerer -- a stunted wisp of a man scarcely taller and nowhere near as solidly built as his employer -- point his ivory-tipped wand at her. Suddenly her left shoulder was burning, cooking, as if from the kiss of a white-hot iron, and her loose black silk shirt burst into flame. She dropped and rolled among the scattered coins and gems, knowing she had only seconds to extinguish the fire before the warriors would be on top of her.

Frantically she scrambled back to her feet. Her shoulder still throbbed, and the part of her that had lived these moments before knew she'd carry a peculiar star-shaped scar for the rest of her days. But that didn't matter. What did was that as she'd thrashed about putting out the blaze, her mask had come untied.

Gundar stared at her naked face in amazement. No hope that he would fail to recognize Shamur Karn! She and her family had attended a banquet here in his mansion only a week before. That was when she'd determined the location of his hoard.

Taking advantage of his surprise, she bolted past him, slammed the wizard out of her way, and raced toward the window which had granted her entry. For once she took no delight in the thrill of a narrow escape. How could she? Now that someone knew that Javis Karn's adolescent daughter and Selgaunt's most notorious robber were one and the same, she'd have to flee the city forev--

You can get more of Shamur in "Shamur's Wager," Dragon Magazine, summer of 2000 and in THE SHATTERED MASK, a novel to be published by Wizards of the Coast in 2001.

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