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Book One - The Elven March to Westgale

Written by Wilhelm - Page 10 of Book 1

Wilhelm is jarred awake out of his first peaceful night's rest in a long time by loud knocking on the door. Looking out the window he sees that it is barely dawn. Concentrating, he scans the nearby life forces and recognizes Keeryn's life force outside the door. "I should have known!", he thinks. He gets up and looks at his stained and worn bounty hunter disguise and then makes a decision. He opens his saddle bag and pulls out a carefully packed white robe with the three rings of the All Father on the chest. Garbing himself as a Crusader, he says the brief morning prayer to the All Father, then strides to the door. Sliding back the bolt, he opens the doot. "Good morning, Keeryn. What brings you here so early?"

Written by Vylia

Keeryn grins up at Wilhelm as he opens the door before she notices that he must have just woken up, "I've been so bored lately, I just wanted someone to talk to since they won't let me go outside... you aren't mad are you? I'm so used to being up this early, I guess I didn't think about you sleeping late." She stands there shuffling her feet as she stares at the floor, a bit embarrased.

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm grins at Keeryn. It was hard to be irritated with her, because it was clear that this was her nature. "Very well," he said, "but perhaps you would be more comfortable down below in this enclosed courtyard, as it has some nice trees as well as a fountain and benches." Wilhelm pointed out the window, where the courtyard could be seen below. He looked at the Elven Ranger and concentrated again.

"You would be Feramas, I believe. Would you be willing to guide us down to that courtyard below? It is enclosed, and so remains within the fortress. With your presence as well, I believe there should be no objection. Mavigan sleeps next door and I would prefer to avoid disturbing her Majesty. You can help answer Keeryn's questions, and perhaps some of my own. As it is early, perhaps you could also ask for some warm food so that we may break our fast together. Standing night guard can leave one both thirsty and hungry, as I know only so well." Wilhelm donned his fur-lined cloak, reversing it so that the hidden All Father's Sign could be seen against the white fur. Placing his faith hammer at his belt he stood ready, gesturing at the corridor outside.

Written by Vylia

"That would be wonderful," she responded as a wide smile blooms on her face, "I hate being stuck indoors, it's so stuffy, even if they did give me a little outcropping to go out on, it's so small and hard. No grass or trees or anything." At that she falls in beside Wilhelm and waits for Feramas to lead the way.

While they were walking down the corridor she looks up at Wilhelm, "So what do you do all day anyway? You don't sound very bored. And how come everyone seems to protective of Mavigan? She doesn't look weak or anything, and from what I can tell only a little younger than me."

Written by Wilhelm

"It is the custom amongst us humans, as well as the elves, to have leaders who can make decisions that involve large groups of us. Everyone has their own opinion on how something should be done, and somebody has to make the final decision based on the input of the others. In a military group, such as this fortress garrison, that leader is the battle commander, in this case Ithramir. In a village such as the one me met in, that would be the Headman or, in a larger town, the Mayor. For this entire region the leadership rests on the King and Queen." Wilhelm saw Faramas speak to a servant about sending some food to the courtyard, which they were approaching. He turned back to Keeryn to continue.

"In the case of their Majesties, the Gods themselves are involved. The King was anointed by the High Priest of the All Father, thereby granting to him the divine support of the All Father. The Queen was more directly connected with the Goddess Nagarren, because the Queens of Ancora have always been the High Priestess of Nagarren. The Queen's eldest daughter is her heir and becomes the next Queen and High Priestess. When she marries her husband becomes King. Mavigan's older sister was the Queen's heir. The King's brother, Beridane, was not in the line of succession. He grew jealous of them and had the King, Queen and Heir murdered. By luck and the favor of the Goddess, Mavigan was not in Ancora at the time and was not killed. As the sole remaining daughter of the Queen she became the hier and now the rightful Queen and High Priestess of Nagarren. She will be the leader of us all, once she accepts her destiny, and the true representaive of the Goddess. This is why we treat her with such special deference and care."

They reached a bench beneath a large oak tree. Wilhelm seated himself and motioned for the others to be seated. He saw a servant coming with a covered basket. "And now we can break our fast here under the sky."

Written by Feldspar

Feramas just nodded, and quietly led them to the courtyard. He remained out of the conversation, although he did listen. He had learned her name at the least.

Taking the basket from the servant, Feramas handed it to Wilhem. He wouldnt mind having a bite to eat, but not when he was on duty. Perhaps later.

As Wilhem and Keeryn began eating, Feramas wandered towards another nearby tree, it seemed to be a good vantage point to keep an eye on the two, and the rest of the yard.

Written by Vylia

Keeryn ate quickly. She wasn't really hungry, having eaten a large meal the night before, but she thought she would humor Wilhelm by at least having a little. After she had finished she stood up and stretched. She did some flips and rolls before standing back up in front of him, "But why would someone kill their own brother? What is so great about being king that someone else can't do?"

"Where I come from the king doesn't actually do much of anything except sit around and make a few important decisions now and then. The rest of us get to have all the fun, doing the hunting, and playing games and things, while he is pretty much confined to the village since him being hurt or killed would be a big blow to morale. We would still be able to carry on just fine until someone else was selected though."

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm chuckled. "Indeed, your description is similar to a comment King Pallanon once made to me, complaining that everyone else had all the fun while he had to stay in Ancora to deal with all the affairs of state and review endless documents. Indeed, he adopted a stiff formal demeanor to the public to hide his own wish for freedom to have fun. The King and Queen tried to teach their children their duty to forgo their own desires and carry out their duties, and perhaps they were too stern in this instruction. The oldest daughter obeyed dutifully, but Mavigan rebelled against this loss of free will and would often leave the palace to have fun by masquerading as a commoner."

Wilhelm stood up and continued. "A good King rules wisely and gently, convincing the Council and others of the right choice so that they make the right decisions themselves. A good King does this as a duty and a responsibility, and looks to the security and wellbeing of the people as the primary goal. When this is done well, the people see only a gentle guiding hand and the rule of the King and Queen is seen as light and benevolent. And so it was in Ancora, and the King and Queen were loved by the people."

Wilhelm tidies up the remains of breakfast and placed them back into the basket. He stretched, and then leaned against the tree and continued. "Beridane, however, is a Bad King. He desired the crown out of ambition to control others, and looks only to maintain and increase his control of others. He cares little for the people, save only for how they can better serve him and supply his wants. He hired an assassin to slay his brother and his brother's wife and children because he wanted the crown and had no legal claim to it, save only in the case where he was the only living relative left. Had the assassin succeeded in slaying Mavigan as well, then this would have been the case. So long as Mavigan lives, Beridane is an unlawful usurper, as well as a murderer. Already the kingdom is falling apart through lack of guidance and his oppression of the people.

Sadly, he holds control because of the support of a number of lesser nobles who also wanted more power and who combined their forces to assist Beridane is usurping control upon the death of the Royal Family. The only hope for the people is for Mavigan to assume the mantle of Queen and High Priestess and to gather the support of the loyal nobles and people in the countryside, and of allies such as the elves, to form an army able to defeat Beridane's forces and to avenge the death of her family by retaking Ancora and restoring her to the throne that is now her right and her duty to hold."

Written by Vylia

"For people who supposedly follow a God and Goddess, you all seem to have very little faith that people could rule themselves. Seems like an awful lot of trouble over a silly title if you ask me." With that Keeryn leaps up the side of the tree and grabs one of the larger low-hanging branches, swinging around it to land in a sitting position, her legs swinging lazily over the side as she stares down at Wilhelm.

Written by Wilhelm

Wilhelm looked up at Keeryn. "Indeed, it is a lot of trouble, and if enough people followed the practices of the God and Goddess properly this would not have happened. I can only hope that our young Queen can rally those who do follow the God and Goddess so that this evil can be overcome and the people can once again return to peace and prosperity."

He looked up at his own window, and then over to see the full light of the dawning sun begin to enter the windows of Mavigan's chambers. She would have to face more than just the dawn's light soon enough.

Turning to Keeryn again, and gesturing to the large enclosed courtyard, he said "This is your opportunity for some outdoor exercise amongst these trees. I will see if you can be granted regular access here. You might also like to talk to our young elven ranger there, as he could tell you something about the elven society, which is rather different from the ways of Ancora."

Wilhelm leaned back against the tree to enjoy the dawn sunlight, and the pleasant nature of the courtyard trees and flowers, and to watch for signs of movement in Mavigan's window.

Written by Archeantus

They crested the small hill that overlooked the small hamlet near the rocky coast. They rode hard, determined to rush this world to war. The sun was drowning below the sea off in the distance leaving the landscape lush with dimming golden light.

Galloping down the ravine, through dense foliage, they finally came upon their goal.

Four horsemen, all heavily cloaked, dismounted and made their way to a tavern that had seen its fair share of visitors in the past couple of weeks. The rumors had sprung around the town like wildfire. Many folk had taken wild guesses, some where true, most were false. But one man had it right for he’d seen the princess when she was young. He thought he was clever in selling the information. Thought the gods had finally smiled on him. He was a roach of a man. Fed himself on others work, and planned to eek out his existence with the money he’d pull in from his “choice encounter.”

The sky was a sort of fiery orange red, and as the tavern door opened, Kanan looked and beheld the amber firmament, silhouetted by a dark figure. There was a slight warm gust of wind that sifted in. He watched the four strangers come into the somewhat populated tavern and look markedly around. He watched them ask the bartender a question and then he was pointed out. Smiling a toothy grin, Kanan’s eyes glittered in greed.

Those that knew him wondered what he was up to. A man like that never knew what he was getting into. He often seemed oblivious to certain commonly understood things. The four strangers then walked up to the lone table where Kanan sat. He was transparently feigning his complete awareness of what they wanted.

“You’re Kanan?” A man with a large brimmed hat whispered. The man spoke with a small tinge of amusement.

“That be me.” Kanan blubbered nonchalantly in return, pretending he was an expert in these matters.

The man pointed to a leather pouch dangling from his belt. Obviously the payment requested.

Kanan nodded, and motioned for them to follow him upstairs.

Once they were all in, Kanan looked both ways down the hall, before he shut the door and locked it.

Turning around, he explained with a grin, “Never know who might be listenin’ this ‘ere is big information.”

They said nothing and waited.

Grunting, he continued, “Lemme see yer coin. I trust ya brought da’ asked amount?

The one who had spoken with him loosed the black leather pouch from his belt and poured its contents onto his gloved hand. Seeing his treasure, Kanan smiled once more and rubbed his greasy hands together. He almost licked his lips, but realizing his overabundance of excitement he quickly put on a serious face. The man closed his hands and quickly placed the gold coins back into the pouch.

“A’right, I believe ya wish ta know where the princess is?”

“We do. How did you come to know this information?”

“Well I spotted her about a week ago, jus’ downstairs. It was a lively night, lemme tell yas. She was accompanied with, uh, five armored men, musta been da’ guard. Da’ moment I spotted her I knew her, ‘cause I’d seen her b’fore. She looked ta be angry, if ya ask me. There was singin’ and dancin’ well all of a sudden, this elf with fine plate on, called out that we were to all leave. Then a ton more elves came in. I wasn’t gonna risk my neck, ‘cause I could tell they meant business, but, uh, I may be daft at times, but I knew what was goin’ on. They were takin’ her. I know ‘dat Beridane over in Ancora wants ‘er dead. So I watched ‘em, what direction they took. They went north, more den likely to the elf lands.” He related proudly.

The one that handed him the money looked back to one that stood apart from the others and nodded to him.

“Did you hear anything about what they planned to do with her?” The forefront one asked turning back around.

“Alls I remember was the one elf offering to help and protect the princess from what I heard listenin’ outside.” He answered.

“The elves were swarming all over da place at dat point, so I hid meself and watched what I could.” He added with a shrug.

The forefront one turned once more at the one at the back awaiting approval.

“Give him his reward.” The one in back stated with an odd set of tone.

He was thrown his money pouch suddenly to which he was caught off guard, and it fell to the floor. He jumped to the ground, groping for his payment. And then he thought a shadow was cast over his bulging figure.

The slender hooded one stood over him and in the next instant he squealed like a pig, and fell to the floor with a thud. The last thing that went through his head before the ornament dagger was the idea that he should have charged more.

The knowledge would have been priceless to some. Many would kill to know it…and to keep it unknown.

Jasmine leaned over the oaf’s body and plucked the baited pouch from Kanan’s hopeless fingers. She tossed it back to Destrado, who latched it back soundly.

“How long will it take to get there?” Gadianton asked.

“Two days time.” Vermigard answered.

“Very well, let’s mount up.” Gadianton intoned as he headed to the door.

Hours later, when Kanan’s sad body was found, they also found a large sum of coin tucked far into his leather britches.

Little did Gadianton and his party know, but another had already obtained the precious information . . .

Written by Vylia

"Thanks for worrying about me, but I don't really need the exercise. I just can't stand being stuck in enclosed places. It's nice to just sit out here and relax." She stops swinging her legs as she looks down at him leaning against the tree, "Besides, being let out for exercise makes me feel more like a caged animal than a person."

"I don't think the elves really want to talk to me anyway. They certainly don't trust me, with four guards standing outside my door at all hours of the day. You'd think they expected me to turn feral and start attacking people or something."

Written by Archeantus

“North.” Gadianton hissed in his darkened mind as they rode in the dimming light. Such a small bit of information, yet such a broad road to follow to find the princess.

Vermigard had ventured periodically into the secluded wooden realm, but only in passing. The elves there, he had said, kept to themselves. Their strength was undetermined, as was their intentions in being there. All he did know about these particular elves were that they were far from their homeland.

“Exiles?” Gadianton had asked.

Destrado had shaken his head thinking they had a far more substantial reason for being there.

“They inhabit the land to stay the orcish forces that day by day become a greater threat.” Kishkumen declared suddenly.

Vermigard raised an eyebrow at the usual quiet mage.

“To the north resides an ancient citadel known as Lothiel-Gadith.” Kishkumen continued. “This would easily be the place with which the princess now finds herself.”

Gadianton pondered a few moments upon receiving such pivotal information.

“What is the relationship between the humans and elves?” He asked.

“In ages past there were wars,” Kishkumen interrupted. “Much of the time, it was decided we would keep our race untainted.”

Gadianton looked to the elven necromancer expectantly, waiting for further explanation.

“In other words, we thought we were superior in every form, and believed intermingling would weaken us.” He explained.

Gadianton waited yet for more, finding this news intriguing. The elves, he thought, posed to be a formidable and worthy foe.

“But as I have mentioned, there were wars. Not since the Age of Darkness had the two races clashed with one another.” He further explained. “And not since that dark time, had there ever been an alliance of all three of the ancient races. The elves were betrayed by their human comrades who sided with the Orcish might.”

“How long has this been?” Gadianton prodded thoughtfully.

“Long has it been since I kept track of the years that pass before my eternal eyes. I have lived to see many ages, as have countless of my kindred. Therefore, if you must know, the answer to your question is many hundreds of years.”

Gadianton listened intently, keeping watch ahead as the ancient elf continued to speak.

“Yet, Tura (the elven word for Master) you must know this of the elvish people. My kind reveres life in all forms. Therefore, war is a very delicate matter. You see, when an elf dies it is as if a great oak has fallen to the floor, one that had lived for centuries. When a human dies, most of my kind would view it as equal to the death of a small plant. Hence, my kind believes they risk far more when war is brooding. Especially with humans who grow more reckless and skilled, “He added interestingly. “As the years pass by.“

“And so you see, my people fear their demise. The more they live, the more they revere their lives, the more they fear to lose it. I do not anticipate the high kingdom to get involved in this affair.”

“And what of these elves who have taken the princess?” Gadianton asked.

“I cannot foresee what they plan.” Kishkumen replied after a lengthy pause. “But I will confess, much is to be told of the limitless depth that is the soul of an elf. In some ways, my kind are woefully predicable…”

“And…?” Gadianton goaded.

“In other ways, they are not.” The necromancer said, his darkened eyes flickered in the last of the dying light.

“You speak of yourself?” Gadianton assumed.

“If that is what you wish to believe, then so be it. Yet you must know, I am no longer considered an elf in the eyes of my kindred. I have become something…different.”

“You revere death.” Gadianton declared softly.

The mage smiled.

“I am their worst nightmare.”

“And you know this citadel?”

“I have been there many times.”

Written by Teran

The door clicked shut behind the Assassin as he moved swiftly around his tiny room recovering the items he would need for the next leg of his journey. He needed to travel quickly, which unfortunately also meant he needed to travel dangerously. Teran aligned the objects in a rough circle on the floor, while preparing himself mentally for the journey ahead.

He thought over all the information he had been given about Mavigan's location. He knew of many places to the North that the Elves coule hide a princess, but one location seemed the most obvious to him. It was a fortress, most probably did not even know of its existance. The assassin smiled, hopefully not too many would learn of her location, he did not wish to see her killed and knew that her best hope of survival from the assassins Beridane would undoubtedly send when he discovered her location would be Elven senses and skill, but he did not trust such things to ensure that Mavigan remained safe.

The assassin knelt down and closed his eyes having gathered everything he would need. His breathing slowed and he became completely still and his face became blank. Through his closed eyes Teran saw many gateways open up to him. Threads of reality leading in every direction, passages to specific locations. Teran did not know how or why they existed, but he knew they had been created by someone.

He examined many of the threads carefully, sensing where they led before he found one that was suitable. The assassin reached out and grasped for the thread he had chosen. Searing pain blasted through the assassin's body however he, his gear, and his circle were gone. The only evidence of his passing was a black, bloody handprint on the wall near where he had been kneeling.

Teran woke up, curled in the fetal position, his own blood pooling underneath him. He got to his knees and retched more blood, cleaning out his stomach. His head felt like it was going to explode, and his whole body ached as it began healing from the trauma of the spell he had just cast. He panted for breath and became dimly aware of his surroundings. He could faintly hear water through the ringing in his ears and he could see that he was surrounded by trees.

The assassin spent the next hour becoming familiar with his immediate surroundings while recovering from his violent travel. He discovered the citadel nearby visible from a tree top, though he was at the base of the mountain that the fortress was on. Teran knew he was in the elven lands, and he was sure he was near the Princess. He searched cautiously for a way up or into the fortress and discovered a tunnel. He crept into it and began making his way towards his goal, Mavigan.

Written by Ariana

Bright sunlight streamed through the window and exploded with full force upon Mavigan’s closed eyelids. The painful light was enough to wake her, and she blinked reddened, puffy eyes a few times before sitting up and covered her face with a pillow.

Mavigan hated crying. It made the eyes swell, the nose run, and the head ache, not to mention the fact that it turns ones complexion into a blotchy, reddened mess. As she gently sat up and rubbed her face with her hands, she realized she suffered from each and every one of those complaints. Her head pounded and the morning light felt as if hot pokers were being pushed into her eyes.

Whimpering with pain, she sat still for a few moments, attempting to adjust to the morning. Finally, she removed her hands from her face and looked around the room with squinty, blinking eyes. Someone had been in her room recently, she noticed. And she had been so exhausted she had heard nothing.

That thought appalled her like nothing else would, and she practically leapt from the bed, her eyes darting cautiously around the room searching for the intruder. Finding no one, her heart rate returned to something more akin to normal, and she went to the table to see what gifts this unnamed person had left.

The first thing she noticed was a washbasin, filled with cool, clean water. Mavigan wasted no time taking advantage of this and washed the sleep and tears from her face. The cool water was a balm to her aching eyes and head, and she took her time about her ablutions. Once the pounding had receded somewhat, she turned her attention to the breakfast tray some kind soul had provided. Tearing off a hunk of cheese and sandwiching it in some bread, she turned her attention to the third pile of items placed on her table.

Lying on top of a pile of cloth were her daggers. Lying her half eaten repast down, she picked up one of her daggers and examined it closely. Her guardian angel had seen fit to sharpen them, it seemed. The feel of the weapon in her hand was comforting, and she smiled gently as she placed them in their sheaths. Once that was done, she could turn her attention to the mound of dark cloth. As her mind’s eye finally translated the shapes that were before her, she murmured, “Oh please, by all that is Holy, no!”

Trembling hands reached out and shook out the cloth, its hem tumbling towards the ground. She gazed with horror at the garment in her hands. The dress was simple, obviously created quickly, but with care. The dark folds were devoid of ornament, and the cut was similar to the one dress she had packed when she had left the palace. Though it resembled her other garment, Mavigan knew that this was different. This was a dress of mourning.

Her heart beat painfully in her chest as she stared at the vile thing. It wasn’t that Mavigan was unaccustomed to dresses. Though she preferred trousers and tunics, and practically lived in them when she could, she realized that there were just some times when a girl had to dress like a girl. But this was a garment of mourning. It declared to everyone that she was grieving for the loss of someone close to her, opening her up to the pity of others. Mavigan didn’t think she could bear the pitying looks, the abrupt silences when she walked into rooms, the avoidance of topics thought to be distressing. Yes, she was grieving, but she didn’t want to proclaim it to everyone she encountered. Sure it was custom and “tradition”, but it was a stupid idea. What the hell business was it of theirs anyway?

Panicked, she glanced back to the table to see if there were any other garments lying on the table. There were none – not even the clothes she had worn upon arrival. Her eyes narrowed as she examined her mourning attire once again. She felt sure Alaric was behind this. “That man is too uptight for his own good!” she shouted to the empty room. “When I get my hands on him…..”

She left the threat unfinished, though her anger made her nearly empty stomach churn, and cast a critical eye over her nightshift idly wondering if she could simply wear it around the fortress. The thought of Alaric’s horrified expression as he saw her walking around in only her nightclothes was highly entertaining, but in the end, it would embarrass her more than it would him. Sighing mightily as if she were the most persecuted person on the entire planet, she wriggled into the dress and smoothed it down. Secreting her daggers on her person, she strode purposefully to the doors to her room and threw them open. The guards placed outside her door looked shocked at her sudden appearance, her face flushed, her manner dark, and her eyes burning with anger.

“Which way to Alaric’s room?” she demanded.

The guard did not answer verbally, but merely pointed down the hall. Mavigan turned in that direction and started to march down the hall, the two very confused guards trailing behind her. When they indicated they had reached the right door, Mavigan pounded on it with her fist.

“Alaric! Get out here this instant!” , she demanded, tapping her foot impatiently when the door did not open immediately.

After what felt like hours, but was actually only a few seconds, a half-asleep, bleary-eyed Alaric peered around the door.

“Your highness?” he asked, confusion etched into his face.

The use of the title only served to enrage her further. Just because she was Queen, didn’t mean she wanted to be addressed as such. There he was again, insisting on form and propriety. “You jerk!” she yelled, punctuating the statement with a solid hit to his jaw. As Alaric lay on the ground wondering what had happened, she screeched, "If I want new clothes, I will commission them MYSELF!” She punctuated this statement with a hard kick to his leg.

The two guards behind her seemed to be trying to decide if they should intervene or not, but before they could reach a conclusion, the girl turned on her heel, marched back to her room, and slammed the door. Once inside, she returned to her breakfast, suddenly feeling much better than she had in a very long time.

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