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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Pharsalus Page 11 Book 3

It was mid-day and a small, earthen house lay quiet and dark beneath the shade of a large willow. Pharsalus sat with his legs crossed, arms and shoulders relaxed on his knees, on a tall, flat rock on the edge of the small stream in front of his home. His eyes remained closed, his breathing deep. To any unsuspecting passer-by, the old man of stone would appear simply a part of the landscape, his stone form worn and streaked and chipped with age and wear. But there were no passers-by here, and Pharsalus liked it that way.

His mind was drifting what short distances he could allow. While back in his home of Aerynth, his mind was quick and expansive - too much so, sometimes. His powers as a Healer and empath were once unmatched among his own kind, rarely matched by any other. But here he was simply a healer. He no longer felt the fire of Thurin in his chest or the pulse of his power through his fingers. The Dwarf had, through the years, forced himself to hone his other skills - most often his combat abilities with his self-made mithril staff and medicine making - in leu of his Priestly powers. He learned to harness what small, but considerable, bursts of energy he could and conjure them at will, thrusting them outward against any opponent he may face. What few powers remained he knew how to use. He was a Dwarf, possibly the last of his kind, so he made sure he could hold his own in a fight.

A small leaf floated gently downard toward the meditating priest. The wind blew softly, the trees whispered and laughed and jittered around him, the creak murmured. Pharsalus could see all this, sense it, with all his senses and then some. He waited...

waited...

A soft rustle. A gust of air. The old Dwarf opened his yes. He was standing opposite the direction where he was sitting, legs braced, fist clenched at a full arm's length in front of him. Opening his hand slowly revealed the leaf, unhurt by the suddeness and strength of its captor. Pharsalus let it fall to the ground.

Pharsalus of the Southern Spine...

Pharsalus spun, suprised, but lost his balance.

THUD!

"By all the... Who the bloody hell said that!? What nerve you've got, sneaking up on a Priest while he's meditating! And naked to boot!"

He was naked, standing now beind the rock that cast him off, rubbing his head. All was quiet, and the Priest's senses were now cleared and on alert. Something in him, some light that he thought had long gone out, pulsed suddenly. His mind lit up, and his eyes widened at the presence he was sensing.

It is I, Thurin, your God.

Had he the ability, the Dwarf would have certainly begun to sob. He stumbled out from behind his rock, still naked. He burst out, "Thurin! Father!" He looked around, thrust all his psychic faculties outward as far as he could push them, hoping to touch the presence of his long-lost Creator.

I see you have been hiding from me. By my word, you must, where’ ere you may be, begin digging a hole as large as your apparent faith in me consists of…”

Pharsalus stopped where he was, an odd look on his face. A look of shock quickly turned to anger as the mental connection locked in.

"Archeantus!" he cried out loud, as happy to communicate with the boy after so long as he was angry at the boy's trickery. But as angry as he was, touching the lad with his mind for so long, feeling something familiar after so long, he felt his powers bolstering already! He couldn't help but smile. His mind burned with newfound energy, one he'd not felt since the crossing from Aerynth. He pushed his thoughts beyond their previous boundaries, across lands unknown to him, and tapped the mind of the voice's source.

You should consider it fortunate that so much land separates you from the beating you so rightfully deserve, you insolent little whelp! His moment of sternness melted just as quickly as it had formed. He chuckled internally. I've been waiting a long time, my boy! Somehow, I always knew if ANY of us of Aerynth's make fell out into this new land as I did, it would be you!

As Pharsalus donned his clothing from the neat pile near his spot of meditation, his mind took in all that Archeantus had learned. Though the boy had said nothing else, Pharsalus knew there was urgency. As old as he was, it would take him a while to understand all that his mind had just received.

"I'll figure it out on the way," he said softly to himself as he pushed open the door to his living quarters. He packed what he could carry. He needed very little food, drink, or sleep, so the going would be quick. He threw some medicines and other vials into a sash and tied it around himself. He drew on his trusty laced boots, trousers, and his loose-fitting tunic and cloak. The Dwarf had long lost his beard, deciding to grind what little was left of it into a smooth, mildly pointed chin. And his body, though obviously old, was in the best physical shape it had ever been, more because of boredom than anything. For being just over 4' tall, the Priest as he stood now, staff in hand, looked a force to be reckoned.

As he passed through the main room of his home, past the fireplace he'd kept burning for the past 200 years, he looked at the sleeping girl and her mother. He had found them only days before on the road, attacked by bandits. The men that were with them were all dead, buried in small, nameles graves near the road on which they were killed. He scribbled down a note explaining things, where they were, and how to get to the nearest town. He put what little food he had left in a small pouch for them for when they awoke. It would not be enough, he knew, as they hadn't eaten in days. It would have to work.

He looked back at them on his way out. Back at his home. His life for the past two centuries. He was leaving it behind for the pupil that he'd missed so much for so long. Letting his eyes take one final visual inventory of the room and its things, he nodded to himself, satisfied. He stepped out, pulled the door quietly behind him, and began his journey toward his old cohort. Slowly, softly, before he knew he was doing it, he began to hum. And he smiled.

****

Geirik struggled with all his being to break the chains of unconciousness that now bound him to the darkest, coldest, most silent corner of his mind. The Liche had taken controll, something that had not happened in longer than the old bounty hunter could recall. All his life, since the death of his son and the curse of the infernal thing that now drove his mortal frame forward, he'd successfully kept the Thing buried and powerless. The old man twisted and grunted and pulled and arched and wiggled, all furiously, all desparately. He had to regain himself. All at once, he relaxed and let himself fall limp, arms outstretched and pinned to a wall that wasn't there. He was exhausted and crushed beneath the weight of a realization: perhaps the Liche was in control the whole time, letting Geirik think he had him, until the time was right. What time, Geirik could only guess. Something had changed in the Liche, the way he sounded, the suddeness with which he'd burst to the surface. Something was happening.

Geirik's mind spun down, quieted, powerless. He slept for now.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lafiel let out a quick, excited gasp and brought her hands up to her mouth when she saw Ithramir drop to one knee. "Lithwyn Deltheron, will you marry me?" Everyone watched as he pulled his signet ring off, offers it to her. A delighted laugh escaped from Lafiel's clasped hands. "Oh Grandmother! How romantic! Do you think we'll be invited to the ceremony," she said, just as giddy as she herself had been proposed to. "Hmpf... he may be a decent leader... but the man has no sense of timing," Aelyndria said in reply, watching with cyncial delight at Lithwyn's overwhelming hesitation.

A wiry man with short hair as black as night (except for a few spekkles of grey) quickly cut his way through the crowd directly to where Ithramir was. Aelyndria was sure she recognized him. “My name is Gilbert Volsain, sir. I am a sailor, with Captain Leov Klein. We were forced to dock here earlier.” She let a short, frustrated sigh and said to herself "I let him out of my sight for one moment... What has he done now, I wonder?" “The young lady down in the stockades said between her fits that you were the only one who could help her. Please, you must hurry.” Gilbert looked at Ithramir sternly. “I should also mention sir, that while I made my way here, I came across a mob of drunken soldiers talking trash and heading towards the young lady’s whereabouts.” Gilbert stood there, waiting to see what the elf would do.

Aelyndria and Lafiel watched on as the two bolted out the doors and into the night. Despite her rage - both at Leov and herself - Aelyndria rose with an effortless grace that only time could bestow. "Idiot..." was all she said. "Grandmother, you're going after him, aren't you," Lafiel stated matter-of-factly, looking up at Aelyndria. "I'll go with you if you'd like me to." Aelyndria placed her right hand atop Lafiel's golden head and said to her "No child... stay here. This night is for the young. I will take care of this little matter." "But of course Grandmother," she said as Aelyndria began to follow after Gilbert and Ithramir.

As she made her way through the nearly deserted streets, Aelyndria began to scold herself: "I should have seen this sooner. The child certainly makes no pretenses. But I see it now... and I know what to do. Bear witness, o Avandor... to my life's last and greatest work."

Written by - Tempyst

Garth led the mob to the stockade. As they rounded the corner, he could see two guards getting back into position. When they heard the noise of the mob, they did not look any too pleased to see them. "You two, give us no grief and you won't get hurt." Garth spat out.

The two young guards looked at each other, then one spoke. "What is your business here. There is no one here of importance for you."

"The hell there isn't. That demon lover Kaya'Talas is in there and we mean to make her pay for all she has done." The mob raged behind Garth, growling in agreement to his words. "We are going in whether you like it or not." As Garth began to move forward the two stepped in front of the door.

"I'm Afraid we cannot just let you pass. Go back to your drinking and leave her fate up to the commander!"

Garth grumbled then turned, as if he were going to walk away. Then he spun about fast and backhanded the one guard who had been speaking, sending him down to the ground nose and mouth bleeding. "Audun! Go get the..." Before Kaeltan could finish, Garth bashed him again knocking him out, while the others pounded on Kaeltan. They left both guards there on the street, unconscious as they barged their way into the stockades. They stormed passed the office where a third guard fell back, cowering as the mob rushed in. As soon as all passed, he ran outside and seeing his friends, ran off to get help.

"KAYA'TALAS WE ARE HERE FOR YOU DEMON BITCH!" Garth yelled as they strode with puprose down the corridor. Then he found the cell with the open door and looked in, to see Kaya on the floor, in the arms of a sailor. "Hey, I know you. You were in the bar!" But he did not wait for a response. "Give us the bitch so we can dispense justice. We have no quarrel with you."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"KAYA'TALAS WE ARE HERE FOR YOU DEMON BITCH!" Garth yelled as they strode with puprose down the corridor. Then he found the cell with the open door and looked in, to see Kaya on the floor, in the arms of a sailor. "Hey, I know you. You were in the bar!" But he did not wait for a response. "Give us the bitch so we can dispense justice. We have no quarrel with you."

Leov looked up from Kaya's enrapturing violet eyes. His sorrow and fear was replaced by anger and rage. He gently layed Kaya down on the floor and stood up slowly, almost menacingly. He stretched and yawned: "Not yet ya don't." His outstretched arms went behind his back to his waist where Sulrista hung in her scabbard. His left hand gripped the ornate scabbard to steady it as his right hand slowly, steadily wrapped around the hilt and drew the slender, single edged blade. A wicked, menacing smile formed on his lips as he brought Sulrista around in front of him. "But you're damn sure fixin' to."

He swept the tip of Sulrista across the cold stone floor, then brought her down overhead where she pointed at unwaveringly at the man who had called him out. Leov said with an unearthly calm, and steadfast resolve: "C'mon now boys.... who wants to be a hero?"

Written by - Tempyst

"C'mon now boys.... who wants to be a hero?"

Garth sneared, his booze infected brain not thinking too clearly. He pulled his own bastard sword. "This is going to be fun, sailor girl." Then he rushed Leov. The sound of others behind Garth unsheithing their swords could be heard, the metal ringing in the corridor.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The drunken soldier charged at Leov, who just laughed at his obvious bravado. A quick sidestep at the proper moment sent the drunk tumbling over with his own momentum.

As Kaya quickly absconded herself into a remote corner out the way of the fighting, Garth turned his head back and said to the others, "He's mine!" Leov started to step towards the man, "Then come and GET ME!" he yelled as he kicked the kneeling man squarely in the jaw. Leov pulled back Sulrista, fully ready to slam it through the man's back to protect Kaya.

Someone grabbed him from behind and through him against the wall. "Dammit..." was all he managed to say as he looked frantically for Kaya, uncaring about the beating he was taking.

Written by - Tempyst

Raevyn was glad the rain stopped. It was no fun riding in the dark soaking wet. He directed his horse through the streets of the city, making his way up to the top, where it looked bright and festive. Nobles. Always looking for a reason to party. A victory here or there, what have yuou. Why don't they think about the people who count on them. He looked at some beggars on the street and silently passed them by. Not that the peole would ever appreciate anything. All they want is what is given to them. Only a few work for what they get and rarely get what they deserve. He nudged his horse to move a bit faster, eager to find his prey then find a warm, dry place to rest.

Written by - Tempyst

Finally! Amara and the others played the last note of the long set they just played. Everyone's mood in the hall was up again and the tip jar was bustling with coin. Amara slide her flute into it's sleave and slipped off the stage quietly and moved over to the food, finding herself to be more than a little hungry. Once again she was greeted by many people, mostly men, who comended her on her skill and charm. She thanked them all and quickly found her way to a balcony, hiding around the corner, enjoying a little peace with her food. If nothing else, the food is amazing. She thought as she hungrily ate the thin slices of meat and cheese she had put upon her plate. She drank deeply of the cup she procurred; a little of the mead dribbled out the side and down her chin, but she did not notice. She inhaled her food, then, when it was gone, was content to sit in the night air, upon the wet stone.

She looked up into the sky, watched as the moon peeked out from behind the breaking clouds. Are you there father? It has been so long since I last spoke to you and I'm sorry for that. I know I don't talk to you as much, but I still love you and I miss you oh, so much. Amara reached up without even thinking and wiped away the tears that fell. I wonder, are you proud of me? Are you happy with who I have become. Sometimes, I forget about who I am now and think of just being your little girl again. Is that silly of me? Even if it is, it is a good feeling. She stood up from her niche and leaned out over the stone rail. "I've been here for a month and no sign of any of Jaylan's men. Perhaps," she sighed, "I have finally found a place that I can stay awhile."

"Good evening Miss, I would love to thank you for the beautiful music you have blessed us with." Amara jumped at the voice and the tap on her shoulder. She spun around half expecting to see dark clothed figures hovering over her. She laughed with relief, seeing it was only a young man in priestly robes.

"Thank you sir, for your hospitality and the wonderful audience that is here. I hope the next time a bard is needed, I will be considered." She held out a hand and shook with the priest, who flushed a little at her touch. Amara smiled and the young man turned around and headed back into the hall.

Amara dropped her goblet as the site of the elf dressed in black leathers. He had just entered the hall and was scanning the crowd. Raevyn. Amara's heart lept to her throat and she felt her muscles freeze at the sight of the bounty hunter. Move Amara, MOVE! Amara's survival instincts kicked in and she slide back into the the niche, out of sight of the people in the hall. Her face had paled. She knew the man who was there and who he was after. She wanted to look again, to make sure she was not seeing things, but knew she could not take that chance. Looking over the edge of the balcony, she could see a narrow ledge that led to the lower roof. Without a second thought and taking a deep breath, Amara slipped over the stone railing and placed her feet upon the ledge, her lifeline to freedom.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan popped up from the ground as suddenly as if a snake had bitten her. Flames burning in her eyes, she rose to her feet, casting the “look of death” at Teran.

“You are an asshole,” she declared with the solemnity of one making an official proclamation. Without any further preamble, she launched herself at him, aiming to drive the hilt of her dagger into his solar plexus. She did not wish to kill him; she merely wanted to cause him as much pain as his words had caused her.

Written by - Teran

Teran avoided her attacks. He let her go on until she either regained control of her fury or was to exhausted to attack him anymore. He hardly seemed to move at all yet he was easily one of the most frustrating opponents Mavigan had faced.

"You will need to take control of yourself before you can hurt me. Control your emotions, focus that energy into your attack." he lectured her even as she attacked.

Written by - Archeantus

“Archeantus!”

The old warlock broke into a grin as his old friend came to his realization. The old dwarven priest could hear a smug chuckle reverberate in his mind. The jig was up. He allowed the angry Dwarf to fume as expected, but could sense his old friend’s joy build at the sound of his voice. It had truly been a long time, longer and further than any of them, any of the Hands, ever imagined would happen when they parted from Aerynth. But despite the length and breath of the parting, the feeling of home and familiarity that the warlock had longed for, for what seemed like eons, was now present. The promise of his God fulfilled. And he understood in faith, in all it’s finality that it would only be the beginning of more.

“I've been waiting a long time, my boy! Somehow, I always knew if ANY of us of Aerynth's make fell out into this new land as I did, it would be you!”

“So have I old friend. I have come to bring those of us back together at last. I have word there are far more than you and I.” Archeantus replied mentally and then continued in solemn tones, “I am standing as we speak on the battlements of what I am to understand as New Ancora.”

The old priest quickly interrupted in his familiar manner, “I'll figure it out on the way,"

The old dwarf had detected the urgency in his friend’s mind.

“Very well. But hurry, I have a mental lock on your location I will meet you as soon as I can.”

There was a fearful pause.

“She is here Pharsalus. But there is something very strange about her. Something is terribly wrong. Come quickly!”

She could only be one person. The dwarf knew it the moment he heard the inflection. It was Ariana, she needed help. And that was all the old dwarf had to hear.

Written by - Tempyst

Lithwyn felt the success of the healing ritual. It was a good thing we were all refreshed from earlier, or else it may not have happened. When it was all finished, she gave Tempyst a reassuring hug, then left the young druid to be with her husband. I will thank you and Lucant for what they ahve done later, the two of them need their time alone. She walked back up the stairs and along the hallways, fighting off the need to go into her office and mull over paperwork. But as she approached the party once again, she took a deep breath and entered. Her eyes swept the crowd, taking note of who was still there. As she walked in, she was swarmed with those who wished to hear more about the proposal. She nodded and smiled, letting those around her talk and talk. Even if she had wanted to answer their questions, she could not have gotten a word in edgewise.

Finally, she found a moment alone and was able to get herself a glass of wine. I will stay a short while longer, then head to my room. So much has happened today. Ithramir...he will know where to find me. Lithwyn sipped her wine and watched the room once more. The elf who just entered stood out in the crowd; dressed in expensive black leathers, Lithwyn felt immediately wary of him.

I wonder who this one is and what brings him here.

Written by - Rikshanthas

Vhar stood near one of the dessert tables, absently nibbling on a small pastry, seemingly lost in thought. The evening had certainly been eventful. These people led insteresting lives, the Loremaster thought, wishing he could stay but knowing his continued presence would disrupt this world, possibly drawing ... unwanted attention. He decided to stay the evening, have a word with the commander before leaving in the morning. At least the food was nice. Vhar chuckled softly, unheard among the many sounds of the eve's festivities, his eyes wandering among the crowds. He caught sight of Lithwyn, thought of going over to speak with her, then decided against it given the mass of people crowding around her. There would be time enough later.

His roaming gaze stopped suddenly when it came to rest on the new arrival, an elf in well-tailored black leather. Vhar's eyes narrowed slightly. He had never seen this elf before, but he knew him. He had seen enough examples of the type to recognize the steel beneath the elf's cool, dark eyes.

Bounty hunter, Vhar thought, one eyebrow rising slightly. He started to wonder what had brought such an individual to the Citadel when he sensed the spike of fear from somewhere in the room. So the predator closes on his prey, Vhar guessed, attempting to locate the hunter's mark among the many patrons in the hall. Catching sight of Lithwyn once more, seeing her eyes on the stranger and realizing he had no way to reach her through the crowd, Vhar reached out with his spirit, trusting one known as an Avatar to recognize and understand his heartspeech. *Madam Lithwyn, be wary of this one: he is a hunter, a dangerous one. His mind is guarded, I cannot sense his motives; but his prey is in this building, I felt her fear.* As Lithwyn was nearer to the steps, he left the matter in her hands.

Written by - Agmund

The sound of running water awoke him from a deep slumber. Indeed he had slept, like he hadnt slept in years, peacefully, without his dreams being clouded with strange visions of the past or the future. Even his body, worn with time seemed well rested and refreshed. It was his surroundings that now confused him.

Graceful columns covered in moss, broken and cracked in places, rose to arched points above him. Fixed between each were stained glass windows, illuminating the interior with an erie yet serene glow. The floor was half stone and half ferns and weeds, and he reliazed why as he turned around. Much of the wall behind him, with its columns and glass was gone, leaving the earth to recapture what was once its own. A small spring had likely been the demise of the wall, having broken it down over time. In doing so it continued its course as a stream, running directly thru the building, only to empty out at an alter near the far end.

The altar... his eyes remained fixed there, for standing to the side of the altar was a women, a women of beauty words could not describe. Her perfect lips were shaped just barely at the ends into the curve of a caring smile. She was clad in robes of the purest white, and her hair appeared spun from the brightest of gold.

He could only stare at her, unable to say anything, and content to merely be in her precense. There were no questions within his mind that his voice could conjure, and no care to do so if there had been. An eternity seemed to pass before the silence was broken. The sound of her voice was more alluring than any note from any instrument he could conceive,"you do not recognize this place... or you simply refuse to believe where you are."

She recieved no reply, her words fell upon deaf ears as he stood there within a trance and upon seeing this she spoke again. "You must awaken," her lips curved higher, "for there is much still to be done." Her small feet carryed her slowly before him as she continued "you do not know where you are?"

"Please... come no closer," his voice cracked, and a flash of anger sparked behind his eyes. To have such beauty broken by such an imperfect voice as his own, was more than he could bear. "I... I do not know where I am, nor why I am here," he turned his gaze quickly away and to the ground.

"Do not be afraid," she consoled him, "no harm can come to the faithful in this place. Your journey is not yet finished, though you wish it so, and in truth you have earned it." She took one hand in her own, as the other slide up to his cheek, gently turning his gaze back to her. "In your lifetime you have seen much suffering and witnessed countless deaths, you have traveled from one corner of the world to the other, healing the sick and caring for the wounded. You raised your voice high when swords needed to be raised, and spoke of peace when it could be had. Nothing more could be asked of a man, and few would have made such a sacrifice in the name of their beliefs."

"Would you have traded all of that if you could? If it were possible to go back and start over would you lead a different life?" Her eyes suddenly revealed a sort of curiosity, as if she sought to understand the choices he had made, to know what directed him. He only caught it for a mere moment before it was gone, leaving him to question his actions, to ponder her words.

A mix of emotions flooded his mind. He remembered with clarity what had lead him onto his path, and he knew without question, that there could not have been any other life for him, even had he wished it so. She, owever, did not allow him to answer her before once again speaking. Her voice like that of an angel whispering into his ear. "You must go back," her hands fell to her sides as she turned away.

"No," was all he said, stopping her right where she stood. As she begin to turn once again he repeated it. "No... there is nothing more for me to do, my time has ended, now it is Lord Wilhelm's time, it is his time to right the wrongs, his time to see the blood. Tinorb has his faithful servant, Lord Wilhelm will not fail him. Nothing more can be asked of me. You cannot ask more of me!" he screamed just as she faced him.

"Condemn me to a life in hell, cast me down, I care not," he quivered with anger.

Written by - Ariana

Each missed strike caused the anger and frustration to grow larger within her. She could feel it, a fire in her blood that made her whole body tingle with a sensation that was not dissimilar to the pins and pricks one feels when reawakening a limb that had fallen asleep.

At some point in the scuffle, she had switched from using the hilts of her daggers, and was instead using live blades. It was likely she was unaware of the change so focused was she on finding someway to hit him, and the blades now glowed with a faint bluish light. The light was so faint, though, that only the most observant of people would notice.

As she continued to attack and he continued to dodge, she began to speak, each word punctuated by another strike. “Air. Air. Air. Air. Nothing. But. Gods. Damned. AIR!” The last erupted from her in a shriek of frustration even as her body froze in mid-strike. She held her position, motionless, one arm in a block, the other in a missed strike to his neck, her arm extended and frozen in place a few scant inches away from his head. She was panting heavily, her face screwed up in a painful grimace. Anyone observing her would not be able to tell if she was attempting to prevent something from getting in or keep something from getting out.

They stood frozen in place for several seconds, only the sound of her panting indicating that they were live beings and not statues. Then, as suddenly as she had stopped, she stepped away and lowered her arms. A fine tremor could be observed in her entire body as she clutched her daggers so hard her knuckles turned white.

“Control?” she screeched, the fire still evident in her eyes. “How the bloody HELL do I do that?” she yelled.

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