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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Lucant Dolvan Page 5 Book 3

Leov made his way back through the crowd towards Dom. When he finally cought up to him, he started to lay into him. "You overgrown moron! What are you doing here? Why aren't you at the infirmary with everyone else?" Dom simply smiled ear to ear and handed Leov his coat that Miranda had taken back on the ship. It was still a bit damp where she had hastily tried to scrub the blood from the inside of the the right shoulder, as she had used it to hide the wound from Leov. "Mir wanted to give you this back herself, but she's tied up with the wounded and keeping order in all the chaos right now. She sent me and Gilbert up here to keep an eye on ya," he said in a deep, rolling voice. As Leov slipped his coat on, he went of again: "I don't need you and Gil lookin' out for me. Nor I do need Mir Kade's help for anything. I've been on my own for a good while now... I know how to look out for myself... I'm fine." While Leov effortlessly slipped the coat on, Dom listened to Leov's self-righteous complaining and thought to himself "That's a damn lie, kid. You and me both know it. You haven't been anything close to 'fine' since Sophie passed on."

It was then that Dom noticed a young woman standing nervously behind Leov, looking as if she wanted to say something. He grinned wide, as if he had just had a prayer answered, and punched Leov in the shoulder to get his attention. Leov looked up at his friend, a bit puzzled, on to see Dom motion for him to turn around. Still confused, Leov slowly turned to see the songstress from moments earlier.

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.

When she finally did pull away, Leov stood dumbfounded. A thud on the back of his head quickly brought him back to his senses as he heard Dom say light-heartedly "Pick your jaw up off the ground, boy!" Leov quickly complied, still surprised. "Oh... um... I... it... it was nothing. Don't think nothin' about it," he said, tripping over himself. As the band started to play an interlude, Dom had an idea form in his usually single-minded head. "Hmm? I think Gil's yellin' for something. I'll be back in just a minute..." he started off, but quickly jolted back, slamming himself into Leov's backside and knocking him into the songstress' arms. "Whoops..." was all he said. Dom easily regained his balance, then started off again. "Take some time off, kid. Try to relax a bit... Little Sophie would cry an ocean of tears if she saw you the way you are now," he said to himself as he glanced over his shoulder.

Written by - Tempyst

When she finally did pull away, Leov stood dumbfounded. Amara chuckled to herself. She had had this effect on other men and the occasional lady, but had not expected such from this man. As his large companion slapped the back of his head, she did her best to hide an amused smirk. "Pick your jaw up off the ground, boy!"

The man in the red coat blinked and tripped over his own words. "Oh... um... I... it... it was nothing. Don't think nothin' about it."

His companion looked around and spoke again. "Hmm? I think Gil's yellin' for something. I'll be back in just a minute..." he started off, but quickly jolted back, slamming himself into sailor's Leov's backside and knocking him into Nightsong's arms. "Whoops..." Was all he said before heading off.

She caught the sailor and helped him back to his feet. "My, my, fresh from the boat eh? I see you have not gotten your land legs yet." She teased. "Too bad, tis great dancing music." She nodded, smiled warmly, her green eyes shining, then turned to walk away.

Written by - Teran

Teran's sadness evaporates quickly under Mavigan's searching eyes. The wry smile on his face though could be taken as proof that there was "someone".

"I do not think you are ready for that knowledge Princess." he semi taunts her "Perhaps if you can prove your worthiness I will answer your questions."

As he speaks he pulls out a small pouch, laying it on the ground in front of him. He pulls out three dried herb samples and rests them on top of the pouch. He holds them up for mavigan to see.

"These herbs are all native to this forest. They are common. This one here is whipper root." he holds up one of his samples so that she can see "This is the primary ingredient."

He makes sure Mavigan has a chance to study the thick white rootlike strands of the whipper root before setting it down and retreiving the other two.

"These two are secondary ingredients, they augment the whipper root. This one here is thistlebrush." he holds it up so that she can get a good look at the first secondary ingredient.

Dried it was a dark brown with hook like thorns.

"This last one is bronzeleaf." he holds it up for her to see, it looks pretty standard except that its coloring gives it almost a metallic appearance.

"Go find a sample of each plant and return to me. I will allow you to ask one question, and I will show you just what to do with these three ingredients.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov stood among the crowd and watched as the songstress walked away. Part of him wanted to follow after her, but he was focused on other matters at the moment. Scanning the crowd for Aelyndria, he instead saw Dom storming towards him and Gilbert following closely behind. Leov was more surprised that Gilbert was actually here than the fact that Dom was coming at him like a charging dragon. "You ignorant miserable excuse for a moron," Dom yelled above the din, "I give you the perfect opportunity, and you go and blow it!"

Leov began his defense: "Dom, I've got more important things to do right now than dance with someone I don't know." Gilbert quickly interjected "Look around, kid. This is a party. I can guarantee that you're the only one here thinking of business," he smiled in his calm, fatherly manner and continued, "You're just too professional for your own good, kid. Take some time off and live a little." Dom's rolling voice followed soon after: "I know you're thinking about Sophie..." Leov replied sharply "Don't bring her into this old man!" "She was my daughter Leov! I have every right to! She loved you more than anything in the world... all she ever wanted was for you to be happy. If she saw you how you are now, she'd cry an ocean tears. And I told you... never make her cry." There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment as Dom and Gilbert's words sank in. "Never make her cry." Leov remembered those words well - from the first time he heard them to the the day he vowed them to Sophie.

Before he could say anything, Gilbert chimed in again: "You're always looking out for us, kid. Like it or not, we're gonna look out for you for once. Me an' Dom is hereby declaring a temporary mutiny." Grining, Dom said "I don't care what you do, I don't wanna see you 'til tomorrow afternoon. "I'm gonna hang you bastards for this..." Leov said half-heartedly. "We'll go find a good tree for ya, kid," Gilbert said with a wave of his hand as he and Dom made for the door.

Leov sighed and slumped his shoulders. He knew that Dom was right. "Never make her cry..." he whispered to himself. He finally saw Aelyndria over in the corner had been in, speaking with the captain of the sea elf ship that had brought him back to the citadel and a few others. A warm wind blew through the open doors and passed over him as he went after the songstress.

"Miss..." he said, approaching her from behind. The ebon-skinned songstress turned gracefully and Leov held out his hand to her. "You were right. It is good dancing music." He smiled slyly and said to her: "Would you do a scoundrel a favor and bless him with your company for a bit?"

Written by - Tempyst

"Would you do a scoundrel a favor and bless him with your company for a bit?" The man before her smiled shyly, though Amara doubted there was anything truly shy about him.

She smiled back and placed her hand in his. Wrapping her fingers around his, she pulled him close without hesitation. "Well, it is about time you asked me. Did you not know that those few minutes of waiting were the worst minutes of my life! And you should never make a lady wait. Now, let's hope you can keep up." Amara laughed and stepped close and began twirling around with the sailor, dancing to the lively jig. She could sense he was a bit nervous, well maybe not nervous but maybe reserved, but by the end of the song he was laughing along with her.

As the music ended and a new song began, she curtsied to her dancing partner. She looked up, a mischevious glint in her eyes. "Thank you fine sir for that exhilerating dance. May I get your name, so that I may remember this night always." She hoped the man would notice her playfullness and not take her comment as an insult. "Or do you prefer to remain the tall, dark mysterious stranger of my dreams?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As the music ended and a new song began, she curtsied to her dancing partner. She looked up, a mischevious glint in her eyes. "Thank you fine sir for that exhilerating dance. May I get your name, so that I may remember this night always." She hoped the man would notice her playfullness and not take her comment as an insult. "Or do you prefer to remain the tall, dark mysterious stranger of my dreams?"

Leov let out an echoing laugh "Man of your dreams? Come on lady, the only ones who dream about me are barkeeps, and that's only because the boys and me keep them in business!" He slowly regained his composure, the said to her with a bow "My name is Leov. Leov Klein. I'd ask your name, but I already know it. You, my lady... are Khai'hanas. There is no doubt about it," he said rising from his bow with a smile on his face. "And I look forward to hearing you sing again. I'll be here for the whole show, and then some."

Written by - Tempyst

Amara actually blushed a bit at Leov's calling her Khai'hanas. "My, my, you are the charmer I thought you to be. Now, If i was one of these sweet, innocent young things here, you might find me in your bed tonight. But I am not so naive. However," She leand forward and kises his lips again, "The night is not over yet." She laughed musically and turned, winding her way through the crowd back up to the stage. Once up there, she turned and looked towards the sailor Leov again, and found herself feeling a little flustered. Well, it has been a while Amara. She waited for the band to finishe the their song, then waited to see if there were any requests from the party guests.

Written by - Renalis

Finally regaining his strength, Renalis was aware of his surroundings, aware but uncaring. It had worked – the gate was created, the wounded healed, their commander saved, and most of all, he was again with his love. Her beautiful scent, the sweet taste of her lips all fueled his love for her, and gave him strength. With a slight grunt his rolled her over, and again, pressed his lips into hers, another kiss as the world melted away…

Crystal was overjoyed that he was alive, she had lost him once, and losing him again would have been too much. As he flipped her over onto her back, all she could think of was her love for him. How this unlikely pairing, which could have only been the result of the work of the Gods, and now, they are together once more, again the result of divine interference.

As Renalis pulls away from her, they both open their eyes, staring at each other for a time before finally, breaking the stillness, Crystal whispers, “I believe there is a dinner to go to my love…” Renalis rises to his feet and outstretching his hand to her replies, “Then we shouldn’t keep them waiting.” Helping Crystal to her feet, Renalis takes her in his arms, and the two slowly walk off toward the Citadel, the rain letting up a bit.

Entering the Citadel, the two were almost assaulted by servants, bringing warm, dry towels and clean, dry clothes. “It’s alright,” Renalis, says to the closest one, pushing him away, “we’ll be fine.” Crystal giggling a little, brings her hand to her mouth. Renalis brings his hand up and with a snap of his fingers, and a little flash, a wave of air expands from that point, blowing both his and Crystal’s hair back. As the servants opened their eyes, they could see that Renalis and Crystal were both completely dry. “…Uh… I see…” stuttered one of the servants, “will you still need these clothes for the dinner?” Renalis’s only reply was a quick, “heh.”

Crystal stretched out her arms and with a slight spin on her toes; her armor changed and became a beautiful and elegant dress. “Again, I think we will be fine…” As Renalis turned to Crystal and began looking her up and down, Crystal spinning on the spot showing off her new dress. Flowing with sliver and white, the dress was similar to the robes she wore as a priestess of Elune. Renalis with his hand on his chin, “Hmmm… it looks good, or rather anything looks good when supplemented by your beauty,” Crystal blushed a little, and with another spin she was in a new dress, this one the one he gave her as a gift many months ago. The azure and violet silks flowing over the curves of her body like the very rivers themselves, Crystal stopped, looked at herself, then looked at Renalis, “Better?” Renalis looked with a certain satisfaction on his face, “You know I love that dress” Crystal looked down again at it, and too had that very same look of satisfaction, as she also loved the dress. She pulled her hair back and used the silver clasp she had - to hold it there. “Now, what to wear? What to wear?” Renalis looked down at himself, then, as if brushing off some dust, his armor too changed into a set of clothes – a fine tailored set, fit for any formal occasion, the deep azure colour of the whole ensemble seeming to shimmer almost if you didn’t look right at it. “How about this?” Renalis looked up at Crystal, “Look good?” Stepping forward, her hand on her chin, she gave a “hmmm…” then as she fixed his collar, his clothes changed slightly; the cuffs of his shirt and the collar changing design, and his black shoes now having a little shine on the toes. “Perfect.” Crystal added stepping back.

Renalis took Crystal’s hand and led her toward the dinner hall where he could hear the soft singing of a flute, even above the noisy chatter of the party. As the other musicians joined in with the flute the song began to build into a lively one. Renalis lead Crystal to the dance floor where the two moved as if halves of the very same being. Renalis had never heard this tune before, but he liked it. Staring deeply into his love’s eyes, the two exchanged thought of love without saying a word.

As the song finished, the crowd began to applaud and it took Renalis a second to let go of his love, but they both joined in the applause as the performers took a moment of break, the lead getting off the stage and the rest continuing with some soft background music. “One moment Melamin.” Renalis kisses Crystal deeply then heads off to find the lead of that band. He found her after wading through the crowd a bit, herself having just headed back toward the stage. He stopped a few paces from her, “Great piece M’lady,” tossing her a bag of coins, “something upbeat like that, but with a little more beat, and a good tempo. Something to move to.” Renalis wades through crowd and returns to his love’s side, awaiting the beginning of the next song.

Written by - Tempyst

“Great piece M’lady.” Amara turned just in time to catch the bag of coin, the richly dressed man had tossed at her. “How about something upbeat like that, but with a little more beat, and a good tempo. Something to move to.” The man turned and walked away, back towards an amazingly beautiful, blue haired elf. She smiled and nodded, seeing the love the two had for each other from where she stood. Then she felt the weight of the bag and looked inside. Amara let out a soft gasp. By the moon, thre is a small fortune here! This is more, more thatn I have ever seen in my lifetime!

Nightsong stepped up on stage as the interlude ended and applauded for the band with the rest of the crowd. As the musicians paused to catch their breath, Koso smiled. "I thought I said you could have a bit more time there Nighty?"

"I know what you said Koso, but, it seems that we have a very special request." she smiled broadly as she held out the open bag of platinum. "And I thought it to be rude to refuse such a request." She saw all their jaws drop at the site of the coin.

"Sweet bread and pudding Nightsong! Is that for real!" Koso was barely able to get out his words.

"Aye, seems real to me. Now, our second benefactor wants something upbeat, lively, with a good stomp to it. Seems he wishes to twirl his lady around the floor. So, I think we should give him what he asked for." Nightsong bent down and tucked the pouch away for safekeeping. "We can divide that up after the show." The others nodded. "Now, how about a stirring rendition of 'Round the Town'." All the musicians let out a soft whistle.

"You sure you want to try that one Nighty?" Aven the harp player asked. "I'm sure 'The Courting Song' or something might do just as well."

"Are you telling me, that you boys are unable to play 'Round the Town'?"

Koso laughed. "Not at all sweety. We been playing that ditty for years and years. You are the new one here, we be just afraid that you won't be able to keep up."

It was Nightsong's turn to laugh. "I tell you what. If I mess up the song, I will let you four divide up my share of that bag we just got." She heard them all murmer and could see the wheels turning in their head. The four gave each other looks, then winked.

"It's a deal Nightsong. And if you can keep up, we will each give ya a share of our take."

"Deal!" Nightsong shook Koso's callused hand. "Now, I believe Koso, you get to start."

Koso nodded, then sat down and picked up his drum. He gave her a big grin, then let out a loud shout. "Everyone come on down, it's time to go Round the Town.*" The crowd let out welcomed cheers. everyone new that 'Round the Town' was one of the most difficult but best party songs around. It would start off lively, then rapidly pick up the pace. Many a musician had come awy with blisters after playing a the song. The music would have to get louder too, as part of the tradition was for the dancers on the floor would stomp their feet as they danced around, trying todrown out the band. It was a battle between crowd and musicians. The dancers trying to keep up with the fast beat of hte son, while the musicians tried to out play the noise of the crowd. And the dance only ended when either the crowd, or the band gave up.

Aven put down his harp for this one, grabbed another set of drums and sat by Koso. That left Trevor on the lute and Daniel on the viol.** Nightsong wet her lips and picked up her flute, determined to show the others she was no rookie. The drumming started, a stead beat. The crowd began to clap on the downbeat, cheers and yells already emitting form many a mouth. Then the viol and lute joined in, bringing a melody to the beat. That was when the revelers began to form the circles and start to dance. As the crowd began stepping high, Nightsong jumped in with the flute, bringing a clear tone to help direct the dancers. The drummers had the upper hand here, they were the ones who were the heartbeat of hte dance; they directed the people. The crowd on the other hand, did their best to start stomping as they twirled around and around the floor. Koso started to speed things up, Nightsong and the others kept pace. She watched the crowd as she played, unsurprised to see a few of the elder couple already bow out. This is not a dance for the feint of heart. She thought to herself, spotting just then, the richly dressed couple who had requested an 'upbeat' song. So far so good, they seem to be able to keep up.

Then, Koso and Aven started into the middle of the song. Only the drums played at this point, while everyone who was not dancing, continued to clap and shout, edging the drummers to make the beat faster and faster. Nightsong, Daniel and Trevor joined in the chorus. " Everybody gather round, watch them go round the town, lift them feet off the ground, everybody round the town." This went on, for several rounds, the drums going faster and faster, the people spinning and dancing round trying to keep up. Then, just as peoples hands were getting a bit sour from the clapping, Koso let out another shout, which signaled it was time to see who had the most stamina and end the dance. Trevor, Daniel and Nightsong brought their intruments back into the song leaving the dancers to try and keep up. Koso grinned at Nightsong; she just raised her eyebrow, daring him to kick it up a notch. And kick it up he did. His hands were a blur on the drum; the fingers of the others flew along their intruments, keeping up with their drummer. They each knew their limits, but were testing Nightsong on hers. Nightsong blew into that flute, bringing out the loudest, smoothest fastest notes she could muster, but inside, she knew she was beat. She grinned as she struggled to keep up with the rest of the musicians; she could see their even larger grins, knowing they had just won. She did her best keeping up, but by now, could only insert a few notes here and there, making it still sound smooth, but admitting her defeat.

She could truly watch the dancers now and was not surprised to see not many couples left on the floor. She was glad to see the richly dressed couple still among those that remained. Then in a flurry of notes and shouts, the dance ended. No smooth ending here, this song ended just as fast as it started. A lot of wheezing and deep breaths could be heard in the moment of silence, but then the crowd broke up in a joyful uproar, showing their appreciation to the band. Nightsong turned to her friends and held out a hand to Koso. "You win boys, good job. Never have I heard such a glorious rendition of 'Round the Town'." She bowed before them and they in turn, bowed to her.

"Well my friend," Koso laughed, chest rising and falling rapidly, "You have gone further into that song than even Rowan. It is indeed a pleasure. And to show we are good winners, we will make sure your room and board and drinks are paid for for the week."

Nightsong laughed. "Well thank you kindly. Now, I think we all deserve a break. I will sit here and watch over our gains, you all go get somethign to eat and drink. Just bring me something to wet my throat when you return." Koso nodded and the band gratefully stepped down and made their way to the food. The crowd also seemed pleased to have a breather after that song. She sat on the edge of the stage, watching all the people, hoping to maybe catch the eye of someone.

****

* Round the Town - I envision this as a very fast, upbeat celtic/irish type of song.

**Viol - our term for fiddle.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov walked back towards his corner where Aelyndria and Lafief were seated talking. On his way back, he looked out a window and whispered "There, old man... I danced and I "enjoyed" it. I hope you're happy."

As he sat down on Aelyndria's left side, she quipped to him "Did you have fun, child?" "A blast..." he replied, making no attempt to hide the sarcasm. "If you're half as charming at the diplomacy table as you are on the dance floor, we'll have peace while I'm still alive to see it." "Do you really think that's possible? The peace, I mean... after everything that's happened. Do you really... honestly... believe that after all the history... the bad blood between everyone and everything in the world, that we can really just forgive and forget and all live together in peace and harmony like some children's bedtime fairy-tale so easily," he said coldly. The young girl sitting on Aelyndria's right suddenly stood up and said decisively "It will not be easy, but peace is what we must strive for as a generation... so that our children, our grandchildren will not have to fight, so that they may live in a happy, peaceful world. We must... we WILL forge that new world.

Aelyndria motioned towards her granddaughter and said to Leov, "I don't believe you two have met formally yet. This is Lafiel, my granddaughter and heir." Leov took the information in stride as he replied to Lafiel. "I'm Leov Klein," he said with a nod, then stepped right back into the beat, "That blind optimism again... can't you see the world right in front of you? People aren't that accepting. You really think all the Orcs and Elves will lay down arms so easily? That Humans will suddenly quit butchering each other? If you really do want this, lady, you're gonna have to be more practical about it. He leaned his head back and looked into Lafiel's deep blue eyes "Believe me, miss Lafiel, I don't want to burden my niece with my failures. That's why I intend to actually do something... not just sit around, hoping that everyone in the world will agree to stop hurting each other and be friends."

"Peace through violence is not peace. There must be a better way..." Lafiel said almost desparately. "There is," Leov said matter-of-factly, "We simply have to destroy the Old Order... the old way of looking at the world... the old hates, prejudices, injustices... be it through steel or through discourse, it will have to be done if you really do want a lasting peace." Aelyndria smiled and said to them "You both want the same thing. Your methods for attaining it, though, differ slightly, but they are both neccessary for a true, lasting peace. I intend to teach you that, even if I have to beat it into your skulls." Lafiel smirked slightly and Leov burst into laughter. She ran her hands through her blond hair, highlighted in a light blue, then thrust her right hand towards Leov and said to him, "Well then, Leov Klein, I look forward to working with you to attain the peace we so want." Leov grasped her hand firmly and told her "For the People." "For the People" she intoned back. "Well, you two certainly have hit it off. There's a long night ahead. Enjoy it, children. There may not be one like it again for a very long time." Aelyndria slowly stood up and dusted herself off before disappearing into the crowd without another word. "Just as I had hoped for..." Aelyndria thought to herself, smiling as she went walking about.

As Leov and Lafiel watched her walk off into the crowd, Leov noticed his gaze had drifted back the songstress sitting on the edge of the stage.

Written by - Tempyst

As she watched the crowd, she caught the gaze of the sailor she had danced with earlier. She could see him holding the hand of another elf, but still, she smiled warmly at Leov, then blew him a kiss gave him a come hither look. Now, if he is not already taken and that doesn't get him, then I think I will need to look elsewhere for a companion for tonight. Amara gave Leov a wink then looked away, seeing who else might be out in the crowd.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Try as he might, Leov could not break the chains of his past. He sighed, then took Lafiel's hand in his own, noticing how smooth and soft her skin was compared to his own scarred, weather beaten, calloused hands. "Miss Lafiel, it was a pleasure meeting you. I'm sure I'll see you again soon. May fair winds be with you always and forever at your back," he said with a polite nod to her. "Without a doubt," she said quietly, "And may Avendor's light shine forever upon you."

Parting ways, Leov went towards the songstress who kept flirting with him. "Khai'hanas, you really have outdone yourself." He said it in a way that left it unclear if he was speaking to the girl or the goddess. "That was a beautiful song..." he paused for a moment. "I know I said I'd be here for a while, but I think I'm gonna call it an early night." Hesitating again, he said after a pause "I don't know if I'll see you again, so fare well wherever you fare. May the wind carry you swiftly to your dreams." He nodded to her, then headed towards the door where he was greeted by the night breeze.

****

At a secluded dock in harbor of Port Ancora, Gilandor and his daughter Belyena prepared to board a private ship bound for Nuar'Lith. "Father... why? Why," Belyena pleaded, heartbroken, with her father between frantic sobs. "Gilandor... if you wish to keep the girl with you, you had best silence her... or I will," a tall woman with long silver-white hair, dressed in white robes said firmly. She looked to be human, but her lusterous steel grey eyes gave a clue to her true nature. "I assure my Lady Bahataru, she will behave herself," Gilandor stated as he jerked his grieving daughter along.

Arriving at the ship, Gilandor shoved his crying daugher towards a pair a pair of large sentries in black robes and strange bronze masks. "Do something with her," Gilandor said as if his daughter were nothing more than livestock. "Yessss masssster," one of the lith'raug hissed from behind its mask. As the the sentries carried Belyena away under the bright moonlight, Gilandor turned towards the woman in white and spoke to her. "What of your brother? Surely Lord Vaun will be enraged if we return without the book he seeks..." "Bandayaelrhu will be along when he is ready," she said calmly. "Lord Vaun knows that this will take time, and he trusts Bandayealrhu to act accordingly." "A...as you say, my Lady," Gilandor said nervously as he stepped onto the boat, followed by the strangely graceful Bahataru.

****

In Lithwyn's room within the citadel walls, the worn book that Leov had turned over to her lay unassumingly on her large ornate desk. A young man stepped from the shadows and calmly picked it up. "Hmmm... that was too easy... I was hoping for at least some resistance..." he snarled in the darkness. He was dressed in a grey tunic and pants. His belt, boots, vest, and vambraces where as pitch black as his hair. Like his sister, Bandayaelrhu appeared human, except for his smoldering, blood red eyes.

With the book in hand, he peeked into the bedroom, hoping to find Lithwyn there so that he could tear her to ribbons. Growing incresingly engraged, he placed the book in his belt, then stormed out the door. "Hey you! What are you doing in Commander Deltheron's quarters," a guard shouted as he and his companion rushed towards Bandayaelrhu with their swords drawn. He stood there and laughed diabolicly as the elven blades bounced harmlessly off his demon-skin. "You pathetic worms," he yelled as he made a sweeping gesture with his right hand which summoned forth a wicked, demonic spear wreathed in flame. Still laughing, he slammed the spear through one of the guard's chest, pinning him to the wall. He freed the spear, then turned to see the other guard running towards the doors. He fell down, trembling in sheer terror when Bandayaelrhu appeared from the void in front of him. Delighting in the slaughter, he raised his spear high overheard, and hewed the terrified elf in two.

Regaining his composure, the demon stood over the corpses and reached out his hand towards them, then grasped at the air and pulled away. As he did this, a bright, shining light came forth from the bodies and was trapped within a crystal hanging from Bandayaelrhu's belt. With a smirk on his face, he walked away as if nothing had happened, then stepped again into the shadow world, leaving the hallway to Lithwyn's office covered from top to bottom in blood.

He had a visit to pay before setting out.

****

Leov walked slowly along the nearly deserted roads. He thought to himself that everyone must be celebrating and having a good time. He thought of Kassal and all the grand plans he had for it - anything to keep his mind off Sophie. Then he wondered if he would ever be able to take them to fruition, or if he would even see his beloved Kassal again.

He was on his way to the market, when a young man, stepped forth from the shadows in front of him. Leov nearly walked into him, but stopped just in time. "Hey buddy, watch out where you're goin' there," he said as he regained his balance. "Quit your barking, dog, before I tear your tongue out of your mouth," the man said sharply as he looked up at Leov with his smoldering red eyes. A cold, somewhat familiar feel shot through Leov's entire body, though he dare not show it. "What'n the nine hells are you," he asked sternly, not thinking of the consequences of that question. The man laughed and said to Leov, "Perhaps you would remember me like this..." he stepped back into the shadows momentarily, then appeared again as a small black cat, though the blood red eyes where still there. "Neat trick, son. You'll have to teach me that one."

Bandayaelrhu sat on his haunches and said to Leov, who he could tell was terrified. "Oh, don't worry, dog. I'll drag you to the shadow world eventually and tear you limb from limb. I'll slaughter you like I slaughtered all the other Kassali dogs when ol' Grady set that squallid excuse for a city, Lohenhiem, ablaze." Leov kicked at the cat, but missed as it stepped into the shadows, then reappeared nearby. "The Master will consume all your filthy souls soon. Just wait, dog... you have no idea what is coming for you," he said, laughing. "You really think we'll just lay down and die you little son of a bitch? We'll fight you till our dying breath!" Leov yelled. "Good... I'm counting on it," the cat said in Bandayaelrhu's wicked voice, "It's always more fun to kill them when they think they can fight back."

Leov let out a frustrated sigh, then said to the cat "If I had known... what you were when I first saw you sitting on my window... I'd've skinned you alive and left you rot in the sun..." "As well you should have, dog," Bandayaelrhu said enthusiastically, "because now... we really are invincible. Oh yes, I took care of that slayer who saved Avendor's damned avatar from that foolish Defiler. He's probably bled out by now back in that alley I dumped him in." The cat laughed in a diabolic voice, then said to Leov again, "So sit, dog. Sit and wait for your death at my hand." Bandayaelrhu was still laughing as he finally disappeared into the shadows.

"We'll see, ya little bastard, we'll see..." Leov whispered to himself as he continued on towards the marketplace.

Written by - Turin Wallace

With the healing ceremony complete, even Ithramir himself felt a new lightness in his heart. Although the war against the Orcs is not yet over, the reclamation of Minas Uial would be it's completion, he did not feel the normal burdens that would weight him down. With his Lithwyn at his side, her gentle touch and silky voice gave him a deep down sense of happiness. The path had not been easy for them, far from it, but it was well worth all the hardships.

After being re-introduced to Vhar, Ithramir jokingly says,

"Well, I am certainly glad we got the whole appearance thing figured out. Human isn't bad for a start, but the next time try for an elf, we are much prettier as a race than humans are!"

Gently prodded, Ithramir feels Lithwyn guide him along to the feast hall. As they enter and are announced to the halls attendees, playfully Ithramir pinches her on her rear, giving her a bright smile and wink as she jumps a little.

Seeing that Vhar wishes to speak with her some more, Ithramir decides to take the opportunity to visit the other guests in the hall and to greet them. Softly, he whispers into Lithwyn's ear,

"I will greet our guests while Vhar talks to you. I promise, my love, I will not wander far."

Smiling, he pulls her lips to his and kisses her deeply.

Seeing Vhar approach, Ithramir says,

"I must take my leave, but only for a short time. I am sure whatever you and the Lady must dicuss, it is of some importance. I need to tend to our guests, so forgive me for a short while. Perhaps you both can fill me in later."

With a slight bow and a full smile, Ithramir then makes his way around the hall, greeting and talking to each of their guests. It is then that an attendant comes in, saying.

"Milord, Ardwen wishes an audience with you."

Ithramir replies,

"Oh? Did he say what it was about?

The attendant replies,

"No, sir. Just said he needs to speak with you at your earliest convenience."

Ithramir pauses, looks at Lithwyn, then says,

"Tell him that I will be busy all this eve, my earliest convenience will be tomorrow morning. Late morning, actually. Better yet, late afternoon. Yes, late afternoon will do just fine. Until then, tell him to relax this evening, enjoy the victory we achieved for one night."

The attendant bows and heads off to speak with Ardwen while Ithramir continues to walk around the room.

It is then he notices them. Bards.

In a murmur, he says,

"Goddamn bards, who invited them?"

However, it was more a reactionary feeling than a true one. Ithramir now realizes he has no more bitterness in regards to his niece, Rowan. Or even to his sister for being her mother. Still, he has a great distaste for the cad who ran out on them both, however he cannot blame the profession for what had occured.

Rejoining himself to Lithwyn, as the band begins to play, they begin to dance. He can see the look in Lithwyn's eyes, this was not the Ithramir she was used to. Smiling, he says,

"Cannot your love enjoy a song or two with the most beautiful elf-maiden in the world? However, there is one last thing I must ask..."

Ithramir motions for the room to be quiet, for he wishes to speak. Still holding Lithwyn while the crowd settles down, he waits until there is silence, then drops to one knee, saying,

"Lithwyn Deltheron, will you marry me?"

Pulling his signet ring off, he offers it to Lithwyn, then holds his breath as he waits for her response.

Written by - Renalis

Koso nodded, then sat down and picked up his drum, then let out a loud shout, "Everyone come on down, it's time to go Round the Town." The crowd let out welcomed cheers, but Renalis was unsure of what to expect from this song. Crystal looked up at him with an inquizative look upon her face, "I asked for something upbeat," Renalis replied with a shrug, "hell if I know what these people will play" Crystal just laughed, twirled on the spot as her floor-length dress changed once more into a skirt fit of a barroom dance floor. Renalis too changed his attire, one to a more looser, slightly more casual dress. Then the beat began.

They started with some distance, toying with each other's feelings and emotions, playfully making and breaking eye-contact, and making other youthful flirtations. Renalis could feel the beat from the floor - both the stomping and the deep drum beat - entering his very being, he felt invigorated, youthful, but most of all, alive. The rest of the musicians entered the song, their lead once more on the flute and its high pitch was leading the crowd.

As the beat increased its pace, Renalis was drawn in closer to the beauty, her form moving to the beat and luring him in. Linking hands they began to spin around a bit, moving as if two halves of the same entity. Renalis finally took note of crowd forming from those who had dropped out, and how everyone seemed to be stomping and clapping, but Renalis didn't know of their tradition to try and drown out the band, so he continued to move and dance with his partner uncaring as the world around seemed to fade away.

Bringing Crystal in as close as physically possible, he could still smell her sweet smell, could feel the light layer of sweat forming on them both, and could see her beautiful pale skin glistening in the lighting of the hall. She looked up at him and their eyes locked for but a mere second, but in that second more was felt than could ever been said or done. Still dancing, and at an almost rediculous pace, Renalis did not notice, but they were one of few couples still on the floor - Renalis had enjoyed introducing this style of partying to her, and she too enjoyed it more than any Elf Renalis had ever seen.

The song ended as abruptly as it had started, and Renalis found himself staring down deeply into Crystal's eyes, and her staring back up. Breathing heavily they heard the the room ignite into a furious applause but Renalis was holding onto something so precious he could not let go. As the heavy breathing subsided a little, Renalis moved a piece of her azure blue hair from across her face, leaning in towards her they both closed their eyes and locked in embrace as the whole world melted away.

Coming out of an almost trance-like kiss, they could both hear the start of the next song, a waltz. Twirling her, and then himself being twirled about himself, the two changed back into their evening clothes, pulling her in close again, the two began to waltz about the room, once again the world melting away, their only cares being in each other. But the world began to come back as the room hushed down, Ithramir making motions that he wished to speak. Bringing Crystal in close once more, her head resting on Renalis's chest, arms around each other's waist, free hands interlocked.

Ithramir broke the silence, after dropping to one knee,

"Lithwyn Deltheron, will you marry me?"

Pulling his signet ring off, he offers it to Lithwyn, then holds his breath as he waits for her response.

Renalis played with the wedding band with his thumb as stared down at Crystal once more. She looked up at him and the two kissed once more.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Confusion. Loss. Emptiness. Anger. Rage.

As Leov made his way into the market district, the peaceful calm of the city could not ease the torrents within his heart and soul. He browsed the numerous and varied shops for a while, hoping to forget everything that had happened, hoping to feel the dead numbness within himself again that he had become so dependent upon. As he wandered aimlessly about the market district, he came across a familiar, inviting sight: a tavern - and a particularly busy one - called the Black Dove. "Well, if I can't forget my sorrows, then I can damn sure drown 'em," he said as he opened the tavern's carved oaken door.

It was warm inside the building and the hearth fire shown brightly. Leov sat down at the bar and the bartender - a tall, slender elvish man - came to take his order. "Whiskey... strong... real strong whiskey," he muttered to the elven man. He didn't hear what the elf said, but he didn't care, either. When he came back with a small glass and a bottle of whiskey, however, he had Leov's full attention. The barkeep poured a bit into the small glass, then started to walk away. "Leave it," Leov said to him. "As you say," the elf said as he slid the bottle back to Leov.

Tilting back on the bottle, he overheard the soldiers sitting next to him bantering back an forth. "Did you hear about that traitor? The demon-witch that's locked up in the stockades right now?" "Oh yeah, I heard a bit. Some big shadowy demon that tried to kill Lord Ithramir.... Heard he got saved by some kid. Heh, how embarassing is THAT? One of the greatest elves alive, getting his hide saved by little human kid." "Hey, what was that witch's name? She was the purple-eyed one that joined up with the command squad right before they charged the keep...." "Hm? Oh, I know who you're talking about. Kaylee, Kayan... something like that..."

Leov put down the bottle: "Kaya?" He asked off-handedly, partly to himself. "Yeah! That's it! Kaya somethin'er'other." "I hope that demon worshipping bitch gets what's coming to her!" A loud cry of agreement came forth from the crowd. Leov sat there in a daze, partly because of the whiskey, and partly because of what he had just heard. "Kaya? She tried to kill this Ithramir guy... the commander? She didn't seem all that bad... sweet, even. He said there was a demon, too... and so did that damned cat..." Leov stood up abruptly and walked outside, without paying, of course.

As he stormed up the city streets towards the infiramry that Dom and Gil had forbade him from, he said to himself: "I don't know what the hell's going on here, or what I'm being drug into, but I damn well intend to find out..." When he got to the doors, he saw his father-in-law sitting half asleep on a stool. "Dom! Wake up!" Dom startled awake and was about to commence yelling at Leov, but before he could, Leov cut him off: "Go find Gilbert, Aloray, and Josef. Something's going on here and I intend to find out what." "Kid, what in the nine hells has gotten into you?" "Dom, just do it." "Alright, alright. Calm down. It's not like the fate of the world's in the balance or nothing."

Once everyone was together and they were on their way, Dom asked a question that he realized he should have asked earlier: "Hey, just where are we going anyways?" Leov replied flatly "The stockades. There's someone there I need to talk with." "Oh damn..." Gilbert muttered as the party continued onwards.

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