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Book Four Pt 2 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Ariana

Ariana turned to see Vylia coming at her rather quickly, blanket in tow. “Vylia!” she said with a smile, proud of herself for remembering.

She was quickly bundled into the blanket and hustled back into the room she had just left. New people came, but she didn’t pay much attention. She was much more intrigued by the assortment of clothing they laid out on the bed.

Grinning, she tossed the blanket off her shoulders and left it in a heap on the floor. Questing fingers first discovered the robes. She picked them up and held them out, as if she were studiously contemplating the stitching. After a moment she sneered at it and tossed it over her shoulder to join the blanket on the floor.

She took several minutes fingering each piece of clothing laid before her, sneering at some, smiling at others. Once her selections were made, Vylia deftly stepped in and helped her get dressed. When it was finished, she stood before Vylia and spread her arms wide and smiled. “She dresses like Vylia now!” she said, shuffling her newly booted feet happily.

“She is ready. The glowing one said she must go to Westgale.” Her face scrunched a bit as she tried to remember what else the glowy woman had said. “She also said she must take Ardwen, ‘cause he is lost and filled with hot air.”

Never thinking for a moment that Vylia would say no, she then clomped over to the door and stood there expectantly.

Written by - Wilhelm

"As you command. If that is your plan, then we first need to get into the city. I know a way to sneak in under the walls via an abandoned sewer. It's known by some as the Thieves' Highway. Brell may have heard of it.

For this mission, you will become Brell again and I will be Sly Willy, the Bounty Hunter. We are sneaking into the city on a smuggling run. In fact, what we are smuggling is ourselves. If we meet members of the Thieves Guil let me talk to them, as I know the countersigns.

Now lets gets ready. We want to get through the sewers during the night."

Turning away, Wilhelm pulled out a disguise kit from his pack and quickly applied the makeup, fake scar, and hair powder that, along with the worn armor and clothing he had donned earlier and an insolent slouch and sneer, transformed him from the noble Wilhelm, Paladin of the All Father, into Sly Willy, the Bounty Hunter.

Striking the same arrogant pose and leer, he turned back and again used the phrase that had earned him a slap from an unknowing Brell in a seedy inn back before the assassination.

"Well, girlie, how's about coming with me for some fun?"

Written by - Vylia

Vylia just stood there smiling at Ariana pouring over the clothing like a discerning customer rather than someone who hadn't a clue who or where she was. She giggled at Ariana's statement that Ardwen was full of hot air before picking up the Triskellion pendant and walking over to join Ariana at the door. "As you wish Lady, just one suggestion. When talking about yourself, you should say I rather than she. I am ready."

Vylia turns to look at Amalia, "Magus Amalia, it seems we have a destination to reach. Who must we speak to in order to allow the Lady to leave the city?"

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen looked around him, suddenly snapping out of his torpor. His gaze carried him to the highest point of the Citadel, a single massive tower that stood vigilant over the land far below. The Elven warrior began to walk towards it, unsure of how to get to its gate, but certain that he knew who he would find at the tower’s summit. Ardwen passed through the courtyard back into the Citadel, wound his way through a series of hallways before emerging into another smaller courtyard. The tower loomed large before him now, and he had to bend back to catch a glimpse of the top. His keen eyesight picked out a dark smudge near the tower’s lip that seemed to shift and waver. Ardwen nodded to himself, he had been correct.

Much to Ardwen’s surprise the portcullis at the tower’s base was open, most likely the rangers at the Citadel had seen no reason to fortify the least likely point of entry to the Citadel imaginable. Ardwen crossed the threshold and looked up the long spiral flight of stairs; he began to take them three at a time. The tower was tall, and the stairs wound all the way at the top with only a few landings to rest on, but the Elven bladeweaver did not pause at them, he continued his steady pace all the way to the top. The uppermost portion of the tower did not directly lead to the top, instead there was a small antechamber used for storage and observation when the weather or wind outside prevented a sentry from standing in the elements.

Ardwen noted a small wooden door that lead to the outside, it looked worn and the wood had warped in places, but the hinges were oiled and looked clean. Ardwen pushed on the door, which opened with barely a sound. The first thing Ardwen did was blink in the light of the midday sun, as his eyes adjusted Ardwen saw Elerus standing atop one of the tower crenulations. His back was towards Ardwen and he had donned a white haori, there was a near constant breeze, and the white overcoat and Elerus’s hair both flowed in the wind.

As Ardwen closed the door Elerus turned to regard him. Ardwen did not say a word. “Well-“ Elerus began, but Ardwen cut him off.

“Shut-up,” Ardwen said softly, “not a word.” Elerus looked hurt and lowered his eyes but Ardwen continued, “I’m worried that words will ruin this moment. Isn’t it enough to live in this moment, for one another, and pretend that’s all there is?” Ardwen saw a small smile spread across Elerus’s face, the Elf nodded once and hopped off the top of the stone crenellation. The young Elf rested his back against the stone and stretched his wing out into the breeze; Ardwen took a seat on the opposite side of the same crenellation.

True to Ardwen’s request, Elerus did not speak a word, neither of them did. The air stirred around them and carried the sounds of the fortress below, but still the two said nothing. As the day slipped by the tip of the sun touched a distant mountain, and the sky bloomed with shades of orange, pink, and red. “You’ve got questions.” Ardwen said at last. “You too.” Ardwen heard Elerus’s voice answer from behind. Ardwen closed his eyes and said, “It’s the least I can do to let you go first.”

“Fine!” Elerus said, and Ardwen noticed the origin of his voice had shifted. As he opened his eyes he saw him standing on the crenellation in front of him now. The Elven warrior shook his head slightly, still having a hard time believing the young boy in front of him could really be Elerus. But then as he looked again, it became easier. The features, his forward actions in the courtyard this morning, all only reinforced what the memory sphere had told Ardwen. Elerus had turned to look at Ardwen over his shoulder and said, “Do I look repulsive?”

Ardwen scoffed and replied, “Hardly. It’s just . . . well, you know.” Elerus nodded and changed the subject, “This is a whole new world, isn’t it? How did you get here? How are there Hands here? Would you have really burned this world?”

Ardwen blinked at the barrage of questions and answered them in turn, “Yes, and so far as I know the All-Father brought me here for reasons only he knows. As for the Hands, I’m not certain, from what I’ve gathered they came here by a portal of some sort, most likely Pandarrion had a hand in that as well. As for this planet . . .” Ardwen stood reached a hand out to the setting sun he fanned his hand out and slowly brought the fingers back into a tight fist.

“That,” Elerus said dryly, “was the sun, and not this planet.”

Ardwen turned his head toward Elerus, while Elerus was standing on top of the defensive stone their heights were closer, but Ardwen simply slumped back against the stone and sat back down. “It was supposed to be symbolic.” He snorted.

Elerus hopped off the top of the protective stone and folded his arms, leaning his back against the wall he opened his mouth but Ardwen cut him off, “Can’t you sit still?”

In response Elerus affected a wounded pose by tilting his face up and said, “I spent a lot of time in that cage! Can’t blame me for wanting to stretch a little.”

“I see,” Ardwen said while reaching forward and placing a feather on Elerus’s wing in between his thumb and index fingers, “in any case, I think it’s my turn. What . . . happened?” Elerus didn’t answer at first; instead he moved to turn away, Ardwen made sure to move his fingers. The winged boy turned his face to the sun and shut his eyes, seemingly content to feel its warmth for a minute before answering.

Without preamble Elerus began speaking in a tone barely above a whisper, “The Trees started failing us. People were dying and not returning, and the Empire’s armies were short on men. As things got worse, all the enemies the Elves had made decided to invade. By this point there were too few of us to do anything but try and stem the tide as the civilians fled. The Emperor became desperate for answers, I guess in the end he wasn’t up to the task, because he started delegating all the duties of state and retreating into long periods of silence. Or maybe, it was planned that way?”

Elerus paused here for a moment, but Ardwen understood his meaning. There was no shortage of people that coveted the throne, and he would not put it past the envious courtiers and princes to vie for power even as the Empire crumbled. “I received an offer of inducement into the Order of the Griffin,” Elerus began, “I declined at first, but then the offered sweetened, it was to be a full military commendation. Naturally, it was a trap, but I . . . I was looking for you Ardwen. I thought the award might give me greater pull within the Empire, access to more information and resources.”

Ardwen bowed his head, Elerus turned and saw his friend slouched over as if in defeat and quickly said, “I know what you’re thinking! But it’s not that simple. The trap wasn’t for me, Visan did not want me.”

“Then what was his objective?” Ardwen muttered.

“He . . .” Elerus said, and then there was a long pause. Ardwen raised his head to see tears laden in the young Elf’s eyes. “He was looking for you.”

“Why?” Ardwen questioned.

“He was looking for more test subjects, but he needed someone stronger, someone with a body that could withstand his methods. Who do you think his research pointed to? I’m not sure what he hoped to accomplish, but it almost looked like he was continuing the SE project . . . .”

No sooner had Elerus said his last two words than Ardwen jerked his head upwards, Elerus had lowered his gaze to the ground, and as Ardwen watched he ran toward the door.

Elerus’s vision was clouded with tears, but he felt movement next to him, there was a blur of purple and black and Ardwen was in front of him. The warrior knelt down and blocked his path. “El!” Ardwen called out urgently, using his friend’s nickname, “Why?”

“No!” Elerus said sharply, trying to turn away, but Ardwen placed a hand on his shoulder, “You’ll blame yourself, and I know it! I--“

“Don’t.” Ardwen cut in, “Don’t say it, say it, whatever, but I won’t see you sad.”

“It’s why he used me, “Elerus whispered, “I wouldn’t give him any information about you. I knew what he wanted to do, it could have been you standing here if --“

“I would have gladly taken your place, if that would have earned your freedom.” Ardwen said gravely.

“Ardwen . . .”

“Besides,” Ardwen said with a smirk, “I’ve always wanted wings.”

Elerus returned the slight smile and said, “I’m afraid I’ve only got one for now.”

Ardwen stood and turned toward the door. The sun had nearly dipped below the horizon and the sky was starting to show blues and purple. “Then I think you should stick with me for a while. Time and fate have always tried to drag us out separate ways, and I for one am sick of it.”

“Hmmm,” Elerus said slyly, “is that your way of asking me to help?”

“Do as you wish.” Ardwen rejoined flatly.

“Saa!” Elerus exclaimed, “Always so serious! I know you want to help that Ariana lady of yours, and I can’t have you blundering about on your own burning world and crushing suns.”

“I see,” Ardwen said, “in that case I think we should get back to her room, she seems to go crazy when I’m not around.”

“Sure, oh, and Ardwen? One more thing.” Ardwen turned to glance at Elerus and saw he was standing near the edge of the tower. His back was toward the open sky and he said with that same slight smile he had adopted when Ardwen first arrived, “Race you.” With that Elerus turned and leapt off the edge.

Ardwen simply sighed and rolled his eyes, “Braggart.” Turning back to the door he began to walk down the tower’s stairs.

Elerus let the wind roar past him for a minute, breathing in the air. He closed his eyes and focused for a brief second. What he could do without his blade was limited and the scant mana in the air on this world only made it more difficult, but then he only had to form one now. In a flash of vapor and a stir of chill air a wing of pure ice formed opposite to the natural one of his right shoulder. With a few graceful flaps he slowed his descent and coasted through the air, watching the fortress’s ground zip by below. In a few seconds he found the courtyard where Ardwen had fought Visan, an easy task considering it still showed the scars of their battle. Elerus landed on a nearby roof and let his legs fold beneath him, coming to rest on his knees.

The Elven child hopped off the rooftop and touched down gently in the courtyard below. With scarcely a thought he dismissed the false wing and ran into a nearby hallway. At first he was lost, but Ariana always seemed to have some commotion going on about her, and using his ears Elerus was able to locate her room again. Standing outside the doorway he leaned against the wall and waited for Ardwen to show up. The Elven warrior did, after a few minutes had passed. Ardwen leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the doorframe and after a few second said, "You win.”

Written by - Wilhelm

Kathana held her hand out over the table and concentrated.

"In the name of Tinorb the All Father, let there be Truth spoken here."

A blue glowing ball of light appeared in her hand and remained above the table when she withdrew here hand. She turned to speak to Vylia.

"The ball remains blue when truth is spoken and turns red when a lie is uttered. By this we will know if you speak the truth and you will know the same of us. I am Kathana, Priestess of Tirorb the All Father, and this is Amalia, Mage of the Blue Circle.

This is the Citadel of Lothiel-Gadith, commanded by Ithramir Sil-Galdur, Avatar of Avandor . His second in command is Lithwyn Ehlonna Deltheron, High Priestess and Avatar of Kaia'hanas. You must speak to them for permission to leave and assistance in your travels. We are at war and they must pass judgement on any newcomers to the citadel.

But first you must tell me your names and origin and how you came to appear herein such a dramatic fashion. I can then report to Lord Ithramir and arrange for an audience."

Kathana sat back and waited for the response. The glowing ball had remained a steady blue throughout her speech.

Written by - Vylia

"If this is what it takes, then we shall answer your questions to the best of our ability. My name is Vylia Des'Koryn, I am the niece of King Valdimanthor of the Elven Empire prior to the events of the Turning on a world known as Aerynth. I was one hundred and thirty years old when time effectively stopped on my homeworld, I estimate I spent approximately three hundred years there after the world shattered, though I'm sure there is someone with a better sense of time that could be more exact. Honestly when you spend most of the time fighting things just seem to stretch out, so it may well have been less time." Vylia sits down on the edge of the table next to the floating light before continuing. "I eventually encountered, and joined, a group of the All-Father's followers called The Hands of Providence, led by one Ariana Trueblood. We endured a great many fights, some just barely, but our luck did not hold forever. Eventually we came to realize that we could not fix the world as we had hoped. I assume Ariana had a vision of some sort, she never did tell me the details, but the All-Father had given us a way out. A portal was opened leading from that broken world to this one. The majority of us came over, though some, like Ardwen, stayed behind. Since most of the Hands were human they are most likely long dead unfortunately. It would seem from current events they would be very useful to have around right now."

Vylia paused for a moment, walking over to the nightstand beside the bed she had slept in to retrieve a cup of water before going back to sit on the edge of the table again. "Sorry, haven't had anything to drink in awhile. At any rate, how we ended up here in such a dramatic fashion can be traced back to just over a two weeks ago when a few of the surviving Hands all recieved a message, either from a vision, dream, or direct contact with a diety, regarding that yound lady with the extraordinary powers," Vylia nodded at Ariana, "We were told she had to be saved and so we set out to do just that. Most of us thought we were the only ones going I'd imagine, considering how surprised we all were to see each other. Beridane had planned to use her as a sacrifice to summon into this world a demon or horrendous strength, so it seems the All-Father had the right of things in having us save her. After a series of chases and fights we managed to get her onto a ship in the harbor, a harbor that was apparently under assault by a fleet led by a dwarf in the service of someone named Mavigan. During that fight a rather large Harpy attempted to summon a demon far beyond her strength, a demon which was pushed back into it's own realm by a combined effort of several of the Hands and a mysterious individual on another ship, one I never did get a chance to speak to. We lost one of our companions in that fight, Turin Wallace." Vylia paused again to take a sip of water from the cup in her hand before turning to look at Kathana, "Interrupt me if I'm being too long-winded by the way, but you did ask for our origin," she continues with a smile. "After the battle we sailed to a small island, I'm sorry but I don't remember its name, where that girl showed us why she was so important to the All-Father gave us a display of the powers she had access to, one I experienced rather personally because she was rather spooked at the time. We managed to calm her down with the help of one of the other Hands. I wish he was here now, he has a much better eye for details. At any rate, after we got her cleaned up and changed into clothes that weren't covered with blood she decided to take a little walk through the forest to a very old statue of Ariana. Upon investigating it she was pulled into it, I'd put coin on that being the All-Father's fault, and Ardwen leapt in after her, followed closely by myself."

"When we got through to the other side of that particular portal we found ourselves here. Ardwen had apparently been here before since he was recognized and the elves here readily followed his orders. We were brought to the infirmary so she could be looked at more closely than we had been able to after our escape from Westgale. With the assistance of your healers and a mage that was somewhat skilled in mind magics she seemed to recover a bit more. I made the mistake of going to sleep without actually assigning someone to watch over her, and when I awoke again she had already destroyed a number of pieces of pottery in the ward and then raced out the door into town where she proceeded to go wild over the fact that Ardwen had broken a promise not to leave her side. After that I'm sure you were informed of how we were brought here to this particular room." With a smile Vylia finished the last of the water before putting the cup down on the table beside her, "Anything I can clarify further for you?"

Written by - Wilhelm

Kathana listened to Vylia with a visible effort to hide her incredulity. She kept glancing at the truth light, which remained blue throughout Vylia's speech. When Vylia concluded, Kathana placed her right hand over her heart and bowed her head in reverent greeting.

"Welcome to Lothiel-Gadith, Vylia Des'Koryn, member of the Hands of Providence. I am honored to make your acquaintance. The coming of the Hands of Providence saved the world from falling into the dark during the last War of the Gods. Saint Ariana Trueblood founded my Order of Tinorb the All Father and the Holy Founder is still revered among us. I am truly honored to meet another member of the Hands of Providence, as I was when I met Ardwen. In this new War of the Gods, the arrival of you and Ardwen is both welcome and the fulfillment of prophesy.

It is amazing to actually meet figures from the history I studied during my novice days. Perhaps the prophecy of Saint Ariana's return will also come true. I remember looking at Saint Ariana's statue and dreaming of actually meeting her, although that would mean the time of greatest peril was again upon the world.

Kathana's look of reminisence was abruptly changed by a startled look, as she turned to the other woman and studied her. A look of awe with a touch of fear crossed her face. Turning back to Vylia, she said,

"Earlier you addressed her as Ariana. Is this in fact the Holy Founder, Saint Ariana Trueblood, returned to us at last?"

Written by - Vylia

At that moment a note of warning rang out in Vylia's head, something told her she was not supposed to reveal Ariana just yet. Vylia took a long look at Ariana before shaking her head.

"I am sorry to say, she is not the same Ariana."

The truth light remained a steady blue.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The chapel’s dusty hallway was lit only by pair of candles that were close to burning themselves out. A plain oaken door stood as the guardian to the old priest’s rectory at the hallway’s end. Upon entering, the younger man was surprised to see a magnificent stained glass window depicting Tinorb’s triskellion behind the priest’s desk.

“When did you get that put in,” he asked as he laid the sword on the desk.

The old priest smiled again. “Oh… a few years ago - just before Beridane ascended to the throne. You really should come by more often, child.”

“Why don’t we just get down to business, Ezra?”

“Patience child,” he said as he sat down at his desk and placed his hands over the blade, “You shall have your answer soon enough. Or, at the very least, be a bit closer to it.” The priest closed his eyes and began to mumble a quiet prayer to the All-Father. His hands began to glow faintly with a blue-white light as he tried to discern what secrets the blade held.

Several moments of uncomfortable silence passed before Ezra spoke. His brow was soaked with sweat and appeared visibly tired. “You did well to bring this here when you did – you should have done so much earlier. Someone or something has imprisoned a demon’s spirit within the blade.”

“So I was right about the runes…”

“To an extent. I do believe they’re in place to keep the spirit in place. There must be something else to them, however – a dampening aspect or something of the sort. It was very difficult to discern what was actually trapped. I could only get a feeling of great anger and resentment from the initial prayer.”

“What sort of demon is it? Could you tell?”

“A deceiver. Not an exceptionally powerful one, but a deceiver nonetheless. It was likely nothing more than a servant that fell out of favor with its master.” Ezra stood, wiping the sweat from his wrinkled brow. He noticed the concerned expression his friend wore. “But trouble yourself no more child. I will have this abomination destroyed with utmost haste.”

“Thank you…very much for your assistance Ezra. I should be going soon, then. I need to get my thoughts in order over this. If you ever need anything, please let me know.”

“I will child,” he said with a tired smile. “May the peace of the All-Father go with you.”

“Well… I suppose I should head home,” the man said to himself as he departed the chapel. “At the very least, father and Richter should be happy to have an answer.”

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