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Book Four Pt 2 - The Eastern Pass

Written by - Teran Page 17 Book 4

The Assassin admired the work that had been done on the city walls since his last visit. Beridane had spent much on fortifying his city which brought a smile to Teran's face. Walls could keep an army at bay, but they were ineffective against the threat Beridane would be facing very soon.

He slipped into the Shadow as he neared the gate, blinking out of sight in an instant. He walked through the now abandoned gate and felt Huxel's familiar presence. Huxel manifested behind him and peered over his shoulder as though she were trying to read something, her cold breath on his neck nearly caused the Assassin to cringe.

“Good day, Mistress.” he said politely as he stepped quickly away from her, and then turned around and offered a slight bow to show respect.

Huxel offered a curtsy in reply and smiled at her “friend”. The form the goddess chose to manifest in for the assassin always had haunted him. She always hovered a few inches off the ground and seemed light as a feather. She dressed in white clothing, had pale flesh, and white hair but despite all that there was no denying that she was a creature of darkness.

“I've been looking forward to your next visit Teran, my home has felt so.... crowded lately.” she said sweetly with a voice that contradicted her frightening look.

“As you willed.” he reminded her curtly.

“So I did.” she responded absentmindedly, fidgeting with one of her jagged ears.

Teran turned to continue on her way but stiffened when he felt one of her cold hands on his shoulder.

“Come and sit with me for a while.” she said with mock loneliness in her voice, motioning to an empty table that sat in the middle of the street.

The Assassin nodded politely and seated Huxel, and then sat across from her.

“I was wondering...” she said whimsically, “Which do you like better?”

Her appearance changed before his eyes, her hair became black her flesh gained some color, her ears even grew to their full elven length, but most striking was her eyes... they were a shade of blue so brilliant that the Shadow around her seemed to warp to frame her now lovely face. Her aura of darkness remained but was considerably less terrifying as it seemed to represent the darkened night sky rather than the void of death.

“That is a trick question Mistress, you will use the form you like no matter what my opinion is.” he answered carefully, “I don't believe you care what I think, just as I do not care which of my forms you prefer.” he finished with a polite smile.

“Perhaps...” she said softly, “Buuuuut... this is my realm, I can choose which of your forms I want to see.” she said mischievously.

Teran felt a change within him and narrowed his eyes. He did not realize she had this much power, certainly she had never showed it off so blatantly before. He held up his hand to stop her and out of respect for him she ceased her meddling. He could not hide the surprise on his face which brought a smile so dazzling to Huxel's face that shooting stars seem to fire all through her dark aura.

“There are few among the deities that could un-do your illusion and fewer mortals still, but your illusion is nothing before my eyes.”

The Assassin averted his eyes and did not even attempt to hide his embarrassment. When his eyes once again returned to the goddess she had reverted to her original deathly form.

“I'm glad you have chosen to speak with me today.” he said after an awkward moment of silence.

“I know.” she said with a knowing smile.

“I would seek your favor.”

“You have done much for me Teri.” she said using a pet name she knew he despised.

“Mavigan will be coming to a crossroads in her life soon and our paths may separate. I would ask that you keep her in your favor and allow her to continue using your realm as she wishes.” he said in a clipped tone.

“I like her, you know.” Huxel said wistfully, “There's something about her...but you'll need to do something for me first.”

“Anything.” he said simply.

“Anything?” she asked in a tone that made him regret not asking for more information.

“I want you to show me your true self... and I want to ride on your back!”

“W-what?” he stammered, caught completely off guard, “Absolutely not! Can't you fly? You control the Shadow... don't you have a spirit around here somewhere who could do the same thing for you?”

The more he spoke the wider her little mouth spread in a smile that sent chills down the Assassin's back.

“Your kind don't come here when they die... unfortunately.” she pouted, “Besides, I don't want a spirit to do it, I want you.”

She gazed into his sharp gray eyes with an unblinking gaze and a battle of the wills seemed to take place... Teran could not hope to win against the goddess.

“You must close off access, no one can be permitted to see this.” he said through gritted teeth, “Not Sabbatine, not Mavigan, no one! Do you understand?”

Huxel nodded, grinning mischievously.

“If you tell anyone, even your avatar, I will find a way to make you pay.” he said weakly.

The goddess giggled at his threat, though she knew it wasn't empty. She had him right where she wanted him and that's all that concerned her at that moment.

Teran stepped away from the table and found a spot in a square nearby with enough room for his larger self. Huxel followed him, twirling her wispy white hair with a finger as she watched the illusion unbind. After a few moments the transformation was complete. Huxel clapped excitedly and walked around him examining his body closely.

Like all dragons he was large by mortal standards. Black scales covered his body and they were thicker than the heaviest armor any knight might wear in battle. His claws and horns were ivory and his mouth was full of jagged teeth. He lowered his head so that the goddess could climb up onto his neck. She was heavy for someone who appeared to be feather light he noted silently. Once she found a snug spot he lifted his head up once again and looked around.

“Fly! Fly!!” Huxel squealed, showing off a side of her personality Teran had never seen or even suspected she had.

The Dragon flexed his leg muscles, stretched his wings, and launched them into the air flying in a vertical spiral above above the abandoned city. Huxel's laughter echoed through the empty streets as the dragon flew a low circle around the city's perimeter. After about twenty minutes Teran landed in the same square he had taken flight in and quickly transformed back into the human form he had grown so accustomed too and unceremoniously dropped a giggling Huxel on her rump in the process.

Once the transformation was complete he offered her his hand and pulled her to her feet.

“Why do you act this way?” the flustered assassin asked.

“What way?” she asked innocently.

“A way that is unbecoming of a goddess.” he retorted, letting his annoyance enter his voice.

She cocked her head, grinned wickedly, and then pursed her lips.

“Well seeing as how I'm the goddess, and you're the minion, I thought it was my privilege to decide what was becoming... but if you think you know better, perhaps I could keep you here permanently so that you might educate me.” she said with mock consideration in her voice.v

“Point taken.” the Assassin said, raising his hands in surrender, “Just don't forget the arrangement we discussed.”

“I won't Teri, bye bye!”

The Assassin shifted back into the mortal realm and found that the abandoned square in reality was a practice field for one of the town guard units. He drifted through the city, scouting the defenses and admiring the preparations. They were prepared for a prolonged battle even if the city walls fell each street and alley was a potential death trap and the militias were practicing with mixed weaponry to capitalize on such an eventuality.

After another thirty minutes he arrived at a seedy tavern that was his destination. He entered, and went straight to the only unoccupied table in the place, conveniently located in the exact center of the room. He ignored the feeling that all eyes were on him and brought out a parchment and a magical trinket he could use to mark the parchment. He scribbled the note out quickly and then got up and approached the bartender. After he muttered a code phrase to the man, he headed for the stairs up into the loft. He could have avoided all the security procedures with the assistance of the Shadow but he didn't want to return there anytime soon with Huxel acting so oddly.

He was met at the top of the stairs by a burly man intent on checking him for weapons.

“Let him through, if you value your life.” a deep voice laughed from the shadows.

The man stepped aside allowing the Assassin to pass.

“You're not losing your edge are you? Normally you just drop by out of thin air.” the man said, motioning that Teran should sit.

“You have no idea.” Teran said with a wry smile, taking a seat across from the man. “I see you're still alive and kicking.”

The Assassin noted the subtle movement of a man and a woman as they took up positions behind his chair.

“Don't worry about them,” The Raven said nonchalantly, “They don't like assassins.”

Teran reached into his pocket and withdrew his hastily written note, taking satisfaction from the fact that every other person in the room except the Raven stiffened at his sudden movement. He passed the parchment over the table. The Raven set it on fire with a candle and read the note as it burned, the ink only appearing an instant before the flame consumed the parchment.

“As you can see, our mutual friends will be entering the city soon. You have seen the details of their arrival and you know what we plan to do. I am certain they will contact you once they are able however you should begin making preparations.” he said softly.

The Raven leaned back in his chair considering what he had read and what had been said to him. He did not trust Teran, but in their history together he had never been unreliable... but he was an outsider.

“I will take it into consideration. Do you require anything else?” the Raven asked genuinely.

“I do not require anything from my friends in the guild.” Teran said diplomatically. “However I would use a place where I might rest.”

“Ahh, well then I have just the place for you, my friend.” the Raven said as he nodded at the woman who stood behind Teran.

“Follow me.” She said simply and led him towards the stairs back down.

“I'll send someone for you once they make contact.” The Raven said as Teran started down the stairs.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn couldn't help but giggle at this new act Wilhelm put on for his disguise. After a moment though she stopped and looked to see Mavigan's reaction. The expression on her face was priceless and almost made Keeryn start giggling again as she realized something else. "Umm... I know I don't look like the rest of you, and if we're sneaking into the city am I going to have to wait somewhere for you, or do you have something I can wear to look less conspicuous as well?"

Written by - Wilhelm

Grinning at Mavigan's stunned look, Wilhelm turned and studied Keeryn.

"Yes, you do stand out a bit. I think my backup disguise will work for you, though."

Wilhelm rooted around in his pack and pulled out a pair of battered gloves, a hood formed of a worn cloth sack with eye holes, and some old cloth strips. He handed these to Keeryn, indicating she should put them on.

Keeryn at first looked askance at the items, then realized that though stained they smelled clean. She reluctantly donned the worn gloves and hood. Wilhelm then used the cloth strips to tie down the hood and gloves and then handed her his old hooded cloak, which almost touched the ground when the shorter Keeryn donned it. Placing a plain stone pendant around her neck and pulling the cloak's hood down, Wilhelm studied the effect. Keeryn was now a shapeless figure, with no visible fur. He nodded.

"You are now a poor leper, unable to afford temple healing. The hood, gloves and wrapping are to conceal your condition. When others are present invoke the pendant by touching it and saying the words 'Hide me' and a glamour will then cause eyes to turn away from you and noses to smell the odor of a leper coming from you. To release the glamour say the words 'Reveal me' and the glamour will vanish."

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine snickered quietly as Wilhelm spoke his words.

"Even with your new smell, I know you'd taste delicious, not like a nasty leper!" Sabbatine said with a wide grin as she licked her lips as though she was anticipating a feast.

"Ma-Mister Wilhelm, am I okay, or do you need to make me look like a leper too? I'm almost there without any help!" she said with a boastful voice "B-but I dunno if I umm... will be umm... passable?"

She batted her glowing yellow eyes at him, while a grin that threatened to split her face in half creased her face."

Though she was trying to weaken Keeryn's position with the group, she was genuinely concerned with blowing the groups cover, at Huxel's recommendation.

Written by - Wilhelm

"Hmmm, a true challenge." replied Wilhelm, studying Sabbatine.

"We just need to get past any casual encounters until I can make contact with the guild. Ah, I have it!"

Wilhelm again rooted through his pack and came up with a sheer yellow silken scarf and a white cord. Wrapping the scarf thrice about the cord, he placed the scarf over Sabbatine's face and tied the cord in back, forming a yellow silken veil that covered her face. Bringing her cloak's hood up over her head to shadow her face, he said,

"You are now a courtesan dressed for privacy and travelling the Thieves' Highway in motley company for protection. You should be able to see through the scarf well enough, but your eyes and face will be obscured to others."

Written by - Sycon

Sycon's dreams were peaceful. The meadow stretched before him, what seemed like miles. The tree line in the distance was nothing but a fine line between sky and land. A beautiful horizon. Standing before him stood his love, Euralia, Silver Goddess. Her eyes twinkled with every shifting star, her hair moved with the gentle night's breeze. He could fall in love with her a hundred times over but she would never be as beautiful as she was here, with him.

"It is a beautiful night here," she says, looking into the sky.

He took her hand, holding it close to his chest. "All I had to think of was you."

She turned her eyes back to Sycon. He smiled. A single tear slid down her cheek. "Let this moment last forever." The wind whispered around them as they stood motionless, lost in the night. Seconds passed, as seconds turned to minutes, and minutes turned to hours, they stood. When the wind had finally tapered, she took one last step to him, looking deep into his eyes.

Sycon wrapped his arms around her, feeling the warmth of her embrace. He held her lovingly, as any two lovers would, willing all his warmth to her. He spoke, "I love you. You have always been the only one. You know that."

Tears streamed down her face, full of happiness and fear. "I know," she sobbed, "I know." She closed her eyes one last time. She could feel his embrace as he leaned down and softly brushed his lips against hers. Warmth spread through her as their kiss reached maturity. Both their bodies felt weightless as they shared each others embrace one last time. And you were my one and only, she thought.

Light flooded the meadow, blinding white light that would leave any mortal blind. Then it faded. The dream, the meadow, the night sky, all to darkness. . . but the warmth remained.

Sycon awoke in his bed, it was early morning. Twilight had only just begun to stir. The air was still, there was no breeze in the room, only silence and darkness.

"Are you here to kill me?" Sycon asked.

"I already have." Shane sat in the corner of the room on a small stool. No weapons drawn, no priestly manner, just Shane.

"Will it be painful?" Sycon paused. "No, nevermind. It doesn't matter."

Shane shifted on his stool, "You knew this would come then?"

"Aye, I did, in a way. I am not as scared as I thought I would be though."

"That could be the drug taking effect, but regardless, there is nothing either of us can do now."

Sycon slowly sat up in his bed, shifting his pillow towards the wall so he might prop himself upon it. "No, I suppose not."

"Well, then. . ." Shane trailed off.

"Its easy to be afraid when you're alone. . ."

Shane straightened his back, trying to seem taller in his chair than he really was, "I stayed to ask you a question, Sycon. To find an answer you have proven worth your death. What do you know of Pharaton?" Shane's voice was harsh and to the point.

Sycon smile grew sly. "Of that I truly know little. I caught it whispering around in your head, as it bounced around in confusion.

"

Shane's voice grew aggitated. "Whispering in my head? What sort of magic is that?"

Sycon chuckled. "It is not magic. It is more of a force of will, I suppose."

Shane paused, thinking. Then, "I want an explanation, what do yo know of Pharaton?" His voice was angry now, calculated, but angry.

Sycon laughed loud and hard, "Don't get cross," he stopped for a quick breath and continued, "What are you going to do? Kill me?" Sycon laughed so hard he coughed.

"Fine, laugh all you will, but you're still a dead man." Shane let Sycon catch his breath before continuing. "If you won't tell me that, then tell me who you are."

Sycon gained some of his compsure back, "I am Sycon, friend to the Hands, follower of Ariana, and... something else."

"Yes... What?" Shane said as he rolled his eyes.

Sycon's expression had grown serious and stern. No matter how tall Shane tried to seem in his chair, he seemed small compared to the dying man now. It was that instant change in Sycon that scared Shane. That unpredictability Sycon seemed so adept at. His eyes began to glow softly, giving a little more light to the room.

Sycon spoke softly at first, "You, who has killed me. You, who has doubts. I am not alone, and while that one does not find you worthy, I see in you... something else. I see it lying behind that veil of confusion and lies you've grown accustomed to." Sycon's eyes glowed brighter. Shane could start to feel the room get warmer. "You, who has killed me. You, who has doubts." The glow intensified to a shining, the heat increased in the small room ten fold.

Shane's face was stricken with fear. "What do you want from me?" He screamed.

All Shane could hear was Sycon's booming voice. "You, who has killed me. You, who has doubts. I give to you the gift of lives past." Sycon's hands were suddenly around Shane's hands. Images upon images flashed before Shane's eyes. Images he could not make out, places he had never seen before, people he had never met, a world the like he had never known. "I give to you the gift of vengeance." The overwhelming light blanketed all else. Shane felt as if he were floating, as warmth flooded his body. "And finally, I give to you the gift of conscience. The binding pain of all those who have suffered for a better good, for all those who have fought and died to protect what little they have and what great love they possess. These three gifts I give to you." Mindnumbing pain pulsed through his body with every heart beat. His wrists, Sycons hands were tearing him apart where they held.

Shane screamed again, "AHHHHHHH! NO MORE! PLEASE!" Light flooded into the room, then spilled out into the halls. It flowed into the corners, the towers, the catacombs, it illuminated the citadel and its lands, a blinding light that lasted a brief second. Then darkness. The light had faded into greyness of the twilight once more. Only the piercing silence of the small room was left to him. Shane's eyes slowly focused as he breathed heavily, sweating profusely on his stool. Each intake of air seemed to tell its own tale, his wrists aching and burning as his breath moved across them.

A voice broke through the deafening silence, soft with the warmth he still felt in his body. She will be beautiful. Protect her as she protects what hope there is left. And with that the room fell into focus. Unshifting as it once had been.

Sycon was lying on the bed again, looking as if he had never stirred from his sleep. His breathing was shallow, and slowling. He was peaceful. . . he was not alone. Shane could hear Sycon's last breath as he fled the room silently and quickly, cradling his blackened wrists which throbbed greatly with each beat of his heart. Shane took to his room, back to his sanity once more.

Somewhere in the distance a mightly silver dragon gave its last roar, reverberating through the citadel, crying out in triumph and in love.

Written by - Wilhelm

Kathana looked first disappointed and then embarrassed.

"Ah yes. Well then, the members of the Hands of Providence are always welcome here. I will request an audience for you with Lord Ithramir. You will be informed when he is available. In the meantime, you may have free access to the citadel grounds. Let our people know if you need any help or supplies. May the All Father watch over you."

Kathana made the sign of the triskelian, her right hand tracing three interlaced circles at head and both breasts. The blue ball of light winked out as Kathana and Amalia stood and nodded farewell.

Kathana gestured and spoke and the the wards faded away. The two women left the room and at the main hallway door Kathan removed the primary ward, allowing the door to be opened. As they opened it they saw Ardwen and Elerus standing at either side of the door, leaning against the wall.

"Ah, you must be Ardwen. Your companions Vylia and Ariana are inside. They are now welcome in this citadel. I will arrange an audience for them with Lord Ithramir later today. You may go inside now.

They have been treated, dressed and refreshed, but I am concerned about Ariana, who appears to have undergone both physical and mental abuse recently. Her physical wounds have been healed recently, but I see signs of considerable mental distress.

Vylia has requested leave for them to depart the citadel. I am concerned about Ariana travelling in this condition. Please watch over her and let us know if there is anything we can do to help her.

And now I must go see Lord Ithramir. Excuse me."

Kathana and Amalia curtseyed and then walked towards the outer door.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan stared at the transformed Wilhelm in disbelief. One moment he was the paladin who was rarely far away, and the next he was a slimy fella she recognized from the bar. Recollecting herself, she smirked and turned her attention back to shoving things into her pack.

Unlike the others, if she was to go as Brell, she would need no costume. Not many in Westgale knew her true identity and it was rare she was ever seen in public wearing the finery of royalty. Any who encountered her on the streets when she managed to elude the grasp of her attendants would think her nothing more than a dirty street urchin. And that was exactly the way Mavigan liked it.

“I’m disappointed your cheek is not still red,” she said abruptly. She cinched her pack closed, and rose hefting it onto her shoulder. Picking up her quiver and bow she strode past him and her newly bedecked companions. “I’ll have to hit harder next time.”

Written by - Ariana

As soon as the lady in the robes walked through the door, she was right on her heels. She could feel it, the moment when the cage bars dissolved. A weight suddenly lifted and that fiery feeling in her chest returned.

“Ardwen!” she said when she saw him propped up outside the door. She reached for his hand and started to pull him down the corridor. “We have to go!”

When he did not immediately respond, she tugged harder on his hand.

Written by - Ardwen

“So,” Elerus said while turning his head to look at his companion, “that woman really is the Abbess, the same one you knew?”

“Of course,” Ardwen said, “but as you’ve probably surmised she’s not her old self.”

“I know the feeling,” Elerus said with a grin, “any ideas on the cause?”

“None.”

“I see, and have you tried any healing methods yet?”

Ardwen passed a hand over the side of his face before answering, “This Citadel has been hospitable, and they have provided almost everything asked for in the cause to heal her. Little by little she seems to be remembering, though it has been slow and uncertain.” Ardwen glanced over at his companion before fixing his eyes on a point in the ceiling and muttering, “Why the sudden interest?”

Elerus laughed, the winged child placed an arm around his waist as if the fit of mirth made his belly ache. “Ardwen!” He said in between sucking breaths of air down, “It’s obvious she remembers you, and it’s obvious she trusts you. In all the time I’ve known you, there was only one other to brush off your threats like that. I am just trying to see the entire situation.”

“See the entire situation?” Ardwen quoted dryly. “Perhaps if you stand on your toes you can get a better view?” Ardwen noted with hidden bemusement that Elerus crossed his arms and shot him an unappreciative glance, but before he could make a verbal reprisal Ardwen spoke on, “Just what are you getting at?”

Elerus did not respond, instead the elven child paced around in circles for a few moments, his brow furrowed in thought. The wing on the boy’s back would occasionally stir, as if keeping time with the thoughts in his head. At last Elerus stood in front of Ardwen and simply made one tiny gesture: his left index finger pointed backwards and over his shoulder, at the wing that sprouted from his right side.

Ardwen closed his eyes and let out a soft “hmmm”. “You think she is the one? You think she knows?” Ardwen said at length.

Elerus made his way back to the other side of the door and propped himself against the wall again, “How can she not? Don’t tell me you’ve kept it hidden all along?”

Ardwen nodded and said, “Not just her, all the Hands. I’ve never let them see--” Ardwen was about to continue, but he suddenly fell silent and locked his gaze on the door. The two could both hear footsteps drawing closer from the other side. Two female elves who had attended to Ariana rushed through the door, one spoke at length about Ariana’s condition, but the part that caught the elven warrior’s attention was the mention of the request to leave the Citadel.

Ardwen gave no response except a slight incline of his head to indicate he understood, inwardly though he was concerned. Where did Ariana intend to go? When did she want to leave? The elven bladeweaver’s questions were soon answered when the Abbess herself appeared before him. The answer was apparently now, as Ariana grabbed Ardwen’s hand and attempted to pull him down the hallway, at first Ardwen offered little resistance, but with a sigh he suddenly held fast. Ariana continued to pull, but the elven warrior seemed as immovable as a mountain.

“First,” Ardwen said flatly, “you’ll tell me where we’re going and then we’ll wait—“

Ardwen was cut off by a small cough by his side; he looked down to see Elerus’s blue eyes looking expectantly up at him. Ardwen narrowed his eyes; then suddenly his expression changed, becoming smooth and unreadable. Now when he spoke his voice was refined and patient, “Naturally I would be honored to help you on your journey. However, there is one small matter to be settled before we may leave.” Ardwen deftly removed his hand from Ariana’s grasp and used it to gesture at Elerus, “Ariana, this is Elerus, a dear friend of mine. Elerus, this is Ariana, a priestess of the All-Father. I know you’ve met, but now you’re formally introduced. Now, Ariana, you wouldn’t mind if this one . . .” here Ardwen paused to gesture at Elerus again. “Accompanied us, would you?”

Elerus’s started in surprise, but it was only for a fraction of a second. The boy bowed deeply, so deep that the tip of his wing brushed the floor, “Pleeeease?” He said in a tone that made Ardwen wince, Elerus caught the motion, but only gaze a little shrug in response.

Written by - Turin Wallace

After leaving the courtyard, Ithramir went back to his room and ordered for his warhorse to be made ready. Gathering what belongings he required, donning his armor, and equipping his weapons he then was ready to depart with his troops.

Once he reached the courtyard, his mount was waiting for him. Deftly, he mounted the creature and took his place by the portal, inspecting the troops as they marched through. After what seemed to be only a few moments, he heard a servant calling out to him. Ithramir waved him forward, and the servant spoke,

"Lord Ithramir, I have gotten word from Kathana that the lady Ariana and Vylia wish to have an audience with you at your earliest convenience. She said it is about granting them permission to roam the Citadel grounds, and perhaps even leaving the Citadel itself."

Ithramir internally sighed. The replied,

"Tell Kathana that they may not seek an audience with me at this time. In but another hour or two our army will have made it through this portal and the second stage of reclaiming our lands will have begun. I have neither the time nor the patience at this time to deal with their pleas or demands."

The servant, stuttering, adds,

"Gr-r-racious, l-l-lord. My mistress thought you may be ill-disposed at this time, she does ask if the lady Lithwyn could be approached about this matter. Since this mysterious lady, who claims she is Ariana from ages past, is reconciled and happy, she then poses no security risk to our people or this Citadel. In this event, would not the Lady of the Citadel be able to handle this?"

Ithramir took his eyes from the column of troops and looked intently at the servant before him. In an even tone, he says,

"Well, I am certainly glad this Citadel boasts so many experts on who is and who isn't a threat. In any event, Lithwyn may meet with them and it will be her discretion as to if they leave or not. Now, unless anything else is pressing, I would ask that you excuse yourself and let me handle the more pressing matters of state."

The servant simply bowed and scurried back inside to report to Kathana.

Ithramir continued his watch as the troops continued to file their way through the portal. In only a day they would again be tasked to take a fortified city. All of their focus needed to be on the objective at hand, as well as his own. Once this last hurdle has been overcome, he can at last return his attention to more pressing matters at home.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm smiled at Mavigan as she stalked off. Settling his pack on his back, he led the others to join her and then took the lead down the hill to the creek below. Turning left he led them along the bank as the creek ran down into a deepening ravine. When a side channel joined from the left, he beckoned them to follow him to the left.

"Watch your steps here, as the rocks are still slimy from past sewage. You may want to do as I do." Willhelm took out a scarf, wet it with brandy, and tied it over his nose and mouth to filter out the stench. He then led off, keeping to the side, away from the slimy channel in the middle.

After a bit they came to a rusty foul-smelling grating that sealed off an old sewer line from Port Westgale. Ignoring the grating, which looked to be fused to the rock, he moved to the left to a pocket in the rock wall. Pressing a sequence of points in a certain order caused a section of the rack face to swing out, revealing a dry passage inside parallel to the sewer. Reaching inside to the left, he brought forth a torch. Speaking a word caused it to flare into flame. He stepped inside and after the rest had entered he handed the lit torch to Keeryn and closed the secret door behind them.

With the light coming through the grate and the light from the torch they could see the passageway going on ahead, diverging from the sewer line.

"This is an entrance to the Thieves' Highway. Let me handle it when we meet someone."

They moved down the corridor and came to cross corridor. Out of the darkness ahead they heard two plops, like drops of water falling to strike a pool. Wilhelm stopped, and then bent down to pick up two small pebbles lying by the wall. He dropped them one at a time onto the floor at the same location.

A cloaked figure came around the corner and unveiled a hooded lantern and looked them over. The figure's left hand made a complicated gesture. Wilhelm's left hand made a different answering gesture. The figure nodded and motioned them to pass.

Wilhelm led them to the left down the cross corridor until it joined a much larger tunnel. Sounds of motion could be heard away in both directions, but there was nobody present. Wilhelm turned and spoke quietly.

"This is the Thieves' Highway itself. That direction takes us towards town and that direction takes us to the port. Brell, you should know your way from here. Lead us to your contact point."

Written by - Dartanian Merquise

The rest of Dartanian’s day was spent in inspecting his troops and in meetings with his commanders, relaying information from the morning’s war council. From the staff at the Citadel, they had procured maps of the valley and Minas Uial itself. There could be no surprises.

The men would ride light that day; any unneeded equipment would remain at the Citadel. The two hour ride from Minas Aure would be fast, and would likely test the heavy warhorses of the Blue Knights as they tried to keep pace with the mounts of the elves. Dartanian was sure that they were up to the task.

At last all preparations were complete. Count Merquise and his second, Captain Varion, in full plate atop their warhorses, watched silently as the Blue Knights filed past them and into the portal bound for Minas Aure. Five thousand faces, each with a grim look of determination set in their features, rode past the duo and through to the other side. At the opposite end of the courtyard, Dartanian noticed the imposing figure of Lord Ithramir, also come to inspect the troops. He exchanged words with a servant, who quickly bowed and scurried off. For a brief moment, their eyes met, and Dartanian offered a quick nod of respect to the elven commander.

“Captain Varion,” the Count said. “When we reach Minas Aure, dispatch a messenger to Lord Ithramir’s command staff for specific marching orders for the Blue Knights.” The captain nodded silently, eyes forward. “Then take your men and meet with him as instructed.” Captain Varion had selected five volunteers to accompany him as part of the larger group of infiltrators. The mission they faced would be perilous indeed. The young Count turned to his second. “From then on, All-Father go with you.” The two young men exchanged a hard look, knowing that in only a few hours, they would clash with the enemy, putting their lives on the line for the newfound alliance with the elves. Finally turning forward once again, they urged their horses on and entered the portal bound for Minas Aure.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya's head tipped forward, the food she had eaten had made her sleepy. It didn't take long for the dream realm to take control...

Kaya found herself on a battlefield, bodies of elves, humans and orcs strewned about. As she walked about the clutter, a young maiden, dressed in light flowing colors approached her. Normally, Kaya would think this an unusual sight, but for some reason it seemed perfectly normal. In fact, the presence of the young girl was calming. The young girl smiled. "I am Tirigal, messenger of the gods, I am here to let you know that Nyrondis has plans for you. The woman Ariana has enough guardians and there are other things you should be doing. Go, find your men among Ithramir's, then ask him for their return. There is trouble brewing and they will need their leader. You will be able to help Ithramir more this way, as well as your own cause and that of Nyrondis." Kaya nodded, then watched as the young maiden made her way through the bodies.

Kaya started awake by the sound of a door slamming. She turned and watched the door as Ariana and Vylia rushed out . But instead of following them, she got up and went in the opposite direction, A'lanthear in hand. She made her way to the courtyard, finding out out along the way where Lord Ithramir would be at this time. It took about an hour to make her way to the commander, where upon she was met by his second, Catherine. She could sense the distaste in the woman for her, as she probably still saw Kaya as the one who almost killed Ithramir. But Kaya was not intimidated.

"I am here to lend my sword to the commander. I need to know where best I would be placed. I am also in need of permission to wander the troops and look for those who used to serve under me in the elven homeland."

Catherine sneered a bit. "I will let him know you are here, but so you know, I will be watching you." Catherine then went over to the commander and gave him the message. After a few moments, Catherine motioned for Kaya to come forward. Ithramir looked at her and waited.

Kaya looked up at her hero, an elf she had admired all her life. Then she found her voice. "Lord Ithramir, Nyrondis sent me a message, and it is my duty to serve you in the upcoming battle. My sword and I are yours. But I would ask of you this. I believe among your soldiers are remnants of those who had once served under me. I ask your permission to seek them out and reband them once more. I feel there is need for our skills as a unit, and that we would better serve you as such." She stepped back and awaited his response.

Written by - Ariana

Ariana was puzzled at first at Ardwen’s resistance. Did he not understand that they needed to leave? She reached forward to grab his hand again, but the motion stopped halfway when Ardwen turned her attention to the child standing in the hallway.

Focusing on the small person, she stared at him in wide-eyed wonder for a moment. No longer able to bridle her curiosity, she slowly reached forward with one finger and cautiously stroked a feather on his wing. It was as soft as she had expected and she beamed this Elerus a bright smile. Grabbing his hand she once more started her march down the hallway, dragging Elerus behind her. “We have to go!” she shouted back at Ardwen.

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