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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Reyk - Page 2 of Book 1

The touch on her mind seemed unshaken by her turmoil. Mavigan could feel a presence, like someone watching over her shoulder. She also felt the watcher's sorrow. His words continued to flow over the surface of her mind. "I was not there for him because I arrived to late. Your father believed there was a cabal plotting against him, and did not know whom within his own court he could trust. He called upon an old friend from across the seas, and that friend sent me. But before the King and I could meet for the first time, the assassin did his work and escaped. I am truly sorry that I could not aid your father or the rest of your family."

Reyk stood out of the street, under a storefont's overhang across the way. None observed his presence as anything out of the ordinary, and his even being there was completely forgotten the moment he was not being observed directly.

"I know that you have no cause to believe me, and certainly none to trust me. Nonetheless I am here, and shall see to unraveling the mystery that I was brought here to resolve. Out of respect for your father's last wishes, I shall also try to insure that you are neither slain nor taken captive as leverage for future moves in this power play. I shall not travel with you directly, but a spark of my consciousness shall be with you at all times, and I can travel to you instantly at need. Spells of protection lie upon you, and you are not without an ally. Remember that. When your mind is clear enough to once again discipline your thoughts, reach out to me and we may speak further. In the mean time, I shall begin my investigations."

With that last, the man's voice in her mind fell silent and the feeling of intense scrutiny eased, but Mavigan could not help but feel a presence nearby, a comforting presense however unwanted.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn was starting to get bored. This group of loud soldiers had finished setting up their camp hours ago, and now they were just sitting around being even more noisy than when they were marching.

"I wonder what that smoke over there is," she thought to herself, "Well, it has to be more interesting than listening to these strange people boasting about stuff that never happened." Making up her mind, Keeryn starts jumping through the trees headed toward the smoke that marks the village of Thornton.

Written by Ariana

Words again filled Mavigan’s mind. She was sure they did not belong to her, and although intrusive and disorienting, she found them comforting on a level she was not willing examine. At that moment, Mavigan felt a hand grip her collar. Reacting on nothing but instinct, she secured this hand with both of hers and quickly turned around and under her attacker’s arm. She was suddenly behind her attacker with full control of the arm at the shoulder. She pushed against the man, hard, and he was suddenly face down on the pavement. Mavigan attempted to turn and flee, but her legs were unsteady and she was disoriented. She tripped on a cobblestone and landed painfully on her rear end. “DON”T TOUCH ME!” she roared, and sat on the wet stones staring at Alaric with empty eyes.

Written by Aethelwulf

Alaric was taken by surprise at the suddeness of Mavs actions. Pushing himself up from the wet cobblestones, he glared at his companions as they surpressed their smiles. Squatting before the suddenly quite Mavigan, he spoke, this time not in a tones of stone and steel, but in tones of gentleness.

"Mavigan, I know that things are happening far too fast for you. The death of your father, of your family must be a shock and knowing that there are killers after you cannot sit well either. You KNOW that I was loyal to your father, that I served him for many years. I want you to know that I am loyal to you as well, and I pledge my service to you. Time is very short for us M'Lady, and we really need to put as many miles between us and this town as quickly as possible. Now then," Alaroc extended his hand to the lass, " shall we call a truce and be on our way?"

Written by Ariana

Mavigan stared blankly at Alaric as he crouched before her. She knew he was saying something, his lips were moving after all, but she had a hard time hearing him due to the roaring in her ears. Yes, he is saying something - something important, something she should take notice of. What is it? She could feel the message battering away at the mental wall of and indifference she had wrapped around herself. It was trying desperately to catch her attention. As she turned towards it, the message sprang out at her with extreme clarity. Danger! Danger! Act now! Think later!

The thoughts crashed into her jarring her back to herself. She understood danger – she understood survival. Act now! She could do that. Mavigan’s vision suddenly became clear, and the sounds of the night again became distinguishable. She again recognized the man before her, his words understandable, his meaning clear. Danger was near! Must move! Act now!

Ignoring Alaric’s outstretched hand, she pushed herself up from the cobblestones. Noting their direction, she turned her back on her captors, reaching behind her to pull the hood of her cloak over her head. “Headed to the stables, are we?” she said flatly, her voice almost normal. “Well?” she demanded, her voice turning haughty and impatient. “Don’t just stand there! Asca usquenerea!”

Without waiting to see if they followed, Mavigan began hurrying towards the stables. “Pledged to me, he says,” she thought angrily. “The old geezer just doesn’t get it.” She paused in her thoughts and listened to the footsteps behind her. “Although, if worse comes to worse, I can always use him as a meat shield.” The thought gave her an inward laugh.

Written by Archeantus

Stepping down the darkened corridor, the guard, holding a bowl of broth came to the cell that housed the maddened fool that had been brought in two nights ago.

He spat out the usual, "Up and at it maggot--" but stopped in mid-sentence as his eyes adjusted to the shadowed cell. The man stood perfectly erect directly in the center of the cell. No one stood in a cell with all that time on their hands.

"--yer breakfast." He finished a bit mystified at the strange sight.

"Listen." Came a chill voice from the recesses of the cell, the slight glimmer of light ever so slightly glinted upon the outline of his head as it moved upward.

"Eh?" The guard stepped forward slightly barely gleaning the near inaudible word.

"I said listen." It came again.

The guard staring into the maw of the shadowed man inside the cell thought it seemed as if he were the one captured so imposing was the strange man.

"I'll hear nuthin' from--"

"I hold vital information on the whereabouts of Mavigan." The shadow continued coolly.

The old guard almost laughed but he couldn't bring himself to think indifferently of the man. He knew any prisoner would say just about anything to win his freedom, he'd heard every excuse there was, but this one perplexed him. He wasn't a sniveling fool, like the usual lot he received, he was...the guard couldn't finish his thought.

"So tell me." The guard asked skeptically.

"Very well." The man said stepping closer.

The guard inched toward the bars, yet stayed as far away as possible. The man watched the hesitant guard and came right up to the bars.The old guard waited for a response.

"Well?"

He edged slightly closer bending over to listen.

Silence.

The man then laughed mockingly.

"Do you honestly think I would tell you if I knew." The man finally said lightheartedly.

It was then that the old man realized he had been the butt of the joke.

"You mean--"

"Quick, you old mule, I'm hungry." The man interjected teasingly.

The guard stood for a moment coming to his senses so transfixed and intimidated by the man the sudden change and punch line left him dazed, then smiling and shaking his head at himself he handed the bowl and bread to the outstretched shackled hands of the man.

"You had me goin' ya did." The guard said chuckling.

"You should have seen your face." The man replied between bites. He was so animated and cheerful now, it was truly remarkable.

Shaking his head once more he turned to go.

"Guard."

"Aye?" The old guard said turning.

"You forgot yesterday's bowl."

"That I did." The guard piped, limping back and grabbing the empty bowl from the man's outstretched hand through the bars.

"My compliments to the cook, this is fantastic prison broth." The man said with a slight hint of sarcasm.

"Hah!" The old man laughed catching the joke this time as he walked back down the corridor.

"Strange man." He said to himself as he situated himself at his post once more.

Hours later....

Footsteps could be heard from the stairs that led up to the castle down to the catacombs. Five men stepped into the dim torch light of the prison block, one the old Bailiff recognized as the captain that had brought in the prisoner a couple nights ago.

"I'm here to interrogate the man I brought in the other night." He said.

"Aye sir, lemme take you to 'is cell." The bailiff quickly responded.

He led them down the corridor and to the cell. Fumbling to his gnarled hand to his side in the dim light he realized his keys were missing. The captain grew impatient, and looked warningly at the old man.

"Move it or I'll have your head." The captain barked.

"I-I don't seem to 'ave me---"

"Looking for these?" A cool voice broke in, shackled hands held the keys into the light through the bars.

"Sweet merciful--" The old Bailiff began stunned.

The captain stared ever more warningly at the amazed old man and snatched the keys from the prisoner.

"How did you--" The Bailiff questioned.

"Quiet old fool, go back to your duties." The captain commanded. "Which won't be for long." He added under his breath.

The old guard then scuttled away once more from the cell as confused as the first time.

The captain then gave his full attention to the man in the cell.

"How did you get these scum?" He demanded jangling the keys.

"You said it yourself, he's an old fool." The man returned calmly.

"And why didn't you..." The Captain said asking the next logical question.

"Leave?" The man finished.

The Captain nodded.

"To prove a point."

"What's that?"

"That I wouldn't leave even when I could have." The man replied convincingly.

This wasn't the man he'd brought in the other night the Captain thought to himself. Last he saw him he was incoherent, now he was completely together. Raising an eyebrow the captain continued, "Why stay then?"

"Because I hold vital information about the whereabouts of Mavigan and it is in my best interest to gain enough trust that I might share it." The man explained coolly almost a matter of factly.

The Captain chuckled.

"Let me guess, you have her locked up somewhere and was on your way to barter for information and somehow ended up near the castle unconscious in rags."

"It's easy to doubt the unknown, and easier still to remain blissfully ignorant. Disbelieve me all you want, I still remain the only solid lead you have." The man continued impatiently almost angrily.

"You'll have to excuse me if I don't seem too sure." The Captain returned cautiously.

"Understandable." The man responded flatly.

"Why don't you just tell me." The Captain said.

"Because I can't trust you with it. If you were me would you share such valuable information with just any one?" The man retorted. "Let me assure you, I hold the key--He paused noting the irony--to finishing the desire of your Lord and King." He concluded boldly glaring at the Captain disarmingly.

The captain stood there for a moment considering the man's request. If he does have the information we seek he'll most likely want a simple reward, and if it proved true, the captain thought, we simply will deny his request once we find her and send him back to his cell to rot. There seemed no harm in allowing him to relay whatever information he so confidently displayed to have.

"Please, it is urgent, take me to Beridane immediately." The man prodded.

The captain scratched his chin and smiled.

"Very well welp." The Captain said unlocking the cell. He didn't notice the dangerous flash in the man's disciplined eyes as he sent his men into the cell to haul him out into the corridor. They took him hurriedly up the stairs and through the castle to the great oak doors that led to the throne room.

They hardly noticed the slight smile on the man's face as he eagerly awaited his audience.

Written by Turin Wallace

Ithramir spent the better part of two days inside Thornton. With Umeawen and a few other choice companions, they somewhat enjoyed their stay in the small town. On the third day, while they were in the tavern drinking some of the local wine, one of their rangers quietly slipped in and started making his way to the small group.

Leaning into Umeawen's ear, Ithramir says,

"See what he wants, Umeawen."

With a serious nod, she makes her way slowly and quietly to the ranger. Once there she whispers,

"What news, Glyind?"

The ranger then whispers back,

"My apologies, milady, but we have spotted a small force of Beridain's men arriving just to the north of town. We have evaded them and await further word."

Umeawen whispers back,

"Stay here, I shall consult our lord."

As unnoticeable as she could, Umeawen picked her way back through the crowd and gently sat down next to Ithramir. Leaning in, she whispers,

"Milord, a small force of Beridain's men has arrived outside the city. Our rangers have evaded their notice so far, what do you wish them to do?"

Showing no signs of emotion, Ithramir says,

"Have them stay hidden until tonight. We will join them later with new orders."

Umeawen nodded, and made her way back to tell the ranger the orders given. Ithramir watched as the young ranger nodded and then slipped out the door. Hearing a lively tune, Ithramir intercepts Umeawen on the way back and leads her out for a dance.

While dancing close, she whispers in Ithramir's ear,

"What will be our plan of action tonight, milord?"

Ithramir whispers back,

"Beridain's men will not see tomorrow's sunrise. But let us not think on that for too long, let us enjoy the task at hand."

They danced for a bit, then went back to take their seats in the back of the tavern. There they waited patiently for the evening to come upon the land. Soon, very soon, Beridain’s men would know how it is to feel elven wrath…

Written by Wilhelm

The tall cloaked and hooded mercenary, dressed in worn armor, his weapon wrapped in leather, stood in the stable stall grooming a large white riding horse already saddled. A black warhorse stood in the adjoining stall. A silver ring, the signet turned inwards, glinted on Wilhelm's right hand. "Well Argent," he said quiety to the horse, "the lass is not to be found in the countryside and the usurper has not caught her. I had a vision last night of this stable and so we are here. If it is His will we will find her in time." The mare nickered and nodded as if in answer and then pushed her nose into the man's cloak. The red-bearded man chuckled, reached inside the cloak, and brought out an apple which he gave to the horse.

"Ah, you always had a fondness for apples. I remember the lass giving them to you when she thought nobody was looking. She hated the court but she loved horses and could ride like the wind. I remember her laughter the day you first let her ride you, her hair flying in the wind as you raced across the fields. She sang in her joy, and she had such a lovely voice, although she could flay a man with it when she was angry. A bit of a brat, really, but we loved her. I promised her father I would defend her, and I shall keep that promise if I can only find her."

Just then the white mare turned her head towards the stable door, her ears erect.

Written by Talonmane

The crew of the Ironskane frigate were tripping over bodies and slipping on blood in their efforts to reach Jagan. They only numbered around 40, with some below or still running the ship, and of those tasked to fight, a quarter were already dead from the initial assault. The rest feared to approach him now, as he went out of his way to clear a path to any who dared raise a bow to take a shot at him. It was not a large vessel, and that worked in the Barbarian's favour.

He used his Axeslayber like a shield at his right hand, rarely attacking directly with it. On his left forarm was strapped a gauntlet mounted with long bone spikes on which he impaled many with a forward thrust or sideward backhand. He tossed half of them into the sea, bleeding, where they would feed the predators of the waters. When encountering a sailor with some level of fighting competance, the great battleaxe came alive in one hand or both, whirling a balanced dance around Jagan's body as he brought it through the sweeps and strikes and parries that were second nature to him - the art which he had trained in from the first time he could pick up a stick (as Barbarian's hardly waited for a child to even start walking). These were the men who served the traitor who had killed his King. There would be no mercy.

At some point he became aware of a misplaced figure, another man who was fighting against the 'skaners but who did not originate on The Wavehammer. He looked somehow famliar, and now the frigate captain was heading toward the cloaked man with hatred in his eye and curses upon his lips.

Written by Aethelwulf

Shaking his head at the odd behavior of Mavigan, Alaric motioned for Koric to follow, and smiled as he noted that Lao was already on the move, passing Mavigan, and taking up the point position. Lao paused at the door to the stable and placing her ear to the dark wooden door, listened intently for a second before signalling caution to the small party. Koric moved to a wall across the street from the door, while Alaric moved in front of the rapidly moving Mavigan. His sword drawn, he held his hand up to Mav indicating that she should pause. Nodding to Lao, he then moved to the side of the stable door, while the lithe dark haired Lao moved quickly around to the back of the stable. Waiting a brief moment to allow Lao the chance to get into place, Alaric slowly opened the stable door with the tip of his sword.

Written by Wilhelm

Following Argent's gaze, the disguised paladin saw the tip of a sword poking through the opening stable door. Murmuring a prayer and kissing his sacred ring, Wilhelm was suffused with His grace, his worn cloak glowing briefly as if he wore instead a divine mantle. A breeze swept into the stable through the opening door, carrying with it the scents and dust from the street. Argent nickered his distinctive greeting.

Reaching out with his senses as he had been trained in the Abbey, Wilhelm scanned the life forces outside. Two men and two women, with no sign of evil intent. He breathed a sigh of relief as he recognized his old comrade Alaric and then those of Koric and Lao. His breath caught in recognition of the fourth life force. "Praise be to Him", he thought, "His visions are always true. I have found her and she is with friends."

Calling out softly but clearly he spoke. "Don't keep the lass waiting on the street, Alaric. The stable is secure and Argent has missed her."

Written by Pharsalus

Geirik had given up all hope of leaving this fight with a clean suit of clothes, and he now only hoped to leave the scene relatively unscathed and unrecognized. He was never the best of spies, but he would be damned if he was losing his cover over the ignorance and blind ambition of an inexperienced sea captain.

Cromwell, you idiot! was all that ran through his mind as he, bearing two swords of his father's craft, deflected blow after blow from the dozens of men that now scurried about the deck swinging madly in their last dying efforts to score a kill before meeting the Barbarian's blade. The old Hunter 's eyes followed every sweep of the brute's movements.

His blade...his style...I'd almost swear I've seen it before...

Geirik's thought fell to ruin as the glint of steel caught his attention from his right. A scream followed by the sound of blade upon wood...and one very perturbed captain now staring the old Hunter in the face. Geirik had to gather what had just transpired -- he'd heard the sound of metal upon wood, so he couldn't have been injured. And he felt nothing that may resemble a slash wound. With his face only a few inches from that of an enraged boat captain, Geirik darted his eyes about to discover that the little welp's blade had stopped just shy of his ribs, deeply embedded in an adjacent ale barrel.

The two stood silent for a few moments, the captain backing away at the realization that his primary blade was no longer his to brandish. With a grunt and a flash of his blade, Geirik advanced with blades crossed before him. He smiled as he foresaw the death of this worthless pile of a man by his very hands.

But it did not come -- another flash of steel sparked the air about them as steel met steel...

CLING!!!

The two were once again inches from each other's throats, held aback only by a barrier of edged steel and adamant. Geirik's smile defalted into a scour of frustration.

Of all the...! He should be dead! And he will die...sniveling...little...

"WOOORM!!!"

His trailing thought roared into his lunches and flew from his mouth in a seemingly endless chain of hate-filled vulgarity. The two broke their gridlock, only to strike blades once more before exploding into a flury of flesh and steel. And with every impact, Geirik grew more and more impatient, forcing his arms and body faster and faster. He thought about running, but such a thing would be foolish against a man of any swordskill. He would only be struck from behind as he turned to get away, ending his mission and serving only to fail his king...again.

He would not stand for it. This Capt. would fall, and his head would buy Geirik an entire week's worth of prostitutes and ale. But even with two blades to help him, he still found himself bound to a fight that (he believed) should have ended with the first motion.

A welp with spunk! I hate spunk!

As much as he desparately wanted to get off this god-forsaken vessel and continue with his mission, he could only clench his teeth and continue on with the "good captain." The fight ensued for several minutes as all hell fell down around them.

Then Geirik was struck with an idea -- the Barbarian could in this sea-dog's crusade with a single swipe of his blade(s). A sinister twinkle filled the black of his eyes, and he began to move himself closer to the edge of the boat, putting Cromwell between him and the blood-raging Barbarian. He focused his blows on Cromwell's center, forching him to step back every fe w seconds to allow room to defend. Geirik smirked.

Only a matter of time...just a little closer...

Keeping the Barbarian in his peripheral vision, Geirik pushed onward, moving closer toward the slaughter every few seconds. The sounds of battle resounded about them -- men screaming, armor shattering, barrels breaking beneath the weight of the slain. And now another sound of fill the old Bounty Hunter's ears -- the sound of Cromwell wincing and squealing beneath the brunt of a Barbarian's axe.

The time was right, the positioning was perfect. He waited for the Barbarian to reel back for another swipe at some nearby fool looking to grab some glory. A few seconds passed, and the two continued. Geirik stopped his forward motion and let the Capt. puzzle over the nature of his opponent's techniques.

SHLINK!

Cromwell's expression went stagnant and his weapon still. The fight was over, and before Geirik could bag his opponent's head for sale (Cromwell was a wanted man in many political circles for his work against illegal trade in the Northern Seas) the Captain's body went flying to Geirik's right, landing on top of an already mounting pile of corpses. Geirik could only stop and observe the bloodied pile.

Fools...all of them, fools.

Geirik had overstayed his welcome and wanted only the feeling of firm ground beneath his feet. In a passing moment as he turned, he caught his firm glimpse of the Barbarian's face.

Familiar....very familiar...but from where? A target...a neighbor...a relative? Blast it! Curse this cobwebbed memory of mine!

His mind raced with questions to which he hadn't the time to find answers. He darted off toward the edge of the Ironskane craft, looking out over the railing for anything that might break his fall: water, netting, a person would have sufficed at this point.

Damn it all! Nothing!

Written by Aethelwulf

Alaric smiled broadly at the soft sound of Wilhelm's voice. Sheathing his sword, he gestured to Koric that all was clear, and entered the stable. Clapping his old friend on the shoulder, he spoke in a quite voice as Lao made her way thrugh the backdoor and positioned herself in a side stall. "Tis good to see you again friend! You never cease to amaze me with your fortuitous timing!" Hearing the door creak, the two warriors looked up as Mavigan slowly entered the stable.

"Ah, and here is our new Queen."

Written by Reyk

His enchantments in place and the young queen's safety assured, Reyk turned from the group gathered outside the stables and began the walk back to his inn room. As he travelled, he began to review the events that had unfolded in the palace over the preceding hours, combing over Beridane's actions and words recorded in the motes of thought he had hurriedly scattered about the palace upon his discovery of the King's corpse and his immediate departure to find the Princess.

By the time he was once again ensconced in the suite rented for him at the Ivory Crane, his cover as an itinerant diamond merchant seeking harbor rights still in place, he had caught up to present time. As the arch-mage began trying to piece together the beginnings of the story into which he had walked, he relaxed in the sumptuous room's most comfortable chair and observed carefully the Usuper's every move.

Written by Ariana

Mavigan stepped into the stable behind Alaric. She was surprised to hear him greet Wilhelm, but pleased to see Argent peering at her from the stall.

"Ah, and here is our new Queen."

Mavigan winced when Alaric used that title for her as if the word had physical presence and Alaric had just hit her with it. She was no…. no….., well, she certainly wasn’t one of those.

Giving herself a small shake, as if to brush the title off of her, she cast a glare at Alaric and went to scratch Argent on the nose. As the horse nuzzled her hand, she said meekly, “Hello Sir Wilhelm”.

She never knew how to react to Wilhelm, she reflected. He was so….GOOD all the time, and Mavigan simply didn’t understand how such a thing was possible. She remembered how he had tried valiantly to teach her a few simple prayers and had spent many hours extolling the virtues of his god. Yet, no matter how many hours he spent with her, Mavigan just didn’t understand. Spiritual things eluded her, and to her young mind – they just didn’t make sense. Why would any powerful deity waste his or her or its time on mortals? Wilhelm insisted that they created mortals to serve some purpose, claiming that they did it out of love – at least the good deities did anyway. To Mavigan, it seemed suspiciously like the gods had created mortals out of boredom and she and everyone else were nothing but pawns in an eternal struggle for power. “Besides,” she thought absently, “who in his right mind would worship a male deity?” For generations her family had been pledged to the goddess Nagarren, the Mother. Worshipping some male just didn’t seem right, even if he was the Father.

Realizing that silence had descended upon the stable, and that Alaric was gaping at her open-mouthed, she set aside her thoughts for some other day and asked Wilhelm, “Can I ride her?”

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