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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Turin Wallace Page 1 Book 3 posted on Nov 05, 2005

Within the grove, amidst the chanting and fervent prayers, Ithramir's body began to once again transform. The spirit of Avandor coursed once again through his mortal frame, the healing powers of Nyrondis, Kaia'hanas, and Avandor cleansing the demon-taint, restoring his vitality, and mending the great wound he suffered.

Opening his eyes, eyes that shone with the brilliance of fire, he begins to sit up, calling for the healing to cease. His words, with a voice mixed of mortal and the divine, are,

"It is enough, I am here, my wife and son. Ithramir is with me as well. We are now here, each of us with our family, friends, and loves."

Standing up, he continues,

"Children of my son, Nyrondis, your prayers and sacrifices have not gone unanswered. Daughter of my wife, Kaia'hanas, your hearts answer has been fulfilled and your own has been healed. And now, my own servant Ithramir..."

With but a pause, Ithramir's form returns to normal, and he finishes with his own voice,

"...he thanks you all."

Moving over to Lithwyn, he takes her into a huge bear hug and whispers into her ear,

"I knew one day you would open your heart to Kaia'hanas, letting her work her wonders through you. My heart is doubly joyous that it was through me that such a thing was accomplished."

Setting her back down, he looks into her eyes and says,

"A amin mela lle, nin norui min."*

Pulling her close, he kisses her deeply, feeling his lover, his soulmate, once again in his arms. If there was one thing he was ever sure about, it was this, and the feeling of her warmth on his.

Gently pulling away, his stands beside her, his arm around her waist pulling her firmly into him, he says,

"Now, let us finish this ceremony. Let us heal the rest of our comrades and soldiers so that we may rest and rejoin the fight. Mark my words, there will be a reckoning within the coming days and we will make those that betray and deal within the shadows pay for their vile deeds!"

Moving within the grove, Ithramir once again transforms into the avatar of Avandor, ready to lend his aide to heal his people.

****

* - "And I love you, my fiery one."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst felt the war between Ithramir and the demon taint within him. Her hands clutched at him when she felt what seemed to be spikes piercing through her body, then let out an anquished cry as she felt the knives cut into her stomach and her insides being torn apart. Then, there was peace. Tempyst felt the energies of the 3 avatars rush through her, filling her with power and strength. As Ithramir sat up, Tempyst fell back, her body torn and bleeding from the exchange of life she had done, to make sure this elf stayed alive long enough to return.

"It is enough, I am here, my wife and son. Ithramir is with me as well. We are now here, each of us with our family, friends, and loves." Ithramir stood, towering over Tempyst, then again he spoke. "Children of my son, Nyrondis, your prayers and sacrifices have not gone unanswered. Daughter of my wife, Kaia'hanas, your hearts answer has been fulfilled and your own has been healed. And now, my own servant Ithramir..."

Tempyst barely heard the words that Ithramir spoke, her vision blurry, barely making out Lithwyn's and Ithramir's embrace. Her heart filled with joy at the sight, knowing that they had succeeded and that all would be well. She layed down upon the grass, her head upon her husband's feet, then closed her eyes and let the darkness take over.

Written by - Wilhelm

Ceredan bowed to Avandor/Ithramir and then to Kaia'hanas/Lithwyn and Nyrandis/Lucant. In a ringing voice he then spoke:

"By the request of Avandor, Kaia'hanas and Nyrandis, let the Gods of Light manifest in this Sacred Grove and form a Great Circle to heal those within this grove from all ills they have suffered. Let all here support their deity in this Great Ritual."

Ceredan then walked to stand at the edge of the clearing behind Avandor's follower's. He thrust his staff into the ground, where it glowed brightly, and said,

"Let the powers of Light seal this Circle from all enemies without and contain within all that is done here."

Ceredan bowed to Avador and said,

"Hail to Avandor, God of Light, Vengeance and War, and all initiated to him. Join your power into this Great Circle to heal those within."

Avandor's followers joined hands, the seniormost placing their hands upon Avandor himself. Each of them began to glow with light that seemed to flow through their linked hands towards Avandor. Ceredan then began walking clockwise around the edge of the circular clearing, his staff leaving a glowing trail behind him from which a glowing wall of light began to rise. He bowed to Kaia'hanas and said,

"Hail to Kia'hanas, Goddess of Beauty and Love, and all initiated to her. Join your power into this Great Circle to heal those within."

As her followers also linked and began to glow, Ceredan continued to walk the circle leaving the glowing rising wall of light behind him. As he passed each following group of initiated followers he called upon their deity to manifest, calling upon Nagarren, Goddess of Healing; Tinorb the All Father, God of Justice; Yvesinia, Goddess of Fate; Inveor, God of Wisdom; and Ulfin, God of Smithing and Crafts. As he called their names the group of linked followers began to glow, each group with a different color, and the color flowed though them to the seniormost among them, who began to change and grow as their deity combined thier channeled power to manifest. Ceredan reached the followers of Nyrandis, God of Nature and Balance, and bowed to Nyrondis/Lucant. Ceredan then closed the Great Circle behind Avandor's followers and the clearing was surrounded by a wall of light. He then walked forward to the central oak tree, his staff held high over his head. The walls of light grew upward and inward and when he reached the center he grounded his staff and the clearing was enclosed in a hemispheric dome of light. All sound from outside was cut off. The air was still. All were silent.

"The Great Circle is complete. Let the Gods of Light now join in their own Divine Circle and combine their power, that these who here lay injured in the cause of the Light may be healed of all ills."

Cerdan then bowed to Nagarren, Goddess of Healing. The assembled dieties grew larger and reaching out linked hands to form their own Divine Circle. The glowing air began to move clockwise along the circle, and all within the Great Circle felt invigorated with each breath they took. The color at each deity began to flow around the circle and was gathered in by Nagarren, who now glowed in purest white. She gathered the power of all within the Great Circle into an intense ball of white light between her hands and then tossed this towards the center calling out in a great command,

"BE HEALED AND WHOLE!"

The ball of light seemed to explode outwards and fill the entire clearing with a light that seemed to at once blind all sight and yet convey vision more clear and deep than any but the deities had experienced. All seemed to merge into Unity and in a timeless moment the injuries and ills of all within the clearing were perceived and then healed as if they had never happened. All within the clearing felt healthier than they had ever felt before, full of life energy and healed of all ills.

The assembled deities gave their joint blessings to all within the clearing and then faded away. As they did so, the light faded from each group and then the hemisphere of light also faded away and the clearing was again united with the outside world. All throughout the clearing those who had previously been gravely injured or ill began to stir and marvel at their healing. In the center of the clearing, Ceredan leaned upon his staff, his hair, robe and staff now white like a frosted tree in winter. He then intoned in an aged voice,

"Praise be to the Gods of Light. It is done!"

Written by - Ardwen

The amount of god-taint streaming into the Sacred Grove boarded on the inane. Ardwen could swear he could almost smell it, a sharp pungent order, not unlike the keen scent of a freshly sharpened blade. The ritual progressed, and the raw power of the gods began to manifest itself, honed and directed by their various sycophants. One after the other the so-called “Gods of Light” deigned to touch the moral plane with their presence.

Strange gods with names and titles Ardwen did not recognize, with forms wondrous and bewildering. All that is save one. Ardwen heard the druid conducting the ritual call His name out, and Ardwen’s blood ran cold. “Tinorb the All-Father, God of Justice . . .” the druid intoned, and one of the members of the ritual circle begin to shift and swell as the god took form. “It cannot be!” Ardwen hissed . . . but it was. He had the same face, the same form, and the same glow of power and reverence as He did more than five thousand years ago when Ardwen first witnessed His physical form.

Despite the fact that he was on another world, removed by incalculable distance and immeasurable sorrow from his old life, the All-Father remained. Ardwen rocked onto the balls of his feet, one black-plated hand shot forward to point at the All-Father, the other whirled the large blade off his back. He did not have the time to summon the Beast from within, Ardwen had no clue how long He would stay manifest – it was strike now or forever lose the opportunity.

With a rage born of over a century of denial, pain, and abandonment Ardwen charged toward the divine presence of the All-Father. For His part the All-Father calmly turned and watched Ardwen move forward like a sable tidal wave. Ardwen inched closer, closer, the slab of steel he dubbed a sword raised for a strike – and then he suddenly shot backwards, lifting into the air to collide with an ancient oak. The Elf was several feet off the ground, and while he could struggle and move with some effort, the invisible force that held him did not waver or weaken.

The All-Father looked at the other gods, gave a serene nod and spoke in a voice that also had not altered in all those long years, “This one is my responsibility. For in his heart does he hold Me the sole purveyor of his torments and shortcomings. He will brook with no other save Me, and so he warrants my attention.” Ardwen continued to try and free himself until the All-Father spoke saying, “Cease your struggle Ardwen, you will be released ere long.”

Ardwen did indeed stop; the calm of a man facing death and accepting it settled over him. The All-Father continued, “I know you, as you I. You have been both my friend and foe, both disciple and anathema to Me. You have served in My church and given Me thanks, and you have cursed My name and defiled My most sacrosanct grounds. Verily Ardwen, we have a reckoning that has been long overdue.”

The All-Father let a short pause separate his speech before he once again began, “You hold Me solely responsible for the occurrences that drove you to become a monster. You hold Me responsible for the slaying of your friends and the abolishment of your order. You hold Me, even now, responsible for the greater part of pain and suffering in your life.”

Suddenly a scowl covered the All-Father’s face, and it was as if the sun were veiled and brooding clouds obscured the Heavens, his voice was now charged and animated, “But such thought is flawed and wrong, a falsehood perpetrated at the expense of My love. Let me then, my wayward son, expound for you the Truth. The beast you have become, verily the person you are before me, is a creation entirely of your own devices. Never have I sought to restrict or deny you, never have I forced My will upon you – what you are is an amalgamation of your own choices and actions; none others.”

“Secondly,” The All-Father continued, “the ones you so love did not perish, for those who held faith and believed in Me were saved from the crucifix of Aerynth and given a far better life here. Did I not promise this? Did I not say I would reward my faithful? Those who remained had their own reasons, as you supposed you did, or who in the last deviated from My word – I would not force them even then to obey.”

“And in the last,” The All-Father said, and now his voice shifted to one of coolness and precision, “you continue to torment yourself, by your own hand. Know this: it was I who brought you to this world, that plucked you from the hell of Aerynth so that you might know salvation. Thus far have you squandered that opportunity, but no more.”

Even as he spoke the All-Father seemed to draw Himself up, his radiance became as the sun at its zenith, a halo of light silhouetting a figure that seemed to contain all of creation in its magnificence. His voice now boomed off the trees, and all of heaven and the firmament seemed to shake with every word, “Hear me then Ardwen, who has been both a friend and a foe to Me. Hear me now Ardwen, who has been both beloved son and errant fool to Me. This is my judgment: two choices are open before you, two paths that mirror your life. On one path lay redemption and penance, a putting aside of errors and forgiveness. Accept Me, serve me as you once did, and I may yet heal and save you. In time, you may yet know peace and repose as is apportioned to you from Heaven.”

A long pause followed, and then the All-Father elucidated his second offer, “Down the other path lay damnation and suffering. This is the road to ruin and the path to Hell. This is the road you even now walk, and there is no force beyond yourself that can remove you from it. Deny Me, continue along your dark way, and you condemn yourself. I cannot guarantee the aegis of your soul so long as you continue on this path, for it leads away from Me in all things. I say once more, hear me Ardwen, you rest upon the edge of the most perilous knife, for it can cleave the very spirit. The good and evil of your life demands the reckoning be met . . . now choose, I will not give you time to think, for the choice rests with the soul and not the mind.”

Despite the glowing brilliance of the All-Father, despite his dire words, and despite the fact that he was still pinned to the side of a tree by His will, Ardwen met the god’s eyes. And there the warrior looked long, while a wind not of this world pulled his dark cloak from behind him and waved it like some manner of tattered banner in a forlorn wind. He appeared in that moment more longs-suffering than he had in any other, like a candle striving valiantly but vainly against a tempest. Finally he spoke, and his words carried the weight of finality and the gravity that emulated the god’s, “And still You lie, You who we name Pandarrion. Do not speak to me as if You were flawless and without error, for among my people there are still those who remember Your great blunders. You made yet another mistake when You abandoned me and the Hands, when You abandoned all of Aerynth! They were Your people, Your faithful, and Your charges! I say this, You are like the king who abandons his people for a life of exile!”

Ardwen was now yelling, his voice ringing from the clearing. “You are no better than a tyrant! Do not lecture me on divine plans or purpose, I know where those hollow lies lead! Even if Aerynth was lost, it was still our home, yes, every last ‘mere mortal’ one of us! Like a coward, You ran, and so I answer you as I would answer a craven lord! Go to hell!”

A look of sorrow crossed the All-Father’s face, and he seemed like a candle behind a screen. His voice was tinged with weariness and melancholy, “I fear, my poor lost one, that your request will instead be your fate. So be it, you have made your choice. You may deny Me, but I will never deny you, for I am your creator – whatever else I may be to you. But I am afraid I cannot aid you now, so long as you persist in your prideful denials. Fare you well Ardwen, for though not all things are known to Me I do not foresee a happy end for you.”

Thus turning the All-Father faded with the rest of the gods, departing for their own places and realms. Ardwen gradually lowered to the ground. Immediately he fell to his knees and glanced at the sky, a blank expression chiseled into his face. He raised one hand, clenched in a fist, and noticed no pain. He looked at the armor, and noticed it was cleaned of all blood and battle-stain. But the Beast still lurked within it as it lurked within himself. Ardwen lowered his head and let his arms dangle at his side, he did not speak or move.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As the elder druid Ceredan bowed before him, along with the younger druids and other followers of Nyrondis, Lucant could not help but feel uneasy out of place. He didn't belong in one of the great temples at one the holiest rituals known; he belonged in a forge, making horseshoes and plows. He shouldn't be wielding a god-forged sword; he should be wielding a hammer and a pair of tongs. From deepest reaches of his heart, he pleaded to Nyrondis "I don't want this. It's too big. Why did you pick me? Surely there is someone more suited to this role!" However, there was no answer.

He didn't want to press the issue, not at such an important ritual. He waited impatiently for the ritual to conclude. When it finally did, felt Nyrondis' power leave him as he bowed before the followers who were still kneeling before him and thanked them. He then rushed immediately over to where Tempyst lay and knelt down beside her, taking her in his arms. Through their soul-link he could feel how weakened she was in body, mind, and soul. Wanting desperately to help his wife, but not knowing how, he simply held her close and waited.

****

Leov and Dom stood on the deck of Tiertiala's Grace and watched as magnificent city of Lothiel-Gadith faded from view. "Why isn't she sending a pursuit force," he wondered out loud. Dom reached over and slapped him on the back and said with a laugh, "Want to see that little firebrand again so soon, do ya!" Leov turned to his friend and said with all seriousness "If you were anyone else, you'd be dead by now, old man. And as far as I'm concerned, if I ever see her again, it'll be too soon. Get everyone together down at the meeting room for me, would ya? We've got some things to hash out." Seeing that he had gone a bit too far, Dom happily agreed and went about his orders.

"Something's up..." he said, taking one last look towards the city. He turned, then looked up at the ship's sails, still billowing in the full gale. "Well... at least You're on my side, no matter how much I may not want You here," he thought as he headed towards his quarters. Opening his door, Leov looked around the room for the cats, who were nearly always there. "Wonder what kinda trouble they're causin'..." he said to the flask he had just picked up. Before leaving he checked the table to make sure that the book was still there before realizing that he had left it in Lithwyn's care.

He headed down to the hold and tapped one of the barrels of whiskey and filled the flask to the brim. "Now then, if I can't think you outta my head, then I'll drink you out." He tilted back and chugged the entire contents of the flask, then filled it again before heading back up to the meeting room on the second deck.

Bursting through the large double doors and seeing Dom, Gilbert, Aloray, Glen, and Miranda there already, he took a seat and went right into business. "You all know what happened at Lothiel-Gadith. I will not damn us to live under the elves' heels. I know that Ironskane ship was heading to Shrikefield, but I don't care anymore. I'd rather face whatever lies there than live under the eye of some elven witch!" He took another long drink as everyone cheered at his decision. "Now we're gonna bide our time and build our strength, and when the time's right..." Leov didn't get to finish that thought, however, as Josef, the watchman burst through door. "Captain! Captain, there's a ship directly ahead headin' towards us like a bat outta hell! It came outta nowhere... I didn't even see it until it was too late..." Without a word, the entire room filed up onto the deck to see the mysterious ship coming towards them.

"No flags or markings... and it doesn't look like any kinda ship I've ever seen before... Get everyone ready guys, this one could be bad." Leov said as he finished off the whiskey and drew Sulrista from its sheath.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst opened her eyes and found herself in her husband's arms, his eyes gazing down upon her, worry settled deep within them. The pain from the wounds she pulled from Ithramir were no more, but she still felt weakened and drained, and lost. As she looked into Lucant's eyes, she could see the eyes of her child looking back at her, as she had done in the vision before she gave her life for Ithramir. Tempyst felt the ache in her soul, felt the emptyness and placed her head upon her husband's chest and began to cry. She knew she should have been happy; she could sense through her link with Lucant, that their goal had been accomplished. Ithramir lived. She could also still feel the energies of the gods all around her, but she didn't care. All she could feel was loss. Yes, the child had chosen to give up her life, but it did not help her to feel any better about it. A child died, her child died and she was helpless to prevent it. Through her tears she whispered, "I'm sorry Lucant, I am so sorry..."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lucant sat there on the ground in front of the massive tree, holding his heartbroken wife in an attempt to console her. "I'm sorry Lucant, I am so sorry..." He leaned in a whispered to her "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was her decision to do this. And she is not gone - she is one with the world now. So long as we remember this, so long as she is in our hearts, she is not gone." He hoped his words could ease her pain and his just a little.

****

Leov stood on the deck barking orders above the confusion with an unnatural calm: "When everything's ready, turn broad and rain hell on 'em until they get too close, then come about and we'll cut what's left of the bastards to pieces!"

"I don't know what it is you're driving me towards, Tiertiala, but I'm not going to take it lying down. I'll fight you with everything I have until my dying breath, and then I'll strike at you from the hot side of hell for all eternity," he swore.

The archers stood at the sides of the ship waiting for their captain's order as the unidentified ship came in closer.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon witnessed this great ritual without knowing. His mind was blank, soaking in all his surroundings but retaining none of it. A completel numbness, but no darkness. This a short stab of pain as if someone was pushing their finger through his heart then peace. His cold body started to flow with warmth. First through his chest... then it spread through his extremeties, to every part of his body. It was the warm feeling that she gave him, but this warmth was foreign.

Wait! A thought! His mind had created and retained a thought! Images still were wracking his brain and he could make no sense, but he could think.

His tried to move his finger. It twitched. He tried again, it would completely curve now. He made a fist. What love! He would never take the simple task of moving lightly again. It was almost joyous.

Sycon could feel his mana returned to him. But not by the gods in this circle... "That's right... I am here." Her words echoed throughout his head strong as ever. "A barrier they set up or no, our link has become stronger whether it was of my choosing or not. You being a warlock only strengthens this link." Did it really matter that he was a warlock? "I have given you a small supply of mana to suffice yourself. I have plenty. That oaf did not catch me completely off guard, though it was a bit of a shock. I know it was for a good cause, but it was still rather rude, don't you think?"

"Of course Mi'lady. One should always ask a lady first, yes? And no means no right?" Sycon's thoughts echoed back.

"Men, you'll never stop being corny or idiots will you," the short giggle in her voice started to emerge again, "I swear... if you even knew how old I really was, hahaha. You will be fully able to move soon and be completely ready for what is to come. Be ready my love, and be careful. I'd hate to have to find another just as you."

"Just as me?" Sycon spoke! "wOoT!" It was an expression he had heard from many people on Aerynth when they were joyous. He was now able to move. He got to his feet and brushed off his robes. He ran his hair through his hands and looked around. Everyone was hugging and lovin' on each other. Well... maybe he could find a way into this. Perhaps a barmaid around?

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant whispered, "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was her decision to do this. And she is not gone - she is one with the world now. So long as we remember this, so long as she is in our hearts, she is not gone."

Tempyst sat up, tears streaming down her face, eyes red from her crying. She looked at her husband, almost with disbelief. "We, we were her parents Lucant, parents tell their children no. We protect them from harm, even if they don't want protection. How could she know what she wanted, she was only afew days conceived? What if it was that demon tricking us. I, I should not have let it happen." Tempyst tried to move, to set up by herself, but she fell back into Lucant's arms, her body and soul weak. She looked into Lucant's eyes, searching, the pain still so evident. "She is gone Lucant, she is gone. I let her down. I let you down. It feels..." Tempyst put her hand upon her stomach, the ache there so deep, a hole inside her she could not truly describe. "...it feels like I have died, yet death does not want me; I am stuck in a place where pain and despair is the very air I breath." She closed her eyes, remembering the soft, wispy kiss her daughter had given her. "One moment, I am filled with life, filled with energy and joy, then in a heartbeat, darkness and an ache..." Tempyst turned from her husband and layed upon the ground, feeling the grass and earth beneath her, feeling it's call of enveloping comfort and darkness. Her hands clutched the grass and she sobbed, one of anguish, of one who had lost a part of her very soul.

Written by - Rikshanthas

As the Gods of Light manifested to perform the Great Healing, Vhar finally understood the gathering of power he had been sensing, and realized with a slight shiver the magnitude of what was about to take place. One of the female deities, Nagarren, focussed the summoned energy into an expanding sphere of power, calling out, "BE HEALED AND WHOLE!" As the wave of healing energy swept over him, Vhar felt his calm and control return, the tumult of human emotion he had been experiencing eased; though he remained in human guise, he felt the strength and vitality of his true self return; the gaps in his memory were filled, and he understood what had happened to him in the Library, and why. The knowledge disturbed him as much as it relieved him, but he understood the wisdom behind the occurrence. He would have to discuss it with Ithramir and Lithwyn.

Then something happened that completely shocked the Loremaster: an elf -- a race noted for its wisdom, of all things -- attacked one of the assembled deities! Vhar's jaw fell open at such a senseless act, as the One called Tinorb halted the elf's advance. The strength of the rage and hate flowing from the elven warrior struck Vhar like a physical blow, and he stared dumbly as the two exchanged sharp words, the All-Father eventually consigning the elf called Ardwen to his fate as the gods departed. Seeing the black-clad elf sink to his knees, Vhar shook his head slowly, sadly. There kneels a man whose pain runs deeper than the canyons of Kel'n'trii, he thought. Leaving the elf to his own issues, Vhar turned toward the now-healed Ithramir, who was standing with Lithwyn. Inclining his head in a brief but respectful bow, he said, "I would speak with you both, if you have a moment." Belatedly realizing the last time he had seen the elflord he had had a somewhat different appearance, Vhar removed the enchanted lenses, handing them to Lithwyn and adding, "I think I'll not be needing these anymore."

****

Shara woke reluctantly, unwilling to give up the peace of sleep, but she sat up anyway -- and looked around in bewilderment as she saw the gods manifested in the Grove. She felt as well as heard the Call to lend her strength to the great deed the gods were about to perform, and she did so unwaveringly, her eyes fixing on Nagarren, reaffirming her devotion. As the wave of healing washed over her, she felt a sense of serenity, peace such as her restless spirit had never known. Her tenuous connection to Nagarren became as steel, and Sharanya finally had found her place: she was a Priestess of Nagarren.

****

Lienad's eyes shot open, and he sat up suddenly, looking down at his body in surprise, flexing muscles that had been shredded only hours before, supported by bones that were splintered before he had lost consciousness. Not only was he healed, but he felt better than he had in years -- since before he had first wielded Khelek'urya, he realized. Sword really had been getting to him.

Suddenly aware Shara was standing over him, he looked up and, seeing her inane smile of relief, he grinned, pulling her down into his arms with a laugh. She gave a startled yelp that broke into joyous laughter as they embraced, silenced when he gently but firmly pressed his lips against hers in a kiss that lasted a moment and a lifetime.

Sir Mathell found them there several minutes later, still in each other's arms.

Written by - Wilhelm

The great healing ceremony was over and great was the joy and rejoicing among them as those who had been sorely hurt and close to death now stood up and removed their bandages and marveled at their return to complete health. At Ceredan's command the kitchen staff from the Citadel were led in by the druids carrying food and beverages, and tables to set them on, to satisfy the hunger that was the immediate consequence of such healing and to celebrate the great miracle. Such a Divine Circle miracle was extremely rare and stories would be told for generations about this one. A cheer could be heard through the Gate as word of the healing was carried to the troops.

Ceredan walked wearily towards Lucant and Tempyst, leaning on his withered staff, his hair and cloak as white as snow, but smiling with a look of satisfaction and compassion. When he reached them he bowed low to both of them.

"Hail to you, Demonhunters, for your success in defeating the demon and saving Ithramir, Avandor's Avatar. The Gods of Light are proud of your efforts and share your sorrow for your loss. Do not berate yourselves for what more you might have done. You succeeded where many a more experienced team would have failed and your success is a great victory in this War of the Gods. Death is part of life and those who lay down their lives in battle are to be missed with sadness but also to be celebrated and honored for their noble sacrifice. Your daughter was one such who knowingly sacrificed her life that another may live. This Conclave honors her and indeed Avandor Himself has honored her for her sacrifice. He has given her a post in his Hall.

The fatigue you feel, Tempyst, is that of the soul because you gave so much of yourself to keep Ithramir alive. Although the great healing has healed your body your soul needs a different kind of rejuvenation, just as does mine. I am immensely honored to have presided over a Divine Great Circle, an extremely rare event, but the effort has taxed me severely. I will shortly retire to the great central oak to undergo the Elder Sleep, where my body will recharge while my soul wanders and learns amidst the Spirit Plane. Dalomir will preside over this Conclave during my absence.

"By command of Nyrandis Himself, I offer you, Tempyst Whisperling of the Deepshadow Glen, the opportunity to accompany me into the Elder Sleep. After you have undergone your Spirit Journey you will awaken refreshed and rejuvenated as the youngest Elder Druid I have ever heard of. You might even visit Avandor's Hall."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst lay on the grass for a while longer, until the sobs and tears fell no more. She sat up shakily and leaned against Lucant. She felt his arm go around her, then realized, something seemed different. She sat up again and looked around the grove, seeing all there who had been healed and saved. She saw the man she had comforted earlier, Sycon, sit up and look very happy; she even heard him go woot. That brought a smile to her face and then she brought a hand up to her lips, suddenly remembering the kiss he had given her. Tempyst quickly turned her head away and saw Lithwyn and Ithramir still embraced. He lives. It was not in vain and they look so happy. Seeing them, she once again realized something was still wrong.

She looked at Lucant; she could still see the worry in his eyes, but there was something else there too. Or rather, something missing, something was different. She reached out to find A'lanthear, but again, her link with the sword was gone, she could not even sense where it was. She tried to reach out to Lucant, using their bond, but it was gone too. She reached out a trembling hand to Lucant, then felt Ceredan slowly walk up beside them.

She listened numbly to the High Elder Druid commend them of their deeds. His words reached her, but she felt no joy or passion from them. Not even when he told her of the fate of her daughter. She felt his aged hand touch her shoudler gently and she looked up at him, her eyes and soul searching.

"The fatigue you feel, Tempyst, is that of the soul because you gave so much of yourself to keep Ithramir alive. Although the great healing has healed your body, your soul needs a different kind of rejuvenation, just as does mine. I am immensely honored to have presided over a Divine Great Circle, an extremely rare event, but the effort has taxed me severely. I will shortly retire to the great central oak to undergo the Elder Sleep, where my body will recharge while my soul wanders and learns amidst the Spirit Plane. Dalomir will preside over this Conclave during my absence.

By command of Nyrandis Himself, I offer you, Tempyst Whisperling of the Deepshadow Glen, the opportunity to accompany me into the Elder Sleep. After you have undergone your Spirit Journey you will awaken refreshed and rejuvenated as the youngest Elder Druid I have ever heard of. You might even visit Avandor's Hall."

Tempyst knew what Ceredan had just told her, was indeed a great honor, but in her current state, it truly meant nothing to her. She took Ceredan's hand an stood up wobbily and felt Lucant rise behind her and help to steady her. *Ceredan," she spoke, her voice sounding lost and hollow, "may I go into the sleep now, I cannot bear this any longer. I feel nothing. I cannot even feel the links to those I love, it is like, everything, everything I have cared about is dead and gone. I want to be gone too."

Ceredan looked concerned, then called over two younger druids. "They will help you to the tree young one. Indeed, your aura is dark and in dire need of repair, we should not wait any longer." The two young druids went on either side of Tempyst and helped her towards the central oak. Tempyst let the druids lead her on; she did not even look back at Lucant or say goodbye.

Tempyst could hear the sound of thunder. A storm is brewing. She thought, as she was being helped to the great oak. One final cleansing, then all will be well. She felt a few drops of rain fall upon her, the few that could make it through the canopy of the sacred grove. Then she felt the wind start to pick up again, as if once more sensing her aura of loss. Once at the great oak, the druids disrobed her and upon shaky legs, she walked naked into the oak, disappearing into the great trunk of the tree.

Written by - Wilhelm

Ceredan escorted Tempyst to the central oak and watched until his assistants disrobed her and she entered the oak tree. He then returned to Lucant and said,

"Her healing and spirit journey will take some time, perhaps many days. Much depends upon her and how her spirit journey goes. You will know when she is better by how well you can feel her through your link. Remember that you and your sword are still bound to her and that you are her link back into this world. It is sometimes hard for a druid to find the path back the first time. Be prepared to call to her if you feel the need. Believe in your feelings, for you will know when there is need.

You are welcome in this Sacred Grove and you may consult freely with any here, but I advise you to take some time to learn from those in the Citadel more versed in the arts of war, for yours is a much more martial path than ours. And now I too must go to my rest. May the blessing of Nyrandis be ever upon you."

Ceredan bowed and then turned and made his way slowly to the central oak tree, handed his cloak to Dalomir, and walked into the trunk of the giant central oak tree. Dalomir folded the cloak carefully and handed it to an assistant, then took Tempyst's folded cloak and came over and presented it to Lucant.

"Hold this for your return. You can present it to her when she emerges again."

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

Drifting through the peaceful blackness of oblivion, Isuiln was content. Death would find him sooner or later, he just had to wait, wait in this void that was forever in a second, a moment dragged on for all time. But time no longer mattered. Death didn't deal in time. Death would come soon enough. And until then, there was no life, no pain, no feeling. That is, until he felt something on his cheek. Lifting his hand, he felt the wetness on his cheek. He twitched as something lightly struck him right by the mysterious wetness, and then the moisture was gone, as if wiped away.

Then he saw the light. It started as no more than a pinprick. Then it drifted closer, larger, coming to claim him. Finally, death has come. Then Isuiln wondered why he had thought "finally"... after all, had any time passed since he arrived? He gave up on trying to apply logic to this place, and instead concentrated on the light, willing himself towards it. As it came closer, he felt an emotion. He felt... uneasy. There was something not quite right about this light. He had heard of people talking about going towards a light just before they died, but this light didn't feel like death. This light felt like... life.

The uneasiness evaporated. It was replaced by terror. This wasn't right! He had served his life sentence, he had watched the only person he had ever felt a real connection to die, and for what?! To save his worthless hide. He was even struck down in battle, lashing at a foe whom he knew he could not win against, and still he had not earned his rest? He screamed, and the silent echo was deafening. He scrabbled his hands bloody on the nothingness, trying to gain a hold that would keep him from that light. Yet still it marched upon him, more terrifying than all the orcs. Then it was upon him, and he was blinded by the light.

His eyes flew open and he inhaled deeply. After a moment, his eyes adjusted to the sunlight, and he saw Trinni sitting watch over him. He noticed the tear streak down her cheek and felt his own, remembering the mysterious wetness in the void. But she didn't look sad right now. She looked rather, well, livid.

"It's about time!" she began. "And what were you thinki-"

He silenced her by reaching up, grabbing the back of her neck, pulling her face down to his and kissing her. After a few seconds he eased himself back and saw the look of utter shock upon her face, and could not help but laugh. He lay back on the grass and laughed until tears streamed down his face. In that moment that the light had blinded him, he had seen the truth. Life was full of sorrow, of heartache, of pain, but every coin has two sides. For how hateful he had been when Aylan had died, he could love that much. For how angry and depressed, he could be that joyous. After trudging through the pits of this world's hell, he could dance on the clouds of its heaven. And that made life look a whole lot sweeter.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lucant stood there, hurt, as Tempyst entered the massive oak without so much as a second glance.

The druid Ceredan turned to him and said "Her healing and spirit journey will take some time, perhaps many days. Much depends upon her and how her spirit journey goes. You will know when she is better by how well you can feel her through your link. Remember that you and your sword are still bound to her and that you are her link back into this world. It is sometimes hard for a druid to find the path back the first time. Be prepared to call to her if you feel the need. Believe in your feelings, for you will know when there is need.

You are welcome in this Sacred Grove and you may consult freely with any here, but I advise you to take some time to learn from those in the Citadel more versed in the arts of war, for yours is a much more martial path than ours. And now I too must go to my rest. May the blessing of Nyrandis be ever upon you."

Ceredan bowed and then turned and made his way slowly to the central oak tree, handed his cloak to Dalomir, and walked into the trunk of the giant central oak tree. Dalomir folded the cloak carefully and handed it to an assistant, then took Tempyst's folded cloak and came over and presented it to Lucant.

"Hold this for your return. You can present it to her when she emerges again."

As the druid stepped into the massive oak tree along with Tempyst, Lucant walked slowly over towards it and sat down, leaning against the cool bark, determined to wait for his beloved as he had before. As he sat there in quiet contemplation while those around him celebrated until the storm rolled in. His thoughts began to wander as he sat there. However, they did not come to rest on Tempyst as he expected them to, but rather to the young elf-maiden Belyena Gadoril, whom he hadn't seen in years.

He thought about the time he first met her - at the small market in Almurad nearly six years ago. Her father, Gilandor and been there on a diplomatic mission to speak to Alonso Halleck, the magistrate of Almurad. The two became fast friends, despite their vastly different backgrounds. Belyena's father was a wealthy trade baron who had built his vast powerbase on importing goods from the Elven homeland, specifically from the Nuar'Lith area. Lucant's family, however, had been poor for generations.

The shrewd Gilandor Gadoril did not agree with his daughter's relationship with this commoner scum, however. And he forbade her to ever see him again. Belyena, however, was a spirit as free as the wind itself. She frequently made long trips away from Lothiel-Gadith to see him Almurad, aided by the family servants with whom she was very close. In a final attempt to end the insult to his family's honor, he used his connections with Alonso Halleck to forclose on the meager holdings of the Dolvan family and then he intended to have Lucant killed that very night he left.

He had come to Lothiel-Gadith to try to find Belyena and make a new life for the both of them, however, the Hand of Fate led him to the prisons of Lothiel Gadith and to the druidess he had shared so much with. As he mused about the past, A'lanthear broke in.

"Lucant, your task is through. Should you wish it, you may be free of this mantle to go about your ways. I apologize for myself and for Lord Nyrondis for using you, but it had to be done for the sake of all who live." Stunned by the sword's confession of sorts, Lucant stood up in a confused rage and looked up at it, still floating in the arcane gate, before addressing it in the pouring rain. "You used me! Nyrondis used me to His own ends!? This whole... everything... it was just... just a lie... just a ruse, so some god could save his pawn?"

He stood there in the pouring rain, staring at the now silent A'lanthear as he realized that he had been healed by the great miracle. He could now see clearly. He could see what his heart truly wanted. In a final gesture of goodbye, he placed his hand upon the massive oak and whispered "Goodbye Tempyst. I am truly sorry for causing you such pain. If not for me, you never would have had to feel this loss. I cannot ask you to forgive for what I must do, but it must be done." He neatly folded Tempyst's cloak and sat it down in front of the tree before walking solomnly off into the rain.

He walked, as if on clouds the whole way, to the verdant hill on which the Gadoril estate stood. The blue and white banners of the household flew proudly in the storm wind, seemingly welcoming him back to his true home after so long away. Lucant stood in front of the huge ornate doors before taking a deep breath and knocking on them. A few seconds passed - though they seemed like hours - until the door slowly opened. Again, the Hand of Fate seemed to be at work as Belyena stood in the doorway, looking as if she had seen a ghost. Lucant thought she had never looked more beautiful - she was dressed in a long violet gown with a high collar, wearing shining silver jewelry with her platinum blonde - almost silver - hair pulled back revealing her bright blue eyes.

Lucant stood in the doorway, his clothes thoroughly soaked as the two hearts quickly remembered what had been lost. He only had time to choke on a few words before Belyena threw her arms around him in the falling tears of the heavens.

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