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Elfshadow is the first book in the Songs and Swords series by Elaine Cunningham. It was originally released in October 1991 as the second book in The Harpers series. Elfshadow introduced the popular characters of Arilyn Moonblade, Danilo Thann, and Elaith Craulnober.
The story begins in a flashback to Ches 2, 1321 DR, with the assassination of King Zaor of Evermeet. It then jumps forward about 15 years to Arilyn mourning the death of her mother, Z'beryl, at a statue of Hanali Celanil in Evereska. Her relatives have gathered, not to comfort the grieving half-elf, but to discover the disposition of Z'beryl's only legacy, her sword, a moonblade. None will touch it, and when Arilyn claims it as her own, they leave without contest.
Kymil Nimesin, a gold elf teacher at the Academy of Arms, is impressed with Arilyn, and takes her under his wing. She is unable to answer his questions regarding her knowledge of her human father or the sword she has inherited from her mother. He arranges to teach her at the Academy of Arms and to replace the missing gem in her sword.
The story then moves ahead, this time 25 years, when Arilyn is an accomplished adventurer who has taken the name of her sword, Moonblade, for her own surname. Now an agent of the Harpers, she has the reputation of an assassin, though she has never killed an innocent or an unarmed person. Arilyn is discovering that many Harpers with whom she has associations are being murdered by the "Harper Assassin".
The murders attract the attention of the powerful Archmage Khelben Arunsun of Waterdeep. He enlists the help of his nephew, Danilo Thann, to follow and spy upon Arilyn in order to try and discover the murderer and his reasons. Danilo Thann is publicly, for all intents and purposes, a dandy and a dilettante, but his rather foolish exterior hides a quick mind, excellent sword skills and a true talent for magic. Khelben suspects that Arilyn's sword holds the key to the assassin and asks Danilo to obtain more information about it.
Danilo locates Arilyn at the Halfway Inn outside of Evereska and in a fortunate turn of events, she takes him hostage while escaping from the thug Harvid Beornigarth. They travel through the Marsh of Chelimber on the way to Waterdeep, battling lizardfolk and goblins. Upon reaching Waterdeep, they check into an inn where Arilyn runs into Elaith Craulnobur, an elf with a reputation for cruelty. He shows intense interest in Arilyn, much to Danilo's dismay, and offers to help her by providing information. That night, Arilyn awakes to find the Harper Assassin standing over Danilo. The assassin escaped, but Danilo was branded and poisoned. He faked the extent of the poison in order to force Arilyn to retire to a safer place: the house of Loene, a former adventurer.
Meanwhile, Bran Skorlsun is hunting Arilyn, believing her to be the Harper Assassin. He approaches Elaith, warning him to stay away from Arilyn. Elaith reveals that Arilyn should have been his own daughter.
That night, Danilo sneaks out to report to Khelben, while Arilyn visits Elaith in search of more information. Danilo catches up with her and they seek more information from the Relay, a network of water creatures. The information they receive prompts Arilyn to seek aid from Khelben Arunsun, who sends the pair to Candlekeep to gain more information about the sword's ability, one of which is elfgate, the ability to control a portal between Evermeet and the mainland. Arilyn's mother, now revealed to be the Princess Amnestria, had created it upon falling in love with a human, Bran Skorlsun.
In the end, it turns out that the Harper Assasin is in fact another of the sword's abilities: elfshadow, which creates an ethereal duplicate of the wielder. The elfshadow was controlled by none other than Arilyn's old mentor, Kymil Nimesin, who was attempting to gain access to the gate to Evermeet in order to take over the island and turn it into a restored island version of Myth Drannor. Danilo, Arilyn, and Bran are able to foil his plots, moving the gate to Blackstaff Tower and capturing Kymil to be put up for Harper justice.
In the end, Bran offers Harper pins to both Danilo and Arilyn.
- Bran Skorlsun, Master Harper and Arilyn's father
- Elaith Craulnobur, elven renegade
- Harvid Beornigarth, adventurer/thug
- Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun, Archmage of Waterdeep
- Loene, former member of the Company of Crazed Venturers
- Barth, thug
- Black Pearl, sea half-elf
- Blazidon One-Eyed, former adventurer
- Cherbil Nimmt, Zhent
- Coril, Harper and minor mage
- Clion, former companion of Arilyn's
- Elliot Graves, Loene's servant
- Erlan Duirsar, Lord of the Greycloak Hills
- Fenian Ni'Tessine, assassin
- Filauria Ni'Tessine, elf
- Galinda Raventree, Waterdhavian noblewoman
- Gestar, selkie
- Hamit, thug
- Jannaxil Serpentil, fence owning a folio shop in Waterdeep
- Nain Keenwhistler, former member of the Company of Crazed Venturers
- Myrin Silverspear, proprietor of the Halfway Inn
- Myrna Cassalantar, Waterdhavian noblewoman
- Quentin, headmaster of the Academy of Arms in Evereska
- Raymid of Voonlar, former companion of Arilyn
- Regnet Amcathra, Waterdhavian nobleman and boyhood friend of Danilo's
- Rhys Ravenwind, bard and Harper
- Schoonlar, sage of Candlekeep
- Shalar Simgulphin, bard
- Simon, proprietor of the House of Good Spirits
- Siobhan O'Callaigh, Waterdeep watch captain
- Sratish, Zhentish informer
- Tintagel Ni'Tessine, elf
- Wardon Agundar, Waterdhavian nobleman
- Zaor, King of Evermeet
- Amnestria/Z'beryl, Arilyn's mother
- Dar-Hadan, Zoastria's father
- Laeral Silverhand, Khelben's lady
- Perendra, mage and Harper
- Rhys Brossfeather, clerk in Waterdeep
- Soma Lee, twin sister of Zoastria
- Thasitalia, Arilyn's great-aunt
- Ventish of Somlar, scholar
- Xenaphor, ancestor of Arilyn
- Zoastria, ancestor of Arilyn