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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by - Turin Wallace Page 20 Book 1

Ithramir listened to Isuiln closely, when he uttered the words, n'uma ner tuluva, his eyes darted momentarily to Lithwyn. It was as he expected, this was it, and thus they were resigned to their fates here. Standing up, he motions for Isuiln to do the same, and says,

"Mae govannen, nikerym Isuiln. You and your soldiers are a most welcome sight. Your exile will not be in vain, for here we are needed, and our own lands need protecting. War is coming swiftly, Isuiln, and I hope you and your company are ready."

Pointing to a seat at the banquet table, he says,

"Have a seat, captain. Enjoy the food and wine, your soldiers are being treated as well this eve."

No sooner did Isuiln have a seat then the messenger burst forth again. Not as annoyed as the first time, Ithramir see's a look of concern in his eyes as he approaches. Walking to within a whisper, the messenger very quietly says,

"Milord, a rider has just arrived from Minas Uial. The news is grim, and the rider would only talk with you."

Telling the messenger to bring him in, an elf in full battle dress enters the dining hall, he is bloody and assisted by two citadel guards. Ithramir moved towards the wounded elf to keep him from being dragged across the entire length of the hall. Softly, he says,

"Tell me, what of Minas Uial and Minas Aure?"

The elf responds to the question in short, pained bursts,

"Milord...Minas Uial...is lost...Orcs by the thousands...assaulted us by surprise...many dead. Minas Aure...under full siege...will hold out...as long as possible...we need...aide...Orcs are carrying...human armor...and weapons...they...bare the...mark of Beridane..."

The elf loses consciousness, calling for Gilraen to aide him, Ithramir orders he be taken to the infirmary. Pacing a long, tense moment, he looks at those assembled and says,

"So it begins."

Swiftly, he barks out orders to assemble fifty-thousand elven soldiers to ride in relief of the garrisons come morning. Time is now of the essence, for if Minas Aure falls, there will be no defense against the Orcs from rampaging in elven lands. Turning to those at the feast, Ithramir gruffly says,

"Tomorrow, I and our soldiers will ride in relief of these garrisons. They lay to the east, it is 3 days away at a full gallop, with no rest. Those who wish to join may feel free to do so. I suggest Mavigan stays here, under guard, for this is the safest place to be now. Lithwyn will be in command when I am away, her word is as mine, I trust all will be courteous and respect it."

Pausing for a moment, his eyes meet Lithwyn's and he says,

"Amin cael ant en' lle gur, Lithwyn. Ele amin e' amin sambe manka lle cael i' coiasira.*"

With one last pause, Ithramir says,

"Now I will beg my leave of you all. Enjoy the feast if you wish. If I do not see any of you on the morrow, I bid you all well. Good eve, friends."

With that, Ithramir marches out of the door and into his chambers to prepare for the next day.

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

Just as Isuiln sat down, a messenger came in and whispered something to Ithramir. Shortly thereafter, a wounded elf entered, being supported by two citadel gaurds. Ithramir rose to go to the wounded elf, and Isuiln followed suit.

"Milord...Minas Uial...is lost...Orcs by the thousands...assaulted us by surprise...many dead. Minas Aure...under full siege...will hold out...as long as possible...we need...aide...Orcs are carrying...human armor...and weapons...they...bare the...mark of Beridane..."

Isuiln went pale. He knew little, except that Beridane was the usurper of the human kingdom just south of here, and that Minas Uial and Minas Aure were the only defenses against the orcs entering elven lands. But a human aiding orcs? No good can come of this, for anyone, including Beridane.

Then the wounded elf went completely slack, passing out from his wounds. Ithramir called for another elf to come over, whom Isuiln assumed was a healer, and ordered the wounded elf to be taken to the infirmary.

Ithramir paced for a moment, then uttered "So it begins." Isuiln could not think of anything more fitting for the moment. Then Ithramir turned and addressed everyone.

"Tomorrow, I and our soldiers will ride in relief of these garrisons. They lay to the east, it is 3 days away at a full gallop, with no rest. Those who wish to join may feel free to do so. I suggest Mavigan stays here, under guard, for this is the safest place to be now. Lithwyn will be in command when I am away, her word is as mine, I trust all will be courteous and respect it."

"Sir," Isuiln intoned, "my men are in nowhere near the shape required to travel there and be fit for battle. I propose they stay here, and act as gaurds. It will also give them a chance to become aquainted with the citadel and the area, for it seems that battle may be on it's way here."

"They?" Ithramir asked. "And what of yourself?"

"I shall ride with you to meet the orcs," Isuiln promptly answered. "I came here for the purpose of aiding the elves here, and I shall do just that at Minas Aure. If you'll excuse me sir, I shall need rest to be able to ride tomorrow. Could you kindly point me to where my men are quartered? I must inform them, then rest up as much as I can before the morning."

Written by - Trinni Shannon

At the entrance of the messenger, and the news declared, Lithwyn immediately rises from the table. Even as she rose, various integral members of the staff approached her, knowing they would be needed. Giving out instructions, she can't help but smile with excitement. Reinforcements! Have they finally come to their senses? Have they not left us alone then??

Her thoughts running wild as she makes sure accomodations are made for her newly arrived cousins, she quickly has another table brought in. Watching as the serving staff prepares the seating for the captain and council of the army, she smiles. Confident the soldiers will be immediately taken care of, shown lodging and given a veritable feast, Lithwyn turns back to the head table and stands behind her chair. As people filter back in from the windows and balcony, she turns with a start at the touch on her back. Knowing it to be Ithramir, she feels uncomfortable but hides it behind a smile and only shakes her head slightly.

"I knew we wouldn't be abandoned! This is grand news indeed!!!" Smiling genuinely, with profound relief, she takes her seat once again. Noticing Nysden's seat is empty, she knows he has already left for the temple, seeking the guidance of Avandar, the God of War. Well, he is gone and I cannot sit at the corner of this table with such a gap between Ithramir and I. It looks odd. I certainly don't want to give the impression that we are distant. And the people so want to see us wed... better to at least let them have the hope though it shall never be. Quieting her thoughts, she picks up her wine glass and moves over one seat, sitting at Ithramir's side. Even as she does so, the great doors are openned once again as a man quickly strides through the room. Smiling as he approaches, knowing he brings good news, she turns to face him as he speaks with Ithramir.

"While I and my roughly five thousand troops are here to aid you... n'uma ner tuluva..."

N'uma ner tuluva. N'UMA NER TULUVA???? It cannot be! The color drains from her face as she takes in the full meaning. For a moment she could only sit, dumbfounded with shock. Ithramir's voice bringing her back to the moment, she quickly agrees with him and addresses Isuiln.

"Captain Isuiln, you are most welcome within the citadel. We have been in need of you for some time. And now... well, we will need you more than ever as we truly are alone in these lands. Your bravery in coming here, knowing of your impending exhile, makes me proud to have you all within our walls." Smiling briefly, feeling her heart pounding still, she takes a long swallow of wine.

Raising an eyebrow as yet another messenger enters, whispers to Ithramir, then quickly leaves, she looks at him questioningly. Before the words could leave her lips, a warrior enters the room, obviously wounded and exhausted. Turning behind her, she asks the waiting attendant to run and bring Mila, the priestess that is second in command, so to speak. Upon bringing his news, Lithwyn realizes he is going to collapse and tries to move forward... but too late to keep his head from striking the ground. Kneeling at his side, she is quietly relieved by Ithramir's request of Gilraen. Keeping her head down as he is carried away, her composure returns and she stands to turn towards Ithramir. Trying to not look as worried as she feels, her smile is one of resolve.

As the silence is broken by orders filling the air, her thoughts race to what all needs to be done before morning. Mentally running through the list of supplies in stock, she is momentarily grateful for the order to mass produce these last days. While Ithramir explains her responsibility while he is away, she can't help but feel more than a little odd. It had been so long since the need for such an explanation, as any one living within the citadel knew this. Yet with so many new arrivals, so many new faces to learn, it feels as if she has just been inducted as High Priestess again.

"Amin cael ant en' lle gur, Lithwyn. Ele amin e' amin sambe manka lle cael i' coiasira." "Now I will beg my leave of you all. Enjoy the feast if you wish. If I do not see any of you on the morrow, I bid you all well. Good eve, friends."

Looking into Ithramir's eyes and nodding briefly, she turns to the rest of the room even as guests rise from their seats and prepare to leave. Speaking with various attendants, the room is quickly cleared of the nearly finished meal. Excusing herself from the guests, briefly explaining her need to begin preparations, she quickly strides towards the kitchens. Nearly coliding with the attendant whose name escapes her, she smiles apologetically and places her hand on his back as she moves around him. On a sudden thought, she pauses and turns around to address him.

"I'm sorry, have you only just arrived? Please tell me I am not losing my touch, I thought I could place all of the serving staff by name. In any case, welcome to our home, cousin. I am sure you will be happy here. Now, if you will excuse me..." Turning again, she makes her way toward the door, following an attendant laden with serving platters.

Amongst the buzz of activity befitting such a large kitchen, she speaks with several of the cooks, enlisting their aide to prepare the food stuffs needed for the departure tomorrow. Knowing they will work into the early hours of the morning, she goes to each to ask their help and to thank them for their service. Calling everyone in the room to order for a moment, Lithwyn makes a general announcement regarding duties and necessities in this emergency. Placing orders of food worthy of travel for the soldiers, and remarking upon the newly arrived army, she then concludes the casual meeting. Once everyone begins working again, she leaves the room and slips down a side hallway.

Turning the corner, sure she is alone, she slides behind the great tapestry. Touching the wall in three specific places, she pushes it back. Quickly moving into the darkness within, Lithwyn moves the wall back in place and follows the corridor. With only a small amount of light in the narrow hall, cast by a burning torch here and there, she could have walked the path in complete darkness. Having traversed this passageway so many times, she knows them as well as her own body. Turning right, then left, she finds herself at the entrance to the Citadel's large temple. Taking a deep breath, she pulls open the secret door and walks through to find herself behind the Great Tree of the temple, the altars of Avandor and Kaia'hanas on either side.

Finding Nysden at his place before the Altar of Avandor, she quickly relays what has happened. As the two move to the center of the large circular room, priests and priestesses cease their prayers and move around them. Looking around at all of their faces, Lithwyn explains what is to come, what needs to be done. Many of the followers of Avandor and Kaia'hanas will accompany the army leaving in the morning. Of course, only those well trained in both healing and defensive arts are assigned to leave. Keeping in mind the necessity of the citadel, she allocates an appropriate number to remain behind. Once assignments have been given out, she calls everyone to silence as first Nysden prays to Avandor and then she prays to Kaia'hanas.

During the prayer, the room nearly pulses with the murmurs of prayer. Nearly everyone within the room can physically feel the divine presence. As the prayer continues, tears roll down many as their contact deepens.

Openning her eyes to the view of hundreds of calm, touched faces, she realizes what each of them has just felt by the grace of the Gods. Lithwyn feels a pang in her heart, an ache as she almost reaches out. Wanting more of that calm serenity, the warmth and love of Kaia'hanas, she almost begins to seek beyond herself. Wanting to dwell in that feeling once again, to know it, to fill herself with it, she closes her eyes again. Almost reaching out now... feeling her grip on the here and now falling away... she opens her mind... and then... a movement brings her back. No. Not now, not ever. I cannot ask for myself. I will not. Almost.

Quickly leaving the room, by the normal means, she moves through the halls towards Ithramir's chambers. Arriving at his door, she reaches her hand out to knock but pauses. It has been so long since she was in Ithramir's personal chambers. Sure, Ithramir has been within her rooms many times, but she always made it a point to never come here. Battling with herself a moment, her hand still outstretched, she suddenly feels silly. We don't have time for this, there is too much work to be done. This is not about he and I, or my relation with anyone but the Citadel for that matter.

Pushing her shoulders back, unconciously smoothing her hair, she knocks soundly on the door and awaits his admission to enter.

Written by - Renalis

"Milord...Minas Uial...is lost...Orcs by the thousands...assaulted us by surprise...many dead. Minas Aure...under full siege...will hold out...as long as possible...we need...aide...Orcs are carrying...human armor...and weapons...they...bare the...mark of Beridane..."

The messengers words fill Renalis with horror. "What does Beridane think he is doing!?" Renalis nearly blurted out his thoughts were so loud, "He will be the death of all of us, humans, elves and anything else living."

"Now I will beg my leave of you all. Enjoy the feast if you wish. If I do not see any of you on the morrow, I bid you all well. Good eve, friends."

As the guests began getting up and leaving Renalis looked at Crystal and they both began to clean up, selling their charade one last time. Moving toward the kitchen with a set of dishes Renalis nearly colides with Lithwyn. Nearily ovoiding him she smiles apologetically and places her hand on his back as she moves around him. On a suddenly she pauses and turns around to address him.

"I'm sorry, have you only just arrived? Please tell me I am not losing my touch, I thought I could place all of the serving staff by name. In any case, welcome to our home, cousin. I am sure you will be happy here. Now, if you will excuse me..."

With a slight bow, and more than a small amount of worry in him Renalis replies "Many thanks M'lady, the hospitality of the elves knows no bounds and I thank you for the hospitality, I only wish more of my people, including myself were fighting alongside your bretheren" This made Renalis chuckle inside as he thought "I am more powerful than most of these soldiers. While close, not quite as skilled with the sword, but with Sorcery that more than makes up for that." Continueing on Renalis began ferrying the dishes from the hall into the kitchen.

After bringing the last set in, Renalis re-enters the hall to find Crystal. Seeing her wiping some tables he quickly makes his way to her and pulls her aside. Crystal is worried at first that she has been found out, but upon seeing Renalis's face, her nerves are somewhat calmed, the orcs still prevelant in her thoughts. "What shall we do my love?" she asks him. "The Orcs move and now Ithramir goes to engage them..." Renalis begins, "We must act quickly." Understanding what he meant, Crystal moves forward and up (her Human lover standing nearly a foot taller) and they share a quick kiss. "Be safe my love" she whispers in Elven.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Entering his room, Ithramir opens a bottle of absinthe and drinks deeply. Opening his closet, he pulls his favorite battle armor out and lays it on a nearby table. Polished to a high gleem, the scales and plates twinkle in the candlelight. His long sword and bow, they too are set in their places upon the table, each meticulously cleaned and cared for. A full quiver of arrows is placed next to them, then finally his shield which bears elven runes across the front. All is now ready except for himself.

Grabbing the bottle, he carries it with him as he moves to the balcony of his room. There, in the fading light of the day, as he looks across the vast forest, he wonders if this is fitting. Is this the sunset of the elves here? Will they too fade into nothingness in the coming battles?

Taking a long swig from the bottle, he leans against the hard stone arch between the room and balcony, just staring in silence until he hears a semi-forceful knock on the door. He knew it was Lithwyn, for no attendent would disturb him this eve, and he asked for her presence. She visited his room but a few times, he usually went to hers, though he never understood her dislike of it. Shaking his head clear, he says just loud enough,

"Tul e', Lithwyn, amin cael na duil lle.*"

Hearing the door open, he can hear her soft footsteps on the stone floor as she appraoches him. Turning his head to her, he says,

"Lithwyn, tomorrow myself and fifty-thousand soldiers ride to defend our lands. Never has the situation been so dire since the Time of Darkness, and yet, I cannot call forth our whole army to fight. They need to be here, to protect this place and counter aggression by Beridane."

Pausing, taking a drink from the bottle, he says,

"You are quite a capable leader, Lithwyn, no matter the outcome of our ride I know you will do what's best for our people."

Pointing to two chairs and table on the balcony, Ithramir says,

"Now, let me simply enjoy your company but for a little bit longer. The sun is almost set, darkness closes in, and if we are doomed then let me meet that end with nothing left unsaid between us."

Sitting down, Ithramir and Lithwyn begin talking, all the while the evening sets in and preperations for battle are taking place.

Written by - Ardwen

War. Ardwen could scarcely contain the excitement within him. War. Another battlefield, did it matter why? Another chance for him to fight for whatever reason. The sitting, feasting, and thinking had obviously caused him to go on edge more than once. Too much thinking, too much dwelling on the past and savoring his own suffering.

On the battlefield there is no other thought than how to swing one's sword and kill the enemy. Swing, kill, swing, kill, it had to be more than an idea, it had to be a certainty. Those words Ithramir had spoken though:

"Tomorrow, I and our soldiers will ride in relief of these garrisons. They lay to the east, it is 3 days away at a full gallop, with no rest. Those who wish to join may feel free to do so. I suggest Mavigan stays here, under guard, for this is the safest place to be now. Lithwyn will be in command when I am away, her word is as mine, I trust all will be courteous and respect it."

There was an offer to join him, Ardwen would take it gladly. Not just out of his code, but out of desire. Before he could relate this to Ithramir though, the Citadel's Captain was swept away in a deluge of orders, preperation, council, and contemplation. It was to be expected as it was a commander's role to do such things. And this other captain - was Isulin his name? - Seemed to bring a sizable reinforcement, and even more news.

Ardwen yanked on both his gauntlets again and fastened them as attendants and servants went about cleaning up and storing the remains of the feast. Ardwen did not care, food occupied the least of his concerns at the present. He saw the wounded Elf enter, but he barely noticed, his thoughts were spinning now. Excusing himself he left the feast hall, and sought out one of the soldiers running errands and preparation for the morrow.

"Mellonamin!" Ardwen called out to a passing warrior. He bore the tincture of the Citadel, that was the important part. "Would you please inform Ithramir upon his earliest convenience that I desire to ride with the host tomorrow? Whatever time we depart is fine, I will be ready."

The soldier looked at him curiously for a moment before chuckling, "I've heard of you mellon." He let out one more laugh, tinged with tenseness before continuing, "Whatever hour? Alright macar, it shall be done when Ithramir can spare the time- if he can spare the time. I suggest you simply prepare as best you may though. We will be looking for all the men we can, and I don't think we'll be likely to pass you up."

Ardwen let a slight grin creep across his face, it did not touch his cold eyes, "I would hope not warrior. Diola lle for your aid. Keep safe." The two exchanged bows before departing their separate ways. Ardwen walked back to his room and pulled another piece of parchment from the small desk. This time he wrote, "Please procure whatever provisions for me you can for the coming campaign. I am unfamiliar with the Citadel in its entirety and would fear impeding others' progress. Put the rations on whatever horse you can find, I'm not particular, I will be on the balcony nearest my room sleeping tonight if you need me. May fate smile on you for your efforts."

Finishing the last word Ardwen let the ink dry before rushing to find the nearest attendant. The first servant he could find looked at the letter, looked at him, and then back at the letter. Finally he said, "Well, we're supposed to help the soldiers mustering for the coming battle all we can, and this certainly qualifies. I will do what I can."

Ardwen bowed and thanked the attendant before once more walking back to his quarters. He walked past the door framing the entrance, down the hallway, and out into the cooling air fast turning to darkness. Breathing deeply Ardwen settled himself on one of the benches.

Taking the blade off his back Ardwen rested it vertically on the ground, balancing the part near the hilt on his right shoulder so that the blade extended out in front of him and rested on its edge. Sighing slightly Ardwen took to studying the sky. The last remnants of the day were fading, yielding to the inevitable darkness.

Darkness that was all consuming, and would last until something drove it back. Something stirred within Ardwen, some half-repressed memory. Not sure entirely why and not really caring he spoke softly to the deaf wind that blew in the evening air, "Like a candle in the darkness . . ."

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan watched with curiosity as activity exploded in the dining hall. One moment, guests were quite content to sip fine wine, stuff their mouths full of savory food, and make light, meaningless conversation. The next moment, Mavigan was engulfed in a veritable stampede – people rushing to gather gear and supplies, rest, and generally prepare for the march the next day. Even the servants seem to be possessed of some sense of urgency.

Mavigan felt a thrill of excitement flutter through her stomach. Finally, she would be given the chance to vent her rage and frustrations on a socially accepted target – one she wouldn’t be lectured on later. Rising from the table, she prepared to join the swelling mass of activity, but then the words of Ithramir skated over the general buzz to reach her ear.

"Tomorrow, I and our soldiers will ride in relief of these garrisons. They lay to the east, it is 3 days away at a full gallop, with no rest. Those who wish to join may feel free to do so. I suggest Mavigan stays here, under guard, for this is the safest place to be now. Lithwyn will be in command when I am away, her word is as mine, I trust all will be courteous and respect it."

She slumped back into her chair, the picture of dejection – her shoulders slumped, her face the epitome of disappointment. Reaching for her recently refilled wine glass, she brought it to her lips slowly, and then chugged the contents. “So,” she thought morosely, “they intend to ride off to excitement and fun, and leave me here locked in this citadel, merely replacing my jailer.” Replacing her wine glass on the table, she ignored Wilhelm’s curious stares, and pushed her chair back. She had the awful feeling that she was nothing more than the prize in a deadly game of Capture the Flag.

Rising to her feet, she began pushing through the throng and began the trek back to her chambers. Once there, she immediately stripped off the gown and tossed it to the side, spitefully leaving it crumpled on the floor. Removing a dagger from one of her arm sheaths, she reached behind her and neatly severed the laces of the garment constricting her middle. With a huge sigh of relief, she stripped it off and tossed it to the far side of the room. Making herself a promise to never, ever wear one of those torture devices ever again, she proceeded to change into her night shift and climb into bed.

The effects of a night filled with rich food and alcohol, coupled with emotional exhaustion, soon lulled her into a deep sleep.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm saw Mavigan's excitement turn to dejection when Ithramir announced that she would remain in the citadel under guard. He sympathized with her wish to go with Ithramir and DO SOMETHING. It was hard for an active person to remain behind at a time like this. He felt the call to arms himself, but put away thoughts of glory to attend to his own duty. Alaric would have command of the newly formed Queen's Own Division, comprised of the thousands of human supporters that had flocked to Mavigan's banner, as he had been the one to form and train them. They would accompany Ithramir's forces and uphold the human side of the alliance. While Alaric went off to battle and glory, Wilhelm would remain here with the Queen's Guard, formed from members of the old Royal Guard that Wilhelm knew to be loyal, to act as Mavigan's protection.

He escorted Mavigan back to her chambers in silence, understanding that she was in no mood for conversation. After her door closed and locked behind her, Wilhelm briefed the doubled guard force, now consisting of pairs of Elven Rangers and Queen's Guardsmen. Nobody was to enter her chambers save with Wilhelm present. There were four at her door with a pair each at the adjacent doors to Alaric's and Wilhelm's chambers and another pair in the courtyard below her windows. A last pair would walk a circuit of the adjoining hallways, down to the courtyard and then up to the roof above. The twelve guards would be relieved at four hour intervals using prearranged passwords, although they all knew each other by now. The two at Alaric's chamber would periodically enter and go to the window to check on the pair in the courtyard below. Wilhelm would be awakened at each relief and briefed on events. He lay down to doze, still clad in his mithril chainmail under an outer robe, with his sword at his side and his hammer, helm and shield ready at hand. His plate armor was layed out nearby.

Written by - Archeantus

An inconspicuous young elven male melted in with the crowd at the feast.

He watched and beheld a tall elf, stern and noble, stand and announce the beginning of the feast. The young elf’s deep blue almond eyes held the commander’s every move in their gaze. Those bright, yet dark eyes slowly looked upon them all. And when they were done, they centered back on one. With veiled dejection and youthful demeanor, the sole heir of the throne sat adorned in the finest dress, her golden hair softly fell down around her shoulders. Her arms folded, looking absently out into the vast throng of individuals that had come in her honor. The malice in those eyes flickered at the sight of the young woman. They blinked and looked away.

It was then that a slight commotion interrupted the festivities and a messenger appeared by the tall elf’s side. It was then that most of the guests could hear the singing down in the courtyard. The atmosphere was electric when it was whispered that elven reinforcements had come. There were cheers, and laughter, though as the young elf studied the commander who was now speaking to the captain of the reinforcements, he caught a slight look of disappointment flow over his stern face. However, a smile caressed over those firm features. The feast continued until the doors burst open and a bloody elf was carried toward his commander. Listening intently, the young elf could not hear the desperate whispers of the injured elf, nor could most of the guests. All eyes centered on Ithramir, who then turned and announced to the expecting crowd, "Tomorrow, I and our soldiers will ride in relief of these garrisons. They lay to the east, it is 3 days away at a full gallop, with no rest. Those who wish to join may feel free to do so. I suggest Mavigan stays here, under guard, for this is the safest place to be now. Lithwyn will be in command when I am away, her word is as mine, I trust all will be courteous and respect it."

Those youthful eyes narrowed, as the mind behind them considered this new information, and the elf’s pointed ears perked at the study of his voice. Many stood as the elven commander barked orders and suddenly left to prepare in a wake of whisperings and commotion. Where there was celebration, now was an impending dread that descended down upon every heart in the dining hall. The world was plunging into a war. Frightened and firm eyes began lifting and leaving the banquet hall.

The young elf left with many of them and then disappeared.

***********

Many of the guests entered their chambers, and one in particular, a tall elven ranger who had come with the recent reinforcements, sat down upon the elven bed with a great sigh of relief. He had not slept well for weeks. Yawning, he stood and took his boots off. His feet were blistered and bleeding. Wrapping them in linen, he prepared an herbal salve, his eyes slowly lowering in exhaustion. Finishing, he turned back and slipped into the soft bed, and leaned over to blow the single candle out.

That breath never came. There was a peculiar smell in the air that he had not noticed before. It was the unmistakable smell of blood. His deep brow furrowing, he quickly climbed out of bed, the pains of his feet lost in his curiosity. Deep alert green eyes flew all around the room, and then they spotted something just on the ground where the covers of the bed met the ground. Walking quickly toward the bed, he lowered and lifted the dangling covers.

There was a gasp, and in an instant, the door flew open and the ranger ran down the hallway to report what he had seen.

There under the bed, was the murdered elven male, his pool of blood seeping out beyond the covers.

************

Hours later, as the darkness of night had fully descended and the large round moon reached its zenith; a warning bell rang out where the citadel’s guard chambers were housed. The bell was slightly heard by the acute elven ears of the guards that stood along the hallway protecting the guests and the human princess. One of them exchanged glances with another from across the door that separated them.

Moments later, Ithramir suddenly appeared, turning the corner and walking briskly past the multiple guards toward the princess’s room with a determined glare. Without stopping, he fired an explanation.

“Guards, there has been a murder, and we fear for the worst. I need every man that can be spared to help with the search for the perpetrator. The Princess must be protected at all costs."

There was a great sense of urgency and care to his voice, and the guards looked at one another in surprise.

Ithramir continued, pointing to the pair of guards on each of the opposite doors and to the guards who now were looking down the hall at him, “You six, make haste, go to the barracks at once! There is a party organizing as we speak.”

They hesitated.

“Now.” He commanded, obviously troubled. “Two of you stay here at the door and prepare to escort the princess to a safer location.”

The elven rangers and guards went quickly obeying their commander, yet their human counterparts left more slowly. Yet soon their armored feet could be heard running down the adjoining hallway leading to the barracks.

“Open the door.” Ithramir commanded.

“S-sir,” One of the royal guards offered hesitatingly but firmly. “We have orders to only allow Wilhelm to enter.”

Ithramir’s face deepened in color.

“I do not have time for this, there is no time to waste, quickly man!”

The two guards, one of them of the royal guard, the other an elven ranger exchanged glances, and finally one of them nodded for the other to open the door.

The human guard pulled forth the key from around his belt, and turned and unlocked the door. Slowly opening it, Ithramir held his hand out for the key, which the guard hestitatingly handed over to him. The ranger however was looking peculiarly at his commander.

“You do not smell like--“

Suddenly in one, deadly, precise motion, a blade appeared in their commander's lithe hand and in a flash, the blade had entered into both of their hearts. A look of utter shock and stilled pain danced in their eyes. As they began to fall to the ground, Ithramir neatly pulled them in. Quickly, the door was shut behind them, and the lock clicked home.

Ithramir’s image faded and disappeared and in its place was Jasmine, her medallion shimmering and then fading in the darkness. Working swiftly, she took two of the magical rings from her black velvet pouch and placed them on the lifeless fingers of each of the fallen guards. She then pulled them and sat them upright against the door. The deep red gems in the rings began to glow.

Taking the bloody dagger in her hand, she stopped for the briefest of moments and gazed at the serene sleeping figure of the young human queen. The moonlight shimmered through a stained glass window and bathed the room in an eerie glow. And then walking forward, a single tear escaping down Jasmine’s face, she reached the bed, turning her dagger inward. Closing her beautiful eyes, she raised the dagger, and sent it down…

Written by - Teran

From his hiding place Teran watched the young Queen change into her night clothing. He was completely silent in his hiding place, averting his eyes from Mavigan as often as he thought safe, not comfortable with the thought of being discovered through some sixth sense. In his experiences people had a way of knowing when they weer being watched, especially when they knew they were in danger.

He stiffened slightly as the door opened, squinting against the light... and he knew immediatly that his suspicions had proven correct.

When Jasmine closed her eyes and began plunging the dagger towards Mavigan's still body a myriad of things happened in the room.

The moonlight flickered...

The door clicked shut plunging the room in darkness once more...

What felt like the faintest of breezes brushed across her wrist and hand, brushing it off target. The dagger plunges into the mattress Mavigan is sleeping on. The dagger came so close to nicking her flesh that it pierced her night garmets trapping Mavigan (or at least her garment) in place until she could free it from the blade.

Jasmine could perhaps feel that the space between the queen and herself was now occupied by another being, and if she opened her eyes she would see an old-young looking man with pale flesh, gray eyes, and white-gray hair standing an inch from her. He attempts to use the advantage of surprise to force her back, leaving her the options to step back, lash out, or fall over.

Written by - Archeantus

Her eyes opened the moment the dagger plunged into the soft recesses of the down mattress. In an instant she found herself looking into the steel gray eyes, and pale face of a nameless benefactor. And in another instant, she realized with great tenacity that where she had thought her final moment, her long and painful struggle was through, now was beginning again. And for that reason alone, she grew terribly angry; and the fire of that anger kindled and blazed in the last instant back into those neutral grays.

The princess was forgotten.

Launching backwards, her lone dagger in her hand, she knocked over an ancient vase that crashed on the stone floor and fell to the floor herself. Her vision blurred, memories danced in her head…his smile…the sunset…the flower…the kiss…the golden ring…the baby…the dagger…the gold piece…the door….her blood…the baby…the scream…

Echoing the memories, she let out a woeful scream of rage and desperation that shook the very stones of the small room.

Clutching her dagger as if she it were the very revenge that had become her obsession, she heaved in breathes and looked upon her assailant as a panther looks upon a kill.

They exchanged glances, weighing each other in another instant, and then she darted toward the two corpses that sat upright against the door and seized one of the guard’s swords. In a fluid motion, she flung the sheath off, the blade glimmering in the moonlight, and lunged toward the man that had silenced her final revenge.

There against the door, the corpses eyes opened, aglow, now minions of the elven necromancer who remained deep into the pitch black of the sewers below.

Written by - Wilhelm

“Now.” The loud command penetrated into Wilhelm's chamber, snapping him out of his light doze in accordance with his combat veteran training. “Two of you stay here at the door and prepare to escort the princess to a safer location.” It was the voice of Ithramir, but the words made no sense. There was no safer location. This was the center of concentric rings of guards.

Wilhelm swung off the couch he had been resting on, donned his helmet, and took up his faith hammer and All Father's shield. Something was very wrong, because the Queen's Guardsman outside his door should have been here to rouse him the moment Ithramir arrived. Wilhelm went to his door and listened. He heard Mavigan's door being unlocked and opened.

“You do not smell like-- urk“

There was the sound of Mavigan's door closing and locking. Wilhelm opened his door and noted the empty corridor, save for a trail of blood drop leading to Mavigan's door. Wilhelm quickly concluded that a magic-using assassin was at work, since that could not have been Ithramir and only a true glamour would have so thoroughly deluded the guards.

He focused his tracking sense he had learned from his bounty hunter training. Unlike channeling the All Father's will, this used his own energy and so he used the sense sparingly. He sensed the heartfires of the guards moving away down the stairwell and inside Mavigan's chamber there were multiple heartfires, Mavigan's and one, no two others and two dying heartfires that went out even as he sensed them.

Wilhelm supressed the urge to batter at the door he knew to be locked. He would only get one chance before the assassin knew he was here and he needed to make the most of it. Quieting his thoughts, he sought union with the All Father, surrendering himself to his god. This surrender of his soul had been very difficult for him when he was young, as it was for most, before he achieved unity with the All Father and became His Paladin. Now it was second nature, and he felt the rapture of the union as the power and attention of the All Father coursed through him. In answer to his prayers a shimmering green glow fell on him like a divine mantle, fortifying his armor. His shield and faith hammer glowed as they were consecrated to His name. Another green glow brought strength, and invoking his Knighthood oath inspired his spirit. He began a sacred battle chant and a red glow surrounded him as well as he felt himself moving faster. Focusing his will and attention upon the locked door, he prepared to charge it. Red, white and green swirling glows illuminated the corridor.

Written by - Teran

Teran squinted at the woman... she was familiar to him somehow, he felt as though he knew or had known her. He conciously places himself between Jasmine and Mavigan, and though his back is to Mavigan he is not completely unprepared should she attack him from behind.

"Who are you?" He asked, his voice gentle but forceful.

As he spoke twin blades appeared in his hands, hazy black in color.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan’s eyes slowly opened. Something had awakened her, and she scanned with sleepy eyes the part of her room she could see without actually moving her body. Her sleep-filled mind vaguely registered the fact there was a shadowy, but distinctly male form removing himself from her wardrobe.

“Damn,” she thought herself. “Dad is gonna be so angry at me if he catches me with another guy in my closet!”

The moonlight streaming in through the window briefly highlighted him as he quickly moved from shadow to shadow, and Mavigan dreamily noted , white hair, broad shoulders, strong muscles and sighed. Wowza.

Then several facts registered at once: her parents were dead and couldn’t scold her, she didn’t shove anyone into her wardrobe last night, and she definitely would have remembered this fellow, this stranger was moving at her very fast, and she could feel the presence of someone else behind her.

Shoving one hand beneath her pillow and grasping the hilt of the dagger, she rolled onto her back in time to see a woman standing over her, eyes closed as if in prayer, clutching a dagger glinting in the moonlight as it plunged down at her…

And missed, apparently thanks to the stranger from her closet. Mavigan quickly reassessed her evaluation of the situation: woman, bad guy– man, good guy, even if he was some sort of peeping tom. She'd break his nose later, right now she had more important things to do.

Assessment complete, she rolled herself off the bed and onto the floor opposite from where her enemy and salvation stood. At least, she tried. When she found she couldn’t budge, Mavigan quickly felt about her person trying to figure out what the hell was the problem. Her questing hand encountered the hilt of a dagger deeply embedded into the mattress – and her night shift. Deciding not to take the time to loosen the dagger, she took her own dagger and slit her shift. Once free, she rolled off the bed, swiping her other dagger and some throwing knives from her nightstand as she went.

She crawled back quickly and only stopped when she could put her back to the wall. As far as she could tell, she had two problems. One, that creepy crawly feeling was back with a vengeance, and seemed to be a lot stronger than she had ever felt it before. It was almost like something inside her was reaching for... something, and something else was responding. She didn't know what this uncomfortable sensation was, and it was working a number on her concentration, so she gritted her teeth in an effort to ignore it.

Second, the invaders were between her and the door. Never before had her chamber door seemed so damn far away. Resigning herself to the fact that escape was impossible at this point, she arrayed her daggers around her, and picked up a throwing dagger, fully intending to lodge it in the eye of the first person who moved in her general direction.

So intent was her focus upon the scene before her that she failed to notice the faint glow of the holy symbol hidden beneath her shift, or the fact that the plants on the trellis outside the window by her side began to twitch in response.

Written by - Renalis

After the clean-up was finally complete, Renalis and Crystal retired to the outisde for some fresh air, and a nice view. Holding each other in loving embrace they watched the beautiful sunset and took in the sweet smelling air of the area.

"Do you think the land will ever be the same?" Crystal looked up into Renalis's deep green eyes. Looking back down at her, "I don't know my love, but we must do our best to at least make them safe again, for both our peoples."

As the land was plunged into darkness the two continue to stand there, looking out into the night, content with each others presence and contemplating the future, allowing a few hours to slip by unnoticed until both their thoughts were disrupted by the sounds of the alarm bell going off in the dead silence of night. Looking up again at Renalis with a concerned look he looks down at her, "I do not know Melamin."

Then, they both sensed the great power coming from inside, magic use beyond that of most, and in great quantity. Moving to what looks to be an inconspicuous bush, Renalis removes the guising spell placed there and reveals two longswords of elven craft lying there. Taking his and then passing Crystal hers, Renalis then replaces the guise still hiding the rest of their equipment. Hurrying back inside and taking off their desguises, Renalis and Crystal reveal the breastplate to their indego armors still being dawned underneath the servants outfits and over their normal cloths. The azure crystal focus center-chest in his armor began to dimmly glow as Renalis prepared to draw on the powerful ley energies that the crystal tapped and stored. The violet crystal focus in the center of Crystal's armor too began to dimly glow as she focused her thoughts and called out to the moon goddess for support and protection.

Running full sprint now, Renalis thought to himself "The assassins have struck, I only hope we are not too late."

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