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Book Four Pt 1 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Turin Wallace Page 1 Book 4 Posted On Wed Jul 11, 2007

Ithramir woke by himself, in his own room. Moving to a window, he peered out into the vast forest surrounding the Citadel. Here, all was quiet and peaceful. At least for now.

In an instant, his thoughts turned once more to the struggle for the mountain pass to the east. His army, and that of the other races, had combined to take Minas Aure from the Orcs. The cost had been great, but the work only half finished. There was one last obstacle in the way:

Minas Uial.

By now, the Orcs would already have heard of their victory and would be reinforcing the garrison at the great tower. Minas Uial was the gateway to the east, and for any move to be made against Beridane, it must be reclaimed. For if it was not, the Orcs could gather in force and draw away precious elf-power from the main army. Not to mention that the elf-forges at the Citadel and at other tower-outposts along the territories demanded wood, iron, steel, and mithril for weapons and armors. Without these, the army would grind to a halt. No, Minas Uial had to be taken.

Moving over to the armor rack, Ithramir chose his armor carefully. Pondering for a moment, he decided on a set of blue dyed mithril chain and plate, with matching cloak. He then armed himself, in the usual manner, and walked into the corridor.

A salute from the guard, a "good morning, sir", followed by a "any news for our army sir?" greeted him.

Looking at the guard, he replies,

"Yes, good morning. What do you mean any news?"

The guard smiles at him and says,

"You know, sir, any news of the type that rings bells?"

Ithramir thought the guard had gone mad, but then realized he meant his proposal to Lithwyn. More annoyed at the question, especially first thing in the morning, he responds,

"No, no news that needs reporting, soldier. However, I do have something else that you can gossip about, tell the men to prepare for departure to Minas Aure. We have another tower to reclaim."

Ithramir then walks off to meet his captains and generals, and those allied with them in the Great Hall of Avandor."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst and Lucant waited by the large oak, waited for Ceredan the High Elder Druid to summon them inside. It did not take long and soon the pair was standing before him. There was solomness in the air that worried Tempyst. Before either had a chance to speak Ceredan began. "You both have come a long way in a short time. Tempyst, you are now an elder druid, the youngest we have ever initiated. And you, Lucant, there has not been a new stoneshaper to show themselves in a long, long time. For this reasonI have summoned you here. " Ceredan sat down upon a large ivy covered chair. Tempyst plaed her hand in her husband's and listenened to the druid. "As you know Tempyst, you ahve completed most of your training, what you learn now, will be learned as you live. But I am afraid, the same is not for you Lucant. Stoneshapers are rare among us, and you were discovered very very late in your life. This is not to say you are too old, this is to say that normally your training would have begun when you were but a toddler, much like your wife went through. You require specialized training Lucant, and that requires dedication and committment. This will not be an easy path, you will need to leave behind all you know and love and go into seclusion with your teacher."

"What do you mean leave behind all I love?" Lucant's hand tightened in his wife's.

"I mean just that. Stoneshapers during their training, must become one with the stone, and stay there until they are ready to emerge. This process takes years for us on the outside. For you who undergo this, time will seem to barely pass. I know this will be a hardship for you two, but there is no other way. It is your choice Lucant. We cannot force you to enter into this, but know you will be forever thanked for all you sacrifice. I will leave you two to discuss this. You will find me and your new teacher by the great stone out in clearing when you are ready with your decision." With that, Ceredan left the couple alone in the hall.

"What do I do Tempyst? We have only just ofund each other, and now, now I am asked to leave you." Lucant looked deep into his wife's blue eyes.

Tempyst sighed. She knew what she wanted. She wanted to scream and shout and beg Lucant not to go. She knew what would happened if he did and it would hurt too much. But she also knew her husband, and knew his soul, she had to be brave, for him. "Lucant, we have only been together a short time, yet I know you already. You have been searching for your whole life for purpose and when you learned you were a stoneshaper, you eyes were afire with energy and life. You would not ask of me to give up being who I am, and I cannot ask of you to give up being who you are, no matter what the cost."

Lucant hugged her tightly, his heart breaking for he could see in her eyes, feel through their link what this was doing to her. But as he looked at her, he knew that she was right; for the first time in his life he was happy, and he wanted to know more about who he was and what he could do. Yes, he ws one of Nyrondis' avatar's but even that did not compare to the joy he felt when it came to stone and what he could do with it. Lucant sighed and kissed Tempyst deeply. When they parted, he held her tight once more. "You are right, you know me too well. I hate breaking your heart and leaving you, but for once, once in my life I need to do what is good for me, what I need and desire. And I desire this Tempyst, with all my being, more than my love for you, more than being an avatar, I want this. I want this."

Tempyst forced a smile, and blinked away the tears. "Then it is settled, the choice has been made. You are to go and become who you were always meant to be, a stoneshaper. But know this, no matter what, I will always love you and have a place in my life for you."

"No, don't sound like that, I don't want you to wait around for me. You have your own life to lead and I will not stop you from living it..."

"But Lucant, if it is my choice..."

"Tempyst, it was never your choice or our choice, fate did this to us, and I will not allow fate to keep you as a widow. Tell me, tell me you will go on with your life or..."

"Or what Lucant? What will you do? You cannot stop me from waiting if that is my choice."

Lucant took Tempyst by the shoulders. "Stop this, You need to be strong and you need to live your life. Promise me you will."

Tempyst wrapped her arms around Lucant. "I can only follow my heart."

Lucant nodded, his jaw set in determination. He took Tempyst's hand in his and walked to the clearing, towards the great stone. "And I can only follow mine." As they entered the clearing, the pair could see Ceredan standing near the great stone and with him was a stout grey looking dwarf.

"What is your decision Lucant?" Ceredan asked.

"I will go become a stoneshaper, but I have one thing that must be done first. You performed our marriagte, and now, now I wish to renounce that union."

Tempyst gasped. "Lucant, no, please don't."

Lucant took his hand from her, slipping off the wedding ring he had made for her. Then he took off the one she had made for him. "It is what I want Tempyst, I'm sorry for hurting you like this, but it is the only way I will go do this."He took the two rings and placed them upon the ground. Tempyst's eye filled with tears, her whole body shaking. She could feel her soul quaking inside of her and knew what he was about to do. SHe tried to say no again, but her heart ws in her throat and found she could not speak. Lucant placed the rings upon the ground. "I heareby renounce my marriage and soul bond to Tempyst, I no longer wish to be bound to this woman."

Ceredan sighed. "I'm sorry Tempyst, but the words have been spoken in a holy place. If he askes it one more time, then I must bring and end to the marriage, It is his right, and it is how our laws are." He placed a hand upon Tempyst's shoulder and turned to Lucant. "Lucant Dolvan, is this truly what you want? It is not necessary, bond is a sacred thing, it should not be taken lightly..."

"I RENOUNCE THIS MARRIAGE AND SOUL BOND." Lucant about screamed, Please, it is hard enough as it is, I am doing this for her, for the both of us. Please Tempyst...let me go."

Tempyst flung her arms around Lucant, tears streaming down her face. In a quivering voice she spoke. "I wish to renounce this marriage and soul bond with Lucant."

Ceredan picked up the two rings. "So let it be." He whispered a few words and in a flash of light, they disappeared. A soft light then encompassed the couple and within moments, faded.

Lucant pulled back and whispered, "I'm so sorry."

Tempyst dropped to the ground, sobbing. "Just leave, it's what you want."

Lucant leaned down and kissed Tempyst upon the head. He tried to see how she was feeling, but the link there was gone. He didn't know it would feel this empty without her. The tears fell down his face as he walked over to the dwarf. Ceredan introduced him as Ezekiel Stonebrewer. The dwarf said nothing but walked into the stone with Lucant following. And then he was gone. Tempyst looked to the stone and then picked up a rock and threw it at it, but nothing happened, it just bounced away harmelssly. She looked up at Ceredan, her eyes pleading why, but all the High Druid could do was pick her up and carry her inside, laying her down upon one of the many moss covered beds within the infirmary. "It will not be easy child. Loosing a husband never is, and loosing a soul bond is even harder. It will get better, with time, just don't let the sacrifice he made embitter you. You will go on, you have work to do. Stay here as long as you need, but never forget who you are and who you were before him." He patted her on the shoulder again then left. Tempyst just lay on the bed crying, feeling the emptyness of her soul encompass her.

Written by - Dartanian Merquise

The light of dawn filtered through the window and fell across Dartanian’s face, causing him to stir briefly before rolling over and falling back to sleep. Moments later, he was roused by a knock at his door. “One moment please,” he said sleepily as he forced himself from the warmth and comfort of the covers and pulled himself out of the bed. He quickly dressed himself in something more than his night clothes and answered the door.

Standing outside his door was the citadel servant he had spoken to the previous night. “My Lord, you asked that I wake you this morning upon the arrival of your men. The first of them are entering the citadel as we speak.”

“Thank you,” Dartanian answered. He began to turn round groggily but stopped and asked the servant to also wake his officers. Bowing, the servant turned to do as instructed.

Closing the door once more, Dartanian quickly dressed. Forgoing the armor of the previous night, he dressed in a royal blue field officer’s uniform. Simple, practical, and well suited to the battlefield, there was nothing to distinguish his rank as anything other than that of a regular officer. He often wore this uniform for tactical reasons, or when he did not wish to wantonly throw his rank around. Today was the latter. He did however arm himself, sheathing his father’s sword at his side and placing his two daggers in his belt.

Exiting his room, he saw that his men were already assembled. There was a brief exchange of greetings and then they fell in step behind him as he made his way to the entrance of the citadel. As they walked, he issued orders regarding logistics and preparations for the men to be prepared to ride as soon as possible. There was no telling how soon Commander Ithramir wished to march. There was much that need not be said; most of these men were hardened veterans who had served in the Officers’ Corps of the Blue Knights since before Dartanian had been knighted. They knew their men well and knew what needed to be done.

After stopping along the way to retrieve their mounts, the group rode to the entrance of the citadel. As the servant had said, his men had indeed begun to arrive. The great gates of the citadel were thrown wide open and a sea of blue moved quickly inside. Dartanian dismissed the officers to take command of their companies and oversee the arrival and integration into the citadel proper.

Moments later Dartanian made eye contact with his second-in-command, Captain Varion, just as he was passing through the gates. The Captain turned to speak to the aide next to him before riding over to his commander. Dartanian returned the crisp salute as Captain Varion came near.

The Captain was several years older than Dartanian, yet still young. He was a faithful sword arm and a reliable tactician. His family had served House Merquise for many generations, Varion’s own father serving Robert Merquise faithfully until his death. Officially the commander of the Blue Knights, Varion was the acting second-in-command to all of House Merquise’s military forces. Dartanian knew that he could trust Varion to lead his forces in his stead; when the need arose.

“Good morning Captain, anything to report?”

“Nothing needing attention My Lord; we set off early this morning as instructed and all troops and support personnel are present and accounted for.”

“Good, see that the men rest well today and prepare to move out as soon as possible. In all likelihood we will be leaving shortly to assist the elves in the recapture of one of their strongholds which was taken by the Orc legions not long ago.” Varion nodded in response. Just then an elven messenger appeared before them.

“Dartanian Merquise, Commander Ithramir requires your presence in the Great Hall of Avandor with all due haste.”

“Very well,” Dartanian replied to the elf. Turning to Varion he said, “Are your men in order Captain?”

“That they are My Lord.”

“Very well, then you shall accompany me. Now then,” he turned to the elf once more, “I’m afraid this citadel is rather large and we have only been here a short time, would you care to show us the way?”

The elf nodded, and the two men dismounted, passing off their mounts to an aide from the marching column before following the elf toward the Great Hall of Avandor.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Deluwiel and Nica had continued for many days since their departure from Turin. Travelling south, through the ravaged lands of Westgale, they crossed the river Iseril and into the small town of Thornton.

Staying at the local inn, both women found the town a breath of fresh air, as they were with kin again. As much as they dearly loved Turin, the people of the north were not elven, nor had many even seen one. Deluwiel especially relished the chance to speak her native tongue and soak in the ways of her people. After more than a few days of rest and local inquiry about the best path to the Citadel, they set off through the Mori'Taur.

One night, as the two women made camp, the sound of footsteps signalled the approach of another. Nica instinctively grabbed her bow and knocked an arrow, only to have Deluwiel place her hand on her daughter's arm, and giving her a knowing nod. Quietly, she says,

"The footsteps are even and light, this person is not sneaking about or meaning us no harm. Let us see if they show themselves."

It was then a cloaked woman appeared at the camp, her soft features accentuated by the glow of the campfire. Bowing as a sign of respect, the newcomer says,

"Deluwiel Eorwifinia, I bear news of your son, Turin. I would have a moment of your time, privately, to tell you of his fate."

A slight, ever so slight, change in palor ran across Deluwiel's face. It was the fear every mother has, when news of their child comes from another, and with the serious tone the stranger spoke. Answering, she says,

"Very well, let us speak."

At once she began to move toward the cloaked figure, when Nica protested,

"I would know of my brother's fate, stranger. We are family, and there is no secret that should be contained or hidden from me!"

Deluwiel found her words ringing true, abruptly she stops and says,

"My daughter speaks well and true, share your news with the both of us."

The cloaked figure nodded and removed the robe, allowing them to see her as she truly was, an Archon of the All-Father. A golden glow eminated from her armor, her golden hair hung about her shoulders, the white of her wings blinding. Before the archon could speak, Deluwiel gasps out,

"Siluriel! Why have you come? Where is my son?!"

With a voice both sympathatic and sad, the archon replied,

"Calm yourself, Deluwiel, your son yet lives. Though, his fate is far from certain. For the love of his friends, he exchanged freedom for slavery. To keep the Light of Hope lit, he has given himself over to the dark."

Bracing herself on a nearby stump, Deluwiel's repose weakened for a moment, the archon's words hit like steel. Nica rushed to her mother's side, aiding her only a moment, until Deluwiel straightened herself aright. Her elven eyes took on a hardness of purpose as she spoke,

"What is to be done about this?"

The archon replied,

"His terms are not set, so at the moment, there is nothing that can be done. Demons and fiends have their own agenda's, the one that binds Turin has not shown his true purpose yet."

Deluwiel's eyes grew sterner, a stare turned into an angry glare as the next words were uttered,

"And what does your master plan to do? Has He abandoned him to his fate?"

The implication was clear. Deluwiel held very little love of the All-Father, but for the sake of a mother's love, she acknowledged it was Turin's path. She had taught him the ways of the ranger, it had been her wish for him to follow that path, but his own choices led him another. She respected it, but now, in her son's time of greatest need, she wanted an answer.

The archon responded, trying to choose her words carefully,

"Deluwiel, as I said before, there is little that can be done..."

Deluwiel never let her finish that sentence. The forest quaked with power and great, thorny vines encircled and pinned the archon to the nearest oak tree. Rage, like that of a lioness protecting her cub, sparked in the female elf's eyes. Her form shook and shivered with power, and with great difficulty she formed the next words,

"For over a thousand years, my son has sacrificed himself for others, all the in the name of your master. You tell me he traded himself for these others and your master does nothing? How dare you! I will rend you limb from limb, archon, even if you are my son's patron. For you are a coward, as is your master!"

Thrusting her arms out, intent on doing harm and worse, Deluwiel began to tighten the vines around the hopeless archon. Thorns that had been held back by the divinely forged armor began to pierce the flesh beneath. Siluriel's mouth formed words, but the pain reduced them to just a cry of agony. It was only when Nica grabbed her mother and shook her that Deluwiel's rage was broken.

Nica spoke quickly, as her mother's rage was still evident in her green eyes,

"Mother, let her speak. At least, she has told us of him. It seems all is not lost, there may be hope."

Nica turned to the archon, noting the healed wounds and armor,

"Have you any good news? If not, I am doubful that I may abate my mother's rage a second time."

Siluriel replies,

"Do not think that I have left him alone to his fate. There is yet a way to rescue him. But it requires patience."

Deluwiel responds,

"Speak, quickly, and if it is not to my liking prepare yourself..."

The next morning, the two women start out towards the Citadel. There was much to be done, but a smile clung to their faces. They needed to find Tempyst first, then Purgatori, and finally work towards the last piece that was missing.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya and Dorve were the first off the ship and onto what the sailors called Palm Island. Dorve immediately knelt and kissed the ground, whispering, thanking Nyrondis for her safety. Kaya chuckled, but she too was glad to be on dry land. Being on the Call, being on the ocean brought back memories of when she had been captive all those months ago, and set in the hold of one of Beridane's ships. "So now what Dorve?" Kaya asked, helping the dwarf up from her practically prone position.

"Well, there should be a small grove here, I will go and talk to Godrik, the elder druid assigned here and let him know he will have people coming through the grove. You can stay here on the docks, I should not be too long. Godrik is a bit older, hard of hearing and likes his solitude, which is why he is here. It would not be good to surprise him with the entourage we will have." Dorve then turned and took off.

Kaya nodded and watched Dorve scamper down the dirt road. She then sat down upon a barrell and waited for the others to depart the ship.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The man in the oak tree outside Lothiel-Gadith awoke just as the sun began to rise. He moved to stretch the stiffness from setting in a tree all night out of his bones, but quickly remembered not to do so, lest he fall.

As his senses began to re-assert themselves, his hands hurriedly shot to his left side and gripped the hilt of a sword through the sleeveless ash gray overcoat he was using as a make-shift blanket. His sigh of relief became a low grunt as he lurched forward to grab the pack dangling off the branch. As he did, the sea of blue that was the Merquise army moving thru the Citadel’s wide-open gates came into focus.

“He certainly wastes no time…” the man whispered to himself as he retrieved the pack. “I suppose I should get started as well then… “ Yawning, he turned and slipped off the branch, landing with a thud in the underbrush below.

Standing slowly back up, he put his overcoat back on and adjusted the sword at his side. He was dressed quite innocuously in a long sleeved brown linen shirt and a simple pair of black linen pants tucked into brown cuffed leather boots lightened by weather and age. The sword stood in stark contrast to him, its oversized, elaborate crossgruard resting against an ill-fitting scabbard. The sword’s grip was metal, covered by several layers of shark skin dyed a deep black, and crowned by an ornate rounded pommel with intricate carvings.

After taking a few moments to wake up, the man started toward the Citadel at a slow, meandering pace, hoping to enter with the rear of the army to avoid being detected. During his walk, he relished the peacefulness and ambiance of the forest – the birds singing, squirrels scurrying about the forest floor, the wind whistling through the branches, the morning sunlight beaming down through the countless leaves.

Hiding at the edge of the forest, he waited until the last few of Merquise’s solders moved by then sprinted to a few feet behind the horses, close enough to be able to get in with them, but far enough behind to avoid the soldiers’ notice. And indeed, the noise of an entire army was more than enough to mask the footsteps of one man. Even the gate guards seemed more concerned with making sure everyone was safely inside and accounted for than to notice one extra in the crowd.

Breathing a slight sigh of relief as he ducked into the relative safety of an alley, the man took a few moments to scout his surroundings. Noticing a small inn across the way, the man again whispered to himself: “It’s still too early to wake the old man… and besides, I don’t know where exactly he is to begin with. I’ll just… stop in for a quick meal and some directions.”

After a quick check to ensure the Merquise soldiers had passed, he headed off.

Written by - Agmund

Father Agmund had awoken early, primarily because his legs had already began to kick and move around. That was his typical fashion of waking up. His legs and feet acting as a makeshift alarm clock, calibrated to begin their dance when the first rays of dawn pierced the clouds. A condition of old age perhaps, but a condition that gave him a small measure of comfort. He had grown accustomed, indeed rather fond of the suns rise, and it gave him newfound courage when often times his path was obscured.

As he rose to his feet and stretched, the sound of bones creaking and joints popping sang out in unison, causing him to chuckle slightly. “And good morning to you old man,” he said and began to gather up his belongings, “I pray you slept well? No? Perhaps the chair was not the best place to sleep after all. Yes, well the bed is very comfortable as I recall.” He continued to talk to himself until what few items he had unpacked were safely stowed away in a pair of worn leather saddlebags, at which time he journeyed with haste to the citadel battlements.

There, over the mountain spires of Amlug-Anc, the bitter cold of winters herald and the streaming first rays of the sun greeted him. Gold, bronze, and brown leaves, still clinging to the Mori’taur, stretched out towards the morning light, while Duin en Nwalma seemed to fall directly from it as it carved a sparkling blue wedge into the still green grass of Harathad-Dor. As his eyes moved in admiration, his ears reached past the sounds of the citadel, beyond the first clanks of hammers, and the beat of hoofs. It cleared all obstacles of elven and human design, until at last it filled his heart with the songs of birds, leaves and water.

Lifting the hood of his robe, he stood upon the rampart looking to the west and raised his head high to watch a gentle fleet of clouds. A parade of geese, lined in v formation sailed southeast, though their honking was inaudible at their height. “Running late are we?” he spoke aloud, thrilled to see their choreographed flight. Of course, he thought, the fall had been rather long, and they still had ample time to reach the Smarsh delta. It was their destination that turned his attention from the beauty that surrounded him to the tasks that lay ahead.

“I thought I might find you out here,” he jumped as someone spoke from right beside him. “You could at least give me the decency of a warning, that is unless your trying to kill me,” Father Agmund said gruffly, and then turned to look the elf over. The elf was tall by the standards of his race, at eye level to the old priest, who was in turn very tall for a human. A long braid of dark black hair careened down either side of his face, and cleared his shoulders to rest upon a plain leather breastplate of brown. Pale, marble white skin, his eyes of azure burned like jeweled beacons. “Do you miss it?” the priest said returning his gaze to the east, “The seven boughs of Halueth?”

The elf looked casually to the east before he replied “There is not a day that passes, in which the canopy of the Eirwood, and the shadow of the seven stray from my thoughts. Though, if I were to return would I not equally be afflicted? Would not the dream of Lothiel-Gadith’s towers sing to me? How might one choose between the two?” There was no expression in his response. No curve of the lips or cheeks beyond the breaking for speech; nor did his eyes reveal any emotion.

Father Agmund was not disturbed with the supposed repressed demeanor that the elf presented. In contrast his face was broken by a wide smile, and his eyes maintained a twinkle of glee, if not outright happiness. “I don’t suppose one could,” he nodded, “but then youth brings the benefit and joy of travel.” The bearded priest of Tinorb searched for any hint of emotion from the elf, any movement in his face or body, but still there was none. Only two bright blue flames as the elf spoke rather dully, “I recommend you iron your robes, and perhaps wash them if you wish to make a good an entrance into the hall of Avrandor, or has old age overtaken your faculties so bad as to make an appearance bereft of common courtesy.”

“How glad I am to see you,” the priest laughed. “No, I am being honest, you look absolutely dreadful. The smell alone tells me you have not taken a bath in recent days. Yet your intent is to offer counsel, in such condition, and in the hall of Avrandor no less,” the elf said dryly but without arrogance or anger, “I am glad to see you as well,” he added with sincerity. The priest, however, was still chuckling as he spoke “Come, walk with me, there is much to do… more so if I add in taking a bath, shaving, and breakfast!” His stomach seemed to growl on cue.

Written by - Ardwen

The first thing Ardwen noticed when he awoke was noise. The noise of hurried footfalls thudding against the wooden deck of the Call, the sound of senior shipmates shouting orders to their orderlies to hurry regardless of how fast they went, and of course the constant background static of the ocean itself as it lapped in upon itself and the sides of the vessel. To Ardwen's relief the sea appeared calm, and from what he could tell the preparations to send landing craft to a small neighboring island were already nearing completing. For his part, Ardwen stood up and tried to work the sleep out of his body, stifling yawns and blinking rapidly for a few moments.

Much to his annoyance, the injured arm still felt stiff and the joints in his fingers ached, despite the fact that the wound had been healed. The Elf pushed the nagging throbs aside though, considering himself lucky that he had not come out with worse injuries. The warrior's peripheral vision caught movement, and as he turned he saw one of the healers that had attended to Archeantus the night before approaching. Ardwen also saw the dark bags under his eyes and the slump in his shoulders, but the Elf could not blame him, it had been a trying night for everyone. The man stopped in front of Ardwen, looked at him for a minute and then said, "You're up early. I guess you'lll want to take a boat to the island along with your companions?"

Ardwen said nothing in response, simply giving a curt nod as an answer. The healer motioned him to the side of the ship closest to them, and Ardwen could see smaller side vessels already on moorings, a few were even in the water. The warrior noted Kaya and her Dwarf companion in one of the leading boats that were already heading toward the spit of land in the distance. Once again Ardwen said nothing, and the healer shot him a puzzled glance. "The Abbess," Ardwen said simply and gestured around the ship with his hands. Amazingly the man guessed his meaning, and a few minutes later Ardwen saw a small knot of attendants leading Ariana above deck.

"We just wanted to make sure that the silver-haired loony from last night had not hurt her." One of the attendants offered as an explanation. Ardwen was secretly glad that someone had kept their wits about them amongst the chaos of the previous night. The Elf had been disgusted at what he saw as the crew's lack of attention to basic military protocol and procedure. However, this was a ship and not a land campaign, and Ardwen was content to bundled Ariana onto the rowboat with him and bid the ship farewell. The Elf had a feeling that the crew of the Call was not sad to see him go either.

The quick float to the island proved uneventful, and for that Ardwen was grateful. Apart from his arm annoying him, he had experienced a nearly sleepless night. What little sleep he did get was riddled with nightmares and disturbing, half-remembered visions. The fact that he had dreamed at all bothered Ardwen. As a veteran of five millennia of combat, he had seen his fair share of horrors, but the events of the last night were obviously dire enough to etch a new layer over the patina of his mind. As if his own mind taunted him, the Elf found himself involuntarily going over the list of worries that had assaulted him during the night: Ariana was lost within her own mind, Turin was still nowhere to be seen, Archeantus had been injured, Vylia had seen him trace blades, and last (but certainly not least) Sycon had come barreling out of the sky a raving and rather dangerous madman. While the swordsman was glad to see his friend alive, it appeared that the answers for his absence since the operation to rescue Ariana began were both long and potentially deadly.

Before Ardwen could ruminate further on his lack of fortune, the lookout in the boat announced they had arrived at the island and were preparing to unload and depart. The crew ran the tiny craft in close, but they were worried about hidden rocks, and ultimately Ardwen ended up wading the last few yards to shore. Naturally, this meant carrying Ariana to dry land. The water was clear, but deceptively cold; the rocks stabbed into the soles of his boots and Ardwen gave each one of them a profane epithet in his mind. Nevertheless, the jaunt had provided a very quick way to finish waking up, and Ardwen quickly located Kaya. The Elven swordsman placed his Abbess down as gently as he could on a weather-smoothed slab of rock, and then he took a seat nearby himself.

Written by - Wilhelm

While Wilhelm continued to monitor the reunion of Mavigan and Teran (whose odd heartfire indicated he was now completely healed of his grievous wounds) with Keeryn, Jasmine and Sabbatine, Resini and the others rested. They had been down in the catacombs long enough that it must be about sunrise. Elven travel rations were brought out and the party ate while staying watchful. Weapons were cleaned and polished.

From time to time a Dark Cultist would approach and be quickly and quietly dispatched. (The side room they were putting the bodies into was starting to fill up.) Resini and the other mages maintained an anti-detection ward around them as they rested. Wilhelm was sure that Mavigan's group would move out soon and was wondering which direction they would take. He doubted Mavigan and Teran would simply retreat. Whatever purpose they had in coming here still remained.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst opened her eyes and found herself in clearing in the woods. She blinked a few times, wondering where she was. "You are in the dreamlands again mother, I thought I should come see you." Tempyst stood and turned to see her daughter Tirigil standing there, as beautiful as ever. Tempyst embraced her little girl and hugged her tightly.

"Thank you Tirigil, I feel so alone now."

"I know what father did, and he did it with your best intentions, though I know that it does not take away the pain. But you are not alone, never alone mother. You have me and don't for get Nyrondis." Tirigil smiled and brushed the tears from her mother's face. "And you also have Ithramir. Remember you two are bound together as well, through me. And he is going to need somone like you in the days to come. He is going into battle again and a good healer, especially an elder druid, would be a good thing to have at his side. Nyrondis wants you to accompany him and to watch out for him."

Tempyst put her hands into her daughter's and smiled a sad smile. "I see just coming to see me was not your only task. I shall do as Nyrondis asks, for he is my life now. NO more worrying about this man i dream of, or other silly things, I have loved, and lost and now it is time to move on, no matter how hard it will be."

Tirigil smiled and kissed her mother's cheek. "That is the way to do it. Now, I wish I could stay longer, but I have other messages to deliver."

Tempyst hugged Tirigil once more. "Thank you my dear, for taking the time to see me, it helps me more than you know."

Tempyst sat up in her bed, wide awake. She had not realized she had fallen asleep during her crying. Her throat was raw, her eyes sore, and her whole body ached, but she knew she had to push through. She smiled softly, thinking of the visit from Tirigil; though that too still was painful to deal with in the real world. Losing her, then Lucant, was almost too much for Tempyst to bear, but bear it she must. She stood and sighed, took hold of her blossomed staff, and headed out to find Ithramir.

After a long walk through the citadel, she finally found the great hall (with the good directions from a servant), for this is where she was told Ithramir would be. As she stepped in, she immediately spotted the elf, speaking with some of his men. She did not wish to disturb him outright, so she wandered about for a bit, taking in the bits and pieces of information she could overhear. Finally, she walked up to where Ithramir was and waited until he finished speaking. "Ithramir, please pardon my interruption, but I need to speak with you. Nyrondis has made it known to me, that I should accompany you, and see to your safety during battle. That being the case, I should like to know what you would have me do."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The man pushed the inn’s old splintered door open only to find it mostly empty. The morning chill still hung in the air, but it was not enough to drive away a few of night shift guards taking dinner before heading home, nor a handful of dedicated drunks. As he pulled up a chair at the bar, the man yawned and cracked his back in the chair. Spending the last night in a tree had definitely not agreed with him.

“I’m never doing that again…” he mumbled under his breath as the barkeep approached.

“Good morning to you, sir. What can I get for you?”

The man looked up to see the thin elven barkeep standing before polishing a glass. “I’ll have a bowl of chicken soup and… a glass of milk please.”

“Just a moment, sir,” the barkeep said before he turned and headed off to the kitchen. The man dozed off a few minutes, just resting his eyes, before the elf came back. “Your food, sir,” he said with a hint of impatience as he set the bowl and glass down.

“Thank you,” the man said to elf’s back. He was already going back towards the kitchen. The man hastily ate and placed a few copper coins on the bar. As the man was about to leave, he spotted the barkeep passing through again out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he asked the elf: “Excuse me, barkeep, do you know the way to the port district?”

Without looking at him, the barkeep responded, “Go out and follow this road into the main square. From there, the signs should take you right to it.”

He thanked the barkeep again and headed out. The strolled lazily down the wide avenues of the Citadel, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight and ambience of the great city. The man could not help but notice how safe the city felt, even with all the soldiers mulling about, or perhaps, because of them. The seemed much different than the type of soldier he was so accustomed to seeing and dealing with.

After a short walk, the man came to the gates of Port Ancora. Passing through with same lazy stroll, he gave the area a cursory look, then headed further into the town. He wandered up and down the towns numerous streets until he found the building he was looking for – the Rassel Trading Company branch office.

Upon entering, he found the large, open office area in an uproar of activity. Clerks were running around with stacks of orders and invoices. Shipping manifests were piled upon desks waiting for sorting and delivery to waiting ships. Even a few military quartermasters were berating the staff, all but demanding their requisitioned supplies and equipment for what seemed to be an upcoming march.

The man approached the main desk slowly as the flustered girl working it sorted through an enormous stack of papers. She looked up at him just long enough to say “If you’re here to place an order for a company, please give the forms and a written copy of the order to our shipping processors down the hall on your right. If you’re here for the military, please wait for a dockmaster, they’re working as fast as they can to get everything in place and ready. If you’re here to inquire about an order, please go down the hall to your left and inquire at the office there.” As soon as the last word has passed her lips, she immediately went back to her stack of papers.

“Actually, I’m here to meet with the Chairman,” the man stated calmly, “He is here, isn’t he?”

The girl looked back up quickly. She clearly didn’t believe him. “Yes, Chairman Rassel is here, but he’s terribly busy I’m afraid - far to busy to meet with anyone. Please come back some other time.” Again, she dove back into the sea of paper.

She looked up for a third time upon hearing the sound of a coin being placed on the desk. “Please miss, if you could at least tell Chairman Rassel that someone is here to see him, I would greatly appreciate it.”

She stood up and discreetly took the silver piece into her hand. “I’ll tell him, sir. But, please do not be surprised if he doesn’t respond well.” The girl then moved through the hectic office towards the back. A few moments later, she returned with the Chairman behind her.

He was a tall man, broad shouldered and quite fit for his age. Age had, in fact, been quite kind to the Chairman – he bore the countenance of a man some ten years his junior with only a few lines of age on his forehead and the vaguest hints of them around his eyes – bright green eyes that still shone with the fires of youth. His hair – brown in his younger days – was now a deep gray, kept short and well groomed. Likewise, his full beard and moustache were well kept and framed the Chairman’s strong countenance perfectly Even the Chairman’s style of dress gave him an air of power and strength. He wore a sage green leather vest over a gray silk tunic tucked into a fine pair of black cotton pants, which were in turn tucked into a pair of expensive leather boots.

“This is the man who requested to see you Chairman,” the girl said, a bit nervously.

Chairman Rassel chuckled softly and then spoke with a deep, booming voice that carried itself and its intended message quite easily: “Well… look who it is. You’re a bit later than I expected, but still relatively on time. I didn’t expect to see you here, though.” He motioned for the man to follow him. “Regardless, come on back to my office and we’ll talk.”

Written by - Dartanian Merquise

The servant led the two officers quickly through the hallways of the citadel. Finally stopping at a large set of doors, he stepped to one side. As he did so, he bowed slightly and indicated the door. Dartanian nodded his thanks and the elf turned on his heel to attend to other duties. Pushing open the large set of doors, Dartanian and Varion stepped into the Great Hall of Avandor. He could see that there were already several men, elves, and even dwarves assembled, speaking amongst themselves. Whatever it was that Commander Ithramir had summoned them for, it did not seem to have started yet.

Making their way into the hall, Dartanian scanned those gathered. At one end of the room he saw a noble looking elf in a set of blue mithril and a blue cloak. That must be Ithramir, he decided. At the moment he was speaking to a woman who appeared to be of the wilds. With men, elves, dwarves, and it seemed even druids, it was truly a mixed group. Certainly the forces of chaos required all kinds to defeat. It mattered little to Dartanian, he knew they could use all the help they could get. The threat of Beridaine the Usurper was ever-present in his mind, and if the Orcs were making a serious attempt at an invasion of the elven lands, then they would quickly find themselves in a two-front war. Hopefully this latest effort would quell the orcs for a time and allow them to turn their attention to restoring Queen Mavigan to the throne of Westgale.

Not wishing to interrupt the Commander in the midst of his discussion with the Druid, and knowing that the elf would begin the War Council soon, Dartanian and Varion stood off to one side of the room and waited patiently.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Ithramir entered the Great Hall to find it already a bustle of activity. Lithwyn had done well and the needs of those therein were already tended to. Making his way around the room, he nodded and spoke few words, just enough to acknowledge everyone's presence.

Soon, he found himself engaged in conversation with some of his generals. They seemed more concerned with his welfare and he was tired of dealing with such things. Turning the conversation quickly, he asks,

"How ready is the army? How quickly can we move against the last tower?"

The generals each looked at each other, then one replied,

"Milord, the army is able, and can move at any time. Losses were acceptable, but if we meet heavier resistance, the price could be even higher this time around."

Ithramir disregarded the concern, and simply said,

"And the price if we do not take it? May I remind you, gentle-elves, that if we do not re-take the tower, elven blood will flow in rivers from there to the sea."

Ithramir, paused, then continued,

"And we have our allies to help absorb some of those losses. The dwarves and humans proved themselves at Minas Aure. A few more battles like that and they'll have my respect."

The generals nodded to each other in agreement. Ithramir was about to move the subject forward when he heard the following,

"Ithramir, please pardon my interruption, but I need to speak with you. Nyrondis has made it known to me, that I should accompany you, and see to your safety during battle. That being the case, I should like to know what you would have me do."

Turning to face Tempyst, as he instinctively knew the voice, he could see she had been crying. No, more than that, she had her heart and soul broken. With an unusual kindness, he responds,

"You and Nyrondis have my thanks, but for the moment, I would rather you sit and refresh yourself. I am doubtful I will be in danger here, unless someone has poisoned the food and drink."

Noticing those in the room came to a kind of nervous silence, Ithramir chuckled evily and went on,

"However, I don't think that is the case. Sit, Tempyst, over there. Catherin will escort you and tell you what you need to know."

As the ladies made their way to the table Ithramir had gestured towards, another messenger made his way over to inform him of some new arrivals to the Citadel. Motioning for the two to come over, Ithramir says,

"So, Dartanian and Varion, what is it I can do for both of you?"

Written by - Tempyst

Catherin led Tempyst over to a table. When Tempyst had sat down, she kept on standing and spoke, her voice a bit icy. "I would assure you and your god that Ithramir is well taken care of and to put yourself in danger is not a necessity."

Tempyst looked up to Catherin, her voice soft and even. "And I would assure you, that it is. I am not here to step on any toes Catherin, I am only here to help. I have a vested interest in Ithramir, in more ways than one. You know the sacrifice that was made to keep him alive before, do you think I would wish to see that sacrifice go to waste? I am not your enemy, but as I am not going anywhere but where Nyrondis directs me, we should put any differences aside."

Catherin sighed, she could see that Tempyst was not going to be swayed easily from her task. "I do not mean to belittle the sacrifice that was made Tempyst, I am concerned with your safety as well. You are not as wellversed in battle as some of us are and thus, you could be considered...a hindrence. Ithramir is very concerneda bout all those who serve under him and I would hate for him to be distracted by a civilian."

Tempyst closed her eyes for a moment, then looked straight back at Catherin. "You are not going to sway me to step down. Besides, it is not up to you is it Catherin." She took a deep breath, then continued. "I do not wish us to be enemies Catherin, life is too short for that. I would assure you, I know the risk I take going into battle, and believe me, I understand all too well what it can cost. I have lost much to battle already, and yet, life goes on. I need this Catherin. I am alone now, Ithramir is the closest ..." Tempyst choked up, anda tear fell down her face. "He is important to me too. I am going with him. We can fight, or be friends and work together. I chose the latter. What do you choose?"

Catherin gritted her teeth, her jaw clenched. She could tell that she would not be able to persuade this druid from her task. In truth, she knew it would be good for Ithramir to have a personal healer, but she hated to admit, she did not like to share the care taking of her commander. "Alright then Tempyst, it looks like you are not to be disuaded from this. I do not mean to sound so harsh, I just do not wish for Ithramir to have any distractions on the battle field. I will set aside my own differences, for now, but if you put him in any danger, I will personally see you escorted back off the field." She held out a hand to Tempyst. Tempyst took her hand and the two women shook.

"Thank you Catherin, now, why don't help me not be a distraction and give me a crash course in your battle tactics." Catherin then sat down and the two began to the future battle.

Written by - Dartanian Merquise

As the ladies made their way to the table Ithramir had gestured towards, another messenger made his way over to inform him of some new arrivals to the Citadel. Motioning for the two to come over, Ithramir says,

"So, Dartanian and Varion, what is it I can do for both of you?"

The two men came forward and stood before the elven commander, Dartanian in front with Varion slightly behind and to his left. Despite sharing a bit of elven heritage, Dartanian was unfamiliar with the rank and custom of the elves, and as such he bowed to a degree indicating a greeting to one of equal status. He hoped Ithramir would not take offense at his presumption.

“Greetings Lord Ithramir. I am Count Dartanian Merquise, of House Merquise, in the Kingdom of Westgale.” Straightening from the bow, Dartanian’s eyes met those of the elven commander as he continued. “Since the assassination of King Pallanon our house has been fighting against those allied with Beridane the Usurper. We feared the worst for Pallanon’s daughter, Mavigan, but heard that she was under the protection of the elves here at the citadel. I have come here in order to pledge my loyalty and that of my house to the rightful heir to the throne and to serve her in whatever way I can. I have already been informed that the Queen is not presently at the citadel. I have also been informed that the orcs are on the move and your forces aim to march soon to retake an outpost which they have captured. If you would allow us, my men and I would aid you in retaking this outpost; as thanks for your hospitality, as a sign of our friendship, and in honor of Queen Mavigan’s alliance with you against the forces of chaos.”

Having finished speaking, the young Count fell silent and awaited the elven commander’s response. This was the first time he had ever engaged in statecraft without the guiding presence of his father, and this Ithramir was certainly an imposing figure. He felt a twinge of nervousness, but did not let it show. He hoped that everything he said would be well received.

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