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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Pharsalus - Page 13 Book 1

Geirik caught himself almost dozing off amidst the audial caress of the wind through the trees of the Elven lands. The rythmic thumping of his horse's hooves was no help either as the two plodded through the ferns and brush toward who-knows-where. The old man was beginning to think he had made a mistake, for he was still unsure as to what he was persuing or where he would find it. He knew only that his sensation was strongest when his eyes met the Northern horizon.

As Geirik and Gunthorp, his horse, made their way through the shaded wood, Geirik's mind drifted back to the stable in Ancora. The stableboy there knew little of the Elven lands but told him positively that they were indeed Northward from Ancora. He remembered distinctly how familiar the boy seemed -- red hair, hazel eyes, relatively tall, lanky, and filled with spirit Geirik could only distantly remember. He did not ask the boys name but paid him well for what little information he provided. The hissing voice in his head jeered even at the scene's recolection.

You cling to passed events and dead ideals, human...

Geirik's face tightened into a bitter frown.

I cling to nothing but you, and only then in the hope of one day ridding myself of you!

Had the being within him had physical manifest, he would have spat in his face. Unfortunately, he had no such luxury. He could only deal with his stowaway's taunts as calmly as he could.

But still...his mind lingered on the face of the stableboy. Geirik felt he reminded him of someone from years' past, someone he knew, someone he loved. But he could not conjure a name or context for this deja vu. It irritated him. After a while he gave up and focused on his surroundings.

The wood in which he now found himself was indeed vast, yielding no sign of exit anytime soon. The branches above almost blotted out the late-afternoon sun comletely, leaving only room for thing slivers of light that shone as dusty, golden bars. Oddly enough, their orientation reminded Geirik of prison bars, only far less tangible.

He knew nothing of his task at hand, or where his journey would ultimately end. The search of the Princess Mavigan's whereabouts had turned up nothing, and he could not ignore the terrible pulses of energy that seemed to throb from the Northern skies. Death, or one of its countless deciples, held a terrible grip on this land. The peace of the whispering pines and oaks around him seemed oddly placed, like ancient jesters smiling through fears of their own imminent demise. There was a strange calm to the forest, also. For the past several hours, Geirik could not recall hearing a single bird or bear or bug. Only the wind provided him company. He welcomed it, for he still had many miles to travel he feared.

He and his trusted horse, Gunthorp, continued their way through the thickets as the hours drew on. The sun had moved noticeably to a position more befitting of early dusk. What he could see of the sky had begun to turn the bronze of evening. He had to find shelter soon, but he knew of no taverns or castles in this area. He had heard rumors of an Elven fortress somewhere north of Ancora, but he knew nothing of its location in relation to where he and his horse now walked.

As he pondered, his eyes drifting downard and focusing on the ground bouncing slowly past him, the light around him seemed to intensify. He returned his attention to present and noticed the distance he had viewed only moments of ago seemed to have blown away in the breeze. Geirik didn't know how long he had lost touch with his surroundings -- last he remembered, he was noticing the bars of light through the oaken canopy. Lo,' before him sat the end of the forest. He pulled gently on the reigns, and Gunthorp complied with a sputter and abrubpt stop. Geirik's eyes, barely visible beneath the rim of his hat, sparkled as their gaze reached out into the sprawling void before him.

He smirked.

It seems the gods would have pity of a forsaken man, after all. Come Gunthorp -- rest for the night. A bed for me, and a stable for you. Fair enough, hm?

Gunthorp bobbed his head and neyed softly as Geirik spurred him onward. As they stepped from the ancient wood, beyond a pair of emerald hills to his left and right, sat a great fortress. It seemed as if carved into the mountain behind it and damned near as ancient. There were great spyres, tipped with flags bearing insignias the Bounty Hunter did not recognize. It was still half an hour's journey away at current speed, but Geirik could see a great gate marking its face...

Crafted by Dwarves, no doubt, he thought wryly.

The rumors were true, and Geirik was thankful for it.

Elves . . .

Written by Ardwen

The first thing Ardwen did was to remove his hand from the large blade on his back, they’d decided not to feather him with arrows, best not to look like a threat now. The second thing was to make an attempt at digesting every word the man…he had the look of a paladin about him, spoke to the Gate Captain. The first thing to catch his attention was the name Ithramir, that was definitely Elven or Ardwen had never spoken a word in his life. So there were Elves here as well, perhaps he was not so lost as he had originally feared. Still, while the name itself seemed familiar, Ardwen had never heard of it, certainly he had never met this Ithramir before. But, this was a good sign, especially since the one with the seeming holy warrior was definitely an Elf, no mistaking it now.

The gate captain along with the two additional guards strode toward him, Ardwen kept his face calm. He was about to attempt a greeting when he heard the odd furred one that the paladin speak as its eyes widened with interest at the blade on his back, “How do you hold that thing? It’s pretty big, and looks awfully heavy.”

The question caught him completely off-guard, he stood very still for a short, awkward second before beginning a response, “Ah, yes, well…” Ardwen glanced at the creature uncertainly, no, he was not even sure it was a creature. True, he had never seen its like before, he knew nothing of them, but it was obviously intelligent, and furthermore he would have to stop calling whatever it was it. He glanced once more, and came to the firm conclusion that the feline-like creature was definitely what he would call a she. He began again still somewhat unsteady, “My lady, the blade is large, and rather heavy. The real trick is, of course, to use both hands! Naturally though, you’ll want to get the full torque of your body behind it, a nice big arc, take advantage of the full length and power of the blade. Weapons such as this one aren’t much use in confined quarters, where a missed swing or a weak one can allow someone with a dagger to tickle your ribs. Really though, it shines when it comes time to take on mounted warriors, take the horse out of the picture and you’ll often remove the soldier from it as well, or you can soon thereafter with any manner of follow-up. Wide-open combat, that’s the trick, plenty of room to move about and use your own momentum to help move the blade, without it…well, yes, rather difficult to do anything with, isn’t that what you said?”

Ardwen could barely believe he had been that talkative over a simple question! He silently berated himself; he’d been such a fool! For all he knew the one addressing him could fly about and shoot fireballs! Well, it seems fortune pitied a fool, for nothing of that sort had happened yet. In fact, he found himself oddly trusting of the wide-eyed feline-eared one before him, it seemed so friendly, and certainly harmless enough.

In any case, Ardwen felt confident enough now to breach his own question, “Forgive my abrupt manner, but might I have your name? I am called Ardwen by most…just Ardwen. I have served for all of my lifetime as a warrior…spending most of that time fighting for what many have chided as ‘lost causes’,” Ardwen paused before adding in a whisper almost too soft to be heard, “Aure entuluva.”

Written by Vylia

"I'm Keeryn," she smiles before intentionally copying his speech, "just Keeryn. I guess what you said makes sense... but even if you had a lot of room, if the one you were fighting was fast, yet held back, you would never know until you had missed, or they were already close enough to gut you." Keeryn shrugs before looking at him with her previous look of innocence, "What does 'Aure entuluva' mean?"

Written by Varg

Varg tells Wilhelm along the way to the reception area a brief synopsis of his past.

As an elf he could only aproximate his age as being around 130 seasons, but since his memory was only of the past 30 years or so he could not tell for sure. He tells of the of the twenty years spent in the glen with Saloren and training in the Ranger arts. Then the ten years spent in Burghast with Erstan and the training in the Thieving arts he had received there. But his training in such arts was not for the purpose of petty theft, more for adventuring and mercenary work. Varg really had little faith in the All-Father as you call Him until recently, he just had no purpose for religion. But he had just leerned many new things about himself recently, which had driven him into the service of the All-Father. Through the many days he made the voyage to Ancora he had learned much through meditation and prayer about the All-Father and His purpose for Varg. About this time Wilhelm and Varg arrive at the reception hall. Wilhelm then informs Varg of what is to happen next, and exits the hall.

Meanwhile Varg decides to look around the area a little and soak in the castle. He had never seen such a large fortification before, he had seen many a castle in his day, but none of such grandeur. After looking around the reception area for awhile, Varg decides to get comfortable. Then he begins to re-hash the past known thirty years of his life. Where his journey began, and pondering on what his future will bring to him. He had already been on so many adventures, and being in the service of a Queen and a castle this size should bring many challenges. He was both excited and nervous at once. His thoughts soon shifted to the All-Father and he began to pray and meditate.

Written by Ardwen

Ardwen smiled slightly, it wasn’t the first time someone had surmised the same about the larger blade. Briefly he wondered if Keeryn had ever tasted the sweet thrill of combat, the thought passed just as quickly, it did not matter really. Ardwen once again spoke to Keeryn, “A question commonly asked, the blade has a wide arc as I said, to dodge it my opponent would have to leap backwards or far off to either side. In any case, I’d be forcing them to go defensive, and if their distancing was not perfect, I could catch them while they went to advance or retreat further. No weapon is perfect, every blade has a margin of safety, as it is commonly called, and if you can remain outside of this margin the enemy’s weapon won’t be able to strike you. Regardless, I’ve got the two blades at my side to deal with my foe if they’re somehow preternaturally fast. Of course, even such a strategy is not flawless, there’s the time it takes to unsheathes the blades, and then adjust myself to a whole new style of fighting. But then again, that’s what my business is as a warrior, training to make sure I’m prepared.”

Ardwen was about to address Keeryn’s second question when one of the two escorts the gate captain summoned interjected, “You seem to know much of the warrior’s art stranger, but you’ve told precious little of yourself. Come, you say your name is Ardwen? That tells us practically nothing, who are you exactly, how did you come here, and for what purpose?”

Ardwen considered the one that had spoken, the gate captain and his two fellows were no strangers to strife, they had the constantly calm look that most master soldiers possessed, but it spoke volumes of their ability to act coolly and quickly. Ardwen considered his words carefully before speaking, “You ask who I am? That would be a tale long in the telling indeed. I am a warrior, first and foremost, I have been since I first drew breath, and plan to be so when I take my last. I am what you might call a patriot, or a zealot, depending on how you view me. I serve no deity directly, but it is difficult to perform any action and not serve one greater power or another, no? I have fought always for my people, the Elven race, the firstborn where I am from, rulers of twilight and the highborn in a broken world. Let me ask you, do the Elves rule here? Are they vagabonds wandering the earth wishing they could die? Do you even care which one happens?”

At those words the guard’s eyes seemed to flash with indignation, but Ardwen pressed on, “Because where I am from, that balance is precarious indeed. We have often fought bitter wars against the treachery of the other races, and we’ve lost much in the passing of time. A scholar of my people once said, ‘To understand the full grandeur of Elven greatness, you must first understand the full scope of Elven loss.’ Never have I seen such bitter words proven so unfortunately true where I come from. And so I fought for my people, and I assisted any that would aid us, any who would extend an open hand instead of a clenched fist, and those people have been precious few. As to how I came here…I am not entirely sure. It was through no direct action of my own, I am no mage or cleric, I can cast no spells at all; ergo I am fairly certain either I was sent or brought here by someone or something else. I don’t even know to what purpose I could be here. From what I’ve seen there are Elves in this place as well, that has remained constant, so I suppose my purpose can remain the same. I am a friend to my people, the sword of justice to those that would threaten the Highborn, any who befriend my people befriend me as well, and any who are the enemy of my people…are a walking corpse.”

Ardwen finished the last statement emotionlessly, it was not a boast, or a threat, or even a promise. It was a statement, a fact, one he intended to prove true regardless of where he was. Ardwen then gave a slight nod to Keeryn before giving her his belated answer, “Aure entuluva? No, I don’t suppose you’d be familiar with the Elven tongue, would you? Aure entuluva means ‘day shall come again’ and it a phrase I oft use as a battle or rallying cry.” Ardwen paused before continuing on, “But come, tell me of yourself, are you a warrior amongst your people? You seem interested in this blade, do you aspire to dance swords with others? Or perhaps your nobility?” Ardwen scrutinized Keeryn further, but could answer none of those questions himself, he still knew far too little.

Written by Ariana

Mavigan’s eyes followed Alaric as he exited the door to her chamber. She sat in silence, eyes unfocused for several minutes after he left. Her thoughts were rudely interrupted, however, by a tentative knock on the door. “Enter”, she said without much enthusiasm.

She had expected Alaric had returned to once again attempt to engage her in conversation. Or perhaps that stuffy distant cousin of hers was coming to give her more disapproving looks and words. Both possibilities did little to improve her demeanor, so she was surprised to see an elegant elven woman enter her chambers, soon followed by a not so elegant and refined assistant, their arms full of what appeared to be cloth.

“My lady,” said the elegant woman with a respectful bow, “my name is Gavarel, and I have been commissioned by your Champion to make some clothing for you. This is my assistant, Talerena.”

Mavigan voiced the question that rang through her head like a dinner bell. “My…. Champion?”, she asked, eyes wide.

Gavarel, had the good grace to look slightly confused, though Mavigan was sure she did not use the expression often. “Yes, I believe Wilhelm was his name. He seemed most concerned that you had no appropriate clothes to wear.” A quick smile crossed her face.

Understanding dawned in Mavigan’s face. So Wilhelm was behind the accursed mourning dress she was wearing. She would have to thank him properly, she thought, a mischievious smirk crossing her lips. She turned her thoughts from Wilhelm when she noticed Gavarel patiently looking at her, apparently waiting for some response. Suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the weight of duty, Mavigan said the first thing that came to her mind. “Ah,” she said.

Gavarel continued to stare at her as if waiting for something more. Mavigan quickly searched her mind trying to think of what she could possibly be waiting for. Panicked, she tried to remember how her Mother handled such things, but no memories came. Casting about blindly for what could possibly be expected of her, she tried the first thing that came to her mind. “Um,” she said hesitantly, “Proceed?”

The uncertainty in her voice and the question in what should have been a command was clearly evident and Gavarel tried to hide a smile. It wouldn’t do to laugh at a new monarch. Instead, she turned a long, slender hand towards her companion and gestured the girl forward. Mavigan watched, her mouth slightly open, and the assistant rushed forward towards the bed, narrowly avoiding a collision with the floor as her foot got caught in a stray fold of cloth. Trying to cover her embarrassment, the girl quickly began spreading the bolts out on the bed.

Gavarel shook her head and gave a long-suffering sigh. Mavigan concluded that Talerena was naturally accident-prone unlike most of her elven kin, and immediately felt a sense of kinship with her. Both of them, it seemed, were out of their element.

As Mavigan continued to gawk rather impolitely at the girl, Gavarel walked around to the other side of the bed and laid out the garments that were in her hands. Mavigan found herself curious and rose from her chair to look at what they had brought.

The first thing that caught her eye was the garments she had arrived in. They were clean and repaired and Mavigan let out a cry of pleasure. Finally! Something she could feel comfortable in. She reached out a hand to snag them from the bed, when she found a slender and elegant hand wrapped gently around her wrist restraining her from reaching her goal. Mavigan looked askance at Gavarel.

Gavarel said apologetically, “I am sorry My Lady. I am pleased to know that you approve of my work, but I have also created this riding habit.” She held up a riding dress in a vibrant green. “If you would be so kind as to try it on, I can determine if it fits.”

Mavigan nodded and took the dress. Not bothering to go behind the dressing screen, she ripped off her mourning attired and put on the masterfully created riding habit. The fabric was soft as it slid against her skin, and Mavigan relished in the feel of it. She was very pleased to notice that the skirts were divided, and that she would not have to ride sidesaddle.

Once she was outfitted, a flurry of activity began. The sleeves were a little too long, and pins, needles, and thread were pulled out from seemingly nowhere. Adjustments were made, measurements were taken, and the next hour was spent with Mavigan choosing a variety of fabrics and outfits that the two seamstresses would make for her. Though Mavigan had never much cared for the clothes she wore, the time passed pleasantly enough, and once Gavarel had everything she needed, she and her assistant bundled up their materials and hustled out the door, anxious to begin work.

Once again alone, Mavigan glanced out her window and noticed the position of the sun. It was about mid-morning, and she still had the rest of the day to fill. Glancing in the direction of the riding habit, which was laying on the bed after having been altered, she began entertaining the idea of a ride.

Her thoughts were once again interrupted by a knock on her chamber door. Unlike the tentative knock before, this one was imperious and demanded entry. Forgetting she was dressed in nothing but her shift, Mavigan bade the person enter.

This new elven lady strode in with a confidence Mavigan had only seen displayed in Ithramir. Everything about her screamed warrior, from her leather armor and swords strapped to her side, to her gait and posture.

She was quickly followed by two elvish boys, each with an armload of materials. Suddenly remembering her state of undress, Mavigan’s first instinct was let out a shriek and dive behind the dressing screen. She stopped herself after taking one deep breath however, after catching the elven lady’s eye. The last thing she wanted was to appear weak before this formidable presence. So, she stood there faking an attitude of complacency as best she could. She only hoped that the nervous knocking of her knees were not audible to sensitive elven ears.

“I am Urithiel,” she stated without preamble. “I was instructed to provide you with armor and weapons, and training on how to use them.”

Urithiel spotted Mavigan’s leather armor strewn on the bed with her newly repaired clothes. Without waiting for so much as a by-your-leave, she immediately started to examine them, her face clearly written with disgust at what she saw.

An endless monologue of comments streamed from her lips as she picked up each piece in turn and tossed it carelessly to the floor:

“Oh, this will never do!”

“Le lakwenien? You must have gotten this from a human crafter.”

“Ed’ I’ear ar’ elenea! When was the last time you cleaned this?”

“Sina feuya ten’ lle! Absolutely disgusting! I can’t believe you wore these on your feet!”

Mavigan stood wide-eyed and unsure as this woman plowed through her possessions and tossed them to the floor as if they were trash. The only thing she owned that Urithiel did not throw away were her daggers and their sheaths. Even those, however, only seemed to be satisfactory, but certainly nothing up to her standards.

Before Mavigan could voice her growing outrage, however, she motioned to one of the boys who quickly heeded her command. Soon Mavigan found herself being none too gently strapped into leather armor. Tugs here, pulls there, soft murmurs of approval, and quick adjustments accompanied Urithiel’s critical gaze. Mavigan herself rather felt like a practice dummy for all the consideration she was receiving.

Soon enough, the ordeal was over. Urithiel was satisfied with fit of the armor down the last stitch. She ordered one of her boys to collect all the pieces of Mavigan’s old armor so she could burn it in the fire. She wanted to ensure that disgraceful armor such as that never graced the light of day again.

Mavigan, angry, embarrassed, and more than a little confused, thought that now she would be rid of this strange warrior and then be able to calm herself in private. Her hopes were dashed when Urithiel laid her stern gaze upon her once again and gestured to the second boy.

“I understand you know something about archery.”, she said. Mavigan could only nod in response. “And judging from the many daggers you have, I assume you know how to use those as well.” Mavigan nodded again.

“Good. We will begin practice right after breakfast. You will meet me in the training grounds.” She turned to her assistant and took from him a beautifully made recurved bow and a quiver of arrows. She thrust them at Mavigan who accepted them clumsily. “Don’t be late.” Urithiel demanded as she and her entourage strode out of the door, closing it behind them with a resounding click.

Mavigan collapsed on the floor where she stood, bow and quiver in hand, leather armor strapped to her body, and tried to collect her breath. Thinking that she now knew what it felt like to be trapped in a hurricane, she let go of her items and laid down on the floor trying to calm her nerves. She was soooo going to get Wilhelm for this.

Written by Ariana

Mavigan remained stretched out on the floor for several minutes, catching her breath and her thoughts. She had spent all morning being poked, prodded, pinned, ogled and criticized this morning, and the walls of her once welcoming chamber were suddenly becoming claustrophobic. Finally deciding upon a course of action, she rose from the floor, removing the bits of armor as she did so. Yanking the riding habit off the bed, she took only a few moments to see herself properly dressed, outfitted and armed. Snatching her bow and arrows off the floor, she strode out her chamber door and started down the hallway.

“My lady,” came a voice from behind her, “can we help you with something?”

Mavigan, her back towards the voice, rolled her eyes. The guards! She had completely forgotten the two prison guards stationed outside of her door. Plastering a fake smile on her face, she turned towards her inquisitors.

“No, I merely wished to go for a ride,” she replied.

An emotion akin to relief crossed the face of one of the guards, and he spoke again. “Then we will escort you to the stables,” he stated.

Mavigan sighed deeply, but figured she would not be able to lose these guys in this narrow hallway. She made a gesture of acquiescence and one guard took his place in front of her while the other stayed behind. Thus, the trio trooped through the halls of the keep, down a staircase, and into the courtyard. Making a right-hand turn that seemed to Mavigan to be executed with military precision, the three soon made their way to the stables.

As they reached the door, Mavigan decided she had had enough of pomp and circumstance and brushed past the guard at the door. Waving a gesture of dismissal, she said with forced light air, “I think I can take it from here. I do know how to saddle a horse after all.”

“Yes ma’am,” was all the response she got, and Mavigan had a brief moment of joy when she thought she was being given her freedom. Her smile quickly turned to a scowl as she watched the guards move past her and begin to saddle their own horses. At least they didn’t add insult to injury by attempting to saddle her one as well.

Mavigan heard a familiar whiney from one of the stalls and quickly made her way to it. There, looking at her with hopeful eyes, was Argent. She chuckled softly and ran her gloved hand along his neck. “I am sorry friend,” she said softly, “but I have no apple for you today.” She paused and glanced at her new “companions”. “In fact,” she whispered to Argent, “nothing seems to be going right today.”

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm heard Mavigan pass by with her guards on her way to the stables. Glancing out after she had passed he saw that she was wearing the new riding habit and was properly outfitted and armed. As always, the elven craftmanship in her new attire and gear was excellent and she looked very good in the ensemble. He was glad she had chosen to go properly equipped for the ride, given the dangers.

Turning to Alaric he said "It looks like Mavigan has taken the opportunity to go riding after the fittings. I should go along and accompany her. After all, it's my turn to get yelled at and I might as well give her the chance. Why don't you go speak to Varg and Ardwen as her representative and see what they want. If you feel it warranted you can bring them out to join us. I expect Mavigan would be more comfortable talking to them outside than in a formal audience chamber anyway."

Wilhelm went by the kitchen on his way out, pausing to obtain a riding luncheon and some apples packed for riding. He arrived in the stables in time to hear Mavigan's comment to Argent on lack of an apple. Coughing slightly to avoid startling her too much, he spoke. "It is good to be prepared to reward loyalty and devotion among your followers. Allow me to be of assistance." Mavigan started and turned to see Wilhelm, looking rather different clad in his formal white plate armor and cloak. He handed the startled Mavigan an apple from the bag.

Argent and Sable both nickered in greeting. Wilhelm gave a second apple to Sable and then moved to attach the supply bag to Sable's saddle and began to saddle the black warhorse. "I am pleased you could accept the offer to ride. Argent and Sable can both use the excercise, and I am sure you would like to get outside yourself. I will be honored to accompany you and allow these skilled gentlemen the chance to stay further off to watch for outside threats. I am sure you must have a few things to say to me." Wilhelm winked at her.

"The new outfit is very becoming on you. You look a most fair Amazon. Gavarel and Urithiel are truly skilled. You would do well to make use of their services. Gavarel is a Master Seamstress. Urithiel is not only a superb armorer but also excels in all forms of combat. I am sure in her hands even a spoon is a weapon. She can teach you the skills you may well need to surive."

"Many folks will be coming here to see you, to talk to you, and to pledge their services to you. Already two elven gentlemen named Varg and Ardwen have arrived at the gates. You may meet with them if you so choose. Beside supporters, enemies will likely come as well, and you must be prepared as well as protected. I have done what I can to make preparations. I must apologize if I have overstepped myself, but you were rather tired last night and so I made some requests on her behalf."

Motioning at the green scarf at his belt, he said "When you were ten you gave me this scarf and asked me to be your Champion in the Spring Tournament. I was honored to bear it in your name then and I have treasured it since. Since you never actually revoked that title, I presumed to speak as your Champion last night in making the requests. I am sure that you will find some means of thanking me for my efforts." Wilhelm finished saddling Sable. "No doubt when I least expect it," he said with a chuckle.

"As Queen you may choose whomever you wish as your Royal Champion, of course. However, until you make another choice I would be honored to continue to fulfill that duty. And now, setting royal responsibilties aside," he said with a bow and a smile, "shall we take Argent and Sable out riding so we can have a little informal chat, just Mavigan and Wilhelm? The day is pleasant and the elven grounds are lovely."

Written by Varg

While meditating and praying Varg was bothered with many visions. Visions had not become unussual of late, but these were of a disturbing manner. His mind was filled with images of a bloody battle, the likes of which he had never seen. They were flashes of images in his mind, images of Elves and of Werewolves locked in mortal battle. He focused on the images, but as quickly as they came they passed away. This went on for several minutes, but seemed like an hour. Varg felts his blood warming in him, and his feral self fighting to take control of him. As he fought off the beast inside of him, suddenly the visions ended. Leaving him more confused than before, until the final image appeared in his mind. It was the image of his signet ring bold and shining in his mind.

He felt him self reeling back, but caught himself before falling over. Varg suddenly snapped out of his trance and began to ponder what these visions meant. He found some water nearby and began to drink and splash his face with it. He then realized how feverish he really felt, and then sat down again to avoid fainting.

"What was that? In the name of the All-Father what does it mean?"

Then Varg settles back down and begins to meditate and pray again, this time with more focus for understanding the meaning of his visions.

Written by Vylia

"I'm a hunter among my people, we don't have any warriors really, because we didn't have anyone to fight," she says in response to his first question, before whispering beneath her breath, "at least, before that accursed wizard arrived." She thinks for a moment on which question to answer next, "My usual weapons are a spear, I can use most types, and a whip, though I seem to have lost them when I ended up here. I'm afraid I don't know what you mean by asking if I am nobility though."

Written by Sycon

Jague stared at a distance to the people seeming to stare each other down. They were surveying each other in an odd manner. There were four of them, seemingly a guard captain, two guards and a warrior of some type. Each seemed armed, or could pull a knife out at any minute, but their conversation didn't have an arguementive tone to it. Perhaps a debate was occurring.

Either way, they would not really notice him if he didn't want them to. It was not that he was stealthy of any sort, but who would stop an unarmed, unarmored, travelling dorf? Almost no one. Jague hoped this was the place he was looking for. He had heard of the terrible deeds done to the royal family and he sought out those who remained loyal to the last member. Perhaps he could do some good here. Perhaps if they were not too perceptive, he could pass off as a healer and he would not have to worry about fighting. He doubted he could get around being known for what he was. It seemed the guard captain up ahead would question him thoroughly no matter who he was, and as a monk, Jague had taken an oath never to lie.

He strolled up close as the warrior, who at this distance, could be obvoiusly seen as an elf. He carried what looked like three blades, possibly more wrapped in the folds of his armor. Each guard looked armed, though to what extent, Jague could not tell yet. He put on his brightest smile and started up a hum as he drew closer to the small group. The closer he got the louder the hum became until he was singing a slight toon. His walking stick clicked against the ground with each step. There was a breeze on the air that smelled of fires and food somewhere close, his stomach answered the reply on the wind.

"Of da lost and acient shores
of da place we like to call home
we look to the books or da lores
for da time we have to pass
before the day we go to mass"

He sung the song with his dwarvish accent. The common tongue was often enough spoke and he could fluently, but he preferred to do it with this accent. It marked him for a dwarf and not a heavy child that he was called sometimes when it grew dark in the cities.

"Oh, uh, hello dere!" One of the guards jumped around in his direction. He had apparently not seen or heard Jague coming. The guards hand was on a weapon, but it never unsheathed.

"I see yous a bit jumpy dere mate." Jague turned his attention to the other three which finally broke their stares with each other and turned to him. Their eyes still glanced back and forth measuring each other up. Perhaps they had just met.

"Hello and well met." The guard captain said.

"Same to ya to mate. Say, I've come to join yer cause. May a bit o'fun, or maybe fer healin' yer wounded." He turned to the warrior elf. "Might ya be new 'ere too? Ya've a bit o'dust on yer heels and ya look awful hungry, but most of ya elves do all the time anyhow." He paused. "I forgot me manners, da name's Jague, and I'm at yer service mates. Might I ask yer names?"

Jague stood there for a second in silence. Silence was something a monk was used to, but he didn't always enjoy it. Jague like to be among people and in the masses. Was better to fulfill his quest that way.

Written by Ardwen

Ardwen was at a loss first, no one to fight? No wars, no enemies, no devious plotting and underhanded deals, in such a world, would there be a need for people such as him? Everywhere Ardwen had traveled had been to wars or on the rumors of war, in his realm, there was always fighting, combat, and power struggles. What would his role be in a world that lacked such things? A brief image conjured in his mind, people like him, who loved the blade for more than just a weapon, would be outcasts surely. Ardwen settled his mind, for this world was surely not that one, he would have a purpose here. Responded in as casual tone as he could muster, “No one to fight you say? But, I note that you did make mention of a wizard? Yes, yes, I heard, and there’s no reason to hide it after all. In fact, I agree with you, wizards of any sort are a dangerous lot! They meddle in esoteric arts and arcane secrets they themselves barely understand, very few have ever earned my confidence, and it would seem the same applies to you as well.”

Ardwen paused briefly then continued to talk, “A spear and a whip? And you arrived here? So you are…not native to this world as well?” Saying those words reminded Ardwen bitterly of how he was yanked here, but he kept his voice smooth, “Certainly though, despite what seeming differences we had, you had nobility! Perhaps…you did not call them such, aye that must be it. The ruling classes were always fond of fanciful titles and obscuring codes so they could obfuscate what they really were to the common person. When I say nobility, I mean a caste of the “privileged” in society, who by birth most often, are elevated to a position of wealth and power beyond that of the common individual. Sometimes these people rule entire countries, huge swaths of land that extend from shore to shore, and sometimes they control vast networks of warriors, spies, and merchants. But one thing is always constant, they control more than any other individual save those of their rank.”

Ardwen was about to stand back and allow Keeryn ample time to consider his inquires, he was after all enjoying the conversation greatly, no warriors! What a fascinating, albeit certainly odd, people! He noted briefly the guards studying him intently again, but it seemed he would be allowed to carry on his talk with no interruption, and then a noise caught his ears. Something was travelling towards them, nothing large by the sounds of it, and whomever it was stepped lightly as if trying not to draw attention, but his ears could not be fooled. Spinning around and putting his hand on his great blade, Ardwen froze as he saw who was approaching.

A short figure with a shaven head and beard approached him; he’d seen this sort before. A brief smile touched Ardwen’s mouth, it would seem that he could be pulled into any universe or world in imagination, where any number of things might be true or false, but Dwarves…well, Dwarves would always be Dwarves! Ardwen listened to Jague speak, he seemed to have startled one of the guards. With a little effort, Ardwen released his grip on the large blade, the Dwarf, Jague is what he said his name is, looked unarmed and proclaimed to be a healer.

Ardwen decided to respond to the enigmatic Dwarf, “Aiya Naug. I am indeed, what you would call, new here. As for the dust of my raiment, that’s entirely a product of too much time away from Court. As for food, I was not…anticipating a long journey today, but it seems my plans have changed. Fear not though, I’ll not drop from starvation unless they intend to keep me out here for far longer than I thought. So you’ve been drawn here as well? A healer? But unless my eyes deceive me you’ve more of the look of a warrior about you than any clergy I’ve ever known.”

With that said Ardwen decided to see what this Jague would do next, this was getting interesting. Apparently that paladin had spoken the truth, there really was going to be a flood of arrivals!

Written by Pharsalus

Geirik squinted and lowered his head, retreating into the shadow it cast on his palid and tattered face. Even the dying light of evening lay too heavily on the old man's eyes. He truely was old, he feared -- far older than a mortal man should be -- and felt his age with every breath and step. The last several decades had proven burdensome and tiring to his already beleaguered form, and he felt his shoulders sinking lower with the setting of every sun.

His eyes remained on his hands that rested casually on the saddle before him. How thin and frail they had become, and yet how strong they felt on the hilt of a blade. He reflected as Gunthorp slowly thopped and swaggered down the dimly beaten path before them how many lives he had taken with them. How many paniced faces were wrenched into being by the power he held within him. Under normal circumstances, such a notion would disgust him. But he felt a strange sense of empowerment in being what he had become, though he would never in an inifinity ofl ifetimes admit it to himself. He lifted his hands, clad in black leather gloves, palms up and fingers bent. He slowly balled them into fists, watching the leather gloss and tighten around his nuckles -- he could not recall where he got the gloves he now wore. They were so distantly familiar, that it irritated him. He knew them: their smell, feel, look, and style were so familiar, as if he had worn them all his life. It was as if he simply awoke from slumber one distant morning in what he currently wore with no memory of its make or origin -- like a dream.

The light of day weigned slowly as he and his rented horse sauntered onward. He tipped the forward rim of his hat upward with his right index finger, moving his gaze carefully up toward the distance ahead of him. The fortress was much closer now than it was only moments ago, but he remained more than a few moments away still. He noticed that throughout his ponderings, the landscape had shifted into a downward slope. The front gates of the Elven fortress stood just below eye-level in a distance no greater than several hundred yards away. He squinted, and the shadowed outlines of figures stood just outside. There were three, maybe four, standing in a haphazard clump below a flag-bearing archway.

His took a moment to shift his gaze to the west, noting a wood -- undoubtedly the same through which he so recently traversed -- not far from the outter walls of the keep. To this moment, he marvelled at the inpenetrable dark Elven woods created within themselves. He could see nothing past the first several feet of trees; it would make a perfect hiding/camping place should he feel the situation turn for ill. As he returned his gaze to the upcoming gate, his mind reeled as it was bombarded by violent flashes, images conjured by unknown forces. He nearly fell off his horse as he pulled back on the reigns to stop Gunthorp's walk. All about him went black, interrupted only by sensual pangs and visions not his own. The forest to his left grew suddenly darker, stronger in presence, and almost forboding. Raspy whispers blew through his mind like an autumn chill, unintelligible but incredibly potent. They seemed to ooze from the trees of the naerby wood and sat heavy, like some dire sap, in his ears. Whatever dark magic siezed him in Ancora siezed him now -- he was close to its source, as this was far stronger a feeling than before.

Like dew before the morning sun, all that afflicted him lifted from his mind as suddenly as it had fallen. He sat in the middle of the road, only ten minutes' travel from the front gates and shelter for the evening. He thought quietly: if he is so close to the force that brought him this far from his search for the heiress, it was safe to assume that this fortress held some significance. His presence there, then, would serve only to endager those innocents contained within its walls. Death had not selected any mortals for the taking in this realm; so, he was not inclined to assume responsibility for any.

He eyed the clump of individuals standing around the gate in the near distance. It seemed to him that tonight was not his night for warm lodgings. He sighed and pulled hard on the left reigns. Gunthorpe, shaking his head in protest, hesitantly adjusted himself to the West. Geirik would camp in the woods not far from the fortress's entrance, close enough to know if this unknown force that toyed with his senses was making a move against this Elven keep. He could not understand why Death's legions were so restless so far into the Elven lands, especially so close to this ancient, unknown keep. Only time would explain. He would camp outside until he knew for certain, for there was apparently more to this place than he was aware.

He paused at the treeline, looking back toward the road. Looking at his hands once more, he clenched them tight around the reigns and, with a twitch of his forearms, bade Gunthorpe enter, flowers and foliage withering and dying in his wake.

Written by Teran

Quiet as a whisper, Teran slips through the corridors and passages of the castle, his very essence hidden within the shadows... not even the elves with their superior senses could detect him in the confines of the shadowy halls. He was soon at his objective... Mavigan's bedroom. He slips inside, knowing that he would be alone.

He examines the room closely, seeking out any traps or poisons another assassin may have set up for the Queen, finding none, Teran disapears into a shadowy nook near Mavigan's bed, and he waits... His intuition told him he would be needed once night fell, in this room.

Written by Archeantus

The shadows crept along the forest floor as night road with the small group, hellbent on an ancient structure to kill a princess to incite world war.

At thier head was a lone stranger, dark and unknown to all, even those who followed him. The sun had begun its descent through the trees, the clouds blazed in reddened hue. It was as ominous as it was beautiful. As it was, it was a good day to ride. The cool wind flowed along thier dark cloaks, sending them flapping behind them. They rode side by side, a wave of doom.

Vermigard pointed as they crested a hill, just as the sun slipped behind the mountians.

There down the lush valley sitting atop the perch of the beginning on a mountain range was the Citadel. It was only a silhouette, but it was impressive nonetheless. A massive waterfall could be seen just above it, seemingly pouring directly down through the structure.

"The question is, how do we get in?" Vermigard said, eyeing the large chasm and the towering draw bridge.

Gadianton's face was emotionless, his dark eyes calculating.

Then he smiled, ever so slightly.

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