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Book Four Pt 1 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Ariana Page 15 Book 4

The grin started to fade from her face as she noticed Teran biting his tongue. Judging from the stormclouds gathering on his face, he was not happy - though she couldn't figure out why.

"Soooo, you're all dead... like meeee?"

Mavigan's response was hesitant and unsure, not understanding why Teran and now even Wilhelm looked so disapproving.

"No, not UNdead," she muttered. "Just dead. Like ghosts." She paused for a moment and then added, "Why else would I have stepped over my own corpse?"

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn stared at Sabbatine the whole trip through the Shadow. Instinctively she knew who Sabbatine was talking about, but not who she was talking to. The idea she was talking to herself in such an animated fashion sent shivers running down Keeryn's spine. She had almost gotten to the point of shouting at the creature to be silent when she was tackled by her instead. Just as she was about to bite the beast she noticed the sudden change in temperature and the color of the world around her.

She leapt to her feet as soon as she untangled herself from Sabbatine's grip, she could smell Mavigan's trail from here, and would have gone rushing off into the darkness had Wilhelm not been standing there calmly looking around. Soon enough though he set off in the same direction Keeryn knew Mavigan was and she followed close behind him. When they finally found her Keeryn felt a lump form in her throat. She had known for the past several minutes that Mavigan was still alive, but actually seeing her was completely different. She just stood there in near shock as Mavigan tried to convince them they were all dead. Though she was unsure what a ghost was exactly, she could guess Mavigan was trying to say they were all spirits, like those of her people's ancestors that they used to ask for help in times of great need.

Keeryn stood there shaking her head slowly as tears started to stream down her cheeks before she could hold back no longer and leapt straight at Mavigan, hugging her tightly and crying on her shoulder. "We're not dead, and you aren't either. We killed every one of them, even the one who killed all of my people." She stopped talking as she was wracked by another series of sobbing. "I'm so sorry I failed you, please don't hate me! You're the only friend I have left."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst did not know what to think. Here this young woman was telling her something she had always wanted to hear, but could she believe it? "I knew I had a father and his name was Turin Wallace, but of everthing else I had no clue. I ... I have family!" For a moment, the suffering that could be seen in Tempyst's eyes, was replaced by that of joy. She leaned forward and hugged Purgatory tightly, not wanting to let go of her new found sister. But finally she did let go and set back upright. Then, like Purgi, the sadness set in again. "All of this, all of this is amazing and wonderful, except for what has happened to our father. Is there anything we can do to help him? I have lost so much as of late, I do not wish to loose him now as well."

Tempyst stood and paced a little, the leaves on her cloak trembling as she did so. She suddenly sat back down and turned back to Purgatory, taking her hands within her own. "There must be something that can be done, but perhaps we should await the arrival of the others and discuss this together, as family. But I do not have much time at the moment, soon the army will be marching out to fight the orcs and I was to be going with them, to make sure Sir Ithramir is kept alive. I have much to tell you as well, concerning family, but that can wait too." Tempyst smiled softly at Purgi, letting go of her hands. "Looks like we have some catching up to do, but first, when are we to expect our grandmother and aunt to arrive?"

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan was more than a little taken aback when Keeryn glomped onto her while weeping uncontrollably. After a moment, Mavigan placed a hand loosely around the crying girl and gently patted her on the back in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. When her efforts had no effect, she instead gently tweaked one furry ear.

“Keeryn! You are being daft. You didn’t fail me. I don’t hate you. We are still friends!”

As Keeryn continued working through her emotional outburst, Mavigan looked at Wilhelm, her expression guarded and wary, unwilling to let him know that her hope hinged on his response. “I felt the sword pierce my flesh, saw my life’s blood flow from the wound to pool on the floor, and finally separated from my body. How can I not be dead?”

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm stepped over to the campfire and extracted a stick that stuck out, holding the unburnt end and blowing on the burnt end to bring it back to a flame. He then sat next to Mavigan and held the small torch to her right and then pointed to the ground to the left.

"Ghosts do not cast shadows, and there is your shadow on the ground. You are very much alive, Mavigan, as I can tell from your heartfire. If you check you can hear your heart beat. Yes, you saw and felt yourself die. We saw the same. That was a masterful illusion. The All Father explained it to me on our way here.

Shortly after your father's death, a friend of your father and a great mage cast a secret protection upon you from a distance. He was the Archmage Rejk, whom you met as a child. This spell was set to protect you from a fatal attack by rendering you invisible while creating a very realistic illusion of you that stepped away from you, drawing and then receiving the death blow and crumpling in death. You felt it because the illusion was linked to you, appearing to be you down to having the same heartfire.

The spell also carried a compulsion forcing you to flee the area while invisible, making sure you took yourself out of danger, while continuing to mask your presence down to hiding your footprints and any sounds you made. Even Argent could not detect your presence while you removed your gear. That protection was lost when you entered Shadow, severing the link between you and the illusion and causing the illusion to vanish and your footsteps to appear. All that was left was your bloody dagger."

Wilhelm pulled Mavigan's dagger (now cleaned) out of his belt and laid it on the bedroll.

"That spell is gone now, but it did indeed save your life. It was an amazing feat of magical protection and you owe your life to the Archmage. I had no idea such a spell had been cast, or even that such a spell was possible, but I am deeply grateful for it. I thought I had lost you and that was unbearable. Please stand alongside Keeryn the next time you get into a fight so you can fight as a team and she can truly be your bodyguard. You are important to both of us and we don't want to lose you."

Written by - Turin Wallace

Purgi hugged her sister in return, a broad smile across her face. Most of her life had been isolated and she never knew of a sister until recently. Now that her sister was a reality, one that she could reach out and touch, it brought her much joy.

She listened as Tempyst spoke to her:

"All of this, all of this is amazing and wonderful, except for what has happened to our father. Is there anything we can do to help him? I have lost so much as of late, I do not wish to loose him now as well."

Taking a moment, she then signed,

"Perhaps they will know what to do to help him. I do not know what to do to help or save him. Something must be done, I want to help, but I don't know how."

She watched her sister pace around, her mind also in thought. Then, once again, she spoke to her,

"There must be something that can be done, but perhaps we should await the arrival of the others and discuss this together, as family. But I do not have much time at the moment, soon the army will be marching out to fight the orcs and I was to be going with them, to make sure Sir Ithramir is kept alive. I have much to tell you as well, concerning family, but that can wait too."

Purgi responds,

"I could see that these people are preparing to march out to make war. The Orcs have been the hated enemy of all people's, but other than my grandmother and aunt, I have seen very little of the elven people. I know they call this place a citadel and a fortress, but it is beautiful as well. How can beings of such grace and beauty think of war? I suppose all must fight for something they believe in, my sister."

She pauses, then continues on,

"I would welcome to hear more regarding family and we do have much to catch up on! I'm afraid I do not know when Deluwiel and Nica will arrive, they took a different road, as our father recommended."

Seeing the confused look in Tempyst's eye, she smiled and signed,

"That's our grandmother and aunt's names. Just wait till they arrive! They will be happy to see you!"

Purgi smiled long for a second, then looked around before continuing on,

"Is this Ithramir part family? Or is he just the lord of these lands? I just wonder why you would mention protecting him so."

Written by - Tempyst

"Deluwiel and Nica, what beautiful names, I look forward to meeting them." Tempyst eyes filled with tears as Purgi asked about Ithramir. "I consider him family now, though he is elven and of no blood relation." Tempyst took Purgi's hands within her own.

"A short while ago, there was another battle, one which Ithramir fell. I was pregnant at the time I went to heal him. He was beyond my abilities, but I tried my best to do what I could for him. He is an Avatar, an important being to his people and to everyone here. My daughter, though only days in the womb, through great magics, took it upon herself to sacrifice her soul for Ithramir...bonding with him and bringing him back from the abyss. Tirigil is her name and because of her selflessness, she was honored by the gods and made their messenger, so though she gave up her life, she lives within the heavens." Tempyst took a deep breath.

"I was married as well when this happened, but that has been my loss as well, for my husband, this very day, revoked our vows and went off to learn the ways of the stoneshaper druids. He did not wish for me to wait for him, and now, speaking of it..." Tempyst let out a sob and tried to regain her composure. "...speaking of it helps, especially now to learn I have true family and am not alone any longer."

Written by - Ardwen

Elerus had been busy the previous night. There was simply not doubt in his mind that he had to prepare for a confrontation with Ardwen, he'd really tipped his hand, but Ardwen had forced him. There was nothing for it, ultimately, and Elerus realized he was the only one capable of doing what had to be done. Ariana might have doubts about the means Ardwen would employ, but Elerus did not. He had seen his friend put in grim situations before, and Ardwen did not shirk from harsh measures or outright brutality to accomplish his ends.

But on the other hand, Elerus had never blamed him for that. After all, Elerus reasoned, Ardwen was doing all of this for him - however twisted his indiscretions and dark his means he had his wellbeing at heart. Still, Elerus silently wished Ardwen were less pigheaded about the entire situation. His brooding was interrupted when Ardwen entering the courtyard. The Elven warrior strode forward with measured and calm steps, but the clenched fists at his side bespoke his thoughts. Ardwen stopped several feet in front of him, too far to be threatening, but close enough so that running was not an option.

The two Elves stood silently staring at one another. Elerus took the chance to look his friend over. Imperial purple covered both his arms and formed a short jacket that came down only to the bottom of his ribcage, the front of the jacket was open, displaying a large portion of a grey breastplate trimmed in white. The second part of the cloth was not connected to the top, forming a separate mantle that hung from Ardwen's waist to the back of his calves. Elerus was familiar with the color of the cloth and the mode of Ardwen's armor. The breastplate was flexible, and the imperial purple dye ridiculously expensive, Ardwen seemingly did not care to display such status symbols in this world.

The thought caused Elerus to reflect on how he must look to Ardwen. He had not been idle the previous night, and had requested from the mages a change of clothes. Of course, the stewards and tailors had been happy to comply, ordered as they were by Ithramir to see to the comfort and security of their "guests". Naturally though, a problem was soon encountered: namely that there was not a single garment in the entire fortress that had been stitched to accommodate a child with a wing. Elerus had put on a grand show of being humble enough to accept anything, but that only earned him the pity and admiration (and, gratingly, comments about his good behavior and pats on the head) of the tailors seeing to him. Elerus thought it odd his hosts were embarrassed by their lack of clothes for a form most of them would never have imagined, but they had earnestly begged to make amends by fashioning any garment he wished forthwith.

A few simple directions later and some waiting had netted him a simple but comfortable set of clothes. Unlike Ardwen's vestments he had wanted nothing too ostentatious, but he did want to make a statement, a statement he was certain Ardwen would not fail to see.

"A captain's uniform." Ardwen said darkly.

Elerus had to suppress a slight smile at his friend's swift assessment. He was indeed wearing a version of a captain's raiment: black hakama with a black kimono, the craftsmen of the fortress had even been kind enough to stitch a haori to go along with the garment, though Elerus had not donned it for this meeting. He was convinced his current uniform was more than enough to vex Ardwen. Elerus could only imagine Ardwen's confusion and secreted thoughts. The problem Elerus had presented his old companion with was not the clothes themselves, but their style. It was a fashion that had not been used at the imperial courts for some three thousand years.

Ardwen's fists tightened even more, his knuckles showing white and the Elf said, "You've got something to say, make your point, boy."

Elerus simply reached into the sleeve of his kimono and pulled out a small sphere, it filled the entirety of his palm and Elerus noted with satisfaction that the opaque surface of the orb seemed to dance with ripples of softly hued light. "You wanted proof." Elerus said.

Ardwen frowned, but Elerus noted that he unclenched his fists. "I just want him back, he would never fail me as I have failed him." Said Ardwen.

"Ardwen, you've not failed me. Yes me, open your eyes and stop pretending you've been blind your whole life! I know how you are, I know you think you're strong enough to take the burden of this whole world on your shoulders. But we're not gods, Ardwen, whatever we were taught."

Elerus saw Ardwen waver, he saw him shift his weight as it to take a step forward, but then he stopped. The Elven warrior's eyes darted to the sphere in his hands. "Break it." He whispered.

Elerus shook his head and said, "I won't put you through that Ardwen, you know what this is. I had the mages help me prepare a memory crystal - they were pretty easy to convince once I'd told them who I was going up against. You know what's in here Ardwen, and I don't need to see it."

Elerus was surprised when Ardwen shook his head again and said softly, "Perhaps I have forgotten. I have to be sure, I have to be sure. Whatever it costs me, I have to be certain. If the memories are true then . . ." Ardwen faltered here, unable to find the words, but Elerus could see in his gaze that he had not lost the thought.

Without another word Elerus walked forward and pressed the sphere into Ardwen's palm, the winged elf spun around and said, "It's your choice Ardwen. Either way, you'll know where to find me."

****

Ardwen watched the boy departs. What was he? Ardwen's mind was quick to provide a plethora of answers, but Ardwen did not want to hear them. For a fraction of a second he considered the most obvious, that the child really was Elerus. If so, it would explain the All-Father's words and actions - the god had been truthful. If so, it would explain why Visan had kept him alive, he was a living link to Ardwen.

But Ardwen's senses still reeled from that prospect. It simply made no sense. Elerus was not a child, but an Elf as ancient as he - Ardwen had grown up alongside him. They had been the best of friends, brothers united not by blood or parentage but by something far stronger. So why, why did he hesitate to break the orb and display the scenes contained inside? It was simple sorcery, the temporary storage and display of memories as held in the mind of the one who created the orb. The things only lasted a short time and had limited storage, barely more than a parlor trick so far as Elven magics were concerned.

Ardwen held the sphere in his upturned palm and wondered how things could have come to this. He had been too late in returning to Aerynth, he had delayed and shirked his duty and Elerus had paid for his laxity. Visan was the one who was guilty, responsible for Elerus's form, and guilty for his suffering. But, then what? Visan was dead, Ardwen had seen to that, and if he had only been swifter in executing Visan perhaps none of this would have happened.

Ardwen loosened his hold on the little glowing ball. He had heard of failed resurrections at a Tree of Life before. There had always been rumors, stories of flawed incarnations, but Ardwen had dismissed them as the fanciful and ignorant stories of the lesser races. Even if they were true, surely a Twilight Elf, a being born before the beginning of time and outside its flow, would be above such petty things. Were not Elerus and he more spiritual entities than flesh and blood?

Ardwen's thoughts stopped at that last thought, he latched onto it, pulled it out of the river of conflicting memories and emotions which flooded his mind. So there it was, his answer. They were indeed something different; something removed from the Elves of later eras. Something Visan would have doubtless loved to experiment on, to twist and bend to his own ends. What better way than by the Trees, using the very energies that swirled through life and death. Ardwen let the sphere drop, it tumbled through the air and shattered on the ground, the shards sublimating into the air.

At first the Elven warrior thought that nothing had happened, the sphere's magic must have failed or he had duped himself. But presently hazy outlines began to appear in the air above him and Ardwen heard sounds, so indistinct they seemed nothing but one unbroken noise, but growing sharper by the second. Finally, Ardwen made out a scene in the air, and what he saw nearly sunk him to his knees in grief.

There was a boy prostrate on a sandy arena floor, and all around the pit was a grand edifice of stone and metal. The structure enclosed the coliseum in a full circle, seats were hewn into it and a great awning covered the open air above. The awning reflected the night sky, or rather, it reflected the only sky that ever existed in that distant time. Twilight, eternal and unbroken twilight.

But the image simply blurred through the grandiose structure and all its ornamentation. No, instead of that mighty work of engineering it focused back in on the child. The image moved in closer, and it was obvious the boy was hurt, blood covered his right side and, through the remnants of torn cloth and blood it looked as it three great gashes had been carved all along that same side of his body. The boy's eyes were open, but his breathing was ragged and sharp. His hair was matted with blood and hung down into his face, but the memory that played out before Ardwen still showed those eyes so well. They were hazel eyes . . . his eyes.

Ardwen unconsciously reached his left hand to the upper part of his right arm. He felt the cloth there, whole and unmarked. The Elven blade weaver gritted his teeth and scoffed.

The image in the air shifted again, without warning, and it took Ardwen a moment to recognize the setting. It was still long in the past, but not so long ago as the first. The memory focused on him again, and Ardwen thought it decidedly odd to see himself fighting off what looked to be pestilent humans with stitched on flesh. Ardwen looked much the same as he did now, though he wore the uniform of the imperial army at the time. The little sweeping tips on the armor were unmistakable, meant to resemble the sweep of an eagle's outspread wings. "Ardwen!" A voice called out in the recording "Breach!"

The scene shifted again. The images in the air were becoming hazy again, the little sphere reaching the limits of its storage, but for that Ardwen was grateful. Despite the graininess of the vision, he recognized the scene immediately. For a brief second Ardwen lost his composure and turned his head away with his eyes tightly shut. With a soft curse of personal scorn Ardwen quickly forced himself to watch the final recording in the sphere - he owed that much to Elerus.

It was raining. The same hazel-eyed boy from the first memory sat in a midnight-darkened forest. One could not see his eyes though, for his head was bowed and rested in the crook of his elbow. His left arm, in turn, was supported by his knee, his right arm hung limply at his side. Then came the noise, soft and indistinct, but not because of the quality, but because it was the sound of his sobs mixing with the heavy rain. The wounds on his right side had been bound, Elerus's work, but the tattered state of his clothing and the deep red stains were testament to the earlier fight.

"How much farther can we go?" Ardwen whispered to himself. As soon as the Elven bladeweaver spoke the image showed one final fleeting scene: Elerus was standing next to the dejected form of Ardwen. The boy looked much as he did now, but then they had both been children back then. There was one difference though: Elerus had no wing of feathers, but one made of ice, and it came from his left side. The bluish tint of the frozen water in the wing caught the light and form of the falling rain as it stretched out and above Ardwen - sheltering him from the tears of heaven. With that, the sphere was spent and the images and sounds vanished, Ardwen stood in complete silence as if removed from the world.

Written by - Teran

Teran's expression grew more and more dismayed as Wilhelm relayed his fantastical tale. It seemed as though his face would implode upon itself before he let a little chuckle escape his lips. His gaze was far from pleasant, but it was not nearly as bad as it had been.

"Even in death you should not be so careless as to leave uncovered tracks." he growled "The blade may not have killed you, but your carelessness should have."

His face was etched with dissapointment though the slightest hint of concern showed through. His tone sounded more like a father scolding his daughter than the usual annoyed-master-to-apprentice tone he was so fond of.

Written by - Sycon

Shane had been pondering over several possibilities the past few days and had yet to come up with an answer. He strolled through the halls, mostly enjoying the pleasant conversation with anyone he passed. Most were servants, some soldiers, but all were grateful to have a quick word away from their duties. This morning had a brisk air about it, or perhaps it was just the breezes coming through the window. Either way it was a pleasant distraction.

Down to the end of this corridor and to the last door on the right, his cozy little room. It was cozy, of course meaning small, though it was private. And that is what he needed most. It had probably been a small storage room that had been converted for the overflow of guests. And he was no one important, only a wandering priest of a god most had never even heard of. It had no windows, so when the door was closed, all he had was his candle and what light that spilled in from beneath the door. He would have to correct that. If light spilled in, then the opposite could occur as well.

Only several more steps and a quick glance each way before he could relax his guard a bit. Shane stepped up to the door and stopped. The door was slightly ajar, and he knew he had not left it that way. His hand instinctively drew to the hilt of his sword, his fingers gripping the sword tightly before he swung the door open.

Shane immediately relaxed his grip on his sword and shifted his hand to his lower back where he mimicked rubbing a sore muscle. He let out a yawn, trying to look the worse for ware this morning as he stared at Sycon. He had learned the man's name from the general gossip about him, and the man's incessant meandering the past while.

Sycon sat on his Shane's bed staring at a lit candle on the small table across from him. He seemed intent on its center flame as it danced on in its short life. "Have you ever wondered? Ever wondered about the shadow the light casts? Or the light itself?" Sycon before Shane could finish his drawn out yawn.

Always odd questions with this man. "I know if you douse the light I might get a quick cat nap before midday. I didn't sleep well last night and took to walking out and about." Shane knew that wasn't a complete lie.

"I know, I saw you several times last night. Never saw a shadow move so fast through the halls."

Shane's jaw dropped slightly, taken aback. He regained his composure quickly and looked again at Sycon. His smile dropped from his face and his demeanor changed to one of contempt just as quickly. "Perhaps one should not be following a person about. I believe that would be a very rude intrusion of privacy. What I do is my own business, do you hear me?" Shane had not even glimpsed Sycon the previous night, nor did he even sense anyone watching him at all. He was rather proud of his stealth this morning, at least up until now.

"You speak to me as a senseless child. I mean you no harm, I've just been thinking about you." Sycon's stare left the candle and met Shane's eyes. A solemn expression was almost set aflame on Sycon's features. And his eyes, they were penetrating orbs of mercury that felt almost hot. Like a sun on a summer's day beating down on your face.

It was the heat, the sheer power coming off of him. Shane took a step back, then another. Sycon took a pace forward, then another, keeping pace with his words. "I have lived over a hundred years, aelfborn." Sycon's voice almost rolled like thunder in Shane's ears. "I have seen many candles light anew with hope, and seen many hundreds more extinguish before their flames could even be distinguished. I have been young, I have been ignorant, and have been so most of my life. But there is wisdom in youth as well, there is truth and sincerity. Something to protect. Set aside your prejudices, Pheraton, and follow your heart. For as much as the shadow spreads inside you, it is only a light that can cast it. Do what you must, but heed my words."

With that, Sycon's eyes faded to a pale blue and a smug innocent smile crossed his lips. As he eyes faded, so did his focus on Shane. They stared past him, a thousand yard stare into the wall. His hand was on Shane's shoulder, as he whispered into his ear, "You are right about one thing, to have power... it can hurt so much." Sycon turned clumsily and strolled down the hall. Shane stood motionless, keeping his eyes pinned on Sycon's back until he turned the corner. He realized that he had not breathed in at least a minute and took a deep breath. Shane was breathing hard as he quickly fled into his room and bolted the door behind him. He fell to his bed and rolled to his back and against the wall. Light danced across the ceiling from the single candle.

Shane forced his breath to slow and his thought to quicken. Such a force Sycon was, such power yet... Sycon knew too much. What Shane had suspected was true, and now he had further motivation, further truth... but the truth brought up so many questions. Would he? Yes... but should he? He didn't know. He sat up in his bed and stared at the candle when a shimmer from the corner of his room caught his eye. Shane bent over to pick it up and stopped before his hand touched it.

It was a broken blade. The hilt was still intact, but only a few inches of the blade remained. It was a silver hilt that continually spun the light around it. It reminded him of the shifting orbs of Sycon's eyes. In the center of the hilt was placed a small insignia. It was of a white candle imposed on a blue shield. It was a simple design, but it was powerful and beautiful. Shane picked up the hilt which still felt warm and tossed it onto the table.

As the hilt hit the table the insignia dislodged itself and fell beside the candle. Shane looked back at the table when he heard the clink of the insignia against the table. He picked it up and examined it, as he flipped it over to the backside. Shane's breath caught and he dropped the insignia back onto the table and he stumbled back into his bed.

Laying on the table was the insignia, but on its reverse side was not the white candle on a blue herald, but instead a silver dragon imposed on a deep blue diamond.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

“Stop with the ‘young master’, Ezra. You know me too well to be so formal,” the man said with a broad gesture of his hands. The old priest gave a quick smile.

“Very well, then. What brings you here, of all places? Unless my memory has failed me in my old age, you were never very fond of this place.”

“I’m still not,” the man quietly uttered as he looked around at the church’s dusty, seemingly barren chamber. “But I’m not here to discuss theology or anything of that sort… this,” He tapped the sword’s hilt. “is what I’m here for. Something is… wrong… with it. I don’t have the slightest clue as to what it is, and I’m can’t muster the concentration to even start to think on the subject.” The man slowly unbuckled the belt the sword hung from and held it loosely in his hand. “So I came to ask my foolish old tutor for help.”

Ezra smiled again, then sat down in a nearby pew. It was roughly hewn out of old, knotted maple wood and quite uncomfortable, but the old man didn’t seem to mind. Several long seconds passed in silence. “Why come to me, if I may ask? If something is indeed ‘wrong’ with your sword, it’s assuredly not natural. Certainly, either Magistrix Hanrin or your lieutenant, or even one of your senior chairs would be a better choice to consult with.”

“I’ve not lost my mind entirely Ezra. I only said it’s hard to concentrate. Coming to you wasn’t my first choice, believe me, but in getting your consultation, I have a better idea of what I’m dealing with. If you don’t detect any of the darker arts at work, I’ll know it’s something arcane, runic, or sigilic in nature. If you do… then I’ll work on that.” The man looked at the silent priest somewhat crossly. “And what makes you so suspicious of me?”

“There’s no need to get angry, child. It was merely the idle question of a senile old man no one comes to see anymore. I apologize if it seemed accusative. In any case…” he rose from the pew slowly under the weight of age, “let’s go have a look at your sword. This is no proper place for such things, though. Please, follow me.”

The old priest motioned towards a plain looking hallway off in a corner that led to the rectory.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon walked through the halls no more adherent than his normal self lately. Each stone seemed to sing its own song in his mind. It was so enthralling how the rock was shaped or how it shaped itself. Perhaps over a thousand years of water, wind, and wear shown on the rock. All this and more crept through his mind. Every stone and every crack had its own song as he strolled through the long halls of the citadel.

To the left a door stood open and Sycon's feet led him through it. It was a guests room, that was still literally occupied. It had been Sycon's when he had first arrived at the citadel and now some other was in it. A woman was lying on the bed asleep, her hair covering her face. The way the light reflected and moved over her was entrancing. Everything Sycon could pick out about her, every curve, every freckle on her arms was as significant as who she was. Yet in his own enthrallment, he overlooked the fact that her chest had not been rising or falling, not even in the slow rhythm of sleep. Her face was mostly covered by her own hair but her lips were still visible. They had turned a faint blue and her mouth was slightly open as if whispering its last word.

Sycon registered all of this, but the meaning eluded him. The very thought of death never entered his mind as he ran his hand over her hair once to feel the silky softness that it was. His hand traced up from her hair to the bed post and onto the wall where he traced it around the room. His hand running over the tapestries and furniture against the wall as he traced over them. It wasn't long until he turned the corner out the door following the wall with his hand. Once again in the hallway, not even noticing that he had turned himself in the direction that he had come, he strolled on unnoticeable, unending.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon continued walking down the endless corridors that led from one room to the next. Nothing in particular caught his eye as he continually stared in every direction. Sycon kept his eyes mostly above him. He stumbled. A foot protruding from a supply closet had caused him to catch himself on the door frame. His eyes looked at the body lying on the floor, once again the hair covered the face except the lips. The lips were once again a strange blue color and the chest did not rise or fall with breath.

Sycon recovered his balance and kept down the hall.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon was in the meal hall, looking at the beautiful chandeliers and at the way they refracted light against the tables. They weaved great patterns, moving and dancing as the light breezes in the hall gently rocked the fixtures. It was like a play going on before him, each section of light an intricate character all their own, moving to his own desires and whims.

Sycon entered the kitchens and watched as the cooks spattered at everyone while the maids went about on their own chores. He turned a corner that led down a flight of stairs, the air getting thicker here and lit by candles inset on the walls. Down and down he went until the floor leveled and before him lay a large storeroom that the cooks raided daily. He strolled through the many isles of stores and into the smaller rooms that might have once been catacombs hundreds of years ago. Stores grew thinner and thinner as he moved further into them. Finally there were no more doors to move through and only a barrel in the corner filled with stagnant water. On the floor beside them lay a man on his stomach, his hand outreached toward the barrel in an never ending effort to reach it.

The man was still, so very still. To Sycon he was just another of the stores in the room. Sycon walked back the way he had come, following the pattern set in his mind, though not grasping its dark reality.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan reached for the proffered dagger and tucked it into its sheath at her hip. She said nothing, and her motions seemed automatic and habitual, as if some of the fire for which she was known had been extinguished.

She turned away from the people surrounding her and gazed down at the city below. Mavigan said nothing. There was nothing she could say that would make her sound any less of a fool, and she carefully schooled her features to blankness to hide the maelstrom of grief, anger, and shame.

Teran’s disapproval shoved her like a physical hand, causing her to jerk from her view of the city and start packing few her belongings. “Guess we’ll sneak into the city at night, then.”

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