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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen Page 12 Book 3

Kiradia smiled at the young man who stepped forward. He was well made and Kiradia could see his family was around him. He will work perfectly, Kiradia thought as she beckoned the young man forward with one of her delicate hands.

“Step forward, please, and say your name, young man to this audience,” Kiradia having no need to learn the mans name with the spoken word, “let them know who will also lead them down this road... then follow.”

Turning away, Kiradia walked back behind her curtain and down a long dark hallway, faint candles being the only light to lead those who entered. The villagers would work until they were truly exhausted, they wouldn't be able to help themselves thanks to Kiradia's curse.

Slowly, my Lord Terror, the pieces fall into place, but I feel.... something. What is it? Kiradia mused as she entered a room filled with magical symbols and a sword in the center. A red glow radiated from the sword, thirsting for blood.

Written by - Teran

"If you do not want to lose control you have to learn what causes you to lose control. What did I say to cause so much fury? Was it my disregard for the life of your friend? Was it that I told you that Sabbatine would kill you and then consume you should you two fight?." Teran paused to let his words sink in for a moment.

"People will say much worse things to you than I have, and they will not hesitate to try and kill you once you have opened the door to them by attacking. You will eternally be a slave to others if you do not learn to resist the desire to react without thought. The next time you are angry, consider why it is so. The next time you are happy ask yourself whether it is because you are happy or because someone else has suggested to you that you should feel happy."

Written by - Tempyst

*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.*

Lithwyn felt the push at her mind and felt that it was Vhar. She looked over to where the elf in black leathers was and sighed. Seems something is always going on. Well, if he is hunting someone here, I should like to know about it. Lithwyn put down her drink then walked over the the elf. "Good evening, I am Commander Deltheron, I do not believe we have met."

Raevyn looked her over, then smiled and bowed deeply. "It is my pleasure Commander to meet you. My name is Raevyn Treun. This is so very convenient, I was going to come calling upon you on the morrow. I have business here within your citadel."

"Well, we are here now and I am not busy. How may I be of service" She used her inner sight to look him over. This Raevyn was very cool in color, very much in control of himself, which indeed made him very dangerous.

"Commander, I am here on official business, from a Lord Jaylan Dekard, Head of the merchant guild within Shrikefield. He has procurred my services to find a young lady who is wanted in connection with a mass murder that happened about 2 years ago. Yes, I know that is quite awhile to be after someone, but, she is dangerous and very sly. The last leads I had on her showed her heading here. As she is a talented performer, and I had heard from a traveler that a feast was going on, I had hoped I might find her here." Raevyn observed the Commander, well aware of her doing the same with him, but he was used to scrutiny from officials.

"A dangerous women, interesting." He is not lying, but I know there is more to his story than what he is letting on. Lithwyn nodded, looking thoughtful. "Well, if you would care to give me a description of this young lady, I would be more than happy to put my own people on this. Since you are in my city Mr. Treun, I would be happy to seek your council and advice on finding this criminal, but I must insist that I handle it my way."

"Of course Commander, I had not expected anything else. Should I come to your office in the morning then?"

"Let's do it now, I am done here at the feast. Please, follow me." Lithwyn signaled to a page and a guard, then let them all to her office. Once there, she took Raevyns statement and when done, reccomended an inn for him to take up residence. "Once I have any information for you Mr. Treun, you will be notified, until then, please, enjoy the city. However, should you spot your criminal, please get the help of one of my guards before you apprehend her in my city. I would not want a distrubance or to put in danger the lives of any of my citizens." Raevyn nodded, took his token to give to the innkeeper and left Lithwyn alone in her office.

Lithwyn looked over the statement, then had the page take it to the current captain of the guards. When she was alone, she took a deep breath. So, she is a half elf and by the description sounds like the bard that was playing at the feast. If she is so dangerous and wanted for such a serious crime, why would she put herself in such a public display? Well, if she is still here, we will find her and then I can find out what Mr. Treun is not telling me. Lithwyn stood, then made her way to her room, her thoughts now on Ithramir.

Once inside her room, she changed into a dressing gown and sat in the candlelight, finally taking in all that had happened that day. She sighed at herself for the thoughts she had after her beloved proposed. Why was I surprsed, I know how he can be. She layed back upon the pillows and sent out her senses, searching for him, letting him know where she was and that she missed him. Hurry back my love, hurry back.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon found the party easy enough. Some stared at him, escorting those that knew her as a maid...those that did not looked in admiration. He mingled with a few people, just snipping in small conversation where he found his fancy. His date had seemed sort of anxious the entire time. Either not sure of the crowd, or perhaps intimidated by them he was not sure. She seemed more and more secluded with each minute, depending wholly on him for conversation. Sycon looked into her eyes and inadvertantly looked into her mind. Greed struck across it, theft...theft? Why but... He looked deeper and realized what she had had in her pockets. A ring here, a necklace there... she was stealing all about these people.

Sycon uttered a small amount of unsatisfaction, in a mumble. He stepped back and looked at here again, her beauty had faded in his mind. Boy, I sure can pick'em. Sycon did not want this maid killed on his account. He escorted her from the room, and back to the room he had been waiting for her earlier. They both entered, Sycon allowing her to enter first. "Why?" He asked. "Why did you do that...?"

She stared blankly, at the realization of what he was saying her face went stark white. "How...? Wha...Who are you?!?" Sycon chuckled at how he had been used and been so blatantly obvious if he had just scanned her mind earlier. Some people were always easy to read, and she would have been one of them.

"You had better return them, and quickly before I report you girl. I cannot blame you if you were in need, but you obviously are not."

She looked at him, her face turning red, almost with anger. "You just don't know!" She turned and almost ran out door, making no sign she would return them. Sycon would not call the guard on her. Women!

Now where was Ardwen...he returned to the party, only shortly enough to look across the room. He found nothing. Not a sign, not a trace. Sycon stretched out his mind for his friend. Nothing seemed familiar here, only love seemed to course through the room.

There! Flashes of images crossed his mind. Not Ardwen's, but someone in the stables. Ardwen was leaving, or had already left.

The fool! Who did he think he was, going to raid an entire city by himself. And he was worried his behavior was too rash for the elf earlier. How could he...the bastard...Sycon turned on his heel and ran down the hall, the echo ringing across the hallway and back into the party, but it seemed no one had noticed. He covered his ground quickly, more quickly than he thought he could... but ran into the room and retrieved his sword and strapped it across his back. He reaffirmed his robes and was quick to be outside in the stables where Ardwen was earlier.

A horse, he would need to catch up. A still cold breeze from the oncoming storm swept across him, slightly chilling him. You will not catch him with a horse, he has beaten your pace yet.

He has not, I will catch him. No, it is dark outside and wet, you shall not move fast.

"You don't understand. He will get himself killed! He doesn't care for his life anymore, or anything. He is single minded, broken apart by lord knows what!"

A stable boy peeked from around a corner, seemingly terrified by Sycon almost yelling at himself. Sycon almost chuckled, but it died in his anger for Ardwen.

He turned toward the stable doors and ran at them, knocking them open with a though and launched himself into the air and rain. Up he went, propelling himself forward. Anger rising in himself, his speed through the air increasing. Up and up he went until he was above the rain. Streaking across the sky until he would find his friend.

It was not long before he lowered himself under the clouds again and scanned the road. There! Two lonely souls, one riding towards the citadel and Ardwen. The other rider vanished behind a hill, but Ardwen still stood. He lowered himself, almost out of breath, touching ground several feet in front of Ardwen.

"Arrogant...selfish...ingrate," Sycon let out between breaths. His head low, letting the rain fall on his head. Sycon's emotions were always in check...or they were on Aerynth. This world was seemed to be changing him and he knew this.

Catching his breath he stared Ardwen down. "You abandoned us in Aerynth. You disappeared when you thought all was lost. You gave up so easily. Some depeneded you, and now you run again. I don't care even if you did it on purpose... your whims have hurt many. You have not changed! WHY! WHY DO YOU HURT! DO YOU NOT SEE THOSE YOU BRING PAIN TO! SINGLE MINDEDNESS WILL NOT ALWAYS WORK! YOU FOOL! DRAW YOUR SWORD! DRAW IT NOW!"

Sycon waited briefly. He slowly raised his head to lock eyes with the pale elf in his clad armor. "I WILL NOT LET YOU THROW ME AWAY AGAIN, YOU WERE ALL I HAD LEFT...ALL I HAD! YOU HEAR ME!" Sycon raised his hand, palm extended toward Ardwen and let out a strong burst of energy toward Ardwen intended to knock him from his feet. Sycon dashed toward Ardwen, drawing the jen'a'tai from his back and coming down over Ardwen's head.

Written by - Ardwen

This was an interesting development. “Well, well, it seems Sycon finished with his women and wine earlier than I thought.” Sycon lowered himself several feet in front of Ardwen, he seemed to be panting heavily, and let out a few curses in between his gasps for air, "Arrogant...selfish...ingrate." Ardwen just stood silently, he wanted Sycon to make the first move, if he was going to see Ariana, he wanted a damn good excuse for fighting with Sycon. If Sycon attacked first, surely it would absolve him from a lecture of “morality and might makes right” afterwards? Of course it would, it was only logical.

Sycon though, like most humans, had to babble on before attacking, "You abandoned us in Aerynth. You disappeared when you thought all was lost. You gave up so easily. Some depended you, and now you run again. I don't care even if you did it on purpose... your whims have hurt many. You have not changed! WHY! WHY DO YOU HURT! DO YOU NOT SEE THOSE YOU BRING PAIN TO! SINGLE MINDEDNESS WILL NOT ALWAYS WORK! YOU FOOL! DRAW YOUR SWORD! DRAW IT NOW!"

Contrary to the warlock’s request, Ardwen did not draw his blades. He stood perfectly still, unmoving.

The warlock seemed to hesitate, he locked eyes, "I WILL NOT LET YOU THROW ME AWAY AGAIN, YOU WERE ALL I HAD LEFT...ALL I HAD! YOU HEAR ME!" A blast of energy heralded Sycon’s final words, and he came rushing in. Ardwen could only smile mentally; he knew the moves. Ardwen swept his right leg behind him, it all came so naturally after five-thousand years. Adopting a stance neither shallow nor wide, step with a sweeping motion, the basics were what mattered in a battle with blades.

Ardwen let the blast hit him, if Sycon wanted to show-off, he could too. Still, the shock was powerful enough to push him back a bit, leaving two slick tracts in the wet earth where his feet had slid. By now, Sycon’s blade was coming down, and Ardwen acted. He unsheathed his two T’lnarion, the fine swords of a bladeweaver. He had so far hesitated to draw them, an unsheathing motion was not to be wasted: there was an entire school of bladeweaving dedicated to the proper motion and style of unsheathing the swords.

Humans, in their so-called “blademaster” styles had merely cobbled together what they had stolen from the Elves, a typical action for their kind. The Jen’e’tai of the blademasters was long and straight, utterly unsuited for the action of fast drawing and initial strikes. Ardwen's drawing strike was graceful, fluid, infused with all the deadly skill that only millennia of warfare and practice could produce.

Ardwen saw Sycon’s blow, it was similar to what the “blademasters” called the Demon Chariot Form, and Ride the Whirlwind rose to meet it. Their blades collided, Ardwen’s trapping Sycon’s single sword and sweeping it off to his right. “Oh yes,” Ardwen hissed while Sycon’s The Hanging Tree was parried by The Dance of Waters, “so typical, so human. Do you really think you know everything? Are you that sure of yourself warlock?”

Ardwen parried, and The Dance of Steel turned aside Dance of Ten Thousand Cuts. He was toying with the warlock, to drive home the fact Ardwen continued, “It was so naturally my intent to go to Ancora, have the Traitor himself cleave the flesh from my bones, and then be burned alive in Nagarren Abbey itself.”

Ardwen continued bluntly, “I spent my blood on the field of battle, Avari promised me vengeance, power, and I was granted it. We fought the bastards day in and day out, we burned their outposts, sacked their cities, we were the name of fear to their empire. I gave up? Did I now?”

“Ahh, and three more things,” Ardwen said while circling around another strike, letting the jen’e’tai touch air and nothing else, “I was never all you had, and am not all you have left. The Ardwen you knew from Aerynth is dead Sycon, and you’re looking at the one who murdered him. Secondly, Ariana herself is in Westgale. They have her locked in a dungeon and she's wounded. Thirdly . . . bring your blade back at a tighter angle when using Blinding Strike. I was there when Draethen himself devised that technique, he would cry to see how you just butchered it."

Ardwen could only let a cold smile creep onto his face as their blades continued to whirl and parry. He would entertain himself for a bit longer, but Ariana still awaited him. Either Sycon would stop his attacks and they could get down to what really mattered, or Ardwen would stop Sycon . . . by any means neccessary.

Written by - Archeantus

The rain had stopped, and the grim day was quickly turning to night. Archeantus had hovered once more over the top of the battlements and softly landed on the wet ground below.

There was a fell wind sweeping across the darkening landscape, as the old warlock wrapped his tattered grey cloak about him. He turned back at the city before he began his journey to meet his old friend. His wispy strands of hair caught the wind, as his face lowered in disappointment at what he had found his long awaited home to be. His raised his hands and pulled his hood far over his downcast face. Turning, he slowly walked down the muddy road in the darkness, his stick guiding his way.

It wasn’t long until a faint light came upon him in the darkness.

“Welcome back, what took you so long?” Archeantus asked mentally to his small friend.

The warlock stopped in his tracks as he was informed of the news.

“You’ve seen her? Is she in immediate danger? What is her condition? How disoriented?”

The answers flowed as fast as the questions came.

He seemed contented and thoughful at the information. But a rising fear was building in his heart.

“I fear our promised reunion will be a bitter sweet one old friend.” He spoke to the fell wind as much as the glowing ember that floated about his face. “It seems we are born to face the worst of things…perhaps that is our ultimate calling…perhaps…” His thoughts continued onward as he then began to walk once more.

The wind picked up, and he had to brace himself.

He walked for about an hour longer as the night deepened and the moon cleared the parting clouds. It was then that he sensed immediate danger. Not for him, but for his friend.

Suddenly he quickened his pace.

“Angellus, go, find him. Quickly!”

The small ember didn’t waste a second and flew off like a bat out of hell into the darkness ahead.

****

Gadianton grimaced at the sheer cold. They had slowly made their way in the blizzard, cutting a line in the deepening snow that soon faded. With their heads tucked deeply into their thick cloaks, their vision nearly completely useless in the driving wind and snow, even Gadianton began to wonder if they were lost. But it was in the middle of the chaos of the blizzard that Gadianton had a piercing thought blow into his troubled mind.

He could have sworn he’d been here before.

The thought was gone as soon as it came, like the wind that incessantly rushed at them.

“Soon,” he told himself, “Soon.”

Raising his head to bear the bitter wind, straining to see ahead, he gasped as a dark shadow descended upon them…

****

Jasmine awoke with a start, her breaths coming out in quick heaves. The pain was sharp as she grabbed her forearm. The curse was spreading. She had had the nightmare again. There was not a night that passed that it did not come. She rose from her bed roll and sat up. Looking around she knew it had rained.

As her heart rate lowered, she looked around camp and saw the cat-like creature now slept by the dying fire, but the undead creature had been staring at her ever since she had awoken, almost eagerly.

“Sabbatine.” She said after a long thoughtful stare between the both of them. “Are you capable of love?”

It was the first words she’d spoken to the undead woman.

Written by - Sycon

"Be as arrogant as you will Ardwen, I know who you are. I've known you for far too long. You hide yourself," Another strike, another parry, "even from the gods. You say Ariana is still in the city? Then why would you go back if the old Ardwen is dead? To pay a debt? Or find remorse... you elves are so blind to your own natures."

Sycon knew Ardwen was the better fighter with the blade, but he relied completely on technique. Sycon used his newfound passion. His reliance on his soul that he had never tapped before coming here. Every strike he could feel himself build higher and higher, almost as if gaining altitude to the clouds. The air around Sycon's whirling blade became colder and colder with each twist, jab, and shirk.

Sycon's blade seemed to be turning to ice, but not more brittle. His movements became farther and farther from the teachings of the jen'e'tai. They became more random, more animalistic. They retained the timing and precision some would remotely call jen'e'tai, but the form had twisting with each move, the dance was turning more into a mosh. Unpredictable yet efficient.

Sycon's eyes dulled from their green nature. It seemed to fade into his pupil and was slowly being replaced with a pale white, almost of that of an albino. He could feel an energy rising up inside him, but for what it was he did not know. He could feel pressure on the inside of his chest...

Another strike, another parry. "Will you ever see past your own nose?"

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya heard the voices of others enter the cell, but she was beyond the point of caring. Her body was weakening, her mind starting to shut down. When Leov set her down she found some strength to move to the corner, but that took the last of it from her. She opened her weary eyes in time to see Leov being restrained and a couple of elfs coming towards her. The end is near, the pain, over soon. She closed her eyes as rough hands grabbed her, pulling her up. She softly smiled as the darkness overtook her and her cares slipped away.

"Garth, she's passed out."

"Who cares, she will be easeir to string up." Garth spat out. "Bring them both; the sailor can watch."

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine squinted at Jasmine, pinching off the pale glow coming from her eyes. Then she cocked her head, still peering at Jasmine.

"I killed my parents you know." Sabbatine said, watching Jasmine's reaction "I tried to kill my fiance that same night."

She grinned showing all her perfect white teeth.

"My parents tried to marry me to that...that... PIG... the bastard who would later turn me into this." she pointed at herself "I stabbed them all with a knife, the same knife I was eating with."

Sabbatine nodded enthusiastically, folding her arms across her chest.

"I think I could love... if I wanted to... but I never wanted to, not even while I was still alive." she paused abruptly and seemed deep in thought "I do love one thing... I love killing the things that would hurt me."

"Do you love anyone?"

Written by - Ardwen

"Be as arrogant as you will Ardwen, I know who you are. I've known you for far too long. You hide yourself," Sycon attempted another blow, Ardwen turned it aside with the longer of his two blades, of course, Sycon took the time to continue, "even from the gods. You say Ariana is still in the city? Then why would you go back if the old Ardwen is dead? To pay a debt? Or find remorse... you elves are so blind to your own natures."

Another strike, another parry. "Will you ever see past your own nose?"

“Ugh,” Ardwen began, “Why in the hell does everything have to be a moral battle to you? This isn’t some high-minded bullshit about nihilism versus theism – I’m just doing what I want to do. So call it paying back an old debt. I hate being in debt you know, probably why I love vengeance so much. It’s a paying back of sorts, no?”

Ardwen let out a sigh and continued, “How long do you intend to carry on this mummer’s farce? Ariana’s dying in Westgale, and you’re in my way. Either stop hindering me or I’ll take off the kid gloves and show you why a cobbled-together craft from half-brained humans is as pathetic as it sounds.”

As it turns out Sycon did do something, the air around his blade became cold, it almost seemed as if his blade had a sheen of ice across it. His strike became more random, deviating farther and farther from the traditional Jen’e’tai style. Sycon’s eyes shifted in color, and his style became more forced. Ardwen merely frowned.

“I’m getting tired of teaching you.” Ardwen used both his swords to slap Sycon’s longsword out of a thrust before continuing, “Use that lump of meat between your ears for more than a window into a woman’s pants and think. So yes, you’ve made your techniques less predictable, bravo. You failed to do two other things that would actually make such a shift significant.”

Ardwen’s frown only deepened as he made a sweeping motion with the longer of his two swords and swung down the shorter blade in a swift, sharp, motion that caused it and Sycon’s longblade to clang loudly, “A swordfight is not the same as a fistfight. Do you remember nothing of the two mountains and valleys? I’m going to give this a little longer, fail to impress me and I will end this little game of yours. Ariana is more important than your life, and more important than my own. Make your choice.”

Written by - Archeantus

As the words came forth in excited tones in the dim firelight from the undead creature, Jasmine did not appear to blanch in the slightest when the grim background of the undead woman was revealed. In fact, it startled her more because of how similar they possibly were.

The moment she had asked the question, she had regretted it. But she hadn’t ever thought she would get the response she’d just received. Now the creature intrigued her. Shifting her eyes to the feline creature, noting its slowed breathing, almost a slight purr, Jasmine again turned her attention to Sabbatine.

She was about to respond to the creature’s initial response but another question was suddenly posed.

"Do you love anyone?"

The question took the breath from Jasmine’s soft lips.

Confronted with such a simple question, to such a difficult answer, Jasmine appeared on the cusp of something she’d been fighting with for longer than she could remember.

And in that moment she finally won, and broke through to the lost repressed memories that made her into the monster she’d become. The emerging memory seemed to shock her once more as if she’d experienced for the first time. As it became clear, in all its gory and tragic detail, her bright eyes darkened and then focused. She then returned her gaze at the undead woman, something she was slowly becoming, and spoke with unbridled fervency.

“I loved as far as one could love and paid the price for it.”

Written by - Pharsalus

Pharsalus took a final, fading glance back at his home and the two lying unconcious within it as he stepped from the thick of the wood onto the hoof-beaten road. He didn't stop - it wasn't necessary. No one knew of his home in the hills, and those that did would not dare come near it. While unfortunate that he was to spend all his time in total seclusion because of them, the rumor and myth that surrounded him ensured he would not be bothered. The girl and her mother were safe.

The road angled downward to the south. The old priest walked lightly, staying close to one edge of the road or the other should he need to hide. As he knew nothing of the adversaries he would soon face, he had no desire to attract unwanted attention to himself. He hummed softly as he went and smiled and sometimes chuckled as he allowed his mind to wander to times and places long lost to him. An intersection was coming up before him - his cource to the young warlock would take him left. For a moment, he'd forgotten this place as that where he'd buried the men whom the brigands killed. He had buried them off the road, in a small clearing about one hundred paces north-east of the intersection. He stopped humming and his slowed his pace, turning his eyes to the woods to his left. He could barely see the graves from where he now stood.

Such a shame, he thought to himself. I suppose...it would be prudent to ensure the dead that their family is safe before I leave!

It was a foolish tradition he'd picked up while living in this unfamiliar world, but it was a tradition to which he adhered whenever he could. He was a priest, and his job was to provide spiritual care to the living AND the dead. He was certain there were no second chances in this world, no Trees of Life to hold Death at arm's length. These men died protecting the women now lying helpless and unconcious in his hut.

He entered the clearing quietly. There was a light shining through a break in the canopy above - it was why he buried them here. Even at night, this place seemed brighter than the thick, dark, uncaring forest around it. It was only proper. The graves were just as he'd left them. There were two, one noticeably larger than the other. The young boy had died to a dagger through his temple trying to save what Pharsalus assumed to be his older sibling. Pharsalus stood at the foot of his grave. The loss of one so young... The Dwarf would have wept some for the boy were he able.

"I am sorry, my boy," he spoke solemnly alloud, "I cannot weep for you. Know only that the girl and her mother are safe." He bowed his head, eyes closed, and mumbled a prayer softly. His gemmed eyes glowed softly as he took one last good look.

"Rest well, Son of Men. May Thurin, my Father, keep you."

A twig snapped. Pharsalus turned to its source. A man stepped into the clearing behind him, his hand cautiously on the trunk of a tree to steady himself. He looked out of place here in this holy place. The priest turned to face the inquisitive passer-by, his stone-carved face solemn and unassuming.

"By the look of you, you've no business here, stranger. I care nothing for your reasons - leave this place. Only the dead and their keeper may sta..." His eyes widened as his mind plucked thoughts from the man's head. He had steadied himself and stood upright, a frown sagging on his pointed chin.

Pharsalus saw in his eyes his own house, the girl, her mother, a boy lying dead in his own blood on a hoof-beaten road. He knew of his home! He knew of the girl and her family. He killed them! The priest felt a fury begin to build, but it quickly evaporated as his concern turned to his home and those lying unconcious inside it. The strange man smiled and retreived a dagger from the back of his trousers, beginning his advance on the Priest.

Pharsalus didn't have time for this now. He could sense from the man's thoughts that there were more of them, some of them probably already at his door. He looked back at the graves behind him. He had to save the women. He could not allow the rest of this family fall. The leaves rustled.

He turned and stepped left, dodging a thrust from the man's dagger. With speed unknown to most humans, he brought his staff from its place on his back and struck it against the man's trunk. He cried out and crumpled to the ground, blood trickling from the side of his lips. The Priest wanted to hit him again, and again, and again. He wanted the man to pay for his crimes! He couldn't explain this fury he felt, this hate. It had been so long since those days so long ago that he barely recognized this burning hatred for this man and his entourage. But now was not the time.

He looked off into the woods toward his home, eyes wide with worry. He hadn't time to lose! He darted off as fast as his legs could carry him. He moved faster now than he ever did on Aerynth, ducking and dodging and jumping under and over branches and tall patches of grass. His trusty staff tinked and clanged against his stoneform back as his body rose and fell.

Just up this hill...almost there. Thurin bless me, I haven't any time!

He couldn't shake the thought of digging two more graves in the small clearing off the road. He couldn't have it. He wouldn't have it! Once again, his innards began to boil. His breathing was heavy as his small, grey body blistered through the woods. He could see his house. He skidded to a hault. The door was open!

"By Thurin's hand..please, no!"

He lunged forward. A scream erupted from within the house, then the crash of pottery on the stone floor. Pharsalus burst forward with all the speed his body could give him. He drew his staff as he crossed the threshold. There was blood pooled under the older woman's cot while she lay in it, still, lifeless, maternal worry eternally stricken across her face. The Priest cried with all the force in his lungs. There was a moment of quiet that fell upon the little stone dwelling as all eyes turned to look at the small, stone man. His gemmed eyes burned white, then blue, then - much to Pharsalus's cautious suprise - a deep crimson. A door slammed, and the shuffling and shouting and crashing continued. Two brigands stood pounding on the door to Pharsalus's quarters. Without anymore hesitation, the Priest flew forward, a grey blur in a grey room.

CRUNCH

He stood with one attacker hunched over his shoulder, his arm through the man's abdomen, gore falling in hot, wet piles beneath them. Blood poured from the man's half-open mouth. Pharsalu's eyes burned ever brighter as his gaze met his victim's. He watched the life drain from the man's eyes, and some part of him enjoyed it. It sickened him inside, but he couldn't help himself. His arm was blood-red up to his elbow, and it slurped and sucked as he withdrew it from the man's torso. The body fell to the ground, and the Priest's eyes turned to the next in line. The man stood against the wall, hands flattened against it, terror pouring in beads down his face. Pharsalus could tell the rogue wanted to cry out. He couldn't. No man could.

The room darkened slightly. Pharsalus turned his burning gaze to the door behind him. More brigands who were only momentarily stunned by all the blood in the small, stone house had moved in behind him. They charged forward, daggers and swords drawn, blindly to a doom they could never imagine. The Priest held his staff out, one end braced gently against his side, his opposite hand extended outward. He had spent the last two hundred years honing his skills in combat. The crimson blaze in his eyes mellowed into a purple as part of his fury subsided. The girl screamed inside his room. The remaining assassing remained plastered to the wall behind him, crippled with the fear gotten by watching your comrade's intestines blown out of his body.

"You want the girl...then you go through ME!"

He dropped his weight and waited for the first of the casualties to make his move.

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine flashed another huge grin at Jasmine.

"You shouldn't be so sad. You tried your best just like me. I wanted to be with my parents but they did not want me. Their death is their fault." she said matter of factly.

"I used to get sad about things." she murmured "But... but then for some reason I just started smiling, and it felt so good. I would smile while I ate and slept. I would smile while I read, and cut up little squirrels. I would even smile while I burned their little bodies. I even smiled while my parents told me... and I smiled when I pushed my knife through his eye."

Sabbatine paused for nearly a minute but it was obvious she wasn't done.

"I think I was smiling when he cut me open and removed my heart, and when he drained my blood. It hurt when he cut off my ears but the pain just faded away when I smiled." Sabbatine went through the motions of sighing, moving just as she would if she had sighed, but no sound or breath came.

The undead woman moved closer to the fire, looking miserable for a moment as she attempted to warm up.

"I think you'll like being like me." Sabbatine offered, for the first time trying to make conversation "You only need to eat when you get hurt... you can hold your breath for a really long time! The only bad thing really is that you will always feel cold."

Sabbatine smiled at Jasmine, though this time it was obvious her smile was purely for show. Sabbatine hated feeling cold and would undoubtedly sit within the fire if it would not sear the flesh from her bones.

Written by - Rikshanthas

"S#%@."

Lienad looked out at the mob from his perch in a raised alcove. There was no way to get into the cell block with all of them clogging the entrace; he might as well try to toss the moon around like a child's ball. The shouts and sounds of struggle could probably be heard halfway across the Citadel, it was a wonder no one else had come to see what all the ruckus was about.

Shara shifted beside him, silently as a leaf on the wind. "Well what do we do now, genius?" she whispered. "I'm thinking, arright?" he shot back just as quietly. Not that there was much to think on. The situation was out of his hands now; all hope of getting things settled quietly had gone up in smoke the moment that crazy mob had shown up. Lienad could only hope Ithramir's arrival wouldn't make things worse, and that there wouldn't be too large a body count when this was over.

****

Sir Mathell shook his head softly at young Gilbert, his stern features expressing his disapproval of the young sailor's utter lack of tact. Not that he was surprised; sailors seldom did have any sense of propriety. When the boy delivered his message however, Mathell understood his lack of courtesy; there was indeed no time to waste. As Gilbert seemed about to physically start dragging Ithramir toward the stockade, the old knight was relieved that the commander agreed to go with him. Mathell approached then, explaining what Lienad had told him and how it related to this news as he accompanied them to the stockade, pausing a moment to retrieve and buckle on his sword and praying he would not need.

Written by - Archeantus

In her own morbid way, Sabbatine had a point. How could she blame the outcome of that first terrifying leap into the deep chasm of love when it was her choice? Or was it? Did she truly choose to fall in love with him? Was it a slip as the term implied? Had she done her best? Despite what had happened, and despite what it had pushed her to do, she dove in with the same hopes as any. She had justified her initial thirst for vengeance because it had been near perfectly justifiable. She had never given anyone the chance to understand, but if she were to have done so, a great many would have given her their sanction, even those of the cloth as she had been. The act that had given birth to the monster she became was something unthinkable, something worth killing for…

But in the middle of satisfying that thirst, she lost the torch she held in the beginning, and from that point on, she’d been lost to all light. Even now, she knew she’d never feel that light again, she’d given up all hope long ago of such a notion. It enabled her to do what had been done to her.

But here she was, rising into something, and yet at the same time lowering into oblivion.

She let out a long soothing tortured sigh looking into the pale face of the full grin of the undead woman. Despite herself, she suddenly stole a clumsy smile in return. It had been a long time. It was over as soon as it formed, but it felt good. She’d forgotten how simple it could be. More memories came, this time far different ones.

“Sabbatine, I hate the cold.” She replied softly eyeing her forearm. “But strangely, I feel anything but in speaking with you.”

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