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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Pharsalus - Page 9 Book 1

Geirik remained silent as he emerged from the black haze of the closet. The stranger stood only paces away, darting his eyes about...

Habit, no doubt...he is skilled, certainly.

The old man turned his eyes toward the door, his face like hardened leather, his eyes cold and absent.

"How do you plan on getting out of here?"

The rogue's voice sounded almost mute among all the rugs and wall tapestries. Truthfully, Geirik hadn't thought that far. The book he now concealed in his pocket likely contained nothing of any real use. Perhaps it was for his own peace of mind that he even considered taking it at all. But now was not the time for such ponderings.

Geirik began walking toward the door, never making eye contact with the man standing near him. "It matters little to me how I find my way out.," he said calmly. "It is night, the castle is dark, and the powers of shadow are at my beck and call -- it is a nonissue. I must find the whereabouts of the daughter of the slain king."

He paused as his calloused hand touched the cold, gritty iron door latch. "You are a man of stealth and are no doubt one familiar with the Ancoran underground. You may have some use to me yet, but now is not our time to discuss it. I am already behind schedule, and I fear there is far more transpiring here than what my mortal eyes are seeing."

Without hestitation or pause, the matted, wet, lanky old man put down his weight upon the ornate handle. A gring, a click, and the low moan of ancient hinges became clearly audible through the hewn stone rooms and hallways. Geirik knew it was only a matter of time before some wandering guard became curious. He turned to face the hooded stranger.

"You had better find a new hiding place -- that was no doubt heard by any guard within a hundred feet of us. I cannot guarantee I will there for you again."

Geirik nodded one last time before stepping into empty hallway. A nearby wall sconce threw a glow that glistened and sparkled against the polished stone walls -- Geirik smiled. He took a breath, straightened his cloak, and began making his way down the hall. He kept close to the walls and closer still to the shadows. As he moved, one would swear the shadows in the corners and doorfacings shifted and parted like a wake behind him. Geirik had much ground to cover, and he still didn't know in which direction he should turn his attentions. The young heiress would no doubt have a formidable escort, and they had no doubt already left the city gates.

Taverns, whorehouses, the streets -- any may contain invaluable information. Time is of the essence...

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm approached the Elven fortress of Lothiel-Gadith with some hope. Here at last was a place of safety where Mavigan could come to terms with her situation. Her withdrawn silence, while worrisome to the others, was a hopeful sign to him, as it indicated an end to direct refusal of facts leading to a state of introspection. It reminded him of his own state during his vigil and his vision quest. As he was sworn to the All Father, so was she, like all the women of her line, sworn to the Goddess. However, being sworn was not enough.

He was aware of Mavigan's inability to channel the power of the Goddess. To do so required one to surrender completely to the divine being and drop all barriers, becoming a living channel for the divine power. Just as well, because attempting to channel that much power without dropping all resistance to it would likely prove fatal and for that reason the divine withheld their power until the way was clear. This surrender was difficult for anyone, particularlly for a young, independent and rebellious spirit like Mavigan. Or for himself, he mused.

It had taken Wilhelm quite some time to overcome his own stubborn pride and become one with the All Father, thereby gaining access to the powers the All Father provided to his paladins. Fortunately, the gods did try to guide their sworn subjects, resulting in dreams and feelings about certain actions. Giving in to these feelings lowered the barriers to the god, allowing the divine guidance to become stronger and clearer. When one finally reached the state of full surrender and became one with the god, the divine voice became a permanent presence and supporting friend, often providing informative visions and instant warnings of danger as well as a comforting presence. Wilhelm hoped that Mavigan's state of introspection would provide an opening for the Goddess to begin guiding Mavigan towards the union that her mother and sister had achieved.

His musings were interrupted by their arrival at the fortress. He conferred with the Chatelaine and arranged for servants to lead her off to a bath and provide fresh clothing and a meal and excort her to her chambers. He cautioned them to respect her silence. When her clothing had been taking away for cleaning, he borrowed one form-fitting dress that he saw was in need of some repair. "Tell her this needs attention," he said to the Chatelaine.

If she did indeed come to terms with the situation, Mavigan would need to have new clothes suitable for a Queen in official mourning. Wilhelm believed that her first desire would likely be to avenge the death of her family. Adopting formal mourning would also provide a year's respite from any question of alliance by marriage. He also hoped that she would decide that if she was to be Queen then she would rule, rather than be a puppet. The Queen of Ancora was also the High Priestess of Nagarren and subservient to nobody. The last thing Wilhelm wanted was a puppet Queen.

To that end she would also need field clothing, as she would undoubtedly be in the field a fair part of the time. She was a good rider. Her father forbade her to learn manly arms (although Wilhelm knoew she had cheated a little) but hunting was acceptable and Magivan was good with a bow. Wilhelm also knew that a royal sceptre could become a good mace if needed, and resolved to teach her arms if she asked. Light armor suitable for a horse archer would work, giving her protection and a means of defending herself at range, without too much encumberance. There would likely be a need of armor, as assassins would surely be sent against her. Besides, Mavigan had always liked stories of Amazon huntresses, and practicing horse archery wearing light armor would provide the outdoor excercise a healthy young woman needed.

Wilhelm took the dress to the armorer for measurements, explaining his needs, then to the seamstresses for repair and to provide a pattern for the clothing Mavigan would need. The head seamstress assured him the dress would be repaired in time to be sent back with the other clothing and that they would have a comfortable mourning dress ready the next morning, with other clothing to follow.

Wilhelm then attended to his horses in the stable, seeing them fed, groomed, and put out to pasture. Finally he took himself to his own bath, meal, and bed. His chambers adjoined Mavigan's, although they did not connect. Here at last he should be safe. Following old habits, however, he still threw the bolt to bar the door and locked the windows as well. He looked forward to a long, quiet, undisturbed night's rest, the first he would have for a long time. He hoped one morning to be awakened early by the sound of Mavigan once again singing the Morning Hymn to Nagarren as a sign of resuming her devotions.

Written by Vylia

"I'm bored!!"

Keeryn sighs as she tosses another pillow in the corner to join the pile of similarly shredded cushioning. "I wish someone would come and talk to me. Nobody seems to want to say anything to me since I ended up with them, except for Wilhem on the trip over here... I wonder if they'd let me go talk to him." Jumping up she walks over to the door, jerking it open so quickly the guards all spin around to face her, hands on their weapons. Keeryn just stands there a moment, a bit surprised at their reaction before she smiles at them, "I don't suppose I could be allowed to go talk to Wilhelm could I?"

One of the guards makes a few hand gestures, and another heads off down the hall, presumably to ask permission for her to leave her room.

Written by Pharsalus

Geirik moved slowly, room to room, corridor to corridor, stepping in and out of shadows like a child through a series of closets. His face remained almost expressionless as he moved up behind one guard after another. They were posted almost at every room entrance, but Geirik had no trouble quietly picking them off, sucking the very life from their veins and dragging them back into the teeming cloud of otherworldly black that surrounded him. All the while, a low murmur -- almost a cackling -- invaded his every waking thought.

Heh heh heh heh heh....oh, Geirik. I see you have developed a taste of life, hmm? The voice cackled to itself softly. Geirik struggled to ignore it but frowned as the creature's accusation manifest itself in one more guard being tucked away into the shadows. He snarled, but continued working, scouting every room for any sign or shred of information that may give the whereabouts of the young heiress.

I taste it only to prepare myself for the taste of your destruction.

The voice cackled, more loudly this time.

Indeed, Geirik, indeed! Denial and idle threats will win you nothing in this game, mortal. You know no more of me than what you did when I first inhabited you! Not my name, not my true resting place, and not my unsurmountable level of power. You're a worm, Geirik...nothing more...like all humans.

Geirik forced his eyes shut for a moment, pausing in what appeared to be a pantry. He struggled to ignore the creature within him. It was becoming harder and harder for him, regardless of how often he denied it. The Liche was only growing in power. With every use of his abilities, Geirik felt himself slip closer and closer to nothing...to void...cold and unrelenting. He looked around, seeing only sacs of potatoes and racks of salted meats. In a pile to his right was an intricate system of shelves and cabinets, all containing a various assortment of culinary morsels. The Bounty Hunter suddenly realized how hungry he was -- it had been hours, if not days, since he'd last eaten. Honestly, he couldn't rightly remember. He couldn't remember anything anymore -- another side effect of his "cohort."

Geirik slid back against the darkest wall of the room. Only a thin sliver of light cut a path across the floor and up the opposite wall, casting only the glow needed to see the outlines of the objects in the room. Feeling his way about the sacs next to him, Geirik withdrew what felt to be an apple. Without smiling or showing any tint of emotion, Geirik bit into the fruit with a cold indifference. He had to eat. Though his life was greatly extended by the Liche's touch, he was still human and still demanded all physical requirements related thereto.

So Geirik ate, quitely, in a pantry only a hundred yards or so from the main entrance to the estate. Here he wated, eyes closed and head against the wall, as relaxed as a cursed many could be, eating his apple. He could hear whispers and the sounds of boots upon stone and chain upon plate. Through the wall behind him, he could almost make out the sound of guards laughing and jeering...Gambling, no doubt... It was going to be a long evening, he was sure. Had he only known where to direct his attentions, he would have felt much more comfortable.

Written by Feldspar

Feramas jumped somewhat at the abrupt opening of the door which he and a few other Rangers had been set to guard. Not having been with the troupe that 'captured' this creature(?) he set his hands on his weapon hilts.

"I don't suppose I could be allowed to go talk to Wilhelm could I?" It asked.

Looking to his companions, they made a few gestures, and Feramas knew he should go see Ithramir about her. Nodding to his companions, he headed off down the hallways.

Coming to Ithramir's quarters, he spoke with the guards quickly, informing them of what had transpired, and they let him in. He hadn't realized it was so late, as Ithramir was headed for his bed.

"Sorry sir, i didnt realize the hour. If you'll forgive my interruption, our 'guest' the female creature you returned with, she wishes to have word with Wilhem."

Written by Turin Wallace

Ithramir chuckled to himself as he almost made it to bed. Turning to Feramas, with a bit of consternation, he replies,

"Yes, she may go and speak to Wilhelm. Just be sure to escort her there and back."

Once Feramas left, Ithramir slid into his bed and began to sleep soundly.

Written by Feldspar

Feramas bowed out quickly and started down the hall to retrieve the strange creature. He arrived to find her in the doorway, in the midst of conversation with the remaining guards.

"You are allowed to speak with Wilhem, I am to escort you to his room, and back. However the hour is late, and Wilhem may very well be in bed. I suggest you wait until morning." He told her.

"If you are having trouble sleeping, eat this," He pulls some herbs from a concealed pocket in his cloak "they'll help you."

Written by Vylia

Keeryn just looked at the pouch in the ranger's hand before shaking her head, "I guess I wasn't paying attention to the time, but I'm bored enough to go to sleep without using any strange plants. I guess I'll go talk to him in the morning then," she replied, but slowly closing the door with a sigh. Walking over to the pile of sheets and blankets she had stripped off the bed she flops down into them before lying down to fall asleep.

The next morning she was up at the crack of dawn, before they had even brought her breakfast. Stretching she gets up and walks over to the door, pulling it open quickly, "I'm ready to go now!" Looking around to see if the same man from last night was still guarding her door she frowns. These elves all look the same to her.

Written by Teran

Teran moved swiftly through the shadows seeming so naturally in his environment that he could have slipped past guards without alarming them with his presence. A sense of belonging seemed to permeate from Teran while he was shrouded in darkness. Sense of belonging, perhaps the ultimate weapon. A fully armed man could walk past guards ordered to disarm guests in broad daylight if he appeared to belong in the environment, perhaps was dressed like a guard or delegate.

Teran had been dressed like a gardener the first time he had killed within the confines of the castle. He had lived their for months, he made friends, had rivalries, knew some of the guards by name, really the assassin knew everyone by name and face and profile, but the gardener wasn't as sharp as some of his tools. Of course he had changed quite a bit since then, he looked nothing like the gardener he had been, he walked with more confidence, had a softer voice, lacked the accent he had adopted, had paler skin and lighter hair.

A twinge of guilt for what he had done found it's way into his mind, but died when it reached Teran's cold heart. He did what needed to be done at the time, it was unfortunate, he mused, that what needed to be done at the time may not have been needed at all given the new twists and turns that had ensued. Teran had but one regret about his past, and slaying the royal family was not that regret.

Teran moved through filthy city streets with no apparent direction. He only had a destination and he was in no hurry to get there.

A scream pierced the air, so loud, so ragged it sounded like a wounded animal. A man was tied to a pole, screaming, begging, pleading for something. The words come out in a flurry, perhaps in another language. His gray eyes peered into the darkness, crying, shouting, screaming. His black hair was matted with filth, and he is bound to the pole with some sort of barbed rope. Rich, black blood is flowing from his body freely, yet despite the agony it caused, he attempted to squirm free. He was desperate, though obviously not for his own health or safety.

The man continued to struggle, black blood staining his pale skin gray. He shrieked until his voice was hoarse and he could not speak anymore. He struggled to free himself, flaying the skin from his bones, and every time he seemed to come close, the ropes that bound him would shift or re-adjust trapping him once more. The struggle seems to go on for hours, days even before the man's energy fails him and he lays limp in his bonds weeping as puddles of his blood pool under him.

"You know what you have to do." a calm voice said.

Teran snapped awake. He was no longer on the streets but in his room at a local tavern. He looked around and was suddenly aware that the covers on his bed were soaked with his sweat. He stood up, examining himself closely. He was amazed that the only scars he bore from that terrible day so long ago were the ones to his mind. He did not know how his body had healed so completely after being so torn apart.

He was torn from his thoughts by a sound from outside his door. A parchment was slipped through the crack under the door and he heard someone retreat back down the hallway. Without even opening it Teran knew who the ridiculously decorative envelope had been sent by. Sidgard had discovered something. Teran opened it up and scanned the fanciful text. The shadow of a smile creased his face as he paced around the room a few times. Someone knew where Mavigan had gone. He would pay the man a visit and find out just what he knew.

Written by Archeantus

They arrived at Ancora at dawn. Vermigard went off quickly to find out what his underlings had discovered. They had been away for a while and much could happen politically in the space of a short time. The city was nearly deserted; much of the Ancora was still asleep as the sun made its way along the white stone walls. The flag still flowed in the wind as it always had, the shining star glittered, but it felt hollow to those who had known it in the past.

The once grand city and its degenerative state would be a victory for some, but to Gadianton its course was all but finished. He watched as beggars pleaded with the city guards near the city square for food and water. The guards had a small encampment up and actually gave as they were asked, though the offerings were barely a ration. Beridane, Gadianton thought to himself, has finally learned his leadership must have the people’s support. Beridane was a fool. None can lead without respect. And often respect is lost when it is trying to be won.

In a way, Beridane was unknowingly polarizing the people of the land. His charitable actions had come too late and now he was only winning the lame and crippled. To those who still inhabited the city who had a shred of honor would see the act for what it was. A blatant lie. Those that could have worked in his favor had long deserted the city. Yet then again, Gadianton continued to meditate, many have come that were otherwise barred from the city.

They made their way toward a local tavern which had just barely opened, the owner having just placed the wooden sign through the window. As they walked through the door, a soft tug from behind caused Gadianton to turn suddenly. A flash of a blade cut the air as he whirled around. There stood an orphan with rich dark hair. It had grown long and hung just over bright sea blue eyes. The mornings light left a sheen across the boy’s head. He held out his hand.

“Might I ‘ave a silver or two for breakfast?” He asked, fully aware of the dagger inches from his face.

The rogue was about to act, but was enthralled suddenly by sheer light which exploded into his view.

She came from the shadows, her sword dripping with light. The moon was brilliant that night. The fires of destruction blazed all around them, embers showered like rain.

He accepted her duel.

She nearly won, but he had far more ambition to be beaten in skill. His blade bit deep into the magnificent green light that shone from the center of her chest. It shattered in pieces, and unleashed…

…Darkness…

Sight came back to him and he stumbled slightly. The boy still held his hand expectantly. His black heart was pounding in his chest. It was a memory of his past. Only a single memory. Only a thread in a great shadowy tapestry. Who was the woman? And what had happened there that had brought him to this place?

It didn’t matter, he thought as he recomposed himself. But it unnerved him. The memory was the stalking rogue in his heart. What intentions did it have?

Shaking his head he ignored the boy and walked into the tavern. The mage and the woman had found a table in a dark corner and were awaiting him. He did not speak till Vermigard returned to them. The bounty hunter strode into the dimly lit room with a glimmer of cunning in his eye.

“Gather your things, we leave for a small hamlet near the port of Westgale. We have word on a possible lead towards the location of Mavigan.” The bounty hunter announced.

A gold coin was thrown in the air toward Vermigard and he caught it expertly.

“Well done.” Gadianton said after his long silence.

Soon they secured horses and left the city. The Irrithica could not be used this time for Vermigard had never personally been to this particular location. And so they raced to glean what information awaited them.

Written by Feldspar

Yawning, Feramas looked at her. Didnt she realize the time? He guessed not, and so he stood up and adjusted his sword belt.

"Very well," He said, yawning a bit more, and offering his arm to her, "this way."

Written by Teran

Teran left his room hours before dawn, storing a mental note to pay Sidgard for his tip. Teran was headed to Westgale. One of the many refugee's in that city had apparently seen something and had at least an idea where the Princess had gone. The ride was not terribly long, but Teran rode hard, sensing that he was racing against time. When he finally made it to Westgale, Teran drifted into the Dancing Pike Tavern, searching for the informant.

He wasn't too difficult to find, sitting in the tavern with a girl in his lap. He was laughing loudly, shouting to the rest of the tavern. It was a strange sight because not everyone shared in his jovial mood and most tried to ignore him. Teran approached and invited himself to sit across from the main.

"Are you Kanan?" Teran asked in a wispy voice.

The man stared back for a moment, before booting the girl off his slap, slapping her bum as she walked away, feigning disappointment. Teran raised an eyebrow watching her leave before letting a small smirk surface onto his face. Teran dropped a small pouch that was bulging with bloodcoin on top of the table. The room quieted noticeably as many turned to locate the source of such a familiar and alluring sound.

Kanan cleared his throat and paled slightly before he blushed red. He grabbed the pouch and walked up the stairs beckoning Teran to follow him. The assassin did follow him up the stairs and into a room. He noticed a faint odor upon entering the room, and squelched the impulse to show some sort of disdain.

Kanan dropped down onto the small bed which cried out in protest under his weight, and looked up at the assassin.

"I was wunderin' which o' ya would git 'ere forst." he said with a thick accent.

"Who else is coming?" Teran asked?

Suspicion clouded Kanan's eyes briefly before it cleared up. "I didna git aney names, but thare was a lad tha' met with me in Ancora."

"You have my money, what do you know?" the Assassin asked.

Kanan grinned, revealing rows of yellowed teeth and proceeded to tell Teran about a night in a tavern out of town, recognizing the Princess. She was with elves, and they appeared to be heading north. He related bits and pieces of conversation he overheard. Ten minutes later Teran had a pretty good idea where Mavigan had gone. Teran also learned that Kanan was more than he appeared to be... though not much more Teran thought ruefully.

"Thank you for your assistance." Teran said, pulling out a second pouch of bloodcoin. "Here's a little extra." he said tossing it to Kanan.

"What's this fer?" he asked.

Teran smiled like a friend would smile to another friend and leaned close to Kanan and whispered into his ear "If you tell anyone I was here, or that anyone else has this information, I will hunt you down, and kill you while you sleep."

Kanan paled visibly, but the smile never left his lips. "Yer secrit is safe with mee." he said.

"Good" Teran said, and strode out of the room.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn just stared at his arm for a minute, not understanding what the strange gesture was all about, "Why are you holding your arm up like that? I thought you were going to show me where Wilhelm was..." she continues to stand there confused, waiting for him to lead the way.

Written by Feldspar

Understanding the confusion, Feramas just lowers his arm.

"I was stretching" He explained, then pointing down the hall, "Wilhems' quarters are this way."

He started walking, hoping she would know enough to follow.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn follows along after him, her tail swishing back and forth happily as she stares openly at the tapestries and other decorations along the walls. When the elf in front of her finally stops at a door, after a confusing number of twists and turns, she knocks several times rather loudly.

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