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Book Four Pt 1 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Lucant Dolvan Page 11 Book 4

As the old druid turned to him, the man began his lie. “Yes master druid, I need your help with a matter of… significant military importance. You see, the naval office would like very much to ascertain the recent and future movements of Iron Fleet so as to better counter them. The sooner this is done, the better. As such, I humbly request on behalf of the Westgale Navy your assistance in infiltrating Ironskane.”

As he finished, the man presented the forged orders to the old druid, who glanced over quickly as more and more of his young disciples approached. “Yes… I believe something can be arranged,” he said hurriedly as he gave the man his forgery back. “We can get you there quickly with a tree-walk. Where exactly do you need to go?”

“As close to Greyton as you and yours and can approach master druid.”

“Hmmmmm…” The druid scratched his chin in thought. “Delinar, come here for a moment, please.”

A tall, blonde elven man approached them. “Yes, Master Ceridan?”

“Delinar, I need you to take this man as close to Greyton as you can. And please do so quickly…” As the old druid spoke, an even larger crowd of young druids gathered around him.

Seeing that Ceridan’s attentions where elsewhere, the tall elf turned to the man he had be assigned to assist. “Right this way, sir.” He motioned for the man to follow him as he walked towards the large oak in the middle of the druid grove. When they arrived, Delinar placed both hands on the oak’s massive trunk. “If this is your first time with this, you might want to close your eyes. I’ll take you as close to Greyton as I can.”

“Much obliged,” the man said as he shut his eyes and placed a hand on the elf’s shoulder. He stepped forward into the tree when he felt the elf do the same. A few uncomfortable moments passed, and then he felt the elf step forward again, out of the tree.

The cold mountain wind of the north greeted the man as he stepped forth from the oak. Opening his eyes, he looked around the great forest of oak and pine. A light dusting of snow still clung to some of the tree branches and held on stubbornly to a few shade covered places along the forest floor.

“If we are where I think we are, Greyton should be just to the north,” the elf said, politely pointing the northward way. “Unless you need anything else, I really should be on my way back before Master Ceridan is overwhelmed.”

“No… I believe I should be just fine. Thank you for your assistance.”

With no further words, the two parted company. The tall elf turned back towards the tree and the man started his journey towards Greyton. After a short walk through the forest, the man emerged into the open farmland outlying Greyton and the great city was clearly visible in the distance.

Written by - Vylia

There he was, the bastard who had destroyed her people, standing in the middle of the carnage smiling as the slowly falling blood mist glowed around him from the runes inscribed across his robes. Keeryn was caught between fear and fury at the sight of him standing there completely uncaring, obviously feeling no guilt at all at what he had done to them. Then something inside her snapped, her pupils narrowed to slits, an expression of feral anger came upon her face and she gave out feline hiss that fully exposed four half-inch fangs. She let loose a roar as she charged, intending to impale him upon her spear. He turned to look at the source of this newest sound and his eyes widened in surprise for a fraction of a second before his grin grew even wider as her spear rebounded off of the magical shield surrounding him.

"I thought I destroyed all of you things. I guess there were some of you elsewhere after all. Pity, but you're of no use to me, be gone little kitten." Keeryn swung her spear wide like an axe and again it rebounded, but her frustration only fueled her anger and her swings and stabs came faster as the man continued his arrogant speech, "Your flesh is oddly resistant to use in my experiments, and I couldn't isolate anything useful in your blood. You're not intelligent enough to even make a worthwhile servant, nothing but beasts the lot of you." He appears thoughtful for a moment as he pulls something from a pouch at his waist, "But they did provide an unusually high amount of magical power when they were sacrificed... Yes, that's what I shall do with you," his grin returned as he began casting a spell as Keeryn was charging back in with an overhead swing, she was too focused on killing him to avoid it and received a bolt of energy to her chest that tossed her across the room like a ragdoll. Her whole body slammed against the wall leaving a crack behind her as she slid to the ground.

She stood up slowly at first, shaking her head in an attempt to clear her vision. She saw Sir Wilhelm off to the side of the room fighting that large man she had seen before, and then the wizard again came into view, her had pulled a long dagger from its sheath and begun walking towards her that disgusting grin still fixed to his face. Keeryn gave another hiss as she pushed from the wall, quickly gaining speed despite her injuries, her spear forgotten on the floor as claws extended from her fingertips. She came at him again with her fury renewed, clawing, punching, kicking. Each of her attacks bounced off the shield around him as he kept trying to disable her with blade or sorcery. She learned quickly however and this time dodged his attacks. After what seemed like an eternity the shield around him began to flicker, becoming visible and then not as its protective energies were being worn down. Suddenly the wizard was worried, the grin fast fading from his face. This thing in front of him refused to die and soon his shield would be gone, leaving him open to her rage.

The wizard stopped attacking her to attempt to recast the shield but Keeryn was not so enraged she didn't see an opportunity when it presented itself. She grabbed the man's arm around the shield and swung him bodily in an arc before releasing him to fly straight at the wall. His shield absorbed the majority of the impact but as he stood she saw the shield flicker and die. As he turned around to face her she ran at him, grabbing him by the throat with both hands and shoving him back into the wall, the dagger dropping from his grip as his head slammed backwards. "How does it feel to watch everything you built get destroyed wizard?" Keeryn turned, still grasping the man around the throat, throwing him to the ground. "How does it feel?" He held his arm in front of him as she leapt upon his prone form, her teeth sinking deep into the flesh she ripped a chunk out as he screamed, spitting it out onto the ground beside him. "What does it feel like to know you destroyed everything I ever cared for?!" She clawed both sides of his face and down his chest as she spoke, slowly shredding the robes. "How does this feel to you?!" She continued smacking his now feebly flailing arms as he tried to defend himself or throw off the insane creature straddling him. "How does it feel wizard?!" Her voice continued to raise as she punched and clawed him repeatedly in the chest and face. His nose was broken, face sliced and bleeding profusely from wounds across his chest and arms. Eventually he stopped flailing, no longer having the energy to even defend himself as Keeryn continued to pummel and rake his body, the whole while repeating this new mantra, "How does it feel? How does it feel? How does it feel?" Even after he was dead she kept hitting him, completely oblivious to everything around her. After what seemed like a lifetime, but was actually only a few moments from his death, she stopped hitting him, her arms going limp in front of her as her body was wracked with sobs. Tears spilled down Keeryn's face as every memory she had in her homeland came crashing back at once. She just sat there, atop the body of the man who had destroyed everything, and cried.

Written by - Ariana

“Hmpf,” Mavigan grumped. “This is getting ridiculous.”

She gazed with a mixture of longing and resentment at the solitary farmhouse before her. Mavigan had been traveling towards Westgale for two days, popping in and out of the Shadow Realm as needed for rest and sustenance. In all that time she had seen nary a soul – living or dead – and the eerie lack of habitation was beginning to grate on her nerves.

True, she was out in the middle of nowhere, but she had thought she would bump into someone. It was inconceivable that there was all this space, and no other soul besides her occupied it. Being dead was starting to become a bit of a bore.

Huffing once more, she tread down the hill towards the farmhouse, taking notice of her surroundings as she went. The area certainly looked occupied – livestock milled about lazily chewing on grass, chickens pecked noisily in the dirt searching for their morning meal. The house was well-tended, and Mavigan could plainly see where the roof had recently been patched. These signs bolstered her confidence more than a little, and she strode to the front door and beat on it with a fist. “Hello?” she shouted.

She waited a few moments, shifting nervously from foot to foot, but no response was forthcoming. Sighing, she pushed open the front door and stuck her head into the house. “Hello?” she shouted again, “Anyone home?”

Receiving no answer, she pushed her way entirely into the house. The abode was small, as farmhouses were wont to be, with a few rooms serving many functions. Currently, she was in the living space, which probably also served as sleeping space. Bedding was rolled up and stashed neatly against the wall, while sturdy plank shelves provided storage space. Along the back wall, Mavigan could see an archway that led to further areas of the house.

Convinced she was alone (again), she placed her pack and armor alongside a wall and walked through the archway into the back of the house. Here lay the kitchens, and Mavigan nearly tripped as she was assaulted by the fragrant aroma of fresh bread. She glanced around quickly – if there was fresh bread, surely there was also a baker – but she saw no one. In the center of the room was a long table surrounded by rough-hewn chairs. At one place setting, there was a pewter plate, upon which was a large hunk of cheese, a freshly baked roll, and some fruit.

Mavigan looked around again, but still saw no one. She stared at the food in wonder. Had some other dead soul managed to create breakfast, but then left it behind? Perhaps the noises she had made herself, had scared some living soul away from his morning fast? She didn’t know, and she was never one to pass on opportunity, so she plopped down in the chair and tore into the repast. After two days of living off her own cooking, which was admittedly not the best in the world, she was delighted to munch on fresh bread and fruit and cheese.

She finished the meal in record time and then rose from the dining table. Fishing around in a pocket, she withdrew a silver coin and placed it on the table next to the now empty plate. Mavigan grabbed her gear, then and headed back out into the morning sun. With a full belly, and a healing arm, she felt better equipped to handle the cold of the Shadow Realm, and it wasn’t long before she re-entered it, heading once more to Westgale.

Ten minutes after she left, old farmer Bayle walked into his kitchen, a fresh egg in each hand. He was bald on top, and grizzled everywhere else, and had lost nearly all his hearing. He looked at his now empty plate in puzzlement, and then noticed the silver coin glinting brightly in the morning light. He grinned toothlessly.

“At least the damn fairies paid this time!” he said.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst made herself useful around the grove. There were many followers of Nyrondis here within the citadel and they all seemed to appear on this festival day. To be honest, she was grateful for the diversion, for it let her forget about the loss she felt in her heart and soul. Then there was the matter of the travelers that came through the oak. There were so many of them, all of which were suffering some sort of injury. She helped the other healers there take care of those newly arrived in the grove. Finally it seemed that everyone had been taken care of, she attended to Dorve, who looked exhausted from her trips. Dorve smiled, her eyes showing the appreciation of the energy Tempyst gave her, but told Tempyst that a hot bath and a good night's rest was all she needed. But as she left, she turned back to Tempyst. "By the way lassie, in all of these people I brought back, there was one lass, all in dark colors, who was looking for you. Now be awarned, she canna speak, but if you are careful you should be able to communicate."

"Thank you Dorve, I will look for her, she must seem a little lost in all of this anyways then." Dorve nodded and went to her bath, while Tempyst looked for the mystery girl.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia smiled at the thought of getting put on refectory duty, her hand on her chin as if seriously considering it. "It might almost be worth it to see you scrubbing pots." She paused a moment as she looked at Ariana, still clinging to Ardwen like a frightened child. "Ariana, we need you to sit down on the bed again. Just for a little bit, Ardwen isn't going anywhere." Vylia sighed as Ariana only clung to Ardwen tighter when she tried to take her hand. She stood there a moment before she noticed a large bird on the windowsill. She held her arm out to the side and called to him, "Olly, come here a moment and tell Ariana she needs to go sit on the bed for me, please." With a small hop and a few wingbeats the owl landed skillfully on Vylia's outstretched arm with a clatter of claws against her bracer. As Ariana saw him she started to reach out before changing her mind and clinging to Ardwen yet again. Ollawahoo went into a series of hoots and flutters before taking another short flight to land upon the bed Ariana had been sitting on before, causing a couple people to dodge out of his way. "You've gained weight old bird, I didn't think I could hold you much longer." Ollawahoo puffed up and hooted several times at Vylia's words as Ariana let go of Ardwen to walk over to where he was, "You can call it what you want, but that still..." Vylia couldn't finish the sentence before she started laughing at the sight of Ariana sitting down beside the great owl and hugging him, which caused him to go from dignified to surprised before finally giving up and acception the attention. Before walking to the bed Vylia turned back to Ardwen. "My offer aboard the ship still stands by the way. I know how uncomfortable you must feel without a weapon and you're still welcome to take mine. They're over by the door, their names are engraved upon the blade in the Old Tongue." Without waiting for a response she turned to walk over and sit next to Ariana.

"Ariana, let the old bird go before you break him with your squeezing." Vylia placed her hand lightly on Ariana's shoulder in an attempt to turn her toward herself. "I promise, he will be here when you wake up." Ariana turned to look at Vylia, loosening her grip around Ollawahoo just enough to allow the bird to free himself. Her face turned somewhat pouty as she placed her hands in her lap. Vylia turned to Sergius, "Can you cast that spell again yet, or do we need to wait longer?" "I can cast it again, but you'll be completely on your own, moreso than your friend was." Vylia nodded, "Let's continue then, the sooner we help her the better I'll feel." The mage nodded at her, and once again walked over to brush his hand across Ariana's forehead followed by Vylia's. Vylia had closed her eyes in preparation when she felt a cold chill pass through her body.

When she opened her eyes she found herself standing upon a cliff above the ocean. If the colors had been correct it would probably have been a gorgeous sight, but everything was dark. The ground beneath her feet dark as ebony, the “sea” a horrid pestilent green, and it exuded a disgusting acidic scent. She turned away from the shoreline to glimpse the rest of the landscape and found nothing but darkness in every direction, no discernable horizon line anywhere. The only thing of note was a small sapling, the only object in this parody of a landscape with any quality of reality to it. Vylia took a few short steps to it and bent down to lightly run her fingers down the length of it’s trunk. It felt real enough, and she could sense the feeling of hope and courage within the bark. Vylia wondered how much control she truly had in this place, and closed her eyes to concentrate on the object she sought. When she opened them and looked down at herself, she found she was clothed in nothing but a simple tabard, a single white candle displayed prominently in the middle of a field of royal blue. With a nod to herself, she set off across the plain, and took a step forward, the whole world blaring white forcing her to cover her eyes for a moment.

When she opened them again she found she was in a forest but like the seascape before it it too was a twisted and ruined thing. The bark of the trees was grayed and lifeless, the trunks had almost human faces amidst the bark, and many of the branches held empty nooses as if awaiting victims to be hung in grotesque decoration. Here and there Vylia could see patches of heavy fog drifting through the forest, holding horrors unknown in their depths. Again she took a deep breath before setting off through the forest, her pale skin and bright blonde hair in stark contrast to both the tabard she wore, and the bleak land around her. She didn’t know how long she had been walking through the forest when she finally came to what used to be a lake of some sort. Used to be because now it was empty except for the wet moss that lay along it’s bed. Sitting along the shore halfway around the empty lake sat Ariana. It was hard to tell from this distance, but she looked to just be staring off into space.

Vylia continued her walk around the lake, going slowly to make sure she didn’t scare Ariana into any kind of aggressive or frightened state after what the last intruder into her mind. She stopped a dozen paces from where Ariana sat before finally speaking to her in elven, since that had been the language she had used just moments before in the outside world, “Are you alright Ariana?” The girl looked up, allowing Vylia to see that tears had been flowing down her face just a short time before as her face was slightly red and puffed up around her eyes. Ariana’s visage changed to fright as Vylia tried to approach, she moved away slowly as she stood her expression quickly becoming one of determination as her hands began to glow with holy energies. Vylia stopped and held her hands open in front of her, palms up, to show she was unarmed. “Please Ariana, I do not wish to fight you, and I won’t touch you if you don’t want me to. I learned that lesson the last time,” Vylia rubbed each of her shoulders in turn, where she had been speared by Ariana’s power the last time she had grabbed her when she was frightened. “I just came to talk, I won’t fight you,” her voice dropped to a whisper, sadness written on her face, “never will I fight you.” Vylia decided to sit down to further make it understood she wasn’t there for combat, even going so far as to turn and face the empty lake. She turned her head to look at Ariana again, “Come talk to me, we’ll try to remember a little of your past together.” Even though she smiled there was still an unmistakable sadness in her eyes at the fact that something this horrible had happened to the one person everyone used to rely on the most.

Slowly, like a frightened deer Ariana moved toward Vylia, stopping a few feet away and sitting on the ground cross-legged to stare at her. Vylia repositioned herself to face Ariana directly, “I guess that will do. Do you remember who I am?” Ariana shook her head. “Since you don’t remember me, do you maybe remember talking to someone late at night, in the kitchen of the old Abbey?” Ariana stared at her a moment, before slowly nodding, which Vylia used as a stepping stone.

“I was one of those people, you helped me back then more than you could possibly know. D’Marius was nice enough, but there were some things I couldn’t speak to a man about, even one I trusted as much as him.” Vylia looked up at the blank gray sky as she looked back in her own past, her eyes glazing over slightly. “It was pretty late, I can’t remember if there was a moon that night or not, I had woken up from… I can’t call it a nightmare since it really happened, a horrible memory, one that I had thought long buried beneath other horrific experiences. I had walked down to the kitchen hoping to find something to put me to sleep amidst all the herbs and instead I found you there, baking cheese biscuits.” Vylia smiled at the fond memory, “How everyone loved those biscuits of yours. I never told you before, but I didn’t really like them. I’ve never liked eating anything besides fruit and bread, cheese always made my stomach queasy. But I ate them because you offered them to me, and I couldn’t bring myself to tell you I didn’t like them. That night I came down in tears, you just smiled at me with that caring expression you always had, pushed me to a stool, put one of those biscuits you were baking in front of me, and asked me what was wrong. I don’t know why I spilled my heart to you that night, I hardly knew you then. The fact you had taken me in without any questions when D’Marius disappeared seemed like reason enough I think.”

Vylia paused as everything around them seemed to shift, the scene becoming exactly like the one Vylia remembered from that night, and she was standing next to this younger version of Ariana as her older self baked away in that old kitchen that held so many memories. Vylia watched herself coming through the door that led into the kitchen, her face an absolute wreck, tears still streaming rapidly down her face, her hair disheveled, strands sticking to her face from the nightmare-induced sweat. As she was sat down and nibbled slightly on the biscuit Ariana just sat there looking at her with nothing but care on her face. “Did I ever tell you I had a child once? He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I didn’t want to give him up but for one thing. He was stillborn. I remember hearing once that most victims of rape don’t end up conceiving, I guess I was one of the lucky ones. During the pregnancy I wanted to die, thinking of the child that grew within me because of the horrible experience I had had, being a sex toy to a group of bandits for I don’t know how long. I was saved by a great man, a crusader of the All-Father, his name was Sir Keriv Danyrion. He saved my life and brought me to Glenwood Abbey, where I repaid his kindness with foolishness. At first I didn’t eat, it took him coming to me to get me to realize how silly I was being. I had been raped, but I was alive and in good hands.” The younger Vylia sniffled, remembering, “I was in labor for the majority of a day, and when it was over all I wanted to do was hold my child. They told me he was stillborn, but I didn’t want to listen. I held onto him for an entire day before I convinced the monk with me that I would give them Kandyr for burial. As soon as he left I tried to kill myself. I didn’t do a very good job of it,” she showed her wrists to Ariana a moment before placing her hands in her lap. “I’m glad now that I did not, I would have missed many things that I would never have wished to forget. That’s what I was dreaming of, my child, my Kandyr. I doubt the grave even exists anymore, even if I could find Glenwood Abbey with Aerynth the way it is now.” Ariana reached across the table and Vyliaplaced her hand in Ariana’s without even thinking. “We can make a new gravestone, if it will make it easier for you.” Vylia smiled, and mouthed the words as her younger self spoke them, “No, that won’t be necessary. For some reason, just telling you about it, I feel like it will no longer haunt me.” With a last smile Vylia gets up and moves to leave the kitchen, but stops in the doorway to turn and look back at Ariana. “How do you do that? Make others feel like everything will be okay just by sitting and listening?” “Sometimes, people just need to know that someone else cares. Sleep well child.” The older Vylia smiled as the vision faded. “I always thought it funny how you always called me child when I was at least a hundred years older than you.”

Vylia turned to Ariana, brushing that persistent stray lock of hair back behind her ear. “Come back to us Ariana, the world needs you, the Hands need you.” With that, she faded away, a smile on her face that she continued to wear as she returned to her own body.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen waited until Vylia and Ariana were engaged in the mind-walk before turning around, casting one last prolonged glance over his shoulder, and walking toward the exit. Inwardly he thanked Vylia for the offer of her blades, but for the Elven warrior it could not be strictly necessary to take them. He had seen Vylia’s blades, and for Ardwen that was enough. The wing in the wind and the song of the sun, those were the names of the blades. The longsword was a type of bane weapon, and the shortsword could reappear in the wielder’s hands. The warrior did not know if he would need to trace them, but he couldn’t help but cataloging swords.

Such thoughts invariably brought Ardwen back to his past, and for a brief moment he hesitated at the threshold of the doorway out of the infirmary. He doubted the others; even Ariana if she were whole, would understand what he was about to do. But he knew precisely why he was leaving, and that terrible certainty drove at the Elf’s mind and spirit, pervading his every thought. The message he had received had been clear, direct, and concise.

“They are not the only ones.”

Still it resounded within the warrior’s mind. Six simple words, but they tore at him. It was true, he reflected, that he could not be absolutely certain what he had heard was genuine. However, even the remotest possibility of truth was enough for Ardwen. He would never be able to forgive himself if he did not at least try. No, more than that, for Ardwen knew he would risk his life, chance everything, he simply had to. There were some things in life that transcended time, and a few that conquered even death.

So the Elven bladeweaver asked for a room to rest in, and a servant readily guided him to one of the guest chambers, then Ardwen ordered wine. Pouring a glass of the red liquid, Ardwen sat down on one of the wooden chairs in the room and allowed his thoughts to gather about him. For the warrior, it was simply a matter of time now, and he knew that soon enough he would have his answers one way or the other.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya waited until Dorve was done with her treewalking before approaching her. "I am going to go look for Ariana, see where the others might have gone."

Dorve nodded tiredly. "You might wish to try the healers, If those that followed her have any sense that is where they will take her." Dorve then gave her direction to where the healing quarters were.

"Thanks, I will do just that. Now, go get some rest, I will be back soon, I hope." Kaya turned and headed towards the healers. When Kaya arrived, she could see Vylia standing beside a bed, looking very worn and tired. Kaya walked up to her and saw that on the bed was Ariana. "How is your friend Vylia and is there anything I can do to help?"

Written by - Vylia

"She's resting for now, we've all had a wearying day. She is getting better though, and I have faith that everything will turn out alright in the end. I'm sorry we left the rest of you on the island so suddenly, I think Palandramil had grown a bit impatient with us and made to move things along at a pace he was more content with." Vylia paused as she looked down at the sleeping Ariana then pulled a chair next to the bed to sit in before continuing in hushed tone meant only for Kaya's ears. "Not that I blame him, she was once one of his greatest clerics and she has been tormented for years untold. If I had known she was in trouble before I would have tried to free her sooner, rather than dallying around Westgale for several hundred years like I had nothing better to do." She sighed before looking up at Kaya with a smile. "How fare the rest of the group?"

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya pulled a chair up by Vylia. "Everyone is well. Well, as well as can be expected. The trip through the trees did not agree with everyone." Kaya looked at the sleeping Ariana then back to Vylia, "I don't know if I can be of any help to her in this state, but if it does help at all, I know a bit of what she must have gone through. I was possessed and tormented by a demon for many months. She must have undergone the torture for many years." Kaya sighed. "I know she is important to you and your friends, and for now, she is important to me as well. If the demons wanted her that badly, they may come for her again. I am a demon hunter, and I will do my best to protect her." Kaya then stood and walked a short distance away as to not crowd the bed.

Written by - Vylia

As Kaya walked away Vylia turned back to look at Ariana and whispered, "I know exactly what she went through. I was tortured by demons disguised as men for twenty years." She closed her eyes for a moment and shuddered at the memories as she continued to watch over Ariana.

Written by - Teran

The battle was winding down. Nearly all the enemies had been slain and those who hadn't were either wounded and would likely soon be dead, or fleeing through the tunnels. He closed his eyes recalling the price they had paid... the Princess.

The red powder was starting to settle. Sabbatine was hunched over a body ripping and tearing at the flesh, crunching bones loudly in her mouth as she ate at a desperate pace. Teran ignored the grizzly sight and moved towards the place he saw Mavigan fall. He studied the ground intently partially to retrace the rout to her body and partially to avoid contact with Wilhelm.

He found the place that her body fell, though there was nothing there anymore. The blood powder that covered the floor was not present in the area her body had been. There were no tracks in the dust leading away from her body, nor was there any evidence the body had been dragged away. Teran looked around for any clue about what happened to her body and there was no physical evidence that her body has done anything except perhaps vanish.

He stood up and walked over to where Sabbatine was still eating, though she had finished with her first body and was now eating what had been a well weathered archmage of some sort.

"Sabbatine." he said softly.

She looked up and grinned at him showing him her bloodstained teeth.

"Did you notice anything odd about the Mavigan's body after she was killed?" he asked softly, still trying to avoid Wilhelm's attention for the time being.

"She didn't die," Sabbatine giggled violently causing blood spittle to spray on Teran, "I had dibs on her body, remember? If she had died I'd be eating her and not this old guy!!"

"I saw her fall." the Assassin muttered as he backed away from her to avoid any more blood spittle.

"It couldn't have been her, I would have smelled her blood! I would have seen her soul! I would have given it to Huxel!!"

Teran sighed and stood up turning his back on her as she continued to feast. He was at last ready to face Wilhelm.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm continued to trade massive blows with his foe, whom he now recognized as a battle mage with a magical shield and a staff of striking. He blocked levan bolts with his glowing shield and swung his consecrated mace with great force, bouncing off the shield. He saw to one side Keeryn's fight with the other mage, and then saw how she cracked the shield and slew her foe.

*That is the way*, he thought.

Wilhelm called upon his Knighthood to Strike True and upon his Commander rank to Take No Prisoners, greatly increasing the force of his attack. Then it was time to Cry Havoc! His blows came faster and faster, always striking the same point, interspersed with blinding bolts of Censure striking that same point.

Wilhelm's eyes glowed brighter and he seemed to grow as he drew further upon his god's power, increasing the power and speed even further. The battle mage, previously contemptuous of his foes, began to look worried. His spells now became engulfing clouds of shards that attacked Wilhelm from all sides, some penetrating his armor and causing blood to flow. But the wounds stopped bleeding almost immediately and healed with miraculous speed.

Wilhelm's blows now sped up to a blur, causing the barrier to waver and pulse, and finally, with a great CRACK the magical barrier failed and Wilhelm's next blow crushed the mage's skull and the following Censure incinerated his body, leaving a charred hulk to collapse to the floor. Wilhelm then placed his hammer on the floor and leaned upon the handle, panting heavily as the power drained away and the channeling fatigue and pain washed over him.

Combat ceased as the last surviving cultists had fled the room. Wilhelm scanned the room, now mostly visible as the red dust settled, and was pleased to see that the rest were still alive, although several of his group were being treated for wounds.

*Only one lost, but that one was Mavigan!* Wilhelm thought this sadly, and looking around at the floor littered with slain cultists, he thought *Well, it's a start at avenging her. I'm sorry, Pallanon and Nagarren. I have failed my charge.*

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

Isuiln had slept a long time. Too long, in fact. He slowly eased into consciousness, keeping his eyes shut, not wanting to let go of the peaceful dreams that he had passed the night with. He was entirely too comfortable to wish to leave his momentary haven. The sheets were silky and smooth, on top of a bed as soft as air. The room was warm, but not uncomfortably so. The body next to him was breathing the slow rhythm of undisturbed slumber.

He tilted his head and cracked an eye, watching the pretty elf maiden sleep. She was very pretty, and had definitely been a big part of his reason to sleep in late. Then he felt a pang, almost of guilt, when the thought of Trinni.

But why should I feel guilty? She did leave me without a dance partner last night after Round the Town. I just happened to find a new one. Isuiln smiled slightly to himself. A dance partner that wanted to do a different dance. Besides, Trinni never has to know.

He slowly and carefully eased out of bed, doing his best not to disturb her sleep. Somehow he managed it, and she adjusted into a new position, her steady breathing never missing a beat. He dressed as quietly as he could, then stopped only to gently caress her cheek and give her a light kiss on the forehead before making a silent exit from her room. He began his trek through the citadel back to his own room, whistling a jaunty tune under his breath.

As he neared his room, he saw one of his men standing outside his door, looking fairly panicked.

"Good morning, Telas! How are you?"

The young gaurd jerked at the sound of Isuiln's voice, looking relieved for a moment, then his face set in worry.

"Yes, morning it is, late morning! And you should be worrying about yourself, not me! Ithramir called a meeting of the commanders about Minas Uial, and it started nearly an hour ago, but you were nowhere to be found!"

Isuiln swore loudly and dashed past Telas and into his door, pulling off the clothes he had worn to the dance the night before as fast as he could. He pulled on some much more formal wear, and tugged the chestpiece of his best dress armor on over it. He waved Telas off as the elf made to grab more of it and grabbed his swordbelt from a nearby table, trying to buckle it while running for the Great Hall. It took him nearly the length of the hallway to do, and nearly sent him sprawling several times. As he neared the Great Hall, he slowed dramatically, trying to regain his composure. Giving a casual salute to the gaurds at the door as he approached, they returned a very formal salute and opened the doors for him. Many heads turned to see the latecomer, and Isuiln grinned a bit sheepishly. Moving towards Ithramir, he waited for the elf to acknowledge him, then bowed and apologized for his tardiness.

"So, my lord, what have I missed?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The walk to Greyton was short and the outlying farmlands were abuzz with activity. Hundreds of farmers and hired hands were out in the fields reaping, hewing, and stowing their crops before winter’s harsh onset. The man felt a great sense of security seeing it all, and smiled to himself at the peaceful ambience of the harvest.

Upon reaching the city’s massive iron reinforced gates, a quartet of soldiers presented themselves. “No one is allowed in without the proper papers or permit. If you have one, please present it,” the apparent lead said sternly.

The man looked as if he expected this. “Just a moment here…” He opened his small satchel and produced a folded piece of parchment stamped with two seals. “Here you are sir,” he said as he unfolded and presented the soldier with it.

The lead soldier browsed over the document quickly and looked down at the seals. “My apologies sir,” he said as he handed the man the parchment. “Welcome home, my lord.”

The man simply smiled and nodded as he placed the parchment back in his satchel and proceeded through the gate.

The man walked lazily around the city, trying to decide which course of action to take. Finding himself in the market district, he sat down and tried to collect his thoughts. “Well… now that I’m here, what should be done first? There’s so very much… I could go check in I suppose – let them know I’m not dead. Or I could go home and do the same. No… I’m doing it again. I came back to find out about his sword, and that’s what I’ll do.

The man rose from his bench and resumed his slow, lazy walk. “But now what to do about that? I can’t very well go ask Tindel to look at it. I seriously doubt she’d be glad to see me after leaving in such a rush. There’s only one other choice, I suppose, but I do hate resorting to religion…” He paused for a moment and watched the long banners bearing the state seal that hung intermittently from the building rooftops sway in the breeze. He smiled, and headed into a nearby jewelry shop.

“Can I help you sir,” the shop clerk said eagerly. She came out from behind the counter to greet the man.

He smiled again, kindly. “Oh, I was looking for a silver chain, you see.”

A sheepish grin slid across the clerk’s face as she spoke. “Shopping for that special someone are we? How long would you like it? Oh, and what would you like on it? I’ve got a variety of fasteners, too!”

“Three feet please. I don’t need anything on it or any fasteners.”

The girl looked shocked, confused, and disappointed all at once. “Yes sir, I’ll be back in a moment.” She went into the back room to cut the chain, and returned quickly. “Here you are, sir.” The man paid her, and then headed off towards the cathedral of the All-Father, chain in hand.

The massive cathedral was all but empty. A few initiates were tidying up, but few others could be found. The man proceeded into the main cloister and yelled. “Ezra! Ezra where are you!?

“Keep your voice down heathen! This is a place of worship!”

The man turned to see a short, fat man dressed in the robes of a priest of the All-Father. He was balding, with a well-groomed moustache, and what hair he had left was a smoky gray. His expression was one of grandfatherly kindness as he saw who had been making the commotion.

“There you are Ezra,” the man said with a smile.

“Well… if it isn’t the Young Master.”

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