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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Ariana Page 18 Book 3

The water was cool and pleasantly refreshing, and Mavigan reveled in getting herself clean. When she had finished, she climbed onto a rock and watched the sun sink beneath the horizon while allowing the evening breeze to dry her skin. When she felt she could put on her clothes without them sticking to her body, she hastily dressed and rebraided her hair.

Returning to camp, she noticed two things. First, Teran was standing there in his skivvies, flashing her an enigmatic smile that made her blush. Second, there were two beds stretched out by the campfire, when she distinctly remembered that all of her own gear had been left behind with Keeryn. She looked up to ask Teran where the other bed had come from, only to discover he had slipped away.

Shrugging, she concluded that Teran had come prepared, and laid claim to one of the beds. She was tired, her eyelids heavy and drooping. Thus, it was through half-closed lids and thick lashes that she noted Teran’s return. The light was poor, and her attention was fogged with sleep, yet some part of brain still managed to take note that something about him was different. Too tired to puzzle it out, she fell into a deep slumber.

When she awoke the next morning, the sun was completely up. Teran, had apparently allowed her to sleep late. Mumbling a bit of a grumpy “Thanks”, she rose and helped Teran disassemble the camp. Soon after, he whisked them both through the land of shadows, and the next thing Mavigan knew, Keeryn was in her face hammering her with questions in rapid fire sequence.

Mavigan raised one hand in an effort to stop the onslaught of questions. “It is OK, Keeryn. He didn’t hurt me.” Registering Keeryn’s extreme distress, she added, “In any way. He trained me some. That’s all.”

Mavigan wasn’t sure her response calmed or reassured Keeryn, but Teran did not give them much time for a reunion before they were mounted and headed towards…wherever they were going. As she rode behind him, happily situated on Argent once again, she noted that his hair was now dark instead of grey, and that he appeared younger than he had last night. She hid a smile, thinking that her talk of him being old must have gotten to him. It was nice to know, though, that he had not been lying – but that still created more questions for her than it answered.

Knowing she would not get any answers soon, she instead focused on their journey. She could sense tension rising off of Teran with each mile that got them closer to whatever it was they were chasing. And if Teran was tense, Mavigan knew it would be best to be wary.

Written by - Renalis

Renalis saw as the man sheath his sword, and in response closed his eyes for a second, upon opening them again, they had returned to their previous state. "First, " Renalis spoke calmly, "Back the f&#$ off Kaya," he was not angry, but Renalis was always defensive of his friends, "she acted as she thought right, and thats the only thing that matters. How could she know? Would you have acted any different if you had seen your first demon the night before? I think not."

Renalis now turned back toward Leov, finally aquiring his name, "Leov was it? There is a very big difference, and one you do not seem to grasp. There is of course no 'fair' in war. I too have taken part in wars, led men to their deaths only to see them rise again as undead joining the fight against their once-called friends. So do not spout off your 'sob' stories as if you are the only one hurt by war. But this was hardly war Sir, it was a duel." Renalis paused for a second, "If you were a demon, I would have stuck you down where you stand, without a second thought." Renalis brought the sword back up, "but if it is a 'fight' you wish, then I promise you Sir, that your cheapshots, and even the intervention of your God will not help you."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Jonan layed down in the cart and gazed up at the dark cloudy sky. "It all started about a week ago. There I was just sitting in the Scarlet Raven - minding my own business, mind you - when this little weaselly looking fella comes up to me. "You look like a man of discression," he says to me. 'I can be, if the situation calls for it,' I told him. He had this long, pitch black hood covering his face, so I couldn't see him... but I know he had this wicked little smile on his lips when he slid me that piece of parchment across the table..." Jonan's voice began to trail off, heavy with regret.

"What did it say," Larseno pryed. "Easy now Lar. I told you I'd tell you everything... in time." Jonan picked up another hunk of bread and began to stuff his face again as Larseno began to ponder the merits of his decision to free Jonan.

The cart slowly wound its way through the massive city's streets taking care to avoid the guards' patrol routes. Jonan greedily devoured his food as Larseno sat and pondered what had brought events to the here and now. The two other men with Larseno deftly guided the horses to an abandoned hovel on the farthest outskirts of the town. "Alright boy, you've had more than enough time. Continue your story," Larseno said impatiently.

Jonan yawned, "Fine, fine old man. Anyways... I unrolled the scroll. Like I thought, it was a job." He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "And I'll be damned if it wasn't signed by the Baron Lasave. He wanted to steal the Morning Sun."

"King Pallanon's sword!? What would trash like that want with the last memento of our king," Larseno intejected.

"Relax, old man. Morning Sun isn't the last thing of his we have. But that's not something I'm at liberty to divulge. Anyways... I thought it'd prove a challenge worth of yours truly, and the pay was pretty good, too. At least I thought it was going to be...." Jonan jumped over the side of the cart and started to the door. "The contract said that Beridane had given Morning Sun to Duke Carlyle, one of the chief traitor vassels. So... I went to Carlyle's manse... discreetly of course.... then things started to go sour..."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Renalis now turned back toward Leov, finally aquiring his name, "Leov was it? There is a very big difference, and one you do not seem to grasp. There is of course no 'fair' in war. I too have taken part in wars, led men to their deaths only to see them rise again as undead joining the fight against their once-called friends. So do not spout off your 'sob' stories as if you are the only one hurt by war. But this was hardly war Sir, it was a duel." Renalis paused for a second, "If you were a demon, I would have stuck you down where you stand, without a second thought." Renalis brought the sword back up, "but if it is a 'fight' you wish, then I promise you Sir, that your cheapshots, and even the intervention of your God will not help you."

"Excuse me ladies..." Leov said stepping aside as he drew Sulrista once more. "I've about had it with you!" He quickly brought the sword up and pointed it at him. "Talk talk talk, that's all you do. Right this, wrong that, wars and duels... Same thing, different scale moron." With this, he pulled Sulrista back and charged the mage with reckless abandon.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst and Lucant entered the main area of the grove, seeing Dalomir already setting down by one of the outlying oak trees. He smiled and motioned for them to sit. Although after taking a second glance at Lucant he motioned for him to wait. "Before we start, you should remove your armor. once you know your skill and pwers more, then you can try them with your armor on, but for now, it would be easier for you to start out without it." Lucant nodded, though he was beginning to get used to the weight and feel of the metal around him. Both Dalomir and Tempyst helped the young warrior remove the plate armor and set it carefully upon the ground beside him. Then it was motioned for all to sit down.

"Now first. Tempyst, these lessons will be easy for you as you have already been taught them. These sessions will be more for Lucant's sake than your own. First we will teach how to ground and center." Tempyst nodded and Dalomir began to explain the finesse of connecting with the earth. Lucant tried, he was understanding the concept, for it was not unlike when he worked metal in his forge. But as he tried to visualize the earth, and plants and roots of them all inside, he was drawing a blank. He could feel something, but it was faint, and felt a long way off. After awhile, both Dalomir and Tempyst could sense his trouble. Lucant explained his dilema and Dalomir pondered for a moment. He offered some more suggestions, and they all tried it again, but still Lucant was having problems.

"Tempyst, help me. Look him over with your deep site and tell me what you see." Tempyst held out her hand, focused and grounded, and looked at her husband's aura. Before, it had been deep and green, vibrant and full of life, but something had happenend. It still felt alive, in fact, more alive than any person she had ever looked at like this. She could feel his power, his energy, and there was nothing wrong, but it was different. Instead of fresh and foresty, it felt aged, solid, sturdy, and it even left like a metallic taste in her mouth. Lucant could feel her scan, and it felt good, the link between the two of them grew strong by the moment. Tempyst pulled back, looking a bit puzzled. She explained what she sensed and Dalomir nodded. "It is as I suspected." Dalomir clapped his hands and a initiate came running out. He whispered something in the young one's ear and the druid ran back into the main temple. Both Tempyst and Lucant look puzzled, but Dalomir motioned for them to wait. Then, a few moments later, all three of them heard a booming voice surround them.

"So, why have I been summoned from my nap? Don't ya know it's only been 5 years?"

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir rolled over, a big smile upon his face. "Well that was a wonderful evening..." He stopped mid sentence when he saw that Lithwyn was no where to be seen within her room. He reached out with their link and found her within the citadel, a perplexed, but seemingly busy. He let out a soft sigh, but then just smiled to himself once more. I know my love, you are not yet adjusted to all of this. If it is room you need, you will get it. We have all the time in the world.

After dressing, going to the kitchen to find food, Ithrmis headed to his office. One of his scribes pointed to a wrapped bundle with a note attached. He read the note from the Ardwen and muttered slightly under his breath. "Well, I wish you luck my friend, I wish you luck." He picked up the sword and secured it within a safe in his office, then had a scribe send off a note to Alaric to see what he wanted done with the human artifact.

He then penned another note, this time, to Tempyst and Lucant. He knew he needed to see them, to talk with them, but he was a bit nervous about it to. After all, their unborn child had given up her being to enable him to live. After penning the note, he sent that off with another scribe. That left a stack of papers and reports upon his desk. He briefed himself on them all, but finally had enough. The only way I can truly see how this went is to go talk to the troops, talk to the captains and others myself. Reports are fine, but hearing it, you get a lot more from it. Ithramir informed one of his remaining scribes that he would be talking with the generals and captains and troops and would be back around eight for dinner with two of the heroes of the battle.

Written by - Sycon

They walked in silence, Sycon and Ardwen. Not a word passed between the two, either from respect or perhaps the tangent insanity that Sycon had let himself go on. Ardwen was obviously the superior warrior of the two, but something was changing in Sycon, something deep inside. Was it her that was doing this to him?

Their destination was Westgale, once a mighty city... just like Ancora had been at one time. And just like Ancora, it had fallen to the wrong hands, hands dirtied with corruption and betrayal, hands stained with blood from enemies and allies alike. Filth.

Sycon felt a rise in his emotions again, but only shortly as he caught himself. He let out a long sigh and freshed his mind with more recent troubles. While he knew where he was going, Sycon did not know much more. How long would it take to reach Westgale anyhow? They were going in the right direction, if the crazy elf had read the map right.

Sycon cleared his throat, "How far is Westgale from here?" Sycon did not need to be told the answer. It almost jumped from Ardwen's head to his. It would be a couple of weeks of travel at least, if not longer. Sycon held up his hand before Ardwen could speak. "If its going to take that long..." He took a deep breath and sighed once more. "Very well..."

Many things could travel distances quickly; sound, light, energy, but not people. I'm sure Ardwen would have thought of building a giant catapult made from his enemies... Sycon shuddered, the insane elf was getting to him. Thoughts were the tool Sycon used. Implementation with a bit of tact and suave and he might be able to pull a favor.

Are you there? He paused for a second, allowing time to elapse, hoping she was. He repeated once more, Are you there?

Of course I am, where else would I be?Her tone was happy, that at least gave Sycon hope she would help.

You know you are the only one I love and... Sycon started his suave plea.

What're you buttering me up for, hmmm? I know you, you little kniving fox. You people are always so needy. She giggled once more.

Was she always doing nothing but waiting for him to ask something?

I'll have you know, I am not as lazy as you think. I do and have done far more than you. That's not a good way to impress a lady.

But I always try to ke... Hold on now...you can hear my personal thoughts? Even the ones I TRY to keep to myself?

Hehe, maybe. She quickly changed the subject. But I will help you. I know of your friend, and I know you would be helpless to me if she was not safe. I don't have much time though, I am a busy lady. If a thought could smile, it just did.

Sycon turned to Ardwen, stoping his relentless step after step. "Ardwen... lets have a rest and wait for a while. We're going to have company soon."

Written by - Ardwen

Sycon broke the silence of their journey, "How far is Westgale from here?" Startled, Ardwen had not realized how long they had gone without speaking, he was so focused on his objective the outside world had seemed to grow dim and distant. Ardwen pondered Sycon’s question for a second, but before he could speak Sycon motion for him to not bother. "If its going to take that long..." Sycon began, paused, then took a deep breath only to release it in a sigh, "Very well..."

Ardwen merely shrugged, the sound of his armor rustling against itself pierced the night air. He took another step toward what he thought was Westgale . . . only to have Sycon stop him again. "Ardwen...” He began, “lets have a rest and wait for a while. We're going to have company soon."

Ardwen merely looked at him, his head tilted slightly to the side, his eyes narrowing, “Company?” He said suddenly, “Rest?” He paused again to let out his own sigh, struggling with internal doubts, “I . . .” Another pause, “trust you Sycon. Very well, we’ll stop until your ‘guest’ arrives. I can only hope that whatever you are plotting is in connection to getting us to Westgale, as I can only assume it is by your inquiry about distance.”

Ardwen looked around briefly and moved out to the side of the small road they were following. He took a look back at Sycon and added, “Feel free to wait wherever you desire, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of some other less . . . accommodating companion arriving while we wait. Best to keep out of the road when we can; we Elves can see better in the dark than any of Aerynth’s children. Save perhaps the Nightborn. But, if it’s one of them we meet, then maybe I can talk him into help us. Eh, but what are the chances of that?” Ardwen tossed a slight rueful smile at Sycon before stepping into the murk of the forest surrounding their path.

Written by - Tempyst

"So, why have I been summoned from my nap? Don't ya know it's only been 5 years?"

The deep, gruff voice seemed to surround Tempyst and Lucant, almost shaking them into their bones. But Dalomir smiled. "Argus! Great to hear you, come on out." He waved a hand, motioning to someone behind Tempyst and Lucant. They both turned to look, to see a naked dwarf emerge from from a large rock behind them, just like the druids they had seen before emerged from the trees. Lucant took a deep breath, and wondered to himself if he would ever get used to this part. Tempyst just smiled, placing a hand upon Lucant's shoulder. A yound druid rushed over with some robes and helped the sleepy dwarf dress. Dalomir stood, then walked to him, extending his hand and giving the druid a mighty handshake. Tempyst and Lucant stood in respect for the elder druid.

"Well, nice to see you too Dalomir, but I say, this had better be important. And you, apprentice, go bring me food and ale, STRONG ale. I'm starving."

Dalomor chuckled. "I think meeting Nyrodis' avatar is an occasion to awake you, plus, I am in need of your help."

"Avatar! Well why didn't you say so Dal! Why didn't you wake me sooner?" Argus looked both Tempyst and Lucant over then stepped quickly to Lucant and bowed. "I be Argus Stoneshaper. Tis an honor sir to meet you and be in your service. "

Lucant blushed, not being used to all this attention. But he took adeep breath and took the druid's hand within his own, shaking it hardily. "Please, call me Lucant and the honor is mine to meet another elder." As their hands gripped, Lucant felt something, a feeling of comfort and knowledge pass through him. This dwarf, I feel like I know him, know of him...I like him. "Please, come and sit down with us, I am anxious to hear too, why Dalomir here woke you up."

As they walked back over to the tree, Argus spoke up again. "And who is this lovely lady?"

Lucant smiled proudly. "This is my wife Tempyst, also the..."

Argus turned to Tempyst. "You must be the young elder I heard the whispers about. Tis an honor to meet you as well. Quite an accomplishment being the youngest elder druid ever."

"Tis an honor to meet you as well. It is not often one gets to meet one of the Stoneshaper clan." They all reached the tree just in time for the food Argus had requested. He dug in quickly and enthusiastically. They all made a little small talk, filling in Argus of the weeks events. Then, when it seemed he had had his fill of food and drink, Dalomir got down to business.

"Well, Argus, I had you woken up for a more pressing reason than to just feed you and fill you in on news. Lucant here, is in need of training. We started off with the basics of grounding, but he just cannot grasp it..."

"Well, ya can't expect him to pick it up like a child could Dal, he has a bunch o unlearning to do..."

"No, no, no Argus, please, let me finish" The dwarf grumped at Dalomir. "Tempyst and I both looked his aura over and it is differnt than ours. I ask you, please look at him closely and see if our suspicsions are correct."

Lucant looked at all of them, a puzzled look upon his face. "What is going on? Do you mean I am different? I am not a druid? Is it becasue I am an avatar? Please, tell me."

"Keep yer pants on Lucant, nothing is wrong with you. Just calm your self and let me take a look." Lucant let out a sigh, closed his eyes and took deep breaths as Argus looked him over with his druidsite. After a few moments, Argus got a big grin on his face and lept over the food and embraced Lucant in a tight hug. "Praise everything it tis true...we have another Stoneshaper!"

Lucant wheezed, trying to breath within Argus' grasp. "What....do...you...mean?"

Argus let him go, a big smile on his face. "Well my son, most druids, most anyone who serves Nyrondis is what i call a treehugger. But, there are a few, a very few who connect with a deeper part of nature, we connect with the earth and stone, the minerals and ores within the soil. We are the Stoneshapers, and you my dear boy, are one of us. That is why you could not focus on the tree like yer wife and Dal here. You have other talents. I bet, I bet you are a blacksmith yes?" Lucant nodded. "And I also bet it was like second nature to you, the iron would almost shape itself, it was so easy for you."

Again, Lucant nodded, remembering indeed how easy it is for him to work the metal in forge. "What does this mean then?"

"It means, that I my son< am your new teacher! And there is no time like the present to get started. Nyrondis himself tells me that you will be needed on the road again soon, so we must get started. So, give yer wife a kiss, you will see her later tonight, but for now, yer mine."

Lucant, though a bit surprised at the quickness of all this, felt at ease with Argus and did as the dwarf said. Tempyst smiled. "It will be alright sweety, I have my own lessons to work on. I will be waiting for you in our room later with food." She gave him a sly smile, kissed him and hugged him, then disrobed and walkedinto the tree iwth Dalomir.

"Now, now, quit looking at her fanny and lets get a move on son." Argus chuckled and let Lucant to the large rock he had emerged from. "Now, normally I would take the time to teach you to do this yourself..but for now we need the excellerated lessons, so you will just have to trust me. Take off them clothes, then take my hand." Argus removed his robe and waited. Lucant disrobed, surprised at himself for not feeling as awkward as he thought he would. Tempyst has helped with that I believe. Then he took Argus's hand. Argus smiled. "Okay now son, close your eyes and trust me...no hesitation and all will be fine." Lucant closed his eyes, putting all his trust in Argus. Then he felt Argus move forward and he followed, and within moments, felt a cool, comforting blanket wrap around him as Argus pulled Lucant into the rock and both of them disappeared within the stone.

Written by - Renalis

"Excuse me ladies..." Leov said stepping aside as he drew his blade once more. "I've about had it with you!" He quickly brought the sword up and pointed it at him. "Talk talk talk, that's all you do. Right this, wrong that, wars and duels... Same thing, different scale moron." With this, he pulled his sword back and charged Renalis with reckless abandon.

Renalis couldn't help but smile, seeing Leov charge he pulled back and went on the defensive. The winds once more began to rise up, this time more fierce than the last. Renalis could see the anger and rage in Leov's eyes, and even with the wind guiding the blade of his foe, his wide swings and reckless attacks were easy to parry or avoid completely.

Unable to resist the temptation, Renalis decided to provoke his foe further, lecturing as he fought, "Right and wrong, good and evil, its the only thing that defines who and what we are, its what sets us apart from the mindless demons roaming the void, ravaging entire worlds." Renalis could feel the winds pushing his own blade off target, but he was able to compensate with some effort, continueing to deflect, parry or dodge every attack he threw out. "Choice is what makes us, us. And chosing right over wrong, good over evil is what lets us oppose them, to stand with the light and hold back the darkness, to help the helpless and defend the defenseless."

The winds continued to increase, as too was the Man's anger, and Renalis continued to play off it, keeping on the defensive, but in total control. Deciding he had said enough, Renalis decided to end it, and brought his left hand foward, as if to snap his fingers, "Your eyes..." Renalis could hear like a whisper in the winds themselves, and Leov brought his left arm up to shield his eyes. Renalis frownd slightly as the bright flash went off, eminating from his hand as he snapped his fingers. "damn her... ah well, the damage was done..." Taking the opporatunity while Leov couldn't see, Renalis extended his leg and swept it below Leov's sending him to the ground.

As Leov landed flat on his back, Renalis brought Azurewrath to his neck, "If this were war Sir, you would be dead." Renalis paused a moment, "And Sir, there is a very big difference between the two, not just numbers, but intent, cause, and consequence." Renalis backed up a few paces, sheathed his blade, turned and headed off.

Seeing the duel over, Crystal moved to Renalis's side, and seeing her coming, he held out his hand for her. Taking her in his arms and walking off, he kissed her lightly on the cheek and headed over to Trinni. Letting go of Crystal for a second he bent down and hugged Trinni, as one would a little sister "You have my thanks Trinni, although I can handle myself," Renalis winked at her, "And I truely appologize for giving you the scare yesterday that I'm sure I did..." Renalis paused as he could 'feel' the sadness in Crystal, he back up and wrapped his arms around her, "...Melamin*" hugging her slightly, she smiled again. Turning back towards Trinni, and trying to be as formal as possible, "Amin hiraetha Arwen en amin**" Renalis turned back to Crystal a hand extended towards her, "This is my wife, Crystal" Notioning back to Trinni, "Crystal, this is Trinni A'syona Kilya Featherheart D'Thelanis." Renalis smiles slightly at the pride of remembering her whole name. Crystal gives a fake curtsy, not wearing a skirt after all,

"A pleasure."

****

* My Love
** I'm sorry My Lady

Written by - Teran

Teran turned his party to the north and they made relatively quick pace on horseback. It was hard travel, exhausting even. Every morning they would start at 5:30, take a brief break at some point in the afternoon, generally whenever they came across water, and would travel until 10:30 at night. Once they had their camp set Teran would feed their mounts a rejuvinating elixer of some sort. He did not offer any such elixer to his companions.

Sabbatine kept watch all night every night because she did not need to sleep. Her mumbling and constant movement made the environment less than ideal for sleeping but Teran had no problem finding sleep after a long day of travel. The worst nights were those when Sabbatine caught something to eat. She had no use for cooking and she preferred her food raw so the others would have to cope with the sounds of tearing flesh and if she was in a cruel mood, the tormented cries of an animal being eaten alive.

Teran appreciated the element Sabbatine brought to the group. Being near the undead construct must have been an experience completely alien to Mavigan and frightening to Jasmine. A creature most would assume was evil based simply on the fact that her heart has stopped beating, yet she was not evil... merely disturbing.

Sabbatine nudges Teran roughly just before it was time to wake.

"They are near." she hisses "A few hours away on foot."

Teran makes sure Jasmine, Mavigan and her strange companion have woken up as well and quickly gets to work packing up their camp.

"We will be leaving our horses here." he says as they finish packing "We will need to travel lightly. We are in our enemies territory today and we must be on our guard."

Teran inspects each of his companions closely making sure they are not exhausted to a point where they would be a danger to him or themselves. When he is satisfied he nods to Sabbatine and she begins to lead them through the rocky terrain. A light drizzle begins to fall just before dawn and as they follow Sabbatine the air grows more and more stale. The trees they pass grow steadily more and more sickly looking until there are no trees at all.

A light fog sets in muffling all the noises around them and reducing their visibility quite a bit. Strange sounds can be heard through the fog, rocks tumbling, twigs snapping, and the occasional unidentifiable sound. It was clear they were not alone, but whatever it was either did not notice the party or did not care about their presence.

By noon they are standing on the lip of a small valley. Sabbatine points into the valley while she looks over at Teran. It was obvious this was the center of the corruption. Teran felt a tingling sensation and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he peered into the valley. There was nothing outwardly evil about it but Teran knew his senses were not lieing to him. The valley floor was barren except for a single structure. Judging from the architecture Teran guessed it was a crypt, he also guessed that there were more of the crypts in the area and that they were very likely connected by catacombs.

"Down there." she growles "I can smell other magics as well."

Teran turns and looks at each member of the party making one last check for weakness.

"Are you prepared for this?"

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm and his troop did not have long to wait. The sun had only started to rise when Wilhelm's tracking sense noted Teran's group moving North. Wilhelm's troop mounted and followed. They quickly fell into a standard drill during the long hard travelling that followed, day after day.

Archmage Resini, who had a lock now on the two stones, and Wilhelm traded off keeping track of the group ahead of them. The mages Danil and Aldeth took turns maintaining a stealth cloak around them, shielding them from magical and physical detection, while Hilda maintained a local scan for dangerous lifeforms nearby. The elven ranger Fiernum, initiate of Avandor, maintained a light spell around them when they needed to ride on after sunset. Gareth, initiate of Nyrandis, took care of the horses, augmenting their stamina as they rode and healing their strains when they finally made camp. Maeve, initiate of Nagarren, did the same for the people. Sandra, initiate of Tiertiala, maintained a travelling chant, accelerating their own time rate relative to the outside world so they passed quickly across the plains. Ethan, Supply Sargeant and initiate of Tinorb, managed the pack horses and provided food to the people and grain to the horses.

Shortly after dawn they rode into rocky terrain through a light drizzle and discovered the horses Teran's group had left tethered at their campsite. Wilhelm greeted Argent warmly, and made sure he was unhurt. Wilhelm's troop dismounted, as it was clear that Teran felt that one must proceed on foot hereafter. Wilhelm designated Gareth and Hilda to remain behind and care for the score of horses. Gear and supplies were redistributed and a magically-heated meal was consumed.

Taking their leave from the two remaining behind, Wilhelm led the other seven out on foot to follow Mavigan. The land appeared more and more blighted and finally the trees ceased and a light fog arose. Resini, Aldeth and Danil joined powers to weave a stealth shield around them, masking the group from the evil forces they could detect all around, while all of them took care to make as little noise as possible. At noon Wilhelm noted that Teran's group had paused up ahead and his group stopped to rest and refresh, arming and preparing themselves for the action likely to follow. In this desolate region any encounter was likely to be an unfriendly one.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya walked over to Leov, watching him pick himself up grumbling, and dusting off his behind. "Well, do you have another fight to pick or can we talk now?"

Leov gave her a cross look. "Look, just say what you have to say."

Kaya sighed, knowing already this was not going to go the way she had hoped. "Okay then, Why were you so interested in what I knew about demons? What do you know?"

"Some damn cat... kid... something... got at me last night. He said something... interesting to me. I was wonderin' if you'd seen it, too." He looked at her hopeful.

She shook her head no. "I've not seen any cats, but then, I was kept pretty secluded when I was possessed. However, Lucant Dolvan, the one who slew the demon that had possessed me, was attacked last night and was infected with demon taint. I have not had a chance to talk to him yet though." Kaya looked at Leov intently. "What did this cat/kid thing say to you?"

Leov's tone was to the point. "Nothing that pertains to you."

Kaya lifted a hand, almost in defense. "Hey, listen, I am now the one that is supposed to hunt these things. If you have information I would appreaciate it."

Leov shrugged. "Heh, you know as much as I do."

"So in other words..you have nothing more to tell me."

He smirked. "Finally, someone who understands."

Kaya took a deep breath, starting to get a little annoyed with this man. "Are you always this business like when not rescuing damsels? I was hoping we could have dinner, as a thank you."

Leov shook his head no. "I don't think so. I did what I had to do, and now I have more important business elsewhere to attend to."

Kaya sighed and held out a hand. "Well thanks any way. Please, if you do get any other information on any demons, let me know, I would be glad to help out."

"Yeah...sure thing." Kaya heard the sarcasm in his voice and watched him turn, to walk back down the road, out of the Grove's training area.

Kaya called out. "Good luck Leov Klein, in whatever you do."

Leov did not turn back, but only raised a hand in acknowledgement. "You too miss."

Kaya turned around and saw that Renalis and Crystal and the younger elf still there, all cozy in conversation. Well, I think I have learned what I can from them at this time, I will leave them be. I think I need to go eat, relax, then learn some of this nature stuff.

Alanthear spoke up. Kaya tensed for a moment, then regained control. Magic is a very useful skill Mistress, it can help you against demons that are impervious to physical attacks. It would be a good thing to learn such. I can help you, for that is my purpose with you; we are a team.

Then after lunch we shall begin!

Kaya made her way back to the grove, and when she finally sat down for lunch, was thankful for he pillows she sat upon. She ate her lunch heartily, but as she sat there, her thoughts drifted to how she got here, and those that were responsible for it. The name and the face of Beridane would not leave her thoughts. SO help me Beridane, I will see you dead, one way or the other, I will see you dead.

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly. At first, the teachings one elder tried to get her to learn just flew in one ear and out the other. But then she switched places with one who had seen combat and knew the mind of a warrior. Kreegar knew how Kaya needed to learn and soon she was doing cantrips with ease. But the magic drained her, but she did not mind, for her it was an excuse to get into the tub again.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon started moving off of the road as well. Ardwen lead the path through the patch of dense wood, but not too far off the road. After all, they would need to be found by their company and not passed over as a squirrel in a bush.

They stopped, and there was a dead silence. It seemed almost akward between the two of them, something was offset. Was there still prejudice in the old elf's eyes, or did they still thrive with a fighting spirit. Sycon realized it had been a long time since he had actually looked into Ardwen's eyes. Looking into the mind of a person and looking into their eyes were completely different experiences. A thought could tell you information, but the eyes...

The silence between the two stretched for several minutes. Enjoying the rest would have been a good excuse, but somehow it just didn't cut it. Where was the noise? There were no birds chirping, no rustling of the bushes, not even a breeze through the trees. Silence like this could offset someone very quickly, and probably Ardwen had noticed it before Sycon had.

It was then three voices came. Celestial voices, if one would describe it. The same way she sounded in his head. It started as a small humming noise, almost like a persona of presence, and it elevated until it was all Sycon could hear. It was deafening, but it did not cause pain. It soon drowned out all the world, all his senses until he was surrounded by nothing but noise. Was there a color to noise?

He stood in front of three mighty figures, he had seen some before or some likeness of, and one he did not recognize in the slightest. Probably from being too short of time in this world. All had an aura of power about them, seeming to encompass the entire space they occupied, where ever that... or rather this, was. Standing beside him was his lady, almost looking as confused as he thought himself to look at the moment. Though she took it very well, very composed.

She spoke first, "Its not every day I see any of you, and all of you at once... why I'm flattered." Sarcasm was never scarice with her, though the smile still resounded clearly around her face. "No offense mi'lords, but a lady has work to do. As a matter of fact," She turned slightly and noticed Sycon standing beside of her. A flash of surprise quickly bolted through her face, but it quickly resided to her former composure. "I see."

"Might I... what am I doing here?" Sycon's face still screwed up in confusion.

The All-Father was the first to speak, "You have been charged with the rescue of Ariana. Not by force, but of your own choosing. We have interest in your events and wish to give a helping hand. You have known me since the days of Aerynth, Sycon. You know that Ariana helped all those she could in the previous world and this world as well. She has been through hell and back again, only to know pain as a result. You, Sycon, and Ardwen have chosen to save her from her misery. My forgotten child Ardwen would not wish to speak with me, so my plea goes to you. You and your lady." The All-Father paused to look at the beautiful woman standing beside Sycon. "We do not interfere greatly with the world, but we do as we can. I, as well as my counter-parts, wish to offer you assistance in your endeavor. To you and your lady. Would you accept our help and our gratitude."

Sycon was stunned, as did the look on the his lady's face. You could even say she was "tickled pink" with the idea. She turned to Sycon with a small grin on her face, "You have more surprises up your sleeve than I would have guessed. You really are a kniving fox are you, my darling." She turned to the three magnificient figures and bowed to them. "Yes, Sycon and I will accept your proposal and do what we can. You also know that I do not interfere unless there is great need and it seems there is. I will keep an eye on the situation, just as I figure you are as well. I will leave the grunt work to Sycon and his Elven friend, but I will give them assistance as I can."

The All-Father spoke once more, "Very well. I grant you a small fraction of my power, mi'lady. Through it, it can trickle to Sycon. Nagarren," Nagarren nodded indicating his approval, "will also supply what she can, sufficient for the task. Tiertiala, Goddess of Travel," the second figure nodded her head in approval, "will assist you in getting there. She will grant you a bubble as you will. This bubble will encompass you until you reach Westgale and allow you to travel the distance of a normal days flight to an hours time. Be wary that outside the bubble time will have slowed for you and exitting without dispelling could be fatal, or worse. Do you understand?" Both Sycon and his lady nodded their heads. "I wish you the best of luck, time is of the essence."

The noise faded, and Sycon seemed to drift back down into reality. Reality... it was a nice concept, though speaking with gods sure did not ruin one's day... usually. Ardwen was staring into Sycon's eyes. Knowing something was amiss, but rather would not ask.

"She's here." Sycon spoke. He ran to the edge of the trees and out onto the road. Large gusts of wind seemed to rain down on him as beast of colossal size landed near him. It was beautiful. Her scales were silver, perfectly polished to mirror image. Her body and curves like liquid mercury and her eyes, orbs of silver and white light. A dragon, wise and knowing, powerful yet beautiful stood before Sycon. Her head tilted at him.

"Shall we?" She inquired.

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant opened his eyes and found himself standing at the mouth of a cave, dressed in simple robes. He looked around and saw argus there as well, also, thankfully, dressed. "Where are we?"

Argus smiled. "We are in the same place your wife goes when she enters the tree. Except, she is down there." The dwarf pointed over the edge of the cliff, the Lucant just noticed they were on. Down below was a lush valley surrounded by a deep, verdant forest. "But ye need not be concerned with that there, it is here I am sure you will feel most at home at."

Lucant took a deep breath and realized, he did feel at ease here, at peace. "But why am I here Argus? What is this stonshaper you keep talking about."

Argus motioned for Lucant to follow him into the cave. "It is exactly what is sounds like son. Most druids, those who serve Nyrondis, feel the world around them, the plants, animals, elements, the earth they walk upon. They hear them, talk to them, work with them. But there are a few, a very few, who work with what is the foundation of this world. And they are the stoneshapers. Your wife, she can hear whispers right? Well, I bet if you asked her, she woudl tell you the only thing she cannot really hear is the stone. The rock upon which she walks on. But the stoneshapers, we hear the stone, clear as day. We feel its strengths, we know its weaknesses, we can feel it. The stone, the minerals, the ores. Tell me son, when you worked the metal in the forge, did you now speak to it. Coax it into what you wanted it to become? Think back son, think!"

Lucant nodded, closed his eyes and remembered what it was like at the forge. He loved it there, he felt at home there. No where else had he felt more comfortable. He remember taking the metal, heating it, cooling it, shaping it. He remember talkging to it in his mind, sometimes even aloud, and when eh did, it responded, he knew, he could see that now. Not once did anything he made ever fail or break. Not once did he ever make a bad horseshoe, or a bad tool. "Yes, yes Argus, I remember being in the forge and I did talk to the metal and it...it seemed to talk back to me."

"Huzzah boy, that is what I am talking about. That is your gift, you have always had it and it is a rare and precious talent. And here, in this glorious place, you shall learn to do more than just shape metal. You will learn to become one with the stone, to move earth, create great works, learn to protect as well as crush your enemies. You will learn it all."

Lucant took a deep breath and smiled. He did feel good here, at home, in his element. "I am ready Argus...teach me, please."

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