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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by - Renalis Page 24 Book 1

“No. No more magic. Just find me some bandages and salve. I’ll do it myself.”

Somewhat disappointed at this response, but completely understanding Crystal arose with Mavigan and went after her, fetching out of her pack healing salves and bandages, and saying with deep concern in her voice, "Please M'Lady, if you will not take healing by magical means, please allow me to bandage the wound on your foot, you should not be moving on it" Just before heading inside, Crystal runs to where her gear is hidden and grabs the rest of her things. Thinking to herself, "I hope you are having more luck my love..."

******

"Very well, Renalis. I will take you up on your offer. Let us go together to see the mage Resini in the Scholar's Tower and perhaps the two of you together can use these rings to locate the Necromancer and to scan the area for other dark magics."

"He knows my name... intriguing" Renalis thinks to himself and then speaks, "Thank you Wilhelm." Getting up, Renalis walked behind Wilhelm allowing he and the Elf to lead the way. As they passed the entrance to the Citadel Renalis looked over and his eyes and mana gem both flared with Azure light, beyond the sight of Wilhelm or the Elf, and his pack of supplies came flying toward him. Grabbing the pack, Renalis never broke stride and continued to follow Wilhelm to this "Scholar's Tower".

Wilhelm apologized to Mage Resini for awakening him at this late hour, but explained quickly the events and the need, and handed him the pouch with the rings. Renalis moved with Resini over to the table and sets down his pack and sword. Renalis noticed the glance Wilhelm gave their guide and then the stare the Elf gave him as he sat down. "Not fully trusted. Not unexpected either." Renalis thought as moved back toward the table.

Resini took the first try, holding both rings in his hand and concentrating firmly on the power within. Renalis could sense this Mage's power, "Significant, but still nothing compared with me, although his knowledge on the world probably far outweighs my own." Just then the Elven mage snapped out of his trance. "Blast!" he exclaimed, as another entered the chamber. Renalis knew that this would not be easy due to the enormous amount of stray magic in the area, divine, necromantic, sorcery - all would hinder his ability to do this but the others were counting on him.

Gesturing to the two mages working over the two rings on the scrying table, Wilhelm said "I am waiting here for a report on the source of a Necromantic spell on those two rings that was used to turn two slain guardsmen into zombies. "

"Perhaps you can let me try Resini, then perhaps, we may be able to get some results for Lord Wilhelm." Confident in his abilities but not trying to sound arrogant, Renalis extends his had, motioning for Resini to give him the rings. With a "hrm" Resini places the two small rings into Renalis's hand.

Immediately Renalis can feel the power in the rings... dark power. He closed his hand around them and began to focus his thoughts on the power, on its origin. He could feel the strong and chaotic magics all around, like a hurricane that he was trying to see through, but he continued to focus his thoughts. He could feel the source was close, but couldn't quite pinpoint it, it was hidden, masked, the source trying to stop Renalis from finding him.

Deciding that it was worth the risk, Renalis touched his other hand to the mana gem in his armor and it flared with Azure light once more. Resini was a bit taken aback at this, having seen many magic foci before but never one with such power, nor with a mage with such natural talent with magic such as this.

As the storms cleared in his mind, Renalis's thoughts came into focus... he could see the one, he could see the Necromancer with a few others, but could not make out there faces... he what looked to be... The Sewers! then a bright flash of light and a swirling portal erupted in front of them. Knowing he must not let his tract of them fail, he kept with the Necromancer. He felt his mind pulled all the way to a familiar place but then, in his mind all hell broke loose.

Images began to appear in his mind, strange things, unintentional but caused as a result of tapping the ley energy in time with so many spectacular magical events. Another bright flash and Renalis saw another portal, this one in the forest nearby, and he witnessed a strange creature emerge. Another flash and Renalis was witness to another dark energy, this one in the form of a man near a culvert. Another flash and Renalis could see Lithwyn in full hunting gear and could sense her great power within. Another flash and Renalis once again saw into the energies of the avatars Ithramir and Wilhelm. Another flash and Renalis could see Crystal and Mavigan moving through the hallways, he could feel a great power deep within Mavigan, the same power he felt before when the winds changed. Another flash and Renalis's eyes opened - looking like two small sapphires, projecting a bright Azure light - and he was sent back nearly five feet, landing on his back. His eyes closed and the gem's brightness faded.

"That was a mana surge," Resini explained. "His use of a mana focus this close to so much magical activity caused a pouring of energy into him."

Renalis opened his eyes - now returned to their normal colour, "It was worth it thought," Renalis rose up and brushed himself off, shaking his head noting that he felt like an army of Orcs just ran him over, "I saw much." Sitting down beside Wilhelm he began to explain what he saw.

"I saw the Necromancer and his allies, they were gathered together in the sewers but they opened a portal and went somewhere," Renalis strained to put a name to the place, "Close to Ancora, I believe." Renalis stopped for breath but continued, "But that was not all I saw, I saw the powers of the avatar in their hosts... all of you. I had no idea the God's heros held such power but not a destructive power, I could sense the true nature behind it." Renalis paused once more and then remembered the other sights, "There is a strange being that appeared through a portal around the same time as the necromancer disappeared, it was a strange being and I fear that the patrols might do something... regretable given the current state of affairs." Renalis shuddered at the last thing he remembered, "A dark one, a person with dark power within him nearby, I have no idea where, but nearby."

Leaning his head back on the chair, obviosly taxed, Renalis breaths a sigh of relief, "Wow, so much energy in me at one time," Renalis thought "I didn't think it possible to happen, much less for me to survive the encounter."

"What now Lord Wilhelm?"

Written by - Agmund

The old priest listened to the story as it unfolded. With each twist and turn of the tale, he only pondered and remained silent. For him it was a matter of discerning the reason he was here and that required patience and a keen ear. Sometimes the All Father makes it more than apparent why he summons a man or has need of him, and other times he leaves it to the faithful to figure out. This was one thing that he learned long ago.

After Lord Wilhelm finished speaking, the priest sat quietly for a while longer, his mind playing over and over again the events. Mavigan, she is at the middle of it all he thought. When he set upon the road she was but a child of perhaps three years. Now she would be a woman, thrust in a conflict larger than herself, and indeed larger than the host assembled here. He wondered for a moment how she was coping with the problems as they arose. If she had grown up a blend of her mother and father, he figured she was most likely stubborn, brave, angry and confused all at once. She was the reason he was here, but then… she was the reason many others were here as well.

Each faction likely had a different idea of things to come, a different outlook for the war and a completely different view on how things were to be achieved. Likely they also had differing views on the role she was to play and how she was to play it. Mavigan would have her own set of views, and at her age she would play no ones role but her very own. Equally at her age she would not be taken as seriously as she would like to be.

He settled upon her as the reason he was here, and then his mind turned to the next issue at hand. What could he do to change things, to make them easier, to aid the All Father in his will, and at the same time show Mavigan that there was an entire realm of people, her people, whos lives depended on every decision that was made. How could he at his age show her that her people needed her to be strong? How could he possibly convince her that she needed to lead and at the same time listen to the wise counsel surrounding her?

She would likely not remember him he thought, and even if she did he might not be able to gain her trust, let alone show her he had nothing to gain here. The gods themselves were here, using their powers as Avatars, watching and working thru the very bodies of men and elves. All of it became a jumble of problems in his mind, and for a moment, he merely closed his eyes, pushing out the different outcomes, forcing away the various choices and paths before it all became an impossible blur for his mind to separate. Meditation and prayer, this was what he needed, time to further look upon the events, but what time was truly left? That was a question for which he had not even a remote answer for.

He chuckled as he looked back to Lord Wilhelm. “I haven’t carried my age as well as I would like to my friend. But I am here to do what I can, and you may direct me as you deem necessary.”

Suddenly he realized that there was much going on in the tower room that he was paying absolutely no attention to. He turned and bowed somewhat from his position on the couch as a man approached and began to address Lord Wilhelm. Again he remained silent, intent on trying to decipher the events around him. And yet again, his mind became jumbled with new facts as he listened.

“What now Lord Wilhelm?” the man said as he finished. Perhaps… he had already failed Lord Wilhelm, although he had listened to the facts the man relayed to Wilhelm, he didn’t even consider looking into the words themselves, discerning truth from lies. He cursed himself, and with it a look of utter anger crossed his face. Anger that his mind had grown feeble and old, decayed and worried with time, and more so angry that he could not arrange his very own thoughts.

Written by - Archeantus

Whirling around, the elven woman struck Jasmine smartly across the face. The blow stung immeasurably, not because of the pain, but because she could not help what she was and the power she held because of it. Further tears formed, but her rising will quickly suppressed them. The elven woman ordered the guards from the room and left with them. For a moment she was alone, something she was accustomed to, but somehow now, the feeling became uncomfortable, and the unknown dark of the room penetrated a fear that long remained dormant. Suddenly the door swung open and it startled her. The elven woman returned, a determined fire in her eyes.

The woman who called herself Lithwyn came within a foot of the captive Jasmine, the two females gazed into one another’s fervent eyes. Finally the elven woman spoke, "I will not make that mistake again. Now... I believe I asked you a question. I do not enjoy inflicting pain, but I will if I must."

The elven woman was met with silence; Jasmine’s gaze remained locked upon her elven counterpart deep in thought.

Then a small flutter appeared in the bright almond eyes of the elven woman. Jasmine knew at that moment that the elven woman had realized the terrible pain that existed in her heart. Jasmine knew the only way one could recognize such pain was to have experienced it herself…

They continued to look upon each other, lost in the knowledge they had silently gained, and then the tall slender arm of the woman rose and disappeared into a fold in her soft white robes. The dark clouds from her countenance disappeared as well, and slowly, she closed her eyes, taking her left hand and resting it gently upon Jasmine’s throbbing cheek.

It was slow, and trickled through, softly at first, and then more forcefully, like the pouring rain in a thunder storm. The rain glinted in the moonlight of her mind, brightening by the unfolding moment. And then, she could feel the woman’s caress across her cheek to her broken arm, and the cold of the rain warmed until she could feel it in the sweeping emptiness of her heart. Lightening flashed. A small spark of remembrance ignited and a long lost feeling arose upon Jasmine’s understanding.

She felt at peace, a thunder clap pounded, leaving a stark irreplaceable revelation of something she could not determine. Her heart pounded, awakened, alive and vibrant, yet it felt hollow, dead, and meaningless.

A voice showered through her reverie, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way, nwalmaer. You did not work on your own, that much is clear. But, you do not seem to be one of Beridaine's toys, especially as you are a woman. So, tell me... What is your name? Who do you work for? How did you get within my walls?"

The words penetrated her thoughts and they were like a sharply cold splash of water to her cunning mind. Her eyes opened suddenly, penetratingly, the flames of the torches were encased in her pupils and she spoke, “I will not give you my name, for it is dead to me. I do know the name of the one I work with, he purposely and intelligently never gave it to me. I have no idea who his employer is, nor do I think he is the type that is employed, by anyone, especially by Beridane. It is no matter how I came here, nor does my methods matter, what matters is that your precious guest remains alive due to my failure. I am useless to you…”

She spoke firmly, devoid of deception, she had chosen the easy way, yet her eyes gazed perceptibly, cunningly, and she continued, “I know more, perhaps it will aid you, I do not care, but before I tell you, I want to know one thing…”

She paused, capturing the woman’s attention, “What did he do to you?”

*******

Meanwhile, deep down in the far reaches of the sewers, a sable figure steps into the light of the vent, a distinct smile etched in the shadow beneath the hood it wore.

Kishkumen grinned inwardly, his master was pleased.

“Come, it is time we left, our purpose here is finished.” He said.

With that he jumped forward into the light and then through the thick murky waters back down through the tunnels. Kishkumen ran swiftly behind, vanishing into the darkness once more.

******

Vermigard sat upon a small heap above the shallow waters near the entrance of the culvert, his feet propped up on another. Two elven rangers, darts imbedded in their necks, rested, snoring even, as he waited for the others to come. Soon he could hear the quiet splashes echoing down the empty tunnel. The bounty hunter took a long swag of his smoke and stood mumbling something about it being about time. A slight fizzle hit the water as he discarded his smoke.

“So, do we have a war on our hands?” Vermigard asked as the two came near.

“The war begins.” Said the stranger. “We must go to Ancora and inform Beridane what we know. Prepare the Irrithica.”

“Very well boss….” Vermigard whispered indifferently. “And what of Jasmine?”

The stranger looked and answered, “She has served her purpose.”

Vermigard raised an eyebrow, considering the money that would go to waste if she had died. He has planned to take her himself if he had been given the chance, thinking just how valuable she truly was. The only other catch as big as her was Teran, and he was most likely as far from here as possible, he thought as he prepared the ritual of the magical portal device.

It wasn’t long until they were ready, and it was then, as they turned to step out into the night that there stood a lone figure in the light of the moon.

Gadianton had an arrow notched in a take of breath; Kishkumen had already begun chanting, one arm lightly raised, and lightening shot out into the dark of the tunnel toward the figure….

Written by - Wilhelm

"We will need to inform Ithramir and Lithwyn of these findings," Wilhelm said, "However, first we need to have a little talk." He turned to Resini and remarked "Master Resini, What you you say about the power shown in that little demonstration?" Resini looked closely at Renalis and then said "While I have seen and used many magic foci, I have never seen such a poweful one as Renalis possesses, and his natural taent was impressive. From his use of ley energy I conclude that he is a full Adept, a rank possessed by few."

Wilhelm turned to Agmund and made the Sign of the All Father. "Father Agmund, I would appreciate it if you would pay careful attention to Renalis' words now." Lookig at Renalis, he said "The time has come for you to reveal to us your purpose in being here. What is your background? Why is an Adept here at this time posing as a servant? What is your mission here? In the name of the All Father, speak now the Truth." Wilhelm made a signal to the rangers who moved to block the door. He then took a sip of his drink, struck an expectant pose, and gestured to Renalis to begin.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Ithramir didn't really open the door leading down to the dungeon so much as he kicked it aside. Moving down the stairs he heard Lithwyn's voice, saying something rather angrily, then the door being closed and locked. Watching the guards all sitting outside, Ithramir looks at the head guard, obviously wanting to know why they weren't in there with Lithwyn. The guard, quietly responds,

"Milord, we would be, but the lady Lithwyn told us not to come in unless she needs us. The female we captured...well..."

Ithramir's eyes, still registering some measure of anger, stare at the guards as he says,

"Well what?"

Avoiding his commanders eyes, the guards says,

"The female had some sort of control over us. We were dazed...Lithwyn ordered us to stay away lest the female use us in some way."

Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, his patience being worn thin, Ithramir says nothing for a long moment. Trusting Lithwyn, he thinks it best to leave the two alone...for now. Opening his eyes, he says tersely,

"Very well. However if the lady is harmed, all of you will pay the price, you have been warned."

Turning back up the stairs, he leaves the dungeons and out into the courtyard. After a few moments, Ithramir reaches the building where the other assassin was being housed. After gaining admittance into the room, Ithramir sits down and studies the man. Pulling a small pouch out of his pocket, the contents being a single bloodcoin, he places it on the table and then says,

"Not many use this currency, assassin. I have heard some rumors, here and there, about the skilled assassin who did Beridaine's dirty work for him. After Mavigan's family was killed, this currency seems to have, shall we say, popped up in certain areas. I am curious, tell me, do you happen to know anything about this?"

Throwing the coin to the assassin, Ithramir's eyes lock with his as he intently waits on the reply.

Written by - Pharsalus

A small tuft of dried grass crunched softly beneath Geirik's feet as his narrowed eyes caught a gleam in the dark. Opponents he had not seen before now stood dimly illuminated in the glow of magic, the lips of the magic's source clearly forming dark and ancient syllables to bring about Geirik's undoing.

Alright Liche, the old man thought to himself as his gloved hand reached into a small pouch on his hip.

...pay your toll!

Geirik's mind lit up and eyes seethed with a vaprous purple glow. The beast within him was being given a slack chain, and all his body burned because of it. Geirik winced as he tried not to look straight into the bolt of power that now arched and scattered around him. He never could tell if the faint, vaprous form that now stood deflecting the bringer of his demise was his Doom made manifest for all around to see, or if the image simply existed in his eyes. Right now, it was not his concern. Geirik's concealed arm flew forward, loosing a small, round capsule toward the figures in the tunnel. Knowing full well the price of looking into the eruption of light that was about to be loosed upon the scene, Geirik turned his gaze toward the third figure to his right. The man had long gotten up and made quickened pace in Geirik's direction, sword drawn and whip at the ready.

The capsule ruptured, and light as brilliant as the mid-day sun sought to burn out the eyes of any unfortunate enough to have them open. Geiriks eyes burned hot as his blades flew forward against his attacker. Metal sparked against metal once...twice....three times in rapid succession. The old bounty hunter attacked with his longsword, guarded with his shortsword. The blindness inflicted by his capsule would soon be wearing off, and his dark alter-ego had already retreated back into the confines of Geirik's body.

Destroy this one, and be done with it! the Liche hissed. You..have GREATER opponents to face.

The magician, surely. And the other man with him - the bowman. It was time to end this and direct his attentions to far more challenging opponents. Geirik eyed the shadow of the treeline right behind his opponent and saw his chance. With little more than a thought, the world around him suddnely blurred and shifted. He saw the blade of his assailant slash through his own vaprous sillhouette as he rushed the man from behind. He felt his blade pierce leather and flesh and felt the man's body tighten. Geirik allowed his momentum to continue forward, dropping his shortsword on the ground as he stepped, and using the free hand to grab and pull the man against the hilt of his other sword. He brought his face to the man's ear.

"This ends...now!"

Written by - Trinni Shannon

"... I am useless to you…”

Watching the woman closely as she speaks, sensing the truth in her words, Lithwyn can't help but feel vaguely disapointed. Wonderful, what now? What use will E'las be if there is no information to torture out of her? At least it will not have to come to that.

“I know more, perhaps it will aid you, I do not care, but before I tell you, I want to know one thing…”

The curious thought in her mind, the wonder of what this woman might actually know, dissolves instantly as the next words are uttered.

“What did he do to you?”

Staring back, fixed on the woman's eyes, the room seems to spin for a moment. The color draining from her cheeks as her hand moves to her throat, a flood of confusion, fear, and sorrow crash through her mind. The room, the torches, the woman, all of it meld together in her view. Mixing like so many splotches of paint being washed away, she closes her eyes.

What did he do to me? What did he DO TO ME? Why does she care?! She knows nothing, she said as much. Suddenly she knows more? She is willing to talk if I bare my soul?? What purpose does that have? Why does she care?

Opening her eyes, her hand falling away to her side, she raises an eyebrow skeptically. The sorrow being replaced by mild anger and cynicism, she looks at the woman anew. No longer almond shaped, but narrow slits, she measures her captive.

"Why do you care? You have already said you know nothing, the truth evident in your voice and in your countenance. I will not pretend as if my past is filled with sunshine, for you see as clearly as I. But what does that have to do with whether you will divulge information you may or may not have or keep your your so called information in silence to your grave? And it will come to that if you choose."

Falling silent for a moment, she searches for meaning. The woman's words still echoing in her mind, she knows why the question was asked. She knows of my pain as surely as I know hers. Does she find comfort in that fact; she is not alone? Who was she before her heart turned black? Is this in my future? This... empty, vengeful woman? Knowing it would only be too easy to follow that path, her actions already leading her down it, a flash of what may come flares into her awareness. With the powers bestowed by Kaia'hanas, even now, how much easier would it be to control others, control men and influence women? The assassin obviously having some sort of mental powers in addition to uncommon beauty, with the power of a Goddess how much more terrible would Lithwyn be? How much more powerful? There would be no man or woman unpunished for their wickedness. There would be no hiding from justice.

Justice. Her thoughts swirling around that word, she doesn't notice as she mentally reaches out. Subconciously sensing the return of similar thoughts/feelings from her Goddess, old barriers slide away. Unbidden, a fierce heat radiates out from her body, racing through her extremities. As the connection deepens with the Goddess, a heavy presence fills her being. Her necklace burns against bare skin as an overwhelming need for vengeance fills her thoughts. KAIA'HANAS! Even as the name of her Goddess screams in her mind, her eyes go out of focus and two names fall from her lips, over and over.

"Slaktor ... Ael'dain ... Slaktor ... Ael'dain ... "

Staring through the captive, her eyes flare with inner fire, the green burning into red and orange. A familiar voice whispers in her mind, awe inspiring, filling her awareness, beautiful and ethereal... Kaia'hanas...

Kaia'hanas seductively whispers, "So much power can I give you. Vengeance can be yours. Justice. Destroy the men who have hurt my daughters, who have violated and withered their beautiful souls like so many dying flowers."

Shaking her head forcefully, Lithwyn counters in shock, not realizing she speaks aloud. "Why now?"

"From the day long ago, when your mate rejected your heart, and he died as your spirit had died, you isolated yourself from me. Until now, I could not reach you. This woman helped show you what you can become and brought you back to me." The loud voice in her mind falling silent, Lithwyn drinks in the silence and ponders.

"Tell me, my Goddess, why should I go down this path? What will it bring to you? What will it bring to me? How will this vengeance make things better? Am I to become as this woman is?"

Kaia'hanas' light laughter rings in her ears and warms her heart. "No, no my child. Jasmine sought her own kind of vengeance, without bounds, without purpose. She killed blindly. You are after justice, you are my messenger of vengeance. When doing as I ask, who can say what you do is wrong?"

"Jasmine? If I am not to become as she is then I will do as you ask."

Her consent given, Lithwyn feels the presence of Kaia'hanas lighten, though the connection is maintained and stronger than ever before. As her body cools, her eyes return to their normal shade of green and refocus on her surroundings. The fire has receded, but Lithwyn is left subtly changed, revealing her connection with Kaia'hanas. The woman still bound before her stares back at her.

"So Nwalmaer, is your curiosity satisfied now?"

Written by - Archeantus

The question had the desired effect. Jasmine could see the brimming heart break, the intense isolation of the heart, so much like herself when she had plunged into the life of unalterable vengeance.

The elven woman seemed to look blankly back at her, her secret thoughts brewing, nearing eruption. Then her eyes flared and narrowed and she spoke, "Why do you care? You have already said you know nothing, the truth evident in your voice and in your countenance. I will not pretend as if my past is filled with sunshine, for you see as clearly as I. But what does that have to do with whether you will divulge information you may or may not have or keep your so called information in silence to your grave? And it will come to that if you choose."

Jasmine remained silent, waiting for the answer to her question to truly manifest itself.

Moments passed, and then the woman’s eyes glossed over and a mysterious radiant heat shot out from her direct presence. The cold damp of the dungeon melted away at the soaring heat that flew from the woman’s presence. Jasmine turned her face, but not her eyes; they remained fixed upon what was happening. The woman’s eyes went out of focus, eyes that had been staring strangely at the female captive, and then she spoke two names, “"Slaktor ... Ael'dain ... Slaktor ... Ael'dain ... " It was then that the woman’s eyes flared orange, and then a vibrant red.

"Why now?"

Jasmine heard her speak. There was great power in the room, so much so that Jasmine’s heart began to beat rapidly, her skin began to tingle, it was as if she were falling again…

"Tell me, my Goddess, why should I go down this path? What will it bring to you? What will it bring to me? How will this vengeance make things better? Am I to become as this woman is?"

Understanding flared in Jasmine’s mind. No, she thought. This wasn’t her intention in asking what she had asked. No woman should tread the path she had walked.

"Jasmine? If I am not to become as she is then I will do as you ask."

The woman spoke her name; a name she had declared had died. Only the Gods knew such knowledge…

Finally, the radiance slowly faded away, and the woman’s eyes became their original form, and she then asked, "So Nwalmaer, is your curiosity satisfied now?"

Jasmine regarded the woman, and her eyes finally lowered, breaking the long gaze the two women had shared. She spoke with a touching sadness, a grief that had not revealed itself for over 7 years. She spoke as one who had seen revenge played out to its bitter conclusion; who had seen its unquenchable thirst, its vicious hunger, its limitless end.

“You mean to live a life of vengeance, I see that in your eyes even now, but you must know, before you walk that path, that it will burn your soul until you have none. If ever you believe in anything I say, believe in that. I may have no credence in your eyes, nor a reason to warn you other than the fact that I have lived such a life, but my warning is given regardless. My life as it was is gone. I am nothing now. Abandon such an action, do all that you can to flee from it, even if it was declared by the Gods themselves. Mark my words; you will become what you hate. Do not even hope you can overcome it.”

With that, a single tear fell from Jasmine’s eyes, guarded by her long dark hair that hung down around her face.

“Leave me.” She said. “Go to your doom, mine is already fixed.”

She had nothing else that could profit them, she had lied, and the woman knew it.

********

As the lightening arched around the dark figure outside the culvert, a dark vaporous energy flashed out from within it, and Kishkumen gasped in sudden necromantic recognition.

Vermigard ran out of the culvert, and then a blinding light exploded.

Gadianton had seen the capsules and had jumped back into the murky waters. He could hear the elven necromancer, scream as he hit the water, “THE LICHE KING….!”

”You….are….MINE!”

It was then that Gadianton rose from the waters, and beheld the dark robed mage rip an inner pendant off his chest. He raised it high, and began to chant. And from the darkness behind them all, watching as Vermigard was pierced through his side from one of the perpetrator’s blades; Gadianton renotched an arrow, aiming it directly for their opponent’s neck and held it steady ready to be loosed in a moments notice, intrigued by such a reaction from the mage.

A dark iridescent light began to swirl all around the mage, illuminating the dark tunnel they stood in. High above his head, the circular pendant, the source of all the souls he had captured, blazed a vibrant sickly green. His eyes glistening with power, he finished his chant as Vermigard fell to the ground. The soul stone swept out a magical field, capturing the man and the Liche in its hold. He raised the energy field, and the mysterious man lifted off the ground, powerless, held within the rapture of the stone’s power.

The mage began to speak quickly, his voice tinged with sheer terror, the limits of his powers being exerted.

“You…must…keep him…alive, bind him…NOW! You look upon…great power…”

Gadianton walked forward, menacingly, void of the power present all around him, yet aware of something far greater than all of them knew. He stepped boldly toward the older man held in stasis, and walking behind him, drew his sword and sent a powerful blow to the back of his head with the hilt of his elven sword. The man’s head quickly drooped in unconsciousness.

Finally, Vermigard felt himself being dragged back into the tunnel, blood flowing from his wound.

*********

The elves keeping watch noticed lights appearing down by the culvert quickly ran toward the strange occurrence.

********

“Kishkumen, we have little time, can you save him, he is our only escape.” Gadianton shot through clenched teeth, realizing the urgency.

“My power is nearly depleted; I can only grant him physical strength.” The necromancer whispered back, his breath coming out in great heaves.

Gadianton then turned toward the fallen bounty hunter and knelt down, taking the folds of black leather of the collar of Vermigard’s armor in his two powerful hands, bringing his face inches away from the bounty hunter’s wavering eyes, and spoke with fervency.

“Vermigard, I will ensue you survive, treasures untold, but it is now up to you to have strength enough to open the portal. Do you understand? ”

The bounty hunter, nearly loosing consciousness, seemed to nod.

Kishkumen with the last ounce of his power, invoked a spell of vigor upon the dying bounty hunter. Vermigard, feeling the unnatural strength return, despite the swelling pain, and the loss of blood, stood and envisioned the spires of Ancora, holding the Irrithica unsteadily out toward the night.

**********

Three elven rangers ran swiftly across the dewy grass along the surface of the citadel, arrows and bows at the ready, and as they came to the source of the light and the culvert, they flew toward it and came at the moment where they beheld a portal open, two figures, one holding a man over his shoulder, dragging another, and the other stepping into the portal. The Rangers fired their bows just as the portal disappeared into a spark of light, and then faded into nothingness.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

“You mean to live a life of vengeance, I see that in your eyes even now, but you must know, before you walk that path, that it will burn your soul until you have none. If ever you believe in anything I say, believe in that. I may have no credence in your eyes, nor a reason to warn you other than the fact that I have lived such a life, but my warning is given regardless. My life as it was is gone. I am nothing now. Abandon such an action, do all that you can to flee from it, even if it was declared by the Gods themselves. Mark my words; you will become what you hate. Do not even hope you can overcome it.”

Speechless, Lithwyn takes in her words of warning. ... you will become what you hate ... it is the Goddess I follow. She knows more than I, she will not allow me to fall to that state. Kaia'hanas gives me strength to overcome all. I will not become like HER. Her thoughts rejecting the prospect of becoming like this woman, she shakes her head.

“Leave me.” She said. “Go to your doom, mine is already fixed.”

Tilting her head to the side, she measures the bound woman, sadness in her eyes. Talking as if to a child, yet to learn a simple lesson, she catches her attention one last time.

"Nwalmaer, through all of this you haven't learned anything. I will tell you a secret about life you have yet to uncover..." leaning towards her, she lowers her voice to an earnest whisper. "Nothing is fixed. Until it has come and passed, your life is not set. Your choices still change what is to come. Even if your last days are spent in this dungeon, there may be redemption found here. In your heart, in your mind. You can still find the peace you long for."

With that, she turns and leaves the woman to the thoughts of her final hours. Unlocking the door, she slowly pulls it open as the door's groans vibrate the wood. Looking over her shoulder at the woman, she closes the door behind her, promptly locking it. The key safely stowed in the folds of her robe once again, the guards look faintly surprised to see her.

"She knows nothing. See that no one enters this room. Once the guard returns with Nysden, send the priest back to bed as he is no longer needed. I want a woman guard placed here with you. If anything should go wrong, alert me at once."

Nodding as they confirm her request and promise to follow her orders, she stands tall and quickly ascends the stairs. Climbing higher, the sounds of the guards at the door behind her fading, she slows down and leans against the wall. Suddenly feeling exhuasted, she wonders how late the evening has grown. Resting her head back against the wall, she closes her eyes and breathes deeply. Sounds from above cause her to jump away from the wall. Racing up the stairs once more, she nearly collides with Nysden. Hand to her chest, she nods to him and acknowledges E'las and then the guard.

"Nysden, E'las. I have just been speaking with the woman, she knows nothing. You will not be needed, and your very presence in the room could be disastrous." Dismissing the guard, she turns back to the annoyed faces of the priests. "Please, walk with me, I will explain." Climbing the stairs with one on either side, she continues, "She does not work for Beridane, nor does her employer. She does not know names of her party, or reasons for the assassination attempt. She has certain abilities involving mind control, which is how I suspect she gained entrance within the citadel."

Cutting in, Nysden nods and weakly voices his agreement, "It has been very busy here as of late, many newcomers. We cannot possibly keep track of them all. Why did this have to happen tonight? I must leave so early tomorrow morning, this really puts a damper on my rest. I can't be expected to focus properly during battle being so exhausted. Why, what if this is all an elaborate set up to coincide with the Orc invasion? Drawing me away from the chappel here?? Should I stay behind? I shouldn't go, what if something happens??" Supressing the urge to roll her eyes, she merely smiles and shakes her head. Cracking his knuckles on the way, Lithwyn cringes with each POP Nysden's hand makes. He being obviously nervous and afraid, she refrains from commenting on the twitch.

Reaching the door as Nysden finishes his protest, Lithwyn turns to E'las and curtseys before him, apologizing for the need to awaken him. As E'las walks back to his quarters, mumbling under his breath, Lithwyn gently takes Nysden by the arm and leads him down the hall towards his room.

Looking at the trembling man out of the corner of her eye, she can't help but think what an odd High Priest of Avandor he makes. Of course Avandor chose Ithramir as his avatar. The thought of using Nysden in such a way would be distasteful. Why did Nysden leave Alyatol? He surely does not belong out beyond the safetly of the ancient elven city.

"Nysden, you will be fine. This is your duty, is it not? I may not enjoy everything I am called to do, but that is our lot. Surely Ithramir and our army will keep all of our priests and priestesses safe. They will have need of you, of your power, of your guidance. You must go. You know this. Why are we having this discussion?"

Reaching his door, she releases the hold on his arm. Looking into his eyes, trying to ignore the fear behind them, she smiles encouragingly. Nysden, relaxing under her gaze, reaches out to touch her cheek. Quickly stepping back, out of his reach, she shakes her head sadly even as his hand is still raised.

"Quel kaima, amin autien rath. Lye nuquernuva sen e dagor, uuma dela.**"

Turning away, she quickly walks down the hallway and turns the corner, leaving Nysden standing in front of his door. Dropping his hand to his side, he takes a shakey breath and opens his door, slinking within the darkness.

Finally reaching her room, she quickly enters and unstraps her daggers and bow. Setting them in a neat pile on a chair, she walks across the room as she unties her outer robe. Letting it fall to the floor, she collapses on the bed, too exhausted to hang it properly. Turning on her side, she pulls the corner of the bed spread, covering herself partially. Now comfortable, she instantly falls asleep.

** Sleep well, I am going to bed. We will defeat them in battle, don't worry.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan walked slowly in no particular direction with a distinct limp. She clutched her clothes to her chest as she made her determined way forward, her spare hand supporting her balance as it pressed heavily against the wall. She heard someone yammering behind her, but her head hurt too much to take notice. Continuing to limp her way along out of the courtyard and into a corridor, she struggled to find a doorknob as her vision wavered and shifted in a way that made her stomach lurch.

The yammering continued behind her, and Mavigan stopped. Taking her hand off the safety of the wall, she waved it around in the air, as if the constant questions were gnats fluttering around her head. As she did so, her vision again wavered and she started to tip. Reaching out, she grabbed hold of something as her vision turned black.

No. She had grabbed something black. It was cold and felt like metal, but Mavigan was in too much pain to notice many details. She righted herself and then spied what she had been looking for! A doorknob! With a cry of victory, she lunged forward and grabbed it, twisting it sharply. Her efforts were rewarded, for there, within the confines of the room, was a bed. It was neatly made and appeared undisturbed. Hoping the room was unoccupied, but not really caring if it was not, Mavigan limped her way to the bed and collapsed down on it face-down, her bundle of clothing trapped beneath her.

She slammed her eyes shut and lay very still, doing her best to will the pain away. After a few moments, she heard the sounds of people attempting to be quiet as they shifted around the space. Soon after that, she felt someone bandaging her feet. Content to lay as she was and not move for an eternity, she offered no protest.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen’s armor made his walking through the hallway anything but stealthy. His mind was not on silence though as he continued to frown and mentally grimace over the scene he had witnessed in the courtyard. Mavigan, and Ithramir, tools of the gods! It was an affront to his sensibilities that the gods could so directly use and manipulate one of Elven blood.

“No good will come of this, they’ll rue the day they trucked with the divine. They forget the one basic rule when dealing with angels or demons: neither are Elven.” He muttered darkly as he continued to stalk along. Glancing around, Ardwen noticed that he was near his room again in the guest quarters. He had simply wanted to get away from the courtyard, and his room seemed as good a place to be as any. Furthermore, it was getting late (or was it early?) and some sleep struck him as a particularly wise idea.

Sleep would not come so easily tonight though it seemed. Turning to a shuffling noise behind him, Ardwen noticed Mavigan moving down the hallway in a pained but determined gait. Attendants and others followed her, asking questions and expressing their concern over this or that aspect of her being. For her part Mavigan seemed not to notice, she had one hand clutched to her clothing and the other was sliding along the wall for support.

Suddenly she removed that bracing hand and waved it about, as it to swat small insects away from her. Mavigan seemed to tremble from the effort and began to tilt heavily to her side. Dashing forward Ardwen arrived a little too late, instead of supporting her, Mavigan’s waving hand grabbed onto the pauldron on his left shoulder. Mavigan did not appear to notice and instead righted herself and lunged for a doorknob.

Ardwen raised one eyebrow as he noticed what doorknob it was; it was the one to his room. Mavigan gave the knob a sharp twist and the door slid open. Ardwen watched as Mavigan limped toward the bed and collapsed on it, facedown. Letting out a sigh Ardwen entered the room as silently as he might. People began to enter the room to attend and check on Mavigan. For his part Ardwen offered no protest, he was just a guest after all.

Still, he knew that a battle was coming in the morning, and sleep would be needed if he had hopes of performing his best. Glancing once more at Mavigan, Ardwen thought it best if she were not disturbed. Unsheathing the blade across his back slowly, Ardwen walked to the wall opposite the bed and propped one foot against it. Putting the point of the large blade on the floor he used it to help support his weight. A slight grating and shifting noise escaped from his armor as he adjusted himself to let his feet and sword support his weight.

It wasn’t comfortable, but he had learned the technique from his kin in Avari, a way to sleep and be ready to call to combat in but a moment. Letting his head slump slightly forward Ardwen closed his eyes, but he kept his ear alert for any noise. There was none, save for the talk and movement of the people that had entered the room as well.

Briefly the thought crossed his mind of why he was sleeping in this fashion. Surely there were other rooms, or even a bench outside that would be far better. A single thought welled in his mind, the images of the undead guards and the assassins in Mavigan’s chambers. He had come close, he realized, to failing his oath without ever knowing it . . . if it were not for that paladin it might have well happened. Halting the thought Ardwen’s mind turned once more to the scene in the courtyard and he muttered softly, “The gods may want her as their pawn . . . but if it’s not her will they will not have her without a fight.”

Written by - Teran

"I am nothing more than a servant." The assassin murmurs, catching the coin easily, and setting it on the table with his left hand.

Teran's gaze is calm, devoid of fear or intimidation.

"What have you heard about the Beridaine's man?" He asks, but the tone of his voice makes him sound detached, only slightly interested at best.

Written by - Renalis

Content that Mavigan has picked somewhere to rest, Crystal knelt at the side of her bed. Taking charge of the scene - having been around for many moons and knowing it - Crystal took removing all the stray glass then cleaning the wounds. Notioning to the others to be very quite she continued tending to the wound, finishing off by binding it as best she could with as little disturbance to the resting Queen. Noting the dark figure in the corner, and the dark energies in his Armor Crystal thought to herself "Such sorrow in his heart, so much loss, so much..." Her thoughts are distracted as the Violet mana gem at her chest flares brightly, the holy symbol of her Goddess visible within. She quickly covers it to not assail the resting Mavigan with its light but she has a look of strong worry, "So much energy... my love, are you alright"

****

"The time has come for you to reveal to us your purpose in being here. What is your background? Why is an Adept here at this time posing as a servant? What is your mission here? In the name of the All Father, speak now the Truth."

"The truth?" Renalis thought to himself, "No doubt the good Father Agmund can tell fact from fiction so better be on my best behavior.."

"The truth you ask, Sir? I would tell you nothing less. Deception is not something I enjoy, nor is it something I would do unless it was of the utmost importance." Renalis took a deep breath before continueing, "I was hoping that it would be apparent why I was here, but I shall explain as to remove all doubt." Renalis shifted in his seat becoming comfortable, "When I learned of the assassination of the royal family, I was angered beyond words. I am loyal to the royal family as they ruled justly and fairly over these lands. When I heard of Lady Mavigan's survival however I knew that there would be many who would try to kill her. I came a few days ago and pledged myself to this place but in a low station - the servant position you may have noticed me in during the feast. I did so as to not give myself away to any would be assassins. I came here to pledge myself and my abilities to Lady Mavigan, the rightful heir to the throne, to serve and protect her in this dark hour of her kingdom."

Taking another deep breath Renalis continued, "As for my background, you recognise me as an Adept easily enough, but what you do not know... " Renalis pauses, and disconnectis the two pieces holding the front and back of his breastplate together. Grabbing firmly the front, he pushes forward, taking far more effort to remove the chest piece than would normally seem neccessary. A strange sound is heard from beneath the breastplate and the Azure crystal glows faintly. The breastplate is removed and set aside, revealing an ornate azure silk shirt with one difference above all other shirts, a hole in it revealing a large azure crystal embedded in Renalis's chest. "What you do not know, is that I am powerful because of this. While this crystal and that one" notioning to the one on his breastplate, "both contain a large amount of magical energy which is constantly refreshed by myself tapping the ley lines. This crystal," tapping the one in his chest, "this one is different. This crystal is directly connected to a ley line, and being a part of me, so am I." Breathing deep and letting out a sigh, "A mana flare like that is dangerous for two reasons; the first being the most obvious, and overload of this focus will kill me, the second however pains me more. The second stone you may have noted in my wife, it is connected to this one and that same ley line. While she uses it to mearly amplify her own connection to the divine, if mine were to overload, I... I don't know what would happen..." Renalis trails off, and looks down for a time. Raising his eyes to meet Wilhelm's once more, "Good Sir, I bare you my soul, I speak only the truth and I hope you see that. But there is little time to waste, the immediate threat may be passed, but there are more,"

Standing up only to take a knee with his arm across his chest, head bowed low, "I once again pleadge myself to Lady Mavigan and Ancora, allow me to help."

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm looked into Renalis' heartfire as he spoke. It shown clear and steady. He looked at Father Agmund who said, "He speaks the Truth as he knows it. His words were true." Wilhelm heaved a deep sigh of relief. Turning to Renalis he nodded and said "Then in Mavigan's name I welcome you into her service. Your powers and knowledge will no doubt be needed in the times to come. They have already been of use here. I ask then that you and Father Agmund report to Ithramir what you have sensed from these rings. It seems that the Necromancer's band has left the citadel through a portal, but you sensed another as well. And then there is this alien who arrived through another portal to deal with. "

Turning to the citadel mage, he said, "Master Resini, would you take them to Ithramir and report also your own findings? The magical defense of this citadel is your charge, I believe." Resini replied that he would do so as soon as he took some precautions. He turned to the two rings and muttered some arcane words as he gestured at them with his athlame. A translucent golden globe of light surrounded them. "Should the Necromancer that enchanted these come again nearby this will give warning." he said.

"Excellent, " replied Wilhelm. Then I leave you three to report to Ithramir. Father Agmund can attest to the truth of these matters. I must now return to Mavigan to see to her condition. " Turning to the nearby Ranger, he said "Please see to it that Father Agmund is shown to a guest room after they meet with Ithramir, as we will all need to try to get some rest before a busy morning. I will see you all at dawn."

Wilhelm then left them and proceeded to the courtyard, where he was shown to the room where Mavigan lay asleep, her feet newly bandaged. He quietly thanked the healers and attendants for their care. He saw Ardwen propped against the wall and realized he was resting against his greatsword. Looking at the gear in the room he realized that this must be Ardwen's room. He began to apologize but Ardwen indicated that he understood and that he would remain to protect Mavigan until she woke.

Just then the guards for the next watch arrived to relieve Mavigan's guards. Wilhelm briefed them on events and charged them with guarding her safety. He then returned to his own chamber and informed the guards in the corridor that Mavigan would not be returning that night but to remain vigilant. He requested that Mavigan's chambers be cleaned and that a new set of clothing and some hot tea and cheese biscuits be brought at dawn for the Queen and for himself as well. He then returned to his chamber and lay down to catch some sleep before the sun rose. It would be a very busy day ahead.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Cooly, Ithramir responds,

"Oh, I have heard that he was an assassin with quite the skill. Killed Mavigan's family deftly, quietly, and mercifully fast. A professional to say the least."

Observing the man, his cool demeanor, Ithramir knows that this man is at the very least a professional, not someone who has done this sort of thing once or twice.

Pausing, he then continues,

"So, tell me, what purpose did you have for being in Mavigan's room this eve? No doubt you saved her life, but more importantly, how did you know where she was and how did you know that this attack was planned?"

Leaning back in his chair, Ithramir's eyes continue to study the man before him, awaiting his response.

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