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Elfshadow is the first book in the Songs and Swords series by Elaine Cunningham and the second book in The Harpers series. Elfshadow introduced the popular characters of Arilyn Moonblade, Danilo Thann, and Elaith Craulnober.

Arilyn Moonblade is one of the two best assassins in the Realms. Maybe both. From Cormyr to Waterdeep, Harpers are being murdered. The trail leads to the half-elven adventurer, Arilyn Moonblade. Is she guilty, or is she the next target? Tormented by strange dreams and stalked by shadows, Arilyn must uncover the ancient secret of her sword's power in order to find and face the Harper assassin.

Summary Edit

In 1321 DR, the moon elf Zaor Moonflower, the king of the elven island of Evermeet, was killed by the sun elf assassin Fenian Ni'Tessine in the gardens of the Moonstone Palace. Fenian had originally been seeking Amnestria Moonflower, Zaor’s daughter and a princess of Evermeet, so he considered the death of the king to be a fortunate accident, but he was mortally wounded while fleeing the palace and was soon killed. Amnestria was a capable warrior-mage and was in love with Bran Skorlsun, a human ranger and a member of the Harpers, a semi-secret organization dedicated to fighting for freedom and justice. Together, Amnestria and Bran had a half-elven daughter, whom they named Arilyn, but their relationship and their child was considered to be a disgrace by the elves of Evermeet. In an unconscious attempt to span her two worlds, Amnestria imbued her moonblade, a hereditary magical sword, with the elfgate ability, which created a magical portal between Evermeet and mainland Faerûn. However, when the elves of Evermeet learned of this power, they had the sword dismantled in order to ensure that the portal, which they hid in the elven city of Evereska, could not be used. Amnestria was banished from Evermeet and pledged to protect the elfgate, and since Bran was forced to keep the moonstone from the princess’s moonblade, the lovers understood that they could never be reunited.

Amnestria went into exile in Evereska, where she took the name Z'beryl and raised Arilyn alone without ever telling her about her heritage. Z'beryl became an instructor at the College of Magic and Arms, an academy for warrior-mages in Evereska, but she was slain by ruffians when Arilyn was fifteen years old. Some of Z'beryl’s relatives traveled to Evereska for the funeral, but they did not comfort the grieving Arilyn and only sought to discover the disposition of her mother’s moonblade. Z'beryl had left the moonblade to Arilyn, who claimed the weapon as her own, and her relatives soon left Evereska without trying to take the sword from her. Shortly afterward, Kymil Nimesin, a sun elf noble and a renowned weapons master at the Academy of Arms, a prestigious training school outside the port city of Waterdeep, met with Arilyn and became her mentor. Arilyn was unable to answer Kymil’s questions regarding her knowledge of her human father or the moonblade that she had inherited from her mother. Kymil later arranged for Arilyn to receive training under his tutelage at the Academy of Arms and replaced the missing gem in her magical sword with a topaz.

By 1361 DR, Arilyn was an accomplished adventurer and had taken the name of her sword, Moonblade, as her own surname. Arilyn had learned that her moonblade’s magical powers included glowing blue and warning her when danger was near, being able to strike abnormally fast, burning anyone besides herself who attempted to touch the sword, protecting her from fire, and projecting illusions to disguise her. Arilyn was an agent of the Harpers but not an official member of the organization, and though she had a reputation as an assassin, she had never killed an innocent or unarmed person.

Around 1361 DR, a mysterious figure who became known as the Harper Assassin murdered several members of the Harpers who had associations or were friends with Arilyn. In the early autumn of 1361 DR, the Harpers tasked Arilyn with infiltrating Darkhold, a fortress controlled by the evil organization known as the Zhentarim, and retrieve some relics sacred to Sune, the goddess of love, that had been stolen by a Zhentish raiding party. Arilyn purchased information about the layout and defenses of Darkhold from a retired Zhentish soldier, but shortly after she met with him, he was slain by the Harper Assassin. Arilyn was able to secretly enter Darkhold, but she had to fight and kill the Zhentish captain Cherbill Nimmt in order to recover the artifacts. Once Arilyn escaped from Darkhold, she began to hastily make her way toward Evereska. 

Meanwhile, Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun, the archmage of Waterdeep and a high-ranking member of the Harpers, was concerned about the Harper Assassin and had realized that the killer seemed to be following Arilyn. While at a party in Waterdeep, Khelben met with his nephew Danilo Thann, a young Waterdhavian nobleman who publicly acted like a dandy and a dilettante but was secretly a capable mage and Harper agent. Khelben wanted Danilo to help stop the Harper Assassin and told him to find Arilyn in Evereska. Danilo was ordered to protect Arilyn from the Harper Assassin while trying to learn the enigmatic killer’s identity and obtain information about the half-elf’s moonblade. 

Arilyn stopped at the Halfway Inn, a tavern in the mountains near Evereska, and met with Kymil, whom she gave the artifacts that she had retrieved from Darkhold so that he could return them to Sune’s followers. Kymil told Arilyn that she should seek out and stop the Harper Assassin, who may actually be a member of the Harpers, and that she should begin her search in Waterdeep. Arilyn agreed, but a group of mercenaries led by the ruffian Harvid Beornigarth then arrived at the Halfway Inn in search of the half-elf. After Kymil magically transported himself to Evereska, Arilyn used her moonblade to magically disguise herself and by chance took Danilo, who happened to be at the tavern, as a hostage in order to evade the mercenaries and escape from the inn. The pair began to journey toward Waterdeep, and although Danilo kept his true identity and mission a secret, he and Arilyn soon became friends. As Arilyn and Danilo were traveling through part of the Marsh of Chelimber, they were attacked by a band of lizardfolk and goblins, but they managed to kill the evil humanoids.

When Arilyn and Danilo eventually reached Waterdeep, they visited an inn and encountered Elaith Craulnobur, a moon elf adventurer and crime lord with a reputation for cruelty and treachery. Elaith and Amnestria had been childhood friends in Evermeet and were betrothed until the former had been rejected by his family’s moonblade. Much to Danilo’s dismay, Elaith showed an intense interest in Arilyn, and following the meeting, the rogue elf magically contacted Kymil and arranged to have Danilo killed. That night, the Harper Assassin murdered Rhys Ravenwind, a renowned bard and member of the Harpers. A short time later, Arilyn awakened to find the Harper Assassin standing over Danilo and tried to assail the mysterious entity. The Harper Assassin disappeared, but Arilyn then discovered that the killer had used a magical brand to poison Danilo. Although Danilo quickly recovered from the wound, he pretended otherwise in order to force Arilyn to withdraw to a safe location, the home of a former adventurer named Loene. While Arilyn spoke with Loene, Danilo secretly left the house to report to Khelben at Blackstaff Tower. When Danilo returned to Loene’s home, he learned that Arilyn had departed to seek the help of Elaith, but he was able to quickly catch up with the half-elf. Arilyn and Danilo met with Elaith, who agreed to use his connections to try to find information about the Harper Assassin.

Meanwhile, Bran, who was now a High Harper, was secretly following Arilyn in order to determine whether she was responsible for the deaths of all the Harper agents. While trailing Arilyn and Danilo through Waterdeep, Bran was confronted by Elaith, whom he had previously adventured with but now hated. Elaith stated that he should be Arilyn’s father, not Bran, who wanted the elf to stay away from his daughter. While the Harper Assassin killed Elliot Graves, Loene’s servant and a member of the Harpers, Arilyn and Danilo attempted to learn more about the enigmatic killer by questioning some of the inhabitants of Waterdeep. The companions’ inquiries caused them to become suspicious of Elaith, but when they confronted the rogue, he revealed that one of the Harpers who was believed to have been slain by the Harper Assassin was actually killed by two of the elf’s agents. Elaith explained that he had discovered that someone had successfully made it seem that Arilyn was the Harper Assassin, and he also warned that he had arranged to have Danilo killed.

After speaking with Elaith, Arilyn and Danilo met with a few Harper agents and some of the half-elf’s old comrades. The two friends later left Waterdeep in an attempt to prevent anyone else from being killed by the Harper Assassin, and Danilo convinced Arilyn to try to discover more about her moonblade and its powers. Arilyn and Danilo sought information from Evermeet by using the Relay, a network of sentient sea creatures. Although they found out little about the moonblade, they did learn about Arilyn’s royal heritage. The knowledge prompted Arilyn to seek the assistance of Khelben, and Danilo teleported them to Blackstaff Tower. Khelben sent Arilyn and Danilo to the fortress library known as Candlekeep, where they gained more information about the moonblade’s history and abilities, such as the elfshadow power, which created an ethereal duplicate of the wielder that could fight and kill. Arilyn realized that the Harper Assassin was not an actual person, but her moonblade’s elfshadow ability, which Kymil had obtained control over.

When Arilyn and Danilo magically returned to Waterdeep, the half-elf ascertained her companion’s true identity, but the two were then attacked by a group of mercenaries led by Harvid, whom Kymil had hired to assail the pair. Bran soon joined the fight to help Arilyn and Danilo, and together they were able to kill Harvid and his men. Immediately afterward, Bran was forced to fight the elfshadow assassin, and during the clash, the moonstone that Bran carried magically reattached to Arilyn’s moonblade and the topaz that Kymil had installed in the sword was destroyed. Kymil had cast a spell on the topaz that enabled him to control the moonblade’s elfshadow ability, but the moonstone being rejoined to the sword ended his power over Arilyn’s shadowy duplicate and caused a magical explosion. Following the devastating magical blast, a detachment of the City Watch of Waterdeep arrived at the scene and arrested Arilyn, Danilo, and Bran.

Kymil was in Waterdeep at that time and had used the elfshadow to kill the various Harper agents in order to lure Bran to Arilyn so that the moonstone would be reunited with the half-elf’s moonblade, but he had not anticipated that he would lose control over the ethereal duplicate. Kymil wanted to use the moonblade to access the hidden portal to Evermeet, enabling him and his group of malevolent sun elf followers to enact their plans, which were to kill the remaining members of the nation’s royal family and ultimately establish a ruling council of sun elf elders. As part of his plot, Kymil had sent Fenian to Evermeet forty years previously and he had later arranged the death of Z'beryl. Knowing that Arilyn would try to thwart his plans, Kymil magically traveled to Evereska with his minions to await the half-elf.

Once Arilyn, Danilo, and Bran were released from Waterdeep’s prison on the orders of Khelben, they attempted to find Kymil, but they soon learned that the elven armsmaster had left the city and was now in Evereska. After Bran then revealed to Arilyn that he was her father, they made their way to Blackstaff Tower with Danilo and met with Khelben. The archmage provided Arilyn with an enspelled griffon so that she could hastily journey to Evereska and confront Kymil. Arilyn left her moonblade in Blackstaff Tower to prevent Kymil from being able to utilize the elfgate.

Shortly after Arilyn departed from Waterdeep, Danilo and Bran decided to magically travel to Evereska to not only help her defeat Kymil, but also to stop her from killing the sun elf. Kymil needed to be captured and put on trial by the Harpers for his crimes or Arilyn could be accused of being the Harper Assassin. Khelben taught Danilo a powerful spell that would move the elfgate to a new location, and even though Arilyn’s moonblade magically burned the young nobleman, he took the sword with him to Evereska because he knew that the half-elf would need the weapon to overcome Kymil. As Danilo and Bran were preparing to leave for Evereska, they encountered Elaith. The rogue told the two companions that the Harper Assassin’s attack on Danilo had been the arranged attempt on his life, and he gave them evidence proving that Kymil had been working with the Zhentarim. When Danilo questioned Elaith’s motives, the elf revealed that he was helping Arilyn because he wanted to get revenge on Kymil.

Upon reaching Evereska, Arilyn fought Kymil and his sun elf followers near the site of the hidden portal to Evermeet. Danilo and Bran soon joined the fight and provided Arilyn with her moonblade, and while the half-elf killed Kymil’s servants, the Waterdhavian mage magically moved the elfgate to a safe location. Following the deaths of Kymil’s followers, Arilyn faced the armsmaster in single combat and defeated him. The elfshadow wanted Arilyn to kill Kymil, but she resisted the shadowy entity’s desire for vengeance and exerted complete control over her moonblade.

Kymil was tried for his treacherous crimes by a Harper tribunal, and Arilyn’s innocence was confirmed. Arilyn and Danilo later celebrated their success in Waterdeep with Bran, who gave them Harper pins and made them official members of the organization. Bran also promised Arilyn that he would remain near Waterdeep so that they could get to know each other better. Since they were now close friends, Arilyn and Danilo decided to continue to work together. Danilo told Arilyn that he had moved the elfgate to Blackstaff Staff in order to make certain that the portal would remain safe. Arilyn then revealed that instead of imbuing her moonblade with a new magical power, she had removed the restriction that prevented anyone else from touching the sword without being burned.


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  1. Elaine Cunningham (April 2000). Elfshadow. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 228–229. ISBN 0-7869-1660-5.
  2. Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 146. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  3. Ed Greenwood; Eric L. Boyd, Steven E. Schend (2000). Presenting...Seven Millennia of Realms Fiction. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2015-08-12.

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