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Book Four Pt 1 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Ariana Page 12 Book 4

She had been tired from the first visitation by Ardwen to her mind. After the second, she was exhausted, and as Vylia left her mind, her eyelids remained closed as she collapsed against the bed and promptly went to sleep. By the time she awakened, the sun had made its full arc across the sky and the gathering gloom collected as menacing dark shadows in the corners and crevices of the room.

She did not move, the only signs of her awakening her open eyes and the sudden, sharp intake of breath. The darkness felt like a weight upon her body, one that pushed her even further into the mattress upon which she lay. She frantically glanced around, moving only her eyes, looking for some source of light to banish the darkness.

A small glimmer of a candle made her breathe easier and she stirred. The candle sat upon a small table someone had dragged next to a chair. The chair itself was occupied, and as she focused on the tableau, she recognized the man as the one who seemed to be friends with Olly. Thankfully, he paid her no heed as he continued to thumb through a well-worn book.

She shifted a bit and further took stock of her surroundings. She could see Vylia – she remembered her now – asleep on the bed next to hers, and another woman she did not know occupying a chair on the far side of the room. She also took note of even more candles, burning faintly in sconces fastened to the wall, and their warm glow gave her even more comfort.

She felt at peace, and contentedly stretched her limbs. Her brain woke up about mid-stretch and clamored at her that something was missing. She frowned and sat up, eyes piercing the gloom.

Olly was where she had left him, perched near the reading man in the open window. Vylia was there, sleeping on the bed next to hers, her breathing slow and deep. And Ardwen…?

She was puzzled, and rubbed one hand across her eyes as if to clear them. She thought she had remembered putting him at the side of her bed. Why wasn’t he where she left him?

Rising from the bed, she reached up into the sconce nearest her and removed a lighted candle. If Ardwen had misplaced himself, she would simply have find him again. She would be sure to scold him for misplacing himself once she located him.

With this thought, she proceeded to search for him in as thorough a manner as she could. Wandering through the infirmary, she shined the precious light of her candle into a myriad of dark spaces; under beds, behind wardrobes, beneath sheets, under and behind desks, behind curtains.

As her search revealed no Ardwen, her motions became more harried and less logical. She began checking those places where no person could fit. Drawers, inkwells, and flowerpots were all upended in her increasingly panicked search for him. Glass bottles and jars containing the necessary herbs for the healing craft were smashed upon the rough hewn floor, and their contents quickly examined - all to no avail.

Her fear and anger tied her stomach in a knot. “Where?” she whispered harshly. She knew even if no one else did that bad things happened when Ardwen left her alone. In the space of one heartbeat, she was no longer in a safe Citadel on another world. Instead, she was in a city in a long ago era on a world whose name she could not remember.

“Not again!” she shouted, and charged at the door. She shoved it open, her candle guttering and going out. Dropping the now useless candle, she ran barefoot out the door into the dark courtyard beyond. Any who trailed after her could not help but notice the shape of her bare feet burned into the rock floor, and the imprint of her hands burned deep and still smoking on the wooden door.

Written by - Talonmane

She thinks what? You're sure?

Kildef murmured apologies in their own language to those few elves who worked in the infirmary as he exited after her and held the mental conversation with the owl. Ollawahoo was convinced that Ariana equated the physical absence of Ardwen with not only being left alone in the present, but with whatever corrosive terror that held her mind slave to the chaos of the final days of ancient Aerynth.

I can't disagree. Her only spoken words so far have been to him; half ordering and half pleading him to never leave. How she said it was beyond desperation...more like she was convinced that no other course was thinkable. And there was such a mortal fear in her eyes. I guess now we're beginning to see the extent to which she meant it. And it only makes sense that her direst memories would be of the flight from Nagarren when all was lost.

Onward through the maze they followed her as she continued to search ridiculous places for signs of the bladeweaver. But her fury was building, and a nimbus of holy fire now lit everything around her, and together with her periodic cries, began to wake the local population in this part of the small city. Everything she was touching was getting partly destroyed or melted. Two guards and two wardens that had been posted nearby now tried to keep everyone far back from her as she moved from yard to yard, path to path, after they initially saw Kildef warning people off. He had been staying back about 10 yards, hoping to contain the situation while considering how to stop her. Only one way comes to mind. Back me up olde bird.

Ariana had maneuvered into a closed grotto where a statue of three figures stood back to back, facing outwards - a man with an elf female and another man of uncertain lineage, possibly half-elven. He didn't recognize them, but there was a striking similarity to the company of Lorne. The stone figures were raised above a pool where running water made a delicate, soothing sound in the night and brought some coolness to the warm subtropical air. He waited for her inspection of the area to end, when she would have to turn back his way.

It was obvious though that frustration fueled her anger and stomping and tipping things over and yelling a little was not going to be enough of a release. She turned to storm out of the grotto, and fortunately for Kildef, she focused on the statues instead of on him. Her head tilted in puzzlement as she examined the stone people even while a savage snarl grew across her features. She stalked the perimeter of the pool, staring at them, working herself into a rage - a need to release the uncontainable emotion. Again, she struggled to speak, and the volcano of her power blew as it came out in a scream.

"WHERE!!?"

It may have been the font of the All-Father's energy that she was still able to tap, but the novane blast that erupted from her hands and eyes had no essence of healing or restoration - but annihilation. The wave of power broke over the statuary and the entire citadel shook in a ground quake that felt as though the great fortress were heaved. Instinctually the ranger dropped to one knee and steadied himself with a hand on the tilement. This went on, and between the fingers of his free hand that sheltered his eyes from the magnitude of the flash, he could see that the statue was not breaking, though it should have been blown to powder. The torrent poured over the three figures and there it was absorbed utterly, none of it carrying beyond where it would surely have peeled a river of destruction through buildings and walls for unknown distance. This obviously vexed Ariana, who poured it on, needing to break something...something big, something obvious, something that would get everyone's attention and that would force Ardwen to come or make others bring him to her. Though she stared down the statues, in truth she was hoping to break the entire fortress with her will.

The statuary was obviously a thing connected to immense power itself, something protected. It continued to absorb her energy until she could make herself try no more. As though sapped, she dropped to the ground, partly weaping, partly pounding the ground tiles in rage all the while mumbling or shouting, most of it incoherent. It was only a few seconds before she stubbornly stood again, and her fury blazed into being once more as she looked at the statues one last time and turned to leave and find another target. And before her stood Kildef.

Oh ya...I'm sure this is just what I want to do right now... he thought to the preybird. Ollawahoo landed on the arm of the female elf statue and hooted twice, bobbing his head up and down in that annoying way only owls could do.

"Ariana," he said sternly, trying to look confident and and to address her no differently than he would have long ago, in those same days that he had told her that she was all at once like a mother, a sister, and something much more to him, "I know where Ardwen is. Do you want me to tell you?"

Written by - Vylia

Vylia awoke to the sound of shattering pottery, sitting up quickly and turning instantly to look to the bed Ariana was supposed to be sleeping in. When she saw her missing she turned toward where the original noise had been to see Ariana breaking and throwing things all over the infirmary. She quickly got out of the bed she was in, not really caring how she had ended up there in the first place, and started to follow Ariana out the door. Vylia stopped suddenly at the exit after Kildef charged out following Ariana as she noticed the handprint burnt into the doorframe and then the footprints in the floor. "This is not good... where did that fool go after he made that promise?"

Shaking her head she followed after the two of them, assisting Kildef in warding people away from Ariana as the aura of power around her increased in magnitude. She fell to her knees as the fortress shook with the power that Ariana unleashed upon the three statues, staring in awe at both the energy brought to bare and the fact that the statues simply absorbed it without even appearing singed. Vylia was unable to even regain her feet as Ariana turned to face Kildef with a look of pure rage on her face, and Vylia on her knees behind him. She grabbed her newly acquired Triskellion amulet and, staring at the one she had placed around Ariana's neck, whispered a plea for help, "All-Father protect us so we may save her."

Written by - Ardwen

When Ardwen’s sight faded back into color and shape he found himself in an open courtyard with grass beneath his feet. The Elven warrior realized they were in one the Citadel's interior gardens, decorative stones made pathways through the area and alcoves of plants were interspersed with fountains and statues. It was night, but a pale, full moon illuminated the surroundings.

A quick glance told him the boy had made it through the portal. However, the child had collapsed onto his hands and knees and was gasping for breath. “You alright?” Ardwen asked. The kid tried to answer, but all that came out was a choked cough. “I understand, some kind of binding spell. He’ll come through the portal, and I will end this. But, I want you to get to safety.”

As Ardwen spoke, Visan emerged from the portal and a fraction of a second later the gate closed. The mage took one look around, took a hand off his sword’s grip and conjured a ball of black flame. His eyes shifted from Ardwen to the young elf beside him, and magefire flew forth. Ardwen gritted his teeth as he brought his sword up to block and moved in front of the flame. As the warrior’s blade met with the spell rays of light shot from the impact and an unnatural wind ripped through the courtyard. Ardwen saw arcs of electricity dig into the soil, and the Elf’s arms begin to shake from the effort of containing the attack. The ball of fire exploded. Ardwen was shoved backwards but kept his footing; the ground beneath his feet was rived into two muddy lines.

The Elven swordsman looked over his shoulder and saw the child was unharmed. “Run!” He hissed through his still clenched teeth. The boy took a few steps backwards, but then stopped. The warrior had no more time to spare, and knew he had to take the initiative again. Visan was trying to prepare another spell, but Ardwen closed distance before he could finish, and their two weapons met. Overhead, then low, then overhead again, the two Elves were pouring every ounce of skill, strength, and speed they could into each blow.

Ardwen jumped over a low strike and Visan’s blade passed under his feet. Ardwen’s returning strike was parried and brought to the side, and the warrior was forced to pull his blade back and snap forward into a thrust. Another parry rang out in the air. Their blades were blurs, and the two changed footing and circled so often that the concept of stances became meaningless.

Ardwen’s blade hummed as Visan managed to block a swirling cut to his head that Ardwen rotated and turned into two cuts. Visan crouched low and brought his sword in a horizontal slash that Ardwen countered by swinging his sword down and left, edge against edge. Visan and Ardwen leapt backwards, but Ardwen was a fraction of a second faster and sprang forward first, his blade came up in a low cut that drove Visan’s sword up and split the cloth in a long line up the mage’s left sleeve. Unfortunately for Ardwen, it did not touch flesh. With one fluid motion Visan brought his blade down, Ardwen sidestepped, but the dodge was close. A few strands of brown hair floated through the air, and Ardwen could see a thin line of red following them.

As the two warriors turned to face one another Visan spoke, “Pointless. I nearly killed you with a single spell.” As if to enforce his words Visan pointed a finger and spoke another word of command. Ardwen saw dirt rising like the wake behind a ship, something hard and fast slammed into the warrior and he was thrown backwards again. Ardwen smashed into the wall behind him hard enough to put cracks into it. The Elf collapsed onto his knees and propped himself up with a hand, his eyes were closed in pain and his ears range, only the Elf’s thoughts remained unclouded.

“Now I see,” Ardwen thought, “I have no choice.” The battered Elven swordsman opened his eyes to see Visan still standing there, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Ardwen rose to his feet slowly, noticing his blade had been broken in half by Visan’s last attack. Despite his wounds, Ardwen had a grim smile on his face as well.

“Why are you smiling?” Visan said. “Weary of life?” Ardwen jumped, it was a leap of amazing height that took him to the railing running along the side of the courtyard. In more peaceful times, Visan guessed it was used for spectators to rest on and gaze at the gardens below. Now, Ardwen used it as a perch. Visan watched as Ardwen crossed his arms at the elbow, bringing his left hand to his right shoulder and vice versa. Ardwen spoke, but when he did it was not with his normal voice. His words reverberated slightly with a timbre eerily like a spell chant.

Fuyu and Haru appeared in the warrior’s hands. “This body is made out of swords.” Ardwen intoned. The Elven swordsman threw the two blades into the air. Visan regarded them with scorn; he raised a hand and erected a magical barrier. The two blades bounced off with twin clangs, but kept hovering in the air, circling in for another strike.

“Annoying.” Visan said with a frown. He looked back up at Ardwen, and saw the warrior had not been idle.

Ardwen had lowered his hands to his sides and was continuing his chant, “Steel is my flesh, and fire is my blood.” A recurve bow appeared in Ardwen's right hand, and a voluted blade appeared in his right. The blade shone and extended, streamlining into a bar of white. The Elven warrior knocked the modified sword, drew back the bow, and loosed.

The spear of light collided with Visan's barrier, it stuck there, halfway in the mage's shielding. Visan's lips curled back as he gestured again to erect a second barrier to strength the first. Instead, the bar of energy exploded as the white and black blades struck it, shattering both barriers and leaving Visan on his knees. The mage stood quickly though, recovering with amazing speed.

If this daunted Ardwen however, he gave no sign; he dismissed the bow, it vanished with a slight shimmer. The warrior brought his arms back into the position he had begun his chant with and said, “Always alone in a wind of swords.” Familiar white and black swords appeared in his hands again. The swordsman held his arms out behind him and jumped down from the railing, running at Visan.

“Standing upon a hill of blades.” Ardwen said right before he was in melee range again. Ardwen brought both swords down in an alternating pair of chops, but Visan had another barrier in place. The blades began to glow. Ardwen let go of the hilts, and then pushed off with his legs to one side. Visan poured more power into his shield, but the resulting explosion still caused his ears to ring, and spewed obscuring dust and dirt into the air. For a moment the wane moonlight was blotted out, and Visan could see nothing but bedimming dust. Then the mage saw movement, a form creeping at the edge of his vision.

“Found you.” Visan said coldly, but then paused. The figure was that of his earlier prisoner, who for some reason had not fled the fighting. Visan considered his next move for scarcely a moment before black flame danced along his outstretched hand. “If you won’t show yourself, he dies!” Visan yelled.

“I have withstood pain to create many weapons.” Visan spun to face the voice, and there in the still obscuring half-light he could see the outline of another figure. All at once a moonbeam broke through and illuminated the kneeling form of Ardwen.

“Predictable." Visan taunted as he adjusted his aim.

Ardwen gave no reply, his eyes were closed, and his right hand was clasped to the opposite side of his chest like an archaic soldier’s salute. “Yet, my hands will never hold anything.”

The ball of black flame grew in size and intensity as Visan prepared to land a killing strike.

“So, as I pray . . .” Ardwen's voice trailed off, and his eyes opened, the two combatants regarded one another. Visan fired, the spell sliding through the air in spectral silence.

“Unlimited Blade Works.” Ardwen pressed his left palm to the ground, and the earth came alight as if the sun were beneath them, a clarion metallic noise chimed in the air. Visan was dimly aware of his ball of flame being swallowed by a wall of advancing energy the same color as that which devoured the ground. Then he felt a disturbing sense of displacement, like being in two places at once, but his eyes could tell him nothing as he clasped them shut to block out the bright light.

Visan thought he was dead. But, he rapidly realized that not only was he alive he was unharmed, and so he opened his eyes to take in his surroundings. The first thing the mage did was widen his eyes in shock, the second was to suck in a deep breath. The world around him had completely changed. He was on a vast barren field, the only break in the terrain were low hills that rolled along the landscape. The ground was stained a rusted red hue. Glancing up the mage could see a pale white disk with a hazy outline broken by dense, dark and rolling clouds. Visan guessed it was the sun, but even as he thought this a small window opened in the clouds and he could see a night sky studded with stars. The glimpse was so fleeting Visan thought it an illusion, but he knew better.

Illusions lost their potency if you disbelieved them; it was a fundamental principle of magecraft. Visan knew Ardwen was incapable of crafting an illusion so precise and detailed, he had read all the data he could find on his foe. Yet, all his research had not mentioned such a thing as what he now beheld. Wisps of fog covered the ground in numerous places, and ephemeral sparks drifted up from the ground like bubbles in water. Visan could not guess what was causing the fog to move, at times he felt a slight zephyr, and then almost as soon the feeling was gone. Yet, all of these things, the red earth, the bewildering sky, and the obscuring mist were all unimportant.

What had caused his eyes to widen in a chilling instance of fear was what was in the ground. All around the mage, in the low hills and hollows, in the soil near him and in the earth to the ever-distant horizon were swords. The blades stood anchored into the soil like grave markers. The sorcerer looked behind him. The scene repeated itself - innumerable weapons - but with one difference. Upon one of the slight hills was Ardwen.

The Elven warrior could see Visan gaping at his new surroundings. Ardwen reached out a hand to his side and grasped the grip of a blade; he did not look as he lifted it from the earth. The swordsman leveled the sword in front of him. It was a slightly curved sword with a swept cross-guard, a saber that any cavalryman might have used. Ardwen smirked and said, “As you can see what you are facing is an infinite number of blades, the finest of weapons. Throw your fears away and fight me!”

Visan advanced, his sword raised. Ardwen’s smirk changed to a scowl of disgust as he ran towards him. Their two blades met once more. Ardwen let go of his sword and another came to his hands, another curved blade, but of Elven design. Visan blocked Ardwen’s attack, only to have the blade Ardwen had dropped shoot through the air into his right leg. Ardwen called another sword to him, and he slashed at Visan with savage abandon. The mage could no longer keep up, and he felt wounds open up under the relentless edges of Ardwen’s attacks.

Suddenly, Ardwen was behind Visan, he had quick-stepped behind him. Ardwen dropped both of his blades, he could leave nothing to chance; he wanted Visan dead. Ardwen reached out with his will, images flashed through his mind of myriad swords and those swords answered. A roar like wind bolting through a narrow cleft pervaded the air. Ardwen roared in a mixture of concentration and triumph as a massive array of blades shot through the air like arrows in flight. The swords all struck Visan nearly as one, from almost every direction. Steel jutted in and out from the mage’s body, blood spilt on blade after blade and flowed in rivulets to the ground. What little of the mage’s body was spared was soon obliterated as the magical weapons reacted to their violent collision and close proximity in a thunderous blast.

Ardwen fell forwards, his head bowed and eyes closed. The world around him vanished as if it had never existed. Of Visan the only remnant was his tattered overcoat, rent with more holes than fabric and stained a dark crimson with blood. Ardwen tried to steady his breathing, but he was completely drained, unable to even move. “Ardwen.” A voice called out his name. It took an enormous amount of willpower just to open his eyes and look at who had spoken. In the rush of battle, Ardwen had almost forgotten about the boy that he had braved so much to save. Still, the Elf was glad that he had managed to save someone, even if he had ultimately failed. It was a bitter reflection, but as Ardwen looked at the boy for the first time he saw his eyes. They were a haunting shade of pale blue, and while Ardwen chalked it up to exhaustion and coincidence, that gaze almost felt familiar. As Ardwen heard movement around him an odd thought crossed his wearied mind – the winged child had called him by name, but how did he know what it was in the first place?

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya woke up to the sound of disturbed pottery and Vylia taking off after Ariana. She got up instantly and followed them, keeping a safe distance behind but yet close enough to close in if needed.

Written by - Ariana

His words thundered in her ears, but by the time they reached her brain, they had been twisted into something wholly different. Her tears quickly dried, and she rose to her feet, fastening the man before with her steely glare. If he knew where her beloved Ardwen was, then he must have been instrumental in his leaving in the first place.

“Give him back!” she ordered, subtly changing her stance.

Before the man before her could respond or comply, however, a great commotion arose from the courtyard to her right. Sparing a quick glance in that direction, she could arcs of magefire light the sky. In one quick motion she had shoved the man out of her way and darted towards the commotion.

Her quick feet carried her there within seconds, the residual magic in the air causing her hair to crackle. As her eyes adjusted, she could see two forms. Ardwen was lying in a heap on the ground, being watched over by a strange looking child. Images of a ruined orphanage stained red with the blood of children quickly filled her vision.

Without thinking she rushed towards them. One hand wrapped around Ardwen and the other grabbed hold of the arm of the child. She attempted to pull them both under her, her movements harried and frantic, determined to protect them against the evil she was certain was bearing down upon them all.

Written by - Talonmane

Kildef's attention was already on the new scene - an unknown second explosion within a span of seconds. Under no suprise that she would move immediately to Ardwen, he allowed her push to rotate him completely and moved gracefully into stride behind her. Aware of a new burning odor, he glanced down to see the left breast of his hide jerkin smoking in the smudged imprint of her hand.

While mostly relieved, his brow still deepened and he scowled. I wish he had not returned this soon. A confrontation with her to bring forth other memories is necessary. Necessary for so many reasons. Oh, is that so? Hardly. The years and wars have left me with any number of tricks up my sleeve...have you forgotten that in your dotage, gray bird? Ollawahoo had offered a rather unflattering image of what he thought the results might have been if the bladeweaver had not returned right now.

Ardwen appeared worn, but clearly would live. The boy was unknown, as was the remains of the foe he had slain. The situation appeared over for the two of them...but not for Ariana. She saw or felt something the rest of them didn't. Kil walked around the immediate area, trying to see if he could gain a sense of any threat or abnormality. He couldn't. Whatever Ardwen experienced was past.

Again speaking in a voice no different than he would have ever used in their years of strife, he reported to her, "Abbess, the area is secure. Ardwen has vanquished whatever threat might have been." He stepped closer to them and knelt, lowering his volume a bit but remaining firm. "Do not fear. Only your protectors are with you now. It is alright now as it was alright a few minutes ago. You should have known where Ardwen was. I shouldn't have needed to tell you. If you think about it, you always know where he is. And where all of us are."

He appeared to get no reaction. She was still too far away. Trying not to show his frustration, he turned and surveyed instead the clouding sky, and uttered softly, his voice falling to a tone nearly as deep as his father's, "We are where'er Providence takes us. Where else could we be?"

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen managed to rise with halted jerky motions to a kneeling crouch, one knee beneath him providing support and the other facing forward. Ariana was clutching him tightly with one arm, and in his condition Ardwen wasn't even sure he could break free if he wanted to. The warrior's eyebrows scrunched together and his face formed a perfect scowl of resentment and grim resolve. "I used all of my strength and still . . ." Ardwen whispered and trailed off.

Not a second after this Ardwen noticed Kildef. The barbarian seemed content to ignore him and his young tagalong, and Ardwen was just as satisfied to turn his thoughts inward. That is, until Kildef began speaking of his "vanquishing" a great threat and being guided by providence. If Ardwen's mouth were not so dry he would have spit on the ground at the words, instead he managed a derisive "tch" and said, "Hell, for one, Kildef." With some effort and a slight grunt Ardwen managed to straighten his back, he was still kneeling but his eyes were focused and keen now, "The All-Father lied to me, tricked me, used me - again! I was foolish enough to believe his pack of lies."

His sudden movement caused Ariana to grip even him even tighter, and the Elven warrior was briefly grateful he was wearing the new breastplate that Talorn had gifted him with. Ardwen spared Ariana a brief glance before he placed a hand on her shoulder, as much to support himself as to remind her that he was in no condition to go anywhere now. "Look at what 'providence' has made of us," said Ardwen, "broken, scattered, lost. But I swear I'll do whatever need be done, I will rip the very earth and heavens if I must, I'll return again and again, I will find him, I will."

****

It was overwhelming; everything had happened in what seemed a few blazingly chaotic seconds, and yet at the same time events had unfolded so slowly boefre him. He had gone from being a prisoner and captive to Visan's twisted ambition, to being reunited with Ardwen, and finally freed only to be caught in a situation even more unbelievable. At first he had no clue who Ardwen's companions were; though half-forgotten names tickled at the back of his mind like moonlight dancing in fog. Still, the recent conversation between Ardwen and his companions had crushed any lingering doubts.

These were, at least in part, members of the order Ardwen had belonged to - the Hands of Providence. Which meant that the lady who was gripping him so hard that it made the steel bars of his former cage seem soft was . . . Elerus blushed and turned his head away slightly. She had to be Ariana, Ardwen had spoken of her many times before. As if in response to his bashfulness his wing folded down and across, as a bird might do to tuck its head underneath. With a slightly annoyed sigh Elerus moved it back behind him, he was used to wings, but not a real one, and certainly not one that was actually an extension of his body.

However, any thoughts about his company or his new avian feature were dashed aside when he heard Ardwen swear against the All-Father. Elerus was tempted to say something then and there, to help ease Ard's suffering. But, he knew him better than that, and knew that it would only further complicate things. He also knew that, potentially, it could lead him to the same fate as Visan - depending on how quickly Ardwen decided he was a "damn lying whelp."

Likely in his heart of hearts Ardwen realized the truth; he just didn't want to admit it. If he believed that Elerus was still out there, still someone and somewhere else, then he could always rush off and save him. By admitting what he knew to be true Ardwen would be admitting to more than failure, he would be admitting to being powerless to help a friend. A Twilight Elf's pride simply wouldn't allow that. Elerus gave a little nod as he mulled all of what was going on over, trying to come up with a plan of action.

Still, there was something even more pressing to take care of first. He gave a slight tug on the arm Ariana was gripping as if he would fly off into the wind if she let go. "Please?" Elerus said while adopting what he imagined was a pleading look. Inwardly he cringed, but he still hoped he could at least get the priestess to loosen her grip. Otherwise, Ardwen would have no lack of fun later ribbing him about how he had squirmed and whined to get out of Ariana's grasp.

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