Immediately after the events of the time-travel mission, Linfang Xiao realized that something has gone terribly wrong: when she ingested the truth potion given to her by Elder Cupboard, she should have lost consciousness as a side effect. However, she hadn’t, and ended up telling one of her secrets to the ill-tempered Halfling, putting her life and Juneau’s in danger. Lin ran to Denethor’s office and begged for an extended leave, despite the fact that the Crusaders were just given the year off; she wouldn’t take any chances.
Lin hurried into her room in the Council buildings and began to pack the few objects left in there since she’d left the Crusaders a few months prior. She was surprised by a knock on the door and refused to open it, in case it was an agent of Gungnir masquerading as one of the Council officials. Niobe Evergard was her caller, however, and the two had a brief chat about Lin’s need to leave and about Gungnir and Scath before the young Okimean suddenly passed out, a delayed side effect of the truth potion. When fully recovered, Lin received permission to leave by the newly-instated Commander to prevent whispers of desertion, even though she’d already been granted permission by Denethor–just to be safe. Lin asked Niobe to keep quiet about her location and most importantly, not to let Shan know anything more about Scath and Gungnir. Niobe agreed, but with conditions of her own: that Lin must find Zeyke and Juneau and let them know that she missed their companionship and wished for their safety. With a bow, Lin left the Council and sped off into the forests. Her first destination would be to Bawerstrom, so she headed southeast.
After a few days of journeying, Lin ran into her first spot of bad luck: Gungnir mercenaries who’d recognized her; one of them was her direct superior, Tygett Morose of Famardy, the man who had driven his blade into her stomach during the Fourth War. They gave chase after a brief battle, but a wounded Lin lost them when she jumped into the fast-moving River Lively. Since she didn’t know how to swim, she nearly drowned, though she had the fortune of washing up onto a sandbar during low tide, where she regained consciousness some hours later. Lin badly sprained her left wrist while trying to drag herself up onto the riverbank, where to her dismay, the Gungnir agents were lying in wait for her. Dazed, Lin knew that she didn’t stand a chance, but that didn’t stop her from trying, personally killing two of the men. The fight was between her and her superior now, and it was obvious that Lin didn’t have the upper hand in this fight. Morose had her disarmed and leapt for the killing blow when an arrow ripped cleanly through his forehead, killing him instantly. Though she never saw the face of her savior, she understood the note attached to the arrow’s fletching: the symbol of Scath. She stripped the corpses of their coins and pocketed them for safekeeping, then burned the men. No one else needed to see the mark of Gungnir tattooed on their bodies, least of all Lin, who figured it was best to keep them a secret.
Her journey continued on; for the first time in ages, Lin traveled back to Okime and spent some time wandering the battlefields and paying respect to the dead. A chance encounter with Iyatsu Falkor at Kilik’s grave opened her emotional scars again; he taunted her, then left her bruised and weeping after a brief fistfight. Lin felt even worse about trading blows with Kilik’s cousin in front of his grave and made a vow not to fail him ever again. With her dagger, she cut off a section of the red ribbon adorning the hilt of her sword and buried it atop the gravesite, solemnly promising Kilik that she would never forget him. The ghosts of the past haunted her for the rest of her time in Okime, and for a short while, Lin was afraid that she would sink into madness again, as she had in the aftermath of the war. The country she loved so much and nearly died for terrified her now, and she was all-too glad to leave.
Another river, another spot of trouble: it was sink or swim this time! This time, the Jolly Robbers gave fond chase, causing Lin to nearly drown again as she fled their pursuit! Luckily, the Tranquil River was not as wild as the last one, and she had the good fortune to be rescued by a small fishing boat, which conveniently (?) took her to Scathan, as per her request. There, in a secret cove nestled in the mountains overlooking the Mirror Lake, she showed the agents of Scath the arrow, though none of them claimed responsibility for saving a former agent of Gungnir.
Figuring that the arrow might have been a decoy, Lin decided to head back–bumping into a familiar face on her way. Just as the petite Okimean was about to lay into the taller woman about watching where she was going, the woman laughed sweetly and greeted Lin with a smile. For reasons unexplained and shrouded in mystery, Queen Lisette D’eowynn had also come to Scathan to see the Mirror Lakes…or so she said. Lin asked Lisette if she knew anything of Juneau and Zeyke’s whereabouts, but Lisette hadn’t seen either of them in a long time, much to Lin’s dismay. The two of them happily talked together and reminisced about the past before Lisette crumpled to the ground, plagued by a Vision of a shadowy figure betraying another near the lake, stabbing them in the back with a gilded, glowing knife. The Queen recovered and bade her farewells to Lin with a plea not to follow her as she hurried off in the direction of the water. Naturally, the curious young woman slunk off stealthily behind and watched an exchange between Lisette and a cloaked figure. Worried that the other person might be the one described in the Vision, she prepared to attack, but both parted separately, and Lisette remained unharmed.
Lin decided to ask about the arrow and the note once more and met with success this time around: a wizened old woman took the note and scrawled the name of a brothel in Famardy on the back. There, she told her, would Lin find the one who had saved her that day. The crone also gave Lin areas throughout the South to check up on: areas frequented by agents of both secret organizations. Since Scath was officially declared a treasonous and dangerous organization by the Organizational Council, many agents had no choice but to scatter and leave the Mirror Lakes for undisclosed reasons. Before Lin could inquire further, the old woman vanished into the air, leaving the younger woman confused, wondering if it was but a dream. When she took another look at the back of the note, she noticed something she hadn’t before: underneath the address of the brothel were the words “the Friend.”
Months went by as Lin journeyed from Bawerstrom to Famardy, mostly on foot. Searches for agents in southern Bawerstrom ended fruitlessly, though she was able to identify two weapon dealers in the city of Meishi, Okime, and discovered that many of the palace guards were bribed by Gungnir or were members themselves. However, Lin was unable to warn the King, as Falkor barred her from access out of spite. She journeyed on, once again encountering a river that needed to be crossed. Lin accepted a ride from a group of travelers crossing the Morgan River and made her way into Kelta. She stole into the woods, traveling during the daytime, as most Orcs would be underground at that point, and took care to avoid any lumbering trolls; her last summer had been nothing but depression and killing those beasts, and she’d had quite enough of both. Once, she thought she saw Vurlak, though she knew him to be long dead, reminding her of her mission to find Zeyke and leaving an uncomfortable pang of pain in her heart. Lin wasted no time in getting out of her enemy’s country and made it to Kasinthia.
Lin quickly met with Ceilidh, the fierce, willowy girl who had taken up the mantle of Darkblade, in Fjölmund’s Pub. Ceilidh, a member of Gungnir in the weapons department, recognized her as “Leixia” and nearly murdered Lin with a shimmersteel blade, a possible clue to the Vision that Lisette had described to her. Lin barely managed to heal herself before blinding the new Darkblade with her Light spell to escape. With the city guard on watch, Lin had no choice but to hide, disguising herself as one of the prostitutes in the House of Bliss. The patrons took an immediate liking to “Lianfan,” so Lin milked it for all she was worth in an effort to glean where Zeyke might be located. No one had seen him in moons, much to Lin’s disappointment. In the wee hours of the morning, “Lianfan” stole a grey gelding from the House of Bliss’s barn and took off to Famardy.
At one point, she encountered a strange young man calling himself Crow Flen. The two had met long ago, on one of Leyla’s missions, and even then, Lin realized that there was something oddly familiar about the black-haired human. Thanks to a bit of prodding and wit on Lin’s part, she deduced that “Crow Flen” was actually Twitch. The two parted as amicably as possible without learning much from the other, save for the fact that Twitch, now calling himself Lyza, had once eaten human flesh. Eventually, she came upon the brothel she had searched for. The madam of the brothel took one look at the nineteen-year-old Lin and took her captive as one of her new “girls.” Fearing that she would be stripped and her tattoo would be discovered, Lin stabbed herself and badly scraped her skin so she wouldn’t be discovered as an agent of Gungnir and put to death. As there were no healers in the establishment, she was bandaged and the mark went undetected. Lin gave a convincing (false) sob story about why she had come so far from Okime, and the madam bought it, hook, line, and sinker. The old woman put her up for auction, as many of her patrons enjoyed deflowering a beautiful maid, and as Lianfan, Lin flirted with her would-be buyers to glean information about both Scath and Gungnir. She never once slept with any of her suitors during the months she stayed in the brothel, though she teased and kissed them to learn more and more. Playing her part was a repulsive, but necessary, job. In secret, she purchased a hawk and sent a letter out to Juneau Solace in code, begging him to come to her so that she could tell him what she’d learned, but the hawk never returned, and Lin did not hear from the Friend again. Towards the end of the summer of 778, another suitor expressed interest in Lianfan, though this suitor was very, very different from the rest: she was a woman.
The woman, a small-boned, birdlike half-elf with honey-blonde hair, called herself Cerenna Rowan as she produced an arrow identical to the one which killed Tygett Morose nearly a year ago. Before Lin could comment or draw the dagger hidden in her robes, Rowan had her pinned against the wall with a knife to her throat. She explained that she’d known that Lin was a turncoat from Gungnir and was sent to hunt her down to eliminate the possibility of any secrets getting out. Squirming against her captor, Lin asked why Rowan killed Morose in the first place if she was meant to die; with a shrug, Rowan said that she’d been contracted by Scath at the time to keep Lin alive. Mercenary work is a cutthroat world, and whoever paid the highest price got Rowan’s loyalty. Lin explained that though both of them are somewhat alike, Rowan did her job for material gains while Lin did it to help others, earning her a laugh and a punch to the gut.
A struggle ensued, with Lin narrowly escaping with her life after knocking Rowan out with a chair. She ran to Kasinthia to claim asylum, where she found an article about the Crusaders’ exploits in the Teardrop Isles from the Kasinthian Times. Lin was desperate to find news of Zeyke, but the article said nothing of her best friend. Dejected, Lin disposed of the paper and made the final stretch of her trip back to the Council Territory, where she awaited Elder Cupboard’s wrath…