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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Archeantus - Page 12 Book 1

The day was at its peak. The sun was high overhead and they still had quite a ways distance to travel before they reached the elven citadel. Vermigard was still adament they'd make it there by nightfall, or some time shortly after. Their mounts showed signs of being tired and Gadianton decided to stop for a moment to rest them.

The landscape grew ever more green and lush the closer they came to their destination. Large rolling hills grew ever more steeper and formed into mountains. Soon they were traveling through a valley, the walls of stone and rock and brush reached high above them and blotted out the sun. Bird caws could be heard across the dense forest. There were howls of some sort of animal. Gadianton led them off from the common road and entered a clearing where large trees towered hundreds of feet over them and across the area was an ancient stream that must have slowly formed this valley. They set up camp directly off the stream and drank its pure waters.

They all dismounted, and Gadianton told them to stay there. They all sat it silence and stretched their legs. None of them were very friendly one toward another, but each could sense the respect each had for the other. They saw each other as tools, a means to an end. All of them knew this, and accepted it.

Gadianton soon came back with a large pheasant dangling in his hands.

"Lunch." He said, throwing it in the middle of them.

He could come off cold and ruthless, but they realized at that moment that he, in a way, cared about thier welfare. In a strange sort of way, Gadianton considerered himself the father of his hand picked group. They looked at one another and then looked at Gadianton in a new light. They knew he did not give a damn about them, but he apparently did care about their ability to be used.

Vermigard chuckled and stood.

"I'm not one to turn down freshly hunted pheasant." He said, now holding the fowl in his hands.

Once the bird was prepared they all sat around the fire, and ate lunch in the afternoon shade.

Gadianton watched them all and made sure all of them recognized why he had done what he did. He wanted them all to know he was pleased with them.

Together they could change the tide of the whole world, if he noted to himself, they stayed as one.

Written by Wilhelm

On the way to Mavigan's room a messenger from the gate caught up and reported the man's request at the gate. Wilhelm told the messenger that he would handle it. He asked and was told the location of a suitable room for an audience. Wilhelm then reached Mavigan's room, moving with his usual silent tread.

Glancing inside he saw Alaric pledge his fealty to Mavigan. He saw that Mavigan was wearing the mourning dress, but also her daggers as well, and she looked decidedly unhappy. Not wanting to interrupt this situation, he decided that he would go speak to the man and then conduct him to the audience room if he was satisifed with the man's identity and business. Hopefully by then the Seamstress would have delivered Mavigan's clothing, new and old, so that Mavigan would have a choice of clothing to wear for such a meeting and would be in a better mood.

Wilhelm then went back to his room and donned his full regalia as a Paladin of the All Father, as well as attaching to his belt a blue silk scarf that Mavigan had given him years ago as a young girl. "Might as well look the part of the Queen's Champion," he thought. Clad in his white armor and white cloak, he made his way to the gate. He acknowledged the greeting of the Gate Captain and then turned to face the mounted man waiting there. Concentrating, he scanned the heartfires of those in the area and detected no hidden persons outside the gate. The man was alone.

"Greetings," he said to the man, "I am Sir Wilhelm, Queen Mavigan's Champion. I understand that you have requested audience with Her Majesty. Let us withdraw to the side here and you can tell me your business with our Queen." He motioned to a shaded area to one side, away from the guards, and walked towards it then turned and stood waiting in the shade.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn was bored again. They had taken all her guards away without a word, but she still didn't know where to go to find something interesting. Since Feramas hadn't really told her that much, due to what seemed an overly shy personality, she had just taken to wandering the halls and courtyard trying to find something to do. She had gone to see Wilhelm when he walked out of his room and headed down the hall away from her in a set of clothing that made him look like a shiny walking white rock, except for his head and cloak. He was obviously going to do something important, so rather than interrupt him she just followed silently at his heels, waiting for him to notice her.

When Wilhelm got to the gate and asked the man there to move to the side she just continued following him, ignoring the odd stares the gate guards threw at her, and wondered if she was being too quiet and he just hadn't noticed her, or if she was being ignored.

Written by Ariana

Mavigan gave an annoyed huff and flopped down into the nearest chair.

“First and foremost,” she muttered, “You have GOT to stop calling me by that name.” Her eyes shifted their glare from Alaric to the floor and one hand slowly reached up to take hold of a tendril of hair. Her fingers quickly began twirling it in an unconscious gesture of nervousness.

With a furtive glance at Alaric, she continued, “It has been a long time since I was ‘as cute as a button’, and I’m not that happy little girl anymore.” She paused for a moment, her gaze hazy and introspective. “Besides,” she said, “it is disrespectful of your new Queen…”. Alaric could see her practically choking on the despised word.

“Second of all,” Mavigan continued, “keep your life.” She stopped fiddling with her hair and abruptly stood up. “I’m not worth dying over,” she said softly. Alaric watched as she seemed to give herself a mental shake, and then cringed as her hard eyes were once again slapped upon him. “Now,” Mavigan said in a tone of voice Alaric was all too familiar with, “Get out. I have, er… things to do.”

She turned her back to him, and returned herself to her interrupted breakfast, giving Alaric as clear of a dismissal as she knew how to give.

Written by Aethelwulf

Rising, Alaric bowed stiffly, and cleared his throat. For some odd reason it had become quite tight, and there also seemed to be some moisture building up in his eyes.

"As you wish my Queen. By your leave.."

He turned to the door, and paused slightly.

"I shall return to my duties then, and will leave for my patrols on the morrow. Be well my Queen."

With that, Alaric left the room.

Written by Varg

"Hail Sir Wilhelm." Varg bows gracefully to Wilhelm as a sign of respect for his position.

"I have come to seek an audience with Mavigan. I apologize for requesting such an audience, but I did not have the knowledge of her position until just recently. It is hard to explain why I have come, and maybe a little harder to believe. I do not know your beliefs on God, but I believe in Him. For one reason or another He has brought me to this place after a journey of many days. I do not known, nor understand what my full purpose is in coming here, but I have been told by coming here I would be provided a link to both my past and to my future purpose. There is more to tell, but I would rather do so in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen."

Varg bows to Wilhelm once again.

"I formally request an audience with Her Grace Mavigan good sire."

Written by Talonmane

"I hate to see her off again. We just got back up to seven vessels, and sending the Wing on a two-month's voyage with half our supplies cuts us to six ships AND means we'll need to hit shore again soon." Captain Munchadin leaned on the port-aft rail and watched the sleek triangle-sailed frigate dash away South on a mission both desperate and dangerous. The peg-legged Dwarf shook his head, for he knew the Gossamer Wing was fast enough to outrun any normal threat, but a small vessel alone at sea was always under enormous risk. He was also thinking of the strategic plans he would have to reconsider, as he was originally counting on using the extra ship in his continued raids against the Iron Fleet of Beridane in the deep, cold North seas.

And the Wing had only just returned from another rushed voyage to the Elves in the West; she had carried a plea for help against the Usurper and his forces that now seemed to control most of Grayshire. It was the reply from Elborne, Elven King, carried back on the frigate and now in their hands that kept forcing its way to the forefront of Munch's thoughts, and that had resulted in a string of cursing and epithets from the Dwarf for the last 20 minutes. "By all that's Holy or Cursed, how can those pointy-eared, high-falootin, do-as-they-please......BAH! I've run outta curses! Now how's that for a fine cap t'the day! Blast those ninnies!" Yet even as his own anger burst out, Munch could not tell which before him was the darker: the storm clouds rolling down from arctic waters or the ones over Talonmane's brow.

Ninnies? If Jagan were not so absorbed reading the note for the 10th time and if the subject not so dire, he could have had a great belly laugh at Munchadin's choice of words. The Dwarf usually held a very deep bank account full of exclamations that few men could ante, but it appeared he had used them all up this afternoon. With good reason. Elborne had denied aid to Ancora.

Folding the note, he passed it to the Captain again. "Put that in safe keeping. The others will want to see it for themselves once we join them again. And sadder still, it may one day be looked apon as a great historic relic - one more nail into Ancora during her most trying of years. Unfortunately...a very big nail."

He was practically numb with the news. The rock of the boat and smooth, calm, beauty of watching Gossamer Wing disappear beyond the Southern horizon was such a false sense of tranquility. The pain of Ancora was so great it had just absorbed into his soul, and he guessed the mind had ways of keeping itself going rather than succumb to oblivion in the face of such things...and the numbness remained prevalent, ever a reminder that seemed to punctuate their near helplessness at the moment. Help-less indeed. No help from the Elves across the sea, that much was now sealed. '....not involve ourselves with the internal affairs of Humanity...', '....Beridane has made many recent alliances, and war must not sweep from land to land, a fire lit by Man's inability to keep tidy his own House...', '....this is your time of challenge, for all civilizations must win their sovereignty again periodically. Thus, our hand is stayed, and Ancora's trial begins. May you find...'

Blah, blah-blah... And in reviewing this over and over, it was the Barbarian's fury that boiled and prodded him to action.

"We've got to get on the offensive, Munchadin...in bigger ways than the raids we're making now. We could sting them at sea for a year, but the more your squadron grows to become a fleet again, they'll eventually corner us with enough firepower to force us ashore if we're to survive. We've got to be more clever. Bimglin saw enough ships from the world over when he was at Westgale last week, enough to tell us the sea isn't where we're going to mortally wound the Traitor. We'll keep enough ships to get us wherever we need to be and punch through lines, but we've got to go after serious targets that'll directly hurt the 'skaners."

"Aye. Harsh reality fer a sailin' man, but that's the truth of it, at least until the Wing returns. We've got maybe 9 squadrons out there somewhere, and if the Wing can go gather 'em up...I know we can take back the port again, or at least blockade 'em so hard the squeeze'll be felt right 'round Beridane's ba..."

"But we're not going to wait for that day, " the Knight Warden continued. "It's one component of a larger plan, and we'll need much more in place to hit him hard enough to knock him to the ground. If the Elves won't back us up, we'll have to find others who will. We no longer have the luxury of knowing Elvish war support is just days away as we make our grande plans. Let's keep sailing North, Munch...further than you've sailed before. That 'skaner port has got to be up there. We missed it the first time, but it has to be there. And whether or not we find it, I have to ask you to then take us West a bit."

The Dwarf slipped the big man a squinting stare. "The Twilight Steppes? You think the Warlords will care? Hah! or do ye think they'll believe us that we still have a treasury big enough to buy em into it? Almost as unlikely."

Jagan shrugged. "Will you rue the day you decided not to explore every avenue to get support for our side? We must try. And we must remain determined." Standing straight, he pulled the Axeslayber from its holster at his back, turned and rested against the rail. The fingers of one hand slowly traced the fine etchings in the vast blade of the weapon. "This still means something, whether I believe it or not. They'll come to its call...many, anyway."

Raising his eyebrows, the Captain reminded him, "But those who don't...they'll try to take it from ye. Again. The very reason you left in the first place."

Nearly snapping the reply, Jagan corrected his stout friend. "ONE of the reasons. But my true home, my true allegiance, is to Westgale and her royal house. And I'll let no one's petty clan games keep us from doing what we must."

"Alright then," the shorter man nodded in affirmation. "I may have another idea for getting us supplies. Sharp-eyed Bim spotted another vessel at port that day, captain'd by a certain scoundrel I know a bit better than he wished I knew 'im. He sails with 2 other ships, and always carries extra - extra that hardly belongs to 'im. We're goin' to take a short jab East and South again, not far out of our way, fer I'm sure that now the old order in Westgale's seas has shifted, the shrum-eating bum'll be goin back t'his old ways." Munchadin smiled, clearly he was looking forward to this.

"Pirate?"

""'Privateer' he tries to call it. In exchange fer his freedom a few years back he agreed to do a few things for us. A most prolific souce of information and 'acquisitions'."

"And why haven't I heard his name before?" Jagan was curious and a bit surprised...knowing such contacts around the globe was a specialty of his in service to the crown.

The Captain laughed, "Ye've met him lad! Just not by his real name. I'd rather the sight be a surprise..." Looking out over the water, their frigate was now out of sight. "Godspeed lads. Watch yer horizons and forget not the skies overhead."

Jagan knew the Dwarf referred to the mysterious enemy of the week before, the horrible black albatross whose presence had heralded the impossible sudden appearance of the Ogre who sank what would have become their 8th ship. The sailors hardly could keep from scanning above, superstitious lot they were - but in this case rightfully so. Marlie spent every moment not at other duty high on a mast, and her attention was little on the sea. Why hadn't that devil of a bird made another appearance? they could not know, but that suspence was as a shadow upon already-clouded days and brooding especially each night.

The Wavehammer and 5 other ships of varied design - all in service to the continuing spirit of House Ancora, the people of Port Westgale, and truly all of Grayshire - continued North, now over 700 miles from the Elven Ranger Citadel and Mavigan.

Written by Wilhelm

"I welcome you in the names of Queen Mavigan and of Commander Igthramir." Wilhelm bowed. " I accept that the All Father may have sent you here, but there are two things I must know before I present you. What is your name and where are you from."

Written by Varg

"I apologize sire, it has been a long trip and I have had a lot on my mind. My name is Varg Ulbrecht. My origins are unknown to me, but my last place of residence was Burghast. It is a small town several days journey away."

"I have had the pleasure of an introduction form you Sir Wilhelm, but may I ask if this small one here with you has a name as well?"

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm had noticed Keeryn following him. He turned and gestured towards her. "This is Keeryn," he said, "who joined our company on our way to the citadel. Keeryn, this is Varg Ultrecht, who has come to see Queen Mavigan. You two have something in common, it seems, since neither of you knows how you got to this land. Perhaps there is a connection there."

Wilhelm had known Varg's name from his tracking scan, and was relieved that he had given his true name. Wilhelm lacked the ability to detect falsehood by magic, but this was one way he could detect truth. He decided to trust the man for now. Wilhelm turned to the Gate Captain and informed him that he would conduct the man inside while his horse was stabled. The Gate Captain ordered a subordinate to take the horse to the stable, while another took the saddlebags and stood ready to bring them, and a third went off to arrange for refreshments.

Wilhelm turned back to Varg and said "I will conduct you to a reception room where you may rest and take refreshment while I inform Her Majesty of your request for an audience. You can tell me of your business along the way, and perhaps you and Keeryn can compare stories on how you came to be here."

Written by Varg

"Thank you again sire, and Hi Keeryn. Well met oh silent one."

Written by Vylia

"You smell funny... not like the rest of them, and it's not dirt or anything like that. There's something special about you!" With a big smile and bounce to her step Keeryn holds her hand out toward Varg. "I don't think we got here in the same way, since I'd only seen one human before I came here, but it's nice to meet you all the same."

Written by Ardwen

Reality. It's such an interesting concept when one takes time to consider it at all, is reality only what we can perceive? Or are there forces beyond the comprehension of mortals? Does man control his own fate? Or are we puppets destined to dance on the strings of greater beings? Is the destiny of man controlled by some transcendental entity or law, or do the actions of mortals set the motion of the universe?

Such were the questions nagging at the mind of one Elf, as he awoke and found all had changed, his world somehow...shifted. Ardwen focused his eyes, a warrior does not look, he sees. A large citadel near him, perhaps a castle? He could not tell; the architecture was foreign to him, it seemed one part noble estate and one part barracks. Two figures stood aside in the shade, conversing from the looks of it. Ardwen still felt uneasy, his stomach churned and his eyes begged release to wander, he focused, forcing himself to observe his surroundings. He continued to look around, and noted another figure near the previous two, and his jaw nearly fell open. A strange one this had to be! At first he thought it to be a human, but his eyes stumbled over the cat ears, and, "Oh," Ardwen muttered, "By the light it has a tail." Blue skin, and silver fur that seemed to border on white with red garments. Ardwen reached back one arm, his left, to finger the haft of the large sword on his back, a second later he muttered a few choice curses at himself. He had moved, he was not certain the other two gave any sign of it, but he knew that they were aware of his presence...and...guards?

Yes, this place was some manner of fortress or holding on the surrounding land, and yes, those were three humanoids, and as befitting any fort it had guards. But that was not the unusual part, Ardwen was fairly certain that of the three humanoids standing apart from the guards, two were not human. The strange blue-skinned one was certainly not, and the other seemed to compose himself with a grace that screamed Elf to Ardwen's mind, if there were Elves in this land, perhaps he was not entirely lost. There was no hiding now, he knew that someone had noticed him, and if the Elves in this strange land were anything remotely like what he was familiar with, they already had enough arrows trained on him to make him look like a pincushion. Ardwen tightened his grip on the large blade on his back, more of a polearm really, with the blade taking up some 3/4ths of its length. He remembered, as a thought skittering across his mind, that many thought an Elf wielding such a large weapon absurd, but when he took down a horse with a single sweep of the great blade, he recalled how many just smiled and nodded. Smiling himself, if a bit grimly, Ardwen kept his firm grip on the blade and strode near enough to the ones talking in the shade so that they could hear him clearly, but too far away, even with the large blade, to be a definite threat.

Stopping Ardwen begin to speak, making sure to keep his voice steady and his face schooled, "Aiya mellon! Elen Sila lumenn omentielvo! The fact," he began slowly in the common tongue, "That I am not covered in arrows right now does much to hearten me. Perhaps, you could assist me in some way? My name is Ardwen, I've no last name, but you honestly should not anticipate that from one of the quendi aye? I see you've an Elf amongst your company, perhaps you could tell me what this place is?"

He stopped, hoping that the silence did not grow too long. Foolish, he admonished himself, what he'd best hope for is that he could avoid being treated like a quiver, and those he had just addressed did not appear to be slouches when it came to fighting. Ardwen allowed the thoughts to pass, he remained calm, but the knot in his stomach simply refused to go away.

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm looked startled at Ardwen's sudden arrival, odd appearance, unusual elven manner, and his statement. Wilhelm had just scanned the area and nobody had been near the gate where Ardwen was standing. He must have appeared though some magic.

Wilhelm turned to the Gate Captain and said "This elf must have appeared by magic, because there was nobody out there a moment ago. I believe this is for you and Ithramir to deal with. It would appear the the flood of odd arrivals we discussed has truly begun. While you talk to this new arrival I will conduct Varg inside to the reception hall, and I will inform Ithramir of this new arrival." The Captain agreed and headed towards Ardwen, summoning two other elven guards to accompany him. Wilhelm invited Keeryn to come along or to stay and meet the new arrival. He then went inside and conducted Varg to the reception hall, where refreshments were served. "I will inform the Commander and the Queen of your arrival. Please make yourself comfortable."

Then Wilhelm went and informed Ithramir of the new elven arrivals, passing on the circumstances of the visitor's arrivals. "I have left Varg in the audience chamber, and the Gate Captain is speaking to this Ardwen. While Elven, both seem different to me. You would know better. I feel that Varg is a follower of the All Father, but I am unsure of Ardwen."

Wilhelm then went towards Mavigan's chambers, where he saw Alaric leaving, closing the door behind him, and proceeding to his own room. Wilhelm decided to consult Alaric first as to whether Mavigan was up to granting audience to a new petitioner. Entering Alaric's room, he informed Alaric of Varg's appearance and request, mentioning also the other new elf as well, and asked if Alaric thought Mavigan was up to the meeting or if Alaric wished to meet with Varg himself. "It looks like we are getting a number of elves showing up (in odd ways) who wish to see Mavigan. I suspect the human applicants will begin arriving soon as well."

Written by Vylia

Keeryn didn't even notice Wilhelm's gesture to join him, she was too busy staring at the large blade on this Ardwen's back, eyes wide in fascination. "How do you hold that thing? It's pretty big, and looks awfully heavy."

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