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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Tempyst Page 4 Book 3

Time seemed to pass quickly within the Elder Sleep. Tempyst felt like she had been within it for days or even weeks. She took in the knowledge offered to her; learned how to control her own body, to regulate her cycles so she could decide when she would bear children, to keep herself healed and more resistant to poisons and much more. She learned how to gain more from the earth and to not expend herself so greatly as she had just done. Tempyst also came to peace with life and death; fully understanding the cycles now, having lived them instead of just known of them. She found her focus and her strength within the sanctuary; she found her way.

Tempyst felt as if she could stay within the elder sleep forever though. IT was serene, peaceful, it was comfortable. But then something brought her mind back to the present. It was like she saw something in the corner of her eye, or heard something behind her. She looked, but whatever it was, it was gone. Tempyst went back to her learning, but now, her focus was off. Had someone called me? She wondered. Some time later, just when she had all but forgotten the disturbance earlier, she felt it again, this time, it was fainter, more distant. But much sleep was still needed, and soon the it recaptured Tempyst with its warmth and knowledge.

Written by - Rikshanthas

When the three companions had finished their meal, Lienad stood lazily and looked himself over critically, as if only now aware of the shredded state of his leather armor, and the many broken links in his chain shirt. He snorted. "Guess I'm paying a visit to the smith's," he said wryly, stripping off the damaged armor leaving only his sleeveless undertunic. Then he gave a sudden start as he realized in all the fuss, he had forgotten -- "Nightwind!"

Sir Mathell chuckled. "So that's what you call her," he said, smiling. "As soon as I found you were at Minas Aure I knew that mare had to be yours. She's still stabled at Minas Aure, right where you left her I imagine. In forty years I've never seen such a stubborn animal; I've known mules that were more cooperative. Much like her owner," he added sardonically.

Lienad stopped a moment, then burst into laughter at the implication. When he regained his breath, all he managed to say was, "Greenhilt," before the laughter took him again; his last comment set Sir Mathell into a fit as well, until Shara demanded to know what could possibly be so funny about a veiled insult, and who or what "Greenhilt" was. Lienad answered, wiping a tear from his eye, "oh, it's a looong story, I'll have to tell you sometime, when we have a few hours to spare. But right now I have a certain stubborn horse to retrieve," he chuckled, "since she has all our supplies. And you wanted to know what happened to that elven lady -- and I bet she was, too, no common footsoldier has that proud bearing, or that kind of skill. Best thing would be to talk to Ithramir, I'll lay odds he knows where she is." Then with a quick kiss on the cheek that had the intended effect of startling her into not arguing, he headed off toward the Gate, stopping only a moment to borrow a cloak against the rain.

Shara watched him go, still shaking her head softly at being brushed off so quickly. She flushed deeply when she saw Sir Mathell smiling sympathetically at her discomfiture. "Nearly a decade since I last saw him, and the man hasn't changed," he said in a jocular tone, putting an arm around the young elf's shoulders and gently leading her toward the table where Ithramir and Lithwyn sat. "You'll get used to it lass. Or you'll kill him. I strongly recommend the former." Shara only smiled.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov reluctantly tore his gaze away from the little brass ring - heavy with memories and regrets - and watched as the guest kept flowing in. He saw the long-haired man from the tavern, the one whose interference had landed him in jail in the first place. Leov started off towards him at a brisk pace. Aelyndria merely sat back and watched like she already knew what was going to happen.

When Leov saw the man turn and speak to Lithwyn and the man hanging on her shoulder, he stopped dead in his tracks. "Seems the bastard has some powerful friends... oh well, it don't mean a thing..." He sighed in frustration, then turned back to his hiding place. Sipping a glass of water, Aelyndria looked up and said to him "I'm very proud of you, child. You showed some restraint for once." Leov didn't say anything, he just sat back down and kept on waiting. "What are you waiting for, child? Hesitation will profit you nothing." She was testing him again, but Leov was ready this time. "It's not the right time. You've waited for what... centuries... what's a few more hours gonna do to you?" He sat down beside her and continued to observe the scene.

Leov was growing increasingly sick of this room filled with love and joy.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen rose slowly. His mind moved idly, trying to grasp what had just happened to him. He had rejected the All-Father, in person, now and forever. In doing so he had damned himself once and for all. "How can this be?" Ardwen thought. The ritual had been full of healing and wonder, people embracing, love being born, and old friends reunited. But Ardwen had none of it, no happy reunion, no miraculous salvation; no balm for any wounds beyond what was physical.

The All-Father had made His offer, and Ardwen had rejected it, and that was simply the end of it. Ardwen tossed in his mind for something, for any direction he could carry on, and he found one. He found a rock in the storm that mirrored the one now brewing outside. "I have lingered here too long," the Elf muttered, "I was simply playing at life. This is not my place, this is not my world, this is not my battle."

It was the All-Father's fault, of course. He had ripped Ardwen from Aerynth, had placed him here in the hopes of redemption. But to what end? Ardwen left the Sacred Grove, walking slowly through the hallways of the Citadel. His first stop was the stable, where the steeds and mounts from the previous battle were being tended. Thankfully the number of dead and wounded horses was incredibly small, since the majority of the fighting had taken place on foot and in cramped city streets. Ardwen wanted only one thing, and after being lead to the horse that had carried him to the battle, he retrieved Turin’s blade – it had been left undisturbed. He carried the blade in the crook of his arms, bearing it like the honorific artifact it was.

It was a small amount of fortune that graced Ardwen when he ran into the servant who he had earlier sent to retrieve map of the Westgale region for him. The man was more than eager to rid himself of his task (and Ardwen suspected of having to be near him), but Ardwen had one final task for him, “Bring me to a chamber and inform Ithramir that I seek an audience with him.” The man bowed once, said nothing, and quickly lead Ardwen to a small chamber outside of Ithramir’s quarters used to receive guests. The man quickly left, he did not ask if Ardwen wanted anything else.

“At one time, I may have taken offense at that.” Ardwen mused as he set leaned Turin’s sword against a wall, beside it he placed the large blade he carried on his back. Ardwen walked over to where the servant had placed the maps on a small wooden desk and opened one up, taking a brief look at some of the names and places before allowing it to roll back upon itself. The warrior took a seat near the desk, making sure there was another one available for whenever Ithramir arrived. Ardwen tapped his fingers on the desk surface, leaned back his head, closed his eyes, and let out a long breath. “This will be one of the most difficult things I have ever done,” he spoke to the vacant room, “but I cannot take this anymore. I never thought I’d see the day when I felt I’ve lived too long . . . but so help me, I have . . . I have.” Ardwen leaned his head forward, letting his mind travel over five-thousand years of life. His mind came to a point, and all Ardwen could think about was a candle argent on an azure field.

Written by - Ariana

"Don't get lost Mavigan. I'll wait for you here." he smiles wickedly as he sits down up against a large tree.

Mavigan gave a huff. “I don’t think so,” she said, grabbing him by the arm as she quickly recited the words he had taught her and connected with the other plane. She was pleased, if a little nauseous, as she felt the world around her shift. Once the world had stopped shifting, and she was once again in that cold environment, she was even more pleased to note her hand still clung tightly to a surprised Teran.

She flashed him a cocky grin of triumph, and proceeded to reverse the process and within moments both found themselves in their previous location. Mavigan was a bit wobbly on her feet, and her stomach was beginning to protest, but she was exhilarated with her success and had no intention taking a break now.

Still clutching Teran’s arm, well aware that he was allowing it now, she performed the process once again, and after a few stomach-rolling moments, they were back in the dark plane. With her free hand, Mavigan made a “in your face” gesture at Teran then stepped close to absorb some of his body heat.

“Ok Teach,” she said, transferring her grip from his arm to the tail of his cloak making it obvious she had no intention of letting go any time soon, “how do I navigate in this hell hole?”

****

There was only darkness. There was only the Void. It surrounded her, filled her…was her. The Void was nothingness, and nothingness was all that existed. Therefore she was nothingness.

She was the Void.

She thought that at one time, she might have been something else. She might have been the opposite of nothingness, might have had a name, a place, a mission…a purpose. But that was all gone now, nothing but the tattered remains of a dream. Had she been a person she would have form – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell – all things pertaining to the realm of Not Nothing.

At times she thought she had those things. Flickers of light would appear to her Nothing eyes, or the sounds of screams and wails and whispers would assault her Nothing ears. Sometimes a phantom breeze would drift coldly across her non-existent skin. But she knew better than to trust such things, disturbing though they were. She knew they were Nothing but illusions, dry smoke and ghostly whispers, crafted out of Nothing for the Void’s own entertainment.

Nothingness was all that existed, and she was the Void.

A flicker of light glowed in the darkness, and had she a mouth, it would have curved upward. The Void must be bored and working to form Nothing into entertainment. The light flashed again, a little closer, a little larger, and she watched with rapt attention, trying to see with her Nothing eyes past the after image to find the glow once again.

The light did not disappoint, and it returned once again, closer still, larger and brighter. This light, she decided, was different than any other illusion she had seen before. This light did not flicker and go out; instead, it seemed to head straight for the center of her being, growing larger and brighter as it traveled to her. The game ceased to be amusing as the light became a blaze and began to devour the Void, burning the blackness, slicing through the Nothingness.

And when this light was joined by a second that seemed to emanate from within her, searing her from the inside out, the blaze burned so brightly that it caused her pain. She instinctually closed her Nothing eyes, and as she did so, a cacophony of sound assaulted her from all sides causing her to scream from vocal cords she did not possess, and cover her Nothing ears with Nothing hands.

A third assault soon followed, a hot, searing, angry wind that billowed around her determined to pull the Void, pull herself, apart with the force of the gale. She was being swallowed, digested, changed from Nothing into Something and the agony was acute. She fought against the Something, twisting the body she did not know she possessed everyway she could, but her efforts to escape the pain were futile.

There was a final great roar, one last flare of brilliant light, and one final tornado-like gust of wind and the Void was reborn.

Where once there had been nothing but darkness, now there was light, and though dim, it still caused her pain and she instinctually closed her eyes. Even then, the darkness was not complete, and she was confused and frightened. Where once she had been surrounded by Nothing, now everything was hard and painful. Cold, unyielding barriers below and behind and beside made her confused and panic began to fill her.

Long-forgotten arms began to flail wildly, desperately trying to find a way to return home. One loose appendage smacked into something hard, but yielding, and as she pushed, there was a loud clang. The noise was deafening to her ears, and she placed her hands on her head and let out a soundless scream. The sounds soon faded and the Nothing, now trapped in the land of Something, curled her newly reborn body around itself in a meaningless gesture of comfort.

Soon, other noises assaulted her ears, not as loud as the first, and some tugging at the faint traces of memory she had left – a lyrical whistle, the sound of metal being shaken, creaks and groans of old wood, and shuffling along a hard surface. And then she heard the voices. These were unlike the indistinct whispers she heard at home. These were spoken clearly and with emphasis, and if she tried, she could even recognize some few –

“What… Who… dirty robe… symbol… Tinorb… dungeon…”

She did not understand the meaning of the words, so she did not react. She was startled to feel contact upon her newly born flesh – warm, rough contact – that lifted her off the hard surface and began to drag her along. She offered no protest, made no sound, and still refused to open her eyes.

She was not aware of how long she was dragged for there was only the Now. She did notice slight differences in the hardness against which parts of her body slid, but they were mere curiosities and held no interest. Eventually though, the bands which held her dropped her onto more hardness, and with a loud burst of noise, her world once again quieted. The dimness behind her eyes grew dark once again, and she braved her new environment and opened her eyes.

Darkness was once again all around her, though not the utter absence of light to which she was accustomed. What little light there was reflected dimly off the hard surfaces of her new world. So, her home was bounded – no longer infinite, but at least it was dark. She unconsciously shifted slightly attempting to ease her ache as she sat upon the hard surface beneath her.

No, she thought as she surveyed her environment, this was not her home.

But it was close enough.

Written by - Tempyst

"What do you mean Rowan cannot make it?" The poor man looked as if he were going to have a heart attack. He looked the half-elf over, impressed by her looks, knowing that her the pale green blouse set off her ashen skin and knew that her white hair and brilliant green eyes would surely catch the attention of many, but he was more concerned with her talent.

As if reading his mind, Nightsong reached out and touched a hand upon his arm. "No worries dear sir, I assure you, you will get a fine performance by me. This celebration will not be brought down by taudry bar songs." She smiled warmly at the overworked priest. Her confidence seemed to help, not to mention, she had a charm about her that seemed to put most people at ease when they spoke at her.

"Alright then. Remember, Lord Ithramir and Lady Lithwyn will be here, as will many brave souls who have fought hard this day. Though many lives were saved and we obtained victory, many lost good friends and loved ones, so please..."

"I understand sir, I will be very respectful." The priest nodded, and pointed her to the stage area, then was quickly wisked away from someone with a pastry emergency. Nightsong stepped into the busy hall, intoxicated by the joy and excitement in the air. It had been a long while since she had felt this kind of anticipation. In fact, she had not felt like this since before the carnival was destroyed because of her. She found her way to the stage and introduced herself to the other performers.

They seemd put off for a moment, having her instead of Rowan here, but she assured them, Rowan told her what was needed. They seemed relieved when she told them there would not be too many slow sappy love songs. "This is a time of celebration my friends; they already know love is in the air, lets keep them happy and joyful and the tips will shower upon us." They laughed and became more at ease. Once she named the first tune though, The Winds of Tiertiala, they relaxed and began to play.

The music started out slow and low. Nightsong's flute could barely be heard above the happy crowd. But she was not worried, the tune swept people up without them even knowing it, like the wind through trees, building into a wonderful lively dance. It was a favorite of sailors as well, and many of them sang it while working on ship. But no words tonight, at least not from her. She was letting her flute speak to the crowd, just as the wind speaks to the sails or through the trees.

Her green eyes sparkled as one by one, the crowd began to get caught up with the music. As she saw this, she motioned to the rest of the performers to start slowly raising the volume. The musicians followed her direction and the music becan to grow, swelling as the wind, dancing to the ears of all who could ear the lively, energetic flute. As the music sped up, more people turned their attention to the muscians. Nightsong was in her element. It had been a long time since she had felt this free and at ease, but then, the Winds of Tiertiala was one of her favorites and always gave her hope.

Finally, the song reached a crescendo, Nightsong's notes flowing through the air. Just then, as the song was reaching its end, a warm, soft breeze wound its way through the crowd, bringing with it the sweet, fresh smell of the sea. Nightsong's heart soared as she felt wind wash over her. She closed her eyes and finished up the inpsiring song. At first there was silence. Everyone stood there, feeling the wind, feeling the music that had filled their souls. Then the applause. Nightsong beamed, and turned to give thanks to the other performers, who in turned were very pleased, especially at seeing some of the tips that were already being tossed into the jar.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

When the band started to play Winds of Tiertiala, he recognized it at the first note. He looked towards the sky and said with a bit of frustration "You won't give me a moment's peace will, you? You always have to make it known that you're here..." Aelyndria turned towards him and sipped her water once more : "Does She speak back to you?" "In Her own little ways..." Leov said quietly as turned his gaze towards the ebon-skinned bard and her accompanyment. "You are truly blessed child. Few can speak with their god so freely, and fewer still receive an answer." Leov didn't say anything to his smug mentor, he just kept on watching the bard. "I never thought about it like that." he thought to himself.

As the song reached its crescendo, Leov saw Dom's towering frame above the crowd. "I was wondering when they'd get here. Honestly, I'm surprised it took them so long. As he stood up to go greet his friends, a warm breeze swept in from the open doors. As it wrapped around him, Leov thought back to what Aelyndria had said moments before. He sighed, then walked towards the beaming bard and her accompanyment.

He took the half-elf's slender hand in his rough, calloused grasp and placed a handful of platinum coins in it. "No one's ever been able to give that song such meaning..." he said in a quiet, serious tone before turning and walking off back into the crowd.

Written by - Teran

"Noo... noo No NO!" Sabbatine yells into the darkness abruptly.

She scurries to her feet and starts poking her spear towards the edge of their camp. After a while when nothing happens, Sabbatine returns to warming herself at the fire, grinning at the two other women.

"They went away." she grinned from ear to ear.

No sooner had she said that did they hear a twig snap in the darkness. Sabbatine's eyes narrowed slightly, and a look of pure uncontrolled hatred filled her eyes.

"I said..." she almost whispers as she stands up "GOOOOO AWAAY!!!" she screams so loudly that anyone within an hour's travel of their camp would hear her.

She stomps into the darkness and pummels whatever the source of the noise was. Something bounces through the fire kicking up sparks and comes to rest right at Keeryn's feet! Closer examination reveals that it is a severed head though its flesh is rotted, clearly it had been dead for quite a while. Sabbatine was screaming more, something about how they should have kept the noise down and that she and her "friends" would have been gone the next day.

A few moments later Sabbatine returned to the fire, crouching down close to it trying to absorb the warmth.

"You two should get some sleep. We have a long way to go tomorrow through dangerous territory." she grins even wider.

Written by - Teran

"If you want to learn to navigate wilderness to ask a ranger." Teran says dryly "I have shown you how to get into this realm which is merely a shadowy mirror of ours. Navigate here as if you were looking in a mirror, shift only at places where the connection between the realms is strong or you will get stuck between the realms and be unable to get back to either."

Teran turns and looks into Mavigan's eyes, the slightest bit of sadness evident on his face.

"If that happens, none of your minions will be able to help you." Without warning Teran shifted back to the normal realm leaving Mavigan still holding his now empty cloak.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan stood blinking for a moment, the folds of Teran’s cloak still clutched in her tight grip. It wasn’t the fact that he had disappeared so suddenly that had her surprised, nor was it the knowledge he had imparted, it was the fact that his face had held actual, genuine, unpracticed, honest emotion before he left.

Mavigan’s face grew thoughtful as she wrapped Teran’s cloak around her, absently noticing the warmth of the fabric. Seating herself on the ground, she plopped her chin in her hands and pondered this new development. She was cold, but she felt that this might be important and required some deep attention. Teran had indicated that time flowed differently in this plane, so even if he tried to leave her behind (which she didn’t think he would do) he couldn’t get too far out of her reach, so she settled herself down fully intending to puzzle out this development.

When his body heat and dissipated from his cloak and the shivers threatened to overtake her, Mavigan nodded to herself – some decision reached. Rising to her feet, she repeated the steps that would take her back to the normal plane. Choking down the nausea, she looked quickly around the clearing and was pleased to note that Teran was still there. Perched upon a log, he looked as if he, too, had been lost in thought.

Seeing him like that only strengthened her resolve. She walked towards him proffering his cloak in her outstretched hand, fully intending to offer him a smooth greeting before slyly pulling the information she wanted from him.

“So,” she said conversationally, “who did you lose?”

Ah well, so much for subtlety.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm heard a faint shout in the direction of Mavigan's camp and decided to investigate. Moving quietly, his party advanced within easy tracking range. Wilhelm's tracking sense again showed Mavigan, Keeryn, Jasmine, Teran and Sabbatine together. There was some other undead nearby, which may have caused the noise. None of their heartfires showed signs of injury, although this was a little hard to tell with the undead Sabbatine, so it seemed they were not under attack. Mavigan's heartfire seemed as calm as Teran's. Suprisingly calm, Wilhelm thought, given her temperament. It bothered him, but since there was no divine warning, and Keeryn had not taken action, Wilhelm again decided this must be due to Teran's training. Wilhelm lead his group back to the edge of his tracking range to continue following at a distance.

Written by - Archeantus

Jasmine had heard the noise. And she watched Sabbatine curiously as the undead creature became more and more annoyed by it.

There was something out there. Jasmine followed Sabbatine's gaze, knowing the tricks the eyes pulled trying to view things they cannot. Tricks she'd used countless times before with her on the other side of the light.

When the twig snapped, Sabbatine did as well. The scream actually startled her. Keeryn too, who was as curious about Sabbatine's as Jasmine was, seemed to jump at the sheer decibels the undead creature reached. Jasmine could have sworn Keeryn said under her breath as the scream silenced and Sabbatine suddenly ran out into the darkness, "Might as well light a beacon and tell everything where we are".

Then came the disemboweled head, landing right in front of Keeryn. Jasmine blinked at the sight, understanding in her eyes. She shrugged. Sabbatine came back, mumbled things, and mentioned they had better get to sleep.

Jasmine didn't wait a moment, despite the strange occurance, and the fact there were undead crawling about in the darkness, she lay on the ground by the fire and closed her eyes.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn on the other hand couldn't even attempt to get to sleep. For one, she could SMELL everything out there quite easily, and it made her skin crawl, and feel the need to clean herself very thoroughly. Secondly, Sabbatine's scream was still ringing in her very large ears. She was still wincing at it, her eyes barely open, "Infernal creature, I thought the point was NOT to attract attention while your great and powerful Teran is gone."

Keeryn entertained the idea of going back to tell Wilhelm what was going on, but she didn't really feel like fighting a bunch of disgusting undead things. So instead she just sat there and fumed at Sabbatine's lack of restraint, and Teran's taking Mavigan away without saying anything.

Written by - Tempyst

"No one's ever been able to give that song such meaning..." The sound of coin chinged in her hand from his, then he walked back into the crowd. Nightsong looked after the human male, then looked into her hand. When she saw the platinum there, her eyes grew wide and she looked again after the him, watching where he was going. I will definitely need to thank him personally for this! But first, the band! Nightsong turned to the musicians behind and grinned from ear to ear.

"Well my new friends, seems good fortune is on our side tonight." Nightsong handed out two platinum each to the 4 musicians, watching their eyes grow wide in amazement. She knew this was equal to a half year's work or more to them. They all cheered!

"Anytime you want to work with us dear, pleasedo. You are in deed good luck!" The drummer Koso almost shouted out.

"Well thank you all for your kind words, but it was all of us, together we make a fine team. Now, can you four handle some background music. I would like to thank our generous patron."

All four of them bowed. "Of course my dear. The next main song should be in about 15 to 20 minutes." Koso took her hand and kissed. "Don't be too long." He smiled.

Nightsong smiled back, then turned to scan the crowd. There wer so many people here, but within moments, she spotted their benefactor. He was not hard to pick out from the crowd. She could tell he was a sailor, a captain of a ship perhaps, he carried himself with such an aire. She stepped down from the stage and was met with warm greetings from those among the crowd, all thanking her for such a wonderful performance. Many of them slipped a few coppers and silver to her, suggesting songs they would like to hear, and she nodded, telling them she would do her best to accomodate them all. She finally found herself standing behind the mysterious man, who was talking to a rather tall and large fellow. She waited for a few moment, then stepped up a little closer, slowly as to not startle the man. The large man noticed her first (as she was facing him) and got a large, broad smile on his face. The man she was wanting to speak to turned and gave her a puzzled look.

Nightsong took his hand and bowed deeply. "Thank you sir, for your generosity to myself and the rest of the musicians. This will be a night they will tell tales of for many years to come. But while they send their thanks and gratitude, I would like to thank you personally. From me to you." Before he could say a word, Nightsong stepped in close, leaned forward and kissed him deeply upon his lips, lingering delightfully. She noticed he smelled of salt air and a fresh breeze and thought it to be quite a pleasant scent.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Early morning sprang up over a quite village; at first it looked normal… at first anyway. Anyone who happened to be coming up over a hill and looking down on the town would notice that no man or boy worked the farms. No smoke came out of the chimneys of houses as wives and daughters cooked the first meal of the day. Nothing was as it should have been.

This made the traveling merchant caravan nervous as they descended the hill over this very village. Even the normally boisterous guardsmen were quite as they drew their weapons, entering the village in a circle around the wagons. One man, the leader apparent from his fine garb, spoke in soft whispers to the Captain of the mercenaries, “Why are there no people here Captain?”

“I do not know Sir, this is very strange. It would be best if we left this place quickly. This is a ghost town.”

Nodding the Merchantman ordered the mercenaries to spread out and scourge the village for any food sources. It was obvious the previous owners of the village would not need it.

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