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Welcome to the home of House Ancora! House Ancora (HA) is a fellowship of online gamers dedicated to promoting cooperation, role-playing, and merriment in company with one another across the varied landscapes of today’s online gaming environment. We firmly believe that friendship transcends any gaming environment and is independent of any specific style, genre, server, or realm.

Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Archeantus - Page 4 of Book 1

Gazing haphazardly down into the distant lights on the horizon, Gadianton could have intimidated the whole town of Thornton. Perhaps many felt a chill in thier bones at that moment, but the menacing stare was short lived, for the killer was more prone to do than to fantisize.

Spuring his steed to action, he made his way slowly, fanactically down the long winding hill that overlooked the town and disappeared into the fog.

Meanwhile near Thornton...

"There's the signal" An elven Ranger whispered to his companion from an upper branch of a tree.

Suddenly a division flew forward, silver swords glinted in the moonlight. The elves took the nearby human camp fairly quickly. Masked in the shadows and veiled by the deepening fog they appeared to be ghosts in the night and in later years survivors of the town would speak of the dead taking their friends away never to be seen again. What little resistence there was was quickly dealt with and the fight was over. Taking prisoners, the elves secured the encampment.

"Humans." A young elf spat, eyeing a dispicable example lying sprawled on the forest floor. He was niether conscious, nor was he dead, but he was drunk.

The other elf regarded the snoring human with much the same disgust.

"The smell..." The other implied, but could not go on.

From behind them was a sharp snap of a twig, coming somewhere within the looming fog. The two experienced Rangers silenced and handled thier weapons with care. One motioned for the other to flank, which he did, and the leader of the two moved silently forward.

The leader stepped expertly not to make a sound into the fog, losing sight of his companion. His bow was notched and aimed into the white void.

He heard a scramble off to his left and he swerved his bow directly to the sound, the arrow's deadly point aimed ready to be loosed. The elf's sharp brown eyes made out a vague outline in the fog dart across the clearing. He then heard a sharp intake of breath and the slight figure then moved toward him.

The arrow was loosed, and he heard a cry of pain.

Immediatly, the elder elf worried that he had...

Quickly making a sound that resembled the hoot of an owl, he waited for a response. As every second passed his worry grew.

"No..."

Dropping to his knees, he cried forgiveness to the earth for killing his companion and friend.

Amid his mournful cry, the sound of the owl returned to him. Flashing his watered eyes open he stood and turned only to behold a dark angel explode out of the fog. It would be his last sight in this world.

Gadianton, looming above his second kill, wiping his knife clean with the woodsman's cloak noticed something strange about the dead man that he had never seen before.

His face, eyes, ears, all unlike anything he had ever seen. It wasn't human. Studying this new specimen, Gadianton thought he'd better be careful this night, being that he'd never faced anything like this.

Taking the fallen's cloak, he pulled it over his head and disguised himself as another one of them. Then, he looked and smiled. A bow. Taking weapon from the elf's death grip, he handled it expertly; satisfied, he slung it over his shoulder adding a quiver of arrows to match. Out of the sea of weapons he had used over the years, the bow was certainly one of his favorites. Once he was finished taking what he desired, he stepped casually back into the fog.

Moments later he emerged from the moon filled mist and silently entered the camp. He strayed carefully to the shadows not wanting to be bothered. Many of these strange men were all over the place and many dead littered the ground.

"An ambush, but to what end?" The rogue asked himself beholding the carnage. "Nice work." He mused as an afterthought, now regarding the lithe men with an air of competiveness. Melting further into the shadows, he was now absolutely sure he did not want to be seen until he knew the reason for the attack.

Studying the goings on of the force, he watched these strange men, move gracefully about in a cordinated manner. Eyeing the middle of the camp, where a fire blazed, he beheld a tall warrior who seemed to be directing the movements. By his side was a female. Soon a human woman was brought forth along with her child. The rogue watched with peaked interest, wanting to know what the man would do. He overheard the command of freedom given to the woman. At this, Gadianton sneered, understanding what dictated the commander's heart. Honor. This meant he was in the middle of the hornet's nest. Still he lurched further into the shadows.

It was then that the commander, after a few more moments of business, declared to his followers once it appeared thier task was done,

“Burn the bodies, as well as the entire camp. There will be more of Beridain’s men coming, as I am sure this small force found itself here for a reason. Once whatever else is to arrive, they will look for them, and we must ensure nothing is found. Come, there is much work to be done.”

Deep in those shadows, the rogue grinned menacingly, as he comprehended the value of the information he had just learned to his employer.

He knew where he next was headed. Directly back to where he came from...

Back to Ancora.

Written by Talonmane

"Devil-bird! Off the fore-star'! Make yerselves ready fer mischief, mates, no good can come o' this!" Captain Munchadin hobbled from the command deck hastily. He tried to keep his eye on the flying creature which was gliding around to their right, but lost sight of it as the frigate's flying jib got in the way. This resulted in him loosing his 'footing' on the steps, but fortunately one of the Human shipmates was there to break the fall.

"Blast! You there, stout Feburt, head to me cabin and gather me crossbow. I'll nae have that accursed thing settin' down on us." The man nodded and ran off. "Bimglin, gather our remaining bowmen and get on makin' flyin' difficult fer that abomination!" the Dwarven deck officer seemed omni-present, always where his captain needed him most. For a Dwarf, he spoke little, even whilst lacquered with ale. He'd earned a keg and a half during this trip, Munch wagered, and he promised to himself to see all his men rewarded however he could once they all could go ashore.

And then there was that Barbarian, the Knight Warden to the former Kings of Ancora, now sworn to their last living descendant (living as of last word, anyway). Munchadin had carried him over water quite a few times this last score of years, but only saw him fight at sea a few. The Dwarf put little stock in the pantheon of heathen gods, but the Kingdom rumours seemed to be true - Talonmane might just be the one, a champion amoung his people. He knew the Warden denied this gossip, however, even stridently. But a dwarf had to wonder, watching the combat unfold aboard the 'skaner frigate. His own men were hardly along for the ride in that fight, cleaning up after the stragglers while the savage warrior struck deep toward the aft of the enemy boat.

"By Belingold's anvil, where did that bird go...the blasted, blasted feathered freak...

______________

Jagan heard Munchadin's alarmed bellow, but upon trying to scan the skies from under the frigate's mainsails, he couldn't spy the creature. He had only heard the drunken stories of frightened sailors, a lot the Warden knew to be full to the ears with superstition. The Black Albatross...The Island Harpies...The Children of Hrulga, twisted half-bird goddess of the Atland Goblins. What could this mean? the presence of such a monster?

A few more of Munchadin's men - archers - ran by him to take up positions looking for the devil-bird. Ahead, 5 loyal Ancoran sailors were engaqed with a line of 'skaner fighters who tried to protect the pilot's perch and the only portal to the below-decks. The cloaked stranger was nowhere to be seen.

LURCH

!!What!? Out of nowhere, the ship below his feet shifted and heaved as if something underneath made it so. Jagan found his footing while gauging the surroundings to ensure no attackers had approached.

LURCH...BANG...BANG..................................BANG

This time it came with accompanying crashing noises, again from below. With the last banging, the Barbarian saw the wide double-doors built into the deck amidships slam upwards, nearly cracking the two beams sealing the main hold shut.

"Ahoy! what the devil is goi-" Munchadins words were lost in the explosion of wood and iron as the hold doors blew apart. Two massive arms - one wielding the man-sized haft of a stone-topped hammer - leveraged an equally sizable body out of the remains of the hold-hatch. The ship rocked. Jagan could only shake his head and utter an oath at the appearance of the brute. By Prahna's Blade and Valweh's Bulwark...I hate Ogres...

The sickly-colored, off-yellow monster looked around in the fading sawdust and smoke, and settled its gaze on an ancestral enemy. Gripping the fore-mast in its empty hand, the Ogre heaved his body up and down twice, and the entire ship moved with him as some child's boat in a country pool. Sure that the point had been made, the almost smug look on it's face turned to an ear-shattering howl as it strode aftward to engage the Barbarian.

Overhead, a dark shadow was heard to cackle deviously as it flew out to the Northwest. Arrows sailed by the ugly, deformed black albatross, including a larger bolt of Dwarven crafting.

Shaking his fist at the sky and tapping his pegleg furiously upon the deck, Munchadin cursed repeatedly...but he came to see that his men were now terrified. Even the supposed champion, Talonmane, might not handle this new foe. Denying the expected pleadings from his more inexperienced sailors, the Captain replied, "Nay! we'll not cast off from the battle, and we'll not leave our brothers to the beast! Archers, keep yer eyes peeled fer that blackened, hate-filled devil-chicken...the rest of ye...come with me." Laying down his crossbow and the stave that some jibed was a crutch - Munchadin pulled out a fine Dwarven light hammer, and held it before him with his cutlass.

"Once again mates, we fight on! fer Ancora!, we join her Knight Warden, and the agents of Beradane will rue the day! I dunnae care if it's yer second or third or fourth wind keepin ye going...to the Ugly mates, CHARGE!"

Written by Wilhelm

Sir Wilhelm could see that Mavigan was torn with indecision, which was understnable given the way her life had suddenly changed. Turning away he rested his gaze on the comely female entertainer that replaced the rather poor fellow who had just finished. She was indeed different and led the musicians in several lively numbers, several of which he recognized and enjoyed. While he waited for Mavigan's reply, he motioned over the waitress and ordered ale for the members of the party. On an impulse he ordered one as well for the female singer, sending his compliments on the performance. Sipping his ale, he turned back to look at Mavigan, handing around the ales to the others.

Written by Turin Wallace

The business was done.

As a red dawn appeared over the horizon, the elves had finished their tasks and were back inside their own camps. They had wiped clean every vestige of the human camp, nothing was left to show their presence.

Now was the time for the healers to do their work. A funny thought to Ithramir, especially after what they had just done in the night. "It was for the greater good" he reasoned to himself. Sitting alone in his tent, he opened a bottle of absinthe, and drank deeply from it.

Just then an elven ranger come bolting through the camp, bursting into Ithramir's tent. Levelling a dread gaze at the intruder, Ithramir very calmly says,

"You had best have something very, very important to report. I have a low tolerance for those who disturb my thoughts. Speak."

The elf, bowing low and visibly shaken, says,

"Milord, two of our number have been killed."

His eyes beginning to show more than irritation, Ithramir says,

"Who?"

The elven ranger replies,

"Elrithar and Belamir, milord. It seems Elrithar's cloak and weapons were also taken. We trailed the footsteps of the assassin, he was in the human camp, then he took off for the woods. We trailed him for a ways past Thornton, he was headed back to Ancora."

Umeawen had been standing near the entrance of Ithramir's tent when she heard the ranger's words. Bowing, she came inside and quietly whispered into Ithramir's ear.

"It would seem Beridain will know what happened to his men soon enough. Open war will soon follow between the elves and the humans. What are your plans, milord."

Hearing Umeawen, Ithramir merely nodded in recognition of her words and grabbed a nearby piece of parchment and ink quill. Writing a quick note, and after sealing it with his wax seal, he addresses the ranger first,

"You are to take this to Lothiel-Gadith. Hand this to the Captain and he will instruct you further. Now, off you go."

The ranger took the parchment, bowed, and was leaving when Ithramir stops him and says,

"And Gonduil, you did well. May the wind bare you quickly to Lothiel-Gadith and back."

Ithramir smiled briefly as the ranger stood straight up and saluted him before he left to carry the letter away.

Turning to Umeawen, Ithramir says,

"So, we now have war upon us? Very well then, war it shall be."

Smirking to himself, Ithramir pours another glass of absinthe and drinks deeply. Umeawen says,

"But what are we going to do? Beridain will surely send a vast army to try and take our lands as well."

Still with a half-smug look on his face, Ithramir says,

"I would expect no less of him."

He could see Umeawen's frustration written all across her face. It was then he thought to himself, "She is a good aide to me, however, she must learn to think ahead. It was, and is, her only flaw." Waiting a few moments to see how she would react, Ithramir then gently says,

"The plan, Ume, is to march on Ancora itself. Beridain will not expect this. We will kill any of his troops that we find while we make our way there."

Umeawen looks at Ithramir and replies,

"Then it begins, milord. How soon should we be ready to move?"

Ithramir replies,

"Prepare to move out tomorrow. We shall rest this day."

Umeawen bowed and then left him alone in his tent once more.

Pouring another glass of the halucinogenic drink, Ithramir started to ease into a restful state once again. His thoughts turned to many things, but he was not concerned over Beridain. The man was a fool and he would enjoy removing his head, when the opportunity arose.

After a few hours, another ranger broke his meditations. "Alright, this is enough. Unless we are under attack I am not going to tolerate these intrusions", Ithramir thought to himself. With a commanding voice, he says,

"What is so important that you have need to disturb me?"

The ranger replies,

"Milord, a few rangers have found a rather odd beast in the woods. Catlike, but a rather strange shade of blue. We were wondering..."

Ithramir had enough, his patience at an end he says,

"I don't care about a blue cat running and scampering about. If it is not a threat to us, leave it be. If it wants to play, them by all means do as you see fit, but do not disturb me again this evening!"

Picking up an empty bottle, he flings in the ranger's general direction. It had the affect he was looking for, in that the ranger left as quickly as possible and the others in camp now knew that he had better not be disturbed again.

Umeawen, in a tent close by, stops the ranger and says,

"For such matters, it is best left to me decide this eve. Milord Ithramir has many things on his mind, and we shall respect his meditations. Investigate this cat-beast further, Tadrien, and let me know what you find out."

The ranger bowed to Umeawen and sped off into the forest.

Written by Teran

The news of Gadianton's activities in Beridane's company spread far and wide through the shadowy lines of communication that rogues used to keep up to date. Teran was well connected with these lines, in fact he had created many of them for his own use disguising their value to him by making them public, at least for a select number of people.

It was because of these lines that a young woman approached him with this information as he sat in a tavern on the edge of Thornton. The assassin absorbed the information his contact had for him. Once she had finished, he nodded once and the woman left the tavern disappearing into the streets.

The assassin wondered where Beridane had dug up his new anonymous toy. Beridane was a fool, the assassin was sure of that, a dictator who considered his entire kingdom to be a toy chest. If Beridane were to discover a new toy, a toy that could disrupt the balance Teran was in the process of establishing he would have to re-evaluate Beridane's value.

The assassin sighed inwardly. He knew that he would have to get more information about what Beridane was up to, and if he wanted to get information he could trust beyond a shadow of a doubt, the assassin had to travel back to Ancora.

Written by Rowan

Rowan grinned at Shimur, the reed player, and tossed off another flourish, one-upping his last one, trying to find a combination he couldn't imitate, but he threw it back at her with a vengeance, ending on a trill that took her breath away. Laughing, she dove once again into the refrain at top speed, fingers flying, and the song hurtled to a reckless close, the last few notes completely drowned out in the cheers from the audience. Rowan struck the final chord and threw her hands in the air triumphantly, gesturing to Shimur to take a bow, then joining in the applause that erupted in response.

"Brilliant!" she shouted above the din and clapped him on the shoulder. "Bloody brilliant! And now I've got a real thirst!" She turned around just in time to see one of the barmaids holding up a tankard of ale and gesturing toward the table where the dark haired man was sitting with that fetching redhead and other friends. "Ah, is this by way of an apology for all that wretched scowling?" Rowan asked, accepting the ale from her gratefully and taking a deep swallow.

"Nay, miss," she said, "'tis not from 'im, but from the other fella, the one's got the beard 'at looks like it's afire. 'E said I was to tell you that 'e sends 'is compliments on yer performance." She giggled.

Rowan looked again and saw a tall, red-haired fellow with a beard to match, a solemn face and a bearing that didn't seem to quite add up with his mercenary looks. "I see," she said thoughtfully, taking another drink of ale. "Well, thank him for me. And tell him we take requests," she added with a smile.

Written by Ariana

Mavigan had accepted Wilhelm’s assistance in mounting Argent, though she had not needed it. She gently ran her hands through its mane and patiently waited for the party to get underway. It did not take long and soon Alaric was leading the small group through dark streets and through the city gates. She was momentarily surprised that he was not taking her to the castle. She opened her mouth to inquire, but shut it again as she remembered that she had no family there anyway.

She fell into a despondent silence, not really knowing where they were going and not really caring. The night was cold and the rain poured down on her soaking her hair, her clothes, and the poor horse beneath her. Her breath was visible in the chill, coming in panting gasps. Her mind fervently wished for her to pay attention to the events of the night, to think about how she felt and analyze her circumstances. Mavigan refused to comply and instead spent her time devising tortures for Alaric. This preoccupation kept her entertained and safely away from self-examination and soon they were pulling in front of an Inn.

Mavigan found herself quickly whisked inside, and shoved into a chair at a long empty table. Alaric sat across from her and said, “Well now… Princess… what shall we do with you?”

Before she could reply, however, there was a commotion from the stage. Crossing her arms across her chest, Mavigan pointedly ignored Alaric and instead turned her attention to the stage. The terrible racket that had passed for music had stopped and the musician (and Mavigan used that term loosely) left the stage in a drunken lilt to be replaced by an elven lady who proclaimed herself as Rowan Cor’Ellyn. As she began to play, Mavigan was pleased that at least this musician (meant in the truest sense of the word) knew her way around her instrument. Before long she had a woman dancing to the beat – not too badly either. Her applause mingled with the rest of the crowds.

As the song ended, she noted Alaric leaning forward trying to get her reply. Mavigan snorted and rolled her eyes. “After all this and NOW you want to ask my opinion?” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back into her chair. “You seem to be the one controlling my life at the moment,” she hissed, “You figure it out!” She ran a hand through her wet hair and flicked the water in his direction.

At that moment a barmaid approached and placed a drink before Alaric. “Pardon sir, but this is from the lady musician. She says you scowl too much.”

Hearing this, Mavigan laughed. Whether it was from nerves or simply the need to release all the pent up emotion in her, she laughed until her sides hurt and tears streamed from her eyes. Trying to speak in between gasps for breath she said, “It seems…that…even strangers….know….what a geezer you are!” After several more moments of raucous laughter, she finally managed to calm down a large smile still plastered on her face. “Well,” she said softly, “I, for one, know how to have fun.”

With that, Mavigan stood up, tossed off her cape, and made her way to the stage. Rowan was beginning a new song, and Mavigan wanted to enjoy it. The fact that she knew it would tick Alaric off only made it more enjoyable. She was fully aware that her clothes were not dry and were clinging to her body. “Serves him right!” she thought to herself.

She allowed the music to fill her senses and slowly began to move…

Written by Archeantus

"Damn." Gadianton breathed angrily.

Far up in a tree the rogue crouched, staring hard down at the forest floor. The fog was beginning to fade, and the aura of morning soon was approaching. He had spent all night trying to loose the men who had masterfully picked his track up and followed him, deciphering every trick, every ploy he had learned to use over the years. He had certainly mastered the art of shadow, but these strange men, had in turn mastered the art of tracking, the very skill which could take away his greatest advantage. He decided, shifting his weight awkwardly, that he didn't much like these men, and they would pay for his hate.

He had spent far more than two hours hidden high up in the tree, when finally he saw them following his decoyed tracks that led them away from where he had to go. There was a fleeting moment where he thought he'd break his resolve and give in to his urge to attack them. But he had learned to restrain his hunger for blood when a greater cause was at stake. It was the one thing that he loved above all else. Dark love such as his, was the bane of the meaning of love. His love was pure selfishness, and with his unconquerable pride he set his heart upon the one thing that brought him pleasure.

War.

After yet another hour, (the length of his decoyed tracks) he finally edged down the great tree and headed west, just before the morning sun glinted along the mountain peaks.

Carefully, he made his way back to his steed, but to his dismay, the animal was gone. His eyes shot dangerously out into the golden hued forest, lit by the morning sun, and his hate grew for the "long ears" as he called them. Now his journey back would take far longer than he desired. Feeling his anger grow, he channeled it into action and quickly headed west again.

As the sun rose over the canopy of trees, its rays glimmering down through cracks along the high branches, he knew he was once again being followed and his hunger quickly grew past restraint.

The two elven Rangers who had been pursuing the human assassin had discovered they had been led to a dead-end, and knew their target had obviously backtracked. They followed the tracks carefully back and found marks that led up a certain tree, then soon after they found tracks that led west. One of them quickly commanded the other to go to where they had placed his horse and catch up as the leader of the two pursued on foot.

"He is not to be killed Lithian."

The leader glared at his companion.

"You brother's death will be better honored if we further the elvish cause, rather than our own."

"Very well, I shall retain him if I come upon him." The leader whispered through clenched teeth.

The younger elf nodded after a moments pause and disappeared through the foliage.

Lithian, then looked hard down the path and hunted his prey.

In a forest clearing...

Lithian, knew he was close, he eagerly moved forward and abandoned his usual caution. He knew this human certainly had skill in tracking and evading, but it was also obvious that he too had thrown caution to the wind trying to make it to his destination. The elf suddenly found himself in a clearing, where the tracks stopped once more. In one fluid motion he armed himself with his bow, notched an arrow and turned to look his prey in the eyes, directly behind him.

Instantly the human, in a startling motion, knocked the bow sideways with the very sword he had stolen from the previous elf, and the arrow was loosed off to the left.

Lithian threw his treasured bow down and brandished his own ornament sword passed down through generations.

"You hold my brother's sword in your sacrilegious hands." He whispered vehemently.

Gadianton wasn't phased by the comical revelation, he wasn't the first who had come to take vengeance for killing a loved one, neither did he waste any time as he lunged forward seeking to kill the man with his brother's sword.

Lithian was caught off guard, and parried the deadly thrust, he then struck out which the rogue easily parried. The two struggled there in the glade for quite some time. Lithian had a hundred years of experience in swordsmanship and yet this human was outmatching him in skill. He was ferocious and yet methodical, he could see the human's stark eyes planning, scheming for the next move. He lost his revenge amidst the fight and now sought only to survive.

Lithian jumped back at a wild swing that nearly spilled his entrails, and then caught a high strike that nearly reached his neck. He moved further back as another swing darted forward to his arm. Moments later his beloved sword, given to him by his father was knocked from his hands and he found himself on the forest floor in utter shock at the sheer speed and talent this human possessed.

He had little more time to think as the human, with rage in his eyes fell upon him, stabbing him in the stomach.

Lithian screamed in pain, as the blade was pulled from his side.

Writhing on the ground, the human leapt upon him and forced him to his stomach, then he realized what was happening, his hands were quickly bound, next his feet. He was turned on his side once more, and there he gazed into the hooded recesses of his foe. His cloak was torn from his side, and it was quickly engineered to stunt his blood from seeping out of his body.

He had been captured, and beaten by a mangy human. This was more than he could bare and he looked away in disgust.

"Your companion comes soon doesn't he?" The human asked heatedly after his work was completed.

The silence was a clear yes.

"Then we shall wait for my horse to come back to me."

Lithian didn't look back, his will and heart were broken. Destroyed.

"Are you a gambling sort?" The human asked chillingly.

The elf winced in pain and lowered his head dejectedly disregarding the human's question.

"Tell me what you are, and I'll spare your companion." The human asked hovering near him curiously, fingering his elvish features.

This angered Lithian to no end, and he struggled to free himself from the man's grasp.

"You damn fool!" He screamed finally. "I am an elf!"

"An elf?" He asked more to himself as he stood.

"I shall kill many of your kind." He vowed and dragged his captive away, gagging him. Throwing Lithian's dead brother's sword to the ground he then took upon himself this new ornament sword. Lithian's companion was the first elf the sword would slay.

Soon Gadianton was back on his horse, Lithian tied to the stirrup was carried along with him.

Ancora wasn't far, as the sun blazed high over head.

Written by Teran

The assassin rode south on a dusty road towards Ancora. He did not actually own the horse he was currently riding on, but he was gifted at acquiring mounts when he needed to travel faster than he could on foot, but slower than some of his more arcane and taxing methods. He donned a faded gray hooded cloak that obscured his face in a veil of shadow. He was an imposing figure on the road and most people that passed him did so quickly trying to avoid gaining the attention of the hooded traveler.

The assassin studied everyone that he came across on the road from under the anonymity of his hood. He always studied people while he traveled, the roads were far from safe and it would do the land's most wanted criminal to be murdered by common highway robbers. The assassin smiled at the thought, a genuine smile, the kind of smile that only marked his face when he thought of his own demise.

The assassin squinted into the distance after sensing the presence of another traveler. He saw a shadow on the horizon, The assassin quickened the pace of his mount, slowly closing the distance between the two travelers. He could see now that the other traveler had an elf bound to his horse. The assassin quickened the pace of his horse again, approaching the other traveler from behind. As he got closer he eyed the bound Elf, and confirmed his suspicions that the elf was indeed a ranger. Teran knew that caution was required when dealing with anyone who could capture an Elven ranger. The assassin caught up with the stranger and glanced over at him.

"What are you doing?" he asked bluntly skipping any manner of introduction.

Written by Vylia

Continues circling the elven camp in the treetops when she hears something breaking in a tent nearby "I wonder what all the commotion is about." Backtracks a bit to get as close to the tent as she can when she notices two people whispering nearby.

"For such matters, it is best left to me decide this eve. Milord Ithramir has many things on his mind, and we shall respect his meditations. Investigate this cat-beast further, Tadrien, and let me know what you find out," one of them says to the other. The one spoken to nods before running off into the woods to Keeryn's right.

"Cat-beast? Is that what they think I am? Hmmm, that's kind of insulting, I'm much prettier than a cat. They could have at least compared me to a cougar or panther and now a pet," she sighs. "Oh well, at least they are actually going to try to find me now, that should be fun. I wonder if they'd object to being tied up. Wish I had my whip, but I guess one of these vines will have to do."

Keeryn moves off into the trees in the direction the strange light-skinned being went, determined to show that she was a better tracker. "I wonder if he will bother to look up, beasts never seem to," she thought to herself. Looking to the ground below her she notices the lack of tracks to follow and grins, inwardly amused and impressed at how this strange person is able to move through the undergrowth. Instead she starts to rely on her hearing and sense of smell, turning slightly east When she finally finds him he is staring at the trunk of a tree in front of him, her claw marks plain to see. "Cursed soft barked trees, that was just sloppy," she thinks as she smiles at a sudden idea, lopping the vine she carries into a lasso as she moves to the branch above him, "Too bad he is facing the wrong way."

She drops the lasso down around the ranger, pulling it tight as she drops down to the ground, the vine hooked over the branch she was just on, causing him to lift a foot off the ground. "Hello," she says with a grin, "You're not bad, but you need to learn to look...." Just then 3 more rangers appear out of the woods, their bows pointed at her, arrows knocked. "Oh, I see... I guess I need to learn to look for friends first." she let's the vine go, the elf falling back to his feet as she raises her hands. "I wasn't going to hurt him, just having a little fun."

One of the elves lets Tadrien go, who then says, "You will come with us, we can't have spies running around." "Sure... but can I get something to eat? I'm starving," Keeryn grins as one of the other rangers motions for her to start walking back toward the camp.

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm watches the young Queen-to-be toss off her cloak, move to the stage, and begin to dance to the next song. It brought back memories. Seeing Alaric's deepening scowl, he murmured "Let her dance away her troubles. It has always been her way. We will watch the patrons for any trouble, as we have done before. Soon enough she will lose such opportunities when she assumes her duties."

Wilhelm remembered that she had always loved to dance, and not the stately court dances but the wilder folk dances. This disdain for the court dances had been another point of contention with her father. She had often snuck out of the palace after an argument to go down to the faire or a tavern to dance her troubles away. Wilhelm had often shadowed her on these excursions, providing a protective presence while pretending to be out for a night at the tavern. Although, he mused, there was one popular dance tune that both she and her father approved of, although for different reasons.

Just then his thoughts were interrupted by the return of the barmaid, who told him that Rowen thanked him for the praise and the ale and that she did perform requests. Wilhelm remembered his previous thought about the song of the young bride who danced to her stern father at her wedding as her last dance as an unwed maid, upon which her charmed father granted her freedom and his blessing. Mavigan had often charmed her own father with that dance, and his last memory of them embracing was after such a dance shortly before she left the palace for the last time.

Handing the barmaid a silver coin, he told her to ask Rowen if they would perform "The Bridal Dance."

Written by Archeantus

The landscape flashed by as the rogue and his captive galloped hard atop the twice stolen steed. Gadianton, wishing to avoid any sort of questioning due to his "baggage" kept along the edge of whatever cover he could, but was forced to ride out to the road when the forest ended and nothing remained to hide the two.

He had riden his steed hard, and knew the mare had to rest, so he slowed, and grew all the more impatient as he eagerly waited for the horse to regain her strength. It was then that he sensed another traveler galloping down the rode.

Moments later the stranger came from behind and inquired as to what he was doing, obviously refering to his prisoner.

Gadianton, his appearence hidden within his elven hood, regarded this new threat. Before him was a man, also hooded, wearing a nonscript grey cloak. He was no commoner, for no commoner would ask such a brave question on a busy road which was often a place of danger and crime. A man that would ask such a question, more so to a man with a bound captive, was either a dimwit, or could take care of himself if need be. Gadianton decided to test his mettle and find out if the man was truly a fool. Gadianton needed to know who this man was so he decided to take a look. Suddenly the versatile rogue was a bounty hunter who was taking his job in for collection. He looked and annoyingly glared at the stranger, and then replied acidly, "Aint yer business stranger."

And then nodding as if he had gone through this a thousand times, he explained, "There's a bounty on his head."

Shifting his weight, he turned and quickened the pace of his horse.

"Now leave me be."

The matter would normally be closed to the mere inquisitive. If the stranger had deeper suspicions, he would know soon enough. It would then that he would term the man a fool.

Written by Teran

The assassin sensed the stranger had lied when he attempted to pass himself off as a bounty hunter. It wasn't so much that the man couldn't be a bounty hunter, but that the facts didn't match up. The assassin knew that there were elves around Thornton, elves killing Beridane's men. He also knew the stranger was moving south and most likely came from or near Thornton.

Teran also knew the names and appearances of most of the bounty hunters that were skilled enough to catch him, and this man even with his hood Teran could tell that he was none of them. Lastly Teran currently had the largest bounty the continent had ever seen on his head and came across bounty hunters almost daily. None had discovered his secret but he was often questioned especially while wearing a cloak that concealed his true identity.

"Elves do not venture into the lands of man to commit crimes, stranger, and when they do they are not caught. There is no bounty on this elf." The assassin said calmly, matching pace with the stranger.

"Under the laws of my slain king Pallanon, detaining a person, man or elf who is innocent of crime is unlawful." the assassin said quietly sounding like a loyal servant of his fallen king.

"What are you doing?" the servant asked repeating his original question.

Written by Rowan

Rowan had called a slow tune to let everyone cool down a bit, a relaxed but rhythmic chardosh from the desert. She was pleased to see the redheaded beauty she had noticed earlier take the floor, drawing the eyes of all the men in the room. The wench was a fine dancer. "The money will be flowing nice and steady all night at this rate," Rowan thought, satisfied. And with that, she gave herself over to the music, letting the tune sing out and the girl's body keep the time.

Written by Archeantus

The hooded man saw right through his lie. Narrowing his eyes, he reevaluated his next course of action. Intelligence is not something to be trifled with.

Gadianton smiled benieth his hood, upon hearing the next few statements. Within them he learned the man's alignment in the political landscape he was seeking to set at war. The man was a loyal servant to the fallen king, and therefore was a threat. Still galloping onward, he suddenly reared his horse around sideways along the dirt road, just as the man spoke about it being unlawful to carry an elf without a bounty. The setting sun faced behind him far up in the azure sky, his silhoutted figure, set starkly against the sun's fervent globe of light. The sun's parting rays raced directly past him and glared blindingly at the tenacious man.

The stranger was a few yards away, and Gadianton's steel eyes watched his hands like a hawk. He sat eirily gazing from the shadowed hood, almost to the point where the man was about to ask his oppressive question again. Gadianton then spoke and repeated the man's bold claim mockingly.

"Unlawful?" He chillingly said. "A dead kings laws are precisely that, dead."

And with an immense anticipated glare, sitting cold upon his dark steed, he said, "You look upon the law now." And with that, his hand, which was in a calculated move behind the side of him lashed out like a snake and unleashed a dagger which cut through the air directly toward, not the man, but his horse's broad neck....

He sought to upset any immediate attack that would be forthcoming. The man was far too intriguing to finish just yet, and if he proved himself in the next few moments, he wouldn't dream of ever ending him. Too much, enjoyment would be at stake.

In the same instant he darted forward sideways off the road, opposite the man's throwing range, guessing him to be a right hander, and armed his elven bow, gaining precious space by the moment.

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