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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Turin Wallace - Wed Jul 30, 2003

Ithramir was sitting in his study when an elven ranger knocked and entered the chamber.

Looking up at her approach, he says sternly,

“This had better be important, Umeawen.”

With a salute, she says,

“Aye, milord, I bring dire news from the northern region of Grayshire.”

He studied her for a moment, and saw that something indeed was amiss. It was not like this ranger to overreact. Putting his book away, he looks at her and says,

“Umeawen, what is wrong?”

She answers,

“It seems the civil war raging in the human territories has taken a dark turn. Pallanon and his family have been assassinated. Beridane now controls part of the city, by birthright, and is seeking to crush those who oppose his rule.”

Grimly shaking his head, Ithramir says,

“Pallanon was too kind a man. He lacked the ruthlessness to see what Beridane was planning. We will mourn he and his family’s loss.”

Cutting in, Umeawen says,

“However, milord, he failed to assassinate his youngest daughter. Her whereabouts are unknown at the moment. Until she can be found…”

Ithramir finishes,

“…Beridane cannot complete his victory.”

Pausing for a moment, Ithramir then says,

“So, have the humans asked for aide yet?”

Umeawen replies,

“The rebels have already begun to enter our borders, they seek trade for weapons, food, and lodging. So far, we have aided them quietly and helped them where we could. They know milord that you are a relative, of sorts, to the family. They beg you to aid them and protect them from Beridane.”

Ithramir closes his eyes and thinks for a long moment. Opening them slowly, he levels a gaze at Umeawen, and says,

“If we help them we risk open war with humans…something that hasn’t been seen since the Age of Darkness. Plus, we are the last guardians of the great citadel Lothiel-Gadith. We are the last among our people who forsake our homeland to secure the world against our old foes, the Orcs. And yet, we cannot let such evil go unpunished and allow innocent people suffer.”

It was then that he had the Captain of the citadel brought before him. Looking at the older elf, Ithramir says,

“How many do we number, Captain?”

The Captain looks to him and says,

“Milord, we number two-thousand Silver Glade archers, three-thousand White Lion spearmen, four-thousand Red Moon long swordsmen, and one-thousand of your own rangers.”

Nodding to him, Ithramir then says,

“Captain, make ready the rangers of Sil-Galdur. On the morn we will march to Grayshire to restore order to the kingdom of Westgale. If I have need of more troops, I will send for them. Until I return, I leave you in charge of this citadel. Good day, Captain.”

Bowing to each other, the Captain leaves to follow Ithramir’s orders. Seeing Umeawen looking at him, he says,

“Yes, Umeawen?”

She responds,

“So we are marching to Westgale without orders from the Elven High Lords?”

Ithramir nods, and says,

“You know as well as I that they do not care about us, nor those of us here on this continent. They have not the stomach for war, but rather, the fineries of life. Our people have lost their way. They only hear what they wish to anymore. It is up to us to set matters straight here.”

She responds,

“Yes…yes, you may be right.”

Ithramir then continues,

“Besides, we have other concerns now. Get some rest, we move early in the morning.”

With that, the two bow to each other, and go their separate ways for the night.

Ithramir did not sleep well that eve, but he rarely ever slept well. Seeing the first signs of light, he jumped up and prepared himself for the travels ahead. He too was a ranger, although he was not able to run through the forests as light-hearted and free as he once did. He had spent years at home training, as did all who were here, to come to the continent and to keep the power of the Orcs in check. That was decades ago, however, and the present time had it’s own troubles that needed sorting out.

After outfitting himself with fine elven chain and leather armor, and after picking up his longbow and sword, he made his way down from his quarters to the courtyards below. Seeing to his rangers, they prepared to leave and make their way into the lands of Grayshire.

Before setting out, he turns and addresses them,

“My fellow rangers, we are embarking on a journey that will, I hope, restore order to the lands of our human friends. Many have sought out shelter from a ruthless ruler, one who killed his own kin to claim a second throne. While some of you may not see the wisdom of setting these matters right, be content that what we do today will be for the greater good of all. For if this usurper manages to claim all of the kingdoms in Grayshire, it would not be long before he would turn his attention to us. We will halt his plans now, before he has a chance to act. Now, let us ride.”

At that, the whole of them began to pour through the great iron-oak doors that gave access to the citadel of Lothiel-Godith, and started their journey. After leaving the citadel, Umeawen rode up next to him at the front of the column, and asks,

“How do you plan to come into Grayshire, if we use the normal means we will be spotted for sure.”

With a half chuckle, and a slight look of aggravation, Ithramir says,

“Umeawen, I am no fool, I do not intend to use the main roads. We will do what rangers do best; use the forest and glades as roads. We will stop at the few known refuges that the humans have established in the Blackwood, and further strengthen ourselves from there. I do not intend to fight this Beridane in the open…not yet. We will use the forest to hit his forces when and wherever possible.”

Nodding with a smile, she says,

“I did not mean to imply you were a fool, milord. I just wanted to hear your plan of action.”

Pausing for a moment, she then continues,

“But, milord, there is something else…what of the girl, Mavigan?”

He replies,

“Ah yes, the daughter that was not assassinated. I suppose we need to find her before Beridane does, no?”

Umeawen nods, and Ithramir continues,

“Worry not, I have already given word to a few rangers to go and search for her, and if found, bring her to us.”

Looking at Ithramir, Umeawen gently smiles and says,

“It is my job to ask such things, milord, I never mean offense.”

A rare full smile raced across Ithramir’s face as he replies,

“Yes, I know Umeawen, I take no offense. You may return to your company.”

With a nod, Umeawen moves back to her place in the column, and the elves continue their advance to the Blackwood Forest.

After traveling until dusk, the elves finally reach the fringe of the Blackwood. Content to camp here for the night, Ithramir gives the order, and a camp is setup. The night passes quietly, for this is deep in Elven Territories, and they have no fear of raiders. Then, at first light, the elves enter the deep, dark forest of Blackwood. They travel for over a week, traversing the natural beauty of the vast forest, until they come upon the village of Thornton.

Thornton is on the far edge of the Blackthorn, established by humans and elves in the last few hundred years. Sitting close enough to Grayshire, it is a trading post of sorts, and the river Iseril allows for a modest port. Since the assassination, Thornton has become a hub of renegade activity. If it were not located just inside the Elven Territory, it would more than likely have been burnt down outright. So far, Beridane does not seek to anger the elves, and he has left the town alone…but using an occasional assassin to try and ensure his grip is felt here. Still, the elven guards that Ithramir sent have managed to keep most at bay, and have allowed him to win these renegades over. Keeping most of the rangers hidden away, Ithramir and a few others make their way to the town to see what is awaiting them, to meet the townsfolk as well as some of these renegades…

Written by Aethelwulf

Meanwhile in Port Westgale......

Alaric was bone weary, his body suffering from exhaustion. Only a sense of urgency and an even greater sense of duty kept him on his feet and moving. He had to find her before they did...

The thought brought to mind an image of a crown splattered with blood, and the body of his friend lying at his feet. For earlier that eve, the worst crime in history had been committed. Some unknown assassin had stolen into the palace and slain the King and his family. Well, most of his family. What the assassin did not know, what no one knew but the trusted confidantes of the King was that one daughter was not there.

Alaric followed the memory, the day he stood before his friend and watched him weep as the news that his youngest daughter had run away from royal life, from royal suitors, from royal duty, and from her royal family. The following months were filled with searches conducted by those King Pallanon trusted, all the while maintaining the pretense that she was ill and confined to bed. The irony was that when word of her whereabouts did come, it indicated that she had never left Port Westgale. All that searching, and she had stayed close to home.

"Mavigan", he breathed the word painfully and suddenly, he was again seeing the body of his friend, the body of his King, lying at his feet before him. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut in an effort to banish the image. "No," he said softly. His two companions looked askance at him, and he merely shook his head. They knew better than to pry further.

Alaric had arrived outside a tavern and stood gazing at the door. It mattered little the name of said tavern, it looked just like the nine other bars he had checked already. This place, too, would be dim and filled with suffocating smoke. Loud and rowdy drunks, faded lily barflies, and shadowy characters would each be in their appointed place as if every tavern in town was a theater all showing the same play. And yet, faced with the prospect of one more place to search, he hoped and prayed. Perhaps here is where the search would end.

Taking a deep breath and gaining resolution, Alaric straightened his shoulders and pushed through the door. His companions were skilled in their arts and quickly took their places. Koric, the dark male, with the shaved head and a scar across his cheek stood at the end of the bar, his back to a wall, while Lao, the small woman with short cropped black hair, walked towards the back exit. The evening was still young, but the crowd in the bar seemed to be generally well into their cups. Several small groups of dangerous looking people were clustered around the long wooden bar, and it appeared that every table in the place was full.

"Cheater!" The loud accusation rang out across the room claiming Alaric's attention. Turning his deep blue eyes to a far corner where some sort of card game was going on, he smiled as he saw a lithe, young woman arguing with a burly sailor over something on the table. Making eye contact with Koric and Lao, he moved towards the table. As the two took up positions near the card game, making sure to place themselves between the players and the two exits to the bar, Alaric was startled to see the young woman rise out of her chair and deal a powerful right hook to the suprised face of the burly sailor. He quickly recovered his composure, and smiling to himself, moved closer to the young woman. She started to draw her fist back for another punch when the man toppled out of the chair onto the floor. Around him, the spectators began to laugh, and make cat calls at the fallen man.

"You moron! You should know better than to try and cheat little ol'Brell!" Raucous laughter followed, and the young women referred to as "Brell" smiled. With a swift hand, she scooped up the money from the table and placed it in a small bag that quickly disappeared from view. She turned from the table, a broad smile on her face and spotted Alaric inching closer to her. Her smile transformed to a snarl, and she turned away from him intent on flight.

Alaric's smile broadened as the young woman turned to run and promptly ran into Koric's very stout chest. Coming up behind her, he whispered in her ear, "Surely you wouldn't want me to take you over my knee here in this place, now would you young miss?"

Written by Ariana

Mavigan felt the large man’s hand on her elbow, the pressure not hard enough to hurt, but firm enough to prevent her from escaping easily. She made a low growling sound in her throat and sneered up at him. He merely gazed at her dispassionately and tightened his grip on her shoulder.

Mavigan did not recognize the towering man she had smacked into at full force. No doubt that is why he was chosen to help “retrieve” her. The man whispering in her ear, however, she knew very well. Alaric Aedmon, long-time friend and lackey of her father, sent to return the prodigal daughter to a life she despised.

“Surely you wouldn’t want me to take you over my knee here in this place, now would you young miss?” he whispered in her ear.

Mavigan merely looked at him, her eyes narrow, defiance etched in every line of her face. As she began to open her mouth to let loose some derogatory comments, she heard a voice say, “Hey now, Brell? Is this fella botherin’ you?” Another voice chimed in, “You there! What’s your business with Brell?”. As realization that salvation was near dawned, Mavigan’s expression changed from defiant to sly. Her snarl smoothed into a coy smile and as Alaric watched, the light of triumph gleamed out at him from her eyes.

“As a matter of fact,” she said slowly, “he is bothering me.” She positively grinned up at her captor. “I believe he is upset with me for beating him at dice.”

The surrounding voices quickly turned from inquiring to threatening. Bodies began to close in on the two captors from all sides accompanied by angry shouts. “Let her go mate!”, said one. “You can’t rough up our Brell!”, said another. And as danger gained ground and grew closer, Mavigan looked at Alaric with a cat-like smile.

Written by Teran

A sigh escaped from darkness shrouded in darkness. A solitary candle blazed valiantly attempting to press back the darkness that engulfed the tiny room however darkness reigned supreme and the light from the tiny candle did not reach the walls. A tiny globe of light that balanced precariously on the tip of a wax rod fuelled by a linen wick was all that prevented the room and its occupant from falling into total darkness, total oblivion.

The room’s single occupant could not determine logically why he had lit the candle. His senses were overdeveloped and it was second nature for him to function in complete darkness, yet there was something symbolically important to the assassin about having the candle lit. The globe of light lost its precise clarity as his eyes slipped out of focus, and his mind was briefly somewhere else.

Teran knew that he was not far ahead of his pursuers. Beridane was not a merciful man and Teran imagined that Beridane had already spent more Bloodcoin in his attempt to find him, than he had originally paid Teran to assassinate the beloved King Pallanon and his family. The irony brought a tiny smile to Teran’s face.

The raspy scratch of a quill applying ink to parchment faded into the room as Teran began to write his letter to King Beridane, King of Ironskane, and Teran’s former employer.

“His Majesty, King Beridane –

Even as I write this letter your hired killers are following the paths I have left in my wake. I expect this parchment to be in your possession within a matter of days and it is my sincere hope that you will take these words of mine to heart.

Men that do great acts of evil are remembered as terrible villains, murderers, men that would do anything to feed their personal lusts for power and riches, at the cost of every other living being. You Beridane are an evil man, and that is how you will be remembered long after you are buried and gone.

Men that do great acts of good are remembered as glorious heroes, selfless in their intentions, they are the men that would do anything to feed the needs of the people around them. Lord Pallanon was a kind and just man and he is receiving his reward in his afterlife. It is unfortunate that his kingdom now has only a single heir.

Men that do great acts of both good and evil throughout their lives are not remembered at all. These men are preservers, guardians of balance. They preserve the natural balance that must exist in this world. Guardians do not truly seek to destroy good or evil but we seek to destroy weakness.

It does not matter that Pallanon’s youngest daughter was saved by my folly, nor does it matter that Pallanon’s youngest daughter was saved by my design, all that matters is that she has been saved. She knows that you are her enemy. I did not kill her family, even though my hands may be soaked with their blood. I was a master crafted tool, guided to its purpose by an amateur tradesman.

Beridane, I humbly suggest that you cease wasting your resources in attempting to capture an individual as elusive as myself. You have nothing to fear from me for the time being.”

Teran cocked his head listening, snuffing the candle out in a smooth motion. He heard soft conversation downstairs as some of Beridane’s killers questioned a barmaid. Beridane’s ‘kill teams’ had something of a gruesome reputation these days and were feared far and wide by the common folk. Their murderous reputation certainly assisted them in keeping on the assassin’s trail, though Teran was out of their league. He led them along, hoping to draw Beridane’s attention and resources away from locating Lord Pallanon’s youngest daughter.

Your men are moments away from locating this letter King Beridane. I hope you take these words to heart.

Sincerely, Ramage.”

Teran carefully folded his letter after signing it with the name Beridane would recognize as his. He grabbed the candle and turned it over, pouring pale white wax into his hand. He formed a small ball out of the wax and set it on the center seam of his fold. He recited a brief incantation, and the wax was pressed down revealing a seal that King Beridane would recognize as one of Teran’s.

He carefully set the parchment down, and was gone.

Moments later the door that had so faithfully guarded Teran over the last few hours splintered and shattered and several men burst into the room, dragging a barmaid with them. They found the parchment but did not dare break the seal for fear of Beridane’s wrath. Instead they turned on the barmaid. She began wailing as they interrogated her attempting to discover Teran’s next destination.

Having failed to do that after many hours the barmaid’s body was left in Teran’s bed until it was found that morning. Six days passed before King Beridane received Teran’s letter.

The assassin headed east towards the Ironskane Mountains, though his intended destination was Thornton, a small city or outpost just inside the border of the Elven lands five days to the northeast. He would never assume safety in any location, however he knew that Beridane’s influence had not yet penetrated deeply into the Elven kingdom’s territory.

After a long day and night of travel the assassin stopped at a pub, and thanks to carelessly guarded luggage he became a gambler. After a nights rest the gambler headed east by way of coach. After a day’s riding the coach stopped at another Tavern, rather famous for its gambling.

By the end of the night the gambler was 250 Bloodcoin ahead of the house and promptly retired to a somewhat luxurious suite with a female companion. After a night of hard relaxation, the gambler borrowed clothing from the room next door and became a cleric.

The cleric’s particular sect believed in redemption through physical hardship. The cleric borrowed a few more items from the room and donned his excessively heavy pack and trudged further northeast into the forest reciting prayers of longsuffering as he went. After four days and nights traveling and blessing passersby the priest stopped in another tavern, his last stop before Thornton.

The cleric discarded his clothing, and the assassin went through the pack he had been carrying over the last four days considering his options. Thornton was a place where he would be welcome no matter who he chose to be. It was not a terribly safe place to be for the unwary or fair, but neither was it excessively dangerous. Teran viewed it as a haven for the harmless criminals, the people who were never destined to make a mark much larger than themselves in the world, the people who were happy to simply “just get by”.

Teran selected the outfit the assassin wore during his first night’s travel. He donned well tailored clothing that fit snugly but did not restrict his movement. He also donned the non-descript gray hooded cloak the priest had worn. He let his matted pale white hair spill from the shadows concealing his face, appreciating the aura it loaned his appearance.

To top off his attire, Teran wore the flashy rapier around his waist that the gambler had so liked, while stowing the assassin’s twin blades in their usual place in their concealed sheaths. Teran examined himself closely, and once he was satisfied he prepared to depart.

The assassin left the tavern, leaving the gambler and cleric behind. His only luggage was his money purse because once the assassin arrived in Thornton he could purchase new clothing, clothing that he had never been seen in before, clothing he could use to assume new identities with.

The final day’s travel passed quickly for Teran and he soon found himself in Thornton. He was thankful that the Elves he was certain he had passed had not taken issue with his presence in their lands. He set himself up with a room at the Dancing Pike, a local favorite tavern and began familiarizing himself with the city. He adopted an appropriate personality, and within a few days he seemed like a native.

For the most part he kept to himself, spending long hours every evening in his room, using his quill to write. Often the sound of parchment tearing would interrupt the soft scribbling, and then the smell of burn parchment would follow. Teran attempted to find the appropriate words to put into writing for Mavigan, the sole surviving heir of King Pallanon.

Teran had left enough evidence behind to link the assassinations to Beridane, however in the chaos that followed most of the royal family getting murdered he could not be certain that the evidence had been recovered, therefore his letter was necessary. As soon as Teran learned of Mavigan’s location, he would dispatch a runner to deliver his letter to her… assuming he had found the words to create the letter in the first place. Until then Teran would wait and continue writing.

Written by Aethelwulf

Motioning to Koric to take up position before the crowd, keeping them at bay for a moment, Alaric made a quick assessment of the situation. Making sure of Lao's position behind the raucous crowd that was rapidly forming around them, he leaned in close to the pernicious lass standing next to him, pinning her to the wall. He then whispered to her in a very serious tone.

"Well now Button, it appears that you are in a bit of a fix here. Your Father has been killed," Alaric noted with a wisp of sadness that this news did not seem to faze the lass, "and to my mind you are a very valuable commodity. I see three options before you. One, my friends and I are more then capable of inflicting great harm on your friends here, as you well know, but it the process you may well escape. Two, I am more then willing to announce who you REALLY are, and even more willing to sell you to the highest bidder. Or three, you call off your dogs and come with us." Smiling at the young ladies obvious anger over the use of her childhood nickname, he then continued.

"You life is in great danger, and I am in truth your only friend here. Now then, what's it to be?

Written by Ariana

“Well now Button,….” Mavigan inwardly cringed at the use of her childhood nickname. No one but her Father had called her that, and Alaric certainly had no right to do so. The use of the familiar only increased her rage, and she glared at the man standing before her. How did this go so wrong? Mavigan wondered to herself. One minute she had been sure of escape, the next she was roughly shoved against the wall staring into the blue eyes of the man who had come to steal her freedom.

“Your Father has been killed,” he whispered to her. The words cut into her as surely as if Alaric had plunged a dagger into her heart. Her eyes widened slightly with the news, but her expression quickly regained its defiance. She would be damned if she would let him know how her heart hurt.

Vile words continued to spew forth from the man’s mouth and into her face. “I see three options before you. One, my friends and I are more than capable of inflicting great harm on your friends..” Mavigan knew this to be true, but wasn’t overly concerned. Glancing over Alaric’s shoulder, she noted another companion moving into place. “So,” she thought to herself, “there are three of them. They are still outnumbered.” Satisfied that she could still escape, she turned back to Alaric with a cold stare.

“Two, I am more then willing to announce who you REALLY are, and even more willing to sell you to the highest bidder.” Mavigan’s eyes widened in surprise. “He wouldn’t dare!” she thought to herself. She gazed into determined blue orbs and realized that he was quite serious. “He would!” she thought. “He would expose me without the slightest hint of regret. That bastard! If he blabs who I am, there will be no escape.”

“Or three, you come call off your dogs and come with us. Now then, what’s it to be?” Mavigan inwardly cursed Alaric and the day she was born. She was well and truly trapped. “Amin delotha lle!” she spat at him, “Amin lava.” Anger mingled with defeat filled her eyes and poise. Her shoulders slumped and her head dropped, allowing her hair to hide her face, shielding herself from further assault. Raising her voice above the din, she shouted, “It’s all right! It appears he is here to pay his debt! Let’s leave them alone.”

Her statements took a few minutes to filter through the room. Slowly angry patrons began to back off accompanied by questions of, “Are you sure Brell?” and “You heard her! Let the man pay his debt!” and even more catcalls towards the man who had lost to Brell. Soon order was restored, and Mavigan pushed herself away from the wall, jerking herself painfully out of Alaric’s grasp. She made her way towards the front door of the tavern and before she pushed through the door she turned and raised a hand in farewell to her friends and to her freedom.

Written by Reyk

It was not supposed to be like this.

The young drunkard sitting alone in the tavern was unremarkable, at best. Pissing away the last of his coin and bemoaning his lack of work and any sort of luck at once, to no one and to everyone. At least he was quiet enough to be ignored. The dirtly blond hair and bloodshot brown eyes were forgotten almost instantly... not a terrible loss given that they were as completely false as the rest of his appearance. A mere sketch of a person given life by a dweomer of illusion and lent realism by the subconscious of its observers.

Cloaked within sat the once Arch-Magi of the Azeryani empire, the once High Priest of the Temple of Draconis in Meokolis, the once chief advisor to the Grand Duke of the Empire's capitol city, and now both fugitive and hunter in a city where he was simply an enemy of the state trying to blend into the crowd... while fulfilling the request of a king made fifteen minutes after his death. Reyk shuddered a bit involuntarily, his illusion translating the motion into drunkenly defiant protest against cruel fate. Necromancy was not a tool he chose to utilize frequently, its price tending to remain with one far longer than its benefits, but given the thoroughness and skill of the assassin, it had been the only tool left to him.

He had been watching the girl for some time, led to her through the lens of a Draconian seeking prayer. She was indeed a beauty; it was never clear what a person would truly look like when one had only seen them through the loving eyes of a parent. Her father's memory had in fact underplayed certain assets that would have been uppermost in the mind of another man. That she had no desire or interest in taking the throne, even if the Usurper could be convinced to surrender it, had been clear from both the memories of her father's spirit and from her own thoughts. He had no doubt that she was the last remaining member of the royal house, and thus that the Usurper's security elements would be hunting her with every tool at their disposal.

When the large men so clearly skilled in the control of quarry entered and cornered her, he was quite prepared to simply whisk her away from beneath their noses, but something about the grief that clung to their leader's aura made him pause to observe the confrontation. If he was to aid this child, knowing more about her makeup than a cursory scan of her thoughts and her Father's memories would be a tool he could not pass up. Alaric's pain at the loss of his friend and his desire to aid the girl, despite his gruff manner, led Reyk to observe without interveneing.

As she acquiesced to go with the man, Reyk murmured an enchantment of unbeing and stepped out of the illusion, leaving it sitting where it was. Soon it would get up and go pass out in an alley, before vanishing while no eyes lay upon it. The prayer would insure that no one remarked or remembered his presence, with out the issues of moving through crowds that true invisibility would bring. As he followed the group moving through the door, he engaged his mental sensitivity and reached out to the girl, his thought projected directly into her mind, his mental touch gentle and sure.

"Do not be alarmed, Princess Mavigan. My name is Reyk Mathom and I am a friend of your father's. I am present to be of assistance to you... it was his final request. You have but to wish for my assistance, and I shall render it if I might. You are not alone." Reyk ceased projecting his thoughts to give the girl time to absorb what he had already communicated, but his awareness lay right at the surface of her mind, open to whatever she might wish to tell him.

It was fortunate, he reflected, that he had not yet to needed to engage in any serious sorcery. It seemed likely to be a long night.

Written by Kiradia Afirewen

Kira looked over the town as she rode on the hill top over it. “Such a modest place….. But there is something about..” Kira stopped what she was about to say as she strode into the northern gate. The guards wore armor that, though oviously held many years of work on them, were still in very good shape. As the older of the two looked up to see who was at the gate this time he bowed stiffly and looked up at Kira.

“Hello Ma’am, if I may ask, what do you wish with the city?”

“I come for more foods and water. I work a farm out on the county side, and I am out of both.” Kira said with a dazzling smile on her face.

“As you wish Ma’am, now, if you would please hand me the weapon you hold strapped to your left thigh.”

Kira laughed uproariously at the guard and smiled all the same. “Very good guardsman, but what is to become of my sword if I give it to you?”

“We will keep it in a safe place for you Ma’am, it will not be harmed or touched.” The guard smiled in satisfaction for himself. Kira unzipped the near invisible sheath on the side of her left thigh and pulled out a jagged short sword that glowed blue at the base and seemed to strike black lightning across it’s blade.

Quickly Kira handed it to the guard as he thanked her, “When you plan to leave you may have your sword back Ma’am.”

“Yes, I will expect it to not have a single scratch, or I will be forced to flay your skin from your bones.” Kira smiled serenely as she rode past the gates and quickly came to the closest in, which happened to have a rather lovly looking young woman walking out. “Hhhhhmmmmm….. I wonder….” Kira smiled as she pulled forward and bowed her head to the men and woman.

“Hello gentlemen, Milady,” Kira grinned, this girl may be able to fool common townsfolk, but she walks too much like royalty, Kira thought as she lowered her voice to a whisper, “If you men and Milady do not mind, I have a request of you to make…..”

Kira waited silently for their answer.

Written by Aethelwulf

Koric made his way out of the Tavern, and into the streets, followed closely by the young lass. Alaric came next followed by Lao, whose dark black eyes swept the room once more before she too followed them into the street. The damp night air had a bit of humidity to it, and the streets were still damp from a brief shower that had fallen earlier. Suddenly, Mavigan, uttering a low, gutteral growl, clutched at her head, and almost doubled up as if in pain. In a flash, Alaric, Koric and Lao had their swords out, and their backs to the young lady, ringing her in a circle. Just then a young women approached the four. “If you men and Milady do not mind, I have a request of you to make…..”

Koric moved in a blur and in a split second, was behind the young lady, with his burly arm wrapped around her in a neck lock,his sword point touching her throat. Alaric too responded and had his sword pointed at her heart, while Lao scouted the road around them. All the while Mavigan seemed to be muttering, still seemingly in pain. Alaric spoke to their young captive, in a voice of cold steel.

"I am afraid we are not the kind to dole out favors lass."

Written by Talonmane

....and elsewhere, 250 miles to the Northwest, just off the rocky Yellow Coast of Western Ironskane, a squadron of ships loyal to the slain King were giving fight to twice their number from the Iron Fleet...

The Wavehammer careened into the port foredeck of the red-trimmed schooner. One of the 5 masts of the long Ironskane vessel had had enough, and fell starboardside all the way to the water, resulting in a rotation that only brought her main deck closer to the 'hammer.

"To yer last breath lads, fer Acaenyd! fer Pallanon! FER ANCORA!!!" The bellow came from the command porch, where the Captain stood gyrating with his sword-arm, a bright and heavy cutlass waving the air while his brass pegleg tapped out an accompanying beat on the deck. The crew of the last cruiser of Westgale charged across the gap and into their enemy...the servants of Beridane, the usurper.

"Get those dogs! toss a few o'er the side an' they might live to tell o' their meetin wit the Wavehammer! What're you standin' there fer, boyo? you signed onto the finest Dwarven ship in the fleet and ye best know yer here to do some fightin'! Now o'er that plank an' git those shrumm-eatin' mangy traitors!"

"Finest Dwarven ship in the fleet? don't you mean the only Dwarven ship in the fleet?"

The Captain stopped his motivational rant long enough to cast an annoyed gaze over his left shoulder at the imposing figure who had spoken. "Aye, she be the only...but it don't keep a Dwarf from still callin' her the best."

"As a matter of fact, isn't this the only Dwarven ship to ever serve in the fleet, Captain?"

The Dwarf now made a limping turn to face the passenger, scowling. "Admiral to you, ye barnacle! An what be ye makin oh this, now? She's the best, she's the only, an' she's the only one to ever do it. What're ye doin in the middle o' a fight pressin' me pride?"

"Oh yes, Admiral...I nearly forgot. Admiral of a fleet of four ships that haven't seen repairs in..."

The captain reach out with his free hand and pressed it to the wide belt of the far-taller man. Looking up, he waved the tip of the cutlass to punctuate his words,"If'n ye don't get yer Barbarian hide off'a me bridge and across a plank an' start splittin' some 'skaner 'eads, I think I'm goin'na have to..."

A heavy thud behind them interrupted the jibes, and the two looked over to see a large grappling hook take hold on a rail at their aft starboard. An Ironskane frigate was pulling in, and burning arrows began to land all around the Ancorans. The Dwarven Captain instinctively boomed out his orders to the few remaining crew who were not already engaged in the portside fight, "You two! get those fires out, and keep yer heads down! Bimglin...cut that grappling rope and get the mainsails back up! we'll be..."

"Wait."

"Belay that Bim...the walkin' axe is havin' a thought." Recinding the order to his deck officer, the Captain inquired with a curious stare to his large passenger.

"Let the second one come, Munchadin." The Barbarian's brow tightened as he removed his fur cape and pulled his weapon around from his back to tie at his waist. "I'll take them."

A great smile of anticipation broke across the Dwarf's bearded face, "Now that's more like it! you've been needin te crush some skulls fer this entire voyage, ye sourpuss...gettin' on me nerves and testin' me patience! Hey, Bimglin, keep those fires out, but watch the big man...maybe ye'll learn somethin'."

Jagan Talonmane, Knight Warden to the Royal House of Ancora, explorer to an assassinated King, and now one of the leaders of the resistance movement fighting the King's brother who took the nation through acts of treachery, drew his great axe and stretched his considerable Northman musculature. He inhaled the salt air and savoured the rocking of the ship and the spray, letting himself become attuned to it. The enemy frigate approached, her hungry and eager sailors crowding the rails, each hopeful of a chance at glory and plunder. They were not expecting a fighter - least of all a warbred, land-born Barbarian - to leap the gap while nearly 30 feet still seperated the ships, nor did most expect to die. But one followed the other, under the din of a warcry louder than the sounds of wood meeting wood that heralded the collision.

EDIT: for reference, here is something i just posted elsewhere, a bit of narration:

-The Elves across the sea have indeed just learned of the assassination from one of our fast frigates sent to deliver the news and ask for their help in a letter from Talonmane and one of the last Westgalean squadron commanders, Captain Munchadin.

Munchadin, a Dwarven Captain on the the only ship of Dwarven design to ever serve the crown and the last real cruiser remaining in service, was returning with the Knight Warden after escorting a merchant convoy to the Doledrun Empire...a land on another continent far to the Southeast. Upon arriving near Ancoran waters, they were ambushed by a combination of ships from the Iron Fleet of Beridane, and several squadrons of our own ships who had joined with the usurper for reasons yet unknown. At the moment, it appears these formerly loyal captains were bought off, but there may be other factors. It also appears they succeeded in annihilating the rest of the Westgalean home fleet, through surprise and deception.

Munchadin's ships were reduced from 13 to a mere 6 at this first encounter, and he immediately sent his fastest, the Gossamer Wing, to ask for help from Elven King Elborne, about a 4 day journey even for that ship of Elvish design. Munchadin has been fighting a sea-borne guerilla war ever since, harrying the Iron Fleet at his every chance. He has lost one vessel, and is in serious need of repair and resupply. Talonmane has gone to shore once to speak with the remaining fighting forces loyal to the Crown, and I imagine this included Alaric. But Jagan has still spent most of his time at sea with Munchadin, as they swept North along the Ironskane coast to gather information in preparation for any future movements they might wish to make with a Northerly assault. It was thought the Iron Fleet somehow found a Northerly port to use as a base of operations somewhere on the otherwise rocky cliff coastline, but Munchadin could not find it. My post begins where they are returning to Westgalean area waters. Also, there are some other small squadrons loyal to Ancora elsewhere in the world who have not yet learned of what has transpired.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn yawns....

"What's with all that racket? I thought the afterlife was supposed to be peaceful..." the blue skinned young woman mumbled. She was a rather unusual being, having blue skin didn't help, but the red striped black cat ears and tail made it even more obvious. Her hair was such a bright silver it was almost white, and she wore a form fitting red dress, with matching red bracers and hairpiece, but had no shoes or boots on her feet.

She had been napping you see, and the horses "stampeding" by her resting place had awakened her. Her ears twitched continually at the offending noise, causing her to fully wake rather irritated. "I am going to give whoever is making all that noise a piece of my mind, disturbing MY peaceful heaven like that."

Moving to a crouched position she climbs up a few levels and then starts jumping from tree to tree like a jungle cat, heading toward the sound. It took her some time to catch up, the large party having stopped by that time. There looks to be some smoke a little ways into the distance, though it is hard to make out through the trees. Keeryn just sits there above the group, wondering what to do next. "I wonder who the leader of that band of noisy bunglers is," she thinks to herself.

Written by Pharsalus

Aboard the Ironskane...

Geirik's plans had begun to crumble, and he knew it. In a cabin two levels below the main deck of the Ironskane craft, he hurrieadly applied his chain-and-leather armor and woodsman's cloak, all the while cursing and spitting at the stupidity of one Ironskane captain.

"Of all...the blasted...sea captains...and of all the bloody Ironskanes... He blundered around the room, gathering the rest of his things (a book, a candle, his sword, a small mythril medallion, and some throwing daggers) ...I had to board the one set for war...with the allies of my own employers!

He could hear footfalls scurring down halls all around him as the ship's finest were called to the surface to stave off the slaughter.

Slaughter was exactly what it would become, and this 44 year old Bounty Hunter was getting too old to be a part of it. His cover was blown, his plans ruined, and all hope of getting close to the traitor in power fluttered away like a group of frightened pigeons. He cursed one last time before making his way into the hall outside his cabin and up the steps leading to the main deck.

The door to the outside was already open -- understandable, given the number of men that had piled out of it only moments before. As Geirik stepped out onto the landing, he drew his longsword out of reflex. He didn't attempt to stop himself -- he would have, however, had he realized what information the pommel of his sword revealed to the several dozen men standing around him. An emblem of the former king's royal guard now sat shining in stark contrast with the sword's dark leather grip, a mythril-embelished beakon of Geirik's true alliance.

"Spy!!

Geirik's eyes darted to the source of the cry, hoping beyond all hope it was not directed at him. But all about him turned, and all eyes focused on the only man on board in a woodsman's cloak. The Bounty Hunter became suddenly aware of the precarious situation in which he now found himself. Realizing he had no other way out, he sighed (almost indignantly) and went to raise his sword against the closest man to him when a great THUD and another shout erupted from the same man only yards away...

"BARBARIAN!"

At that, the men aboard the Ironskane suddenly had a much larger cat to tame. Geirik found himself suddenly clear of any immediate danger as all around him stormed forward in a futile attempt to squelch the battle-raging brute.

"Bloody hell! A Barbarian!? On a blasted BOAT!?"

In complete shock of the sight, the Bounty Hunter could do nothing but stand with sword drawn, staring at this sea-faring land warrior who had lept well over twenty feet from, of all things, a Dwarven-made and Dwarven-commanded sea vessel. Geirik shook his head, jaw slightly ajar, silent and stupified before the realization that his once-well-oiled-machine of a plan had gone from bad, to worse, to ludicrous. He brought his blade up with his left hand and unsheathed a short sword with his right. With symbols of the Royal Guard plastered all over him, Geirik Foxfire let loose a bellowing cry and hurled himself into the fray.

Written by Archeantus

The night following the assassination...

Stark grey eyes awoke with a start amid the shadowed forest floor.

"Where am I...?" A fevered voice whispered in the night air. Heaving breaths came out in short bursts in the chill air. Trying to stand the figure found his strength was all but gone and fell once more to the forest floor. A deep and inherent confusion grew rapidly as every moment passed. Question after question seeped through his fingers like thousands of grains of sand. He could hardly see a thing and could barely make out the stars up above. His mind seemed to be in darkness as much so, if not more, than his body.

A memory flashed suddenly for the briefest of moments as he once more tried to stand.

A women....fallen....her heart....shattered....

He grabbed his head and winced in incredible pain. He thought for a moment the danger was still there and scrambled for a weapon of some sort on the forest floor. Slowly his eyes were beginning to adjust as was his frenzied mind. His memory wasn't real, for it seemed so very far away, yet he felt it was threatening, as if it were a hunter and he its prey. Banishing the thought from his mind he turned his attention to his surroundings. Great shadowed trees towered above him in every direction. It was then he realized his didn't have much of anything on. His leather pants were in tatters, and he had no shirt.

He moved in for the kill...

He winced again, and screamed, his voice piercing the night.

...blinding light...and then nothing...

He knelt on the ground, cold and shaking, alone and confused. It wasn't long until voices softly echoed out in the darkness.

He didn't notice until the light of the torch shone upon him. Those livid greys turned at the light and he shrunk away.

A party armed to the teeth eyed a man, looking to be human, his skin deeply tanned, long black hair strayed wildly down across his pained face. He was breathing heavily and appeared to be stark mad.

"Jasper! Porthos! Bind him quickly!" Said a gruff voice.

Two large men jumped forward, one with a large club. They siezed him easily enough for the man seemed to be half there, he hung limply as they drug him toward the others who quickly bound him violently in strong cords.

"What do we 'ave here?" A tall beared man said kneeling down to eye the man in the face.

"What do you make of him Riff?" A stern voice called out from back of the group.

"He's lost it Sir." Riff replied with a shrug standing to address his superior. "Nuthin's upstairs it seems."

"Very well, I'll take no chances, he's coming with us back to the castle." The leader commanded.

"The surrounding area is clear, no sign of the enemy." The leader continued. "Come! Let us make out way back, there is still much more to get done. The Kingdom is ours!" He called out triumphantly.

Cheers spread out among the small group.

"If all we face for now resembles this pile of garbage," he pointed to the bound man, "then what do we have to fear?"

Laughs ensued.

As they moved out, two very alert eyes watched the dark ground move beneith him, and two very attentive ears listened carefully.

"To castle Westgale! King Beridane awaits our report!" The leader called out smugly. They quickened thier pace and pushed hard, laughing and jeering at one another. The man listened as he heard them speak of finding a woman named Mavigan and receiving riches untold. He heard them mention tidbits about what appeared to be a newly appointed King, and heard the name of the past king.

"A bloody takeover" The man thought smiling undernieth his dangling hair. "Perhaps I've fallen in with the right crowd."

The devious plot awakened the man to his rightful identity. He knew who he was, it all came back to him, and felt like a well worn glove that fit perfectly. He still had countless questions that seemed to grow with every passing second, but he now had a purpose, and a man like him was more than dangerous with a purpose.

When they slammed home the jail cell, he distinctly had the impression that he wasn't imprisoned at all, but that he was right at home.

It seemed the Kingdom was now run by a thief, and a thief would surely recognize a man whose heart was black as night, possessing ambition that more than likely rivaled his own...

Written by Ariana

Mavigan had nearly reached the door of the tavern. Her shoulders were slumped and her air dejected and pouting. Outwardly, she maintained the pretense of being the ever popular Brell, knowing that if she failed to convince her friends that she was leaving of her own accord, Alaric would likely leap upon the nearest table and declare to all and sundry her true identity. She didn’t think she could stand to see the hurt in her friends’ eyes as they realized she had lied to them all these months. Fate had indeed dealt her a cruel blow this evening.

As Mavigan found the will to push through the door and out into the damp streets, her Father’s dog Alaric faithfully trotting at her heels, she heard a voice that seemed to come from inside her own head. “Do not be alarmed, Princess Mavigan.”

Mavigan’s eyes widened and she whirled around to face the room, eyes darting wildly from face to face. Was she going mad?

The voice continued, “My name is Reyk Mathom and I am a friend of your father's. I am present to be of assistance to you... it was his final request. You have but to wish for my assistance, and I shall render it if I might. You are not alone.”

Mavigan raised her hands and clasped at the sides of her head, looking at each face near her trying to determine whose words violated her mind. “Am I to be deprived of my mental freedom as well as my physical freedom?” she thought wildly. Gaining no insight, she dropped her hands and turned once again to the door, defiance once again etched in her posture. She angrily thought at the rude intruder, figuring her unknown “friend” would hear her. “If you were such a friend of my Father’s, why weren’t you there for him when he needed you?” As an afterthought, more to herself than the stranger, she whispered, “Why wasn’t I?”

Her mind quickly descended into a churning turmoil, raw emotion eating at her awareness of her surroundings. Rage battled with grief, and both fought against the growing sense of shock and apathy. Her vision was dim and foggy, everything seemed distant and unreal, and she could hear little over the sound of rushing blood in her ears. Mavigan was aware of a sense of cold that seemed to start from inside her and was slowly working its way out. Thinking that cold might be more comfortable than the fire of pain, she let it continue uninhibited. She was only vaguely aware that her captors had formed a ring around her, and that Alaric seemed to be threatening some woman. She could not hear their conversation, and she stared at the scene dully unsure if it was real or not. And after thinking about it a moment, she realized she didn’t much care either way. Her life as she knew it was over. What happened next made little difference one way or the other.

Written by Aethelwulf

Alaric's eyes of flinty steel probed the young lass before him, as he waited for a response. Behind him, Lao whispered that all seemed to be clear. Nodding just enough to signal his companions, he stepped back and lowered his sword as Koric released the girl. Alaric then spoke to the lass in a hushed tone that echoed of cold stone and death.

"I pray that ye forgive us miss. There is trouble afoot,and one can never be too careful. Now then, if ye will excuse us, we will be on our way."

With that, he grabbed Mavigan by her collar and began dragging her towards the stables as Lao and Koric covered his movement into the shadows, their eyes probing the night, and their steel at the ready.

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